Monday, December 31, 2007

A Prayer for the New Year by Tom Norvell

graphic courtesy of

Many of you dropped me a line saying how much you appreciated this post last year. So here it is again. Be Blessed. plk


Give us a new year. Not just a new number, but a truly new year. Give us a year full of new things, new adventures, new attitudes, and visions.

Lord, give us a new year full of new ideas and refresh some of our old ideas. Give us new relationships and renew old relationships, and restore relationships that have been broken.

Father, give us a new year. Give us a new song. Give us a new memory. Give us a new image of Your Son, and help us to show His image of those who are new to You. Give us new thoughts, new friends, and new things that replace the old worn-out things.

Father, give us a new year. The year that has just ended was difficult for some of us. There were struggles and frustrations and disappointments that we did not handle so well. Give us a better mentality and better spiritual insight that will help us deal with the struggles, frustrations and disappointments that will come in this New Year.

Father, give us a new year. Give us a year filled with new ministries, new opportunities, new voices, and new messages. Help us hold on to the old things that are worth holding, and help us let go of the old things that have served their purpose.

Father, give us a new year. Give us a year that is not controlled by fear. A year in which we are not afraid of people who are different. A year when we are not afraid of ideas that are new, of plans that are new, and places that are new.

Father, give us a new year. Give us a year filled with new love. A new love for You. A new love for each other. A new love for Your Kingdom. A new love for strangers. A new love for the helpless. A new love for the needy. A new love for poor. A new love for rich. A new love for all people.

Father, give us a new year. Help us put the old one to bed. Help us to leave the things of the past in the past. Help us look forward. Help us look beyond what we can see to what You have planned for us that we cannot see. Help us move forward with confidence and courage and humility and gentleness.

Father, give us a new year. Help us, in this New Year to completely surrender to You and what You have planned for us in this year filled with new things.

Originally posted: 01/03/2007 on
(c) 2007 Tom Norvell

Used by permission.
A Norvell Note is a weekly email message from Tom Norvell. Check it out!
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Caucus Countdown

With only a few days remaining before the Iowa Caucuses I'm sure that most Iowans have made up their minds about whom they will be supporting on January 3rd. But here's a little something for the rest of the nation to consider.

The most important thing that can come out of the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primaries is a clear signal that the American people are taking back the political process.

What do I mean by that?

I hope that the results of the Iowa Caucuses send a clear message that despite the
poll results and stories ad nauseuam about the so-called "front-runners" that the media has been feeding the public, the American electorate will not be influenced by the inequities in mainstream media coverage, debate moderators with personal agendas, the wheedling of political pundits and campaign strategies that smell of Rovian politics.

On the morning of January 4th
I hope that voters will not let the corporately controlled media tell them when a candidate's campaign is or isn't over. Yes, there will be winners and losers in the Iowa Caucuses and NH Primaries but neither of these elections should sound a death toll for anyone's campaign.

When this campaign season began so early I initially thought that it was a little ridiculous and very few people would really be paying attention. But people are paying attention, close attention. Not only to the candidates, but to the issues and the way the media is presenting both. People seem to have a sense that the stakes are much too high to take the outcome of the 2008 Presidential election lightly.

Yes, I personally, hope that John Edwards wins, or has a very strong showing, in Iowa and New Hampshire. And yes, as an African American woman I am very happy to see the possibility for the first woman or African-American US President. But I also appreciate the views and positions of candidates like Biden, Dodd, Kucinich and Richardson and believe that none of them should be discounted because of an imbalance in media coverage or because some pundit states that if they do not win Iowa or New Hampshire that they won't be able to continue their campaigns.

The issues that the next President of the United will need to address are weighty and complex. The American people deserve the chance to judge every candidate, not just the front-runners, based on their records, policies and positions. Iowa and New Hampshire should just be the beginning of the process.

Here are a few video clips of the candidates that I am watching closely. I hope that you will give them a good long look as well:

Senator Dodd rallying caucus goers on his final tour of Iowa before the Caucuses, December 30th in Le Mars Iowa.

On December 27, 2007, Barack gave this speech in Des Moines, Iowa.

The following is a
video montage of Joe Biden at the Des Moines Register Debate on December 13, 2007

And finally, John Edwards speaks during the Democratic National Committee's annual fall meeting in Vienna, Virginia on November 30, 2007

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Scariest Thing About Some Politicians

.... is that they do know just how much they don't know.   Obviously, no one person can be an expert on every US domestic and foreign policy issue.  But when an elected official is so clueless that he really thinks that he has all the answers it means that he probably won't seek counsel from those more well versed on an issue than he or she.   plk

excerpt from:
The Washington Monthly

by Steve Benen

DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT FOREIGN POLICY....In October, David Brooks, in an otherwise fawning column about Mike Huckabee, conceded that " his foreign policy thinking is thin." That was obviously a dramatic understatement.

Earlier this month, he didn't know what the National Intelligence Estimate was. A week later, the former governor identified Thomas Friedman and Frank Gaffney as his biggest influences on foreign policy, despite the fact that Friedman and Gaffney don't actually agree on anything.

This week, any shred of credibility Huckabee maintained on foreign policy quickly vanished. In the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto's assassination, the Arkansan's first reaction was to argue that the slaying should lead to a reevaluation of U.S. immigration policy. Of course, the assertion didn't make any sense .

Indeed, it's been a particularly embarrassing couple of days for Huckabee. He argued that "we have more Pakistani illegals" entering the U.S. than any other nationality, aside from Mexico. That's not even close to being true. He said the Pakistani government "does not have enough control of those eastern borders near Afghanistan to be able go after the terrorists." He meant western borders.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Send A New Year's Greeting to the Troops

This New Year's Eve, show the men and women serving abroad how much you appreciate their sacrifice. Send a text message of support, and watch it appear 48 stories above New York City's Times Square.

Operation New Year's Eve is a multimedia campaign for Americans to reach out to our service men and women.

From Friday December 28 through New Year's Eve, your phone text message of support or greetings will be displayed on a video screen at the top of Four Times Square -- the tallest building in Times Square. Your message will also be seen on the website by troops all over the world.

Net proceeds from your text messages will benefit Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

(IAVA) For more information visit their website at

Send Text Messages to 94444 ( Keyword Care)

Quote of The Week

Bill Moyers Journal: Does Consumerism Degrade Democracy?

(Photo by Robin Holland)

Conversing with Bill Moyers on BILL MOYERS' JOURNAL, Benjamin Barber commented:

"Democracy means pluralism. If everything's religion, we rightly distrust it. If everything's politics, even in good politics, we rightly distrust it. But when everything's marketing and everything's retail and everything's shopping, we somehow think that enhances our freedom. Well, it doesn't. It has the same corrupting effect on the fundamental diversity and variety that are our lives, that make us human, that make us happy. And, in that sense, focusing on shopping and the fulfillment of private consumer desires actually undermines our happiness."

There has never been a more timely statement for this season and these times.  plk

 - Sent Using Google Toolbar

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Quick Look Back Tells A Lot

Senator and Presidential Candidate Joe Biden discusses Pakistan during an interview with Katie Couric

and Joe Biden discusses Pakistan at the Democratic Presidential debate held in Philadelphia on October 30, 2007.

Remembering the Life of Benazir Bhutto

photo courtesy of Harry Walker

Leaders come along to show us the way, it's what we do afterwards that truly defines their legacy. This is the choice facing the followers of the late Benazir Bhutto. May they honor her memory and bring true democracy to Pakistan. And may we all honor the courage, hope and passion for which she stood.

AljazeeraEnglish recounts the life and times of Benazir Bhutto

US SenatorJoe Biden reacts to the news of Benazir Bhutto's assassination and remembers an extraordinary and courageous woman.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Countdown to January 12th

Twelve Days (Close the School of the Americas Down)
song to promote the rally to close down the School of the Americas military training facility -- by parodiesoftruth

to learn more go to School of the Americas Watch

Just A Little Post Holiday Reminder

Wishing you a Merry 2nd Day of Christmas, Happy Kwanza, Happy Boxing Day & a Blessed New Year. And when the holidays are over, the trees have been recycled, decorations have been carefully packed away and everyone is sticking to their resolutions, I wish you LOVE.

After all, that is what the holidays are all about, right?

From My Heart to Yours
Pamela Lyn

Don't Save It All For Christmas Day

May 2008 Be Your Very Best Year Ever

courtesy of

The Message (MSG)
Ephesians 3:14-21

courtesy of

14-19My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

20-21God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Glory to God in the church!
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
Glory down all the generations!
Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Wise Men Still Seek Him

May you find His love, joy, peace and hope this holy season.

We Three Kings
written in 1857 by Rev. John Henry Hopkins.

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Three Kings a Christmas poem
by Longfellow

Three Kings came riding from far away,
Melchior and Gaspar and Baltasar;
Three Wise Men out of the East were they,
And they travelled by night and they slept by day,
For their guide was a beautiful, wonderful star.

The star was so beautiful, large and clear,
That all the other stars of the sky
Became a white mist in the atmosphere,
And by this they knew that the coming was near
Of the Prince foretold in the prophecy.

Three caskets they bore on their saddle-bows,
Three caskets of gold with golden keys;
Their robes were of crimson silk with rows
Of bells and pomegranates and furbelows,
Their turbans like blossoming almond-trees.

And so the Three Kings rode into the West,
Through the dusk of the night, over hill and dell,
And sometimes they nodded with beard on breast,
And sometimes talked, as they paused to rest,
With the people they met at some wayside well.

"Of the child that is born," said Baltasar,
"Good people, I pray you, tell us the news;
For we in the East have seen his star,
And have ridden fast, and have ridden far,
To find and worship the King of the Jews."

And the people answered, "You ask in vain;
We know of no King but Herod the Great!"
They thought the Wise Men were men insane,
As they spurred their horses across the plain,
Like riders in haste, who cannot wait.

And when they came to Jerusalem,
Herod the Great, who had heard this thing,
Sent for the Wise Men and questioned them;
And said, "Go down unto Bethlehem,
And bring me tidings of this new king."

So they rode away; and the star stood still,
The only one in the grey of morn;
Yes, it stopped --it stood still of its own free will,
Right over Bethlehem on the hill,
The city of David, where Christ was born.

And the Three Kings rode through the gate and the guard,
Through the silent street, till their horses turned
And neighed as they entered the great inn-yard;
But the windows were closed, and the doors were barred,
And only a light in the stable burned.

And cradled there in the scented hay,
In the air made sweet by the breath of kine,
The little child in the manger lay,
The child, that would be king one day
Of a kingdom not human, but divine.

His mother Mary of Nazareth
Sat watching beside his place of rest,
Watching the even flow of his breath,
For the joy of life and the terror of death
Were mingled together in her breast.

They laid their offerings at his feet:
The gold was their tribute to a King,
The frankincense, with its odor sweet,
Was for the Priest, the Paraclete,
The myrrh for the body's burying.

And the mother wondered and bowed her head,
And sat as still as a statue of stone,
Her heart was troubled yet comforted,
Remembering what the Angel had said
Of an endless reign and of David's throne.

Then the Kings rode out of the city gate,
With a clatter of hoofs in proud array;
But they went not back to Herod the Great,
For they knew his malice and feared his hate,
And returned to their homes by another way.

Christmas in the Quran

-------- Originally posted to Pause For Thought on 12/22/2006 02:50:00 AM--------

Despite all that we see around us, the wars and rumors of rumors, I can't help but believe that there will come a day when we realize that the beliefs that we share are more important than our differences.



*Nativity of Jesus the Messiah in The Quran
*© 2001 by Maria Hubert. All rights reserved.

19:16. And mention in the scripture of Mary. Who had been isolated from
her family, into an eastern location.

19:17. While a barrier separated her from them, we sent to her our
Spirit. Who appeared to her in the form of a perfect man.

3:42. The angels said, "O Mary,
The Holy has chosen you & purified you. He has chosen you from all the

3:43. O Mary, you shall surrender to your Lord,
And prostrate & bow down with those who bow down."

19:18.She said, "I seek refuge in the Most Gracious, that you do fear
The Holy."

19:19. It was made known, "I am the messenger of your Lord, to you is
granted a pure son."

19:20. She said, "How can I have a son, when no man has touched me; I
have never been unchaste."

19:21. It was made known, "Thus said your Lord, `It is easy for Me.'"
And that we appoint him a revelation for the people and mercy from us.
This is a matter preordained.

3:45."'The angels said, "O Mary, TheHoly gives you good news of A WORD
from him (JM40:2) whose name is The Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary. 'He
will be prominent in this life & in the Hereafter, & one of those
closest to Me.

3:46.He will speak to the people from the crib and from adulthood; and
he is of the righteous.'"

3:47.She said, "My Lord, how can I have a son, when no man has touched
me?" It was made known, "The Holy thus creates whatever He wills. To
have anything done, He simply says to it, `Be!' & it is.

3:48. He will teach him the scripture, understanding, the Torah, &
Evangeliun.*" *Evan-geliun/His Revelation/God'sWord/Gospel

21:91.As for the one who maintained her virginity, we blew into her of
our spirit, and thus made her & her son a portent for the nations.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Career News That Should Bother You

A few years ago many of us were accused of paranoia and over-reacting when we spoke against the long-term impact of corporate outsourcing and the abuse of the HB1 visa law.  I wonder what our accusers will have to say about the following article.

excerpt from:

Best Careers for a Changing Job Landscape - US News and World Report

Even college grads might want to consider blue-collar careers. Last year, because U.S. News readers tend to be college educated, we included only careers that typically require at least a bachelor's degree. This year we've added four careers that don't. Why? More and more students are graduating from college at the same time that employers are offshoring more professional jobs. So, many holders of a bachelor's degree are having trouble finding jobs that require college-graduate skills. Meanwhile, society has been telling high school students that college is the way, so there's an accelerating shortage of skilled people in jobs that don't require college. (Why else do you think you have to pay $100 an hour for a plumber?)

The four noncollege careers we added would be rewarding even to many college graduates, especially because college grads are likely to stand out against the competition. Those added careers are: biomedical equipment technician, firefighter, hairstylist/cosmetologist, and locksmith/security system technician. Other skilled blue-collar careers that scored well on our selection criteria : machinist (manufacturers report a shortage), nuclear plant technician (few people are entering the field, yet plans are on the books for building more plants), and electrician/electronics tech (above-average pay, and it's easier on the body than many other blue-collar careers). The takeaway: Many college graduates should consider skilled-trade careers.

* * * * *

When US News & World Report is advising high school graduates to consider cosmetology school instead of college what does that say about our society and our economy.  Has the news & entertainment media and the US school systems done such an effective job at dumbing down our society that we are ready to tell of young people that they just can't compete with the rest of the world in math, science and technology?   

Children Always Pay The Highest Price

excerpt from:

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iraq children 'paying high price'

Iraq children 'paying high price'
An Iraqi girl crouches in a street in central Baghdad (4 December 2007)
The violence led to extreme hardship for many children in Iraq
Two million children in Iraq are facing threats including poor nutrition, lack of education, disease and violence, the UN children's agency, Unicef, has said.

Hundreds were killed in violence during 2007, while 1,350 were detained by the authorities, it said in a new report.

Some 25,000 children and their families had to leave their homes each month to seek shelter in other parts of Iraq.

But Unicef said the fall in violence in recent months was opening a window for more international assistance.

Just One Example of How Corporate Media Tries to Control Elections

Don't Let Them Get Away With It!

courtesy of FAIR

Action Alert

USA Today Squeezes Edwards Out of Race


In a good example of corporate media striving to narrow down the Democratic primary field (FAIR Media Advisory, 5/8/07), USA Today (12/18/07) had a story on candidates' electability that wrote all but two of them out of existence. The story opened with the statement that "Illinois Sen. Barack Obama fares better than New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton against prospective Republican rivals," and went on to report:

In hypothetical matchups for the general presidential election, Clinton and Obama each led Giuliani, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and [Mitt] Romney, although at times narrowly. Obama was somewhat stronger, besting Giuliani by 6 points, Huckabee by 11 and Romney by 18. Clinton had an edge of 1 point over Giuliani, 9 points over Huckabee and 6 points over Romney.

Missing from USA Today's polling about electability was John Edwards--even though aside from Clinton and Obama, Edwards is the only Democratic candidate who consistently polls in double digits. And when other polls have included Edwards in questions about electability, Edwards generally does better than the other two, sometimes by wide margins. In a CNN survey of December 6-9, Edwards beat Romney by 11 points more than Clinton and 9 points more than Obama. He beat Huckabee by 15 points more than Clinton and 10 points more than Obama. Clinton lost to McCain in this polling by 2 points while Obama and McCain were tied, but Edwards beat him by 6. There's not as much of a difference with Giuliani, but Edwards still did 3 points better than Clinton and 2 points better than Obama.

If it's true, as USA Today's article reported, that "Democratic voters increasingly are focused on nominating the most electable presidential candidate," then the paper did those voters a real disservice by leaving Edwards out of the equation.

Like other establishment media outlets, however, USA Today seems to have difficulty providing a level playing field to a candidate who consistently attacks corporate interests--otherwise known as the media's owners and sponsors. An exercise in post-debate "fact-checking" by USA Today (12/14/07), for instance, took issue with this statement by Edwards: "One of the reasons that we've lost jobs, we're having trouble creating because corporate power and greed have literally taken over the government."

The paper's "reality," as written by David Jackson and Fredreka Schouten, was this: "Edwards is wrong about job creation. There were 94,000 new jobs created in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since August 2003, 8.35 million jobs have been created."

Is USA Today unaware that the USA's population increases every year? In July 2003 the population was 290.8 million; the population now is estimated to be 303.6 million. So that's 8.35 million new jobs for 12.8 million more people. As a rule of thumb, the economy has to add 150,000 new jobs each month to keep pace with population growth. And the economy has lost about 3 million manufacturing jobs since 1998--most of them since 2000. But not, apparently, in USA Today's reality.

ACTION: Please write to USA Today to ask why Edwards was left out of the electability polling--and urge them to fact-check their fact-checking.

USA Today
Brent Jones, Reader Editor

Winnie makes comeback in South African Politics

- Sent Using Google Toolbar

excerpt from:

BBC NEWS | Africa | Winnie makes comeback in ANC vote

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has emerged as the top candidate in the vote for the national executive committee (NEC) of South Africa's governing party.

African National Congress (ANC) members voted in the 80-member NEC after sacked Deputy President Jacob Zuma defeated President Thabo Mbeki as party leader.

Some of Mr Mbeki's closest allies failed to make it onto the NEC.

In his first public comments since his defeat, Mr Mbeki said he did not plan to step down early as president.

"I would expect the government to serve its term until the elections in 2009," Mr Mbeki said at a news conference at government headquarters in Pretoria .

Say NO to Permanent Military Bases in Iraq

The US has maintained permanent military bases in Korea for over 50 years do you want the same for Iraq?

"The first thing we have to do is end this war. And the right person to end it is someone who had the judgment to oppose it from the beginning." - Barack Obama, October 2, 2007

Just weeks ago, the Bush administration opened the door to establishing permanent military bases in Iraq. Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, the administration's deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan, stated that permanent military bases in Iraq will be "on the negotiating table" during talks next year on the long-term security relationship between the U.S. and Iraq.

We need real leadership to get us out of Iraq. Barack Obama opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning. He has a clear, realistic plan to end it. Under a Barack Obama administration, the occupation of Iraq will end and there will be no permanent military bases inside Iraq.

Join Barack Obama in telling the Bush administration: no permanent military bases in Iraq!

Take Action

Monday, December 17, 2007

Senator Chris Dodd -- On the Front Lines

While other Senators were on the campaign trail, Senator Chris Dodd was in Washington fighting the good fight trying to block giving telecom companies retroactive immunity from prosecution for illegal spying on American citizens. At times Dodd seemed like the Lone Ranger, his white hair resembling a white hat, as he took on the likes of Jeff Sessions, Orrin Hatch and their legion..

Chris Dodd may not win the Iowa Caucus but he, along with Patrick Leahy and Russell Feingold, may well be remembered for fighting to save a dying democracy.

Senator Dodd, Thank You

Earth Hour 2008 -- March 29, 2008 8pm

After all of the holiday lights it's time for a little darkness

Join A Global Movement -- Turn Out The Lights on March 29, 2008
Go to to learn more

Bush's Weather Forecast

Bush sees storm clouds in economy

December 17, 2007

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — President Bush worked to reassure Americans on Monday about the economy but said ''there's definitely some storm clouds and concern'' because of the nation's credit crunch and mortgage problems.

''But the underpinning is good,'' Bush told business and community leaders at a gathering of Rotary Club members.

''We've had a pretty good economic run,'' the president said in a speech intended to show he is aware of the public's edgy mood these days. Consumer confidence has eroded as turmoil in the housing and credit market have battered the economy.

Bush tried to position himself as an advocate for working families by taking aim at his favorite target: the Democratic Congress.

''The Congress cannot take economic vitality for granted,'' Bush said. ''The most negative thing Congress can do in the face of economic uncertainty is to raise taxes on the American people,'' Bush said.

The audience of roughly 80 people listened to Bush with respectful silence. Yet a line that normally gets him applause — ''I'll veto any tax increase'' — drew no reaction at all.

Saudi rape victim pardoned by King Abdullah

excerpt from:
By Katherine Zoepf
Monday, December 17, 2007
RIYADH: King Abdullah has pardoned a woman who was sentenced to 200 lashes after pressing charges against seven men who raped her, a Saudi newspaper reported Monday.
There was no immediate confirmation from the Ministry of Justice or the Ministry of Information, but the newspaper, Al Jazirah, is close to the religious establishment that controls the Justice Ministry, Reuters reported.
The case has provoked a rare and angry public debate in Saudi Arabia, leading to renewed calls for reform of the Saudi judicial system.
The rape took place a year and a half ago in Qatif, a small Shiite town in the Eastern Province, center of the Saudi Arabia's oil industry. The woman, who has been publicly identified only as the "Qatif girl," said she met a former boyfriend to retrieve a photograph of herself. They were sitting in a car together when seven men attacked, raping them both.
The woman and the former boyfriend were originally sentenced to 90 lashes each for being together in private, while the attackers received sentences ranging from 10 months to five years in prison, and 80 to 1,000 lashes each. For a woman to be in seclusion with a man who is not her husband or a relative is a crime in Saudi Arabia, whose legal code is based on a strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islamic law.
Her lawyer, Abdulrahman al-Lahem, a well-known human rights activist, appealed, saying the attackers' sentences were too lenient and that of the victim was too harsh. The appeal brought down the wrath of the court. In November, it doubled the woman's sentence and stripped Lahem of his license to practice, but also increased the sentences of her attackers to prison terms of two to nine years.
Lahem could not be reached by phone late Monday, but the editor in chief of Al Watan, a leading Saudi daily that Lahem writes for, said that it has been known in Riyadh political circles since early this month that the woman would be pardoned. The editor, Jamal Khashoggi, said he believed that the timing of the pardon, on the eve of the Id al-Adha holiday, was coincidental.

A Republican Volunteers for John Edwards

Iowa's First Lady Endorses John Edwards

excerpt from:

Mari Culver Endorses Edwards

By CHARLOTTE EBY, Courier Des Moines Bureau

DES MOINES --- Iowa First Lady Mari Culver threw her endorsement behind Democrat John Edwards less than three weeks before the Iowa voters head to the caucuses on Jan. 3.

Democratic Gov. Chet Culver is staying neutral in the Iowa caucus race, but some could see the endorsement by his wife as a sign that the governor also is behind Edwards.

In a statement officially announcing her endorsement, Mari Culver said she admires Edwards speaking out for those who have no voice.

"With all the challenges facing our country, we need a leader who will fight for our families," Culver said. "I am proud to endorse John Edwards for President. John has spent his career standing up for children and families in their hour of need."

Mari Culver will join Edwards on the final day of his eight-day bus tour of the state, attending events with him in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Davenport.

An Email to Santa from An Anguished American

photo courtesy of

Dear Santa,

I hope that this message is not intercepted before you receive it.

Please forgive me for not writing for such a long time but you were so very nice to me as a child that I thought it was somebody else's turn.

Today as I was watching the Senate debate over the FISA admendment which would grant retroactive immunity to the telecom companies that spied on US citizens on C-SPAN and I just knew that I had to write you quickly.

I know that you keep a list of who's been naughty and nice and between you and I there aren't very many nice people working in Washington, DC these days. I can't argue that most of them deserve a truck load of coal dumped right down their chimneys.

But Santa please send something extra nice to Senators Chris Dodd, Russ Feingold, Patrick Leahy and Jim Webb. They've worked extra hard this year and been really nice. If I recall they were always there for the really important votes and truly tried to do the right thing.

I've got to go now but will write more later.



P.S. Senator Arlen Specter was also nice most of the time.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Justice Delayed Again

Did anyone truly believe that suddenly the Justice Department would start seeking justice just because Alberto Gonzales resigned?.

excerpt from:

Delay Is Sought by Justice Dept. on C.I.A. Inquiry
by David Johnston and Mark Mazzetti

Published: December 15, 2007

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department asked the House Intelligence Committee on Friday to postpone its investigation into the destruction of videotapes by the Central Intelligence Agency in 2005, saying the Congressional inquiry presented “significant risks” to its own preliminary investigation into the matter.

The department is taking an even harder line with other Congressional committees looking into the matter, and is refusing to provide information about any role it might have played in the destruction of the videotapes. The recordings covered hundreds of hours of interrogations of two operatives of Al Qaeda.

The Justice Department and the C.I.A.’s inspector general have begun a preliminary inquiry into the destruction of the tapes, and Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said the department would not comply with Congressional requests for information now because of “our interest in avoiding any perception that our law enforcement decisions are subject to political influence.”

Richard Wolffe and Neal Katyal discuss the CIA destruction or torture tapes with on Countdown With Keith Olbermann.

The only way to expose the depth of the Bush Administration's abuses of power is an impeachment process. There are certainly more than enough grounds to proceed with such an action. However, it is clear that this will not happen.

Investigate Big Oil

cartoon courtesy of the Cartoonist Group and the Center for American Progess

Related posts:

Program Note: "Thirteen Days" Now Airing on TNT

I was sitting here catching up on a week's worth of mail and flipping the channels when low and behold what do I see. TNT is airing the docu-drama "Thirteen Days" the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Somebody please call Dana Perino who has obviously never seen this. Maybe she can rent a copy.

Now that I think of if could it be possible that no one in the Bush/Cheney Administration remembers the cuban missile crisis? If they did they've probably forgotten that great scene where Adlai Stevenson presents proof to the United Nations that missiles were on the ground in Cuba. Documented PROOF!

By the way, if you saw the rest of Rick Sanchez's broadcast you'll recall that most of the people on the street that they interviewed did know something about the cuban missile crisis.

Parents Do Not Let Your Children Grow Up To Be White House Press Secretaries

12/14 14:40 minor correction made to the title. That's what I get for blogging at 2am

Friday, December 14, 2007

To Help You Catch Your Breath

Need a break from shopping and decorating.  Here's a little something to help you wind down and relax.

originally posted 12/04/06

Links to Holiday Love & Light
From Mary Reynolds

The Christmas Season Movie

A Silent Night Movie

From Sing Cher Kwek

The Christmas Story

A Soldier's Story

and from my own

Christmas Memories

Celebrating Christmas
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The Reason

Something to Ponder

excerpt from an article by

By Stephen Fleishman

Homeless in Paradise

America, Land of 371 Billionaires and 3.5 Million Homeless

12/06/07 "
Counterpunch " -- -- In the United States of America, the greatest country in the world, as many as three and a half million people experience homelessness in a given year (1% of the entire US population or 10% of its poor) and of that, 1.37 million (or 39%) are children under the age of 18.

The total number of billionaires in the world is 793 with 371 of them being in the United States of America, that's about 322 more than there were 20 years ago.

If it can be said that people with money and power run the world, then 1% of America's wealthiest and most powerful run America behind a façade of democracy. The façade is coming apart and the true nature of this government is plain to see.

After four years of a useless war, costing Americans their lives and treasury, and enriching the multitude of corporate entities slurping up billions at the Iraqi trough, we have allowed the new robber barons, Bush and his crony capitalist friends to continue conning us out of house and home, our country. Our constitution is in shreds and our economy is about to crash. Don't let any of the Wall Street freaks try to fool you. They're as scared as we are.

read the rest ...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

They Came to See Oprah But Will They Vote for Obama

If CNN can regularly interview Donald Trump on his political views, Oprah certainly deserves to have her say. It's time to do whatever it takes to at least get Americans to listen.

I'm still trying to figure out Donald Trump's credentials for speaking on US foreign policy!

Monday, December 10, 2007

We're A Long Way From Bedford Falls

- Understanding Today's Mortgage Market

OK, so you're hearing about the so-called sub-prime mortgage crisis and you feel sorry for those people but this won't effect you.. right? Not necessarily.

As Frank Capra taught us the banking and housing industries are closely linked. But could Capra have ever imagined what's happening in today's mortgage market.

December 7, 2007 --
Andrew Jakabovics of the Center for American Progress tells CNN that the Bush Adminstration's plan to freeze interest rates on some adjustable mortgage holders does too little, too late for too few people and won't help the people who need it most.

So you're still wondering how this will effect you. Haven't there always been sub-prime (high-risk) mortgages.

In the following clip
PBS McNeil-Lehrer Newshour, Economics Correspondent, Paul Solman (with a little help from George Bailey), provides a clear and easily understandable explanation of the new mechanics of "securitized mortgage debt", and what can go wrong in a down market.

And now you're asking didn't anyone see this coming?

In the following video Andy Plesser of BeetTV interviewed Professor John Vogel of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Professor Vogel gives his take on the root and implications of the sub-prime crisis. This should make the picture crystal clear.

Let's review.

Over the past 4-5 years, high-risk consumers were offered sub-prime (variable rate loans) in an inflated housing market by mortgage lenders who sold those mortgages to hedge funds and foreign investors. So a high risk consumer whose credit may have merited a $100,000 mortgage was given a $250,000 mortgage to buy a home that may have realistically be worth $175,000 instead of $250,000.

During that same time period the banking industry lobbied the Congress to change the bankruptcy laws, making it harder for persons who were over their head in debt to get relief.

And now consumers' mortgages are adjusting to a higher rate and home values are declining. So a consumer may be facing foreclosure on a $250,000 loan on a home that can only sold for $175,000 by the hedge fund, pension fund, bank or foreign investor that now holds the mortgage.

So to sum things up

In today's America, Bedford Falls has become Potterville. And there aren't many bells ringing on Wall Street.

Do What's In YOUR Best Interest Not Theirs

As journalist Kathy Marquardt reports in the following article "the devil is in the details" of the Bush plan for addressing the subprime home mortgage crisis.

If you are a homeowner in need of assistance it is important to remember that the goal of mortgage lenders is to cut their losses not necessarily to help you.
After all, if they really had your best interest at heart they would have never sold you that the subprime, variable rate mortgage. Just look at who is excluded from this plan --
  • people who have been over 60 days late and
  • people who had more than 3% equity in their home at the time of the mortgage ( a category than impacts many senior citizens) .

So much for helping those who really need help help the most. In other words, if you recently refinanced your home with a lender who promised to lower your monthly payments by talking you into a variable rate mortgage, this will not help you.

It is critical that before you agree to any new deals or sign any new contracts that you get as many facts as you can, weigh your options, then make a decision that will be in your best interest in the long run.

6 Things to Know About Bush's Plan

By Katy Marquardt

Sat Dec 8, 11:45 AM ET

The devil is in the details of President Bush's plan to curb the nation's escalating home foreclosures by freezing for five years the introductory "teaser" interest rates on many subprime loans. Borrowers who qualify--Bush estimates that up to 1.2 million might be eligible--will also have the option of refinancing into a new mortgage or switching to a loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

Lenders had already been working out deals with strapped subprime borrowers, but only a small number of homeowners have been able to renegotiate their loans. Bush's plan aims to speed up these deals by laying out criteria to help lenders determine who is eligible for help. "We hope that these guidelines will be adopted as reasonable and customary standard practice across the entire servicing industry," said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who helped broker the deal with other regulators and mortgage lenders.

Here are six things you should know about the plan:

It will benefit only a small group of subprime borrowers.

To qualify, borrowers must have taken out an adjustable-rate mortgage between Jan. 1, 2005, and July 31, 2007. Those mortgages are scheduled to reset between Jan. 1, 2008, and July 31, 2010. The rate freeze applies only to those who are keeping up with payments but can't afford the higher interest rate due when their adjustable-rate mortgage resets. Lenders will determine who qualifies by evaluating a set of criteria, which includes credit scores, income, and payment history.

The plan excludes:

people who have been more than 60 days behind on their payments over the past year

and those with more than 3 percent equity in their home at the time the loan was made.

Anyone who purchased a property as a real-estate investment is also ineligible for assistance.

Borrowers must ask for help.

Aid is available only for those who ask for it, Bush said. The administration set up a hotline to help people determine their eligibility (888-995-HOPE). Borrowers should also contact their lender or a nonprofit credit counseling agency, says Darla Keegan, housing supervisor for Novadebt, a national nonprofit housing and credit counseling agency. "It's surprising, but many homeowners never try to initiate communication with their lender when they're falling into trouble--even when they're delinquent or going into foreclosure," Keegan says

The plan is not a "silver bullet."

Paulson acknowledged that the effort is not a quick fix. "We face a difficult problem for which there is no perfect solution," he said. It's important to keep in mind that the plan won't solve the housing market's woes, says Ron Greenspan of FTI Consulting. "It will make a difference to people in this small subset, but as far as the market at large, it's not even going to move the needle on the number of foreclosures." In the third quarter, the percentage of borrowers late with their payments rose to the highest level since 1986, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. The delinquency rate for all mortgages rose to 5.59 percent during the quarter, up from 5.12 percent in the second quarter.

Questions remain about how it will work.

Many hailed the plan as a step in the right direction, although critics have questioned how it will actually work. "This is likely to be logistically difficult, if not impossible to manage in any meaningful scale," says David Resler, chief economist at Nomura Securities. Critics also suggested that modifying loans may only help extend the crisis. "Freezing interest rates may [delay] the pain a bit, but the defaults are still going to come and property values are still going to continue to decline," says Dean Barber of Barber Financial Group.

This is an industry-led deal, not a government bailout.

Both Bush and Paulson emphasized that the plan involves no government money and is entirely voluntary. "This is a private-sector initiative to deal with the volume of resets," Paulson said at a press conference Thursday. "You get approximately the same result as if you did it on a case-by-case basis." The administration has proposed allowing state and local governments to issue tax-exempt bonds to fund refinance programs for struggling subprime borrowers.

The plan will become a hot political issue.

This is a bold step for an administration that has, until recently, insisted that the task of refinancing mortgage loans should be handled on a case-by-case basis. "There are obviously significant limitations on what they're willing to do, but I don't think we would have gotten this plan out of the administration that came into office in 2001," says Ellen Seidman, former director of both the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., who now heads a project at the New America Foundation.

As the presidential election nears, the health of the economy?--and how candidates will deal with the mortgage crisis--is gaining political importance. Some Democratic candidates argued that the plan doesn't go far enough and proposed their own plans. Hillary Clinton, for example, proposed an across-the-board rate freeze and a moratorium on foreclosures. John Edwards said he would freeze interest rates for seven years.

On Another Note:

UBS to Sell Stakes After $10 Billion in Writedowns

Dec. 10 (Bloomberg) -- UBS AG will write down U.S. subprime mortgage investments by $10 billion, the biggest such loss by a European bank, and replenish capital by selling stakes to investors in Singapore and the Middle East.

Europe's largest bank by assets plans to raise 13 billion Swiss francs ($11.5 billion) from Government of Singapore Investment Corp. and an unidentified Middle Eastern investor by selling them bonds that will convert into shares, Chairman Marcel Ospel said on a conference call with reporters today.

Related posts:

The Economy is Based on Borrowing

13 Ways to Live a Rich Life on Less

Around the Kitchen Table -- Debt

For Minorities, Signs of Troubles in Foreclosures

Protecting Elderly Loved Ones from Fraud

Money Myths and the Debt Deception -- What Are We Learning

We Can Only Hope

... that more people are finally getting it!

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies,
but the silence of our friends. "
-- Martin Luther King Jr

The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists
who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.
--- Martin Luther King Jr., "Strength to Love"

It's A Holiday But You Don't Feel Like Celebrating

originally posted 12/16/06

As the previous message mentioned, many people face the holiday season feeling that they have little reason to celebrate. Certain holidays like Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Thanksgiving and of course, Christmas can be the saddest of all because of their focus on relationships and gifts.

For people who have recently lost a loved one through death or divorce, who may be struggling with physical illness, who may have recently lost a job or, who may simply be a long, long way from home, the songs, decorations and commercials of the season may evoke melancholy instead of joy.

For many years Christmas seemed to have lost its joy for me because I could no longer spend it surrounded by a huge family with lots of children and in my favorite childhood place, my grandparent's farm. This year I've learned the secret of making the holidays special. In fact, it's really no secret at all.

The secret to enjoying the holidays is finding the meaning, the miracle and the sacredness in EVERY day. Approaching each day in this way has helped me find joy throughout the year and celebrate each holiday in a way that is meaningful for me. However, I will never forget the years of dreading the holidays or the Christmases of going through all the motions of shopping, cooking and decorating only to feel a terrible let down when Christmas Day arrived.

So for the next few weeks, I will be celebrating the season and while doing so try to share messages that will help anyone that is facing the holidays with dread, stress or emptiness.

Pamela Lyn

P.S. When you stop and really think about the good old days of holidays past you remember that they weren't really as perfect as you recalled.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Striking a Balance for the Holidays
Tools for reducing the stress and celebrating the holy

by Dr. Jerry L. Harber

Holidays are supposed to be a joyous, happy time, filled with warmth and laughter. Yet, for many, the emotions present are often tension, anger, disappointment, sadness, disillusionment, and even incompetence. What happens that turns these holy days into horrid days? And what can be done to keep that from happening?

Let's start with the first question. There are three things that combine to produce the pain: pressure to have a perfect experience, unrealistic expectations, and the expectation of intimacy. Let's look at each one.

The Perfect Experience. In our culture, holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, are portrayed as "perfect moments." Fairy tale pictures in commercials and holiday cards show us scenes that for many rarely happen--snowy landscapes and horse-drawn sleigh rides, flickering fireplaces and perfectly arranged candles, golden brown turkeys and laughing family members toasting the season. The subtle message is: This is how holidays should be; anything less is inadequate. The reality of holidays is oftentimes holiday dinners that exhaust the cooks and kitchens that take hours to clean; dinner rolls that won't rise; misguided gifts; and people who show up late, "spoiling everything."

Unrealistic Expectations. Trying to have the perfect experience is unrealistic, but other impossible expectations exist as well. There is tremendous pressure to spend too much money on decorations, food, drinks and gifts. Others expect you to "get into the holiday spirit" by entertaining at home or by attending more parties between Thanksgiving and New Year's than you are invited to all year. Declined invitations bring raised eyebrows or sad looks. How can you want to stay home and have a quiet evening? You should be enjoying yourself!

Expectation of Intimacy. The idea of coming home for the holidays is another cultural pressure we must face. The message is simple: You're supposed to be with family during the holidays, and you're suppose to enjoy being together. The reality is often very different. Frequently the added stress of the holiday season's expectations undermines attempts at being together and enjoying one another. The number of people seeking counseling increases after the holidays because of the stress that uncovers flaws in relationships during this time.

In spite of this dismal picture of the holidays, they need not be stressful times. Here are some ideas that can make a difference:

Start by remembering what holidays are really all about:

· Thanksgiving is for giving thanks for what you have,

· Christmas is for celebrating God's gift of eternal life though Jesus Christ,

· New Year's is a time of reflection, renewal and refocusing on things that really matter.

Stop and rethink your habits and traditions associated with these days:

· Make a list, write a narrative, jot some notes to yourself in which you describe what you really want to do versus what you think you should do. Traditions can be very helpful because they provide a sense of continuity with the past. This in turn fosters a sense of belonging, security, relatedness, and intimacy. And traditions provide a structure for important moments. But traditions should be reexamined, because they may need to be changed, revised, even abandoned if they don't achieve what they are suppose to achieve.

· If new traditions make more sense, replace the old ones. It's one thing to visit everyone in your family when there are only two of you and one or two families to visit. But, as families expand and/or change through divorce and remarriage, another approach may make more sense and be just a meaningful.

Accept those things that can not be changed, but change those things that can:

· For example, your Christmas this year is not likely to bring the emotional supports you needed from your parents when you were growing up. If they couldn't do it then, they probably can't do it now.

· Decide to break the bad habits you have with siblings or other relatives, such as rehashing old hurts.

· Intimacy and warm feelings come in momentary waves, not long-lasting deluges; take what is offered and be thankful rather than comparing that to what you wished for and making yourself miserable.

By trying to follow these suggestions, you can actually celebrate the holidays as what they are meant to be: holy days.