Monday, March 31, 2008

Will Change in Pakistan's Government Effect US Foreign Policy?

It will be interesting to watch?

excerpt from:
New Pakistan cabinet sworn in
Al Jazeera English

Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, has sworn in 24 members of the new cabinet led by Yousaf Raza Gilani, the prime minister.

Of those sworn in on Monday, 11 came from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of Benazir Bhutto, the late former prime minister, while nine others were members of the PML-N party of Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister.

Some PML-N members being sworn in wore black armbands in a show of protest against Musharraf, who ousted Sharif and his government in a 1999 military coup.

The PPP and the PML-N swept general elections six weeks ago on pledges to limit presidential powers and re-instate judges Musharraf removed.

The incoming coalition government needed another week to finalise its cabinet lineup and is expected to add dozens more names in the coming weeks.

Among the key figures sworn in on Tuesday, the Cambridge University-educated Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who will be become foreign minister, Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, another Bhutto loyalist who will be defence minister, and Ishaq Dar, a Sharif ally who will be finance minister.

Among other appointments, Sherry Rehman, a senior Bhutto party spokeswoman, has been chosen minister of information.

Economic shake-up

As part of the government's new platform, Dar said the economic policies of the previous pro-Musharraf administration would have to be reversed.

"They are handing over the economy in mutilated shape," the new finance minister, who is from Sharif's party, told reporters on Sunday.

Sound familiar?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

How Much Will Change Cost?

Each of the remaining candidates in the US primary elections hopes to present him/herself as a candidate of “change”. But after viewing their campaign fundraising and expense reports for Feb. 2008 I am left asking “just how much will “change” cost?”

According to the website :

“ The candidates for president have broken nearly all fundraising records, amassing approximately $800 million even before the two major parties choose their nominees for the November ballot. By some predictions, the eventual nominees will need to raise $500 million apiece to compete—a record sum.”

Here is an abbreviated version on the US primary campaign finance records report that appears on
OpenSecrets. The reports for March are due April 20th.

These number are amazing and when you take in consideration that the US is, in my opinion, in recession, they are mind-boggling.

Where are they getting this money?

In an article for Forbes, entitled
Voting with Their Wallets, Andrew Gillies reported:

“ So far in the 2008 election cycle, Barack Obama has pulled in the most dollars from folks working for the 118 companies that make up the Forbes Beltway Index.

Using data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, D.C., we tallied individual contributions made this year and last, through March 3, for Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Obama.

The Center for Responsive Politics' database, searchable here, tracks individual contributions of $200 or greater, as smaller contributions are not part of the public record. Note also that we did not survey contributions made to political action committees.

By the individual contributions measure, Obama's take adds up to $962,000 from people working at Forbes Beltway Index companies. Clinton and McCain, respectively, show contributions of $771,000 and $525,000.

For those unfamiliar with the Forbes Beltway Index, it is our means of monitoring the stock market performance of publicly held companies that have a significant business attachment to the federal government. Its ranks include the biggest federal contractors, government-sponsored enterprises, and companies enjoying significant competitive advantages thanks to federal policy.."

And, believe it or not, some of the money is coming from the subprime mortgage industry.

In a recent WSJ article entitled “
Subprime Politics” , Christopher Cooper reported:

“ Opensecrets also provides industry-wide data. According to the site, Sen. Clinton has taken in $199,000 from employees of mortgage lenders, compared with $168,000 for Sen. Obama and $58,000 for Sen. McCain. Sen. Obama leads her slightly among employees of commercial banks, at $1.28 million to $1.22 million.

Adding up donations from mortgage companies, banks, private-equity and hedge-fund firms -- all industries involved in subprime lending -- Sen. Clinton has drawn $2.8 million in donations, compared with $2.67 million for Sen. Obama and $1.28 million for Sen. McCain.

Employees of Bear Stearns Cos. -- the Wall Street firm that recently agreed to be bought by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. after a funding crisis brought on in part by bad mortgage-related investments -- gave a combined $122,000 to Sen. Clinton, $41,000 to Sen. Obama and almost $59,000 to Sen. McCain, according to Opensecrets.”

How Much Will “Change” Cost?

And, who is going to foot the final bill?

# # #

cross-posted at the Care2 Election Blog

Has Protest Lost Its Power

When politicians like Dick Cheney arrogantly admit that they totally dismiss the opinions of the voting electorate maybe it has.  After all, when impeachment was "taken off the table" what did the Bush Administration have to fear.

excerpt from:

Naomi Klein and Jeremy Scahill:
Anti-war campaigners have to change electoral tactics

This article appeared in the Guardian on Wednesday March 26 2008 on p28 of the Comment & debate section. It was last updated at 10:08 on March 26 2008.

Neither Clinton nor Obama has a real plan to end the occupation of Iraq, but they could be forced to change position

    'So?" So said Dick Cheney when asked last week about public opinion being overwhelmingly against the war in Iraq. "You can't be blown off course by polls." A few days later, his attitude, about the fact that the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq has reached 4,000, displayed similar levels of sympathy. They "voluntarily put on the uniform," the vice-president told ABC news.

    This brick wall of indifference helps explain the paradox in which we in the US anti-war camp find ourselves five years into the occupation of Iraq: anti-war sentiment is as strong as ever, but our movement seems to be dwindling. Sixty-four per cent of Americans tell pollsters they oppose the war, but you'd never know it from the thin turnout at recent rallies and vigils.

    When asked why they aren't expressing their anti-war opinions through the anti-war movement, many say they have simply lost faith in the power of protest. They marched against the war before it began, marched on the first, second and third anniversaries. And yet, five years on, US leaders are still shrugging: "So?"

    That's why it's time for the anti-war movement to change tactics. We should direct our energy where it can still have an impact: the leading Democratic contenders.

    Many argue otherwise. They say that if we want to end the war, we should simply pick a candidate who is not John McCain and help them win: we'll sort out the details after the Republicans are evicted from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Some of the most prominent anti-war voices - from to the Nation, the magazine we both write for - have gone down this route, throwing their weight behind the Obama campaign.

    This is a serious strategic mistake. It is during a hotly contested campaign that anti-war forces have the power to actually sway US policy. As soon as we pick sides, we relegate ourselves to mere cheerleaders.

    And when it comes to Iraq, there is little to cheer. Look past the rhetoric and it becomes clear that neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton has a real plan to end the occupation. They could, however, be forced to change their positions, thanks to the unique dynamics of the prolonged primary battle.

    Despite the calls for Clinton to withdraw in the name of "unity", it is the very fact that Clinton and Obama are still fighting it out, fiercely vying for votes, that presents the anti-war movement with its best pressure point. And our pressure is badly needed.

    For the first time in 14 years, weapons manufacturers are donating more to Democrats than to Republicans. The Democrats have received 52% of the defence industry's political donations in this election cycle - up from a low of 32% in 1996. That money is about shaping foreign policy and, so far, it appears to be well spent.

    Germany to Boycott China Olympics |

    excerpt from:
    Merkel says she will not attend opening of Beijing Olympics

    Ian Traynor in Brussels and Jonathan Watts in Beijing

    The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, yesterday became the first world leader to decide not to attend the Olympics in Beijing.

    As pressure built for concerted western protests to China over the crackdown in Tibet, EU leaders prepared to discuss the crisis for the first time today, amid a rift over whether to boycott the Olympics.

    The disclosure that Germany is to stay away from the games' opening ceremonies in August could encourage President Nicolas Sarkozy of France to join in a gesture of defiance and complicate Gordon Brown's determination to attend the Olympics.

    Donald Tusk, Poland's prime minister, became the first EU head of government to announce a boycott on Thursday and he was promptly joined by President Václav Klaus of the Czech Republic, who had previously promised to travel to Beijing.

    "The presence of politicians at the inauguration of the Olympics seems inappropriate," Tusk said. "I do not intend to take part."

    Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany's foreign minister, confirmed that Merkel was staying away. He added that neither he nor Wolfgang Schäuble, the interior minister responsible for sport, would attend the opening ceremony.

    Hans-Gert Pöttering, the politician from Merkel's Christian Democratic party who chairs the European parliament, encouraged talk of an Olympic boycott this week and invited the Dalai Lama to address the chamber in Strasbourg, while another senior German Christian Democrat, Ruprecht Polenz, said a boycott should remain on the table.

    "I cannot imagine German politicians attending the opening or closing ceremonies [if the Tibetan crackdown continued]," he said.

    Do You Bless or Curse?

    Much has been written recently about a well known minister’s comments which seemed to damn a nation. It is not my intent to discuss that issue here other than to reflect upon the power of words.

    There’s a saying “Stick and Stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me” As children we all knew that this saying is not true no matter how much adults tried to convince us otherwise. Children instinctively know that words have power. But sadly, as we become adults many of us either forget about the power of words or we learn how to use that power for our own purposes. We learn how to bless or curse.

    The bible states in Proverbs 18:21:

    “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life]”. -- Amplified Bible (AMP)

    Said another way,

    “Words kill, words give life; they're either poison or fruit—you choose.” - The Message (MSG)

    This past Good Friday, I was reminded of a message by Victoria Boyson entitled, "The Power of Blessing".
    In this message Victoria recalls a young women who seemed to be extremely blessed but did not live or feel that way.

    “I once knew a young girl who seemed to have a lot going for her, but consistently failed in many areas of her life. I could not understand why- she seemed to choose failure over a successful, happy life. She was beautiful, talented and intelligent, but it was obvious that she did not esteem herself. And she continually made bad choices.

    For years I could not understand why she did not see her true value as a person - until I met her mother. Her mother saw her as the biggest failure ever born and told her so. She would vomit out her many objections about her daughter to anyone who would listen to her. With her daughter present she would declare to a roomful of people what a failure she was. It did not take great discernment to see why the girl struggled so. Why should she like herself when the woman who gave birth to her did not see any good in her?”

    Did this mother realize that her ill spoken words were cursing her daughter? Probably not. Did the daughter realize that words that her mother spoke over her were the cause of her low self esteem? Maybe. But whatever the mother or the daughter did or did not realize or intend, the power of the words still accomplished their work

    In the Old Testament the descendants of Abraham recognized the power of words. In fact the words of blessing from a father were so sought after that mothers and sons stooped to deception to obtain. Many of you recall the story of the lengths to which Rebekah and Jacob went to have Isaac bestow the blessing of the first born on Jacob. Genesis 27

    Words have power to bless and to curse. YOU CHOOSE!

    “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” Deuteronomy 30:19 (New International Version)

    Saturday, March 29, 2008

    What Bill Mahr and Rev. Jeremiah Wright Have in Common

    Don't laugh but last night as I was watching "Real Time" with Bill Mahr I realized that he and Rev. Jeremiah Wright have a great deal in common.
    • They both have a huge audience

    • They both make controversial statements and,

    • people who listen to them faithfully don't always agree with their comments
    I was also reminded of why I'm really glad that I'm not Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or, for that matter, any candidate running for public office.

    You see I watch Real Time with Bill Mahr every Friday evening and I manage to sit through the sexist jokes, the religion bashing and even his disdain for anyone who still dares to consume meat. And despite all of the comments with which I disagree and the jokes that I think are simply mean-spirited, this Christian woman finds that "Real Time" offers some of the best social and political commentary on television. And yes, most of the time, Bill Mahr is just plain funny.

    Does this make me a hypocrite? Or, I am just "filtering" out the messages that are not in agreement with my personal value system.

    In a recent article for Political Voices of Women, Penny Ronning started me thinking about the "personal filtration systems" that we all use to decide how to integrate what we hear into what we believe.

    In her post Penny stated, "Listening to Barack Obama's speech in response to specific messages of racially charged anger delivered from his church's pulpit by his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, I wondered what kind of personal filtration system Barack had in place all those years Jeremiah Wright was his pastor".

    It's probably the same personal filtration system that I use in facing the world.

    I stopped watching the show "24" two seasons ago because I thought that it glorified torture. I don't shop at Walmart because of its treatment of employees and its impact on local small businesses. I don't wear real fur. And I once left a church because I disagreed with the pastor's teachings.

    But I still watch "Real Time". I'm sure that if I was running for public office I would have to explain why I watch Real Time if I disagree with Mahr's comments about women and religion.

    Of course Bill Mahr is a comedian and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is a religious leader and Bill Mahr isn't an advisor to a political candidate (hmm) but questionable comments are questionable comments, aren't they? Should we find out which candidates are listening to Bill Mahr and not disavowing his comments about women and religion? Of course not.

    So why, during this presidential primary campaign, have both of the Democratic candidates been asked to denounce or disavow every questionable comment made by their associates on the subject of race while the GOP candidates have basically gotten a pass?

    Is this some form of new, "are you a racist" test for Democrats only?

    In the following video clip Bill Mahr and Tavis Smiley discuss just this:

    Maybe this entire "Jeremiah Wright controversy" was just what America needed. Maybe we all need to look at our personal filtration systems.

    What do you filter out and what do you take in?

    Friday, March 28, 2008

    Where Does Afghanistan Stand?

    Today, US President George Bush states that "Iraq stands at a defining moment". Well, what about Afghanistan?

    Remember Afghanistan -- the main reason that many young men and women gave up their civilian careers to join today's all volunteer military and bring Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda to justice.

    Where does that nation stand??

    The following statement was released earlier today by the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

    Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admits ‘We don’t have troops…ready to go’ to fight the war in Afghanistan

    This morning, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen joined the ranks of military leaders who have admitted that because of the war in Iraq, the U.S. is unable to dedicate the necessary number of troops to fight al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

    “So, should we be in a position where more troops are removed from Iraq, the possibility of sending additional troops [to Afghanistan] — where we need them, clearly — certainly it’s a possibility. But it’s really going to be based on the availability of troops. We don’t have troops — particularly in Brigade Combat Team size — sitting on the shelf, ready to go.” [3/28/08]

    Gen. James Conway, Commandant of the Marine Corps:

    “[The Marines] cannot have one foot in Afghanistan and one foot in Iraq.” [Washington Post, 2/2/08]

    Lt. Gen. John Sattler (USMC), Director for Strategic Plans & Policy:

    “…the priority now for resources is going towards Iraq at this time…there are some things we could do and, as Admiral Mullen said, we may like to do, we would like to do, but we can’t take those on now until the resource balance shifts, sir.” [Testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, 2/14/08]

    · It has been 2,382 days since the September 11th attacks – Osama bin Laden remains free.

    · 486 brave U.S. servicemembers have been killed and more than 1,900 have been wounded in Afghanistan since October 2001. [Department of Defense, 3/22/08]

    · Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell testified in February that Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai and his government control just one-third of the country – the remaining majority is under the control of either the Taliban or local tribes. [
    AP, 2/28/08]

    · According to a report released by the United Nations, “insurgent and terrorist violence in Afghanistan increased sharply in 2007, with over 8,000 conflict-related deaths and an average of 566 incidents per month.” [
    AP, 3/10/08]

    Thursday, March 27, 2008

    Parents Who Watch TOO Many Movies

    Beware of parents who watch too many movies like "300" because they may come away with ideas. Ideas like training children as young as 6 yrs. old to be ultimate fighters.

    Apparently there are parents in Missouri who believe that "Ultimate Fighting"
    is an appropriate athletic outlet for young children. Yes I said "Ultimate Fighting", the sport where grown men beat each other into submission by virtually any means necessary.

    Forgive me for being amazed that while so many parents are worried about violence in the schools, on the streets and from terrorists that other parents are training their children to be 21st century gladiators and hoplites. And the argument that these parents are using to justify their child rearing technique is that ultimate fighting is teaching these children self defense skills and self discipline.

    However, when I stop to think of all of the violent video games that parents buy for themselves and their children I guess the next logical progression was ultimate fighting.

    King Leonidas would be proud.

    excerpt from:
    Ultimate Fights Expand to Incl
    ude Kids


    CARTHAGE, Mo. (AP) — Ultimate fighting was once the sole domain of burly men who beat each other bloody in anything-goes brawls on pay-per-view TV.

    But the sport often derided as "human cockfighting" is branching out.

    The bare-knuckle fights are now attracting competitors as young as 6 whose parents treat the sport as casually as wrestling, Little League or soccer.

    The changes were evident on a recent evening in southwest Missouri, where a team of several young boys and one girl grappled on gym mats in a converted garage.

    Two members of the group called the "Garage Boys Fight Crew" touched their thin martial-arts gloves in a flash of sportsmanship before beginning a relentless exchange of sucker punches, body blows and swift kicks.

    No blood was shed. And both competitors wore protective gear. But the bout reflected the decidedly younger face of ultimate fighting. The trend alarms medical experts and sports officials who worry that young bodies can't withstand the pounding.

    Tommy Bloomer, father of two of the "Garage Boys," doesn't understand the fuss.

    "We're not training them for dog fighting," said Bloomer, a 34-year-old construction contractor. "As a parent, I'd much rather have my kids here learning how to defend themselves and getting positive reinforcement than out on the streets."

    Bloomer said the sport has evolved since the no-holds-barred days by adding weight classes to better match opponents and banning moves such as strikes to the back of the neck and head, groin kicking and head butting.

    Missouri appears to be the only state in the nation that explicitly allows the youth fights. In many states, it is a misdemeanor for children to participate. A few states have no regulations.

    Wednesday, March 26, 2008

    Take Action: Protect Our Food

    Did you know that with approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), biotech companies are planting fields of corn, rice, and other food crops genetically engineered to grow drugs and other chemicals?

    The scary thing is that if the nation's food crops are contaminated in the process, we could wind up with corn flakes, taco shells, and many other common food items that are dangerous for us to eat.

    The Union of Concerned Scientists and independent experts agree that if food crops are used to produce drugs and other chemicals, they are very likely to contaminate the food supply and pose serious human health and environmental risks for years to come.

    How much do you know about the food you eat? You can test your knowledge by taking this short quiz:

    Then help us make sure that this never happens! Sign the petition urging the USDA to ban the genetic engineering of outdoor food crops for the production of pharmaceutical and industrial chemicals.

    Click here to sign today:

    As the following documentary illustrates various commercial and politically interests would like to keep you in the dark about the health dangers of genetically modified foods. Don't let them get away with it.

    Jesus Wept

    While most of us in the West celebrated Easter Sunday, the 4,000 US soldier perished in Iraq. I'm not sure if the Allied death toll was reported that day. Or, if mention was given to all of the soldiers who came home wounded. And, I doubt if many in the press gave much of a mention to the number of Iraqi military men or Iraqi civilians who have died or have been wounded.

    I guess that the only thing that I am sure of is that one person counted them all and wept.

    * * * * *

    Veterans Mourn the Loss of 4,000 U.S. Troops in Iraq
    Death Toll Is a Stark Reminder of the Human Cost of War

    NEW YORK - On Sunday the death toll of U.S. servicemembers in Iraq reached 4,000. In response, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the nation's first and largest non-partisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, issued the following statement:

    "The 4000th KIA in Iraq is newsworthy, but the truth is that every death should be a news item," said Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "The 4000th death should not be exploited in the polarized arguments about the war. Honoring the fallen is neither a pro nor an anti war statement. It's about respecting the sacrifice of thousands of America's sons and daughters."

    Last week, IAVA called on the media to report more thoroughly on the war in Iraq. According to the Pew Research Center, last month's media coverage of the war was at its lowest point in five years and less than a third of the public knew how many troops had died in Iraq.

    "Over 80% of Americans are aware that Oprah Winfrey endorsed Senator Obama, yet only 28% know how many troops have died in Iraq. These numbers are a slap in the face to everyone who has served in the current conflicts," said Rieckhoff. "While thousands of military families across the country are coping with the heartbreaking loss of a loved one, most Americans don't even know the death toll."

    "Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the families who have sacrificed for the war. But the fallen are much more than a statistic. More than half of those killed were under the age of 25 and many have left young families behind. Over 2,200 children have lost a parent in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan."

    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) is the nation's first and largest group for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A non-profit and nonpartisan organization, IAVA represents more than 80,000 veteran members and civilian supporters in all 50 states. To arrange an interview with Paul Rieckhoff or any other IAVA member veterans, please contact Kara Horowitz at (212)-982-9699, or email

    For more information, please visit


    In Memory of the fallen, IAVA has shared footage of Navy Seal Michael Monsoor's memorial service. Monsoor was killed in Iraq on September 29, 2006. May this footage honor them all

    It's Been A While Since We've Spoken About Walmart

    There Now!

    Tuesday, March 25, 2008

    You've Got to Be Kidding

    Oh, I'd love to hear the explanation for this story. Then again, maybe I don't. It might make me wonder what else has been shipped by mistake, and to whom.

    Pentagon Mistakenly Shipped Ballistic Missile Parts to Taiwan

    Associated Press

    The Pentagon announced Tuesday that the United States mistakenly shipped to Taiwan four electrical fuses designed for use on intercontinental ballistic missiles, but has since recovered them.

    The error is particularly disturbing, officials said, because of its indirect link to nuclear weaponry and because of the sensitivity of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, which China regularly denounces as provocative. The Defense Department said an investigation of the incident is under way.

    At a news conference, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne said the misshipped items were four electrical fuses for nose cone assemblies for ICBMs. He also said they were delivered to Taiwan in 2006 and had been sent instead of helicopter batteries that had been ordered by Taiwan.

    Friday, March 21, 2008

    Saudi Plan to Retrain Religious Leaders

    On the surface this may sound like a good idea but the concept of State (any State) "trained" religion sends a cold chill down my spine.

    excerpt from:
    By Magdi Abdlehadi
    BBC Arab Affairs analyst

    Saudi Arabia is to retrain its 40,000 prayer leaders - also known as imams - in an effort to counter militant Islam.

    Details of the plan were revealed in the influential Saudi newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat.

    The plan is part of a wider programme launched by the Saudi monarch a few years ago to encourage moderation and tolerance in Saudi society.

    The ministry of religious affairs and new centre for national dialogue will carry out the training, the paper said.

    The centre was created five years ago to disseminate a moderate interpretation of Islamic tradition.

    There is growing awareness in Saudi society that security measures alone are not enough to counter the threat of Islamic militancy.

    But critics are sceptical about whether such initiatives would work as long as the powerful, and ultraconservative, religious establishment in Saudi Arabia continues to exert enormous influence over society.

    Only last week, a prominent cleric called for the beheading of two liberal writers who had questioned the orthodox view that Muslims can not change their religion.

    Wednesday, March 19, 2008

    At the Close of the Day

    Today marked the 5th Anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq and one of the best summaries on the meaning of this day came from Robert Fisk of the Independent.

    In his article, "The only lesson that we ever learn is that we never learn" Fisk states:

    "Today, we are engaged in a fruitless debate. What went wrong? How did the people – the senatus populusque Romanus of our modern world – not rise up in rebellion when told the lies about weapons of mass destruction, about Saddam's links with Osama bin Laden and 11 September? How did we let it happen? And how come we didn't plan for the aftermath of war? "

    Bad Luck, Incompetence, Lack of Regulation or simple Avarice

    Only time will tell which of these was the chief contributor to the subprime mortgage crisis.

    Some people are saying that falling real estate values caused the crisis. Others are saying that the crisis was caused by the incompetence of those in the banking and investment houses.

    In my humble opinion, the subprime mortgage market was a house of cards that was built on avarice (at best) or the intent to commit fraud (at worst). Avarice is certainly nothing new on Wall Street Remember the 80's and Michael Milken, the junk bond king. What about the 90's, Arthur Andersen and Enron.

    A CNN analyst recently compared the bailout of Bear Stearns as well as the efforts of the Federal Reserve to help the banks to a case of arson. The analyst stated that after an arsonist starts a fire, a fire department has to come in to put out the fire.

    My problem with that analogy is that in a case of arson, after the fire department puts out the fire, the fire marshall conducts a criminal investigation and based on the results of the fire marshall's investigation the arsonist is usually caught, tried, and punished. So in the case of arson, the individual(s) who intentionally started the fire don't just say, "oops sorry", and then walk away. However, as I sat here today, once again watching the C-SPAN broadcast of the full House Hearing on Executive Compensation, I am left with the feeling that this is exactly what the individual(s) who stated the subprime fire will do. In fact, the mortgage market "arsonists" aren't just walking away but the government is picking up their legal fees and rewarding them for their actions.

    In his op-ed article for the Washington Post, E.J. Dionne Jr. stated, " .. if this near meltdown of capitalism doesn't encourage a lot of people to question the principles they have carried in their heads for the past three decades or so, nothing will."

    Dionne further noted:

    " The Wall Street titans have turned into a bunch of welfare clients. They are desperate to be bailed out by government from their own incompetence, and from the deregulatory regime for which they lobbied so hard. They have lost "confidence" in each other, you see, because none of these oh-so-wise captains of the universe have any idea what kinds of devalued securities sit in one another's portfolios.

    So they have stopped investing. The biggest, most respected investment firms threaten to come crashing down. You can't have that. It's just fine to make it harder for the average Joe to file for bankruptcy, as did that wretched bankruptcy bill passed by Congress in 2005 at the request of the credit card industry. But the big guys are "too big to fail," because they could bring us all down with them.

    Enter the federal government, the institution to which the wealthy are not supposed to pay capital gains or inheritance taxes. Good God, you don't expect these people to trade in their BMWs for Saturns, do you?"

    While I totally agree with E.J. Dionne's overall sentiments I disagree with his statement that the "Wall Street titans have lost confidence in each other" or "that none of these oh-so-wise captains of the universe have any idea what kinds of devalued securities sit in one another's portfolios". I believe that for some of those in the Wall Street community "confidence" was never an issue. And many of them have a very good idea idea of "what kinds of devalued securities are still sitting out there.

    During the House Hearings on Executive Compensation, Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, stated that "nobody is in the business of making loans that cause people to fail". I suggest that while the banking community may not have intended to people to fail, they certainly meant to keep consumers dangling on the precipice. Banks and mortgage lenders may not have intended for individuals to fail but they certainly made billions from the punitive fees.

    Let me be clear, I have nothing against the acquisition of wealth or corporate profits. An impoverished person can't help themselves and a business in the red can't create jobs. Conversely a wealthy individual can not only help themselves, they can help others. Likewise, a thriving business benefits its employers, shareholders and the general economy.

    The largest contributing factor to the events which are now shaking world markets and breaking the back of the US economy is avarice -- the "immoderate desire for wealth" at any cost, at the expense of the most vulnerable in society and, without regard or consequence.

    I totally agree with E.J. Dionne's statement that " .. if this near meltdown of capitalism doesn't encourage a lot of people to question the principles they have carried in their heads for the past three decades or so, nothing will." But I really wonder if it will.

    The House Hearing on Executive Compensation is available in the C-Span Video Library. I strongly recommend that if you are interested in this issue that you view the proceedings if you have the opportunity. And if you do see the rebroadcast, look for Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah's Freudian slip when he stated that he was honored to be addressing a "panel of the men who run America".

    Call for Dignitaries to Boycott China Olympics

    excerpt from
    Calls Mount for Olympic Boycott 
    by John Leicester, AP

    PARIS (AP) -- Moves to punish China over its handling of violence in Tibet gained momentum Tuesday, with a novel suggestion for a mini-boycott of the Beijing Olympics by VIPs at the opening ceremony.

    Such a protest by world leaders would be a huge slap in the face for China's Communist leadership.

    France's outspoken foreign minister, former humanitarian campaigner Bernard Kouchner, said the idea "is interesting."

    Kouchner said he wants to discuss it with other foreign ministers from the 27-nation European Union next week. His comments opened a crack in what until now had been solid opposition to a full boycott, a stance that Kouchner said remains the official government position.

    The idea of skipping the Aug. 8 opening ceremony "is less negative than a general boycott," Kouchner said. "We are considering it."

    Asked about Kouchner's statement, China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said: "Certainly I think what he said is not shared by most of the people in the world."

    International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said last month that he expects many heads of state - including President Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy - to attend the opening ceremony.

    Such an opening ceremony boycott presumably would not include the athletes, who under Olympic rules are forbidden from making any kind of protest at events or venues - including the opening ceremony

    Someone's Finally Yanked the Tiger's Tail.

    Many of you are proabably too young to remember when Exxon's logo was a really cute tiger that remember you of that cereal tiger Tony. In fact, Kellogg's is glad that you don't. However, for some reason that tiger's image came to mind when I read the following article: .

    excerpt from:
    US oil giant loses Venezuela case

    A London judge has suspended a court order that froze $12bn of Venezuelan assets awarded to US oil giant ExxonMobil in a dispute over oil interests.

    Judge Paul Walker said ExxonMobil had "no good arguable case" that Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), Venezuela's state oil company, had acted unjustifiably in taking control of two of its operations.

    The ruling came after ExxonMobil won a court order against PDVSA as part of an international arbitration to win compensation for assets seized during the nationalisation of Venezuelan oil fields.

    The funds were originally frozen so that ExxonMobil could be compensated should it win arbitration.

    Good for that judge.

    Tuesday, March 18, 2008

    The Measure of Barack Obama

    The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
    -- Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love, 1963

    Somedays, in spite of the many efforts to the contrary, something special really happens. This is one of those days.

    Senator Barack Obama's speech addressing race relations in America.

    As I shared on Catherine Morgan's blog, Political Voices of Women,

    I’ve been privileged in my lifetime to have heard some of the best speakers of our generation -- JFK, MLK, RFK, Barbara Jordan, Jesse Jackson et al. Each speech they gave ( and in Jesse’s case still gives) helped move us all closer to understanding.

    But this is a process.

    Nothing will be settled in one speech that hasn’t been settled in the past 40-50 years. But just like the speeches given by others, Barack Obama’s speech today will hopefully help move us one more step closer to understanding.

    As far as Senator Obama’s relationship with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, I do not attempt to judge his heart or his faith. I can only take him at his word. For me, personally, as an African American and as a Christian, I do not feel comfortable with preaching from a minister, of any race, who uses the pulpit to preach anything other than the gospel of grace, love, faith and reconciliation with God (and your fellow man).

    As a media watcher, I realize that the CNNs, MSNBCs, FOXNews, ABC, CBS, etc have played the clips of Rev. Wright ad nauseum. Controversy sells, it’s that simple.
    * * * * *
    Whether you are or are not supporting Barack Obama politically, I hope that you can appreciate the sentiments expressed in his speech. As for me, I do my best to live by the words expressed by one of my role models:

    I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound
    to the starless midnight of racism and war
    that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood
    can never become reality.
    I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love
    will have the final word.
    -- Dr. Martin Luther King

    Monday, March 17, 2008

    You Can't Get Blood Out of A Stone

    ... but the banks certainly tried.

    In Monday's post for The Washington Monthly, Kevin Drum posed a great question about the banking industry's response to the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Now as you know, I'm by no means a financial wizard nor do I have an advanced degree in economics. However, as an American consumer who'se been watching the state of the consumer over the past few years I took a stab at posting a reply to his question.

    Here's the question:

    " Like a lot of people, I've spent a fair amount of time over the past few months trying to understand the subprime debacle: CDOs, SIVs, mezzanine tranches, the housing bubble, diversification correlations, etc. etc. And some of this stuff I've finally figured out. Sort of. But there's one part that I still don't get, a piece of the puzzle where a card always seems to get palmed with no further explanation. For example, here's Jared Bernstein explaining what happened when the housing bubble burst:

    ' Then the loans started to go bad, but because they were squirreled away who knows where, no one knew quite what to do. So the part of the economy that provides credit froze up, and without free-flowing credit, our economy can't expand.'

    I'm not trying to pick on Jared; his post just happened to be handy. But why is it that "the part of the economy that provides credit froze up"? There always seems to be some hand waving at that point, and aside from bits and pieces that I can't quite put together into a cohesive whole, there's never an explanation of why a meltdown in one particular(admittedly large) sector of the financial industry caused the entire commercial paper market to essentially freeze solid.

    So consider this post a public plea for someone to explain that particular part of the puzzle in layman's terms. Why are the credit markets frozen?

    The following is my reply to Kevin's question. Of course, it's rather simplistic but he did ask for a reply in layman's terms.

    After reading the warnings about sub-prime mortgages and stories about the escalating home foreclosure rate over the past two years, I can only conclude that the credit market froze because the banks were waiting for an excuse to freeze it.

    Maybe I've been listening to too much of Naomi Klein but I see the "Shock Dcotrine" in practice. I'm certainly no economist but this is how it appears to my eyes.

    Just look at what has happened.

    A few years ago Americans realized that they were drowning in debt and began declaring bankruptcy in record numbers. The banks then lobbied Congress and the bankruptcy laws were changed.

    Americans then borrowed heavily against their home equity just to make ends meet. Some also transferred existing credit card debt to new cards offering low introductory rates. Many new home buyers (even those with good credit) entered into sub-prime mortgages that allowed them to purchase far too much home than they could reasonably afford. Credit flowed freely and Wall Street, foreign investors and the banks were making billions.

    The banks were making billions in consumer penalty fees and steadily increasng credit card interest rates. Countrywide and Bear Stearns were well aware that they were sitting on tons of sub-prime mortgages and bad credit liabilities.

    Now Americans with sub-prime mortgages cannot meet their payments when the rates adjust. Home property values have plummeted. Some Americans now owe more for their mortgage than the value of their home. Home foreclosures are at all time highs. And those who transferred credit balances to new cards can't meet their payments. American consumers have run out of money and assets to borrow against.

    So after the banks had picked the American consumers pockets cleaned they froze credit. And when the banks froze credit, the politicians acknowledged "a possible recession", and gave The Fed an excuse to act. The bailouts began.

    Bank of America bails out Countrywide, JP Morgan bails out Bear Stearns and The Fed lowers interest rates to make it easier for banks to borrow money from other banks.

    If one didn't know better you'd think that the banking industry planned it.

    Related posts:

    It's Impossible to Shame the Shameless

    We're A Long Way From Bedford Falls

    Money Myths and The Debt Deception -
    What Are We Learning

    America Maxed Out

    Related articles:

    The Economy Is Based on Borrowing
    Seattle Intelligencer, April 3, 2005

    Predatory Lending: A Virus We Can Eliminate
    from September 2005

    New Survey Report Reveals Truth Behind Credit Card
    Debt Explosion in the U.S.
    Center for Responsible Lending October 2005

    For Minorities, Signs of Trouble in Foreclosures
    New York Times, February 2006

    Chalk Florida Up in the GOP Column in November

    It's looks like the Democratic Party has simply given up on Floridians. Maybe I'm thinking like a pessimist but it looks like Florida will remain "red" in November.

    excerpt from:
    Florida Will Not Redo Its Primary,

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Facing strong opposition, Florida Democrats on Monday abandoned plans to hold a do-over presidential primary with a mail-in vote and threw the delegate dispute into the lap of the national party.

    While the decision by Florida Democrats left the state's 210 delegates in limbo, Democrats in Michigan moved closer to holding another contest on June 3. Legislative leaders reviewed a measure Monday that would set up a privately funded, state administered do-over primary, The Associated Press learned.Florida Democratic Party chairwoman Karen L. Thurman sent a letter announcing the decision.

    "A party-run primary or caucus has been ruled out, and it's simply not possible for the state to hold another election, even if the party were to pay for it," Ms. Thurman said. ".. This doesn't mean that Democrats are giving up on Florida voters. It means that a solution will have to come from the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee, which is scheduled to meet again in April."

    Members of Florida's congressional delegation unanimously opposed the plan, and Barack Obama expressed concern about the security of a mail-in vote organized so quickly.

    * * * * *

    Just a reminder:

    Florida is the 8th largest state in the United States.

    For those of you who were worried about rigged voting machines, caging and other forms of election fraud I would suggest you also focus your attention on the Florida Democratic Party.

    As for me, I'm changing my party registration to Independent.

    Sunday, March 16, 2008

    Good Tidings for the Poor, Healing for the Broken Hearted

    The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me.
    He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken,
    Announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners.
    God sent me to announce the year of his grace—
    a celebration of God's destruction of our enemies—
    and to comfort all who mourn,

    If you are among the millions of people who've been taken advantage of by sub-prime mortgage lenders, payday loan sharks, or other deceptive credit schemes this message is for you.

    If you don't think that the Bible is relevant to today's issues then re-read the story of Palm Sunday. When you do you'll see that one day Jesus was welcomed by the crowds, praised and adored. However, in a few days much of that same crowd would be shouting "crucify him".


    photo courtesy of

    Matthew 21:1-16 (The Message)

    When they neared Jerusalem, having arrived at Bethphage on Mount Olives, Jesus sent two disciples with these instructions: "Go over to the village across from you. You'll find a donkey tethered there, her colt with her. Untie her and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you're doing, say, 'The Master needs them!' He will send them with you."

    This is the full story of what was sketched earlier by the prophet:
    Tell Zion's daughter,

    "Look, your king's on his way, poised and ready, mounted on a donkey, on a colt, foal of a pack animal."
    The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted. Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, "Hosanna to David's son!" "Blessed is he who comes in God's name!" "Hosanna in highest heaven!"

    As he made his entrance into Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken. Unnerved, people were asking, "What's going on here? Who is this?"

    The parade crowd answered, "This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee."

    Jesus went straight to the Temple and threw out everyone who had set up shop, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of loan sharks and the stalls of dove merchants. He quoted this text:

    My house was designated a house of prayer; You have made it a hangout for thieves.

    Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them.

    When the religious leaders saw the outrageous things he was doing, and heard all the children running and shouting through the Temple, "Hosanna to David's Son!" they were up in arms and took him to task. "Do you hear what these children are saying?"

    Jesus said, "Yes, I hear them. And haven't you read in God's Word, 'From the mouths of children and babies I'll furnish a place of praise'?"

    * * * * *

    Could it be that the one act of Jesus that upset the establishment the most was that he overturned their accepted monetary practices in order to help people?

    Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead and taught a message of peace and forgiveness. But, feeding thousands with just a few fish and loaves of bread, he also taught that man was not dependent of the world's financial system for his existence. He taught that man should seek the Kingdom of Heaven and God's way of doing things instead of relying on the world's systems. And when Jesus saw his people being taken advantage of in a place where they should have being going for help and healing he was outraged and turned over the moneychangers' tables.

    Now over 2,000 years later, he is turning over the moneychangers' tables again.

    The enemies of God -- those who take advantage of the poor, prey on the most vulnerable, practice deception and, devise ways to keep people in bondage -- will be exposed and brought to justice.

    Proverbs 13:23

    "A poor man's field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away"

    May you all have a blessed Palm Sunday. Let this day remind you that although it may seem that the world has forsaken you now, you too, will rise again.

    Friday, March 14, 2008

    The Best Joke of the Day

    Thursday evening Kenneth Walsh of US News & World Report reported that "White House officials have a new theory about why President Bush's job approval ratings are so low--the media keep harping on it so much that it's become a self-fulfilling analysis."

    Stop laughing :-)

    Walsh stated:

    " 'It's a drumbeat in the media,' says a senior Bush adviser. 'It's a constant narrative that he suffers from low job approval. It should not be in the second paragraph of every story. The media should report what he's doing.' "

    And I'm sure that who ever it was made that comment with a straight face.

    It's Friday and we all needed a good laugh.

    Where Are They Getting The Money?

    The US national debt now stands in excess of 9.4 trillion dollars.

    It has been projected that the final costs of the Iraq & Afghanistan wars will exceed $3 trillion. The Christian Science Monitor recently reported:

    "The cost is going up every month," says Linda Bilmes, an expert at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. She estimates the short-term, "running cost" has reached $12.5 billion a month. That's up from $4.4 billion a month in 2003. Add in long-term factors, such as the care of veterans and interest on federal debt incurred as a result of the war, and the cost piles up to $25 billion a month nowadays."

    Yet, two days ago, The Federal Reserve announced a rescue package for banks and investment houses that would provide approximately $200 billion using at risk home-loan packages as collateral.

    Earlier today Reuters reported that "JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York on Friday agreed to provide emergency financing to Bear Stearns (BSC.N) after the investment bank said its cash position had deteriorated sharply, sending its shares into freefall."

    In addition, the US Treasury department estimates that beginning in May they will send out approximately $167 billion to approx 130 million US taxpayers as part of an "economic stimulus" package.

    Can anyone tell me where all of this money is coming from?

    Where does The Federal Reserve get it's money?

    Are those taxpayer dollars?

    And why if The Fed has $367 billion plus at their disposal the United States has delayed investing in: healthcare, infrastructure, education, medical care and body armor for us troops, etc, etc.?

    Earlier today, during a speech to the Economic Club President Bush praised the efforts of the Federal Reserve in trying to stave off a recession. He also did his best to weave in the topics of the Iraq war and telecom immunity.

    But I have to ask again, if the US has $367 billion plus at its disposal then why are US service men and women in Iraq & Afghanistan becoming ill from unsafe drinking water supplied by war contractors like Haliburton and KBR.

    The following video was posted to YouTube May 25th, 2007

    Of course during his speech, President Bush made a point of saying that "The Fed" functions independently of the White House.

    Well let's look at that statement.

    According to Wikipedia:

    The Federal Reserve System (also the Federal Reserve; informally The Fed) is the central banking system of the United States. Created in 1913 by the enactment of the Federal Reserve Act, it is a quasi-public (part private, part government) banking system composed of :

    (1) the presidentially-appointed Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in Washington, D.C.;

    (2) the Federal Open Market Committee;

    (3) 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks located in major cities throughout the nation acting as fiscal agents for the U.S. Treasury, each with its own nine-member board of directors;

    (4) numerous private U.S. member banks, which subscribe to required amounts of non transferable stock in their regional Federal Reserve Banks; and (5) various advisory councils..

    So, in essence, "The Fed" is comrprised of presidential appointees in bed with the banks in order to serve the interests of the banks, not the United States and its people.

    Is this picture becoming clear?

    Related posts:

    Blackwater Awarded "Small Business" Government Contracts

    US Troops Ill from Unsafe Drinking Water