Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Ludicrous Treatment of Military Women

It seems that the recently released video by the rapper Ludacris, which is supposed to reflect his support for US presidential candidate Barack Obama, has a lot of people talking. The Obama campaign quickly issued a statement denouncing the lyrics and as fellow blogger Catherine Morgan pointed out earlier today in her blog post, the video has outraged bloggers from all corners.

On the other hand, there are others who seem to be taking the video lightly. In fact, the ladies on "The View" had a good laugh when co-host Joy Behar performed her rendition of the song. After all, if the word bitch is good enough for for The President's Mom, it can't be bad, right? :-)

Personally, I file Ludacris' video in the same category as every other misogynistic, hateful rap video and hadn't planned to comment on it at all.
I've long ago concluded that there must be a picture of a woman next to the word "bitch" in the modern rap dictionary because so many rappers and comedians use the term as freely as they use the word "the".

However after learning today that Michael Dominguez, Principle Deputy Undersecretary for Defense revealed that he ordered Dr. Kaye Whitely of the DOD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office to defy a subpoena to appear during a hearing on sexual assault in the military conducted by The Oversight Sub-committee on National Security and Foreign Affairs I decided to comment on the aforementioned video and
throw out this question for my readers.

How would you presume women in the military are treated by men influenced by a culture where:

  • women are still viewed as sexual objects;
  • women are commonly referred to as female dogs;
  • and, it is an accepted practice to abuse dogs?
Sadly, the Ludacris video is a tame reflection of the misogyny in our society and especially the abhorrent treatment of women in the military.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming all of the ill-treatment of women in the military on Ludacris or the misogynist lyrics rap/hip-hop music in general. They certainly don't help matters but the argument can be made that rap/hip-hop lyrics are a reflection of a culture which still doesn't know how to view or treat women.

But believe you me, if an accomplished lawyer and actively serving US Senator can't get a little RESPECT, the women bravely serving their nation in the armed services aren't fairing much better.

Earlier this week I posted my thoughts on the mysterious death of Pfc LaVena Johnson while serving in Iraq. Although physical evidence clearly shows that this 19 year old US service woman was viciously abused and murder, the military told her family that she had committed suicide.

Clips of the July 23rd interview of the Johnson family by DemocracyNow's Amy Goodman are available on Youtube. And if you are troubled by rap lyrics try reading some of the comments posted by Youtube members in response to this interview.

Now today I watch the following video in which the Subcommittee Chairman Tierney and Full Committee Chairman Waxman threaten the Deputy Undersecretary for Defense, with contempt after he reveals that he has ordered the DOD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office to defy a subpoena to appear.

Click on the link below if the video is not displaying properly:


Hopefully, Senators Obama, McCain and Clinton will all speak out on this issue.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Bush Administration’s Legacy -- Debt, Debt, & More Debt

After eight years of leadership by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, consumers are up to their necks in debt and so is the nation.  As Senator Kent Conrad stated during a press conference in response to the mid-session review of the fiscal year 2009 budget, the US has become a nation that is "increasingly reliant on the friendship of strangers".

Click here to view the press conference held by Senator Conrad and Rep. John Spratt (D-SC)

The Hill Blog» Blog Archive » Bush Administration's Legacy of Debt Will Have Lasting Consequences
(Rep.John Spratt)

The White House has released its last budget forecast, and even though it gets to write its own report card, the grades are not good. The bottom line: President Bush entered office with the biggest surpluses in history and leaves with the biggest deficits.

According to the Office of Management and Budget, the deficit next year (Fiscal Year 2009) will be the largest in history, $482 billion, in nominal terms; and the deficit for this year, Fiscal '08, at $389 billion, will itself come close to a record.

The five largest deficits in our nation's history have occurred on this Administration's watch. The largest so far, $413 billion in 2004, is notable because it shows the abrupt about-face in fiscal policy under this Administration, from a surplus of $284 billion when it arrived to a post-policy deficit of $413 billion.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Will You Become One of 25 Million?

Over 25 million people have viewed Lizzie Palmer's
"Remember Me" video on YouTube, a moving tribute to US service men and women which closes with the statement, "Every Soldier Deserves Your Support"

However, apparently not everyone agrees with that sentiment, especially not when the soldier needs support and a private contractor like KBR is involved.

The following video clip is from the July 23rd broadcast of DemocracyNow during which Amy Goodman spoke with the family of the late Pfc Lavena Johnson about the their daughter's mysterious death in Iraq.

Three years ago, on July 19, 2005, Army Private First Class LaVena Johnson was found dead in Balad, Iraq. Her body was found in a tent belonging to the private military contractor KBR. She had abrasions all over her body, a broken nose, a black eye, burned hands, loose teeth, acid burns on her genitals, and a bullet hole in her head. The Army labeled Johnson's death a suicide. But her parents never believed that story. They think she was raped and murdered and are now demanding a full congressional investigation into their daughter's death."

If the video is not visible click on the link below:

As shocking as the Johnson family's story is, sadly it is just one in a disturbing pattern of the abuse of women (military and civilian) serving in Iraq by contractors like KBR and Haliburton. The following is a video clip from the 20/20 interview with Jamie Leigh Jones

Thank God Jamie Leigh Jones and Tracy Barker survived to tell their stories. Lavena Johnson did not. Instead her family was told that their daughter had committed suicide.

Will you now become one of 25 million who will speak up for Pfc Lavena Johnson her family and the untold number of women who are being abused and/or murdered in Iraq?:

Click here to sign the ColorofChange Pettiion which calls on Congressman Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, to hold hearings to investigate LaVena's death and the Army's cover-up.

To view the rest of Amy Goodman's interview with the Johnson family click on the following links:

Part 2 of 3:
Part 3 of 3:

Related articles:

The Silencing of Tracy K. Barker
by Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff, Women’s Space, May 4, 2008

Limbo for US Women Reporting Iraq Assaults
by James Risen for The New York Times

No Prosecution for State Department Official Accused of Sexual Assault
By Brian Ross, Maddy Sauer, & Justin Rood for ABC

Another KBR Rape Case
by Karen Houppert for "The Nation"

A View of Insurance Companies

I would say that the following video will leave you in stitches. However, if you really do need stitches it won't be funny at all

To learn more go to:

Quote of the Day -- A Very Sobering Moment

"The next President will face a very, very sobering moment. "
-- Sen. Kent Conrad (D-North Dakota), Budget Committee Chairman
stated while discussing the projections for the FY 2009 Budget during today's Mid-Session Review

Friday, July 25, 2008

The War Against Free Speech

Now that independent bloggers have become a viable and influential source of political news and commentary it appears that the mainstream media has declared all out war.

Frequent visitors to the blogosphere are familiar with the fact that news agency, The Associated Press (AP) sent DMCA notices to the Drudge Report, citing that DR's use of excerpts from AP articles infringes on their copyrights.

You're also probably familiar with Viacom's lawsuit against Google over Youtube's use of their content. A federal judge is now ordering YouTube to turn over information on its users' viewing history.

And the latest salvo has targeted Redlasso, the video search and clipping service that many bloggers have come to rely upon.

According to The Hollywood Reporter:

NBC Universal and Fox filed suit Wednesday against RedLasso Inc., saying the video provider copies and distributes the companies' content without authorization.

In the lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, NBC Universal, Fox News Channel and Fox Television Stations Group said RedLasso had been engaging in the "wholly unauthorized" copying and distribution of its content. It isn't clear how much in damages the companies are seeking from RedLasso.

Informal talks had been going on between RedLasso and NBC, Fox and other networks since the companies sent a cease and desist order in May. It wasn't immediately clear why the other companies, which included CBS Corp. and Allbritton Communications Co., did not join in the lawsuit.

Is anyone surprised that FOX is involved in this?

Redlasso executives issued the following press release this afternoon:


King of Prussia, PA – July 25, 2008 – In light of recent legal actions by two networks, Redlasso( announced today that it has no alternative but to suspend blogger access to its video search and clipping Beta site for the immediate future. The company will continue to operate and provide services to its business and Radio To Web clients such as Greater Media and XMSatellite Radio.

The now-suspended Beta site provides bloggers with online broadcast content tools that enables them to exercise their first amendment rights to comment on newsworthy events, by searching blogger-selected TV and radio segments and creating limited duration clips for usage in blog posts.

In addition to the Beta site, Redlasso also offers two other services which will continue.

The first is
a solution for businesses that allows them to track and clip content for internal use. The second service, Radio To Web, is an on-line platform that allows each radio station client to search, clip, and upload its content to its own web site and share that content online.

“We are very disappointed in the actions of select networks. We believe we have always acted
within the law and have been respectful of the networks’ rights. Unfortunately, they have forced our hand and are denying the blogging community access to the Redlasso platform that beneficially tracks the usage of newsworthy clips across the Web,” said Ken Hayward, CEO of Redlasso.

“Redlasso’s goal is to develop a platform that provides content owners and bloggers a viable solution to tracking and monetizing content online, not to engage in lawsuits. In the eight months the Beta site has been in operation, we have built wide brand awareness and equity amongst the blogger and media communities. The wide spread use of our tools and platform demonstrates that the Redlasso model is a simple and elegant solution for all content owners to track and monetize content usage on the Web; content that would otherwise be untraceably spread across the Internet and used
for free.”
What is really at the heart of these legal actions?

Could it be that the political power brokers are realizing that if Americans aren't limited to getting their news from mainstream media sources that they won't be as easily lead?

The following videos address just how powerful the blogosphere has become and why forces like the Rupert Murdochs and the Washington insiders might want to see it stifled. View them while you can.

In the following video Sherine Tadros of AlJazeeraEnglish reports on how internet technology has changed the face of politics and political coverage.

In this video, TheRealNews interviews Joe Trippi, author of "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" about the social shift from TV to the Internet will affect politics.

A Good Reason for Growing Your Own Food

.. or at least supporting your local farmers' market.

In the following video Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Andrew von Eschenbach discusses how the FDA investigates cases of widespread food contamination, such as the Salmonella-tainted tomato scare. In essence, his comments indicate that expecting the severely understaffed FDA to determine the cause of the recent Salmonella outbreak is tantamount to asking them to find a needle in a thousand haystacks.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tell the Candidates That You Want A Real Energy Solution


Al Gore took a big risk when he called on America to set of goal of obtaining
100% of our
electricity from cheap, clean sources within 10 years. 

As many of Mr. Gore's detractors point out his plan will not be cheap. But,
think about it, neither is a war being fought for oil.  Just imagine where we'd
all be, if one tenth of the money being spent of the Iraq war was being invested
in truly making the US energy independent. 

I just signed a petition to support Al Gore's ambitious challenge.
Together, we can urge Obama, McCain, and Congress to get on board.

Will you join me?

Just click on the following link to add your voice of support:


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Al Gore Provides Environmental Leadership Not Just Political Rhetoric

excerpt from:
Truthdig - Reports
- The Democrats' Visionary

By E.J. Dionne

On the issue of gasoline prices, Republicans think they have a winner in their call for new drilling and Democrats are playing defense. Democrats need—this is a technical term—a lot more oomph. Al Gore wants to help them.

In a speech Thursday and in an interview, Gore played his usual role as unpaid party visionary by arguing that we can ease the climate crisis, the economic crisis and the crisis of dependence on foreign energy all at once.

"We're borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet," Gore said in his speech. "Every bit of that's got to change." He urges a 10-year goal for getting 100 percent of our electricity from renewable sources and clean, rather than carbon-based, fuels.

It sounds like a typical, idealistic Al Gore idea. But two things about this proposal merit attention. It points a country that uses too much energy down the right path. And Gore is showing that being environmentally responsible is economically sensible

America - Where Does Your Heart Lie?

"America will never be destroyed from the outside.
If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."
-- Abraham Lincoln

In September 2006, NBC News' Investigative Unit reported that in order to avoid a contractual conflict with Raytheon, the Army refused to supply military personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq with equipment which could have prevented hundreds of deaths from RPGs (rocket propelled grenade fire)

Here's an excerpt from that story:

WASHINGTON - Rocket-propelled grenades, or RPGs, are a favorite weapon of insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are cheap, easy to use and deadly.

RPGs have killed nearly 40 Americans in Afghanistan and more than 130 in Iraq, including 21-year-old Pvt. Dennis Miller.

“They were in Ramadi, and his tank was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade,” says Miller’s mother, Kathy. “Little Denny never knew what hit him.”

Sixteen months ago, commanders in Iraq began asking the Pentagon for a new system to counter RPGs and other anti-tank weapons.

Last year, a special Pentagon unit thought it found a solution in Israel — a high-tech system that shoots RPGs out of the sky. But in a five-month exclusive investigation, NBC News has learned from Pentagon sources that that help for U.S. troops is now in serious jeopardy.

The system is called “Trophy,” and it is designed to fit on top of tanks and other armored vehicles like the Stryker now in use in Iraq.

Trophy is the brainchild of Rafael, Israel’s Armament Development Authority, which has conducted more than 400 tests and found that the system has “well above [a] 90 percent” probability of killing RPGs and even more sophisticated anti-tank weapons, according to reserve Col. Didi Ben Yoash, who helped develop the system. Ben Yoash says he is “fully confident” that Trophy can save American lives.

And officials with the Pentagon’s Office of Force Transformation (OFT) agree. OFT officials subjected Trophy to 30 tests and found that it is “more than 98 percent” effective at killing RPGs.

An official involved with those tests told NBC that Trophy “worked in every case. The only anomaly was that in one test, the Trophy round hit the RPG’s tail instead of its head. But according to our test criteria, the system was 30 for 30.”

As a result, OFT decided to buy several Trophies — which cost $300,000-$400,000 each — for battlefield trials on Strykers in Iraq next year.

That plan immediately ran into a roadblock: Strong opposition from the U.S. Army. Why? Pentagon sources tell NBC News that the Army brass considers the Israeli system a threat to an Army program to develop an RPG defense system from scratch.

The $70 million contract for that program had been awarded to an Army favorite, Raytheon. Raytheon’s contract constitutes a small but important part of the Army’s massive modernization program called the Future Combat System (FCS), which has been under fire in Congress on account of ballooning costs and what critics say are unorthodox procurement practices.

Col. Donald Kotchman, who heads the Army’s program to develop an RPG defense, acknowledges that Raytheon’s system won’t be ready for fielding until 2011 at the earliest.

In February 2007, the Washington Post reported on the outrageous conditions facing wounded troops at Walter Reed Hospital. Their report stated:

"Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses."

In March of this year Associated Press reported that US troops were falling ill from drinking and bathing in water supplied by Haliburton. However, this was not news to the thousands of military families and YouTube viewers who had already seen the following video which was posted in May, 2007

And a few days ago, CBS News reported that Congressional bribery may have lead to thousands of troop deaths due to IEDs.

Will the American public EVER hold ANYONE accountable for this blatant war profiteering?

Or will we, as a nation, become so distracted by our "pain at the pump" that we will just continue to turn a blind eye to the corruption.

A few months ago, the Iraq/Afghanistan war was going to be the "key issue" in the November Presidential Election. Now, the war (the death toll, the cost & the abuses
) are taking a back seat to $4 gasoline. And the same people who sold the Iraq war to the American public is convincing the American public that the answer to the "oil crisis" is to give the oil industry more public land leases.

Polls show that 74% of the American public now agrees with drilling in currently protected offshore areas. And the presidential election race that was once predicted to become a backlash against the policies of the Bush/Cheney era as become a virtual dead-heat.

I guess anything goes when it comes to obtaining oil.

Isn't it time for Americans to finally decide where their hearts lie?
Never has a statement held more truth than, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."*

*Matthew 6:21

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Message From

Customs and Border Patrol at the Department of Homeland Security was just given the green light to search and seize laptops at the border, without probable cause, by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. They can deny entry to anyone who refuses to give up their laptops and password. This is an affront to our progressive values of privacy and protection from unwarranted search and seizure.

Join us in demanding that Customs and Border Protection conduct and publish a Privacy Impact Assessment on this policy. People have a right to privacy.

If the government is to limit our privacy, it has the responsibility to understand the impact of its actions, share that information with us, and implement needed safeguards.

Write to Customs and Border Protection and demand that they conduct and publish a Privacy Impact Assessment. Call on them to implement meaningful safeguards for our privacy.

Take Action Now!

Alan and the CAPAF/I Am Progress Advocacy Team

The Center for American Progress Action Fund is the sister advocacy organization of the Center for American Progress. The Action Fund transforms progressive ideas into policy through rapid response communications, legislative action, grassroots organizing and advocacy, and partnerships with other progressive leaders throughout the country and the world. The Action Fund is also the home of the Progress Report and Think Progress, the blog that pushes back daily.


Please help the campaign to implement safeguards against unnecessary privacy limits by visiting <a href=""></a>.

If we work together, we can have a safe border and preserve our privacy rights.

Pamela Lyn

The Status Symbol of Our Times -- Being on "The List"

The TSA Watchlist that is. These days it seems that all of the most interesting people are on it.

Of course, I'm being facetious because there is certainly nothing funny about being on the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) terrorist watchlist. However, if you find yourself on the list you're in very good company which includes US Senators, peace activists, grandmas, former government employees who've expressed criticism, writer Naomi Wolf, and as CNN reported yesterday, a former Asst. Attorney General and even news correspondents like CNN's Drew Griffin.

There is definitely very little funny about this.

Just imagine if someone as public as a CNN correspondent has trouble having their name removed from the list, what chance does an average citizen have.

As Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, (D-TX) stated, this is "curious, interesting and troubling" especially when you consider that Homeland Security Secretary, Michael Chertoff stated the database is managed by The Department of Justice. The same Department of Justice that was once headed by Alberto ( I can't recall ) Gonzales.

An investigation is certainly in order. However, I don't recommend holding your breath waiting for anything more than resulted from the hearings on the DOJ political firing, outing Valerie Plame or detainee torture. It won't happen until the American public, en masse, rejects these abuses of government.

In fact, unless you want to find your name on the TSA's or some other government list, you should just resign yourself to accept all of this as another sign of the times. But if you're like so many of us who are not comfortable with the course of our government then recognize that there are those who can, and probably will, make your life very uncomfortable.

In the following video, progressive author and columnist Naomi Wolf compares the anti-terrorism "watch list" to citizen surveillance tools used by authoritarian governments.

Is this the America of our future? It will be if we don't speak up.

Another Reason To Think Twice About Trusting the Economy to John McCain

Last week we all learned that US Presidential Candidate, Senator John McCain's "former" economic advisor and campaign co-chair, former Republican Senator from Texas Phil Gramm believes that Americans have become "a nation of whiners" and that we're in a "mental recession", ( a phrase that may well become as defining as "it's the economy, stupid").

However, this week it's becoming very clear that Gramm's comments, which some may want to dismiss as just political misspeak, actually reveal a very troubling economic philosophy.

In the following video clip, Lou Dobbs reports on the US Senate Subcommittee on Investigations' report that two foreign banks, one being UBS, helped wealthy Americans avoid their tax obligations. Yes, this is the same UBS for which Phil Gramm is a Vice Chairman.

Of course if you're as wealthy as Bill Gates and absent of any conscience Phil Gramm's association with both UBS and John McCain may not bother you. But if you do not fall into either of the aforementioned categories you may be wondering if you want John McCain to shape America's economy future.

Today the New York Times is reporting that after being caught with their hands in America's cookie jar, UBS has announced that it is making a few changes in their banking policy.

NYT reports:

Faced with a federal investigation into its private banking practices, the Swiss banking giant UBS said on Thursday that it would stop offering offshore banking services to clients in the United States.

Mark Branson, chief financial officer of the UBS global wealth management group, told a Senate subcommittee that the company would provide banking or securities services to United States residents only through companies licensed in this country and that it would help the federal government identify American citizens engaging in tax fraud.

On Wednesday, a Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations released a report saying that UBS’s offshore practices helped American citizens hide an estimated $18 billion in 19,000 accounts from the Internal Revenue Service.

In his testimony, Mr. Branson apologized for any compliance failures that might have happened and said the decision to close its Switzerland-based cross-border business was intended to ensure that such failures did not happen again.

Clients in the United States will still be able to access UBS’s services through wealth management units that are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. But advisers based in Switzerland will not be allowed to come to the United States to meet with American clients.

UBS’s decision came as a surprise even to Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, the subcommittee chairman, who said in his opening statement that UBS operated “behind a wall of secrecy” that needed to be torn down

Hmmm, "UBS operated 'a wall of secrecy'", does that remind you of anything. *

Isn't it funny that the Republicans are always accusing the Democrats of trying to raise the taxes which many of their constituents do not now and have no intention of paying?

*(Hint: Bush/Cheney/Secret Energy Meetings/Gonzales)

Related posts:

Watch for the Signs, 10/2007

Remember Watch for the Signs, 2/2008

Responses to Phil Gramm's "Mental Recession" Comments

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bush Chooses the Insurance Industry Over Doctors.

Reuters reports:

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush on Tuesday vetoed legislation that would have cut Medicare reimbursements to insurers and blocked a scheduled pay cut for doctors who treat patients under the government's health program for the elderly."

Bush argued the $13 billion in reimbursement cuts to insurers, such as United HealthCare Group Inc. and Aetna Inc., would reduce plan choices for seniors.

"I support the primary objective of this legislation, to forestall reductions in physician payments. Yet taking choices away from seniors to pay physicians is wrong. This bill is objectionable, and I am vetoing it," Bush said in a statement to the House of Representatives.

The House and Senate are expected to act quickly on an override and Democratic leaders believe they have the votes to overrule Bush.

What is truly objectionable is the idea that insurance companies should continue to rake in billions from Medicare while physicians are turning away patients whose only coverage is via Medicare because their reimbursement for services will be reduced.

If you also find President Bush's veto unacceptable, please join me in sending a message to Congress asking them to override this veto.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Report Finds Gaps in Federal E-Mail Records

excerpt from:
Report Finds Gaps in Federal E-Mail Records

By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 9, 2008; A07

Federal officials inconsistently preserve government e-mail, creating gaps in the public record and making it difficult for the public to understand the activities of the government, according to a report released by the Government Accountability Office yesterday.

The report came before a scheduled House vote today on a bill that would create standards for the electronic storage of e-mail by federal agencies.

As the use of e-mail has increased dramatically, federal agencies are struggling to determine which e-mails can be deleted, which must be preserved as public records and how those records should be stored.

Current law gives agencies broad discretion to determine how electronic records and communications are maintained. Quality varies widely, according to the GAO.

Investigators looked at four agencies -- the Homeland Security Department, the Federal Trade Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development -- and found that all used an inefficient and insecure process of "print and file": printing e-mails and storing them in paper form. Only one agency, the EPA, was converting to an electronic system to store e-mail records.

The GAO examined electronic records kept by 15 senior officials at the four agencies and found that seven complied with all federal requirements governing the preservation of electronic records, but eight did not consistently meet them.

Meanwhile, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the federal agency charged with ensuring that other departments properly store e-mail, stopped making inspections shortly after President Bush took office in 2000, the report said.

Responses to Phil Gramm's "Mental Recession" Comments

By now you've probably heard about the Washington Times report that quotes former Senator Phil Gramm as saying that "this is a mental recession" and "we have sort of a nation of whiners". Well here are a few responses to former Senator Gramm's own form of mental disorder -- DENIAL.

From Senator Barack Obama:

From Senator John McCain stating that Phil Gramm does not speak for him

It's seems that everyone is wondering what planet Phil Gramm is on.

However, the best responses of the day came from Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) as they discussed Phil Gramm's comments on the Senate floor.

Related posts:

Quote of the Day - We Whine Too Much

A Healthy Dose of Economic Reality

Quote of the Day - We Whine Too Much

"We have sort of become a nation of whiners,"

-- former Senator Phil Gramm, vice Chairman of Swiss Bank UBS

co-chairman of Senator John McCain's presidential election campaign

In an article for the Washington Times, Patrice Hill reported:

In an interview with the Washington Times, Phil Gramm, a former Texas senator who is now vice chairman of UBS, the giant Swiss bank, said he expects Mr. McCain to inherit a sluggish economy if he wins the presidency, weighed down above all by the conviction of many Americans that economic conditions are the worst in two or three decades and that America is in decline.

"You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession," he said, noting that growth has held up at about 1 percent despite all the publicity over losing jobs to India, China, illegal immigration, housing and credit problems and record oil prices. "We may have a recession; we haven't had one yet."

"We have sort of become a nation of whiners," he said. "You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline" despite a major export boom that is the primary reason that growth continues in the economy, he said.

"We've never been more dominant; we've never had more natural advantages than we have today," he said. "We have benefited greatly" from the globalization of the economy in the last 30 years.

Mr. Gramm said the constant drubbing of the media on the economy's problems is one reason people have lost confidence. Various surveys show that consumer confidence has fallen precipitously this year to the lowest levels in two to three decades, with most analysts attributing that to record high gasoline prices over $4 a gallon and big drops in the value of homes, which are consumers' biggest assets.

"Misery sells newspapers," Mr. Gramm said. "Thank God the economy is not as bad as you read in the newspaper every day."

OK, I get it. John McCain's strategy for fixing the US economy in four years is to wage a propaganda campaign to convince Americans that our economic problems are all in our mind and that we whine too much. If just might work. After all there are still people who believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11.

A Healthy Dose of Economic Reality

Just in case you have a friend who still believes that anyone elected in the 2008 election is going to wave a magic wand and make things all better in four years, here is a little something that you can send them that just might smack them back to reality.

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported:

"An Abu Dhabi sovereign-wealth fund has purchased a majority stake in the Chrysler Building, an iconic New York City skyscraper."

photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Reuters is reporting:

" Home foreclosure filings jumped 53 percent in June from a year earlier, although they were down 3 percent from May, and foreclosures are expected to rise further, real estate data firm RealtyTrac said on Thursday.

Foreclosure filings rose on an annual basis in 39 states to a total of 252,363 properties during the month, with Nevada, California, Arizona and Florida posting the highest foreclosure rates.

One out of every 501 U.S. households received a notice of default, auction sale or bank repossession in June, RealtyTrac said.

'June was the second straight month with more than a quarter million properties nationwide receiving foreclosure filings," said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. "We have not yet reached the top of this foreclosure cycle.'"

U.S. News & World Report is reporting:

"As if the U.S. economic slump, the housing crisis, surging oil and food prices, and a general sense that things are not going all that well weren't enough, a new study forecasts that China will become the 'pre-eminent world commercial influence' by 2035, when it surpasses the U.S. economy. The study released today is by Albert Keidel, who specializes in China economic issues at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. It is clear that China's economic juggernaut will have far-reaching implications for economic, diplomatic, and military matters in coming years--the subject of Keidel's study titled 'China's Economic Rise--Fact and Fiction.' "

Just one day before the Nation's birthday celebration, NPR reported:

"62,000 jobs were cut from company payrolls in June, and the number of laid-off workers seeking benefits also rose sharply last week in further signs of a slowing U.S. economy.

The separate Labor Department reports Thursday seemed to underscore that the economy is in a substantial downturn, if not a recession.

The cuts in June marked the sixth straight month that employers have trimmed payrolls. Gains in education, health services, leisure and hospitality, and government were not enough to offset heavy losses in construction, manufacturing, business services and retailing."

And yesterday the CEO of 12 US Airlines sent the following open letter to their customers:

Our country is facing a possible sharp economic downturn because of skyrocketing oil and fuel prices, but by pulling together, we can all do something to help now.

For airlines, ultra-expensive fuel means thousands of lost jobs and severe reductions in air service to both large and small communities. To the broader economy, oil prices mean slower activity and widespread economic pain. This pain can be alleviated, and that is why we are taking the extraordinary step of writing this joint letter to our customers.

Since high oil prices are partly a response to normal market forces, the nation needs to focus on increased energy supplies and conservation. However, there is another side to this story because normal market forces are being dangerously amplified by poorly regulated market speculation.

Twenty years ago, 21 percent of oil contracts were purchased by speculators who trade oil on paper with no intention of ever taking delivery. Today, oil speculators purchase 66 percent of all oil futures contracts, and that reflects just the transactions that are known. Speculators buy up large amounts of oil and then sell it to each other again and again. A barrel of oil may trade 20-plus times before it is delivered and used; the price goes up with each trade and consumers pick up the final tab. Some market experts estimate that current prices reflect as much as $30 to $60 per barrel in unnecessary speculative costs.

Over seventy years ago, Congress established regulations to control excessive, largely unchecked market speculation and manipulation. However, over the past two decades, these regulatory limits have been weakened or removed. We believe that restoring and enforcing these limits, along with several other modest measures, will provide more disclosure, transparency and sound market oversight. Together, these reforms will help cool the over-heated oil market and permit the economy to prosper.

The nation needs to pull together to reform the oil markets and solve this growing problem.

We need your help. Get more information and contact Congress by visiting

Richard Anderson

Gerard J. Arpey

Richard Anderson
Delta Air Lines, Inc.

Gerard J. Arpey
Chairman, President and CEO
American Airlines, Inc.

Bill Ayer

Dave Barger

Bill Ayer
Chairman, President and CEO
Alaska Airlines, Inc.

Dave Barger
JetBlue Airways Corporation

Mark B. Dunkerley

Robert Fornaro

Mark B. Dunkerley
President and CEO
Hawaiian Airlines, Inc.

Robert Fornaro
Chairman, President and CEO
AirTran Airways

Timothy E. Hoeksema

Lawrence W. Kellner

Timothy E. Hoeksema
Chairman, President and CEO
Midwest Airlines

Lawrence W. Kellner
Chairman and CEO
Continental Airlines, Inc.

Gary Kelly

Douglas Parker

Gary Kelly
Chairman and CEO
Southwest Airlines Co.

Douglas Parker
Chairman and CEO
US Airways Group, Inc.

Douglas M. Steenland

Glenn F. Tilton

Douglas M. Steenland
President and CEO
Northwest Airlines, Inc.

Glenn F. Tilton
Chairman, President and CEO
United Airlines, Inc.

Friends, the preceding is not an obituary but a strong cautionary warning.

The world has changed and America will either lead in the change or be left to pick up the scraps that fall from the table. So, now is not the time for fear mongering, rash actions, petty divisiveness, empty promises or pining for the good old days.

Regardless of the outcome of the US election in November, the problems we face won't disappear overnight. However, the next President and Congress will set this nation's course for the next generation. So don't let politicians, the media or partisan PACs lead you around like sheep. Before you fall for the rhetoric and the hype, gets the facts. Then get involved and stay involved.

And most importantly, before you get involved decide
where you stand on the issues. Know your own mind.

This is what I would suggest
to anyone who needs to decide on which candidate to support:

-- First Step

Make a chart (on paper or computer) which includes:

  • a column for listing the issues (economy, war, education, health, climate change, crime, food safety, trade, immigration, etc. ) Try to keep the list to no more than 8-10 issues or this process may get overwhelming.
  • a column for ranking each issue in order of importance to you and your community
  • a column in which you will list your current position on the issue
  • allow a column for each candidate that you are considering supporting. In these columns you can note whether the candidate agrees or disagrees with your position

It will be easier to do this on the computer because you may need to revise your lists several times.

-- Second Step

List your issues and your current position on each. Don't rush this process. It doesn't have to be done in one day or one week.

-- Third Step

Rate your list of issues in terms of importance to you and your community.

-- Fourth (and most important) Step

Do your research. Get as much unbiased information on your issues as possible.

Great sources of information are:

If you normally listen to only conservative news sources try also listening to opposing views from time to time. Conversely, if you only get your information from liberal media outlets and blogs try listening to the opposing view occassionally. To my knowledge no one has died yet from listening to the other side's opinions.

-- Lastly, review your results and rate the candidates.

I know that what I've outlined sounds like a lot of work but your future is worth it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Still Waiting But Not Holding My Breath

As promised, here's an update on the July 2nd post which described the cavalier attitude of my local natural gas utility, Philadelphia Gas Works, (PGW).

In an effort to determine if it is really PGW's policy to perform no follow-up after it issues "hazardous condition" warnings to its residential customers and refuse to return to the premises to turn back on appliances which they technicians turn off, I called PGW's Communication Specialist, Rebecca Carroll.

I received her voice mail so I left a message advising her that I was interested in obtaining information of PGW's policy for handling the aforementioned situations. Within a few hours Ms. Carroll replied with an email and an attached copy of PGW's Parts and Labor Policy. (pictured at right)

Feeling sure that I probably had not been clear when leaving my voicemail, I sent Ms. Carroll the following reply. I thought it was only fair to Ms. Carroll that I advise her that I was blogging about my experience. Fair is Fair.

Dear Ms. Carroll,

Thank you for responding to my voice message and forwarding the information on PGW's home maintenance program. However, I am looking for specific information pertaining to PGW's policy on following up with residential customers after the company has issued safety warnings and disabled gas lines to appliances.

The blog post below briefly describes my recent experience and conversations with a PGW supervisor. Based on the supervisor's comments, PGW performs no follow-up with its customers to confirm that hazardous situations have been resolved or to restore disabled gas service to home appliances. I find this response to be very troubling and would like to confirm that it is an accurate reflection of PGW's policy.

The supervisor's response is even more troubling given the fact that the residence in question is home to a senior citizen with chronic and severe health issues.

In addition, to contacting your office I have spoken with State Senator LeAnna Washington's office. I have also filed an informal complaint with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission which provides detailed information about this specific situation. I hope that through these various avenues I can gain a clearer understanding of PGW's policy and be able to share this information with members of my community who may encounter similar situations.

I eagerly await your response either directly or as a public response to the blog post.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this matter.

As of this post, I have yet to receive a reply. But in all fairness, last Friday was the 4th of July and this is Philadelphia.

However, just in case Ms. Carroll is on vacation, I decided that I'd also share my story with Philadelphia City Councilwoman Marian Tasco and Councilman Frank Rizzo, Jr. ( who did send a reply that his office would look into the matter).

When I hear more on this issue so will you.

The Speech That All Progressives Should Hear

The following is a video clip of Naomi Klein's (author of The Shock Doctrine) recent speech at the National Conference for Media Reform. During her speech, Naomi reminds Progressives to not get caught up in the reality-TV quality of the 2008 presidential campaign but instead focus on bringing about meaningful change and holding the politicians accountable.

Apparently the organizers of the event thought that Naomi's speech was a little too "controversial" to be posted on their website. However, the blogger known as "Stimulator" on the site obtained this video of the speech and made it available. Stimulator reports the following regarding's decision not to post a video of the speech:

"subMedia contacted Free Press, the organizer of the conference, to ask why The Shock Doctrine author’s speech could not be found online, and the person explained that Free Press is a non-profit organization and that I should refer to the disclaimer on their website which reads:

'Despite our best efforts, we feel that some of our speakers encroached on electoral space during their remarks at the National Conference for Media Reform. It is not in our interest to disseminate these recordings. We are reviewing all of our video content and will add that which we determine to be free of electoral statements to this page.' "

You can judge for yourself whether Naomi Klein's speech "encroached on electoral space" but please don't miss the heart of her comments.

Thanks to:
  • Naomi Klein for always speaking truth to anyone ready to handle the truth .
  • Stimulator and Corporations8MyBaby for making this video available
  • and, my friends at who always bring great videos like this to my attention.

Related Posts:

Has Protest Lost It's Power

You Can't Get Blood Out of A Stone

How the Wealthy Survive Disasters

After the Shock of the Fires, What Comes Next

Americans - Are You Tired of Being Pimped?