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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Why Don't You Buy A House?

Are you being asked why don't you buy a house?  If you ask a realtor, you will be told over and over what a great time it is to buy a house.  Some even say you are a "fool" for not buying a house now.

The biggest argument offered to buy a house is "what a great investment it it."  I have always said that buying is not really an investment at all and there are so many better ways to make money.  A new article at Visualizing Economics proves that point very very well.

A $10,000 house in 1890 would be worth almost the same in real dollars in 2010 (but more than $350,000 in nominal dollars in 2010, but that means you don't take into account inflation).

So a house is certainly not a great investment.  A house is shelter and can be a wonderful place to live.  But it should not be viewed as an investment.  So when if you find the perfect house, buy it (or build it) so that you can enjoy the place as a home, without worrying about whether it was a good investment.

Search for john sanford prey series

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Vatican Says Opponents Of Nazis Are Victims Too (Or Something Like That)

First and foremost I adamantly believe in free speech and that we are each entitled to our own beliefs and opinions.  I also oppose violence and condemn those who would attack or harm someone who has believes which differ from their own.  And I strongly believe that debate amongst us is the best way to understand one another and either resolve differences or see beyond them and find common ground.

With that said I am deeply disturbed by the latest pronouncements by the Vatican's representative, Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi.

According to the Vatican News:
"People are being attacked for taking positions that do not support sexual behavior between people of the same sex" (human rights and equality - word changes my own) Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, the Vatican's representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.
According to Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, in his exact words:
"When they express their moral beliefs or beliefs about human nature, which may also be expressions of religious convictions, or state opinions about scientific claims, they are stigmatized, and worse -- they are vilified, and prosecuted," Tomasi said.
These statements from a Church, which seems daily to be rocked over and over by sex scandals by pedophilc priest praying (what an oxymoronic phrase here) on young children, I find repugnant.  The day that the Pope, the various Cardinals dressed in their robes and dresses and all of the other criminals part of the "Church" stand up and take action for true victims, then I will listen to them whine about the persecution of people who expose their non-sense. 

Where is their remorse for victims?  Where is their outcry for the disenfranchised?  Where is their call for equality and human rights for all?  Where do the say:
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?
I have yet to see these people Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi says need protection being strung up on fences beaten to death and left to die like Matthew Shepard (nor the thousands who are targeted each day simply for being gay or even being perceived as gay).

No, Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi and the Church seem to care only about their message.  If you oppose the Church's message you are wrong - and "God forbid" you call out anyone who says bullshit to what they say.  Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi's message is clear - do not challenge the Church, even if you are molested by Priests or if you happen to be born gay. 

I mean being "gay" has to be wrong, right?  And, according to Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, it is wrong to challenge ANYONE who might expose a view based on "expressions of religious convictions, or state opinions about scientific claims."

Let's explore that "wisdom" of the mighty Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi speaking on behalf of the Church and the King Pope.
Nazism (Nationalsozialismus, National Socialism; alternatively spelled Naziism) was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany. It was a unique variety of fascism that involved biological racism and antisemitism. Nazism presented itself as politically syncretic, incorporating policies, tactics and philosophies from right- and left-wing ideologies; in practice, Nazism was a far right form of politics.

So I would assume that Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi is opposed to stigmatizing, vilifying and/or prosecuting Nazis and those proposing Nazisim.  After all, Nazis are just expressing their views on biological racism and political thoughts.  Certainly their thoughts on biological racism are expressions of "opinions about scientific claims."  And perhaps it was their moral belief (according to Bendersky, Joseph W. A history of Nazi Germany: 1919-1945. 2nd ed. Burnham Publishers, 2000) that:
"Jews were the greatest threat to the Aryan race and the German nation. They considered Jews a parasitic race that attached itself to various ideologies and movements to secure its self-preservation, such as: the Enlightenment, liberalism, democracy, parliamentary politics, capitalism, industrialisation, Marxism and trade unionism."
So they opposed liberalism, capitalism, industrialization and trade unionism.  Wait, was I speaking of Nazis or the Church?

So what were these "scientific claims" that Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi desires to so desperately preserve?  According to Wikipedia:
The Nazis believed in the supremacy of an Aryan master race and claimed that Germans represent the most pure Aryan nation. They argued that Germany's survival as a modern great nation required it to create a New Order — an empire in Europe that would give the German nation the necessary land mass, resources, and expansion of population needed to be able to economically and militarily compete with other powers.
Sounds like these Nazis are simply expressing "their moral beliefs or beliefs about human nature" as suggested by Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi.  Why should anyone take issue with that?  Right?

Makes one wonder if Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi is a follower of Oswald Spengler.
Oswald Spengler, was a German cultural philosopher.  Spengler's book The Decline of the West (1918) written during the final months of World War I in which he addressed the claim of decadence of modern European civilization that he claimed was caused by atomizing and irreligious individualization and cosmopolitanism.  Spengler considered the Western world as having succumb to decadence of intellect, money, cosmopolitan urban life, irreligious life, atomized individualization, and the end of biological fertility as well as "spiritual" fertility. He believed that the "young" German nation as an imperial power would inherit the legacy of Ancient Rome and lead a restoration of value in "blood" and instinct, while the ideals of rationalism would be revealed as absurd.
Have to oppose irreligious individualization.  Sounds like a great theory of religious racial purity.

What makes matters worse is that the church and the Nazis had, according to many scholars, a far too symbiotic relationship.  And as to churches and religion, Hitler extended his rationalizations into a religious doctrine.   Martin Bormann, a prominent Nazi official, said:
"Priests will be paid by us and, as a result, they will preach what we want. If we find a priest acting otherwise, short work is to be made of him. The task of the priest consists in keeping the Poles quiet, stupid, and dull-witted."
Has much if anything changed in these last 67 years?  Has the church now decided (or has it been its mission all along) to keep the masses "quiet, stupid, and dull-witted?"  (Ironic that the term "masses" has such an interesting plural meaning in this context!)

Not satisfied yet?  Several elements of Nazism were quasi-religious in nature according to many scholars. Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, in his Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity, said the cult around Hitler as the Führer, the "huge congregations, banners, sacred flames, processions, a style of popular and radical preachings, prayers-and-responses, memorials and funeral marches" mirrored that of most religious ceremonies.

You do have to love all the gold and robes and crowns (I mean head pieces) worn by the Pope and Priests.  They do look very resplendent.  I imagine if you are starving on the street, the site of the Pope in his silk and rubies and gold warms the cockles of the stomach, I mean heart.

But let's get back to the Church and the Nazi, shall we?  The Nazis often used the Church to justify their politics, by using Christian symbols as Reich symbols, and, in other cases, replacing Christian symbols with Reich symbols, Nazism thus conflated Church and State as an ultra-nationalist political entity — the Nazi Germany embodied in the motto Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer (“One People, One Empire, One Leader”).  Ein Führer Pope Benedict XVI??

While the attitude of the Nazi party to the Catholic Church ranged from tolerance to near total renunciation (Laqueur, Walter Fascism: Past, Present, Future p.41 1996 Oxford University Press), the nature of the Nazi Party's relations with the Catholic Church was complicated to say the least. 
After Hitler took over and rose to power, party membership was not forbidden anymore and the Catholic Church actively looked for opportunities to work together with the Nazi government. At his trial Franz von Papen said that until 1936 the Catholic Church hoped for a Christian alignment to the beneficial aspects he said they saw in national socialism. (This statement came after Pope Pius XII ended Von Papen's appointment as Papal chamberlain and ambassador to the Holy See, but before his restoration under Pope John XXIII.)
Nice to know that the Church and the Nazi played so well together.  Makes a parent proud. 

The evolution of the Vatican's understanding has faced criticism of weakness, slowness, or even culpability.  Cardinal Secretary of State, Eugenio Pacelli (later to become Pope Pius XII) signed the Concordat between Nazi Germany and the Vatican at a formal ceremony in Rome on 20 July 1933. Nazi Vice-Chancellor Franz von Papen sits at the left, Pacelli in the middle, and the Rudolf Buttmann sits at the right.  The Concordat effectively legitimized Hitler and the Nazi government to the eyes of Catholicism, Christianity, and the world.

On culpability this is perhaps clearest with regards to the German hierarchy as after the Concordat there was a radical reversal of the former episcopal condemnation of Nazism, according to Daniel Goldhagen and others.  But as they say, pictures say a thousand words.

On April 20, 1939, Archbishop Orsenigo celebrated Hitler's birthday. The celebrations, initiated by Pacelli (Pope Pius XII) became a tradition. Each April 20, Cardinal Bertram of Berlin was to send "warmest congratulations to the Fuhrer in the name of the bishops and the dioceses in Germany" and added with "fervent prayers which the Catholics of Germany are sending to heaven on their altars."

So yes Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi let us worry more about those who might object to your views.  Let's persecute those that do not follow the Church's ideology.  For after all, those people who do not follow your edicts simply can't understand the wisdom of the all mighty church. 
Are my words and comparisons too strong?  I say absolutely not.  Until the Church shows they care about victims and truly support equality and tolerance and love for all, I will be an outspoken critic.

Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi you owe an apology to all members of the LGBT community and all of the rest of us who find your form of discrimination repugnant.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Eliminate HATE - Take A Stand.

If you follow my blog you know that I believe in equality for all and have zero tolerance for hate and bigotry.  We all have to live in this same world and we share much more in common than we do in petty differences.

Certainly the earthquake in Japan highlights how we all share the same goals and we all suffer together.  The world has watched and hoped and prayed (if you choose to so do) for the well being of Japan and the Japanese people.

But then something happens, like what happened to 23 year old Justin Alensa, and we are reminded that the world is still full of hate.

I ask you to please watch this video from Justin, who recounts in explicit detail how he was assaulted and left with a fractured skull at a gas station by an anonymous gay-basher, and worse yet, was refused help by multiple bystanders.

No one should have to feel as frightened, ashamed, and alone as he did.  It is every one's responsibility to ensure that these kind of horrific and disgraceful acts of bigotry and hate end now.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Rising Food Prices Intensify Poverty, Hunger In U.S. And World

After my recent series of articles on wealth disparity, I have often been asked what the most pressing problem is for the poor and struggling middle-class.  And the answer is the most basic need of all - food.

Between October 2010 and January 2011, the World Bank's food price index increased by 15 percent, and the global prices of wheat, maize, sugar and edible oils have all increased sharply.  As a result, since June 2010,
"there has been a net increase in extreme poverty of about 44 million people in low- and middle-income countries."
According to Gallup Polls conducted between 2006 and 2008, 16 percent of people in the Americas have gone hungry due to finances. And the trend of rising food prices is going to push more and more families into that category.

One in four Americans is "worried about having enough money to put food on the table in the next year," reports the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). Their information comes from a national hunger survey conducted last month by Hart Research Associates, commissioned by FRAC and Tyson Foods, Inc. The survey found that 24 percent of respondents "indicated they are very or fairly concerned about being able to afford food at some point in the next year, while 31 percent are slightly worried."

A volunteer for a Washington, DC food pantry tells the BBC, the government needs act before it’s too late.

“The minimum wage job in the United States gets you, if you work every day of the year except for maybe a two-week Holiday, it gets you about $12,000 a year, which is still well below the poverty level. These are the folks that we’re struggling with before and they’re struggling now and unless there’s some really significant changes, they’re going to be struggling in the future.”
Imagine trying to get by on a $1,000.00 a month.

Key national highlights:

In 2009, 50.2 million (16.6%) Americans lived in food insecure households.
In 2009, 17.4 million (14.7 %) American households were food insecure.
In 2009, 8.4 million (21.3%) households with children were living in food insecure households.
In 2009, 17.2 million (23.2%) children were living in food insecure households.
In 2009, 2.2 million (7.5%) households with seniors were living in food insecure households.
In 2009, 884,000 (7.8%) seniors living alone were living in food insecure households.
It’s further proof of the squeezing of the lower working class in America. The gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ has increased at such an alarming rate in the past few decades that those at the bottom of the economic ladder are working multiple jobs just to keep up with the basics and being forced to compromise in ways they shouldn’t.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Texas - Where Talk Is Cheap And Reality Is A Painful Dose In Politics

Politicians in Texas have talked tough about solving the state's budget problem by austerity alone, but lawmakers finally faced a hard fact: Texas is in serious financial trouble - Texas needs to find $27 billion. 

That $27 billion shortfall represents about "three-fourths of the money it needs to continue doing what it is doing now," explained F. Scott McCown, director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, an advocacy group for the poor. "And every single thing the state does now is something that the governor previously agreed it ought to be doing."

How do you solve a budget shortfall of $27 billion?  Texas Republicans, among the most vocal in the nation, have said cuts and austerity alone MUST be used.  Texas does have a $9.2 billion Rainy Day Fund, which in theory could be used to help solve this crisis, but ....  "I remain steadfastly committed to protecting the remaining balance of the Rainy Day Fund, and will not sign a 2012-2013 state budget that uses the Rainy Day Fund," Gov. Rick Perry warned.

You know Rick Perry, the outspoken Governor of Texas who returns Federal money and talks of austerity and how great Texas has done being fiscally conservative.
"Texas is better off than practically any state in the country," Perry said in September, well after the coming problem was identified. When asked about the budget deficit in December, Perry dismissed the question as speculative.

But reality does suck.  Texas' budget shortfall is among the worst in the nation, but Perry says Texas remains an example for other states.  An example of exactly what he didn't say.

Democrats question why Perry and Republican lawmakers would tap the Rainy Day Fund to pay bills to creditors due in August, but not to save jobs.  Using the fund, which is made up of revenue from oil and gas taxes, could "mitigate the cuts to our children's education, the zeroing out of pre-kindergarten, the zeroing out of college scholarships for all freshman starting in 2012 and 2013," Democratic state Rep. Mike Villarreal said.

But there is little for Democrats to do. Republicans hold every statewide office in Texas, two-thirds of the state House seats and 19 out of the 31 seats in the Senate. The main political division is between veteran conservatives and ultra-conservative Tea Party Caucus members.  Texas prides itself on lean government so Republicans here promised to solve the crisis here by budget cuts alone.

So now Perry and his Republican cohorts must face reality.  And what is that reality?  Rep. Jim Pitts, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, acknowledged that making $23 billion in cuts for the next budget would be devastating. 
"If you want to close this shortfall through cuts alone, you have to either (completely) cut payments to Medicaid providers, cut payments to school districts or lay-off a substantial number of state employees," said Pitts. "You would have to do these things immediately."

According to Huffington Post, the severity of the state's $27 billion budget crisis was evident in the furrowed brows, sad eyes and pained expressions of legislators. They fidgeted in their seats as hundreds of teachers, parents and disabled people explained in testimony in recent weeks how proposed budget cuts would ruin their lives.

I believe we have entered a phase in our country where there is a war between the haves and have nots.  We will see how long the haves (see my Article from Sunday - Wealth Disparity - Damn The Middle Class - Plutocracy Reborn, for an account of the wealth disparity in the US), who control the media, and seemingly our politicians, can force deeper and deeper hardships on the have nots.

Too strong a statement?

In his New York Times article, Paul Krugman says that Texas imposes a low tax burden on the wealthy, relative to other states, but a higher than average tax burden upon the poor and their families.
"Facing budget deficits, however, the Republican Governor of Texas and his colleagues in State Government are resorting to deprivation of the already poor and suffering - for example, Medicare is particularly diminished, leading to lack of services for the elderly and the severely economically less advantaged and essentially certain to lead to excess deaths in that group, a predictability that renders the decision to cut Medicare - as opposed to taxing the already wealthy - tantamount to premeditated murder."
Krugman says premeditated murder!  I tend to agree.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Wealth Disparity - Damn The Middle Class - Plutocracy Reborn

I often get asked to name some of the issues about which I am passionate.  Certainly one of those, and one about which I have frequently written, is the growing wealth disparity in the United States.  Why is this so important?

Henry George wrote that:
“What has destroyed every previous civilization has been the tendency to the unequal distribution of wealth and power”
Destruction of civilization?  Is it really that severe?  The United States is a consumer based economy; however, the middle class is basically being destroyed right in front of our very eyes. Consumption economies die when the consumers have no money to consume!

 But wealth disparity may also lead to political corruption or even rebellion.  Witness what is happening now in Egypt and throughout the Middle East.  And it could happen here.  In a report by the United Nations report on the urban environment it states that growing inequality in U.S. cities could lead to widespread social unrest and increased mortality.

Is it really that bad?  The gap between the top 1% and everyone else hasn't been this bad since the Roaring Twenties and we know how that ended.

The San Francisco Sentinel reported that in a survey of 120 major cities New York was found to be the ninth most unequal in the world and Atlanta, Georgia, New Orleans, Louisiana, Washington, D.C., and Miami, Florida, had similar inequality levels to those of Nairobi, Kenya and Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Many were above an internationally recognized acceptable “alert” line used to warn governments.

Nairobi, Kenya and Abidjan, Ivory Coast - is that where you want us, the United States, to rank?  Should the middle class and poor in the United States have the same standard of living as those in Nairobi, Kenya and Abidjan, Ivory Coast?  If you think that sounds okay, then you are probably one of the lucky rich.

The poor are getting poorer, wages are falling behind inflation, and social mobility is at an all-time low.  Real average earnings have not increased in 50 years.  So the average American is getting poorer and poorer.  But do Americans care?

Seeking Alpha thinks that it is a deliberate plot.  According to them, socialism and economic justice are dirty words because Americans have been brainwashed into a sheeplike stupidity by their economic overlords.

During last night's Real Time, Bill Maher decried shows like Secret Millionaire—which he claims "try and put a happy ending on America's enormous wealth disparity"—in a rant against the glamorization/idolization of the rich by the poor.

Maher's rant came during the show-ending "New Rules" segment; he introduced the topic by saying, "Television networks have to stop making shows that try and put a happy ending on America's enormous wealth disparity, and instead make a show called Shine My Shoes, Fuckface!" and continuing with, "Come on! This is America, where the top 400 people have more money than the bottom 150 million combined."

Shine My Shoes, Fuckface!"  Catchy name for a show.

But Dan Ariely might have a better explanation in that Americans misunderstand what is really happening (or as some might say, Americans are being deliberately mislead).  In his study, Dan Ariely found that Americans "rather badly estimated the current state of wealth disparity!"  We just don't know it is that bad.

But in what I think is actually more important, Dan found that Americans offered an ideal wealth distribution reflecting a more equal distribution of wealth and strongly desire a more equitable society.

And in a really interesting twist, Dan found that the differences between people who make more money and less money, republicans and democrats, men and women — were relatively small in magnitude. 

In other words, it is not a Republican/Democrat issue.  It is a rich versus the rest of us issue.  And in general people who fall into these different categories (Republican/Democrat - male/female) seem to agree about the ideal wealth distribution.

Mind you, wealth disparity is not a new issue.  In many societies, attempts have been made, through property redistribution, taxation, or regulation, to redistribute wealth, sometimes in support of the upper class, and sometimes to diminish extreme inequality.  Examples of this practice go back at least to the Roman republic in the third century B.C., when laws were passed limiting the amount of wealth or land that could be owned by any one family.

During the Age of Reason, Francis Bacon wrote:
"Above all things good policy is to be used so that the treasures and monies in a state be not gathered into a few hands... Money is like muck, not good except it be spread."

I am not offering any solution other than better information.  We need to be discussing wealth disparity.  We need to be aware of its consequences.  And there has to be a way to achieve a more equitable distribution for all Americans.

Why?  As so eloquently said by William Arthur Ward:
“Each of us will one day be judged by our standard of life -- not by our standard of living; by our measure of giving -- not by our measure of wealth; by our simple goodness -- not by our seeming greatness.”

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hear No Evil - Speak No Evil - See No Evil

A months-long investigation into abusive mortgage practices by the Federal Reserve found no wrongful foreclosures, members of the Fed's Consumer Advisory Council said Thursday.

During a public meeting attended by Fed chairman Ben Bernanke and other regulators, consumer advocates on the panel criticized federal bank regulators for narrowly defining what constitutes a "wrongful foreclosure." At least one member of the panel voiced concerns that the public would not take the Fed's findings of improper practices seriously, since the wide-ranging review did not find a single homeowner who was wrongfully foreclosed upon.

If you don't look for something how could you ever find it?  But will anyone do anything about the Banks?

All 50 state attorneys general joined together last fall to probe banks' foreclosure practices after several companies halted home repossessions when improper paperwork practices -- like the so-called "robo-signing" scandal -- came to light. The law enforcement officers have said they've found banks violated numerous state laws. State and federal officials are considering a large-scale settlement with banks and mortgage servicers that could include penalties totaling up to $30 billion and requirements to modify more distressed mortgages.

But is $30 billion enough?  Or is this just a way of sweeping the issue under the rug?

Mary Tingerthal, the Fed council's vice chair and the commissioner of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, worried that the public would only pay attention to the report's "headline" finding, she said, which is that bank examiners did not find improper foreclosures. The Fed did find significant problems in banks' mortgage operations, she said.

But what is the scope of the issue?  Last year, foreclosure notices were filed on more than 3 million properties, according to data provider Realtytrac. More than one million homes were repossesed, a record. More than 11 million Americans currently owe more than their home is worth, according to CoreLogic, a real estate data provider.

So in 3 million foreclosures you couldn't find a single problem?  Seriosuly?  See No Evil!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sarah Palin: Africa Is A Continent, Rumors I Don't Know That Are 'Lies' - It Is Antarctica She Doesn't Know Is A Continent

You know Antarctica?  That place Sarah Palin can also see from Alaska.  Ooops, she didn't mean to say she can see the Country Antartica from Alaska, she meant that Antartica is that other cold place opposite the North Pole.

Oh, you mean that is a Continent too?

No Sarah Palin didn't say anything (to my knowledge) about Antartica.  But there is a lot of debate about what she said about Africa.

On the heels of Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) loss to President Barack Obama in the 2008 race, intriguing details about the internal operations of the pair's campaign began to trickle out. HuffPost's Nick Graham reported at the time:

According to Fox News Chief Political Correspondent Carl Cameron, there was great concern within the McCain campaign that Palin lacked "a degree of knowledgeability necessary to be a running mate, a vice president, a heartbeat away from the presidency," in part because she didn't know which countries were in NAFTA, and she "didn't understand that Africa was a continent, rather than a series, a country just in itself."
At last one thing upon which I can agree with Republican strategist - Sarah Palin lacks a degree of knowledgeability necessary to be a running mate, a vice president, a heartbeat away from the presidency, much less the President.

Truth be told, many Americans probably can't name all of the Continents (showing just how poorly we are doing at educating our children), but those people are not asking to run our Country.

Rasmussen Poll: Majority Want U.S. Troops Out Of Afghanistan Within A Year

Just Sunday I asked why we are in Afghanistan.  Seems I am not alone.

The polling firm Rasmussen, whose surveys are often accused of having a decidedly conservative tilt, finds that for the first time, a majority of likely voters want the U.S. government to set a timetable to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan within one year. Within that group, 31 percent want troops to come home immediately. In September 2010, just 43 percent of likely voters wanted a one-year timeline.

It seems that many Americans, maybe most, do not want us in Afghanistan any more and are tired of us fighting wars we do not understand.  And I woould bet, all of the "collateral damage." 

Seventy-three percent of Democrats favor a one-year timeline, compared to 37 percent of Republicans. But there has been an erosion of support in both parties, with 24 percent of Republicans six months ago favoring bringing the troops home within a year.

Rasmussen also finds in the survey, which was conducted March 4-5, that 41 percent of Americans are unsure whether the U.S. mission in Afghanistan will be judged a success. Just 27 percent are sure it will be.

A USA Today/Gallup poll from February also found that 72 percent of Americans would support Congress taking up the issue of a quicker withdrawal from Afghanistan.

We often talk about "mandates" from the voters.  This looks like a mandate from the American public.  Let's see if anyone is listening.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

We Just Killed 9 Boys, Ages 12 and Under. Do You Care?

NATO and the US (yes us), killed nine innocent boys on March 1 in the Pech valley area of Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan.

Oh Afghanistan!  What if this had been 9 boys killed in your home town?  Would you care?

According to a statement by Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, the killing was a mistake by coalition forces and he extended his condolences and regret to Karzai and the Afghan people, promising that such an incident will not be repeated.

Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, who directs day-to-day operations of coalition forces across Afghanistan, later issued a video statement of apology.  In the video, Rodriguez said troops at a base in the valley were responding to a rocket attack and dispatched attack helicopters to the location they were told the rockets came from. He said the helicopters thought they were engaging insurgents, but it later turned out they were boys from a nearby village who were cutting firewood.

What is an acceptable level of "collateral damage?"

And remind me why are we in Afghanistan again?

A Republican Mandate?

John Boehner says he is going to educate the voters so they will support cuts in Social Security and Medicare. A majority of Americans support reducing benefits for the wealthy and raising the income subject to taxation – neither of which are on Boehner's Top Ten list. Voters also support raising the Social Security retirement age to 69, gradually, over then next 50 years.

There is simply no support for massive cuts in social services.  And every time you hear them talk about the need for budget cuts remember they voted to give the rich tax cuts.

Pennsylvania has cut 40,000 from its low-income health insurance program – which already had a 505,000 long waiting list. Washington state dropped 17,500 from a program for the working poor. Arizona has proposed eliminating Medicaid coverage for 250,000 people.

If the States all cut back, what will the low-income, working class, do?  To whom will they turn for help?  Or do we just look the other way when we see people starving on the streets?

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) declared on Sunday that his party was unwilling to budge one cent further on the number of cuts it included in its budget proposal, even with a government shutdown looming in less than two weeks.

“To go any further is to push more kids out of school, to stifle the innovation which small businesses and large alike need to create more jobs, and it stops the investment in infrastructure which kills good paying jobs right here in the United States,” said Durbin.

What Happened to the American Dream - Does Anyone Have a Job?

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (for short we will refer to it as the BS Department), in the last two months US employment has increased by about 125,000 a month.

Sounds good right?  Most talking heads said it was great news.  Only problem is that in the US we need to add 125,000 jobs a month to keep even with the growth of the labor market. At this rate the 7.7 million jobs lost during the recession will NEVER get job again.

The BS Department reports the unemployment rate as essentially unchanged at 8.9%, but Gallup says it's more like 10.3% The same discrepancy exists with U6 – the combined un- and underemployed, with the BS Department reporting 15.9% and Gallup 19.9%. The average workweek was unchanged at 34.2 hours and average hourly earnings grew 1 cent. Job openings remain 30% below December 2007.

It is a positive sign that more jobs are being added; HOWEVER, this should indicate to us all that there are still millions of people suffering in our Country now. 

Let's hope that things improve soon.  But you must ask yourself, is this the time to cut benefits to the needy?  How would you feel if you were unemployed and hungry and had a family to feed?

According to an article in Los Angeles Times one in five Californians struggled to afford enough food for themselves and their families last year.  That places California at No. 16 in the nation for food hardship, the report said. The highest rate was recorded in Mississippi, where nearly 28% said they did not always have enough money to buy food. The lowest rate, just over 10%, was in North Dakota.

US household income today is below where it was in 1973. What's in your wallet?

Charity and compassion are virtues.  Greed and desire are not.  Support your local charities or work at a food bank.  Charity doesn't have to cost money.