Monday, February 14, 2011

Last Call

Happy Valentine's Day!

I am college educated and worked 35 years in management, receiving written references and praise from every boss for whom I worked. Yet, after thousands of resumes, applications, e-mails, phone calls, and drop ins, I've failed to get a job even at McDonalds. I've discovered there are three strikes against me -- most 99ers will understand. Strike one -- businesses are not hiring long-term unemployed -- in fact many job ads now underline "the unemployed need not apply." Strike two -- I am almost 60 years old. Employers prefer hiring younger workers who demand less and are better pack mules. Strike three -- for every job opening I've applied, there are over 300 applicants according to each business who allow a follow up call. With the U3 unemployment holding steady at 9.6percent and U6 at 17 percent for the past 18 months, the chances of me or any 99er landing a job is less than winning the Mega Million Jackpot. On top of that, even the most conservative economists admit unemployment will not start to fall before 2012 and most predict up to seven years of this crap.

I believe the Congress and President have no intention of really aiding the unemployed -- due to various political reasons and their total removal from the suffering of most Americans, their cold-hearted, self-serving natures. Had they really wanted to help us, they could have used unspent stimulus monies or cut foolish costs like the failed wars or foreign aid, and farm subsidies. The unspent stimulus money alone cold have taken care of ALL unemployed persons for five years or until the unemployment rate reached 7 percent if Congress and the President really wanted to help us -- and not string us all along with a meager safety net that fails every few months. In any case, if I were to survive homelessness (would be like winning the mega-millions) and with those three strikes against me, in seven more years, I'll be near 70 with the new retirement age at 70 -- now who will hire an old homeless guy out of work for nine years with just a few years until retirement?

So, here I am. Long term unemployed, older man, with chronic health problems, now totally broke, hungry, facing eviction. My landlady should really be an advocate for the unemployed -- she bangs on my door demanding I take action. A phone call and a "please" are not enough for her -- she is angry. She is right to be angry with me, I am unemployed -- as apparently everyone is now angry with us unemployed. 

And there are millions more like Mark here, unemployed older Americans falling off the 99er cliff, a decade or more away from Social Security and retirement and having to burn whatever money they have saved for retirement to live on now.  Millions of folks like Mark.

But of course, the only thing that matters is the deficit.

Something's got to give and soon.  And when it does, it's going to be brutal, people.

Ticking Away, And No One Hears

The spiked Spokane MLK Day bombing continues to be a complete non-story for 99.9% of the country.  The feds believe and are investigating the bombing as a racially motivated domestic terrorism attack in a place with a history of racially motivated crackpots next door in the Idaho mountains.

But it's the kind of story relegated to page A13 in the NY Times.

Nearly a month after a cleanup crew found the live bomb along the planned route of a large downtown march honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the F.B.I. is investigating the incident as an act of domestic terrorism. And Spokane has cycled from shock to relief to reassessment: have the white supremacists who once struck such fear here in the inland Northwest returned at a new level of dangerousness and sophistication?

“We don’t have that kind of intelligence level to make that kind of explosive,” said Shaun Winkler, a Pennsylvania native who recently returned to the region to start a landscaping company and a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

Mr. Winkler lives not far from Hayden Lake, Idaho, where he once was among the followers of Richard Butler, a white supremacist and Aryan Nations leader who spent more than two decades proclaiming the inland Northwest to be the capital of a new white homeland. Mr. Butler died in 2004 after losing the 20-acre Aryan Nations compound in a lawsuit and losing many of his followers, as well.

More than 200 white supremacists were once based at Hayden Lake, but Mr. Winkler, echoing assessments by human rights advocates, said that “only a very small handful are still around.” He said his new group had about a dozen members. Several of them recently picketed taco stands in nearby Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and distributed racist, vulgar fliers at North Idaho College. The college now owns the Hayden Lake property and calls it a “peace park.”

“We believe in protecting ourselves, but we certainly aren’t going to advocate bombing people,” said Mr. Winkler, 32, adding that he had been interviewed by the F.B.I. about the bomb in Spokane, about 40 miles to the southwest. “That’s a pretty extreme measure even from our end. It’s going to be more of an under-the-radar person, a lone-wolf type.” 

Always a lone-wolf, never an organized assault, even though the device was extremely deadly and far more sophisticated than underpants bombs or smoking SUVs made by idiots who would have failed high-school chemistry.  Those guys, being idiots, were busted in days, if not immediately.  Our own domestic terrorists?  Smarter, much more dangerous.  But you need to be afraid of brown people.

We have no domestic terrorism problem in the country, and you're either an unpatriotic loony if you say otherwise, or it's all the left's fault because Code Pink hurt George Bush's feelings. 

Home, Home I'm Deranged, Part 18

The three-year Housing Depression continues to roll on unabated into year number four.  It is self-sustaining and growing to consume nearly every housing market in the country, and there is no sign whatsoever that housing prices will turn around anytime soon.

The rolling real estate crash that ravaged Florida and the Southwest is delivering a new wave of distress to communities once thought to be immune — economically diversified cities where the boom was relatively restrained.

In the last year, home prices in Seattle had a bigger decline than in Las Vegas. Minneapolis dropped more than Miami, and Atlanta fared worse than Phoenix.

The bubble markets, where builders, buyers and banks ran wild, began falling first, economists say, so they are close to the end of the cycle and in some cases on their way back up. Nearly everyone else still has another season of pain.

“When I go out and talk to people around town, they say, ‘Wow, I thought we were going to have a 12 percent correction and call it a day,’ ” said Stan Humphries, chief economist for the housing site Zillow, which is based in Seattle. “But this thing just keeps on going.”

Seattle is down about 31 percent from its mid-2007 peak and, according to Zillow’s calculations, still has as much as 10 percent to fall. Mr. Humphries estimates the rest of the country will drop a further 5 and 7 percent as last year’s tax credits for home buyers continue to wear off.

“We went into 2010 feeling gangbusters, thanks to Uncle Sam,” Mr. Humphries said. “We ended it feeling penniless, with home values tanking.” 

There is no city immune to the Housing Depression.  Real estate prices have dropped by trillions.  First the bubbles in California and Florida went.  Then secondary markets like Cleveland, Detroit, and Indianapolis collapsed where the economy was weakest to begin with.  The third wave drove housing prices down in smaller, growing markets like Boise, Little Rock, Charlotte and Phoenix.  Now the fourth wave is ravaging the upscale cities of Seattle, Manhattan, Boston and states like Maine and Vermont.

Can't happen here, prices will turn around.  Can't happen to my home, they said in 2008.  Now prices are down 30, 40% in some places.  Homeowners are underwater and owe more than the house is worth, and they are walking away and taking the economy with it.

Meanwhile commodity prices are right back to their 2008 highs before the crash.  This time, when the bubble bursts, we won't have trillions to lose.  We're already in a recession, bordering on a long-term depression.  Certainly the depression in housing is long-term and will remain that way for a very long time.

I've been warning about this since I started this blog two and a half years ago.  If it's gotten to the point where the NY Times has noticed it in places like Seattle, then the game truly is over for the housing market.  We're in the spiral now, folks.  People keep saying "Well, we have another 10% to fall but after that..."

Which is what they said six months ago.  And six months before that.  And six months before that.  And housing prices keep falling and are showing no signs of slowing down.

Orange You Glad He's Fighting The Birthers?

Orange Julius may be Speaker of the House, but it's "not his job" he said on Meet The Press to tell the Republicans in his own caucus that lawmakers have to stop with the Birther crap.

GREGORY: Do you not think it’s your responsibility to stand up to that kind of ignorance?
BOEHNER: David, it’s not my job to tell the American people what to think. Our job in Washington is to listen to the American people. Having said that, the state of Hawaii has said that he was born there. That’s good enough for me. The president says he’s a Christian. I accept him at his word.
GREGORY: But isn’t that a little bit fast and loose? I mean, you are the leader in Congress and you are not standing up to obvious facts and saying these are facts, and if you don’t believe that it’s nonsense?
BOEHNER: I just outlined the facts as I understand them. I believe that the president is a citizen. I believe the president is a Christian, I’ll take him at his word.
GREGORY: But that kind of ignorance over whether he’s a Muslim doesn’t concern you?
BOEHNER: Listen, the American people have the right to think what they want to think. I can’t — it’s not my job to tell them.

Sure, they have the right to think Obama's the Antichrist, or that he's a Kenyan/British citizen, and it's not his job to tell Americans what to think.  Apparently, like evolution, global warming, and the Earth being millions of years old, Obama being an American citizen is just a theory, and opinions differ.

Also, next time Orange Julius tell you what to think, remind him it's not his job to tell you want to think.  Steve M. points out the obvious here about the rise of Birtherism at the GOP state level:

But if birtherism really is so embarrassing to "Republicans averse to conspiracy theorizing," then why don't Democrats somehow force Republicans to take a stand on it -- say, in a vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate? Why not take a birther bill, force it to the floor, and let the D.C. press corps and angry birthers watch how GOP senators vote? Shouldn't that be lose-lose for Republicans? Either they alienate the birther crazies or they demonstrate to the Village that they stand with those crazies?

Oh, yeah, I forgot: if Democrats ever tried doing that, the issue would be what a low, mean trick the Democrats were playing. Republicans would just take their ball and go home -- they'd shut down any negotiations they're involved in on what little legislation they'll let pass in this session. They'll snivel to their friends in the press that the Democrats are being mean to them. John McCain will get that world-weary tone of quietly righteous indignation on a Sunday morning talk show (or two, or five). It'll be a cheap stunt. It'll be all about Democratic "childishness."

Even worse, Republicans will say that by allowing a vote on a Republican birther bill, the Democrats are the ones giving credence to these rumors while at the same time they'll say that clearly this stuff is on the mind of the people and shouldn't the President really take responsibility for putting these questions to rest?

Naah, birtherism will continue until Obama's gone.

No Laughing Matter... Oh, Wait A Minute

The use of nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, during childbirth fell out of favor in the United States decades ago, and just two hospitals - one in San Francisco and one in Seattle - still offer it. But interest in returning the dentist office staple to the delivery room is growing: respected hospitals including Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center plan to start offering it, the federal government is reviewing it, and after a long hiatus, the equipment needed to administer it is expected to hit the market soon.
"In this country, most people when they hear about nitrous, they think it sounds pretty retro, that it sounds very old-fashioned and they're sure there's something bad or dangerous about it and we must've chosen to eliminate it. But I think we eliminated it because we went for the more specialized, higher-tech options," said Bishop, who will be among the speakers Monday at a conference for New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine hospital officials.
 The high tech option selected has dangerous side effects and the drugs can be harmful to the baby.  If research shows this is an effective alternative, hospitals may have found a way to cut costs and help patients when an anesthesiologist isn't available.  I know many mothers who wished they had a choice between nothing at all and something so risky and invasive as an epidural.

Iowa Wonder What The Hell's Up With That

I haven't intentionally picked on Iowa recently.  They did most of the work themselves, what with their corn promoting and anti-gay activities of late.  Now I'm throwing them in here again, but for something the exact opposite of what I expected.  My comments are included.

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — University of Iowa administrators won't bar the student-run campus movie theater from showing a pornographic movie this year. [This was my WTH moment.  I had to read it three times before I was satisfied.]

"Disco Dolls in Hot Skin" is scheduled to run Friday and Saturday at the Bijou Theater in the Iowa Memorial Union. Typically, no one under age 18 is admitted. [Typically?]

Last year, a student services administrator barred the showing, saying the move wasn't appropriate for a public facility at a public institution. [Ah, that sounds more like the Iowa I know.  I feel warm and comforted, all is right with the world.]

This year, though, the university says it is recognizing the right of the student group to show the film as well as the right of people to watch it. [Nice try, you almost had me.  Now who are you and what have you done with the Iowa I know?]

After their Maybe they're just trying to get a popcorn crop promoted.  Who knows with these folks. 

The Kroog Versus The GOP War On Math

Paul Krugman tackles the question why Republicans, so very worried about our children's future in a world of tens of trillions of national debt, are choosing to make the deepest cuts in programs to help our children's future.  The answer is really simple:  kids don't vote.  Their parents and grandparents on the other hand do.

The answer, once you think about it, is obvious: sacrifice the future. Focus the cuts on programs whose benefits aren’t immediate; basically, eat America’s seed corn. There will be a huge price to pay, eventually — but for now, you can keep the base happy.

If you didn’t understand that logic, you might be puzzled by many items in the House G.O.P. proposal. Why cut a billion dollars from a highly successful program that provides supplemental nutrition to pregnant mothers, infants, and young children? Why cut $648 million from nuclear nonproliferation activities? (One terrorist nuke, assembled from stray ex-Soviet fissile material, can ruin your whole day.) Why cut $578 million from the I.R.S. enforcement budget? (Letting tax cheats run wild doesn’t exactly serve the cause of deficit reduction.)

Once you understand the imperatives Republicans face, however, it all makes sense. By slashing future-oriented programs, they can deliver the instant spending cuts Tea Partiers demand, without imposing too much immediate pain on voters. And as for the future costs — a population damaged by childhood malnutrition, an increased chance of terrorist attacks, a revenue system undermined by widespread tax evasion — well, tomorrow is another day.

In a better world, politicians would talk to voters as if they were adults. They would explain that discretionary spending has little to do with the long-run imbalance between spending and revenues. They would then explain that solving that long-run problem requires two main things: reining in health-care costs and, realistically, increasing taxes to pay for the programs that Americans really want.

But Republican leaders can’t do that, of course: they refuse to admit that taxes ever need to rise, and they spent much of the last two years screaming “death panels!” in response to even the most modest, sensible efforts to ensure that Medicare dollars are well spent.

And so they had to produce something like Friday’s proposal, a plan that would save remarkably little money but would do a remarkably large amount of harm. 

Slicing $100 billion dollars from programs designed to help America's kids and safeguard the future is exactly what the Republicans want to do.  They only care about getting political power now, and the worse things get, the louder they complain that government cannot work, and that more cuts are needed...in future programs and programs for kids, of course.   Better than cuts we'd have to face now, better to kick the can down the road like everyone before them.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

So, with the huge news from Egypt this week, what experts did our "liberal media" turn to yesterday as far as explaining Washington's reaction and how the Obama administration handled the situation?

Let's find out.

Meet the Press: Halperin, Speaker Boehner, Ambassador Indyk, Mayor Reed, Rep. Schilling, Brooks, Dee Dee Myers
Fox News Sunday: Gov. Barbour, Rep. Ryan
Face the Nation: Sen. McCain, Ahmed Zewail
This Week:: Ehud Barak, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty
State of the Union: Ambassadors Walker and Negroponte, Sen. Graham

No Democrats currently serving in Congress, no White House officials, and a crapload of Republicans, including John McCain, who completely reversed his position on Egypt from just two weeks ago.

McCain has waffled on his views regarding the pro-democracy protests. Initially, he expressed fear about the movement, calling it a dangerous "virus" that could spread throughout the Middle East. But following President Hosni Mubarak's decision to step down, McCain issued a statement applauding the "Egyptian people" for "beginning ... their country's transition to democracy." Moreover, in late January, McCain told CNN it would not be wise for the Obama administration to "cut [Mubarak] loose." A few days later, he was demanding Obama call on Mubarak to resign immediately.

Funny how McCain keeps ending up on TV as a foreign policy expert along with Sen. Lindsey Graham all the time when the guy has zero credibility for anyone who care to research his positions.

Which our "liberal media" does not.

Shutdown Countdown, Part 8

Despite what the GOP leadership thinks, there are more than a few House Republicans who want to hold the government hostage --  Social Security checks, Medicare payments, paychecks to government employees, unemployment benefits, food stamps, border protection, national security, the whole nine yards -- unless Obama gives in to the demands of the minority party and repeals Obamacare.  Naturally, that charge is being led by Iowa Republican Steve King.

In a presentation at CPAC on Thursday, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) called on Republicans to hold the government hostage until President Obama abandons his dream of reforming the nation's health care system.
Or to put it in King's words: Republicans should do to "ObamaCare" what Democrats did to the Vietnam War.

Speaking to a small audience in CPAC's auxiliary meeting room -- where most of the social conservatives like King have been pushed this year -- King outlined his plan to use Congress' ability to shut down the government by refusing to fund it as means of pushing the health care reforms into an early grave.

The reform law signed by Obama last year includes what King called "self-enacting appropriations" -- mandatory spending -- which means they'll kick in on their own unless Congress passes a law to stop them. King's plan: tell Obama that unless he agrees to kill that spending, the GOP will refuse to pass new legislation to fund the government, which runs out of money on March 4.

Without that legislation, the government would shut down. And, voilĂ : a government held for ransom.

In other words, King figures Republicans now run the country because they rule one chamber of Congress.  The fact that Democrats control the other chamber apparently doesn't matter.  Last time Republicans tried this it didn't exactly work out for them, and it ended up putting Clinton in the White House for another four years.  Indeed, this may backfire again.

If enough conservative Republicans join King, it will put House GOP leaders in a tough spot. They've promised a fairly open debate process on spending, and King's plan appeals to some conservatives. It will be hard for him to force his plan into the legislation. But if it's not in the final spending package, conservatives could threaten to defect, and Republican leaders will be forced to rely on Democrats to keep the government funded. That would probably mean breaking their own "Pledge to America" with relatively shallow cuts, and the health care law left largely untouched. 

The GOP House leadership remembers what happened to Newt Gingrich.   They know a shutdown fight is a loser when Democrats can say "Republicans want to take away health care improvements, and they're going to take everything else away from you until you give them up."

Not a battle Orange Julius is going to win when his approval rating is down in the low 30's, and that's just for starters.  He knows he's in trouble here.  So far the Tea Party wing has been causing the Corporate wing of the GOP a hell of a lot of problems, but that's nothing compated to the damage they can do to the Republican brand (not to mention the entire country) starting in three weeks.

Hang on, folks.

StupidiNews, Valentine's Day Edition!

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