Monday, December 29, 2008

For the GOP It's 1933 Déjà vu All Over Again

As if the economic news weren't bad enough and getting worse at the moment, with analysis of the near future looking grim, unemployment numbers rising and consumer spending tanking, you'd think a little common sense might kick in somewhere in the GOP. Maybe restoring government regulation and enforcement to combat fraud, deceit and outright bilking and a economic stimulus package might make sense. Right?

Wrong - The fact is, facts simply aren't relevant to Republicans, whose unquestioning adherence to dogma, unyielding opposition to FDR's "New Deal" reforms and veneration of conservative icons such as Ronald Reagan are more appropriate to religious faith than intellectual rigor.

Rather than accept responsibility for the many catastrophes conservative governance and the repeal of FDR's "New Deal" reforms, have foisted upon the nation, Republicans seek to deny blame; President Bush says the Wall Street meltdown isn't his fault, as he tells Charles Gibson,

"I think when the history of this period is written, people will realize a lot of the decisions that were made took place over a decade or so, before I arrived."
Well, to be completely accurate, Bush's conservative legacy of failure directly follows from the conservative prime ideological directive, so well articulated by Ronald Reagan upon his inauguration on January 20, 1981, that "Government is not the solution; government is the problem." What has happened over the last eight years links up to what has been happening over the last twenty-eight years, since Ronald Reagan's inaugural call to dismantle government.

By the time Ronald Reagan was elected president conservative Republicans had spent 50 years unsuccessfully trying to sell Americans on the idea that conservative governance in the 1920's had nothing to do with the economic crisis of the 1930's and that the U.S. economy—whether in recession or booming—was laboring under the shackles of the burdensome taxation and misguided regulation placed upon it by FDR's enduring New Deal legislation.

Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. writes about FDR's challenges to rescue America through a "new deal" approach to government in his book, "Crisis of the Old Order,"
"The economy FDR inherited in March 1933, delivered to him by 12 years of Republican laissez-faire rule, was a shambles. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 90 percent from its 1929 peak. and gross domestic product fell by more than a quarter between 1929 and 1933. One out of every four American workers lacked a job, hunger marchers, pinched and bitter, were parading cold streets in New York and Chicago, only a small percentage of the unemployed received relief. Americans suffered a degree of long-term financial distress that is almost unimaginable, but Republicans denied that [the conservative philosophy of] laissez-faire [no government regulation or intervention] governance during the 1920's was in any way responsible for the economic crisis."
From the first days of Roosevelt's Administration in 1933 conservative Republicans have viewed FDR's New Deal programs to regulate banking and Wall Street and protect and empower working class citizens as an extreme threat to their interests. Republicans hated FDR's ideas for financial system regulatory oversight, the Social Security Adminstration, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Triborough Bridge program and the Work Projects Administration (WPA) programs.

In the summer of 1933, shortly after Roosevelt's 'First 100 Days,' America's richest businessmen were in a panic. It was clear that Roosevelt intended to push massive "New Deal" economic recovery legislation through congress that would regulate the Banking System and Wall Street and protect and empower working class citizens. Conservatives felt that Roosevelt had to be stopped at all costs and their answer was a political coup, along the lines of the recently successful coups of Adolf Hitler in Germany and Benito Mussolini in Italy. (Hear BBC audio report The White House Coup)

In 1934, Marine Major General Smedley Butler told Congress that a group of wealthy industrialists had approached him to lead a coup to take over the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was to be secretly financed and organized by leading officers of the Morgan and Du Pont empires and included some of America's richest and most famous conservative republicans of the time.

Butler pretended to go along with the plot and met other members of the conspiracy, but in November 1934 Butler exposed the plot in secret testimony to the congressional Special Committee on Un-American Activities (the McCormack-Dickstein Committee) that was investigating Nazi and certain other propaganda activities. Butler claimed that the American Liberty League was the main organization behind the plot. He added the main backers were the Du Pont family, as well as leaders of U.S. Steel, General Motors, Standard Oil, Chase National Bank, and Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Butler also named Prescott Bush, President G.W. Bush's grandfather, as one of the conspirators.

The plot to overthrow the government of President Franklin D. Roosevelt failed when Butler exposed the coup plot, but conservatives have never ceased their effort to overthrow Roosevelt's New Deal regulation of banking and Wall Street and other protections for working class citizens.

In Reagan, conservatives had finally found someone who could successfully sell the conservative "free market" argument against FDR's New Deal philosophy that Government Safety Net Programs and Regulatory Oversight are required to protect working class citizens against catastrophic financial system boom/bust cycles.

During the twenty-eight years following Reagan's inauguration conservatives relentlessly pushed to eliminate government safety net and oversight programs in every corner of America under the canard that "unfettered free markets work best." It was conservatives, both Republican and blue dog Democrat, who pushed repeal and elimination of any and all government safety net and regulatory oversight legislation, following Reagan's inaugural pronouncement.

So, President Bush is correct to say that, "a lot of the decisions were made before I arrived." Yet, it is an ultimate act of denial for Bush to deny that his Blind Conservative Faith In Unregulated Banking And Markets and his directives to oversight agencies that they must not enforce regulations congress had not yet repealed, did in fact stoked our economic crisis.

President Bush is not alone in his denial that the conservative philosophy of governance is the root cause behind the desperate circumstances Americans face today. In their denial many conservatives say that President Bush betrayed conservatism or that President Bush and the Republican leadership in congress were not conservative enough or they lost focus of the "true" core conservative values articulated by President Reagan.

The truth is, President Bush and the Republican leadership in congress faithfully executed both the Republican party’s divisive tactics of political leadership and its governing philosophy. Together they implemented the vision President Reagan articulated in his inauguration speech 28 years ago. And that vision was the repeal of the FDR's New Deal government protections for working class America.

In James K. Galbraith’s book, "The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too" Galbraith makes the case that,
America is in the grip of an economic orthodoxy defined by Ronald Reagan and embraced ardently by George W. Bush. This orthodoxy rests on four pillars: 1) Cut taxes on the wealthy, 2) Reduce regulation, 3) Fear inflation above all else, and 4) Insist on free-floating currency rates. Yet mainstream economists have spent much of the past decade examining the results, and declaring them false; Supply-side stimulation is a mirage. In plain English, Galbraith shows that the Republican Party has been hijacked by political leaders who long since stopped caring if their message conforms to reality.
Obama's ambitious plans to repair the American economy have drawn comparison to the massive New Deal reforms and programs pioneered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Conservative Republicans, unable to intellectually accept or unwilling to honestly admit that conservative governance has led to financial calamity twice in a period of 70 years, are signaling that they are as opposed to President Obama's new "New Deal" legislation as their conservative forefathers were to FDR's New Deal legislation.

In recent weeks conservative media figures on TV and radio and conservative Republican lawmakers have attempted to counter media comparisons of Barack Obama to Franklin Roosevelt or assertions in the media that a "New Deal level of government intervention" is necessary to resolve the current economic crisis, by falsely asserting that Roosevelt's New Deal reforms and programs caused the 1930's economy depression. Assertions that the New Deal rather than Republican conservative governance during the 1920's caused the 1930's depression is flatly rejected by economists and historians. New York Times economic writer Daniel Gross debunks these false assertions writing:
It was only with the passage of New Deal efforts--the SEC, the FDIC, the FSLIC--that the mechanisms of private capital began to kick back into gear. Don't take it from me. Take it from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who wrote the following in Essays on the Great Depression: "Only with the New Deal's rehabilitation of the financial system in 1933-35 did the economy begin its slow emergence from the Great Depression."...

The argument that the New Deal's efforts "perhaps had prolonged, the Depression," is a canard. One would be very hard-pressed to find a serious professional historian--I mean a serious historian, not a think-tank wanker, not an economist, not a journalist--who believes that the New Deal prolonged the Depression.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the most powerful conservative Republican in Washington, has said he intends to delay Obama's proposed economic stimulus legislation of $1 trillion in spending and tax cuts by demanding that the Democratically controlled Senate hold lengthy committee hearings. McConnell has the ability to use his 41 Republican Senator cloture vote filibuster to block Obama's legislation, should Democrats not acquiesce to his stall tactics.

GOP House of Representatives minority leader John Boehner is also looking for ways to delay Obama's legislation with lengthy House committee meetings. Boehner is using his website to solicit opposition to Obama's new New Deal saying, "if there are any credentialed economists who are willing to say negative things about stimulus plans, please contact me."

Conservatives in the RNC are also working to exert their influence against Obama's new New Deal with a resolution circulated during the last week of December: (PDF of the resolution.)

Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman says, "The New Deal wasn’t as successful in the short run as it was in the long run. And the reason for FDR’s limited short-run success, which almost undid his whole program, was the fact that his economic policies were too cautious." FDR listened too much to conservatives of his day telling him to ease up on the reforms and safety-net programs.

The Republicans have begun their national introspection over the real causes of their electoral wipe out on Nov. 4, with party "leaders" debating how far right - or left - the party needs to go to regain respectable, if not winning, status. Perhaps the fastest path to respectability is for Republicans to accept responsibility for the current economic problems and join Obama in a true bipartisan venture to rebuild America.

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Reconstituting Conservative Ideology As Good Governance

Bush's conservative legacy of failure follows from a single utterance from Ronald Reagan upon his inauguration on January 20, 1981; "Government is not the solution; government is the problem." What has happened over the last eight years links up to what has been happening over the last twenty-eight years, since Ronald Reagan was elected president.

In the long run, historians will have a very easy time characterizing the failures of the Bush presidency - Bush is a conservative Republican ascending to office with a Congress controlled by conservative Republicans, alongside a judiciary more or less controlled by conservative Republicans, all set in motion by President Reagan.

In the short run, it appears very, very clear that's not stopping conservatives from rewriting history.

NYTimes.com
A President Forgotten but Not Gone
By FRANK RICH
Published: January 3, 2009


[An] elaborate example of legacy spin was placed on the Bush White House Web site before he left office on January 20, 2009: a booklet (PDF) recounting “highlights” of the administration’s “accomplishments and results.” With big type, much white space, children’s-book-like trivia boxes titled “Did You Know?” and lots of color photos of the Bushes posing with blacks and troops, its 52 pages require a reading level closer to “My Pet Goat” than “The Stranger.”

This document is the literary correlative to “Mission Accomplished.” Bush kept America safe (provided his presidency began Sept. 12, 2001). He gave America record economic growth (provided his presidency ended December 2007). He vanquished all the leading Qaeda terrorists (if you don’t count the leaders bin Laden and al-Zawahri). He gave Afghanistan a thriving “market economy” (if you count its skyrocketing opium trade) and a “democratically elected president” (presiding over one of the world’s most corrupt governments). He supported elections in Pakistan (after propping up Pervez Musharraf past the point of no return). He “led the world in providing food aid and natural disaster relief” (if you leave out Brownie and Katrina).

If this is the best case that even Bush and his handlers can make for his achievements, you wonder why they bothered. Desperate for padding, they devote four risible pages to portraying our dear leader as a zealous environmentalist.

But the brazenness of Bush’s alternative-reality history is itself revelatory. The audacity of its hype helps clear up the mystery of how someone so slight could inflict so much damage. So do his many print and television exit interviews.

Asked (by Charles Gibson) if he feels any responsibility for the economic meltdown, Bush says, “People will realize a lot of the decisions that were made on Wall Street took place over a decade or so, before I arrived.”

“The attacks of September the 11th came out of nowhere,” he said in another interview, as if he hadn’t ignored frantic intelligence warnings that summer of a Qaeda attack. But it was an “intelligence failure,” not his relentless invocation of patently fictitious “mushroom clouds,” that sped us into Iraq.
The last NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll on Bush’s presidency found that 79 percent of Americans will not miss him after he leaves the White House. He is being forgotten already, but it is important to remember how vast the wreckage stretches.
HuffingtonPost.com
by Brad Woodhouse
Posted December 23, 2008


The Bush legacy should be remembered as a grand and failed experiment of what happens when conservatives are in complete control of the government. Conservative ideology rails against government, argues that government is the problem, not the solution. So when a government run by conservatives so utterly fails to promote and protect the common good for all citizens, is it any wonder?

And now the same folks that brought us the needless $3 trillion war in Iraq have the mother of all swan songs left in store: redefining the Bush legacy as something other than a failure. Weekly Standard senior writer and GOP insider Stephen Hayes let slip earlier this month that an unofficial White House PR campaign is afoot - which Hayes dubbed the "Bush Legacy project" -- with the mission of highlighting what they believe are the President's accomplishments and shirking responsibility for the more numerous and far more consequential failures.

In reality, more than a few people formerly in his administration have come forward as witnesses to a serious failure of leadership.

In 1987, President Reagan's job approval rating plummeted to 42 percent during the height of the Iran-Contra scandal. However, in the remaining months of his presidency, Reagan went largely unchecked and managed to leave office with a 63 percent approval rating -- allowing his conservative disciples to redefine his presidency as an example of successful conservative governance. A remarkable feat, to be sure, for a legacy of unhinged deficit spending, draconian cuts in federal assistance to local governments, a homelessness boom, and a refusal to acknowledge the fledgling AIDS epidemic. Reagan got away with repairing his legacy on the way out the door; George W. cannot be allowed to do the same.
In truth, the failures of the last eight years cannot be chalked up to one man. The war in Iraq, the floundering economy, the tragedy that befell New Orleans, were the failures of conservative ideology. The failures are owned by every conservative in Congress who championed and happily rubber-stamped conservative legislation and the conservative philosophy of governing.

The truly compelling story of this decade is one that conservatives do not want told – the rapid and dramatic failure of conservative government. America has learned what life is like under a true conservative government. With near absolute power, conservatives have pursued their agenda with little compromise or input from progressives. In a position of virtually unchecked power conservatives have failed quickly and utterly at the most basic responsibilities of governing, leaving our nation weaker and our people less prosperous, less safe and less free. The Bush years may have been years of political and legislative victories for conservatives, but those years of political and legislative victories have resulted in disastrous conservative governance.

Conservatives in Washington have taken the country on a reckless sharp right turn, offering an economic strategy ill-suited for the challenges we face in the 21st century, a foreign policy too belligerent and too ineffective, and a style of governing too arrogant and corrupt for our proud democracy. Their approach has not only failed to yield the results they've promised, but has endangered America's leadership in the world and broad-based prosperity at home in ways that will take many years to repair.

Conservative leadership in Washington, DC:
  • Misled the American people into an endless war in Iraq that has made the United States less safe, has resulted in the death and injury of thousands of American troops and Iraqis, has cost American taxpayers as much as one trillion dollars, has strained our military to the breaking point, and has prevented us from finishing the job in Afghanistan.
  • Stood idly by while thousands of Americans lost everything during Hurricane Katrina – and still haven’t taken leadership to rebuild the Gulf Coast and help people return home.
  • Allowed trickle-down, laissez-faire (deregulation, anti-regulation, no government regulation or even oversight on anything for any reason, ever, period) economics to help the rich get richer, while regular Americans struggle with soaring gas and food prices, a meltdown in the housing market, and exploding debt during today’s economic recession.
  • Turned control of our country’s health care system over to insurance and pharmaceutical companies, leaving millions of Americans incapable of paying for the rising costs of health benefits and turning emergency rooms into primary care physicians.
  • Broke their promise to America’s children, failing to fund early education programs and No Child Left Behind.
  • Ignored the scientific reality of climate change, obstructing efforts to make our air and water cleaner so oil and gas companies and big business could achieve record profits.
  • Turned their backs on America’s workers, assaulting workers’ rights and impeding regular Americans’ efforts to form unions and bargain for better pay and working conditions.
  • Conservatives have methodical pursued a campaign to politicize, ignore, twist or undermine science on the effects of smoking and of air pollution, the feasibility and benefits of energy savings through increased energy efficiency standards, the feasibility on deploying alternative energy technologies, stem cell research, educational standards, sex education and contraceptives and the drug abuse, all the way to a campaign aimed at teaching "alternatives to evolution" in the classroom.
We cannot let the conservative version of the past eight years, à la the "Bush Legacy Project," go down in history as the truth. Democrats cannot allow conservatives to reconstitute conservative ideology, as they did for Reagan's presidency, as an approach to government that will ever do more than utterly fail the American people.
"I'm absolutely positive history will be kind to this president, who made the right decisions in a difficult time for this nation," Bush Strategist Karl Rove, 5/7/08

Beware the conservative propaganda machine!
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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Politics Is No Longer Local - It's Viral

WashingtonPost.com
By Jose Antonio Vargas
Sunday, December 28, 2008


It was through news clips posted on YouTube -- and through Obama's YouTube channel, which lists more than 1,800 videos -- that groups [of people] learned about the Illinois senator's policies and positions.

And it was mostly on the Internet, in one of those ubiquitous, inescapable Web ads -- the campaign spent $8 million on online advertising -- that they heard about Obama's text-messaging program. "I only get texts from my friends," Andy Green, a 20-year-old sophomore, told me. "Let me correct that: I only get texts from my friends and from Obama."

In the past, we've thought of politics as something over there -- isolated, separate from our daily lives, as if on a stage upon which journalists, consultants, pollsters and candidates spun and dictated and acted out the process. Now, because of technology in general and the Internet in particular, politics has become something tangible. Politics is right here. You touch it; it's in your laptop and on your cellphone. You control it, by forwarding an e-mail about a candidate, donating money or creating a group. Politics is personal. Politics is viral. Politics is individual.

And we're just getting started.

Obama's unprecedented online success guarantees that there's not a single campaign in 2012, Democratic or Republican, that won't place the Web at the core of its operation. The floodgates are open. This doesn't mean just hiring Web developers, bloggers, videographers -- the works. It also means using the Internet to invite people into the process, giving them something to work for, offering them a stake in victory or defeat. More than any other medium in our history, the Web is by the people, for the people. Starting with Howard Dean, continuing with Obama and stretching out into the future, this new dynamic will transform the way campaigns are run -- and, beyond that, the way the winning candidate governs. Fundamentally, all of this is redefining our relationship with our politics.

Read the full story at the WashingtonPost.com

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Official History Spotlights Iraq Rebuilding Blunders

A 513 page federal history on the Iraq reconstruction was compiled by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, led by Stuart W. Bowen Jr., a Republican lawyer who regularly travels to Iraq and has a staff of engineers and auditors based here. Here are some of the accounts in this first official federal historical document on the Iraq reconstruction entitled “Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience" -

  • Ignorance: Pentagon planners efforts were crippled by spiraling violence and ignorance of the basic elements of Iraqi society and infrastructure.
  • Lies: when the reconstruction began to lag — particularly in the critical area of rebuilding the Iraqi police and army — the Pentagon simply put out inflated measures of progress to cover up the failures. Colin Powell said the Defense Department “kept inventing numbers of Iraqi security forces — the number would jump 20,000 a week"
  • Incompetence: The Bush Administration has in place neither the policies and technical capacity nor the organizational structure that would be needed to undertake such a program on anything approaching this scale.
  • Politics over planning: Republicans put a greater priority on making things "look good" for Bush because of the 2004 election instead of efficient and competent use of money. Office of Management and Budget balked at the American occupation authority’s abrupt request for about $20 billion in new reconstruction money in August 2003, a veteran Republican lobbyist working for the authority made a bluntly partisan appeal to Joshua B. Bolten, then the O.M.B. director and now the White House chief of staff. “To delay getting our funds would be a political disaster for the President,” wrote the lobbyist, Tom C. Korologos. “His election will hang for a large part on show of progress in Iraq and without the funding this year, progress will grind to a halt.” With administration backing, Congress allocated the money later that year.
  • Poor planning: As an example of the haphazard planning, a civilian official at the United States Agency for International Development was at one point given four hours to determine how many miles of Iraqi roads would need to be reopened and repaired. The official searched through the agency’s reference library, and his estimate went directly into a master plan.
  • Early miscalculations: The history records how Jay Garner, Chief of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, presented Defense Sec. Donald Rumsfeld with several rebuilding plans, including one that would include projects across Iraq. “What do you think that’ll cost?” Mr. Rumsfeld asked of the more expansive plan.“I think it’s going to cost billions of dollars,” Mr. Garner said.“My friend,” Mr. Rumsfeld replied, “if you think we’re going to spend a billion dollars of our money over there, you are sadly mistaken.”
Conclusions:
"...the government as a whole has never developed a legislatively sanctioned doctrine or framework for planning, preparing and executing contingency operations in which diplomacy, development and military action all figure.”
And to think in the midst of this recession in America, billions of dollars are flying out of America every week to try to repair the damage of the Bush legacy.

Two economists take an unflinching look at the final costs of invading Iraq in a book, "The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict," by Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel prize-winner in economics, and Linda Bilmes, a budget and public finance expert at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. How do the authors arrive at the $3 trillion figure of the title, and the still bigger numbers they report inside? To the administration's own requests for money they add other costs to the taxpayer that either appear elsewhere in the budget (such as the bonuses required to attract recruits put off by the war) or do not yet appear at all (such as the future disability claims of wounded veterans).

In comparison the $600 billion so far authorized for Iraq is just a down payment of the $3 trillion figure.

Iraq War Results & Statistics at December 10, 2008
4,209 US Soldiers Killed, 30,848 Seriously Wounded
By Deborah White, About.com

For your quick reading, here are key statistics about the Iraq War, taken primarily from data analyzed by various think tanks, including The Brookings Institution's Iraq Index, and from mainstream media sources. Data is presented as of December 10, 2008, except as indicated.

U.S. SPENDING IN IRAQ

  • Spent & Approved War-Spending - About $800 billion of US taxpayers' funds spent or approved for spending through mid-2009.
  • U.S. Monthly Spending in Iraq - $12 billion in 2008
  • U.S. Spending per Second - $5,000 in 2008 (per Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on May 5, 2008)
  • Cost of deploying one U.S. soldier for one year in Iraq - $390,000 (Congressional Research Service)
  • Lost & Unaccounted for in Iraq - $9 billion of US taxpayers' money and $549.7 milion in spare parts shipped in 2004 to US contractors. Also, per ABC News, 190,000 guns, including 110,000 AK-47 rifles.
  • Missing - $1 billion in tractor trailers, tank recovery vehicles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and other equipment and services provided to the Iraqi security forces. (Per CBS News on Dec 6, 2007.)
  • Mismanaged & Wasted in Iraq - $10 billion, per Feb 2007 Congressional hearings
  • Halliburton Overcharges Classified by the Pentagon as Unreasonable and Unsupported - $1.4 billion
  • Amount paid to KBR, a former Halliburton division, to supply U.S. military in Iraq with food, fuel, housing and other items - $20 billion
  • Portion of the $20 billion paid to KBR that Pentagon auditors deem "questionable or supportable" - $3.2 billion
  • Number of major U.S. bases in Iraq - 75 (The Nation/New York Times)
TROOPS IN IRAQ
  • Iraqi Troops Trained and Able to Function Independent of U.S. Forces - 6,000 as of May 2007 (per NBC's "Meet the Press" on May 20, 2007)
  • Troops in Iraq - Total 152,350, including 146,000 from the US, 4,000 from the UK, 900 from Poland, 650 from South Korea and 800 from all other nations
  • U.S. Troop Casualties - 4,209 US troops; 98% male. 91% non-officers; 82% active duty, 11% National Guard; 74% Caucasian, 9% African-American, 11% Latino. 19% killed by non-hostile causes. 54% of US casualties were under 25 years old. 72% were from the US Army
  • Non-U.S. Troop Casualties - Total 314, with 177 from the UK
  • US Troops Wounded - 30,848, 20% of which are serious brain or spinal injuries (total excludes psychological injuries)
  • US Troops with Serious Mental Health Problems - 30% of US troops develop serious mental health problems within 3 to 4 months of returning home
  • US Military Helicopters Downed in Iraq - 68 total, at least 36 by enemy fire
IRAQI TROOPS, CIVILIANS & OTHERS IN IRAQ
  • Private Contractors in Iraq, Working in Support of US Army Troops - More than 180,000 in August 2007, per The Nation/LA Times.
  • Journalists killed - 135, 91 by murder and 44 by acts of war
  • Journalists killed by US Forces - 14
  • Iraqi Police and Soldiers Killed - 8,792
  • Iraqi Civilians Killed, Estimated - A UN issued report dated Sept 20, 2006 stating that Iraqi civilian casualties have been significantly under-reported. Casualties are reported at 50,000 to over 100,000, but may be much higher. Some informed estimates place Iraqi civilian casualities at over 600,000.
  • Iraqi Insurgents Killed, Roughly Estimated - 55,000
  • Non-Iraqi Contractors and Civilian Workers Killed - 556
  • Non-Iraqi Kidnapped - 306, including 57 killed, 147 released, 4 escaped, 6 rescued and 89 status unknown.
  • Daily Insurgent Attacks, Feb 2004 - 14
  • Daily Insurgent Attacks, July 2005 - 70
  • Daily Insurgent Attacks, May 2007 - 163
  • Estimated Insurgency Strength, Nov 2003 - 15,000
  • Estimated Insurgency Strength, Oct 2006 - 20,000 - 30,000
  • Estimated Insurgency Strength, June 2007 - 70,000
QUALITY OF LIFE INDICATORS
  • Iraqis Displaced Inside Iraq, by Iraq War, as of May 2007 - 2,255,000
  • Iraqi Refugees in Syria & Jordan - 2.1 million to 2.25 million
  • Iraqi Unemployment Rate - 27 to 60%, where curfew not in effect
  • Consumer Price Inflation in 2006 - 50%
  • Iraqi Children Suffering from Chronic Malnutrition - 28% in June 2007 (Per CNN.com, July 30, 2007)
  • Percent of professionals who have left Iraq since 2003 - 40%
  • Iraqi Physicians Before 2003 Invasion - 34,000
  • Iraqi Physicians Who Have Left Iraq Since 2005 Invasion - 12,000
  • Iraqi Physicians Murdered Since 2003 Invasion - 2,000
  • Average Daily Hours Iraqi Homes Have Electricity - 1 to 2 hours, per Ryan Crocker, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq (Per Los Angeles Times, July 27, 2007)
  • Average Daily Hours Iraqi Homes Have Electricity - 10.9 in May 2007
  • Average Daily Hours Baghdad Homes Have Electricity - 5.6 in May 2007
  • Pre-War Daily Hours Baghdad Homes Have Electricity - 16 to 24
  • Number of Iraqi Homes Connected to Sewer Systems - 37%
  • Iraqis without access to adequate water supplies - 70% (Per CNN.com, July 30, 2007)
  • Water Treatment Plants Rehabilitated - 22%
RESULTS OF POLL Taken in Iraq in August 2005 by the British Ministry of Defense (Source: Brookings Institute)
  • Iraqis "strongly opposed to presence of coalition troops - 82%
  • Iraqis who believe Coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security - less than 1%
  • Iraqis who feel less secure because of the occupation - 67%
  • Iraqis who do not have confidence in multi-national forces - 72%

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Laissez-Faire Capitalism Should Be as Dead as Soviet Communism

Huffington Post
by Arianna Huffington - December 22, 2008

It's time to drive the final nail into the coffin of laissez-faire capitalism by treating it like the discredited ideology it inarguably is. If not, the Dr. Frankensteins of the right will surely try to revive the monster and send it marauding through our economy once again.

We've only just begun to bury the financially dead, and the free market fundamentalists are already looking to deflect the blame.

In a comprehensive piece on what led to the mortgage crisis and the subsequent financial meltdown, the New York Times shows how the Bush administration's devotion to unregulated markets was a primary cause of our economy to ruin. But the otherwise fascinating piece puts too much focus on the "mistakes" the Bush team made by not paying attention to the warning signs popping up all around them.

"There is no question we did not recognize the severity of the problems," claimed Al Hubbard, Bush's former chief economic adviser. "Had we, we would have attacked them."

But the mistake wasn't in not recognizing the "severity of the problems" -- the mistake was the [conservative] ideology [against government oversight and regulation of business] that led to the problems. Communism didn't fail because Soviet leaders didn't execute it well enough. Same with free market fundamentalism. In fact, Bush and his team did a bang-up job executing a defective theory. The problem wasn't just the bathwater; the baby itself is rotten to the core.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

A Stake In The Heart Of The Center-Right Hype

HuffingtonPost.com
by Marty Kaplan
December 22, 2008

As the country went to the polls this past fall, the meme that America is a "center-right" country surged. Between the last week of October and the 2008-12-22-Zogby_HuffPo_CenterLeft_v1.jpgfirst week of November, the number of times that phrase appeared in the print and broadcast outlets tracked by Nexis grew an astonishing 168%.

While Republicans used those words' sudden currency to clamp a ceiling on the meaning of Obama's victory, Democrats fought back with myth-busting poll results about the political parties that Americans identify with, and about peoples' positions on campaign issues.

Here is some additional data that drives a final stake into the center-right talking-point.

Norman Lear Center and Zogby International - asked a scientific sample of adults to look at 21 pairs of statements. Each pair dug down to core political values. Each pair had a red (or conservative) answer and a blue (or liberal) answer.

What did we find out?

On some issues, the country has a lopsidedly blue point of view. For example, 77% of our respondents agreed that "it is our duty to help the less fortunate"; 76% said that "government is too involved in regulating morality"; 76% believe that "corporations generally act without society's best interests in mind."

2008-12-22-Zogby_HuffPo_PoorMorality_v4.jpg

Fifty-two percent were blue, and 48% were red - a finding that's significant beyond the poll's +/- 1.8% margin of error. The country leans to the left, not the right.

(If you'd like to see all 21 pairs of political values questions, and how people answered, here's where to find that.)

2008-12-22-Zogby_HuffPo_Clusters_v1.jpgA surprisingly small number of the 3,167 people in the survey gave answers that were all blue or all red. Instead, almost all the adults polled offered mixtures of red and blue answers. And when we analyzed those mixtures, we found that they formed three statistically significant clusters, which we called red (41% of the sample), blue (34%), and purple (24%). (The poll's findings omit the country's 5% of self-identified libertarians, who are all over the map on the issues.)

2008-12-22-Zogby_HuffPo_PurpleLanding_v1.jpg
Purples - the nation's center - leaned to the red end of the spectrum on eight issues, and they leaned to the blue end of the spectrum on 12 issues. (They were split 50/50 on one issue: whether religion should be left out of public life.) Over all, 56% of the purples identified with blue answers, and 44% of the purples identified with red answers. In other words, the center of the country leans to the left, not the right.



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Obama Talks Bipartisan Unity As Republicans Prepare To Bash And Obstruct

Updated December 23, 2008 at 10:00 AM

As incoming President Barack Obama talks bipartisan unity and works to staff his White House and assemble his Cabinet, Republicans are preparing a toolbox of minority tricks and tuning up the vast right wing noise machine so they are ready to obstruct Democrats at every turn.

Today, the New York Times had an article about how right-wing talk radio is gearing up to aggressively go after President Obama over the next four years. The eight years of Clinton-bashing during the Clinton administration years may seem tame by comparison. Rush Limbaugh demonstrated his commitment to this Obama-bashing crusade today on his radio show by blaming Democrats for the current economic crisis. This theory is quickly becoming a right-wing favorite. Karl Rove and Bill O’Reilly also recently claimed that the economic crisis was deliberately manufactured — not by Democrats but by journalists who wanted to help elect Obama.

After years of habitually resisting and belittling attempts to use a key House committee as a mechanism to investigate and hold the White House accountable, Republicans are saying they now want to get into the White House oversight game.

Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA), who will become the ranking minority member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is making clear President Obama will be firmly in his sights.
A day after he was formally selected as ranking member last week, Issa ousted 14 of 39 Republican committee staffers, including many senior aides. Outgoing staffers said they were told the panel's minority will shift its focus away from legislation toward oversight of federal agencies.

By bringing in aides with investigative backgrounds, committee Republicans believe they can increase their capacity to conduct independent investigations, despite lacking the majority's subpoena power.
To be sure, Republicans plan to push the talking point that President Barack Obama should be as subjected to Congressional scrutiny as any of his predecessors, and Republicans will press an adversarial relationship in every legislative-executive branch interaction in the 111th congressional session.

Of course, a look at Issa's past performance he'll hardly be interested in an even-handed approach to good governance as he will be in using his committee perch for partisan grandstanding.
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee, has said he will attempt to slow down the process of confirming Eric Holder as Obama's attorney general, citing lingering "concerns" about the nominee’s role in various areas while part of the Clinton Administraion. Specter's "concerns" are bogus as it has come to light that this is nothing more than a Republican obstructionist strategy being driven by Karl Rove. Ceci Connolly, national staff writer for the Washington Post, said as much on Sunday, passed on a bit of hill gossip the Sunday edition of "The Chris Matthews Show." Connolly said, "Word on the street is that Karl Rove is going to be helping lead the fight against Obama's nominations as part of the Republican Party's strategy.

Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, the second-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, warned president-elect Barack Obama that he would filibuster Obama's appointments if those nominees were not to acceptable to conservatives. (I'll add, by the way, that Kyl was one of the conservative Republicans who, in 2005, supported the "nuclear option," against Democrats which would have eliminated filibustering from congressional rules leaving Democrats with no voice in the Senate, period. That, of course, was when Republicans controlled congress.) Senators from South Carolina, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas and Kentucky, have also vowed to obstruct Obama's agenda by filibustering Obama's nominations and legislative proposals.

Remember when the Republican party was accusing Democrats of being obstructionists for just mentioning the word "filibuster" as the Republicans push a very partisan congressional agenda, particularly the confirmation of extreme right-wing judges, when Republicans controlled congress? Republicans were singing a different tune after they became the minority party in the 110th Congress. The number of cloture votes forced by Senate minority Republicans skyrocketed in the 110th Congress following the Democratic takeover of the Senate and Harry Reid's assumption of the majority leader position.

The Senate voted on 112 cloture vote motions in the 110th congress controlled by Democrats, exactly double the number (56) of cloture votes in the 109th Congress, when Democrats were in the minority and Republicans were in control. The 110th congress cloture motions were two-and-a-half times as many as the average number of cloture votes (44) over the previous nine Congresses. Of these cloture motions, 51 were rejected (meaning that Republicans succeeded in Filibustering an up-or-down vote) and 61 were passed....
With the Republican minority numbers slipping to just 41 Senators for the 111th Congress (assuming Al Franken wins in MN) Republicans seem prepared to use the threat of filibuster (cloture vote motions) to stall Obama from quickly forming a functioning administration and to kill all legislation they deem too progressive. Gee, if Republicans can make it look like Democrats can't govern by obstructing government, then maybe Republicans will have an issue to run on in 2010 to pick up a few House and Senate seats.

And then there is that old Republican "lawsuit" strategy to harass the Democrats and distract the media. Republican politicians like to campaign against "lawsuit abuse," the idea that trial lawyers are clogging the judicial system with pointless lawsuits. None-the-less right-wing groups like Judicial Watch, which as Politico notes existed almost solely for the purpose of harassing the Clinton administration, are gearing up to go after the Obama administration.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton announced his group was considering filing suit to prevent Hillary Clinton’s appointment as Secretary of State, based on the Ineligibility Clause of the Constitution. This [lawsuit] saber-rattling over the secretary of state appointment calls to mind the tactics of the Larry Klayman era. [Klayman was the founder and former Chairman of Judicial Watch.]

As the group ponders its latest legal action, it still awaits a pending FEC complaint it filed back in April against the junior New York senator over a fund raising event where Elton John performed. The complaint alleged that John wasn’t permitted to help Clinton raise money because he is not a citizen of the United States.

Also, last week a Judicial Watch investigator went down to Bill Clinton’s Presidential Library in Little Rock, Ark., to comb through papers that had been released on account of a Freedom of Information suit. The group is looking for information to use against Hillary Clinton and other Obama appointments that were associated with the President Clinton's administration.
Jake Siewert, who served as Bill Clinton’s White House press secretary, tells Politico that they "initially underestimated the amount of damage that Judicial Watch could do through the press and nuisance lawsuits." The incoming White House will not only have to deal with Judicial Watch's lawsuits, but seemingly an avalanche of lawsuits from the conspiracy theorists who still refuse to accept that Barack Obama is qualified to become the next president.

As Alan Keyes' running mate, Wiley Drake, tells the OC Weekly, that they intend to make this issue dog the Obama administration "much like the White Water and then Monica Lewinsky controversies dogged Clinton’s presidency":

...it will be even more so than the Lewinsky thing. I think it will dog Obama because one of our attorneys, Gary Kreep [of the United Justice Foundation] said we will do everything we can to fight this battle. If we win this case, we will keep him out of the White House. If we lose, Gary and his committee of lawyers, and many of us are supportive of this, if Mr. Obama is indeed inaugurated, we will file a lawsuit against the inauguration for being illegal and against the chief justice of the Supreme Court for swearing in a usurper. And then, typically on the first day of office, the president signs a bunch of bills. Every bill or document he signs, we will file a separate lawsuit. For every decision he makes, it’s gonna to be tied up in court.
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Bush Admin Hamstrung by Conservative "Trickle-Down" Ideology

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Barney Frank and other Congressional Democrats are drafting legislation to target the remain $350 billion allocation of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to reduce home foreclosures. "Absolutely nothing has been done to respect that part of the TARP legislation," Pelosi told reporters as she discussed Congress's agenda in coming weeks.

Secretary of Treasury Paulson argues the Conservative Ideology perspective that TARP funds should be used to generally prime the banking system pump to have loan availability back into the economy rather than to use TARP to target home foreclosures directly. Paulson says that Banks are expected to increase their loans because of the TARP federal aid. Paulson says, "It may be slow, but as funds for lending "trickle-down" through the market, more homeowners will resolve their foreclosure problems." Conservatives are still trying to make that old "trickle-down" economics thing work - will they never learn any new tricks?

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said Friday that Congress will need to release the last half of the $700 billion rescue fund because the first $350 billion has been committed. Paulson said he intends to allocate the second installment of $350 billion to financial system much as he allocated the first installment of $350 billion. Paulson, a former Wall Street market executive, pumped $250 billion of the first TARP installment, in market fashion, to buy stock in hundreds of banks as a way to bolster their balance sheets and get them to resume more normal lending.

Key Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, complain that the Treasury's $700 Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, has done little to help struggling homeowners as it pumped the first $350 billion into the balance sheets of banks and other financial firms with little visible benefit. She and Frank are preparing "legislation that specifically requires that provisions of the TARP legislation [to target the foreclosure problem] be honored, when congress releases the additional funds," Pelosi said.

After receiving $350 billions in aid from U.S. taxpayers, the nation's largest banks say they can't track exactly how they're spending the TARP money or they simply refuse to discuss it.

"We've lent some of it. We've not lent some of it. We've not given any accounting of, 'Here's how we're doing it,'" said Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, which received $25 billion in emergency bailout money. "We have not disclosed that to the public. We're declining to."

The Associated Press contacted 21 banks that received at least $1 billion in government money and asked four questions: How much has been spent? What was it spent on? How much is being held in savings, and what's the plan for the rest?

None of the banks provided specific answers. The answers, or more accurately the lack of answers, highlight the secrecy surrounding the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Congress intended for the banks to lend the money to resolve the home foreclosure meltdown - not to hoard it or spend it on corporate bonuses, junkets or to buy other banks. But there is no regulatory oversight or even a review process in place to make sure that's happening and there are no consequences for banks who misuse the money. After all, Republicans, and in particular George Bush, are not ones to let facts and experience get in the way of ideology, particularly on something as abhorrent as government oversight and regulation of business.

Perhaps one reason banks are mum about how they are using TARP funds is, according to an AP study, that after banks received the taxpayer money top executives rewarded themselves with cash bonuses, stock options, personal use of company jets and chauffeurs, home security, country club memberships and professional money management. The AP Study found that the total amount of bonus money given to nearly 600 bank executives would cover bailout costs for many of the 116 banks that have so far accepted tax dollars to boost their bottom lines.

Even though neither the Banks nor Treasury Secretary Paulson can specifically outline how the banks have used TARP bailout funds or how the funds are being used to address the home foreclosure problem, Paulson is insisting that congress release the second TARP installment of $350 billion directly to banks.

Legislation demanding that the second installment of $350 billion be targeted for home foreclosure mitigation will be ready within the next couple of weeks, said Steven Adamske, an aide to Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the House Financial Services Committee.

Most Democrats -- in Congress and on President-elect Barack Obama's team -- favor pressing lenders to renegotiate troubled mortgages. That is the tack of the Streamlined Modification Program, championed by Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Chairman Sheila Bair. The SMP is aimed at trimming foreclosures and ending fire sales by offering a guarantee to lenders that modify a mortgage so payments are trimmed to 31% of a home owner's gross income.

If banks cut interest rates or stretch out the life of a loan, Washington would cover part of the lender's losses should a homeowner re-default. Bair says the plan would save 1.5 million homeowners at a cost of $24.4 billion. When Bair first suggested pushing lenders harder to modify iffy mortgages last spring, it was dismissed by the Bush Administration. Since then Bair has very successfully instituted many of her ideas at IndyMac, the failed thrift the FDIC took over in July. Secretary Paulson argues that Bair's plan is inappropriate for the Treasury's $700 billion rescue, because it would be an expenditure rather than an investment that would earn a return.

Congress may delay releasing the second installment of $350 billion to President Bush's Secretary Paulson and wait to release the funds to Obama's Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, who supports directly targeting the money for foreclosure mitigation. Senate Republicans have threatened to filibuster legislation to directly use TARP funds for foreclosure mitigation.

If the previous year of record foreclosure rates, falling home values, a declining stock market, and continuing inflation have seemed like too much catastrophe for the US economy to bear, just wait. A second (Tsunami Size) wave of foreclosures are set to begin in the spring of 2009. This is when another round of Option ARMs mortgages will begin to reset making monthly mortgage payments instantly unmanageable for millions of additional home owners. This will be the first major test for the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats.

Option ARMs mortgages were sold, at the height of the mortgage bubble, to homeowners eager to cash in on rising property values and keep their mortgage payments as low as possible. What makes the coming option ARM resets most worrying is who they were marketed to and what the "option" part of the mortgage really means. These borrowers had relatively good credit ratings when they took the loans, but many people taking these loans did not fully understanding how they worked and why their "apparent" interest rate and monthly payments were so low.

Since congress repealed the 1968 Truth In Lending Act in 1994, mortgage brokers selling the option arms mortgages were not compelled to fully explain how the mortgages worked. To the contrary, the language of these mortgages was often convoluted and opaque, explicitly designed to mislead the borrower.

Option ARMs mortgages allowed homeowners to pay only a small portion of the interest on their loan every month for the first two or three years. The larger portion of the interest payment was added back into the total mortgage amount over that two or three year period until the "reset" date. In other words, borrowers keep making monthly payments only to find out that their loan amount got bigger every month. When the payments reset, based on the prevailing interest rates and interest inflated loan total, which is now far greater than the property's value due to all that accrued interest, the monthly mortgage payments become instantly unmanageable for many homeowners.

The steep declines in real estate markets over the past year due to the foreclosure crisis is helping to fuel a self-sustaining cycle of foreclosures, followed by property value decrease, followed by more foreclosures. This helps to accelerate how quickly and how deeply homeowners find themselves "underwater" in a house they can't sell for the amount of their interest inflated mortgage. And few homeowners feel good about sending in a higher mortgage payment every month when they realize their equity has been completely eliminated by the interest inflated loan amount and the collapsing U.S. housing market. So, in 2009, banks are facing a second wave of mortgage holders who will have no other option than to just walk away from their house when their payments reset.

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Post Script:
Secretary of Saving the World
Tim Geithner's daunting to-do list at the Treasury Department.
Slate.com

Timothy Geithner, the New York Fed chief, was tapped by President-elect Obama to serve as Treasury Secretary. In the last year, the United States has effectively nationalized the financial sector. Thanks to Secretary Paulson's and Secretary Bernanke's occasionally frantic efforts to fend off systemic collapse, the government now largely owns AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and chunks of several banks as well as oodles of dodgy assets pledged as collateral for loans. Paulson and Bernanke have spent, promised, loaned, guaranteed, or assumed in liabilities amounts that are now approaching $14 trillion.

Secretary Geithner will have to function partly as a money manager to decide what to do with the portfolio of shares Treasury now holds in big banks like Citi. Like a private-equity magnate, he'll have to decide the appropriate capital structure and ultimate disposition of companies, like AIG, that have become wards of the state. And with the remaining $350 billion of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, he'll be the investment banker in chief, deciding who might be bailout-worthy.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

AP: $1.6B Went To Bailed-Out Bank Execs

Newsweek
By Associated Press Writers FRANK BASS and RITA BEAMISH
Dec 21, 2008


On the verge of failure, bank executives collected financial bonanzas, AP study finds.

Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits last year, an Associated Press analysis reveals.

The rewards came even at banks where poor results last year foretold the economic crisis that sent them to Washington for a government rescue.

Read the rest of the story in Newsweek.

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Bush White House Philosophy Stoked Mortgage Bonfire

GOP Blind Faith In Unregulated Markets Stoked Economic Crisis
A MUST READ!

The New York Times
By JO BECKER, SHERYL GAY STOLBERG and STEPHEN LABATON
Published: December 20, 2008


WASHINGTON — The global financial system was teetering on the edge of collapse when President Bush and his economics team huddled in the Roosevelt Room of the White House for a briefing that, in the words of one participant, “scared the hell out of everybody.”

It was Sept. 18. Lehman Brothers had just gone belly-up, overwhelmed by toxic mortgages. Bank of America had swallowed Merrill Lynch in a hastily arranged sale. Two days earlier, Mr. Bush had agreed to pump $85 billion into the failing insurance giant American International Group.

The president listened as Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, laid out the latest terrifying news: The credit markets, gripped by panic, had frozen overnight, and banks were refusing to lend money.

Then his Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., told him that to stave off disaster, he would have to sign off on the biggest government bailout in history.

Mr. Bush, according to several people in the room, paused for a single, stunned moment to take it all in.

“How,” he wondered aloud, “did we get here?”

Eight years after arriving in Washington vowing to spread the dream of homeownership, Mr. Bush is leaving office, as he himself said recently, “faced with the prospect of a global meltdown” with roots in the housing sector he so ardently championed.

There are plenty of culprits, like lenders who peddled easy credit, consumers who took on mortgages they could not afford and Wall Street chieftains who loaded up on mortgage-backed securities without regard to the risk.

But the story of how we got here is partly one of Mr. Bush’s own making, according to a review of his tenure that included interviews with dozens of current and former administration officials.

From his earliest days in office, Mr. Bush paired his belief that Americans do best when they own their own home with his conviction that markets do best when let alone.

He pushed hard to expand homeownership, especially among minorities, an initiative that dovetailed with his ambition to expand the Republican tent — and with the business interests of some of his biggest donors. But his housing policies and hands-off approach to regulation encouraged lax lending standards.

Mr. Bush did foresee the danger posed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage finance giants. The president spent years pushing a recalcitrant Congress to toughen regulation of the companies, but was unwilling to compromise when his former Treasury secretary wanted to cut a deal. And the regulator Mr. Bush chose to oversee them — an old prep school buddy — pronounced the companies sound even as they headed toward insolvency.

As early as 2006, top advisers to Mr. Bush dismissed warnings from people inside and outside the White House that housing prices were inflated and that a foreclosure crisis was looming. And when the economy deteriorated, Mr. Bush and his team misdiagnosed the reasons and scope of the downturn; as recently as February, for example, Mr. Bush was still calling it a “rough patch.”

The result was a series of piecemeal policy prescriptions that lagged behind the escalating crisis.

“There is no question we did not recognize the severity of the problems,” said Al Hubbard, Mr. Bush’s former chief economics adviser, who left the White House in December 2007. “Had we, we would have attacked them.”

Looking back, Keith B. Hennessey, Mr. Bush’s current chief economics adviser, says he and his colleagues did the best they could “with the information we had at the time.” But Mr. Hennessey did say he regretted that the administration did not pay more heed to the dangers of easy lending practices. And both Mr. Paulson and his predecessor, John W. Snow, say the housing push went too far.

“The Bush administration took a lot of pride that homeownership had reached historic highs,” Mr. Snow said in an interview. “But what we forgot in the process was that it has to be done in the context of people being able to afford their house. We now realize there was a high cost.”

For much of the Bush presidency, the White House was preoccupied by terrorism and war; on the economic front, its pressing concerns were cutting taxes and privatizing Social Security. The housing market was a bright spot: ever-rising home values kept the economy humming, as owners drew down on their equity to buy consumer goods and pack their children off to college.

Lawrence B. Lindsay, Mr. Bush’s first chief economics adviser, said there was little impetus to raise alarms about the proliferation of easy credit that was helping Mr. Bush meet housing goals.

“No one wanted to stop that bubble,” Mr. Lindsay said. “It would have conflicted with the president’s own policies.”

Read the rest of the story in The New York Times
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |
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Friday, December 19, 2008

TX Senate Dems Making Deal With Dewhurst On Voter ID?

Capitol Annex

Via the Houston Chronicle, word comes that some Senate Democrats may be ready to cut a deal with the Devil on the issue of voter identification.

Why Democratic senators, with at one extra Democratic voice in the chamber this session, would want to allow any voter identification measure to pass the chamber is beyond comprehension.
Dewhurst plans to try again and already has been talking to several Democratic senators about making a deal. One thing he is offering is an exemption for senior citizens from the ID requirement or, at least, exempting seniors from having to pay a fee for their IDs.

Several details, including the cutoff age, apparently have yet to be worked out.

Exemption for seniors

The bill approved by the House in 2007 would have exempted voters 80 and older from the ID requirement, but that provision was stripped out by the Senate State Affairs Committee.

Sen. Mario Gallegos of Houston, who joined his Democratic colleagues in killing the ID bill two years ago, despite a difficult recovery from a liver transplant, said Dewhurst has approached him about reviving the senior exemption provision.

Gallegos said he is willing to talk some more but isn’t ready to drop his opposition to the bill yet, particularly since he hasn’t seen the proposal in writing.

“The seniors’ provision is a good idea, but I have concerns that the bill would still discriminate against other people,” he said, including immigrants who have recently become citizens.
Any Democratic senators who are seriously considering making a deal with Dewhurst over this should consider the potential political consequences, including losing their seats to primary challengers.

Democrats wanting to “negotiate” with Dewhurst over Voter Identification is equivelant to Sam Houston winning the Battle of San Jacinto, going out and recruiting more troops, and then coming back and telling Santa Anna, “oops, my bad! Let’s forget all about the Alamo and Goliad, and help you save face so you can get re-elected.”

Not to put too strong a point on it, it is bullshit.

Read

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Gov. Perry Making Abortion A Centerpiece Of 2010 Primary Campaign

Capitol Annex

By proclaiming his unwavering support for “Choose Life” license plates–an issue that has failed to pass the Legislature five times in the last five sessions–Texas Governor Rick Perry has sent the clear signal that he intends to make abortion a centerpiece of his 2010 primary race against U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who does not as strongly hold the pro-life position.

In announcing his support for the legislation to create the plates, he sent a clear message to the Texas GOP primary voters–a massive number of which are evangelical Christians

[Read more...]

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

GOTV Consideration - Young Democrats Use Cell Phones Only

The portion of homes with cell phones but no landlines has grown to 18 percent, led by adults living with unrelated roommates, renters and young people, according to federal figures released Wednesday. The figures, covering the first half of 2008, underscore how consumers have been steadily abandoning traditional landline phones in favor of cells. The 18 percent in cell-only households compares with 16 percent in the second half of 2007, and just 7 percent in the first half of 2005.

Leading the way are households comprised of unrelated adults, such as roommates or unmarried couples. Sixty-three percent of such households only have cell phones. About one-third of renters and about the same number of people under age 30 live in homes with only cells. About a quarter of low-income people also have only wireless phones, nearly double the proportion of higher-earning people.

The demographic segments with the highest cell phone only response are the same demographic segments that are most likely to be Democratic voters:

  • Nearly two-thirds of all adults living only with unrelated adult roommates (63.1%) were in households with only wireless telephones. This is the highest prevalence rate among the population subgroups examined.
  • One-third of adults renting their home (33.6%) had only wireless telephones. Adults renting their home were more likely than adults owning their home (9.0%) to be living in households with only wireless telephones.
  • Men (18.0%) were more likely than women (14.4%) to be living in households with only wireless telephones.
  • Adults living in poverty (26.0%) and adults living near poverty (22.6%) were more likely than higher income adults (14.2%) to be living in households with only wireless telephones.
  • Adults living in the South (19.6%) and Midwest (17.8%) were more likely than adults living in the Northeast (9.8%) or West (13.7%) to be living in households with only wireless telephones.
  • Non-Hispanic white adults (14.6%) were less likely than Hispanic adults (21.6%) or non-Hispanic black adults (18.5%) to be living in households with only wireless telephones.
  • Adults with college degrees (17.1%) were more likely to be living in wireless-mostly households than were high school graduates (12.5%) or adults with less education (10.0%).
  • Adults living with children (18.1%) were more likely than adults living alone (10.1%) or with only adult relatives (12.8%) to be living in wireless-mostly households.
  • Adults living in poverty (10.8%) and adults living near poverty (10.3%) were less likely than higher income adults (17.1%) to be living in wireless-mostly households.
  • Adults living in metropolitan areas (15.0%) were more likely to be living in wireless-mostly households than were adults living in more rural areas (12.1%).
  • More than one in three adults aged 25-29 years (35.7%) lived in households with only wireless telephones. Approximately 31% of adults aged 18-24 years lived in households with only wireless telephones.
  • As age increased from 30 years, the percentage of adults living in households with only wireless telephones decreased: 19.1% for adults aged 30-44 years; 9.2% for adults aged 45-64 years; and 2.8% for adults aged 65 years and over.
The findings have major implications for Democratic candidates and political organizations who will organize Get Out The Vote programs in future election cycles. Traditionally, Get Out The Vote programs use landline phone numbers to contact and motivate voters. In recent months researchers have concluded that people who have only cell phones have more prgressive political views than those who do not. Growing numbers of political pollsters now include cell-only users in their samples, which is more expensive in part due to legal restraints against using computers to call them.

The cell phone only adoption curve is steep and continuing at pace. Cell phone only households will likely exceed 20% during the 2010 election cycle.
The most progressive segments of the electorate will continue have the highest cell phone only adoption rate. Future Democratic GOTV phone banking operations must find ways to reach this segment of potential voters via cell phone numbers rather than landline phone numbers. Future phone banking operations should also consider leveraging this demographic evolution by including "text messaging" as part of the GOTV program.

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Can Texas Go Blue Like Colorado?

The survey, conducted by David Hill, who operates the Houston-based Republican Hill Research firm, raises questions about whether the Republican Party might be in trouble in Texas after a decade of political dominance. Hill's survey states, in no uncertain terms, that for GOP candidates to succeed in Texas they must look beyond the party's base voters and wrap up 80 percent of independent voters that he calls the Critical Middle.

A well executed Get Out The Vote program to get just the members of your own party out to the polling places on election day is only part of what it takes to win elections with today's electorate. The other part of winning is planning and executing a Get Out The Vote program to identify, contact and motivate the "independents" that may be persuaded by your party's or candidate's message.

In Colorado the Republican GOTV effort got more Republicans to the polls on election day than did the Democratic GOTV effort - it was the independent voters that switched Colorado's color from red to blue in the 2008 election.

Democrats can win in Collin County, as well as other Republican "dominated" counties of Texas, by extending our GOTV effort to identify, contact and motivate the "independents" living in our counties.

The map at left shows the U.S. Congressional districts carried by Democratic candidates in the 2008 election. This shows that Democrats can win in large sections of the state and with the help of independents more counties can turn blue.

Who are the independents in Collin County? On election day 2008 there were 424,821 register voters in Collin County. Of that number 56,968 registered voters were in "suspend" status leaving 367,853 active voters. 298,647 people voted in the 2008 election in Collin County which means that 69,206 active voters did not vote. (Collin County elections data)

County level Democratic party organizations in each county that have not yet turned their county blue should start identifying the independents. Democratic organizations in Collin County should immediately start preparing for the 2010 election by answering a few basic questions: Who are the 56,968 registered voters in "suspend" status and what will it take to make them not only active voters again, but active Democrats? Who are the 69,206 active voters did not vote this year and why didn't they vote? Are they disaffected Republicans? How many might be persuaded to vote for the "right" Democratic candidate? It is among these numbers that Democrats will find the votes to turn Collin County blue.

Consider these excerpts from an article in The Denver Post.

Colorado Election Turned Out Surprises
The Denver Post
By John Ingold


More Republicans than Democrats voted in Colorado, but unaffiliateds helped color the state's big races blue.

According to new numbers from the Colorado secretary of state's office, Republicans in November voted in greater numbers than Democrats and — even more surprising — also turned out in higher percentages when compared with the parties' numbers of registered voters. In a state at the heart of the Democrats' Western strategy, Republicans still accounted for the largest voting bloc and yet lost in all of the highest-profile races.

That brain-twister, say political pundits, underscores the challenges both parties face moving toward what are expected to be equally contentious 2010 races for governor and U.S. Senate in a state that is now of decidedly mixed political leanings.

About 15,600 more Republicans voted in the election than Democrats, out of a record 2.4 million total voters statewide. In terms of turnout, slightly more than 80 percent of all registered Republicans voted this year, compared with about 79 percent of registered Democrats.

Statewide, Republicans still outpace Democrats in terms of total registered voters — though the numbers are closing and Democrats now count more active voters among their ranks than Republicans.

Independents, who make up the largest group of registered voters, trailed Republicans and Democrats in turnout this year. About 100,000 fewer unaffiliated voters cast ballots than did Republicans or Democrats. About 67 percent of registered independents voted in the election.

The key to the election, though, was how those unaffiliated people voted, said David Flaherty, chief executive of voter tracking firm Magellan Data and Mapping Strategies, which works with Republican candidates.

"The Republican get-out-the-vote effort executed very well," Flaherty said. "But at the end of the day, doing all those things right, it's about appealing to unaffiliated voters."

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