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This is What Democracy Looks Like
Friday-Sunday, June 2-4, 2006
More On (or is it Moron?) Weapons of Mass Distraction
"Next week, the United States Senate will begin debate on a constitutional amendment that defines marriage in the United States as the union of a man and woman. On Monday, I will meet with a coalition of community leaders, constitutional scholars, family and civic organizations, and religious leaders. They're Republicans, Democrats, and independents who've come together to support this amendment. Today, I want to explain why I support the Marriage Protection Amendment, and why I'm urging Congress to pass it and send it to the states for ratification. [...] Marriage cannot be cut off from its cultural, religious, and natural roots without weakening this good influence on society. Government, by recognizing and protecting marriage, serves the interests of all. [...] In our free society, people have the right to choose how they live their lives. And in a free society, decisions about such a fundamental social institution as marriage should be made by the people -- not by the courts.
"Unfortunately, activist judges and some local officials have made an aggressive attempt to redefine marriage in recent years.... These court decisions could have an impact on our whole Nation....This national question requires a national solution, and on an issue of such profound importance, that solution should come from the people, not the courts. An amendment to the Constitution is necessary because activist courts have left our Nation with no other choice. [...] Democracy, not court orders, should decide the future of marriage in America."
With all of our problems, the best this idiot can come up with is gay bashing? So, Mr. Moronic President, isn't the FMA judicial activism? I am sure that the four judges of the Apocalypse would love to work on this rubbish but the nation does not!
How about getting out of Iraq? How about closing the budget deficit by repealing your tax cuts for the rich? How about passing national health care? How about re-building New Orleans? How about preparations for the coming hurricane season?
I can think of a thousand issues that need attention. Clearly, Doofus is trying to sure up the Re-Pug religious right base for the 2006 elections. It's politics as usual for the worst administration in American history.
Dad Had it Better; We Had it Better
The economic advancements of the Clinton years were trashed by the policies of George W. Bush and his "base" of "haves and have-mores".
Sure, my father worked six days a week a lot of the time. Sure, he came home tired most of the time. Abraham Greenberg's last job was as a salesman for Capton Headwear in New York City. Much like my job as a Network Engineer today, my father had to drive all over New York City's Metropolitan area for business. The difference is that when my father came home from work every day he was able to relax, take off his shoes, watch the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite and enjoy the rest of his evening. My father and mother went out to dinner a couple of times a week and enjoyed two vacations each year. In 1966 my father was the same age I am now (45 years old) and his salary, even by today's numbers, were well below what I earn today. Yet, it seems that his life, with a wife and four children, was easier to manage, financially speaking, than mine is today (with a wife and two children). It was with this in mind that I decided to take a look at the mean salary of a working family in 1981 (at the beginning of the Ronald Reagan Years); 2001(as Bill Clinton turned over the reigns of government to "G"lobal "W"arming Bush); and 2006 (year five of the administration of George W. Bush), as best as I could, using available numbers, and in some cases, personal experience.
The mean income of the average American family was $19,074 as Ronald Reagan took office. The average rent for a three-bedroom apartment was $347 per month and gasoline cost $1.41 per gallon (although it would soon fall below the $1.00 mark - remember that in 1979 we experienced our second gas shortage). There were certain things we had to buy and certain luxuries we would afford ourselves. Those luxuries were purchased with our "disposable income".
"income (after taxes) that is available to you for saving or spending"
-Definition of disposable income by Dictionary.com
To give you an idea of the recent trend in disposable income, all one has to do is look at the most recent statistics:
"Personal income increased $57.9 billion, or 0.5 percent, and disposable personal income (DPI) increased $36.6 billion, or 0.4 percent, in April, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.,"
-From the Bureau of Economic Analysis, a government agency
During that same time frame, inflation rose 0.6 percent (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). So, by combining the DPI stats along with the personal income and the fact that they both can't keep up with inflation, it's easy to see that our disposable income is diminishing. Additionally, if you take those people who earn in excess of $100,000 out of the picture, those personal income and DPI numbers look much worse.
In 2001, the mean household income was $42,228. According to the Census Bureau, from 2001 through 2003, the mean income rose a little less than seven percent in each of those two years, so we used that same number (7%) for the years 2004 and 2005 as well to come up with a present day mean income of $45,195. From 1981 through 2001, the CPI (Consumer Price Index used to measure inflation) increased the average cost of goods, in that 20 year period, by over 95 percent while our income rose by over 121 percent (from $19,074 to $42,228). Over the 2001 through 2006 period, however, while our income has rose 7 percent, the price we pay for many of the things we need every day have ballooned by almost 13.5 percent. Over that same period, gasoline to drive our cars rose over 55 percent and Home Heating Oil jumped by over 81 percent.
Needless to say, all of us in the middle class are feeling "pinched".
We have already shown that our disposable income is shrinking. It is affecting our ability to save and to purchase the things we want as well as the things we need. Last Year, for the first time in a long time, Americans' savings fell by half a percentage point (-0.5%). This is in conjunction with the higher productivity of the American worker (more work); more hours worked; and lower wages.
Productivity for the first quarter of 2006 has increased by 3.7 percent while the average hourly earnings has increased by less that one percent.
A family earning $19,074 in 1981 could look forward to having almost eight percent of their income left for "disposable" purposes. In 2002, that same family who earned $42,228 fared better with over 11 percent of their income available for disposable purposes. Today, that number stands at approximately 6.47 percent. Our savings, vacation and "just-in-case rainy-day" funds are vanishing or already gone.
Taking a look at the chart below, we learn a lot about where our earned income is going:
|Average Wages (Adj. Dollars - 2006 Est.)||$19,074||$42,228||121.39%||$42,228||$45,195||7.03%||$19,074||$45,195||136.95%|
|Average Rent (Adj. Dollars)||$347||$875||152.16%||$875||$875||0.00%||$347||$875||152.16%|
|Gasoline (1500 miles/family/month & 23MPG)||$84||$92||9.52%||$92||$143||55.43%||$84||$143||70.24%|
|Health Care Costs (per capita per month)||$78||$356||356.41%||$356||$498||39.89%||$78||$498||538.46%|
|*Groceries (Avg. Certain items - Family of 4)||$400||$768||92.00%||$768||$872||13.54%||$400||$872||118.00%|
|*All other Auto (Insurance; repairs, etc)||$100||$192||92.09%||$192||$218||13.52%||$100||$218||117.96%|
|*Other Misc. Costs||$200||$384||92.09%||$384||$436||13.47%||$200||$436||117.96%|
|Approximate Taxes Paid (Year)||$1,774||$4,181||$4,181||$3,390||$1,774||$3,390|
|Total Remaining (Disposable Income)||$1,412||$4,216||$4,217||$2,746||$1,412||$2,746|
|All other costs (marked by *) use CPI Avg. (1981-2001=92.09%; 2001-2006=13.46%; 1981-2006=117.96%)|
|An rental unit which cost $347 in 1981would cost $844 (approximate cost of an apartment in a city like Kansas City, MO) in 2000. We use an estimated $875 for 2006.)|
|Health Care Costs - 2004 iss the last data available - add approximate average of 7 percent, each year (taken from previous years), for 2005 and 2006|
|Taxes: Using the 18 percentile (9.3% =1981; 7.5%=2006 - The Tax Policy Center)|
With the loss of middle class advantages such as tax deductible credit card debt, free college and after school programs, we are now forced to use our "disposable income" for even less "disposable" purposes. The thinning of the middle class will continue as the economic policies of our present government continue.
The "Nothing-But-Spin Zone"
I had the pleasure of catching Keith Olbermann ripping into Bill O'Reilly a couple of days ago. Mr. All Spin Zone for the second time contended that American soldiers committed mass murder at Malmedy, France (during the Battle of the Bulge). This is what the moron said while interviewing Wesley Clark (who certainly knows military history):
BILL O`REILLY, HOST, "THE O`REILLY FACTOR": In Malmedy, as you know, U.S. forces captured S.S. forces who had their hands in the air, and they were unarmed, and they shot them down.
Anyone can make a mistake but this is the second time he made exactly the same mistake despite being corrected by numerous sources. I can only conclude that Mr. All Spin Zone is purposely obfuscating history to justify the present problems in Iraq.
By the way, O'Reilly tried to contend that what he meant was that after Malmedy some American soldiers executed German troops. The Corporatists at Fox News changed O'Reilly's incorrect statements in their transcripts! Keith Olbermann comments:
Olbermann: Wrong answer. When you are that wrong, when you are defending Nazi war criminals and pinning their crimes on Americans and you get caught doing so twice, you're supposed to say I'm sorry, I was wrong, and then you're supposed to shut up for a long time. Instead, FOX washed its transcript of O`Reilly`s remarks Tuesday. Its Web site claims O`Reilly said in Normandy, when, as you heard, in fact, he said in Malmedy.
So much for "fair and balanced" reporting at the Corporatist Fox News.
This also shows the depth whit which Fox News' will go to for their Right-Wing, Global Corporatist agenda. They will back the president to keep their gravy-train going, even if it requires besmirching what (former NBC anchor) Tom Brokaw called "The Greatest Generation". How could anyone disparage what our World War II troops had done for the United States and the world in defeating Hitler's Nazi Regime. Maybe Bill "Luffa-Boy" O'Reilly should go back to the sons and daughters of Levittown, NY (his birthplace and the town created for returning World War II veterans) and apologize for his remarks to the heroes of Normandy (or is that Malmedy?). -NG
The Slowing Labor Market
Non-farm payrolls in May rose just 75,000, versus an expected increase of 170,000. Additionally, the two prior readings were revised lower by a net of 37,000. Manufacturing payrolls fell more than expected, and construction payrolls edged lower, a sign that the housing market is cooling.
In a slowing economy, it is simply inexcusable to have a massive increases in immigration - both green card and especially temporary work visas (H1B, L1, etc...). The same mistake was made toward the end of 1999 into 2000. The result was the one of the worst jobs recession in American history.
Of course, outsourcing continues to be a major factor. To note, H1B Visa's are frequently used as a precursor to outsourcing jobs. First, a foreign temporary worker is brought in for training on a H1B Visa and then that worker returns home with an American job in tow. I wonder when progressives will unite to stop the cheap labor agenda promoted by the Chamber of Commerce.
A Small Town Revolt
Tired of high gas, heating and electrical bills? Do you want to live a simple, quiet life in the heartland of America? Then have I got the perfect town for you.
Welcome to Reynolds, Indiana!
The farming town of 533 wants off the electric grid and, with the aid of government financing and Indiana agriculture officials, it is planning to do just that.
This "Showcase town" is possibly a stunt by Governor Mitch Daniels (R-IN) but the people of Reynolds are taking it seriously. The town is centrally located and near Purdue University, which would offer "academic assistance".
"Life is risk. Ultimately, this concept has to be self-sustaining."
What makes one think that this might just be that "stunt" is the lack of an ethanol gas station in or near the town. You see, there is only one gas station in Reynolds and no one will help John Harris, its owner, pay for an Ethanol or Bio-Diesel island. There are about 100 alternative fuel cars in Reynolds now with no place close to "fill 'er up!"
It could be that this town is going to be a GOP sacrifice to the Energy Masters of ExxonMobil, and such, set up to fail and never be tried again. It could be a good idea without a good thought process, but we don't think so. Keep in mind that it is the Republican President and Congress that refused to accept a plan for the occupation of a post-war Iraq. Remember, too, that it was Republican President Ronald Reagan that threw away the CAFE standards, almost as soon as he took office, that would have left today's cars burning an average of 40 miles per gallon. Also remember that when bad decisions are made by a GOP-led government, they almost always seem to lead to profiteering by GOP contributors, as well.
The GOP is looking for a good idea. We all hope it won't die of loneliness.
The Corporatists' Real Plan
Some people have wondered why the Corporatists pushed so hard to pass an immigration bill by end of May. The reason is simple - Vicente Fox is up for re-election in July and some speculate that the Mexican Leftists may win. The Corporatist Vicente Fox has systematically de-populated his nation. In certain areas of Mexico, he makes life as miserable as possible for the people thus encouraging them to migrate. In the industrial areas deemed vital to the Corporatists, the people are treated somewhat better.
What is the best outcome for Mexico? The Senate immigration bill fails to pass. Vicente Fox will lose. The people of Mexico will do much better with the Leftists in charge.
Of course, this is the Corporatist nightmare as they want to continue outsourcing jobs and bringing cheap labor into this country. The open border types just don't understand that they are pawns in the Corporatist labor arbitrage game.
So is Howard Dean's effort to build up the Democratic Party infrastructure in all 50 states paying off? Here's an anecdote from a reader in Georgia:
About 6:30 this evening, a young lady rang my doorbell. She was canvassing for the DNC, going door to door talking to people and collecting small donations. We chatted for a while about this year's elections, Karl Rove, possible presidential candidates, and so on.
Now here's the thing: I have lived in blue and not so blue states in my life (and currently in the reddest of red states, Georgia) but this is the first time anyone representing the party has come to my house. What does she get for it? OK, I gave her some cash, but what is more interesting is what she found at some other houses in the neighborhood — Republican ones. Some of them gave her cash too. Others said they couldn't give money since it would put them in a bad position with the party, but that she was getting their vote this year. I can't help but think that this was worth whatever the DNC is paying her. She is creating new Democrats.
Well, we can hope.
-Kevin Drum as submitted by Victoria Brownworth
Can you explain something? Can anyone?
Senator? Jefferson's office was raided by the FBI?
Because the FBI had him on tape accepting a bribe, of $100,000.00, most of which he put in his freezer?
So the FBI seized every document in Jefferson's office?
And now all the Senators are up in arms about that?
But the raid was ordered by Alberto Gonzales?
And then the President took all the documents the FBI had seized and sealed them for 45 days?
And now Congress is threatening to impeach Gonzales? Because they have the power to do that?
But, Congress is Republican?
And so is Gonzales?
And so is President Bush (at least publicly)
This whole thing sounds like 'pardon my construction verbiage' a cluster(f--->).
Am I missing something?
In response to "New York is home to hundreds of embassies...", John Lynn writes:
Don't think so...aren't most embassies in the capital?
Aside from about half a dozen, shall we say lesser embassies, John Lynn is right. Most of them are known as Permanent Missions to the UN and Consulates or Consulate Generals. I stand corrected. NG
In response to, "The likelihood of another major terrorist attack is not very, so most of the anti-terrorism funds expended are generally good for contracts with the Republicans' friends," Joseph Burgess writes:
But you need to get your geography straight. Louisville is a metro area without tobacco farms, although perhaps a few acres are grown on some farms in the rural areas of Jefferson County. Charlotte is also highly urbanized without much in the way of tobacco. And Nebraska is not tumbleweed country. As a possible terrorism target (evey though unlikely, in my opinion) Louisville has a prime target -- Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby, both examples of those vile Western excesses with which the radical Islamists seem to have big problems. There is also a major Ohio River navigation dam at Louisville, and its proximity to Fort Knox probably makes the Homeland Insecurity boys take notice.
Interestingly, Louisville/Jefferson County went for Kerry in 2004, although Kentucky as a whole, to my shame, went for Bush. Louisville is in a congressional district whose Republican rep is a big Bush rubber stamper. And of course, Senate whip Republican Mitch (Money is Free Speech) McConnell is Kentucky's senior senator. Those two might have made a difference.
Can't speak for Charlotte or Nebraska, except for the lack of tobacco in the former and the lack of tumbleweeds in the latter.
I think that if there were serious future terrorism threats that New York and D.C. would not have been cut. It's all eyewash to keep the electorate nervous and sure that there's a bomb-totin' A-rab under every rock so that it will vote for them two-gun, rootin' tootin' terrorism fighters, the Republicans, Roy. Or Gene. Or Hopalong. Or Wild Bill.
In response to, "The immigrants are on the bottom of the food chain so they are being scapegoated," Robert Scardapane writes:
This is another immigration myth spun by the open border types. Basically it's a play on the "jobs that Americans won't do" theme. Try telling a factory worker in Ohio that just got outsourced that there is a decent paying construction/landscaping job and they will take it. There are no jobs that are beneath an American worker's dignity to do. In fact, when the open border types repeat this myth they insult American workers by painting the picture of the lazy American worker. The only people being scapegoat are American workers - both by outsourcing and now by excessive immigration. We can go on indefinitely on this topic but the facts are there that excessive immigration results in wage depression. It's simple economics - create too much supply and the price will go down.
Again, the open borders types show that they couldn't care less about American workers. They would rather prioritize the needs of foreigners than look after their own. Where's is the compassion in that?
And in response to, "We don't fence our borders from the Canadians. That's the reason I think some people feel that there is some kind of racism involved when people complain about Mexico," Robert adds:
It's not a matter of fencing anything. Border enforcement applies to all of the borders including people entering the country by airplane or ship. Border enforcement includes making sure that people don't over-stay visas such as the 9/11 terrorists who were here on expired student visas. This charge of racism is racist. It's merely a way to put people who don't believe in open borders on the defensive and shut down discussion.
Open borders is just not a responsible position. The open border advocates can not explain how they will manage the economic impact nor can they explain how they will keep the nation secure. They merely want to throw caution to the wind. I will not support that position nor should the Democratic party.
A Twice as Bad Quote
"If you've ever wondered which of the two Republican Blunderkinds is worse (George W. Bush or Richard M. Nixon), you now have an answer from the latest Quinnipiac poll:
"(George W.) Bush by a longshot, twice as bad as Nixon.
"Twice as bad as a man who was impeached and resigned before he could be convicted. Think about that."
"Asked to rate the post-WW II presidents for the best and worst, the current President was rated worst by 34%. Nixon was next worst at 17%."
-Posted in Daily Kos from Lee Russ, and forwarded by Robert Scardapane
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