Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Ah, Democracy, We Hardly Knew Ye...

"For in a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, 'hold office'; everyone of us is in a position of responsibility; and, in the final analysis, the kind of government we get depends upon how we fulfill those responsibilities. We, the people, are the boss, and we will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and deserve."~~ John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage [p. 265]
My friend Bernie says he's not only tired of making excuses for Democrats, he's sick and tired of it. "We've worked our backsides off since 9-11 getting people in office with the courage to derail Bush and Cheney's Constitutional death train," Bernie wailed. "We had our feet on the ground, our eyes on the prize, our noses to the grindstone, our backs to the wall, our shoulders to the wheel --" he paused, mentally clicking off body parts.

"Your head in the clouds?" I suggested helpfully.

"Yeah. That too," Bernie said. "We believed them when they said they wanted to end the war. They promised to stop the torture, the slaughter of innocents, the killing and maiming of our own citizens. Just give us the power, they said, and we'll put a stop to Bush and Cheney's killing spree -- we'll jerk a knot in Gonzales' tail, stop the illegal spying on Americans -- restore our battered Constitution. They promised to impeach the treasonous warmongers, and we believed them. Well," Bernie said, "we were wrong. We gave them the power -- and they betrayed us."

Bernie's right. They betrayed us. Scarcely had the polls closed in November before the victorious Democrats were out in force, backing down, caving in, reassuring George Bush and Dick Cheney they had nothing to worry about. Incoming House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi held an immediate news conference, then hit the airwaves, to include CBS 60 Minutes and Tim Russert's Meet the Press, with a single announcement -- impeachment is no longer in the Constitution. Oversight...accountability...checks and balances...all gone.

Senator Chuck Schumer candidly admitted that getting elected and getting along were his top priorities regardless of what the people expected. He told the Wall Street Journal that "75% of this election was about the people's opinion of the president," but added, "...If we are seen as just blocking the president, it will not serve us well in 2008."

Others, like Rep. Charlie Rangel can't see the point in challenging Bush since he threatens to veto anything that is not what he wants. Rangel said, "We don't want really a fight with the president. What we want to do is to prove we can govern for the next two years..." And Rep. John Dingell, who's been around longer than anybody, agrees, saying the Democrats will "do what makes good sense, while not getting into any extreme positions on any matter."

What is it about 75% -- three-fourths -- of the votes that these craven gerbils don't understand? The 2006 election was an indictment of a president who is ruthlessly destroying our republic, our democratic freedoms, our way of life -- simply because he can. And he can because we let him. Apparently, Democrats are so brain dead they think the "voice of the people" they heard was permission to show they can manage a treasonous genocidal war better than Bush. Whereas, if like Bernie, they'd put their ears to the ground, they'd know that each vote was a primal scream erupting from the masses -- a mandate to stop the madness. Now.

The corrupt political cabal before whom Democrats and Republicans grovel is evil, disgusting, and dangerous. But even more so are their lame excuses for allowing Bush to strip the other two branches of government of their powers and to rule via signing statements and Executive Orders. We believed his lies, they say. We don't want to be blamed for opposing him if there's another attack on the "homeland." We can't speak out...we can't take a stand for democracy lest we be accused of aiding the enemy...please don't hurt us...

I can only hope that Dante was right when he said, "The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis." The silence of the Democratic lambs has been deafening since Constitutional traitors on the Supreme Court intervened in the 2000 election to strike the first blow against democracy. Since that time, the erosion of personal privacy and the alarming increase in citizen-control laws has been achieved by this administration under cover of fighting a senseless, baseless, illegal "war on terrorism."

And Bush grows bolder with each victory. He's determined to have no restraints placed upon him in any area. Immediately upon ramming through the USA Patriot Act just six weeks after 9-11, the administration went on a spree of sweeping up and detaining thousands of citizens without charges and no access to counsel. This act was, and continues to be, the greatest threat to American liberties in our history. It is buoyed by Bush's Military Commissions Act of 2006, or "no consequences torture bill," giving himself the empirical right to torture anyone he views as a "terror suspect."

Perhaps this act is one reason Democrats remain so subservient. Right up front, in Section 948a(2), Bush has the empirical right to decide who is a "lawful enemy combatant." If you are a "member of the regular forces of a State party engaged in hostilities against the United States," or even a "member of a volunteer corps or organized resistance movement and you wear a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance," Bush has the power to decide you are not only hostile but are an enemy combatant.

Bush IS the United States -- a government of Bush, by Bush and for Bush. He has seized the power to "grant" or "take away" basic inalienable rights of American citizens. "I will decide who serves in my government," Bush recently told a member of the media questioning him about calls for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign. Does it not follow, then, that those coming out against the war, those not supporting the troops by insisting they come home, or those calling for impeachment would be engaged in hostilities against the United States? Isn't that right, Mrs. Pelosi -- Mr. Conyers?

Is it any wonder that legislators on both sides of the aisle recoil and beat a fast retreat when they look up and see Bush, caught up in the wild influences of his own idiotic imagination, running at them with a lighted firecracker in each hand? Is anyone surprised that Bush so easily got them to agree to his Protect America Act of 2007, which allows the continued secret collection of Americans' phone calls and e-mails with no balances?

It is madness to stand upon the precipice of a Constitutional crisis and even consider for one moment plunging into the abyss by giving Bush additional time to spy on Americans, to torture and kill innocents abroad, and to abandon an exhausted and ill-equipped military on the killing fields of a nation embroiled in the spiraling violence of civil war.

When party loyalty gets so screwed up it is based on a commitment to -- obsession with -- opposing ideologies neither of which, in all its twisted glory, concerns itself with doing what is right for the people in this nation, it's time to take a break from that loyalty. John F. Kennedy was right when he said, "Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer."

We still have a Constitution. And we have a choice, perhaps the last one we are free to make. We can either use it -- or lose it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Bush's Booming Economy -- For The Rich

By Sheila Samples

Sometimes I'm amazed at how much I know about the financial markets and the economy. I don't understand any of it, but I know a lot of stuff, thanks to my friend and mentor, Richard Walrath, who's been to the market more than once. He says when George Bush brags that the economy is booming, he's probably right. The economy is exploding with a big boom, and Walrath says now we are engaged in a great battle to see how long this country can endure.

According to Walrath, the Fed has been manipulating the market for years, especially during the Bush years. "There was great fear the United States was going to follow Japan into a period of deflation and recession -- maybe even a depression. Interest rates were cut close to zero while hundreds of billions of dollars were added to the National Debt through tax-cuts for the rich and 'Big Bidness.' And it gets worse just at the time the National Debt limit has to be raised again," he said.

With things as bad as they are, Walrath says it's going to be interesting to see how this will be handled. Congress may have to return early to pass legislation to raise the National Debt. But it makes more sense to me -- since the bulk of our lawmakers were so eager to get out of school for recess, Bush could decide to handle the whole thing like he does everything else to avoid partisan jawboning -- via Executive Order.

But the National Debt is just one of many problems battering our economy. Walrath points out a major problem is "all those margin accounts out there with people getting calls to come up with some real money because their stock is down. As you might expect, this led to speculation in housing -- let's flip it -- and millions of people who couldn't afford to pay their rent bought houses."

Wait a minute...Let's flip it? What does that mean? Nothing comes to mind -- okay one thing does -- but Walrath never takes such a cavalier attitude about economics. Let's flip it, Walrath says is when "--you buy the house with no intention of ever living in it. You add a kitchen, spruce up a bathroom, and "flip" it, or put it back on the market, hoping to make a profit.

This goes on all the time, Walrath says, but there were more flippers than buyers this time around because "it cost almost nothing to own a house while you were waiting to sell it. That's sub-prime credit. You could buy a house with no money down, no income, no job, no assets."

Of course! Now I understand. If you buy a house with no money down, you have little or nothing invested. Just walk away. Let the banks worry about selling them. But to whom will banks sell them? What are the banks going to do? "That's why houses for sale are now piling up all over the country," Walrath said. "It's a terrible situation."

Donald Trump begs to differ. When you're in a hole, keep digging as hard and as fast as you can. Trump's advice, according to Walrath is to "just go back and make another deal with whoever holds the mortgage. Trump says you'll get a better deal this time than the one you had before. Don't walk away from it -- go make another deal. The last thing the bank wants is your house. What are they going to do with it? They can't find anybody to buy it."

So, who's flipping whom in this credit seizure?

According to an unsigned editorial in Saturday's Wall Street Journal, the root cause of this credit correction was the Federal Reserve's willingness to keep money too easy for too long. An "emergency rate cut, as some in the market seem to be anticipating or hoping for -- carries the risk of introducing even greater moral hazard into the financial system," the Journal warns.

We can't have immorality in our financial system, now can we? Oh, the horror!

While chiding Democrats such as Senator Hillary Clinton for proposing a $1 billion federal bailout fund for homeowners at risk of default and foreclosure, the Journal goes on to channel Barbara Bush's flash of morality when speaking of homeless Katrina victims -- "No one wants to see someone lose his home to foreclosure. But many of those most at risk bought their homes with little or no money down, and so have very little at stake economically. Bringing in the feds to bail them out would send precisely the wrong message -- that risky or overly aggressive borrowing will be rewarded by the government rather than punished in the marketplace. To the extent that bad loans were made, the market needs to clear, not be propped up by federal-aid programs."

Unfortunately, despite what the Journal and the endlessly bleating "Money Heads" on TV would have you believe, millions of Americans are in deep trouble. CNBC's Jim Cramer "flipped out" last week in a torrent of truth about the current economic situation.

Walrath agrees, and says if we continue in the direction we're headed, Bush's "boom" will make the Savings and Loan bail-out look like a Girl Scout Cookie Sale.

According to Walrath, there are four sets of losers in this housing meltdown...

~~Those caught with the homes they bought for flipping purposes are not going to be able to find buyers. They are going to lose whatever they have invested, plus whatever mortgage payments they make. It may be cheaper for them just to walk away.

~~Those who own homes will see the value of their houses go down because of the current oversupply due to overbuilding when interest rates were lower and people were buying homes with little or nothing down with the idea of flipping the houses as soon as possible.

~~Those who bought homes with variable-rate mortgages are having trouble making payments because those payments keep going up, and there's nothing they can do about it. Many did not even realize they had such a mortgage. Millions are going to lose their homes.

~~And then, there's the murky many -- the banks and the hedge funds which ended up with mortgages which were used as collateral for junk bonds which ended up as holdings by French and German and English banks, not to mention those in this country.

"This is the dog that worried the cat that killed the rat that ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built, and we ain't seen nothing yet," Walrath says.

"When it comes to saving the rich from losing money, no expense will be spared. Actually," Walrath mused, "the economy is good -- if you're rich. For the rest of us, there's not much to write home about."