Sunday, August 31, 2008

Grand Old Party


(Emphasis on "old" and "party")

Will the GOP postpone their convention as Gustav bears down on New Orleans, but 3 years and a few days after Katrina destroyed the city?


McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said delaying the start time is a possibility.

"Senator McCain has always been sensitive to national crises — in the 2000 race, he postponed his announcement because of the situation in the Balkans [italic mine - Avram], and we are monitoring the situation very closely,” Bounds said.

1) Since when did the Balkans become part of the USA?

2) Want to know what McCain was up to the very day in 2005 that the Bush-Cheney administration allowed the destruction of New Orleans? The VERY day:



The difference

My local rag today featured gushing profiles of Republican delegates from my local area and why they support McCain-Palin for a third Bush-Cheney term. One had the audacity to call herself a moderate. I strained to determine if I could possibly have any vision in common with any of these people. I wondered how many of them live in gated communities. Tellingly, their quotes were all about national security, values, and oil. On the first point, I would like to ask them why a Republican administration failed to prevent the events of September 11, 2001. On the second, I would like to ask them how they feel the death of untold numbers of Iraqi children as a direct consequence of the U.S. occupation fits their "values" agenda. I would also like them to ponder the following statistics (my source):

U.S. SPENDING IN IRAQ

Spent & Approved War-Spending - About $600 billion of US taxpayers' funds. In June 2008, President Bush signed a bill approving about 200 billion more for 2008, which brings the cumulative total to close to $800 billion.

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)

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%

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I love this guy!

Rep. Dennis Kucinich brings the house down in Denver.



"It's Election Day, 2008. We Democrats are giving America a wake up call. Wake up America. In 2001, the oil companies, the war contractors and the neo-con artists seized the economy, and have added four trillion dollars of unproductive spending to the national debt.

"We now pay four times more for defense, three times more for gasoline and home heating oil, and twice what we paid for health care. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, their homes, their health care, their pensions. Trillions of dollars for an unnecessary war paid with borrowed money. Tens of billions of dollars in cash and weapons disappeared into thin air, at the cost of the lives of our troops and innocent Iraqis, while all the President's oilmen are maneuvering to grab Iraq's oil.

"Borrowed money to bomb bridges in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. No money to rebuild bridges in America. Money to start a hot war with Iran. Now we have another cold war with Russia while the American economy has become a game of Russian roulette.

"If there was an Olympics for misleading, mismanaging and misappropriating this Administration would take the gold. World records for violations of national and international laws. They want another four year term to continue to alienate our allies, spend our children's inheritance and hollow out our economy. We can't afford it America.

"Wake up America, the insurance companies took over health care. Wake up America, the pharmaceutical companies took over drug pricing. Wake up America, the speculators took over Wall Street. Wake up America, they want to take your Social Security. Wake up America, multinational corporations took over our trade policies, factories are closing, good paying jobs lost.

"Wake up, America. We went into Iraq for oil. The oil companies want more. War against Iran will mean $10 a gallon gasoline. The Oil Administration wants to drill more -- into your wallet. Wake up, America. Weapons contractors want more. An Iran war will cost five to ten trillion dollars.

"This Administration can tap our phones. They can't tap our creative spirit. They can open our mail. They can't open economic opportunities. They can track our every move. They lost track of the economy while the cost of food, gasoline, and electricity skyrockets.

"They skillfully played our post- 911 fears and allowed the few to profit at the expense of the many. Everyday we get the color orange, while the oil companies, the insurance companies, the speculators, the war contractors get the color green.

"Wake up America. This is not a call for you to take a new direction from right to left.

"This is call for you to go from down to up. Up with the rights of workers.

"Up with wages.

"Up with fair trade.

"Up with creating millions of good paying jobs rebuilding our bridges, ports and water systems. Up with creating millions of sustainable energy jobs to lower the cost of energy, lower carbon emissions and protect the environment.

"Up with health care for all.

"Up with education for all.

"Up with home ownership.

"Up with guaranteed retirement benefits.

"Up with Peace.

"Up with Prosperity.

"Up with the Democratic Party

"Up with Obama - Biden

"Wake up, America.

"Wake up, America.

"Wake up, America."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Yes, Virginia, there is a difference.

To any 1) disgruntled, hysterical Hillary supporters, 2) blue-collar FoxNews watchers, 3) Michael Savage/Rush Limbaugh/Bill O'Reilly enthusiasts, here are the two presidential candidates' take on what constitutes being rich in America. The issue came up during celebrity pastor Rick Warren's Forum last week. He asked both men this question: "How do you define rich?”

Obama would define anyone making over $250,000 a year as being rich. McCain said how about $5 Million dollars a year? Now, of course, he says he was joking. The McCain household income was over $6 Million in 2006. Now, Obama is not exactly struggling; his household income was $4.2 million dollars.

How many Americans do you know who make $5 million dollars a year? Or even $250,000?

The median household income in America in 2006 was $48,201, meaning half of Americans make more that $48,201 and half make less than $48,201. It is the line dividing the distribution of per capita earnings in half. In America, income distribution is disproportionate. The Census Bureau reported for 2006 that white people had a medium household income of $52,423, while the medium income for blacks was much less at $31,969. Hispanics had a slightly higher household income than blacks at $37,781. Asian had a higher household income than all races at $64,238.

Now, by my definition, both John McCain and Barack Obama are rich men. The difference, I believe, is who they think aren't, and what their respective policies will mean for those at the extremes of income inequality in America.

No, we are not talking socialism. We are talking fairness. Do the math.

This graph is a plot of year against the corresponding top marginal income tax rate rate (blue). Where the top marginal rate on earned income differs (1971--1981), it is also plotted (in red).


Sources for graph:
[1] Robert A. Wilson and David E. Jordan, "Personal exemptions and individual income tax rates, 1913-2002" (Rev. 6-02), in Internal Revenue Service, Statistics of Income Bulletin (Publication 1136), Spring 2002, pp. 216-225
[2] "Table A.--U.S. individual income tax: personal exemptions and lowest and highest bracket tax rates, and tax base for regular tax, tax years 1913-2003" (Rev. 4-2003), in Internal Revenue Service, Statistics of Income Bulletin (Publication 1136), Winter 2002-2003

Expensive, expensive Copenhagen

Of course, the downside is the cost of just about everything in Europe. This is in no small part due to the weakness of our Chinese-owned dollar, but with 15-25% value-added taxes, it is easy to bleed money doing just about anything in Europe. Most euros seem to accept this as the cost of a civil society, one that provides health care to all, and makes it possible to live happily without an automobile.

OK, as a service to any libertarian who stumbles onto this blog, I hereby provide all of your counter arguments: yes, I know, but their health care quality stinks; everyone lives in a closet, they all pee in the street (actually, mostly only in France).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen

A week in many European countries can make you wonder about the quality of American life (even in a good year, which this most certainly ain't; and even if your suitcase stayed behind in Newark for half of your trip). Sensible cities with amazingly efficient mass transit. Wide, dedicated bicycle lanes everywhere. Safe parks, even at night. and the knowledge that less than 0.1% of the people you pass on the street are packing heat (unlike in my South Florida home town, where probably only 0.1% AREN'T).

Why is is that so many Europeans just seem to live life more gracefully than we do?

Why isn't Obama leaving McCain't in the dust?

Even with Barack's post-primary centrist shift, and McCain's listless, doddering campaign, it is astounding to me that the Presidential contest remains a statistical tie, with less than 100 days remaining.

Is it racism? That is certainly the most facile answer, but, frankly, I don't buy it. Is the media lying? Always a possibility, but at least some of the polls appear to be independent (for what's its worth).

Even if we concede that there is Obama fatigue among the electorate, how on earth could any half-thinking person believe that John McCain represents anything more than a continuation of the war-mongering (and profiteering) corporatist "let-them-eat-cheese whiz" sensibilities of the Bush-Cheney crowd. McCain has made it clear that he has thrown his lot in with the neoconservative jerks who have bancrupted the nation, turned us into a world-wide pariah, terminated much of the good that government can do while shoveling as much cash into the maws of Exxon-Mobil and their ilk as possible.

Flying to Europe a few weeks ago, I overhead some 40-something guy behind me talking to his next-seat neighbor. "I wish I could vote Democratic. But Obama - I just don't know what he stands for. And he really is a Muslim, you know. Now, McCain, get him off script (he stinks with a script) and he's a standup guy, a regular patriotic American." My God, I could've upchucked in this guy's lap. You see, people are willing to foolishly separate the mythological man that John McCain purports to be from the party that has coronated him. And his party doesn't suffer "mavericks" very gracefully. And it certainly doesn't give them the nomination.

That is how far up their asses so many Americans' heads are these days.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Terrible Reality

Vincent Bugliosi's opening statements during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the constitutional limits of executive power.