Category Archives: Politics

If the Giants or Patriots Deserve A Super Bowl Parade, Don’t Iraq Vets?


The Iraq War officially ended on December 31, 2011. Since the beginning of the war 8 years ago, over 4400 soldiers have died and over 32,000 have been wounded. Since the end of this war, St. Louis has been the only city to host a Welcome Our Heroes Home parade. IAVA, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, have started a petition (found here) that will be sent to the President and mayors nationwide pushing for parades to honor our soldiers.

Paul Rieckhoff recently wrote about this on his blog. 

If we can afford two wars, we can afford two welcome home parades. 

But this effort is about more than just a parade. It is what parades represent – a celebration, a commemoration, and an expression of gratitude by a community that has finally learned to separate the war from warriors. It is about creating a day to remember those we’ve lost, respect those who have served, and respond to their needs as returning veterans. 

After a decade at war, with the burden of so many carried by so few, who deserves a parade more than the brave men and women who have deployed two, three, four times since 9/11? 

I hope you guys will join me in signing this petition. If there is any group that deserves a parade, it is not a football team, it is our returning soldiers.

Alabama Republicans Hit A New Low

The Republicans in Alabama are making news again and not in a good way. There are 2 Tea Party candidates running against Jo Bonner (R-AL), Pete Riehm and Dean Young, promising that if they are elected they will impeach President Obama. The crowd present for the debate responded to this with roaring cheer.  

According to the Mobile Press-Register,  

“First, I would cut off his funding. If that didn’t work, I would introduce a resolution describing what he’s done wrong. The last resort, which I am willing to take, would be to impeach him,” Young explained further. Riehm was equally unapologetic, saying, “failure to recognize wrong-doing is moral dereliction and, when you have the authority, failure to uphold the law is accessory to the crime.” Among President Obama’s crimes, argues Riehm, is his failure to defend the Defense of Marriage Act and failure to enforce federal laws on immigration and elections.  

Bonner responded to this saying impeachment “is a serious charge, and you better have good reasons before making it.” Conservative columnist, Quin Hillyer, the moderator said the idea was “pure demagoguery.” 

If that was not enough, Alabama state Senator Shadrack McGill used the bible to justify not raising salaries for teachers. At a prayer breakfast he stated that the bible says increasing teacher salaries would only lead to less-qualified teachers. That doubling teachers’ salaries (starting salary for Alabama teachers begins at $36,144) would not help education. In fact, keeping teacher pay low is a “biblical principle“: 

If you double a teacher’s pay scale, you’ll attract people who aren’t called to teach.   “To go in and raise someone’s child for eight hours a day, or many people’s children for eight hours a day, requires a calling. It better be a calling in your life. I know I wouldn’t want to do it, OK? 

“And these teachers that are called to teach, regardless of the pay scale, they would teach. It’s just in them to do. It’s the ability that God give ‘em. And there are also some teachers, it wouldn’t matter how much you would pay them, they would still perform to the same capacity. 

“If you don’t keep that in balance, you’re going to attract people who are not called, who don’t need to be teaching our children. So, everything has a balance.” 

ThinkProgress reported:

McGill found justification in the Bible for not increasing teacher pay, but he evidently found nothing in scripture preventing him from approving a 67 percent pay increase for legislators in 2007, which increased annual salaries for the part-time legislators from $30,710 to $49,500. He said that the higher pay helped to stop corruption. 

A 2011 report showed that while Alabama teachers have the highest starting salaries in the nation, the state lags far behind the national average for teacher pay. Currently, a part-time legislator in Alabama is making more than a full-time teacher with a Master’s degree and 15 years of experience. 

Watch Out GOP — I’m back

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Hello to all. I must apologize for my absence. I took a respite from politics and went home to Gulf Shores, AL to visit my family for the holidays. It has been a wonderful 2 months. I ran in the mornings and rode my bike in the evenings.

While I did continue working at my regular job, my mom had other plans for me. Since I was home, she had decided that we should completely redecorate her guest bathroom (vacation…what vacation LOL). I refinished her cabinets (wow….while it looks great and it was well worth it, I will never do that again) and painted the walls and ceiling and installed all new hardware. I also cleaned out her huge basement and reorganized everything and did a little yard work.

She definitely put me to work but I loved doing it for her. She is truly an amazing person and the best mom a girl could have. I was also able to spend some quality time with my niece and nephew, and I enjoyed every minute of it. My brother and sister-n-law have raised 2 of the best kids I know.  

I did continue to follow (with glee) the Republican primaries and the debacle by the GOP Congress on the payroll tax cuts among the plethora of other things that happened in January. I am looking forward to see what unfolds in politics this year. By the looks of it, we are in for a wild ride. 

Now that I have made it back to Seattle, I am eager to start writing again and can’t wait to hear from you guys!

Congressional Republicans and Democrats Guilty of Crony Capitalism

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke with committee chairman Spencer Bachus (R-AL) on Capitol Hill March 2, 2011. Bernanke reportedly defended the Federal Reserves monetary policy against criticism from Republicans.

Hypocrisy at its best. For us commoners, it is illegal to trade stocks and bonds if we have access to non-public information about a company. Remember Martha Stewart. She was sent to federal prison for this exact crime. But did you know it is not illegal for everyone. The members of the U.S. Congress are exempt from this law.  

Steve Kroft reports members of Congress and their aides have regular access to powerful political intelligence, and many have made well-timed stock market trades in the very industries they regulate. For now, the practice is perfectly legal, but some say it’s time for the law to change.  

Peter Schweizer’s new book, Throw Them All Out, delves into the details of how both parties are enriching themselves with inside information that the public is not privy to. Many members of Congress are shown to have made suspiciously timed trades including John Kerry, Dick Durbin, and Jim Moran. But it is a Republican from Alabama, Spencer Bachus, who tops them all.  

Henry Blodget of Daily Ticker recently reported on this.     

Rep. Bachus made more than 40 trades in his personal account in the summer and fall of 2008, in the early months of the financial crisis. 

The fact that Bachus personally traded while getting private government briefings is bad enough. The fact that he was the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee at the time is simply outrageous. 

In one case, the day after getting a private briefing on the collapsing economy and financial system from Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson, Rep. Bachus effectively shorted the market (by buying options that would rise if the market tanked.) 

A few days later, after the market tanked, Bachus sold his position and nearly doubled his money. 

If a corporate executive or Wall Street trader did this–cashed in personally after getting private, non-public information from his work–Rep. Bachus and every other member of Congress would be up in arms about corruption and insider trading. 

And they would be right. 

New Republican Study — Millionaires Receiving Billions In Taxpayer Support

People who are protesting against the wealth inequality and a tax code that grossly favors the 1% now have a new ally, Tom Coburn, Republican Senator from Oklahoma. He has released what he describes as the “first-ever compilation of federal aid for the richest.”  

Let me be the first to say how very surprised I am by this study. Mr. Coburn is known to be a bedrock conservative who has strongly supported the no new taxes mantra, and when someone with his background starts to shine a light into the inequalities in our government I firmly believe he can do more to further the Occupy Wall Street cause than any encampment ever could. 

The study reveals some startling findings. For example, in 2009, $21 million in unemployment insurance was collected by people who earned more than a million dollars. Also, the U.S. Treasury pays out more than $30 billion a yearto people who make more than a million a year. Mr. Coburn says what the study “reveals is sheer Washington stupidity with government policies pampering the wealthy costing taxpayers billions of dollars every year.”   

In a letter that accompanied the study, Mr. Coburn wrote, “The income of the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans has risen dramatically over the last decade. Yet, the federal government lavishes these millionaires with billions of dollars in giveaways and tax breaks,” as noted in the recent Congressional Budget Officestudy that examined the growing income gap over the last 30 years.  

“From tax write-offs for gambling losses, vacation homes, and luxury yachts to subsidies for their ranches and estates, the government is subsidizing the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Multimillionaires are even receiving government checks for not working. This welfare for the well-off — costing billions of dollars a year — is being paid for with the taxes of the less fortunate.” 

“The government’s social safety net, which has long existed to catch those who are down and help them get back up, is now being used as a hammock by some millionaires, some who are paying less taxes than average middle class families.” 

The following list was compiled by Mr. Coburn showing federal money handed out to millionaires over several years: 

  • $18.15 million in child care tax credits 
  • $74 million in unemployment checks 
  • $89 million for preservation of ranches and estates 
  • $316 million in farm subsidies  
  • $608 million in business entertainment deductions 
  • $9 billion in retirement checks 
  • $21 billion in gambling losses 
  • $28 billion in mortgage breaks for mansions, vacation homes and yachts 

These are powerful findings and they are coming out at a crucial time during which we are debating cutting such vital programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Education, etc.

CBO Debunks GOP’s Economic Plan

GOP has been very persistent in their claims of the way to fix our economy is through austerity — spending cuts to programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Education, Infrastructure, etc. Democrats have countered their plan with a balanced approach of spending cuts but with a focus on spending that would not hurt the most vulnerable in our society and increased revenue through modest tax increases and eliminating tax loop holes and tax subsidies.  

Politico is reporting the Congressional Budge Office came out with a report on Tuesday that shows spending cuts alone will not fix our budget problems. 

Indeed as measured by CBO, 2011 was a year that saw spending trends break heavily in favor of deficit hawks. The combined federal outlays for Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security rose by a little more than 3 percent — less than half of what had been the five-year average. Military spending grew by 1.1 percent, and after a 7.2 percent increase in 2010, other government activities fell by a negative 2.2 percent.   

Yet even in this climate, the deficit in 2011 ended up well north of $1 trillion for the third year in a row, all underscoring the poor economy but also the need for more change on both sides of the ledger. Addressing this gap was the great hope attached to the House-Senate supercommittee created by the August debt-limit agreement, but two weeks before the Nov. 23 deadline, taxes remain such an ideological stumbling block that it puts the whole enterprise in serious jeopardy. 

GOP did come out with a proposal this past week for $300 billion in increased revenue, however, as I wrote earlier this week, it did not appear to be the compromise they wanted everyone to think it was. It was clearly an effort to try to shed that ‘do-nothing Congress’ image.  

On November 2nd Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell meet to talk about the Super Committee’s deficit plan. 

Geithner had come to the Capitol to meet with the Kentucky Republican prior to leaving for the G-20 summit in France, but McConnell steered the conversation back to the deficit-reduction talks and asked if the White House was hoping the supercommittee would fail. 

This has been a favorite theory of conservatives, who argue that failure serves President Barack Obama’s short-term interests by giving him another example of a “do-nothing” Congress. And it has especially rankled McConnell, who was pivotal to the August agreement and is invested in the 12-member panel.  

Geithner, who also was part of the August debt talks, pushed back, saying no, that Obama wanted a successful outcome and had submitted significant detail in September to help the panel meet its target. McConnell then criticized Democrats for being unrealistic in asking for $1.3 trillion as part of a larger $3 trillion deficit-reduction plan. The secretary answered by walking through the Republican counteroffer and showing that its claim of $640 billion in new government receipts was unrealistic itself, since so little of the total represented real tax revenue.  

McConnell was described as silent, and the meeting ended without any counterproposal to find middle ground.  

Just a few more tidbits of GOP’s proposal for the Super Committee’s deficit plan. They include drilling for oil and cutting the top tax rate to 28%. That’s right….MORE tax cuts for the wealthy.  

The former president of the Club for Growth, Toomey irritated Democrats by including ANWR drilling as one illustration of how government royalty revenue might be increased. And his approach to tax overhaul is to lock in such a low top tax rate in advance—28 percent—that tax experts say it would very difficult, if not impossible, to still have any room left for real deficit reduction.

In Honor Of Our Veterans

Joseph Ambrose, an 86-year-old World War I veteran, attends the dedication day parade for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He is holding the flag that covered the casket of his son, who was killed in the Korean War.

I came across this beautiful poem written by Zach Turquand.  At the time he wrote this he was in the 8th grade.  We all need to remember the sacrifices made by our soldiers and their families.  

Strong

Leaving my family and friends
Shipped off to somewhere new
Where I feel like an alien
It is hard to leave my life behind
My family behind
It is for a good cause though
As long as I return

That’s my fear leaving my family behind forever
So I need to be strong, Army strong
Strong as an ox
Fight for my life and so many others
When I get into that fight, I know what to do
I know who I need to save

My mission complete and I am going home
I am strong after what I have seen
What I’ve done
I am so glad to get back to my family
Continue my life just as it began
I am so proud of my accomplishments
I am Army strong

When I walked into the airport
There were more people than stars in the sky
They cheered for me, thanked me
It was louder than a jet taking off
I was so excited I felt like I just won a billion dollars
I know what I did was right
What I did was Army strong

The Players That Brought Down The Financial System — Where Are They Now

A group of chief executives from major banks and financial institutions that received government bailout money testify before the House Financial Services Committee in Washington DC

In the news over the last few days has been Beau Biden, Delaware’s Attorney General, talking about the progress of his investigation into the failed housing market and the plethora of foreclosures over the last few years. His investigation is focused in on MERS, Mortgage Electronic Registry System, Inc, a company that registers about 60% of the mortgages.

Biden’s office issued a statement outlining the lawsuit:  

MERS engaged and continues to engage in deceptive trade practices that sow confusion among homeowners, investors, and other stakeholders in the mortgage finance system, seriously damaging the integrity of the land records that are central to Delaware’s real property system, and leading to improper foreclosure practices.” MERS is said to have deceived borrowers by knowingly obscuring important information and acting as the owner of mortgage loans and falsely foreclosing on homes without proper authority. This is one of only a few major investigations into the financial meltdown and the banks responsibility for it since the crash in 2008.  

This leads into an article I that was recently published by ProPublica that looked into what has happened to the mortgage companies, investment banks, CEOs/executives, and the rating agencies after the banking failure and what, if any, consequences they have faced. Their findings were not surprising because as we already know there have been hardly any arrests and/or convictions for the corruption and illegality these entities perpetrated.   

 Already known is that deregulation over the last 30 plus years had played a prominent role, however, there were 2 bills in particular that were significant in exacerbating the conditions leading to the financial crisis.  

First, in 1999 Bill Clinton signed into law The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which repealed all remaining parts of Glass-Steagall and allowed firms to participate in traditional banking, investment banking, and insurance at the same time.  

Secondly, a year later The Commodity Futures Modernization Act was passed into law. This deregulated over-the-counterderivatives– securities like CDOs (collateralized debt obligations and CDS (credit default swaps). Propublica wrote:   

They derive their value from underlying assets and are traded directly between two parties rather than through a stock exchange. Greenspan and Robert Rubin, Treasury Secretary from 1995 to 1999, had both opposed regulating derivatives. Lawrence Summers, who went on to succeed Rubin as Treasury Secretary, also testified before the Senatethat derivatives shouldn’t be regulated.  

It’s worth noting the substantial lobbying efforts that accompanied the deregulation process.  According to the FCIC, between 1999 and 2008 the financial industry spent $2.7 billion lobbying the federal government, and donated more than $1 billion to political campaigns. While deregulation took place mainly under Clinton’s watch, George W. Bush is faulted for not doing more to catch the out-of-control housing market.    

I have listed below some of their findings (the article in its entirety can be found here). I do highly recommend reading this article in its entirety because ProPublica also delves into the credit agencies, regulators, and the banks that created CDOs involved and I have not listed those portions in this post.   

Mortgage originators  

Washington Mutual — Similar situation was found to exist. They went under in 2008 in the biggest bank collapsein U.S. history. 

Countrywide, once the nation’s largest mortgage lender, also pushed customers to sign on for complex and costly mortgages that boosted the company’s profits. Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo was accused of misleading investors about the company’s mortgage lending practices, a charge he denies. Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank both purchased subprime mortgage lending outfits in 2006 to get in on the lucrative business. Deutsche Bank has also been accused of failing to adequately check on borrowers’ financial status before issuing loans backed by government insurance. A lawsuit filed by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara claimed that, when employees at Deutsche Bank’s mortgage received audits on the quality of their mortgages from an outside firm, they stuffed them in a closet without reading them.  

Where are they now  
Few prosecutions have been brought against subprime mortgage lenders. 

Ameriquest went out of business in 2007 and Citigroup bought its mortgage lending unit. 

Washington Mutual was bought by JP Morgan in 2008. A Department of Justice investigation into alleged fraud at WaMu closed with no charges [14] this summer. WaMu also recently settled a class action lawsuit brought by shareholders for $208.5 million. Bank of America purchased Countrywide in January of 2008, as delinquencies on the company’s mortgages soared and investors began pulling out. Mozilo left the company after the sale. Mozilo settledan SEC lawsuit for $67.5 million with no admission of wrongdoing, though he is now banned from serving as a top executive at a public company. A criminal investigation into his activities fizzled out earlier this year. Bank of America invited several senior Countrywide executives to stay on and run its mortgage unit. Bank of America Home Loans does not make subprime mortgage loans.  

Deutsche Bank is still under investigation by the Justice Department

Mortgage securitizers 

In the years before the crash, banks took subprime mortgages, bundled them together with prime mortgages and turned them into collateral for bonds or securities, helping to seed the bad mortgages throughout the financial system. Washington Mutual, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and others were securitizing mortgages as well as originating them. Other companies, such as Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and Goldman Sachs, bought mortgages straightfrom subprime lenders, bundled them into securities and sold them to investors including pension funds and insurance companies.  

Where they are now  
This spring, New York’s Attorney General launched a  probe into mortgage securitization at Bank of America, JP Morgan, UBS, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley during the housing boom. Morgan Stanley settled with Nevada’s Attorney Generallast month following an investigation into problems with the securitization process.   

As part of a proposed settlement with the 50 state attorneys general over foreclosure abuses, several big banks were offered immunity from charges related to improper mortgage origination and securitization. California and New York have withdrawn from those talks.  

Occupy Wall Street Oakland Protesters Attacked By Police

Unbelievable footage filmed at OWS Oakland while police were clearing out protesters. They used tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash-bang grenades.

A woman in a wheelchair is tear-gassed as police disperse protesters at Occupy Oakland.

I don’t know what the police in Oakland were thinking when they decided to use these kind of tactics on peaceful protesters, but juxtapose this type of action with the fact not one Wall Street banker has been charged or imprisoned for their illegal actions that brought this economy down.

Unbelievable! 

Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera Again Tried to Broadcast from OWS — OWS Shouted Him Down…Again

Remember the first time Geraldo tried to report from Zucotti Park. Well, lets just say it was not a success. He made another attempt last night, and OWS protesters made sure to voice their opinions about Fox and their so-called news, which, let’s be honest, is basically right-leaning distortion of the news. Here is the video and I hope you enjoy….I know I did!!   

Just one more thing for Fox (excuse the profanity)…Karma is a b_tch. These two quotes are appropriate in this case. 

You get what you give, whether it’s bad or good. 

Karma moves in two directions. If we act virtuously, the seed we plant will result in happiness. If we act nonvirtuously, suffering results.