Monthly Archives: December 2010

Stimulus Hawk

In a dramatic achievement of bipartisan compromise, the Clinton-Obama administration has announced a compromise with Republicans for continued stimulus spending – deficit be damned – as long as the economy, as judged by the Chamber of Commerce, deems it appropriate. No, extending the Bush tax cuts for the superwealthy was so last week. Iraq and Afghanistan.

Stuck in the malaise of the post-prozac depression, we simply cannot afford to have hundreds of thousands of Americans return home off combat pay. The effect on Visa and Mastercard write-offs would be massive. Public relations spokespeople for virtually every economist who has ever appeared on TV, have stated that, “America needs the stimulus from combat-death life insurance pay-outs to the surviving families to keep our communities vibrant and our schools and VA hospitals open.” Were one of these wars to suddenly come to an end, every American would suffer from the effect of those laid-off in the bomb, bullet, flack jacket, tank, predator drone, helicopter, MRE, spy satellite, cargo plane and cable news industries. The effect would be enormous – we would have to go back to watching people talk about abortion and the protection of marriage.

Were the totally implausible to occur, ‘peace’, the opportunity for middle-aged former veterans to sell themselves to companies formerly known as Prince, for only five times what real soldiers make, is over. Stop. Think for a moment. Without thousands of flights per month half way around the world, what would happen to the price of oil? What would happen to community college language programs in middle eastern dialects? What would happen to the army of friendless nerds working for letter divisions of government who spend their waking hours listening in on phone conversations to and from war zones? Zeltch. Nada. Unemployment. Just imagine for a moment how long they could make it on the street as homeless.

We cannot afford to let his happen. We must support the wars. We must stand against peace. Whatever wars they want, for whatever reason, we need this. For capitalism. For free enterprise. For if we stop fighting over there, the war will leave your street and come to Wall Street.

It is cannot be about winning un-winnable wars. Look what happened to Russia when they left Afghanistan – their economy was destroyed and their government overthrown. We’ve been in Afghanistan now longer the Russians. We cannot afford to ever leave.

If you have not gotten it yet, think for a moment about the people. Awash with dollars in a country where malls are made of clay, how could they survive on poppy production alone? What will happen if the Taliban were to take over the Pakistan nukes? Preemptive strike by India? Or will Ms. Clinton invite a short Pakistani general to come back to power? Would Pakistan make new nuke sales to future terrorist states, such as Brazil or Canada or, god forbid, Mexico? Would Osama come out of his cave leaving us with no enemy to be the focus of our fear? No, we must stay the course.

The joint chiefs, in an announcement approved by Hillary Clinton, have weighed in, “No comment.” Unnamed, anonymous and/or innocuous or vague sources have confirmed that “as long as Wikileaks is plugged, you’ll have to check with the White House or, even, the State Department for an official statement that can be parroted in your blog.” China and Saudi Arabia are on board. Publicly, the EU is for peace, but not at the price of not war. The rest of the world is just too busy or hungry to care.

Perhaps, someone like Senator Jim DeMinted (T, SC) will state it best, “In this time when our very way of life is being threatened by godless people who have run out of money, I’m pro-offense spending. Especially, if we have to cut taxes and social security to pay for it.”

We need to stop thinking about war as, well, “war.” We need to cease our fixation with the sounds of explosions, the blood of innocent children and camps of refugees. We need to embrace that war is about the economy and jobs – our jobs. We need to come together and support our troops in protecting our way of life.

Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence. ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

No matter what political reasons are given for war, the underlying reason is always economic. ~A. J. P. Taylor

When a war breaks out, people say: “It’s too stupid, it can’t last long.” But though a war may be “too stupid,” that doesn’t prevent its lasting. ~Albert Camus

One is left with the horrible feeling now that war settles nothing; that to win a war is as disastrous as to lose one. ~Agatha Christie

No protracted war can fail to endanger the freedom of a democratic country. ~Alexis de Tocqueville

A great war leaves a country with three armies: an army of cripples, an army of mourners, and an army of thieves. ~Anonymous (German)

War is not an adventure. It is a disease. It is like typhus. ~Antoine De Saint-Exupery

Make wars unprofitable and you make them impossible. ~A. Philip Randolph

Dewings

Cover the South Like the DewThe Dew is Back in the South.
During this past month, we migrated LikeTheDew.com from free shared web servers in Vancouver to our own high speed server in Houston. We now have a virtual distribution network that mirrors LikeTheDew.com on web servers closest to you no matter where you are in the world. It has been painful. We have had site issues and problems. We believe most are behind us. Please continue to let us know if you experience problems on the site so we can get them fixed quickly.

Your Morning Dews is Back.
For the last couple of months, we’ve had awful email newsletter issues. Anyone reading this has had days without the Dew and days with three copies of it. We have given up on the old program and trashed it. A new Dewsletter launched Sunday, which immediately went out twice (sorry). Once we master the settings, we expect this software can give us, and you, consistent performance. More flexibility for us. Easier subscribe/unsubscribe. Automatic bounce handling. We are dewing away with per post (Breaking Dews), weekly and monthly subscriptions – all have been converted to Your Morning Dews, which will be published most days.

Dew and Improved.
You may have noticed the “Show/hide more stories” button below each section of our home page – if you haven’t clicked them, they are pretty cool. Click once and five more recent stories are revealed. Click a second time and they are again hidden. This is just one example of dozens of layout changes we have made on the Dew to simplify our look and, hopefully, improve your experience. (Note: this feature has been disabled dew to unpopularity)

We redesigned our recommended “Reading” section. It is back to the top right of the home page. Now when you mouseover a story, you will see an excerpt of the story. Click it and you’ll be taken to the full content on the original site. You’ll also notice a “New” button on some stories – this indicates it was published in the past 24 hours. Recommended reading is created each day by Keith Graham, Ron Taylor and LikeTheDew.com reader who suggested stories. They scour the web to find you the some of the most provocative, best written or important stories of the day. Take a look.

We re-engineered our “DewTubes” with technology that now allows us to present videos from almost any site on the web – YouTube, Comedy Central, Vimeo, MSNBC, etc. When you click on a video, they immediate play without going to a new page. DewTubes are created by user suggestions and my bias surfing – I love to get your suggestions.

We improved and updated our News & Opinion Feeds. If you haven’t seen them lately, take a look. There are about 10,000 stories on these pages – organized by state or subject (politics, business, cause, food, writing, and more) from news and opinion sites. Just like our recommended reading, when you mouseover, you’ll see an excerpt of the story. When you click, you’ll go to the original site. It is a wonderful way to preview the news quickly and keep up with what’s going around the South. Let us know if there are sites, which you feel should be included.

We hope you like what we’ve been dewing. In the months to come, we plan more changes, including an update the Mini Dew Reviews (similar to posting on a Facebook wall, only easier and more relevant).

What You Can Dew.
Continue reading LikeTheDew and commenting. Submit a story. Click on an older story from an author who’s not posted in a while and email them or comment with a message that they have been missed. Click the “share” button (end of each story) and suggest it to your friends and associates via email, Facebook and the like. If you aren’t already, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and other social sites on the web.

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Thanks for bearing with us and for reading. You are why we dew what we dew.

All I wanted for Christmas

I stopped all my pouting. I haven’t cried all year.* I have been good only for goodness sake. Sure, I had a long wish list. It had been eight long years since I’d even gotten a lousy lump of coal. I wrote my letters. Waited to see him in hopes of sitting in his lap.  Told him what I wanted and listened, oh, so closely, to his answers. I hung my stocking with care. I had such anticipation, I could barely sleep. I hoped. I let myself dream. And, I really, really believed.

Here’s some of what he promised that hasn’t been delivered, and, at least, not yet**:

  • A public option health plan in the new National Health Insurance Exchange
  • Repeal of the Bush tax cuts for the rich
  • Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
  • Anything serious, cap and trade included, to reduce global warming
  • Comprehensive immigration reform and providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants
  • Increasing the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour
  • A Freedom of Choice Act
  • Closing Guantanamo and ending the use of torture and extreme rendition, and restoring habeas corpus rights for “enemy combatants”
  • Restricting warrantless wiretaps
  • Eliminating oil and gas tax loopholes
  • Including environmental and labor standards in trade agreements
  • Expanding the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Passing the Employee Free Choice Act
  • Streamlining the Social Security disability approval process
  • Expanding the Family Medical Leave Act to include leave for domestic violence or sexual assault
  • Fully funding debt cancellation for poor countries
  • Helping Iraq refugees
  • Forbidding companies in bankruptcy from giving executives bonuses
  • Lifting the payroll tax cap on earnings above $250,000
  • Ending no-bid government contracts above $25,000
  • Allowing imported prescription drugs, allowing Medicare to negotiate for cheaper drug prices and preventing drug companies from blocking generic drugs
  • Requiring health care providers to report preventable medical errors
  • Providing $50 billion by 2013 for the global fight against HIV/AIDS
  • Mandating insurance coverage of autism treatment
  • Doubling federal funding for cancer research
  • Doubling the Peace Corps
  • Doubling funding for after school programs
  • Allowing bankruptcy judges to modify home mortgages
  • Implementing tougher revolving door rules for lobbyists and former officials
  • Signing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • Funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
  • Including humanitarian international missions in long-term budgeting
  • Establishing transparency standards for military contractors
  • Fully and properly equipping our troops
  • Making military deployments predictable for troops and families
  • Limiting Guard and Reserve deployments to one year for every six years
  • Restoring 24-month limit on cumulative Guard and Reserve deployment time
  • Ending the “Stop-Loss” program of forcing troops to stay in service beyond their expected commitments
  • Double U.S. spending on foreign aid by 2012
  • Securing our chemical plants, ports, refineries, pipelines and power grids
  • Expanding the child and dependent care credit
  • Requiring publicly traded financial partnerships to pay the corporate income tax
  • Closing loopholes in the corporate tax deductibility of CEO pay
  • Amending the Medicare “homebound” rule to allow some travel without loss of benefits
  • Opening “America Houses” in Islamic cities around the globe
  • Creating loan sanctions to stop private creditors from lending to repressive regimes
  • Reinstating a special envoy for the Americas
  • Seeking independent watchdog agency to investigate congressional ethics violations
  • Exposing Special Interest Tax Breaks to Public Scrutiny
  • Making White House communications public
  • Supporting college credit initiatives
  • Creating scholarships to recruit new teachers
  • Requiring all schools of education to be accredited
  • Creating a national performance assessment for educators
  • Repealing of the Defense of Marriage Act
  • Allowing five days of public comment before signing bills
  • Eliminating caps on damages for discrimination cases
  • Banning racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies
  • Creating a national catastrophe insurance reserve
  • Establishing a Global Energy Corps to promote green energy in developing countries
  • Limiting subsidies for agribusiness
  • Banning the permanent replacement of striking workers
  • Enacting windfall profits tax for oil companies
  • Requiring plug-in fleet at the White House
  • Including reproductive health care “at the heart” of health care reform
  • Strengthening international rules against commercial whaling
  • Changing the tone of politics in Washington
  • Inspiring hope

For what we got, thank you. A hell of a lot better than lumps of “clean coal.” Here’s what’s been delivered:

  • Directing military leaders to end war in Iraq
  • Beginning removing combat brigades from Iraq
  • Establishing a credit card bill of rights
  • Extending and indexing the 2007 Alternative Minimum Tax patch
  • Closing the “doughnut hole” in Medicare prescription drug plan
  • Requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions
  • Giving tax credits to those who need help to pay health premiums
  • Requiring large employers to contribute to a national health plan
  • Requiring children to have health insurance coverage
  • Expanding eligibility for Medicaid
  • Expanding eligibility for State Children’s Health Insurance Funding (SCHIP)
  • Requiring health plans to disclose how much of the premium goes to patient care of their premiums for patient care
  • Establishing an independent health institute to provide accurate and objective
  • In non-competitive markets, forcing insurers to pay out a reasonable share of
  • Eliminating the higher subsidies to Medicare Advantage plans
  • Expanding funding to train primary care providers and public health practitioners
  • Increasing funding to expand community based prevention programs
  • Creating an Advanced Manufacturing Funding to invest in peer-reviewed manufacturing
  • Increasing minority access to capital
  • Requiring economic justification for tax changes
  • Implementing “Women Owned Business” contracting program
  • Changing standards for determining broadband access
  • Expanding loan programs for small businesses
  • Expanding the Senior Corps volunteer program
  • Reinstating the executive order to hire an additional 100,000 federal employees with disabilities within five years.
  • Increasing the Veterans Administration budget to recruit and retain more mental health professionals
  • Fully funding the Veterans Administration
  • Assuring that the Veterans Administration budget is prepared as ‘must-pass’ legislation
  • Expanding the Veterans Administration’s number of “centers of excellence” in specialty care
  • Appointing a special adviser to the president on violence against women
  • Fully funding the Violence Against Women Act
  • Making no bases in Iraq permanent
  • Sending two additional brigades to Afghanistan
  • Strengthening and expand military exchange programs with other countries
  • Making greater investment in advanced military air technology
  • Ending the abuse of supplemental budgets for war
  • Making U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional on anti-terror efforts
  • Giving a speech at a major Islamic forum in the first 100 days of his administration
  • Allocating Homeland Security funding according to risk
  • Creating a real National Infrastructure Protection Plan
  • Increasing funding for local emergency planning
  • Standing down nuclear forces to be reduced under the Moscow Treaty
  • Appointing a White House Coordinator for Nuclear Security
  • Initiating a grant and training program for law enforcement to deter cyber crime
  • Improving relations with Turkey, and its relations with Iraqi Kurds
  • Launching an international Adding Value to Agriculture Initiative (AVTA)
  • Creating a rapid response fund for emerging democracies
  • Granting Americans unrestricted rights to visit family and send money to Cuba
  • Restoring funding for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne/JAG) program
  • Establishing an Energy Partnership for the Americas
  • Expanding the Nurse-Family Partnership to all low-income, first-time mothers
  • Releasing presidential records
  • Requiring new hires to sign a form affirming their hiring was not due to political affiliation or contributions.
  • Providing affordable, high-quality child care
  • Recruiting math and science degree graduates to the teaching profession
  • Reducing subsidies to private student lenders and protect student borrowers
  • Encouraging water-conservation efforts in the West
  • Increasing funding for national parks and forests
  • Increasing funding for the Land and Water Conservation Funding
  • Encouraging farmers to use more renewable energy and be more energy efficient
  • Expanding Pell grants for low-income students
  • Pursuing a wildfire management plan
  • Removing more brush, small trees and vegetation that fuel wildfires
  • More controlled burns to reduce wildfires
  • Expanding access to places to hunt and fish
  • Pushing for enactment of Matthew Shepard Act, which expands hate crime law to include sexual orientation and other factors
  • Restoring funding to the EEOC and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs
  • Reforming mandatory minimum sentences
  • Creating a White House Office on Urban Policy
  • Fully fund the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)
  • Establishing program to convert manufacturing centers into clean technology leaders
  • Establishing ‘Promise Neighborhoods’ for areas of concentrated poverty
  • Creating an artist corps for schools
  • Champion the importance of arts education
  • Supporting Increasingd funding for the NEA
  • Promoting cultural diplomacy
  • Adding another Space Shuttle flight
  • Using the private sector to improve space flight
  • Working with international allies on space station
  • Partnering to enhance the potential of the International Space Station
  • Using the International Space Station for fundamental biological and physical research
  • Exploring whether International Space Station can operate after 2016
  • Conducting robust research and development on future space missions
  • Increasing spending to prepare for longer space missions
  • Working toward deploying a global climate change research and monitoring system
  • Enhancing earth mapping
  • Appointing an assistant to the president for science and technology policy
  • Supporting commercial access to space
  • Establishing school programs to highlight space and science achievements
  • Establishing special crime programs for the New Orleans area
  • Rebuilding schools in New Orleans
  • Funding a major expansion of AmeriCorps
  • Creating a Social Investment Funding Network
  • Bolster the military’s ability to speak different languages
  • Appointing the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer
  • Providing grants to early-career researchers
  • Working to overturn Ledbetter vs. Goodyear
  • Creating a national declassification center
  • Appointing an American Indian policy adviser
  • Creating new financial regulations
  • Increasing funding for land-grant colleges
  • Banning lobbyist gifts to executive employees
  • Signing a “universal” health care bill
  • Creating new criminal penalties for mortgage fraud
  • Raising fuel economy standards
  • Investing in all types of alternative energy
  • Enacting tax credit for consumers for plug-in hybrid cars
  • Asking people and businesses to conserve electricity
  • Creating a ‘Green Vet Initiative’ to promote environmental jobs for veterans
  • Creating job training programs for clean technologies
  • Requiring states to provide incentives for utilities to reduce energy consumption
  • Supporting high-speed rail
  • Investing in public transportation
  • Equalize tax breaks for driving and public transit
  • Sharing enviromental technology with other countries
  • Doubling federal spending for research on clean fuels
  • Providing grants to encourage energy-efficient building codes
  • Increasing funding for the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Appointing at least one Republican to the cabinet
  • Raising the small business investment expensing limit to $250,000 through the end of 2009
  • Extending unemployment insurance benefits and temporarily suspend taxes on these benefits
  • Reversing restrictions on stem cell research
  • Eliminating capital gains taxes for small businesses and start-ups
  • Expanding the earned income tax credit
  • Creating a foreclosure prevention fund for homeowners
  • Establishing a small business initiative for rural America
  • Creating more public-private business incubators for poor communities
  • Creating a National Health Insurance Exchange
  • Creating a small business tax credit to help with health premiums
  • Strengthening antitrust laws to prevent overcharging for malpractice insurance
  • Reimbursing employer health plans for a portion of catastrophic costs
  • Investing $10 billion per year in early intervention educational and developmental programs
  • Allowing all veterans back into the Veterans Administration
  • Ensuring the Guard and Reserves can meet their homeland security missions
  • Seeking code of conduct for space-faring nations
  • Convening a summit on preventing nuclear terrorism
  • Creating a national cyber adviser to coordinate security of electronic infrastructure
  • Significantly increasing funding for the National Endowment for Democracy
  • Requiring more disclosure and a waiting period for earmarks
  • Creating the American Opportunity Tax Credit to offset college costs
  • Spending $25 million a year on programs to raise awareness of college financial aid
  • Protecting forest service lands from more roads
  • Providing more funds to educate young hunters and anglers
  • Cracking down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants
  • Eliminating disparity in sentencing for crack and cocaine
  • Repealing law that limits the sharing of gun-tracing data
  • Restoring housing in New Orleans
  • Appointing experienced disaster official to head FEMA
  • Encouraging more public service by college students
  • Setting a three-month moratorium on foreclosures
  • Extending Production Tax Credit to encourage renewable energy
  • Requiring drilling on current oil and gas leases
  • Weatherizing 1 million homes per year
  • Using revenue from cap and trade to support clean energy and environmental restoration
  • Seeking more funding for transportation security
  • Phasing out incandescent light bulbs
  • Giving Al Gore a key role on global warming
  • Creating clean technology venture capital fund
  • Creating a $3,000 tax credit for companies that add jobs
  • Going “line by line” over earmarks to make sure money being spent wisely
  • Making no signing statements to nullify instructions from Congress
  • Getting your daughters a puppy

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but I didn’t ask for, and really didn’t want some of what you brought us. A lot of it ended up being quite a bit different than you described when you promised. Some of it didn’t fit anyone very well, was already broken or has been back-ordered and won’t be here for years.

Here’s all I want for Christmas:
Jobs. Ok, jobs and world peace.

Please deliver that or I’ll know for sure that you are just like the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny – imaginary.

_________

* Except when viewing photos of those lost in our wars. And those horrific scenes of those harmed from natural disasters, our economic policies and our bombs. And the tragic losses from disease or accidents. Okay, so I cried a lot, but privately.

** Much of this list is from the comprehensive lists of Candidate and President Obama promises, tracked by the St. Petersburg Times’ PoliticalFact.com: Broken Promises; Stalled Promises; Still in the Works; Compromised Promises; and Promises Kept.

Lame Canard Session

The stakes are enormous: millions of Americans have lost their meager unemployment benefits; job creation is abysmal; unemployment is increasing; municipal and state governments are in dire need of revenue; the Bush-era tax cuts will expire on December 31st; and obstructionism in Congress is sure to be even worse in the next session.

Our formerly hopeful, now pragmatic President, knowing just how close our economy is to falling off the cliff, has embraced compromise to get help from Senate Republicans to stimulate the economy. The Republicans in the Senate, knowing that a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts is precisely the issue they will need for the 2012 election, are willing to compromise all principles to throw some scraps at the poor by extending unemployment benefits for a year and a month (past the next holiday season). Both parties are anxious for the one-year cut in payroll taxes that is also in the deal.

So just how bad is the deal?
Allowing the unemployment benefits to expire makes almost no economic sense. The stipend is tiny, but merciful, and it goes immediately back into the economy providing stimulus we badly need. How long it should be extended is debatable, but ending it before we have job growth is the answer.

Allowing the tax cuts to expire will hurt the working poor: the bottom 10% bracket will disappear and go back to 15%, plus the earned income tax credits will expire.

Allowing the tax cuts to expire will hurt the middle class: tax rates will increase 3%; families will lose $500 per child in deductions and some tuition credits; and singles will lose the marriage penalty fix. The House has already passed a bill to extend breaks for the poor and middle class. Should the bill fail to pass the Senate, there may be plenty of support for fixing it next year – especially if the economy continues to flounder.

Allowing the tax cuts to expire will bother the rich: 30 years ago, the top marginal income tax rate was 70%, now it is 35% and would go back up to 38%. Dividends will be again taxed as ordinary income, which it is. The long term capital gains rate, now zero, will go back up to 10%-20% – temporarily cutting the capital gains rate can create an incentive to invest, while cutting the tax rate to zero and keeping it there, does just the opposite. Estate taxes will go back into effect with a $1 million deductible.

The Bush tax cuts were spectacularly effective in increasing the wealth of the richest Americans and turned our surplus to deficit. The next 10-year cost of extending the tax cuts is about $4 trillion,

“…three times the entire projected Social Security shortfall. So giving in to Republican demands would mean risking a major fiscal crisis — a crisis that could be resolved only by making savage cuts in federal spending. And we’re not talking about government programs nobody cares about: the only way to cut spending enough to pay for the Bush tax cuts in the long run would be to dismantle large parts of Social Security and Medicare,” according to Paul Krugman.

But is this just a canard? Hard to know. This lame duck session of Congress is, mercifully, coming to an end soon. It seems likely the Obama-Republican compromise could pass the Senate, but whether the House will betray the same progressive beliefs as our President, is a toss up.