The Tweety Factor

Mary Isenhour, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party says Chris Matthews is serious, though undecided, about running against Arlen Specter in 2010.  According to sources Matthews would run on the Democratic ticket.  His brother Jim is a long time Republican and Montgomery County Commissioners Chair.  Jim Matthews also ran for Lt. Governor on the Lynn Swann ticket.

Chris Matthews has been a resident of Washington, D.C. for some now where he hosts his popular MSNBC show “Hardball.”  Long considered to be partisanly Republican his presence on a Democratic ticket could lead to interesting Thanksgiving conversations at the Matthews clan.  Pennsylvanians don’t take kindly to carpetbagger candidates (look up what happened to Rick Santorum) and Democrats don’t lack a list of strong candidates for this seat.  In fact there might well be a primary if Matthews wants to run because many Dems don’t like him, don’t see a carpetbagger having a serious chance of winning, and already are backing a Schwartz, Murphy or Sestak candidacy.

In 2006 the Party pretty much cleared the field for Bob Casey.  Still two progressive candidates emerged to challenge the conservative Casey.  If the Democratic Party pulled another power play to clear the field I expect the same thing would happen.  This time Matthews wouldn’t have the influence and connections Casey has and wouldn’t be as formidable for an insurgent campaign.

I think this would be a disaster for Chris Matthews.  He’d have to give up his lucrative MSNBC gig for what would be a challenging primary then a general election run against an established incumbent in Arlen Specter.  Depending on Snarlin Arlen’s health situation this could or couldn’t be a close race.  If he’s healthy Dems would need the strongest possible candidate to win this seat.  Carpetbagger candidates leave a bad taste in Pennsylvania voter’s mouths.

Special Senate Election Tuesday

Believe it or not the election isn’t over…yet.  Tuesday there’s a runoff election for the Georgia Senate seat.  Incumbent Saxby Shameless is trying to win his second term after smearing Vietnam war hero Max Cleland as a traitor.  It wouldn’t have been nearly as toxic a charge if Cleland hadn’t left two legs and one and a half arms on the battlefield.

I met Sen. Cleland several times and he’s an amazingly classy guy.  This one is for Max.  Jim Martin is running against Chambliss and because of a third party candidate November 4th neither candidate garnered 50% plus one in the election so a runoff is being conducted Tuesday.  This time Martin may not benefit from the huge Black turnout on November 4th so he needs help.

You can help by getting involved in the phone bank system used by the Obama campaign and now converted for this election.  This means you can make phone calls to Georgia voters from anywhere to remind them to vote.

About Jim Martin:

I need your help. We’re in a runoff for the 59th (or 60th?) Senate seat. This is a race we can win. Not only that, but Jim Martin is a candidate Democrats across the country could be proud to see as a Senator. He started his career as a legal aid lawyer, fighting for poor, working class and disabled Georgians. He served with distinction in the Georgia House of Representatives, where he rose to become Chair of the Judiciary Committee. He left the state house so that he could serve as the Director of the Department of Human Resources and worked tirelessly to protect the most at risk children in Georgia.

The Mumbai Attacks

The horrid attacks on ten locations in Mumbai, India portend the end results of a failed foreign policy.  Five Americans were among the 183 dead (so far) and the terrorists targeted Americans and Britons while also attacking a Jewish Center and killing hostages.

Muslims see our invasion of Iraq as a proxy war for Israel (as do many Americans).  The defining of the Iraq War as one of Christianity versus Islam, as many stupid Americans do and did all through the campaign season is radicalizing many Muslims.  This was very evident to those of us covering the McCain-Palin rallies:  an attitude fomented by right wing media that all Muslims are evil, this is a religious war against Islam, and that we have to kill them all to be safe.

The Islamic press plays these video clips and publishes these diatribes endlessly and it is creating a very dangerous environment.  Attacks like Mumbai where Americans are targeted are the fruit of such mindless, stupid policy.  

Blame is being directed at Pakistan but let us recall we first thought Oklahoma City was done by foreign terrorists.  Proof must be established before more reckless behavior creates more hatred and animosity.  India and Pakistan have long festering issues going back many years.  That doesn’t mean the attacks in India came from Pakistan however. Responding recklessly in the heat of the moment isn’t good policy.

Those Holiday Conversations

Every holiday brings that dreaded horror:  political discussions with relatives who aren’t living in a reality based community.  You know who I mean, those token Republicans who still listen to Rush and Bill O.  Misinformed, regurgitating the Faux News talking points they still cling to the fantasy that George W. Bush is a good president.

We had a couple encounters with our remaining sibling who remains a member of the GOP.  She actually told me the economy is fine, it’s the media “that fourth leg of government” which is telling everyone there are problems.  According to her things were fine until we all began reporting otherwise.

Tell that to Kirk whose real estate company is suffering, to the families who were victimized by crooked mortgage lenders, brokers, appraisers and others capitalizing on the fact home buyers couldn’t get and read their mortgage documents before closings.  Tell that to those investors victimized by greedy Wall Street firms who chopped up these risky mortgages, packaged them into toxic securities and sold and traded them.

This economic meltdown began with a massive foreclosure crisis because irresponsible lenders were willing to finance anyone with a pulse, by greedy homeowners trying to get rich quick in a rising market, crooked developers, and sordid other culprits.

But, actually, it was all precipitated by us in the media who had the gall to report these events and facts.  What is the “fourth leg of government” anyway?  Fox News?  Rush Limberger?  Bill O’Reilly?  The Wall Street Journal?  Yes, I can see the obvious “liberal” bias of the news.  Yes, this is simply our fault for reporting the news.

Talk about getting indigestion.

Thanksgiving Holiday

I’m off to Maryland for several days to spend Thanksgiving with family.  Remember to give thanks for the blessings bestowed on us this year and hope for a brighter future for all next.  I’ll return late Friday and will try to check in while away if anything significant transpires.

This year George W. Bush will pardon the biggest turkey of them all:  Dick Cheney.  On January 20th we all then get the chance to tar and feather both of them and run them out of DC on a rail.   Oh, for those good old days!

Change is More Than The Money You’re Giving To These Bailouts

Okay, for the past few weeks we’ve been hearing about how the automakers in Detroit need taxpayer money to stay afloat. We’ve also heard tons about how our economy is strapped to the tracks in front of an incoming freight train, waiting to get crushed. O-Kay, now that we’re on the subject, why are the automakers, who provide millions of vulnerable jobs that employ whole towns, still begging for money while Citigroup have basically walked into the Congressional room and got it hand over fist? No, better yet, why are we bailing out any of these guys and still have not focused on our hard-working people losing their housing and their jobs? If the regular hard-working guy or gal is going to have to front the bill then why are these cigar-smoking, private jet-flying, big bank and insurance suits getting preference over the everyday American worker? Many of these companies willingly opted to make horrible choices by not investing in what the people have been demanding for: environmentally-friendly, cost-saving vehicles? Toyota made the right decision to follow the green path and are doing quite well. When we personally make bad decisions in our financial lives there’s no Congress there to save our butts and keep us from financial ruin. However, when Uncle Joey is losing his job, pension, and 401K from the company he has worked for 30 years he is being forced to help Capital Corporation # 27 when he can use the help for himself. I think Congress needs to get its priorities straight and focus on the American people and their foreclosed homes before they start giving a blank check to Jet-Flying, Wine and Hot-Tub, Mile-High Club CEO #10 without a plan to keep Joey the Worker’s job.

Election Results Certify Three Democratic Winners

Rick Taylor has won re-election by 419 votes and Tom Houghton and Paul Drucker won the seats in Chester County vacated by retiring Republicans Carol Rubely and Art Hershey.  The final tally gives Democrats a 104-99 majority in the State House.  Assumptions would be that the new Speaker will be a Democrat but we thought that two years ago also so hold onto your hats until a formal vote takes place after New Years.

Ghosts of Guantanamo

As Barack Obama wrestles with the problems produced by the use of Gitmo the ghosts of Gitmo will haunt America for generations.  The decision to use extralegal, fanciful legal theories, torture, degradation and inhumane treatment have ruined the nation’s image abroad and undermined the rule of law.

Torturing prisoners for forty nine consecutive days to later discover the man had no terror connections and release him back to his country and now the transfer of Salim Hamdan, said to be Osama’s personal driver and a full fledged member of Al Qaeda, to his home in Yemen to serve his sentence, undermines every legal, moral and ethical argument espoused by the Bush Administration for using the facility.

Of the 800 people captured, transferred and tortured at Gitmo only a handful were of any actual consequence.  Most have been released and courts have ordered another 200 to be discharged.  George W. Bush publicly called these captives “the worst of the worst.”  They likely will be:  the worst of the worst ghosts of Gitmo.  As they escape the facility due to legal process they will tell the tales of Guantanamo Bay, of how America treated them, desecrated their religious beliefs, and trashed our reputation in the process.

These will be the ghosts of Guantanamo, stories which will be passed among Muslims and foreigners for hundreds of years, stories of America which will foment hatred, revulsion and revenge upon us and our descendants.  The ghosts of Gitmo will haunt our country for generations.

Was it worth it?

The Boscov’s Bailout

I was perusing state campaign finance reports recently and pondered why Ed Rendell was continuing to raise money for his campaign account while saying publicly this is his final two years in public office in Pennsylvania.  State campaign finance accounts can only be used to run for state office.  If, for example, Rendell decided to run for the U.S. Senate he could not use any of these funds.

Why then did Albert Boscov give him $10,000?  Boscov handed the Governor checks of $50,000 and up during Rendell’s re-election effort two years ago.  One of the largest contributors, he received a good return on his investment as Ed came to Reading numerous times with those large ceremonial checks for Boscov developments like the Goggle Works, the Goggleworks Apartments, an Imax theater, and now a new hotel opposite the Sovereign Center.

Now he’s gotten another $35 million in state funds to buy back his department store chain.  The money has come from economic development funds, designed to restart the Berks County economy around the City of Reading.  The store bailout means saving 5,000 Pennsylvania jobs.  That comes to $7,000/per employee.

Will other bankrupt Pennsylvania companies receive similar bailouts while the Commonwealth faces a serious budget shortfall due to the failing economy?  Likely not unless they regularly write five figure checks to Rendell’s campaign fund.

I’m not condemning Rendell or Boscov.  This is the system we have in Pennsylvania and that is the problem.  The current laws which provide no caps on campaign contributions makes pay to play a big league sport in Pennsylvania.  The Governor and the retailer are simply playing by the rules.  Unfortunately these rules corrupt the system and this is but one example.  

Rendell will use the funds to reward or punish those state officials he chooses.  State Representatives and Senators can see opponents well financed through Rendell’s campaign operations if they oppose the Governor.  If they consent to his agenda it is likely they will be rewarded.  This is not good public policy and is not good government.

The new state legislature must address the corruption inherent in state campaign finance laws.  Seeing as each one is dependent on the current system to remain in office this isn’t likely.  I’ve been writing on this issue for two years and gotten nowhere.  Legislators don’t like me because I keep exposing their slush funds and corruption.  Well, someone has to speak truth to power and if they don’t like it too bad.  The Kate Harpers can go to the Capitol Cafe and get their “reform du jour” because I and others will continue exposing the corruption inherent in the system until the people demand change.

Call your Senator and Representative and demand change.

Doom and Gloom

The economic news has been a succession of doom and gloom for weeks.  There doesn’t seem to be any end to news such as massive layoffs (53,000 in one fell swoop last week), more bailouts (another $20B this morning to CitiGroup) and the downward spiral of consumer spending.

Consumer spending, financed by debt through credit cards and home equity lines, is falling fast.  The public has no confidence in the economy and their financial futures and are cutting back severely.  What spending is out there is being done with cash as people begin paying down debt and hoarding cash, natural reactions in such a climate.

The massive job losses have everyone scared about their own jobs.  With four million Americans now collecting unemployment compensation, 500,000+ per month joining their ranks and a very bleak Christmas on the horizon more retailers and manufacturers are likely to go belly up.

So much of economic activity is based on confidence.  When people feel financially secure they spend money.  Once they perceive significant threats to their jobs, homes and retirements they pull back.  This is normal human nature.  Much of the solution lies in restoring that confidence.  This slump is so severe the first concern is simply to halt the downward spiral.

Keynesian economic theory, that used during the Great Depression by FDR, is the classic solution.  This means using federal deficit spending to stimulate the economy.  Barack Obama’s plan will utilize this by spending federal funds on infrastructure and the coming green economic revolution.  He hopes to create 2.5 million new jobs.  To put that into perspective the economy will lose about that same number of jobs THIS YEAR alone.

In other words, if Obama’s plan works it will only replace the jobs already lost this year.  Now remember we need 120,000 new jobs each month for those new people entering the economy (population growth).  Even with the new plan we’re losing huge numbers of jobs.

Republicans are already trying to blame the recession on Obama just as they tried to blame Clinton for the first Bush recession.  It is just as likely the Phillies triggered this by winning the World Series.  The shocking lack of accountability by the GOP is nothing new, of course.

At some point taxpayers cannot continue bailing out huge firms.  The Treasury is, simply put, printing money to finance these rescues.  More money means that already existing is worth less.  The expanding money supply dilutes the value of the currency, already battered by Republican deficits.  Piling more debt on top of the massive debt which precipitated the crisis can only work for a short term.  In fact it may be that a classic Keynesian solution will not work because of the deficits Reagan and the Bush’s already ran up.

The foundation of our economic mess is DEBT.  We have run up trade deficits, federal government deficits and huge consumer debt.  America has run on debt for thirty years and the piper is playing his tune.  The time to pay the piper, as always, has come.  This is going to be painful and may last a long time.  Doom and gloom is going to be our constant companion for some time.

What to do?  First the government must halt the downward spiral.  Then it is a matter of gradually restoring confidence.  Once those with jobs begin feeling secure in those jobs they will begin spending again creating new jobs for those crippled by the slump.  As a family or individual reduce your debt as much and as soon as possible and do everything possible to keep your jobs.

If you are an investor this is a pleasant opportunity.  If you have little or no debt, a secure job and cash set aside for that rainy day this is a golden opportunity to get rich.  Stocks, homes, businesses, everything is available at rock bottom prices.  You get rich investing by buying low and selling high.  Fortunately 95% of investors do the opposite.  They bought stocks while the market crested over 10,000, homes were on the top of that market, and so on.  When the bubble burst and everything tanked they sold.  Bought high and sold low, the classic stupidity which makes people poor.  If you can invest now is the time.  Buy stocks, houses (these people foreclosed on have to live somewhere so buy rental units) and other properly researched investments.

If you do not understand how a company makes money steer clear.  If you don’t understand how an investment works run the opposite direction as fast as possible.  Meanwhile hunker down and survive.  Things will turn around, they always do.  The doom and gloom will, eventually, go away.