McClatchy Newspapers report Helping those who need it: Congress gets a raise Thursday. Members of Congress have given themselves a $4,700-a-year raise starting tomorrow.
With the economy in a recession and millions of Americans losing their jobs, however, members are under fire to rescind the pay hike, which will increase their base salaries to $174,000, roughly a 2.8 percent raise.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California will get a larger raise of about $6,100, though it’s about the same percent increase. Her salary will rise to nearly $223,500. Pelosi’s office declined to comment on the raise…
Critics say that Congress has done nothing to deserve a raise.
And those critics are right.
The Washington Post reports Treasury’s bailout promises now exceed $350 billion Congress has allocated so far.
With the announcement of its $6 billion investment to stabilize GMAC, the Treasury Department has now spent or committed more money than Congress has allocated to its financial rescue program, effectively making more promises than it can afford to keep.
The scorecard: Congress gave Treasury $350 billion; Treasury has allocated $354.4 billion.
The department acknowledges that it needs Congress to approve the second half of the $700 billion rescue package simply to meet its commitments, let alone to address new emergencies. If Congress blocks the additional funding, as some members say they want to do, Treasury could be forced to break promises.
The end of the year marks a recap of news we already know. For instance, the NY Times reports 6 years of market gains were lost in 2008. “It was a very bad year to own stocks, any stocks – indeed, one of the worst ever. The Dow Jones industrial average will end the year down more than 34 percent, the worst year for the index since 1931, and the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index more than 38 percent.”
“All told, about $7 trillion of shareholders’ wealth – the gains of the last six years – will be wiped out in a year marked by violent market swings.”
Another such analysis comes from the LA Times which reports Bush never recovered from response to Katrina, former aides say.
Three years ago, Hurricane Katrina and its chaotic aftermath produced a collage of indelible images. Among them was a photo of President Bush, viewing the devastation from the comfort of Air Force One as he jetted to Washington.
Now, some of Bush’s closest advisors say his administration’s response to the disaster marked a turning point in what has become the most unpopular presidency in modern history. From then on, they say … his tenure entered a downward spiral from which he could never recover.
To read more about the worst presidency in living memory, see Vanity Fair story, “Farewell to All That: An Oral History of the Bush White House“.
December 2008 archive
Dec 31 2008
Dec 31 2008
cross posted from The Dream Antilles
In a predictable and conflicted article, The New York Times, the newspaper of record, noticed that today the Cuban Revolution is celebrating its 50th Anniversary, its Golden Anniversary.
The Times writes in the fourth paragraph of an article focusing on how four bodies, presumably from Cuba but perhaps from elsewhere, washed onto a Florida beach in August and have not yet been identified:
Fifty years ago today, many Cubans cheered when Fidel Castro seized power in Havana, and even now the revolution attracts many fans – as evidenced by the Canadian tour agencies advertising trips “to celebrate five decades of resilience.”
But the bodies [the unidentified ones in the morgues] speak to a different legacy. Here in South Florida, where roughly 850,000 Cubans have settled over the years, repeated waves of painful exile and family separation define the Castro era. The revolution never met their hopeful expectations, the island they love has slipped into decay, and for many, this week’s golden anniversary provides little more than a flashback to traumas, old and new.
What a wonderful setting for remembering the 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. In a morgue. With bodies that might come from the US. That’s what the Times feels that Cuba deserves.
Of course, the senseless half century US blockade and the economic failure of the USSR and a continual US policy of economic destabilization might have something to do with the revolution’s present economic difficulties. But never mind seeing the many causes of Cuba’s complicated isolation and problems. It was “the revolution [that] never met their hopeful expectations…” and, according to the Times, not other factors.
The Times continues:
But for many, the revolution’s 50th anniversary has inspired a period of reflection. Cubans across Florida say they are mourning privately, or trying to forget, and formal commemorations are being kept to a minimum. If Miami in the 1980s was a place of militants, where “Havana vanities come to dust,” as Joan Didion famously wrote, today it is also a home to newer arrivals who ask: Must the pain go on?
A poll released this month by Florida International University shows that 55 percent of Cubans in Florida favor lifting the United States embargo against Cuba, up from 42 percent a year ago. It is the first time a clear majority has held that position since the survey began in 1991.
Even among those who support the 46-year-old embargo, like Senator Mel Martinez, a Republican, continued damage to families has become a more prominent concern.
And while we’re at it, let’s just ignore, in apportioning the causes for “private mourning,” the Bush administration’s severely restricting the amount of money US people can send to their relatives in Cuba and its clinging to a blockade that causes “continued damage” to families separated by the Florida Straits.
Even the Goldfather II had a clearer, more nuanced understanding of the Cuban Revolution.
There are many, many reasons to take serious issue with the Cuban government’s record on human rights and freedom of expression and lack of democracy. I don’t deny that. But it’s a mistake, a tragic mistake to overlook the fact that 50 years ago Cuban Dictator Fulgencio Battista was a US puppet and his nation was ripe for a popular Revolution. He was overthrown by a home grown revolution led by Fidel Castro. And it’s equally a mistake to overlook that for half a century a mere 90 miles away from Florida, Castro and his government, who nationalized and seized many foreign owned properties, have weathered exploding cigars, the Bay of Pigs, assassination attempts, destablization, fly overs, threats, a blockade, isolation, and persistent attempts to overthrow him from the most powerful nation on earth.
Credit where credit is due.
Nobody could have predicted 50 years ago that in 2008 Cuba would celebrate the Golden Anniversary of its Revolution in continued isolation. And nobody could have predicted that the US’s policy would be such a gigantic failure.
Dec 31 2008
… go to http://www.change.org/ideas/br… , go to the “browse ideas by cause” box, and scroll down to “education” … anyway, I can’t quite figure out why the top three ideas are getting the votes they’re getting.
At any rate, I would like to recommend a vote for the proposal currently in 5th place — “Replace No Child Left Behind With a Strong Education Policy.”
UPDATE: we need 278 more votes…
UPDATE #2: Ballot closed, we lost. Go team Esperanto!
Dec 31 2008
Well………it hasn’t been a boring year has it? Plenty of excitement and change, almost too much for us to really take in. Maybe the upcoming year will provide a peaceful respite, full of harmony and goodwill throughout the world. But I doubt it!
We have a loooong way to go before we can hope for any peace. The changes that the worldtrack that we are on currently will demand much of the world, and of us. And even that busy worldtrack will still not provide all of the changes needed to propel us onto a new one that has a more satisfactory, let alone desirable one. Iow, BIG changes are coming. Some of them quiet, some of them likely quite loud. Uusally, the pattern of the coming year is fairly obvious. It certainly has ben under Bush. Each year brought more brutality, more death, and more justification and rationalization as to why those were actually good things, not crimes against humanity.
We are undoubtedly entering a new era, and the possibilities and problems are lined up as far as the eye can see. And those are just the ones we CAN see. The only thing I can confidently predict is that this next year will be completely unpredictable. Well, I can predict one thing. Those invested in the status quo will try to defend it, and try to pretend that we are not in the middle of huge, worldtrack changing upheaval and a new paradigm. As usual, their comforting denial of reality will only exacerbate every problem as The Powers That Be do ONLY what they think will keep them in power, what is to their own advantage and the rest of the world be damned.
On the other side of the ledger will be growing unrest as folks who are not rich and who don’t have power are deeply and permanently changed by the changing times. Worldwide, the middle classes and lower classes will increasingly discover that noblesse oblige is a mostly dead concept. They will begin to learn That they can only count on each other, not their leaders and not the Ruling Class.
That change, and the sure to be ‘exciting’ and ‘interesting’ events that will occur over the next solar cycle, as the current paradigm erodes and a new one evolves, will shape a new worldtrack, a new consensus reality.
And as always, we will have individual control over only three things. Our individual attention, intention, and perhaps most important for these times, our own individual reactions and responses.
Something is coming, a new world is just starting to be born, with the return of the sun. No one can say what shape it will take, so I have only one piece of advice…..Hold onto your hats!
Thanks for this last year and all of your work in creating The Greatest Good for All Concerned. Have a happy and blessed new year, free of fear of the change to come, (why fear what you can’t control?) and ready to respond, always, in ways that will bring more love into the world and raise the vibration of this poor little planet!
Dec 31 2008
If you wish to repost this essay you can download a .txt file of the html here (right click and save). Permission granted.
One of the big changes in my thinking over the last couple of years has been to begin to see the depths to which US exceptionalism has been embedded in most of our thinking in this country. I owe that awareness to several people who have helped me get a glimpse of my own exceptionalist thinking. But no one more than a dear soul whose blogging name was Ductapefatwa. Most of us who blogged with him think he has moved on from this world as we know it. But thanks to the internet, alot of his writing remains. I wouldn’t advise clicking through that link if you’re faint-hearted about reading someone who is sure to both make you laugh and trip a certain amount of rage.
Ductapefatwa had a way of communicating that got under your skin. It made you uncomfortable. And many people disliked (some even hated) him for that. I know that’s how I felt initially. And then I began to sit back and listen. It changed me. That happened mostly because he had a knack for showing us what we, US citizens, look like from the viewpoint of the people we condemn, invade, torture, etc. And its not a pretty sight. You see, we can blame Bushco all we want…and they do need to be held accountable. But what Ductapefatwa did so well is show us that its not just Bushco – this kind of thing has been going on for a very long time – and if we are ever going to really stop it, we are going to have to grapple with our own understanding of ourselves as a people and as a nation.
Dec 31 2008
Michael Scheuer has an interesting series of articles at the Asian Times from the The Jamestown Foundation. A window in the coming Blowback, that has already reared it’s ugly head in many places and is stoked by throwing intense flames onto the already started fire?
The latest report is called MUJAHIDEEN BLEED-THROUGH, Part 4 with a subtitle “Palestine and Israel: The ring of terror tightens”
Dec 31 2008
Have you ever crushed someone’s spirit? Ever demolished someone’s confidence? Destroyed their self-worth so completely that they’re reduced to a trembling puddle of shame? I hadn’t-not until the day I drove Frankie back home to her parents for the very last time, that is. It was protracted and hideous and awful and extremely overdue, not to mention completely deserved.
Or so I thought at the time-because if there’s one thing I absolutely cannot fucking stand, it’s being the butt of inside jokes, the victim of compound, orchestrated fabrications so malicious and venal that they simply demand to be answered tit for tat, lie for lie, nuke for nuke. Mutually assured destruction.
Dec 31 2008
Muse in the Morning
Dec 31 2008
The Morning News is an Open Thread
|From Yahoo News Top Stories|
1 Warren’s inauguration prayer could draw more ire
By RACHEL ZOLL, AP Religion Writer
26 mins ago
|President-elect Barack Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural invocation drew one kind of protest. Whether the evangelical pastor offers the prayer in the name of Jesus may draw another. At George W. Bush’s 2001 swearing-in, the Revs. Franklin Graham and Kirbyjon Caldwell were criticized for invoking Christ. The distinctly Christian reference at a national civic event offended some, and even prompted a lawsuit.
Warren did not answer directly when asked whether he would dedicate his prayer to Jesus. In a statement Tuesday to The Associated Press, Warren would say only that, “I’m a Christian pastor so I will pray the only kind of prayer I know how to pray.”
“Prayers are not to be sermons, speeches, position statements nor political posturing. They are humble, personal appeals to God,” Warren wrote. His spokesman would not elaborate.