Wednesday, October 29, 2008

VOTE, then Get Out the Vote!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Mission Accomplished!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

(W)orst ever? Maybe not!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Choice? or Forced?

"Governor Palin....I should have a choice about this"

posted by MissLaura on Daily Kos, Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 09:20:10 AM PDT
This ad ran once on MSNBC (on the cable system in Washington DC) immediately after the debate. No one else saw it. It deserves broader attention.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Talk to your parents about using McCain

Saturday, October 11, 2008


the choice is yours...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Vote No on Hate

in the Golden State

On Nov. 4, Vote No on Hate, Vote No on 8 in California

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Chicago Sheriff Will No Longer Evict

Chicago Sheriff Tom Dart:

"I will stop enforcing evictions!"

By Azam Ahmed & Ofelia Casillas, Chicago Tribune reporters, October 9, 2008

As the nationwide mortgage crisis puts the squeeze on homeowners, the Cook County sheriff's office is on pace to evict more people than ever from foreclosed homes. At least it was until Wednesday, when Sheriff Tom Dart announced he wouldn't do it anymore.

Dart cited the growing number of evictions that involve rent-paying tenants who suddenly learn their building is in foreclosure because the landlord neglected to pay the mortgage. By refusing to do any foreclosure-related evictions, the hope is that banks will change their policies. As it happens, the decision also will spare from eviction those legitimately in foreclosure.

It is the latest, and perhaps most curious, government response to the soaring number of foreclosures. Even as federal bailouts and rescues are under way, the local action provoked a mixture of respect and confusion from housing advocates and banks. Indeed, some mortgage experts suggested Dart's vow could compound problems by making lenders reluctant to extend credit at a time when loans are already hard to get.

In Cook County, foreclosures are expected to reach a record high of 43,000 this year, compared with 18,916 in 2006. The sheriff's office is on pace to conduct 4,500 foreclosure-related evictions, compared with less than half that number in 2006. About one-third of those are rent-paying individuals.

Katrina McMullin, 34, was paying her rent on time, but that didn't stop a deputy from coming to her Northwest Side door with a notice of eviction. She had received no notice from her landlord.
"How dare they take my rent and still evict me?" said McMullin, who is staying in the apartment after hiring a lawyer. "It wasn't fair."

Then there are the homeowners on the brink, including Rossana Trujillo. She has been in negotiations with the bank to come up with a means to pay down her $340,000 debt without losing her home, the first for her husband and three children. She's not hopeful.
"Our home, we are going to lose it," she said. "Paying the mortgage, there was not enough money for gas or for food."

And although the sheriff's move may spare her in the near term, ultimately it will not keep her from facing foreclosure.

Dart acknowledged he is at risk of violating court orders to evict and could be found in contempt. But he says he also is responsible for making sure justice is being done. "We will no longer be a party to something that's so unjust," he said.

Dart planned to meet with judges Thursday. Cook County Circuit Chief Judge Timothy Evans could not be reached for comment.

The move relates to evictions based on mortgage foreclosures, not those involving violations of rental agreements. Still, most officials in surrounding counties, also struggling with unprecedented levels of foreclosures, found the move beyond the scope of a sheriff.In Will County, Sheriff Paul Kaupas was apprehensive about halting evictions and suggested the courts should suspend eviction orders.

Pat Barry, spokesman for Kaupas, said, "If we disregard the law, what kind of message are we sending?"

Kane County Sheriff Patrick Perez said he understood Dart's motivation, having worked in the civil division dealing with evictions.
"I saw more misery in those two years than I did in the 14 or 15 years of criminal law enforcement before it," he said.

Some commended Dart's move as a way to slow things down and allow for a more clearly defined process.
"There a lot of things going on that are not proper procedure, and the Sheriff's Department has been caught in the middle," said Kathy Clark, executive director of the Lawyer's Committee for Better Housing.

The sheriff's complaint stems from the extra work his office does on behalf of lenders. Dart says he is tired of his deputies showing up at homes for an eviction and finding tenants who are not on the mortgage. Taxpayers foot the bill for that work. Dart said he will resume foreclosure-related evictions when lenders agree to do their own due diligence in figuring out who is living in foreclosed properties.

But the bold step could make matters worse for aspiring homeowners and the market, some experts say.

"It would have a significant impact because obviously lenders would be hesitant to lend if they knew that if someone defaulted they wouldn't be able to take the property back," said Frank Binetti, vice president of the Illinois Mortgage Bankers Association. "It would create higher risks for lenders and they would have to price that into the loans, if they even chose to lend in Cook County. "The only thing you have as a lender is the collateral, and if you aren't able to retrieve the collateral, why are you even lending in the first place?"

Tribune reporters Mary Owen, Liam Ford, Lisa Black and freelance reporter Cliff Ward contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2008, Chicago Tribune

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Screwing Terrorists

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

It's Class War Time!

Borrowed from the New York Times, originally published November 26, 2006

Guess Which Class Is Winning?
By Ben Stein

NOT long ago, I (Ben Stein) had the pleasure of a lengthy meeting with one of the smartest men on the planet, Warren E. Buffett, the chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, in his unpretentious offices in Omaha. We talked of many things that, I hope, will inspire me for years to come. But one of the main subjects was taxes. Mr. Buffett, who probably does not feel sick when he sees his MasterCard bill in his mailbox the way I do, is at least as exercised about the tax system as I am.

Put simply, the rich pay a lot of taxes as a total percentage of taxes collected, but they don’t pay a lot of taxes as a percentage of what they can afford to pay, or as a percentage of what the government needs to close the deficit gap.

Mr. Buffett compiled a data sheet of the men and women who work in his office. He had each of them make a fraction; the numerator was how much they paid in federal income tax and in payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, and the denominator was their taxable income. The people in his office were mostly secretaries and clerks, though not all.

It turned out that Mr. Buffett, with immense income from dividends and capital gains, paid far, far less as a fraction of his income than the secretaries or the clerks or anyone else in his office. Further, in conversation it came up that Mr. Buffett doesn’t use any tax planning at all. He just pays as the Internal Revenue Code requires. “How can this be fair?” he asked of how little he pays relative to his employees. “How can this be right?”

Even though I agreed with him, I warned that whenever someone tried to raise the issue, he or she was accused of fomenting class warfare.

“There’s class warfare, all right,” Mr. Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

This conversation keeps coming back to mind because, in the last couple of weeks, I have been on one television panel after another, talking about how questionable it is that the country is enjoying what economists call full employment while we are still running a federal budget deficit of roughly $434 billion for fiscal 2006 (not counting off-budget items like Social Security) and economists forecast that it will grow to $567 billion in fiscal 2010.

When I mentioned on these panels that we should consider all options for closing this gap — including raising taxes, particularly for the wealthiest people — I was met with several arguments by people who call themselves conservatives and free marketers.

One argument was that the mere suggestion constituted class warfare. I think Mr. Buffett answered that one.

Another argument was that raising taxes actually lowers total revenue, and that only cutting taxes stimulates federal revenue. This is supposedly proved by the history of tax receipts since my friend George W. Bush became president.

In fact, the federal government collected roughly $1.004 trillion in income taxes from individuals in fiscal 2000, the last full year of President Bill Clinton’s merry rule. It fell to a low of $794 billion in 2003 after Mr. Bush’s tax cuts (but not, you understand, because of them, his supporters like to say). Only by the end of fiscal 2006 did income tax revenue surpass the $1 trillion level again.

By this time, we Republicans had added a mere $2.7 trillion to the national debt. So much for tax cuts adding to revenue. To be fair, corporate profits taxes have increased greatly, as corporate profits have increased stupendously. This may be because of the cut in corporate tax rates. Anything is possible.

The third argument that kind, well-meaning people made in response to the idea of rolling back the tax cuts was this: “Don’t raise taxes. Cut spending.”

The sad fact is that spending rises every year, no matter what people want or say they want. Every president and every member of Congress promises to cut “needless” spending. But spending has risen every year since 1940 except for a few years after World War II and a brief period after the Korean War.

The imperatives for spending are built into the system, and now, with entitlements expanding rapidly, increased spending is locked in. Medicare, Social Security, interest on the debt — all are growing like mad, and how they will ever be stopped or slowed is beyond imagining. Gross interest on Treasury debt is approaching $350 billion a year. And none of this counts major deferred maintenance for the military.

The fourth argument in response to my suggestion was that “deficits don’t matter.”

There is something to this. One would think that big deficits would be highly inflationary, according to Keynesian economics. But we have modest inflation (except in New York City, where a martini at a good bar is now $22). On the other hand, we have all that interest to pay, soon roughly $7 billion a week, a lot of it to overseas owners of our debt. This, to me, seems to matter.

Besides, if it doesn’t matter, why bother to even discuss balancing the budget? Why have taxes at all? Why not just print money the way Weimar Germany did? Why not abolish taxes and add trillions to the deficit each year? Why don’t we all just drop acid, turn on, tune in and drop out of responsibility in the fiscal area? If deficits don’t matter, why not spend as much as we want, on anything we want?

The final argument is the one I really love. People ask how I can be a conservative and still want higher taxes. It makes my head spin, and I guess it shows how old I am. But I thought that conservatives were supposed to like balanced budgets. I thought it was the conservative position to not leave heavy indebtedness to our grandchildren. I thought it was the conservative view that there should be some balance between income and outflow. When did this change?

Oh, now, now, now I recall. It changed when we figured that we could cut taxes and generate so much revenue that we would balance the budget. But isn’t that what doctors call magical thinking? Haven’t the facts proved that this theory, though charming and beguiling, was wrong?

THIS brings me back to Mr. Buffett. If, in fact, it’s all just a giveaway to the rich masquerading as a new way of stimulating the economy and balancing the budget, please, Mr. Bush, let’s rethink it. I don’t like paying $7 billion a week in interest on the debt. I don’t like the idea that Mr. Buffett pays a lot less in tax as a percentage of his income than my housekeeper does or than I do.

Can we really say that we’re showing fiscal prudence? Are we doing our best? If not, why not? I don’t want class warfare from any direction, through the tax system or any other way.

Ben Stein is a lawyer, writer, actor and economist. E-mail: