Archive for the ‘waste’ Category

One thing that’s been firmly established about Dick Cheney is that he’s a liar.  Another is a that he’s a coward.  He’s a lying coward who’s more than willing to sacrifice other men and women to serve his worthless causes, but lacks the courage to put his own sorry ass on the line for them.  So when this little nugget came up on Faux News’ “On the Record” with Greta Van Sycophant, I had to wonder if someone had accidentally slipped truth serum in his daily serving of human blood:

“On the question of whether or not Iraq was involved in 9-11, there was never any evidence to prove that,” he told the “On The Record” host in a joint interview with his daughter Liz. “There was “some reporting early on … but that was never borne out,” Cheney said.

This brief bout with, erm… reality?  Conscience?  Truth? … didn’t stop him from throwing his former puppet boss under the bus, however:

“George … did say and did testify that there was an ongoing relationship between al-Qaeda and Iraq, but no proof that Iraq was involved in 9-11.”

Interesting.  The Dark Lord of the Sith seems to be realizing that he won’t get away with it forever.  Next he’ll be telling us that KSM and others were waterboarded at Gitmo in order to create a false link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda.

As if we didn’t already know that.

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Just when you thought the misguided, ill-conceived, bastard policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” couldn’t get any stupider, we have this:

Lieutenant Colonel Victor J. Fehrenbach, a fighter weapons systems officer, has been flying the F-15E Strike Eagle since 1998. He has flown numerous missions against Taliban and al-Qaida targets, including the longest combat mission in his squadron’s history. On that infamous September 11, 2001, Lt. Col. Fehrenbach was handpicked to fly sorties above the nation’s capital. Later he flew combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has received at least 30 awards and decorations including nine air medals, one of them for heroism, as well as campaign medals for Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He is now a flight instructor in Idaho, where he has passed on his skills to more than 300 future Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force weapons systems officers.

Since 1987, when Fehrenbach entered Notre Dame on a full Air Force ROTC scholarship, the government has invested twenty-five million dollars in training and equipping him to serve his country, which he has done with what anyone would agree was great distinction. He comes from a military family. His father was a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, his mother an Air Force nurse and captain. Lt. Col. Fehrenbach has honored that tradition.

Now, I know you’d think the Air Force would want to keep this guy for the rest of his natural life.  He’s the poster child for military heroism, honor, duty and integrity.  But no; the military has been taken over at the highest levels by proselytes and religious fanatics who think that homosexuality is just too darn evil to be tolerated, even if the soldier, sailor, airman or marine exhibiting such sexuality has served honorably and bravely for nearly 20 years.

No, that sort of thing has no place in America’s military.  We just serve and protect the country, we don’t accurately represent it.

Folks, this is stupid.  There is no logical reason to discharge this man, nor was there any reason to discharge Lieutenant Choi last month.  Lt. Choi, you will recall, was until recently an Arabic linguist whose horrible crime against decency and public order was, well, being gay.  Again, a highly trained soldier filling a role in a critical field was kicked out for nothing more serious than violating 19th century standards of conduct.  You’d think the Army would want to keep as many Arabic linguists as possible.  Apparently ideology trumps operational needs.

This is madness, and it must stop.  Unfortunately, the one man who now has the power to make it stop, has shown little inclination to do so.  I’m talking about President Barack “Yes we can, but we probably won’t” Obama.  His latest solution to the problem appears to be to ignore it for now.

Maybe changing the law isn’t possible at the moment.  He can still issue an Executive Order directing the service chiefs to stop implementing it, in light of the critical need for specialist personnel.  Whatever.  He really needs to grow a pair and end this fiasco once and for all.

For his part, LtCol Fehrenbach has made his case tonight, live on the Rachel Maddow show.  Watch it on MSNBC.

 

This video is a must-see for anyone who wishes to understand the truth behind our present economic disaster and why Republicans should never, EVER again be trusted to control the country’s wealth.  They ran us into the ground many times before, and they’ll do it again.

So you see, the disaster visited upon us by Bush & Co isn’t an aberration.  It’s a logical result of a failed ideology.

Anyone who thinks this recession is going to be over by year’s end just isn’t paying attention.  If you think housing is about to rebound, you’re delusional.  The latest casualties of the housing bubble is just now starting to rear their ugly heads.  Check out these stories from Reuters:

U.S. property bust threatens condo “death spiral”

MIAMI (Reuters) – Rust pokes through the peeling paint on the railings, pest control has been curtailed and the palm trees are no longer being fertilized at the 1940s-era Miami Modern condominium building in Miami Beach.

The condo association has been forced to cut expenses because the owners of 11 of the 28 apartments in the modest two-story building are delinquent, victims of a mammoth U.S. real estate collapse that has hit Florida especially hard.

With so many cash-strapped owners failing to pay their monthly fees for upkeep, the condo board last year had to raise $40,000 with a special levy to fill a giant hole in the $80,000 annual budget, but only managed to collect $19,000 from the owners who are still able to pay their bills.

Florida’s condominium and homeowners’ associations are facing what experts call a trickle-down disaster from the property crisis. Dozens and perhaps hundreds of condo buildings have budget shortfalls as thousands of owners, under water on their mortgages or in foreclosure, stop paying monthly fees.

“I call it a death spiral,” Miami Beach city commissioner Jerry Libbin said. “It’s a catastrophe in the making.” …

and the New York Times:

Banks Starting to Walk Away on Foreclosures

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Mercy James thought she had lost her rental property here to foreclosure. A date for a sheriff’s sale had been set, and notices about the foreclosure process were piling up in her mailbox.

Ms. James had the tenants move out, and soon her white house at the corner of Thomas and Maple Streets fell into the hands of looters and vandals, and then, into disrepair. Dejected and broke, Ms. James said she salvaged but a lesson from her loss.

So imagine her surprise when the City of South Bend contacted her recently, demanding that she resume maintenance on the property. The sheriff’s sale had been canceled at the last minute, leaving the property title — and a world of trouble — in her name.

“I thought, ‘What kind of game is this?’ ” Ms. James, 41, said while picking at trash at the house, now so worthless the city plans to demolish it — another bill for which she will be liable.

City officials and housing advocates here and in cities as varied as Buffalo, Kansas City, Mo., and Jacksonville, Fla., say they are seeing an unsettling development: Banks are quietly declining to take possession of properties at the end of the foreclosure process, most often because the cost of the ordeal — from legal fees to maintenance — exceeds the diminishing value of the real estate. …

So, on the one hand, owners suddenly finding themselves unable to pay the bills, abandon their condominiums in favor of feeding their families.  On the other hand, banks refuse to take possession of houses they officially own because it’s not financially viable to do so.  In both cases, the city affected is left with a run-down, unoccupied building that’s a magnet for crime, rats and other vermin.

I’d like to say “good riddance” to the condominiums, but there really isn’t a silver lining in this.  Florida’s coastline is covered with these hideous, environment-destroying monstrosities, and I really doubt any of them are going to be torn down any time soon.  Imagine our nation’s most beautiful coastlines dotted with thousands of derelict high-rise buildings, crumbling to ruin and empty but for the garbage and detritus of human existence, monuments to human greed and selfishness.

Now consider the other side of it, millions of foreclosed houses abandoned by owners and banks, falling to ruin and vandalism.  Monuments to a failed philosophy of an “ownership society” and the lie that “real estate always goes up”.

This is the future we’ve created.  Welcome to it.

In my never-to-be humble opinion, anyone who uses the phrase “second home” without referring to the one they just sold and moved away from should be covered in molasses and staked out on an anthill.  There’s no such thing as a “second home” because no one, repeat, NO ONE, has more than one home.  You may own more than one property, or possess an extra residence or two (or seven, if you’re a McCain), but calling any of the additional buildings “homes” is an outrage.

I especially hate the legions of so-called “second home owners”, wealthy Long Islanders and Manhattanites who flock north on the weekends to visit communities about which they know nothing and care less, except when said communities try and install things like wind turbines and cell phone towers on their own land.

If you live in upstate New York, especially in the Catskill region, you’re probably already familiar with these people.  Every weekend or so they migrate north, hordes of mostly white, upper middle class, SUV-driving assholes with their obnoxious accents, arrogant attitudes and insufferable little brats in tow.  Some even have weekend businesses that they pretend to operate (to varying degrees of competence) while they’re here.

They’re the reason house prices in the Catskill region are currently running at 50 to 100% above affordability.  These people started noticing the “cheap” real estate up here about 30 years ago and started buying up land and houses left and right, whether they needed them or not.  Today an area with a median family income of $34,000 has median house prices still hovering near $180,000.  That’s six times the average salary, or about twice the recommended affordability index (2.5x annual income).

And the faux-liberal New York Times has now treated us to this – an article printed yesterday all about how to keep your bored brat from trashing the back seat of your Hummer on the trip to your so-called “second home”.  Read on:

IT’S the weekend routine. Almost every Friday everyone piles into the car for the trip to the weekend house. You and your spouse or partner alternate between private thoughts, casual conversation and listening to a favorite song that has popped up on the radio.

Every 15 minutes or so your attention may turn to the back seat, and for the umpteenth time you command a smaller version of yourself to stop kicking the back of your seat. Or you deal with, again, one of childkind’s eternal questions: “How much longer?”

The drive is never going to be the best part of second-home ownership, but it doesn’t have to be two lost hours going and two lost hours returning. And, for the back-seat crowd, it doesn’t have to be endlessly boring.

The poor dears.  Their lives are so hard, spending endless hours traveling to their parents’ “weekend retreat”.  I’m sure those of you who are having trouble paying the mortgage on your first home, or perhaps wondering where next month’s rent money is going to come from, can sympathize.  The horror of it all!

It gets better.  Apparently one enterprising extra-dwelling owner (I don’t call them “second homes”, there’s no such thing) was so concerned for her children’s mental health on these long trips that she decided to start a business catering to assuaging the consciences of wealthy Citiots while simultaneously massaging their inflated egos and squeezing their wallets.  Among the more ridiculous items available at Madallie.com are:

  • the “Cuppa Knitting to Go” kit, which includes a ball of yarn and some knitting needles in a convenient cup-holder sized container.  A perfectly reasonable $21.95 for items that might cost you about six clams at Wal-Mart or Target.
  • the “15 Puzzle”, an upscale version of the dime-store square puzzle things that have 15 sliding blocks in a plastic square.  At just $11.95, this will run you just about ten times what you’d normally pay for similar items.  But of course, if you’ve got the money for a house on the Island and another in the Catskills that you don’t fucking need, paying 12 bucks for a 50 cent toy shouldn’t faze you.  In fact, you probably deserve to be taken for a ride.
  • Travel Bingo, for $11.95.  This may actually be fairly priced, since updated travel bingo games can be hard to find.  Though I’m pretty sure my parents picked ours up at a yard sale for 25 cents each.  I never could spot that darn traffic cop…

And so on.  The article goes on to recommend other diversions such as listening to e-books or instructional CDs, or playing 20 questions with the kiddies.

Here’s a thought.  Maybe instead of imposing their odious presence on the actual residents of the Upstate counties, they could stay home for the weekend instead.  Or instead of buying real estate they don’t need and shouldn’t have, upscale downstaters could be resonsible citizens and stay in a hotel on the weekends.  If they did that instead, maybe housing prices in the Catskill region will drop to affordable levels and we all can own an adequate house, instead of home ownership being a privilege reserved for the wealthy few.  It would also stimulate the economies of the communities the hotels serve, by providing jobs and supporting local businesses.

It might also make us feel better about being invaded every weekend by Citiots.

Okay, in the past two years foreclosures have been at record levels, and people are losing their homes in droves.  In January of 2008, foreclosures were up 57% over the previous year, and the crisis shows no sign of slowing down.  Our usual responses to crisis have had no effect, but then, throwing money at a problem rarely solves it.  You need a plan first.

So, with more and more families facing foreclosure and homelessness this year, and housing prices continuing their downward spiral, what can be done to stem the housing crash and “save” the housing market?

I believe I have the answer.  Are you ready?  Four little words.  Just four.  Here they are:

Not a damn thing.

That’s right.  There is nothing that can be done to “save” the housing market, because any and all efforts we make today to “stabilize” prices are predicated on the ridiculous notion that current home prices are actually realistic.  They aren’t.  The fact is, in most markets around the country are still at least 50% over-inflated as a result of five or more years of “irrational exuberance.”  Please forgive the use of Alan Greenspan’s terminology.

Take Arizona, for example.  In 2004 I secured a mortgage of $142,900 for a 1400 square foot house, a little over $100 per s.f.  It seemed unreasonable then, since only four months prior, similar houses in the same neighborhood had been listed for around $125,000.  That’s a 15% increase in just four months.  Take it out a year and you get a 45% rise in prices in a year.

That’s almost what happened.  We lived in that house for almost three years before selling it.  In mid-2005 we thought about selling and were told we could get $225,000 for it if we’d done it then.  That works out to a nearly 60% rise in perceived value in a little over a year.  The silly thing is, we hadn’t actually done anything major to it in that time.  Just carpeting and a new sliding patio door.

At the same time, the average income in Tucson rose less than 5%.  You do the math and see if it makes any sense.  To me, that makes it a 55% disparity between income and housing costs.  And the truth is, housing prices in Tucson were already, on average, 10% higher than the average income could afford.

Ridiculous.

So there you go.  There’s not a fucking thing the government or anyone else can do to “stabilize” the housing market, because it’s been unrealistically hyperinflated for at least ten years.  The fall it’s experiencing right now is only the beginning of a long and painful decline, and any attempts to stop it will fail.  Like the stock market, there’s a long way to go before it hits bottom.

Am I being alarmist?  Am I being cynical?  Am I being unrealistic?  I think not.  If you start from the assumption that the affordable home price for a typical family is about 2 to 2.5 times their annual income, then in a place like Tucson, where average income is between $45 and $50,000, then the average home should cost $90 to $125,000.  So basically, Tucson has nearly stabilized.  Last I checked, starter prices there were in the $100 to $160,000 range.  Of course, unemployment is also at record highs, so…

But, if you look at, say, Delaware County in New York, where the average income is $32 to $36,000 and houses are still being listed for $200,000 and up, the decline hasn’t even started yet. Of course, Delaware County has its own set of problems, mainly inflicted upon it by New York City.  But the point remains the same.  The average family simply can’t afford to buy a house there.  Prices are outrageous.

And that’s not even the beginning of it.  Look around your own city, town, village or state.  I’m sure you can find examples of what I’m talking about.  Do the research yourself.  It’s not that hard to find.

You just have to be willing to look, and accept the truth.

Following is a letter I wrote but did not send to my local paper, in response to a front-page article this week.
Sir,
Re. the January 6th article, “Towns lose watershed suit“, it comes as no surprise that a court based in Manhattan would rule against the rights of upstate citizens and communities.Under an EPA mandate waived last year, New York City would have had to install filtration systems and desalination plants, both of which would have reduced its dependency on Upstate New York for water and lessened the burden imposed on less wealthy communities in the Catskills. Instead of taking responsibility for its own water supply, the City succeeded in convincing a federal court that such measures would be too “costly” and was granted a ten-year waiver, in effect being given a license to pillage and plunder the poor for another decade. And at the end of this extension, I’m sure we can expect more of the same.

Interestingly, a search of the state’s premier newspaper, the New York Times, turns up not a single word written about this latest development. In fact, it’s very difficult to find any ink or bits devoted to covering Catskill Watershed issues between the pages of the Times. It’s very easy, however, to find articles about where to find “second homes”, “weekend retreats” and other “inexpensive” real estate. In other words, the City only really cares about upstate New York when it’s to their benefit to do so. Otherwise, they turn a blind eye to the damage they cause to the local communities by their insatiable desire for land.

New York City has been allowed to get away with treating the rest of the state as its feudal fiefdom for far too long. It’s time it started acting like a good neighbor instead of the greedy, grasping, overweening, bloodsucking parasite it’s been.

Why did I not send it?  Well, as it happens, the editor beat me to it.  The lead editorial was almost as scathing, but without the direct insults:

Surprise! NYC wins yet again

It’s not a surprise that a David lost another battle against a Goliath when Delaware watershed towns lost their legal battle to stop New York City’s exemption from filtering its water until at least 2017.

The towns of Hamden, Roxbury and Hunter had joined the Coalition of Watershed Towns in a suit against the federal Environmental Protection Agency over the Filtration Avoidance Determination waiver issued in 2007.

The 10-year waiver allows New York City to use water from the Catskill/Delaware system, which includes reservoirs at Cannonsville and Pepacton, provided it continues to take steps to ensure the quality of the water.

The fact that the city doesn’t have to spend $10 billion to build a filtration plant is the root of most of the animosity felt by leaders and residents of watershed towns in the Catskills and Delaware County.

That’s because the only way the EPA would issue filtration waivers to NYC is if the feds are sure that the water will be clean and drinkable anyway. And to achieve that certainty, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection is granted the authority to control most of the lands in the watershed. (click the link to read the rest)

New York City is nothing but a fat, bloated parasite leeching off its upstate neighbors.  I fucking hate the place.  New York would be much better off if the state would cut itself loose from the manacles of its feudal lords to the south.

Maybe if we started charging NYC use-taxes for the water and land it takes, the city leaders might think twice about what they’re doing.