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 Ok, folks, in recent days I’ve come across a plethora of bad information about the economy and we need to get real about this issue.  Seriously, our government would have you believe you have nothing to worry about.  Even in the face of brutal statistics they are just now admitting a recession MIGHT be on its way and their brilliant plan to avoid this ‘minor inconvenience’ is to dump $150 billion into the pockets of American consumers.  This is nothing more than a public relations stunt to distract hardworking Americans from the realities of our economic situation in order to manipulate votes.   
In case you’re not familiar with the details, yesterday afternoon, our leadership announced an economic stimulus package that would give most tax filers refunds of $600 for individuals and $1200 for couples plus $300 for children. The tax rebates are capped at an income level of $75,000 for an individual and $150,000 for a family. There will be $50 billion in business tax cuts – businesses could immediately write off 50% of purchases of plants and other capital equipment. To deal with the mortgage situation, the package also raises the limits on mortgages that Fannie and Freddie can purchase to as high as $725,000 from the current $417,000. 
First, before we even get into the ridiculousness of the stimulus plan, let’s establish that the situation is far worse than anything you see on primetime news or read in a Yahoo headline.  There isn’t just one factor at play here, but we’ll start with one of the biggies.  Home prices are down in 85% of the country in the past year and in all 20 major cities in the past three months. On average, they are down nearly 7% over the past year (the whole amount they fell from 1989 to 1992). There are over 1 million excess residential housing units vacant for sale across the country that is putting relentless downward pressure on home prices.  As of today, there is a 9.6 month supply (real estate inventory) of unsold properties on the market.   
This is HUGE.   This is the most broad and pronounced deflation in residential real estate since the 1930s-40s. Prior episodes of housing deflation (and this is much worse) – 1970, 1974-75, 1980-82, 1990-91 – have ALWAYS led to consumer recessions.  Housing is not JUST 5% of GDP. It is a $23 trillion asset class backed by $10 trillion of mortgage debt; nothing on the planet is as big as that. It is almost 40% of household net worth and the collateral backbone in the financial system. Looking at the current demand-supply gap, it is likely that another 20- 30% slide is still to come. That alone, through the effect on household wealth and spending, would trim real GDP growth by an estimated 1.5% this year and next. 
But then there’s the credit fiasco.  Right now, Americans are collectively carrying over $50 trillion in debt.  Approximately $2 trillion of debt in the private sector was created in the past six years over and above what would have been consistent with “GDP” growth.   Our government has racked up a $9.1 trillion debt, 25% of which is owned by foreign governments.  Did you HEAR that?  Foreign government own ¼ of our debt and that number is growing every day.  Additionally, the total US debt will likely rise to $59.1 trillion in order to keep Medicaid, Social Security from going bust.  In 2006 alone,  your government spent $406 million (of your money) in INTEREST to carry this debt.  This debt is NOT backed by some REAL collateral (like gold) that we could just cash in to clear our name.  In 1971, our government abandoned the Gold Standard and turned the dollar into a currency where they could print as much as they desired at a stiff price to the American consumer in the form of inflation.  In the 10 year period between 1995 and 2005, the REAL VALUE of a US dollar plummeted 50%.  You may have noticed that what you could buy with a dollar in 1995, now takes two dollars.  This is partly due to the poor spending habits of our leadership, as we’ve run in the RED for seven years since the record Clinton surplus of 2000.  Just for comparison, the total debt of ALL third world countries is estimated around $1.3 trillion.   
The corporate puppets have been pointing to the GNP and low unemployment to distract us from truth, but employment conditions are now starting to deteriorate. In December, private sector payrolls fell for the first time since the 2003 jobless recovery and the unemployment rate, while still “low”, is starting to rise in a visible manner and at 5% is considerably higher than the 4.4% rate it was at last March.  I don’t have time to get into the specifics about the GNP and how it does not accurately represent the economic conditions in this country, but regardless, even our precious GNP has taken a hit in recent weeks.   
And this economic problem is not limited to our borders.  There is no denying that we ARE a global economy and we are dependent on each other to make this work.  World markets are increasingly unstable and showing signs of collapse.  Japan is flat on its back; the UK looks to be in disarray; we are seeing weakening economic data out of the rest of Europe (negative industrial production in 4Q for the first time since 2001?) and a rigid central bank there (and Spain is really hurting right now as its housing bubble unwinds in spectacular fashion); Canada just printed its first employment decline in four years. 
So, that being said… don’t put your faith in our leadership to turn this ship around.  It is no accident that we’ve come to this predicament.  Our government has been selling us out for years.  A $150 billion stimulus package is like throwing pebbles at a tank.  Literally, that’s only two-tenths of 1% of our $17 trillion dollar economy.  And the reasoning behind it is just wrong.  Even if American consumers received a trillion in tax rebates, it’s still like playing the lotto. Because what is the likelihood that Americans are going to continue to dig themselves into a spending hole as we enter a recession?  If dutiful taxpayers immediately took their checks on a shopping spree, the vast majority of the products we buy are imports and even the products we supposedly make here are comprised of mostly foreign materials.  Our Congress might as well sign the check to China and keep the Wal-mart heirs from getting an edge on Bill Gates.   Nevermind that those folks who NEED the most help don’t even qualify for the handout because they can’t file tax returns.  The only remotely helpful suggestion I’ve seen from the talking heads is GOP candidate Huckabee’s idea to sink the $150 billion into highway construction in America.  (GASP!  Did a flaming liberal pagan just give kudos to a Bible-thumping, conservative nut-job?)  No, really, at least Huckabee GETS it, even if his solution would be like pissing in the ocean when it comes to IMMEDIATE relief.   
And did I mention PEAK OIL?  That’s an even scarier monster that hides under the bed of American financial stability.  I’ll reserve comment for a separate blog, as it is deserving of independent attention.     


               

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There is beauty in darkness.  There is purpose in pain.  Blessed are moments of suffering, for they create opportunity for compassion, forgiveness and growth.  How easily we forget that one cannot exist in the absence of the other. 

I have been reading some of my old journals these past few days, reflecting on darker moments when depression was my closest friend.  There is much truth in sadness, and there is rebirth in its passing.  A flicker of light shines brightest in a black room. 

 12/6/05  “There is a place where innocence goes when it dies, like a gathering of butterflies startled into flight.  A collection of light swirling in a tornado of time and space, as if the sky opened up and called “I love you. Come home” and they did.  It is a dance so beautiful that one must turn their gaze or burn lazer thin slices in exposed retinas.  Staring at the collective innocence is like peaking at a solar eclipse. You can only see something so sacred through a special lens or reflected in painted glass… as if it were not intended for us to see at all.  Some things were not meant to be seen, like a dream that wakes you from sleep. ”

I miss my old friend.  There was something naked and raw and undeniably real about meeting death with locked eyes and cold hands.  Today I sat with her in my grief, rocking and remembering, and she washed my heart in my own tears.  Just before I fell into the warm embrace of sweet slumber, she whispered “I love you. Go home.”  And I did.

It seems there is a consensus among my readers about avoiding response to emails from right-wing think tanks.  While I do believe in the Law of Attraction, I wish I could see the value in ignoring these conservative fanatics.  Pressing delete could lift my mood temporarily, but the people who believe all this nationalistic nonsense do not disappear with the message I send to my virtual trash bin.  What truly disturbs me about emails like the one I posted is that there are REAL people who stand behind the BS.  I do know who sent me the email and she is a close friend who expressed her support for the ideas presented there.  Sure, I could have just sent her a quick reply affirming my disagreement or even just deleted the email without a second thought.  But she is not alone.  Millions of Americans ACTUALLY think like this,  and the TERRIFYING reality of it all is that they aren’t like an email I can simply delete.  They live in my town.  They attend my classes.  They vote, and they spend money to support politicians who espouse similar viewpoints.  I do realize that my energy is best spent focusing on the postive change I want for the world, but sometimes I think we have a responsibility to call attention to the ignorant and destructive patterns that stifle our spiritual evolution.  Part of BEING the change we wish to see in the world involves a commitment to educating those who stagnate a movement toward enlightenment. 
HOWEVER, I am very clear that my method of education (as delieverd in my most recent post) is less than effective.  Again, I need to mold my message into one that does not alienate the audience I wish to educate.  I’m working on that.   It’s one of the most difficult challenges I face as an imperfect human being.  “Love thy enemy. ”  It sounds good in theory, but the practical application requires serious self-control.

Ok, I know it’s been a while since I posted anything on my blog, but I just couldn’t help myself today.  Please forgive me for regressing to my angry tone that I so-much desired to mold into a more inclusive message but could not because ignorance REALLY PISSES ME OFF.  I received the following email this morning and it made me spit on my keyboard.  It claims to be authored by a New Jersy housewife who remains anonymous.  Before you read it, you might want to wrap youself in an American flag, turn on your plastic Jesus lamp and throw your brain out the window. 

“Are we fighting a war on terror or aren’t we? Was it or was it not started by Islamic people who brought it to our shores on September 11, 2001? Were people from all over the world, mostly Americans, not brutally murdered that day, in downtown Manhattan , across the Potomac from our nation’s capitol and in a field in Pennsylvania ? Did nearly three thousand men, women and children die a horrible,
burning or crushing death that day, or didn’t they?
And I’m supposed to care that a copy of the Koran was “desecrated” when an overworked American soldier kicked it or got it wet?…Well, I don’t. I don’t care at all.I’ll start caring when Osama bin Laden turns himself in and repents for incinerating all those innocent people on 9/11.
I’ll care about the Koran when the fanatics in the Middle East start caring about the Holy Bible, the mere possession of which is a crime in Saudi Arabia.  I’ll care when these thugs tell the world they are sorry for chopping off Nick Berg’s head while Berg screamed through his gurgling slashed throat.  I’ll care when the cowardly so-called “insurgents” in Iraq come out and fight like men instead of disrespecting their own religion by hiding in mosques.  I’ll care when the mindless zealots who blow themselves up in search of nirvana care about the innocent children within range of their suicide . I’ll care when the American media stops pretending that their First Amendment liberties are somehow derived from international law instead of the United States Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

In the meantime, when I hear a story about a brave marine roughing up an Iraqi terrorist to obtain information, know this: I don’t care.
When I see a fuzzy photo of a pile of naked Iraqi prisoners who have been humiliated in what amounts to a college-hazing incident, rest
assured: I don’t care.
When I see a wounded terrorist get shot in the head when he is told not to move because he might be booby-trapped, you can take it to the bank: I don’t care.
When I hear that a prisoner, who was issued a Koran and a prayer mat, and fed “special” food that is paid for by my tax dollars, is complaining that his holy book is being “mishandled,” you can absolutely believe in your heart of hearts: I don’t care.
And oh, by the way, I’ve noticed that sometimes it’s spelled “Koran”and other times “Quran.” Well, Jimmy Crack Corn and-you guessed it-I don’t care !!
If you agree with this viewpoint, pass this on to all your E-mail friends. Sooner or later, it’ll get to the people responsible for this ridiculous
behavior!  If you don’t agree, then by all means hit the delete button. Should you choose the latter, then please don’t complain when more atrocities committed by radical Muslims happen here in our great Country! And may I add: “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don’t have that problem” — Ronald Reagan
I have another quote that I would like to add AND…….I hope you forward all this. “If we ever forget that we’re One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under.” Also by.. Ronald Reagan
One last thought for the day: In case we find ourselves starting to believe all the Anti-American sentiment and negativity, we should remember England ‘s Prime Minister Tony Blair’s words during a recent interview. When asked by one of his Parliament members why he believes so much in America , he said: “A simple way to take measure of a country is to look at how many want in.. And how many want out.”

 

Let me start by saying… obviously this type of information would blow my lid. My views are hardly inconspicuous and this is one of the most IGNORANT rantings I have ever read.  This NJ woman is clearly upset, but she is upset at the WRONG fucking people.  9-11 was a horrible tragedy, but NOT ONE of the 19 hijackers was from Iraq or Afghanistan.  In fact, 15 of them were from Saudi Arabia, yet our government has made no attempt to pursue justice there because of the economic ties they have with our country. 

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organizers_of_the_September_11,_2001_attacks

 

This is the exact type of erroneous, bigoted thinking that perpetuates prejudice and hate in the world.  Yes, the hijackers of 9-11 were Muslim, but should that make EVERY Muslim our enemy?  So WHO are we supposed to hate when nut jobs like Timothy McVeigh kill 168 innocent Americans in a bombing?  He was an American soldier.  Should we then assume that all American soldiers are a threat to our safety?  Of course not.  Should we assume that all Christians are psycho terrorists because a few whackos from the Army of God bomb abortion clinics?

 

People have every right to be enraged by senseless acts of violence, but if we allow our anger to cloud our mind, we merely resort to the same fallacious, fear-based thinking that led to such atrocities as the Japanese-American internment camps of World War II, where thousands of innocent Americans were stripped of their rights based on their cultural ancestry. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_American_internment

 

This woman has allowed her hate to transform her into a mindless, barbaric freak, much like the terrorists she despises.  Civilized people maintain their belief in and commitment to human rights and the pursuit of HUMANE justice, even in the face of senseless acts of violence.  Is it NOT POSSIBLE that some of the Iraqis held in our war prisons are FALSELY ACCUSED (like those falsely accused in our prisons here)?  Is it not possible that our government could make a mistake or two?  I mean, C’mon, they invaded the wrong f-ing country.  It’s certainly not out of their reach to arrest and detain the WRONG people, particularly when you send thousands of angry, non-Arabic-speaking GIs into a sandpit and tell them to shoot at anything that looks dangerous.  Do innocent Iraqis have any rights?  What about the innocent Iraqi civilians and children who continue to be murdered in our military’s pursuit of extremists?  Should those TENS OF THOUSANDS of deaths be written off as collateral damage in order to vindicate the deaths of 3,000 Americans?  

 

This woman doesn’t want to care because she can’t handle the guilt of the thousands of innocent lives lost to a misguided war.  It is UNDISPUTED that Iraq and Saddam had NOTHING to do with 9-11.  Why should the people of Iraq continue to suffer because we invaded their country to protect “our” oil?

 

This woman doesn’t want to care because she doesn’t want to  be held accountable.  She isn’t strong enough to battle the animal-rage that seeks to take over any sense of civility, fairness and rational thought. 

 

Well, ya know what, I’m JUST as fucking angry as she is, but I’m an EDUCATED, FREE-THINKING American who is still willing to stand up for decency, truth and critical thinking.  But I’m angry at the millions of racist, elitist, war-mongering Americans who continue to support an illegal and immoral war in order to beat the fascist, neo-con drum of a self-righteous hegemony.  I’m fucking angry at the indignant apathy of the millions of Americans who actually believe that the torture and abuse of ANY human being is justified under ANY circumstances and can turn a blind eye to the murder of innocent Iraqi children in order to further their imperialist fantasy of world domination.  I’m fucking angry at the environment of ignorance in America that STILL fuels a sheep-mentality where millions of Americans refuse to think for themselves. And I’m REALLY fucking angry that people are propping up the victims of 9-11 to perpetuate this philosophy of ignorance and hate. 

 

And don’t EVEN get me started on “one nation under God” comment.  Maybe this New Jersey housewife should take her nose out of the “good book” long enought to read the history books.  “Under God” was not even in the original 1892 version of the Pledge of Allegiance.  It was added in 1954 in response to our fear-frenzy about those god-less communist Chinese.  (That’s sarcasm, folks.   The Chinese are not god-less.)

So, as far as I’m concerned, this brain-washed, prejudice-spewing soccer mom can take her complaint to the ladies at her Bible club where they can all sit around and bash Arabs until their Starbucks lattes get cold.  Because I FUCKING CARE.  And when I run for President, maybe we can finally end this cycle of hate, violence and ignorant propaganda that has plagued humanity.