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Member since: Sat May 15, 2010, 03:48 PM
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A very dear friend of mine, and one-time flatmate many years ago, is a Red Cross coordinator here in NYC. She posted this reminder about why, when donating to the Red Cross or any other relief organization, in the wake of Sandy or any other disaster, it is best NOT to earmark your donation for victims of any one, particular disaster. Such earmarked donations actually hinder these organizations more than they help them in carrying out their work. Mary lays out the case:

Mary O'Shaughnessy
9 hours ago

When you read posts by people who want you to specify that donations to The American Red Cross in Greater New York (or any other relief organization) should go to a specific purpose, remind them of this:

Restricting donations to disasters that have already happened is very damaging.

BEFORE Sandy hit, the Red Cross had to already own functioning, inspected, registered, insured vehicles--and had t
o have money available for gas and oil. Those vehicles were used to move blankets, cots, MREs, water, and other supplies into position so they would be available once roads were blocked. Those goods already had to be purchased and in warehouses (which need insurance, electricity, etc.)

The people--90% of whom are volunteers--needed offices, which means electricity, water, heat/air conditioning, computers, furniture, printers, paper, toner, telephones, Internet service, etc. etc--all of which had to have been purchased and set up.

Do you see now why unrestricted money is so important? The Red Cross (and every disaster relief organization) needs to be able to prepare for upcoming disasters. If you restrict your donation to being used in past disasters, you are not helping prepare for the next--which could involve you.
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Oct 31, 2012, 09:35 AM (5 replies)

My response to the Chicago Tribune's Endorsement of President Obama

I was pleased to see The Chicago Tribune's endorsement of President Obama -- it made for a nice trio along with that of the NY Times and the Washington Post. But then I actually read it. It was a veritable screed of deficit fear-mongering, with a flat-out lie concerning Social Security. Basically, they were endorsing President Obama, but were critical of both candidates for not addressing the national debt. They called the national debt the greatest existential threat both present and future the country faces. Grateful though I was for their endorsement of the President, I simply couldn't sit on my hands in the face of such and outrageous attempt to foster confusion concerning the national debt, and the (non-)role of Social Security in that debt. Here is my response:

I am pleased that the Tribune endorsed President Obama, but frankly, the editorial itself is so over-the-top in its comments about the deficit that it is difficult to take it seriously. The editors write:

"This nation faces no existential threat greater than the enormous federal indebtedness that imperils today’s America and, far more important, our children’s America. That slow strangulation endangers every household in the land -- when our debt payments skyrocket, our taxes rise to fill the fiscal voids, and entitlement programs go insolvent: Federal trustees now say our Social Security trust fund will run dry in 2033, not 2036 as they predicted just last year. Medicare's hospital fund will pay out its last dollar in 2024, not 2029 as the trustees projected two years ago."

Where to even begin to unpack that paragraph!


The nation's most pressing crisis is not the national debt, it is JOBS! The debt must be dealt with, certainly, but it is a longer-term issue, and should not be the priority until the jobs crisis has been addressed. Look, if we don't address the jobs crisis, until the economy is generating a sufficient number of well-paying jobs that afford their holders the ability to comfortably buy homes, live a reasonably dignified lifestyle WHILE saving for their kids' college educations and their own retirement, the economy will remain weak for years to come. The nation is not having any difficulty making the payments on its debt. Our level of indebtedness is still less, as a percentage of GDP, than it was during WWII. Isn't it amazing, then, that in the years following WWII, we were able to both pay our debt AND expand Social Security, create Medicare, build an interstate highway system and send astronauts to the moon?

Of course, even in the longer run, the real problem isn't debt payments (since the vast majority of our debt is borrowed against ourselves, not, contrary to popular myth, China), but the interest payments on that debt. But even here, there is little cause for alarm. The Congressional Budget Office published a graph a few months back, showing interest on the national debt as a percentage of GDP, from 1980 projected through 2020:

(See http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/beat-the-press/the-graph-you-really-need-when-watching-the-republican-and-democratic-conventions )

In other words, the chart graphs the interest _burden_ (as opposed to the rate). Currently, interest payments on our national debt total approximately 1.5% of GDP. Those rates are projected to rise sharply until 2020, and then flatten out. What is the projected burden in 2020? A whopping 3.3 or 3.4%: roughly the same level of burden we carried at the end of the Reagan administration, and also during the Clinton administration in the '90s.


Here you are doing your readers an enormous disservice by misrepresenting what the Trustees actually said. What the trustees actually said in their 2012 report was that Social Security can meet 100% of its obligations through 2037 (later adjusted to 2033), and for another 37 years after that, it can fund its obligations at a level of 75%. Here is the quote from the Trustees' report:

"Beginning in 2021, cost exceeds total income and combined OASI and DI Trust Fund assets diminish until they become exhausted in 2033. After trust fund exhaustion, continuing income is sufficient to support expenditures at a level of 75 percent of program cost for the rest of 2033, declining to 73 percent for 2086."
(See http://www.ssa.gov/oact/tr/2012/VI_H_glossary.html#1005633 ).

That gap is not the result of profligate spending; it was a long-predicted, but temporary, shortfall resulting from the large number of baby boomers moving into retirement age, and an insufficient number of younger working people to carry the funding burden. That issue can readily be addressed by raising the cap on Social Security withholdings. Apart from the temporary shortfall, Social Security is a self-funding program that has not contributed one dime to the national debt. In fact, the Social Security Trust Fund is the CREDITOR for a very large share of our national debt.

President Bush mired this country in two, off-budget and enormously expensive wars. A certain segment of our economy -- the private defense contracting and related industries (along with those who have invested in those industries) -- has extracted huge profits for over a decade, what with no-bid contracts and other sweetheart deals the GOP showered upon them, all at the expense of the American taxpayer. But that expense wasn't paid for at the time (because the GOP is famously averse to imposing the taxes necessary to pay for their misadventures), and was financed largely by bonds issued by the Social Security Trust Fund to the Department of Defense. Now, these same folks who manipulated public opinion in order to maneuver the country into those two wars (while avoiding budgetary accounting for them), seeks to solve the problem of the debt they were largely responsible for running up on the backs of a very vulnerable segment of our society. It is an attempt at wealth redistribution from the bottom to the top -- Robin Hood in reverse, if you will.

* * *.

It is a truly sorry state of affairs when so august an institution of the Fourth Estate as The Chicago Tribune, a source many will turn to in search of accurate information on the issues that confront us, engages in obfuscation and the spread of misinformation on these two, critically important issues. There are only two plausible explanations for the misinformation contained in this editorial: the economic illiteracy or ignorance of the editors, or the willful misrepresentation of fact in the service of promoting their own self-interest or that of a certain well-connected constituency. If the explanation is ignorance, such ignorance is inexcusable for the editors of a major urban daily. If, on the other hand, it is willful misrepresentation, then it calls into question the integrity of your organization as a journalistic institution.
Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Oct 29, 2012, 01:09 PM (1 replies)

AARGH! Can somebody please explain this to me?

So, my nephew and his wife, back in about 2006-2007, got suckered into taking out a mortgage on a home in Florida worth approximately 125% of the house's (then) value. When the bottom dropped out of the housing market, their mortgage was underwater. I don't know all the details of their mortgage arrangement, other than that it was a variable rate and when the bottom fell out of the market, their rate skyrocketed and they couldn't keep up with the payments. He, a Florida state trooper, and his wife, a dental hygienist, were forced into a very difficult bankruptcy in early 2009.

So what do I see when I sign on to Facebook? He and his wife (and his parents, my sister and her husband) are all supporting Romney -- the very guy who, if he had his way, would further eliminate regulations designed to guard against folks like them getting suckered like this. WTF???
Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Oct 27, 2012, 07:37 AM (8 replies)

I watched Bloomie's press conference about storm preparations . . .

. . . and a reporter asked if there were plans to deploy sand spreaders on city streets.


For a hurricane.

Where do they find these people?
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Oct 26, 2012, 05:57 PM (2 replies)

Some friends and I had fun with this on Facebook . . .

Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Oct 24, 2012, 10:04 PM (12 replies)

A suggestion for Donald Trump

Here's a suggestion for Donald Trump, racist scum that he is: instead of worrying about President Obama, why don't you take that $5 million and give it to the young men who were wrongfully convicted in the Central Park jogger case, and later exonerated by DNA evidence? You know, those boys you said, in a FULL PAGE AD IN THE NY TIMES, should be given the death penalty?
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Oct 24, 2012, 02:25 PM (0 replies)

Funny thing . . .

. . . but I haven't heard any comments about teleprompters.

I wonder why?

Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Oct 23, 2012, 01:06 AM (1 replies)

"Syria is Iran's route to the sea"

Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Oct 22, 2012, 11:43 PM (19 replies)

Hacked by Mitt Romney

Yesterday, while browsing Facebook, a friend messaged me saying, "Uh, Mark, I just got a notification that you "Liked" Mitt Romney (his FB page). Thought I should tell you." This was strange, because I've never even visited Romney's Facebook page. So I went to the page and, sure enough, the "Like" button indicated "Liked." I immediately "unliked" it, and updated my status alerting folks to the bogus "Like" and assuring them that I do not now like, have not in the past liked, nor will ever in the future "Like" Mitt Romney, either the FB page or the candidate!

At that point, another friend commented, informing me that this has been a known issue on Facebook, and there's even a page dedicated to it named, "Hacked by Mitt Romney," where hundreds of others are reporting similar bogus "Likes." How pathetic is that?
Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Oct 22, 2012, 04:54 PM (4 replies)

A comment I left on the Salt Lake City Tribune's endorsement of President Obama

This is a comment I left on the Salt Lake City Tribune's endorsement of President Obama:


In the main, this is a terrific editorial. But must take serious issue with the following paragraph:

Obama’s most noteworthy achievement, passage of his signature Affordable Care Act, also proved, in its timing, his greatest blunder. The set of comprehensive health insurance reforms aimed at extending health care coverage to all Americans was signed 14 months into his term after a ferocious fight in Congress that sapped the new president’s political capital and destroyed any chance for bipartisan cooperation on the shredded economy..

The only thing that stood in the way of bipartisan cooperation before, during and after the health care reform battle was the willful refusal by Republicans to cooperate with this President on any legislation at all, even when the President was proposing things Republicans themselves had long been on record as supporting.

It is beyond disingenuous to suggest that, if only the President had not insisted on pursuing health care reform, then a real possibility would have existed for bipartisan cooperation on other issues. The suggestion, by extension, that the President caused the extreme partisanship by his decision to press for health care legislation (legislation which was, I might add, modeled on a plan penned by the conservative Heritage Foundation), is either a delusion or it is dishonest. As has been revealed by Robert Draper in his new book, "Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives", the die was cast on January 20, 2009 for a strategy of total noncooperation by House and Senate Republicans with anything and everything President Obama attempted, in a five-hour meeting that took place in The Caucus Room (an upscale D.C. restaurant), even as President Obama stood on the steps of the Capitol building reciting the oath of office, where about 15 movers and shakers in the GOP (including House members Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, Paul Ryan, Pete Sessions, Jeb Hensarling, Pete Hoekstra, and Dan Lungren, Senators Jim DeMint, Jon Kyi, Tom Coburn, John Ensign, and Bob Corker, as well as conservative pundit Fred Barnes, future candidate Newt Gingrich and right wing political strategist Frank Luntz. It was at that meeting that a plan was hatched for Republicans to present an absolutely united front in opposition to virtually anything and everything President Obama would try to do. Cynical though it certainly was, the logic behind the strategy was one that would have done Machiavelli proud: use every means possible to obstruct your opponent from being able to effectively govern, then vigorously castigate that same opponent for being unable to get much of anything.accomplished.

It is therefore an absurdity to suggest that the pursuit of health care reform was a "blunder," the consequence of which was an extremely polarized political climate, and that such polarization could have been avoided if only he had not so "blundered." Insisting, as President Obama did, on pursuing something that was much-needed, even though it might come at enormous political cost, was an act of courageous leadership that should have (at least in a rational universe) earned him a considerable measure of respect among voters, even if they continued to disagree with him on the specifics of that legislation. The GOP, by contrast, in pursuing an agenda of obstruction solely in the interest of political gain, demonstrated itself to be, collectively speaking, morally and ethically unfit to govern.

N.B.: I omitted from this comment, when I originally posted it, an additional item reported in Draper's book. It is a quote that Draper attributes to Newt Gingrich, which Draper writes was delivered at the close of that Inauguration Day, 2009 meeting:

"You will remember this day. You'll remember this as the day the seeds of 2012 were sown."

I believe that quote buttresses the point I was making rather nicely!

(Edited by author 15 hours ago)
Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Oct 20, 2012, 12:52 PM (7 replies)
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