Archive for September, 2011

September 7, 2011

God Tries To Kill Reverend at the National Cathedral

by Ben Hoffman

A crane toppled at the National Cathedral this morning, sending one person to the hospital and damaging two out-buildings and crushing several vehicles.

DC Fire/EMS Battalion Chief John Donnelly said one person was taken to the hospital but he did not have not have more information on the extent of the person’s injuries.

When the crane came down, it damaged both the Herb Cottage and the Church House, the headquarters of the diocese. Three to five parked cars were also crushed, said D.C. Fire/EMS spokesman Oscar Mendez.

The crane was lifting supplies to the roof when it became unbalanced, Donnelly said. Wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph were recorded shortly before the accident but it’s not known whether that caused the accident.

The Rev. Simon Bautista, the Canon for Latino Ministries for the diocese, said he was on a conference call with his staff as part of their ongoing planning for an Oct. 8 Latino celebration. The window of his second-floor office in Church House overlooks the parking lot.

Suddenly he heard a sound that was like “thunder,” Bautista said. “My office started shaking.”

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September 7, 2011

Doing Something Stupid Can Change Your Life

by Ben Hoffman

We all do stupid things once in a while. We drink too much and take unnecessary risks, and most of the time it just makes for interesting or funny stories. Here’s someone who did something stupid and her life will never be the same.

LONGMONT, Colo. — A 17-year-old girl severed both her legs when she fell under a moving freight train while trying to hop onto the train with three friends Monday afternoon, Longmont police said.

The girl is a student at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, said Longmont Police Cmdr. Jeff Satur. Authorities need to notify her family members, who live out of state, before releasing her name, he said.

The accident happened at about 1:35 p.m. as the girl and three male friends were sitting near the train tracks in Longmont when a northbound Burlington Northern Santa Fe train rolled through town.

Spontaneously, the four decided to try to hop the slow-moving train, Satur said.

Two in the group — a 21-year-old Broomfield man and a 17-year-old Fort Collins boy — made it onto the train, Satur said. But the girl fell under the train and her legs were severed near the knees, Satur said.

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September 6, 2011

10 Years Since Bush Allowed Us To Be Attacked – While Bush Vacationed, 9/11 Warnings Went Unheard

by Ben Hoffman

How did the Bush administration allow us to be attacked on September 11, 2001? Bush wasn’t interested in dealing with terrorism.

In an otherwise dry day of hearings before the 9/11 commission, one brief bit of dialogue set off a sudden flash of clarity on the basic question of how our government let disaster happen.

The revelation came this morning, when CIA Director George Tenet was on the stand. Timothy Roemer, a former Democratic congressman, asked him when he first found out about the report from the FBI’s Minnesota field office that Zacarias Moussaoui, an Islamic jihadist, had been taking lessons on how to fly a 747. Tenet replied that he was briefed about the case on Aug. 23 or 24, 2001.

Roemer then asked Tenet if he mentioned Moussaoui to President Bush at one of their frequent morning briefings. Tenet replied, “I was not in briefings at this time.” Bush, he noted, “was on vacation.” He added that he didn’t see the president at all in August 2001. During the entire month, Bush was at his ranch in Texas. “You never talked with him?” Roemer asked. “No,” Tenet replied. By the way, for much of August, Tenet too was, as he put it, “on leave.”

Throughout that summer, we now well know, Tenet, Richard Clarke, and several other officials were running around with their “hair on fire,” warning that al-Qaida was about to unleash a monumental attack. On Aug. 6, Bush was given the now-famous President’s Daily Brief (by one of Tenet’s underlings), warning that this attack might take place “inside the United States.” For the previous few years—as Philip Zelikow, the commission’s staff director, revealed this morning—the CIA had issued several warnings that terrorists might fly commercial airplanes into buildings or cities.

And now, we learn today, at this peak moment, Tenet hears about Moussaoui. Someone might have added 2 + 2 + 2 and possibly busted up the conspiracy. But the president was down on the ranch, taking it easy. Tenet wasn’t with him. Tenet never talked with him. Rice—as she has testified—wasn’t with Bush, either. He was on his own and, willfully, out of touch.

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September 5, 2011

Post Office May Lay Off 120,000 Workers

by Ben Hoffman

The United States Postal Service has long lived on the financial edge, but it has never been as close to the precipice as it is today: the agency is so low on cash that it will not be able to make a $5.5 billion payment due this month and may have to shut down entirely this winter unless Congress takes emergency action to stabilize its finances.

“Our situation is extremely serious,” the postmaster general, Patrick R. Donahoe, said in an interview. “If Congress doesn’t act, we will default.”

In recent weeks, Mr. Donahoe has been pushing a series of painful cost-cutting measures to erase the agency’s deficit, which will reach $9.2 billion this fiscal year. They include eliminating Saturday mail delivery, closing up to 3,700 postal locations and laying off 120,000 workers — nearly one-fifth of the agency’s work force — despite a no-layoffs clause in the unions’ contracts.

The post office’s problems stem from one hard reality: it is being squeezed on both revenue and costs.

As any computer user knows, the Internet revolution has led to people and businesses sending far less conventional mail.

At the same time, decades of contractual promises made to unionized workers, including no-layoff clauses, are increasing the post office’s costs. Labor represents 80 percent of the agency’s expenses, compared with 53 percent at United Parcel Service and 32 percent at FedEx, its two biggest private competitors. Postal workers also receive more generous health benefits than most other federal employees.

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The Post Office needs to become more efficient, but laying off 120,000 employees at a time of high unemployment is just going to make the economy worse. The federal government is currently laying off people at a rate of 50,000 a month. That’s taking money out of the economy and further hurting businesses. The Republicans currently in Congress are the most anti-business group we have ever seen. And they’re destroying our country.

September 4, 2011

Labor Day Song – Scott Walker Blues

by Ben Hoffman

Scott Walker Blues – Ben Hoffman

There’s a crisis in the dairy land,
born from austerity.
100 thousand protesters
marched on the cheese city
to fight state budget cutting
laid upon the workingman’s back.
They lost the first battle.
Scott Walker won his power grab.

Early in the morning,
Mark Miller told Democrats
to bring along a change of clothes,
“We won’t be coming back,
until they stop this motion
to take away the worker’s rights.”
But Walker got his cronies
to undermine the Wisconsinites

The Budget Repair Bill
took away the right to strike.
They demonized the teachers union
said “They got the life.”
And pundits on Fox “news” say,
“State workers are uninspired.
Just how hard would you work
if you knew that you couldn’t get fired?”

Born to a preacher man.
A religious man is he,
Next on the agenda:
Legislate morality.
But church leaders don’t buy it.
They’re giving the worker’s a hand
by defending the unions
and helping out the common man.

There’s a crisis in America
born out of corporate greed,
and apathetic citizens
sit back and watch it bleed.
But one week in Wisconsin,
the anger could not be diffused.
There ain’t no doubt about it,
Wisconsin’s got them Scott Walker blues.

September 3, 2011

Atlas Mugged: The Ayn Rand Six Step

by Ben Hoffman

Suppose, over the years, your landlord cuts the part of the portion of your rent that goes to utilities and repair work. Year after year, he’d stop by and announce his cuts with great fanfare, telling you how much money you’ll save.

On each visit, as he handed out the meager savings, he’d rail about how the utilities were incompetent, and filled with lazy workers, and that repair and maintenance work was a rip-off perpetrated by equally lazy laborers.

“We’re gonna show them,” he’d say, “The market will take care of these bozos.”

Meanwhile, year after year, you pay a little less. Things might get a little ragged. The maintenance man might not show up every day; the fire alarms might stop working; the elevators get stuck more, there’s an occasional power outage, water’s a bit murky … but there’s those savings.

Unbeknownst to you, most of the money the landlord saves is going to upgrade the top floor where he and his cronies live, bringing in their own dependable power and clean water. But you don’t investigate much because … there’s those savings.

Every time you passed him in the hall, he’d give you his spiel. “Those repair guys are thieves,” he’d tell you, again and again. “And you might as well burn money as give it to the utilities,” he’d say with a sage nod of his head. “Just wait ‘til those market forces hit, that’ll show them.” But he’d begin to add a new verse to his rant. “And hey. What about those gays in 3G? Or the Mexicans in 2D? Disgrace how they double up like that …”

Then finally, one year, he announces he can no longer afford to supply heat, electricity or water, and he can’t be repairing anything that breaks any longer. “Just not enough money – besides, look what’s happening around here … throwing more money at those lazy good-for-nothings is no solution.”

Now imagine complaining to him about the frozen pipes, or your child’s pneumonia and him responding with: “Hey. It’s all about the market – if you want it, figure out a way to get it – the market will provide if you’re diligent. Look at the top floor. Besides, it’s all the fault of those Mexicans. Or those gays … or …”

Would you believe that crap? Would you put up with it?

Of course you wouldn’t.

Yet that is precisely the game the Republicans have been playing for years. Call it the Ayan Rand six step. Step one: discredit government. Step two, starve it. Step three, when the underfunded government can’t perform, stand back and say “I told you so.” Step four, create the myth of the individual uber-alles – the Marlboro man on steroids; Step five, if anyone gets wise, find a scapegoat and blame it on them – gays, immigrants, government workers; government working gay immigrants. Step six, when things get bad, divide and conquer – “if it wasn’t’ for them…

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September 2, 2011

Conservative Policies Aren’t Working: Economy Showed No Job Growth In August

by Ben Hoffman

The economy failed to add new jobs in August, the first time there has been no increase in net jobs in the United States in 11 months.

The flat performance was down sharply from a revised 85,000 gain of jobs in July, the Labor Department said Friday, and was far below a consensus forecast by economists of 60,000 new jobs. The unemployment rate stayed constant at 9.1 percent in August.

Economists blamed both sluggish demand for goods and services and the heightened uncertainty over the economy’s direction for the slow pace of job creation, saying political deadlock was in effect creating economic paralysis.

“Business confidence surveys have uniformly pointed to businesses who are not laying off workers, but who are holding off on hiring while they wait for a clearer outlook — an outlook that became much cloudier and more volatile” beginning with the debt-ceiling battle in July, said Ellen Zentner, the senior United States economist for Nomura Securities.

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Taxes are at historical lows, which proves tax cuts do not work to stimulate the economy. The Stimulus propped up the economy for a short time, but it was not enough by itself to fix the problems. One of the biggest problems is outsourcing of jobs. Democrats proposed bills that would have brought jobs back to America, but Republicans blocked them from even making it out of committee.