Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Would you want Sarah Palin in charge?

Pride in the Park......October 4th!

From the GLBT Resource Center of Michiana:

We're excited to finally announce the date for our upcoming Pride in the Park! Come on out to Potawatomi Park on Saturday, October 4th for a day full of friends, food and fun!

This is going to be a massive event with performances by Nervous but Excited and LVNMUZIQ. Bradley Bogaert, the outrageous host of Truman's Touch of Class Revue, will be hosting Gay Bingo with help from his lovely assistants, Miss Curvette Spells and Marleana Martease! Mary Lou Wallner whose story was featured in the award-winning documentary "For the Bible Tells Me So" will be speaking about her life and her contributions to the film. There will be dozens of vendor, business and organization booths and a plethora of information about what is available in our community! Of course there will be plenty of food, and in an effort to make this event family-friendly there will be kid's games running all day!

You don't want to miss this event! Mark your calendars now! October 4 at Potawatomi Park in South Bend, IN. The party starts at 1pm and after Pride in the Park, head over to the Grille at IU South Bend for a special screening of "For the Bible Tells Me So" and a question and answer session with Mary Lou Wallner!

Bring your friends, partners, spouses, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, strangers you meet on the street... Everyone is welcome at this event, gay, lesbian, bi, trans, straight allies... We want to see you all! It's been a long time since we've hosted a big event, so come on out, and see what's going on!

See you at the park!

Truthout roundup 9/30

John Cory A Mad Day
John Cory, Truthout: "I'm mad as hell because today was bad and was all about politics and not country first. Democrats were once again Charlie Brown to the Republican's Lucy with the football and we saw the predictable result. Republicans are whining about ‘the big mean lady who talked bad about us so we showed her - we didn't vote for America, we voted against the big mean lady who didn't talk nice!' And the media talking heads will regurgitate this bilge for hours and days to come."

Ex-CIA Official Pleads Guilty to Steering Agency Contracts
Jerry Markon, The Washington Post: "The CIA's former top administrator pleaded guilty today to steering agency contracts to a defense contractor and concealing their relationship, making Kyle 'Dusty' Foggo the highest-ranking member of a federal intelligence or law enforcement agency to be convicted of a crime, officials said."

For Once, Congress Heard Voters
David Lightman, McClatchy Newspapers: "Almost until the early afternoon vote Monday on the financial rescue plan, voters bombarded congressional offices, protesting almost in unison: Don't bail out renegade financial executives and companies. On Monday, House members, who face the voters in five weeks, listened to their constituents rather than their party leaders and rejected the $700 billion financial rescue package. For many, it was just too much to swallow too quickly, and too hard to explain."

Olmert Advocates Returning Land Seized in 1967 to Win Peace
Mark Mackinnon, The Globe and Mail: "Israel's departing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that his country will have to withdraw from 'almost all' of the land it seized in a 1967 war if it wants to have peace with Syria and the Palestinians."

In Hard Times, Tent Cities Multiply
The Associated Press: "A few tents cropped up hard by the railroad tracks, pitched by men left with nowhere to go once the emergency winter shelter closed for the summer. Then others appeared - people who had lost their jobs to the ailing economy or newcomers who had moved to Reno for work and discovered no one was hiring. Within weeks, more than 150 people were living in tents big and small, barely a foot apart in a patch of dirt slated to be a parking lot for a campus of shelters Reno is building for its homeless. Like many other cities, Reno has found itself with a 'tent city' - an encampment of people who had nowhere else to go."

Bill Simpich The Anthrax Case Reopens
Bill Simpich, Truthout: "The past week's Congressional anthrax hearings revealed that public pressure is keeping the doors open in the anthrax case. FBI Director Robert Mueller promised that the FBI will provide their evidence to a panel of experts for scientific evaluation. The battle will now turn to the independence of this panel, and whether 'all evidence' or merely 'scientific evidence' will be under review."

Prosecutor to Probe Firings of US Attorneys
Ari Shapiro, NPR News: "Attorney General Michael Mukasey has appointed a federal prosecutor to follow up on a scathing investigation of the Bush administration's decision to fire nine U.S. attorneys in 2006. The Justice Department's inspector general and the Office of Professional Responsibility released the report jointly Monday morning. It is harsh, but incomplete, as key officials in the White House and Congress refused to cooperate with the inquiry."

Bill Quigley Shame: The US War Against Unarmed Working Mothers
Bill Quigley, Truthout: "Dozens of petite young mothers gathered this week in the parking lot outside the US Department of Homeland Security in Gulfport, Mississippi. Each wore a long dress or pants to hide her electronic ankle bracelet. Lift up a pants leg and you can see the black plastic band and monitor, which is the size of a pack of cigarettes. The crime these mothers are charged with? Not guns, not drugs, not spying. Working to put food on the table for their families and not being citizens of the US."

Palin: McCain Campaign's End Run Around Media
Joe Garofoli, The San Francisco Chronicle: "The McCain campaign is attempting to do something unheard of in the modern political era. It is not just running against the mainstream media, it is running around it. [Palin] has yet to hold a major press conference 32 days after McCain announced her as his running mate - and that's not changing anytime soon. McCain spokesman Michael Goldfarb said Palin will do at least one news conference before election day. That could mean that the person who could potentially lead the free world will have done one national press conference before being sworn into office."

Patrick Lagace Economics for Dummies
Patrick Lagace, La Presse: The Canadian editorialist - in a tone adopted also in France - excoriates financial management on the other side of the border.

FP roundup 9/30

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates criticized the Pentagon for favoring large, expensive weapons systems over more flexible platforms.
Authorities in Tijuana, Mexico, have found 16 bodies in 24 hours in what looks like drug-related violence.
Brazil's Environment Ministry named the government the country's worst illegal logger of the Amazon rainforest.

In a rare message, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar called on U.S. troops to withdraw from Afghanistan.
Pakistan named a new intelligence chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha. Dawn has more.
At least 168 people have died in a stampede at a Hindu temple in western India.
China's milk recall is affecting Western brands, such as Cadbury.

Middle East and Africa
Syria's foreign minister says he met with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week in New York in a sign of improving relations.
Israel must leave the West Bank, outgoing Israeli PM Ehud Olmert says. Haaretz: too little, too late.
Iraq moved to allow doctors to carry guns for protection.
U.S. warships have surrounded an armed-to-the-teeth freighter that was captured by Somali pirates. The pirates seem to be fighting each other.

Europe and the Caucasus
An MI6 camera containing surveillance information on al Qaeda members was lost and put up for sale on eBay.
The British economy grew by 0 (zero) percent in the second quarter.
Ireland moved to guarantee deposits at six banks.

Today's Agenda
Hedge funds are bracing for a wave of withdrawals today.
U.S. envoy Christopher Hill is visiting Seoul, where he hopes to breathe life into the nuclear talks with North Korea.
John McCain is in Iowa and Barack Obama is campaigning in Nevada. Neither Joe Biden nor Sarah Palin, who are preparing for Thursday's vice presidential debate, has any public events.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Truthout roundup 9/29

Stocks Plunge as Bailout Fails
Carl Hulse and David M. Herszenhorn, The New York Times: "In a moment of historic import in the Capitol and on Wall Street, the House of Representatives voted on Monday to reject a $700 billion rescue of the financial industry. The vote came in stunning defiance of President Bush and Congressional leaders of both parties, who said the bailout was needed to prevent a widespread financial collapse."

Paulson Will Have No Peer
Peter G. Gosselin, The Los Angeles Times: "The Treasury chief will gain sweeping, even unparalleled power under Congress' compromise plan. Despite all the constraints Congress supposedly wrapped around him, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson is about to become the most powerful mortgage financier of the modern era - most likely of any era."

Dean Baker The Bailout: Congress Endorses Conservative Nanny State
Dean Baker, Truthout: "Congressional support for the bailout was a big victory for those who want to redistribute income upward. The bailout is about taking money from the schoolteachers and cab drivers and giving it to incredibly rich Wall Street bankers, who are so incompetent that they drove their banks into the ground."

Dan Bacher The "Green Governor" Slashes Funding for Endangered Species
Dan Bacher, Truthout: "When he signed California's long-overdue state budget, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, true to his role as the 'Fish Terminator,' blue penciled $3.1 million in funding from a key program run by the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) to restore endangered and threatened salmon, steelhead and other species."

Unions in China Still Feeble, but Gaining Foothold
Peter Ford, The Christian Science Monitor: "Almost all the Fortune 500 companies in China will allow unions to open in their factories, according to union leaders who are wrapping up this week a 100-day campaign to organize workers in some of the world's largest corporations."

Why Are Mothers Still Dying in Childbirth?
Rebecca Seal and Katrina Manson, The Observer UK: "More than 500,000 women die in pregnancy or childbirth every year in the developing world due to lack of proper care ... It is one of the world's greatest hidden epidemics, but the search for a solution is hopelessly underfunded. On average, every minute of every day a woman somewhere dies in childbirth or pregnancy, the overwhelming majority in developing countries."

China's Milk Scandal Now Seen as Risk in Europe
Elisabeth Rosenthal, The New York Times: "European Union regulators on Thursday ordered rigorous testing of imports containing at least 15 percent milk powder after concluding that food containing tainted milk powder from China may well be circulating in Europe and putting children at risk."

Counting Every Vote
Erica Naone, ABC News: "California's secretary of state, Debra Bowen, believes that open-source software should be used in elections involving electronic voting machines, to protect against error and fraud. Bowen has a history of pushing for greater transparency and accountability in election technology. After taking office in November 2006, she commissioned a top-to-bottom review of e-voting systems, including detailed analyses of source code, documentation, security, and usability."

The 3 AM call

The New York Times

It’s 3 a.m., a few months into 2009, and the phone in the White House rings. Several big hedge funds are about to fail, says the voice on the line, and there’s likely to be chaos when the market opens. Whom do you trust to take that call?

I’m not being melodramatic. The bailout plan released yesterday is a lot better than the proposal Henry Paulson first put out — sufficiently so to be worth passing. But it’s not what you’d actually call a good plan, and it won’t end the crisis. The odds are that the next president will have to deal with some major financial emergencies.

So what do we know about the readiness of the two men most likely to end up taking that call? Well, Barack Obama seems well informed and sensible about matters economic and financial. John McCain, on the other hand, scares me.

About Mr. Obama: it’s a shame that he didn’t show more leadership in the debate over the bailout bill, choosing instead to leave the issue in the hands of Congressional Democrats, especially Chris Dodd and Barney Frank. But both Mr. Obama and the Congressional Democrats are surrounded by very knowledgeable, clear-headed advisers, with experienced crisis managers like Paul Volcker and Robert Rubin always close at hand.

Then there’s the frightening Mr. McCain — more frightening now than he was a few weeks ago.

We’ve known for a long time, of course, that Mr. McCain doesn’t know much about economics — he’s said so himself, although he’s also denied having said it. That wouldn’t matter too much if he had good taste in advisers — but he doesn’t.

Remember, his chief mentor on economics is Phil Gramm, the arch-deregulator, who took special care in his Senate days to prevent oversight of financial derivatives — the very instruments that sank Lehman and A.I.G., and brought the credit markets to the edge of collapse. Mr. Gramm hasn’t had an official role in the McCain campaign since he pronounced America a “nation of whiners,” but he’s still considered a likely choice as Treasury secretary.

And last year, when the McCain campaign announced that the candidate had assembled “an impressive collection of economists, professors, and prominent conservative policy leaders” to advise him on economic policy, who was prominently featured? Kevin Hassett, the co-author of “Dow 36,000.” Enough said.

Now, to a large extent the poor quality of Mr. McCain’s advisers reflects the tattered intellectual state of his party. Has there ever been a more pathetic economic proposal than the suggestion of House Republicans that we try to solve the financial crisis by eliminating capital gains taxes? (Troubled financial institutions, by definition, don’t have capital gains to tax.)

But even President Bush has, in the twilight of his administration, turned to relatively sensible people to make economic decisions: I’m not a fan of Mr. Paulson, but he’s a vast improvement over his predecessor. At this point, one has the suspicion that a McCain administration would have us longing for Bush-era competence.

The real revelation of the last few weeks, however, has been just how erratic Mr. McCain’s views on economics are. At any given moment, he seems to have very strong opinions — but a few days later, he goes off in a completely different direction.

Thus on Sept. 15 he declared — for at least the 18th time this year — that “the fundamentals of our economy are strong.” This was the day after Lehman failed and Merrill Lynch was taken over, and the financial crisis entered a new, even more dangerous stage.

But three days later he declared that America’s financial markets have become a “casino,” and said that he’d fire the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission — which, by the way, isn’t in the president’s power.

And then he found a new set of villains — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored lenders. (Despite some real scandals at Fannie and Freddie, they played little role in causing the crisis: most of the really bad lending came from private loan originators.) And he moralistically accused other politicians, including Mr. Obama, of being under Fannie’s and Freddie’s financial influence; it turns out that a firm owned by his own campaign manager was being paid by Freddie until just last month.

Then Mr. Paulson released his plan, and Mr. McCain weighed vehemently into the debate. But he admitted, several days after the Paulson plan was released, that he hadn’t actually read the plan, which was only three pages long.

O.K., I think you get the picture.

The modern economy, it turns out, is a dangerous place — and it’s not the kind of danger you can deal with by talking tough and denouncing evildoers. Does Mr. McCain have the judgment and temperament to deal with that part of the job he seeks?

FP roundup 9/29

Analysts predict a grim September jobs report for the United States.
Venezuela plans to develop nuclear power, President Hugo Chavez says.
Rafael Correa is claiming victory in a constitutional referendum that will give the Ecuadoran president broad new powers.

China's astronauts have a returned from their spacewalk to a hero's welcome.
Pakistani feminists are ridiculing President Asif Ali Zardari for his now-infamous encounter with Sarah Palin.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the nuclear deal with India. Next up? The Senate, where a few senators might choose to block it.

Middle East
Five bombs killed at least 31 people in Baghdad.
Syria's state media is blaming foreigners for Saturday's bomb, which killed 17 people near a Shiite shrine in Damascus. Blowback?
A car bomb struck a military bus in Tripoli, Lebanon, killing at least five people.

Europe and the Caucasus
The Social Democrats won the most seats in the Austrian elections, but two far-right parties also made big gains.
Belarus's opposition parties have so far won zero seats in that country's parliamentary elections.
Georgia's economy is battered, but not destroyed by last month's war.

The U.S.-led war on terrorism is not weakening al Qaeda, a majority of respondents in a massive global BBC poll believe.
Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. Secretary-General, cuts a low profile on the world stage.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Truthout roundup 9/26

Largest Bank Failure in American History
Eric Dash and Andrew Ross Sorkin, The New York Times: "Washington Mutual, the giant lender that came to symbolize the excesses of the mortgage boom, was seized by federal regulators on Thursday night, in what is by far the largest bank failure in American history."

Bush's Bailout Meeting Ends in Disarray; McCain Gets Blame
David Lightman and Margaret Talev, McClatchy Newspapers: "Congressional negotiators' carefully-crafted agreement on a $700 billion rescue plan threatened to unravel Thursday as lawmakers at an often tense White House meeting clashed over details."

The Minneapolis Star Tribune More Than Ever, We Need Healthy Debate
The Minneapolis Star Tribune: "GOP presidential nominee John McCain may have been trying to underscore the seriousness of the Wall Street crisis Wednesday, when he suspended his campaign and headed to Washington to join in talks on the matter. But in abruptly proposing to postpone the first of three scheduled debates with Democrat Barack Obama, McCain misjudged one consequence of that crisis."

Protesters Take Their Outrage to Wall Street
Steven Wishnia, AlterNet: "Enraged by the prospect of $700 billion of their taxes going to reimburse Wall Street speculators for their dubious investments, about 500 protesters paraded through Lower Manhattan's financial district Thursday afternoon, their chants of 'You broke it, you bought it' reverberating through the narrow office building canyons and off the flag-draped wall of the New York Stock Exchange."

Gas Shortage in the South Creates Panic, Long Lines
Steven Mufson, The Washington Post: "Gasoline shortages hit towns across the southeastern United States this week, sparking panic buying, long lines and high prices at stations from the small towns of northeast Alabama to Charlotte in the wake of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike."

FP roundup 9/29

U.S. and Pakistani ground forces exchanged fire over the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. There were no casualties.
China successfully launched its third manned space mission.
On the anniversary of last year's crackdown, the Burmese junta is on high alert after an explosion yesterday.

Middle East
Quoting unnamed European diplomatic sources, the Guardian reports that Israel gave serious thought to attacking Iranian military sites last summer but was talked down by President Bush. The Israeli government denies the report.
Israel's West Bank settler movement is increasingly relying on violent tactics.
Neil Macfarquhar's wide-ranging interview with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a must read.

Decision '08
Sarah Palin took questions from the press for the first time, but offered few specifics about her views.
Mississippi is planning on holding a debate, whether candidates show up or not.

European central banks moved to inject cash into troubled money markets.
The EU is imposing tighter testing standards on imported milk after China's contamination scandal.
Two Somali-born terror suspects were arrested aboard a KLM flight in Germany.

South Africa swore in interim president Kgalema Motlanthe.
Somali pirates seized a Ukrainian ship carrying 30 armored tanks.
Robert Mugabe called on the UN to lift sanctions against Zimbabwe.

Vladimir Putin offered to help Venezuela's Hugo Chavez set up a civilian nuclear power program.
Brazil rolled out a somewhat lackluster deforestation plan.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wheeler replies to WUBS

Dear Radio Guy,

I was pretty taken aback by your letter today. I'd suggest you have a detailed conversation with your legal counsel before proceeding with this idea. Unless you clearly and frequently indicate that what people are hearing is an advertisement rather than an event - you may well be putting the station's license in jeopardy. The confluence of election laws and broadcasting requirements is pretty tricky.

This is a very bad idea. If the station can't afford to put on an actual forum (completely understandable) you should restrict yourself to soliciting standard advertising. In any case, I won't be participating in your October 18th event as it is currently constructed.

Donald W. Wheeler
at-large SBCSC Board candidate

WUBS has a different take on civic responsibility

by Don Wheeler

I get quite a few questionaires and meeting offers as an at-large cadidate for the South Bend School Board. It's not hyperbole to say that the one I got from WUBS 89.7 FM is unique. Here it is, verbatim:

Dear Candidate,

WUBS will hold a "School Board Debate" October 18, 2008. This Debate will be a great opportunity to showcase your ideas, views and tell the Michiana audience why they should vote for your campaign. This will be a great way to advertise. We would love to have you apart of this event!

Every candidate from each District is invited to participate. Don't Let This Opportunity Pass You By! The entry fee is only $100 payable by Oct. 11, 2008. This program will broadcast "live" on the air and will feature a "replay" before the General Election Nov. 4, 2008.

To confirm your participation please contact Shane Williams at 574-287-4700 or broshane@wubs.org .

Sometimes there's just no need to comment further. Rest assured, Mr. Williams will hear from me.

Truthout roundup 9/25

Election Deception on College Campuses in Swing States
Greg Gordon, McClatchy Newspapers: "Colorado Democrats accused a Republican county clerk Wednesday of falsely informing Colorado College that students from outside the state could not register to vote if their parents claimed them as a dependent on their tax returns."

Bush Aides Linked to Talks on Interrogations
Mark Mazzetti, The New York Times: "Senior White House officials played a central role in deliberations in the spring of 2002 about whether the Central Intelligence Agency could legally use harsh interrogation techniques while questioning an operative of Al Qaeda, Abu Zubaydah, according to newly released documents."

Bailout Could Deepen Crisis, CBO Chief Says
Frank Ahrens, The Washington Post: "The director of the Congressional Budget Office said yesterday that the proposed Wall Street bailout could actually worsen the current financial crisis. During testimony before the House Budget Committee, Peter R. Orszag - Congress's top bookkeeper - said the bailout could expose the way companies are stowing toxic assets on their books, leading to greater problems."

Western Lawyers Say Iraq Discarded Due Process in Saddam Trial
John F. Burns, International Herald Tribune: "Nearly two years after an Iraqi court sentenced Saddam Hussein to death, new disclosures by Western lawyers who helped guide the court have given fresh ammunition to critics who contend that he was railroaded to the gallows by vengeful officials in Iraq's new government."

Robert Scheer A Fox to Protect the Henhouse?
Robert Scheer, Truthdig.com: "Does it really matter which party is in charge when it comes to bailing out the Wall Street hustlers whose shenanigans have bankrupted so many ordinary folks? Not if the Democrats roll over and cede power to the former head of Goldman Sachs, the investment bank at the center of our economic meltdown. What arrogance for Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson‚ who the year before President Bush appointed him treasury secretary was paid $16.4 million for heading the company that did as much as any to engineer this financial travesty‚ to now insist we must blindly trust him to solve the problem."

FP roundup 9/25

North Korea expelled U.N. monitors and announced plans to restart its nuclear program.
India and Pakistan pledged to renew stalled negotiations. A Pakistani militant group claimed responsibility for last weekend's hotel bombing in Islamabad and vowed more violence today.
Indian PM Manmohan Singh is making one last push to finalize a civilian nuclear deal with the U.S.
The WHO condemned China for its milk scandal.

Middle East and Africa
After months of dispute, Iraq finally passed a law paving the way for provincial elections. The status of the disputed city of Kirkuk remains unresolved, though.
Iraq's largest humanitarian organization is facing embezzlement charges.
Israeli President Shimon Peres fired back at Iran at the UN, describing it as "at the centre of violence and fanaticism in the world." Mamoud Ahmadinejad met with a fringe group of anti-Zionist Hasidic Jews.
A Rwandan former prosecutor was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the 1994 genocide. A prominent French writer is also on trial in Paris for "inciting racial hatred" in a book about the conflict.
Nigerian police have arrested over 200 suspected Niger Delta militants.

A Guantanamo Bay military prosecutor stepped down over his office's suppression of evidence.
Hugo Chavez signed an energy cooperation deal with China.
Mexico's drug violence continues to spiral out of control.
Even hardline Cuban exiles are now pushing for the U.S. to lift the embargo to provide hurricaine relief.

Condoleezza Rice had an awkward meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in New York. Russia snubbed the U.S. by declining to participate in a G8 meeting on Iraq today.
Airline unions dropped their objections to the takeover of Alitalia airlines.
This week's massacre in Finland may have been linked to an earlier shooting.
The Camorra mafia has "declared war" on the Italian state.

Every Breath Ben Bernanke Takes

This deserves it's own post. Many thanks to fake consultant for bringing it to our attention.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

On Crying Wolf, Or, Why I Don’t Want To Give You $700 Billion

As this is being written we are in the midst of the second day of testimony before Congress by Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson in support of the Administration’s proposed financial rescue package.

The basic sales pitch is that the Nation’s financial problems are at this moment so severe that the only solution is to expose to risk $700 billion dollars of taxpayer money to buy assets with a currently unknown price…and to give the absolute and total power over what those valuations are, what should and should not be bought, what repayment terms will be sought—and additionally, what happens to any money recovered--to one man, Henry Paulson.

There are those who are not on board. They have critics, who continue to stress the dire consequences of inaction.

With all due respect to those critics…we have been down this road before with this Administration—and last time, they weren’t so big on telling the truth…or getting the job done effectively.

We’ll cover that ground, we’ll talk a bit about “mark to market” issues—and on a positive note, we’ll address the role of “warrants”, the negotiating power of Warren Buffett, and how the taxpayer could actually see substantial recoveries of money down the road.

So let’s start with the biggest elephant standing in the Plan’s way:

Weapons Of Mass Destruction.

This Administration flat-out lied to the American people to justify the current Iraq adventure. “Just trust us” was the basic message at the time, followed by “we absolutely know that Saddam is an imminent threat because of his Weapons Of Mass Destruction”, followed by “this will cost maybe $50, 60 billion…maybe as much as $200 billion”--which turned out to be possibly the worst estimate in the history of budgeting--followed by variations on The “I’m not the Commander-in Chief, General Petraeus is” Theme…followed by flag-draped caskets that the Administration still hides from public view.

All of this to find not one single operable WMD.

Now comes before us Federal Reserve Chairman Henry Paulson and Treasury Secretary Ben Bernanke, who tell us of imminent threat, who tell us to just trust them…who tell us that they are the most qualified people to understand the issues and take the appropriate action…and who, to top it off, must be left to the task unsupervised and uncontrolled, otherwise the plan will fail.

We are also being told that if we were just economically sophisticated enough we would understand why this plan must be put into place, and that our objections must be related to our economic ignorance.

To which I pose a question to the Joe Kernans of the world (well, one of them anyway): what if the public fully understands that the system is at risk…but we don’t trust the leadership?

(Ever watch “Sex And The City”? This would be the part where they would cut to Carrie’s laptop screen and we would see the words appear as she types them...)

…What if we think the Administration is lying?

I have heard so many lies from the President and his advisors that if Jesus Christ was Treasury Secretary and Mohammed (PBUH) was Chairman of the Federal Reserve I would have doubts about this proposal.

Back in March, Paulson (who, it turns out, is not a Deity) was telling us that “the worst is behind us”…meaning he either does not really understand what is going on here—or that somebody is trying to blow smoke up some unpleasant places, using Paulson as a sort of economic “General Petraeus” who is intended to divert attention from the real economic Commander-in-Chief.

So can this Administration be trusted to handle this without outside supervision?

“Trust, but verify”, Ronald Reagan used to say, and without outside oversight this proposal should be instantly dead on arrival to the Congress.

This might be the most critical issue surrounding this entire plan…and we must demand Congressional oversight. This is far too big a process for any single individual to manage—and too big for any single branch of Government, as well.

Go watch this satirical slap at Bernanke from a wannabe Bernanke.
It’s hilarious—and revealing.

That issue resolved, some economic education is in order:

What, you may ask, is “mark to market”?

Holders of assets are required, for accounting purposes, to report the value of those assets based on what they are worth at the current time. Normally you do this by seeing what “the market” thinks your asset is worth—something that is fairly easily done if the asset is, for example, your house.

On a larger, corporate scale, this marking to market each accounting period can cause the state of your company’s balance sheet to lurch around and gyrate from time to time—sometimes violently…which is the source of much complaint from corporate interests, but for the most part, it all works out. Recently, it has not.

The challenge in today’s economic environment is to figure out what an asset is worth when no market exists for that asset.

Banks are holding quibzillions © of dollars worth of paper that represent streams of mortgage payments that will continue for years into the future…but some unknown number of those mortgages will not be repaid.

The concerns about what can be repaid (or not) and who is holding how many of these “nonperforming” loans has caused virtually all the normal buyers of these kinds of assets to run away in fear, which is the simplest way to explain the “credit crunch” we hear so much about.

The Paulson proposal is based on you and I buying some portion of those assets, today, from the current holders and reselling the assets later. This will allow banks and other institutions to begin making loans, and will hopefully create the confidence needed to induce investors to again buy “pools” of those loans from those banks…after which, the lending cycle begins anew.

The hoped-for outcome, from the perspective of ordinary mortals such as you and I, is to minimize any losses to the taxpayer…or maybe, if we get lucky, generate a profit.

The hoped for outcome, for the current holders of these assets, is to minimize their loss.

So how do you decide what price the taxpayer will pay for these assets?

Picture, if you will, a $100 US Savings Bond. If you bought that bond today, it would cost you $50, and in 17 years the US Treasury will pay you $100, representing the interest income to you from that loan to the Treasury.

The “hold until original maturity” value of that bond is $100.
The “mark to market” value, if you’re “marking” it the day you bought it, is $50.

If you became convinced the Treasury might not pay back the loan, or all the interest, you might sell the bond for less than the original $50, just to recover something from the deal.

That process will work as long as someone else is willing to believe the bond will be repaid, and is willing to put up enough money on that bet to get you to sell.

If no buyer can be found, your bond’s value becomes either “unknown” or “zero”, your personal assets decline—and maybe, down the line, your credit score is affected by some small amount.

Picture that on a massive, quibzillion © dollar scale, and you can see what is happening in the mortgage market today—and to the investors, all over the world, that hold the debt from our collective mortgages.

When the Treasury prepares to buy a CDO or some other mortgaged-backed security from an investor in the near future, Paulson will have to decide, with no help from any market mechanism, if that paper is worth the “hold to maturity” value, zero, or somewhere in the middle…and he has no way to know if the pool of mortgages he’s buying with our money will be 100% repaid, 0% repaid, or something in between.

This issue will be one of the most contentious parts of the entire deal (and the most ripe for abuse…as it would be very easy indeed to reward friends and punish enemies in a system with no oversight), so watch carefully to see how it plays out.

Hint: when asked about this today, I heard Bernanke answer that he expected the Treasury to pay prices similar to what are seen “…in a more normal market…”.

Another satirical video: “Damn, it feels good to be a Banka”.

What’s a warrant?

It sounds all technical and tricky, but actually it’s not.

Warren Buffet invested $5 billion dollars this morning in Goldman Sachs, and as part of the deal he got the right to purchase up to $5 billion in Goldman Sachs stock, at a time in the future of his choosing, for $115 a share (roughly 43.5 million shares). That right is referred to as a warrant.

At this moment, the stock’s last trade was at $130.48. The difference between $115 and $130 is the current available profit to Buffett if he were to “execute” this warrant right now (which is just over $650 million profit in less than 12 hours)…but it’s not the maximum potential profit executing this warrant might bring.

In November of ’07 Goldman Sachs traded at $250 a share…and if Buffett is able to someday execute the warrant at that “strike price” (fancy technical term) the profit on his 43.5 million available shares would be $5.8 billion.

When we take assets from banks and other investors with depressed stock prices, we as taxpayers need to make the same deal Warren Buffet made—we need to demand warrants, and later, sell that stock back to the market, reducing the cost to the taxpayer over the long term…and maybe even making us actual profit….which could help to repay some national debt, perhaps?

There is precedent here. In the 1980’s the US did a bailout deal with Chrysler that involved issuing warrants…and the profit to the Treasury was substantial.

This is an additional huge part of the deal…and you can bet that there will be investor stockholder groups that will lobby—and lobby hard--to stop us from getting warrants.

We need to demand that we get our cut of the profit our tax dollars create…and to do that we need to get warrants as part of these deals…so bug your Member of Congress loudly and quickly on this one.

So, for the moment, let’s recap:

If the Administration wants to sell this plan they better acknowledge that it isn’t economic ignorance that’s the issue…that, instead, the problem is the basic element of distrust that they previously created by lying about matters of war and peace and Katrina…and if you want any plan at all, this is the issue you need to fix first.

Next, we need confidence that the prices paid for bad assets are not going to be excessive, we need oversight that allows us to be confident this isn’t another typical “reward and punish with taxpayer dollars” operation; and finally, we need to demand warrants, the tool that could make this something that turns the transactions, for a change, to the advantage of the taxpayer.

If we insist on these sorts of protections we have the chance to make this at least a fair deal for the taxpayer—and maybe even a good one. After all, if Warren Buffet can get good terms for a mere $5 billion investment…imagine the negotiating power $700 billion should be able to get us.

Even without the Priceline Negotiator, we should still demand the best deal possible…and if the currently frozen financial services industry doesn’t like that, perhaps they should borrow $700 billion somewhere else.

Wheeler proposes "Teach For South Bend" initiative

from http://wheeler4rkids.org

South Bend School Board at-large candidate proposes program to help challenged schools.

What a wonderful achievement and honor Tania Harman of Warren Primary Center accomplished. As announced in the South Bend Tribune on Sept. 23, Ms. Harman is our Indiana Teacher of the Year.

Something that particularly grabbed my attention is that Ms. Harman volunteered to leave a comfortable post at Wilson Primary Center to take on a new challenge at Warren. She is to be commended for that. From the Tribune:

Maritza Robles, director of the corporation's bilingual program, said she knew long ago that Harman was a special teacher and tremendous asset to the ENL program.

So much so that Robles went to her when the ENL program expanded to Warren. "Based on seniority, she didn't have to leave Wilson," Robles said. "She said, 'I will go wherever you need me to.' To me, that's when you know she wants what's best for students."

This is Harman's 21st year as a teacher in South Bend. She also has taught at Kennedy, Monroe and Lafayette.

There are a lot of gifted teachers in our corporation, and not all of them are willing to be as selfless as Ms. Harman. I don't blame them. It's not reasonable for us to expect that.

But what if we could create incentives to provide for those folks willing to take on the extra challenge?

I will never forget the young mother who addressed the School Board in June and asked "Why is it that we seem to be making good progress in Primary Centers on the perimeter of the corporation, and doing so much less well in schools near the center?'

The simple (and not very satisfying) answer, I believe, is that it's a harder job. I gather that very well meaning people go into these situations, become discouraged fairly quickly, and leave. I've heard from people who've studied this issue that mentoring is critical to helping teachers succeed in situations like these. So it seems clear that we need teachers in the tougher schools with the proper skills and experience and/or strong mentors to guide them. We won't be able to anything like this for free, of course.

But the business community, and the Chamber of Commerce in particular, have displayed a real eagerness to be part of the solution to the challenges we face. So what if we were to ask them to handle fund-raising and administration of a new program "Teach For South Bend", which would provide grants/stipends/bonuses to our gifted teachers willing to take on the extra challenge?

I will be meeting with the Chamber next month, and will ask for their feedback. I've discussed this idea informally with the NEA-South Bend leadership. Though it won't fit into our current agreement, that agreement ends soon. I was assured a well-crafted proposal along these lines would be considered seriously.

You gotta be kidding me...

McCain seeks to delay debate to focus on economy

By BETH FOUHY Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Republican John McCain says he's directing his staff to work with Barack Obama's campaign and the debate commission to delay Friday's debate because of the economic crisis.

In a statement, McCain says he will stop campaigning after addressing former President Bill Clinton's Global Initiative session on Thursday and return to Washington to focus on the nation's financial problems.

McCain also said he wants President Bush to convene a leadership meeting in Washington. Both he and Obama would attend the session.

After taking the "Palin Plunge" and his campaign appearing to follow suit, John McCain wants to beg off a debate -which is exactly what voters need to make an informed decision.

Realizing he has no plan and little useful to say about our dilemma, it seems clear he fears facing a candidate who does have one and is likely to blow his doors off.

I used to kind of admire this guy, but this time around everything he does seems to be built around political calculation.

Nice try, John. If Barack falls for this one - he's a goner. I'm guessing he won't.

Rate the debates

from Freepress.net

Help us get the media back on track during the upcoming presidential debates.

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If you feel that pigs with lipstick and Paris Hilton have hijacked our political debate this election season, you’re not alone.

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RatetheDebates.org will help reporters focus on real issues like the economy over campaign gossip and candidate gaffes. Now more than ever, we need the media to be the watchdogs of our democracy.
Debates are marquee moments in American elections. The few journalists selected to participate -- and the media narrative that follows -- will play a defining role in determining our next president.

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Truthout roundup 9/24

McCain Aide's Firm Was Paid by Freddie Mac
Jackie Calmes and David D. Kirkpatrick, The New York Times: "One of the giant mortgage companies at the heart of the credit crisis paid $15,000 a month from the end of 2005 through last month to a firm owned by Senator John McCain's campaign manager, according to two people with direct knowledge of the arrangement. The disclosure undercuts a statement by Mr. McCain on Sunday night that the campaign manager, Rick Davis, had had no involvement with the company for the last several years."

Lawmakers Challenge Lack of Help Aimed at US Homeowners
Mark Landler and David M. Herszenhorn, The New York Times: "The White House waged a multifront campaign Tuesday to persuade Congress to accept its vast bailout plan, with President Bush telling world leaders that the United States had taken 'bold steps' to stanch the financial crisis while Vice President Dick Cheney and other top officials went to Capitol Hill to try to persuade reluctant lawmakers ... The lawmakers objected strenuously to the broad authority Mr. Paulson was requesting, the lack of additional steps to help homeowners avoid foreclosure and the absence of any demands for ownership stakes in the banks that are helped."

Paul Waldman The Ideology Gap
Paul Waldman, The American Prospect: "The current financial crisis reveals how inadequate McCain's conservative ideology is for our interconnected economy and gives Barack Obama a chance to build a progressive consensus not seen since FDR."

Democrats to Let Offshore Drilling Ban Expire
Andrew Taylor, The Associated Press: "Democrats have decided to allow a quarter-century ban on drilling for oil off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to expire next week, conceding defeat in an month-long battle with the White House and Republicans set off by $4 a gallon gasoline prices this summer."

William J. Astore Reviving National Service in a Big Way
William J. Astore, TomDispatch.com: "... Amazingly enough, ordinary Americans generally don't want bail-outs, nor do they want handouts. What they normally want is honorable work, decent wages, and a government willing to wake up and help them contribute to a national restoration."

FP roundup 9/24


Brazil is becoming an oil powerhouse, potentially.
Hurricane season has undermined support for the U.S. embargo of Cuba.
Democrats have decided to let the ban on new offshore drilling quietly expire.
The FBI is investigating Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, and AIG for possible fraud, CNN reports.


North Korea has apparently removed the IAEA's seals on its nuclear reactor.
The Bush administration has "no plans to declassify" a reportedly "grim" National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan before the November election, according to ABC News.
It appears that a U.S. drone has crashed in Pakistan, where Defense Secretary Robert Gates insists the United States is acting within international law.

Middle East and Africa

In a speech peppered with anti-Semitic rants, Iranian Pres. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asserted at the U.N. General Assembly that "the American empire" is "reaching the end of its road."
Islamist insurgents have begun attacking African Union peacekeepers in Somalia.
The resignation of respected South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel spooked investors, sending the country's currency downward.


Finland's prime minister is calling for stricter gun laws after a crazed gunman killed 10 people at a vocational college Tuesday. The Scandinavian country has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world.
British PM Gordon Brown appears to have bought himself some breathing room with yesterday's speech to the Labor Party conference. A cabinet reshuffle is reportedly in the works.
Business confidence is slumping in France and Germany.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Old news, but about a local (Loco's) restaurant

from the South Bend Forum

a story of identity theft

The restaurant deal in Joliet, Zouras reconnected with Parsons, an associate from his illicit past. The two decided to buy a Mexican restaurant called Locos (on Western Av.) in South Bend, but neither had the background to secure a loan or liquor license.

Parsons recruited his brother, James Horton, to sign the loan, and Zouras selected Russell to run the restaurant. To raise money for the purchase, Zouras refinanced the Joliet home owned by Johnson.As the restaurant deal moved forward, Parsons said, he told Zouras he had been blacking out regularly but could not get tests performed because he did not have insurance. Parsons said Zouras suggested that he use Johnson's Medicare number to get a physical and gave him instructions on how to use it.

full story

McCain loses his head

By George F. Will
The Washington Post

The queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. 'Off with his head!' she said without even looking around."
-- "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"

Under the pressure of the financial crisis, one presidential candidate is behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high. It is not Barack Obama.

Channeling his inner Queen of Hearts, John McCain furiously, and apparently without even looking around at facts, said Chris Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, should be decapitated. This childish reflex provoked the Wall Street Journal to editorialize that "McCain untethered" -- disconnected from knowledge and principle -- had made a "false and deeply unfair" attack on Cox that was "unpresidential" and demonstrated that McCain "doesn't understand what's happening on Wall Street any better than Barack Obama does."

To read the Journal's details about the depths of McCain's shallowness on the subject of Cox's chairmanship, see "McCain's Scapegoat" (Sept. 19, Page A22). Then consider McCain's characteristic accusation that Cox "has betrayed the public's trust."

Perhaps an old antagonism is involved in McCain's fact-free slander. His most conspicuous economic adviser is Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who previously headed the Congressional Budget Office. There he was an impediment to conservatives, including then-Rep. Cox, who, as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, persistently tried and generally failed to enlist CBO support for "dynamic scoring" that would estimate the economic growth effects of proposed tax cuts.

In any case, McCain's smear -- that Cox "betrayed the public's trust" -- is a harbinger of a McCain presidency. For McCain, politics is always operatic, pitting people who agree with him against those who are "corrupt" or "betray the public's trust," two categories that seem to be exhaustive -- there are no other people. McCain's Manichaean worldview drove him to his signature legislative achievement, the McCain-Feingold law's restrictions on campaigning. Today, his campaign is creatively finding interstices in laws intended to restrict campaign giving and spending. (For details, see The Post of Sept. 17, Page A4; and the New York Times of Sept. 20, Page One.)

By a Gresham's Law of political discourse, McCain's Queen of Hearts intervention in the opaque financial crisis overshadowed a solid conservative complaint from the Republican Study Committee, chaired by Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas. In a letter to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, the RSC decried the improvised torrent of bailouts as a "dangerous and unmistakable precedent for the federal government both to be looked to and indeed relied upon to save private sector companies from the consequences of their poor economic decisions." This letter, listing just $650 billion of the perhaps more than $1 trillion in new federal exposures to risk, was sent while McCain's campaign, characteristically substituting vehemence for coherence, was airing an ad warning that Obama favors "massive government, billions in spending increases."

The political left always aims to expand the permeation of economic life by politics. Today, the efficient means to that end is government control of capital. So, is not McCain's party now conducting the most leftist administration in American history? The New Deal never acted so precipitously on such a scale. Treasury Secretary Paulson, asked about conservative complaints that his rescue program amounts to socialism, said, essentially: This is not socialism, this is necessary. That non sequitur might be politically necessary, but remember that government control of capital is government control of capitalism. Does McCain have qualms about this, or only quarrels?

On "60 Minutes" Sunday evening, McCain, saying "this may sound a little unusual," said that he would like to replace Cox with Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic attorney general of New York who is the son of former governor Mario Cuomo. McCain explained that Cuomo has "respect" and "prestige" and could "lend some bipartisanship."

Conservatives have been warned.

Conservatives who insist that electing McCain is crucial usually start, and increasingly end, by saying he would make excellent judicial selections. But the more one sees of his impulsive, intensely personal reactions to people and events, the less confidence one has that he would select judges by calm reflection and clear principles, having neither patience nor aptitude for either.

It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?


Michael Moore's free movie

Noted filmmaker, Michael Moore, has realeased his latest film "Slacker Uprising" to everyone for free. Here's the link. Enjoy!


Final vote nears on Child Tax Credit

from Half In Ten

Dear Don:

This summer we joined our allies in calling on the Senate Finance Committee to help the families of 13 million poor children by expanding the reach of the Child Tax Credit. It worked, and now both the House and the Senate have adopted tax provisions that decrease the minimum income required get the credit to $8,500 a year. We expect final votes on tax packages this week, and we want to make absolutely sure that the child tax credit improvements make it to final passage. Contact Speaker Pelosi and thank her for her commitment to including an expanded Child Tax Credit in legislation this year. (Suggested comments below)

With continued attention we can make real change in the lives of millions of low-income families. We’re almost there!

Thanks for all you do,

The Half in Ten Team

Truthout roundup 9/23

Democrats Battling to Add Restrictions to Bailout
David Lightman and Margaret Talev, McClatchy Newspapers: "Congressional Democrats inched close to agreement Monday on the terms of a $700 billion rescue package to stabilize shaky financial markets, but continued to encounter White House resistance to key points. 'The Bush administration has called on Congress to rubber-stamp its bailout legislation without serious debate or efforts to improve it. That will not happen,' said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev."

Obama Outlines Plan to Reform Washington's "Greed and Excesses"
David Nather, Congressional Quarterly: "Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama outlined a broad plan to 'reform the greed and excesses of Washington' on Monday, calling for a series of changes in the way Congress does business. It's not clear whether Democratic leaders in Congress are willing to go along with what their party's nominee is suggesting. The plan goes well beyond responding to the financial meltdown, which has become Washington's top priority. It would require Congress, among other things, to hold all conference committee meetings and committee markups in public and spell out who benefits from all tax breaks in all new tax bills - in keeping with the open-government theme the senator from Illinois has championed throughout his campaign."

$13 Billion in Iraq Aid Wasted or Stolen, Ex-Investigator Says
Dana Hedgpeth, The Washington Post: "A former Iraqi official estimated yesterday that more than $13 billion meant for reconstruction projects in Iraq was wasted or stolen through elaborate fraud schemes. Salam Adhoob, a former chief investigator for Iraq's Commission on Public Integrity, told the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, an arm of the Democratic caucus, that an Iraqi auditing bureau 'could not properly account for' the money."

David Sirota The $700 Billion Questions
David Sirota, In These Times: "If a museum in the next superpower nation ever commemorates the decline of the last great superpower, it will make the two-and-a-half page bill introduced this week the center of the display. Just as they do today at the National Archives' Declaration of Independence exhibit, tourists in the future-perhaps in Beijing, perhaps somewhere else-will line up to see a framed draft of this week's White House legislation demanding Congress surrender its power of the purse, and give an unelected appointee-in this case, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson-the power to hand over $700 billion of taxpayer money to 'any financial institution,' 'without limitation…on such terms and conditions as determined by [him].' In a nation priding itself on separating powers between the branches of government, the bill explicitly states that decisions by Paulson may not even 'be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.'"

Most Americans Think US Is Losing War on Terror
Steven Thomma, McClatchy Newspapers: "A majority of Americans think the United States isn't winning the war on terrorism, a perception that could undermine a key Republican strength just as John McCain and Barack Obama head into their first debate Friday night, a clash over foreign policy and national security. A new Ipsos/McClatchy online poll finds a solid majority of 57 percent thinking that the country can win the war on terrorism but a similar majority of 54 percent asying the country is NOT winning it.

Democrats Reject $700 Billion Blank Check
Carolyn Lochhead, The San Francisco Chronicle: "Congressional Democrats worked Monday to reshape the lame-duck Bush administration's jaw-dropping request for an additional $700 billion and unprecedented authority to buy distressed assets to prevent a financial meltdown, amid a sense of deja vu on Capitol Hill over a similarly open-ended war resolution that Congress gave the administration six years ago."

Rep. Conyers Demands Answers in Justice's Oil Decision
Marisa Taylor and Greg Gordon, McClatchy Newspapers: "The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee demanded Tuesday that the attorney general provide an 'immediate explanation' for a Justice Department decision that could have cost taxpayers up to $40 million in royalties from a major oil company. In a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Conyers said charges that politics might have played a part in a decision favoring a major oil company 'must be taken seriously and thoroughly investigated.' Conyers said he wanted to question the officials involved in the case and that he sought access to all related records."

In-Your-Face Time With Joe Biden
Faye Fiore, The Los Angeles Times: "Joe Biden is what you would call a close talker. He gets right in your face, almost nose to nose. This unnerves those with personal-space issues, but that is clearly not the case for hundreds of people who have pushed their way to the rope line outside a pro football shrine to shake the hand of Barack Obama's running mate, passing him folded-up notes, a white cap and ticket stubs to autograph."

Detainees' Rights Subverted at Guantanamo, Their Lawyers Say
Huma Yusuf, The Christian Science Monitor: "On July 18, Ahmed Zaid Zuhair, a detainee in Camp 6 of the US Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, wrote to his legal team in the US, terminating all written communication. He claimed that two guards had harassed him the previous night: one threatening to kill him and quarter his body; the other threatening to cut off his ears and nose. One guard then read through his legal correspondence, confiscating several documents."

Yannick Mireur Reconciling Main Street and Wall Street
Yannick Mireur and Nicolas Barre, Les Echos: In the pages of France's premier business paper, the editor in chief of the French "American Policy" review argues for a return to the New Deal's social contract, while Nicolas Barre deplores the opportunities wasted by the necessary bailout of the US banking system.

FP roundup 9/23

Decision '08

Is al Qaeda plotting an October surprise?
Sarah Palin is doing more rallies, fewer fundraisers.
Conservative columnist George Will comes perilously close to endorsing Barack Obama.
The candidates continue to spar over the economy.


So-called white flight has reversed in New York, new data shows.
Colombia says it has seized another FARC computer, yielding new intelligence.
Russian naval vessels have set sail for Venezuela.


The Bush administration is conducting four major reviews of its Afghanistan policy. The United States, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are considering creating a joint military force for the border areas, according to the Afghan defense minister.
A top Afghan diplomat was kidnapped in Pakistan Monday, and the Taliban kidnapped more than 150 construction workers in Afghanistan.
North Korea asked the IAEA to unseal its nuclear reactor.

Middle East and Africa

A Palestinian man slammed his car into a crowd of Israeli soldiers, injuring 15.
Sunni "citizen patrols" are causing increasing problems in Iraq. The good news? Shell is opening an office in Baghdad after a 36-year absence.
A mortar attack on a Mogadishu market killed as many as 30 people.


Georgia says it shot down a Russian drone flying over its territory.
Russia is in the midst of its own financial shakeout.
A key European economic index contracted for the fourth straight month.

On A Way Forward, Or, Practical "Subprime Crisis" Solutions

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This was originally published on February 14th of this year, but it seems to be exceptionally timely today.

We had a lively discussion last week regarding the causes and possible future of the “subprime crisis” that is on everyone’s lips these days.

Having examined the sources of the problem, and noting the lack of holistic thinking about how things might be resolved, I’ve taken it upon myself to come forward with an idea that can actually get at the root causes of today’s difficulties...and do it in a way that offers a potential “win-win-win” outcome for homeowners, investors—and the taxpayer.

Paying attention, Presidential candidates?

Good—because time is short, and we need to get to work.

For today’s solution to make sense, we, like Sherman and Peabody, need to make use of the “WABAC Machine”. We’ll set the time dial to the late 1980s, and we’ll set the location as the headquarters of the Resolution Trust Corporation.

What we’d find is a governmental organization established at the height of the “savings and loan crisis” of the 1980s. The savings and loan companies had made a series of bad real estate investments (much like today), and many had already entered or were in danger of bankruptcy.

Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the same names we recognize today from the world of politics were also to be found “doing bidness” at the time of the birth of the RTC...and if you look it up, you’ll find such luminaries as John McCain, Barney Frank, and even Neil Bush doing things that they today wish we would forget.

In fact, there were so many people doing things they wish we would forget that the RTC was needed to find buyers for all the bankrupt savings and loans that had piled up across the nation. The way this was accomplished was to use regulatory pressure to politely force the bankrupt to accept offers from the more solvent.

As a result, the Silverados of the world vanished, and Keating Five became part of the lexicon.

And with the history lesson complete, let’s scoot on back to the “WABAC” machine and return to the present day, shall we?

Those who participated in our bond insurance discussion (and many who didn’t) may recognize that the biggest problem currently affecting the American financial sector (and beyond) is an inability to accurately determine the exact value of various financial assets.

As you may recall, we noted that one form of these assets are “collateralized debt obligations” (CDOs), which are fundamentally income streams from loans backed by real estate collateral. The original debt was incurred in the form of mortgages or equity loans. The current owners of these assets are not the originating lenders; but instead investors scattered across the planet which have purchased bundles of these loans, a process known as “securitization”.

Because there is a disconnect between an investor in Singapore who purchased a CDO and the borrowers back in the USA who are supposed to be making the payments; it is at the moment impossible to determine with any accuracy the actual value of any particular CDO. In other words, if you invested in loans and you don’t know who might fail to pay, how can you know what your investment is worth?

Lenders, regulators, and investors prefer clarity above all else. In a perfect world, borrowers who might be in trouble would promptly contact lenders to initiate a “workout”. Then everybody would know the status of every individual CUSIP, and life would again return to a state of near normality. (CUSIP is a fancy technical term: each individual loan that makes up a CDO is known colloquially as a CUSIP, and has a CUSIP registration number. Other types of debt instruments, such as bonds, also use the CUSIP registration process.)

But how is that supposed to happen when neither the borrower nor the investor know each other?

That’s where this proposal comes in.

Imagine, if you will, a new Resolution Trust Company that would be chartered with the purpose of creating a “clearinghouse” where investors and borrowers could reach accommodation—and where the status of individual CUSIPs could be determined, registered, made known to participating investors, and, in a privacy protected form, to the public at large.

On the investor side, the process would begin with each investor voluntarily “registering” their CDOs with the new RTC. The registration process would determine exactly which CUSIPs are associated with every registered CDO, and this data would be maintained in a public database.

On the borrower side, an advertising campaign that might look like the ads you see for “credit counseling” services would be run by the RTC...something like: “Are you facing foreclosure? We can help to keep you in your home. Call 800 NO FORECLOSE today”.

The RTC would be empowered to act under a limited power of attorney on behalf of the registered investors and would have the authority to negotiate payment arrangements that might include extending the term of the loans at lower payments, some form of delay on “teaser rate” ARM adjustments, or converting the ARM to a fixed-rate loan—or any combination of the above, as warranted.

In extraordinary cases, the RTC could facilitate direct negotiations between homeowners and investors—and in cases where the home is “under water” (the amount owed is greater than the home’s value) such negotiations will be needed.

Every day, as more and more homeowners call in and the status of their loans is determined (“current—no issues”, “default”, “in processing”, “resolution unsuccessful”, “unknown”, and “resolved” are examples of categories to which the loans might be assigned) they can be matched to their registered CUSIP. As the database fills, this creates the clarity that allows more accurate valuation of the CDOs associated with the CUSIPs...which should be the necessary first step in resolving the valuation issue that’s currently choking up the financial markets.

By publicly posting the loan status and the CUSIP number-without other personally identifiable information-it would be possible, to some degree, to protect the homeowner’s personal credit information from public view, while still offering an “open and public” assessment by an independent third party of the CDO to which the CUSIPs are associated...which means private financing can return to the mortgage market with renewed confidence in what they’re buying...which should also have a positive affect on the stock prices of some of the most beaten down companies in today’s market.

At the same time, as the foreclosure rate declines (if this proposal were successful, that could happen rather quickly) less surplus real estate appears on the market...making investment in land and homebuilding once again a reasonable business proposition. Fewer foreclosures also means less decline in the value of affected neighborhoods, which means the neighbors benefit as well.

All of this could be funded by a registration fee per CUSIP (or based on the amount of the loan) charged to the investors that covers the cost of the RTC’s operations.

You might have noticed that I have not referenced what might be the most daunting problem a new RTC might face: the problem of large loans for large projects. How does the $30,000,000 loan to the Florida land developer who has a half-finished condo complex as collateral get worked out?

I have no idea, but it seems to me that the role of the RTC might be best served by doing the high-volume, “cookie-cutter”, single-family home resolutions (and similar duplex, triplex, and other “small unit” properties), leaving the most complex solutions to be negotiated directly between borrower and investor, with loan servicers and bond insurers charged with facilitating resolutions of these problems on their own.

If solutions can’t be found, the bond insurers are on the hook for the income stream, but if the bond insurers default the investors will get nothing (even when they do get paid the cross-ownership is so convoluted that as we move through the process some of the investors will potentially have to work out deals with themselves), so everyone involved should already-or soon will-have what R. Lee Ermey once famously referred to as “the proper motivation”.

So with all that said, what do we have?

We have a proposal that creates a new RTC for the purpose of “clearing” CUSIPs, which allows CDOs associated with those CUSIPs to be valuated, which creates the conditions for private investment to return to the mortgage market.

We do this with the only cost to the taxpayer being limited to incidental costs (registration fees not collectable, and the cost of enacting the legislation, for example) and the burden of bearing the upfront costs of establishing the RTC and launching the ad campaign—which presumably will be recovered as the process moves along to conclusion.

We also do this without changing the “risk profile” of the loan portfolios held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—a potentially huge benefit to the taxpayer.

The investors, bond insurers and loan servicers win because it suddenly becomes possible to credibly and independently valuate the CDOs, communities win if foreclosures return to normal levels, and homeowners get to keep their homes and credit ratings...and the larger economy benefits as the CDO market, for the first time, feels the “cleansing effect of sunshine” brought on by greater disclosure.

And to top it all off, the “moral cost” of the bad choices made are borne by the involved parties, rather than the American taxpayer: homeowners who made bad loan choices still have to pay off the loans, even if it takes longer than they originally thought...investors will lose or have delayed some portion of their interest income...and the best part—investors and “predatory lenders” who foolishly participated in sketchy loans to currently “under water” borrowers will probably lose some or all of the value of those investments as the true state of their CDO portfolio becomes known to the market at large.

Governor candidates debate tonight

Once again, the debate will not be available on any local television station. WVPE (88.1 FM) will broadcast the event live.

In addition, several media outlets will be streaming the broadcast live over the Internet:

Indianapolis Star (http://www.indystar.com) WNIN-TV (http://www.wnin.org/)WIBC Radio (http://www.wibc.com/)WISH-TV (http://www.wishtv.com/)WEHT-TV (http://www.abc25.com/) WRTV-TV (http://www.theindychannel.com/index.html) WTHI-TV (http://www.wthitv.com/) WLFI-TV (http://www.wlfi.com/)

Not able to watch or listen tonight? The Indiana Debate Commission will have the debate available for 30 days following the event at www.indianadebatecommission.com.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Truthout roundup 9/22

Marc Ash Roll Back the Interest Rates
Marc Ash, Truthout: "The big bailout option doesn't fix the problem, it only converts the problem to national debt. The problem then lives on. Greed is not good...greed is not right...greed does not work. Roll back the interest rates, keep people in their homes, restore broad economic stability."

Obama: No Blank Check on Bailout
Jeff Zeleny, The New York Times: "Senator Barack Obama said the government plan to stabilize the nation's financial markets came with 'a staggering price tag,' but he told voters here on Sunday that any rescue plan needed to include new regulations of the financial system. 'First, there must be no blank check when American taxpayers are on the hook for this much money,' Mr. Obama told supporters at an outdoor rally in downtown Charlotte. 'Second, taxpayers shouldn't be spending a dime to reward C.E.O.s on Wall Street while they're going out the door.'"

Pakistani Troops Fire at US Choppers as Tensions Rise
Augustine Anthony, Reuters: "Pakistani troops fired on two U.S. helicopters that intruded into Pakistani airspace on Sunday night, forcing them to turn back to Afghanistan, a senior Pakistani security official said on Monday. It was the second such incident in a week, and reflects frayed relations with the United States over Pakistan's failure to act more forcibly against Islamist fighters in the tribal lands bordering Afghanistan. The number of missile attacks by U.S. drone aircraft in the remote tribal areas has multiplied in recent weeks."

South African President Thabo Mbeki Resigns
Agence France-Presse: "South African President Thabo Mbeki announced Sunday he had handed in his resignation, acceding to a call by his ruling ANC party for him to step down seven months before his second term ends. In an address broadcast live on state television and radio, Mbeki told the nation he had accepted the call to resign in the interest of party unity as he 'respects the decisions' of the African National Congress, which he has belonged to for 52 years."

Schools: Obama Stresses More Investment, McCain Parental Choice
Stacy Teicher Khadaroo, The Christian Science Monitor: "Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama offer different visions for how the federal government can help America's students get ahead. Senator McCain's drumbeat is parental choice and empowerment - making it easier for students in substandard schools to take funding with them, whether to a tutoring company or another public or private school. Senator Obama's thrust is strategic investment - more federal dollars to put good teachers into high-needs schools, increase charter-school options, and boost early childhood development to stave off achievement gaps."

Dean Baker Bush Brings WMD Line to Wall Street
Dean Baker, Truthout: "Remember how President Bush got Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell to run around warning about Saddam Hussein's nuclear bombs? This phony scare tactic got Congress to give him the authorization he needed to start the Iraq war. Even though his credibility has vanished, in large part because of the Iraq war, President Bush is again using a lie to cow Congress into giving him a huge blank check. This time, the check is for $700 billion, to be handed over to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, to spend pretty much as he wants."

Can You Trust a Wall Street Veteran With a Wall Street Bailout?
Kevin G. Hall, McClatchy Newspapers: "Making the rounds on the Sunday morning talk shows, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson repeatedly said today's financial problems were long in the making. He should know. He was part of the Gold Rush that has brought the global financial system to the brink of collapse. Paulson presided over one of the most profitable runs on Wall Street as chairman and chief executive officer of investment banking titan Goldman Sachs & Co. from 1999 until President Bush nominated him on May 30, 2006 to take over the Treasury Department."

Paul Krugman Cash for Trash
Paul Krugman, The New York Times: "Some skeptics are calling Henry Paulson’s $700 billion rescue plan for the U.S. financial system 'cash for trash.' Others are calling the proposed legislation the Authorization for Use of Financial Force, after the Authorization for Use of Military Force, the infamous bill that gave the Bush administration the green light to invade Iraq."

Frida Berrigan No Recession for Arms Sales
Frida Berrigan, Foreign Policy in Focus: "The CEO of a weapons manufacturer has plenty of chances to rub elbows with deputy secretaries of defense, officials from Homeland Security, retired military personnel, and the best and brightest of the defense establishment almost any week of the year."

Chip Ward The Evolution of John McCain
Chip Ward, TomDispatch.com: "Despite the media feeding frenzy, we still may be asking ourselves, 'Just who exactly is Sarah Palin?' Mixed in with the Davy-Crockett-meets-SuperMom vignettes -- all those moose hunting, ice fishing, snowmobiling, baby-juggling, and hockey-momming moments -- we've also learned that she doesn't care much for her former brother-in-law and wasn't afraid to use her office to go after his job as a state trooper; that she was for the 'bridge to nowhere' before she was against it; that she's against earmarks unless they benefit her constituents; that she can deliver a snappy wisecracking speech, thinks banning books in libraries is okay, considers herself a pit bull with lipstick, and above all else, wants to drill the ever-lovin' daylights out of every corner of her home state (which John McCain's handlers have somehow translated into being against Big Oil, since she insisted on a marginally bigger cut of the profits for Alaskans)."

FP roundup 7/22


Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva mocked Wall Street in a speech, saying, "Important banks... that spent their lives giving advice about Brazil and what we should or shouldn't do are now broke."
Bolivian President Evo Morales named an admiral to replace the governor of unruly Pando province, whom he arrested last week.


Pakistan's president is under pressure to respond to Saturday's massive truck bombing at the Islamabad Marriott, which killed at least 53 people.
Pakistani troops again fired on U.S. helicopters crossing the border.
China says 53,000 children got sick from tainted milk.
Taro Aso, an outspoken conservative who loves adult manga cartoons, has been chosen to become Japan's new prime minister.

Middle East and Africa

Ehud Olmert resigned Sunday and Israeli President Shimon Peres is meeting with party leaders in the Knesset. Kadima's Tzipi Livni, the likely next prime minister, is in talks with the Labor Party and others to form a government.
The U.S. military says Iranian-trained assassins are returning to Iraq.
The African National Congress will choose an interim president now that Thabo Mbeki has stepped down in South Africa.


Italian air carrier Alitalia is at risk of losing its license to fly.
British PM Gordon Brown to the BBC: "I want to do better." He speaks Tuesday at the Labor Party conference.

On Distractions, Or, If You Hide In A Smoke Screen, Make Sure It's Not Toxic

It has been an extraordinarily bad week for John McCain, what with his interest in Sarah Palin’s boobs apparently keeping him from being sufficiently aware of the “fundamental soundness” of the economy...but luckily for McCain, the news cycle turns; and a hotel bombing in Pakistan might be the opening his campaign thinks it needs.

With that in mind, expect the next week leading up to Friday’s Presidential debate to be full of references to McCain’s favorite subject...“the transcendent challenge of our time—Islamofascism”...or something eerily similar.

His campaign is convinced this is the strongest place for him to make his argument for election—but what if it is not?

As we anticipate what is coming next from McCain, let’s remind ourselves just how much of a foreign policy expert McCain really is—and let’s do it using McCain’s own words.

McCain likes to talk about how he was the most vocal critic of the war...until January 2007, when Mr. Bush finally listened to McCain and adopted The Surge.

It’s a great story...and if it were true it would be even better.

“...I’ll teach you to kick me!”

“I don’t need you to teach me.
I already know how.”

--Edgar Kennedy and Chico Marx in “Duck Soup

Now I’m not as expert-y as John McCain, but here’s what I told my friends before the war started:

Try to imagine if the UK decided that our government had gone completely crazy, and that for our own good we needed their troops to remove our government and temporarily occupy the US until we could get ourselves back on the right track.

No matter how crazy our government had actually become, the instant that news was broadcast in this country it would become the biggest hunting season you ever saw on the beaches of New England, with millions of heavily armed Americans converging on the invading forces.

What makes you think Iraqis would act any differently?

McCain, the expert, was certain that Iraqis wouldn’t even fight...and he obviously never expected an insurgency:

"Look, we're going to send young men and women in harm's way and that's always a great danger, but I cannot believe that there is an Iraqi soldier who is going to be willing to die for Saddam Hussein, particularly since he will know that our objective is to remove Saddam Hussein from power."

--John McCain on “Face the Nation”, September 15, 2002

The guy who was supposedly such a critic of the war was also one of the co-sponsors of the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that got the war started in October of 2002.

And although he denies it now, during the runup to the war he wasn’t complaining about the number of troops to be deployed:

"But the fact is, I think we could go in with much smaller numbers than we had to do in the past. But any military man worth his salt is going to have to prepare for any contingency, but I don't believe it's going to be nearly the size and scope that it was in 1991."

--John McCain on “Face the Nation”, September 15, 2002

When Robert Byrd questioned the logic of the war on the floor of the Senate, McCain rose to respond: "...when the people of Iraq are liberated, we will again have written another chapter in the glorious history of the United States of America."

McCain was also very comfortable with how things were going...at first:

"I have no qualms about our strategic plans. I thought we were very successful in Afghanistan..."

--John McCain, in an editorial he wrote for the Hartford Courant, March 5, 2003

“It’s clear that the end is very much in sight. ... It won’t be long...it’ll be a fairly short period of time.”

--John McCain on ABC, April 9, 2003

When questioned, McCain even defended the propriety of the “Mission Accomplished” banner on the June 11, 2003 edition of Fox News’ Your World With Neil Cavuto:

NEIL CAVUTO: Senator -- after a conflict means after the conflict, and many argue the conflict isn't over.

McCAIN: Well, then why was there a banner that said mission accomplished on the aircraft carrier?

Later in 2003, despite being a self-described critic of the war, he remained certain we were on the right track:

“Let there be no doubt: victory can be our only exit strategy. We are winning in Iraq.”

--John McCain, speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations, November 5, 2003

Al-Qaeda supporters are Sunni; Iranians are predominantly Shi’a.
That makes it highly unlikely that Iranians are training Al-Qaeda insurgents.

I know that, you probably know that, Joe Lieberman knows that...but for some reason John McCain...the foreign policy expert...can’t seem to remember which is which...and now he doesn’t have Lieberman standing at his shoulder to set him straight.

Of course, we are told, that was just a “senior moment”.

“...The last man nearly ruined this place,
He didn’t know what to do with it;
If you think this country’s bad off now,
Just wait’ll I get through with it “

--Groucho Marx as Rufus T. Firefly in “Duck Soup

One way to be right about an issue is to take both sides of the same argument; and this is a technique McCain employs on a regular basis.

An example? McCain was confident in the Bush Administration’s team in September of 2004...

"I think he [President Bush] strengthened our national defenses. I think he has a good team around him."

--John McCain, September 3, 2004

...but three months later, describing his feelings about then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on MSNBC, McCain gave this assessment:

"I said no. My answer is still no. No confidence."

--John McCain, December 15, 2004

You may recall McCain said we could stay in Iraq for a hundred years...but you may not recall that in February of 2003, roughly a month before we went in, he said we can’t—and he said it as a way to justify the invasion:

"We cannot keep our forces indefinitely staged in the region. Were we to attempt again to contain Saddam, we would eventually have to withdraw them. The world is full of dangers and, more likely than not, we will need some of those brave men and women to face them down."

You used to be able to see the original quote on John McCain’s Senate website...but for some reason the record is today “inaccessible”. (Big thanks to the PERRspectives Blog for grabbing the quote.)

And for those who think McCain might finally have his diplomatic act together...ummmm...despite his saying he knows the leaders of Latin America (and that Obama doesn’t), Spain is not Venezuela, it is not in Latin America—and they’re our friends.

Let’s sum all this up:

It is more likely than not that McCain will attempt to use the Pakistan bombing this week to position himself as the candidate who has the judgment required to keep America safe from “noun, verb, transcendent challenge”.

This is an opportunity for us, however, to remind voters that the real McCain record has not been one that inspires confidence in his leadership...that he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about much of the time...and that we can’t afford another 50 years of this, or a hundred—or a million.

McCain will take jabs at the truth this week...and it is our job to meet those jabs with parries of our own—and then to follow up with counterstrikes of reality, using his own record to knock back his attacks.

Now get out there, Gentle Reader...and let’s win this thing.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Truthout roundup 9/21

William Greider Paulson Bailout Plan a Historic Swindle
William Greider, The Nation: "Financial-market wise guys, who had been seized with fear, are suddenly drunk with hope. They are rallying explosively because they think they have successfully stampeded Washington into accepting the Wall Street Journal solution to the crisis: dump it all on the taxpayers. That is the meaning of the massive bailout Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has shopped around Congress. It would relieve the major banks and investment firms of their mountainous rotten assets and make the public swallow their losses - many hundreds of billions, maybe much more. What's not to like if you are a financial titan threatened with extinction?"

Seven Hundred Billion Dollars Sought for Wall Street in Vast Bailout
David M. Herszenhorn, The New York Times: "The Bush administration on Saturday formally proposed a vast bailout of financial institutions in the United States, requesting unfettered authority for the Treasury Department to buy up to $700 billion in distressed mortgage-related assets from the private firms. The proposal, not quite three pages long, was stunning for its stark simplicity. It would raise the national debt ceiling to $11.3 trillion. And it would place no restrictions on the administration other than requiring semiannual reports to Congress, granting the Treasury secretary unprecedented power to buy and resell mortgage debt."

Iraq Moving Toward Biden's Controversial Vision
Bryan Bender, The Boston Globe: "In May 2006, at the height of the violence in Iraq, Senator Joe Biden floated a controversial proposal: carve out autonomous regions for the three main ethnic and religious groups - Kurds, Sunni Arabs, and Arab Shi'ites - and give them control of most governmental functions except for the military and oil industry, which would remain under central authority. While there remain many detractors who insist that Biden's proposal is unworkable, a growing number of them assert that a rough approximation of what Biden envisioned - a decentralization of power - appears to be taking shape anyway."

Cheney Ordered to Preserve All Records
The Associated Press: "A federal judge on Saturday ordered Dick Cheney to preserve a wide range of records from his time as vice president. The decision by the judge, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, is a setback for the Bush administration in its effort to promote a narrow definition of materials that must be safeguarded under the Presidential Records Act."

Molly Ivins and Louis Dubose The Assault on Freedom
Molly Ivins and Louis Dubose, The Texas Observer: An excerpt from Bill of Wrongs: The Executive Branch's Assault on America's Fundamental Rights, the last book by the late Molly Ivins.

FOCUS McCain and the POW Cover-Up
Sydney H. Schanberg, The Nation: "John McCain, who has risen to political prominence on his image as a Vietnam POW war hero, has, inexplicably, worked very hard to hide from the public stunning information about American prisoners in Vietnam who, unlike him, didn't return home. Throughout his Senate career, McCain has quietly sponsored and pushed into federal law a set of prohibitions that keep the most revealing information about these men buried as classified documents. Thus the war hero who people would logically imagine as a determined crusader for the interests of POWs and their families became instead the strange champion of hiding the evidence and closing the books."

FOCUS Blast Kills Dozens in Pakistan
Shaiq Hussain and Pamela Constable, The Washington Post: "A massive suicide truck bomb ripped through a luxury hotel in the Pakistani capital Saturday night, killing at least 60 people and wounding more than 250 as the building was engulfed in flames, officials said. Witnesses and officials said the bomber drove up to one side of the heavily guarded hotel and detonated more than a ton of explosives, leaving a 30-foot-deep crater."

Forum: Safeguarding Local Votes

League of Women Voters and American Democracy Project

to Host

Forum on Safeguarding Local Votes

Voter ID Law and St. Joseph Co. Vote Counting Problems to Be Discussed October 9th.

"We are eager to provide voters and local organizations with the information they need to make sure their vote is counted in the 2008 election. "

--Lisa Plencner, President, League of Women Voters of the South Bend Area

"Local citizens are registering to vote in record numbers. It is imperative that they be able to cast a vote on Election Day and have that vote be counted."

- Dr. Elizabeth A. Bennion, Campus Director, American Democracy Project, IU South Bend

On Thursday, October 9th, the League of Women Voters of the South Bend Area and the American Democracy Project of IU South Bend will host a public forum entitled: Safeguarding Your Vote: Making Every Vote Count".

The event will be held from 6:00-7:30 in The Grille (Administration Building Cafeteria) on the IU South Bend Campus. The event is free and open to the public. The non-partisan, student-led Political Science Club is cosponsoring.

The League of Women Voters introduced the idea of the forum based on its deep concern about voter disenfranchisement. The League is concerned both about disenfranchisement before votes are cast and when they are counted.

The forum will document the League's struggles to insure that the Voter ID Law does not deprive eligible voters of their right to vote. It will also document the past failures of election official in St. Joseph County to count and certify all votes cast in recent elections. Most importantly, the forum will provide a call to action, along with specific information about what people can do to insure that all votes are counted in November.

Speakers will include:

Tom Brown, 2007 Mayoral Candidate, South Bend

"Ballot Access and Write-In Voting: Making Every Vote Count"

William R. Groth, Esq., Fillenwarth Dennerline Groth & Towe, LLP, Indianapolis

"The Voter ID Law: What Citizens Should Know"

Lisa Plencner, President, League of Women Voters of the South Bend Area

"The Sunshine Coalition: Safeguarding Votes and Democracy Using Citizen Observers"

The evening will also feature special street theater presentation by students of South Bend's Clay High School and information tables by local groups helping voters secure voter ID and registration forms.

All local citizens and media are encouraged to attend.



Saturday, September 20, 2008

Truthout roundup 9/20

Ann Wright Refusing to Kill
Ann Wright, Truthout: "In the five and one-half years of the US occupation of Iraq, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed by US military personnel at checkpoints, during convoy movements and during operations to find the 'enemy.' In the half-decade of US military presence in Iraq, a very small number of US military personnel and an even smaller number of CIA and contractors have been charged with manslaughter or murder in these deaths.... This week we see again that punishment is less for murdering four Iraqis than for refusing to participate in a war that many citizens, and many in the military, see as a crime against the peace - a war crime."

States Accuse Pentagon Of Threats, Retaliation
Lyndsey Layton, The Washington Post: "Environmental officials from several states that have tried to force the Pentagon to clean up polluted military sites say the Defense Department has retaliated by reducing or withholding federal oversight dollars due them. A group representing state environmental officials says California, Colorado, Alabama, Ohio and about a dozen other states have been pressured by the Pentagon to back off the oversight of cleanup at polluted military sites. 'In the worst-case scenarios, the Department of Defense is intimidating a state environmental agency into not pursing enforcement,' said Steve Brown, executive director of the Environmental Council of States."

Matthew Yglesias Obama's Foreign Policy Advantage
Matthew Yglesias, The American Prospect: "A funny thing happened on the morning of July 19 - Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq endorsed Barack Obama's plan for a 16-month withdrawal timeline from Iraq in an interview with Der Spiegel magazine. In a stroke, the entire conservative argument on Iraq was demolished.... It looked to me like the election was in the bag. Democrats were going to win the national-security argument, and hence, the election. It hasn't quite gone that way."

Palin's Husband Refuses to Testify In Alaska Probe
Reuters: "The husband of Gov. Sarah Palin will ignore a subpoena from Alaska lawmakers investigating whether the Republican vice presidential nominee's firing of a state commissioner constituted an abuse of power, officials from her campaign said on Thursday. Todd Palin was among 13 people, including several Palin administration staffers, subpoenaed by a legislative committee to testify in private or at a hearing scheduled for Friday. The governor's husband, however, refuses to answer questions to a panel that he believes is politically motivated, according to campaign officials for Republican presidential candidate John McCain and Palin."

Mark Weisbrot Time to Take a Second Look at Our "Free Trade"
Mark Weisbrot, The Center for Economic Policy and Research: "'Battle in Seattle' opens September 19-26 in movie theaters across the country, a rare combination of high drama and history-making events as they actually happened when thousands of protesters shut down the World Trade Organization in Seattle nearly nine years ago.... Perhaps most unusual for a feature film, it gives the protestors credit for what they accomplished: they changed the debate over what has been deceptively marketed as 'free trade.'"

FOCUS Bush Requests up to $1 Trillion in Bailouts
Edmund L. Andrews, The New York Times: "The Bush administration, moving to prevent an economic cataclysm, urged Congress on Friday to grant it far-reaching emergency powers to buy hundreds of billions of dollars in distressed mortgages despite many unknowns about how the plan would work. Henry M. Paulson Jr., the Treasury secretary, made it clear that the upfront cost of the rescue proposal could easily be $500 billion, and outside experts predicted that it could reach $1 trillion. The outlines of the plan, described in conference calls to lawmakers on Friday, include buying assets only from United States financial institutions — but not hedge funds — and hiring outside advisers who would work for the Treasury, rather than creating a separate agency. Democratic leaders immediately pledged to work closely with Mr. Paulson to pass a plan in the next week, but they also demanded that the measure include relief for deeply indebted homeowners, not just for banks and Wall Street firms."

FOCUS Obama Rallies Florida
Beth Reinhard, Patricia Mazzei and Trenton Daniel, The Miami Herald: "Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama campaigned in South Florida Friday for the first time in three months amid what he called 'the most serious financial crisis in generations,' telling a crowd dominated by women that his Republican rival failed to understand their struggles. Speaking to a nearly packed house of 8,000 people at the University of Miami's BankUnited Center, Obama poked fun at McCain for speaking positively about the 'fundamentals' of the economy and proposing a new financial regulatory agency for financial institutions. 'I think it's clear Sen. McCain is a little panicked right now,' Obama said to the delight of the raucous crowd."

Obama narrows McCain's lead to two points in Indiana

from Rasmussen Reports

Indiana is one of the most reliably Republican states in the nation, but John McCain currently holds a statistically insignificant two-point advantage over the Barack Obama among Hoosiers.
The latest first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of voters in the state shows McCain attracting 49% of the vote while Obama earns 47%. A month ago, McCain enjoyed a slightly larger advantage.

Parts of northwestern Indiana are effectively suburbs of Chicago, Obama’s home base. During the Indiana Primary, strong turnout in this region almost enabled Obama to pull off an upset victory. Four years ago, John Kerry racked up a 23-percentage point margin over George Bush in Lake County, the state’s most northwestern county. Strong turnout in that region could have an impact on the fall election as well.

McCain is viewed favorably by 61% of Indiana voters, down four points from a month ago.
Obama earns positive reviews from 54%, up two points.

Obama is supported by 92% of Democrats, McCain by 85% of Republicans. The two candidates are even among unaffiliated voters.

Rasmussen Markets data shows that Republicans are currently given a 73.9% chance of winning Indiana’s 11 Electoral College votes this fall. President Bush won the state by a 60% to 39% margin in Election 2004, and no Democrat has carried the state since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Prior to that, the last Democratic victory came during the Great Depression when Franklin D. Roosevelt was re-elected in 1936. With release of this poll, Indiana moves from “Likely Republican” to “Leans Republican” in the Rasmussen Reports Balance of Power Calculator. NOTE: Factors other than the latest Rasmussen Reports poll impact the Balance of Power ratings. The current status is indicated on the table in the upper right hand corner of this article.

Rasmussen Reports has released polls on the presidential race this week for Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Wisconsin, Utah and Delaware. Additional state poll results will be released throughout the weekend and first thing Monday morning. Next week, RasmussenReports.com will also released state polls Monday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern and Tuesday-Friday at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll is released each morning at 9:30 a.m. Eastern. Other polling is released at 7:00 a.m., Noon, and 3:00 p.m. Eastern weekdays along with other updates as needed. Premium Members can review full demographic crosstabs for all state polls and get the first look at all Rasmussen Reports polling data. Learn More.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A New Partnership: The School Board and The Community

by Don Wheeler

There is a puzzling question I've been asked a number of times by groups contemplating endorsements of SBCSC Board candidates. It's been phrased in different ways, but the gist is "What would you do if you win and discover there is 3-3 split on most issues?" This particular phrasing first evoked a slightly light-hearted response from me: "Oh, in other words, I'm Sandra Day O'Connor?"

I guess that reaction was a response to how weird the question struck me. It seemed weird that a non partisan body with a strict mission could ever be in that place, and it seemed weird that anyone would think I would adjust my actions because of this sort of political intrigue.

Eventually, when you hear similar questions enough times, you realize it isn't that the question is weird. It is, rather, that the situation is weird. Long time Board observers already know this, but I'm a newbie.

It would appear that one member of the Board (not up for election) is something of a control freak, and an adherent to the Joan Raymond regime. I've been warned that this person would likely attempt to assimilate (Borg-style) any new member to the collective. "Resistance is futile..."

I've mentioned many times that the Board has a lot of work to do to repair it's relationship with the community and that it is imperative that it do so. What I am learning is that some of the problems go back to decisions made during the Raymond regime.

I got my first clue about this when I proposed that School Board meetings should happen in schools - and at an hour when people who work hard for a living can get cleaned up and grab a bite to eat, and come hear what's going on and pitch in if they want to. Know what? Half the meetings used to be done that way - prior to the Raymond regime.

Now, all the meetings are held in the downtown building at 5:30. It's a scramble to find parking, and the room is miserable. There's limited seating for spectators. The board is seated in a U shape, on risers. Spectators on the wings are treated to views of Board member's backs. As I put it to the South Bend Tribune's Editorial Board, "The likelihood is that the people most likely to deal with this level of inconvenience are those who are really, really mad at you. Are those the only kind of people you want there? Does that seem like a good strategy?" Not to me.

Another precept of the era seems that honest debate in front of the public is discouraged. I'm sure that idea was designed to present a united front. I think we can safely conclude that hasn't worked. And when you think about it, that united front could only come from behind the scenes conversations and negotiations. That way I read the law - that would be illegal.

The open meeting act was designed to include the public in decision making. At the very least, the idea was that citizens should be given an understanding of what leads to the decisions made in public policy. It wasn't created just for citizens to witness an event. At last week's "No Excuses" vision meeting, I explained why I think this is so important.

First of all, if there is no vigorous discussion of issues in public, citizens are likely to conclude (rightly or wrongly) that "the fix" is in. Secondly, serious debate will help citizens understand that this stuff is really, really hard.

The new partnership requires honest debate, more transparency, making it easier for community participation and making community participation matter.

That's how I see it.

Elizabeth Edwards stays focused on kids, health

In a lengthy and wide ranging interview with Patricia Anstett of the Detroit Free press, Elizabeth Edwards asserted her focus is on life's bigger issues. Some excerpts:

Elizabeth Edwards says the admission by her husband, John Edwards, of an affair has helped her focus on the importance of her children and issues like health reform as she goes through "an ongoing process
of finding your feet again".

"There's a lot of adjustment to make," the wife of the former Democratic presidential candidate said in an exclusive interview with the Free Press this week. "When you mention trust, that's probably the most difficult hurdle."

Edwards, 59, wants her three children -- Cate, 26, Emma Claire, 10, and Jack, 8 -- to have an image of their father as "an advocate for poverty, not for this current picture of him to be the only one they carry with them, as young people and as adults."

"I have to prepare for the possibility if I die before they are grown and" make them "able to function without an involved, engaged and admiring parent," she said. "So I need to create the picture for them that I want them to have."

She also is resuming her advocacy. Her Detroit-area speech is during Breast Cancer Awareness month. She will testify today before Congress on health care reform. She wants to ensure that any changes to fix the nation's health care system will allow people with preexisting medical problems to obtain insurance coverage; that changes won't whittle away at important benefits, such as screening, and that insurance companies will more routinely send reminders to women about getting a mammogram.

Full Story

Truthout roundup

Obama Regains Momentum in Tight Race
Liz Sidoti, The Associated Press: "The party conventions and the Sarah Palin surge behind them, Barack Obama and John McCain are neck and neck again in their race for the White House - with the momentum and the political environment tilting toward the Democrats.... 'The tide came in, but the tide has gone back out. We're back to where we were' in early August, said Alex Castellanos, a GOP operative and veteran of President Bush's re-election campaign. 'Republicans are in for a tough week.' If not six."

Paul Krugman Crisis Endgame
Paul Krugman, The New York Times: "On Sunday, Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary, tried to draw a line in the sand against further bailouts of failing financial institutions; four days later, faced with a crisis spinning out of control, much of Washington appears to have decided that government isn't the problem, it's the solution. The unthinkable - a government buyout of much of the private sector's bad debt - has become the inevitable. The story so far: the real shock after the feds failed to bail out Lehman Brothers wasn't the plunge in the Dow, it was the reaction of the credit markets. Basically, lenders went on strike: U.S. government debt, which is still perceived as the safest of all investments - if the government goes bust, what is anything else worth? - was snapped up even though it paid essentially nothing, while would-be private borrowers were frozen out."

Obama: Fire the Whole Trickle-Down, on-Your-Own, Look-the-Other-Way Crowd
Terence Hunt, The Associated Press: "Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama promised fresh ideas Thursday to calm America's financial meltdown and help struggling families avoid mortgage foreclosure, saying 'this is not a time for fear, it's not a time for panic.' Obama also heaped criticism and sarcasm on Republican rival John McCain and mocked his promise to fire the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission if elected. 'I think that's all fine and good but here's what I think,' Obama said. 'In the next 47 days you can fire the whole trickle-down, on-your-own, look-the-other way crowd in Washington who has led us down this disastrous path.'"

US Soldier in Iraq Shoots Two American Sergeants
Nicholas Spangler, McClatchy Newspapers: "An American soldier shot and killed two U.S. sergeants Sunday morning at a base southeast of Baghdad, a U.S. military spokesman said Thursday. The shooter's name and rank haven't been released, and the military would say only that the soldier is being held pending a review by a military magistrate. The dead men are Staff Sgt. Darris J. Dawson, of Pensacola, Fla., and Sgt. Wesley Durbin, of Dallas. 'It was a useless, bizarre, terrible thing,' Dawson's stepmother, Maxine Mathis, said Thursday."

Michael Ettlinger and David Madland Second Stimulus Needed to Create Jobs and Revive Our Economy
Michael Ettlinger and David Madland, The Center for American Progress: "With 605,000 jobs lost so far this year and an unemployment rate topping 6 percent, the U.S. economy-and especially its labor market-needs another shot in the arm. The economic stimulus package passed in February gave the economy a helpful prod and staved off an economic contraction over the summer. The Treasury Department and Federal Reserve are intervening in financial markets on a massive scale to hold off a complete collapse wrought by their own and other agencies' incompetent supervision of Wall Street business practices. But other stimulus measures are needed as well."

VIDEO Barack Obama: Fire Them All
Responding to John McCain's call for the firing of the chairman of the Security Exchange Commission, Christopher Cox, Obama called for voters to "fire the whole Trickle-Down, On-Your-Own, Look-the-Other-Way crowd in Washington who has led us down this disastrous path. Don't just get rid of one guy, get rid of this administration, get rid of this philosophy, get rid of the do nothing approach and put somebody in there who is going to fight for you."

FP roundup 9/19


A new report by Human Rights Watch details how Hugo Chávez has undermined democracy in Venezuela.
Expelled U.S. Amb. Philip Goldberg repeated Thursday that he had nothing to do with the violence in Bolivia.
The Mexican military seized $26 million in alleged drug cash.


North Korea again denied that Kim Jong Il is sick and said it had begun rebuilding its Yongbyon reactor.
China initiated a massive recall of milk products after melamine was found in batches of regular milk, not just powder.
Japan's farm minister has resigned over a scandal involving pesticide and rice.

Middle East and Africa

Israeli Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, who lost Kadima's intraparty elections to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, is quitting politics.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he doesn't hate Israelis.
The death toll in the Yemen embassy attack has risen to 11 and now includes an American.


Russia test-fired a new missile with a range of more than 4,000 miles and sold military technology to Iran and Venezuela.
Meanwhile, Russia's once-mighty stock market has become the world's cheapest.
Britain may send 4,000 troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, according to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The United States is also seeking three more combat brigades and $20 billion in aid.

FP top story 9/19

In what the New York Times says could become "the biggest bailout in United States history," Treasury Department and Federal Reserve officials are working on a plan to take bad mortgages and related securities off the balance sheets of financial institutions and stem a crisis that has, in the words of IMF No. 2 John Lipsky, "expanded suddenly to historic proportions."

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke briefed "grim-faced" congressional leaders Thursday evening on the idea, which would need to pass Congress before it recesses next week. "The root cause of distress in capital markets is the real estate correction and what's going on in terms of the price declines in real estate," Paulson said after the meeting. He'll hold a press conference at 10 a.m. today to explain further.

"It sounds like there's going to be a giant dumpster for illiquid assets,'' Mirko Mikelic, a senior portfolio manager in Grand Rapids, Mich., told Bloomberg News. "This is a detox for banks, and will help cleanse themselves of the bad mortgage securities, loans and everything else that has hurt them," says Anthony Sabino, professor at St. John's University.

The details aren't yet clear, but the Washington Post's Steven Pearlstein contemplates what the new entity might look like. "As for funding levels," he writes, "you can figure it could be anywhere from $200 billion to $500 billion, on top of the money already committed for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG and Bear Stearns."

The move comes after the Fed rained down financial "shock and awe" Wednesday, injecting nearly $300 billion into the credit markets with little discernable effect. The SEC also took action, banning the short-selling of nearly 800 financial stocks that could become a target for speculators.

World markets surged as news of the rescue plan trickled out.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

On Bucking A Trend, Or, Yes, Virginia, Sometimes Politicians Deserve Respect

We are all guilty, from time to time, of beating up on our politicians--and why not?

It only takes a moment to think of someone we elected who immediately went “off the rails”...who today can’t even remember the promises they are busy breaking...and who can’t wait to get out of elective office so they can move on to lobbying their former colleagues.

Occasionally, however, we come across officials who are bucking the trend: working hard, dedicated to doing a good job for the voters that put ‘em in office...and doing that good job even when all around them were working feverishly to bring on indictments.

Such a politician is the subject of today’s unusually upbeat story...and with that said, allow me to introduce you to Port of Seattle Commissioner Lloyd Hara.

Who loved the movie Pulp Fiction? For me, the thing that made the movie was that the story was not told in “linear” time; instead bouncing around a bit, with the end eventually becoming the beginning.

Today, telling the Lloyd Hara story, we’ll do the same.

The Port of Seattle is a public agency charged with operating the water terminals within its area of jurisdiction as well as Sea-Tac Airport. It has a real estate operation which leases certain assets to tenants, is involved in efforts to improve regional freight mobility, and has relationships with certain contract providers and vendors who, among other things, make available legal and consulting services.

The Port has a CEO, five Commissioners who serve as a Board of Directors (for the princely sum of $6000 a year...), and a staff who perform the daily tasks of running a Port’s operations.

When you think of Seattle politics I suspect you imagine people who look like they could be working at Microsoft mingling with people who are squeaky-clean idealists—and I’m here to tell you that this can occasionally happen.

But it might surprise you to know that Seattle is far from squeaky-clean in its political history. In an effort to write their own chapter in the history of local corruption, former Port CEO Mic Dinsmore and certain members of the Port staff seem to have run the Port as their personal fiefdom.

It appears that lavish personal entertaining on the taxpayer’s dime was considered a personal perk, along with lavish, no-bid contracts for the consulting and legal services (who appear to have been associates of Dinsmore) that were concealed from the Commissioners...the effort to inappropriately influence Port elections is also alleged...and in the case of the contract for the “cruise ship consultant/operator”, a deal was struck that guaranteed the consultant/operator profit no matter how the year’s business turned out--and most of the profit even if things went well--despite the fact that the Port put up virtually all the assets and took on almost all the liability.

Now I’m not saying everyone involved was trying to profit off the Port, but I will say that the Commissioners, for many years, didn’t seem to be noticing what was happening...and it was probably far too easy to conceal what was being hidden, if you get my drift.

We’ll return to this story in a minute...but first, let’s jump back to a moment in Rotary Club history that also features in Lloyd Hara’s history.

Rotary International was a men’s-only operation for many years, but the door was cracking open because of a court case involving a Rotary Club in Duarte, California that eventually found its way to the Supreme Court. In 1984 Hara, as the Rotary “Governor’s Special Representative” led the formation of the Seattle-International District Rotary Club...and the club was to eventually challenge Rotary International by being the first Rotary who sought from the time of its formation to initiate women (only Duarte had women members at the time); a challenge that resulted in Karilyn Van Soest attending the International Convention in 1989 as only the second woman ever to be the President of a Rotary Club.

By 1989 Hara had already served as the youngest Auditor in King County history and was in the middle of his 12-year run as Seattle City Treasurer, earning numerous awards for the effort, including being named to City and State Magazine’s Public Officials of the Year list in 1987 (the class of five includes Dianne Feinstein, who was mayor of San Francisco at the time) and, as he tells us, named the Nation’s Best Treasurer in 1987.

He left the Treasurer job in 1991 to become the Regional Director for FEMA (back when they actually hired for competence), and he also been teaching at Seattle University...and in 2005 he was elected Port Commissioner (a legally nonpartisan position) on a reform platform, earning a variety of endorsements, including that of the Sierra Club. In the same election John Creighton became the second half of the “Reformist Bloc” to join the Commission.

At about the same time, the Washington State Auditor’s office was charged by initiative to, for the first time, perform “performance audits” in addition to the financial audits they had always conducted...the Port had released “incomplete” results from an internal audit of their own...the pressure from all the sudden reform caused Dinsmore to leave (leaving a questionable sudden pay raise in his wake)...and in December 2007 the State’s audit report was released—causing lots of things to hit lots of fans.

Among the things: the Commission hired a former US Attorney to conduct an internal investigation, the current US Attorney is conducting a criminal investigation, and the Commission has revoked many of the powers previously enjoyed by Port staff.

The State Auditor’s office presented 51 recommendations, new CEO Tay Yoshitani, previously Executive Director of the Port of Oakland, California joined with the Commission in moving toward adopting the recommendations...and as of August the Commission reports 45 of the 51 recommendations will have been implemented.

A new emphasis on accountability is emerging, something Hara and fellow Commissioner Bill Bryant discussed in a February, 2008 Town Square conversation.

Time for another “non-linear time” moment: in 1972 Hara was named as a respondent to a lawsuit, in his capacity as King County Auditor, in which a Mr. John Singer and a Mr. Paul Barwick sought a marriage license, which Hara, despite his personal support for the request, declined to issue—the second such lawsuit in US history.

To make a long story short, Washington State had recently adopted gender-neutral language in its statutes and regulations, and the Plaintiffs felt that the new language could be interpreted to permit same-sex marriage. This interpretation was not shared by the appellate courts, however, and Hara’s decision to reject the application was upheld.

I really began to appreciate Hara when his “Port Notes” began showing up in my email. I can truthfully say that I have never received more detailed and useful reports from any elected official...this being one example:

“Lora Lake Apartments: This complex in the shadow of the 3rd runway progressed from scheduled demolition, to a bone of contention with low-income housing advocates, to a pending transfer to King County Housing Authority, to a toxic waste site. It's now unclear how severe the problem is, or whether the complex can ever be preserved as residential property. Needless to say, the transfer is on hold.

Eastside Corridor: After almost 2 years of negotiations, we authorized the purchase of the corridor from the BNSF and gave King County an easement for the trail. Every interested party has begun to weigh in -- hikers and bikers, adjacent home owners, rail and transit interests, eastside cities and Snohomish County interests, business people and the public in general. We plan public hearings this summer and expect to broker a dual use facility of transit/rail and trail. It's important to bring this corridor under public ownership, and the Port is probably the only government with funding capacity to make the $107 million acquisition.

3rd Runway: 20 years into the project, you may spot an FAA Learjet landing as testing continues this summer, looking forward to first commercial traffic in November. As you can see, siting a new airport in the region would be a very major undertaking.

T-30/91: We must complete the cruise terminal at T-91 in time for the 2009 season, and convert T-30 for container use shortly thereafter. Only T-91's electrical cables are slated for reuse - not the gangway, the terminal building or other assets - so this bears watching for cost overruns.

T-25: On a 3-2 vote, we approved surface improvements for potential use as an extended container facility. John Creighton and I voted against. We originally contemplated a cold storage facility here, and I wanted to make sure the intended use was properly bid."

--(Note: links are as they appeared in the original email)

As I said, this is far more detailed than the usual “Congressman So-and-so met with residents at the Senior Center” that I often see in my inbox—and as a taxpayer, it’s much appreciated.

All is not sunshine and rainbows, however. In 1991, Hara was investigated by Seattle’s Board of Ethics because of his relationship with Stuart C. Johnston. There were concerns that Johnston, Hara’s lead campaign fund-raiser and also a manager of City investment funds, might be inappropriately tied to Hara, who was the official responsible for overseeing the management of those same investment funds. He was later cleared of having committed any ethics violations.

Hara was fined $400 in March of 2008 by the State of Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission because his 2005 campaign failed to make certain filings in a timely manner.

Christopher Cain, who runs “The Port Observer”, was kind enough to offer this assessment of Hara and the Port reform efforts:

“Lloyd Hara runs a good campaign effort under the clever guidance of Sharon Gilpin, a campaign consultant. Effective campaigns are the key to remaining a Seattle Port Commissioner. As a Port Commissioner, and former accountant for the City of Seattle Mr. Hara has exhibited excellent qualities favorable to the public interest.

However, Lloyd has from time to time fallen prey to the old school ways of behaving badly. Numerous junkets to far off places will not make you a better steward of the public purse. Port CEO Tay Yoshitani's handling of the accounting scandals was typical old boy club style politics and Hara has cozied up only because he wants so badly to be a part of that club. But Lloyd’s loyalty to the public must wreak havoc in attempting to balance the two relationships...

...The last few years have revealed some amazing things that have always lurked beneath the surface, but the path to change has been focused on changing public perception (as usual) and not really on how things are done at the Port. You can take the criminals out of the port but you can't get corruption out of a system designed to be corrupt...Therefore, without someone willing to take on the establishment who understands this, all actions are futile exercises designed to get you re-elected. Lloyd understands this very well and likes to be a Port Commissioner.”

So that’s the story for today: despite what we often believe, there are politicians out there who are doing a good job for us, who have a history of working for the public good, and who like to keep us aware of where our money goes.

Not all is perfect...and some of his critics wonder if he is up for his current job...but all in all this is a politician I can surely respect, and in these times, that’s pretty good.


A “45-foot, 28-ton Bush Legacy Museum on Wheels” will be rolling into
downtown South Bend on Friday. The tour bus will highlight the failed
policies of the Bush administration, in case you missed them.

*Friday, September 19
11AM - 7PM
Across from Century Center
(St. Joseph & Jefferson)

Free hot dogs & soda

Let's stop by and pay our respects on our way to the last "Meet me on the Island" this year.

Outing "Michiana Voice"

by Don Wheeler

I happened to send in a couple of items I wanted included in our First Unitarian Church newsletter this morning. One had to do with the October 4th "Pride in the Park" event. Our Church Administrator had an interesting response.

We just got a LONG letter from [the alleged] Michiana Voice -- unsigned, of course -- asking us to boycott McDonald's for supporting GLBT causes. "Your happy meal purchase helps support those family-wrecking queers, so cut it out!" (paraphrase).

Maybe I should add Michiana Voice to our mailing list.
Intrigued, I wrote back - telling him I'd be quite interested in publishing the letter. He replied:

The letter and it's "fact" sheet went in the recycling bin, which was picked up yesterday. Particulars on the boycott are posted at the afa.net website. And yes, Wildmon is the AFA guy -- They claim to have the support of a whopping .008 (8/10s of one percent) of the population! That's almost as many people as there are, by very conservative estimates, full-fledged, "out" gay and lesbian people.

Michiana Voice
PO Box 2441
South Bend 46680

That's the only
identifying info on the letter. It was sent to all churches in the area, so somebody might have kept a copy.

I thought the conservative estimate was 8%, but no matter. I couldn't find the McDonald's grievance on the afa website, but maybe we should write these "Voice" folks and express our deep appreciation. And, by the way, check with your church to see if they still have a copy. I'd still like to post it.

Truthout roundup 9/18

Election Day Could Be a Mess
Mary Pat Flaherty, The Washington Post: "Faced with a surge in voter registrations leading up to Nov. 4, election officials across the country are bracing for long lines, equipment failures and confusion over polling procedures that could cost thousands the chance to cast a ballot. The crush of voters will strain a system already in the midst of transformation, with jurisdictions introducing new machines and rules to avoid the catastrophe of the deadlocked 2000 election and the lingering controversy over the 2004 outcome. Even within the past few months, cities and counties have revamped their processes: Nine million voters, including many in the battleground states of Ohio, Florida and Colorado, will use equipment that has changed since March. But the widespread changes meant to reassure the public have also increased the potential for trouble."

Obama Ties McCain to Old Boys' Network
Athena Jones, NBC News: "Obama used his third campaign trip to this city in northern Nevada to link McCain to the very 'old boys' network' the GOP presidential nominee says he has promised to fight. Obama, who has consistently argued that McCain does not understand the magnitude of the economic troubles facing the country and hardworking families, told a crowd of more than 1,500 people gathered in a park here today that, unlike McCain, it didn't take a crisis on Wall Street for him to realize people were suffering on Main Street."

David Sirota Maximizing the Financial Regulation Debate
David Sirota, The Campaign for America's Future: "Whether we get the kind of populist reforms will be decided by how much grassroots pressure is put on either of these potential presidents when they reach the Oval Office. The talk right now from both candidates may be good - and Obama is smart to point out McCain's absurdly dishonest rhetoric. But talk is cheap when it comes time to write legislation."

Seven US Soldiers Die in Helicopter Crash
The Associated Press: "Seven American soldiers were killed in southern Iraq early Thursday when their helicopter crashed as it was flying into the country from Kuwait, the U.S. military said. The military said the CH-47 Chinook helicopter did not come under attack, and that the crash was an accident."

Barney Frank: Lack of Government Regulation Led to Troubles Plaguing Wall Street
Beth Healy, The Boston Globe: "Amid a wave of unprecedented Wall Street failures and government bailouts, Representative Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, holds a powerful post in the oversight of the nation's financial system. He is holding a number of hearings on these issues, including one today on the auction-rate securities scandal that has forced Wall Street to buy back nearly $60 billion in investments from customers."

VIDEO Maddow and Sirota on McCain's Flip-Flop on Regulation
Rachel Maddow and David Sirota discuss John McCain's flip-flopping stance on regulation of the financial industry and McCain's history as an anti-regulator.

Go directly to our issues page: http://www.truthout.org/issues

Wal-Bank - The Rasputin of financial institutions

Thanks to contributor Robert

No matter how many times Wal-Mart fails to create a "Bank of Wal-Mart," the company always seems to find a way to bring it back to life.

Seven months ago, you helped us keep Wal-Mart out of the banking business. But now, the Federal Reserve is looking into changing the rules completely - and may throw open the door to giant corporations like Wal-Mart to run their own banks.

At a time when our economy is already in crisis, we can't turn the banking industry over to Wal-Mart. Please write a note to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and the Banking Committee leaders in Congress, and let them know what's at stake:


Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott has publicly stated that 20 percent of Wal-Mart shoppers don't even have checking accounts.

Just imagine what could happen to our economy if Wal-Mart controlled the banking industry.

Since the Great Depression, strict U.S. policy has kept giant companies from operating or owning banks. The Fed may be trying to change the rules quickly and quietly, without giving the American people a chance to ask questions or express our concerns. We need your help again now to make sure Wal-Mart doesn't take another step closer to its dream of being America's biggest bank.

We can't let the Federal Reserve quietly remove a restriction that has protected American families' money for nearly eighty years.

Write to the leaders of U.S. banking policy and warn them about the dangers of "The Bank of Wal-Mart":


For more than two years, you've helped us block Wal-Mart's banking ambitions. With your help, we will do it again.

Thanks for your continued support.


David Nassar

Wal-Mart Watch

An appeal from wecansolveit.org


I've been deeply frustrated. I suspect a lot of you have been too.

We're facing such huge challenges and all you hear through the media are demagogic chants like "drill, drill, drill."

Skyrocketing energy prices. The climate crisis. Unraveling financial markets. Wars that just happen to be in places with a lot of oil. These are all just different faces of exactly the same thing. As I've said in the past, we're borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the future of human civilization. And every bit of that has to change.

We all know what we have to do. Ask anybody on the street and they'll tell you. We need to "Repower America" -- invest in ourselves, here at home, with clean, economical energy technologies that we know work. And be the global leader as these technologies take off around the world.

And ask anyone, and they'll also tell you why it isn't happening: the oil and coal lobbies -- and the politicians who do their bidding.

It's very simple.

So the Alliance for Climate Protection has put together an ad that tells this simple story. And we're going to put it on national cable TV.

If we can raise an additional $80,000 online, we'll also put it on 60 Minutes and 20/20 this coming week. Wouldn't that be great?

Can you help? Just go here:


FP roundup 9/18


Time asks: Is Bolivia headed for civil war?
President Evo Morales angrily rejected the U.S. decision to place Bolivia on the list of countries that aren't cooperating in the war on drugs.
Interpol agents in Brazil caught a former Argentine army major who allegedly committed crimes against humanity during Argentina's "dirty war."


Five people were killed in South Waziristan by a U.S. missile strike aimed at a militant camp. Pakistan was not warned, according to its foreign minister.
China arrested 12 more people for alleged involvement in the tainted milk scandal that has killed four people and sickened at least 1,200.
Sri Lanka is fighting a pitched naval battle with Tamil Tiger rebels.

Middle East and Africa

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni narrowly won the Kadima Party's elections. Now, she must put a coalition together within 42 days or face snap elections that could bring the Likud Party's Benjamin Netanyahu to power.
Seven U.S. soldiers died when their Chinook helicopter crashed in southern Iraq.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe finds his power-sharing deal with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai a "humiliation."
U.S. and Yemeni officials blame al Qaeda for Wednesday's embassy attack, but so far Yemen is merely rounding up the usual suspects.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised to work with her coalition partners even though they seek to replace her during next year's elections.
The AIG bailout may embolden opponents of free markets.
The U.N. tribunal held a hearing Wednesday on Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader who stands accused of committing war crimes.

FP Top Story 9/18

In a big-time move announced at 3 a.m. Thursday morning, the U.S. Federal Reserve teamed up with the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan, and others to inject $180 billion into global money markets.

The Fed authorized the expansion of its "swap lines," temporary reciprocal currency arrangements, to unlock credit markets that froze up when banks around the world essentially stopped lending to one another in dollars. Jim O'Neill, chief economist for Goldman Sachs in London, explains, "There's a lot of cash hoarding and people losing trust in banks, so the central banks are acting to relieve that."

The Fed's move came after a harrowing day on Wall Street Wednesday. The Dow Jones industrial average fell by 449 points and the S&P 500 dropped to its lowest level in over three years. Gold prices shot up and yields on three-month Treasury bills plummeted as investors fled stocks and debt for safer assets, raising the cost of borrowing for financial firms that are already under great pressure.

"It's like having a fire in a cinema," Princeton economist Hyun Song Shin told the New York Times. "Everybody is rushing to the door. You are rushing to the door because everyone is rushing to the door."

European markets recovered slightly today, but Asian stocks continued to fall. Meanwhile, investment bank Morgan Stanley is reportedly in merger talks with regional bank Wachovia, while Washington Mutual is working on a sale.

Former state Ethics Commision Chair joins call to investigate Daniels' travel

Long Thompson campaign filed public records request and complaint on Wednesday

INDIANAPOLIS - Today, the former chair of the State Ethics Commission became the latest state leader to call for an investigation into Governor Mitch Daniels' use of state aircraft for personal and political travel.

Professor David Hadley, who also chairs the political science department at Wabash College, believes there is ample evidence for the Inspector General to quickly follow through with the Jill Long Thompson campaign's complaint filed last Wednesday.

"Based on various newspaper reports, Governor Daniels' use of state planes for transportation to political events would appear to violate 42 IAC 1-5-12," said Professor Hadley. "The Inspector General should immediately initiate the investigation and report the results of the inquiry to the Ethics Commission at its next meeting. If the Governor has in fact used state funds for political purposes, he must immediately reimburse the taxpayers."

A northeastern Indiana newspaper recently reported that Daniels had used state airplanes and other vehicles to attend personal and political events at taxpayer expense. Trips included several Republican Party dinners and a flight from his vacation home in West Virginia back to Indiana. Most recently, he used a state plane to travel the state announcing initiatives that are now featured in campaign commercials.

A week after urging the Governor to voluntarily disclose his travel records and reimburse Hoosiers, last week the Long Thompson campaign filed the paperwork necessary to investigate Daniels' travel. The campaign submitted a public records request for the immediate release of all documents pertaining to his travel and filed a complaint with the state's office of Inspector General to uncover any violations of Indiana ethics laws or regulations.

"Hoosiers deserve answers and Governor Daniels should do the right thing and release his records, allow for a full and independent investigation," added Professor Hadley.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

CNN fact-checks McCain,et.al.: Oooops!

From Good Video: Our potential Vices

Our Man Mitch!

Truthout roundup 9/17

Obama Campaign Files Voter Rights Lawsuit
Michael Falcone, The New York Times: "Responding to allegations that Republican Party officials in Macomb County, Michigan plan to use home foreclosure lists to challenge voters at the polls in November, the Obama Campaign and the Democratic National Committee filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in federal court to prevent what they contended was an illegal practice. Obama Campaign General Counsel Bob Bauer said that using home foreclosure lists as a basis for challenging voter eligibility would have a 'deadly effect on the voting process' and argued that the practice would be illegal."

Richard Cohen The Ugly New McCain
Richard Cohen, The Washington Post: "Following his loss to George W. Bush in the 2000 South Carolina primary, John McCain did something extraordinary: He confessed to lying about how he felt about the Confederate battle flag, which he actually abhorred. 'I broke my promise to always tell the truth,' McCain said. Now he has broken that promise so completely that the John McCain of old is unrecognizable. He has become the sort of politician he once despised."

Federal Reserve to Loan AIG $85 Billion in Rescue
Edmund L. Andrews, Michael J. de la Merced and Mary Wiliams Walsh, The New York Times: "Acting to avert a possible financial crisis worldwide, the Federal Reserve reversed course on Tuesday and agreed to an $85 billion bailout that would give the government an ownership stake in the troubled insurance giant American International Group, according to people briefed on the negotiations. The decision, only two weeks after the Treasury took over the quasigovernment mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, is the most radical intervention in private business in the central bank's history."

J. Sri Raman Fighting Terror, the Far-Right Way
J. Sri Raman, Truthout: "Newton's Third Law of Motion now has nearly as neat a political parallel. Every non-state terror strike against human lives leads to an opposite and often more than equal state assault on human rights. The New Delhi blasts of September 13 have led to no different a sequel."

Oil Drilling Bill Passes in House
Avery Palmer, Congressional Quarterly: "After months of debate about expanding offshore oil and gas drilling, the House passed legislation Tuesday that could open up large areas off U.S. coastlines to energy production.... After watching Republicans gain political traction in recent weeks with calls for more offshore drilling, Democratic leaders hope the legislation will provide political cover for moderate members of their caucus who face tough re-election fights."

FP roundup 9/17


A witness accused Mario Montoya, the Colombian general who stewards the U.S. military aid package, of working with paramilitary death squads.
Negotiations between the Bolivian government and five renegade provinces appear to be making fragile progress. The U.S. government has nonetheless ordered its people to leave the country.


U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates apologized to Afghanistan for the recent airstrikes that killed an estimated 90 civilians.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has forbidden imports from Ranbaxy, an Indian drug firm whose quality control was deemed suspect.
Thailand elected Somchai Wongsawat, the brother-in-law of Thaksin Shinawatra, as its new prime minister.

Middle East and Africa

A car bomb struck the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, killing at least 10 people.
Kadima, Israel's top party, is choosing a new leader to replace outgoing PM Ehud Olmert.
There have been 31 female suicide bombers so far this year in Iraq.


Russia's two main stock exchanges have been shut down to prevent further steep declines.
A minister has joined the Labor Party revolt against British PM Gordon Brown.
The new EU Treaty likely won't go into effect until 2010, Luxembourg's prime minister says.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Governor's debate tonight!

Tonight is the first gubernatorial debate of the campaign season in Merrillville, Indiana.

Jill Long Thompson will face Governor Mitch Daniels and Libertarian challenger Andrew Horning at the Star Plaza Theatre at 7:00 p.m. CST.

Even if you can't make it to Merrillville, you can catch all of the action live on the following television stations:

WFYI-TV, Channel 20, Indianapolis

WJTS-TV, Channel 27, Jasper

WFWA-TV, Channel 39, Fort Wayne

WTIU-TV, Channel 30, Bloomington

WIPB-TV, Channel 49, Muncie

WNIN-TV, Channel 9, Evansville

WRTV-TV, Cable Channel, Indianapolis

WTHR-TV, Cable Channel, Indianapolis

Several media outlets will also be streaming the broadcast live over the Internet: Indianapolis Star (http://www.hoosiersforjill.com/page/m/67b87f88f64a6777/RYENlQ/VEsH/) Times of Northwest Indiana (http://www.hoosiersforjill.com/page/m/67b87f88f64a6777/2ASDfN/VEsE/) WEHT-TV (http://www.hoosiersforjill.com/page/m/67b87f88f64a6777/rZguov/VEsF/) WANE-TV (http://www.hoosiersforjill.com/page/m/67b87f88f64a6777/rVAufd/VEsC/) WRTV-TV (http://www.hoosiersforjill.com/page/m/67b87f88f64a6777/Z5WvHj/VEsD/) WXIN-TV (http://www.hoosiersforjill.com/page/m/67b87f88f64a6777/PK3VKg/VEsA/) WTHI-TV (http://www.hoosiersforjill.com/page/m/67b87f88f64a6777/MY5h1B/VEsB/) WLFI-TV (http://www.wlfi.com/)

I hope you have an opportunity to tune in or log on to hear Jill's message of change for Indiana -- change that will re-start our economy, grow good paying jobs, and make taxes fair for all Hoosier families.

Sincerely,Travis Lowe

Campaign Manager

Hoosiers for Jill

Guess our local stations think picking our next governor is a trivial matter. Shame on them!

Truthout roundup 9/16

Dean Baker Big Banks Go Bust: Time to Reform Wall Street
Dean Baker, The Campaign for America's Future: "With the demise of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, IndyMac, Bear Stearns and now Lehman Brothers, we've been treated to the failure of more major financial firms than during any year since the Great Depression. The sight of rich bankers getting the boot might be lots of fun if it were just a spectator sport. Unfortunately, we are in the game with these clowns."

Petraeus Hands Control to Odierno
BBC News: "General David Petraeus, the outgoing US military commander in Iraq credited for improving security there, is to pass control to General Raymond Odierno."

Wall Street Crisis Is Culmination of 28 Years of Deregulation
David Lightman, McClatchy Newspapers: "No one cog in the federal government's machine of financial regulation let down the country by failing to prevent the latest shakeout on Wall Street. The entire system did. 'They just haven't done a particularly good job,' said James Barth, a senior finance fellow at the Milken Institute, a nonpartisan research group based in Los Angeles. Kathleen Day, a spokeswoman for the Center for Responsible Lending, a consumer-oriented research group, explained the regulatory lapses more starkly: 'The job of regulators is that when the party's in full swing, make sure the partygoers drink responsibly,' she said. 'Instead, they let everyone drink as much as they wanted and then handed them the car keys.'"

Life After Ike: A Test of Endurance
Joel Achenbach, The Washington Post: "Hurricane Ike was terrifying for everyone, but for many the aftermath is worse. Conditions here are degenerating, with stagnant water breeding mosquitoes, toilets overflowing, no operating sewage system, hardly any running water, no power, no gas. There's no functioning hospital. Officials fear a health crisis will result from the worsening sanitation. Electricity may not return for four weeks."

Another Walter Reed-Type Scandal
Niko Karvounis, Mother Jones: "In February 2007, William Winkenwerder Jr. announced he was stepping down from his post as assistant secretary of defense for health affairs following a press conference in which he downplayed the Walter Reed scandal as a mere 'quality-of-life experience.' In the months that followed, it seemed clear that Winkenwerder's negligence may have been partly to blame for the deplorable conditions at the military hospital. Now, more than a year and half after his departure, Winkenwerder's legacy lives on in a multibillion-dollar Defense Department medical-records management system that many military doctors believe is fatally flawed. One military physician, speaking anonymously, calls it 'another Walter Reed-type scandal.'"

FP roundup 9/16


Receding storm waters are leaving behind a huge, toxic mess in Texas.
Explosions killed three people in Morelia, Mexico, as they celebrated the country's independence day.
South American leaders are backing Bolivian President Evo Morales.


Chinese officials arrested two brothers for allegedly mixing melamine into a popular milk powder. So far, two babies have died from the formula, and another 1,253 have gotten sick.
Pakistan's military bombed targets in Bajaur, a tribal agency near the Afghan border, and sent in troops to clear the area.

Middle East and Africa

Iran has improved its uranium enrichment capacity, the IAEA said Monday.
Gen. Ray Odierno has taken over as the top U.S. commander in Iraq.
The French military took action against Somali pirates, freeing two sailors.


It's official: Ukraine's government has collapsed.
Georgia is citing newly released intelligence intercepts as proof that Russia planned the war.
The European Union is taking up the charged issue of Roma poverty.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Truthout roundup 9/14

Marc Ash Are We Ready for Change?
Marc Ash, Truthout: "Change for the better begins with demanding it. The voter axiom, that we get what we demand, is as true today as it ever was. The country is suffering for reasons. Decisions have been made, and those decision form the basis for our predicament. In a democracy voting is a right, but with that right comes responsibilities. Reading is fundamental, if you are going to know how a problem has come to exist you must educate yourself. That will not happen on the television. John McCain's record is as plain as Barack Obama's, and certainly not difficult to research. Change - for the better - is always at hand. We get what we demand."

After Frantic Day, Wall Street Banks Falter
Andrew Ross Sorkin, The New York Times: "In one of the most dramatic days in Wall Street’s history, Merrill Lynch agreed to sell itself on Sunday to Bank of America for roughly $50 billion to avert a deepening financial crisis, while another prominent securities firm, Lehman Brothers, said it would seek bankruptcy protection and hurtled toward liquidation after it failed to find a buyer. The humbling moves, which reshape the landscape of American finance, mark the latest chapter in a tumultuous year in which once-proud financial institutions have been brought to their knees as a result of hundreds of billions of dollars in losses because of bad mortgage finance and real estate investments."

Greenspan: Can't Afford McCain Tax Cuts
The Associated Press: "Alan Greenspan says the country can't afford tax cuts of the magnitude proposed by Republican presidential contender John McCain - at least not without a corresponding reduction in government spending. 'Unless we cut spending, no,' the former Federal Reserve chairman said Friday when asked about McCain's proposed tax cuts, pegged in some estimates at $3.3 trillion. 'I'm not in favor of financing tax cuts with borrowed money,' Greenspan said during an interview with Bloomberg Television. 'I always have tied tax cuts to spending.'"

Cheney Shielded Bush From FISA Crisis
Barton Gellman, The Washington Post: "What Addington wrote for Bush that day was more transcendent than that. He drew up new language in which the president relied on his own authority to certify the program as lawful. Bush expressly overrode the Justice Department and any act of Congress or judicial decision that purported to constrain his power as commander in chief. Only Richard M. Nixon, in an interview after leaving the White House in disgrace, claimed authority so nearly unlimited. The specter of future prosecutions hung over the program, now that Justice had ruled it illegal. 'Pardon was in the air,' said one of the lawyers involved."

Frida Berrigan Military Industrial Complex 2.0
Frida Berrigan, TomDispatch.com: "Seven years into George W. Bush's Global War on Terror, the Pentagon is embroiled in two big wars, a potentially explosive war of words with Tehran, and numerous smaller conflicts, and it is leaning ever more heavily on private military contractors to get by. Once upon a time, soldiers did more than pick up a gun. They picked up trash. They cut hair and delivered mail. They fixed airplanes and inflated truck tires. Not anymore. All of those tasks are now the responsibility of private military corporations."

Dean Baker McCain Would Privatize Social Security
Dean Baker, Truthout: "The Republicans have already turned to sick sexual innuendo and nonsense about their vice-presidential candidate, pigs and lipstick in order to distract the public from the real issues in this campaign. One of the items that should be on top of the list of real issues is Senator McCain's plans to privatize and cut Social Security."

Pakistan Says US Forces Repulsed by Military
Reuters: "Firing by Pakistani troops forced two US military helicopters to turn back to Afghanistan after they crossed into Pakistani territory early on Monday, Pakistani security officials said."

Newspapers Deliver Millions of "Terror" DVDs to Subscribers - in "Swing States"
Greg Mitchell and Joe Strupp, Editor & Publisher: "The arrival of tens of millions of DVDs of a controversial film on doorsteps around the nation - but almost exclusively in election 'swing states' - via newspaper home delivery continues this weekend, with explanatory articles and subscriber feedback appearing on some of the papers' Web sites."

Carl Hiaasen Tawdry Tale of Oil Drillers and "MMS Chicks"
Carl Hiaasen, The Miami Herald: "People always say the Bush administration is in bed with the oil companies, but it turns out to be literally true. According to the Interior Department, some government officials in charge of collecting oil and gas royalties smoked pot, snorted cocaine and had sex with employees of big energy firms. Meanwhile, the rest of us were getting screwed at the gas pump."

FP roundup 9/14

Decision '08

Democratic Sen. Barack Obama raised a record $66 million in August.

Democrats ripped into Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on the Sunday talk shows.


Rescue workers in Texas are scrambling to help those stranded or left without food, water, and electricity by Hurricane Ike. So far, the storm has killed at least 10 Americans.

Bolivia's crisis escalated as violence killed at least 30 people over the weekend. The violence shut off a pipeline that provides a quarter of Brazil's gas supplies. Talks are underway in La Paz to quiet the unrest, and regional leaders are gathering in Santiago, Chile, to discuss the situation.

In solidarity with Bolivia, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega says he will refuse to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush.


North Korean leader Kim Jong Il can supposedly brush his teeth now, but the South Korean government is preparing contingency plans in case of his death. According to one South Korean report, his concubine is running the country at the moment.

A series of five bombs killed at least 22 people in New Delhi.

Pakistani troops fired at U.S. military helicopters in South Waziristan, turning them back across the Afgan border.

Middle East and Africa

Iraqi Kurds' bid to control a disputed slice of Iraq is strirring up Arab anger.

Gen. David Petraeus is stepping down as commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and moving to CENTCOM. Here's his final letter to the troops.

Zimbabwe's president and its leading opposition figures signed a historic power-sharing arrangement.


Britain's travel industry is in a world of trouble.

The European Parliament is considering limiting a key target for biofuels.

The pilot of a Russian airliner that crashed Sunday in the Ural mountains "flew oddly," the BBC reports.
Today's Agenda

FP top story 9/14

It was one of the most tumultuous weekends in Wall Street history.

Lehman Brothers, the fourth-largest investment bank in the United States, announced it is filing for a record bankruptcy after federal intervention failed to find a willing buyer Sunday. Bank of America (BoA), originally a Lehman suitor along with Barclays and others, is planning to buy Merrill Lynch instead for roughly $50 billion. Insurance giant AIG, meanwhile, is sinking and needs $40 billion to stay afloat. The Federal Reserve announced new measures to help markets cope with the fallout.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was adamant that American taxpayers not foot the bill for a Lehman bailout, a condition that proved too hard for BoA and Barclays -- who wanted the healthy parts of Lehman but not its "toxic waste" -- to swallow. When the companies walked away from a deal Sunday, Lehman had no choice but to file for bankruptcy.

World stock markets tanked on the news, and oil is now trading below $100 a barrel. Today could get ugly on Wall Street as inves tors flee to safer assets such as Treasury bills or foreign currencies.

Appearing on ABC's This Week Sunday, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said the United States is in a "once-in-a-century" financial crisis. Columnist Paul Krugman accused Paulson of "playing Russian roulette with the U.S. financial system." Pimco's Bill Gross sees the "risk of an immediate tsunami" from Lehman's liquidation.

Now, some fear that speculators will take aim at other troubled financial firms.

Lehman's CEO, by the way, took home a $22 million bonus for 2007.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

"No Excuses" and the PTO

by Don Wheeler

My wife and I divided up our public education encounters Thursday evening. We had both wanted to attend the Hay Primary Center Parent-Teacher Organization meeting, but the civic group "No Excuses" had invited all the school board candidates to something of a brainstroming session the same evening.

My session was interesting. It was good to meet some of the other candidates and it was informative to hear some ideas batted around. But while we discussed theory, Paddy's meeting had to do with application.

PTOs, it turns out, are critical in the operation of their schools - but in ways you likely wouldn't expect. Here's what Paddy told me happened.

The school principal, Craig Haenes, professed great enthusiam as looked out at the roughly one dozen faces. "What a turnout!" he declared. The group of mostly rookies (parents of Kindergarteners) may have had a different reaction. (We really like this guy, by the way).

In any case, the newbies were brought up to speed quickly.

Through fundraising activities, the Hay PTO raises about $8,000 annually. Great! you might think, We can do all sorts of extra cool things for our children! But as our friendly fake consultant might admonish, "Not so fast, gentle reader."

Not to say cool things don't happen. PTO members put in eight hours labor to make sure monthly "Popcorn Fridays" happen. And Mr. Haenes takes a very active role in collecting "Box Tops for Education" from General Mills and Betty Crocker products and a similar coupons from Tyson chicken products. These companies pay cash to schools that collect the coupons. Hay school uses their funds to sponsor ice cream socials for our children.

Now a word from our sponsor...

If you buy Cherios or cake mixes (any General Mills or Betty Crocker product), or Tyson Products, please cut out these coupons and periodically bring them to the office of the school of your choice. Additionally, Martin's Supermarket customers can assign a school to benefit every time a customer's Martin's card is scanned. A similar program exists for Target Redcard users. All these companies are rightfully proud of these programs, and the money raised for schools is significant.

Back to our program..

However, a lot of the $8,000 is used for things that might not strike some folks as all that much fun.

Part of Mr. Haenes' purpose in attending was to ask for money.

Would the PTO fund $150 for copier toner? Would the PTO agree to allocate $100 for scholastic magazines - so the teachers wouldn't have to pay for them themselves? Yes and yes.

Hay Primary Center's population swelled unexpectedly by 100 students - requiring five additional classes. These five additional classes require five modest "emergency kits" at five dollars each. Would the PTO fund $25 for this purpose? Yes.

I'm left with two strong impressions. First, I can't believe we have to do things like this to make schools run. Secondly, the dedication principals, teachers and the community have to doing whatever it takes - is something to behold.

Truthout roundup 9/14

Strickland Touts Clinton in Ohio
rad Dicken, The Chronicle-Telegram: "On Sunday, Hillary Clinton will speak at Lorain County Community College and at an event in Akron. Clinton, Strickland said, will focus her talk on the issues that are important to Ohioans, including jobs, health care and Obama's proposed tax cuts. Ohio's troubled economy is part of a national trend, Strickland said, adding that he believes Obama has a far better plan for fixing the economy than McCain."

Conflict Over Spying Led White House to Brink
Barton Gellman, of The Washington Post: "Cheney and his counsel would struggle for months to quash the legal insurgency. By the time President Bush became aware of it, his No. 2 had stoked dissent into flat-out rebellion. The president would face a dilemma, and the presidency itself a historic test. Cheney would come close to leading them off a cliff, man and office both."

US Arms Sales Climbing Rapidly
Eric Lipton, The New York Times: "The Bush administration is pushing through a broad array of foreign weapons deals as it seeks to rearm Iraq and Afghanistan, contain North Korea and Iran, and solidify ties with onetime Russian allies. From tanks, helicopters and fighter jets to missiles, remotely piloted aircraft and even warships, the Department of Defense has agreed so far this fiscal year to sell or transfer more than $32 billion in weapons and other military equipment to foreign governments, compared with $12 billion in 2005."

Biden Blasts McCain Campaign, GOP Plan to Tax Health Care Benefits
Jo Mannies, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden, campaigning in Missouri, on Tuesday repeatedly accused the Republican ticket of waging a campaign of deception. 'We need a little bit of honesty in this campaign,' he said, asserting that the GOP is failing to tell voters that they would do little to change the nation's economic policy. Instead, he said, Republicans are making false assertions about the Democratic proposals of Biden and presidential nominee Barack Obama."

Expulsions Stoke US-Latin American Dispute
BBC News: "A series of tit-for-tat expulsions has left the US without ambassadors in three Latin American countries. Bolivia and Venezuela have expelled their US envoys, accusing Washington of trying to oust Bolivia's government."

VIDEO Hillary Clinton Campaigns For Obama In Florida
Hillary Clinton campaigned for Obama on September 8th in Tampa, and will campaign in Ohio on Sunday.

FOCUS Obama Deploys Clintons as Race Tightens
Agence France-Presse: "Barack Obama is unleashing both of the Democratic Party's heaviest hitters - Bill and Hillary Clinton - as he battles to fend off a revitalized Republican ticket in the White House election. For the first time, former president Bill Clinton is set to join his wife Hillary on the campaign trail for Obama, whose poll lead over John McCain has evaporated since the Republican chose Sarah Palin as his running mate."

FOCUS Officials Still Unsure of Ike Death Toll
Mike Tolson, The Houston Chronicle: "From the sea-swamped neighborhoods of Galveston to the pine-covered hills north of Houston, people across Southeast Texas awoke Saturday to a stunning tableau of devastation caused by the passage of Hurricane Ike, the first hurricane in a quarter-century to score a direct hit on the state's most populous region. The official insistence that it could have been much worse - Ike's late eastward drift lessened a storm surge that had been predicted as apocalyptic - was little consolation to residents whose homes were wrecked by water, falling trees and winds that gusted in places well in excess of 100 mph. Or even to those facing an indefinite stay in a hot, dark home that emerged unscathed. The full extent of the property damage as well as the human toll was still coming into focus late Saturday."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Truthout roundup 9/13

Wisconsin GOP Trying to Disenfranchise Voters
Steven Elbow, The Capital Times: "A lawsuit filed by the state attorney general Wednesday has the potential to slow down voting lines in what promises to be a staggering turnout for the Nov. 4 election, local voting officials said. 'It will disenfranchise voters. That's what we're concerned about,' City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl said. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican, filed the lawsuit Monday in Dane County Circuit Court to get ineligible voters off the rolls."

McCain's Court: Change We Don't Need
Cass R. Sunstein, The Washington Independent: "John McCain has said that, should he be president, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito 'would serve as the model for my own nominees.' He regularly attacks what he calls 'activist judging,' and he described a recent ruling vindicating the right to habeas corpus as 'one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.' McCain has repeatedly said that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overruled. If McCain is elected, change would clearly be coming to the US Supreme Court."

17 Killed as Trains Collide in Los Angeles
Joel Rubin, Ann M. Simmons and Mitchell Landsberg, The Los Angeles Times: "Rescue teams worked frantically into this morning after a Metrolink passenger train carrying 225 people collided Friday with a Union Pacific freight train on a sharp curve in Chatsworth, killing at least 17 people and leaving more than 135 injured. It was one of the worst train crashes in Southern California history and Metrolink officials said they could not explain why warning systems failed to prevent such a catastrophic collision. About 250 fire department personnel and 200 police officers were on the scene before dawn Saturday."

Lehman Brothers May Need a Miracle to Survive
The Associated Press: "The Wall Street firm that started the US cotton trade before the Civil War and financed the railroads that built a nation might soon fade into history. Just days after Lehman Brothers Chief Executive Richard S. Fuld tried to pitch Wall Street on a plan to save the firm by shrinking it, he's in complicated negotiations with potential buyers that may see the company sold piecemeal as soon as Sunday night, analysts said."

Campaign of Lies Disgraces McCain
The St. Petersburg Times: "This nation is facing real challenges on the economy, health care, jobs and the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are significant differences between how Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain would address them. But McCain's recent campaign ads suggest the most vital issues are whether Obama wanted to teach sex education to kindergarten children and whether he derided the Republican's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, by talking about lipstick on a pig. McCain's straight talk has become a toxic mix of lies and double-speak. It is leaving a permanent stain on his reputation for integrity, and it is a short-term strategy that eventually will backfire with the very types of independent-thinking voters that were so attracted to him."

Ike Blasts Texas Coast, Floods Homes, Cuts Power
Juan A. Lozano and Chris Duncan, The Associated Press: "Howling ashore with 110 mph winds, Hurricane Ike ravaged the Texas coast Saturday, flooding thousands of homes and businesses, shattering windows in Houston's skyscrapers and knocking out power to millions of people. At first light, it was unclear how many may have perished, and authorities mobilized for a huge search-and-rescue operation to reach the more than 100,000 people who ignored warnings that any attempt to ride the storm out could bring 'certain death.'"

FOCUS Poll: Biden Better Prepared
Steven Thomma, McClatchy Newspapers: "The poll finds that registered voters continue to wonder whether Palin, a first-term Alaska governor, is as qualified to step up to the job of president as Obama's running mate, Joe Biden, who's been in the Senate for more than three decades. A majority of voters, 60 percent, think that Biden is qualified to be president, while 31 percent think he is not. By comparison, 48 percent of voters think Palin is qualified, while 44 percent think she is not."

FOCUS Obama Goes on Offense
Margaret Talev and Steven Thomma, McClatchy Newspapers: "'We will respond with speed and ferocity to John McCain's attacks and we will take the fight to him,' Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said in a memo Friday. 'But we will do it on the big issues that matter to the American people. We will not allow John McCain and his band of Karl Rove disciples to make this big election about small things.'"

Friday, September 12, 2008

Blizzard of lies

The New York Times

Did you hear about how Barack Obama wants to have sex education in kindergarten, and called Sarah Palin a pig? Did you hear about how Ms. Palin told Congress, “Thanks, but no thanks” when it wanted to buy Alaska a Bridge to Nowhere?

These stories have two things in common: they’re all claims recently made by the McCain campaign — and they’re all out-and-out lies.

Dishonesty is nothing new in politics. I spent much of 2000 — my first year at The Times — trying to alert readers to the blatant dishonesty of the Bush campaign’s claims about taxes, spending and Social Security.

But I can’t think of any precedent, at least in America, for the blizzard of lies since the Republican convention. The Bush campaign’s lies in 2000 were artful — you needed some grasp of arithmetic to realize that you were being conned. This year, however, the McCain campaign keeps making assertions that anyone with an Internet connection can disprove in a minute, and repeating these assertions over and over again.

Take the case of the Bridge to Nowhere, which supposedly gives Ms. Palin credentials as a reformer. Well, when campaigning for governor, Ms. Palin didn’t say “no thanks” — she was all for the bridge, even though it had already become a national scandal, insisting that she would “not allow the spinmeisters to turn this project or any other into something that’s so negative.”

Oh, and when she finally did decide to cancel the project, she didn’t righteously reject a handout from Washington: she accepted the handout, but spent it on something else. You see, long before she decided to cancel the bridge, Congress had told Alaska that it could keep the federal money originally earmarked for that project and use it elsewhere.

So the whole story of Ms. Palin’s alleged heroic stand against wasteful spending is fiction.

Or take the story of Mr. Obama’s alleged advocacy of kindergarten sex-ed. In reality, he supported legislation calling for “age and developmentally appropriate education”; in the case of young children, that would have meant guidance to help them avoid sexual predators.

And then there’s the claim that Mr. Obama’s use of the ordinary metaphor “putting lipstick on a pig” was a sexist smear, and on and on.

Why do the McCain people think they can get away with this stuff? Well, they’re probably counting on the common practice in the news media of being “balanced” at all costs. You know how it goes: If a politician says that black is white, the news report doesn’t say that he’s wrong, it reports that “some Democrats say” that he’s wrong. Or a grotesque lie from one side is paired with a trivial misstatement from the other, conveying the impression that both sides are equally dirty.

They’re probably also counting on the prevalence of horse-race reporting, so that instead of the story being “McCain campaign lies,” it becomes “Obama on defensive in face of attacks.”

Still, how upset should we be about the McCain campaign’s lies? I mean, politics ain’t beanbag, and all that.

One answer is that the muck being hurled by the McCain campaign is preventing a debate on real issues — on whether the country really wants, for example, to continue the economic policies of the last eight years.

But there’s another answer, which may be even more important: how a politician campaigns tells you a lot about how he or she would govern.

I’m not talking about the theory, often advanced as a defense of horse-race political reporting, that the skills needed to run a winning campaign are the same as those needed to run the country. The contrast between the Bush political team’s ruthless effectiveness and the heckuva job done by the Bush administration is living, breathing, bumbling, and, in the case of the emerging Interior Department scandal, coke-snorting and bed-hopping proof to the contrary.

I’m talking, instead, about the relationship between the character of a campaign and that of the administration that follows. Thus, the deceptive and dishonest 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign provided an all-too-revealing preview of things to come. In fact, my early suspicion that we were being misled about the threat from Iraq came from the way the political tactics being used to sell the war resembled the tactics that had earlier been used to sell the Bush tax cuts.

And now the team that hopes to form the next administration is running a campaign that makes Bush-Cheney 2000 look like something out of a civics class. What does that say about how that team would run the country?

What it says, I’d argue, is that the Obama campaign is wrong to suggest that a McCain-Palin administration would just be a continuation of Bush-Cheney. If the way John McCain and Sarah Palin are campaigning is any indication, it would be much, much worse.

Rasmussen Electoral College update

New state polls from Washington and Michigan show no change in the Electoral College projections. With these changes, the Rasmussen Reports Balance of Power Calculator show Obama leading in states with 193 Electoral College votes and McCain ahead in states with 189 Electoral College votes. When “leaners” are included, it’s Obama 259, McCain 247.

Currently, states with 124 Electoral College votes are leaning slightly in one way or the other. Four states with a total of 32 votes -- Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Virginia -- are pure toss-ups.

full report with tables:

The social animal

The New York Times

Near the start of his book, “The Conscience of a Conservative,” Barry Goldwater wrote: “Every man, for his individual good and for the good of his society, is responsible for his own development. The choices that govern his life are choices that he must make; they cannot be made by any other human being.” The political implications of this are clear, Goldwater continued: “Conservatism’s first concern will always be: Are we maximizing freedom?”

Goldwater’s vision was highly individualistic and celebrated a certain sort of person — the stout pioneer crossing the West, the risk-taking entrepreneur with a vision, the stalwart hero fighting the collectivist foe.

The problem is, this individualist description of human nature seems to be wrong. Over the past 30 years, there has been a tide of research in many fields, all underlining one old truth — that we are intensely social creatures, deeply interconnected with one another and the idea of the lone individual rationally and willfully steering his own life course is often an illusion.

Cognitive scientists have shown that our decision-making is powerfully influenced by social context — by the frames, biases and filters that are shared subconsciously by those around. Neuroscientists have shown that we have permeable minds. When we watch somebody do something, we recreate their mental processes in our own brains as if we were performing the action ourselves, and it is through this process of deep imitation that we learn, empathize and share culture.

Geneticists have shown that our behavior is influenced by our ancestors and the exigencies of the past. Behavioral economists have shown the limits of the classical economic model, which assumes that individuals are efficient, rational, utility-maximizing creatures.

Psychologists have shown that we are organized by our attachments. Sociologists have shown the power of social networks to affect individual behavior.

What emerges is not a picture of self-creating individuals gloriously free from one another, but of autonomous creatures deeply interconnected with one another. Recent Republican Party doctrine has emphasized the power of the individual, but underestimates the importance of connections, relationships, institutions and social filaments that organize personal choices and make individuals what they are.

This may seem like an airy-fairy thing. But it is the main impediment to Republican modernization. Over the past few weeks, Republicans have talked a lot about change, modernization and reform. Despite the talk, many of the old policy pillars are the same. We’re living in an age of fast-changing economic, information and social networks, but Republicans are still impeded by Goldwater’s mental guard-rails.

If there’s a thread running through the gravest current concerns, it is that people lack a secure environment in which they can lead their lives. Wild swings in global capital and energy markets buffet family budgets. Nobody is sure the health care system will be there when they need it. National productivity gains don’t seem to alleviate economic anxiety. Inequality strains national cohesion. In many communities, social norms do not encourage academic achievement, decent values or family stability. These problems straining the social fabric aren’t directly addressed by maximizing individual freedom.

And yet locked in the old framework, the Republican Party’s knee-jerk response to many problems is: “Throw a voucher at it.” Schools are bad. Throw a voucher. Health care system’s a mess. Replace it with federally funded individual choice. Economic anxiety? Lower some tax rate.

The latest example of the mismatch between ideology and reality is the housing crisis. The party’s individualist model cannot explain the social contagion that caused hundreds of thousands of individuals to make bad decisions in the same direction at the same time. A Republican administration intervened gigantically in the market to handle the Bear Stearns, Freddie and Fannie debacles. But it has no conservative rationale to explain its action, no language about the importance of social equilibrium it might use to justify itself.

The irony, of course, is that, in pre-Goldwater days, conservatives were incredibly sophisticated about the value of networks, institutions and invisible social bonds. You don’t have to go back to Edmund Burke and Adam Smith (though it helps) to find conservatives who understood that people are socially embedded creatures and that government has a role (though not a dominant one) in nurturing the institutions in which they are embedded.

That language of community, institutions and social fabric has been lost, and now we hear only distant echoes — when social conservatives talk about family bonds or when John McCain talks at a forum about national service.

If Republicans are going to fully modernize, they’re probably going to have to follow the route the British Conservatives have already trod and project a conservatism that emphasizes society as well as individuals, security as well as freedom, a social revival and not just an economic one and the community as opposed to the state.

Truthout roundup 9/12

Bill Quigley Social Justice Quiz 2008
Bill Quigley, Truthout: "We in the US who say we believe in social justice must challenge ourselves to look at the world through the eyes of those who have much less than us. Why? Social justice, as defined by John Rawls, respects basic individual liberty and economic improvement. But social justice also insists that liberty, opportunity, income, wealth and the other social bases of self-respect are to be distributed equally unless an unequal distribution is to everyone's advantage and any inequalities are arranged so they are open to all. Therefore, we must educate ourselves and others about how liberty, opportunity, income and wealth are actually distributed in our country and in our world."

Dispute Over Bolivia's Natural Gas Resources Sparks Diplomatic Crisis
Carlos Valdez, The Associated Press: "Violent clashes over this fractured nation's political future have claimed eight lives and unleashed a diplomatic crisis, with Bolivia and the U.S. expelling each other's ambassadors. Venezuela, meanwhile, kicked out its top U.S. diplomat and the South American allies demanded that Washington stay out of their affairs. Anti-government protesters fought backers of President Evo Morales in Bolivia's pro-autonomy east with clubs, machetes and guns Thursday, killing at least eight people and injuring 20, authorities reported."

Rule Changes Would Give FBI Agents Extensive New Powers
Carrie Johnson, The Washington Post: "The Justice Department will unveil changes to FBI ground rules today that would put much more power into the hands of line agents pursuing leads on national security, foreign intelligence and even ordinary criminal cases. The overhaul, the most substantial revision to FBI operating instructions in years, also would ease some reporting requirements between agents, their supervisors and federal prosecutors in what authorities call a critical effort to improve information gathering and detect terrorist threats. The changes would give the FBI's more than 12,000 agents the ability at a much earlier stage to conduct physical surveillance, solicit informants and interview friends of people they are investigating without the approval of a bureau supervisor."

GOP Working to Keep Poor African-Americans From Voting in Many States
Jonathan Alter, Newsweek: "It was a mainstay of Jim Crow segregation: for 100 years after the Civil War, Southern white Democrats kept eligible blacks from voting with poll taxes, literacy tests and property requirements. Starting in the 1960s, the U.S. Supreme Court declared these assaults on the heart of American democracy unconstitutional. Now, with the help of a 2008 Supreme Court decision, Crawford vs. Marion County (Indiana) Election Board, white Republicans in some areas will keep eligible blacks from voting by requiring driver's licenses. Not only is this new-fangled discrimination constitutional, it's spreading."
Congress Asks: Who Misled the Anthrax Investigation by Pointing at Iraq?
Bill Simpich, Truthout: "Did the FBI try to determine who planted phony evidence designed to finger Iraq as the state sponsor of the anthrax attacks? From 2001 to the present, this investigation has been surrounded with misleading claims about the nature of the anthrax. The initial goal was to push the US in a war with Iraq. Then the goal became to justify the US occupation."

Weakened Warriors: When the Military Gets Combat Fatigue
Bruce Falconer, Mother Jones: "That the Bush presidency has placed an enormous strain on the nation's armed forces is hardly news. (The 'active army is about broken,' Colin Powell told CBS's Face the Nation as far back as 2006.) Less frequently noted are the long-term consequences of Iraq and Afghanistan for the military-consequences that could last, many experts now say, for a generation or more."

Bill Clinton: Will Do "Whatever I'm Asked" for Obama
Peter Nicholas, The Los Angeles Times: "A Democratic Party riven by the long primary season took another step toward unity Thursday, as Barack Obama and Bill Clinton sat down in Harlem for a takeout lunch and an extended conversation aimed at forging a new alliance. Asked his opinion of the race, Clinton said: 'I predict that Sen. Obama will win and win handily.'"

Ted Kennedy Introduces New National Service Bill
Andrew Miga, The Associated Press: "Senator Edward Kennedy is introducing a major new national service bill aimed at recruiting 175,000 Americans of all ages to tackle national problems such as health care, education, energy and the environment."

The Chronicles of Favilla Fire on the Elites!
The Chronicles of Favilla, Les Echos: The authors, writing under the pseudonym Favilla, attempt to explain to bemused Europeans how "the son of a Kenyan immigrant, who comes from an ordinary Chicago neighborhood, belongs to the elite."

FP roundup 9/12


Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez moved to expel the U.S. ambassador to Caracas, alleging the envoy was involved in a U.S.-backed coup.Congressional Democrats are grudgingly accepting offshore drilling.

The Pentagon yesterday unveiled a memorial to the victims of 9/11.


Fresh U.S. airstrikes aimed at Taliban and al Qaeda militants have reportedly killed at least 12 people in North Waziristan, Pakistan. The United States is using sophisticated new drones, the LA Times reports.

China's Health Ministry ordered a recall of a popular baby formula for containing melamine, a poisonous industrial chemical.

China may be using its foreign-exchange reserves as a diplomatic weapon against Taiwan.
Thailand's ruling party is
not renominating Samak Sundaravej to be prime minister.

Middle East and Africa

Under the terms of Zimbabwe's power-sharing deal, President Robert Mugabe would appoint a 31-member cabinet but the opposition would get most of the seats, Bloomberg reports.

Jacob Zuma, the leader of South Africa's ruling party, has been cleared of corruption charges.

Time looks at why the jihad is losing steam in Saudi Arabia.

Europe and the Caucasus

Russian PM Vladimir Putin, speaking to Russia scholars gathered in Sochi, lamented the Western media's cov erage of the war in Georgia and stressed, "There is no basis for mutual animosity ... Russia has no imperialist ambitions."

A major fire in the English Channel tunnel injured 14 people and disrupted train traffic.

Global Economy

As Lehman Brothers confronts a hurried government-assisted sale before the Asian markets open Monday, the mood at the Wall Street investment bank is grim. "Everyone is walking around like they have just been Tasered," one employee told the New York Times. Lehman Brothers is no Bear Stearns, however, according to Bloomberg.

On Closing the Deal, Or, Preaching Beyond The Choir

With roughly 50 days to go, we find ourselves more or less tied in the Presidential election, if the national polls are to be believed.

We have succeeded in motivating our base, and Republicans have, as of today, done the same.

What we are not doing very well is bridging that gap and effectively spreading the discussion to the other side...which is the point of today’s conversation.

Where can our conservative friends be found?
What do we need to know about the culture to be found there?
What should we say when we get there?

Your friendly fake consultant has been on a mission...and I have some answers.

First, about the “mission”: for the past several months I have been posting and commenting at the Pat Buchanan website. This follows up on a similar mission I undertook in 2006 and 2007 to post and comment at RedState.

It has been an educational experience, indeed...but also a hopeful one.

Right off the bat, let’s talk about the culture. As you might expect, the tone and tenor of the discussion is far different than what you see on many progressive sites...although there are Conservatives (and Maryscott O’Connor) who will remind us that we are not always as high-minded as we wish we were.

As an example, the Buchanan supporters, among other things, are particularly distressed about the impact of World Zionism and the International Jewish Conspiracy that has created Neo-Cons who...

Well, the point is that you will have to deal with this stuff.

My advice: for the most part, you are not going to be successful with frontal attacks on the local belief system. If you want to move minds in this environment, look for the areas of agreement...and look to the disconnect between what the candidates say and the reality of what is happening daily—and down the road.

Another piece of advice: show respect, even in the face of provocative language.

I can tell you it works for me...in fact, today, hardly anyone calls me a deluded bleeding-heart liberal—and that’s progress.

In this same vein, try to avoid personal attacks in these conversations. These are citizens who we are trying to speak to as people—and we are trying to show them that the Republican Party is acting against the best interests of all of us.

Which leads to my next point: the primary goal here is to reduce the personal identification of these voters as Republicans—and remind them of their own Conservative associations, which diverge considerably from the Bush/McCain/Rove Republican orthodoxy.

Another thing about Conservative culture that should be understood is that John McCain is not exactly as huge a hero figure as you might imagine. Remember the Neo-Con Jewish Conspiracy stuff? Many Conservatives see McCain as an extension of The Conspiracy...and many are just as upset about the Neo-Con vision and the Iraq foolishness as we are.

Evidence of this is found in the Sarah Palin selection, which was clearly intended to “lock those voters in” with someone who could be sold as “one of your own”.

(For those not aware, Conservatives are upset because they feel underappreciated by Republican “management”, who never seem to appoint “True Conservatives”, Antonin Scalia notwithstanding...and evidence of that is found in the size and enthusiasm of campaign crowds before and after the Palin selection.)

Beyond that, it’s a good idea to bring solutions to the discussion. Obviously, you won’t do that every time you speak, but on balance, you should be promoting workable ideas against unworkable ideas. People I talk to on the site seem to recognize (most of the time) that I’m not there to destroy the Nation, or crush anybody’s hopes or dreams by imposing Godless Communism upon them—instead they are beginning to acknowledge that we and they are both trying to make our country work better...even if we are trying to do it in different ways.

So let’s tie all this together by walking through a conversation from a visit to the No Quarter website. The topic under discussion was Obama’s use of the “lipstick” metaphor...and feelings have been running high. I came in after these this comment...

“Clearly the Obamabots are scared. Hence they’re going on offense and making an all out assault in the blogosphere in a desparate attempt to dig up a few bleating sheep they can bring back into the fold.”

...and this...

“Full panic/meltdown mode, for our late-night amusement.”

To which I offered this rejoinder:

“obama supporters are scared?

i think it’s more that the republican party leadership is scared.

they don’t seem to want you to be talking about your kids’ futures in a world of tax cuts and deficit spending...they don’t seem to want to talk to you about how they will end the waste of lives and money that has accompanied this war...and they most assuredly don’t want to acknowledge that talking about these pigs and madrassas and islam is intended to keep you from talking about issues that affect your wallet.

we went down this road in 2000 and 2004...and to quote ronald reagan: “are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

that’s the biggest thing mccain’s managers don’t want you talking about...and that’s the one thing they are really and truly scared of.

the past eight years have cost you and your children more or less $5 trillion dollars in new national debt...which, like it or not, you and i and your children will be paying for–in the form of taxes–for decades to come.

not to mention the change in the value of our homes and all the new tax obligations that will accompany the fannie mae/freddie mac mess.

and yet with all that money spent...is america better off now than it was four years ago?”

What came back was this:

“ ...Four years ago?

You mean when President Obama took the temp job in the U.S. Senate?

So... what’s he done for us?

How has his vaunted leadership helped?

Why didn’t he part the seas of red ink

- instead of voting for virtually every Bushbill that came across his desk?”

Followed by this:

“uh...you do know that Bush is not running for President again don’t you?

uh, you do know that Democrat controlled Congress took impeachment off the table didn’t you?

uh, you do know McCain has a 100% record for not requesting earmarks don’t you?

uh, you do know that Palin has cut spending and championed reform in Alaska don’t you?

Doesn’t sound like more of the same to me.

You Obama supporters never mention that Obama sat in a racist, American hating church for 20 years or is friends with a terrorist. Funny how you leave that part out. He also has no executive experience and neither does Biden. How is that good for our future? You people are the ones who better wake up.”

Now notice, in my reply, how I do not personalize the issue...while still addressing facts:

“we do know democratic members of congress took impeachment off the table, and if you take a quick jaunt to dailykos you’ll quickly discover that it was not appreciated.

you need look no farther than the approval ratings of congress to see that lots of democrats are not at all fond of recent congressional performance.

but that said, take an actual look at the issues.

mccain talks about earmarks as a means to balance the budget...but he also says earmarks equal $20 billion annually.

the deficit is going to crack $450 billion this year, and might hit $500 billion.

all federal spending, except for defense, medicare, social security and interest on the debt is about $300 billion.

so even if all other spending were to be cut to zero...you still have a deficit.

on top of that, mccain proposes tax credits for health insurance, further increasing the deficit.

beyond that, he proposes more tax cuts. it is unlikely that reducing the government’s income will reduce the deficit.

all of that suggests that a mccain administration will follow the exact path of continued deficits followed by increased national debt that we have had for the past 8 years.

you may say to me: “obama will tax everyone under $42,000″.

two comments.

first, no he ain’t. as it turns out, it is possible to return the tax rates on the highest income earners to exactly what they were in 1999...and in the process, to pay for tax cuts for most wage earners making under $250,000.

which is obama’s propposal.

secondly, we are, like it or not, going to have to pay off the $5 trillion in new debt we accumulated these past 8 years.

if we do not raise taxes somewhere, somehow...then that burden will be passed to your children and grandchildren.

it appears mccain is finding problems in his own plan and projections. this, from the international herald tribune via yale university:

“...When McCain spoke about his tax plan in April, he cited the faltering economy in saying that it might take two terms to balance the budget, explaining that “economic conditions” are reversed. Since then, he seems to have refined some of his earlier tax cut plans. While his campaign once spoke then of repealing the alternative minimum tax, which is aimed at the wealthy but has increasingly ensnared middle-class taxpayers, his advisers now speak of “phasing out” the plan. And they now say that his proposal to let corporations write off their equipment expenses more quickly would be temporary...”

it seems to me that paying off your debts is the kind of thinking that would seem logical in this conservative community...so if we are not going to pay off the $5 trillion or so in debt we recently have run up with taxes, then how should we pay it off?

that is the kind of question mccain seems unwilling to address; the “outrage of the day” strategy seeming to be more to his preference at the moment.”

Notice how we disconnected the Republican Party Establishment from these voters and Traditional Conservative Values...and you notice how neatly we were able to transition to a discussion of actual issues?

As of this writing there has been no reply, suggesting the weakness of the Republican position is something of a problem for these voters...and that it’s a problem for which they have no response.

This process is far from perfect, however.
Here’s an exchange from the Buchanan site.

First, not me:

“I just watched the national forum on service–did I hear Senator Obama correctly, did he say that it was more difficult for him to get a job as a community organizer than it was for him to get a job on Wall Street? Is that true? is there any evidence he interviewed for banking jobs?”

Followed by me:

“how about another question?

mccain suggests helping out in places like habitat for humanity...which is run by...guess who...community organizers.

palin (and so many others at the republican convention...giuliani being just one example), on the other hand...seems to enjoy taking shots at community organizing and community organizers.

so the question is: which version of the mccain campaign\’s \”worldview\” should we believe...the one he presented tonight, the one they present every day on the campaign trail...or neither?”

Followed by one of those responses we talked about earlier, from a third party:

“I think that what Obama meant was — it is difficult for a mulatto to get a job in the Stock Market. These jobs are mainly reserved for Jews.

Community organizers are often involved in unsavory and manipulative functions. Obama is accused of using extortion threats on many businesses convincing them to contribute money to various Black causes. This is something that Jesse Jackson and other Black leaders are very adept at doing.”

This exchange actually brings me to another point I’ve been meaning to address: we are not writing between two people. Instead, we are writing for ourselves, the people to whom we respond...and also to the people who will read but not comment.

There will be curious voters who are not yet decided who visit Conservative sites who will read this and feel repelled by this kind of thinking...which can only help us. As we talked about earlier, it’s to no one’s advantage to attack the local belief system directly. Instead, I’m going to hang back, see what other responses appear, and try to again return the discussion to who is making the most sense...and who is looking foolish.

Here is an exchange in which I did not participate that demonstrates the doubts that Conservatives have about Palin:


Pat - even if she supposedly backed you in 96 - she\’s more akin to the Fox News Weekly Standard bunch in terms of her foreign policy.

This woman is JUST as bad as McCain in terms of wanting and pushing for war.

Can we trust her? Or is she Bush-Cheney redux?

...followed by...

“Stop worrying about McCain dying. He is not. He is just getting started.”

...the original poster responds...

“Oh I’m not worried about McCain dying. I’m just concerned about this being the broader foreign policy of his first-term administration.”

...a third person appears...

“Remember Palin will be Parroting McCains policies.”

...the third person adds a comment...

“Wait till she gets going on amnesty. It will make you puke!

Palin is not open borders but McCain is and the V.P. always has to adopt the nominees platform. After a while she will gross you out because she’s McCain’s puppet now. I just hope she doesn’t lose herself in all of the nonsense.”

What we can learn here is that these voters do not trust McCain in the first place, and as Palin begins to lose her “Goddess of All She Surveys” status they become less and less likely to vote for this ticket.

When you hear that Ron Paul and Bob Barr may siphon off McCain voters, it’s these voters you’re hearing about.

This is a superb time to go out and meet a few disenchanted voters of your own...and the more we remind them that the reality does not match the rhetoric, and do it truthfully, the more effective we can be.

So, you might ask, where can these voters be found?

A few suggestions: obviously, there’s the Pat Buchanan site, the aforementioned No Quarter, which seeks to link “anti-anti-Hillary” voters to the Republican movement, RedState, the largest of the Conservative spaces, and Little Green Footballs, which at the moment is quite upset with Charlie Gibson.

A couple more? Well, there’s Pajamas Media...and the Michelle Malkin site, where it turns out McCain is also a disappointment at the moment.

So that’s the story: the time is exactly right to go out and do this work, and there is a potentially receptive audience, but these voters speak in a language to which we have to adapt; and they believe things we don’t.

That said, by showing some respect and allowing a fair amount of insanity to roll off your back...and offering a few solutions that make sense...you can begin to show these same voters that McCain is not going to be the right choice for them—or their kids.

If you go and comment one day a week, that’s 7 visits between now and Election Day...and it’s seven chances to preach beyond the choir that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

So go out and preach.
Preach fairly, but preach well...and let’s close this deal.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Lipstick? Rachel clears up the confusion

The Mississippi ballot trick

the editors
The New York Times

Mississippi’s governor, Haley Barbour, and its secretary of state have come up with a particularly cynical dirty trick for the November election. Let’s call it: “Where’s the Senate race?”

Defying state law, they have decided to hide a hard-fought race for the United States Senate at the bottom of the ballot, where they clearly are hoping some voters will overlook it. Their proposed design is not only illegal. It shows a deep contempt for Mississippi’s voters.

Republicans have long had a lock on the state’s two Senate seats. But this year, former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, a Democrat, has been running close to Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican, in the polls. Mr. Wicker was appointed to the seat by Governor Barbour in late December after Trent Lott stepped down.

Mississippi election law clearly states that federal elections must go at the top of ballots. And the secretary of state, Delbert Hosemann, plans to list the state’s other Senate race — incumbent Thad Cochran is running far ahead of his Democratic challenger, Erik Fleming — where it belongs, right below the presidential contest.

But Mr. Hosemann argues that because the Wicker-Musgrove race is a special election to fill the remainder of Mr. Lott’s term, he is free to place it at the bottom, below state and county races.

Mr. Hosemann is insisting on that placement even after the state attorney general’s office notified him that his ballot design violates state law.

Mr. Hosemann’s ballot also violates the Voting Rights Act, which requires that changes in election procedures that could make it harder for people to vote — and this certainly fits that bill — be cleared in advance with the Justice Department.

This is not a dispute over aesthetics. Mr. Hosemann’s decision could easily change the outcome of the Wicker-Musgrove election.

Some voters, including the elderly, the least educated and first-time voters, have more trouble than others navigating complicated ballots. Many of these voters are more likely to vote for Democrats than Republicans. And, yes, Governor Barbour and Mr. Hosemann are both Republicans.

A local election official is suing to put the Wicker-Musgrove race back where it belongs. The state court judge who is hearing the case on Thursday should order that the Senate race be placed at the top of the ballot. Even if she does the right thing, we fear, that will not end the matter.

The case is likely to wind up, on appeal, in Mississippi’s Supreme Court. Voting rights advocates are worried that the Republican-leaning court will decide the case on partisan lines, rather than on the law.

If the state courts do not provide relief, supporters of fair elections should take the case to federal court. They will need to move quickly since time to prepare ballots is fast running out. Mississippi’s voters have a right to a ballot that conforms with the law — and that is not designed to win a Senate seat by trickery.

FP roundup

Top Story

With the Taliban and al Qaeda gaining strength in Afghanistan, U.S. President George W. Bush secretly gave permission in July for American Special Operations forces to conduct raids inside Pakistani territory, the New York Times reports. One U.S. official told the paper that Pakistan's government had "privately assented" to the general concept, though it might reject specific missions.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is
pleased with the new strategy, but Pakistan's Army chief of staff sharply criticized one such raid by U.S. troops, who reportedly crossed the Afghan border and entered South Waziristan last week. "No external force is allowed to conduct operations inside Pakistan," he said Wednesday.

"I'm not convinced we're winning in Afghanistan," the Pentagon's top general
testified Wednesday before the House Armed Services Committee. "We can hunt down and kill extremists as they cross over the border from Pakistan," he added, "but until we work more closely with the Pakistani government to eliminate the safe havens from which they operate, the enemy will only keep coming."

In a special Web feature for FP, five top Pakistani commentators offer
advice for catching Osama bin Laden.

Decision '08
As the U.S. national conversation descends into farce, Democrats are increasingly worried that Barack Obama will lose. "I'm so depressed. It's happening again. It's a nightmare," one Democratic fundraiser told Politico.

Joe Biden suggested at a campaign appearance that Hillary Clinton
would have made a better running mate.
American voters are
less concerned with terrorism than at any point since the attacks, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research poll.

Hurricane Ike is heading for Texas.

U.S. Department of the Interior officials are in big trouble for
allegedly taking gifts from and having sex with oil company representatives.

Two Russian bombers have landed in Venezuela for a training mission. "
The Yankee hegemony is finished," said Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

Bolivia's president moved to expel the U.S. ambassador from La Paz for allegedly "
conspiring against democracy" and trying to break up the country.

Middle East and Africa
The United States announced sanctions against an Iranian shipping company, accusing it of providing support for Tehran's nuclear program.

canceled six widely criticized contracts with major Western oil companies.
The World Bank has
ended its unorthodox cooperation with Chad.

Kim Jong Il has recovered from a stroke suffered in August "enough to walk and talk," South Korean officials say. Yesterday, FP asked analyst Ken E. Gause to explain what is going on in Pyongyang.

He's back: chef-politician Samak Sundaravej
accepted his party's nomination for prime minister of Thailand.

Parts of Asia were
rocked by major earthquakes Wednesday.

The sinking euro has hit a new one-year low against the dollar.

Russia is trying to
show its "softer side" in Moldova.

Moscow may use its sovereign wealth fund to
prop up its sagging domestic market.

Global Economy
Saudi Arabia plans to ignore OPEC and pump as much oil as it wants. "At $100 the price of oil remains very high," said a spokesman for the International Energy Agency, criticizing OPEC for trying to cut production.

The buzzards are circling for Washington Mutual, the troubled regional bank.

Surging exports have
fueled a boom in obscure parts of the United States.

Daily Show: Sarah Palin gender card

Truthout roundup 9/11

9/11 Seven Years Later: Al-Qaeda Gaining Ground
Jonathan S. Landay and Saeed Shah, McClatchy Newspapers: "Seven years after 9/11, al Qaida and its allies are gaining ground across the region where the plot was hatched, staging their most lethal attacks yet against NATO forces and posing a growing threat to the U.S.-backed governments in Afghanistan and nuclear-armed Pakistan.... 'I am not convinced we are winning it in Afghanistan,' Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conceded before a congressional committee on Tuesday. Experts inside and outside the U.S. government agreed that a key reason for the resurgence is a growing popular sympathy for the militants because an over-reliance on the use of force, especially airpower, by NATO has killed hundreds of civilians."

Bush Said to Give Orders Allowing Raids in Pakistan
Eric Schmitt and Mark Mazzetti, The New York Times: "President Bush secretly approved orders in July that for the first time allow American Special Operations forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without the prior approval of the Pakistani government, according to senior American officials. The classified orders signal a watershed for the Bush administration after nearly seven years of trying to work with Pakistan to combat the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and after months of high-level stalemate about how to challenge the militants' increasingly secure base in Pakistan's tribal areas."

Reverend Jesse L. Jackson Reflections on 9/11
Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Tribune Media Services: "September 11, seven years later. It is an anniversary that we should mark with prayer, with lowered voices and sober reflection. September 11 was the most serious attack on America since Pearl Harbor. We must not forget. But bluster is not remembrance. We must take clear stock of where we are and what we must do, for much has been lost over these last seven years."

US Law "Fails to Protect" Corporate Whistleblowers
Joanna Chung, The Financial Times of London: "The US federal law protecting corporate whistleblowers is failing to shield employees in the way that was intended, according to a non-profit group that is lobbying legislators for tougher rules. The 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which contained new pro-whistleblower provisions when it was passed in the wake of the Enron and WorldCom scandals, 'has helped few whistleblowers actually achieve justice,' according to the Government Accountability Project, an advocacy group that provides legal advice to whistleblowers."

High Court May Immunize Big Pharma
Terry J. Allen, In These Times: "Struck by a blinding migraine, Vermont musician Diana Levine went to a clinic where she was injected with the anti-nausea drug Phenergan, produced by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. Within weeks, the hand that had fingered her guitar was black with gangrene. Doctors amputated below the wrist and, when that failed to stop the necrosis, removed her forearm. Wyeth's label had warned that hitting an artery could cause irreversible damage, but it did not specifically direct physicians to avoid delivering the drug with intravenous (IV) push injection - rather than free-flowing IV drip or intramuscular shot. Levine sued in Vermont court, charging that, because Wyeth had known for decades that using IV push to inject Phenergan directly into a vein creates avoidable risk, it should have added specific instructions on its label barring the practice.... The U.S. Supreme Court will hear Wyeth's appeal on Nov. 3, the day before the presidential election, when few people will be paying attention. They should be."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Channeling John Edwards

by Don Wheeler

I, like many others, was puzzled by the Obama campaign's rejection of John McCain's challenge to a series of joint town hall appearances. Seems like if you have the facts on your side, you'd relish as many head to head shots as possible. And as Mr. Obama appears to be in a dead heat with a corpse, this looks like an unwise decision.

The only thing I can conclude is that his handlers worried about Mr. Obama's tendency to speak around and over issues - rather than head on.

As Thomas Friedman of the New York Times observed:

Somebody needs to tell Obama that if he wants the chance to calmly answer the phone at 3 a.m. in the White House, he is going to need to start slamming down some phones at 3 p.m. along the campaign trail. I like much of what he has to say, especially about energy, but I don’t think people are feeling it in their guts, and I am a big believer that voters don’t listen through their ears. They listen through their stomachs.

If you as a politician connect with voters on a gut level, they will follow you anywhere and not fret about the details.

If you don’t connect with them on a gut level, you can’t show them enough details. Obama early on, and particularly with young people, connected on a gut level like no other politician since Ronald Reagan.

full OpEd here

So, as an experiment, lets take a recent interview with Keith Olbermann and make the contrast with a channeled Edwards response.

Keith Olbermann: "This is more about campaign tactics to start with rather than issues. But it seems sometimes like tactics have replaced issues altogether. "He fights pork barrel spending," said this new McCain/Palin ad, "she stopped the 'Bridge to Nowhere.'"

I mean, it sounds a little like "Remington Steele," but I'm confused otherwise. As late as October of 2006, Mrs. Palin insisted to voters in Alaska that not only would she defend that infamous bridge, but she also said - and here's the quote - "She would not allow the spinmeisters to turn this project or any other into something that's so negative." What are Senator McCain and Governor Palin doing in this new commercial, do you think?"

Senator Barack Obama: "They're not telling the truth. You know, I mean, it's - I think we've all gotten accustomed to being able to spin things in politics. But when you've got somebody who was for a project being presented as being against it, then that, you know, stretches the bounds of spin into new areas.

And you know, as far as John McCain is concerned, you know, I think that Senator McCain has, on occasion, broken with his party, but this notion that, as he said at his convention, that he would tell the lobbyists that they're not going to be running Washington anymore, who is he going to tell, his campaign chairman, Charlie Black, his campaign manager, Rick Davis, two of the largest corporate lobbyists in Washington with client lists that extend into every major industry?

You know, there is just a sense that they're making these assertions that ignore the facts of their campaigns and their past history. And I think people should be troubled by that."

SBO (with vitamin JE): (Eyes narrow) "They're lying! In fact, they are claiming the opposite of reality. And they are cynically calculating that - if they repeat this nonsense enough times - people will fall for it. It's pretty insulting to the American people."

Keith Olbermann: And Governor Palin hired a lobbyist to get earmarks to the tune of $27 million for a 6,000-person town which is - in its own scope, is kind of a neat trick, but it does seem to counterbalance the basic platform of the Republican Party.

You said that they're not telling the truth here, but when the stuff is a gross distortion, whether it's about their own positions or yours, or facts in your history or whatever, what can you do about it? And why do people hesitate to use the word "lie" about these things?

Senator Barack Obama: Well, look, we have been very clear about the fact that this argument John McCain and Sarah Palin are making, that they are agents of change, just won't fly. It defies their history and their background. And we saw it in the convention that they wouldn't talk about the basic issues that are really going to make a difference in the lives of middle class families.

So you know, I'm happy to have legitimate policy debates with them on where we want to take health care, what we want to do about energy, what we want to do about education, what are we going to do about the war in Iraq.

But you know, for them to run an ad that basically doesn't present an accurate record of their positions on issues I think should raise some questions about how they would approach an administration.

SBO (with vitamin JE): "You're right. And it's important not to dance around the fact that there are people who will use any tactic to get what they want. We've seen this before. They know gravity exists, but (if it suited their purpose) they are willing argue that it doesn't. And they will continue to make that argument with a straight face. They think it will work. But I think the American people are smarter than that.

Just me daydreaming....


truthout roundup 9/10

As Campaign Heats Up, Untruths Can Become Facts
Jonathan Weisman, The Washington Post: "From the moment Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin declared that she had opposed the infamous 'Bridge to Nowhere,' critics, the news media and nonpartisan fact checkers have called it a fabrication or, at best, a half-truth. But yesterday in Lebanon, Ohio, and again in Lancaster, Pa., she crossed that bridge again. 'I told Congress: "Thanks but no thanks for that Bridge to Nowhere up in Alaska,"' Palin told the crowds at the 'McCain Street USA' rallies. 'If we wanted a bridge, we'll build it ourselves.'"

Democrats Look to More Drilling
The Associated Press: "With public opinion shifting toward offshore drilling, Democrats are looking to defuse the volatile election issue by allowing oil companies for the first time to explore off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from Virginia to Florida -- but only if they foot the bill for new alternative energy programs. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who not long ago staunchly opposed lifting any of the offshore drilling bans, said Tuesday she now supports an energy package that would including drilling in federal waters off the southeastern coast. She is planning a vote that could come as early as Friday."

New President Will Inherit $438 Billion Debt
Lori Montgomery, The Washington Post: "Weak revenue growth and accelerated spending - including an economic stimulus package that returned billions to taxpayers - will drive the federal deficit to $407 billion in the fiscal year that ends this month, more than double last year's $161 billion, congressional budget analysts reported today."

E.J. Dionne Jr. Pulling the Curtain on Palin
E.J. Dionne Jr., The Washington Post: "John McCain's campaign acknowledged this weekend that Sarah Palin is unprepared to be vice president or president of the United States. Of course, McCain's people said no such thing. But their actions told you all you needed to know. McCain, Barack Obama and Joe Biden all subjected themselves to tough questioning on the regular Sunday news programs. Palin was the only no-show. And it's not just the Sunday interviews. She has not opened herself to any serious questioning since McCain picked her to be next in line for the presidency."

Al Franken Wins Primary for Minnesota Senate Seat
The Associated Press: "The comedian Al Franken won the Democratic nomination for Senate in Minnesota on Tuesday, setting up a showdown with the incumbent Republican senator, Norm Coleman. Mr. Franken, who gained fame as a cast member of 'Saturday Night Live,' easily beat six other candidates. Mr. Coleman trounced his only opponent, an expatriate living in Italy."

FP roundup 9/10

Decision '08

Neither Barack Obama nor John McCain has a particularly distinguished record on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The U.S. budget deficit for 2008 will be
$407 billion, the Congressional Budget Office estimates, more than twice that of 2007.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to end a program that gives Mexican truckers full access to U.S. highways.

Mexican drug gangs have launched a
gruesome wave of beheadings.


Afghan President Hamid Karzai pledged to work with his new counterpart in Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari.

The six parties that make up Thailand's rul ing coalition plan to
nominate their new prime minister on Friday.

reviews the contenders to succeed Yasuo Fukuda as prime minister of Japan. For once, there's a real race.

Middle East and Africa

Iran is crying foul after former Mossad operative Rafi Eitan implied in an interview with Der Spiegel that Israel might seize Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and deliver him to the International Criminal Court.

The government of Sudan is
attacking rebel strongholds in northern Darfur.

Angola's ruling party
won reelection in a landslide. Remarkably, the opposition conceded defeat.

Europe and the Caucasus

Russia has begun dismantling its checkpoints in Georgia proper. But a Georgian police officer died Wednesday when shots were fired from the direction of a Russian checkpoint, Georgian officials say.

Separatist movements within Russia are
heartened by the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russia is
calling for an arms embargo on Georgia, yet it plans to station 7,600 troops in the breakaway regions.

Britain is
reducing the number of skilled immigrants it accepts each year.

Global Economy

OPEC members agreed to keep production levels in line with their quotas, a reduction that would amount to roughly half a million barrels a day.

Lehman Brothers is in
deep trouble.

Today's Agenda

Scientists in Switzerland have activated the long-awaited Large Hadron Collider. So far, the Earth remains intact.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will testify before the
House Armed Services Committee on Afghanistan and Iraq at 10 a.m.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Surprise me most

The New York Times

None of us have ever lived through an election at a time when 80 percent of voters think the country is headed in the wrong direction. But now that we’re in the thick of it, a few things are clear. From voters, the demand is: Surprise Me Most. For candidates, the lesson is: Weirdness Wins.

Last winter, Barack Obama succeeded by running a weird campaign. He wasn’t just a normal politician aiming for office, he was going to cleanse the country of the baby-boom culture war mentality. In his soaring speeches, he denounced the mores of both the Clinton and Bush eras and made an argument for unity and hope over endless partisan warfare.

But over the course of the spring, Obama’s campaign got less weird. The crucial pivot came when he failed to seize on McCain’s offer to do a series of joint town-hall meetings across the country. Those meetings would have elevated the race and shown that Obama is willing to take risks in order to truly change the way things are done.

Instead, Obama’s speeches became more conventional, more policy-specific and more orthodox. His Denver acceptance speech was different from his Iowa speeches. It was more traditionally anti-Republican and pro-Democratic. In the speech’s crucial contrast Obama declared: “It’s time for them to own their failure. It’s time for us to change America. You see, we Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress in this country.”

As David Broder noted, Obama’s speech “subordinated any talk of fundamental systemic change to a checklist of traditional Democratic programs.”

It is easy to see why Obama might tack this way. Democrats have a huge advantage in a straight-up issue contest. McCain is vulnerable on health care and the economy.

But by campaigning in this traditional way, Obama ceded the weirdness edge to McCain.

The old warrior jumped right in. Think about how weird last week was. The Republican convention was one long protest against the way the Republicans themselves have run Washington. McCain’s convention speech barely mentioned his own party. His vice-presidential nominee came out of the blue and seems totally unlike the regular crowd of former eighth-grade class presidents who normally dominate public life. McCain’s campaign ideology, exemplified in a new ad released on Monday, is not familiar conservatism. It’s maverickism — against the entrenched powers and party orthodoxies.

And it all worked. McCain got a huge postconvention bounce in the polls.

Now the campaign has become a battle between two different definitions of change. The Obama camp has become the champion of policy change — after eight years of failed Bush-McCain policies, it is time for different, Democratic ones. The McCain campaign is the champion of systemic change — after two decades of bickering and self-dealing, its time to shake up the whole system in order to get things done.

The Obama change is more responsible and specific, but it has all the weirdness of a Brookings Institution report. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) The McCain promise of change is comprehensive and vehement, though it’s hard to know how it would actually work in office.

It will still be hard for McCain to win in this environment, but his emphasis on broad systemic change may appeal to swing voters. Independent voters do not believe the country’s problems can be solved merely by replacing Republicans with Democrats. They cast a pox on both houses. That’s why they’re independents.

Furthermore, the maverick theme allows McCain to talk directly about character. Obama can hint at his values when he describes his tax cuts and health care plans, but he is indirect. Most voters, especially ones who decide late, vote on character over policies.

If I were advising the candidates, I’d tell them to double down on weirdness. Obama needs to occasionally criticize his own side. If he can’t take on his own party hacks, he’ll never reclaim the mantle of systemic change. Specifically, he needs to attack the snobs who are savaging Sarah Palin’s faith and family. Many liberals claim to love working-class families, but the moment they glimpse a hunter with an uneven college record, they hop on chairs and call for disinfectant. Obama needs to attack Bill Maher for calling her a stewardess and the rest of the coastal condescenders.

If I were McCain, I’d make the divided government argument explicit. The Republicans are intellectually unfit to govern right now, but balancing with Democrats, they might be able to do some good. I’d have McCain tell the country that he looks forward to working with Congressional Democrats, that he is confident they can achieve great things together.

The candidates probably won’t take this kind of advice. But remember: Weirdness wins. Surprise me most.

FP roundup 9/9


Hurricane Ike is heading for Havana.
A top advisor to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Interior Minister Ramon Rodriguez, quit yesterday for "strictly personal reasons."
Brazil's president says he will use his count ry's new oil riches to end poverty.


Kim Jong Il is rumored to be ill as North Korea celebrates its 60th anniversary. Be sure to read FP's exclusive, "The Secret History of Kim Jong Il."
The cooking show did it: Thailand's prime minister resigns.
U.S. drones, aiming at the al Qaeda-aligned Haqqani network, killed 23 people in northwest Pakistan.
Pakistan's new president, Asif Ali Zardari, was sworn in Tuesday. "It is a wonder that any sane man would want the job," the Economist muses.

Middle East and Africa

Al Qaeda's No. 2 has released a new video denouncing Iran for collaborating with the United States.
Supporters of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, a radical Irani an opposition group, rallied outside the White House to protest its expulsion from Iraq.
Former Mossad operative Rafi Eitan suggested in an interview that Israel might seize Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Europe and the Caucasus

A British jury convicted three men of conspiracy to murder in the transatlantic liquid bomb plot, but not of a more serious charge.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to withdraw Russian troops from Georgia proper. But they're staying in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
The United States is pulling back from its civilian nuclear cooperation with Russia, but won't make unilateral, punitive moves. David Ignatius sees Obama's policy being put into place.

truthout roundup 9/9

Steve Weissman Sarah Palin: "A Gidget for God's Truth"
Steve Weissman, Truthout: "'The Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation,' declared John McCain back in September 2007. With his vice-presidential pick of Governor Sarah Palin, he has found a winsome soul mate who is even more of a Christian nationalist, eager to use government to impose her religious views on the rest of us."

Indictment Links California Congressman to Abramoff
Marisa Taylor and Rob Hotakainen, McClatchy Newspapers: "A former top aide to Republican Rep. John Doolittle pleaded not guilty Monday to public corruption and obstruction of justice charges in an indictment that links the northern California congressman and his wife, Julie, to convicted super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Doolittle and his employees were showered with free lunches and tickets to concerts and sporting events, according to the indictment of his former aide, Kevin Ring. In exchange, Doolittle provided legislative favors to Abramoff's clients, including work on a $16 million appropriation and a bill to provide statehood to Puerto Rico, the indictment said."

Bush to Decrease Troops in Iraq, Increase in Afghanistan
Agence France-Presse: "US President George W. Bush was to say Tuesday he will bring home 8,000 of the 144,000 US troops now in Iraq over the coming months, with about half that number out by the time his term ends in January. 'Here is the bottom line: While the enemy in Iraq is still dangerous, we have seized the offensive, and Iraqi forces are becoming increasingly capable of leading and winning the fight,' he was to say in a speech. At the same time, Bush was to announce at the US National Defense University that he is sending more US soldiers to fight in Afghanistan."

J. Sri Raman How India's Nuclear "Waiver" Was Won
J. Sri Raman, Truthout: "According to India's National Security Adviser, M. K. Narayanan, the country won a waiver of the normal, non-proliferation conditions of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) over the weekend - believe it or not - because of 'divine support.' Evidence, however, points to a superpower and its outgoing president as the source of the extra-diplomatic support that enabled India to take this penultimate step toward 'operationalizing' the US-India nuclear deal."

Pentagon Debates Development of Offensive Cyberspace Capabilities
Julian E. Barnes, The Los Angeles Times: "Igniting a provocative new debate, senior military officials are pushing the Pentagon to go on the offensive in cyberspace by developing the ability to attack other nations' computer systems, rather than concentrating on defending America's electronic security. Under the most sweeping proposals, military experts would acquire the know-how to commandeer the unmanned aerial drones of adversaries, disable enemy warplanes in mid-flight and cut off electricity at precise moments to strategic locations, such as military installations, while sparing humanitarian facilities, such as hospitals."

Monday, September 8, 2008

Kindergarten, and, children ready to learn

by Don Wheeler

We have at least one magnet program in our network of Primary Centers which screens for "children ready to learn". Children who aren't, aren't accepted. As many people involved the Dream Team For Unity mentoring program will know, we find children unready to learn in later grades.

So one thing we might want to really concentrate on is a way to get all of our children off to the best start possible. Maybe the job of Kindergarten should mostly be about getting all of our children ready to learn.

The National No Child Left Behind program has controversies at many levels. (Yet another federal unfunded mandate comes to mind). But the one you hear the most is that it forces schools to "teach to the test". Actually, I worry that the situation is worse than that.

The tug is to abandon efforts aimed at long-term systemic improvement for school districts and corporations - in favor of short term test score enhancement strategies. In other words, the distraction isn't confined to the classrooms.

It's a bit ironic, because comprehensive, systemic improvement approaches are bound to improve test scores over time. And the better test scores achieved through this approach will indicate true and continued success.

I would want to talk with experts in this area - which certainly includes the teachers who meet with our young children five days a week - before proposing a formal approach. But I have some general ideas.

If we want the children who leave Kindergarten (and I've already said I believe it should be universal and full-day) "ready to learn", we may need to be more focused on learning skills than on learning certain things. Some of the focus should be on these areas:

The thirst - Our children are born curious, born learners. Tough circumstances can discourage these qualities at an early age. In those cases, the qualities must be restored.

Critical thinking - This comes naturally to humans... think "The food is hot; therefor, I should wait a bit to eat it". Helping our children move from this example to more complex issues isn't all that tough and might be one of the most effective tactics of real learning.

Imagination and/or visualization - Seeing the possibilities. Coupled with critical thinking, our children become skilled innovators, challengers to conventional wisdom.

Collaborative skills - Working with another child or more children works towards an appreciation of others' talents and learning negotiation and compromise. (I don't know how your house works, but in my house - with our five-year-old - negotiation and compromise happens fairly frequently).

This list is meant as examples of what I mean and likely incomplete. It is also quite raw. I'm looking forward to the input of educators and other interested parties to form an effective strategy.

But I continue to believe that our High School graduation outcomes will improve when we ensure successful launches for our youngest learners.

truthout roundup 9/8

MSNBC Demotes Keith Olbermann
David Bauder, The Associated Press: "MSNBC said Sunday it is replacing Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews as co-anchors of political night coverage with David Gregory, and will use the two newsmen as commentators. The change reflects tensions between the freewheeling, opinionated MSNBC and the impartial newsgatherers at NBC News. Throughout the primaries and summer, MSNBC argued that Olbermann and Matthews could serve as dispassionate anchors on political news nights and that viewers would accept them in that role, but things fell apart during the conventions. Gregory, the veteran Washington hand, will anchor MSNBC's coverage of the presidential and vice presidential debates and election night, said Jeremy Gaines, network spokesman."

Evidence Contradicts US Denials in Afghan Airstrike
Carlotta Gall, The New York Times: "To the villagers here, there is no doubt what happened in an American airstrike on Aug. 22: more than 90 civilians, the majority of them women and children, were killed. The Afghan government, human rights and intelligence officials, independent witnesses and a United Nations investigation back up their account, pointing to dozens of freshly dug graves, lists of the dead, and cellphone videos and other images showing bodies of women and children laid out in the village mosque."

US Attack Kills Several in Pakistan
Jane Perlez and Pir Zubair Shah, The New York Times: "Five missiles fired from an American pilotless drone aircraft Monday hit a large compound in North Waziristan belonging to one of Pakistan’s most prominent Taliban leaders, a Pakistani intelligence official and a local resident said. The missile attack at about 10:20 Monday morning killed nine people, including two children, and injured up to 18, according to the account from the intelligence official. A spokesman for the Pakistani army, Maj. Murad Khan, said the military knew of explosions near the compound, and was investigating further."

Paul Krugman The Power of De
Paul Krugman, The New York Times: "Save the home lenders, save the world? If only it were that simple. The just-announced federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the giant mortgage lenders, was certainly the right thing to do - and it was done fairly well, too. The plan will sustain institutions that play a crucial role in the economy, while holding down taxpayer costs by more or less cleaning out the stockholders. But Sunday's action needs to be seen in a larger context - that of the attempt by the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department to contain the fallout from the ongoing financial crisis. And that's a fight the feds seem to be losing."

Michael Schwartz Who Lost Iraq?
Michael Schwartz, TomDispatch.com: "As the Bush administration was entering office in 2000, Donald Rumsfeld exuberantly expressed its grandiose ambitions for Middle East domination, telling a National Security Council meeting: 'Imagine what the region would look like without Saddam and with a regime that's aligned with U.S. interests. It would change everything in the region and beyond.' A few weeks later, Bush speechwriter David Frum offered an even more exuberant version of the same vision to the New York Times Magazine: 'An American-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and the replacement of the radical Baathist dictatorship with a new government more closely aligned with the United States, would put America more wholly in charge of the region than any power since the Ottomans, or maybe even the Romans.' From the moment on May 1, 2003, when the President declared 'major combat operations ended' on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, such exuberant administration statements have repeatedly been deflated by events on the ground."

Dean Baker The Whiners' Recession
Dean Baker, Truthout: "Senator McCain and his friends no doubt still believe that the economy's fundamentals are strong, but Friday's jobs numbers clearly show how bad things have gotten. The 6.1 percent unemployment rate reported for August is almost as high as the worst levels from the last recession. A broader measure of labor market weakness, that includes people who can only find part-time work or who have given up looking for jobs, is higher than at any point in the last recession."

Lawsuit to Ask That Cheney's Papers Be Made Public
Christopher Lee, The Washington Post: "Months before the Bush administration ends, historians and open-government advocates are concerned that Vice President Cheney, who has long bristled at requirements to disclose his records, will destroy or withhold key documents that illustrate his role in forming U.S. policy for the past 7 1/2 years. In a preemptive move, several of them have agreed to join the advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington in asking a federal judge to declare that Cheney's records are covered by the Presidential Records Act of 1978 and cannot be destroyed, taken or withheld without proper review."

A Liberal Pundit Soars to a Prominent Perch
Sasha Issenberg, The Boston Globe: "Tonight, 'The Rachel Maddow Show' debuts on MSNBC, leaving her on the cusp of full-blown stardom in the mainstream media that her most devoted fans see as an enemy. Maddow was part of the original lineup on Air America, founded in 2004 to counter conservative dominance of talk radio under the market-friendly promise that liberals, too, could be entertaining. More than anyone else, Maddow fulfilled that pledge, with an affable and erudite approach to the day's news and the rhetorical combat that inevitably surrounds it."

Displaced Poor Still Arriving in New Orleans as Saints Go Marching In
Bill Quigley, Truthout: "Tears dripped down her face as she searched for her missing suitcase in the busy New Orleans bus station. 'It had my ID, my children's birth certificates, my money and my credit cards,' she softly cried. It was Sunday morning, one week after she was bused out of New Orleans to a military base in Arkansas. She was supposed to be at work. Her three children needed her. But she needed that suitcase."

Robert Parry Palin's "Trooper-Gate" Cover-Up
Robert Parry, Consortium News: "Ripping a page from George W. Bush's playbook on obstructing investigations, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her senior aides are maneuvering to thwart an abuse-of-power investigation that Palin initially vowed to assist."

Foreign Policy roundup

selected stories and links from http://foreignpolicy.com/


Hurricane Ike is wreaking havoc in Cuba.

A Mexican court ruled that Wal-Mart violated the country's constitution.

Canadian PM Stephen Harper dissolved Parliament and called for snap elections.

In a must-read New York Times Magazine essay, Dexter Filkins investigates Pakistan's double game in the war on terrorism.

China's central bank faces a capital shortage.

Energy costs are cutting into China's outsourcing appeal.

Middle East and Africa

Angola's election was either a farce or a transparent exercise in democracy, depending on your point of view.

China, hosting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Beijing, reiterated its view that the nuclear dispute should be settled peacefully.

Europe and the Caucasus

Ukraine's PM Yulia Tymoshenko criticized the "hysteria" of President Viktor Yushchenko over the Orange Coalition's collapse, saying, "Pointing the finger at Moscow is stupid."

Russia is dumping aid money into South Ossetia and demonstrating its control over parts of Georgia proper.
Germany's foreign minister is set to challenge Chancellor Angela Merkel in next year's federal elections.

On Making A Statement, Or, The Revolution Will Be Downloaded

We have been busy, these past two weeks...and we deserve a bit of a break before we get right back at it tomorrow...so to that end I have two “mini-stories” for you that will give you a chance to be ahead of the curve, to jump in on something new—and in one case, to help pull a major public prank.

Along the way, I have some “don’t miss” video for you to see—including a 1960s classic that is utterly and completely disconnected from politics in every way...but is still the perfect thing for a Monday.

And just to show what a help I can be, I’m even going to leave you with a story idea you can run with that has been almost entirely ignored by the larger media.

There are few filmmakers in American history who have impacted American politics as much as Michael Moore. Fahrenheit 9/11, Bowling For Columbine, and Sicko have all recently changed the political dynamic...much as “Roger and Me” did almost 20 years ago.

And this month, a new Michael Moore movie is to be released: ”Slacker Uprising”.

So with times as tough as they are, wouldn’t it be great if the movie was...oh, I don’t know...free?

Hey, America (and Canada...), guess what—it is.

For the first time ever a major studio film production will be premiered on the Internet...and it will be free...and to make it even better you can download the film, and keep the copy, pass it around, or whatever.

Our first “don’t miss video” is a 30 second commercial that was put together by the Campaign for America’s Future for the delegates attending the Republican Convention this past week. Katrina, the price of gas, the housing crisis...and that “Mission Accomplished” moment—all reprised to the tune of “Thanks for the Memories”.

I love this video—and you will too.

The movie will “drop” September 23rd; and you can go to the Slacker Uprising website to register for the download today. Come the 23rd, you go back, download a “full” version of the movie—and it’s all free.

Now if you want the “deluxe” package...the DVD is also for sale at the website...it’s $9.95...and it includes a presentation of “My Pet Goat” in case you need something to read the next time you want to re-create Presidential history.

Who loves the game “Grand Theft Auto”? Those who do will also love one of my favorite videos--Chuck D., Flavor Flav, and George W. Bush working together as though they were some sort of...Public Enemy...performing the song “Grand Theft Oil”.

It has a great beat, you can dance to it...and it excoriates the President.
What could be better?

I promised you a story heads-up, so here it is: while New Orleans might have survived the recent hurricane mostly unscathed, Baton Rouge is severely damaged. In fact, it could be three weeks before power is fully restored.

Go check this out...and get the stories rolling.
I can’t do them all, you know.

Now to close out today, I want to ask you to get involved in helping to advance a giant secret prank.

Giant secret prank, did you say?
Indeed I did.

Here’s the deal: I got an email the other day from my friends over at “The Yes Men”...and they are looking for donations because they are preparing another outrageous event.

Outrageous event?
Whatever do you mean?

Well, in the past they were involved in the formation of the Barbie Liberation Organization (the group swapped the voiceboxes from Barbies into GI Joes...and vice versa...and then placed the altered toys back on the shelves to be sold to unsuspecting customers).

They made Dow Chemical admit---very publicly—that they had no intention of compensating the victims of the Bhopal Disaster...and they did it by faking Dow’s admissions of guilt, announcing a fake compensation plan...on the BBC...along with the fake “requisite apology”...which forced Dow to announce that the Bhopal victims are getting nothing.

They also manage to get invited to conferences as representatives of the WTO from time to time (it all has to do with a confusing website they created back in the day...); proposing such things as “compassionate slavery” and the Halliburton SurvivaBall.

One of the greatest comedians ever: Buddy Hackett. Check out this video of Hackett, from the 1960s, explaining to Dean Martin how he found out his wife was pregnant. (She sent him for pizza pie...)

Retro-cool and absolutely hilarious, it is.

The clip has nothing to do with anything else in this story...and despite that, it could not fit into the context of the story more perfectly.

The last big prank for which The Yes Men raised funds had them (this time as fake representatives of Exxon/Mobil) proposing—at Canada’s largest annual energy conference--to use dead humans as an alternative energy source. During the event they handed out to the audience candles made from Vivolium, the new dead human fuel they had developed...and your donations paid for the candles.

Here’s the description from the email I received:

“Your donation [to this site] will make it possible for
us to print and distribute up to hundred thousand copies of, um,
something. We can't tell you what it is, but we can say it'll happen
well before the Presidential election, that it's fantastic and funny
and smart, and that it aims to change the discussion from just managing
the Iraq War, to ending it, with all that that would mean for the US as
well. Because this war has been a disaster not just for Iraq.

If you give us money (any amount is helpful), we'll make sure you get a
copy. And if you live in the New York area and would like to be part of
this action, please write newyork@theyesmen.org.”

So here’s your chance to get directly involved in...something...just in time to influence the election—and to have a lot of fun doing it.

Ever wish you had been a Merry Prankster?
40 years later, here’s your chance.

So that’s today’s story: there’s a free Michael Moore movie available in a few days...and there’s a fantastic opportunity to put the money you saved on movie tickets, jujubes, and popcorn to good use.

Having fun while doing good—who doesn’t love that idea?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Truthout roundup 9/7

Nearly 600,000 Voters Subject to Possible Caging in Ohio
David Rosenfeld, Miller-McCune: "How many voter-registration mass mailers are 'returned to sender' in the run-up to Election Day may determine how many Ohio residents are eligible to vote."

Biden: Republicans Silent on Issues That Matter to Middle Class
Mike Chalmers, The News Journal: "A sometimes angry Sen. Joe Biden on Friday railed against the 'abject failure' of Republicans to help middle-class Americans cope with shrinking wages, job losses and the rising cost of gas, groceries, health insurance and college."

Roadside Bomb Kills Two US Soldiers
Hamid Ahmed, The Associated Press: "A roadside bomb killed two American soldiers patrolling eastern Baghdad on Thursday, the US military said, announcing the first combat deaths in the capital in a week."

More Than Half of Young Mothers Give Birth Out of Wedlock
Karen Uhlenhuth, The Kansas City Star: "For the first time in a half-century of record-keeping, a majority of babies born to women younger than 30 were out of wedlock."

Hurricane Ike Hampers Relief Effort in Haiti
Matthew Weaver and Mark Tran, The Guardian: "In Haiti, authorities tried to move thousands of people into shelters to protect them from Ike, while still struggling to recover from tropical storm Hanna, which officials said had killed 167 people in the country. Rescue workers feared the death toll could rise into the hundreds in the flooded city of Gonaives if Ike dumped more rain from outer storm bands."

VIDEO Biden: Republicans Silent on Issues That Matter to Middle Class
Speaking at Langhorne, Pennsylvania, Joe Biden derided the Republicans for their silence on issues important to midde class voters concerned with coping with job losses, lower wages and the rising cost of gas and groceries.

FOCUS Mortgage Giant Overstated the Size of Its Capital Base
Gretchen Morgenson and Charles Duhigg, The New York Times: "The government's planned takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, expected to be announced on Sunday, came together after advisers poring over the companies' books for the Treasury Department concluded that Freddie's accounting methods had overstated its capital cushion, according to regulatory officials briefed on the matter."

FOCUS Frank Rich: Palin and McCain's Shotgun Marriage
Frank Rich, The New York Times: "Given the actuarial odds that could make Palin our 45th president, it would be helpful to know who this mystery woman actually is. Meanwhile, two eternal axioms of our politics remain in place. Americans vote for the top of the ticket, not the bottom. And in judging the top of the ticket, voters look first at the candidates' maiden executive decision, their selection of running mates. Whatever we do and don't know about Palin's character at this point, there is no ambiguity in what her ascent tells us about McCain's character and potential presidency."

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Truthout roundup 9/6

Michael Winship St. Paul's Police Protest the Press
Michael Winship, Truthout: "So, attending the Democratic National Convention in Denver and watching events at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul via television, the sights and sounds of police and protesters were familiar. And that scent, the heavy, cloying smell of gas and pepper spray, as evocative as, but far less delicate than a Proustian cookie ... What was different in St. Paul was that the police seemed especially intent on singling out independent journalists and activists covering the Republican convention for the Internet and other alternative forms of media."

Bhutto's Widower Wins Pakistan's Presidency
Jane Perlez and Salman Masood, The New York Times: "Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of the slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and a controversial politician with little experience in governing, was elected president of Pakistan on Saturday."

Obama Hits McCain on Social Security
Charles Babington, The Associated Press: "Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama criticized Republican John McCain's approach to Social Security on Saturday, saying it would undermine the government program aimed mainly at retirees."

Hanna Roars Ashore but Hurricane Ike Looms
MSNBC News: "Tropical Storm Hanna buffeted tourist beaches on the North-South Carolina border Saturday at the start of a run up the Eastern Seaboard forecast to dump heavy weekend rain from Virginia to New England."

Bob Herbert Running From Reality
Bob Herbert, The New York Times: "If there was one pre-eminent characteristic of the Republican convention this week, it was the quality of deception. Words completely lost their meaning. Reality was turned upside down."

FOCUS Scores Killed by Pilotless US Aircraft
Pir Zubair Shah and Jane Perlez, The New York Times: "A missile strike from a remotely piloted United States reconnaissance aircraft killed 6 to 12 people in a group of houses in southern Afghanistan, very close to the border with Pakistan, Pakistani residents of the area said Friday."

FOCUS US Rescue Seen at Hand for Two Mortgage Giants
Stephen Labaton and Andrew Ross Sorkin, The New York Times: "Senior officials from the Bush administration and the Federal Reserve on Friday called in top executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage finance giants, and told them that the government was preparing to place the two companies under federal control, officials and company executives briefed on the discussions said."

Use of force against RNC Protesters "Disproportionate," charges Amnesty International

For immediate release:
Friday, September 5, 2008

Use of Force Against RNC Protesters “Disproportionate,” Charges Amnesty International

[London]--Amnesty International is concerned by allegations of excessive use of force and mass arrests by police at demonstrations in St. Paul, Minnesota during the Republican National Convention (RNC) from September 1-4, 2008. The human rights organization is calling on the city and county authorities to ensure that all allegations of ill-treatment and other abuses are impartially investigated, with a review of police tactics and weapons in the policing of demonstrations.

The organization’s concerns arise from media reports, video and photographic images which appear to show police officers deploying unnecessary and disproportionate use of non-lethal weapons on non-violent protestors marching through the streets or congregating outside the arena where the Convention was being held.

Amnesty International urges that an inquiry be carried out promptly, that its findings and recommendations be made public in a timely manner. If the force used is found to have been excessive and to have contravened the principles of necessity and proportionality, then those involved should be disciplined, measures put in place and training given to ensure future policing operations conform to international standards.

Police are reported to have fired rubber bullets and used batons, pepper spray, tear gas canisters and concussion grenades on peaceful demonstrators and journalists. Amnesty International has also received unconfirmed reports that some of those arrested during the demonstrations may have been ill-treated while held at Ramsey county jail.

Amnesty International is also concerned at reports that several journalists who were covering the RNC were arbitrarily arrested while filming and reporting on the demonstrations. They include host of independent news program Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman, and two of the program’s producers, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, who were both allegedly subjected to violence during their arrest. A photographer for the Associated Press (AP) and other journalists were also arrested while covering the demonstrations.

Kouddous described his arrest to media, “…two or three police officers tackled me. They threw me violently against a wall. Then they threw me to the ground. I was kicked in the chest several times. A police officer ground his knee into my back…I was also, the entire time, telling them, ‘I’m media. I’m press….,’ but…that didn’t seem to matter at all.”

Amnesty International recognizes the challenges involved in policing large scale demonstrations and that some protestors may have been involved in acts of violence or obstruction. However, some of the police actions appear to have breached United Nations (U.N.) standards on the use of force by law enforcement officials. These stipulate, among other things, that force should be used only as a last resort, in proportion to the threat posed, and should be designed to minimize damage or injury. Some of the treatment also appears to have contravened U.S. laws and guidelines on the use of force. The U.N. standards also stress that everyone is allowed to participate in lawful and peaceful assemblies, in accordance with the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

For more information, please contact the AIUSA media office at 202-544-0200 x302 or visit our website at www.amnestyusa.org.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Watch Cynthia McKinney's CSPAN Interview at Fiddler's Hearth

On Sunday, September 7, CSPAN will be interviewing former Congresswoman and Green Party Presidential Candidate, Cynthia McKinney. The interview is slated to be aired at 6:30 p.m. and again at 9:30 EDT.

The Fiddlers Hearth in South Bend has agreed to tune in CSPAN on their big screen TV in the large dining area and will reserve a couple of tables for those interested in joining local Green Party members in watching the interview.

Join us starting at 6 p.m. as we listen to what McKinney has to say on important issues facing voters today. Cynthia McKinney will be a write-in candidate on this year’s election ballot in Indiana.

Please join us for a pint or a bite to eat and stay around afterwards for a discussion on steps being taken to address the St Joe County Election Board’s failure to fully count all legitimate write-in votes in the 2006 and 2007 elections.

JLT campaign announces teachers' endorsement

Recognizing their lifelong support of education, today Indiana's classroom teachers endorsed Jill Long Thompson and Dennie Oxley in their campaign to become Indiana's next Governor and Lieutenant Governor.

Represented by the Indiana Political Action Committee for Education, an affiliate of the Indiana State Teachers Association, the organization represents 50,000 teachers and other school employees across the state.

Long Thompson was the first in her family to go to college. She received her undergraduate degree from Valparaiso University and went on to earn a master's degree and Ph.D. in business from Indiana University. She then taught at several higher education institutions including Valparaiso University, Manchester College and Indiana University

"Education completely changed my life," said Long Thompson. "From my elementary school experience to my time at Indiana University, I owe everything to the opportunities my education presented me."

"And, now, I worry that too many of our children are being left out and left behind by the Daniels administration and their failed policies," added Long Thompson. "We need leaders who understand that in order to turn Indiana's economy around, we must have a strong educational system - and Dennie and I will be those leaders."

Long Thompson's running mate, Lieutenant Governor Candidate State Representative Dennie Oxley also has classroom experience. He has worked as a math teacher and school administrator in the Crawford County Community School Corporation and prior to his election to the Indiana House of Representatives, he served as president of the Crawford County Classroom Teachers Association.

"My time in the classroom is something that I carry with me in everything I do, especially throughout this campaign," said Oxley. "Jill and I understand that one of the greatest economic development tools is our education system - and that's why we are running."

We want to ensure that our education system is working for our students and our families, so we can rebuild this and ensure that the next generation of Hoosiers enjoys the same opportunities we did."

On Wednesday, Long Thompson and Oxley unveiled a comprehensive plan to reform education to help grow the economy. A part of their "One Indiana Plan," their proposals include measures to ensure all Hoosier children learn to read, creating more flexibility in the classroom to reduce the state's abysmal high school dropout rate and better prepare the future workforce and to create lifelong learning opportunities and college scholarships for more Hoosiers. The full plan can be viewed at http://www.hoosiersforjill.com/news/reforming_education.

Known for her ability to get things done, Jill Long Thompson is an accomplished public servant. She has served as a city councilor, a Congresswoman and as Under Secretary for Rural Development at the United States Department of Agriculture. Long Thompson grew up on her family's farm in rural Whitley County and A farmer and college professor by trade, Long Thompson lives with her husband Don Thompson, a commercial airline pilot, on their farm in Marshall County.

Dennie Oxley is a 10-year veteran of the state legislature, currently serving as the Majority Whip in the Indiana House of Representatives. A former high school math teacher, school administrator and businessman, Oxley brings a wealth of public and private sector experience to the team. Oxley is a graduate of Indiana University Southeast, where he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in education. A lifelong resident of English, a small community in Crawford County, he resides there with his wife, Jayme, and their two young daughters.

Meet Don Wheeler

I (an at large candidate for the South Bend School Board) will be at a flea market sponsored by the West Side Democratic Club tomorrow (Saturday Sept. 6) from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

Please come with your suggestions and questions to help our children to better outcomes.

The club is located at 617 S. Warren St, South Bend 46619.

The resentment strategy

The New York Times

Can the super-rich former governor of Massachusetts — the son of a Fortune 500 C.E.O. who made a vast fortune in the leveraged-buyout business — really keep a straight face while denouncing “Eastern elites”?

Can the former mayor of New York City, a man who, as USA Today put it, “marched in gay pride parades, dressed up in drag and lived temporarily with a gay couple and their Shih Tzu” — that was between his second and third marriages — really get away with saying that Barack Obama doesn’t think small towns are sufficiently “cosmopolitan”?

Can the vice-presidential candidate of a party that has controlled the White House, Congress or both for 26 of the past 28 years, a party that, Borg-like, assimilated much of the D.C. lobbying industry into itself — until Congress changed hands, high-paying lobbying jobs were reserved for loyal Republicans — really portray herself as running against the “Washington elite”?

Yes, they can.

On Tuesday, He Who Must Not Be Named — Mitt Romney mentioned him just once, Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin not at all — gave a video address to the Republican National Convention. John McCain, promised President Bush, would stand up to the “angry left.” That’s no doubt true. But don’t be fooled either by Mr. McCain’s long-ago reputation as a maverick or by Ms. Palin’s appealing persona: the Republican Party, now more than ever, is firmly in the hands of the angry right, which has always been much bigger, much more influential and much angrier than its counterpart on the other side.

What’s the source of all that anger?

Some of it, of course, is driven by cultural and religious conflict: fundamentalist Christians are sincerely dismayed by Roe v. Wade and evolution in the curriculum. What struck me as I watched the convention speeches, however, is how much of the anger on the right is based not on the claim that Democrats have done bad things, but on the perception — generally based on no evidence whatsoever — that Democrats look down their noses at regular people.

Thus Mr. Giuliani asserted that Wasilla, Alaska, isn’t “flashy enough” for Mr. Obama, who never said any such thing. And Ms. Palin asserted that Democrats “look down” on small-town mayors — again, without any evidence.

What the G.O.P. is selling, in other words, is the pure politics of resentment; you’re supposed to vote Republican to stick it to an elite that thinks it’s better than you. Or to put it another way, the G.O.P. is still the party of Nixon.

One of the key insights in “Nixonland,” the new book by the historian Rick Perlstein, is that Nixon’s political strategy throughout his career was inspired by his college experience, in which he got himself elected student body president by exploiting his classmates’ resentment against the Franklins, the school’s elite social club. There’s a direct line from that student election to Spiro Agnew’s attacks on the “nattering nabobs of negativism” as “an effete corps of impudent snobs,” and from there to the peculiar cult of personality that not long ago surrounded George W. Bush — a cult that celebrated his anti-intellectualism and made much of the supposed fact that the “misunderestimated” C-average student had proved himself smarter than all the fancy-pants experts.

And when Mr. Bush turned out not to be that smart after all, and his presidency crashed and burned, the angry right — the raging rajas of resentment? — became, if anything, even angrier. Humiliation will do that.

Can Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin really ride Nixonian resentment into an upset election victory in what should be an overwhelmingly Democratic year? The answer is a definite maybe.

By selecting Barack Obama as their nominee, the Democrats may have given Republicans an opening: the very qualities that inspire many fervent Obama supporters — the candidate’s high-flown eloquence, his coolness factor — have also laid him open to a Nixonian backlash. Unlike many observers, I wasn’t surprised at the effectiveness of the McCain “celebrity” ad. It didn’t make much sense intellectually, but it skillfully exploited the resentment some voters feel toward Mr. Obama’s star quality.

That said, the experience of the years since 2000 — the memory of what happened to working Americans when faux-populist Republicans controlled the government — is still fairly fresh in voters’ minds. Furthermore, while Democrats’ supposed contempt for ordinary people is mainly a figment of Republican imagination, the G.O.P. really is the Gramm Old Party — it really does believe that the economy is just fine, and the fact that most Americans disagree just shows that we’re a nation of whiners.

But the Democrats can’t afford to be complacent. Resentment, no matter how contrived, is a powerful force, and it’s one that Republicans are very, very good at exploiting.

Truthout roundup 9/5

John Nichols The Anti-Republican Republican
John Nichols, The Nation: "In the eighth year of Republican dominance of the executive branch of the federal government, after an extended period in which Republicans also controlled the legislative branch of the same federal government, the party's nominee for president told its convention, 'We need to change the way government does almost everything: from the way we protect our security to the way we compete in the world economy; from the way we respond to disasters to the way we fuel our transportation network; from the way we train our workers to the way we educate our children.' Never in recent American history has the candidate of a party seeking to maintain its hold on the presidency seen its candidate so aggressively dismiss the legacy of the incumbent commander-in-chief and his allies."

Robert Parry The Anti-Obama Hate-Fest
Robert Parry, Consortium News: "The Republican Party, which has defined modern-day negative politics, was back at it again, bashing Barack Obama and the news media in an ugly display that rivaled the old days of Nixon-Agnew - or George W. Bush's last convention where GOP operatives passed out 'Purple Heart Band-Aids' to mock John Kerry's war wounds. After a slow start because of Hurricane Gustav, the convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, has turned into an anti-Obama hate-fest with a nearly all-white gathering laughing at and mocking the nation's first African-American presidential nominee of a major party. However, beyond the pulsating contempt visible on the faces of the GOP delegates, many of the nasty attacks on Obama - as well as the effusive praise for the Republican ticket - were blatantly false, as if testing the depths of American gullibility and bigotry."

Police Arrest 200 in March on GOP Convention, Including Journalists
Ryan J. Foley and Martiga Lohn, The Associated Press: "Police surrounded and arrested about 200 protesters Thursday night after a lengthy series of marches and sit-ins timed to coincide with Sen. John McCain's acceptance of the Republican Party's nomination for president. Caught up in the clash were several reporters assigned to cover the event, including Amy Forliti and Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press. Officers ordered them to sit on the pavement on a bridge over Interstate 94 and to keep their hands over their heads as they were led away two at a time."

US Raid Complicating Pakistani's Presidential Bid
Nahal Toosi, The Associated Press: "A deadly American-led raid on a Pakistani village embarrassed the government and eroded support for the pro-U.S. presidential front-runner Thursday just two days before the election. Furor continued to mount over the first known foreign ground assault inside Pakistan against a suspected Taliban haven. The government summoned the U.S. ambassador for an official protest, while Parliament passed resolutions of condemnation."

Gun Groups, Buoyed by Court Ruling, Are Working for More
John M. Donnelly, Congressional Quarterly: "Gun rights groups are planning a busy election season. To maintain momentum gained from the Supreme Court's ruling in June striking down the District of Columbia's handgun ban and declaring that the Second Amendment grants individuals a right to own firearms, the gun groups have launched the most ambitious voter registration and education drives they've ever attempted. Congressional election endorsements from the National Rifle Association (NRA) are due this month. Also on tap is a media blitz by multiple groups in competitive districts. At the Republican convention, strategic planning is under way."

Dean Baker Unemployment at Five-Year High
Dean Baker, Truthout: "The labor market is as weak or weaker than at the worst points of the last recession. The unemployment rate jumped to 6.1 percent in August, the highest level since September of 2003. The establishment survey showed the economy losing another 84,000 jobs in August. With downward revisions to data for the prior two months, the economy has lost an average of 81,000 jobs over the last three months."

Bill Quigley Gustav's Impact on Louisiana and Haiti
Bill Quigley, Truthout: "Louisiana is the poorest state in the US, home to nearly four million people, with per capita income of around $16,000 per year. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, home to nearly nine million people, with a per capita income of less than $400 per year ... Tens of thousands of people in Louisiana remain displaced ... Haiti was in deep trouble before being hit by a series of storms. Hunger is widespread. Sky-high food prices sparked riots and turmoil as people could not afford to purchase enough food."

Hoosiers believe in fairness

courtesy of RunicDruid

The Indiana General Assembly will be once again considering a change to the Indiana Civil Right Law in January of 2009. LGBT people are conspicuously omitted from Indiana civil rights protections. In our state, a person can still be fired or denied credit, housing, or public accommodations simply for being gay or transgender. Tell your elected officials that this isn’t acceptable.

Here are just a few reasons why all Indiana residents should care about civil liberties for all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people:

LGBT Hoosiers have contributed much to the competitive, high tech service economy as well as the technologies that make it possible

LGBT Hoosiers add value to the economy; furthermore, all taxpayers benefit when the economy is boosted, because everyone can work to his or her potential without fear

Reduction of employment discrimination improves worker productivity

Universities that provide environments free from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity are able to attract top academic talent and remain competitive. Diversity of all kinds is critical to universities where creativity is vital to competitiveness

Families, of which we are all members, are more stable and nurturing if the members are seen as equal, with rights and responsibilities for one another

Families are more stable if all members are treated with respect and dignity instead of fear and bigotry

Any perception that Indiana lacks a climate of diversity hurts the state's economy. Large corporate enterprises are known to closely scrutinize these issues when deciding to invest in the state's economy by locating and expanding facilities there

Tell me more

Full Petition Text:
All Indiana residents should be provided protections against discrimination. I urge the Governor and the Indiana General Assembly to assure basic rights in employment, public accomodations, credit, and housing for all Hoosiers.
Signed by:[Your name] [Your address]

Click here to sign the petition: http://eqfed.org/campaign/civilrightspetition

Thursday, September 4, 2008


by Elizabeth Edwards
originally posted on DailyKos

Our family has been through a lot. Some caused by nature, some caused by human weakness, and some – most recently – caused by the desire for sensationalism and profit without any regard for the human consequences. None of these has been easy. But we have stood with one another through them all. Although John believes he should stand alone and take the consequences of his action now, when the door closes behind him, he has his family waiting for him.

John made a terrible mistake in 2006. The fact that it is a mistake that many others have made before him did not make it any easier for me to hear when he told me what he had done. But he did tell me. And we began a long and painful process in 2006, a process oddly made somewhat easier with my diagnosis in March of 2007. This was our private matter, and I frankly wanted it to be private because as painful as it was I did not want to have to play it out on a public stage as well. Because of a recent string of hurtful and absurd lies in a tabloid publication, because of a picture falsely suggesting that John was spending time with a child it wrongly alleged he had fathered outside our marriage, our private matter could no longer be wholly private.

The pain of the long journey since 2006 was about to be renewed.

John has spoken in a long on-camera interview I hope you watch. Admitting one’s mistakes is a hard thing for anyone to do, and I am proud of the courage John showed by his honesty in the face of shame. The toll on our family of news helicopters over our house and reporters in our driveway is yet unknown. But now the truth is out, and the repair work that began in 2006 will continue. I ask that the public, who expressed concern about the harm John’s conduct has done to us, think also about the real harm that the present voyeurism does and give me and my family the privacy we need at this time.

A letter from Robyn Black

Hello friends and allies,

We have received a call to action from Indiana Equality and Lambda Legal. John Clower and Mark St. John have asked for a community meeting on the future of the South Bend HRO.

I was asked to have representatives from all the local affirming groups both secular and spiritual for a quick organizational meeting on October 4th at 11am in SAC 202 at IUSB. I know everyone will be busy that day, but this is our first chance to come together as a community.

Please forward this to anyone who might be able to help lead South Bend into equal civil rights for all. I would especially appreciate any help you can give me as far as the local LGBT friendly clergy go, I have no contacts in this area.

Now is the time! Are you ready for equal rights? I know I am!

Please let me know whether or not you will be able to attend, and please pass this on!

I know we have a PFLAG chapter, South Bend Equality, The GLBT Resource Center of South Bend, AIDS Ministries/AIDS Assist, the religious community, South Bend Progressives and strong support at IUSB.

We can make it happen!Please email me with your attentions, one way or the other,I thank you very much for your time!

Robyn D. Black
President of IUSB EqualityBoard
Member, Indiana Equality

On A New School Year, Or, The Sarah Palin Drinking Game

Well, it is easy to tell it’s September.

BBQ smoke hangs thickly in the air, the rain is getting cooler than it usually is in the summertime, and the Mariners are securely in last place.

And it is also time to return to school. For the new voter about to enter (or return to) College, all the crazy living can make you forget about important things, like...oh, I don’t know...maybe an election or two.

To make sure this does not happen I’m going to put College and Politics together to create this year’s first...wait for it...synchronized Sarah Palin drinking game.

So start pairing up your shotglasses, find the Scotch tape, and when you get back I’ll tell you how it works.

OK...so here’s what’s going to happen:

You’re going to make “pairs” of glasses that will have Sarah Palin’s “official story” on one glass, and Sarah Palin’s matching flip-flop on the other...which you can find right here...so print this story, cut out the strips, apply a bit of tape, and you’re on your way.

Put them in a shoebox, and at the beginning of the game players pick one at random. (Or if you prefer, pick teammates...)

When you hear one of the pair on the TV, both glasses have to drink...in a synchronized manner. Extra points for style may be awarded.

As an example, one glass will say:

“Sarah Palin opposes

The pair to that glass will say:

“Airport Paving Project”


It turns out Mayor Palin sent a note to Wasilla City Council members to let them know about the nearly $800,000 in earmarks to the City that the local paper had reported upon. The paper missed some of the story, however, and in the margin, in her handwriting, she wrote:

“This does not include our $ nearly One Million Dollars from the Feds for our Airport Paving Project. We did well !!!”

Now if the TV mentions “earmarks” or the document with her handwriting on it...or the airport paving project—synchronized drinking!

You know what? I like that earmark theme so much I’ll do another.

“I was against The
Bridge To Nowhere”

“I was for The
Bridge To Nowhere”

Bridge to Nowhere? Long story short, one of the most offensive earmark efforts ever was just a couple of years ago when the (all-Republican) Alaska Congressional delegation tried to hustle $320 million in earmarks for a bridge to connect Ketchikan with the Island of Gravina (population 50), where the airport is located. (The locals have to make do with a ferry today...but they didn’t like having to wait for the boat.)

See if you can guess which 2006 candidate for Governor of Alaska was all for the earmarks that would make The Bridge To Nowhere possible? (Hint: It rhymes with Parah Salin.)

She’s so big on earmarks, in fact, that in 2001 and 2002 the Mayor of Wasilla was targeted for her love of pork by a national crusader who was trying to end the practice. Know who it was?

Wait for it...wait...OK, are you ready?

John McCain said Sarah Palin was a pork abusertwo years in a row.

Guess which candidate for Vice President is not only against earmarks today...but also Governor of the State that gets the most earmarks, per person, in America? (Hint: It rhymes with Parah Salin.)

Here’s another pair of glasses, and they’re pretty much self-explanatory:

“I’m for abstinence-only education

“How’s that abstinence-only thing
working out these days?”

You’re probably hearing that after 18 months in office she’s already being investigated by the State of Alaska to see if she has abused her powers as Governor, and now it looks as though she is trying to wriggle out of the cooperation that she promised investigators.

To make this happen, her own lawyer just filed an ethics complaint against her, hoping the Alaska Attorney General will take over the investigation from the Legislature. Which is how we get the next pair of glasses:

“Palin is an ethical politician”

“Palin files ethics complaint
against herself”

(For this pair, any mention of the word “Troopergate” also means synchronized drinking!)

That’s four pair, which should be enough, for now, to get you started...but let’s end with a challenge:

Send in your own pairs.

Make ‘em funny, make ‘em tough...but most of all, make sure they can fit on a shot glass.

Now get out of here and head to class...and be sure not to step in any big piles of Politics on the way.

Truthout roundup 9/4

Attacks, Praise Stretch Truth at GOP Convention
Jim Kuhnhenn, The Associated Press: "Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her Republican supporters held back little Wednesday as they issued dismissive attacks on Barack Obama and flattering praise on her credentials to be vice president. In some cases, the reproach and the praise stretched the truth."

In a More Diverse America, a Mostly White Convention
Eli Saslow and Robert Barnes, The Washington Post: "Organizers conceived of this convention as a means to inspire, but some African American Republicans have found the Xcel Energy Center depressing this week. Everywhere they look, they see evidence of what they consider one of their party's biggest shortcomings. As the country rapidly diversifies, Republicans are presenting a convention that is almost entirely white."

Amy Goodman Why We Were Falsely Arrested
Amy Goodman, Truthdig: "Government crackdowns on journalists are a true threat to democracy. As the Republican National Convention meets in St. Paul, Minn., this week, police are systematically targeting journalists. I was arrested with my two colleagues, 'Democracy Now!' producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, while reporting on the first day of the RNC. I have been wrongly charged with a misdemeanor. My co-workers, who were simply reporting, may be charged with felony riot."

Democrats Rebuke Lieberman for Obama Comments
Paul Kane, The Washington Post: "Democrats officially warned Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) on Wednesday that he could face repercussions for delivering a speech at the Republican National Convention in which he called Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama an 'eloquent young man' who lacked the experience to be in the White House. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said that Lieberman's status within the Democratic caucus is in jeopardy."

J. Sri Raman Where Politics Crucifies the Poor
J. Sri Raman, Truthout: "India's far right needs no fresh publicity for its crusade against Muslims, the country's largest religious minority. No one has questioned its credentials on this count ever since the pogrom of 2002 in Gujarat on the western coast, over which Narendra Modi of worldwide notoriety presided. Far less widely known is the holy war the 'parivar' (the far-right 'family') has been waging against a minuscule Christian minority (totaling 2.4 percent of the country's population). The terror unleashed on this soft target over the past 12 days in the eastern state of Orissa provides a telling illustration."

VIDEO Top GOP Pundits Fault Palin Selection
Mike Murphy and Peggy Noonan, GOP pundits, caught talking while live mic catches candid conversation.

VIDEO Obama Slams Republicans on Economy
Speaking at Kent State in Ohio, Barack Obama criticized the GOP for not discussing the economy Tuesday night at their national convention.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

On How The State Gave Me MRSA (Part III), Or, The "Let's Fix It" Edition

Imagine that you’re a Presidential candidate running for office in today’s electoral environment. Now imagine if you came before the American public and informed them that you were aware of an event that would kill as many Americans as died on 9/11...and that you had the knowledge in hand to stop it in its tracks.

And that you could do it again—six times a year—year after year after year.

And to make the story better...you could save the taxpayer money doing it.

You think the voters would be in favor of that?

Well, voters, get ready to be in favor of that; because today I bring to you a relatively cheap, relatively easy plan that will save more than 18,000 American lives a year.

How do we do it?
By making MRSA in the healthcare system a virtual thing of the past.

Follow along and you’ll leave with useful facts, solid answers ...and examples of how the plan is already working.

So what is MRSA?

MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is the name for a group of staph bacteria types that have become resistant to one or more antibiotics. All are resistant to penicillin.

MRSA, it should be noted, is not the only problem here. There are other drug-resistant organisms that lead to a variety of Hospital-Acquired Infections (HAIs), or if you prefer the technical term, nosocomial infections.

CA-MRSA are “community acquired” strains, commonly affecting people in jails, gyms and schools, and other “close contact” environments. These strains most commonly present as boils, pimples or blisters.

They are relatively easily spread, and cause almost 15% of MRSA fatalities.

“Health care–associated Community-onset “ or “Hospital-Onset” MRSA (the two of which can be referred to as “Hospital Acquired” or HA-MRSA), on the other hand, are less easily spread, but can infect the organs, causing organ failure, or the lungs, causing death by pneumonia, or the blood, causing blood infections and toxic shock syndrome.

While HA-MRSA bacteria cause 85% of all MRSA infections, as the two names imply, not all infections occur in hospitals. Other health care settings, such as nursing homes (the “Community” part of “Community-onset”), are actually responsible for about 2/3 of that total.

Those workers bring the bacteria home, by the way ...and about 1/3 of the family and roommates who come in close contact with an infected worker themselves become infected...which, in fact, is what happened to me.

(The Girlfriend is a nurse in the employ of the State of Washington; the Residential Habilitation Center where she works is the home of the poor infection control practices that caused our problem...and all of this is described in complete detail in Parts I and II of this story.)

Not only does MRSA kill with great alacrity, it’s expensive to boot.

How expensive?
Consider this, from the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths...

A new study based on all the hospital infections reported in Pennsylvania in 2005 dramatizes this enormous economic burden. The average charge for patients who developed an infection ($173,206) was nearly four times as high as for patients admitted with the same diagnosis and severity of illness who did not contract an infection ($44,367). The 11,688 infections reported added over two billion dollars in hospital charges that year. That's in one state alone!

...or this, from the US Department of Health and Human Services:

On average, hospital stays for MRSA infections cost $14,000, compared with $7,600 for all other stays, and the length of hospitalization was more than double—10.0 days for MRSA infections versus 4.6 days for all other stays.

So up to this point we’ve covered the basics: what MRSA is, how it affects the body--and the fact that it diverts a lot of resources that could be used for better things.

But this was advertised as the “let’s fix it” part of the story...and it’s time to deliver on that promise. Which brings us to the good news.

This is a problem that can be stopped—or nearly so--and it can be done fairly simply...and in a way that pays for itself over time.

Here’s what we need to do:

First, you gotta treat MRSA and the other HAIs as soon as they appear in the healthcare system. That means screening each and every person admitted for treatment to hospitals.

The UK's National Health Service (NHS) is moving to adopt this policy nationwide; and their strategy calls for a staged approach: 100% testing for everyone admitted to Intensive Care Units and other “special” care units, all patients being scheduled for surgery, patients on dialysis, cancer patients, those with previous MRSA history, and those admitted to hospitals from nursing homes.

Not on that list? Emergency and other non-elective admissions. The NHS is recommending those patients be put in a “consider infected until proven otherwise” category. The idea is to treat those patients immediately upon admission with antibiotics and other treatments until negative MRSA test results can be obtained at a later time (a “rapid results” test exists that can return results in as little as five hours at a cost of roughly $10 per test...but it currently has problems detecting all MRSA strains).

Nursing home residents are also not on that list. Again, turning to the UK, there is data suggesting 20% of nursing home residents are “persons of concern”, for want of a better term; and that screening of all residents of nursing homes should be considered.

This costs money up front, because isolation facilities need to be provided for the new admissions that either tested positive or for whom test results are not yet received, but the NHS believes over the long term the savings outweigh the costs.

University College Hospital, London was able to reduce their infections by 38% in 12 months, just through screening...and they saved almost $400,000 after expenses.

A 38% reduction in infections could represent about 6000 lives saved annually in the US.

Once you are treating people with HAIs, you need to prevent transmission to others; which brings us to the obvious number two part of the solution: handwashing.

If just the staff in a hospital is diligent about handwashing, it is estimated HAIs would drop by 30%, even if no other treatments were applied to patients. Now hospitals are taking it one step further by introducing handwashing stations for visitors.

This is fantastic from a return on investment perspective: inexpensive handwashing could remove 30% of the cost of these infections from the national healthcare budget (estimated to be greater than $5 to $10 billion annually...which I’m guessing is a bit on the low side) ...and do it for the cost of keeping the hand sanitizer dispensers filled.

Not to mention you save another 6000 lives in the US every year.

Surprisingly, handwashing is hard to reinforce and compliance rates are hard to keep high, which is why so much research exists on the subject. One of the most interesting “reinforcements” I’ve seen to create compliance so far is the approach of Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, who took cultures from the hands of their doctors, photographed the results...and used the pictures as screensavers on the hospital’s computers.

The third leg of the infection control stool?
Keeping things clean.

Here’s a good example: your doctor has just finished examining another patient, enters your room, does a quick hand wash, puts on gloves...and then puts the same stethoscope on your chest that was just on that other patient without cleaning it first.

Another: the nurse enters the room, on go the gloves, and the gloved hand immediately grabs the privacy curtain, pulls it closed...and then touches you.

The curtains are likely contaminated (splashes and sprays of body fluids and airborne bacteria are the usual suspects) and equipment surfaces require rigorous disinfection. Because of the hazardous environment the types of materials used to make counters and cabinets in a hospital room affect infection control, and, because of budget pressures, the housekeepers that kept on top of all this in times past are often more “short staffed” than ever.

Gowns, gloves, and other protective equipment need to be in place as well and used properly by the staff, which also seems obvious, but for some reason, isn’t.

If we universally adopt these three concepts (screening, handwashing, and housekeeping) we can expect results...and we can expect them quickly.

At Allegheny General Hospital the rate of MRSA infection in their ICU was reduced to zeroin 90 days—by aggressively applying these recommendations.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center reached 90% reductions in their ICUs and includes outreach to patients in their efforts.

The Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths offers this tantalizing success report:

“Two community hospitals in Charleston, South Carolina, demonstrated that targeted surveillance—testing only patients deemed at high risk, such as patients recently hospitalized, living in a nursing home, or with kidney problems—produces more modest reductions in infection and lower financial returns. This is not surprising, because a significant number of patients carrying MRSA go undetected. The costs of targeted surveillance, including laboratory tests and supplies such as gowns and gloves, cost $113,955 and yielded just over a 10 to 1 return, saving the hospitals $1,548,740 in avoided treatment costs.”

Dramatic long-term success has been seen in reducing HAIs in the Scandinavian countries, but it is important to recognize that they have the advantage of universal health care; which means cost issues do not keep patients out of the system as they do in the US. Absent such a system of our own, near-zero is an unattainable goal.

That said, it is possible in today’s healthcare environment to reduce HAIs in hospitals by at least 50%, and to reduce them 90% or more in ICU settings.

Not only can it be done, it can be done in a way that returns money to the system instead of drawing it out.

There are 18,000 more reasons to move on this as well...every year...and in the end, that’s the cost we really need to consider.

Author’s Note: We’re not done yet. Next time I will encourage you to remind a Governor that this matters, point you to some of the States that are already acting on this issue, and direct you to a safety checklist you can use to protect yourself in the hospital.


by Don Wheeler

I watch quite a few Law And Order reruns in the course of a week. The ones that feature bit performances by Fred Thompson are pretty painful to watch. He's really bad.

So it's revealing that Republicans are making a big deal of his speech. It was really bad.

Here's how he characterized the most conservative candidate in the race for the Democratic nomination - our nominee:

Democrats present a history-making nominee for president. History making in that he is the most liberal, most inexperienced nominee ever to run for president," Thompson said as delegates roared their agreement.

George W. Bush had less experience. And there was this gem:

"We need a president who doesn't think that the protection of the unborn or a newly born baby is above his pay grade," he said in prepared remarks, referring to a recent episode in which McCain's White House rival said it was "above my pay grade" to decide the point at which an unborn child is entitled to rights.

So Mr. Obama allowed that God out-ranked him. With enemies like this, who needs friends?

Jill's education plan

Dear Don,

Indiana's students have unlimited potential, but Mitch Daniels hasn't done enough to allow them to fulfill their promise.

High school dropout rates are too high, literacy rates are too low, and Indiana ranks near the bottom of the 50 states in adults with college degrees. Not only is this hurting our students' chance for a better future, it's hurting our economy.

The path to economic opportunity and prosperity begins with a quality education for all Hoosiers, and today I want to tell you exactly how Dennie Oxley and I will accomplish this.

Read our education proposal -- and let us know what you think about the plan:


I'm a former college professor, and my running mate, Dennie Oxley, was a high school math teacher. We've been in the classroom, worked with students, and know the steps we must take to turn our state's education system around. With the state of our economy today, we can no longer settle for incremental changes. We must transform our education system to provide lifelong opportunities for all Hoosiers, from early childhood through high school through adulthood.

Our plan to modernize education in Indiana has three main components:

Teaching every child to read. Reading is the fundamental key to education. We are proposing a statewide effort to provide every single child with a free book every month from the day they are born until they turn five years old.

Keep our students in school. To reduce our high school dropout rate, we propose a redesign of the high school years to accomodate students with different needs. Under our plan, students can speed up their education and move on to college in less than four years, or take their time and spend an extra fifth year to earn their diploma. Students would also be given the opportunity during their junior and senior years to earn college credits or learn a special

Improve access to higher education. By strengthening the link from high school to college, we can provide more Hoosiers with the opportunity to pursue higher education. We also propose supplementing federal grants and loans with an expansion of the 21st Century Scholars Program to embrace a greater number of low and middle-income families. The funding would come from a newly created Higher Education Fund, which would raise private dollars to invest in our students' futures.

For a full explanation of our education plan -- and the chance to give us important feedback -- click here now:


For the sake of our economy and our future, we must improve our education system so that all Hoosiers can realize their full potential.

I thank you for joining Dennie and me in this vital effort, and look forward to hearing your thoughts about our plan.


Jill Long Thompson

I wrote back and expressed strong support for her proposal, but pointed out that that mandatory full day Kindergarten needed to be enhanced with a gradual rolling back of school entry date cut-offs (currently July, 1) . That seemed the missing piece to what she wants to accomplish. -- DW

Photos of "Labor Rights are Human Rights" event at ND

The following are photos from yesterday's "Labor Rights are Human Rights" celebration held on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. Click on the individual photos to see a larger version.

IU-South Bend Labor Studies Professor Paul Mishler addresses the crowd of approximately 85-100 people.

Notre Dame Sociology and Peace Studies Professor Jackie Smith addresses the crowd.

Tony Flora of the National Association of Letter Carriers spoke about the Employee Free Choice Act.

Students and community members in attendance.

Students from IU-South Bend's Civil Rights Heritage Center also participated.

Notre Dame employees addressing the assembled crowd.

What the Palin Pick Says

New York Times

John McCain is not a normal conservative. He has instincts, but few abstract convictions about the proper size of government. He’s a traditionalist, but is not energized by the social conservative agenda. As Rush Limbaugh understands, but the Democrats apparently do not, a McCain administration would not be like a Bush administration.

The main axis in McCain’s worldview is not left-right. It’s public service versus narrow self-interest. Throughout his career, he has been drawn to those crusades that enabled him to launch frontal attacks on the concentrated powers of selfishness — whether it was the big money donors who exploited the loose campaign finance system, the earmark specialists in Congress like Alaska’s Don Young and Ted Stevens, the corrupt Pentagon contractors or Jack Abramoff.

When McCain met Sarah Palin last February, he was meeting the rarest of creatures, an American politician who sees the world as he does. Like McCain, Palin does not seem to have an explicit governing philosophy. Her background is socially conservative, but she has not pushed that as governor of Alaska. She seems to find it easier to work with liberal Democrats than the mandarins in her own party.

Instead, she seems to get up in the morning to root out corruption. McCain was meeting a woman who risked her career taking on the corrupt Republican establishment in her own state, who twice defeated the oil companies, who made mortal enemies of the two people McCain has always held up as the carriers of the pork-barrel disease: Young and Stevens.

Many people are conditioned by their life experiences to see this choice of a running mate through the prism of identity politics, but that’s the wrong frame. Sarah Barracuda was picked because she lit up every pattern in McCain’s brain, because she seems so much like himself.

The Palin pick allows McCain to run the way he wants to — not as the old goat running against the fresh upstart, but as the crusader for virtue against the forces of selfishness. It allows him to make cleaning out the Augean stables of Washington the major issue of his campaign.

So my worries about Palin are not (primarily) about her lack of experience. She seems like a marvelous person. She is a dazzling political performer. And she has experienced more of typical American life than either McCain or his opponent. On Monday, an ugly feeding frenzy surrounded her daughter’s pregnancy. But most Americans will understand that this is what happens in real life, that parents and congregations nurture young parents through this sort of thing every day.

My worry about Palin is that she shares McCain’s primary weakness — that she has a tendency to substitute a moral philosophy for a political philosophy.

There are some issues where the most important job is to rally the armies of decency against the armies of corruption: Confronting Putin, tackling earmarks and reforming the process of government.

But most issues are not confrontations between virtue and vice. Most problems — the ones Barack Obama is sure to focus on like health care reform and economic anxiety — are the product of complex conditions. They require trade-offs and policy expertise. They are not solvable through the mere assertion of sterling character.

McCain is certainly capable of practicing the politics of compromise and coalition-building. He engineered a complex immigration bill with Ted Kennedy and global warming legislation with Joe Lieberman. But if you are going to lead a vast administration as president, it really helps to have a clearly defined governing philosophy, a conscious sense of what government should and shouldn’t do, a set of communicable priorities.

If McCain is elected, he will face conditions tailor-made to foster disorder. He will be leading a divided and philosophically exhausted party. There simply aren’t enough Republican experts left to staff an administration, so he will have to throw together a hodgepodge with independents and Democrats. He will confront Democratic majorities that will be enraged and recriminatory.

On top of these conditions, he will have his own freewheeling qualities: a restless, thrill-seeking personality, a tendency to personalize issues, a tendency to lead life as a string of virtuous crusades.

He really needs someone to impose a policy structure on his moral intuitions. He needs a very senior person who can organize a vast administration and insist that he tame his lone-pilot tendencies and work through the established corridors — the National Security Council, the Domestic Policy Council. He needs a near-equal who can turn his instincts, which are great, into a doctrine that everybody else can predict and understand.

Rob Portman or Bob Gates wouldn’t have been politically exciting, but they are capable of performing those tasks. Palin, for all her gifts, is not. She underlines McCain’s strength without compensating for his weaknesses. The real second fiddle job is still unfilled.

A Freepress action alert

Reports of journalists, bloggers and videomakers being arrested keep rolling in. The St. Paul police department's targeting of journalists, including Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and the I-Witness videomakers, is having a chilling effect on free speech as the city hosts the Republican National Convention.

Many in the mainstream media are ignoring these attacks on journalism -- and some independent media makers are still in jail. But in less than 24 hours, more than 35,000 people have signed our letter demanding that press intimidation cease immediately and that all charges against journalists be dropped.

This is an incredible response. Help deliver the message that a free press will not be intimidated!

Help Us Reach 50,000 Letters: Take Action Now

Thanks, Josh

From Independent Movement dot org

While the presidential candidates and their VP's get set to duel in the debates, independent voters -- who will decide this election -- are wondering where are the issues of political reform? Isn't that what real change is about anyway??

Sign the petition and pass it on....


And please, pass it on to your friends and colleagues, help us build our networks......Jim Mangia, Linda Curtis, Fran MillerIndependentMovement.Org

P.S. Want to volunteer?

Join our next national conference call, Sunday September 14 at 7pm EST. Reply to contact@independentmovement.org if you want to participate.

Truthout roundup 9/3

Palin Faces Laundry List of Complications
Matt Apuzzo, The Associated Press: "GOP vice presidential pick Sarah Palin accepted at least $4,500 in campaign contributions in the same fundraising scheme at the center of a public corruption scandal that led to the indictment of Sen. Ted Stevens. The contributions, made during Palin's failed 2002 bid to become Alaska's lieutenant governor, were not illegal for her to accept. But they show how Palin, a self-proclaimed reformer who has bucked Stevens and his allies, is nonetheless a product of a political system in Alaska now under the cloud of an ongoing FBI investigation."

Cliff Schecter John McCain's Dereliction of Duty
Cliff Schecter, In These Times: "At a town hall meeting in Denver in early July, a Vietnam veteran asked presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) why he had opposed increasing healthcare for veterans whenever Congress had taken up the issue over the past six years. McCain virtually ignored the man's question, dissembling his opposition to an updated GI Bill for veterans. After the questioner challenged McCain's response, the senator reacted as he usually does when queried beyond his comfort level: He got visibly angry. Because McCain is running for president almost solely on his biography as a war hero, he can't - and won't - allow the slightest doubt to linger about his dedication to soldiers both past and present."

Ron Paul Channeling Losing Presidential Bid Into Political Push of His Own
Robert T. Garrett, The Dallas Morning News: "Texas Rep. Ron Paul, shunned by the Republicans because he won't endorse John McCain, starred in his own political convention Tuesday. Dr. Paul seeks to channel momentum from his losing presidential bid into an ongoing political push, though it's unclear whether the effort will hurt Mr. McCain's chances. 'I don't worry a whole lot about that,' the Surfside congressman said as 12,000 supporters flocked to the Target Center for nine hours of hot rhetoric about big government, trampling of the Constitution and President Bush's foreign misadventures."

Three University of Kentucky Journalists Arrested at RNC for Alleged Rioting
James R. Carroll and Lesley Stedman Weidenbener, The Courier-Journal: "Three people connected with the University of Kentucky's student newspaper were arrested Monday on charges of rioting outside the Republican National Convention. Those arrested were UK senior Edward Matthews and sophomore Britney McIntosh, both journalism students and photographers for the Kentucky Kernel, and James Winn, a photo advisor for the newspaper."

For Hurricane Gustav Evacuees, a Long Slog Home
David Zucchino and Richard Fausset, The Los Angeles Times: "The interstates were clogged Tuesday with Hurricane Gustav evacuees inching their way home in the face of police roadblocks. Rain was falling in great gray sheets, sending floodwaters coursing out of the Bogue Falaya and Tchefuncte rivers and into homes and cars. At least four tornadoes touched down, and radios crackled with National Weather Service warnings of more. The power was out, the sewers weren't working and there was no gasoline for miles."

Bill Quigley Living in the Car After Gustav
Bill Quigley, Truthout: "The good news is that nearly two million people were evacuated and spared the direct hit of Gustav on the Gulf Coast. Our sisters and brothers in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, who were not able to leave the point of the storm, lost over 100 lives. The people of the US were fortunate to be able to leave. The bad news is that most people have not been allowed to return."

Leslie Griffith Silencing the Town Crier
Leslie Griffith, Truthout: "Amy Goodman, who hosts one of the rare alternative news programs in the country, 'Democracy Now,' is not known for attracting attention to herself. She is not a Bill O'Reilly, shouting and screaming at anyone who disagrees. She is a journalist who loves diverse voices and putting events into perspective - helping American citizens get the information they need to make informed decisions. Yesterday, Goodman witnessed and experienced something very frightening that likely was not mentioned on your local news."

US Senator Joseph Lieberman Delivers Acceptance Speech at Democratic Convention
After Lieberman's debut at the Republican National Convention last night, check out the speech - of the Democratic variety - that he gave eight years ago, as Al Gore's running mate.

US Troops Enter Pakistan, 20 Dead
Candace Rondeaux, The Washington Post: "At least 20 people were killed in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday after U.S. and Afghan troops crossed from Afghanistan to pursue Taliban insurgents in an early morning attack that marked the first known instance in which U.S. forces conducted an operation on Pakistani soil since the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan began, according to witnesses and a Pakistani official."

Robert Scheer Palin's Alaska Reaps the Windfall Profits McCain Decries
Robert Scheer, Truthdig: "Welcome to the People's Republic of Alaska, where every resident this year will get a $3,200 payout, thanks in no small measure to the efforts of Sarah Palin, the state's Republican governor. That's $22,400 for a family of seven, like Palin's. Since 1982, the Alaska Permanent Fund, which invests oil revenues from state lands, has paid out a dividend on invested oil loot to everyone who has been in the state for a year. But Palin upped the ante by joining with Democrats and some recalcitrant Republican state legislators to share in oil company windfall profits, further fattening state tax revenue and permitting an additional payout in tax funds to residents."

US Is Set to Announce $1 Billion in Aid for Georgia
Steven Lee Myers, The New York Times: "The Bush administration plans to announce a $1 billion package of aid to help rebuild Georgia after its rout by Russian forces last month, administration officials said on Wednesday, as Vice President Dick Cheney arrived in the region to signal support for Georgia and other countries neighboring Russia."

Hard Times Hitting American Students and Schools in Double Blow
Sam Dillon, International Herald Tribune: "With mortgage foreclosures throwing hundreds of families out of their homes here each month, dismayed school officials say they are feeling the upheaval: record numbers of students turning up for classes this fall are homeless or poor enough to qualify for free meals."

Herve Kempf The Responsibility Imperative
Herve Kempf, Le Monde: "What an unusual sense of freshness! The word may seem strange applied to a book as harsh and devoid of concession to facility as 'The Imperative of Responsibility: In Search of an Ethics for the Technological Age,' but that's exactly what stands out upon rereading the book close to 30 years after its publication ..."

SBT: Living wage is focus of rally

[The following article is available on the South Bend Tribune's website.]

MARGARET FOSMOE Tribune Staff Writer

SOUTH BEND — A small crowd gathered Tuesday afternoon on the Fieldhouse Mall at the University of Notre Dame to talk about labor and human rights issues.

They aim to draw attention to worker rights and the need for a living wage.

Prudence Dorsey, a Notre Dame building services employee, told the crowd of about 75 people she had to seek an advance on her wages last year to pay the property taxes on her home. She said she’s working overtime to pay off that debt.

“It’s not an expensive house, but it’s mine. I’d like to keep it,” said Dorsey, 61, of South Bend.

Dorsey, a former factory worker, said she’s worked at the university a little over two years and makes $10.55 an hour, but finds it hard to make ends meet.

She said she attended meetings organized by the administration to address employee concerns, but stopped going because they didn’t talk about pay. “Nobody wants to talk about wages. That’s just taboo,” she said.Dave Kush, a building services worker in the Hesburgh Library, said Notre Dame could be doing more to support its hourly workers. “It’s a Catholic university. They should be lifting lives,” said Kush, 55, of South Bend.

In the past, Notre Dame Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves said the university pays a fair and just wage to all employees. On Tuesday, Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown said the university stands by that statement.

Several Notre Dame and Indiana University South Bend professors also spoke at the rally.

The gathering celebrated rights designated under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted 60 years ago by the United Nations. The declaration lists 30 rights to which all people are entitled, including freedom, equality, a fair wage and an adequate standard of living.

American workers today have fewer rights than workers in any other advanced, developed nation, said Paul Mishler, an Indiana University South Bend labor studies professor. He suggested that bosses who crush union-organizing efforts should face criminal charges.

“Advocating for workers is the work of God, the will of God,” said the Rev. Michael Baxter, a theology professor.

The rally was organized by the Progressive Student Alliance, and several other campus departments and groups.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Truthout roundup 9/2

Steve Weissman Bashing Obama's Dream?
Steve Weissman, Truthout: "Hearing Barack Obama speak last week in Denver, I found it hard to avoid bittersweet memories of Dr. King's 'I Have a Dream' speech at the March on Washington in August 1963. How far our country has come! And how much further we have yet to travel on Dr. King's road to peace and social justice! For me, one memory stands out, a small piece of history that throws new light on why many progressives find themselves faulting Obama for moving toward the right wing of the Democratic Party. A few days before the march, a battle-scarred hero of the civil rights movement came to the University of Michigan to practice the speech he planned to give in Washington as chairman of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). John Lewis was - and is - an Old Testament prophet, and his words heaped moral fury on President John F. Kennedy, a man whom young civil rights activists at the time did not see as on our side. If JFK wanted to support meaningful political and economic rights for the poorest black share croppers, that was good, said Lewis. If JFK did not, the movement would rise up without him like Sherman marching through Georgia."

George Lakoff Warns Democrats of "Reality-Based" Arguments
George Lakoff, DailyKos: "This election is about realities. But the election campaign depends on the political mind - how people understand the candidates and the realities. Democrats have mostly criticized Sarah Palin as unqualified to deal with the realities we face as a nation. But the choice of Palin had to do with the way the political mind works in elections. In dealing with the McCain-Palin ticket, Democrats must take the way voters think into account, in addition to the external realities.... Election campaigns matter because who gets elected can change reality. But election campaigns are primarily about the realities of voters' minds, which depend on how the candidates and the external realities are cognitively framed. They can be framed honestly or deceptively, effectively or clumsily. And they are always framed from the perspective of a worldview."

"Democracy Now's" Amy Goodman Arrested in St. Paul
"Democracy Now!" reports that host Amy Goodman was arrested Monday afternoon in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she was covering the Republican National Convention. Police seized Goodman as she attempted to defend two "Democracy Now!" producers, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, who had just been arrested on "probable cause for riot." Goodman was recently released.

Thousands March Against War in St. Paul
Bryan Bender, The Boston Globe: "The father of a Boston Marine killed in Iraq led thousands of antiwar protesters today in a boisterous but largely peaceful demonstration outside the Republican National Convention, while riot police and National Guardsmen clashed separately with a collection of small fringe groups who smashed windows and damaged public property. Police using pepper spray arrested a total of at least 56 people.... But the scene outside the convention on the opening day was largely a cacophony of peaceful voices - many of them supporters of Democrat Barack Obama - calling for an end to the war in Iraq and linking Republican presidential candidate John McCain with the policies of the Bush administration."

Gustav Spares New Orleans Area, but Reveals Vulnerability
Bruce Nolan, The Times-Picayune: "A diminished Hurricane Gustav sideswiped an eerily empty metropolitan area Monday without the frightening power it displayed offshore and spared the region, especially the vulnerable West Bank, from widespread flooding. But in its relative weakness, Gustav demonstrated again how vulnerable the region remains. Although it passed inland 70 miles southwest of the city as a downgraded Category 2 storm, Gustav's surge filled the Industrial Canal to the brim."

Disclosures on Palin Raise Questions on Vetting Process
Elisabeth Bumiller, The New York Times: "A series of disclosures about Gov. Sarah Palin, Senator John McCain's choice as running mate, called into question on Monday how thoroughly Mr. McCain had examined her background before putting her on the Republican presidential ticket. On Monday morning, Ms. Palin and her husband, Todd, issued a statement saying that their 17-year-old unmarried daughter, Bristol, was five months pregnant and that she intended to marry the father. Among other less attention-grabbing news of the day: it was learned that Ms. Palin now has a private lawyer in a legislative ethics investigation in Alaska into whether she abused her power in dismissing the state's public safety commissioner; that she was a member for two years in the 1990s of the Alaska Independence Party, which has at times sought a vote on whether the state should secede; and that Mr. Palin was arrested 22 years ago on a drunken-driving charge."

Monday, September 1, 2008

Notre Dame Celebration of Labor Rights: "Labor Rights are Human Rights"

[We apologize for the late notice; approval for this event did not come from the ND administration until this past Friday. Please make plans to attend, if possible, and please also forward this as appropriate. -- Karl]

Everyone has the right to decent work, equitable pay, and a living wage.

Everyone has the right to form and join trade unions to secure these rights.

--Article 23, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Please join Notre Dame and IUSB students and faculty for a Celebration of Labor Rights

Tuesday, September 2nd
Gather at 3:45, Event 4:00-4:45 PM
At Fieldhouse Mall by LaFortune Student Center

This event begins a year of celebration to recognize the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As our country celebrates labor day, we reflect on the meaning of worker labor rights as established in UDHR.

Professors Jackie Smith and Barbara Fick of Notre Dame and Professor Paul Mishler of IUSB will speak on the history of the UDHR and its implications for the rights of workers everywhere. Notre Dame employees will share their experiences working at Notre Dame.

This educational event calls everyone to reflect on how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can best be realized at home and around the world. All in the Notre Dame and Michiana community are welcome to this event

This event is sponsored by the Progressive Student Alliance, Dept. of Sociology, Dept. of Economics and Policy Studies, and the Center for the Study of Social Movements and Social Change.

Truthout roundup 9/1

Conservative Ire Pushed McCain From Lieberman
Elizabeth Bumiller and Michael Cooper, The New York Times: "In the end, the choice of his running mate said more about Senator John McCain and his image of himself than it did about Sarah Palin, the little-known governor of Alaska whose selection has shaken up the presidential race."

Christopher Kuttruff Police Raids on Protesters Mark Start of RNC
Christopher Kuttruff, Truthout: "Days before the start of the Republican National Convention, the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department, the Minneapolis Police Department, and the FBI raided houses of protesters suspected of 'conspiring to riot.' While only a few individuals were eventually arrested, several dozen were detained, searched, and questioned."

Paul Krugman John, Don't Go
Paul Krugman, The New York Times: "It's an ill wind that blows nobody good. Three years after Hurricane Katrina, another storm is heading for the Gulf Coast - and this has given Republicans a reason to cancel President Bush's scheduled appearance at their national convention. The party can thus avoid reminding voters that the last man they placed in the White House did such a heckuva job that he scored the highest disapproval ratings ever recorded."

McCain Running Mate Sarah Palin Misled GOP
Alex Spillius, The Telegraph UK: "The Governor of Alaska gave a misleading version of events over a controversial bridge project in her home state when she made her maiden speech as the presumptive nominee. Mrs. Palin told a cheering audience in Ohio that she had turned down an offer from the US Congress to build the so-called 'Bridge to Nowhere', which would have connected Gravina Island with Ketchikan International, an airport in Alaska's southeast serving just 200,000 passengers a year. Mr. McCain routinely cites the $100 million project as a symbol of wasteful central government spending."

Ann Wright US Military Keeping Secrets About Female Soldiers' "Suicides"?
Ann Wright, Truthdig: "Since I posted on April 28 the article 'Is There an Army Cover Up of the Rape and Murder of Women Soldiers?,' the deaths of two more US Army women in Iraq and Afghanistan have been listed as suicides - the September 28, 2007, death of 30-year-old Spc. Ciara Durkin and the February 22, 2008, death of 25-year-old Spc. Keisha Morgan. Both 'suicides' are disputed by the families of the women."

FOCUS Bill Quigley: Waiting for a Bus in New Orleans
Bill Quigley writes for Truthout from New Orleans: "It's 4 p.m. August 30, 2008. In the blazing midday sun, hot and thirsty children walk around bags of diapers and soft suitcases piled outside a locked community center in the Lower Ninth Ward. Military police in camouflage and local police in dark blue uniforms and sunglasses sit a few feet away in their cars. Moms and grandmas sit with the children and wait quietly. Everyone is waiting for a special city bus that will start them on their latest journey away from home."

FOCUS David Bacon: Did a Mississippi Raid Protect Rightwing Politicians?
David Bacon reports for Truthout from Laurel, Mississippi: "On August 25, immigration agents swooped down on Howard Industries, a Mississippi electrical equipment factory, taking 481 workers to a privately-run detention center in Jena, Louisiana. A hundred and six women were also arrested at the plant, and released wearing electronic monitoring devices on their ankles if they had children, or without them if they were pregnant. Eight workers were taken to Federal court in Hattiesburg, where they were charged with aggravated identity theft."