Sunday, November 30, 2008

Truthout 11/30

Robert Parry Obama, Ask the Kremlin About Gates
Robert Parry, Consortium News: "According to press reports, President-elect Barack Obama intends to keep Gates on as a gesture of bipartisanship and continuity. Before that happens, however, Obama might want to finish the investigation that Lee Hamilton swept under the rug 16 years ago, at least ask the Kremlin what exactly its evidence is about Gates’s role in the Republican-Iranian contacts in 1980, the controversy known as the 'October Surprise' case."

Kevin Berends Transition or Coup D'Etat?
Kevin Berends, Truthout: "During the transition period there is a silent coup d'etat occurring inside the federal government in the form of last-minute firings and dubious personnel placements. The easy response to this practice is: 'That always happens during the transition period and it isn't even newsworthy. That's how Washington works - always has, always will.' Perhaps, but considering how pervasively the Bush administration has flouted every branch of government, from ignoring Congressional subpoenas, to ignoring Supreme Court rulings, to violating the Geneva Conventions, to profuse and legally feeble signing statements - it's clear that embedding operatives loyal to the party and policies jettisoned by the voters in the election is tantamount to laying mines throughout the government."

Indian Security Chief Resigns After Mumbai Attacks
Paul Peachey, The Associated Press: "With corpses still being pulled from a once-besieged hotel, India's top security official resigned Sunday as the government struggled under growing accusations of security failures following terror attacks that killed 174 people. Home Minister Shivraj Patil, who has become highly unpopular during a long series of terror attacks across India, submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who accepted it, according to the president's office."

Eleventh-Hour Rush to Enact a Rule That Obama Fought
Robert Pear, The New York Times: "The Labor Department is racing to complete a new rule, strenuously opposed by President-elect Barack Obama, that would make it much harder for the government to regulate toxic substances and hazardous chemicals to which workers are exposed on the job. The rule, which has strong support from business groups, says that in assessing the risk from a particular substance, federal agencies should gather and analyze 'industry-by-industry evidence' of employees’ exposure to it during their working lives. The proposal would, in many cases, add a step to the lengthy process of developing standards to protect workers’ health."

Death Toll in Nigeria Clashes Rises to Around 400
Randy Fabi, Reuters: "Residents delivered more bodies to the main mosque in the central Nigerian city of Jos on Sunday, bringing the death toll from two days of clashes between Muslim and Christian gangs to around 400 people."

James McGrath Morris Blacklisted in Cyberspace
James McGrath Morris, The Washington Post: "Spam was once a simple annoyance. But its exponential growth - reports suggest that about 90 percent of all e-mail is spam - has led e-mail users to build daunting ramparts to block unwanted messages and companies to circulate blacklists of alleged spammers. One cannot fault people for seeking ways to avoid unwanted or aggressive solicitations, but the consequences of some anti-spam measures may not be what the people seeking protection from spam had in mind. Some efforts to block unwanted e-messages are threatening free speech on the Internet."

FOCUS Paul Krugman: What to Do
Paul Krugman, New York Review of Books: "What the world needs right now is a rescue operation. The global credit system is in a state of paralysis, and a global slump is building momentum as I write this. Reform of the weaknesses that made this crisis possible is essential, but it can wait a little while. First, we need to deal with the clear and present danger. To do this, policymakers around the world need to do two things: get credit flowing again and prop up spending."

FOCUS One Man's Military-Industrial-Media Complex
David Barstow, The New York Times: "In the spring of 2007 a tiny military contractor with a slender track record went shopping for a precious Beltway commodity. The company, Defense Solutions, sought the services of a retired general with national stature, someone who could open doors at the highest levels of government and help it win a huge prize: the right to supply Iraq with thousands of armored vehicles."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Stimulus for skeptics

New York Times

Over the past year, the federal government has poured money into the economy hundreds of billions of dollars at a time. It has also guaranteed investments, loans and deposits worth about $8 trillion. Barry Ritholtz, the author of “Bailout Nation,” points out that this project constitutes the largest infusion in American history.

If you add up just the funds that have already been committed, you get a figure, according to Jim Bianco of Bianco Research, that is larger in today’s dollars than the costs of the Marshall Plan, the Louisiana Purchase, the New Deal, the Korean War, Vietnam and the S.&L. crisis combined.

Is all this money doing any good?

The financial system seems to have stabilized, but bank lending is minimal, home prices keep falling, consumer spending is plummeting, and the economy continues to dive.

It could be we just have to endure some fundamental adjustments. Housing prices have to reach a new level. Consumption has to settle on a new trajectory. Until those fundamental shifts are made, no federal sugar rush is going to restore economic health.

That’s not a recipe for doing nothing. It’s a recipe for skepticism. And it leads to some guiding principles for those designing the $500 billion stimulus plan the next administration seems set on: Don’t just throw more money into the sugar rush. Spend money on projects that will enhance the long-term economic health of the country even without a crisis. Do what you would do anyway, just do it faster.

To understand how the short-term response might serve the country’s long-term economic interest, I called up Michael Porter, the competitiveness guru at Harvard Business School. Porter wrote an outstanding overview of America’s long-term economic challenges in the Oct. 30 issue of BusinessWeek.

Porter wrote that the U.S. economy has historically benefited from several great assets: an unparalleled environment for entrepreneurialism, a tremendous infrastructure for scientific research, the world’s best universities, a strong commitment to competition and free markets, decentralized regional economies, and efficient capital markets.

But, Porter continued, these advantages are starting to erode. The U.S. has an inadequate rate of reinvestment in science and technology. America’s confidence in free markets is waning. Lack of regulatory oversight has undermined capital markets. Universities have not sufficiently increased graduation rates. American workers do not have a credible safety net. Regulations and litigation have inflated the cost of business. Most important, there is no long-term economic strategy to organize responses to these problems.

I asked Porter how this short-term crisis might serve as an opportunity to address those long-term problems. First, he said, the Obama team will have to avoid a few temptations: Don’t just try to throw out money as fast as possible to stimulate demand. Don’t spread the spending around too thinly. Don’t try to save jobs that are going to disappear anyway.

Then he threw out a bunch of ideas that could be part of a stimulus package:

Send federal money to the states, but make sure a lot of it goes to state universities. There’s going to be increased demand for their services at the same time their budgets are cut. We can’t weaken that link in the social mobility chain.

Extend unemployment insurance, but also create vouchers and loans so workers can get the skills they need to move on.

Extend the Cobra period another 12 months to head off a rise in the uninsured during the recession.

Adjust the capital gains rate to give people the incentive to become long-term investors. Right now there’s a tension between the real economy, which is gradual, and the financial system, which is manic. Low rates shouldn’t kick in until an investment is held three to five years.

Accelerate depreciation on energy efficient goods and services. Increase tax credits for energy efficient buildings and appliances.

Porter’s basic message was that President-elect Barack Obama should do nothing in the short term that doesn’t serve a long-term goal.

To which I would add just one idea: Create a network of social entrepreneurship investment banks. These regionally operated semi-public funds would invest in the best local community organizations, so they could bring their ideas to scale.

These funds, first proposed by the group America Forward, would supplement the safety net and employ college grads entering a miserable job market. They’d have a powerful psychological effect on a country that desperately wants to feel mobilized and united.

This is a mental recession as well as an economic one. Solving it means getting more and more people involved in a fundamental rebirth.

Truthout 11/29

Steve Weissman Mumbai to Obama: End Bush's War on Terror
Steve Weissman, Truthout: "The terrorist attacks in Mumbai call out to President-elect Barack Obama and his advisors to rethink the signature blunder of George W. Bush's eight years in office - the so-called War on Terror. As US intelligence reports have made clear, the centerpiece of the supposed campaign against terror, the military occupation of Iraq, has increased the likelihood of more attacks like those in Mumbai, Madrid, London and Manhattan. The new escalation in Afghanistan will similarly increase terrorist attacks there, in neighboring India and Pakistan, in disputed Kashmir, and throughout the world."

Marcia Mitchell Triumph, but Also Vulnerability
Marcia Mitchell, Truthout: "The senior EPA analyst whose historic anti-discrimination case led to legislation protecting whistleblowers is being fired from her job at the Environmental Protection Agency. Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo sees her ouster as the ultimate act of retaliation, a payback for continuing her fight to protect federal employees who speak out against wrongdoing in government agencies."

Robert Reich The Rebirth of Keynes, and the Debate to Come
Robert Reich, Robert Reich Blog: "The economy has just about come to a standstill - not so much because credit markets are clogged as because there's not enough demand in the economy to keep it going. Consumer spending has fallen off a cliff. Investment is drying up. And exports are dropping because the recession has now spread around the world. So are we about to return to Keynesianism? Hopefully."

AIG Gives "Retention" Pay After Scrapping Bonuses
Hugh Son, Bloomberg: "American International Group Inc., the insurer that said yesterday it scrapped bonuses for top executives after a US bailout, will still pay 130 managers 'cash awards' to stay with the firm, including $3 million to retirement services chief Jay Wintrob."

FDA Draws Fire Over Chemicals In Baby Formula
Lyndsey Layton, The Washington Post: "Public health groups, consumer advocates and members of Congress blasted the Food and Drug Administration yesterday for failing to act after discovering trace amounts of the industrial chemical melamine in baby formula sold in the United States. 'This FDA, this Bush administration, instead of protecting the public health, is protecting industry,' said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the FDA budget. In an interview, DeLauro said she wants the agency to disclose its findings and to develop a plan to remove melamine from formula. 'We're talking about babies, about the most vulnerable. This really makes me angry.'"

Frederic Lelievre Former UBS CEO's Returned Bonus: An Incomplete Gesture
Frederic Lelievre, Geneva's Le Temps: "The street has something to celebrate. It's got hold of its number one culprit, Marcel Ospel. Under popular pressure, the former UBS boss ended up giving back some 22 million Francs, so as to align himself 'with the reality of the present situation.' A lovely formula to describe the ruin of the bank - which owes its survival to public money."

FOCUS Ryan Croken: Unembedded Poetry
Ryan Croken, Truthout: "On the eve of the invasion of Iraq, as our political figures and talking heads wrangled over the best way to babysit the cradle of civilization at the barrel of a gun, American poet and peace activist David Smith-Ferri had a different idea: he would go to Iraq and ask the people who lived there how they felt. 'I wanted to interview Iraqis,' he writes, 'about the threat of war. Surely, I reasoned, it should matter to us what people in Iraq think.' This presumption, startling in its seeming innocence and radical common sense, underpins the poetic and humanitarian mission of his book, 'Battlefield Without Borders: Iraq Poems.'"

FOCUS Mumbai Terrorist Siege Over, India Says
Somini Sengupta, Keith Bradsher and Mark McDonald, The New York Times: "The full scope of the horror and desperation of the terrorist attack on Mumbai began to come into focus on Saturday after Indian commandos finally took control of the last nest of resistance. Government officials said Saturday afternoon that the death toll had risen to 162 and was likely to rise again. They also said 283 people had been wounded."

Friday, November 28, 2008

Truthout 11/28

At Least 150 Dead in Mumbai; India Blames Pakistani "Elements"
The Associated Press: "Commandos who stormed the Mumbai headquarters of an ultra-orthodox Jewish group found the bodies of five hostages inside, Indian and Israeli rescue officials said, as a fresh battle raged at the luxury Taj Mahal hotel and other Indian forces ended a siege at another five-star hotel. More than 150 people have been killed since gunmen attacked 10 sites across India's financial capital starting Wednesday night, including 22 foreigners - two of them Americans, officials said."

EPA, Interior Chiefs Will Be Busy Erasing Bush's Mark
Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post: "Few federal agencies are expected to undergo as radical a transformation under President-elect Barack Obama as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department, which have been at the epicenter of many of the Bush administration's most intense scientific and environmental controversies."

Baghdad Blast Kills 11 in Wake of Security Pact Passage
Bushra Juhi, The Associated Press: "A suicide bomber blew himself up among worshippers waiting to be searched at the entrance to a Shiite mosque south of Baghdad on Friday, killing at least 11 people, Iraqi officials said. The blast occurred a day after Iraqi lawmakers approved a security pact with the United States that will allow U.S. forces to stay in Iraq for three more years."

Paul Krugman Lest We Forget
Paul Krugman, The New York Times: A few months ago I found myself at a meeting of economists and finance officials, discussing - what else? - the crisis. There was a lot of soul-searching going on. One senior policy maker asked, 'Why didn't we see this coming?' There was, of course, only one thing to say in reply, so I said it: 'What do you mean "we," white man?' Seriously, though, the official had a point. Some people say that the current crisis is unprecedented, but the truth is that there were plenty of precedents, some of them of very recent vintage. Yet these precedents were ignored."

US Consumer Loan Aid Will Trickle Only So Far
Ron Lieber and Tara Siegel Bernard, The New York Times: "If you're buying a home, refinancing a mortgage or seeking an auto or student loan, the new government plans to make borrowing cheaper and easier sound like a gift. One problem, however, is that whole categories of people may be ineligible."

FOCUS Despite Agreement US Future in Iraq Unclear
Maya Schenwar, Truthout: "Iraq's Parliament passed the US-Iraq security pact by a slim majority on Wednesday, requiring that US troops withdraw from Iraq by 2011, unless the Iraqi people vote for a quicker withdrawal next year. The agreement is a muddle of triumphs and disappointments."

FOCUS Afghan Leader Demands Plan for NATO Withdrawal
Candace Rondeaux, The Washington Post: "Afghan President Hamid Karzai has sharply criticized the United States and NATO, demanding a timeline for the withdrawal of foreign forces. Karzai's comments came late Tuesday in a speech to a U.N. Security Council delegation visiting Kabul, the capital, this week. He accused the international community of failing 'to fight the Taliban properly' since the U.S.-led war in the country began in 2001."

Is there truth in Obama's advertising?

Oaklahoma Voter
One America Rising

Many people hope that now that Obama has been elected that all will be well and that the progressive path will be pursued. I am very skeptical of that assumption. Why? Because progressive movements historically rise from the grassroots below and rarely emerge from noblesse oblige above.

There's very good reasons why most of the sharpest commentators around preferred the issues-based primary approach versus the inspiration- or competency-based approaches. These included Bill Maher, Matt Taibbi, David Sirota, Ezra Klein, Ralph Nader, etc.

I'm reminded of the debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama hosted by George Stephanopoulos that parodied the headlines of the extended campaign season.

Please read the following piece by one of the sharpest social critics around, Noam Chomsky (MIT linguistics professor and author of 100+ books).
Chomsky: Is There Truth in Obama's Advertising?

The Elders - Crisis in Zimbabwe - 24 November 2008

Mugabe - Friend of cholera

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Truthout 11/27

Afghan Police: Four Dead in Blast Near US Embassy
Amir Shah and Jason Straziuso, The Associated Press: "A suicide car bomber targeting an American convoy exploded about 200 yards (meters) outside the US Embassy in Kabul on Thursday, killing at least four Afghan bystanders as people entered the compound for a Thanksgiving Day race."

Obama Hands Out Food, Visits School on South Side Chicago
Abdon M. Pallasch, Chicago Sun-Times: "President-elect Barack Obama and his family spent an hour handing out chickens, potatoes, bread and other Thanksgiving food to poor families on Chicago's South Side Wednesday morning after Obama introduced his latest economic advisors."

Joe Klein Bush's Last Days: The Lamest Duck
Joe Klein, Time Magazine: "In the end, though, it will not be the creative paralysis that defines Bush. It will be his intellectual laziness, at home and abroad."

Obama Says Change Is in His Vision - if Not Appointments
Steven Thomma, McClatchy Newspapers: "As a presidential candidate, Obama's central theme was that he'd change the way politics and the government work, and suggested that it'd take a fresh, outsider approach to do that. 'Change doesn't come from Washington,' he said. 'Change comes to Washington.'"

Congressional Committee Investigates Spitzer Case
The Associated Press: "A congressional committee is investigating the circumstances that led to the sex scandal causing the downfall of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and whether the case was politically motivated."

Michael Winship Michael Pollan's Food for Thought
Michael Winship, Truthout: "Writer and activist Michael Pollan has no interest in becoming Barack Obama's secretary of agriculture, thank you very much, even though there are a lot of people who think he'd be perfect for the job."

India Terrorist Attacks Leave at Least 101 Dead in Mumbai
Mark Magnier and Subhash Sharma, The Los Angeles Times: "Coordinated groups of gunmen shot and blasted their way through tourist sites in the Indian financial center of Mumbai late Wednesday and early today, killing at least 101 people and wounding more than 200 while apparently targeting American and British citizens for use as hostages."

Should we regulate carbon dioxide emissions?

from Repower America

Friday is the last day to voice your opinion on whether the EPA -- the Environmental Protection Agency -- should regulate carbon dioxide pollution, the primary cause of the climate crisis. This is a big deal.

The EPA is taking public comment, before making a ruling.

Of course, special interests -- like the oil and coal lobbies -- are working overtime to defeat a positive ruling and have already gotten thousands of comments submitted in opposition.

Most people don't know about this opportunity for public comment, so your voice can make a real difference. And with a new president in the White House, it's likely that someone will actually be listening. Submit your public comment to the EPA here:

In April 2007 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide if it is harming our health and welfare. After more than a year of delay, the EPA is finally now requesting public comments on whether carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollutants are endangering our health and our climate.

Join us, and send a message about how crucial it is to reduce harmful carbon dioxide pollution. That you expect the EPA to use its powers to protect our health and welfare. That we can "Repower America" by using energy sources that don't emit carbon dioxide, and make the switch to 100% clean electricity. And that the solutions to the climate crisis are the same ones needed to address our economic and security challenges.This is our chance to go on the public record -- all the comments will be posted on the EPA's website. To post your public comment, just go here.

For nearly eight years, the Bush administration has done nothing to address the growing threats we face from global warming. Hurricanes are getting stronger, the North polar icecap is melting, and we've suffered through intense droughts, floods and killer heat waves.

The deadline is November 28th. Let's help end the era of delay.

Thanks,Cathy ZoiCEO

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

On Cooking That Turkey, Or, What To Do After The Sarah Palin Press Conference

So it’s more or less 30 hours until Americans enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, and you’re asking yourself the annual question: “Isn’t there a simple way to cook a turkey?”

Well, America, there is...and it does not involve bags, or injections, or even stuffing. No fancy preparations and no fancy equipment are required (with the exception of a large flat pan with metal handles, a carving fork or large tongs, and a food thermometer).

Here’s the cool part: this method for cooking turkeys isn’t just a method for cooking turkeys...and if you follow the directions, you’ll soon discover that not only have you learned a new way to cook a turkey, you’ve learned a new way to cook almost anything that can walk or fly.

We only have 30 hours, so we better get right to it...

Now before we go any farther, let’s relieve some of the Thanksgiving cooking stress with a video that is as topical as it gets.

Some of you may not know about the most unfortunate aftermath of Sarah Palin’s recent effort to pardon a Thanksgiving turkey...and I won’t spoil the fun if you have not yet seen it...but I will tell you that what is attached to the next link may the single funniest—and most disturbing—piece of political video I have ever seen; and somehow Palin remains blithely unaware of the events occurring just over her shoulder the entire time.

Take three minutes, watch the video, have a sip of the first glass of wine of the day...and when that’s done, we’ll get back to work.

So, are you laughing now?
OK then, let’s have some fun.

You may recall my telling you that what we are about to do can be used to cook any number of things; and to make for a better explanation I’m actually going to discuss cooking a boneless chicken breast first, and then we’ll move up to turkeys, using essentially the same technique.

So here’s what we do: turn the oven to 375 F. (190 C.), and turn the stove to either medium high (electric stoves) or nearly as big a flame as the burner will make, if you’re using a gas stove.

Grab the pan and toss it in the oven to heat.

Now what we are going to do is brown the chicken breast on top of the stove, flip it, and then cook it the rest of the way in the oven. The reason we are going to do this is because when you cook on top of the stove, you cook from bottom to top, creating a breast that’s “done” at the bottom but still “rare” at the top (you compensate for this by flipping the breast in the pan, but I have a better plan).

Cooking in the oven exposes the chicken to heat from all sides, creating an item that’s cooked on the outside and into the middle evenly (for a steak: done on the outside, perfectly pink in the middle...yummm).

So now that the pan’s hot, let’s try it: pull out the pan, put it on the hot burner, pour in just a bit of oil...and lay the breast in the pan by putting it in the part of the pan that’s closest to you first, then letting it fall away from you. (This prevents the hot oil from spattering on you...which is always a good thing.)

After a minute or so, you should see the breast browning, and that’s when we flip it over and then just put the pan right in the oven, then shut off the stove.

If you are a fancy high-falutin’ cook, you can tell when it’s done because it will feel like a well-done steak—and if you are a cooking mortal, it’s done when the thermometer tells you the temperature at the thickest part of the breast is 165 F. (75 C.).

The reward for your experimental effort should be an especially juicy breast that is not dried-out and tough. Pretty cool, eh?

“My cooking is so bad my kids thought Thanksgiving was to commemorate Pearl Harbor”

--Phyllis Diller

So how do we scale this process up to a turkey?

It’s actually really simple.

We need a substantially larger pan (I have a 14” restaurant-style sauté pan that I use for this application), and any metal pan with a reasonably thick bottom, relatively shallow sides (no saucepans or kettles), and heat-resistant handle(s) should do just nicely.

We also need to make a temperature adjustment.

As we move into larger items, we lower the oven’s temperature. We do this because we don’t want to overcook the outside before the inside is done. Instead of 375 F. (which is great for chicken breasts and steaks), we would lower the oven to 350 F. (175 C.) for something like a boneless pork loin or a small roast of beef or a whole chicken, and we would go down to 325 F. (165 C.) for something as large as our turkey.

For food safety reasons, we don’t want to use lower temperatures.

It is imperative that you raise the internal temperature of anything you cook from 40 F. (4 C.) to 140 F. (60 C.) in under two hours to avoid foodborne illness...and cooking turkeys at 275 F. (135 C.), as some suggest, is just a bit too risky for my taste.

Now a few words about measuring temperature in a bird.

Unlike “walking” meats, birds have hollow bones that do not transmit heat well. Therefore you do not want the tip of your thermometer touching—or very close to—bone when checking your turkey. (Beef, and the other “walking” animals, are the exact opposite. Their heavier bones transmit heat quite well, and the meat closest to the bone will often be the first meat below the surface to be fully cooked on a large roast of beef.)

Instead, use a location deep into the breast, away from bones...and as with all birds, a 165 F. (75 C.) internal temperature is the goal. And as with all birds, that temperature will give you a juicy, not-dried-out, result.

We are not going to stuff our bird.

This is also for food safety reasons.
The stuffing makes it take even longer to raise that turkey’s internal temperature (not to mention the stuffing’s)...and that’s a bad thing.

Bake the stuffing in its own not cook it in the bird.
Trust me on this.

There is no need to “prepare” the turkey—no rubs, no flouring the skin, nothing.
As an experiment I did a sea salt “rub” about 10 days ago on a turkey breast...and to be honest, all it did was make the skin salty.

OK, so our big pan is in the oven, getting hot...and the stove is on that same setting we used for the chicken breast...and now we take the pan, put it on the stove—and in goes the turkey, breast side down (remember, place it in the pan moving away from you to avoid splashing oil, just as with anything else you put in a pan with oil...).

You’ll have to brown one side at a time...and your fork or tongs (BBQ tools work if you don’t have big kitchen tongs or a carving fork...) can support the turkey so you don’t have to hold on to it.

It’s gonna splatter a bit (the less water, the better), but don’t be scared...and after a minute or so one side will be nicely browning, so do the other side next, and then flip the whole thing breast side up, and put the pan in the oven.

Except for taking the bird’s temperature from time to time (again, 165 F., or 75 C. internal temperature) and taking it out when it’s done, you are completely finished with the work on this project.

In fact, it’s probably about time for that second glass of wine.

So let’s take a moment and summarize.

Hot oven, hot stove, hot pan, put object to be cooked face down in pan on the stove, don’t splatter yourself, get it brown, flip it, put it in the oven, have a second glass of wine, remove from oven when done.

And just like they always tell you at the Fair: “It’s just that easy”.

So have a great day, don’t stress over the cooking...and remember, this technique works great on anything from a partridge to a steamship round.

FP morning post 11/26

Top Story

In yet another radical move, the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department announced $800 billion in new financing Tuesday.

The first $600 billion, from the Fed, is going toward purchases of debt guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and other government-sponsored mortgage institutions.

With the second $200 billion, the Fed and the Treasury will provide support for securities related to credit-card debt, student loans, car loans, and small-business loans.

The news sent 30-year mortgage rates down to 5.5 percent, spurring a wave of refinancing.

"This is a win-win," Susan Wachter of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School told the Wall Street Journal. "It will directly increase demand for housing and help with the downward spiral in home prices."

According to the New York Times, however, "the program would do little to reduce the tidal wave of foreclosures" that is roiling the markets, because those foreclosures are mostly taking place among mortgages that aren't backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

U.S. Presidential Transition
President-elect Barack Obama intends to keep Robert Gates as defense secretary, at least for now.
Former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker will likely be tapped to lead a new financial advisory panel.
Helene Cooper points out that the role of incoming Vice President Joe Biden remains largely undefined.

Thailand's powerful military is calling for new elections after anti-government protesters seized control of the airport. The government is resisting.
Sri Lanka's army expects to storm the headquarters of the Tamil Tigers soon.
Amid rapidly slowing growth, China's central bank slashed a key interest rate.

Middle East and Africa
Iran announced the test launch of a new rocket, the "Kavosh 2."
Libya is sending an aid ship to break Israel's blockade of Gaza.
Palestinian security forces are having some effect in Hebron.

Europe's attempts at fiscal stimulus are widely seen as too small to be effective.
The people of Greenland voted overwhelmingly in favor of increased autonomy from Denmark.
Political analysts see Russia's joint naval exercises with Venezuela as a challenge to Obama.
The mayor of Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia, was killed by unknown gunmen.

Today's Agenda
Amid tensions, the Iraqi parliament is expected to vote on the troop agreement with the United States.
President-elect Obama holds his third press conference of the week. President Bush will be pardoning the Thanksgiving turkey.

Truthout roundup 11/26

Obama to Keep Gates as Defense Secretary
Mike Allen, The Politico: "Defense Secretary Robert Gates has agreed to stay on under President-elect Barack Obama, according to officials in both parties. Obama plans to announce a national security team early next week that includes Gates at the Pentagon and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) as secretary of state, officials said. Retired Marine General James Jones, former Marine commandant and commander of US and NATO forces in Europe, will be named national security adviser, the officials said."

Zimbabwe on Brink of Collapse as Outbreak of Cholera Spreads
Xan Rice, The Guardian UK: "The situation in Zimbabwe may soon 'implode' as a cholera outbreak spreads and basic services collapse, South African leaders and a group of international statesmen warned yesterday. On the eve of talks in South Africa between Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party and opposition rivals, South African leaders sharply upgraded their crisis assessment and warned of Zimbabwe's imminent collapse if urgent action was not taken. About 6,000 people have contracted cholera in recent weeks, according to the UN, and almost 300 have died. A chronic shortage of medicine has sent hundreds of people south to seek treatment in South Africa."

Tom Engelhardt Custodians of Empire
Tom Engelhardt, The Nation: "The Obama national security 'team' - part of that much-hailed 'team of rivals' - does not yet exist, but it does seem to be heaving into view. And so far, its views seem anything but rivalrous. Mainstream reporters and pundits lovingly refer to them as 'centrist,' but, in a Democratic context, they are distinctly right of center. The next secretary of state looks to be Hillary Clinton, a hawk on the Middle East. During the campaign, she spoke of our ability to 'totally obliterate' Iran, should that country carry out a nuclear strike against Israel. She will evidently be allowed to bring her own (hawkish) subordinates into the State Department with her. Her prospective appointment is now being praised by the likes of Newt Gingrich and Henry Kissinger."

As Mortgages Went Bad, New Century Executives Cashed Out
William Heisel, The Los Angeles Times: "The subprime lending industry was starting to buckle under the weight of bad loans in November 2006, when executives at Irvine-based New Century Financial Corp. held a conference call to release their latest earnings. Loan volume was down and defaults were up, the earnings report showed, and in recent weeks at least five stock analysts had downgraded the company's shares. Moreover, four executives had sold nearly $20 million in stock in the last four months, six times as much as they had sold over the previous 12 months. That led one analyst to ask whether there was anything investors should know."

Study: Many Kids in Katrina Trailer Park Anemic
The Associated Press: "Dozens of infants and toddlers who lived in Louisiana's biggest trailer park for those displaced by Hurricane Katrina were anemic because of poor diets, at a rate more than four times the national average. About 41 percent of 77 children under the age of 4 suffered from the condition this year, according to a study released Monday by the Children's Health Fund. Most, and possibly all, lived in the Renaissance Village trailer park in Baker."

Recount Wrinkle Surfaces in Minnesota: Missing Ballots
Kevin Duchschere, The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: "A new wrinkle is surfacing today in the recount battle in Minnesota between incumbent US Sen. Norm Coleman and challenger Al Franken - missing ballots. The Franken campaign today said that it has learned of missing ballots totaling several hundred in various counties. Franken recount attorney Marc Elias said he's also bothered that counties that know they have missing ballots aren't bothering to look for them."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

FP morning post 11/25

Top Story

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama announced the top members of his economic team Monday, and markets in the United States, Europe, and Asia surged as the U.S. government announced a potentially massive rescue of Citigroup, the ailing financial services company.

For Treasury Secretary, Obama chose Timothy Geithner, who as president of the New York branch of the Federal Reserve has been intimately involved in managing the financial crisis over the past few months.

Larry Summers, the former president of Harvard University and a Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton who is often described as "brilliant," will serve as head of the president's National Economic Council. "I will rely heavily on his advice as we navigate the uncharted waters of this economic crisis," Obama said in his press conference.

Most analysts have welcomed the nominations, but not everyone is happy. "Both men," the New York Times editorial board argues, "have played central roles in policies that helped provoke today’s financial crisis." Economist Dean Baker says Geithner is a "safe pick," but needs to learn from past mistakes.

Regardless of any alleged past errors, the two men now face stiff economic headwinds. The OECD's latests forecast posits four straight quarters of negative growth. Some countries have even taken to bartering.

Obama said his new team would start working "today" on a stimulus package to be passed in January. "We have to make sure,” he said, "that the stimulus is significant enough that it really gives a jolt to the economy."

Mexican journalists covering the drug war are being killed.
The largest Muslim charity in the United States was convicted of funneling money to Hamas.

Thai protesters fired on government supporters, but failed to take down the government itself.
A U.N. report documenting systematic detainee abuse in China has provoked Beijing's wrath.
The World Bank expects China to grow at a slower 7.5 percent pace.
North Korea has released another batch of photographs of Kim Jong Il.

Middle East and Africa
Osama bin Laden's former driver, Salim Hamdan, is heading back to Yemen.
Kuwait's government has resigned in a dispute over the visit of a Shiite cleric.
Time's Bobby Ghosh reports from a tribal meeting on how sheikhs in Iraq's Anbar province are gearing up for the provincial elections.

The British government announced a $30 billion stimulus plan.
An exploding grenade killed three people in St. Petersburg, Russia.
An ex-NSA employee alleges that the U.S. intelligence community spied on Tony Blair when he was British prime minister.

Today's Agenda
The U.S. Department of Commerce releases figures for third-quarter GDP. Another release to watch today: The FDIC reports on third-quarter bank and thrift earnings in a 10 a.m. Webcast.
The Czech Republic's constitutional court rules on the Lisbon Treaty.

Truthout 11/25

Citigroup Gets $306 Billion Rescue From Government
Reuters: "The US rescued Citigroup Inc, agreeing to shoulder most losses on about $306 billion of the bank's risky assets, and inject new capital, bolstering investor hopes that the government will support big banks as the economy sinks into recession. The bailout, announced late Sunday, gives the government the right to buy an equity stake, and marks its latest effort to contain a widening financial crisis that has already brought down Bear Stearns Cos, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc and Washington Mutual Inc."

Change Is Coming to FEMA
Al Kamen, The Washington Post: "The Federal Emergency Management Administration, a tragicomic disaster since Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 - and even before then - looks to be getting a facelift under the Obama administration, sources tell us. First off, the likely plan is to break off the agency from the Department of Homeland Security, a move that would in itself help restore the pride FEMA folks felt when it was an independent agency."

Lawmakers Urged to Stem Wave of Hate Crimes
Alison Raphael, Inter Press Service: "Leading civil rights groups Monday denounced the rise in hate crimes taking place in the United States, especially against Hispanics, and called for passage of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act (LLEHCP) to ensure federal jurisdiction when local officials fail to act. Hate crimes against Hispanics have risen steadily for the last four years, and crimes against African-American, Asian-American and Jewish people, as well as gays and lesbians, all increased last year, according to FBI statistics gathered for the Uniform Crime Reporting Program."

Markets Surge for a Second Day; Dow Up Nearly 400
Michael M. Grynbaum, The New York Times: "A rescue plan for Citigroup turned into a boon for Wall Street on Monday, as stocks surged higher on the strength of financial firms buoyed by the government's sweeping plan to assist the ailing banking giant. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index soared 6.4 percent or 51.78 points, bringing its two-day gain to 12.8 percent and erasing all of last week's painful losses. Those declines had worried investors, but the Citi plan appears to have placated those anxieties for now."

Bush Pardons 14, Commutes 2 Sentences
Deb Reichmann, The Associated Press: "Under the Constitution, the president's power to issue pardons is absolute and cannot be overruled. One hot topic of discussion related to pardons is whether Bush might decide to issue pre-emptive pardons before he leaves office to government employees who authorized or engaged in harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists."

US Said to Keep Personal Files on Blair
The Guardian UK: "US intelligence officials kept a file on former prime minister Tony Blair's 'private life,' a former US navy communications operator claimed today. David Murfee Faulk, who worked at a listening post in Fort Gordon, Georgia, told he saw the file on Blair in 2006."

VIDEO Obama Names Economic Team
President-elect Barack Obama chooses his economic team and discusses the policies that he will implement once he takes office.

Henry A. Giroux Disposable Youth in a Suspect Society
Henry A. Giroux, Truthout: "While there is little question that the United States - with its burgeoning police state, its infamous title as the world leader in jailing its own citizens, and its history of foreign and domestic 'torture factories' - has moved into lockdown (and lockout) mode both at home and abroad, it is a mistake to assume that the Bush administration is solely responsible for transforming the United States to the degree that it has now become unrecognizable to itself as a democratic nation. What the United States has become in the last decade suggests less of a rupture than an intensification of a number of already existing political, economic, and social forces that since the late 1970s have unleashed the repressive anti-democratic tendencies lurking beneath the damaged heritage of democratic ideals."

Fed Commits $800 Billion More to Unfreeze Lending
Scott Lanman and Dawn Kopecki, Bloomberg: "The Federal Reserve took two new steps to unfreeze credit for homebuyers, consumers and small businesses, committing up to $800 billion. The central bank will purchase as much as $600 billion in debt issued or backed by government-chartered housing-finance companies. It will also set up a $200 billion program to support consumer and small-business loans, the Fed said in statements today in Washington."

J. Sri Raman New Deal on South Asian Nukes?
J. Sri Raman, Truthout: "Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari came out last Saturday with yet another series of statements to cause more than mere ripples in South Asia. He did so especially with pronouncements on the nuclear weapons issues between India and Pakistan that have made many sections in the subcontinent sit up and take notice. Do these statements, however, add up to a real promise of a new deal for the region, which has continued to be a dangerous place ever since the two rival nations became nuclear-armed neighbors in May 1998?"

Anatomy of a Meltdown: Ben Bernanke and the Financial Crisis
John Cassidy, The New Yorker: A history of the lead-up to the financial crisis, closely examining the leadership of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Getting Rid of the Hell of Fiscal Paradises
LeMonde: IM Bank's lead economist, Olivier Pastre, and financial magistrate Renaud Van Ruymbeke have a conversation with a panel of le Monde's journalists on the way to reduce the global harm caused by tax havens.

VIDEO Obama Names Economic Team
President-elect Barack Obama chooses his economic team and discusses the policies that he will implement once he takes office.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Admit we don't know

New York Times

“In my view it has to be between five and seven hundred billion dollars,” proclaimed Senator Charles Schumer Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” The “it” is the economic stimulus package the new Congress intends to send to the new president, Barack Obama, in January.

The truth is, Schumer hasn’t a well-grounded view, or even a well-informed clue, as to how large the stimulus package “has to be.” I’d be amazed if he could give a coherent explanation of why it should be $500 billion to $700 billion instead of, say, $300 billion or $900 billion. On TV, he simply invoked the authority of “most economists,” who, according to Schumer, “say, to make this work, you need about 5 percent of G.D.P., which would be $700 billion.” Nor do I think Schumer could begin to explain why a demand-side stimulus package oriented toward employment, infrastructure and consumer spending will “work” in dealing with an economic crisis whose origins seem to be in the collapse of a housing bubble and the deleveraging of overstretched financial institutions.

Now I hasten to add — wait a second, Senator Schumer, put down the phone, no need to call me at home this early in the morning! — that I don’t mean to pick in any way on Chuck Schumer, who is surely among the more economically literate members of Congress. It’s not as if his colleagues have a better understanding of what has happened, or of what should be done. And it’s not as if the rest of us do.

In his interview, Schumer appealed to the authority of economists. Economists still do have considerable sway in our public life — even though it doesn’t seem that a large number of them have been particularly prescient in warning about, or strikingly persuasive in explaining, the current economic situation.

In any case, the Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee also weighed in Sunday on television and said: “I don’t know what the number is going to be, but it’s going to be a big number. It has to be. The point is to, kind of, get people back on track and startle the thing into submission.”

So a key member of Obama’s economic team hopes a big federal spending number will “startle the thing into submission.” That’s reassuring. On the other hand, it’s not as if the analysis of many conservative economists is much more persuasive. At least the liberals, being more or less Keynesians, tend to agree on what should be done. The more idiosyncratic conservatives tend to be all over the lot. But, basically, it seems to me, we’re all flying blind. The markets are spiraling down, and our leading experts don’t have much of a clue as to what to do.

Given that, one has to welcome the expected appointment to senior positions in the Obama administration of economists like Lawrence Summers, Timothy Geithner, Jason Furman, Peter Orszag, and Goolsbee himself. They’re sober and competent people who know we face a real crisis — and who, importantly, may be more willing than many of their colleagues to adjust their thinking early and often.

Indeed, one hopes they’re not too invested in the findings of the economics profession of which they’re such distinguished products — because one suspects many of the conventional answers of that profession aren’t much applicable to the current situation. After all, wasn’t it excessive confidence in complex economic models and sophisticated financial instruments on the part of people well educated in modern economics that helped get us into the current mess?

So I hope the best and the brightest who will be joining the new president will at least entertain the possibility that a lot of what they think they know is wrong. I trust they’ll remember that successful economic policies in the past have pulled together elements from unlikely sources, and that they’re as likely to find wisdom from reading political economists like Friedrich Hayek or Joseph Schumpeter, or Keynes himself, as from poring over the latest academic paper in a peer-refereed economics journal.

During his two years on the campaign trail, Barack Obama has often cited Abraham Lincoln. Well, it turns out Obama could be taking over the presidency at something more closely resembling (though still far short of) a Lincolnian moment than one would have expected. And it was Lincoln who wrote, in his second annual message to Congress, in December 1862: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

I’ve worked in government. It’s hard to do much thinking there at all, let alone thinking anew. But Obama and his team will have to think anew, and those on the outside who wish to help will have to think anew too, if we’re to have a chance of rising to this daunting occasion.

FP morning post

Top Story

Little over a week after U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said he believed the financial system had been "stabilized," the U.S. government announced another potentially massive bailout. This weekend, U.S. government officials raced to create a rescue package for Citigroup, one of the world's largest financial services firms with some $2 trillion in assets and branches in 107 countries. The company's stock had suddenly plunged to $3.77 in trading last week.

Under the complex -- even radical -- terms of the agreement (pdf), announced Sunday night, the government agreed to absorb most of the bank's losses if they extend beyond a further $29 billion. Those losses might eventually reach into the hundreds of billions. The government also agree to invest $20 billion in Citigroup in exchange for an equity stake.

For better or worse, this rescue could be a watershed moment for the financial crisis. "If the government's rescue plan is a success, it could help bring stability to the entire financial system," according to the Wall Street Journal. "If it doesn't, even deeper doubts about the industry's future could spread."

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is said to be considering tapping the remaining $350 billion in congressionally approved bailout funds and possibly even designing a new program to address foreclosures. And Democrats are now talking about a stimulus plan that could be as big as $700 billion. Obama aides tell the Wall Street Journal it will be bigger than $500 billion.

Olivier Blanchard, the IMF's chief economist, warns that "the worst is yet to come."

U.S. Presidential Transition
President-elect Barack Obama announced his new White House press team.
Several of Obama's potential appointees are protégés of Brent Scowcroft, the national security advisor for George H.W. Bush.
Jackie Calmes profiles Obama's top economic advisors and their ties to former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.

Opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made small gains in regional elections.
Former Sandinistas are proving to be the harshest critics of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.

Protesters in Thailand are launching a "final battle" to overthrow the government.
Pakistan's president is making increasing bold diplomatic gestures toward India, roiling the military establishment.
North Korea announced it is halting rail service to the south.
The title of the new Guns & Roses album, Chinese Democracy, is causing problems for Chinese fans of the band.

Middle East and Africa
Bombing attacks killed at least 18 people in Baghdad.
If passed, Iraq's troop deal with the United States would give PM Nuri al-Maliki expanded powers.
A leaked Israeli defense paper argues for a peace deal with Syria and the prevention of Palestinian elections.

Russian FM Sergey Lavrov accused Georgia of fabricating a shooting attack on its president and the president of Poland.
Segolene Royal has been ousted as the leader of the French Socialist Party.
Business is dropping precipitously in French cafés.

Today's Agenda
President Bush meets with outgoing Israeli PM Ehud Olmert at the White House.
President-elect Obama formally announces his economic team.
A federal appeals court judge hears arguments on 17 Guantanamo detainees.
Some Internet security analysts believe today will be "Black Monday" for cybercrime.

Truthout roundup 11/24

Obama, Democrats Plan $700 Billion Stimulus
Lori Montgomery, The Washington Post: "Facing an increasingly ominous economic outlook, President-elect Barack Obama and other Democrats are rapidly ratcheting up plans for a massive fiscal stimulus program that could total as much as $700 billion over the next two years. That amount, more than the nation has spent over the past six years in Iraq, would rival the sum Congress committed last month to rescuing the country's financial system. It would also be one of the biggest public spending programs aimed at jolting the economy since President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal."

Todd Tucker and Lori Wallach Fair Trade Victory
Todd Tucker and Lori Wallach, Foreign Policy In Focus: "As the dust starts to settle from the historic election of our nation's first African-American president and first president who ran on fair trade, we have some time to contemplate other impressive changes voters brought to Congress. At least 41 new fair-traders were elected to House and Senate seats, which represent a net gain of 33 in Congress' overall economic justice contingent. This comes on top of the 37 net fair-trade pick-ups in the 2006 congressional elections."

Despite Army's Assurances, Violence at Home
Lizette Alvarez, The New York Times: "The Army says that the measures it has taken have been effective in curbing domestic violence. But advocates of victims of domestic violence say that among combat troops the violence has spiked in the past two years and that women are often disinclined to report violence for fear of angering their partners and hurting their careers. These advocates point to the gruesome murders of three female soldiers based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina within the last four months. One woman's body was dismembered and dumped in the woods. Another woman, seven months pregnant, was found dead in a motel bathtub. The third was stabbed to death."

Shannon Brownlee and Ezekiel Emanuel Five Myths About Our Ailing Health Care System
Shannon Brownlee and Ezekiel Emanuel, The Washington Post: "With Congress ready to spend $700 billion to prop up the US economy, enacting health care reform may seem about as likely as the Dow hitting 10,000 again before the end of the year. But it may be more doable than you think, provided we dispel a few myths about how health care works and how much reform Americans are willing to stomach."

Obama's Stance on Lands: He'll Break With Bush
Les Blumenthal, McClatchy Newspapers: "President-elect Barack Obama has offered only scattered clues as to where he stands on the most pressing public lands and endangered species issues. In reading the tea leaves, however, environmental groups are optimistic, timber industry and land-rights groups are wary and an influential lawmaker excited about having an ally in the White House."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Winona LaDuke to speak at Notre Dame, Wed. Dec. 3

World Renowned Human Rights Activist Winona LaDuke will be speaking at the University of Notre Dame.

The topic of Ms. LaDuke's talk is:
"The New Energy Economy: Nonviolent Strategies of Change Utilizing Indigenous Knowledge"

7pm Hesburgh Auditorium
Hesburgh Center for International Studies
Wednesday December 3, 2008

Harvard educated Winona LaDuke, Ojibway from the Mississippi Band of Anishnaabeg, is a world renowned activist and advocate for environmental, women’s, and indigenous peoples rights. LaDuke’s powerful lectures introduce audiences to issues of energy, justice, and opportunities to “democratize power production.” Sustainable energy presents an amazing opportunity to promote peace, justice, and equity nationally & internationally.

More info on Ms. LaDuke who was Ralph Nader's vice-presidential running mate in 1996 and 2000.

Truthout 11/23

The Reckoning: Citigroup Pays for a Rush to Risk
Eric Dash and Julie Creswell, The New York Times: "Even as the first shock waves of the subprime mortgage crisis hit Bear Stearns in June 2007, Citigroup's top executives expressed few concerns about their bank's exposure to mortgage-linked securities."

Obama Taking Action Before Taking Office
Peter Wallsten, The Los Angeles Times: "With a series of forceful actions in recent days, amid an almost unprecedented set of challenges, Barack Obama has taken an unusual step for a president-elect: attempting to alter the country's perilous course even before he takes office."

Democrats Plan Quick 2009 Start on Bills
David Espo, The Associated Press: "Eager for a quick start, Democratic congressional leaders intend to begin work in early January on priority legislation so it can be ready for President-elect Barack Obama's signature shortly after he takes office, according to officials familiar with the plans."

New York Times The Price of Our Good Name
The New York Times: "Americans have watched in horror as President Bush has trampled on the Bill of Rights and the balance of power. The list of abuses that President-elect Barack Obama must address is long: once again require the government to get warrants to eavesdrop on Americans; undo scores of executive orders and bill-signing statements that have undermined the powers of Congress; strip out the unnecessary invasions of privacy embedded in the Patriot Act; block new FBI investigative guidelines straight out of J. Edgar Hoover's playbook."

Top Scientist Rails Against Bush Hirings
Juliet Eilperin and Carol D. Leonnig, The Washington Post: "The president of the nation's largest general science organization yesterday sharply criticized recent cases of Bush administration political appointees gaining permanent federal jobs with responsibility for making or administering scientific policies, saying the result would be 'to leave wreckage behind.'"

FOCUS Housing Is Bad Enough, but Wait - It'll Get Worse
Kevin G. Hall, McClatchy Newspapers: "If you think the housing slump can't get much worse, Martin Feldstein thinks that both home prices and the broader economy can, and very likely will, get a whole lot worse."

FOCUS Robert Reich: How Obama is Already Taking Charge
Robert Reich: "Obama's immediate challenge is to fill the leadership vacuum created by a lame-duck president with historically-low approval ratings who seems to have lost interest in his job (at this writing, he's out of the country) and who's disappeared from the media, and a Treasury chief who has all but punted on coming up with any workable solution to the crisis. But Obama doesn't become president until 12 noon eastern standard time on January 20 - and the national economy is imploding right now."

Ms. Obliviousity of Alaska?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Truthout roundup 11/22

Obama Plans to Create 2.5 Million New Jobs by 2011
Agency France-Presse: "US president-elect Barack Obama announced Saturday that he had ordered his economic advisers to produce an economic recovery plan to create 2.5 million new jobs over the next two years."

David Sirota Tuning Out the Braindead Megaphone
David Sirota, Creators Syndicate: "When George W. Bush wins by three million votes, the megaphone blares announcements about a conservative mandate that Democrats must respect. When Obama wins by twice as much, the same megaphone roars about Democrats having no mandate to do anything other than appease conservatives."

Robert Fisk Once More Fear Stalks the Streets of Kandahar
Robert Fisk, The Independent: "Obama wants to send 7,000 more American troops to this disaster zone. Does he have the slightest idea what is going on in Afghanistan? For if he did, he would send 7,000 doctors."

New Twist in Appeal of Ex-Alabama Governor
Adam Nossiter, The New York Times: "New accusations have emerged during the appeal of the bribery conviction of former Gov. Don Siegelman of Alabama that could buttress Democrats’ claims that the case against him was politically tainted, even as he prepares to argue against his conviction in a federal appeals court in Atlanta early next month."

Suspected US Drone Kills 4 in Pakistan
CNN: "A suspected missile strike from a US Predator drone killed at least four people at a house in Pakistan's North Waziristan region early Saturday."

VIDEO Obama Plans to Create 2.5 Million New Jobs by 2011
Agency France-Presse: "US president-elect Barack Obama announced Saturday that he had ordered his economic advisers to produce an economic recovery plan to create 2.5 million new jobs over the next two years."

Carter, Annan, Others Refused Entry to Zimbabwe
Celean Jacobson, The Associated Press: "Former US President Jimmy Carter said Saturday that he and others planning a humanitarian mission in Zimbabwe had been refused entry to the impoverished African country."

Geithner Said to Be Chosen for Treasury Secretary
Jackie Calmes: The New York Times, "President-elect Barack Obama will name Timothy F. Geithner to be his Treasury Secretary, according to a knowledgeable Democrat, elevating a Treasury veteran who as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has all year been at the center of the worsening economic crisis."

E.J. Dionne Jr. What Next for Obama's Network?
E.J. Dionne Jr., The Washington Post: "While the nation's capital obsesses over Barack Obama's next Cabinet pick, the president-elect's lieutenants are engaged with what may be a more important long-term issue: What will become of Obama's vast grass-roots network?"

Friday political wrap 11/21

From the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer

Friday, November 21, 2008

Unfinished business

from Half in Ten

Before Congress closed what may be the first of two lame duck sessions before the end of the year, they passed, and President Bush signed, an important and much needed extension of unemployment insurance benefits. But they did not take other urgently needed action to help hard pressed families make ends meet, or get the economy back on track.

Last week, we released a report (cited in a New York Times article this weekend) along with our allies at the National Employment Law Project pointing out how important it was that Congress extend unemployment insurance benefits to help keep more families from falling into poverty, and arguing that they needed to pass the Unemployment Insurance Modernization Act to make sure more people are able to collect unemployment insurance. Today, only 37% of unemployed workers get unemployment insurance, and low wage workers are twice as likely as higher wage workers to find themselves unemployed, but only one third as likely to collect unemployment benefits. The UIMA would help change this. Along with the report, we held a forum including testimony from unemployed Virginia resident Paula Stein, Maine Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman, New York Deputy Commissioner of Labor for Employment Security Nancy Dunphy, and National Employment Law Project Policy Director Maurice Emsellem. We look forward to working with you over the next few weeks to let Congress know how important it is that they act quickly on a recovery package that rebuilds our economy from the bottom up and helps those hardest hit by these difficult times.

Don’t forget to sign our petition calling for a national commitment to cut poverty in half in ten years, and to ask your family, friends, and coworkers to sign as well.

Thanks for all your support!

The Half in Ten Team

The insider's crusade

New York Times

Jan. 20, 2009, will be a historic day. Barack Obama (Columbia, Harvard Law) will take the oath of office as his wife, Michelle (Princeton, Harvard Law), looks on proudly. Nearby, his foreign policy advisers will stand beaming, including perhaps Hillary Clinton (Wellesley, Yale Law), Jim Steinberg (Harvard, Yale Law) and Susan Rice (Stanford, Oxford D. Phil.).

The domestic policy team will be there, too, including Jason Furman (Harvard, Harvard Ph.D.), Austan Goolsbee (Yale, M.I.T. Ph.D.), Blair Levin (Yale, Yale Law), Peter Orszag (Princeton, London School of Economics Ph.D.) and, of course, the White House Counsel Greg Craig (Harvard, Yale Law).

This truly will be an administration that looks like America, or at least that slice of America that got double 800s on their SATs. Even more than past administrations, this will be a valedictocracy — rule by those who graduate first in their high school classes. If a foreign enemy attacks the United States during the Harvard-Yale game any time over the next four years, we’re screwed.

Already the culture of the Obama administration is coming into focus. Its members are twice as smart as the poor reporters who have to cover them, three times if you include the columnists. They typically served in the Clinton administration and then, like Cincinnatus, retreated to the comforts of private life — that is, if Cincinnatus had worked at Goldman Sachs, Williams & Connolly or the Brookings Institution. So many of them send their kids to Georgetown Day School, the posh leftish private school in D.C. that they’ll be able to hold White House staff meetings in the carpool line.

And yet as much as I want to resent these overeducated Achievatrons (not to mention the incursion of a French-style government dominated by highly trained Enarchs), I find myself tremendously impressed by the Obama transition.

The fact that they can already leak one big appointee per day is testimony to an awful lot of expert staff work. Unlike past Democratic administrations, they are not just handing out jobs to the hacks approved by the favored interest groups. They’re thinking holistically — there’s a nice balance of policy wonks, governors and legislators. They’re also thinking strategically. As Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute notes, it was smart to name Tom Daschle both the head of Health and Human Services and the health czar. Splitting those duties up, as Bill Clinton did, leads to all sorts of conflicts.

Most of all, they are picking Washington insiders. Or to be more precise, they are picking the best of the Washington insiders.

Obama seems to have dispensed with the romantic and failed notion that you need inexperienced “fresh faces” to change things. After all, it was L.B.J. who passed the Civil Rights Act. Moreover, because he is so young, Obama is not bringing along an insular coterie of lifelong aides who depend upon him for their well-being.

As a result, the team he has announced so far is more impressive than any other in recent memory. One may not agree with them on everything or even most things, but a few things are indisputably true.

First, these are open-minded individuals who are persuadable by evidence. Orszag, who will probably be budget director, is trusted by Republicans and Democrats for his honest presentation of the facts.

Second, they are admired professionals. Conservative legal experts have a high regard for the probable attorney general, Eric Holder, despite the business over the Marc Rich pardon.

Third, they are not excessively partisan. Obama signaled that he means to live up to his postpartisan rhetoric by letting Joe Lieberman keep his committee chairmanship.

Fourth, they are not ideological. The economic advisers, Furman and Goolsbee, are moderate and thoughtful Democrats. Hillary Clinton at State is problematic, mostly because nobody has a role for her husband. But, as she has demonstrated in the Senate, her foreign-policy views are hardheaded and pragmatic. (It would be great to see her set of interests complemented by Samantha Power’s set of interests at the U.N.)

Finally, there are many people on this team with practical creativity. Any think tanker can come up with broad doctrines, but it is rare to find people who can give the president a list of concrete steps he can do day by day to advance American interests. Dennis Ross, who advised Obama during the campaign, is the best I’ve ever seen at this, but Rahm Emanuel also has this capacity, as does Craig and legislative liaison Phil Schiliro.

Believe me, I’m trying not to join in the vast, heaving O-phoria now sweeping the coastal haut-bourgeoisie. But the personnel decisions have been superb. The events of the past two weeks should be reassuring to anybody who feared that Obama would veer to the left or would suffer self-inflicted wounds because of his inexperience. He’s off to a start that nearly justifies the hype.

The lame duck economy

New York Times

Everyone’s talking about a new New Deal, for obvious reasons. In 2008, as in 1932, a long era of Republican political dominance came to an end in the face of an economic and financial crisis that, in voters’ minds, both discredited the G.O.P.’s free-market ideology and undermined its claims of competence. And for those on the progressive side of the political spectrum, these are hopeful times.

There is, however, another and more disturbing parallel between 2008 and 1932 — namely, the emergence of a power vacuum at the height of the crisis. The interregnum of 1932-1933, the long stretch between the election and the actual transfer of power, was disastrous for the U.S. economy, at least in part because the outgoing administration had no credibility, the incoming administration had no authority and the ideological chasm between the two sides was too great to allow concerted action. And the same thing is happening now.

It’s true that the interregnum will be shorter this time: F.D.R. wasn’t inaugurated until March; Barack Obama will move into the White House on Jan. 20. But crises move faster these days.

How much can go wrong in the two months before Mr. Obama takes the oath of office? The answer, unfortunately, is: a lot. Consider how much darker the economic picture has grown since the failure of Lehman Brothers, which took place just over two months ago. And the pace of deterioration seems to be accelerating.

Most obviously, we’re in the midst of the worst stock market crash since the Great Depression: the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index has now fallen more than 50 percent from its peak. Other indicators are arguably even more disturbing: unemployment claims are surging, manufacturing production is plunging, interest rates on corporate bonds — which reflect investor fears of default — are soaring, which will almost surely lead to a sharp fall in business spending. The prospects for the economy look much grimmer now than they did as little as a week or two ago.

Yet economic policy, rather than responding to the threat, seems to have gone on vacation. In particular, panic has returned to the credit markets, yet no new rescue plan is in sight. On the contrary, Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary, has announced that he won’t even go back to Congress for the second half of the $700 billion already approved for financial bailouts. And financial aid for the beleaguered auto industry is being stalled by a political standoff.

How much should we worry about what looks like two months of policy drift? At minimum, the next two months will inflict serious pain on hundreds of thousands of Americans, who will lose their jobs, their homes, or both. What’s really troubling, however, is the possibility that some of the damage being done right now will be irreversible. I’m concerned, in particular, about the two D’s: deflation and Detroit.

About deflation: Japan’s “lost decade” in the 1990s taught economists that it’s very hard to get the economy moving once expectations of inflation get too low (it doesn’t matter whether people literally expect prices to fall). Yet there’s clear deflationary pressure on the U.S. economy right now, and every month that passes without signs of recovery increases the odds that we’ll find ourselves stuck in a Japan-type trap for years.

About Detroit: There’s now a real risk that, in the absence of quick federal aid, the Big Three automakers and their network of suppliers will be forced into liquidation — that is, forced to shut down, lay off all their workers and sell off their assets. And if that happens, it will be very hard to bring them back.

Now, maybe letting the auto companies die is the right decision, even though an auto industry collapse would be a huge blow to an already slumping economy. But it’s a decision that should be taken carefully, with full consideration of the costs and benefits — not a decision taken by default, because of a political standoff between Democrats who want Mr. Paulson to use some of that $700 billion and a lame-duck administration that’s trying to force Congress to divert funds from a fuel-efficiency program instead.

Is economic policy completely paralyzed between now and Jan. 20? No, not completely. Some useful actions are being taken. For example, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the lending agencies, have taken the helpful step of declaring a temporary halt to foreclosures, while Congress has passed a badly needed extension of unemployment benefits now that the White House has dropped its opposition.

But nothing is happening on the policy front that is remotely commensurate with the scale of the economic crisis. And it’s scary to think how much more can go wrong before Inauguration Day.

Truthout roundup 11/21

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Markets Dive in Last Hour, Carving New Lows
Jack Healy, The New York Times: "In a day dominated by fear and uncertainty, financial markets plunged in late trading, carving new lows, in a melee of selling that cut across every sector of the market. Energy companies took the heaviest blows as the price of crude oil fell below $50 a barrel, and financial stocks sank sharply on fears that billions in government aid have done little to cure the financial and credit crises. 'The market can only take so many punches,' said Quincy Krosby, chief investment strategist at The Hartford. 'This market needs a break. It needs clarity. The question is, when and how much?”

Report Says CIA Withheld Information From White House
Pamela Hess, The Associated Press: "The senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee Thursday called for a criminal investigation into whether the CIA lied to Congress and withheld information from the Justice Department during its inquiry into the 2001 shoot-down of an American missionary plane by the Peruvian air force with help from a CIA spotter plane. The CIA's Office of General Counsel advised agency managers to avoid producing written reports about the incident 'to avoid both criminal charges against Agency officers and civil liability,' according to unclassified excerpts of an August CIA inspector general report released Thursday by Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra."

Rick Kepler The American Worker
Rick Kepler, Truthout: "I am an American worker, and you are damn right I want the wealth to be shared and spread. I am talking about the wealth my hard work helped to create, but was taken from me by George Bush's base, the very rich, or as I know them, my corporate bosses. For the past eight years I have watched W.'s and McCain's (Country Club First) base grab the largest share of our country's wealth. Where did they take it from? They took it from my family's pocketbook, and my co-workers' families' pocketbooks. They stole the wealth that I was trying to build for me and my family when they stripped my pension plan from me and told me to invest in a 401k."

Sun Sets on US Power: Report Predicts End of Dominance
Julian Borger, The Guardian UK: "The United States' leading intelligence organisation has warned that the world is entering an increasingly unstable and unpredictable period in which the advance of western-style democracy is no longer assured, and some states are in danger of being 'taken over and run by criminal networks.' The global trends review, produced by the National Intelligence Council (NIC) every four years, represents sobering reading in Barack Obama's intray as he prepares to take office in January. The country he inherits, the report warns, will no longer be able to 'call the shots' alone, as its power over an increasingly multipolar world begins to wane."

Titus Levi Bailout or Bust: How to Save the Big Three From Themselves
Titus Levi, Truthdig: "The American automobile industry occupies a near-mythic status in the nation's cultural and economic imagination. President-elect Barack Obama echoes the sentiments of many when he says that Detroit is 'the backbone of American manufacturing.' If it is - Detroit's economic importance is great but now occupies a lesser role than it did before it entered a slow-but-steady decline in the 1970s - then it suffers from acute and advanced damage that will require major surgery."

Mukasey Collapses During Address in Washington; Hospitalized Overnight
Carrie Johnson and Clarence Williams, The Washington Post: "Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey collapsed last evening while delivering a speech to a prominent legal group and was rushed to George Washington University Hospital. Mukasey remained at the hospital overnight for observation but a Justice Department spokesman said Mukasey had strong vital signs and was 'in good spirits' after the incident, which occurred at an annual Federalist Society gathering. A person who attended the dinner said Mukasey was visibly shaking and perhaps slurring his words before he fell to the floor."

Steve Weissman I'm a Slave to Socialized Medicine
Steve Weissman, Truthout: "Growing up in Florida in the 1940s, I saw many of the doctors my family knew fighting against Harry Truman's effort to enact what they called 'Socialized Medicine.' Their immediate target was Sen. Claude Pepper, a New Deal Democrat who supported universal health care. Our doctor friends dubbed him 'Red Pepper' and helped defeat him in the elections of 1948. Yet, for all this early 'fight for freedom,' I now find myself in France enjoying single-payer, socialized medicine, which I would heartily recommend to all Americans."

Bush Tearing Apart Protection for America's Wilderness
Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian UK: "George Bush is working at a breakneck pace to dismantle at least 10 major environmental safeguards protecting America's wildlife, national parks and rivers before he leaves office in January."

Bush Signs Jobless Benefits Extension
Jim Abrams, The Associated Press: "With no end in sight to economic bad news, President George W. Bush on Friday ensured that millions of laid-off workers will keep getting their unemployment checks as the year-end holidays approach. Bush signed an extension of jobless benefits into law just before 8 a.m., as he was preparing to leave the White House for a morning flight to Lima, Peru, to attend the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum."

Jeremy Scahill This Is Change?
Jeremy Scahill, AlterNet: "U.S. policy is not about one individual, and no matter how much faith people place in President-elect Barack Obama, the policies he enacts will be fruit of a tree with many roots. Among them: his personal politics and views, the disastrous realities his administration will inherit, and, of course, unpredictable future crises. But the best immediate indicator of what an Obama administration might look like can be found in the people he surrounds himself with and who he appoints to his Cabinet. And, frankly, when it comes to foreign policy, it is not looking good."

Children Dying in Haiti, Victims of Food Crisis
Jonathan M. Katz, The Associated Press: "The 5-year-old teetered on broomstick legs - he weighed less than 20 pounds, even after days of drinking enriched milk. Nearby, a 4-year-old girl hung from a strap attached to a scale, her wide eyes lifeless, her emaciated arms dangling weakly. In pockets of Haiti accessible only by donkey or foot, children are dying of malnutrition - their already meager food supply cut by a series of devastating storms that destroyed crops, wiped out livestock and sent food prices spiraling."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

On The Need To Clear The Musical Desk, Or, Are You In New York This Sunday?

The past six weeks have seen a narrowing of focus here at the blog as we concentrated first on the election, and more recently on the events unfolding in Egyptian politics.

As often happens when covering these major events, we have an abundance of stories that are piling up...and deserve our attention...and in this case, it’s a story that will take us far from the usual political real estate upon which we would normally slog.

It’s my happy duty, instead, to point you toward one of my favorite musicians...and in the course of doing that, to an event series that is also well worth your time...and in the course of doing that, to a bar that is working hard, every day, to fulfill your live music needs—and by an even happier coincidence, the three intersect this Sunday.

I’m a sucker for a chanteuse, I admit, be it Billie Holiday, or k.d. lang, or even Grace Jones...and I’m even more of a sucker for that Ralph Sharon sound—the stand-up bass, the piano, brushes, a nice sax solo...with a strong voice out front.

The two meet in Madeleine Peyroux.

She’s a bit of an odd duck—she’s born in Georgia, but she moved to Paris as a teenager (with her mother the French teacher) and took to the find her musical fortune, which led to her playing with bands such as the Riverboat Shufflers and the Lost Wandering Blues and Jazz Band, as NPR tells us.

She has a bit of an odd style as well: she strays from French-language classics such as “La Vie En Rose” or “J’ai Deux Amours” to “street jazz” songs like “Was I?” to unexpected “lounge jazz” remakes of songs like “Walkin’ After Midnight” (with James Carter on the saxophone...and thanks to ksingh for the correction) or Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” or “Smile” to the Ralph Sharon/Tony Bennett style in, for example, “Muddy Water” or “The Summer Wind”, a song made famous by Frank Sinatra almost half a century ago.

She also has a pop flavor to her music, with songs like “Lonesome Road” (which, I swear, has a bit of Bob Wills-like Texas swing guitar embedded in there...) or “I’m All Right” or “California Rain” being perfect examples of that pop sound.

(She has a great Web site as well, and these songs can all be heard there...and more go and enjoy, Musical Travelers...)

Over the course of the past dozen years she has released three of her own albums: “Dreamland”, “Careless Love” and, most recently, “Half the Perfect World”...but there is a really, really nice “hidden” album as well...a project she did with William Galison and Carly Simon—Got You On My Mind.

This is the stuff you listen to on a rainy afternoon...or sitting by the fireplace...or in the car, when it’s all over and you have had just about enough for one day.

Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.

--Maya Angelou, Gather Together in My Name

So let’s say, just for the heck of it, that you’ve been hanging around Tompkins Square Park (“Come for Charlie Parker’s House...stay for the dime bags!”), and it’s getting dark...and, just like Homer Simpson, you’re afraid of the C.H.U.Ds.

What’s a music lover to do?

Well, as it happens, you’re only about 10 blocks from a refuge: the Rockwood Music Hall, which offers somewhere between six and eight bands every night for your dining and dancing pleasure. (In truth, that’s a stretch. It’s not a restaurant...and it’s way too small for a Conga line...but in a hunger emergency, the Sugar Café is just a few steps away...or you could really go nuts and hit Russ & Daughters, which is just around the corner.)

Now if the timing was just right, like, every second Sunday of the month at 6:00 PM (ish), you would see Danielle Gasparro taking the stage to interview another musician for her “Second Sundays at Rockwood Music Hall” series.

The shows combine a lengthy conversation with live performance (not unlike Piano Jazz), and have recently included appearances by Casey Shea, Paul Brill, and, by way of Denmark, Greenland, Nashville...and Washington State, Simon Lynge.

You can get a feel for the thing by visiting Gasparro’s MySpace blog and listening to all the archived events...and for an extra treat, each artist has a playlist of what music interests them.

So here’s the part where the whole story comes together: this Sunday (doors open at 6:00, but get there early!) Madeleine Peyroux and Second Sundays collide at the Rockwood—and it should be awfully good.

“There are two kinds of music; German music and bad music.”

--H.L. Mencken

And here’s the best part: there’s no cover.
Ok, that’s not actually the best part. The really best part is that, depending on who you ask, the capacity of the room is somewhere between 30 and 75 people.

The tip bucket will be passed, with the money going to right to Peyroux, so you can see a great show, learn about music and a great musician—and directly support that musician without the filters of a record company or promoters. (All the details can be found at the Second Sundays site.)

So that’s today’s story: this Sunday the most excellent Madeleine Peyroux will be at the most excellent Rockwood Music Hall for another installment of Danielle Gasparro’s most excellent “Second Sundays” series....and you can go see the show for the same price you paid to go see Tropic Thunder with the obligatory popcorn tub and tankard of Coke.

Trust me, it will be money better spent.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’m not connected with any of this personally or financially; and no music industry representatives have been hanging around doing lines with me or taking me to VIP rooms or anything like that....mostly because I’m nowhere near that cool or interesting. Instead, this is an actual unsolicited endorsement. So there you go.

FP morning post 11/20

Top Story

Investors around the world may not know where the bottom lies, but collectively, they sure are trying to get there.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average sank below 8,000 points Wednesday for the first time since March 2003. Asian and European stocks followed in today's trading. Globally, stocks are at 5-1/2 year lows, and oil has sunk below $52 a barrel.

"The problem is there is absolutely no silver lining visible," one Singapore-based analyst told the New York Times. "A serious recession now appears all but assured," the Washington Post reports, citing a morass of depressing new data.

Meanwhile, it looks increasingly unlikely that U.S. automakers will get their $25 billion bailout this year. The heads of the "Big Three" manufacturers went to Capitol Hill Wednesday and received another verbal beating. It didn't help that they had flown to Washington on corporate jets.

The next industry to feel the pain? Hedge funds. "An estimated 700 hedge funds may go out of business by the end of the year," according to data cited by Bloomberg News.

U.S. Presidential Transition
Bill Clinton has reportedly agreed to reveal the names of his foundation's donors, clearing a path for Hillary to become secretary of state -- if she wants the job.
President-elect Barack Obama named a few more White House staffers: David Axelrod as senior advisor, Lisa Brown as staff secretary, and Chris Lu as cabinet secretary.
The next secretary of homeland security is said to be Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano.
The transition team announced the leaders of "policy working groups" in areas like economics, immigration, and national security. Tea-leaf readers will note that Jim Steinberg's name is listed above that of Susan Rice.
In a bizarre, bigoted new tape, al Qaeda's No. 2 accuses Obama of selling out his race and Muslim heritage.

Authorities in Panama are holding David Murcia, the alleged mastermind of a pyramid scheme whose collapse has roiled Colombian politics.
Bolivian President Evo Morales did not exactly receive a warm welcome in Washington this week.
Critics of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega say he is leading the country in an anti-democratic direction. The evidence suggest they are right.

A U.S. drone struck beyond Pakistan's tribal areas for the first time Wednesday. The Pakistani government is hauling in the U.S. ambassador.
South Korean activists are sending propaganda balloons into North Korea.
A serial killer may be stalking Japanese bureaucrats.

Middle East and Africa
Iraq's Parliament turned into a free-for-all yesterday as lawmakers aligned with rogue cleric Moqtada al-Sadr denounced the troop agreement with the United States. Iraq's foreign minister thinks there's a "chance" the agreement will pass. The brawling continued today.
Somali pirates are demanding a $25 million ransom for the Saudi oil tanker.
Experts say Iran has enough enriched uranium to build one nuclear weapon.
The IAEA released a report suggesting that Syria was building a nuclear reactor.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is calling his own financial summit, to the irritation of some.
Iceland is finally getting help: $2.1 billion from the IMF and $2.5 billion from Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.
EU agriculture ministers have reached a deal to reform farm subsidies.

Today's Agenda
U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson speaks at the Reagan Library.
The U.S. Department of Labor releases its weekly unemployment report.

Truthout roundup 11/20

Henry A. Giroux Against the Militarized Academy
Henry A. Giroux, Truthout: "While there is an ongoing discussion about what shape the military-industrial complex will take under an Obama presidency, what is often left out of this analysis is the intrusion of the military into higher education. One example of the increasingly intensified and expansive symbiosis between the military-industrial complex and academia was on full display when Robert Gates, the secretary of defense, announced the creation of what he calls a new 'Minerva Consortium,' ironically named after the goddess of wisdom, whose purpose is to fund various universities to 'carry out social-sciences research relevant to national security.'"

Cheney Arraignment Set for Friday
Christopher Sherman, The Associated Press: "A Texas judge has set a Friday arraignment for Vice President Dick Cheney, former US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a state senator and others named in indictments accusing them of responsibility for prisoner abuse in a South Texas federal detention center. Presiding Judge Manuel Banales said Wednesday he will allow them to waive arraignment or have their attorneys present rather than appear in person at the hearing."

Lawmaker Accuses Bush of Secrecy Over Iraq Deal
Ross Colvin, Reuters: "The US government is refusing to make public the security pact it has signed with Iraq, even though it has already been published in full in an Iraqi newspaper, a congressional hearing was told on Wednesday." In Iraq, "a session of Iraq's Parliament collapsed in chaos on Wednesday, as a discussion among lawmakers about a three-year security agreement with the Americans boiled over into shouting and physical confrontation," according to Campbell Robertson of The New York Times.

Bush Set to Relax Rules Protecting Species
Dina Cappiello, The Associated Press: "Animals and plants in danger of becoming extinct could lose the protection of government experts who make sure that dams, highways and other projects don't pose a threat, under a regulation the Bush administration is set to put in place before President-elect Obama can reverse them. The rules must be published Friday to take effect before Obama is sworn in Jan. 20. Otherwise, he can undo them with the stroke of a pen."

Suzanne Nossel Closing Guantanamo Is Just the Beginning
Suzanne Nossel, The Guardian UK: "During his first television interview after winning the White House, president-elect Barack Obama reiterated his long-standing promise to shut Guantanamo Bay. Since the historic vote, legal and policy circles, journalists and human rights activists have hummed about when and how the notorious prison's doors will slam shut once and for all, and what will happen to some 250 detainees still held there. While the incoming president and his team are right to put Guantanamo at the top of their priority list, when it comes to restoring American leadership on human rights, closing the prison is only a first step."

Public comment sought on $4.1 million housing plan

South Bend Tribune

The public comment period is now open on a $4.1 million plan that will help with vacant and foreclosed homes in the city.The grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is part of the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

The public has until 5 p.m. Nov. 25 to submit comments on the plan before it is sent to HUD for approval.The city has put together a 37-page proposal that outlines what would be done with the money.

The proposal includes:

-Developing two low-income residential rental facilities that would house eight to 16 people. The residents would be required to have incomes at or below 50 percent of the area's median income. According to a 2006 survey, the median income in South Bend is $35,615 and in St. Joseph County, $43,691.

-Rehabilitate nine residential properties for those with income levels between 51 percent and 120 percent of area median income.-Demolition of vacant and abandoned homes to build four single-family homes for household income levels between 51 percent and 120 percent of area median income.-Acquisition and demolition of about 30 blighted and vacant structures.

-About $360,000 set aside for planning and administrative costs for the plan.

The full proposal is available through the city's Web site at

Copies of the plan are also available to see at the city Division of Community Development, 224 E. Jefferson Blvd., Suite 100, South Bend, and at the St. Joseph County Library Main Branch and Centre Township Branch.To submit input, call (574) 235-5845 or e-mail

Residents also can send correspondence to Pamela C. Meyer, Community Development Director, 1200 County-City Building, 227 W. Jefferson Blvd., South Bend, IN 46601.

Indiana received a total of $152 million from the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program. About $68 million was directly given to 12 cities and towns, and the $4.1 million for South Bend came from this distribution.The state's proposal is to use the remaining $84 million to assist local governments with neighborhood redevelopment and create a fund for low- to moderate-income individuals and families who choose to buy abandoned and foreclosed homes.

Information is available at

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Being there again, or, what was I thinking?!

Don Wheeler

Back in June I wrote an entry called "Being There" . The topic of it was the South Bend Community School Corporation (SBCSC) Board's decision to release Dr. Robert Zimmerman as Superintendent of Schools. A quick refresher on that meeting would be useful background for last Monday night's meeting - where many of the roles were reversed in this ongoing soap opera which constitutes our local school governance.

The main item on the agenda Monday night was to terminate the nationwide search process and appoint James Kapsa (then Interim Superintendent) as our permanent Superintendent.

Last summer, after the Board had installed Mr. Kapsa, it made the decision to proceed with a conventional search process to find a permanent Superintendent. They would initiate the process and the next Board would name the successor. I was personally ambivalent about it (mostly due to cost), but The South Bend Foundation offered to pick up the tab for a search company and no one could tell me whether Mr. Kapsa had any interest in the job as a permanent position. I also thought that this approach would show the community we wouldn't be doing the same old thing again and give ownership of this very major decision to the Board which would have to live with the decision. And, as many people know, I voiced hope that Mr. Kapsa would be offered the chance to apply.

Recently, one Board member - Bill Sniadecki - had a change of heart, and requested the action item making the appointment permanent. Nothing wrong with thinking something through and changing one's mind.

But other Board members who had agreed with his original position were caught off guard. Apparently he hadn't bothered to let them know of his change of heart. They also seemed reluctant to go back on a commitment made to the community. Clearly, there was a lot of tension in the air.

The meeting started well. There were some cool recognition presentations - particularly the one for our Indiana Teacher of the Year, Tania Harman.

Later, thirty people rose and spoke on the action item regarding Mr. Kapsa. Twenty-nine people expressed enthusiastic support for Mr. Kapsa. That can't be bad. One of them, like me, expressed reservations about the timing of the decision. All this was handled with generosity and respect. My comments probably weren't welcome to some in the audience, but there was only silence to indicate that - no derision.

Unfortunately, the ambiance of reason vanished quickly when the action item itself was introduced. Things started well. Ralph Pieniazkiewicz asked the Board members supporting the motion to explain their reasoning, and reserved the right to comment afterwords - a standard way to open a discussion in a deliberative body. Ms. Jones (DJ), in the same spirit, presented her reasoning in a calm, clearly well thought out manner.

Next, it was Mr. Snaidecki's turn. But instead of sharing what caused him to change his mind (he was the only Board member to change positions about a search), he launched into an ad hominem attack on Mr. Pieniazkeiwicz (RP) and (apparently) anyone daring to challenge Mr. Sniadecki.

Now Bill Sniadecki (BS) has done many important things and has a good habit of digging deeply into matters which have been quite helpful. Legal matters regarding bus purchases comes to mind immediately. As RP pointed out, it took eight weeks for the Board to get that matter handled correctly. So I was highly disappointed to see this conduct, and his blatant pandering to and posturing for the benefit of supporters in the audience.

It was at this point we left the realm of a business meeting and entered the world of performance art. Suddenly it was as though I was attending a World Wrestling Entertainment event, rather than a meeting to discuss the most important decision to be made by a group in control of nearly a quarter billion dollars of public funds. I was embarrassed and chagrined.

This was also the point where a strong presiding officer was needed.

I want to be clear that I have no gripe with Sheila Bergeron (SB). In fact, my view of her is pretty favorable. But it takes a pretty stout character - with thick skin, stubbornness and experience in doing it - to regain control of a meeting like this. This is not personal. What I will say may sound like it, but please believe me, it is not.

BS received a mild admonishment from the Chair, but some members of the audience (MOTA) picked up their cues and found their marks. MOTA felt free to make derisive noises and shouted accusing statements when a Board member they disagreed with spoke. No one discouraged this practice.

Were I serving on a body like this and had supporters of my position behaving this way, I would certainly make it clear that this approach was unacceptable to me. Unfortunately neither Ms. Jones or Ann Rosen took the opportunity.

This ain't no way to run a railroad.

Every thoughtful person in a democracy will be on the losing side of some issues. If the process is proper, accepting the "defeat" is tolerable. What do I mean by that?

Simple things - all views respected and heard, agreeing to standard approaches for recurring decision making, same rules for everyone, care to watch out for potential tyranny from the majority... because remember, majorities shift. These sorts of things.

Fumbling around with parliamentary procedure was also not helpful. That may not improve with the new Board. I was standing next to Roger Parent and, though he is a former councillor and mayor, he was completely confused about what can be done with a main motion. The Board needs a parliamentarian.

We cannot have critical decisions made on behalf of our children and; therefor, our community made in this sort of environment. To continue to do so is to ensure failure and failure is not an option.

And, by the way, I don't see this as solely a problem of and for the SBCSC Board of Trustees. This is OUR problem and WE must solve it.

Because democracy and public education are not spectator sports.

Truthout roundup 11/19

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Maya Schenwar Experts: SOFA Faces Legal Uncertainty
Maya Schenwar, Truthout: "The Bush administration's push to nail down a bilateral agreement governing the future US presence in Iraq faces serious stumbling blocks. Despite the agreement's near-unanimous passage in the Iraqi cabinet, fueled by deepening pressure from the Bush administration, it faces firm opposition from legal scholars and US Congress members, who say it undermines President-elect Barack Obama's powers and illegally bypasses Congress, and from Iraqi parliamentarians, who are not satisfied with its withdrawal provisions."

Begich Topples Stevens in Alaska Senate Race
Sean Cockerham, Anchorage Daily News: "Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens lost his job to Mark Begich on Tuesday, putting an end to the era of 'Uncle Ted' as the dominant force in Alaska politics. Begich, the Democratic mayor of Anchorage, widened his lead to 3,724 votes in Tuesday's count of absentee and questioned ballots. The lead is insurmountable, as the only votes left to count are approximately 2,500 ballots from overseas. Begich claimed victory, saying, 'I am humbled and honored to serve Alaska in the U.S. Senate.'"

Obama's Attorney General
Michael Isikoff, Newsweek: "President-elect Obama has decided to tap Eric Holder as his attorney general, putting the veteran Washington lawyer in place to become the first African-American to head the Justice Department, according to two legal sources close to the presidential transition."

Taxpayers Will Pay for Gonzales's Private Attorney
Marisa Taylor, McClatchy Newspapers: "The Justice Department has agreed to pay for a private lawyer to defend former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales against allegations that he encouraged officials to inject partisan politics into the department's hiring and firing practices. Lawyers from the Justice Department's civil division often represent department employees who're sued in connection with their official actions. However, Gonzales' attorney recently revealed in court papers that the Justice Department had approved his request to pay private attorney's fees arising from the federal lawsuit."

Mike Davis Why Obama's Futurama Can Wait
Mike Davis, "America's 'Futurama' is defunct. The famous walk-through diorama of a car-and-suburb world, imagineered by Norman Bel Geddes for General Motors at the 1939 New York World's Fair, has weathered into a dreary emblem of our national backwardness. While GM bleeds to death on a Detroit street corner, the steel-and-concrete Interstate landscape built in the 1950s and 1960s is rapidly decaying into this century's equivalent of Victorian rubble."

Michael Winship This Just in From Middle Earth
Michael Winship, Truthout: "You might think it hard to think about politics when you're in a place as extraordinary as this on New Zealand's South Island. The landscape fills the eye with glacial and volcanic lakes, valleys and mountains so breathtaking and eerie in their beauty they inspired director Peter Jackson's vision of mythic Middle Earth when he adapted J.R.R. Tolkien's 'Lord of the Ring' into three epic motion pictures."

Treasury Denounced Over Bailout
Edmund L. Andrews, The New York Times: "The Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., on Tuesday rejected pleas to use money from the $700 billion bailout program to help homeowners avoid foreclosure or to stave off bankruptcy by Detroit's Big Three automakers."

Texas Jury Indicts Cheney, Gonzales in Prison Abuse Case
Reuters: "A grand jury in South Texas indicted U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and former attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Tuesday for 'organized criminal activity' related to alleged abuse of inmates in private prisons."

Eugene Robinson After the Torture Era
Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post: "'I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that. I have said repeatedly that America doesn't torture, and I'm going to make sure that we don't torture. Those are part and parcel of an effort to regain America's moral stature in the world.' That unequivocal passage from President-elect Barack Obama's first extended interview since the election, broadcast on '60 Minutes' Sunday night, was a big step toward healing the damage that the Bush administration has done not just to our nation's image but to its soul."

Suspected US Missiles Strike Deep Inside Pakistan
Munir Ahmad, The Associated Press: "A suspected American missile bombarded a village deep inside Pakistani territory Wednesday, officials said, marking what appears to be the first time the U.S. has struck beyond the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan."

FP morning brief 11/19

Top Story

All of this media attention may be going to Somali pirates' heads.

Pirates seized a wheat-laden merchant ship bound for Bandar Abbas, Iran, off the coast of Yemen yesterday. A Thai fishing boat and a Greek tanker were also hijacked in separate incidents. All told, eight ships have been taken in the past two weeks.

Other pirates are demanding ransom for the Saudi oil tanker (above) they seized on Monday. The tanker, which contains an estimated $100 million worth of crude oil, is now parked off the Somali coast near the pirate haven of Harardhere.

"Piracy is disturbing everything in Somalia, disturbing normal life, disturbing trade and commerce, disturbing the movement of humanitarian aid," the Somali prime minister, who has little power to stop the attacks, admitted Tuesday.

"It's got a lot of people's attention and is starting to have impact on the commercial side," said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, of the pirate attacks.

"The key problem," lawyers David Rivkin and Lee Casey argue in today's Wall Street Journal, "is that America's NATO allies have effectively abandoned the historical legal rules permitting irregular fighters to be tried in special military courts."

Meanwhile, the Indian navy is fighting back. An Indian warship returned fire on pirates in the Gulf of Aden, blowing up one of three small vessels.

U.S. Presidential Transition
Eric Holder, a former prosecutor, is emerging as a top candidate for attorney general.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in negotiations with the Obama transition team, the Financial Times reports.
Karen DeYoung reviews the latest scuttlebutt on senior national security council jobs.
Rahm Emanuel, the incoming White House chief of staff, laid out the Obama administration's priorities in a speech to American CEOs.

The U.S. Congress had harsh words Tuesday for Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. U.S. automakers appear to losing their bailout bid, for now.
National oil companies are said to expect prices to fall to $40 a barrel.

Mexico's federal authorities have replaced 500 police officers in Tijuana. And a top liaison between national police and Interpol has been arrested for allegedly leaking sensitive information to drug cartels.
A hard-core group of Yemeni prisoners may prove the toughest challenge in closing the Guantánamo Bay prison.

As its economy slows, China is retreating on some of its environmental progress.
Police in the southwestern city of Longan, China, battled thousands of rioters. Expect more such incidents, the United Nations warns.
Indian IT executives see tough times ahead.

Middle East and Africa
Iraq's prime minister accused critics of the security pact with the United States of wanting U.S. troops to stay.
Fighting may be coming to a halt in Congo, but battle lines remain blurry. Community groups say atrocities are widespread.
Iran's new interior minister, an ally of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was narrowly approved.

Sharia law is making inroads in Britain, to the dismay of some.
A Spanish judge abandoned his inquiry into the crimes of Francisco Franco.
Italy is moving to crack down on lazy bureaucrats.

Today's Agenda
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation is holding a forum on free trade.
U.S. President George W. Bush dedicates the new flag gallery at the National Museum of American History in Washington.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration opens a satellite office in Beijing.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The formerly middle class

New York Times

At the beginning of every recession, there are people who see the downturn as an occasion for moral revival: Americans will learn to live without material extravagances. They’ll simplify their lives. They’ll rediscover what really matters: home, friends and family.

But recessions are about more than material deprivation. They’re also about fear and diminished expectations. The cultural consequences of recessions are rarely uplifting.

The economic slowdown of the 1880s and 1890s produced a surge of agrarian populism and nativism, with particular hostility directed toward Catholics, Jews and blacks. The Great Depression was not only a time of F.D.R.’s optimism and escapist movies, it was also a time of apocalyptic forebodings and collectivist movements that crushed individual rights.

The recession of the 1970s produced a cynicism that has never really gone away. The share of students who admitted to cheating jumped from 34 percent in 1969 to 60 percent a decade later. More than a quarter of all employees said the goods they produced were so shoddily made that they wouldn’t buy them for themselves. As David Frum noted in his book, “How We Got Here,” job dissatisfaction in 1977 was higher than at any time in the previous quarter-century.

Recessions breed pessimism. That’s why birthrates tend to drop and suicide rates tend to rise. That’s why hemlines go down. Tamar Lewin of The New York Times reported on studies that show that the women selected to be Playboy Playmates of the Year tend to look more mature during recessions — older, heavier, more reassuring — though I have not verified this personally.

This recession will probably have its own social profile. In particular, it’s likely to produce a new social group: the formerly middle class. These are people who achieved middle-class status at the tail end of the long boom, and then lost it. To them, the gap between where they are and where they used to be will seem wide and daunting.

The phenomenon is noticeable in developing nations. Over the past decade, millions of people in these societies have climbed out of poverty. But the global recession is pushing them back down. Many seem furious with democracy and capitalism, which they believe led to their shattered dreams. It’s possible that the downturn will produce a profusion of Hugo Chávezes. It’s possible that the Obama administration will spend much of its time battling a global protest movement that doesn’t even exist yet.

In this country, there are also millions of people facing the psychological and social pressures of downward mobility.

In the months ahead, the members of the formerly middle class will suffer career reversals. Paco Underhill, the retailing expert, tells me that 20 percent of the mall storefronts could soon be empty. That fact alone means that thousands of service-economy workers will experience the self-doubt that goes with unemployment.

They will suffer lifestyle reversals. Over the past decade, millions of Americans have had unprecedented access to affordable luxuries, thanks to brands like Coach, Whole Foods, Tiffany and Starbucks. These indulgences were signs of upward mobility. But these affordable luxuries will no longer be so affordable. Suddenly, the door to the land of the upscale will slam shut for millions of Americans.

The members of the formerly middle class will suffer housing reversals. The current mortgage crisis is having its most concentrated effect on people on the lowest rungs of middle-class life — people who live in fast-growing exurbs in Florida and Nevada that are now rife with foreclosures; people who just moved out of their urban neighborhoods and made it to modest, older suburbs in California and Michigan. Suddenly, the home of one’s own is gone, and it’s back to the apartment complex.

Finally, they will suffer a drop in social capital. In times of recession, people spend more time at home. But this will be the first steep recession since the revolution in household formation. Nesting amongst an extended family rich in social capital is very different from nesting in a one-person household that is isolated from family and community bonds. People in the lower middle class have much higher divorce rates and many fewer community ties. For them, cocooning is more likely to be a perilous psychological spiral.

In this recession, maybe even more than other ones, the last ones to join the middle class will be the first ones out. And it won’t only be material deprivations that bites. It will be the loss of a social identity, the loss of social networks, the loss of the little status symbols that suggest an elevated place in the social order. These reversals are bound to produce alienation and a political response. If you want to know where the next big social movements will come from, I’d say the formerly middle class.

truthout 11/18

Hello TO Faithful, we took a beating during the campaigns. While the big campaigns went at it we, and other smaller orgs, took a big financial hit. The cupboard is bare and we need your help. Hit that donation link. If you are a low/fixed income reader, keep forwarding those TO Newsletters, it really does help.

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Obama Team Signals No War Crimes Prosecution
Lara Jakes Jordan, The Associated Press: "Barack Obama's incoming administration is unlikely to bring criminal charges against government officials who authorized or engaged in harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists during the George W. Bush presidency. Obama, who has criticized the use of torture, is being urged by some constitutional scholars and human rights groups to investigate possible war crimes by the Bush administration. Two Obama advisers said there's little - if any - chance that the incoming president's Justice Department will go after anyone involved in authorizing or carrying out interrogations that provoked worldwide outrage."

Clinton to Accept Offer of Secretary of State Job
Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian UK: "Hillary Clinton plans to accept the job of secretary of state offered by Barack Obama, who is reaching out to former rivals to build a broad coalition administration, the Guardian has learned. Obama's advisers have begun looking into Bill Clinton's foundation, which distributes millions of dollars to Africa to help with development, to ensure there is no conflict of interest. But Democrats believe the vetting will be straightforward."

David Sirota Stripping Paulson of His Remaining Power and Money
David Sirota, The Campaign for America's Future: "US Senator Jim Inhofe said Saturday that Congress was not told the truth about the bailout of the nation's financial system and should take back what is left of the $700 billion 'blank check'' it gave the Bush administration. 'It is just outrageous that the American people don't know that Congress doesn't know how much money he (Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson) has given away to anyone,' the Oklahoma Republican told the Tulsa World."

Company That Bungled Baghdad Embassy Repeats in Gabon
Warren P. Strobel, McClatchy Newspapers: "A year after problems emerged in the construction of the new US Embassy in Baghdad, another State Department post being built largely by the same Kuwaiti-based company is engulfed by delays, recriminations, and an Inspector General's probe, according to US officials. The embassy building, in the central African nation of Gabon, was supposed to be finished by April 2009."

Admirals, Generals: Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
Brian Witte, The Associated Press: "More than 100 retired generals and admirals called Monday for repeal of the military's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy on gays so they can serve openly, according to a statement obtained by The Associated Press. The move by the military veterans confronts the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama with a thorny political and cultural issue that dogged former President Bill Clinton early in his administration."

Michael Shank Somalia Resurfaces
Michael Shank, Foreign Policy in Focus: "At long last, the fragile state of Somalia seems to be slowly resurfacing from a searing bout of violence and humanitarian crisis. Interestingly, the light at the end of this decades-long tunnel is not burning at the behest of the United States or the United Nations; rather, it burns because Somali leaders, both within the government and without, have banded together. Frustrated by failed foreign interventions, they are now seeking sustainable Somali-based solutions. The key to success, going forward, is to keep it Somali-led. Further intervention from neighboring Ethiopia or the United States will be ruinous."

Thomas D. Williams Panel: Gulf War Illness Confirmed
Thomas D. Williams, Truthout: "A federal health panel released conclusions Monday that evidence strongly and consistently indicates hundreds of thousands of US troops in the first Gulf War contracted long-term illnesses from use of pills, given by their own military to protect them from effects of chemical weaponized nerve agents, and from their military's pesticide use during deployment."

Early Test for Obama on Domestic Spying Views
James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, The New York Times: "President-elect Barack Obama will face a series of early decisions on domestic spying that will test his administration's views on presidential power and civil liberties. The Justice Department will be asked to respond to motions in legal challenges to the National Security Agency's wiretapping program, and must decide whether to continue the tactics used by the Bush administration - which has used broad claims of national security and 'state secrets' to try to derail the challenges - or instead agree to disclose publicly more information about how the program was run."

Nate Silver Zogby Engages in Apparent Push Polling for Right-Wing Web Site
Nate Silver, "The conservative website reports that it has commissioned Zogby International to conduct a poll of 512 Barack Obama voters as part of what can best be described as a viral marketing effort to discredit the intelligence of Obama supporters."

Bush Administration Moves to Protect Key Appointees
Juliet Eilperin and Carol D. Leonnig, The Washington Post: "Just weeks before leaving office, the Interior Department's top lawyer has shifted half a dozen key deputies - including two former political appointees who have been involved in controversial environmental decisions - into senior civil service posts. The transfer of political appointees into permanent federal positions, called 'burrowing' by career officials, creates security for those employees, and at least initially will deprive the incoming Obama administration of the chance to install its preferred appointees in some key jobs."

IMF: More Countries Seek Aid Every Day
Ralph Boulton, Reuters: "The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Tuesday the number of countries seeking help to cope with a spreading economic crisis was growing every day. Japan's economy minister said recession in the world's second-biggest economy could last longer than feared. Measures of inflation fell sharply in the United States and Britain, paving the way for further interest rate cuts. The crisis has spread steadily in recent weeks beyond the major developed countries, with states from Ukraine and Iceland to Pakistan seeking help from the IMF."

FP morning post 11/18

Top Story

The Guardian is reporting, but other news outlets seem unable to confirm, news that New York Sen. Hillary Clinton intends to accept an offer to become President-elect Barack Obama's secretary of state.

It's not actually clear that there is a formal offer on the table just yet. The chief obstacle slowing the process appears to be former President Bill Clinton, whose ongoing entanglements with foreign governments could pose thorny legal and policy problems for the Obama administration. Bill returned from a trip to Kuwait only yesterday.

Politico's Ben Smith senses some "angst and ambivalence" among Obama supporters about the prospective choice of Hillary.

The Washington Post's Anne Kornblut does not expect any major personnel announcements "before the weekend."

U.S. Presidential Transition
President-elect Barack Obama met with John McCain, his former opponent, in Chicago. The two men pledged to work together.
Domestic spying could be an early test for the incoming administation.
The rigor of Obama team's vetting process is said to be "unprecedented."
Officials aren't sure if an expected 4 million people can fit on the National Mall for inauguration.

Ford, desperate for cash, is selling a 20 percent stake in Mazda.
Reuters wonders if the electric car is doomed.
Bank profits continue to fall around the world.

The Colombian government has declared a state of emergency to deal with popular anger over widespread investment scams.

NATO says a recent attack in Pakistani territory was carried out with the government's consent.
An American scientist has admitted selling sensitive rocket technology to China.
China's demand for oil is slowing along with its economy.

Middle East and Africa
Iraq's prime minister is purging anti-corruption officials who were installed by the United States.
Baghdad has a commuter train. Seriously.
In a shift, Iran's speaker of a parliament urged Iraqis to reject a troop deal with the United States.
Congo update: The army appears to be fracturing, the head of the armed forces was fired, and endangered mountain gorillas are caught in the crossfire.
A Saudi oil tanker that was hijacked by pirates is nearing the Somali coast.

Europe and the Caucasus
President-elect Obama spoke with Mikheil Saakashvili over the phone Monday. According to the Georgian president, Obama "underlined that he supports Georgia's territorial integrity and paid attention to the importance of continuing reforms in Georgia."
The outspoken queen of Spain is getting in trouble with Spanish liberals.
A French lawmaker and member of President Nicolas Sarkozy's party shot a woman and then killed himself.

Today's Agenda
Senate Democrats vote this morning on whether to strip Sen. Joseph Lieberman of his committee chairmanship. Odds are he keeps it.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meets with Seif al-Islam al-Qaddafi, the West-friendly son of the mercurial Libyan leader.
Chinese President Hu Jintao is visiting Cuba.

Monday, November 17, 2008

On The View From Egypt, Part Three, Or, Could Big Trouble Create A "Biden Challenge" ?

I have been telling a serialized story about Egyptian politics recently, and my friend noemie maxwell, over at the Washblog, left a comment that suggested to me that I had “buried the lead” during the Part One and Part Two conversations.

We’ve been hinting at Joe Biden’s comments about inevitable challenges to the incoming Obama Administration, as well as describing political repression and the Constitutionalization of a “forever” political majority...but what we haven’t been talking about is why all of this, specifically, is important to US interests—and what a problem Big Trouble in Egypt could be for a new Administration.

Today, that’s an oversight we’re going to fix....and as a result, we won’t be resolving the cliffhanger that ended Part Two until Part Four.

So hop in the car, Gentle Reader, because we have a long ride ahead.

Let’s get this conversation started by answering the title question...why does Egypt pose such a significant potential challenge for US foreign policy?

The Middle East and its neighbors, we all know, represent the greatest foreign policy challenge we face today—and Egypt is not only adjacent to everything in the Middle East, they’re the first Arab country to have made a kind of peace with Israel.

The Gaza Strip is one half of what could eventually become Palestine...and it is surrounded on three sides by Israel—and on the other by Egypt.

The Suez Canal is entirely within Egypt. If access to the Canal were impeded, oil shipments from Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq would have to travel entirely around well as trade from places such as Indonesia, India, and China heading to the Mediterranean and beyond that, to Northern Europe and the East Coast of North America. The Canal, and the trade it supports, has been so important for so long that the British considered it the “jugular vein” of their Empire—in 1892.

(Here’s a fun fact: it is estimated that 120,000 Egyptian forced laborers died during the construction of the Canal.)

We have an extremely close relationship with Egypt as it relates to our “War on Terror”...and they are very important to our very ugly “rendition” program:

“"If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear-never to see them again-you send them to Egypt."

--Ex-CIA agent Bob Baer, quoted in Stephen Gray'sThe New Statesman” article “America’s Gulag”

We send lots of people to be interrogated, tortured, and disappeared all over the world—and lots of them end up in Egypt; delivered by our CIA to their SSI (State Security Investigations). How many exactly? No one is telling—and it’s possible that no one actually knows.

One thing we do know: we have been following our longtime pattern of supporting a “repressive strongman” in Egypt, just as we have in so many other countries—and that often comes back to bite us very hard (see: Iran).

Lazoghli Square.

The name conjures up such happy memories...if you were one of those who were married at the Notary Public’s Office down at the ol’ Ministry of Justice offices located on the Square.

If you were one of those who were tortured to death by SSI, in the very same building...well, those memories aren’t so happy.

And it is those memories that we will have to deal with should President Hosni Mubarak and his National Democratic Party lose their hold on power suddenly—and it is those memories that have the potential to make things very bad for the US, not just for bilateral relations, but for our relations across the Islamic world.

How bad might it get?

You may recall from our last conversation that essentially the only political opposition that is not the Muslim Brotherhood is the Al-Ghad Party...and you may recall from our last conversation that Ayman Nour, Al-Ghad’s 2005 and 2008 Presidential candidate (and the subject of the cliffhanger from the last story), has been in and out of prison lately.

The de facto current leader of the Al-Ghad Party, Wa’el Nawara, offered this assessment of the potential problems ahead in an email I received just last evening:

Egypt is key to the region's stability and development ... the situation is even more critical than Iran ...

If Egypt falls ... the entire Middle East and North Africa fall - from Pakistan to Morocco - into chaos, or into the hands of extremists or back to the extremists or back to the age of one-military-coup-every-six-months.

With the eradication of all moderate opposition and the elimination of any real political process, the political situation in Egypt is so uncertain and fragile to the extent that no one knows what happens when Mubarak leaves. Building a political process and tolerating real secular opposition is an insurance policy for stability which the Egyptian regime has persistently failed to subscribe to.

And therein lies the answer to today’s question.

Two things are required to turn Egypt into a foreign policy challenge for the new Administration: there has to be the potential for great damage to peace and stability if Big Trouble should come...and there should be some indication that Big Trouble might be on the way, sooner rather than later.

If Wa’el Nawara is to be believed, the potential for great damage is definitely now what we need to know is whether Big Trouble might really be on the way, sooner rather than later.

Well, folks, I believe it may be...but that will be the second cliffhanger we will resolve in Part Four of this story.

Since we’re running a bit long, and I’m trying to avoid 4,000 word stories, we’ll end today’s conversation with a final thought from Wa’el Nawara:

I just hope that the new US Administration will be able to develop rapport and in fact build some leverage ... in the relationship with Egypt ... soft leverage ... based on partnership and mutual interests ... such that this leverage can be used to talk the regime into affecting much-needed political reform and democratic transformation. This is the only way to insure long-term stability in Egypt and the Region.

Tonight's School Board Meeting

Don Wheeler
Major issue to be decided tonight!

From WNDU:
The search for a new South Bend school superintendent could be over before it even starts.

NewsCenter 16's Erin Logan broke the story Thursday night. On the meeting agenda for November 17th is an action item that indicates Interim Superintendent James Kapsa could take the official title.

It turns out, a board member went to President Sheila Bergeron and asked that the agenda be changed to include discontinuing a superintendent search.
Bergeron says that's true, but wouldn't get into detail.

We later learned that board member was Bill Sniadecki.

Some board members are furious they knew nothing about these changes.
With the controversy and chaos after ousting its superintendent last summer, came a promise all were in favor of.

In late August, Marcia Hummel said, “Let's involve the community like we've never done before, so when the new board moves in they can even start participating.”

A week after two new board members, Stephanie Spivey and Roger Parent were elected, it seems the plan has changed.

Sniadecki requested a line be added to Monday night's agenda, "Discontinue superintendent search and appoint James M. Kapsa Superintendent of schools."

Sniadecki says, “I would not have moved forward with this if I didn't have their consent. They're totally in favor of it.”

Spivey tells us she doesn't want any involvement in this decision, until she's sworn in at the start of the year.

Parent told NewsCenter 16 last week that he fully supports naming Kapsa superintendent.

In favor or not, the longest serving board member, Marcia Hummel, says rules have already been broken. The entire board was not involved in this change made to the agenda.

Hummel says, not to mention, the board's promise to the community to do a national search. They've already had one consulting group present, and two more are scheduled next week.

We asked Sniadecki, “Why not a national search?”

He said, “I guess I think where we're at right now, it's not the time to bring in a new person. I've been watching Kapsa close for the last three to four months and he's doing an adequate job. We have to do budget cuts. We have a lot of contracts we've got to settle. Him getting the permanent superintendent will give him a little more authority to be able to do that.”

Sniadecki doesn't deny there are three board members who are still in favor of doing the national search.


I've just spoken with Stephanie Spivey. I've tried to be careful about presenting what I think her position is; on the other hand, I spent quite a bit of time with her during the school board campaign and know pretty well how she thinks.

I was correct in pointing out that her failure to object to BS' proposal was not necessarily an indication of support. Ms. Spivey stated publicly that she felt she had no role to play in this motion because she was not yet seated as a board member. Anything attributed to her view beyond that is fiction.

Additionally, no one has made any effort to explain to her why this is a wise course. And she reminded me that all of us who ran for the board did so with the understanding that the current group would start the process, but the new board would make the final decision.

So what has just been recently discovered that makes it imperative to violate a trust and marginalize an incoming Trustee?

I'm hoping they can convince me tonight, but they have their work cut out for them.

The wild wordsmith of Wasilla

Dick Cavett

Electronic devices dislike me. There is never a day when something isn’t ailing. Three out of these five implements — answering machine, fax machine, printer, phone and electric can-opener — all dropped dead on me in the past few days.

Now something has gone wrong with all three television sets. They will only get Sarah Palin.

I can play a kind of Alaskan roulette. Any random channel clicked on by the remote brings up that eager face, with its continuing assaults on the English Lang.

There she is with Larry and Matt and just about everyone else but Dr. Phil (so far). If she is not yet on “Judge Judy,” I suspect it can’t be for lack of trying.

What have we done to deserve this, this media blitz that the astute Andrea Mitchell has labeled “The Victory Tour”?

I suppose it will be recorded as among political history’s ironies that Palin was brought in to help John McCain. I can’t blame feminists who might draw amusement from the fact that a woman managed to both cripple the male she was supposed to help while gleaning an almost Elvis-sized following for herself. Mac loses, Sarah wins big-time was the gist of headlines.

I feel a little sorry for John. He aimed low and missed.

What will ambitious politicos learn from this? That frayed syntax, bungled grammar and run-on sentences that ramble on long after thought has given out completely are a candidate’s valuable traits?

And how much more of all that lies in our future if God points her to those open-a-crack doors she refers to? The ones she resolves to splinter and bulldoze her way through upon glimpsing the opportunities, revealed from on high.

What on earth are our underpaid teachers, laboring in the vineyards of education, supposed to tell students about the following sentence, committed by the serial syntax-killer from Wasilla High and gleaned by my colleague Maureen Dowd for preservation for those who ask, “How was it she talked?”

My concern has been the atrocities there in Darfur and the
relevance to me with that issue as we spoke about Africa and some of the
countries there that were kind of the people succumbing to the dictators and the
corruption of some collapsed governments on the continent, the relevance was
Alaska’s investment in Darfur with some of our permanent fund dollars.

And, she concluded, “never, ever did I talk about, well, gee, is it a country or a continent, I just don’t know about this issue.”

It’s admittedly a rare gift to produce a paragraph in which whole clumps of words could be removed without noticeably affecting the sense, if any.

(A cynic might wonder if Wasilla High School’s English and geography departments are draped in black.)

(How many contradictory and lying answers about The Empress’s New Clothes have you collected? I’ve got, so far, only four. Your additional ones welcome.)

Matt Lauer asked her about her daughter’s pregnancy and what went into the decision about how to handle it. Her “answer” did not contain the words “daughter,” “pregnancy,” “what to do about it” or, in fact, any two consecutive words related to Lauer’s query.

I saw this as a brief clip, so I don’t know whether Lauer recovered sufficiently to follow up, or could only sit there, covered in disbelief. If it happens again, Matt, I bequeath you what I heard myself say once to an elusive guest who stiffed me that way: “Were you able to hear any part of my question?”

At the risk of offending, well, you, for example, I worry about just what it is her hollering fans see in her that makes her the ideal choice to deal with the world’s problems: collapsed economies, global warming, hostile enemies and our current and far-flung twin battlefronts, either of which may prove to be the world’s second “30 Years’ War.”

Has there been a poll to see if the Sarah-ites are numbered among that baffling 26 percent of our population who, despite everything, still maintain that President George has done a heckuva job?

A woman in one of Palin’s crowds praised her for being “a mom like me … who thinks the way I do” and added, for ill measure, “That’s what I want in the White House.” Fine, but in what capacity?

Do this lady’s like-minded folk wonder how, say, Jefferson, Lincoln, the Roosevelts, et al (add your own favorites) managed so well without being soccer moms? Without being whizzes in the kitchen, whipping up moose soufflés? Without executing and wounding wolves from the air and without promoting that sad, threadbare hoax — sexual abstinence — as the answer to the sizzling loins of the young?

(In passing, has anyone observed that hunting animals with high-powered guns could only be defined as sport if both sides were equally armed?)

I’d love to hear what you think has caused such an alarming number of our fellow Americans to fall into the Sarah Swoon.

Could the willingness to crown one who seems to have no first language have anything to do with the oft-lamented fact that we seem to be alone among nations in having made the word “intellectual” an insult? (And yet…and yet…we did elect Obama. Surely not despite his brains.)

Sorry about all of the foregoing, as if you didn’t get enough of the lady every day in every medium but smoke signals.

I do not wish her ill. But I also don’t wish us ill. I hope she continues to find happiness in Alaska.

May I confess that upon first seeing her, I liked her looks? With the sound off, she presents a not uncomely frontal appearance.

But now, as the Brits say, “I’ll be glad to see the back of her.”


PS: Lagniappe for English mavens: A friend of mine has made you laugh greatly over the years. David Lloyd is a comic genius (I can hear you wince, David) who wrote for “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Cheers,” “Taxi,” “Frasier,” Jack Paar, Johnny Carson and me, not necessarily in that order. As a language fan, he has preserved many gems for posterity in his prodigious memory bank. Here comes my favorite:

A Navy lecturer was talking about some directives on the blackboard that he said to do something about, “except for these here ones with the asteroids in back of.”

Even David couldn’t make that up.

John Edwards returns to the public eye

The former presidential candidate debates Karl Rove and speaks at Indiana University.

John Edwards and Republican strategist Karl Rove don't see eye to eye on much, but in a spirited debate Thursday they agreed that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin needs to hone her knowledge of foreign policy and geography if she runs for president in 2012.

Rove said he didn't care if, as a vice presidential candidate, Palin knew where South Ossetia or Abkhazia are, or if she could recite the minutiae of health care policy.

“But if she wants to run for president she's gonna have to get somebody to move to Anchorage, Alaska, and help her take her game to another level,” he said smiling. “Let's be clear about this … it's really cold there most of the year.”

Edwards said Palin's inexperience was too much for John McCain's campaign to overcome.

“The problem was, over time, particularly in the vice presidential debate … it was fairly obvious she wasn't ready to be president, and that made people nervous,” he said.

The debate was briefly interrupted by two demonstrators who called Rove a “war criminal” before being ushered out of the hall by security and booed by much of the crowd.

In an appearance here last month, a demonstrator tried to handcuff Rove.

Rove, reacting quickly to the disturbance Thursday, remarked on the handcuff incident by saying a friend told him, “Don't worry. That's how people in San Francisco say hello.”

Associated Press
Three months after confessing to an affair on national TV, John Edwards ended his self-imposed exile this week with a pair of appearances that could mark his first steps on a road to public rehabilitation.

The former Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. senator debated Republican strategist Karl Rove in San Francisco Thursday, two days after speaking at Indiana University.

“It's a very good way to just poke your head out a little bit, see what happens, see what public reaction is like,” says Jonathan Bernstein, a California-based crisis management consultant. “Humility and honesty go a long way to repairing an image.”

At a time when he once hoped to be headed for the White House, Edwards has found himself the subject of gossip columns speculating about his marriage and the child of his former mistress.

“He is working on the issue with his family, but also working on the topic of poverty that is very critical to him and shouldn't be completely overshadowed by everything else,” says friend John Moylan, a Columbia lawyer.

Edwards could not be reached.

In August he acknowledged an affair with former campaign worker Rielle Hunter. Though he'd already asked an aide to draft a speech for the Democratic convention, he was not invited.

He canceled several fall speaking engagements, saying he wanted to stay out of public view until after the election in order not to distract from Barack Obama's campaign.

More questions likely

Edwards' wife Elizabeth, who is fighting incurable cancer, has generally avoided questions about the affair. But in a September interview with the Detroit Free Press, she said she didn't want her husband's tabloid image to be the one her children “carry with them as young people and as adults.”

John Edwards is also sidestepping personal questions.

After his speech about politics and poverty at Indiana on Tuesday – for which he was paid $35,000 – he took only 13 written questions. He made no mention of his wife or his affair.

But the questions are unlikely to stop.

His friend Fred Baron, a wealthy Texas trial lawyer, died last month. After the National Enquirer first published reports of Edwards' affair, he helped Hunter and former Edwards aide Andrew Young relocate from Chapel Hill to California. He reportedly paid Hunter $15,000 a month.

Young, who is married, has claimed he's the father of Hunter's daughter, who was born in February. Baron helped Young's family settle in a house valued at nearly $2 million in Santa Barbara, Calif. Young has since moved to a new home on a 10-acre lot outside Chapel Hill.

Neither he nor Hunter could be reached. This week the Enquirer reported that Hunter plans to write a tell-all book if the money stops.

“We're interested in the story,” says Enquirer editor David Perel. “We still think it's relevant because (Edwards) still hasn't told the full truth.”

Focus on poverty

At Indiana, Edwards called eliminating poverty “the central cause” of his life.

“The truth is he very much wants to be involved in working on poverty issues,” says Moylan. “That is critically important to him. They are figuring out the best way to do that. It's important that that not get completely overshadowed by everything going on in the world, including his world.”

Edwards is no longer affiliated with the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity that he helped start at UNC Chapel Hill.

“I know he'll continue to support the ideals of the Center but there is no expectation that Sen. Edwards would return,” said center director Gene Nichol.

One Edwards initiative, the nonprofit Center for Promise and Opportunity, has shut down. Another, a program that provided college scholarships in poverty-stricken Greene County and which Edwards touted as a national model, ends in May.

Edwards wouldn't be the first celebrity to make a comeback after a dramatic fall.

“If John Edwards continues to behave as an exemplary public citizen for a period of time, his image can be repaired,” says Bernstein, the crisis management consultant. “He can appear publicly without fear of public ridicule as long as he stays humble, relatively low-key and does things that are of real use or value to his fellow citizens. And if there are no more secrets that will hurt him.”

The 40th anniversary of the "Heidi" game

In 1968, prior to the merger of the NFL and the AFL, The Oakland Raiders played the New York Jets in one of the most exciting finishes in professional football.

I was twelve, and a serious Raiders fan - watching a black and white television in the den of my grandparents apartment in Evanston. The Jet had just taken the lead with very little time on the clock. But instead of the kickoff, NBC switched to the opening credits of the movie "Heidi". Boy, was I mad.

Just in case you don't know how this comes out, I won't spoil it for. I will say that NBC regretted the action.

Obama Needs a Protest Movement

Frances Fox Piven
The Nation

The astonishing election of 2008 is over. Whatever else the future holds, the unchallenged domination of American national government by big business and the political right has been broken. Even more amazing, Americans have elected an African-American as president. These facts alone are rightful cause for jubilation.

Naturally, people are making lists of what the new administration should do to begin to reverse the decades-long trends toward rising inequality, unrestrained corporate plunder, ecological disaster, military adventurism and constricted democracy. But if naming our favored policies is the main thing we do, we are headed for a terrible letdown. Let's face it: Barack Obama is not a visionary or even a movement leader. He became the nominee of the Democratic Party, and then went on to win the general election, because he is a skillful politician. That means he will calculate whom he has to conciliate and whom he can ignore in realms dominated by big-money contributors from Wall Street, powerful business lobbyists and a Congress that includes conservative Blue Dog and Wall Street-oriented Democrats. I don't say this to disparage Obama. It is simply the way it is, and if Obama was not the centrist and conciliator he is, he would not have come this far this fast, and he would not be the president-elect.

Still, the conditions that influence politicians can change. The promises and hopes generated by election campaigns sometimes help to raise hopes and set democratic forces in motion that break the grip of politics as usual. I don't mean that the Obama campaign operation is likely to be transformed into a continuing movement for reform. A campaign mobilization is almost surely too flimsy and too dependent on the candidate to generate the weighty pressures that can hold politicians accountable. Still, the soaring rhetoric of the campaign; the slogans like "We are the ones we have been waiting for"; the huge, young and enthusiastic crowds--all this generates hope, and hope fuels activism among people who otherwise accept politics as usual.

Sometimes, encouraged by electoral shifts and campaign promises, the ordinary people who are typically given short shrift in political calculation become volatile and unruly, impatient with the same old promises and ruses, and they refuse to cooperate in the institutional routines that depend on their cooperation. When that happens, their issues acquire a white-hot urgency, and politicians have to respond, because they are politicians. In other words, the disorder, stoppages and institutional breakdowns generated by this sort of collective action threaten politicians. These periods of mass defiance are unnerving, and many authoritative voices are even now pointing to the dangers of pushing the Obama administration too hard and too far. Yet these are also the moments when ordinary people enter into the political life of the country and authentic bottom-up reform becomes possible.

The parallels between the election of 2008 and the election of 1932 are often invoked, with good reason. It is not just that Obama's oratory is reminiscent of FDR's oratory, or that both men were brought into office as a result of big electoral shifts, or that both took power at a moment of economic catastrophe. All this is true, of course. But I want to make a different point: FDR became a great president because the mass protests among the unemployed, the aged, farmers and workers forced him to make choices he would otherwise have avoided. He did not set out to initiate big new policies. The Democratic platform of 1932 was not much different from that of 1924 or 1928. But the rise of protest movements forced the new president and the Democratic Congress to become bold reformers.

The movements of the 1930s were often set in motion by radical agitators--Communists, Socialists, Musteites--but they were fueled by desperation and economic calamity. Unemployment demonstrations, usually (and often not without reason) labeled riots by the press, began in 1929 and 1930, as crowds assembled, raised demands for "bread or wages," and then marched on City Hall or local relief offices. In some places, "bread riots" broke out as crowds of the unemployed marched on storekeepers to demand food, or simply to take it.

In the big cities, mobs used strong-arm tactics to resist the rising numbers of evictions. In Harlem and on the Lower East Side, crowds numbering in the thousands gathered to restore evicted families to their homes. In Chicago, small groups of black activists marched through the streets of the ghetto to mobilize the large crowds that would reinstall evicted families. A rent riot there left three people dead and three policemen injured in August 1931, but Mayor Anton Cermak ordered a moratorium on evictions, and some of the rioters got work relief. Later, in the summer of 1932, Cermak told a House committee that if the federal government didn't send $150 million for relief immediately, it should be prepared to send troops later. Even in Mississippi, Governor Theodore Bilbo told an interviewer, "Folks are restless. Communism is gaining a foothold. Right here in Mississippi, some people are about ready to lead a mob. In fact, I'm getting a little pink myself." Meanwhile, also in the summer of 1932, farmers across the country armed themselves with pitchforks and clubs to prevent the delivery of farm products to markets where the price paid frequently did not cover the cost of production.

Notwithstanding the traditional and conservative platform of the Democratic Party, FDR's campaign in 1932 registered these disturbances in new promises to "build from the bottom up and not from the top down, that once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid." Economic conditions worsened in the interim between the election and the inauguration, and the clamor for federal action became more strident. Within weeks, Roosevelt had submitted legislation to Congress for public works spending, massive emergency relief to be implemented by states and localities, agricultural assistance and an (ultimately unsuccessful) scheme for industrial recovery.

The unruly protests continued, and in many places they were crucial in pressuring reluctant state and local officials to implement the federally initiated aid programs. Then, beginning in 1933, industrial workers inspired by the rhetorical promises of the new administration began to demand the right to organize. By the mid-1930s, mass strikes were a threat to economic recovery and to the Democratic voting majorities that had put FDR in office. A pro-union labor policy was far from Roosevelt's mind when he took office in 1933. But by 1935, with strikes escalating and the election of 1936 approaching, he was ready to sign the National Labor Relations Act.

Obama's campaign speeches emphasized the theme of a unified America where divisions bred by race or party are no longer important. But America is, in fact, divided: by race, by party, by class. And these divisions will matter greatly as we grapple with the whirlwind of financial and economic crises, of prospective ecological calamity, of generational and political change, of widening fissures in the American empire. I, for one, do not have a blueprint for the future. Maybe we are truly on the cusp of a new world order, and maybe it will be a better, more humane order. In the meantime, however, our government will move on particular policies to confront the immediate crisis. Whether most Americans will have an effective voice in these policies will depend on whether we tap our usually hidden source of power, our ability to refuse to cooperate on the terms imposed from above.

FP morning post 11/17

Top Story

Remember all those arguments over U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's plan to withdraw troops from Iraq?
It may not be up to him anymore.

On Sunday, Iraq's cabinet finally approved a troop agreement with the United States. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari and U.S. Amb. Ryan Crocker signed the security pact in Baghdad today after nearly a year of arduous negotiations. Under the terms of the deal, which must still be voted on by the Iraqi Parliament, all American troops must leave the country by 2011 and pull back from cities next summer.

The agreement also places significant new restrictions on what U.S. forces are allowed to do. Beginning Jan. 1, they must now, for instance, obtain warrants from Iraq courts in order to make arrests.

It's not a guarantee the agreement will pass, but the support of Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani strongly suggests that it will. Another key shift, some analysts told the New York Times, may have been Obama's electoral victory, which softened Iran's opposition to the pact. A spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry did not reject the agreement in remarks today.


G-20 leaders pledged Saturday to improve their regulations and crack down on dubious lending practices. But some experts fear these policies could impair economic recovery. The group will next meet on April 30, 2009, 101 days into the Obama administration, when more substantive moves will likely be made.
Foreign manufacturers could easily step in if U.S. automakers fail, according to the New York Times.
U.S. Presidential Transition
President-elect Obama sat for his first post-election interview, with Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes.
The New York Times reports that serious vetting of Hillary Clinton has begun.
The Obama transition team is moving cautiously on homeland security.

Mexico's drug violence is spilling into U.S. cities as far away as Boston.
Need a job? Demand for bodyguards is up in Mexico.
It's not just schools that are collapsing in Haiti. It's everything else, too.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he would protect Mullah Mohammed Omar if the Taliban leader decided to enter negotiations.
Pakistan and the United States have tacitly agreed on a "don't ask, don't tell" policy for airstrikes within Pakistani territory, the Washington Post reports.
Japan's economy is officially in recession.
China hints that it may be building an aircraft carrier.

Middle East and Africa
A top deputy to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in trouble for attending a "Koran dance."
Fighting continues in eastern Congo despite a cease-fire agreement.

France has captured Spain's most wanted man, a Basque separatist leader.
A female prisoner's pardon request is becoming a key test for Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
A German professor hired to reach out to Muslims now says he doesn't think the Prophet Mohammed really existed.
The United States is moving its embassy across the Thames, London's great divide.

Today's Agenda
Tibetan exiles are meeting in Dharamsala, India, to plot a change in strategy.
The Wall Street Journal previews Obama's meeting today with Republican Sen. John McCain, his erstwhile rival for the presidency.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband embarks on a tour of the Middle East.
The U.S. Congress is back for a lame-duck session. The European Parliament is holding a plenary session in Strasbourg, France.

Truthout 11/17

Hello TO Faithful, we took a beating during the campaigns.

While the big campaigns went at it we, and other smaller orgs, took a big financial hit. The cupboard is bare and we need your help. Hit that donation link. If you are a low/fixed income reader, keep forwarding those TO Newsletters, it really does help.Just click this link for our electronic donation options:

Marc Ash Never Forget
Marc Ash, Truthout: "When they say to you that 'mistakes were made,' never believe that. Mistakes are always made, but mistakes did not lead us on the road to Baghdad. We were taken to Iraq by those who knew exactly, precisely what they were doing. Or believed so anyway. Do not be persuaded to believe that 'bad intelligence' was the problem and war was the unfortunate result. No one who made this war believed themselves what they told the nation. They knew quite well and they went anyway. And they took us with them."

US Confirms It Held 12 Juveniles at Guantanamo
The Associated Press: "The US has revised its count of juveniles ever held at Guantanamo Bay to 12, up from the eight it reported in May to the United Nations, a Pentagon spokesman said Sunday. The government has provided a corrected report to the UN committee on child rights, according to Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon."

Iraqi Cabinet Approves Accord Setting US Troop Withdrawal
Adam Ashton and Leila Fadel, McClatchy Newspapers: "Iraq's cabinet on Sunday approved a security pact that sets a timetable for the nearly complete withdrawal of American forces within three years, but the agreement faces an uncertain outlook in Iraq's parliament. The largest Sunni party in Iraq, the Iraqi Islamic Party, wants the agreement to go to a nationwide referendum. Its affiliated parties complain that their efforts to amend the plan to require the release of detainees and to provide compensation for war victims were ignored by lawmakers who shaped the pact."

Rather's Lawsuit Shows Role of GOP in Inquiry
Jacques Steinberg, The New York Times: "When Dan Rather filed suit against CBS 14 months ago - claiming, among other things, that his former employer had commissioned a politically biased investigation into his work on a '60 Minutes' segment about President Bush's National Guard service - the network predicted the quick and favorable dismissal of the case, which it derided as 'old news.' So far, Mr. Rather has spent more than $2 million of his own money on the suit. And according to documents filed recently in court, he may be getting something for his money."

Tariq Ali Operation Enduring Disaster: Breaking With Afghan Policy
Tariq Ali, "Afghanistan has been almost continuously at war for 30 years, longer than both World Wars and the American war in Vietnam combined. Each occupation of the country has mimicked its predecessor. A tiny interval between wars saw the imposition of a malignant social order, the Taliban, with the help of the Pakistani military and the late Benazir Bhutto, the prime minister who approved the Taliban takeover in Kabul. Over the last two years, the US/NATO occupation of that country has run into serious military problems."

Dean Baker Stopping Foreclosures: The Right to Rent
Dean Baker, Truthout: "Politicians often prefer complex solutions to simple problems. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the long list of complicated and convoluted proposals to address the country's foreclosure crisis ... For those not offended by simplicity, there is an easy solution. Congress can temporarily modify the rules on foreclosure to give families facing foreclosure the right to rent their homes at the market rate for a substantial period of time."

Reviving a Dispirited Federal Workforce
Carol D. Leonnig, The Washington Post: "When President Obama takes over in January as manager in chief of nearly 2 million federal employees, he will need a plan to reinvigorate a frustrated and demoralized workforce, career employees warn."

Harvey Wasserman GM Must Remake the Mass Transit System It Murdered
Harvey Wasserman, Common Dreams: "Bail out General Motors? The people who murdered our mass transit system? First let them remake what they destroyed."

Chris Hedges America's Wars of Self-Destruction
Chris Hedges, Truthdig: "War is a poison. It is a poison that nations and groups must at times ingest to ensure their survival. But, like any poison, it can kill you just as surely as the disease it is meant to eradicate. The poison of war courses unchecked through the body politic of the United States. We believe that because we have the capacity to wage war we have the right to wage war. We embrace the dangerous self-delusion that we are on a providential mission to save the rest of the world from itself, to implant our virtues-which we see as superior to all other virtues-on others, and that we have a right to do this by force. This belief has corrupted Republicans and Democrats alike. And if Barack Obama drinks, as it appears he will, the dark elixir of war and imperial power offered to him by the national security state, he will accelerate the downward spiral of the American empire."

Dan Shelley Secrets of Talk Radio
Dan Shelley, Milwaukee Magazine: "To succeed, a talk show host must perpetuate the notion that his or her listeners are victims, and the host is the vehicle by which they can become empowered. The host frames virtually every issue in us-versus-them terms. There has to be a bad guy against whom the host will emphatically defend those loyal listeners."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bye-bye civil rights

from One America Rising

When California voted yes on Prop 8, voters took away Civil Rights away from so many tax paying citizens by placing a moral judgement on them. Our American Revolutionary War and this country was founded on many things including religious demands by a King across an ocean. People then said, "we should be able to do what we want" and when the USA's Constitution was created, it was written that Church and State will be divided. This was a critical concept that this country was founded.

When someone writes up a proposition to take away the right to marry based on a moral judgement or religious judgement, and what's worse to pass such a law, I take it extremely personal after having a father who worked his whole life for this Federal Gov't and a grandfather who fought in 3 wars, related to two Presidents and ancestors who were part of the American Revolution.

Prop 8 is NOT about gays and gays being allowed to marry. It's about giving people who pay taxes a right to marry whoever they wish and given the benefits based on that marriage being recognized legally. Why in the world would anyone care really if two people of the same sex are married? Do people who are not of the same sex and married LOSE any of THEIR benefits? Why care? I just don't get it!!!!

Yesterday, downtown San Diego was the 2nd protest march against Proposition 8. The organizers were expecting 2000 people and got over 10000 marchers. Signs of "Yes we can", a person dressed as the Statue of Liberty and loads of rainbows, well I couldn't stop smiling. It was peaceful for the most part and it was HUGE parade. I heard that there were other such protests all over the country to show protesters in support of us Californians who still believe in the separation of Church and State...the ULTIMATE Conservative (LOL) and Civil Rights for ALL!!!!

Our Democracy at work!
Jean Ann Harrison
San Diego, CA

Truthout 11/16

Henry Giroux Obama and the Promise of Education
Henry Giroux, Truthout: "Needless to say, like many Americans, I am both delighted and cautious about Barack Obama's election. Symbolically, this is an unprecedented moment in the fight against the legacy of racism while at the same time offering new possibilities for addressing how racism works in a post-Bush period."

G-20 Leaders Agree to Seek Major Financial Reform
Mark Landler, The New York Times: "Facing the gravest global economic crisis in many decades, the leaders of 20 countries agreed Saturday to work more closely to reinvigorate their economies, but put off the thornier questions of how to overhaul regulation until next year, effectively giving a major assignment to the Obama administration."

US Task Force Found Few Iranian Arms in Iraq
Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service: "Last April, top George W. Bush administration officials, desperate to exploit any possible crack in the close relationship between the Nouri al-Maliki government and Iran, launched a new round of charges that Iran had stepped up covert arms assistance to Shia militias."

"I Heard a Tap-Tap of Gunfire. But I Didn't Realize My Legs Had Gone."
Paul Harris, The Guardian UK: "As the man and woman walked slowly towards the war memorial in Chicago last week, the figure of Barack Obama was instantly recognizable. But as the pair hugged after laying a wreath in the ceremony, it was the young woman who caught the attention of the media and whose photograph flashed around the world.... The woman was Tammy Duckworth, one of the most remarkable figures to emerge from the conflict."

In Transition, Tangle of Ties to Lobbying
David D. Kirkpatrick, The New York Times: "President-elect Barack Obama has imposed stricter conflict-of-interest restrictions on his White House transition team than any president before him. But a list of transition team members that his office made public on Friday includes a complicated tangle of ties to private influence-seekers."

Illegal Mexican Immigrants or Water Refugees?
Jo-Shing Yang, AlterNet: "On October 21, 2008, the US Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne inaugurated the ground breaking of the new Imperial Valley water reservoir near the US-Mexico border. The 500-acre $172.2 million reservoir, to be completed in August 2010, will store surplus Colorado River water for use by coastal Southern California, Southern Nevada, and Central Arizona; previously this water had been flowing to Mexico and used by its cities and thousands of Mexican farmers."

FOCUS Iraqi Cabinet Approves Security Pact With US
Campbell Robertson, The New York Times: "The Iraqi cabinet voted overwhelmingly Sunday to approve the security agreement that sets the conditions for the Americans' continued presence in Iraq from Jan. 1 until the end of 2011. All but one of the 28 cabinet ministers who attended the two-and-a-half- hour session voted for the agreement and sent it to Parliament for consideration, a huge relief to the United States, which had been in intense negotiations with the Iraqis for nearly a year."

FOCUS Bob Herbert: "Drop Dead" Is Not an Option
Bob Herbert, The New York Times: "The famous Daily News headline, 'Ford to City: Drop Dead,' ran on Oct. 30, 1975. New York was on the verge of bankruptcy, and President Ford (who never actually said 'drop dead') had made it clear, after listening to conservative hard-liners both inside and outside of his administration, that he planned to veto any federal rescue plan. It was yet another case of the worshippers of abstract economic notions (let the markets run their infallible courses) ignoring the potential consequences of their smug certainties."

Weekly political wrap

From the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

On The View From Egypt, Part Two, Or, If You Can't Beat 'Em, Lock 'Em  Up  

Joe the Biden famously warned us that the new President will be tested by a foreign policy challenge--and most of us assumed that challenge would come from somewhere like Pakistan, Afghanistan...or Russia.

New developments in the Middle East are suggesting that the challenge might come from an entirely different direction.

It’s quite a story we’ve been telling--and today’s installment involves massive electoral manipulation, intimidation, imprisonment... and a recanting witness who dies in his jail cell.

Hop on board the international train, Gentle Reader, and we’ll see what we can learn about a country that is hardly an enemy...that is, in fact, such an ally that they have been willing to torture for us.

As the title notes, this is Part Two of a larger story, so let’s recap:

The Arab Republic of Egypt has been ruled by various versions of one political party more or less forever. That political party is today known as the National Democratic Party (NDP); and at its head is Egypt’s President (since 1981), Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt’s Constitution is written so as to ensure the perpetual dominance of the NDP. For example, the Government is allowed to license political parties...and may revoke that license if a Party violates the law.

Egypt’s Constitution says that “national unity” is the principle to which politics in the Republic shall adhere, which means any political party that advocates any change in the way the NDP is running things is potentially guilty of a violation of law.

The recap complete, let’s move on to new business.

There are other political groups in Egypt besides the NDP, but the opposition is kept very tightly controlled.

One opposition group that exists, but really doesn’t is Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimeen (in English, the Muslim Brotherhood).

The group has been officially banned in Egypt, but individuals “unofficially” supporting the Brotherhood have run successfully for Parliament. (In 2005, the unofficial Brotherhood candidates won 20% of Parliamentary seats.)

It is said that Mr. Mubarak allows the presence of the Brotherhood, partly to convince Americans that he and the NDP represent the only option other than Radical Islamism...and partly because his own citizens support elements of the Brotherhood’s platform.

Not unlike other Islamist political organizations, the Brotherhood also provides social services in ways the Government does not, which has also strongly connected the group to Egyptian citizens.

Some report that the Brotherhood is associated with extremists, others report that the Brotherhood has in recent decades chosen a moderate path, seeking to impose Shari’a Law through elections and other political means. It is likely that both statements are, to some degree, correct.

Partly because the Government has tolerated the Brotherhood--and partly because the Brotherhood has become powerful enough to demand it--Islamists have gained authority as de facto cultural rulemakers; which, ironically, has led to the Brotherhood acquiring the very political influence Mr. Mubarak’s Government had hoped to avoid giving away.

In an attempt to reduce that influence, there have been various crackdowns on the group....meaning that from time to time the Mubahath el-Dawla (Egyptian State Security) “rounds up the usual suspects” for a bit of intimidation, beating, and torture...with jail time applied as needed.

Other means are also used: as an example, virtually the entire slate of candidates that hoped to run as “Independent” candidates (but were widely perceived as being associated with the Brotherhood) were disqualified by the Government, with only 20 being allowed to run for the 52,000 positions available in the April 2008 elections. (These were the same candidates that had won 20% of the seats in Parliament, and it was expected that they would also do well in the local elections.)

The Brotherhood, despite the best efforts of the Government, is not the only opposition.

There have been a variety of efforts over the years to mount other “reform” candidacies; and today Egypt’s most successful reformer outside the Brotherhood is Ayman Nour.

Of course, in Egyptian politics, success is relative.

Nour, an attorney by trade, was elected to Parliament, but his first major success came just three months after he formed the El-Ghad (Tomorrow) Party in an effort to put himself in contention for Mr. Mubarak’s job in the 2005 Presidential election...when he was stripped of his Parliamentary immunity, arrested, tossed into prison, and charged with conspiring to forge some of the signatures that were on his nominating petitions.

Additional success came in the form of the Party’s newspaper being banned the day before it was scheduled to hit the newsstands.

In the subsequent trial, monitored by Human Rights Watch, the State was able to present co-defendants who admitted their own culpability in the forging of signatures, and who then named Nour as the group’s ringleader. Nour denied having ever met five of his six alleged co-conspirators.

It was alleged by Nour’s defense that Egyptian State Security had “assisted” the co-defendants with their recollection of events—and in fact, one of the co-defendants, Ayman Isma’il Hassan, recanted his testimony in open court, claiming that he was coerced into his confession.

The State Department offered this comment on December 24, 2005:

The United States is troubled by the Egyptian court decision convicting civil reformer and former presidential candidate Ayman Nour. Mr. Nour's trial has been marred by irregularities and inconsistencies, and has failed to meet the international standards of transparency and respect for rule of law that the Egyptian Government has publicly espoused.

Mr. Nour's detention and sentencing raise serious concerns about the path of political reform and democracy in Egypt, and is inconsistent with the Egyptian Government's professed commitment to increased political openness and dialogue within Egyptian society.

We note reports that Ayman Nour's health appears to be deteriorating, and we urge the Egyptian Government to consider his humanitarian release.

The United States and the international community have been following with concern the Government of Egypt's handling of Ayman Nour's case. We will continue to press for his release.

Nour received a five year sentence and was sent to the Mazra'at Tura Prison.

As it turns out, Hassan, the recanting witness, did not survive the events of the trial and his own five year sentence that followed: it is reported that he was found by his three cellmates hanged in his prison cell when they awoke one morning in September 2007.

I love a good cliffhanger...especially when they are real.

With that in mind, this is where we stop for today—but here’s what you need to know:

Nour’s story, despite the intimidation and imprisonment, is far from over.
The intimidation and imprisonment (courtesy of a Government we strongly support) isn’t over, either.

The next time we meet, there’s a lot more story to tell: the Internet becomes the opposition’s most dangerous weapon, the Government responds with “spontaneous demonstrations” and arson...and we discover that in Mr. Mubarak’s Egypt, bloggers are such a threat to public order that they are now themselves targets for torture.

Truthout 11/15

Sarkozy Backs Russian Calls for Pan-European Security Pact
Ian Traynor and Luke Harding, The Guardian UK: "President Nicolas Sarkozy of France joined Russia in condemning the Pentagon's plans to install missile defence bases in central Europe yesterday and backed President Dmitri Medvedev's previously ignored calls for a new pan-European security pact."

Obama Has More Threats Than Other Presidents-Elect
The Associated Press: "Threats against a new president historically spike right after an election, but from Maine to Idaho law enforcement officials are seeing more against Barack Obama than ever before. The Secret Service would not comment or provide the number of cases they are investigating. But since the Nov. 4 election, law enforcement officials have seen more potentially threatening writings, Internet postings and other activity directed at Obama than has been seen with any past president-elect, said officials aware of the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity because the issue of a president's security is so sensitive."

The Center for American Progress Part III: A Pro-Growth, Progressive Economic Agenda
Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, Ryan Powers and Matt Duss, The Center for American Progress: "On election day, 60 percent of voters said that the state of the economy is 'the most important issue facing the nation.' With a resounding progressive victory, the new administration has the opportunity to implement pro-growth, progressive economic policies to get the economy back on track."

Post Office $2.8 Billion in the Red
Randolph E. Schmid, The Associated Press: "The Postal Service ended its fiscal year $2.8 billion in the red, battered by a faltering economy that cut the amount of mail being sent. Postmaster General John Potter said the agency is making sharp cuts in hours and overtime, but added there are no plans for layoffs. The mail being sent dropped by 9.5 billion items."

Naomi Klein Ditch the Smooth Transition. The People Voted for Change.
Naomi Klein, The Guardian UK: "The more details emerge, the clearer it becomes that Washington's handling of the Wall Street bail-out is not merely incompetent: it is borderline criminal. In a moment of high panic in September, the US treasury pushed through a radical change in how bank mergers are taxed - a change long sought by the industry."

Dirty Money
Melissa del Bosque, The Texas Observer: "For more than a century, the American Smelting and Refining Co. extracted heavy metals from the earth, hauled them to smelters, and refined them into the lead, zinc, and copper products that fueled industry. Under the stewardship of exceedingly rich men, the company earned enormous profits while its industrial processes poisoned poor communities in nearly two dozen states. Now, with the companyÕs future in doubt, the pollution may outlive the company that produced it."

FOCUS Obama Ties Automaker Rescue to Regulation
Kendra Marr and Michael Shear, The Washington Post: "Top advisers to President-elect Barack Obama are helping to draft an auto industry rescue plan that would bring new government oversight, including the possibility of an auto czar who could ensure the money was being used wisely."

FOCUS Maliki Tells Bush He Now Backs New US Troop Deal
Leila Fadel, McClatchy Newspapers: "After months of tough negotiations and multiple revisions, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki has decided to back the controversial US-Iraq security agreement that calls for the complete withdrawal of American troops by the end of 2011, Iraqi and US officials said Friday."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Promises, promises...not so much

Erin Logan

The search for a new South Bend school superintendent could be over before it even starts.

NewsCenter 16's Erin Logan broke the story Thursday night. On the meeting agenda for November 17th is an action item that indicates Interim Superintendent James Kapsa could take the official title.

It turns out, a board member went to President Sheila Bergeron and asked that the agenda be changed to include discontinuing a superintendent search.

Bergeron says that's true, but wouldn't get into detail.

We later learned that board member was Bill Sniadecki.

Some board members are furious they knew nothing about these changes.

With the controversy and chaos after ousting its superintendent last summer, came a promise all were in favor of.

In late August, Marcia Hummel said, “Let's involve the community like we've never done before, so when the new board moves in they can even start participating.”

A week after two new board members, Stephanie Spivey and Roger Parent were elected, it seems the plan has changed.

Sniadecki requested a line be added to Monday night's agenda, "Discontinue superintendent search and appoint James M. Kapsa Superintendent of schools."

Sniadecki says, “I would not have moved forward with this if I didn't have their consent. They're totally in favor of it.”

Spivey tells us she doesn't want any involvement in this decision, until she's sworn in at the start of the year.

Parent told NewsCenter 16 last week that he fully supports naming Kapsa superintendent.

In favor or not, the longest serving board member, Marcia Hummel, says rules have already been broken. The entire board was not involved in this change made to the agenda.

Hummel says, not to mention, the board's promise to the community to do a national search. They've already had one consulting group present, and two more are scheduled next week.

We asked Sniadecki, “Why not a national search?”

He said, “I guess I think where we're at right now, it's not the time to bring in a new person. I've been watching Kapsa close for the last three to four months and he's doing an adequate job. We have to do budget cuts. We have a lot of contracts we've got to settle. Him getting the permanent superintendent will give him a little more authority to be able to do that.”

Sniadecki doesn't deny there are three board members who are still in favor of doing the national search.

FP summary 11/14

Top Story

Hopes could not be much lower for the Group of 20 summit that begins tomorrow in Washington.
The summit, conceived by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and grudgingly agreed to by outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush, is ostensibly aimed at addressing the financial crisis that has frozen credit markets and sent many of the world's leading economies into a dizzying tailspin.
But with Bush's political capital approaching zero, President-elect Barack Obama playing his cards close to the chest, and policymakers at odds on what to do, it will be surprising if much of substance is decided this weekend. Bush stressed in remarks yesterday that he would resist calls to impose regulations he sees as too strict. "The crisis was not a failure of the free market system. And the answer is not to try to reinvent that system," he said.
Differing expectations could doom the summit to an acrimonious ending. "Let this be very clear," Sarkozy, who is pushing for sweeping changes to the global financial architecture, warned last week. "If I don't get concrete results, I'll take off. I'll leave Washington and come home." His finance minister, Christine Lagarde, is more circumspect, telling reporters, "I'm not suggesting we will find solutions or have big announcements that will thrill the media or political observers."
"A lot of people are talking about 'Bretton Woods II,' IMF chairman Dominique Strauss-Kahn cautions, "The words sound nice but we are not going to create a new international treaty."
What would be a realistic, if less-than-thrilling outcome? Brad Setser of the Council on Foreign Relations expects world leaders to produce "an agreement to start putting in place principles for reforms, and then agree to meet again."
At a minimum, Mark Landler of the New York Times says, the summit will clarify "how completely the crisis is reshaping the economic map -- rendering obsolete the old club of Western powers that fashioned the financial pillars of the post-World War II era."
The festivities kick off with a working dinner at the White House tonight.

U.S. Presidential Transition
Hillary Clinton is reportedly emerging as a serious contender to become secretary of state. CNN says that, as of yesterday evening, the transition team had not contacted her about taking the position.
Defense insiders expect President-elect Obama to make Richard Danzig his defense secretary, according to the the Army Times.
Politico reports that Larry Summers may be off the short list for Treasury secretary.

Nearly 2,000 Chileans were not notified that they carried HIV.
Brazil's once-hot economy is being pummeled by the global financial crisis.
Election-related violence is rocking Nicaragua.

North Korea is ratcheting up its war of words with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.
Fresh U.S. airstrikes killed 12 people in Pakistan's tribal belt.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will now detain certain Chinese food products at the border, where they must prove to be melamine-free.
At least 67,000 factories closed in China during the first half of 2008.

Middle East and Africa
Small, but deadly "sticky bombs" are becoming a weapon of choice in Iraq.
The American University in Iraq is finding success in only its second year.
Hamas fired a fresh round of rockets into Israel.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah expects Obama will be more of the same.

Russia's parliament is fast-tracking a bill to extend the presidential term to six years.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who has been harshly criticized in Europe for his cold welcome of the U.S. president-elect, expects to meet with Obama "very soon."
The eurozone is officially in recession, according to EU figures.

Today's Agenda
The EU is wrapping up its first summit with Russia after the Georgian war.
U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks at a conference in Frankfurt, Germany.
The executive director of the International Energy Agency briefs the Japanese press on the latest World Energy Outlook.

Protest Discrimination Tomorrow in SB!

There will be a protest at the South Bend county-city building at 12:30pm this Saturday. This is a nationwide event to protest recent discriminatory legislation.

Join the Impact

South Bend Protest

Truthout roundup 11/14

Mottern and Rau Iraqi Clerics Contracting in US Prisons
Nick Mottern and Bill Rau, Truthout: "When Iraqi imams sit down with prisoners at a US detention center in Iraq to discuss Islam, they are working for a subsidiary of Global Innovation (GI) Partners LLP, a California- and London-based private equity firm that claims to have '$2 billion in capital under management.' GI Partners sells, among other things: base maintenance for US military forces in Iraq; psychiatric care in the United Kingdom; in-room television and movies for hotels; wine, movie production studios and pubs."

Democrats to White House: Preserve Your Records
Pamela Hess, The Associated Press: "Senate Democrats on the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees last week told the White House to preserve all records produced by the Bush administration and expressed 'particular concerns' whether Vice President Dick Cheney's office will comply with the law. 'We believe it is vital the presidential and vice presidential documents belonging to the American people be preserved, including those related to key national security decisions in which the (office of the vice president) played an important role,' the senators wrote in the Nov. 7 letter to White House lawyer Fred Fielding. The letter was obtained by The Associated Press."

Is 60 Back in Play?
The Politico: "The dream of 60 Senate seats simply refuses to die - with positive signs suddenly popping up for Democrats in all three unresolved races. Around 1 a.m. EST, news that Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich has inched ahead of Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens rekindled flagging Democratic hopes they would reach the mythical filibuster-proof majority."

Deal Reached to Remove Klamath River Dams
Eric Bailey, The Los Angeles Times: "The Bush administration today announced a nonbinding agreement to uproot four hydropower dams that have blocked the migration of imperiled salmon up the troubled Klamath River, a project that could amount to the biggest dam removal in history. But the deal, which could require fiscally strapped California to finance $250 million of the demolition costs, came under immediate attack from foes who called it a scheme riddled with loopholes that favor farmers and other allies of the outgoing president."

Bloomberg Sues the Fed for Bailout Disclosure
Charley James, The LA Progressive: "Lost in the wake of Henry Paulson's announcement Wednesday that Treasury is 'changing direction' in how it doles out money in the bank rescue plan is a little-noticed lawsuit filed last Friday by Bloomberg LP, the business news wire service. It is suing the Federal Reserve Board's governors for public records that would answer two simple questions: Who is receiving $2 trillion in Fed loans and what collateral are taxpayers getting to support them? That's trillion, with a 't.' And, yes, as hard as it is to believe, taxpayers don't know the identity of the borrowers to whom they are lending. They also don't know what kind of junk - Stocks? Bonds? Three milk cows and a '69 Camaro? - they are getting to collateralize the federal loans."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Oh...hate to hate you, Baby...

Today's South Bend Tribune carried a letter from Joe Sergio which demonized Nancy Mascotte for advocating equal protection under the law for our citizens characterized as being of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered community. His words are in red.

Nancy Mascotte's letter on Oct. 7 should be a real eye-opener to those who haven't been following the efforts by the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transsexual group to enact special rights for those professing to engage in these sexual behaviors.

Wow, is that a loaded statement. Special rights? Professing? When you have no decent argument, it's important to stick to the published talking points.

After analyzing years of information, this group not only failed to demonstrate discrimination against GLBT, but they only evoked disagreement with their efforts.

Someone will need to translate this into English. I have no idea what this even means.

During this time, Mascotte and others attacked many of our largest and most community-oriented employers, including Martin's Super Markets, Memorial Hopital and Wal-Mart, during these public
hearings for, among other things, not allowing men to use women's bathrooms and visa versa. With the mantra of the South Bend community as being "intolerant," Mascotte and the GLBT leaders continue to demonstrate their hypocrisy by chanting "intolerance," while themselves demonstrating intolerance with those who dare to disagree with their conclusions.

It's hard to know whether to laugh or cry. Wal-Mart community oriented?

I happen to know Nancy. If I get her to drop the demand of unisex bathrooms - are we good?

Now they are demonizing leaders like Jay Dunlap, who lovingly oppose them. Those in the community who know Dunlap recognize him as an educated, thoughtful gentleman, father and husband. Mascotte's characterization is outright bizarre. The GLBT community should stop the vicious personal attacks and stop calling anyone who disagrees with them bigots, fanatics, extremists and hatemongers.

Joe Sergio
South Bend

Nancy's letter follows. See if you can find the vicious personal attacks. See if you can find the bizarre characterizations. Seems to me that Joe makes Nancy's point nicely.

Let's remember that Mr. Sergio was a principal financier of the memorable Juan Manigault campaign, which turned on the idea that South Bend is nothing but a dung heap. I guess that's "loving opposition".

Jay Dunlap (Voice, Sept. 25) states in his letter opposing adding gender identity and sexual orientation to South Bend's Human Rights Ordinance that "As the opposition, we carefully analyzed whether the gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered community needs protection against discrimination." He then goes on to make denigrating generalizations about the GLBT community. Isn't this one of the hallmarks of discrimination? My hope is that when others hear this "loving opposition" they will see it for what it is: The kind of hateful perceptions based on ignorance that are precisely what the GLBT members of our community need to be protected from.

Many people I speak with about this concern have no idea that a GLBT person living in South Bend can be refused service, fired from a position or refused housing simply because of their gender identity or sexual orientation or the perception that they may be GLBT, with no recourse. You can imagine where this would leave them if a person like Dunlap or another person from the "loving opposition" were in

Please, South Bend, the 21st Century City, let's get it right the next time this issue comes before the Common Council.

Nancy Mascotte
South Bend

It's time for the silent majority to become vocal. Write the people you know and ask them to oppose the "loving posers". Look at your email contacts and even ask people you think might not support you. They may surprise you.

Let's flood the South Bend Tribune with the message that South Bend, Indiana is better than this.

Don Wheeler

FP morning brief 11/13

U.S. Presidential Transition
President-elect Obama is sending former Iowa Rep. Jim Leach and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as his representatives to the G-20 summit.
The Obama team signaled it will be taking swift action on climate change.
The New York Times looks at what it takes to get a top job with Obama.
The Boston Globe previews Obama's technology policy.

Thousands of Colombians rioted against investment scams.
U.S. experts believe the plane crash that killed Mexico's interior minister was an accident.

A suicide bomber killed at least 19 people in eastern Afghanistan, while a tanker bomb in Kandahar killed at least six.
China denied having a hand in the arrest of former Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian, who has gone on hunger strike to protest his detention.
North Korea says it will no longer allow nuclear samples.

Middle East and Africa
An Iraqi soldier shot and killed two U.S. troops in western Mosul.
Iran suddenly doesn't seem so excited about talking to the incoming Obama administration.
Israeli President Shimon Peres had kind words for Saudi Arabia's peace plan.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says Russia is "ready to abandon" its plan to put missiles on the Polish border if the United States "decides to abandon its anti-missile system."
The U.S. military insists its missile defense technology is farther along than President-elect Obama, who has expressed doubts about the system, thinks.
Speaking in Estonia, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged Moscow not to see NATO expansion as a threat.
The New York Times chronicles the woes of post-boom London.

Today's Agenda
U.S. Vice President-elect Joe Biden visits Dick Cheney at the Naval Observatory, the vice president's official residence.
President Bush is due to address the U.N.'s "interfaith dialogue" event in New York, after which he'll speak on the financial crisis.
Financier George Soros testifies on hedge funds before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Hedge funds lost $100 billion in October.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai updates British PM Gordon Brown on the status of talks with the Taliban.

Truthout 11/13

William Rivers Pitt Back to the Grind
William Rivers Pitt, Truthout: "Barack Obama's victory in the 2008 presidential election has completely and totally screwed up my life. Seriously. It has been more than a week now, and I'm still not quite ready to deal with this brave new world before me.... This weird ennui is, of course, nothing more than an extension of the aftermath of having worked against George W. Bush and all he stands for lo these last eight years."

Senator Stevens's Lead Vanishes
The Associated Press: "Democrat Mark Begich took a 3-vote lead Wednesday in his effort to topple 40-year Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, a titan of Alaska politics who was convicted of felony charges in a federal trial last month. Begich, the two-term mayor of Anchorage, began Wednesday down more than 3,200 votes, but closed the gap as officials resumed counting early and absentee ballots."

Treasury Scraps Original Bailout Plan as Economy Worsens
Kevin G. Hall, McClatchy Newspapers: "Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's surprise announcement Wednesday that he'll shift from purchasing troubled assets under the $700 billion Wall Street rescue plan is likely to result in spending taxpayers' dollars to shore up unregulated financial institutions that aren't banks but are vital to consumer lending."

Garrison Keillor Sitting on Top of the World
Garrison Keillor, The Chicago Tribune: "Be happy, dear hearts, and allow yourselves a few more weeks of quiet exultation. It isn't gloating, it's satisfaction at a job well done. He was a superb candidate, serious, professorial but with a flashing grin and a buoyancy that comes from working out in the gym every morning. He spoke in a genuine voice, not senatorial at all. He relished campaigning. He accepted adulation gracefully. He brandished his sword against his opponents without mocking or belittling them. He was elegant, unaffected, utterly American, and now (Wow) suddenly America is cool. Chicago is cool. Chicago!!!"

William O. Beeman Obama's Iranian Opening
William O. Beeman, New America Media: "President-elect Barack Obama has a serious opening to improving relations with Iran, if he knows how to exercise it. Unfortunately, his transition advisory team is weak on Middle East affairs, and almost non-existent on Iran. This leaves the president-elect prey to the same forces that have tried to sabotage progress on rapprochement with Iran during the Bush administration."

The Chronicles of Favilla America and the Mornings After the Party
The authors, writing as the Chronicles of Favilla for France's premier business paper, Les Echos, review the challenges that will face the Obama administration.

Herve Kempf: Taking Responsibility for a Historic Crisis
Leslie Thatcher, Truthout: "On Wednesday, November 5, 2008, Le Monde's environmental editor and author of 'How the Rich Are Destroying the Earth,' Herve Kempf, spoke to a large audience at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, where the Master of Arts in Sustainable Communities (MASC) Program and several other departments sponsored his presentation. MASC Chair Dr. Sandra Lubarsky suggested it was the most radical presentation the program had sponsored in some time: Mr. Kempf did indeed say it was not an exaggeration to call the wealth currently locked up in tax havens 'stolen.'"

John Feffer The North Korean Conundrum
John Feffer, "As Barack Obama assembles his foreign policy team, he appears to be drawing from two primary sources: the Clinton faithful and Republican renegades. These old dogs might be up for some new tricks, but one risk of relying on such 'experience' could be the triumph of conventional thinking in Washington - when the world expects, and the times demand, fundamental change."

Obama Sending Albright, Leach to Economic Summit
Julianna Goldman, Bloomberg: "President-elect Barack Obama named former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Republican Rep. Jim Leach as his emissaries to the international economic summit in Washington."

Nouriel Roubini The Worst Is Not Behind Us
Nouriel Roubini, Forbes: "It is useful, at this juncture, to stand back and survey the economic landscape - both as it is now, and as it has been in recent months. So here is a summary of many of the points that I have made for the last few months on the outlook for the US and global economy, as well as for financial markets."

Navy Wins, Whales Lose US Supreme Court Sonar Case
J.R. Pegg, Environment News Service: "The US Supreme Court today lifted restrictions on the Navy's use of sonar off the coast of California, handing a defeat to environmentalists who say the limits are needed to protect whales and dolphins. The court, in a 6-3 decision, ruled that a lower court judge had wrongly allowed the environmental impacts of the training exercises to trump US national security interests."

Jobless Claims Jump Unexpectedly to Seven-Year High
Christopher S. Rugaber, The Associated Press: "The number of newly laid-off individuals seeking unemployment benefits has jumped to a level not seen since just after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as companies cut more jobs in the face of a slowing economy."

Domestic Violence Abusers Could Get Gun Rights
David G. Savage, The Los Angeles Times: "The Supreme Court will decide whether people convicted of misdemeanor assault against their spouses or partners should have their Second Amendment rights restored because of a flaw in federal law."

Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans Facing PTSD Join the Homeless
Anna Sussman, The San Francisco Chronicle: "Ethan Kreutzer joined the Army at the age of 17 and fought with the 19th Airborne in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. When he returned home, he had no money, no education and no civilian job experience. He soon became homeless. He slept in an alley off Haight Street, behind two trash cans."

Minnesota Senate Race Never-Ending Campaign
Patrick Condon, The Associated Press: "There are no voters left to persuade. But as Minnesota's US Senate race heads toward a statewide recount, the bare-knuckle fight between Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken feels like Election Day had never come and gone."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Truthout 11/12

Richard Cohen Obama's Cabinet: Start With Al Gore
Richard Cohen, The Washington Post: "If there is a single appointment Barack Obama could make to signal how dramatically things will change in Washington, it would be to name Albert Gore Jr. -- former House member, former senator, former vice president, former presidential nominee and current Custodian of the Planet -- as secretary of state. For all the other aspirants to the job, sorry -- this is an inconvenient truth."

Guantanamo Closure Called Obama Priority
Peter Finn, The Washington Post: "The Obama administration will launch a review of the classified files of the approximately 250 detainees at Guantanamo Bay immediately after taking office, as part of an intensive effort to close the U.S. prison in Cuba, according to people who advised the campaign on detainee issues. Announcing the closure of the controversial detention facility would be among the most potent signals the incoming administration could send of its sharp break with the Bush era, according to the advisers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak for the president-elect."

New Federal Mortgage Plan Offers Relief to Only a Few
Kevin G. Hall, McClatchy Newspapers: "The Bush administration on Tuesday announced another plan to modify what it thinks will be hundreds of thousands of distressed mortgages held or backed by mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But the plan, more than 15 months into a deep nationwide housing slump, is far short of the moratorium on foreclosures sought by President-elect Barack Obama and the Democrats who next year will have stronger control of Congress."

Veterans' Families Seek Aid for Caregiver Role
Leslie Kaufman, The New York Times: "Tracy Keil met her husband, Matt, in August 2005 between his first and second tours of duty in Iraq. They married in January 2007. Six weeks later, Staff Sergeant Keil was shot in the neck while on patrol in Ramadi, Iraq, and rendered a quadriplegic.... She tried to hire others to help her, a service that is paid for by the government, but after going through four workers in nine months she gave up. She said many of the caregivers from contractors on the government-provided list 'were awful.' One did not know how to use the lift system that hoists Mr. Keil out of bed; another gossiped about the family's private business. But the real problem was that even the good caregivers could not help Mr. Keil live as he wanted."

Lobbyists Swarm the Treasury for a Helping of the Bailout Pie
Mark Lander and David D. Kirkpatrick, The New York Times: "When the government said it would spend $700 billion to rescue the nation's financial industry, it seemed to be an ocean of money. But after one of the biggest lobbying free-for-alls in memory, it suddenly looks like a dwindling pool. Many new supplicants are lining up for an infusion of capital as billions of dollars are channeled to other beneficiaries like the American International Group, and possibly soon American Express."

FP roundup 11/12

U.S. Presidential Transition
Top intelligence officals expect to lose their jobs when Obama takes power.
Closing the Guantanamo Bay prison is said to be a priority for the incoming Obama administration, but potential snags remain.

Joshua Partlow analyzes the return of the Shining Path, the Peruvian rebel group.
Time profiles a site in Mexico that reenacts the trauma of crossing illegally into the United States.

A U.S. aid offical was shot dead in Peshawar, Pakistan.
North Korea threatened to close its land border with South Korea.
A Chinese company has signed a $3.5 billion oil deal with Iraq.
Fourteen democracy activists in Burma received harsh prison sentences.

Middle East and Africa
Iran test-fired new missiles along its border with Iraq.
Voters in Jerusalem rejected the ultra-Orthodox incumbent and elected Nir Barkat, a secularist, as mayor.
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir announced an "immediate unconditional ceasefire" in Darfur.
Insurgents have seized control of Merka, a port city in Somalia.

Norway leads the world in closing the gender gap, according to new rankings by the World Economic Forum.
British unemployment has reached its highest rate since 1997. British PM Gordon Brown is calling on governments to coordinate their stimulus plans.
Europeans are wondering whether they can have their own Obamas.

Today's Agenda
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is attending a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Estonia to discuss Ukraine's NATO bid.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is holding a 10:30 a.m. press conference on the $700 billion Wall Street bailout.
The U.S. Geological Survey is due to release an unprecedented study of the world's natural gas resources.

A way to help Pet Refuge

Welcome to The Animal Rescue Site $100,000 Shelter+ Challenge — brought to you by Petfinder.

Now you can help Pet Refuge try to win the Shelter Challenge by voting daily! Simply click on the link on the Pet Refuge web site. You can cast one vote every day. Type in the name, Pet Refuge, located in Indiana.

Elizabeth M. Karle, MLIS
Cushwa-Leighton Library
Saint Mary's College
Notre Dame, IN 46556
(574) 284-5396

John Edwards at IU Bloomington

By DEANNA MARTIN Associated Press

John Edwards didn't have to dodge tough questions from an Indiana University audience Tuesday, when the former presidential candidate returned to the stage three months after admitting to an extramarital affair.

Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards speaks at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2008 three months after he acknowledged an affair with a woman hired to produce... (Associated Press)

The Democrat's 30-minute speech covered politics, poverty and his hopes for America and the world and he later discussed President-elect Obama and other topics from the audience.

But the half-hour question-and-answer period featured only written queries that had been submitted before his speech _ and the affair he has acknowledged with filmmaker Rielle Hunter didn't surface.

After his public statements in August, Edwards said he did not plan to speak about the affair again.

Sophomore Mariela Colindres told the Indiana Daily Student she thought Edwards was right not to address the affair during the speech.

"Nothing he could have said to make it better, plus it's a personal issue," she said.

Graduate student Kortnee Warner agreed.

"I heard about some of those issues," Warner told the student newspaper. "It happens more than you realize it. I didn't make any character judgments."

In response to questions from the audience, Edwards praised Hillary Rodham Clinton's leadership and said his favorite superhero is Superman.

He said Obama's victory showed what was right with America.

Edwards said he wants to live in a country where everyone has a real opportunity regardless of their background. "In many ways, Barack Obama symbolizes what's possible in America," he said.

Edwards also said election results in North Carolina and Indiana showed that the country was ready for change. Obama won both states that President Bush won in 2004.

He also said Obama's campaign did well by discussing the war, the economy, health care and energy _ things the electorate cared about.

"He focused on the things that really mattered," Edwards said.

He also said the intense and exhausting primary season helped Obama.

"That long, drawn-out, tough process played a role in making him a better candidate," Edwards said. "He was well-prepared for this general election campaign."

Edwards said Obama's most important job would be outlining his long-term vision, then getting global cooperation to help solve problems such as climate change, the economy and poverty.

"America cannot solve these problems alone," Edwards said.

Edwards spoke to a friendly crowd in the heavily Democratic college town. The audience applauded throughout the speech.

Edwards said young voters can make an enormous difference on the political stage and also bring fresh enthusiasm to the process.

"Your voice needs to be heard," he said.

Edwards said he wants to continue working for poor people struggling to survive in America and abroad, whether he remains in politics or not.

"That's what I want to spend my life doing," he said.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Orleans

More than a year later, what has changed? Let's take a trip down memory lane.............

A Death in Patchogue

The editors
New York Times

Marcello Lucero was killed late Saturday night near the commuter railroad station in Patchogue, N.Y., a middle-class village in central Long Island. He was beaten and stabbed. The friend who crouched beside him in a parking lot as he lay dying, soaked in blood, said Mr. Lucero, who was 37, had come to the United States 16 years ago from Ecuador.

The police arrested seven teenage boys, who they said had driven into the village from out of town looking for Latinos to beat up. The police said the mob cornered Mr. Lucero and another man, who escaped and later identified the suspects to the police. A prosecutor at the arraignment on Monday quoted the young men as having said: “Let’s go find some Mexicans.” They have pleaded not guilty.

The county executive, Steve Levy, quickly issued a news release denouncing this latest apparent hate crime in Suffolk County. That should be the first and least of the actions he and other leaders take.

A possible lynching in a New York suburb should be more than enough to force this country to acknowledge the bitter chill that has overcome Latinos in these days of rage against illegal immigration.

The atmosphere began to darken when Republican politicians decided a few years ago to exploit immigration as a wedge issue. They drafted harsh legislation to criminalize the undocumented. They cheered as vigilantes streamed to the border to confront the concocted crisis of Spanish-speaking workers sneaking in to steal jobs and spread diseases. Cable personalities and radio talk-show hosts latched on to the issue. Years of effort in Congress to assemble a responsible overhaul of the immigration system failed repeatedly. Its opponents wanted only to demonize and punish the Latino workers on which the country had come to depend.

A campaign of raids and deportations, led by federal agents with help from state and local posses, has become so pervasive that nearly 1 in 10 Latinos, including citizens and legal immigrants, have told of being stopped and asked about their immigration status, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Now that the economy is in free fall, the possibility of scapegoating is deepening Hispanic anxiety.

It is not yet clear how closely connected Mr. Lucero’s murder is to this broad wave of xenophobia. But there is both a message and opportunity here for officials like Mr. Levy, an immigration hard-liner whose relations with his rapidly growing Latino immigrant constituency have been strained by past crises and confrontations.

Deadly violence represents the worst fear that immigrants deal with every day, but it is not the only one. It must be every leader’s task to move beyond easy outrage and take on the difficult job of understanding and defending a community so vulnerable to sudden outbreaks of hostility and terror.

Safety and comfort downtown - and the cost

Recently, a law enforcement professional was asked for an opinion about a strategy to make people feel comfortable about being downtown in the later hours. It should be noted that this person had previously recounted routine situations which wouldn't increase anyone's comfort level.

From the South Bend Forum, by XXL:

I say a "downtown unit'" of say four officers.

Work a staggered shift. Flex hours for special events.

Not responsible for anything but a (revised) beat map area comprised of roughly tracks on south, memorial on north, Lafayette/William on west and Niles Ave on the east.

These four will work in pairs, primarily biking and walking patrols.

Aggressively patrol the area, especially garages, parking lots and alleys. Traffic too- lots of red lights- lots being run. This can be done on a variable basis as needed/time.

This unit would also monitor the downtown cameras, which are not watched by anyone for any real purpose.
-Have a civilian officer (CVO?) in a small Ranger or S10 have the lights on and be in this area to assist with traffic/directing problems, maybe some parking enforcement, help with goodwill things like jump starts, maybe lockouts, etc as an extra resource, esp. during special events and such. I guess you could do this with DTSB 'ambassadors' too?

Police visibility is the key here. Pulling the downtown officer and sending them everywhere NE or NW to cover thinly staffed and broad beat areas- for a dept. that is already extremely busy- just shows there is not an officer around for a long period. If the funding was there to saturate the area, then people would see them and hence fel 'safer'.

Have the city work on closing down "problem" liquor stores. East Race, Joes and Franks comes to mind. By zoning, eliminate them from this area. No booze, no habitual drunks.

As always- where is the money coming from? To do this and make it a priority (versus Boykins' outstanding idea of a citywide street crimes unit, or a traffic unit, or just 2 badly needed extra staffed beat additions to the city map... which so far there is no manpower for these things) you need people and money.

Do the math. 4 officers- 50k salary to keep it even is 200k a year. On a 6/3 rotation there is still 3 days a week that no officers would be working then, and I don't think the contract will let you split these officers from that to a say Tu-Sat schedule. So now you realistically need 6 officers in two man teams to cover a 9 day rotation. For one 8 hour block. So then you could at least do a staggered coverage for those 8 hours. If you had a thriving downtown you would want say 16 hour coverage... So now you need 8 officers= 400k a year. Where does the city have an extra 200k a year (plus equipment, overtime padding, etc.. so say you need 500K to REALLY do it up right and make the downtown look and feel safe.

Last I heard the city does not have 500K for public safety (I'll save the 1.5 Mil gates buyout aside). Even if they did, that 500K to the police budget, in this city, is really needed for other things first (like the street crimes unit. A real gang/gang intel unit. a traffic enforcement unit) We need more beat cops to add to NW and SE corridors. May as well add one more that will be needed NE too once Eddy Commons opens up too- that staffing alone for three beats, 24/7 is 500k.

There is just NO money. No manpower for hiring. To be effective in the city as a whole, manpower and staffing for an extra 2 million could be appropriated by the chief on these ideas within about 15 minutes of planning. And that 2 mil is for just one year of adding to the police force. Where does that money come from year after year? Especially when the city demands trimming the fat because 'times are tough'.

Sad to say this thread will never happen because of the 'keepin it real' post here.

Truthout 11/11

Steve Weissman Will Ahmed No-Pack Rain on Obama's Parade?
Steve Weissman, Truthout: "If state officials across the country ever count all the absentee and provisional ballots, Obama's popular vote might equal his landslide victory in the Electoral College, adding weight to his overwhelming mandate to fix the economy, end our dependence on foreign oil, create green jobs, provide health care and mend our broken schools. But how much will all our votes count if, at a time of reduced resources, the Obama administration allows foreign conflicts to sink his promises on the home front?"

Probe Sought of Bush Handling of Alaska Oil-Spill Case
Renee Schoof, McClatchy Newspapers: "An environmental watchdog group asked the Department of Justice's inspector general on Monday to investigate whether the department had prematurely halted a criminal prosecution of BP for a 2006 oil spill in Alaska. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed the complaint on behalf of Scott West, who as the special agent in charge for the Environmental Protection Agency participated in the federal and state investigation of the spill."

Judge Again Rules White House Must Release Email
The Associated Press: "A federal judge on Monday ruled against the Bush administration in a court battle over the White House's problem-plagued e-mail system. With two-and-a-half months remaining before the Bush administration leaves office, U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy ruled that two private groups may pursue their case as they press the government to recover millions of possibly missing electronic messages."

Rivalry Breaks Out Over Congress's Top Energy Spot
Rob Hotakainen, McClatchy Newspapers: "In the first big post-election clash on Capitol Hill, two House heavyweights are battling to lead an influential committee that will have jurisdiction over global warming in the new Congress. The fight pits California Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, a key ally of environmentalists, against Democratic Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, who has ties to the auto industry."

Dean Steps Down as DNC Chair
Adam Nagourney, The New York Times: "Howard Dean will not seek a second term as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, ending a tenure marked by an aggressive attempt to reshape the mission of the committee - and to court support by the so-called Netroots - but also marked by frequent quarrels with Democratic leaders over his abilities and the direction he was taking the party. Mr. Dean's decision not to seek a second-term was expected after the victory of a Democrat, Barack Obama, in the presidential election last week. New presidents typically install their own leaders of their political party."

Maya Schenwar In Final Days, Bush Pushes for Iraq's Oil
Maya Schenwar, Truthout: "As the Bush administration rumbles to an end, it is pushing with increasing urgency for a commitment to a long-term US presence in Iraq. Though the military aspect of this 'commitment' has garnered substantial publicity, the administration is equally invested in the economic aspect: securing US control over Iraqi oil before Bush leaves office, according to experts in the field."

Fed Defies Transparency in $2 Trillion Loans
Mark Pittman, Bob Ivry and Alison Fitzgerald, Bloomberg: "The Federal Reserve is refusing to identify the recipients of almost $2 trillion of emergency loans from American taxpayers or the troubled assets the central bank is accepting as collateral. Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said in September they would comply with congressional demands for transparency in a $700 billion bailout of the banking system. Two months later, as the Fed lends far more than that in separate rescue programs that didn't require approval by Congress, Americans have no idea where their money is going or what securities the banks are pledging in return."

Bill Quigley Anger and Hope: Haitian Families Furious Over School Collapse
Bill Quigley, Truthout: "'No one cares about the children, living or dead,' one furious father of children in the collapsed school outside of Port au Prince, Haiti, swore Sunday in an interview. 'No one has come to provide any counseling to the children and families who survived. Nothing has been done for the families whose children died. The children now have no school and no books. They are sick and have nightmares. Government officials and people from all the NGOs, they all come, take pictures, make speeches and they leave us with nothing. We need action!'"

George Packer The New Liberalism: How the Economic Crisis Can Help Obama Redefine the Democrats
George Packer, The New Yorker: "Barack Obama's decisive defeat of John McCain is the most important victory of a Democratic candidate since 1932. It brings to a close another conservative era, one that rose amid the ashes of the New Deal coalition in the late sixties, consolidated its power with the election of Ronald Reagan, in 1980. Obama will enter the White House at a moment of economic crisis worse than anything the nation has seen since the Great Depression; the old assumptions of free-market fundamentalism have, like a charlatan's incantations, failed to work, and the need for some 'new machinery' is painfully obvious. But what philosophy of government will characterize it?"

Legality of Same-Sex Marriage Ban Challenged
Ashley Surdin, The Washington Post: "The future of same-sex marriage in the Golden State will rest, once again, in the hands of its highest court. But this time, its fate will hinge on a different question: Can a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage go before voters? Or must it go before the legislature first?"

FP roundup 11/11

The U.S. Treasury Department may need to commit more than $100 billion to Fannie Mae after the mortgage company posted $29 billion in net losses during the third quarter. Also, Treasury may need to ask Congress for more funds to keep insurer AIG afloat.
The Washingon Post wonders if the federal bailouts are actually making these companies' problems worse.
Asian and European markets moved lower in Tuesday trading.

Mexico is hedging nearly all its oil exports.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon named a new interior minister to replace the one killed in a helicopter accident last week.
Caracas, Venezuela, has become a salon for international leftists.

Pakistan's military is destroying the Taliban stronghold of Bajaur in order to save it.
Chen Shui-bian, Taiwan's former president, was shown on TV in handcuffs but has yet to be arrested on corruption charges.
Time magazine's Simon Elegant wonders if China is launching its own version of the New Deal.

Middle East and Africa
Iran's conservatives are closing ranks behind President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The Sunni fighters known as "Sons of Iraq" are leaving the U.S. payroll.
Syria accuses Lebanon's main Sunni party of funding al Qaeda-linked militants.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is moving ahead with plans to form a government.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi isn't the only European politician making racially charged comments about Barack Obama.
The ethnically Georgian town of Perevi is becoming a flashpoint as Russian troops withdraw, leaving South Ossetians forces in control.
German investor confidence is on the rise, surprisingly.

Today's Agenda
Today's in Veterans' Day in the United States.
European leaders are commemorating the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I.
Jerusalem, a city in decline, holds its mayoral election after a bizarre campaign.
Maldives swears in its first new president in three decades.

Darkness at dusk

New York Times

It’s only been a week since the defeat, but the battle lines have already been drawn in the fight over the future of conservatism.

In one camp, there are the Traditionalists, the people who believe that conservatives have lost elections because they have strayed from the true creed. George W. Bush was a big-government type who betrayed conservatism. John McCain was a Republican moderate, and his defeat discredits the moderate wing.

To regain power, the Traditionalists argue, the G.O.P. should return to its core ideas: Cut government, cut taxes, restrict immigration. Rally behind Sarah Palin.

Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are the most prominent voices in the Traditionalist camp, but there is also the alliance of Old Guard institutions. For example, a group of Traditionalists met in Virginia last weekend to plot strategy, including Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. According to reports, the attendees were pleased that the election wiped out some of the party’s remaining moderates. “There’s a sense that the Republicans on Capitol Hill are freer of wobbly-kneed Republicans than they were before the election,” the writer R. Emmett Tyrrell told a reporter.

The other camp, the Reformers, argue that the old G.O.P. priorities were fine for the 1970s but need to be modernized for new conditions. The reformers tend to believe that American voters will not support a party whose main idea is slashing government. The Reformers propose new policies to address inequality and middle-class economic anxiety. They tend to take global warming seriously. They tend to be intrigued by the way David Cameron has modernized the British Conservative Party.

Moreover, the Reformers say, conservatives need to pay attention to the way the country has changed. Conservatives have to appeal more to Hispanics, independents and younger voters. They cannot continue to insult the sensibilities of the educated class and the entire East and West Coasts.

The Reformist view is articulated most fully by books, such as “Comeback” by David Frum and “Grand New Party” by Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam, as well as the various writings of people like Ramesh Ponnuru, Yuval Levin, Jim Manzi, Rod Dreher, Peggy Noonan and, at the moderate edge, me.

The debate between the camps is heating up. Only one thing is for sure: In the near term, the Traditionalists are going to win the fight for supremacy in the G.O.P.

They are going to win, first, because Congressional Republicans are predominantly Traditionalists. Republicans from the coasts and the upper Midwest are largely gone. Among the remaining members, the popular view is that Republicans have been losing because they haven’t been conservative enough.

Second, Traditionalists have the institutions. Over the past 40 years, the Conservative Old Guard has built up a movement of activist groups, donor networks, think tanks and publicity arms. The reformists, on the other hand, have no institutions.

There is not yet an effective Republican Leadership Council to nurture modernizing conservative ideas. There is no moderate Club for Growth, supporting centrist Republicans. The Public Interest, which used to publish an array of public policy ideas, has closed. Reformist Republican donors don’t seem to exist. Any publication or think tank that headed in an explicitly reformist direction would be pummeled by its financial backers. National candidates who begin with reformist records — Giuliani, Romney or McCain — immediately tack right to be acceptable to the power base.

Finally, Traditionalists own the conservative mythology. Members of the conservative Old Guard see themselves as members of a small, heroic movement marching bravely from the Heartland into belly of the liberal elite. In this narrative, anybody who deviates toward the center, who departs from established doctrine, is a coward, and a sellout.

This narrative happens to be mostly bogus at this point. Most professional conservatives are lifelong Washingtonians who live comfortably as organization heads, lobbyists and publicists. Their supposed heroism consists of living inside the large conservative cocoon and telling each other things they already agree with. But this embattled-movement mythology provides a rational for crushing dissent, purging deviationists and enforcing doctrinal purity. It has allowed the old leaders to define who is a true conservative and who is not. It has enabled them to maintain control of (an ever more rigid) movement.

In short, the Republican Party will probably veer right in the years ahead, and suffer more defeats. Then, finally, some new Reformist donors and organizers will emerge. They will build new institutions, new structures and new ideas, and the cycle of conservative ascendance will begin again.

On The New President, Or, The World Doesn’t Change All In One Day

Those who follow this space closely will know that we, from time to time, scout around and see what the other members of my blogging community are up to.

The "Blogpower" bloggers are primarily based in the UK, but others are located in the US, Canada, Australia, Italy…and even the Sudan.

We’ll see how they reacted to the US elections—and we’ll discover that while many are happy, it’s not all strawberries and cream out there.

We’ll meet the happy, we’ll meet the silly—and we’ll meet the not-so-very-happy as well.

So with that said, let’s head over to the UK, shall we?

"When as the rye reach to the chin,
And chopcherry, chopcherry, ripe within,
Strawberties swimming in the cream,
And schoolboys playing in the stream..."

--George Peele, “The Old Wives Tale

Not quite 100 miles north of London, and roughly 100 miles west of Amsterdam lies a whole bunch of lovely farm country, which includes Norfolk, where the "Norfolk Blogger" is one of the happy. No longer will the USA seem as though we are “putting two fingers up to the world”, we are told (for the benefit of Americans, the “peace sign” is not always seen as peaceful…); and in fact, it’s “Now for America to become the "good guys" again”, as the blog’s title reminds us.

Our friend Ellee Seymour, besides being one of the happy, is also the one who is checking up on her fellow bloggers’ predictive skills, as she reviews who was more right about the outcome, and those who were, shall we say, not exactly right at all.

There is advice to be had, as well. Matt Wardman, over at the “Wardman Wire” cautions us that “landslide” talk is helping no one. (Be sure to follow the comment thread for a most informative list that shows the margins of victory for every Presidential election since 1900.)

Thunder Dragon notes the problem of Presidential lame dickitude and the apparent pointlessness of the G20 economic summit--unless Obama attends.

Some offered advice just before the election, as well. Our friend Hercules presented cautions that seem to have also been well represented in the official John McCain message…and Ruthie Zaftig suggested people like Hercules should basically get over it.

And on a completely different subject “The Tangled Rope” blog reminds us that the Fifth Annual Worldwide Admire Your Genitals Day was celebrated November 6th…

More analysis: “A Conservative’s Blog” is worried about possible protectionist tendencies from an Obama Administration, “The People’s Republic of Birmingham” hopes that expectations are not impossibly high, and Andrew Allison reminds us that voting against Obama is not a sign of racism…even as he expresses his appreciation that the US has elected a President “…who can string a few words together in grammatical English…”

Analysis of the day: the “Capitalists @ Work” blog compares the 2008 and the 1860 Presidential election maps, creating some serious electoral déjà vu…and suggesting the possibility of “Republican dreams gone with the wind”.

"It must be some measure of the catastrophic decline in Australian cricket that there are blokes in the squad these days who have not even published an autobiography, let alone a barbecue cookbook."

--John Huxley, “The Sydney Morning Herald”, Nov 10, 2008

Australia’s “Adelaide Green Porridge Cafe” offers Obama two llamas and three bananas, along with the observation that Obama wasn’t the only world leader who acceded to power this past week.

Vancouver, BC’s “The Conscious Earth” reminds us that political apathy is often related to the question of who’s running…

Returning to the UK…the Emperor Camillus, the conquest of the Etruscans, and the never-ending question of how a Senate deals with a fiscal windfall are questions addressed by the most excellent “Westminster Wisdom” blog.

Tuscan Tony, the master of mixing the moderately naughty with Conservative politics, brings us the truly important electoral results: Whirl of Change has defeated Straight Talk Crunch in the Baskin-Robbins “Flavor Debate ’08!”, marking the sixth and seventh times politically inspired flavors have been tried at the ol’ 31 Flavors.

There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.

--Gautam Buddha

I am myself forever guilty of this habit…and it is fair to say that I would not be here today if it were not for my habit of doubt—and there are two members of my community who have substantial doubts about this new President.

From “The Two Wolves” come concerns that the US has become a nation that votes based on race…and from the “Pub Philosopher” we are asked, basically, just how happy should liberals really feel if Obama is elected and California passes Proposition 8 on the same day?

We’re almost at the end, and since we are talking about doubt I wanted to bring to your attention a blog from the Sudan that is not a part of our Blogpower community, “Soul Searching”; who sees the election’s demonizing of “Muslim” Obama as a setback for Arab-Americans.

The final blog: my own. I challenged myself to dress Sarah Palin in the finest of clothes, from Saks’ and Neiman’s no less; and to do it for a mere $43,000—2/3 off the Republican National Committee’s expenses.

The point: could you trust an Administration to spend $150 billion if they couldn’t handle $150,000? Two stories full of Oscar de la Renta and Miu Miu later, not only did we do it, we did it under budget.

So there you go…we learn a bit about what folks are thinking, we get a few cautions, and we are reminded that this is our chance to redeem ourselves…if we don’t screw it up.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Support Responsible County Tax Abatement Ordinance

Greetings all-- please read the following information and consider joining us at the County Council meeting this Wednesday evening
-- Karl

Wednesday, November 12 --- 7 PM -- 4th floor Chamber, County City Building.

A coalition of organizations and individuals was recently created to demonstrate the broad support in our community for a responsible approach to tax abatement. It held a press conference on Thursday, November 6th. This coalition includes the Community Forum on Economic Development (CFED), the local chapter of the NAACP, the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, the local chapter of the Sierra Club, and local labor organizations.

The economy is troubled, and St. Joseph County faces a budget crisis. Especially in times like these, any tax subsidies provided by the County must use taxpayers' dollars wisely and bring needed benefits to our community.

This ordinance has been mis-characterized by some opponents as being a narrow "union" issue. While labor groups have been important allies in this campaign, the community benefits that are addressed by the ordinance will affect economic opportunities throughout our community.

This bill was due to be discussed and possibly voted on in October. There was NOT a public hearing and vote on the tax abatement ordinance at October's County Council meeting. Councilmen DeVon, Root, and Schafer left the meeting and the building immediately before Bill 90-08 was to be considered. They left behind approximately 50 members of the public who had waited for three hours to express their views for or against the ordinance. These three elected representatives demonstrated an irresponsible disregard for democracy and for citizen involvement in local government.

**Your presence and participation are needed.** The coalition in support of this ordinance is calling for you to become involved in the following ways:

1) Plan to attend the St. Joseph County Council meeting at 7 pm on Wed. November 12. It will be held in the Council Chamber on the 4th floor of the County City Building. Your presence sends a strong message to the Council members. Your testimony, should you decide to speak, allows your full participation in a process that could improve our County.

2) If you are unable to attend the hearing, there is still time to phone or email the 9 members of the St. Joseph County Council. There is broad support for responsible and accountable use of public money for private investment. Our elected representatives need to hear from us!

How to Contact Your
County Council Representative

Email for all Council members:

Przybysz, W. Randall - District A 282-1000

Kubsch, Kevin - District B 235-9658

DeVon, Dale R. - District C 271-0686

Morton, Rafael - District D 232-7190

Kruk, Michael J. - District E 288-7504

Schafer, Dennis R. - District F 784-8285

Catanzarite, Mark A. - District G 232-9112

Weaver, Heath - District H 233-9323

Root, Mark - District I 674-9125

For more information about the ordinance go to CFED's website at: The full text and a summary of the ordinance are available there.

Also, read Troy Warner's excellent op-ed on tax abatements that appeared in the South Bend Tribune on Friday, November 7th, available via the CFED website or

FP roundup 11/10

Top Story

Eric Schmitt and Mark Mazetti of the New York Times report on a secret order issued by former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2004 to allow Special Forces units to conduct raids in Syria, Pakistan, and at least 13 other countries thought to house al Qaeda operatives.
The order, which was approved by President George W. Bush, gives the U.S. military license to attack al Qaeda "anywhere in the world," according to the Times. Schmitt and Mazetti believe there have been "nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks" carried out under the order's authority and with the cooperation of the Central Intelligence Agency. Other missions were canceled for various reasons, "often to the dismay of military commanders."

U.S. Presidential Transition
President-elect Barack Obama visits President Bush today at the White House. This could be awkward.
Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff, indicated Sunday that the president-elect would support a bailout of the auto industry.
The AP reports on Obama's plans for Guantánamo.
The Washington Post looks at three Bush appointees who are staying on.
Obama is reportedly planning a "wired" presidency.

Insurance company AIG is getting a new bailout.
The Washington Post reports on how the U.S. Treasury Department gave a $140 billion tax windfall to banks without notifying the Congress.
Widespread disagreement remains ahead of next weekend's G-20 financial reform summit in Washington.

China announced a $586 billion stimulus package. Markets rejoiced.
New Zealand elected a new prime minister.
Afghanistan's transportation minister has been sacked for alleged corruption.
Indonesian radicals reacted angrily to the execution of the Bali bombers.
The island nation of Maldives is saving to buy a new homeland, just in case.

Middle East and Africa
More than two dozen people were killed in a series of bombings in Baghdad.
Sixty Iranian economists signed a new letter condemning the policies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Israeli politician Benjamin Netanyahu vows to continue peace talks with the Palestinians if elected.
Power-sharing negotiations have collapsed again in Zimbabwe.

Russia is investigating an accident that killed 20 on a nuclear submarine.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy insists that Europe is united ahead of the G-20 summit.
The European Union wants to resume partnership talks with Russia.

Today's Agenda
Saudi Arabian King Abdullah has arrived in the United States ahead of an interfaith meeting at the United Nations on Wednesday.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus is visiting Ireland to discuss the Lisbon Treaty. The Czech Republic assumes the EU presidency next year.
The Egyptian government was to host reconciliation talks between Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah in Cairo this week, but Hamas is boycotting.

Truthout 11/10

Marjorie Cohn Obama Spells New Hope for Human Rights
Marjorie Cohn, Truthout: "Celebrations of Barack Obama's election as president of the United States erupted in countries around the world. From Europe to Africa to the Middle East, people were jubilant. After suffering though eight years of an administration that violated more human rights than any other in US history, Obama spells hope for a new day. While George W. Bush was president, I wrote 'Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law,' which chronicled his war of aggression, policy of torture, illegal killings, unlawful Guantanamo detentions and secret spying on Americans. When the book was published, it seemed unimaginable that we could elect a president who would turn those policies around. But the election of Obama holds that potential."

Michael T. Klare Obama's Toughest Challenge: America's Energy Crunch Comes Home
Michael T. Klare, TomDispatch: "Of all the challenges facing President Barack Obama next January, none is likely to prove as daunting, or important to the future of this nation, as that of energy. After all, energy policy -- so totally mishandled by the outgoing Bush-Cheney administration -- figures in each of the other major challenges facing the new president, including the economy, the environment, foreign policy, and our Middle Eastern wars. Most of all, it will prove a monumental challenge because the United States faces an energy crisis of unprecedented magnitude that is getting worse by the day."

Defense Department Order Allows Secret Raids in Many Countries
Eric Schmitt and Mark Mazzetti, The New York Times: "The United States military since 2004 has used broad, secret authority to carry out nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks against Al Qaeda and other militants in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere, according to senior American officials. These military raids, typically carried out by Special Operations forces, were authorized by a classified order that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed in the spring of 2004 with the approval of President Bush, the officials said. The secret order gave the military new authority to attack the Qaeda terrorist network anywhere in the world, and a more sweeping mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the United States."

DRC: The Cost of War
Stephanie Kale, Inter Press Service: "War is expensive. The costs include not only the millions of dollars spent on military equipment and maintaining an army, but the financial and psychological toll it takes on the everyday lives of people caught in the crossfire. When fighting takes place where civilians live, as it is in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, farming, housing, health care, businesses and education are all interrupted in armed conflict, and the long-term effects in the North Kivu region have been devastating. Ten year-old Immacule arrived at Kibati refugee camp 12 kilometres north of Goma on Oct. 27 after her family fled their village fearing attacks by Tutsi-led rebels."

Alaska: Number of Outstanding Ballots Grows to 81,000
Pat Forgey, The Juneau Empire: "The state Elections Division said Friday 81,000 votes remain to be counted, mostly early votes but also absentee and questioned ballots. That may be enough to swing as many as six state legislative races, and the number of votes is making the U.S. Senate race between Sen. Ted Stevens and Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich look increasingly close. Stevens now leads by 3,257 votes out of 221,713."

Bush Secretly Gave Banks $140 Billion Tax Windfall
Amit R. Paley, The Washington Post: "The financial world was fixated on Capitol Hill as Congress battled over the Bush administration's request for a $700 billion bailout of the banking industry. In the midst of this late-September drama, the Treasury Department issued a five-sentence notice that attracted almost no public attention. But corporate tax lawyers quickly realized the enormous implications of the document: Administration officials had just given American banks a windfall of as much as $140 billion."

Obama Plans to Close Guantanamo Bay Prison
Matt Apuzzo and Lara Jakes Jordan, The Associated Press: "President-elect Obama's advisers are quietly crafting a proposal to ship dozens, if not hundreds, of imprisoned terrorism suspects to the United States to face criminal trials, a plan that would make good on his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison but could require creation of a controversial new system of justice."

Iraq Triple Bombings Kill Dozens
CNN: "A triple bombing in Baghdad has killed more than two dozen people and wounded scores more in the deadliest attack in the Iraqi capital in almost four months."

Dean Baker The G-20 and Biological Warfare
Dean Baker, Truthout: "Imagine that the United States was researching biological weapons and it inadvertently allowed a deadly bacteria to get into the atmosphere. The bacteria quickly spread around the world, leading to sickness and death everywhere ... This picture would pretty well describes the world financial crisis as the G-20 prepares to meet in Washington this week."

Pentagon Board Says Cuts Essential
Bryan Bender, The Boston Globe: "A senior Pentagon advisory group, in a series of bluntly worded briefings, is warning President-elect Barack Obama that the Defense Department's current budget is 'not sustainable,' and he must scale back or eliminate some of the military's most prized weapons programs."

Helene Crie-Wiesner American Patriotism: Another Planet
Helene Crie-Wiesner, Rue89: "I've also come to understand that the American 'individualism' the French are so quick to excoriate goes along with a surprising concern for the collective, or rather the 'community,' the preferred term in use."

GOP dog days

By William Kristol
New York Times

Just before midnight on Nov. 4, I wasn’t that worried.

Sure, the election results had been bad — but they weren’t devastating. Obama wasn’t winning the popular vote by double-digit margins, as some polls had suggested he might. Republican losses in the Senate and House were substantial but not catastrophic. Obama was ahead of John McCain by about the same margin with which Bill Clinton defeated George Bush in 1992, and he would be taking over in January with similar Congressional majorities to Clinton’s in 1993.

Well, Newt Gingrich was able to lead a Republican takeover of Congress only two years later. And after his victory in 1976, Jimmy Carter had even larger Democratic margins in Congress. Ronald Reagan trounced him four years later, bringing with him a G.O.P.-controlled Senate and an era of conservative governance.

What’s more, this year’s exit polls suggested a partisan shift but no ideological realignment. In 2008, self-described Democrats made up 39 percent of the electorate and Republicans 32 percent, in contrast with a 37-37 split in 2004.

But there was virtually no change in the voters’ ideological self-identification: in 2008, 22 percent called themselves liberal, up only marginally from 21 percent in 2004; 34 percent were conservative, unchanged from the last election; and 44 percent called themselves moderate, compared with 45 percent in 2004.

In other words, this was a good Democratic year, but it is still a center-right country. Conservatives and the Republican Party will have a real chance for a comeback — unless the skills of the new president turn what was primarily an anti-Bush vote into the basis for a new liberal governing era.

Those were my thoughts when, a few minutes into his victory speech, just after midnight, Obama told his daughters, “And you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the new White House.”

I gulped.

Not out of my deep affection for dogs, fond of them though I am. But because while we’ve all known that Obama is a very skillful politician, he hasn’t until now been a particularly empathetic one. Competence plus warmth is a pretty potent combination. Suddenly visions of the two great modern realigning presidents — Franklin Roosevelt (with his Scottish terrier Fala) and Ronald Reagan (with his Cavalier King Charles spaniel Rex) — flashed before my eyes. Maybe a realignment could be coming.

Obama was, naturally, asked about the promised-but-not-yet-purchased puppy at his press conference Friday. (If one were being churlish, one might say that it was typical of a liberal to promise the dog before delivering it. A results-oriented conservative would simply have shown up with the puppy without the advance hype.)

Obama commented wryly that the canine question had “generated more interest on our Web site than just about anything.” He continued:

“We have two criteria that have to be reconciled. One is that Malia is allergic, so it has to be hypoallergenic. There are a number of breeds that are hypoallergenic. On the other hand, our preference would be to get a shelter dog, but, obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me. So — so whether we’re going to be able to balance those two things, I think, is a pressing issue on the Obama household.”

Here, in a few sentences, Obama did the following: He deepened his bond with every dog lover in America. He identified with every household that’s tried to figure out what kind of dog to get. He touched every parent with a kid allergic to pets. He showed compassion by preferring a dog from a shelter. And he demonstrated a dry and slightly politically incorrect wit by commenting that “a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me.”

Not bad. It could be a tough four or eight years for conservatives.

It will be tougher yet if they underestimate Obama. His selection of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff suggests that Obama’s not going to be mindlessly leftist, and that he’s going to shape a legislative strategy that is attentive to Congressional realities while not deferring to a Congressional leadership whose interests may not be his own. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were both tripped up in their first two years by their Democratic Congresses. Obama intends for Emanuel to ensure that that doesn’t happen.

And Obama has the further advantage of inheriting a recession that will give him a very tough first year or two (for which he won’t be blamed), but that should be followed by a recovery well timed for his re-election bid.

So Obama will be formidable. But conservatives should welcome the challenge. It’s good for conservatism that conservatives will have to develop refreshed ideas and regenerated political skills to succeed in the age of Obama.

And it wouldn’t hurt for Governors Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels, Bobby Jindal and the other possible 2012 G.O.P. nominees to begin bringing some puppies home for their kids.

Franklin Delano Obama

By Paul Krugman
New York Times

Suddenly, everything old is New Deal again. Reagan is out; F.D.R. is in. Still, how much guidance does the Roosevelt era really offer for today’s world?

The answer is, a lot. But Barack Obama should learn from F.D.R.’s failures as well as from his achievements: the truth is that the New Deal wasn’t as successful in the short run as it was in the long run. And the reason for F.D.R.’s limited short-run success, which almost undid his whole program, was the fact that his economic policies were too cautious.

About the New Deal’s long-run achievements: the institutions F.D.R. built have proved both durable and essential. Indeed, those institutions remain the bedrock of our nation’s economic stability. Imagine how much worse the financial crisis would be if the New Deal hadn’t insured most bank deposits. Imagine how insecure older Americans would feel right now if Republicans had managed to dismantle Social Security.

Can Mr. Obama achieve something comparable? Rahm Emanuel, Mr. Obama’s new chief of staff, has declared that “you don’t ever want a crisis to go to waste.” Progressives hope that the Obama administration, like the New Deal, will respond to the current economic and financial crisis by creating institutions, especially a universal health care system, that will change the shape of American society for generations to come.

But the new administration should try not to emulate a less successful aspect of the New Deal: its inadequate response to the Great Depression itself.

Now, there’s a whole intellectual industry, mainly operating out of right-wing think tanks, devoted to propagating the idea that F.D.R. actually made the Depression worse. So it’s important to know that most of what you hear along those lines is based on deliberate misrepresentation of the facts. The New Deal brought real relief to most Americans.

That said, F.D.R. did not, in fact, manage to engineer a full economic recovery during his first two terms. This failure is often cited as evidence against Keynesian economics, which says that increased public spending can get a stalled economy moving. But the definitive study of fiscal policy in the ’30s, by the M.I.T. economist E. Cary Brown, reached a very different conclusion: fiscal stimulus was unsuccessful “not because it does not work, but because it was not tried.”

This may seem hard to believe. The New Deal famously placed millions of Americans on the public payroll via the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. To this day we drive on W.P.A.-built roads and send our children to W.P.A.-built schools. Didn’t all these public works amount to a major fiscal stimulus?

Well, it wasn’t as major as you might think. The effects of federal public works spending were largely offset by other factors, notably a large tax increase, enacted by Herbert Hoover, whose full effects weren’t felt until his successor took office. Also, expansionary policy at the federal level was undercut by spending cuts and tax increases at the state and local level.

And F.D.R. wasn’t just reluctant to pursue an all-out fiscal expansion — he was eager to return to conservative budget principles. That eagerness almost destroyed his legacy. After winning a smashing election victory in 1936, the Roosevelt administration cut spending and raised taxes, precipitating an economic relapse that drove the unemployment rate back into double digits and led to a major defeat in the 1938 midterm elections.

What saved the economy, and the New Deal, was the enormous public works project known as World War II, which finally provided a fiscal stimulus adequate to the economy’s needs.

This history offers important lessons for the incoming administration.

The political lesson is that economic missteps can quickly undermine an electoral mandate. Democrats won big last week — but they won even bigger in 1936, only to see their gains evaporate after the recession of 1937-38. Americans don’t expect instant economic results from the incoming administration, but they do expect results, and Democrats’ euphoria will be short-lived if they don’t deliver an economic recovery.

The economic lesson is the importance of doing enough. F.D.R. thought he was being prudent by reining in his spending plans; in reality, he was taking big risks with the economy and with his legacy. My advice to the Obama people is to figure out how much help they think the economy needs, then add 50 percent. It’s much better, in a depressed economy, to err on the side of too much stimulus than on the side of too little.

In short, Mr. Obama’s chances of leading a new New Deal depend largely on whether his short-run economic plans are sufficiently bold. Progressives can only hope that he has the necessary audacity.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Reflections on a school board campaign -part 1

by Don Wheeler

With the Iowa caucuses in the foreground of my rear view mirror, and as Paddy and I were narrowing Sarah's Kindergarten choices, I became seriously interested in competing for a South Bend Community School Corporation (SBCSC) board seat. As summer approached, I became more and more convinced that the best way to create transformational change in public education was to focus on the very early years - the entry point - of our children's public education experience.

I grew up in an advantaged (though not wealthy) family in Evanston, Illinois. My family's doctrine had a clear message of what Dr. Catherine Pittman of St. Mary's College once referred to as "The Responsibility of Privilege". My mother was active in the civil rights movement (and included me in much of that) and later served in an NGO in Guatemala, Peru, India and the United States - working on the human side of development.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was (and is) a hero to me. I've heard people say that he made great strides because of an approach focused on outrage. I think those people have it wrong. I believe the genius of Dr. King's approach laid in his patience and his tenacity. Certainly, there was reasonable indignation blended in, but what I remember as a child of around nine years old is that when he laid out the argument for equal treatment for all citizens - I wondered what the counterargument could possibly be.

Something else that I think many people miss about Dr. King is that he was beginning to shift to include fighting for poor people of any color skin - at the time he was killed.

I'm sure some of my outlook is informed by some of my own challenges. As a young adult, there were a few days here and there when I didn't eat. Later, I was briefly homeless. But I always knew such problems would be temporary for me. That's the advantage of growing up in an advantaged situation. And once you deal successfully with challenges like these, the added confidence is extremely helpful.

When Dr. King, and later, Robert Kennedy were each murdered in 1968, our ongoing conversation about ending poverty in America seemed to die with them.

I got busy with my own life, dealt with many personal setbacks (as we all do), but it wasn't until many years later that I understood how deeply these murders effected me - the deafening silence that was created.

When John Edwards launched a campaign centered around eliminating poverty, it was cathartic for me - and it caught me completely off-guard. I guess it shouldn't have really. The last several years I'd been involved with organizations working on poverty housing issues (Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together).

But my reaction was something like "Oh yeah, we were just talking about that. How'd we get sidetracked?"

One of the interesting components of "The Campaign To Change America" (the official title of the John Edwards Campaign) was an organization called One Corps. One Corps was a dual purpose organization - area chapters served as a local campaign arm (to be sure), but also sponsored monthly service projects - aimed at building One America locally. I became a co-captain along with Dustin Blythe and Matt Lopez of One America for St. Joseph County.

Many former One Corps members are still active in such causes in a new organization we call National One Corps.

When Mr. Edwards withdrew from the contest later, it occurred to me that it seemed likely that the best anti-poverty program would be a quality public school education for every citizen. That idea committed me to the campaign.

But then, the SBCSC Board fired Dr. Zimmerman.

more to come

Truthout 11/9

Al Gore The Climate for Change
Al Gore, The New York Times: "The inspiring and transformative choice by the American people to elect Barack Obama as our 44th president lays the foundation for another fateful choice that he - and we - must make this January to begin an emergency rescue of human civilization from the imminent and rapidly growing threat posed by the climate crisis. The electrifying redemption of America's revolutionary declaration that all human beings are born equal sets the stage for the renewal of United States leadership in a world that desperately needs to protect its primary endowment: the integrity and livability of the planet."

Edward M. Kennedy Health Care Can't Wait
Edward M. Kennedy, The Washington Post: "President-elect Barack Obama has issued a clarion call for action on health care. His practical and thoughtful proposals draw from our Massachusetts experience and add important measures to improve quality and reduce costs. His plan includes crucial investments in modernizing the use of information technology in health care. He calls for a new emphasis on prevention and wellness, because the best way to treat a disease is to prevent it from striking. I'm sure opponents will dust off the same old slogans they have used to try to block every major advance in health care."

Obama Positioned to Quickly Reverse Bush Actions
Ceci Connolly and R. Jeffrey Smith, The Washington Post: "Transition advisers to President-elect Barack Obama have compiled a list of about 200 Bush administration actions and executive orders that could be swiftly undone to reverse White House policies on climate change, stem cell research, reproductive rights and other issues, according to congressional Democrats, campaign aides and experts working with the transition team. A team of four dozen advisers, working for months in virtual solitude, set out to identify regulatory and policy changes Obama could implement soon after his inauguration."

Frank Rich It Still Felt Good the Morning After
Frank Rich, The New York Times: "On the morning after a black man won the White House, America's tears of catharsis gave way to unadulterated joy. Our nation was still in the same ditch it had been the day before, but the atmosphere was giddy. We felt good not only because we had breached a racial barrier as old as the Republic. Dawn also brought the realization that we were at last emerging from an abusive relationship with our country's 21st-century leaders. The festive scenes of liberation that Dick Cheney had once imagined for Iraq were finally taking place - in cities all over America."

High Court May Consider Legality of Detention
Jerry Markon, The Washington Post: "Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri was close to going on trial for fraud when prosecutors marched into an Illinois courtroom with a demand. Dismiss the charges, they said, because President Bush had just designated the defendant an enemy combatant. Marri's attorneys protested, but U.S. Attorney Jan Paul Miller declared that the military had already taken custody of the Qatari national, now deemed an al-Qaeda sleeper agent. "There is no longer a judicial proceeding before this court," he said. With that, Marri was whisked to a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., where he has spent more than five years."

FOCUS Palin Blamed for Death Threats Against Obama
Tim Shipman, The Telegraph UK: "Sarah Palin's attacks on Barack Obama's patriotism provoked a spike in death threats against the future president, Secret Service agents revealed during the final weeks of the campaign. The Republican vice presidential candidate attracted criticism for accusing Mr Obama of 'palling around with terrorists', citing his association with the sixties radical William Ayers. The attacks provoked a near lynch mob atmosphere at her rallies, with supporters yelling 'terrorist' and 'kill him.' until the McCain campaign ordered her to tone down the rhetoric."

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Shields and Brooks 11/7

From the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer - the weekley political wrap. (Third story in the sequence)

The Obama agenda

New York Times

Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008, is a date that will live in fame (the opposite of infamy) forever. If the election of our first African-American president didn’t stir you, if it didn’t leave you teary-eyed and proud of your country, there’s something wrong with you.

But will the election also mark a turning point in the actual substance of policy? Can Barack Obama really usher in a new era of progressive policies? Yes, he can.

Right now, many commentators are urging Mr. Obama to think small. Some make the case on political grounds: America, they say, is still a conservative country, and voters will punish Democrats if they move to the left. Others say that the financial and economic crisis leaves no room for action on, say, health care reform.

Let’s hope that Mr. Obama has the good sense to ignore this advice.

About the political argument: Anyone who doubts that we’ve had a major political realignment should look at what’s happened to Congress. After the 2004 election, there were many declarations that we’d entered a long-term, perhaps permanent era of Republican dominance. Since then, Democrats have won back-to-back victories, picking up at least 12 Senate seats and more than 50 House seats. They now have bigger majorities in both houses than the G.O.P. ever achieved in its 12-year reign.

Bear in mind, also, that this year’s presidential election was a clear referendum on political philosophies — and the progressive philosophy won.

Maybe the best way to highlight the importance of that fact is to contrast this year’s campaign with what happened four years ago. In 2004, President Bush concealed his real agenda. He basically ran as the nation’s defender against gay married terrorists, leaving even his supporters nonplussed when he announced, soon after the election was over, that his first priority was Social Security privatization. That wasn’t what people thought they had been voting for, and the privatization campaign quickly devolved from juggernaut to farce.

This year, however, Mr. Obama ran on a platform of guaranteed health care and tax breaks for the middle class, paid for with higher taxes on the affluent. John McCain denounced his opponent as a socialist and a “redistributor,” but America voted for him anyway. That’s a real mandate.

What about the argument that the economic crisis will make a progressive agenda unaffordable?

Well, there’s no question that fighting the crisis will cost a lot of money. Rescuing the financial system will probably require large outlays beyond the funds already disbursed. And on top of that, we badly need a program of increased government spending to support output and employment. Could next year’s federal budget deficit reach $1 trillion? Yes.

But standard textbook economics says that it’s O.K., in fact appropriate, to run temporary deficits in the face of a depressed economy. Meanwhile, one or two years of red ink, while it would add modestly to future federal interest expenses, shouldn’t stand in the way of a health care plan that, even if quickly enacted into law, probably wouldn’t take effect until 2011.

Beyond that, the response to the economic crisis is, in itself, a chance to advance the progressive agenda.

Now, the Obama administration shouldn’t emulate the Bush administration’s habit of turning anything and everything into an argument for its preferred policies. (Recession? The economy needs help — let’s cut taxes on rich people! Recovery? Tax cuts for rich people work — let’s do some more!)

But it would be fair for the new administration to point out how conservative ideology, the belief that greed is always good, helped create this crisis. What F.D.R. said in his second inaugural address — “We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics” — has never rung truer.

And right now happens to be one of those times when the converse is also true, and good morals are good economics. Helping the neediest in a time of crisis, through expanded health and unemployment benefits, is the morally right thing to do; it’s also a far more effective form of economic stimulus than cutting the capital gains tax. Providing aid to beleaguered state and local governments, so that they can sustain essential public services, is important for those who depend on those services; it’s also a way to avoid job losses and limit the depth of the economy’s slump.

So a serious progressive agenda — call it a new New Deal — isn’t just economically possible, it’s exactly what the economy needs.

The bottom line, then, is that Barack Obama shouldn’t listen to the people trying to scare him into being a do-nothing president. He has the political mandate; he has good economics on his side. You might say that the only thing he has to fear is fear itself.

Truthout 11/8

After the Imperial Presidency
Jonathan Mahler, The New York Times: "As it turned out, the power of the president soared to new heights under Bush. Many of the administration's most aggressive moves came in the realm of national security and the war on terror in particular. The Bush administration claimed the authority to deny captured combatants - US citizens and aliens alike - such basic due-process rights as access to a lawyer. It created a detention facility on Guantanamo Bay that it declared was outside the jurisdiction of the federal courts and built a new legal system - without any input from Congress - to try enemy combatants."

Can Barack Obama Undo Bush's Tangled Legal Legacy?
Marisa Taylor and Michael Doyle, McClatchy Newspapers: "When Barack Obama becomes president in January, he'll confront the controversial legal legacy of the Bush administration. From expansive executive privilege to hard-line tactics in the war on terrorism, Obama must decide what he'll undo and what he'll embrace. The stakes couldn't be higher."

Most Minnesota Senate "Undervotes" Are From Obama Turf
The Associated Press: "An analysis of votes in the tight, still-to-be decided race for a US Senate seat in Minnesota shows that most ballots lacking a recorded choice in the election were cast in counties won by Democrat Barack Obama. The finding could have implications for Republican Senator Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken, who are headed for a recount separated by the thinnest of margins - a couple of hundred votes, or about 0.01 percent. About 25,000 ballots statewide carried votes for president but not for the Senate race. Although some voters might have intentionally bypassed the race, others might have mismarked their ballot, or optical scanning machines might have misread them."

Right Tears Itself Apart in Pinning Blame for McCain's Defeat
Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian UK: "As the implosion of the defeated Republican campaign continued yesterday, the landscape of American conservatism was dotted with signs that these were very strange times indeed. Rush Limbaugh, behemoth of rightwing radio, took to the airwaves to declare war on two enemies: Barack Obama and the Republican party. Bloggers at, an internet hub for conservatives, announced a boycott of Fox News and John McCain's aides fell over one another to leak embarrassing details about the campaign to the press."

Tough Times Strain Colleges Rich and Poor
Tamar Lewin, The New York Times: "Arizona State University, anticipating at least $25 million in budget cuts this fiscal year - on top of the $30 million already cut - is ending its contracts with as many as 200 adjunct instructors. Boston University, Cornell and Brown have announced selective hiring freezes. And Tufts University, which for the last two years has, proudly, been one of the few colleges in the nation that could afford to be need-blind - that is, to admit the best-qualified applicants and meet their full financial need - may not be able to maintain that generosity for next year's incoming class."

FOCUS Bernie Sanders: The Road to Economic Recovery
Senator Bernie Sanders, The Huffington Post: "When the Senate reconvenes on November 17th, I intend to fight for an economic recovery program that is significant enough in size and scope to respond to the major economic crisis this country now faces. If we can commit more than $1 trillion to rescue bankers and insurance companies from their reckless and irresponsible behavior, we certainly should be investing in millions of good-paying jobs that rebuild our nation and improve its economy. In my view, the size of this economic recovery plan should be, at a minimum, $300 billion."

FOCUS Winship: Obama Shows Us Where We're Headed
Michael Winship, Truthout: "In the years that have followed, we denied that proffered hand; we drove wedges, built walls, waged war that not only isolated us from other countries, but squandered the solidarity and strength that existed within ourselves. On Tuesday, as a nation we stood in line, waited our turn to cast our ballots, did what we do best. And when the results were announced, we watched a man and his family stand on an outdoor stage in Chicago. He asked for our support, regardless of party or race, and finally, for a moment at least, together we were all Americans once again. It's a good start."

Friday, November 7, 2008

Tax abatement proposal represents fiscal responsibility

from the South Bend Tribune 11/7/08


There is a bill coming before the St. Joseph County Council Wednesday. It has a rather stale name, Bill 90-08. If you look into the bill it is anything but stale. It is a responsible tax-abatement ordinance that acts as a cost benefit analysis for the community. It ensures that the county taxpayers receive some benefit from the property tax break given to a company.

In these times of ever increasing governmental fiscal responsibility, it is a way to ensure that these corporate handouts are actually bringing back some benefit to our community. It was created by a number of different local community groups and community organizers. It has the backing of the Community Forum for Economic Development, the Sierra Club, the NAACP, the St. Joseph Valley Project and the St. Joseph Valley Building Trades and others.

A company can get a base three-year abatement by having an affirmative action plan and paying a wage above a poverty wage. Beyond a three-year abatement a company must pay the common construction wage when constructing a building. The ordinance then sets a scoring table, and a company earns an additional year with every hundred points it achieves, up to a 10-year tax abatement. So, the more of a benefit the company provides to the community, the bigger its reward from the community. Doesn't that make sense?

Points are achieved by doing things that we all want from our employers, including paying higher wages, providing health care for all workers, building energy-efficient buildings and hiring from an economically distressed area. The common construction wage will keep community tax dollars from being used to undercut the wages of local workers who pay into these tax dollars. If these points are not achieved by the company, the county will have the ability to get the lost tax dollars back for the community. Doesn't that make sense?

Location, location, location: It is just one of many factors that lure businesses. Among others are a trained, happy work force, quality of the surrounding community, local markets and local infrastructure. Project Future and the Chamber of Commerce said at a recent school board meeting that school quality was one of the top factors when a company looks at relocating. I have to believe that for any successful, quality business, a property tax break would be pretty far down that list. What sort of company would want to relocate to a community and begin to tear down that community by not wanting to pay its fair share of property taxes? Is that a business that we would want in our community?

This ordinance will establish clear criteria that will allow a company to know what level of tax break it can expect from our community. Currently there are no criteria or standards. This standard could, if properly used, create the growth that the county has been wanting, not deter growth as some will argue. One councilman when asked of the current subjective standards told me that he is the criteria. No offense to our local elected official, but that isn't something you can advertise to a company looking to relocate. Would a local government that is fiscally responsible and creates good growth for its community be something to advertise?

This bill will also level the playing field for those businesses that do not use this form of a tax break. It will ensure that those that get a property tax break will pay some price for the handout. The handout gives these companies an unfair competitive advantage. In reality it is counter to the free market system that capitalist America trumpets. A company will still be free to locate here and not live up to any of the standards; the company just shouldn't expect to get a property tax break.

Many of the recent recipients of tax-abatements have issued veiled threats that they may have to leave the area, yet they were all local companies entrenched in our community. One even made the threat after starting construction of its new addition. Would an idle threat convince you to pay more in property taxes, so that this company can pay less? It's happening.

Some will say that this bill is the "bogeyman," that it is going to chase away businesses from St. Joseph County. One councilman even said he would rather secede to Marshall County then face this ordinance. Yet there has not been any growth with the existing system of just handing out tax breaks. Some do not like the fact that it will bring about the end to backroom deals and under-the-table agreements. Some argue that the ordinance has too much teeth, some say not enough. But one thing that is not in doubt is that the county no longer can afford to hand out tax breaks without some sort of assurance that the community receives benefits back.

Do not let others frighten us into irresponsible government. This tax abatement ordinance is responsible government. I urge you to attend the county council meeting at the County City Building at 7 p.m. Wednesday to see if the county adopts a responsible tax abatement ordinance that makes sense, or continues its old ways of handing out tax breaks.

Troy Warner is a member of the Community Forum for Economic Development. He lives in South Bend.

FP roundup 11/7

Mexicans remain suspicious about a plane crash that killed the country's interior minister and 13 others. The government sees no foul play.

North Korea says it is "ready to deal" with the incoming Obama team.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao urged rich countries to give up their "unsustainable lifestyle" in the face of climate change.
China's economy is slowing rapidly. Nouriel Roubini fears the worst.
A senior U.S. official tells the Financial Times that Chinese hackers infiltrated the White House e-mail system.

Middle East and Africa
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad broke with recent tradition and sent a congratulatory letter to Obama.
Obama's victory is already altering the political landscape of Iraq. But Iraqi leaders still want a hard-and-fast date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
The United Nations and African leaders held an emergency meeting on how to contain the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Bank of England and the European Central Bank slashed interest rates.
The European Union ruled that Poland's aid to its shipyards is unlawful.
Irish police seized a yacht with more than £500 million worth of cocaine.

Weekend Agenda
President-elect Obama gives a press conference today at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Brussels is hosting an EU summit on financial reform.
South African political leader Jacob Zuma wants to "force" a power-sharing deal in Zimbabwe at this weekend's regional summit.

Truthout 11/7

Rebecca Solnit The Jubilant Birth of the Obama Era
Rebecca Solnit, "Citizenship is a passionate joy at times, and this is one of those times. You can feel it. Tuesday the world changed. It was a great day. Monday it rained hard for the first time this season and on Election Day, everything in San Francisco was washed clean. I went on a long run past several polling places up in the hills around my home and saw lines of working people waiting to vote and contented-looking citizens walking around with their 'I Voted' stickers in the sun and mud."

Bush Officials Plan to Dial Back Environmental Protections
Renee Schoof, McClatchy Newspapers: "In the next few weeks, the Bush administration is expected to relax environmental-protection rules on power plants near national parks, uranium mining near the Grand Canyon and more mountaintop-removal coal mining in Appalachia."

Iraqis Seek More "Withdrawal" Talks; US Says They're Over
Leila Fadel, Nancy A. Youssef and Warren P. Strobel, McClatchy Newspapers: "The United States delivered Thursday what it said was the final text of the controversial accord on the stationing of U.S. forces in Iraq, but Iraq said more talks are needed before the government can accept it."

Federal Workers Feel Rudderless
Carol D. Leonnig, The Washington Post: "When President Obama takes over in January as manager-in-chief of nearly 2 million federal employees, he will need a plan to reinvigorate a frustrated and demoralized workforce, career employees warn."

Julie Mertus Letter to President Obama on Human Rights
Julie Mertus, Foreign Policy In Focus: "Dear President Obama: The Bush administration had eight years to run our country's reputation on human rights into the ground. It succeeded not only in tarnishing America's image, but also in derailing the entire international human rights movement. As a professor of human rights who has studied the opportunities and challenges for the White House in transition periods, I know that the window of opportunity for distinguishing yourself from your predecessor is open now, but you must act quickly and decisively if you are to get human rights back on track."

Dean Baker Two-Month Decline in Jobs Reaches 524,000
Dean Baker, Truthout: "The loss of 240,000 jobs in October, coupled with a job-loss figure for September that was sharply revised upward to 284,000, brought the two-month decline to 524,000. The private sector lost 263,000 jobs in October, for a two-month total of 506,000. This is the sort of sharp decline in employment that is typical for recessions. The unemployment rate jumped to 6.5 percent in October, the highest rate since March of 1994."

US Missile Kills Ten in Pakistan
Pir Zubair Shah and Alan Cowell, The New York Times: "Missiles fired from a remotely-piloted United States aircraft slammed into a village in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan along the Afghan border on Friday and killed between 10 and 13 people, according to a local intelligence official, a Pakistani reporter and two Pakistani television channels."

J. Sri Raman Obama Inspires Hope in India, Pakistan
J. Sri Raman, Truthout: "'Will India of the 21st century produce a Barack Obama?' So asks the title of a debate program on a leading Indian television channel. Ever since the Wednesday morning that shook the world, popular Indian list serves have kept popping questions like 'When will India have its own Obama?'"

Gay-Marriage Ban Sets Up Host of Battles
Ashby Jones, The Wall Street Journal: "California voters on Tuesday approved Proposition 8, which adds to the state constitution the following sentence: 'only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.' While the wording is simple, the situation quickly became complicated. For example, what happens to those same-sex couples who married before the ruling?"

Will Obama Administration Signal Return to Rule of Law?
Brian Baxter, "Foremost among the pressing issues he faces: rebuilding America's reputation in the international arena, says Philippe Sands, author of 'Torture Team: Rumsfeld's Memo and the Betrayal of American Values.' The book, excerpts of which appeared in a May 2008 Vanity Fair feature story, examines how U.S. lawyers abandoned the Geneva Conventions and other international protocols after the 9/11 attacks."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Truthout 11/6

Steve Weissman Obama Won, Greenspan Shrugged, but Capitalists Tool On
Steve Weissman, Truthout: "Poor John Galt. Only last year, The New York Times referred to Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged' as 'one of the most influential business books ever written,' and portrayed Galt, the novel's iconic hero, as a role model for corporate CEOs in their dogged pursuit of self-interest. No wonder, then, the gnashing of teeth in executive suites when Ayn Rand's most famous devotee, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, admitted that enlightened greed had failed."

What Obama's Election Means Abroad
Scott Baldauf, The Christian Science Monitor: "The world, which has tracked this American election like no other, sees Barack Hussein Obama as their president, their choice. And they see him through their own geographical and cultural prisms. To many, he represents the restoration of faith in American democratic ideals, of equality. The global euphoria over the election of the first black US president is also partly an expression of a populace that wants to believe that the same principles can apply to their lives, too."

Obama Considering Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for EPA
Mike Allen, The Politico: "President-elect Barack Obama is strongly considering Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to head the Environmental Protection Agency, a Cabinet post, Democratic officials told Politico. Obama's transition planners are weighing several other celebrity-level political stars for Cabinet posts, including retired Gen. Colin L. Powell for secretary of defense or education, the officials said."

Tom Engelhardt The Juggernaut: Obama and "the Elecular"
Tom Engelhardt, "Today, it's clear enough that Obama's electoral juggernaut has swept a landscape already devastated and devalued by the Bush administration - and that's no small thing. But there was another 'it' as well, one that's harder to put a name to, another kind of juggernaut that managed to make its way under my skin and into my life - into the lives, I suspect, of so many Americans over the last two years, and that I hold responsible both for those tics and that emptiness. It's what left me asking this morning: What hit me? What in the world was that?"

Backers Focused Proposition 8 Battle Beyond Marriage
Dan Morain and Jessica Garrison, The Los Angeles Times: "The measure on the ballot was only 14 words long -- a simple statement that 'only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.' But supporters of Proposition 8, in what political analysts said was an extremely effective strategy, made the race about much more than that."

FP roundup 11/6

Stocks in Asia and Europe continued their downward slide.
Toyota is slashing its profit forecast by a stunning 63 percent. Brace yourselves for Friday, when GM and Ford report their numbers.

Authorities in Mexico have found "no immediate signs of foul play" in yesterday's plane crash, which killed the interior minister and 13 others.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai welcomed President-elect Obama by demanding he put an end to errant U.S. airstrikes that kill civilians.
Pro-independence protesters in Taiwan trapped a visiting Chinese envoy inside his Taipei hotel, which he left under heavy police guard at 2:15 a.m.
Active planning is underway in Washington, Seoul, and elsewhere in case of a sudden power transition in North Korea.

Middle East and Africa
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni warned Obama that dialogue with Iran "is liable to be interpreted as weakness."
Troop cuts in Iraq are happening two months ahead of schedule.
The latest craze in Kenya? Naming babies "Barack" and "Michelle."

Spain has rejected asylum for one of Osama bin Laden's sons.
The EU's drug agency is warning of a heroin tsunami in Britain.
Georgia fired more cluster munitions than previously thought, according to Human Rights Watch.

Today's Agenda
Obama receives his first intelligence briefing as president-elect.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Truthout 11/5

Obama Elected President as Racial Barrier Falls
Adam Nagourney, The New York Times: "Barack Hussein Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday, sweeping away the last racial barrier in American politics with ease as the country chose him as its first black chief executive. The election of Mr. Obama amounted to a national catharsis - a repudiation of a historically unpopular Republican president and his economic and foreign policies, and an embrace of Mr. Obama's call for a change in the direction and the tone of the country. But it was just as much a strikingly symbolic moment in the evolution of the nation's fraught racial history, a breakthrough that would have seemed unthinkable just two years ago."

Democrats Increase Majorities in Congress
Dan Eggen, Paul Kane and Lyndsey Layton, The Washington Post: "Democrats rode a historic surge of enthusiasm to capture Senate and House seats across the nation yesterday, dramatically widening their hold on Congress and heightening the chances of sweeping policy changes on the economy, energy and national security with President-elect Barack Obama. By early this morning, Democrats had picked up five Senate seats without losing any of their own, including ones in Virginia and North Carolina that had been held by Republicans for decades. Democrats also took over 13 seats in the House -- including the last GOP seat in New England -- with 38 still undecided."

It's Down to the Wire for Franken, Coleman in Minnesota
Fredreka Schouten, USA TODAY: "Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and former comedian Al Franken late Tuesday night remained in a tight election that drew wide attention because of Franken's celebrity and the potential of the Minnesota race to expand the Democrats' majority in the U.S. Senate. Franken, a Democrat who gained fame as a Saturday Night Live cast member, and Coleman, a first-term senator, waged the Senate's most costly race: The candidates collected nearly $33 million in campaign cash, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in politics."

Gay Marriage Ban Leading in California
Jessica Garrison, Cara Mia DiMassa and Richard C. Paddock, The Los Angeles Times: "A measure to once again ban gay marriage in California led Tuesday, throwing into doubt the unions of an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples who wed during the last 4 1/2 months. As the measure, the most divisive and emotionally fraught on the state ballot this year, took a lead in early returns, supporters gathered at a hotel ballroom in Sacramento and cheered. 'We caused Californians to rethink this issue,' Proposition 8 strategist Jeff Flint said."

Ted Stevens Holds Lead; Still Too Close to Call
Beth Bragg and Wesley Loy, McClatchy Newspapers: "Alaska's race for US Senate is still too close to call, although Sen. Ted Stevens is creeping farther ahead of Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich in his bid for a seventh term. With 72 percent of the vote counted Tuesday night, Stevens has captured 48.42 percent of the vote to Begich's 46.06."

VIDEO President-Elect Barack Obama: "It Is Our Time"
President-elect Barack Obama delivers presidential victory speech to a massive crowd, November 4, 2008, in Chicago.

Dean Baker Obama's Path to Greatness
Dean Baker, Truthout: "President Obama will have a historic opportunity to establish himself as a truly great president in his first days in office. He can take advantage of the current economic crisis to announce plans to jump-start national health care insurance. Extending health care insurance can be an effective stimulus that will provide an immediate boost to the economy."

AP Uncalls Minnesota Senate Race
The Associated Press: "The Associated Press is uncalling the Minnesota Senate race. Republican Senator Norm Coleman finished ahead of Democrat Al Franken early Wednesday in the final vote count, but his 571-vote margin falls within the state's mandatory recount law."

Robert Scheer Morning Again in America
Robert Scheer, Truthdig: "It's time to gush! Later for the analysis of all the hard choices faced by our next president, Barack Obama, but for now, let's just thrill, unabashedly, to the sound of those words. Heck, both he and we deserve a honeymoon, at least for a few paragraphs of this column."

Iraq Looks Ahead to Provincial, National Elections
Ned Parker, The Los Angeles Times: "Iraq presents Barack Obama with the complicated task of bringing troops home from a deeply unpopular war and determining the role America will play as the devastated country struggles to rebuild."

Laurent Joffrin It's Time.
Laurent Joffrin, Liberation: "It is time to open a new chapter in the history of the United States, to a great extent, that is, a new chapter in our history. Barack Obama's campaign slogan - 'It's time for change' - expresses not only the need for change the American people feel. It conveys the hope of the planet."

FP roundup 11/5

Wall Street rallied Tuesday despite the release of discouraging manufacturing data. But European stocks fell back in Wednesday trading.

Colombia's top Army general has resigned over a scandal involving shooting civilians to inflate body counts in the country's drug war.
Mexico's interior minister was killed in a plane crash. Were drug cartels involved?

Taiwan liberalized trade with China despite protests by native Taiwanese.
China is putting together a "national action plan" for human rights.
An economic slowdown could threaten China's stability, premier Wen Jiabao has warned.
Notorious warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is emerging as a key swing player in Afghan politics.

Middle East and Africa
Kenya's president declared a national holiday after Obama's victory.
Rebels in Congo have resumed fighting with a pro-government militia north of the city of Goma.
Hamas fired rockets into Israel following an Israeli raid in Gaza.

Russia announced it is moving new missiles to the Baltic region.
A son of Osama bin Laden is asking for asylum in Spain.
Romania is in dire economic straits.
Europe is not impressed with France's plan to tackle the financial crisis.

Today's Agenda
It's Guy Fawkes day in Britain.
A cease-fire agreement is slated to go into effect in Somalia.
Condoleezza Rice embarks for the Middle East amid rumors that the U.S. secretary of state is a candidate for president... of the San Francisco 49ers.

SJ County fails to count ALL the votes for 3rd election in a row

It appears that St. Joseph County has failed to report legally-protected votes cast for registered write-in candidates for the third election in a row. Similar problems occurred in both the 2006 and 2007 elections.

See the results posted on the Indiana SOS website.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"Our Country" / "My Country"

John Mellencamp took a lot of "stuff" for selling the rights to this song to Chevrolet. Mr. Mellencamp pointed out that he couldn't rely on record companies to promote his work any more. (He has this thing about eating, I guess).

He also has this thing about social justice. This song (and much of the other material on "Freedom's Road") is classic protest music. Much in the mold of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land...". Both sound like super patriot ditties - until you listen more carefully.

I've chosen his live performance in support of John Edwards in Des Moines at the time of the Iowa Caucuses. Not the most polished videography, but entirely appropriate to today's event.

"This is Our Country".

And "This Is My Country "

Let's show them to the door!

A new kind of pride

by: Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post

Washington - Whoever wins this election, I understand what Barack Obama meant when he said his faith in the American people had been "vindicated" by his campaign's success. I understand what Michelle Obama meant, months ago, when she said she was "proud of my country" for the first time in her adult life. Why should they be immune to the astonishment and vertigo that so many other African-Americans are experiencing? Why shouldn't they have to pinch themselves to make sure they aren't dreaming, the way that I do?

I know there's a possibility that the polls are wrong. I know there's a possibility that white Americans, when push comes to shove, won't be able to bring themselves to elect a black man as president of the United States. But the spread in the polls is so great that the Bradley effect wouldn't be enough to make Obama lose; it would take a kind of "Dr. Strangelove effect" in which voters' hands developed a will of their own.

I'm being facetious but not unserious. In my gut, I know there's a chance that the first African-American to make a serious run for the presidency will lose. But that is precisely what's new, and, in a sense, unsettling: I'm talking about possibility, not inevitability.

For African-Americans, at least those of us old enough to have lived through the civil rights movement, this is nothing short of mind-blowing. It's disorienting, and it makes me see this nation in a different light.

You see, I remember a time of separate and unequal schools, restrooms and water fountains - a time when black people were officially second-class citizens. I remember moments when African-Americans were hopeful and excited about the political process, and I remember other moments when most of us were depressed and disillusioned. But I can't think of a single moment, before this year, when I thought it was within the realm of remote possibility that a black man could be nominated for president by one of the major parties - let alone that he would go into Election Day with a better-than-even chance of winning.

Let me clarify: It's not that I would have calculated the odds of an African-American being elected president and concluded that this was unlikely, it's that I wouldn't even have thought about such a thing.

African-Americans' love of country is deep, intense and abiding, but necessarily complicated. At its hour of its birth, the nation was already stained by the Original Sin of slavery. Only in that past several decades has legal racism been outlawed and casual racism made unacceptable, at least in polite company. Millions of black Americans have managed to pull themselves up into mainstream, middle-class affluence, but millions of others remain mired in poverty and dysfunction.

A few black Americans broke through into the highest echelons of American society. Oprah Winfrey became the most powerful woman in the entertainment industry by appealing to an audience that is mostly white. Richard Parsons, Stanley O'Neal and others became alpha males in the lily-white world of Wall Street. Through superhuman skill and unbending will, Tiger Woods came to dominate a sport long seen as emblematic of white privilege.

Along came Barack Obama, a young man with an unassailable resume and a message of post-racial transformation. Initially, a big majority of African-Americans lined up behind his major opponent in the Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton. The reason was simple: In the final analysis, white Americans weren't going to vote for the black guy. Better to go with the safe alternative.

But an amazing thing happened. In the Iowa caucuses, white Americans voted for the black guy. That's the moment Obama was referring to when he said his faith in the American people was vindicated. For me, it was the moment when the utterly impossible became merely unlikely. That's a huge, fundamental change, and it launched a sequence of events over the subsequent months that made me realize that some things I "knew" about America were apparently wrong.

Even if John McCain somehow prevails, that won't change the fact that Obama won all those primaries, or that he won the nomination, or that he raised more money than any candidate in history, or that he rewrote the book on how to run a presidential campaign. Nothing can change the fact that so many white Americans entrusted a black American with their hopes and dreams.

We can all have a new kind of pride in our country.

A date with scarcity

New York Times

Nov. 4, 2008, is a historic day because it marks the end of an economic era, a political era and a generational era all at once.

Economically, it marks the end of the Long Boom, which began in 1983. Politically, it probably marks the end of conservative dominance, which began in 1980. Generationally, it marks the end of baby boomer supremacy, which began in 1968. For the past 16 years, baby boomers, who were formed by the tumult of the 1960s, occupied the White House. By Tuesday night, if the polls are to be believed, a member of a new generation will become president-elect.

So today is not only a pivot, but a confluence of pivots.

When historians look back at the era that is now closing, they will see a time of private achievement and public disappointment. In the past two decades, the United States has become a much more interesting place. Companies like Starbucks, Apple, Crate & Barrel, Microsoft and many others enlivened daily life. Private citizens, especially young people, repaired the social fabric, dedicated themselves to community service and lowered drug addiction and teenage pregnancy.

Yet, at the same time, the public sphere has not flourished. Despite decades of affluence, longstanding issues like health care, education, energy and entitlement debt have not been adequately addressed. The baby boomers, who entered adulthood promising a lifetime of activism, have been a politically undistinguished generation. They produced two presidents, neither of whom lived up to his potential. They remained consumed by the culture war that divided their generation. They pass their political supremacy today having squandered the fat years and the golden opportunities.

Month by month, frustration has mounted. Americans are anxious about their private lives but absolutely disgusted by public leaders. So change is demanded.

Republicans nominated an old warrior with a record of making hard decisions and absorbing the blows that ensue. Many of us regard him — and always will — as one of the heroes of our time. But the public demand for change was total, and if the polls are right, voters will elect the man who breaks from the recent past in almost every way.

Barack Obama is a child of the 1960s. His mother was born only five years earlier than Hillary Clinton. For people in Obama’s generation, the great disruption had already occurred by the time they hit adulthood. Theirs is a generation of consolidation and neo-traditionalism — a generation of sunscreen and bicycle helmets, more anxious about parenthood than anything else.

Obama is not only a member of this temperate generation, but of its most educated segment. He has lived nearly his entire adult life within a few miles of one or another of the country’s top 10 universities.

His upscale, post-boomer cohort has rallied behind him with unalloyed fervor. Major college newspapers have endorsed him at a rate of 63 to 1. The upscale educated class — from the universities, the media, the law and the financial centers — has financed his $600 million campaign (which relied on big-dollar donations even more heavily than George W. Bush’s 2004 effort). This cohort will soon become the ruling class.

And the irony is that they will be confronted by the problem for which they have the least experience and for which they are the least prepared: the problem of scarcity.

Raised in prosperity, favored by genetics, these young meritocrats will have to govern in a period when the demands on the nation’s wealth outstrip the supply. They will grapple with the growing burdens of an aging society, rising health care costs and high energy prices. They will have to make up for the trillion-plus dollars the government will spend to avoid a deep recession. They will have to struggle to keep their promises to cut taxes, create an energy revolution, pass an expensive health care plan and all the rest.

As Robert J. Samuelson writes in his forthcoming book, “The Great Inflation and Its Aftermath,” “Already, Americans face far more claims on their incomes than can be easily met.”

In the next few years, the nation’s wealth will either stagnate or shrink. The fiscal squeeze will grow severe. There will be fiercer struggles over scarce resources, starker divisions along factional lines. The challenge for the next president will be to cushion the pain of the current recession while at the same time trying to build a solid fiscal foundation so the country can thrive at some point in the future.

We’re probably entering a period, in other words, in which smart young liberals meet a stone-cold scarcity that they do not seem to recognize or have a plan for.

In an age of transition, the children are left to grapple with the burdens of their elders.

FP roundup

Taiwan and China signed a series of historic trade and travel agreements.
In Islamabad, Pakistani officials complained to visiting Gen. David Petraeus about U.S. airstrikes.

Two senior police officers were killed by drug cartel hitmen in Mexico.
A Venezuelan businessman was convicted in Miami for his role in last year's "suitcasegate" scandal.
With regional elections coming up, Hugo Chavez is cranking up the rhetoric.

Middle East and Africa
A UN aid convoy entered rebel territory in Eastern Congo. UN peacekeepers are under international pressure to toughen up in response to the violence.
The bodies of 60 East African refugees washed ashore in Yemen.
Dissident members of South Africa's African National Congress plan to start their own party.

World Economy
U.S. automobile sales suffered badly in October.
Oil fell to below $60 per barrel

Today's Agenda:
After some last-minute campaigning, Barack Obama will be holding his election-night party in Chicago's Grant Park. McCain will be at the Arizona Biltmore hotel in Phoenix.
U.S. readers: Don't forget to vote.
International readers: We swear this will all be over soon.

Truthout 11/4

You Blog the Vote: As the election unfolds, please join Truthout's editors for an interactive forum. Come share your thoughts on all things election-related. We'll be discussing voting problems, election politics, what the candidates are up to, what the polls are up to and more. We'll also be following the results, minute by minute, as they flood in Tuesday night. Visit the forum at

t r u t h o u t 11.04

The '08 Race: A Sea Change for Politics as We Know It
Adam Nagourney, The New York Times: "The 2008 race for the White House that comes to an end on Tuesday fundamentally upended the way presidential campaigns are fought in this country, a legacy that has almost been lost with all the attention being paid to the battle between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama. It has rewritten the rules on how to reach voters, raise money, organize supporters, manage the news media, track and mold public opinion, and wage - and withstand - political attacks, including many carried by blogs that did not exist four years ago."

ES&S Voting Machines in Michigan Flunk Tests, Don't Tally Votes Consistently
Kim Zetter, "Optical-scan machines made by Election Systems & Software failed recent pre-election tests in a Michigan county, producing different tallies for the same ballots every time, the top election official in Oakland County revealed in a letter made public Monday. The problems occurred during logic and accuracy tests in the run-up to this year's general election, Oakland County Clerk Ruth Johnson disclosed in a letter submitted October 24 to the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) .... Johnson worried that such problems -- linked tentatively to paper dust build-up in the machines -- could affect the integrity of the general election this week."

Congressional Democrats Look Ahead to a New Era
Aaron Blake, The Hill: "Democrats are within reach of their magic number this election - a 60 percent majority in both chambers of Congress. In the Senate, they could secure a filibuster-proof majority, which would set the seal on a new epoch of one-party domination. It still appears unlikely that Senate Democrats will quite hit that mark, but the party also beat similar odds two years ago when it won three of four key races to take a bare majority. All eyes Tuesday night will be on three Southern states - Georgia, Kentucky and Mississippi - with Democrats needing at least one to reach their prize."

Bob Herbert Beyond Election Day
Bob Herbert, The New York Times: "Conservative commentators had a lot of fun mocking Barack Obama's use of the phrase, 'the fierce urgency of now.' Noting that it had originated with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Senator Obama made it a cornerstone of his early campaign speeches. Conservatives kicked the phrase around like a soccer ball. 'The fierce urgency of now,' they would say, giggling. What does it mean? Well, if your house is on fire and your family is still inside, that's an example of the fierce urgency of now."

Suemedha Sood Youth + Environment = Turnout
Suemedha Sood, The Washington Independent: "It's becoming apparent that the youth vote could be a key component of Tuesday's electorate. Americans age 18 to 30 are expected to turn out in record numbers. This is what the Obama campaign has long been focusing on, since Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, does well with voters under 30, according to national polls. If young voters meet these expectations and turn out to vote, their preferences could influence the electorate. That's why political organizers and pollsters have been trying to determine exactly what those preferences are."

John Cory Dreams and Votes
John Cory, writing for Truthout, describes his hopes for the next presidency and for a new direction of US domestic and foreign policy.

Early Morning Voting in Virginia Sees Heavy Turnout
Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian UK: "Polls in Virginia, a prime target of Barack Obama today, opened at 6am - ahead of much of the rest of the country. The early morning hours saw heavy turnout - a sign of the intensity of the contest between Obama and John McCain. The heavy turnout was also an encouraging sign for Democrats. Obama had staked his chances in Virginia on driving up turnout especially among younger voters and African-Americans."

World Hopes for "Less Arrogant America"
William J. Kole and Matt Moore, The Associated Press: "The world was riveted by the election drama unfolding Tuesday in the United States, inspired by the hope embodied by Barack Obama or simply relieved that - whoever wins - an administration that spawned Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay was coming to an end."

Nation Watches as a Divided California Prepares to Decide on Same-Sex Marriage
Jessica Garrison, The Los Angeles Times: "After the most expensive campaign in state history over a social issue, Californians are poised to begin voting Tuesday on the divisive and deeply emotional issue of same-sex marriage. Proposition 8, which would amend the California Constitution to ban gay marriage, has been extremely close in recent polling, with the Field Poll last week showing 49% against and 44% in favor of the measure, with 7% undecided. Along with the presidential race, the fight over gay marriage is among nation's most closely watched contests."

Beena Sarwar "New US President Must Review Pakistan Policy"
Beena Sarwar, Inter Press Service: "Tensions between the United States and Pakistan -- on the eve of the keenly-watched U.S. Presidential elections -- accompanying a visit by U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus over unabated air strikes into Pakistani territory bode ill for peace in the region say analysts."

Le Monde Why Obama
Editorialists at Le Monde and Liberation evaluate the United States's presidential race in its final hours.

It's All Over, And Just Beginning, Or, Why The Campaign Never Ends

It is once again time to play “piano bar” here at the ole’ blog and turn a reader question into a story...and our “request” today comes from our friend jmb who is lucky enough to be living in Vancouver, British Columbia.

She wonders why American politics is now in permanent campaign mode. She comes from a Canadian tradition of limited campaign periods, and it seems awfully strange to her that we are already thinking about 2010, 2012, and 2016 before 2008 is even decided.

Matter of fact, it seems strange to a lot of us in the US as well.

Why does it happen?
Can it be fixed?
What can we learn from 2008?

Those are the questions we’ll take on today...and with time especially short today, we need to get right to work.

In order to really get at the answers to these questions, we need to consider some of the fundamental differences between the political system in the US and Parliamentary systems, such as the one in place in Canada.

Right off the bat, Canadian Federal elections have not occurred on a regular schedule, as they do in the US (although that is about to change). Beyond that, Canadian law limits access to airtime for political campaign advertising, including advertising by third parties. Canadian law also creates defined campaign “seasons” during which electioneering can occur.

In the US, all Members of the House of Representatives are elected every two years; Senators, every six years (one-third are elected every two years). The President and State Governors are elected to four-year terms.

As a result, elections will occur at least every two years in the US.

Because the Canadian Prime Minister is not chosen by public vote, and Canadian Senators are appointed, there is only one federally elected position, the Member of Parliament.

The very essence of what we’re campaigning for is much different as well.

In Canada, and other similar countries, the goal of the Liberal Party at election time is to elect a majority of the members of Parliament from their Party (or to become the plurality, and then form a coalition Government), who will then choose a Prime Minister from among their Members. The Prime Minister runs the Executive functions of these Governments.

Every other Party in the country is trying to do the same thing at the same time.

In the US the goal of the Parties is to elect enough Members of Congress to have majorities in both Houses, so as to advance legislation...but they cannot choose who will run the Executive Branch. In some election cycles, the People also have to elect a President—and as the Obama versus Clinton battle demonstrates, the winner of that contest might not be the Party Establishment’s choice.

In the US it is common for the Presidency and the Congress to be controlled by different Parties (as it is today)—and it is also possible for the House to be controlled by one Party, and the Senate another. These situations would not occur in a Parliamentary system like Canada’s.

In some US States (California, Oregon, and Washington are three quick examples), the People may bypass the Legislature and enact laws upon their own authority through the initiative process—but doing that requires elections, as we have to vote on the various proposals. (Voters in the Canadian Province of British Columbia also have access to the initiative process.)

All that having been said, let’s start answering some questions:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

--The First Amendment to the US Constitution

Part of the reason the US has moved into a permanent campaign mode is because the First Amendment absolutely prevents any effort to limit campaign periods.

Political speech, particularly that offered to advance or oppose a candidacy or issue, is the freest of speech, and offered the greatest degree of protection under First Amendment doctrine as applied by the United States Supreme Court over the years.

Indeed, the speech in which Mrs. McIntyre engaged--handing out leaflets in the advocacy of a politically controversial viewpoint--is the essence of First Amendment expression... No form of speech is entitled to greater constitutional protection than Mrs. McIntyre's.

--McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334 (1995)

The Supreme Court has ruled that restricting the amount that may be raised and spent by a campaign is unconstitutional (see Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U. S. 1 (1976) for more details); this is because spending to advance a candidacy or issue by a campaign is considered protected political speech.

Spending your own money to advance your own candidacy is offered the same protections—but limiting the amount of money that can be contributed by an individual to the campaign of another is permitted on the theory that reducing the corruptive effect of large donations on the political process is a government interest that outweighs the liberty interest of allowing those large donations.

(“Corporate persons” do not have the same First Amendment protections as actual people, and there are what appear to be constitutionally acceptable limits on their political activities.)

This legal theory is controversial in some circles, and you should expect the doctrine to be challenged in the future.

The current donation limits are $2300 per donor per candidate per two-year electoral cycle; and $108,200 in total contributions by one donor to all Federal candidates and PACs per biennium.

Our Constitution protects aliens, drunks and U.S. Senators.

--Will Rogers, in “Daily Telegram 2678”, March 6, 1935

It’s time to talk about campaigning for President.

Win or lose, there are a few things that can already be said about the Obama campaign:

Obama came from absolute obscurity in 2004 to where he is today—and he did much of it by “going around” the Democratic Party establishment, which was very much under Hillary’s control.

That meant, in four years, he had to make himself seem like a serious candidate to a public who had never heard of him; which means he had to develop a “Presidential Brand Identity” for himself despite potentially ferocious, potentially Clinton-led, resistance.

In that time he needed to create an entirely independent campaign infrastructure that was able to operate in all 50-odd primaries (every state plus the several Territories and the District of Columbia), he needed to attract influential donors and advisors...and he needed to “make the rounds”--to attend the innumerable “rubber chicken” Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce and County and State Party lunches and dinners that you have to attend in order to shake the hands of the locally important and demonstrate your Presidential “gravitas”.

When thinking about infrastructure and relationship-building, consider that Canada is a nation of roughly 30 million (a population similar to California’s), spread across 13 Provinces and Territories; and the US is a nation of 300 million, with a total of 57 States, Territories, and the Federal District. That means it takes longer to get your face out there in the US if you’re a new national candidate than it would in Canada.

To accomplish all of this took Obama the better part of four years...and in Canada, there’s a permanent Party structure that manages those relationships for the candidates they select to run—and to become Prime Minister, you really only need to persuade your own Party members and Members of Parliament to support you, making things much easier for the candidates seeking that position than it is for US Presidential candidates.

Another issue is getting on all those 50-odd ballots in the first place. A candidate has to physically file in every jurisdiction in which they wish to run—and part of the filing process is the gathering of signatures from residents of all of those locations by the candidate in order to qualify. Again, that takes time.

(For the foreign reader, the Parties cannot do this work because they do not yet know which candidate will be their nominee, and they won’t know that until the primaries actually begin later on in the process.)

Running for Congress, for a new candidate, is a similar process—you need to create your own “power base” without a Party to advance you along the way (unless you’re the incumbent or well connected in the opposition Party’s establishment), you need to find ways to finance a campaign—and to get well enough known to have a chance to win, you likely need to shake a lot of hands and do some favors, which takes time.

Meanwhile, the two Parties are trying to improve their relative positions in each House of Congress, which means even as the polls are closing each Party is thinking about how to advantage itself in the next election, which will never be more than two years away.

America... just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.

--Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

So how can this “condition” be changed?

It probably can’t.

The most likely reform that would pass Constitutional muster would be an arrangement that required broadcasters to offer discounted or free airtime for political purposes—but it should be noted that this could only be mandated because the airwaves are publicly owned. It is unlikely cable operators could be held to the same kind of requirements, unless the contracts they operate under were to be modified from today’s norms.

Limiting access to that airtime would be much more problematic (airtime is akin to a modern “Speaker’s Corner” for Constitutional purposes), and I would not expect to see that sort of reform anytime soon.

Limiting the period of campaigning will also be exceptionally unlikely to pass Constitutional muster...and limiting campaign speech, in any other manner, will be equally tough.

Some of the same problems, ironically, might be coming to Canada. There are recommendations to move to “Mixed Proportional Representation”, which is a system where some Parliamentary candidates run “to the public” while others are selected by each Party to run on a “Party Slate”, if you will. The goal is to award seats more or less proportionately with the actual ballots cast (if your party gets 20% of the vote, for example, you should end up with roughly 20% of the seats).

We assume the “public” candidates will have to expand their “non-campaign” political activities to create interest in that Party among the larger voting public...this, because the “public” candidates are now essentially “running for two”. You might see a lot of “ribbon-cutting” appearances (“I’m proud to appear with the Mayor at the opening of this lovely new park...”) and seminars and “discussion groups” to raise public awareness and create more political “buzz”...without, of course, any actual “campaigning” taking place.

We also suspect putting elections on a schedule will increase these tendencies.

And with all that said, we have arrived at our lessons for the day: the “eternal campaign” is probably here to stay, there are Constitutional reasons that Canadian-style restrictions cannot be applied to US elections...the goals of Parties and candidates in the US and Canada are fundamentally different...and because the nominating process in the US allows anyone to win the nomination of a Party—sometimes against that party’s will—the “eternal campaign” sometimes creates a President Clinton, who appears seemingly out of nowhere.

And sometimes...a President Bush.

And what we get today...well, I guess we just wait and see...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Rasmussen report 11/3

Electoral College: Obama 260 McCain 160

In the Electoral College projections, Rasmussen Reports now shows Obama leading 260 to 160. When states that are leaning in one way or the other are included, Obama leads 313 to 160. A total of 270 Electoral College votes are needed for victory.

Truthout 11/3

William Rivers Pitt Tomorrow
William Rivers Pitt, Truthout: "It has been a long and terrible time since tomorrow mattered as much as it does today. It began with that first terrible election, the media manipulations, the stolen and uncounted votes, the menacing mobs, and a decision by the highest court which sealed our doom. A man who was not chosen came to possess an office he was unworthy of, and everything that since has come to pass now seems almost preordained, fated, inevitable.... But tomorrow is a different matter."

Florida Democrats Sue GOP Over Voter "Caging"
Jay Weaver, The Miami Herald: "It may be the peak of the 2008 presidential election season, but the Florida Democratic Party is taking a trip down memory lane with the first voter lawsuit filed against the GOP. This time, it's not about ballot recounts, as in Gore v. Bush in 2000. It's a Democratic legal salvo accusing the Republicans of plotting a last-minute challenge of registered voters with potentially bad addresses, which may prevent them from casting a regular ballot at the polls Tuesday."

Jeff Cohen Studs Terkel: He'll Never Be Silenced
Jeff Cohen, Truthout: "Louis 'Studs' Terkel was many things - oral historian, radio host, agitator, Bronx-born icon of Chicago, the 'great listener' who was hard of hearing, Pulitzer Prize winner. But most of all he was an inspiration. He inspired every younger activist or independent journalist who ever met him. And who among us wasn't younger than Studs?"

Nicholas D. Kristof Rejoin the World
Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times: "An unscientific poll of 109 professional historians this year found that 61 percent rated President Bush as the worst president in American history. A couple of others judged him second-worst, after James Buchanan, whose incompetence set the stage for the Civil War. More than 98 percent of the historians in the poll, conducted through the History News Network, viewed Mr. Bush’s presidency as a failure. Mr. Bush’s presidency imploded not because of any personal corruption or venality, but largely because he wrenched the United States out of the international community.... So here’s the top priority for President Barack Obama or President John McCain: We must rejoin the world."

Obama's Green Jobs Revolution
Geoffrey Lean and Leonard Doyle, The Independent UK: "Barack Obama is promising a $150bn 'Apollo project' to bring jobs and energy security to the US through a new alternative energy economy, if his final push for votes brings victory in the presidential election on Tuesday. 'That's going to be my number one priority when I get into office,' Mr Obama has said of his 'green recovery' plans. Making his arguments in a radio address yesterday, the Democratic favourite promised: 'If you give me your vote on Tuesday, we won't just win this election. Together, we will change this country and change the world.'"

FP roundup 11/3

The U.S. Treasury Department has turned down GM's request for funding.
The $143 billion rescue of insurance company AIG faces growing criticism.

Argentina risks another debt crisis.
An Obama victory could open the door for U.S.-Venezuela talks, President Hugo Chávez says, but only "on equal and respectful terms."
Only about a third of the aid money promised to hurricane-wracked Haiti has actually materialized.

Worried about exports, South Korea is pumping $11 billion into its economy.
Eggs tainted with melamine are a rarity, China's agriculture minister insists.
China moved to tax income derived from online video games.

Middle East and Africa
Radical settlers may try to assassinate peace-minded politicians, Israel's internal security chief warned.
Zambia's opposition disputes the results of last week's presidential election.
South Africa's ruling Africa National Congress is splitting in two. ANC leader Jacob Zuma says the rebels are "snakes."

The European Commission thinks Europe's economy is already in recession.
French President Nicholas Sarkozy and British PM Gordon Brown are seeking a "new Bretton Woods" to replace the world's current financial architecture.
Time looks at the increasingly dangeous situation in Ingushetia, a volatile republic in Russia's north Caucasus region.

Today's Agenda
Gen. David Petraeus is visiting Pakistan.
A top Chinese envoy is visiting Taiwan.
Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal is visiting Beirut, Lebanon.
McCain is campaigning in Florida, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona; Obama will be in Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia; Sarah Palin is in Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada; Joe Biden will stump in Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

The Republican rump

New York Times

Maybe the polls are wrong, and John McCain is about to pull off the biggest election upset in American history. But right now the Democrats seem poised both to win the White House and to greatly expand their majorities in both houses of Congress.

Most of the post-election discussion will presumably be about what the Democrats should and will do with their mandate. But let me ask a different question that will also be important for the nation’s future: What will defeat do to the Republicans?

You might think, perhaps hope, that Republicans will engage in some soul-searching, that they’ll ask themselves whether and how they lost touch with the national mainstream. But my prediction is that this won’t happen any time soon.

Instead, the Republican rump, the party that’s left after the election, will be the party that attends Sarah Palin’s rallies, where crowds chant “Vote McCain, not Hussein!” It will be the party of Saxby Chambliss, the senator from Georgia, who, observing large-scale early voting by African-Americans, warns his supporters that “the other folks are voting.” It will be the party that harbors menacing fantasies about Barack Obama’s Marxist — or was that Islamic? — roots.

Why will the G.O.P. become more, not less, extreme? For one thing, projections suggest that this election will drive many of the remaining Republican moderates out of Congress, while leaving the hard right in place.

For example, Larry Sabato, the election forecaster, predicts that seven Senate seats currently held by Republicans will go Democratic on Tuesday. According to the liberal-conservative rankings of the political scientists Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal, five of the soon-to-be-gone senators are more moderate than the median Republican senator — so the rump, the G.O.P. caucus that remains, will have shifted further to the right. The same thing seems set to happen in the House.

Also, the Republican base already seems to be gearing up to regard defeat not as a verdict on conservative policies, but as the result of an evil conspiracy. A recent Democracy Corps poll found that Republicans, by a margin of more than two to one, believe that Mr. McCain is losing “because the mainstream media is biased” rather than “because Americans are tired of George Bush.”

And Mr. McCain has laid the groundwork for feverish claims that the election was stolen, declaring that the community activist group Acorn — which, as points out, has never “been found guilty of, or even charged with” causing fraudulent votes to be cast — “is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.” Needless to say, the potential voters Acorn tries to register are disproportionately “other folks,” as Mr. Chambliss might put it.

Anyway, the Republican base, egged on by the McCain-Palin campaign, thinks that elections should reflect the views of “real Americans” — and most of the people reading this column probably don’t qualify.

Thus, in the face of polls suggesting that Mr. Obama will win Virginia, a top McCain aide declared that the “real Virginia” — the southern part of the state, excluding the Washington, D.C., suburbs — favors Mr. McCain. A majority of Americans now live in big metropolitan areas, but while visiting a small town in North Carolina, Ms. Palin described it as “what I call the real America,” one of the “pro-America” parts of the nation. The real America, it seems, is small-town, mainly southern and, above all, white.

I’m not saying that the G.O.P. is about to become irrelevant. Republicans will still be in a position to block some Democratic initiatives, especially if the Democrats fail to achieve a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

And that blocking ability will ensure that the G.O.P. continues to receive plenty of corporate dollars: this year the U.S. Chamber of Congress has poured money into the campaigns of Senate Republicans like Minnesota’s Norm Coleman, precisely in the hope of denying Democrats a majority large enough to pass pro-labor legislation.

But the G.O.P.’s long transformation into the party of the unreasonable right, a haven for racists and reactionaries, seems likely to accelerate as a result of the impending defeat.

This will pose a dilemma for moderate conservatives. Many of them spent the Bush years in denial, closing their eyes to the administration’s dishonesty and contempt for the rule of law. Some of them have tried to maintain that denial through this year’s election season, even as the McCain-Palin campaign’s tactics have grown ever uglier. But one of these days they’re going to have to realize that the G.O.P. has become the party of intolerance.

Will SJ County count ALL the votes this time?

[For additional information, please visit this site]

Brief recap:

St. Joseph County failed to count, certify, and report legally protected several hundred votes cast for registered candidates in 2006. These included candidates affiliated with the Constitution Party, Democratic Party, and Green Party. Across the state it appears as though 23 of Indiana's 92 counties experienced similar problems with the counting, certifying, and reporting of write-in votes for registered candidates-- in direct violation of Indiana law.

Again in 2007, there were problems as hundreds of votes cast for 3 registered candidates that were not attributed to these candidates as the voters intended.

All told, between 2006 and 2007 there were upwards of 800 uncounted legal votes in St. Joseph County (minimally, it's impossible to know exactly how many because, well, the votes WEREN'T COUNTED).

St. Joseph County Election Board chairperson James Korpal (D) "acknowledged" there were problems in both cases but refused to accept any responsibility despite the Election Board being the governmental entity charged with coordinating the conduct of elections in St. Joseph County.

Korpal and the Election Board have stated that, for this election, they will open ballot boxes on election night in order to sift through the ballots to ensure a full and accurate counting of legally-protected write-in votes.

Whether or not this will cause major delays in the reporting of vote tallies on election night and/or open up the possibility of charges of vote tampering remains to be seen.

These problems could be avoided by one of two ways:

1) St. Joseph County could purchase "diverter" mechanisms (which should have been done at the original point of purchase of the current voting machines) which allows for an efficient counting of write-in votes and avoids the necessity of opening the ballot boxes on election night.

2) Indiana's ballot access laws could be reformed to meet the US Supreme Court's standard of "easy access to the ballot" which would negate the legal necessity of allowing for and counting of write-in ballots. The US Supreme Court has ruled that states that do not afford "easy access to the ballot" for independents and minor party candidates MUST maintain a write-in mechanism AND they must treat these votes as any other (i.e. they MUST count them.)

Indiana's population has (roughly) doubled since 1933 but its signature requirements for independent and minor party candidates to get on the statewide ballot has increased 64 fold. From 500 signatures to approximately 32, 741. Furthermore, the original deadline to turn in these signatures was 20 days prior to the election. Now it is June 30th. From 20 days to well over 100 days.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

This could turn the trick for McCain

Truthout 11/2

White House Memos on Wiretapping Sought
Joan Lowy, The Associated Press: "A judge has ordered the Justice Department to produce White House memos that provide the legal basis for the Bush administration's post-Sept. 11 warrantless wiretapping program."

David M. Kotz Shocked Disbelief
David M. Kotz, Truthout: "Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan found himself 'in a state of shocked disbelief' at the failure of individual self-interest to protect our banking system. What really ought to provoke shocked disbelief is that a person who held such views was placed in charge of regulating the American financial system, a position he held from 1987 to 2006."

Roger Cohen American Stories
Roger Cohen, The New York Times: "Of the countless words Barack Obama has uttered since he opened his campaign for president on an icy Illinois morning in February 2007, a handful have kept reverberating in my mind: 'For as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on earth is my story even possible.'"

William Greider Paulson's Swindle Revealed
William Greider, The Nation: "The swindle of American taxpayers is proceeding more or less in broad daylight, as the unwitting voters are preoccupied with the national election. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson agreed to invest $125 billion in the nine largest banks, including $10 billion for Goldman Sachs, his old firm. But, if you look more closely at Paulson's transaction, the taxpayers were taken for a ride - a very expensive ride. They paid $125 billion for bank stock that a private investor could purchase for $62.5 billion. That means half of the public's money was a straight-out gift to Wall Street, for which taxpayers got nothing in return."

Cases Against Detainees Have Thinned
Del Quentin Wilber, The Washington Post: "The six Algerians were scooped up in Bosnia and shuttled to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in early 2002. Days later, President Bush proclaimed in his State of the Union address that the men had been plotting to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo."

On Spinning Up Fear, Or, My Crazy Is Crazier Than Your Crazy

There are but three days to go, Gentle Reader, and the McCain campaign is now down to fear and Joe The Plumber.

Those who seek to spread The Fear are resorting to fantastic schemes and amazing leaps of logic in an effort to find something to make The Fear rise in voters.

But to be honest, the crazy speculation lacks...imagination.

I believe I can present crazy speculation that is at least as interesting as what they’ve put out—and funnier to boot—and with that and the Halloween just past in mind we present the final weekend edition of the 2008 campaign cycle's blogging.

So, ya wanna hear a few debunked made up rumors that, frankly, have a lot more creative style?

Here’s a good one, to get things started: Obama does not plan to increase employment by having the Department of Health and Human Services purchase hundreds of mobile medical vans that he will staff with pro-choice doctors and nurses so they can drive around the country and perform mobile abortions by night while teaching sex education to kindergarteners by day.

The rumor that Nicholas Sarkozy is planning to resign as President of France so that he can become Governor of West Virginia after Obama renames it West By God France is, sadly, untrue.

Obama will not rip off a fake rubber head on Inauguration Day and reveal himself to actually be Osama Bin-Laden...or one of the Clintons.

Obama is not planning to create a secret Mexico – USA – Canada “Underground Railroad” so that he can deport all the white people to evacuation camps outside the USA...”for their own safety”...and then sell American Citizenships—and the white people’s former houses--to his millions of foreign campaign donors.

Obama’s education policy is not to change the name of every American primary school to William Ayres Elementary.

There are no plans to change Christmas into a secular holiday called “Reverend Wright Day”.

It turns out that the rapidly developing operational concepts that are to be put in place during the transition to turn all Federal buildings and installations into mosques that actually serve as processing centers for the plan to turn all Non-Muslim Infidels into Soylent Green that will be donated to hungry Iranian children are, in fact, only rumors.

“A fashion is nothing but an induced epidemic.”

--George Bernard Shaw

Sarah Palin is not acting that way to fool John McCain so that she can take over...Captain Queeg style... if they win.

Tina Fey is not doing all Sarah Palin’s public appearances from the same Area 51 soundstage that was used to stage the moon landings. (In fairness, that one’s almost true. She’s actually using a different one.)

No matter what it says in that one email you received, in an Obama Administration Boy Scouts will not be able to earn merit badges by marrying gay couples.

Kang and Kodos are not on the way to Washington to lobby the new President for leniency for the real illegal aliens.

Despite what some people might suspect, the Obama campaign is not running a secret whisper campaign intimating that Joe The Plumber was, for two years, the seventh member of The Village People.

Barack Obama’s staff, The Secretariat of the United Nations, the Zionist Jews, (represented by the Bilderberger Club), the US Defense Department’s Institute of Heraldry, the European Commission, and Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi of Libya are not meeting in Geneva to figure out how to change the US, UN, Israeli, and European flags by replacing the stars (or the wreath, depending on the flag) with the crescent of Islam in time for the Inauguration.

Nobody is planning on making all dog food out of grain-based products in order to advance the vegetarian agenda...or at least, not that “I know of”.

Now look, folks, all of this is fun for a Sunday, but there is a bigger message: things that are just as foolish as what you are hearing here are being spread—and not just in the Presidential race—and I’m here to suggest that if you hear some of their foolishness, you can reply with some of this, as a means of using absurd to “out” absurd.

Have fun with it...invent the wildest rumors possible...and if someone gives you that “hey, they might be right...” look, stare ‘em right in the eye and ask: “my friends, if you can believe this load of numbnuttery...I know someone who’s looking to unload a slightly used Palin Barbie...with all the clothes and accessories reasonable offer refused...”

Then watch the looks on the faces of the other the big line you’re all waiting in...and smile just a bit, inside, because you know you’ve done your good deed for the day.

Shields and Brooks review the Presidential campaign

Many of us can't get WNIT over the air any more.

From the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, last Friday:

Saturday, November 1, 2008

School Board Candidates at-large forum

Curiously. the South Bend Tribune hasn't written about the forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters and two IUSB organizations last Thursday - even though their education reporter Michael Wambaugh served on the panel.

Luckily, WNDU-TV did cover the event and posted video of the candidates' opening remarks:

Truthout 11/1

Marcia Mitchell Who Watches While the US Invades - Again
Marcia Mitchell, Truthout: "Has anyone in Washington noticed? The new US raids into Pakistan and Syria are, as was the invasion of Iraq, in blatant violation of international law. But who's keeping track of this sort of thing? Certainly not senior US officials, who apparently have weighed the negative consequences of illegal military operations against their perceived benefits and opted in favor of the latter."

Nate Silver Zogby Trick or Treat
Nate Silver, "Matt Drudge is touting the results of a one-day sample in a Zogby poll, which apparently showed John McCain ahead by 1 point. There are a couple of significant problems with this."

One in Five Homeowners With Mortgages Underwater
Jonathan Stempel, Reuters: "Nearly one in five U.S. mortgage borrowers owe more to lenders than their homes are worth, and the rate may soon approach one in four as housing prices fall and the economy weakens, a report on Friday shows."

Democratic Politicians: Open Polls This Weekend
Mary Lou Pickle, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Democratic politicians came together Friday to decry the three to four hour waits that have become routine at some early voting locations. They urged Secretary of State Karen Handel and Gov. Sonny Perdue to extend voting hours through the weekend."

Heather Wylie Floating to Save the LA River
Heather Wylie, The Los Angeles Times: "A kayak trip I took this summer may cost me my job. I am a civilian biologist working for the Army Corps of Engineers. On my personal time, I joined a trip down the Los Angeles River to protest actions by my own agency to undermine the Clean Water Act."

Le Monde The American Firm
Le Monde's editorial writer muses, "Oligarchy: a political regime in which sovereignty belongs to a small group of people, a restricted and privileged class. The word became fashionable again to define the Cossack capitalism that has plundered Russia for the last several years. But, in the end, weren't Vladimir Putin's friends directly inspired by the American model?"

FOCUS: Moyers and Winship The Sounds of Voting
Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, Truthout: "Our Manhattan offices are in a building that also houses the New York City Board of Elections. So this is the season when we hear above our heads the sounds of heavy objects rolling across the floor into freight elevators. The moving men have arrived - and what they're transporting are voting machines being carted off to polling places."

FOCUS Studs Terkel, Listener to Americans, Dies at 96
William Grimes, The New York Times: "Studs Terkel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author whose searching interviews with ordinary Americans helped establish oral history as a serious genre, and who for decades was the voluble host of a popular radio show in Chicago, died Friday at his home there. He was 96."