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Friday, November 28, 2008

American Foreign Policy Must Not Fall for Terrorist Divide and Conquer Initiatives

The terrorist attack in Mumbai, formerly Bombay, the capital of Maharashtra, is a harbinger of challenges facing worldwide democracies and, in particular, the incoming Obama Administration, perhaps linked to predictions by the VP=elect Biden that the new US President will be tested. . This ostensive divide and conquer initiative, likely to be seen repeatedly in coming months, must not distract US foreign policy from the critical objective of holding a united front against the terrorists. India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, is not helping by blaming forces “based outside this country” in a thinly veiled accusation that Pakistan was involved. Mr. Singh issuing a warning that seemed clearly aimed at Pakistan, which India has often accused of allowing terrorist groups to plot anti-Indian attacks.

“The group, which carried out these attacks, based outside the country, had come with single-minded determination to create havoc in the commercial capital of the country,” he said. “We will take up strongly with our neighbors that the use of their territory for launching attacks on us will not be tolerated, and that there would be a cost if suitable measures are not taken by them” (NYT, 11/28/08).

Whatever validity may be present in this opinion, it is not a constructive way to respond in what appears as hip shooting when careful consultation with allies should be the order of the day.

Monday, November 24, 2008

“Merit pay” in public schools – what we mean by “junk science”

Think about scientific method. Start with questions and hypotheses instead of declaring the solution in advance without even thinking what the questions are.

What are the hypotheses?

Let's begin with facts we know: nobody’s complaining about the performance of teachers as a group in the top suburban public high schools. The problems we can identify are most prominently in inner city schools where the neighborhood is low-income, often below the poverty line.

So let's formulate the very first hypothesis implicit in support for "merit pay." Where is the slightest bit of empirical research establishing or even pretending to support the premise that the problem with performance of kids in inner city schools is that the teachers in the aggregate do not try hard enough? The whole premise has to be that merit pay will improve effort. But that first question has to be answered in a convincing fashion, or the whole premise falls apart. Sorry, saying a friend of yours told you a teacher he heard about who sat at her desk all day is slightly below the standard we usually require for data to count as empirical evidence. Neither does your experience with teachers you just knew were incompetent (even though you never actually set foot in their classrooms) during your Teach for America stint. In fact, even quantified empirical research evidence of more incompetent teachers in inner city schools, if it exists, has nothing whatsoever to say on whether they don’t try as hard as they know how. What, an extra $2 K will turn an incompetent teacher into a good one? Finally, saying everyone knows it’s true because (everyone knows) greedy unions keep the lazy teachers from losing their jobs is not evidence, either.

Without evidence on the question of whether the problems are due to teachers not trying as hard as possible, you don’t even get to the next question: whether it's the absence of the chance to win extra money that keeps teachers in inner city schools from trying to do the best job they know how to do. And, of course, without some bit of evidence suggesting that hypothesis could be true, you can’t even get to the next question you have to answer: whether there is the slightest bit of evidence that a merit pay system would fix that problem, by causing all teachers to try harder, and resulting in better test scores for inner city kids.

Simply to identify the underlying premises of so-called “merit pay” for public school teachers really reveals what a frivolous concept it is. Does anyone honestly believe that a merit pay system – forget thinking about the bureaucracy that will be needed to administer such a system – will be the measurable cause of improvements in student performance in a big-city public school system?

The concept of “junk science” has been formulated for the court system primarily by corporate defendants being sued for allegedly defective products. They use it trying to fend off expert witnesses with unconventional approaches to scientific disciplines. When you don’t even bother to formulate your hypotheses and jump straight to your solution without even trying to find any answers to those questions, as the merit pay proponents do, that is an iconic example of junk science.

This turkey should be beat into the ground until it's dead forever -- at least until those questions are answered in the affirmative. Calling it what it is -- junk science -- is a start.

I can't hearrrrrrrrr youuuuuuuuuuuuu....I can't ....

Via Kevin Drum, liberal writer David Sirota has been tracking the escalation since the election of Obama of almost desperate-sounding declarations by Big Media big shots that we are a “center-right” nation.

Says Drum:

I guess a desire for less Bush, less war, better healthcare, competent governance, acknowledgment that global warming isn't fiction, and economic stimulus in the face of a massive recession is now evidence of a center right world view. As John Maynard Keynes famously said, "We are all center rightists now."

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Juan Cole makes a great point today. President Bush is happy as a clam to send in two aircraft carriers and a bunch of war ships to the Gulf or Arabia just to tweak the Iranians and puff up his own ego, but has he even lifted a finger to do anything to stop the Somali pirates from essentially closing down the Suez Canal and tripling the cost of shipping oil to us? No.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Truth: Card check does not end secret ballot, if workers want one

You'll hear a lot otherwise as the latest right-wing talking point, but Ezra Klein tells it like it is:

Card check doesn't allow labor leaders to forgo anything. It allows workers to do so. The Employee Free Choice Act does nothing to modify the National Labor Relation Act's provision ensuring that if 30 percent of workers want a secret ballot election, one will be held. That could even happen after a card check election. If three-of-ten workers are unhappy, they can call the union into question in a secret ballot election. Let me state that again, and clearly: Card check does not end the secret ballot.

What card check does allow, however, is for workers to forgo the long, drawn out election in which employers routinely fire union supporters, intimidate workers, put the union supporters on awful shifts as a warning, hire unionbusting consultants, and so on, and so forth. Power matters, and in a workplace, employers have plenty of it. But it's extremely odd to watch the Chamber of Commerce abruptly discover a deep-seated concern for the labor rights of workers. They're spending tens of millions to fight card check, but they are somehow unruffled that 25 percent of employers illegally fire workers who try to form a union. Why, it's as if they're not interested in worker's rights, or free and fair elections, at all!

Remember: there is absolutely nothing these slime-bags won't lie about.

For your war-chest: liberal media treatment of Clinton in 1993

Thorough discussion of major media treatment of Clinton during his '92-'93 transition and so-called honeymoon period, with compare-and-contract exercise with 2001. Get your Big Media phone numbers and email addresses ready. We have to make them suffer as much as possible the second they start pulling this crap again. Does anyone doubt it's coming?

Somali Pirates negotiate to buy Citigroup

This has got to be a joke, hasn't it?

November 20 (Bloomberg) -- The Somali pirates, renegade Somalis known for hijacking ships for ransom in the Gulf of Aden, are negotiating a purchase of Citigroup.

The pirates would buy Citigroup with new debt and their existing cash stockpiles, earned most recently from hijacking numerous ships, including most recently a $200 million Saudi Arabian oil tanker. The Somali pirates are offering up to $0.10 per share for Citigroup, pirate spokesman Sugule Ali said earlier today. The negotiations have entered the final stage, Ali said.

"You may not like our price, but we are not in the business of paying for things. Be happy we are in the mood to
offer the shareholders anything," said Ali.

The pirates will finance part of the purchase by selling new Pirate Ransom Backed Securities. The PRBS's are backed by the cash flows from future ransom payments from hijackings in the Gulf of Aden. Moody's and S&P have already issued their top investment grade ratings for the PRBS's.

Head pirate, Ubu Kalid Shandu, said: "We need a bank so that we have a place to keep all of our ransom money. Thankfully, the dislocations in the capital markets has allowed us to purchase Citigroup
at an attractive valuation and to take advantage of TARP capital to grow the business even faster."

Shandu added, "We don't call ourselves pirates. We are coastguards and this will just allow us to guard our coasts better."

Pareto Rule Reverse in the Mortgage Crisis

Turn Pareto's argument that 20% of the culprits cause 80% of the problems. Fannie and Freddie are the dominant players in the U.S. mortgage market but hold only 20 percent of delinquent loans. Ultimately about 400,000 households are likely to qualify for the loan modification program, according to Priya Misra, a mortgage analyst with Barclays Capital.

By contrast, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. estimates that more than 4.4 million borrowers will become delinquent by the end of next year, not including loans backed by Fannie and Freddie.

Republicans claim that Fannie and Freddie caused this mess due to Democratic pressure during the height of the subprime loans 2000-06 and when Democrats were not in the majority, how come Fannie and Freddie only hold 20% of deliquent loans?

It must have been Jimmy Carter and the 1978 Community Reinvestment Act. Well, of the top 20 banks having subprime and mortgage problems none come under CRA regulations but are new banks that just originate loans and collect fees and are gone like Countrywide.

This is America, the Republican land of Opportunity and opportunists and little connivers.

Why the Republicans Want to Kill GM

Wed, 11/19/2008 - 12:51pm. Steven Jonas

This is a long read, but worth the effort

Remember the original bailout package? Yes, that one was some years ago for some hedge fund or funds. The Republicans were all for that one. Several billions. Then there was the bailout/buyout package for Bear Stearns. Billions more. Lehman Bros. wasn't so lucky (but then again it's primarily Goldman Sachs folks who populate this Treasury Dept., not Lehman folks). Then came the broader financial sector $700 billion bailout, the first draft of which was essentially written on the back of a paper napkin. (OK, that's an exaggeration. It was actually two-and-a-half typed pages long.) That package eventually got into a very long bill. It was eventually passed to help the investment banking sector recover from its excesses of greed in the process of securitizing mortgage loans.

That "securitization" process was enabled, courtesy of McCain's Treasury Secretary-designate Phil Gramm and the repeal of the New Deal Era Glass-Steagal Act. It had separated investment and commercial banking to forestall exactly the kind of financial meltdown that has occurred over the past six months, courtesy in turn of investment banks not being required to have the reserves to back up mortgage loans at anywhere near the level commercial banks are still required to hold. And then there is AIG, running through government funds at a great rate, currently around $150 billion. Boy those resort/spa costs are high, aren't they? No problem there for the Republicans.

And so comes along the U.S. auto industry, especially General Motors. As a result of really bad management, focusing on immediate profitability and not caring much about the long run until very recently, it's in a very bad way, with both GM and Chrysler facing possible bankruptcy without Federal government assistance. AIG, an insurance company, mind you, that made some very bad decisions on what to insure, gets $150 billion. The U.S. auto industry, which directly and indirectly employs an estimated 3 million people wants an extra (and paltry) $25 billion beyond the loan it is already getting to help it retool for fuel-efficient cars, that is $25 billion more to help it get to the time when it can start producing modern cars in significant numbers. And all of a sudden the Republicans are saying no. So why, you might ask?

Part of the answer does lie in the standard reasons given. Many U.S. automaker workers live in Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan and those states seem to be gone from the red group to the blue for quite some time to come, the racist messages that the Republicans used to win over those "Reagan Democrats" for the last 30 years to the contrary notwithstanding. That may be true in part, but there are U.S. automaker plants in other parts of the country, and certainly the suppliers and especially the dealers are all over the country. So that one doesn't hold much water.

The Republicans' own answer is, well if you bail out one industry, how do you pick and choose among the others that might/will start lining up. So let's just let the auto industry go. Anyway, the free market should just be allowed to work, and the companies, well actually just Chrysler and GM, apparently, should just be allowed to go bankrupt and they will come out of it just fine. Well, they picked and chose among the financial sector companies, so that one doesn't hold much water either.

Thus I think that it goes rather deeper than those three. There are three other reasons that are likely more significant. Two are ideological and one is political, but at a much broader level than just red state/blue state thing. First, and this one has been mentioned a bit, bankruptcy would permit the companies to break their union contracts, both for current employees and for their "legacy" beneficiaries who depend on the U.S. automakers for their pensions and health care coverage. Forgetting about what that would do to those workers, such actions would break the United Auto Workers, one of the last U.S. industrial unions that has any real power. That would be a real achievement for the Republicans.

Second, over the last 30 years, the U.S. manufacturing sector has declined very significantly, primarily as the result of the export of U.S. capital to countries such as China where wages are much lower. So-called "free trade" has had little to do with increasing trade going both ways (U.S. trade deficits have been on the increase every year for many years now) but rather with the free export of capital. This has to do with the historical development of modern capitalism since it was invented in the 17th century. The first form was mercantile capitalism, in which money was made by organized trading at a level much higher than anything previously seen. The second form was industrial capitalism, still going strong in many countries around the world, especially those with cheap labor, where money is made by making things. The third form is finance capital, in which money is made neither from trading nor from making things but from the business of selling and trading various financial instruments, for example, home mortgages, and most recently, their "securitized" form. Modern Republicans, having had their hands on the many or all of major levers of governmental power since the election of Reagan, are closely associated with finance capitalism, much less with industrial capitalism. Thus their strong interest in helping out the former while being perfectly willing to let the latter die on the vine, especially if that death can bring down one of the few remaining major unions.

Finally there is an overarching political reason, well beyond red state/blue state voting patterns. The Republicans in their gut realize that if Obama even half-succeeds in bringing the country through the recession/Depression, especially if it is identified in peoples' minds as Limbaugh would ever so falsely have it be, as the "Obama Recession," they will be in the political wilderness for along time.

They realize that the only pathway they have back to power is if things get so bad that the Obama Administration is rendered powerless to deal with the situation and, possibly, there are an increasing number of public protests around the country that eventually turn violent, and possibly increasingly violent. Then they would become the "law and order" types, and you know what the scenario would then be. And so, in my view the overriding reason the Republicans do not want to help GM over the hump is precisely that they want to make things as bad as possible before Obama has the chance to step in and begin dealing positively with the situation, so as to significantly decrease his chances of success. Indeed, it is the obverse of the old Trotskyite mantra in referring to the conditions that could lead to a communist revolution, in this case leading to a possible fascist takeover: the worse the better.

Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and a

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Deep, disturbing thoughts

As I sit here watching my portfolio of stocks (which I live off of) melt away, I try to console myself with the thought that, "what goes down must eventually go back up." One of my friends said to me the other day, "stocks have always been back up within three years of the bottom." It sounded good at the time, but when I think about it, I wonder what the hell he really meant. First, it's not true that stocks have always been back up to their previous high within three years. It's taken more than a decade in several cases. Second, by definition stocks have to be higher than the "bottom" after they hit bottom. So, I'm not all that heartened, but then, in my gloomier moments, things look even worse. What if they never come back at all?

Here's what I fear. It seems to me there is at least a chance that this depression will be something like Noah's flood, washing the ground completely clean of all the companies and institutions that went before it. Not unlike what happened to the social conventions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in which my grandmother grew up (gentlemen all had a man-servant to help them dress and ladies all had several live-in house servants and a nanny to help them run the household and take care of the kids, people dressed for dinner, etc., etc.) after the first World War scoured the social surface of the earth, all the companies we now know may go the way of the horse and buggy. Yes, the economy will come back, eventually, but will any of the companies that now make up that economy come back? I'm not sure. I always believed in diversification as a means to eliminate having all your eggs in one basket, but this may be the time that the diversification becomes irrelevant.

Why do I fear things might get this bad? Because the current government is doing everything it possibly can to make things worse. It is refusing to use the bailout money. It is refusing to save three million auto industry jobs. It is refusing to do anything sensible about the foreclosure crisis. It is promising to veto any extension to unemployment insurance. It wants to CUT spending (along with taxes on the rich) at the very worst possible moment. If it's not a deliberate effort to destroy the country before Obama gets it (a la, "if I can't have it, nobody can"), it might as well be. By the time Obama gets into power, it may well be too late to salvage anything.

And, if the today's companies all fail, where does that leave my portfolio? A scary thought, at least for me and most of my friends who plan to retire soon on their 401-Ks. Yet, I still haven't been able to bring myself to bail on the market. Am I clinging to a false hope? I just don't know, but I'm not sleeping very well these days.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bridge loan to these jokers?

The Detroit CEOs are really stupid when it comes to P.R. So the Ford CEO drives to Capitol Hill to beg for money in a Ford Hybrid – yeah, cool move – but, um, like his GM and Chrysler cohorts, he flies to D.C. in his own carbon-spewing private jet. Not so cool.

The fundamental problem with Detroit these days is not the cars they build. Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai, Volvo, VW and BMW make the same line-up including the same big gas-guzzling SUVs that Detroit makes, and Detroit seems to have actually pulled ahead on offering more fuel-efficient models in the mid-size category. The quality gap is long gone. It was far more complicated than most understood even when it supposedly existed – in the beginning a significaant part of it was a simple car vs. more complex car comparison, buttressed by delayed introduction of Japanese cars in the U.S. market until after the initial engineering bugs had been ironed out. They are all basically world class manufacturers who all make incredibly good products. That’s not to say, however, that we do not as a society have to keep pushing the envelope as fast as possible, and all the manufacturers just have to deal with it.

The problem for Detroit is that I have to preface my remarks with such statements in the first place. GM, Ford and Chrysler long ago conceded the impression of better quality and fuel efficiency to the Japanese, and have made virtually zero effort to begin changing that zeitgeist. A huge part of it was not grasping the long-term blow-back from loudly opposing fuel-efficiency restraints on Capitol Hill. No doubt an in-depth advertising study would find that in addition to lumping the Big 3 together, such that a bad act by one is attributable to all (but not necessarily the opposite), consumers easily make a mental leap from fuel-efficiency to efficiency in general – as in manufacturing efficiency, i.e., quality. Those short-sighted, continuous and highly publicized efforts to oppose any restraints, with the Japanese properly remaining lurking in the background of an American issue -- was a hugely negative two-fer for the Big 3: anti-environment, not as high quality.

The result: Detroit has lost the young adult demographic and without Herculean efforts will never get it back. Today’s young adults become tomorrow’s old farts, as I should know, the ones who buy Detroit cars today. It is a losing business model if there ever was one. Taking the leadership on green development – and really, really meaning it this time – will be the only way to recover. That’s not a short-term proposition, however.

Obama has floated the term “bridge loan” to describe what he would approve for Detroit, but he also has said it can’t be a “bridge loan to nowhere.” (Good play, I thought – and another two-fer: besides a way to conceptualize the questionable idea of helping Detroit, it reminds us again of one of Palin’s biggest fibs without breaking a sweat.) Becoming green, modern and with-it will take those companies a longer time than any bridge loan can last. Possibly making more sense, even politically, is a bridge to a time when the massive weight of ever-exploding healthcare costs have been lifted from their shoulders and allowed them to massively improve their cost-competitiveness. That might be the next bridge to somewhere.

Bipartisanship: this is not it

It looks like the Democrats and even the Obama team have misinterpreted what the voters wanted when they railed against all the partisanship. Re-establishing the old boys club slapping Joe Lieberman on the back, much less the wrist, is definitely not it. That’s exactly what Obama seemed be saying is going to change. Acting as if the disgraceful conduct of Lieberman is unimportant – he went far beyond registering a supposedly honest disagreement over foreign policy, and into the right-wing talking point of the day, lying and either making himself or abetting slimy personal attacks on Obama – is the exact opposite of what voters for Obama were seeking.

In the case of Lieberman, as with a capital crime, it is hard to separate retribution from standing up for principle, so call it what you will. Lieberman committed the most serious capital crime in political terms I can remember in my lifetime (wild-eyed Zell Miller was relatively unimportant). As a matter of principle as well as retribution, Lieberman deserved a proportional punishment.

What voters have been objecting to is not insufficient “bipartisanship” in the chambers of Congress and the Georgetown cocktail circuit, but the overweening partisanship of personal attacks of the Republican Party – period. We run-of-the-mill Democrats out here in the hinterlands – you know, we flaming left-wingers whom the pundits say Democrats would do well to ignore even though we are almost half the population and 80% of the people who voted for Obama – wanted to see principled treatment of Lieberman. We also want to see the end of Karl Rove’s rotten, poisonous influence on the political conversation in this country. Period – out, out, out! And that’s where the moderates and the independents who are so much the focus on all this joined the movement: they, too, wanted to see the end of Karl Roveism, not Beltway politicians holding hands across the aisle. In fact, the whole kit-and-kaboodle of the Obama constituency wanted both at the same time: the end of rabid Rovian-style partisanship, and the end of too much collegial bipartisanship among the politicians (as well as the K Street lobbyists) in Washington. Why do they think we hated both Karl Rove and David Broder anyway?

The only way ridding ourselves of Roveism is going to happen is through Obama’s persistence via a bully pulpit – shining a continuous floodlight on the problem and its sources. Yes, first things first in terms of a legislative agenda and executive orders, and there is nothing wrong with sticking to the high road and avoiding the very thing you want to see ended. But let’s keep one thing clear: it is not bipartisan to refuse to even try to get the poison out. Getting the poison out is the high road. If the poison is being injected entirely by one side, and it most certainly has been, so be it.

Lieberman’s role in this campaign was, indeed, poisonous, so this who-cares attitude was not a good start. Fixing the problem is bipartisan. We who voted for Obama voted for him to go in and fix problems. This is one of the biggest problems we have as a country. Letting this fundamental building block of a decent society continue to languish – some level of civility in political discourse, with the end of all forms of Swiftboating – is avoiding fixing a very big problem. Let's end the confusion on this.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Frightened by their own shadow

The Democrats have proven once again that they have no guts whatsoever. Joe Lieberman threatened to leave the party and vote with the Republicans, so they ran away from him like scared rabbits and elected him head of overseeing Obama so he can really throw the monkey wrench at the new President.

It's time to get rid of the Democrats on the Hill. All of them. They're utterly worthless.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Questioning the Auto Industry Bailout

Auto execs. have had more than enough time to adjust to the market as we agree they must do in a market economy. Not that U.S. car designs aren't competitive, but their fuel performance is not relative to the rest of the world. The Bush Administration is largely responsible for this by refusing to regulate (nothing new about that given the financial structure problem) EPA fuel standards. Moreover, said Administration's antediluvian stance on health care has prevented Big Auto from getting labor cost relief in the benefits paid US workers which raise the average cost to produce an American car by about $1500 higher than global competitors, combined with thin profit margins as a result of their inefficiency and falling volume which raise average cost (econ of scale in reverse) has denied Big Auto the margins needed to deploy needed marketing penetration (via price cutting) strategies. Bottom line: a plague on Big Auto and US Fed Gov, t. But, in my view, that's not the half of it. What is really needed (I have called for this for 3 years on the blog) is rationalization analogous to what France did in the 60's. Applied to Big Auto, I call for merging the Big 3 into one company: General Auto (GA). None of the Big 3 can separately compete against Honda or Toyota. The market is showing that. GA would have larger scale economies and substantial synergy including eliminating duplication and waste. The failure of Fed. Gov't economic policy that infected finance and energy has caught up with autos. With their head in the sand for 50 yrs. on energy and 10 yrs. on finance, not surprising Feds still don't get it. Well, you see auto rationalization (like tax cuts for the middle class) would be socialism, bailout would be patriotism. Auto workers who lose their jobs won't have any gains from tax cuts. OK, the Feds will screw it up and 100,000 jobs will be lost so why not start transitioning labor via training and relocation, i.e. "to have some sort of compensation package for workers and/or retraining program? It seems that, ultimately, these companies might just collapse no matter how much money is thrown at them. Why not take steps now to mitigate the inevitable?" Gene Sperling, Pres. Clinton's main economic advisor makes a persuasive case for this approach.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cliff diving

Look out below:

BREAKING: "Retail sales plunged by the largest amount on record in October as the financial crisis and the slumping economy caused consumers to sharply cut back on their spending.

"The Commerce Department said Friday that retail sales fell by 2.8 percent last month, surpassing the old mark of a 2.65 percent drop in November 2001 in the wake of the terrorist attacks that year.

The robust job market


American International Group plans to pay out $503 million in deferred compensation to some of its top employees, saying it must tap the funds to keep valuable workers from exiting the troubled insurance giant.

I'm sure there are just hundreds of companies out there looking the hire failed executives from AIG, particularly in this booming economy of ours.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Manchurian candidate

If you listen to all the rumors that are extant, it's beginning to look like the Republicans were right when they called Obama the Manchurian candidate -- just not they way they thought. Obama may be the Republican Trojan Horse in the Democratic Party if he appoints all these Republicans and Blue Dog Dems to key cabinet posts, lets Lieberman keep his Senate Committee leadership, etc., etc.

Incompetence or malfeasance?

For awhile there I wasn't sure whether it was simply gross incompetence or deliberate malfeasance, but I've now reached the conclusion that Bush and his henchmen are deliberately trying irredeemably to destroy the U.S. economy in order to spite Obama. Like Humpty Dumpty, all the king's horses and all the king's men won't be able to put it back together again.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Supreme Court: The President can do anything he damn well pleases and the rest of the world be damned

The US Supreme Court Wednesday ruled the US Navy can continue to use long-range sonar in exercises off the California coast, dismissing arguments that the practice was harmful to whales.

"Even if the plaintiffs have shown irreparable injury from the navy's training exercises, any such injury is outweighed by the public interest and the navy's interest in effective, realistic training of its sailors," the court said in a written opinion.

It upheld the case brought by the government which argued President George W. Bush has the constitutional power to exempt the US Navy from environmental laws curbing the use of long-range sonar in the North Pacific Ocean.

The navy uses just such sonar off California to look for hostile submarines lurking beneath the Pacific, but has duelled with environmentalists for years in federal courts over its use.

Environmentalists say such sonars have potentially catastrophic consequences for marine life, arguing they have disoriented animals and caused mass deaths in the Bahamas and Canary islands.

In January, a court required the navy to take safety precautions in the California coast inhabited by five species of endangered whales.

A few days later, Bush granted an exemption to the navy, arguing the use of sonars was vital for military preparedness exercises that were in the "paramount interest of the United States."

Environmentalists took their case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the lower court's decision in February.

But the government then petitioned the Supreme Court.

The GOP's "Deliverence strategy"

Salon is a members-only access outlet for many of its articles, but this analysis by Gary Kamiya of the GOP's problems are the kind of thing that make a subscription worth it in my book.

The GOP's last chance: Become Democrats

The McCain-detesting Coulter wrote, "The only good thing about McCain is that he gave us a genuine conservative, Sarah Palin. He's like one of those insects that lives just long enough to reproduce so that the species can survive. . . . Limbaugh managed to refrain from comparing McCain to an insect, but he joined Coulter in anointing Palin the future queen of the Republican Party. . . .

It's hardly surprising that buffoonish entertainers like Coulter and Limbaugh are sticking to their guns: Their livelihood depends on catering to the rabid GOP base. But you'd think that the right's cooler heads would realize that something has gone terribly wrong with a party and a movement that can seriously consider nominating Sarah Palin for president. . . .

The GOP faces two problems for which it has no answers. The first is that its two main branches are fundamentally incompatible. The right has always been divided between a libertarian, free-market, anti-government, no-tax wing, and a traditional-values, moral-issues wing. These are strange bedfellows. . . .

[W]hen the American people realized that the Iraq war was a disastrous mistake, the terrorist boogeyman shrunk to its rightful proportions. . . . As national security has faded, the last thing holding the right together is its hatred of the Democrats and everything they stand for. This glue still binds the party's ideologically driven base. But for the GOP to win national elections, it has to convince moderates of the same thing. And in this election, moderates decisively rejected the Republicans' arguments.

Moderates rejected the GOP for two reasons: because Bush's presidency was a disaster, and because they didn't like the GOP's harsh, ugly tone. That tone is the result of the fact that the party was taken over long ago by "movement conservatives," true believers who bitterly oppose secular modernism and everything associated with it. Their hard-line Jacobinism, imbued with an inchoate sense of angry resentment, drives the right's culture war . . . which is why McCain's ugly campaign was no accident.

The problem is that moderates are completely turned off both by the GOP's performance and by its extreme, demonizing worldview and rhetoric. . . .

When you add all these things up, there is nowhere for the GOP in its current form to go. . . . If the right continues to make the culture war its main strategy, it will shore up its base with working-class white men in rural areas. But this "Deliverance" strategy, in which the GOP lets the Democrats have every part of the country where large numbers of people live together and targets lone white men surrounded by vast open spaces, is only a ticket to dominance in places like Utah, Arkansas, Idaho and Oklahoma, with their rich treasure trove of 22 electoral votes.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mr. or Ms. Irrelevant: Who's your favorite?

The name “Mr. Irrelevant” has been coined for the last player taken in the NFL draft. Here are more candidates, and more worthy ones at that.

It's about time

Polish Member of Parliament about Obama's election:

"This marks the end of white man's civilisation," he said in an address.

Mrs. Walldon and I both said, "Good, it's about time. It isn't as though we've done such a great job!" simultaneously.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Freedom of speech means freedom for President alone to speak

It appears that the First Amendment applies only to the President of the United States. Everyone else must shut up and listen:

The ACLU is crying foul after a federal court upheld the ejection of several Denver residents from a public speech by President Bush, The Denver Post reported.

The American Civil Liberties Union brought the lawsuit against three White House staffers, charging them with illegally removing three people from the taxpayer-funded event because of an anti-war bumper sticker on their car.

Leslie Weise and Alex Young are two of the three people, referred to as the "Denver three," removed from the 2005 event before President Bush started speaking.

Chief Judge Wiley Y. Daniel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado dismissed the case, arguing that Weise and Young had no constitutional right to be present.

"President Bush had the right, at his own speech, to ensure that only his message was conveyed," Daniel wrote. "When the president speaks, he may choose his own words."

My guess is that this judge would probably rule further (now that Obama is President) that free speech applies only to Republican presidents. Yet, he was a Clinton nominee.


In the euphoria of emerging from eight years of darkness with the Obama victory, Americans must not forget being led (like sheep) by Republicans to the brink of losing America’s democracy and its prosperity. America must commit to preventing the Republicans from positions of power that would enable taking this nation again to the brink. America must never again let them:

-Usurp the provisions of the Constitution (habeas corpus, FISA) and the Geneva Convention
-Parlay a web of deceptions and lies into implementation of a futile and illegal war that killed 4100, maimed thousands of Americans and over 100,000 Iraqis
-Plunder the U.S. Treasury (evaporating a multibillion dollar surplus courtesy of Pres. Clinton) to the tune of $1 trillion to pay for that war
-Preside over the worst job growth recovery in history and a 605 thousand job loss in 2008 alone
-Stifle the progress toward clean energy and coming to grips with global warming accompanied by all time record oil company profits
-Stack the Supreme Court with rightwing ideologues intent on reversing hard fought gains of a century
-Horns waggle a financially unsophisticated public into debt trap financial instruments unfettered by regulation which served to line the pockets of Republican cronies
-Stack the FCC with facilitators of media power consolidation that skews the decision support of the public to Republican purposes, threatens the freedom of the internet, and renders a shambles the 4th Estate whose disfunctionality was contained largely by the blogosphere
-Infiltrate government with fanatical religious intolerants who seek to use government to put all of us under the yoke of their doctrines

To prevent a future trip to the brink from which the nation may not successfully recoil, Republicans must be stripped of power down to the last committee in Congress and held accountable for their nefarious deeds via the harshest penalties allowed by law. They are a party that truly attempted to destroy the nation.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Country or Continent?

It is really hard to believe that someone aspiring to be the Vice President of the United States and ultimately the President wouldn't know that Africa is not a country but a continent made up of many countries. I guess the Congo was just another state in Africa, kind of like Alaska. You betcha.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

How Sweet it is!

The Vote Heard Around the World

The long darkness has yielded to the dawn of a new era in America. When the battle was done, democracy in America was lost then won. Obama is President. Outrage over the darkness energized our afflicted citizens to action, overwhelmed apathy, ignorance and the underestimation of the intelligence of the American people that the McCain-Palin horror specter had so counted on to lift them as it twice in creating the two terms of darkness that was the Bush administration. Driven by internet technology and grassroots organization, Obama financed a campaign that over came his lack of position among the wealthy.

Not the first time in our history when evil contributed to its own demise by over playing its hand, the final straw was arguably the financial structure meltdown that wrought so much hardship on Main Street while so many lined their pockets on Wall Street.

In an ironic way, America can thank Wall Street for its arrogance and avarice which showed the nation its utter disregard for the common good and its obsession with personal gain while the Administration stood by, deigning to lift a regulatory hand to prevent the meltdown lest it interfere with the pursuit of gain. The constructive call of the new President-elect for reconciliation and joint effort does not relieve the new administration from the duty to bring the current administration and financial community to accountability including denying compensation to those creating the problem which the current Administration is not facing up to. This catharsis is imperative to cleanse the government, clean the slate, and set U.S. policy on the course consistent with Obama’s vision.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Republican Tradition of lies and misdeeds

From the DC underground:

Now that we living through the latest round of Republican lies, its time to reflect on the the Republican Hall of infamy starting with

1. Joe McCarthy and his anti-red tactics that Eisenhower condemned and U.S. Senate censured him on in the 1950s.

2. Nixon and the Watergate gang of the U.S. Attorney General Mitchell, Liddy, Halderman and Elickman who would not stop at anything and were removed from the Presidency or went to Jail.

3. Reagan and his Iran Contra gang of Ollie North, Cap Weinberger who raised a private army in defiance of a U.S. laws. All in in spite of Reagan's public pledge not to deal with the Iran. Again convicted felons.

North was indicted on sixteen felony counts and on May 4, 1989, he was initially convicted of three: accepting an illegal gratuity, aiding and abetting in the obstruction of a congressional inquiry, and destruction of documents. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell on July 5, 1989, to a three-year suspended prison term, two years probation, $150,000 in fines, and 1,200 hours community service.

Caspar Weinberger and Secretary of Defense under President Ronald Reagan from January 21, 1981, until November 23, 1987, making him the third longest-serving defense secretary to date. He participated in the transfer of United States TOW anti-tank missiles to Iran during the Iran-Contra Affair in defiance of laws passed by Congress and approved by Reagan. A federal grand jury indicted Weinberger for several felony counts of lying to the Iran-Contra independent counsel during its investigation. Walsh's decision to announce the impending indictment four days prior to the 1992 election is believed by some to have cost George H.W. Bush that election. Ironically, Weinberger received a Presidential pardon from the outgoing president on December 24, 1992.

4. Bush and Rove and the Swift Boat veterans who believe that lying and mistruths are the way that politics should be done. Rove is yet to be indicted.

5. McCain and Palin who continue the infamous Republican tradition of lies and deception. Principle examples include:

a. Obama will raise taxes v. tax cut for 95% of working Americans
b. US. corporate taxes are the world's highest when they are below the world average.
c. Obama is a terrorist-at rallys led by Palin-not a shred of credibility in it.
d. Obama is a socialist because he wants to cut middle class taxes.
e. Smearing academics who support Obama-see this blog "McCain's Disgrace."

Sad, sad news

I just learned that Obama's grandmother just passed away. How horribly sad that she couldn't have lived to see tomorrow's results!

McCain's Disgrace

The McCain campaign has been throwing around so much mud and smears in recent weeks that it's easy to miss just how ugly and shameful their character assassination of Rashid Khalidi is. This is an entirely respectable, highly respected scholar. To go further into making a case for him would only be to enable and indulge McCain's sordid appeal to racism. For McCain, personally, to compare Khalidi to a neo-nazi, it's just an offense McCain should never be forgiven for. It's right down in the gutter with Joe McCarthy and the worst of the worst. Khalidi is in this new McCain set piece for one reason -- as a generic Arab, to spur yet another false idea from the McCain campaign that Obama is foreign, friendly with terrorists and possibly Muslim.

Cindy doesn’t like progressive taxation

There’s something truly weird seeing Cindy McCain laughing during one of his speeches as she mouths John McCain’s mantra, “spread the wealth around.” It’s another one of those revealing moments, like McCain’s air-quotes around the phrase, “the woman’s health,” during the last debate.

Of course, the $100 million baby, Cindy, would want to ridicule the idea that maybe she should pay her fair share of taxes. Time to re-visit progressive taxation – clearly a socialistic idea.

Wonder how many fence-sitters tipped over on that one.

One day more!

In the immortal words of Jean Valjean and the cast of Les Mis, just One Day More! Take a couple of minutes to listen to it and salve your soul. Then, tomorrow, if you haven't done it already, GET OUT THE VOTE!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Halloween prank

You have probably already heard about the prank call a couple of Canadian comedians placed to Sarah Palin yesterday. If not, go watch it here. In any event, the called her and pretended to be President Sarkozy of France. She bought it hook, line, and sinker, and they strung her along for a full six minutes before informing her she'd been pranked.

I have one thought about this beyond the obvious stuff. Just think about a President Palin being duped by a fake call allegedly from a friendly foreign leader (e.g., France or the U.K.), but actually from an enemy state, pumping her for state secrets that the president would share only with friendly foreign leaders.

Meanwhile, I have a bridge over the East River she might be willing to buy.