Friday, October 31, 2008

Will it be Obama/McCain by a landslide?

Or, Funny sign, Part 2. Concord has been blanketed with these Obama/McCain for President signs:

At first, I thought it was a funny statement by some indie candidate or group, similar to the Billionaires for Bush/Gore signs from the 2000 campaign. But then, I called the numbers from the sign and the numbers actually go to the HQs of both Obama and McCain! The sign bears no contact information or disclaimer of responsibility. So what is this all about? Does anyone know?

Funny sign, Part 1

This sign was in the window of a truck in the parking lot outside my office Friday afternoon:

Note the Obama/Biden sticker on the lower lefthand side of the bumper.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Still undecided? Well, there are still more debates!

I just received an email saying that there are actually two more debates scheduled:

Chuck Baldwin, Bob Barr, and Ralph Nader will appear at a debate tomorrow at the City Club of Cleveland from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. John McCain, Cynthia McKinney, and Barack Obama have also been invited to participate but no word as to whether or not they will appear.

On Sunday, Nov. 2, at 9 p.m. Eastern time, the VP candidates running with Baldwin, Barr, and Nader, will debate in Las Vegas. Free & Equal are sponsoring the debate:

Lastly, here is the YouTube video of the Baldwin/Nader debate:

Update: On Thursday afternoon, I received this email about the VP debate:

Christina M. Tobin, president of Free and Equal Elections, announced this afternoon that a vice-presidential debate will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada this Sunday Nov. 2. The debate will begin at 6 PM Pacific, 9 PM Eastern.
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas Alumni Association has agreed to host the debate at the Marietta Tiberti Grand Hall, located at 4505 Maryland Parkway in Las Vegas.
Libertarian Party vice-presidential candidate Wayne Allyn Root, Constitution Party vice-presidential candidate Darrell Castle, and Independent Ralph Nader running mate Matt Gonzalez, have formally agreed to a participate in the debate.
In addition to the confirmed participants, an open invitation is extended to the remaining three presidential tickets that appear on enough ballots to acquire 270 Electoral votes.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Political Equivalence

Guest Perspective by Ralph Nader

I wish to declare the principle of political equivalence as grounds for the moral authority to Justify Fullgovern through shared benefits and sacrifices between these in Washington, D.C. who rule and the citizens who are ruled.

Two simple, short bills in Congress will illustrate this major way to improve the quality of public deliberation, enhance the well-being of the populace and provide equity, now sorely lacking as the gap between Congress, the White House and the people widens recklessly.

The first legislation would state that anytime the Congress and the White House plunge our country, either constitutionally or unconstitutionally, into a war or significant armed conflict beyond our borders, all age-qualified and able-bodied children and grandchildren of all members of Congress and the President and Vice President will be conscripted immediately into the armed forces.

President George W. Bush, who took our country into an illegal, continuing war of aggression against Iraq in 2003 on a platform of lies, deceptions and cover-ups, has caused the loss of 4,200 American lives, 100,000 injuries and more than one million civilian Iraqi lives.

At $14 million per hour, plus the long term expenses, this war will cost taxpayers three trillion dollars according to Nobel Laureate economist, Joseph Stieglitz. Imagine how many public facilities throughout America such a sum could repair, expand and modernize. Imagine the well-paying jobs in every community.

Mr. Bush has stated often that the Iraq war and occupation has been “worth the sacrifice.” By whom? Certainly not the Bush and Cheney families. Their children, starting with Jenna and Barbara, are enjoying their comfortable lives far from the horrors inflicted on that distant country and its people.

The clear anticipation that the politician’s offspring be at risk or, at the least, be very inconvenienced by commencing their military career, would induce much more careful public deliberations on Capitol Hill and in the White House.

As long as the political rulers, with the savoring corporate profiteers by their side, can send other young Americans to die and kill – mostly poor whites, African Americans and Latinos—they will be more susceptible to be swept by emotions of giving over their constitutional responsibilities to presidential warmongers who bully and stampede them toward funding violent follies.

Equivalence would provide members of Congress with incentives to avoid the triad of being gutless, spineless, and deliberately clueless so as to acquire deniability.

The second bill would stipulate that no member of Congress, and no President, Vice President or Cabinet member would have any health insurance, pension or other benefits until all Americans are provided these long overdue essential benefits of a giant, modern economy.

With such equivalence, members of Congress would not be so cavalier about indexing their salaries to inflation but denying such to the federal minimum wage now wallowing at $6.55 per hour. Inflation-adjusted since 1968, when labor productivity was half of what it is today, the minimum wage would now be $10 per hour. Even at that level, it would still be far less than the $100 per hour, including benefits that Senators and Representatives now receive.

In the 1930s, John Maynard Keynes thought it would not be long before high-productivity economies would solve what he called “the economic problem.”

After World War II, Western European peoples, rising from the ruins of that conflagration, secured for themselves universal health insurance, decent wages, decent pensions, four-week paid vacation, paid maternity and family sick leave. Most of these nations abolished the chronic poverty such as that which exists and is growing in our country.

Who will introduce these two legislative bills? Rep. Dennis Kucinich? Sen. Russ Feingold? Will readers of this column communicate with their members of Congress about the wondrous effects of political equivalence on a much needed sense of community between the rulers and the ruled?

Is that snow that's coming?

It looks like it! Yikes!!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Gas in Mass. ...

lower than New Hampshire? Impossible? Nope. I bought gas at the Concord, Mass., rotary this morning: $2.65 a gallon! So, even though the Mass. gas tax is about 15 cents higher than N.H., the gas is somewhat cheaper these days.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Talker ... busted

Former WRKO talker Reece Hopkins was arrested earlier today on a child rape rap: ["Ex-WRKO host facing child rape charge"].
Last week, when it was announced that Hopkins was let go from WRKO in order to save money [one of eight cuts at Entercom's Boston operations], I wrote on Dan Kennedy's MediaNation that while I thought Reece was mildly entertaining the few times I listened to him, I've always wondered why they hired a conservative black New Yorker for that time slot in the first place. Especially when there are so many out of work - or out of radio work - New Englanders, some of them minorities too, who could have built a base of advertisers to support a local host in that time slot. What was the point if you were just going to lay the guy off after a year? Why was no progressive host hired to even try to see if that might work in between a felon [former Mass. House Speaker Tom Finneran] who is unlistenable most mornings and the pill-popping, drug dealing Limboob [aka Rush Limbaugh]?
As a WRKO listener for more than two decades [granted, off and on in recent years] and even a listener to the station as a boy when it was Top 40, I really have to wonder what the strategy is over there. This move leaves WRKO with two - yup, two - local hosts on weekdays. Every single host on the station is to the right of Attila the Hun! At the same time, over at WEEI, WRKO's sister station, they are hiring sports writers away from newspapers ... to blog!
Gee. If you can't afford more than three local hosts on one of the top stations in the number 10 market, what does that say about your business model? What does that say to a WRKO listener who cares about local topical issues in the cradle of Liberty? I know what it tells me as an on and off WRKO listener. It tells me that they don't give a shit about the listeners at all ... or at least seem to not give a shit.
I don't know if Reece is guilty of this crime or not and I won't comment on that either way.

Norelli seeks second term as speaker

From the inbox:
Speaker Terie Norelli (D-Portsmouth) announced today she is seeking a second term as speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives.
“When the 161st session of the New Hampshire General Court convenes in,” she said at a press conference in the lobby of the Legislative Office Building, “I will be ready to continue to lead members through the next two years. We have a lot of work to do for the good citizens of the State of New Hampshire.”
Norelli, who is serving her sixth term as a state representative, outlined some of the successes of the past two years, when Democrats came into the majority in the legislature and corner office for the first time since the Civil War.
She was joined by more than 50 state representatives, including Deputy Speaker Linda Foster, Majority Leader Mary Jane Wallner, House Floor Leader Daniel Eaton and a number of committee chairs and vice chairs.
“Those of us in the House have worked closely with the Senate and the governor to accomplish much for the citizens of our state,” she said, pointing to the passage of a number of pieces of legislation that addressed education issues, environmental policy and the economy.
“We worked to improve education by defining an adequate education and determining its cost,” she said. The legislature also made it possible to bring public kindergarten to all New Hampshire students, and to increase high school graduation rates by raising the dropout age to 18.
“We protected our environment and our quality of life. We took steps to protect our open spaces and special places by supporting sustainable funding for the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, passed the Regional Greenhouse Initiative, and we made the first statewide investment in our state park system in 45 years,” she said.
“We increased the minimum wage for the first time in 10 years ... we reinstituted a job training program that has already benefitted over 2000 New Hampshire workers and the companies that employ them,” she continued.
First elected to the legislature in 1996, Speaker Norelli formerly served as chair of the Portsmouth legislative delegation and as the ranking Democrat on the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee, where she was the chair of the Clean Air Subcommittee and was intimately involved in the restructuring of the electric industry and reducing harmful air emissions. She has also served on the House Finance Committee. Speaker Norelli has been a member of House Democratic leadership for eight years and co-chaired the Reproductive Rights Caucus for 10 years.
A former mathematics teacher at Winnacunnnet High School, Speaker Norelli received several awards for her work in the legislature, including the Champion of Choice Award from NARAL-NH. She was named Legislator of the Year by the Women’s Lobby and the National Association of Social Workers, received the Public Service Award from the Bi-State Primary Care Association, the Friend of Education Award from NEA-NH and the Legislator of the Year Award from the New England Police Benevolent Association. She was also presented with the Porch Light Award, given by A Safe Place and SASS (Sexual Assault Support Services).
She lives in Portsmouth with her husband, Allen, daughter, Gina, and son, Daniel.

CD Review: Melt - A Stitch in Time EP

I haven't done a lot of music reviews of late even though I have been listening to a lot of music. [some of the newer band indie bands are actually quite good these days]. I even went to see some live music the other night [Brother Kite, Springhouse]. I will have a review, pictures, and video up in the future. I did, however, do a CD review this month for The Noise, a local Boston music magazine. The word count was too big so I edited it down. However, here is the full review for shits and giggles.

Melt - "A Stitch in Time" EP [no label]
Local quartet Melt combine pop sensibilities with the better elements of the hard, dark underbelly of lighter goth and cool prog bands on its new EP, “A Stitch in Time.”
This six song collection opens with the Middle Eastern-flavored “Through the Doors” which riffs along at the beginning like a snake charmer, with starts and stops, and cool pre-chorus cooing that send shivers up the listener’s spine.
Some regular Boston club goers may recognize the EP’s second song, “Grind,” written by bassist Paul Pipitone, with strong chanting vocal parts [you can almost see large audiences thrusting their hands into the air along with the song]. However, the addition of Nils Freiberger’s guitar bits that both simulate moody synthesizers and distorted thrash, as well as Rachel Drucker’s doubled vocal octaves in the verses, are welcomed improvements over previous incarnations of the set staple.
The big hooks and riffs jaunt through “Home,” a pretty love song perfectly placed in the middle of the CD. Drucker is often compared to some of the 1970s more powerful female classic rockers. But reviewers are selling her talent short, as noted on this tune. The vocals are spot on and the acoustic guitar parts add a nice touch.
I really liked “Comfortable,” another lovely little number that shows the band’s versatility: Great lyrics, harmonies, and a really catchy hook, reminiscent of “Every Breath You Take” by the Police. However, I would have liked to have heard a bit cooler guitar part created along the base of the song. That though is meant to be a very minor criticism on an otherwise nearly perfect pop song.
On “No Fear,” the band continues to explore some untraditional rhythms with success. Again, very cool guitar synthesizer parts, great lead and background vocals [what are those odd sounds in the background?], and solid drums.
“Want” closes out the set with some serious strumming.
All and all, an excellent second effort by Melt.

Also, here is the latest Top 30 chart:

Noise chart

1. Amanda Palmer – Who Killed Amanda Palmer?
2. Apollo Sunshine – Shall Noise Upon
3. Peter Moore – One Ride
4. Midatlantic – The Longest Silence
5. Juliana Hatfield – How To Walk Away
6. Aloud – Fan the Fury
7. Ho-Ag – doctor cowboy
8. The Vital Might – Red Planet
9. Guns Girls Glory – Inverted Valentine
10. The Lights Out – Heist!
11. The Milling Grows – Diving Bell Shadows
12. Anthems MA – Time Starts Now
13. Loverless – Nothing Under the Sun
14. Passion Pit – Chunk of Change
15. Robbie Roadsteamer – New England Weathered Friends
16. Jonathan Richman – Because Her Beauty is Raw and Wild
17. Thalia Zedek Band – Liars and Prayers
18. Pray for Polanski – The Ghost and Bones
19. Big Dipper: Supercluster: The Big Dipper Anthology
20. The Rationales – The Going and The Gone
21. Muck & The Mires – Doreen EP
22. Scarce – Tattoos and Parades and Yesterdays
23. The Weisstronauts – Instrotainment
24. Astro Al – Psychedelic Drive-in Music
25. Nate Mott – Like We Mean It
26. Tunnelvision – Original EP
27. Yeasayer – All Hour Cymbals
28. New Radiant Storm King – The Steady Hand
29. East Coast Avengers – “Kill Bill O’Reilly”
30. Destruct-a-thon – This is Trashachusetts

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

'Work' one reason for absentee ballot

From House Information Officer Cissy Taylor:
State Rep. Sharon Nordgren (D-Hanover) wants to remind voters there are four reasons why they would be able to vote by absentee ballot. In the past, absentee ballots were allowed for those who were sick or disabled, going to be out of town, or for those observing a religious holiday.
But, in 2006, Nordgren sponsored legislation that added “work” to the language, allowing workers who might be at the office or on the work site throughout polling times to vote by absentee ballot. The law, RSA 657:1, includes a worker’s travel time to the office or work site
“A lot of voters in New Hampshire work miles away from where they live and vote,” Nordgren said. “This will help them tremendously.”
Applications for absentee ballots may be obtained from the town or city clerk up until Nov. 3, the day before the elections.

Third party debate happening after all?

Yup, looks like it, from the Nader campaign:

Third Party Presidential Debate to Take Place on Thursday, October 23rd - Nader to participate

Independent Presidential candidate Ralph Nader announced today that he will participate in the only third party debate being held this election cycle to take place on Thursday evening at 9:00pm EST on October 23 in Washington DC at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel.

The debate will last for 90 minutes and be conducted according to the following format:

-No opening statements
-There will be six of the following question and answer series: The moderator will pose a question. Each candidate will be permitted 90 seconds to respond. The candidates’ preliminary answers will be followed by a 5-minute "discussion" period, during which the moderator will be permitted unlimited follow-up questions and the candidates would be encouraged to engage one another in actual debate. This will last about 60 minutes.
-After the above six question-and-answer series, each candidate will be permitted to ask a single question of one or more of the other candidates, with each candidate permitted 90 seconds to respond. This will last about 10 minutes.
-After this, submitted questions from the audience will be selected and presented by the moderator. This will last for about 10 minutes.
-Each candidate will be permitted a 2-minute closing statement.

In addition, Nader will be barnstorming through Massachusetts on Saturday:

* Stop One 8:10-8:30: Vila Donuts 93 Main Rd, Westfield
* Stop Two: 9:00-9:15 AM: Public Library 449 Front Street, Chicopee.
* Stop Three: 10:45-11:05: Federal Reserve- 600 Atlantic Ave, Boston.
* Stop Four 11:15-11:45: The Middle East 472 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge. Lunch Fundraiser: $50 Minimum Contribution
* Stop Five: 11:55-12:20: Tufts University, Student Center, Bottom Floor, Somerville.
* Stop Six: 12:25-12:45: Danish Pastry Shop 330 Boston Ave, Medford.
* Stop Seven 1:00-1:20: Energy Awareness Fair Meet and Greet. 251 Waltham St., Lexington.
* Stop Eight: 1:35-2:00: Old North Bridge 174 Liberty St. Concord.
* Stop Nine: 2:25-2:45: Waltham Location TBA.
* Stop Ten: 3:00-3:20: Water Town Public Library 123 Main Street Watertown.
* Stop Eleven: 3:35-4:00: Lasell College Newton 1844 Commonwealth Avenue room TBA, Newton.
* Stop Twelve 4:20-4:40: Ben’s Deli: 5 Turnpike Rd Southborough.
* Stop Thirteen 5:10 to 5:30: Clark University 950 Main St., Worcester.
* Stop Fourteen 5:40-6:00: The Coffee Mug 286 SouthBridge St. Auburn.
* Stop Fifteen 6:55-7:15 West Springfield Location TBA.
* Stop Sixteen 7:30-8:00: Nadines Cafe Lebanon 1390 Main St Springfield.
* Stop Seventeen 8:05-8:25: Holyoke, MA Location TBA.
* Stop Eighteen 8:45-9:15 Smith College, Northampton Location TBA.
* Stop Nineteen 10:10-10:30: The Lions Den 30 Main St. Stockbridge.
* Stop Twenty: 10:50-11:10 Sheffield, MA, Location TBA

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Debatable Debates

Guest Perspective by Ralph Nader

The three so-called presidential debates—really parallel interviews by reporters chosen by the Obama and McCain campaigns—are over and they are remarkable for two characteristics—convergence and avoidance.

A remarkable similarity between McCain and Obama on foreign and military policy kept enlarging as Obama seemed to enter into a clinch with McCain each time McCain questioned his inexperience or softness or using military force.

If anyone can detect a difference between the two candidates regarding belligerence toward Iran and Russia, more U.S. soldiers into the quagmire of Afghanistan (next to Pakistan), kneejerk support of the Israeli military oppression, brutalization and colonization of the Palestinians and their shrinking lands, keeping soldiers and bases in Iraq, despite Obama’s use of the word “withdrawal,” and their desire to enlarge an already bloated, wasteful military budget which already consumes half of the federal government’s operating expenses, please illuminate the crevices between them.

This past spring, the foreign affairs reporters, not columnists, for the New York Times and the Washington Post concluded that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are advancing foreign and military policies similar to those adopted by George W. Bush in his second term.

Where then is the “hope” and “change” from the junior Senator from Illinois?

Moreover, both Obama and McCain want more nuclear power plants, more coal production, and more offshore oil drilling. Our national priority should be energy efficient consumer technologies (motor vehicles, heating, air conditioning and electric systems) and renewable energy such as wind, solar and geothermal.

Both support the gigantic taxpayer funded Wall Street bailout, without expressed amendments. Both support the notorious Patriot Act, the revised FISA act which opened the door to spy on Americans without judicial approval, and Obama agrees with McCain in vigorously opposing the impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

What about avoidance? Did you see them speak about a comprehensive enforcement program to prosecute corporate crooks in the midst of the greatest corporate crime wave in our history? Did you see them allude to doing anything about consumer protection (credit card gouging, price of medicines, the awful exploitation and deprivation of the people in the inner city) and the ripoffs of buyers in ever more obscure and inescapable ways?

Wasn’t it remarkable how they never mentioned the poor, and only use the middle class when they refer to “regular people?” There are one hundred million poor people and children in this nation and no one in Washington, D.C. associates Senator Obama, much less John McCain, with any worthy program to treat the abundant poverty-related injustices.

What about labor issues? Worker health and safety, pensions looted and drained, growing permanent unemployment and underemployment, and outsourcing more and more jobs to fascists and communist dictatorships are not even on the peripheries of the topics covered in the debates.

When I was asked my opinion about who won the debates, I say they were not debates. But I know what won and what lost. The winners were big business, bailouts for Wall Street, an expansionary NATO, a boondoggle missile defense program, nuclear power, the military-industrial complex and its insatiable thirst for trillions of taxpayer dollars, for starters.

What lost was peace advocacy, international law, the Israeli-Palestinian peace movement, taxpayers, consumers, Africa and We the People.

The language of avoidance to address and challenge corporate power is spoken by both McCain and Obama, though interestingly enough, McCain occasionally uses words like “corporate greed” to describe his taking on the giant Boeing tanker contract with the Pentagon.

Funded by beer, tobacco, auto and telecommunications companies over the years, the corporation known as the Commission on Presidential Debates features only two corporate-funded candidates, excludes all others and closes off a major forum for smaller candidates, who are on a majority of the states, to reach tens of millions of voters.

In the future, this theatre of the absurd can be replaced with a grand coalition of national and local citizen groups who, starting in March, 2012 lay out many debates from Boston to San Diego, rural, suburban and urban, summon the presidential candidates to public auditoriums to react to the peoples’ agendas.

Can the Democratic and Republican nominees reject this combination of labor, neighborhood, farmer, cooperative, veteran’s, religious, student, consumer and good government with tens of millions of members? It will be interesting to see what happens if they do or if they do not.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The reality of ACORN: Progressives who treat workers like sh*t

I'm so, so glad that the reality of what ACORN is all about is finally getting exposed to the public: ["ACORN INSTILLED FEAR: WORKERS"].
As someone who has worked for similar companies, I can tell you that this is fact.
The job is also made all the more difficult because you are often conned into the job thinking one thing and then it actually is another thing. These orgs often suck you in telling you that you are going to do all these great things for social justice and the economy to help people and then you go out begging for money or in this case, registering voters, a nearly impossible job even though most folks are already registered via some sort of government component. I lasted three weeks at one of these jobs in 1987. It was insane with all the folks at the top running the org. acting like dictators to get the quota. And it had nothing ... NOTHING ... to do with social justice or anything else.
Just to change the subject slightly, my wife often wonders why I will drop everything to spend 15 or 20 minutes talking to a survey researcher when they call. I always say the same thing: Because I used to do this. Not unlike a lot of folks, I've had more than one job during most of my adult life. Frankly, I've always liked working and often needed the money to subsidize what I wanted to do in my life. For about a year, I worked part-time at Bain and Company's survey research wing, asking people about everything from what kinds of pork products they would eat and what brands they knew to whether or not people would use their debit cards to purchase different things at stores [I did the survey research for what would later become the BayBank card, the first true debit card]. It was an insane job but since I had experience as a phone banker and had worked at telephone answering services, they loved me. So, I know what it is like. I've done the job. And I know what these ACORN folks have gone through. I've done similar jobs. It's hard. While some people will say, Well, they can get another job, that isn't always the case, especially for moms and people with odd hours.
So do pass judgment on some of the clowns who are running these corrupt organizers and some of the Democratic front people paying them. But have a little heart when it comes to the person doing the job. They are often doing the best they can.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hilarious Palin SNL appearance

If you didn't see the hilarious Palin SNL appearance, check out these two segments here:

Late Sunday night link dump

Here are some things to read:

I tried to watch this on C-Span online but couldn't get the link to work. Oh well, it happens. You can read the NYT version of events here: ["Nader Displays New Fervor on the Bailout Issue"].

Reading Ann Coulter is not something I do very often. But I, like some other folks, are beginning to wonder about these polls. They are all over the map. Coulter says, Hey, voters never lie to a pollster: ["EIGHTY-FOUR PERCENT SAY THEY'D NEVER LIE TO A POLLSTER"]. Speaking of polls, the Web has been all abuzz about this crazy AP/Yahoo poll that shows Obama with a 2 percent lead over McCain ... when they questioned 223 more Democrats than Republicans in the poll!: ["AP/Yahoo Poll Shows 2% Separating McCain, Obama"]. While the national polls don't matter, it's the state by state polls, if I were advising Obama, I would worry about only having a 2 percent lead with such a huge oversampling of voters from my own party.

Buy Politizine on Kindle? Yeah, I guess so: ["Politizine (Kindle Edition)"]. I too was a little surprised to find this on Amazon. And no, I don't have any idea how this happened or whether or not I will see any cash from this. Since the site's Kindle ranking is #69,795, I doubt they have sold any.

There is no such thing as a "Bradley Effect": ["THE "BRADLEY EFFECT" POLITICAL URBAN LEGEND"].

Why am I not surprised by this, from Sen. Joe Biden, D-MBNA: ["Biden routes campaign cash to family, their firms"]. Ah-yut, that's right, keeping it all in the family ...

Looking for some cool widgets and other things? Check this site out: ["lab pixies"]. It came with the new Firefox/emusic upgrade.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Oh well, never mind: Third party debate canceled

Well, this friggin' sucks: ["Your Sunday's Free Again. 3rd-Party Debate Canceled"].
Right below the story, a commenter posted some of the details of why the debate isn't happening:
"A few weeks ago, we at and invited every presidential candidate having a mathematical chance of winning the 2008 election to participate in an online debate to be streamed via Soon after our offer to the candidates, we were approached by Christina Tobin of, and asked to try to expand the debate to a live event so that more media could cover the debate. More media coverage means more reach to the American public, which is good for the candidates, their supporters and the country. We gladly accepted the challenge and began to work with to that end.

Despite our efforts, we encountered a number of challenges. Most of the candidates had packed schedules and availability conflicts, especially when limited in choice by venue availability. About one week ago, we at decided that due to the scheduling difficulties, we would serve the community best by offering an online debate as per our original intent, while Christina Tobin and continued to pursue the live event.

Today the candidates have two options available to them. The live debate event scheduled in New York City on Oct 19th at 8pm EST at Columbia University, or the online event to be streamed via on the same date from 7pm to 9pm EST."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Granny D speaks in Philly

This was emailed to me earlier this week:
Doris "Granny D" spoke over the weekend in Philadelphia. She was sharing the program with Whoopi Goldberg, which I understand was quite a bit of fun for both of them. Doris's remarks are copied below.

Philadelphia: Oct. 12

Thank you.

It seems that the world is changing around us this autumn. I know that some of my feistier friends have been hoping for big social and political changes -- for a revolution of some sort -- to get us on a new path to a better future on a healthier Earth. I do not think they imagined that the revolution might take the form of strange torpedoes called credit default swap derivatives, exploding our banks and bankrupting our governments, but revolutions rarely arrive or turn out the way you expect. This society has run its course. We the people have long been ready for fresh growth, greener growth, scaled more to the needs of human beings and their communities.

I have been thinking lately of my old Texas writer friend Molly Ivins, who passed away not long ago and left us with an insufficient store of good humor to see all the amusing and satisfying turns of justice in the present economic collapse. She would remind us that Freedom's just another word for no retirement money left to lose. Yes, the walls have crumbled, but now we are free from all that anxiety about losing all our money. There's not much left to worry about. Molly would have been the one to take a few flat busted CEOs out for a scotch and water somewhere toward Greenwich Village and laugh with them and tell them they were all being sons-of-bitches anyway and had it coming. And they would laugh and have to agree. She was an American and never forgot that we are all equals. So what would Molly do? I have a little rubber bracelet that asks that question. She would remind us that the treasure of America isn’t in our banks anyway. It is in our families and friendships, in our brotherhood and sisterhood as a free and creative people.

Sticking together, none of us will starve. Besides, we can always grow enough zucchini for everyone, can’t we?

We need not fear Fear Itself this time around, for fear is a humbug. If we have learned anything in all the Aquarian splendor of the last few generations, it is that fear for the loss of material things is but the jitters of an addict, and the jitters go away once we relax into whatever new world we find ourselves come into.

You will hear people on television worrying about the return of the Great Depression. I have heard that several times during the last week or so.

I am old enough to have memories of that time, are any of you? Maybe we were hungry sometimes, but did we starve? No, because we had our friends and family and the earth to sustain us. The earth may have been reluctant to feed us in some of those years, but never our friends nor our families.

If you lived through that time, and if now you hear some young expert on television saying the term “Great Depression” as if it were a great monster who might return, let me ask you – you who remember the last time – there are a few of us left – let me ask you if your memories of that time are not more round and golden than sharp-edged?

My husband, Jim, made an ice rink from a little meadow, and he made a few dollars extra those winters of the Depression. I learned to put on one-woman plays, and performed in women’s clubs here and there, making the rest of what we needed. We were fountains of creativity. We were fountains of friendship to our neighbors. As a nation, we were a mighty river of mutual support.

That same Great Depression made some people in other countries ready for violence, genocide and war. But, somehow, through the exceptional miracle that is America itself, the hard times only made us more willing to help the world when our help was needed.

I am not advocating hardship, and I am not cheerleading for poverty. Indeed, prosperity is the green wreath we cherish most, though it means little without the times between.

Imagination! Let me suggest that a generation raised on books and storytelling, where one’s own imagination had to fill in the colors and details, made us a generation quite able to imagine marvelous ways to fill our family dinner table in those years. Let me suggest that the power of imagination was essential to the rise of all the grand improvements we achieved for each other and called our New Deal. Imagination allows the citizen and the politician to connect with people of every situation and condition.

I have often heard it said that the more right-wing members of our present political order will not bend on a difficult issue -- say stem cell research -- until someone they love needs that bit of medical magic. Well, I think that suggests that the foundation of right-wing politics is a grand absence of imagination. If you cannot imagine what people need until it happens to you, then I suggest you have never read a mystery book under your covers by flashlight. I do not mean to pick on my more conservative friends, but imagination and its product, empathy, are necessary in a democracy, if it is to survive and prosper as a just and happy system of life. Imagination, empathy, education and moral leadership are the essentials of a good and humane democracy.

Nine years ago, at the age of 90, I walked 3,200 miles across the United States. I was promoting a specific political reform that did in fact pass Congress later. I was also cleaning out my heart after the death of my husband, Jim, and my best friend, Elizabeth.

I met the old America along that road – the America I hadn’t seen since the 1930s and which I had almost forgotten.

Toyah, Texas, is an old railroad town just west of the Pecos, where the ruins of a once-beautiful main street stand like a crumbling movie set. Berta Begay offered shelter to me on the night I walked into Toyah. She didn’t know me but was glad to greet me on her porch and welcome me to stay in a little shack she had across the road, if I would please give her time to clean it up and put some fresh linens on the bed.

It was a little yellow bungalow near the tracks. The kitchen floor had linoleum creatively held down in strips to the wavy wood beneath by upholstery tacks. The house was cooled by the open doors and a few fans. The yard was dirt with a little grass, and everything about the house was well-ordered and clean. She said I was welcome to stay for as long as I needed.

Berta is a beautiful Native American and hispanic woman who, each evening, prepared a beautiful basket of bread and a casserole dinner. She told me about her family. Her daughter, whose name is Misty Moon, was about to graduate from a local public college as an agriculture scientist. Her son, whose name is Dearheart, was a medical assistant at a community hospital. Her husband, Steve, was an expert machinist. Berta was at that time the postmaster of a nearby town. She was rightfully very proud of her family, as they had come a long way in one generation, thanks to their hard work and their imagination in a land of opportunity. You must understand that this town is a dusty place on a great stretch of dusty desert. They had made it their Garden of Eden.

There was a collection of lavender antique bottles in the little house. Berta collects them in the desert as her mother had done before her. The pharmacy in Pecos, thirty miles away, has a nice collection of them also, left over from the days when Berta’s mother traded bottles for medicine for her children. That’s how far and how fast they have come, and how even glass strewn on the desert had been swept up into prosperity by the force of their imagination and love for one another. The pharmacist, too, was in that circle of love, as one can see by the bottles still in his window.

Berta helped introduce me around at Toyah’s tiny city hall, which also serves as a church for the town. The two women clerks invited me to speak the next evening. The next morning, they had already created and installed hand-made posters at the gas station and in the general store out on the highway, beautifully promoting my talk on political reform.

Townspeople brought food to the evening event. Berta brought delicious cold snacks made from prickly pear cactus paddles. I saved some for breakfast the next morning. If I ever doubt that I am a tough old nut, I can remember that I had cactus for breakfast in Toyah, Texas, west of the Pecos. Very tart and tasty, by the way.

In the back of the hall during my talk, there were a few patient children trying to make sense of what we were saying. It made me remember when I was a child in Laconia, New Hampshire -- I was that child in the back of the room. Visiting speakers came to town all in a summer crowd of experts and entertainers called the Chautauqua meeting. A big tent was erected on the Pearl Street playgrounds, the largest open space in town. Speeches, entertainment, and pot luck dinners were planned for the whole week.

I went for two reasons: The fun reason was that there were dramas performed—like the villain foreclosing on a mortgage and putting the farmer’s pure daughter in harm’s way. I loved drama, and got myself a part in any play put on by the women’s club, the Elks, or the Grange of Laconia. This would later serve me well when we had to survive by our wits.

The adults listened to the political speakers. They learned how the railroad monopolies were ruining the small farmers. The great Progressive-Populist Movement had begun at such meetings in the early 1890s. Great fist-waving speeches at these meetings kept people informed, interested and fired up.

My Mama didn’t know if her children would ever be able to afford proper educations, so she made us listen to the lectures so we would at least have a few thoughts in our heads. Well, those Progressive thoughts are still rattling around up here. I thank my Mama’s imaginative university.

After my talk at the Toyah city hall, which was about the undue influence of lobbyists and large donors on the political system and what we might do about it, there were heartfelt comments from the townspeople about how they could no longer defend their own town and how it was suffering. At the end of the evening, Berta folded a letter into my hand. It was a long and beautifully written letter about her spiritual beliefs and about her town. The letter detailed how political corruption was literally dismantling the town, selling off the beautiful historic buildings for their bricks, and changing the rail service that had once been the lifeblood of the town. Her letter concluded “God has a mission for all of us, through we often don’t know the details, so therefore we trust. When you pray, please remember this little town.”

Well I do indeed remember in my prayers this community of kindness and reverence, and I remember also Berta and her family and her neighbors and the imaginative and loving America that is Toyah times our hundred-thousand neighborhoods and villages.

I have continued in the years since meeting Berta to work for the public financing of poltical campaigns. In these years we have seen the rise of the small donor through the Internet, which is an unexpected antidote to the fat-cat donor’s influence. If we can get rid of the industrial lobbyists, there may be hope for all of us yet.

But on this occasion, here in the warm presence of your friendship, I wanted to take a special time away from all the politics to tell you – especially if you are young and have not experienced true hard times – that there is nothing much too it, if you will insist on creatively and ferociously loving the friends and neighbors around you. And fifty or seventy years from now, if you are blessed with a long life, you will count those years as being some of your best, as indeed I do.

And by the way, I am not predicting that we are heading into anything like a Great Depression. In the 1930s, the rhythm of the economy was marked on the yearly calendar. Today it is measured on stopwatches. The faster pace of today’s economy, so disconnected from the harvests of an agricultural nation, means that we move through history and through disasters much more quickly. We digest things and move on, with news cycles substituting for seasons. Also, we are now a much grander beehive of activity than before. The upside of overpopulation is that our economy is incredibly resilient, and this is true all over the world. We really no longer have the time or patience for a Great Depression. Ten minutes into it, people would already be making fortunes selling commemorative tee-shirts, such as: “My parents lost everything in the Stock Market, and all I got was this second-hand tee-shirt.”

You may be worried that your 401-K retirement stocks are losing value, but here is the way to think about that: If you own stocks, you own a small percentage of the nation’s economy. It’s like owning a family business. Some years your shares will be worth a lot, some years they will not. But they are your piece of the action and you should hold onto it. You might even use the current low prices as an opportunity to increase your share of the pie. Remember old Bernard Baruch, once the richest man in the world, who said he made his fortune on Wall Street by accommodating people: by selling his stock to them when they wanted to buy, and purchasing it from them when they wanted to sell. It was his way of advising you to buy as the market falls, and sell as it rises, rather than waiting for tops and bottoms. It is good advice and I wish I had always been wise enough to follow it. It is the kind of advice that might give you some courage and assurance.

I am not suggesting that all the world is rosy pink. We may be in for some trouble, but not for long. Our real challenge is not the disaster caused by the deregulation of Wall Street, for which my friend Senator McCain must answer, but instead it is the dislocations -- economic, population, food supply, coastline, and weather dislocations -- caused by our continued use of fossil fuels and the resulting warming of our atmosphere that is our real emergency and the true challenge for our character. It is the real driver of the revolution coming, which I pray will be a happy and peaceful sort. That is where the opportunities await your courage and heroism.

Whatever comes, I do want you to remember that the hardest of hard times are not necessarily unhappy times if you will keep to love and empathy and imaginative living.

And I want you to understand that you must see beyond the distraction of these present headlines to the true challenges ahead, which have little to do with Wall Street and everything to do with changing the very ways we live, so that intelligent life on earth might prosper and survive.

Thank you.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Buchanan nails a lot here

Oh wow, doesn't this column say it all?: ["Liquidating the Empire"].

Closing the Courthouse Door

Guest Perspective by Ralph Nader

“Real change comes from the bottom up, not the top down. The genius of the American system has been to let that change flow upward, from neighborhoods to cities to states and then to the federal government.” George W. Bush, Feb. 26, 2001.

Unfortunately, the difference between words and deeds in Washington is often shocking even to those who think they have seen it all. Alicia Mundy in the Oct. 15 edition of the Wall Street Journal reports: “Bush administration officials, in their last weeks in office, are pushing to rewrite a wide array of federal rules with changes or additions that could block product-safety lawsuits by consumers and states.”

What President George W. Bush should have said is that he believes in states rights when they are in the interest of Big Business and their lobbyists in Washington. Mr. Bush and his cronies would like to forget about those harmed by dangerous products or reckless conduct. Indeed, Bush & Company seem to regard the civil justice system as a nuisance that threatens to destroy our economy and way of life. In reality, America’s civil justice system plays an indispensable role in our democracy. When the rights of injured consumers are vindicated in court, our society benefits in countless ways: compensating victims and their families for shattering losses (with the cost borne by the wrongdoers rather than taxpayers); preventing future injuries by deterring dangerous products and practices and spurring safety innovation; stimulating enforceable safety standards; educating the public to risks associated with certain products and services; and providing society with its moral and ethical fiber by defining appropriate norms of conduct.

The Center for Progressive Reform has in painstaking detail chronicled the attack on the civil Justice system by the Bush Administration. In “The Truth about Torts: Using Agency Preemption to Undercut Consumer Health and Safety” legal scholars William Funk, Sidney Shapiro, David Vladeck and Karen Sokol write: “In recent years, the Bush administration has launched an unprecedented aggressive campaign to persuade the courts to preempt state tort actions.... Widespread preemption of state tort law would significantly undermine, if not eliminate, the rights of individuals to seek redress for injuries caused by irresponsible and dangerous business practices and to hold manufacturers and others accountable for such socially unreasonable conduct.” (See:

And, Les Weisbrod, the President of the American Association for Justice (formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America) hit the nail on the head when he said: "In effect the Bush administration made the safety of Americans secondary to corporate profits." Mr. Weisbrod added: "Big business lobbyists have been on a crusade to destroy state consumer protection laws, and further stack the deck against American consumers." The American Association for Justice has just published a report titled: "Get Out of Jail Free: A Historical Perspective of How the Bush Administration Helps Corporations Escape Accountability" – this report is available at:

Tort deform comes in many shapes and sizes – but the common theme is that tort deform severely damages Americans’ cherished constitutional right to trial by jury. It ties the hands of jurors, preventing them from doing justice as the case before them requires. Only the judges and juries see, hear, and evaluate the evidence in these cases. But it is the politicians, absent from the courtrooms, who push bills greased by campaign cash that send a perverse message to judge and jury.

Tort law has produced decades of slow but steady progress in state after state respecting the physical integrity of human beings against harm and recognition that even the weak and defenseless deserve justice. Instead of seeing this evolution as a source of national and global pride, a coalition of insurance companies, corporate defendants’ lobbies, and craven politicians, led by George W. Bush, want to destroy our civil justice system.

When Georgetown Law School Professor David Vladeck testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 12, 2007, he noted that the Bush Administration has “seized on regulatory preemption as a way to cut back dramatically on State law remedies for those injured by products and services Americans depend on every day for their health and well-being — medicines, medical devices, motor vehicles, the mattress on which we and our children sleep, and the commuter trains millions of us take to work every day.”

Let us hope that Congress and the Supreme Court stop Mr. Bush from once again trampling the Constitutional rights of citizens throughout the land and preventing victims of corporate violence from obtaining justice in a court of law.

Post 1,501 ...

I can't believe that I have reached more than 1,500 posts on Politizine. Wow. And just shy of our sixth anniversary. Thanks again to everyone for reading.

One more debate ... with the third party candidates

Oh yeah, this is going to be great: ["Sunday's C-Span Opportunity: 3rd-Party Candidates Debate"]. Let's see if John McCain or Barack Obama show up. Hah. I doubt it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What is the reality of Obama's tax policy?

This graph accompanied a WSJ editorial outlining Obama's tax policy on Monday.
I hate borrowing from the WSJ to make a point. But since I'm paying for it, why not. Additionally, I don't agree with the WSJ's editorial policy. But look at this graph. It says it all: Obama's tax policy will raise taxes on everyone but people making under $25,000 and $85,000 to $100,000. So folks like me, who barely make ends meet and have kids and make around $50,000, are going to see a pretty big tax increase. So my family will get nailed and the folks who don't pay anything will get more freebies. How is that fair? How is that "change"? That's not change, that's criminal.
Here is the link to the editorial itself: ["Obama's 95% Illusion"]. Read it for yourself. There are some great points in it and, frankly, we should have some of those tax credits. But Obama isn't cutting taxes for 95 percent of Americans. Only 70 percent of Americans pay income taxes. Yes, folks who aren't paying income taxes pay payroll taxes. But that's going into the retirement of everyone. But if you're already not paying income taxes, you shouldn't get more money back. It really is that simple.

Speaking of the WSJ, Thomas Frank has a pretty touching article here about the Bill Ayers "controversy" ["My Friend Bill Ayers"].
Unlike the disturbing ACORN allegations - and voter registration fraud is disturbing - this Ayers stuff seems like a whole lot of nothing. Plus, people deserve to be forgiven for past bad acts, especially after they have served their time and redeemed themselves.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Nader makes TV rounds tomorrow

From an email alert:
Tomorrow, Ralph be moving from TV studio to TV studio, breaking the down the walls of enforced media silence.

Ralph will be on CNBC with John Harwood between 2 and 3 p.m. EST.

He will be on CNN with Rick Sanchez at 3:30 p.m. EST.

He will be on the NewsHour on PBS between 6 and 7 p.m. EST.

And he'll be on Fox with Shepherd Smith at 7:30 p.m. EST.

So, grab your remote, and look out for Ralph.

Tomorrow, Ralph's the cable guy!

Buy houses ... not stock

This is ridiculous: ["Bush to announce expanded bank bailout deals"].
Why is our nation buying stock in banks when we can just buy the foreclosed homes and allow people to stay in them and pay the money back to the government? Everyone wins: We get stabilized neighborhoods, people housed, the banks get the cash, and the government might get the cash later. With Bush's plan, the banks get the money and the government might get paid back ... but the people will be homeless. Isn't this ass-backwards?

That 'smart' man Joe Biden

I don't know Jay Ambrose. Maybe he is some rightwing nut. But look at this column and all the mistakes Biden made in the debate the other night: ["As a matter of fact, Biden unbelievable"].
Michael Barone has this column which has some interesting points: ["The coming liberal thugocracy"].
Sure, it's amusing that rightwing pundits [a.k.a. thugs] are crying about liberal thugs considering what they have done to tons of folks. But then again, what we were expecting? Did folks really think that liberal Democrats were just going to play nice after all these years of getting hammered?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Some other good things to read

The Donald Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism has a new blog following the financial crisis: ["Covering a Crisis"]. There is also a podcast here with David Cay Johnston, who offers some local angles here: ["Listen"].

This is amusing:

And we wonder why the country is so divided? It's a two-way street. It isn't all the Republicans' fault ... it's just mostly the Republicans' fault. Because, as Ralph Nader says, bad Democrats are very good at electing very bad Republicans.

Many think media too hard on Palin

Gee, you think?: ["Many Say Press Has Been Too Tough on Palin"].
Sometimes, the American people are so smart. Sometimes, they are not too smart. Clearly anyone who has watched the Sarah Palin coverage with an open mind realizes that she has been hammered harder than anyone else in this race. Especially when compared to the cakewalk Barack Obama has received. You know I may have to change my mind on whether or not the media was too hard on Hillary Clinton. Maybe they were. Maybe they just really don't want a woman at any level of power.

Censored News Stories Highlighted by Academic Research Group

Guest Perspective by Peter Phillips

Media Accountability Day, Oct. 1, is the annual release of the news stories that were not covered by the corporate-mainstream media in the U.S. The list, just announced by Project Censored at Sonoma State University in California, includes the 25 most important uncovered news stories of the year selected by over 200 academics.

Stories about the Iraq occupation lead the list. Unreported in the U.S. corporate media is how over one million Iraqis have met violent deaths resulting from the 2003 US led invasion. According to a study conducted by the British polling group Opinion Research Business the human toll exceeded 900,000 as of August 2007. In addition, a United Nations Refugee Agency study found that five million Iraqis had been displaced by violence in their country.

Also ignored by mainstream media was the report of how three hundred Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans came forward in March 2008 to recount the brutal impact of the ongoing occupations. The Winter Soldier hearings in Silver Spring, Maryland, organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War, presented multiple testimonies by veterans who witnessed or participated in atrocities against Iraqis or Afghans. Independent media reported that the United States Federal Reserve shipped $12 billion in US currency to Iraq at the beginning of the war of which at least $9 billion went missing, but this story never saw the light of day in the US mainstream.

Additionally, many anti-war activists will be surprised to learn that President Bush has signed two executive orders that would allow the US Treasury Department to seize the property of any person perceived to, directly or indirectly, pose a threat to US operations in the Middle East.

Also not reported in the U.S. news is how the leaders of Canada, the U.S., and Mexico have been secretly meeting to expand the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to form a militarized tri-national Homeland Security force and how more than 23,000 representatives of US private industry are working with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to collect information on fellow Americans.

Coverage of how massive new US-backed military funding threatens peace and democracy in Latin America and that NATO officials are considering a first strike nuclear option was also missing from the corporate press. Unreported news also includes the stories that the Justice Department believes it is legal for the president to secretly ignore previous executive orders anytime he wants, and the FDA is complicit in allowing drug companies to make false, unsubstantiated, and misleading advertising claims.

Censored news stories also included why the No Child Left Behind program is a huge success for corporate profits, but have had little positive impact on public education. Children in juvenile detention centers in the US face conditions that involve sexual and physical abuse, and even death. And radioactive materials from nuclear weapons production sites are being dumped into public landfills, and being used as recycled metals.

Untold news includes CARE announcing last year that it was turning down $45 million in food aid from the United States government because the procedures the U.S. demands for handling the food actually increases starvation instead of relieving it.

Rounding out the Project Censored list is the news that the guest worker program in the United States victimizes immigrant workers and creates a new form of indentured servitude and that 27 million slaves exist in the world today.

Censorship is a harsh term, but the shocking fact is that the corporate-mainstream media in the U.S. was so busy entertaining us that these and many other important news stories became lost in a news system run amuck.

Peter Phillips is a professor of sociology at Sonoma State University and director of Project Censored. Censored 2009 was released Oct. 1, 2008 by Seven Stories Press. Daily independent news ( and a full on- line review of the most censored stories are available at:

Rolling the Dice on Derivatives

Guest Perspective by Ralph Nader

The derivatives markets of today have become a high stakes casino of unimaginable magnitude. Wall Street's bets have gone bad, and now the whole financial system is in peril. In a best-case scenario, it appears, the taxpayers will be required to rescue the system from itself. This is why Warren Buffet labeled derivatives "weapons of financial mass destruction."

Amazingly, there seems to be some lingering sense that current-day derivatives properly perform an insurance function.

Case in point: Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve Chairman. Greenspan says the world is facing “the type of wrenching financial crisis that comes along only once in a century,” but, reports the New York Times, "his faith in derivatives remains unshaken." Greenspan believes that the problem is not with derivatives, but that the people using them got greedy, according to the Times.

This is quite a view. Is it a surprise to Alan Greenspan that the people on Wall Street -- said to be ruled only by the opposing instincts of greed and fear -- "got greedy?"

This might be taken as just a bizarre comment, except that, of course, Alan Greenspan had some considerable influence in driving us to the current financial meltdown through his opposition to regulation of derivatives.

A series of deregulatory moves, blessed by Alan Greenspan, helped immunize Wall Street derivatives traders from proper oversight.

In 1995, Congress enacted the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA) of 1995, which imposed onerous restrictions on plaintiffs suing wrongdoers in the stock market. The law was enacted in the wake of Orange County, California's government bankruptcy caused by abuses in derivatives trading. An amendment offered by Rep. Ed Markey would have exempted derivatives trading abuse lawsuits from the PSLRA restrictions. In defeating the amendment, then-Representative and now-SEC Chairman Chris Cox quoted Alan Greenspan, saying “it would be a grave error to demonize derivatives;” and, “It would be a serious mistake to respond to these developments [in Orange County, California] by singling out derivative instruments for special regulatory treatment.”

The New York Times reports how the Commodity Futures Trading Commission aimed for some modest regulatory authority over derivatives in the late 1990s. Strident opposition from Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and Alan Greenspan spelled doom for that effort.

Senator Phil Gramm helped drive the process along with the Commodities Futures Modernization Act of 2000, which deregulated the derivatives market.

Defenders of deregulation argued that sophisticated players were involved in the derivatives markets, and they could handle themselves.

It's now apparent that not only could these sophisticated players not handle themselves, but that their reckless gambling has placed the entire world's financial system at risk.

It seems to be then a remarkably modest proposal for derivatives to be brought under regulatory control.

Warren Buffet cut to the heart of the problem in 2003: "Another problem about derivatives is that they can exacerbate trouble that a corporation has run into for completely unrelated reasons," he wrote in his annual letter to shareholders. "This pile-on effect occurs because many derivatives contracts require that a company suffering a credit downgrade immediately supply collateral to counterparties. Imagine, then, that a company is downgraded because of general adversity and that its derivatives instantly kick in with their requirement, imposing an unexpected and enormous demand for cash collateral on the company. The need to meet this demand can then throw the company into a liquidity crisis that may, in some cases, trigger still more downgrades. It all becomes a spiral that can lead to a corporate meltdown."

That is to say, our current problems were foreseeable, and foreseen. There is no excuse for those who suggest that present circumstances -- what many are calling a once-in-a-hundred-years event -- were unimaginable during earlier debates about regulation.

Some ideologues continue to defend derivatives from very strict government control. As Congress moves to adopt new financial regulations next year, hopefully the proponents of casino capitalism will be given no more credence than those insisting that the sun revolves around the earth.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Something to think about ...

While we are thinking about bailouts, the mortgage crisis, Wall Street and Main Street, and everything else, let's not forget about what President Dwight Eisenhower warned us all about many years ago:

If you listen to those words now, they have a chilling affect, especially when you consider how truly uneducated the American public is. Again, everyday commonsense.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

SNL video censored

Of course, the Web is a blaze about SNL censoring a very funny skit critical of the Dems. Here is some of the video. It's truly hilarious:

Are there any Dandy Warhol fans out there? I've been listening to "Earth to the Dandy Warhols," the new collection of songs [I can't really say "CD" or "album" since I downloaded the mp3s from] and it is really, really great. As usual. The Dandys put out great stuff.
One critique though: "Talk Radio" sounds like a direct rip off of "No New Tale to Tell" by Love & Rockets. I will have strum it some time just to make sure but it sounds just like it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Woody Woodland back on the air

Woody Woodland, a fixture on New Hampshire radio for the better part of the last two decades, will be back on the air next week ... in Massachusetts.
Woodland's new show will air every Tuesday afternoon from 1 to 3 p.m. on WCAP 980 AM in Lowell. According to a posting on the Boston Radio Archives LISTSERV, Woodland will focus on the happenings, political and otherwise, in Southern New Hampshire.
WCAP has other shows during the time slot including former Boston Herald TV critic [and aquaintance of mine] Monica Collins, who hosts a show about dogs on Wednesday. Collectibles and antique experts Gary Summers airs on Thursday.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Some things to read and think about ...

Alright, I haven't had a link dump in quite a while. So here you go:

First, there is this from our local television news station noting that, no, there is no credit problem: ["Loans Still Available During Credit Crunch"]. So, why again was there this bailout? There have been a couple of other articles too, noting that local banks seem to be pretty strong.

This guy has economic winners and losers [eBay and prisons up, retail and restaurants down] and also how to have a "green" retirement: ["Economic Collapse Winners and Losers"].

Every since the days I lived in NYC and the "gay cancer" emerged and many activists claimed it was a plot by a pharm company doing tests in Haiti to get rid of them, I have always wondered about AIDS and HIV. How could such a devastating disease only be a few decades old? Where did it come front? Certainly not because you are gay, a Haitian, or a hemophiliac? Well, now scientists may have found a strain of the virus that is more than a century old: ["HIV Outbreak Began Decades Earlier Than Thought"].

This group wants to open the debates: [""].

They haven't been successful so far.

File this in the "I really want one" category: ["Pilot completes jetpack challenge"].

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Rethinking Sarah Palin and everyday commonsense

While watching the vice presidential debate on Thursday, I was struck by a few things.
The fact that Sarah Palin seems like a completely "normal" red-blooded American who will be a heartbeat away from the presidency if McCain wins is refreshing to me. I found her nervousness and lack of specifics about things she knows nothing about to be a fresh perspective to the know-it-alls like Joe Biden who are constantly doing one thing, saying another, and then lecturing the rest of us about what is best [McCain is guilty of this too, note the pork-filled bailout bill he just voted for ...].
Everyday commonsense is everyday commonsense, for lack of a better term and I think we need a bit more of this. We need, at least on the economic level, more localism, more Bailey Building & Loan banks, etc., and less of what both parties have been giving us. Neither political party will deliver what we need now more than ever. Look at what they are doing with the bailout? Sweetheart deals for the affluent, a bunch of pork and tax breaks to get the votes, no real proof this will fix one single thing. It's crazy.
Can McCain-Palin deliver that compared to Obama-Biden? No. But the Palins are middle class. According to the Wall Street Journal today, Sarah's husband earned about $46,000 last year. She earned more than $100k as governor. But if she weren't governor, they would be back down to middle class. Hence that is why she considers herself middle class. The Bidens earned about $250,000, the next lowest on the chart, and many of those people consider themselves middle class.
Admittedly, despite Palin's seemingly ordinariness, I won't vote for the ticket because I don't agree with them on much. I'm unlikely to vote for Obama-Biden at this point either. Biden is part of the problem. In addition, Obama has surrounded himself with some of the Clintonistas who helped to start this economic mess.
But it would truly be really nice if regular folks - Joe Six Pack, lunch bucket Dems, whatever you want to call them [us?] - got some access to power so we can bring some everyday commonsense back into the equation of how our government runs, how our economy functions, etc.
We have all seen what the educated and investor classes - the supposed "smart" people - have done to the nation, with the help of both political parties and their insatiable lust for power and greed at our expense and our children's expense. Again, look around you. Would anyone trust a word an Ivy League-educated economist, business major, etc., says at this point when you consider that hell they have put us "regular" folks through? Nope, sorry.
Those smart people at the fed caused the subprime debacle. Most folks were doing just fine paying off their ARM mortgages in a shaky economy until the fed started raising rates in late 2004 to 2005. The rate went from 1 percent to 5.25 percent in a little more than a year in a effort to "curb" nonexistent inflation. In reaction, the banks jacked up the rate of the ARMs and put a ton of folks into foreclosure. Those people could afford 5 or 6 percent; they couldn't afford 9 or 12 percent. We were all reading about it in the Wall Street Journal as far back as the first quarter of 2006 when the housing started slowing down and the gas prices started rising. Many of these people were conned, sure. But many people would have been just fine had the fed not intervened and allowed the economy to grow instead of tinkering. Their tinkering collapsed the economy.
Republicans did try to rein Freddie and Fannie but not for the right reasons it would seem. Democrats saw them as a way of expanding affordable housing. But both parties raved about how great home ownership was and what the statistics seemed to say at the time. In addition, it was Clinton's Robert Rubin who was the one who regulated most of these banks. Note: He's at Citibank now and Obama is in his pocket.
Everyone though can thank Ralph Nader who has been complaining about all of this stuff for years and years. He is growing in the polls, because people are clearly frustrated. But it probably won't be enough for victory, unfortunately.
Despite what some people think, the subprime mortgage mess is only a small symptom to the current economic disaster. The larger problem of free trade ... brought to us by all those smart economists who somehow don't know how to subtract ... dwarfs the loan problem.
Clinton, and the Democrats and Republicans in Congress, brought on the free trade pacts which have put millions of people out of work and sent trillions of dollars in wealth overseas based on a fraudulent economic concept. Our country's economy was put in direct competition with people who make pennies on the dollar.
As a subset, the services sector never grew to compensate the lost manufacturing. For every manufacturing job, another seven jobs are created around that job. In the services sector, it is two for every one. So, you can see, by simple addition and subtraction, how those things happened.
Every time Toyota opens a plant in the U.S. and hires 5,000 people, another 35,000 people are hired around those jobs: The insurance people, HR, food and restaurants, etc. So, when those 5,000 jobs are lost, the other jobs connected to those jobs are also lost.
Since 2001, the annual trade deficit has increased more than $300 billion annually and 3.8 million manufacturing jobs have been lost, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. That's not the total deficit, that's just the last seven years!
How much is $300 billion? Well, just 12 million modestly-priced $250,000 homes. And that's just the deficit - the negative difference between imports and exports. Never mind the actual imports, things that could be made here or at the very least, taxed with a tariff to raise revenue instead of nailing us with income taxes all the time.
Record trade deficits have made the overall U.S. economy about $1.5 trillion smaller than it should be right now, according to some of the experts. Using their own figures, the potential net job loss since 2001? 27 million. Since 1993 when NAFTA was passed? Who knows.
It is estimated by one of the elite think tanks, I forget which one, that 30 percent of the country is either unemployed, underemployed, or fallen off the rolls. The 6 percent figure is a fallacy and everyone knows it. This would back up the other figures.
Lastly, most everything that I have discussed, beyond some people being conned and wanting a piece of the American dream, was brought on by the educated and investor classes. They have clearly shown themselves to be clueless and lacking commonsense. Again, it is a good time to start taking a different approach.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Barlett & Steele Awards announced

From the inbox:

BusinessWeek magazine and The Seattle Times have been awarded first place and runner-up respectively in the second annual Barlett & Steele Awards for Investigative Business Journalism.

"Prisoners of Debt," a series by BusinessWeek's Brian Grow, Robert Berner, Keith Epstein and Geri Smith, received the $5,000 first-place award. "The Favor Factory" by The Seattle Times' David Heath and Hal Bernton was awarded the $2,000 second-place prize.

These awards sponsored by the Reynolds Center are named for the celebrated investigative business journalism team of Don Barlett and Jim Steele, which has received two Pulitzer Prizes and numerous other national honors. Judging of the awards is based on that duo's admonition to break new ground and "tell me something I don't know."

"In a traumatic year for the news industry and economy, this year's winning entries prove the importance and relevance of solid investigations by dedicated journalists into excesses of both business and government," said Andrew Leckey, Director of the Reynolds Center. "All entrants in this year's competition should be commended for remaining true to their professional responsibility to dig deeply into financial issues."

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order) in the 2008 awards went to:
--Bloomberg Markets, "Toxic Debt" (part 1, part 2, part 3) by David Evans and Richard Tomlinson.
--Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Chemical Fallout" by Susanne Rust, Meg Kissinger and Cary Spivak.
--The New York Times, "Golden Opportunities" by Charles Duhigg.
--The Wall Street Journal, "U.S. Investors Face an Age of Murky Pricing" by Susan Pulliam, Randall Smith and Michael Siconolfi.

The first-place "Prisoners of Debt," a three-part BusinessWeek series (part 1, part 2, part 3 ), revealed how large financial firms regularly collaborate with doctors and hospitals to turn unpaid medical bills into high-interest consumer debt. It explained how banks and credit card firms badger unsophisticated consumers to pay off debts even after they have been extinguished by the bankruptcy courts and also examined so-called "micro-lending" that ties up the indigent in high-interest debt.

Runner-up "The Favor Factory," a four-part series by The Seattle Times, through exhaustive research uncovered thousands of purchases that the U.S. Congress has forced the military to make in recent years, including a $4.5 million Navy vessel that sits unused by a Seattle pier. The investigation of secretive Congressional earmarks included the scanning of hundreds of documents and a year spent building a database that directly linked this waste to political contributions.

The first-place and runner-up recipients will receive their publications' trophies and individual certificates at a Nov. 19 ceremony at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University in Phoenix, where the Reynolds Center is located.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

'Sweeteners' to benefit the affluent help move bailout through Senate

Some quick things about the Senate passing the bailout bill:
First, the sweeteners seem almost all geared towards the most affluent in our society. Raising the limit of FDIC from $100k to $250k. Guess who benefits from that? Certainly not the majority of Americans who don't have anywhere near $100k in the passbook savings accounts, never mind $250k.
The reevaluation of balance sheets? Oh yeah, that helps Main Street.
The extension of several business tax breaks. Umm, when are we going to get to the folks losing their homes again?
Revision of the AMT. OK, that will help some folks.
Mental health parity changes? What does that have to do with the housing crisis?
And, the worst part? No buy-in from Wall Street. No 0.25 percent transaction tax to get investors to pay for the mess they created or to stop flipping things around as frequently, which would create stability in the market and long-term investing, which is what Wall Street should be about. No wealth or windfall profits tax to take back some of the money these people reaped [or raped] from us. No millionaire's surcharge tax. Nothing to get them to pay for their mess.
Second, look at some of the No votes: Populist Democrats like Byron Dorgan and Russ Feingold, and Socialist Bernie Sanders, voting with Republicans Sam Brownback, Elizabeth Dole, and Richard Shelby. Just like the House. A very good sign that some coalitions are being built.
So, again, this is a total ripoff, made worse in some ways by these changes. Without a transaction tax - at the bare minimum - to get Wall Street to repay us for bailing them out, nothing should be done. Let it all fall. It isn't enough to say the economy is on the brink. For more folks, the economy has been on the brink for a very long time. All allowing the stock market to fall will do is put the investor class at parity with the working class. It's a small price to pay to go through a bit of pain.

Nader to visit N.H., Maine

Open the debate tour comes through our state. From the inbox:

We need your help to promote the Nader/Gonzalez "Open the Debates" October 6th tour in New Hampshire and Maine (see schedule below)!

Since 1988, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) has sponsored every presidential debate and the CPD is headed by two former chairs of the Democratic and Republican parties. In 1987, the League of Women Voters refused to sponsor any more presidential debates, "because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter."

The Nader/Gonzalez Campaign stands with the people on the issues, including the proposed corporate bailout of Wall Street. Obama and McCain stand with Wall Street Speculators. Nader/Gonzalez is on a mission to shift the power to the people and open the debates for third party candidates -- bringing democracy back to the American Voter!

If you cannot make it to these rallies, please help us spread the word by forwarding these events:

October 6th, Noon - Hanover, New Hampshire

Nader for President 2008 Rally
Alumni Hall, Hopkins Center for the Arts
Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755
Suggested Contribution: $10/$5 students
For more information: (202) 471-5833 or

October 6th, 7:30 pm - Portland, Maine

Nader for President 2008 Rally
First Parish in Portland Maine, Unitarian Universalist
425 Congress St. Portland, ME 04101
Suggested Contribution: $10/$5 students
For more information: (202) 471-5833 or

In other Nader related news, there will be a showing of "An Unreasonable Man," the documentary about Ralph Nader, at the Red River Theatres on Saturday, Oct. 4, at 3 p.m., with a discussion afterward. The showing is free but donations will be appreciated. The Red River Theatres are located on S. Main Street in Concord. The listing is not on the Red River Web site but they often rent out the theatre for people to use. So, I think the listing is legit.

Behind The Deregulatory Curtain

Guest Perspective by Ralph Nader

The current finger pointing by the deregulation crowd in Congress and their ideological soul mates in the media reminds me of the 1939 film classic The Wizard of Oz. It is as though these spin masters want us to pay no attention to the government officials behind the deregulation curtain.

Indeed, the right-wing pundits and the revisionists in Congress are spending an inordinate amount of time falsely claiming that our nation’s current financial disaster stems from the Community Reinvestment Act, a law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in 1977. The primary purpose of this modest law is to require banks to report on where and to whom they are making loans. Community organizations have used the data produced as a result of this law to determine if banks were meeting their lending obligations in the minority and lower-income communities in which they do business. Congress passed this law because too many lenders were discriminating against minority borrowers. “Redlining” was the name given to the practice by banks of literally drawing a red line around minority areas and then proceeding to deny people within the red border home loans – even if they were otherwise qualified. The law has been in place for 30 years, but the right-wing fringe claims it somehow is responsible for predatory lending practices that date back just to the beginning of this decade.

Notice what these revisionists are not mentioning.

No “thank you” to former Senator Phil Gramm for pushing the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act.. This law was passed in the wake of the stock market crash of 1929 - and designed to separate banking from securities activities. In 1999, when Congress passed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and in so doing repealed Glass-Steagall the banks strayed into rough waters by looking for fast money from risky investments in securities and derivatives.

As predatory lending mushroomed out of control, the regulators -- key among them, the Federal Reserve and the Office of Comptroller of Currency -- sat on their hands. The Federal Reserve took exactly three formal actions against subprime lenders from 2002 to 2007. Bloomberg news service found that the Office of Comptroller of the Currency, which has authority over almost 1,800 banks, took three consumer-protection enforcement actions from 2004 to 2006.

No “tip of the hat” to the Bush Administration for preempting state regulators and Attorneys General from using state consumer laws to crack down on predatory and sub-prime lending by national banks.

And, let us not forget the folks at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Imagine allowing these two government sponsored enterprises--that were weakly regulated by HUD--to claim they were meeting the national housing goals by counting the purchase of subprime loans. Back in May of 2000, our associate Jonathan Brown warned that it would be inappropriate and counterproductive to encourage Fannie and Freddie to meet the housing goals by purchasing subprime loans. Too bad our members of Congress and the regulators at HUD were infected with deregulatory zeal. Former Texas Senator and current UBS executive Phil Gramm -- would-be President John McCain's Treasury Secretary-in-waiting -- pushed through the Commodities Futures Modernization Act of 2000, which deregulated the derivatives market. With help from his wife, Wendy, the former head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission who went on to a post on the Enron board of directors, Gramm removed the controls on Wall Street so it could innovate all sorts of exotic financial instruments. Instruments far riskier than advertised, and now at the core of the financial meltdown.

The SEC, through its "consolidated supervised entities" program, decided that voluntary regulation would work for the investment banking sector. Not surprisingly, this was a scheme cooked up by Wall Street itself. The investment banks were permitted to double, triple and go 20 times (and more) down on their bets by using lots of borrowed money. They made minimal disclosures to the SEC about what they were doing, and the SEC didn't bother to review those disclosures adequately. Too bad for the investment banks -- and the rest of us -- they made lots of bad bets. The SEC has now closed the voluntary program, though now there aren't any major investment banks left (the two remaining ones have converted themselves into conventional banks).

It is time to start paying very close attention to government officials behind the deregulation curtain. Let your Members of Congress know you are not willing to bailout the gamblers on Wall Street with a no-strings attached pile of taxpayer dollars. The time for regulation is upon us.