Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Standards come back to haunt Kos

Interesting little nugget here from last night: ["Markos charges polling fraud"].
I've often wondered about those polls on the Kos site and how they always made Democrats look good.
While I haven't been on the site in years, I often wondered if the polls were created in order to keep the activists and people who donate money activated. There's nothing more powerful to keep the rabble in line than phony polls making them think they are winners when they might actually not be.
And what would have happened if the polls changed for some reason and started going the other way? Would Kos allow them to be posted? He doesn't allow all kinds of discussions to happen on his site (You can't commend Ralph Nader or any progressive independents who might be challenging even the worst kinds of Democrats; you can't challenge the official 9-11 story; etc.). Even though it doesn't say "Democrat site," it's stipulated and people target others who don't talk the party line. That's why I have no use for the site or other political sites that are one side or the other. You're either interested in having a conversation about opinions or you aren't. I like to think for myself, thanks.
I don't quite know what to make of this but it will be good to get it all out. I think we might all be surprised (or maybe not so) with the results.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Nader: Questions for Supreme Court nominee Kagan

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
Supreme Court nominations are a rare opportunity for millions of Americans to watch, learn and converse about what the Court, the Constitution and the Justices mean for their way of life, their freedoms and their livelihoods.

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee should consider asking Solicitor General Elena Kagan, who has been nominated to be an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, some or all of the following questions.

1. Do you believe that for-profit corporations should have First Amendment political speech rights identical to those of humans?

2. If no, apart from the right to vote, in what ways do you believe corporate First Amendment political speech rights should differ from those of humans?

3. Large corporations have a lot of money, and the ability to generate a lot of revenue. Yet very rich people also have a lot of money. For purposes of First Amendment analysis, what are the consequential differences, if any, between corporations and real, live people?

4. Do you believe that electoral spending by third parties can distort the political process even in the absence of quid pro quo corruption, such that restrictions on electoral spending should be upheld under the First Amendment? Does this apply also to electoral spending not coordinated with campaigns (independent expenditures)?

5. Can independent expenditures give rise to corruption, or the appearance of corruption, sufficiently serious so that restrictions on such spending may be upheld under the First Amendment?

6. Do you believe that a strict reading of the Constitution provides for the treatment of corporations as "persons" under the law for purposes of equal protection, freedom of speech or due process of law? And, if so, what in the Constitution’s text provides a basis for this belief?

7. Do you see a problem when corporations are treated as equal participants, with every right to use their First Amendment rights to dominate public policy debates such as those that occur in state and local referenda?

8. Do you believe limits on television station ownership abridge the free speech rights of corporate broadcasters?

9. What is your view of the First Amendment rights of the listeners being paramount to those of the broadcasters as articulated by the Court in Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC, 395 U. S. 367 (1969)?

10. In 1986, in Pacific Gas & Elec. Co. v. Public Util. Comm'n of Cal., 475 U. S. 1 (1986) the Supreme Court (5 to 3) struck down a state regulation as violating a utility company's "right of conscience" under the First Amendment. What makes the case particularly unsettling is its disconnectedness to opinions past and future. As Justice Rehnquist observed in his lengthy dissenting opinion in the case, “the two constitutional liberties most closely analogous to the right to refrain from speaking - the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and the constitutional right of privacy - have been denied to corporations based on their corporate status.” Do you think it makes sense to attribute a right of conscience to a commercial corporation?

11. Would any trade agreement, such as GATT, NAFTA, or CAFTA ever require Senate ratification as a treaty?

12. Does the President have complete discretion to determine whether an international trade or other agreement must be submitted to the Senate for two-thirds treaty approval? If not, what are the criteria that determine when an international agreement must be submitted to the Senate for two-thirds treaty approval?

13. Are there limits on Congress' power to strip federal courts of jurisdiction over a particular issue? If so, what are such limits?

14. Do you believe victims of defective products that meet federal standards should be limited from recovering damages from the manufacturers of the defective products?

15. Do you believe Congress should federalize and pre-empt state products liability common law in any or all sectors?

16. Plaintiffs' trial lawyers have been blamed by their corporate critics for all sorts of problems with the economy and legal profession. Do you believe that those representing injured persons in product liability and medical malpractice cases are harming America?

17. So-called tort-reform is aimed at restricting the amount of non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, a party can receive. Are you concerned that this interferes with the traditional role of juries and judges to find facts and mete out appropriate justice?

18. Do you believe the use of the government contractor defense should be limited in nonmilitary procurement? If so, how?

19. Some people say the Ninth Amendment can play no substantive role in protecting rights, that it's merely a statement of principle or reminder of limited government. Do you agree?

20. A number of legal scholars argue that the 11th Amendment has been interpreted by the Court to shield states from liability for wrongdoing in a way that blatantly contravenes the original intention of the Amendment. Are you familiar with that scholarship and do you find it persuasive?

21. In what circumstances, if any, is it appropriate for a contractual arbitration clause to contract away substantive contract law, tort, or statutory rights? For instance, can an arbitration clause require arbitration of a worker’s Title VII rights and at the same time limit the worker’s compensatory damages to $200,000? Can that same clause require the loser to pay the winner’s attorney’s fees? Can that clause require that the parties to arbitration bear their own attorney’s fees?

22. Describe the presumption against preemption of state law. Does it apply in some or all instances where federal law is said to preempt state law?

23. Is the presumption against preemption of state law (by federal law) similar to the plain statement rule that demands that Congress speak with unmistakable clarity if it wishes to override the states’ sovereign immunity? If the presumption against preemption is not similar to the plain statement rule, explain how it is different?

24. How is the presumption against preemption applied in cases where federal regulatory law (regulating, for instance, drugs, boats, pesticides, motor vehicles, and the like) is said to preempt state tort law that provides monetary remedies to compensate for injuries caused by a product that the federal government regulates?

25. Do you believe Congress should pre-empt the state-law-based medical malpractice system?

26. What are your views on the “American rule” as opposed to the English rule under which the losing party in litigation generally pays the winner’s costs, including attorney’s fees?

27. What has been your reaction or views on Congressional funding levels for federally funded legal services programs over the last two decades? Should government be responsible for funding representation for poor people in civil litigation where important property or liberty interests are at stake? Or should that be mainly or entirely a private function?

28. Some scholars and judges believe that "Originalism" is the only principled method of constitutional interpretation. Do you agree?

29. Do you believe that a declaration of war by Congress is Constitutionally required for the United States to engage in war?

30. Does a Congressional delegation of the war-making discretion to the President in the form of a war resolution meet the test of Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution?

31. Is there a need to amend our open government laws to make the President subject to them in whole or in part? Would such amendments be constitutional?

32. Do you believe arguments before the Supreme Court should be televised in the way C-SPAN televises Congressional deliberations?

33. From both a legal (constitutional) and practical perspective, what is your view of the trend in the federal judiciary toward releasing more of its opinions in “unpublished” form, i.e., where the relevant court accords no precedential effect to the decision for other cases?

34. Should federal judges attend seminars which are funded by private corporations (or by foundations that are funded by such corporations) that have matters of interest to the corporations before the courts?

35. Do you believe a government attorney, in a subordinate position, should be forced (under penalty of discharge) to work on a case or argue a position that he or she believes is illegal, unconstitutional or unethical? Or should government lawyers have a "right of conscience" like other professionals?

36. What kinds of participation in civic life may federal judges continue to be involved in once they assume their judicial positions?

Arrgh ... this is not news!

Last night, I checked my Yahoo accounts for emails and on the front page, was this story: ["Jon Gosselin's 'Rebirth' Via New Tattoo"]. Note to the Yahoo folks: This is not news and has no business being on the front page of your website.
This, however, is news: ["'Double Dip'? Or Did the 'Great Recession' Really Never End?"].
"Weak consumer spending" ... Umm, folks without money can't spend anything ...
"Despite signs of recent progress, 'there's no possibility to restore 8 million jobs lost in the Great Recession,' a notably candid Vice President Joe Biden said Monday." Oh yes there is, raise tariffs, which will shift the buying habits of Americans and bring back more jobs to this country, and start rounding up all the illegal aliens and deporting them. Instantly, there will be millions of jobs.
"A big concern for many is that the economy is sputtering despite the Fed's historically easy policies and the government's huge spending binge. The idea we've spent all this money with little (or nothing) to show for it has some observers worried America is heading down the same path as Japan, which is about to complete its second-straight 'lost decade.'" ... So, maybe it's time to try something different?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Krugman is right but also wrong

I've never been a fan of Paul Krugman. He is an extremely smart man and seems to get it on a lot of things. However, he has continued to be a champion of two things that are killing the American economy: The fraudulent free trade system and illegal immigration. For these reasons, I've never really taken anything he says seriously.
However, this morning, I skimmed some of my fave RSS feeds. One is Political Wire. On PW, Tagg linked to this opinion piece this morning from Krugman in the NYT: ["The Third Depression"].
I've been telling people for I don't know how long now, probably four years, that this latest recession is going to be a depression and we should all be prepared for the long haul (or we truly are in an economic depression now, since all the economic indicators are actually estimates and not really facts and we won't know for years to come ...). So, I agree with Krugman on this part. We're probably in a depression and we aren't going to get out of it anytime soon.
The problem with Krugman's analysis is that he gets the reasoning wrong:
And this third depression will be primarily a failure of policy. Around the world — most recently at last weekend’s deeply discouraging G-20 meeting — governments are obsessing about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending.
This is where he gets it wrong. Government spending isn't the problem; revenue AND spending are the problem. There is not enough revenue and too much spending (and in many cases, spending on stupid things). One doesn't work without the other and vice versa.
The other part of this is that we aren't truly building up our local economies. This is where the free trade/illegal immigration part fits in. Not everyone in America is going to be a highly educated, productive economic engine (and even rocket scientists are out of work). The world needs ditch-diggers too, as Judge Smails said in "Caddyshack," after a caddy mentioned that he was saving for law school but didn't know if he would have enough money.
There will always be tens of millions of Americans who will need low skill, decent wage jobs to survive. There is no way around this but to be honest about it. They cannot compete with economic enslavement conditions throughout the world where workers will work for pennies on the dollar. At the same time, the influx of millions of workers from south of the border is depressing our wages due to lack of enforcement. Illegals come in and cut lawns, pick lettuce, clean offices, etc., for below the minimum wage, which takes away jobs from people that live here. People say, Well, Americans won't do those jobs. Well, yes they will. If you've ever been unemployed and were getting near the end of the one year of weekly checks, let me tell you, you will do just about anything to get by. The fact is that we have tens of millions of people out of work who will happily do just about anything right now. If there were no illegals, there would be millions and millions of jobs and satellite jobs based on those jobs. Few want to face them, but they are the facts.
Even Krugman admits this to be true although he caveats it by saying it's an economic benefit to have people from foreign lands here working for below minimum wage.
Krugman continues:
In the face of this grim picture, you might have expected policy makers to realize that they haven’t yet done enough to promote recovery. But no: over the last few months there has been a stunning resurgence of hard-money and balanced-budget orthodoxy.
As anyone who has ever tried to pay off a credit card knows, debt is an important thing to use for long-term purchases. But too much debt and debt spent on frivolous things can be catastrophic.
Governments, on almost every level, have too much debt, have built or financed stupid things, and have too many expenses to sustain themselves.
Just look at the Pentagon budget or read "Diary of an Economic Hitman" to understand what is going on in the world. Just look at the tax system which nails middle-class families while allowing people who earn millions shifting paper around to get away with murder.
The only way to get the economy rolling again is to pay down those debts, adjust pay scales to what the government job is truly worth and not what unions want (gosh, did I just say that?), and make sure there is money in people's pocket so that they can spend it (and this money can't be phony debt money but real money, earned, in the pocket, with no debt strings attached).
Right now, seventy percent of economic growth is based on retail spending or, to be more precise, money that people spend to buy things that they need (and sure, sometimes, want). The recovery is going to be based on that type of spending - not what government spends and wants.
The government debt balloon is also coming. Public employee pensions alone will bankrupt the future of our children never mind Social Security and the trillions in debt the government owes (and what did we get for that money again? The end of communism but now a ton of mini-Cold Wars all over the world spending even more on militarization than we ever had since WWII? Hmm ...).
Not unlike working hard to pay off your Sears card by living without and not buying anything from Sears until what you have already spent has been paid off, government needs to do the same thing. It needs to do the same thing while not pulling more money out of people's pocket too, which will drain more money out of the economy. That means reining in costs and lowering debt levels. Yes, that means pain, that means living with less, that means some people will make out better than others (it can't be any worse than it is right now, can it?), that means now spending hundreds on ciggies when you are collecting food stamps, and that means relying of family and friends and not being a burden on society by relying on government.
We're all supposed to be in this together. Let's truly think that way and fix the problem, and not continue to allow a handful of powerful people to continue to f*ck things up. Otherwise, we will surely sink alone, one at a time ...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cheap advertising tricks ...

If there is one thing I hate, it's phony, cheap advertising tricks, like the current "half off" sale that we are seeing on TV right now. I saw the ad again, at the beginning of the Loudon races (which my boys are enjoying too).
I went to the site to check it out and what it is a half off the MSRP lease price for 36 months, plus a $2,999 down payment.
As everyone knows - or should know by now - leases are a rip off. You pay top dollar for the car and then, at the end of the lease, you get nailed for more than you would have paid by buying the car, with more payments. So, this sale isn't half-off at all - it's just another car advertising scam.

If you're looking for a new car, here's what you do:
1) Go to Consumer Reports and look at the best recommended models for what you want. You can trust their reports. I always advise people to stick with Hondas. But there are other brands that are pretty reliable.
2) Go to and look up the invoice price. "Experts" say that if you pay 3 percent above the invoice price, you're getting a good price. I have always paid less than the invoice price.
3) Go to the dealership and offer to pay the invoice price for the car you want. If they balk, you walk. Don't give in; don't go up. Just wait for them to say OK. Trust me: Times are tough, they won't let you walk. Never ask desperate or anything. Do your homework and you'll be OK.
4) Other tricks: Shop towards the end of the month, when sales folks are hungry to make their quota for the month and never buy at the beginning of the month. Always shop late into the model sales year for what you're looking for, i.e., now is a good time to buy 2010 model years even though they have been on the lot for six to nine months. 2011 models are coming in to the dealerships. They have to move those cars. Lastly, never buy the latest model year right away and if it is a redesigned model, don't buy that year either. Wait a year and let the manufacturer work out the complaints and kinks.
5) The dealership may try to sell you an extended warranty. I have always heard bad things about extended warranties. Most "experts" advise not to buy it. Because of this, I've never bought them.
However, I bought one on my latest car after the finance guy made a pretty good pitch to me. The interest rate was lower on the car (2007 Honda Civic) if I bought the warranty. The cost of the extension - $1,500 - was about $120 in total cost when I added in the savings of the lower interest rate. I have already used coverage on the extended warranty for a repair that would have cost me $1,300. In other words, the extra $120 saved me more than $1,000. Or, the extended warranty was more than worth the price. YMMV.

Oh Camille, we've missed you ...

Wow, Camille Paglia, where the heck have you been?: ["No Sex Please, We’re Middle Class"].
I especially like this line:
Meanwhile, family life has put middle-class men in a bind; they are simply cogs in a domestic machine commanded by women. Contemporary moms have become virtuoso super-managers of a complex operation focused on the care and transport of children. But it’s not so easy to snap over from Apollonian control to Dionysian delirium.
Many of us just bring home the money and collapse, and get yelled at if we try and find some distraction for ourselves that doesn't involve helping out domestically so our over-burdened wives can have a break, or tending to our chores (in my case, balancing the budget, doing the shopping, clipping the coupons, paying the bills, catching up on dishes when needed, mowing the lawn, etc.).
And go a bit further - if women were black widows, we'd all be eaten already ... oh, but we wouldn't be eaten because we'd no longer be able to work! And welfare isn't around anymore. Yikes. Forget that one.
And check out this next 'graph too:
Nor are husbands offering much stimulation in the male display department: visually, American men remain perpetual boys, as shown by the bulky T-shirts, loose shorts and sneakers they wear from preschool through midlife. The sexes, which used to occupy intriguingly separate worlds, are suffering from over-familiarity, a curse of the mundane. There’s no mystery left.
Oh, how true. We're eating too much processed food, don't have enough time to exercise, have too much work and often bring it home, and when we do have the time, we throw on a T-shirt and shorts and make due.
But what is our purpose, one might ask, especially when considering the need for mystery and romance? Is a pill really the answer? Is it more than better diets and time? Some things to think about.
I used to have fights with my feminist friends about why Camille Paglia was so relevant, especially during the 1990s when I read a couple of her books. I understood why at the time - Paglia was overly critical of women and, in many cases, urging empowerment on all levels, not just ones accepted by "feminist doctrine." No one wants to get beat up and then told what to do all over again even if it is for their own good (I'd lump intellectuals who lecture men in here too, not just Paglia).
I haven't read any of her stuff in years ... in fact, I haven't read much of anything of late. But clearly a good dose of self-eval, brain food, and yeah, sexual mystery and romance, are in order. She nails this one right on the head.

Nader: Naked insecurity

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
If you are planning to fly over the 4th of July holiday, be aware of your rights at airport security checkpoints.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has mandated that passengers can opt out of going through a whole body scanning machine in favor of a physical pat down. Unfortunately, opting for the pat down requires passengers to be assertive since TSA screeners do not tell travelers about their right to refuse a scan. Harried passengers must spot the TSA signs posted at hectic security checkpoints to inform themselves of their rights before they move to a body scanning security line.

Since the failed Christmas Day bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight by a passenger hiding explosives in his underwear, TSA has accelerated its program of deploying whole body scanning machines, including x-ray scanners, at airport security checkpoints throughout the United States. Scanning machines peak beneath passengers' clothing looking for concealed weapons and explosives that can elude airport metal detectors. So far, TSA has placed 111 scanners at 32 airports. They expect to have 450 scanners deployed by the end of the year at an estimated cost of $170,000 each.

Privacy, civil rights and religious groups object to whole body scanning machines as uniquely intrusive. Naked images of passengers' bodies are captured by these machines that can reveal very personal medical conditions such as prosthetics, colostomy bags and mastectomy scars. The TSA responded by setting the scanners to blur the facial features of travelers, placing TSA employees who view the images in a separate room and assuring the public that the images are deleted after initial viewing.

Yet, a successful Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the Electronic Privacy Information Center against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uncovered documents showing that the scanning machines’ procurement specifications include the ability to store, record and transfer revealing digital images of passengers. The specifications allow TSA to disable any privacy filters permitting the exporting of raw images, contrary to TSA assurances.

It begs logic that the TSA would not retain their ability to store images particularly in the event of a terrorist getting through the scan and later attacking an aircraft. One of the first searches by the TSA would be to review images taken by the scanners to identify the attacker.

The Amsterdam airport is using a less intrusive security device called “auto detection” scanning which generates stick figures instead of the real image of the person and avoids exposing passengers to radiation. Three United States Senators recently wrote to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano urging her to consider these devices. (

More pointedly, security experts, such as Edward Luttwak from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, have come forward questioning the effectiveness of whole body scanners since they can be defeated by hiding explosives in body cavities. The General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of Congress, has stated that it is unclear whether scanners would have spotted the kind of explosives carried by the “Christmas Day” bomber.

About one-half of these body scanning machines use low dose x-rays to scan passengers. Last May, a group of esteemed scientists from the University of California, San Francisco wrote to John Holdren, President Obama's science adviser, voicing their concerns about the rapid roll out of scanners without a rigorous safety review by an impartial panel of experts. The scientists caution that the TSA has miscalculated the radiation dose to the skin from scanners and that there is "good reason to believe that these scanners will increase the risk of cancer to children and other vulnerable populations." (

David Brenner, director of Columbia University's Center for Radiological Research, has also voiced caution about x-raying millions of air travelers. He was a member of the government committee that set the safety guidelines for the x-ray scanners, and he now says he would not have signed onto the report had he known that TSA wanted to scan almost every air traveler. (

Passenger complaints to TSA and newspaper accounts of passenger experiences with scanners contradict TSA assurances that checkpoint signs provide adequate notice to travelers about the scanning procedure and the pat down option. Travelers, who reported that they were not fully aware what the scanning procedure involved, said they were not made aware of alternative search options. (

Many travelers complained about their privacy, and their families' privacy, being invaded. Some were concerned about the radiation risk, particularly to pregnant women and children. Some travelers felt bullied by rude TSA screeners. The Wall Street Journal reported that one woman who refused to go through the body scanner was called "unpatriotic" by the TSA screener.

Expensive state-of-the-art security technology that poses potentially serious health risks to vulnerable passengers, invades privacy, and provides questionable security is neither smart nor safe. For the White House it is a political embarrassment waiting to happen.

President Obama should suspend the body scanning program and appoint an independent panel of experts to review the issues of privacy, health and effectiveness. After such a review, should the DHS and TSA still want to deploy body scanners at airports, they should initiate a public rulemaking, which they have refused thus far, so that the public can have their say in the matter.

If you experience any push-back from TSA screeners when you assert your right to refuse to go through a whole body scanner and request a pat down security search instead, please write to

Monday, June 21, 2010

Some movement but ...

This, from WMUR-TV: ["NH Sale: State To Look At Selling Assets"].
In many ways, this is a good thing. The state shouldn't be in the business of hoarding things, unless there is an environmental reason for having land assets. Obviously, we don't want to sell our precious open spaces or recreational spaces. But at the same time, having a fire sale of land and other items doesn't get to the heart of the matter: Containing spending. This is a one-time fix, with one-time revenue from the sale. Unless the state gets serious about containing the spending, it is never going to get out of this mess.
Right now, the issue of state budgets collapsing is a national problem, as noted in the cover story of yesterday's TIME Magazine ["The Broken States of America"] which analyzes some of the problems, although heavily weighted from the New Jersey angle. I'm only part way through the article, but look forward to finishing it.
Side note: State Sen. Harold Janeway has decided to step down after one term. Republican Andy Sandborn, the owner of the Draft in Concord and an all around good guy is running again for the seat.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Nader: Waste in government

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
The festering corporate government in Washington, DC, is a theater of the absurd. Some of the acts of this tragedy follow:

1. Start with the often hapless Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that administers Medicare. Medicare pays $1,593 per injection of Lucentis for wet age-related macular degeneration as well as $42 per dose for Avastin, a drug that has a similar molecular structure, used by ophthalmologists.

Both drugs are made by Genentech. Lucentis is FDA approved for the vision problem and the other, Avastin, is approved to treat cancer. Doctors can also use Avastin for vision treatment. A study by three officials of CMS and Dr. Philip Rosenfeld, a retina specialist at the University of Miami, reported that for Medicare patients 60% of eye injections were Avastin, while 40% used Lucentis. Note this: Medicare paid $537 million for Lucentis in 2008 and only $20 million for Avastin!

2. Saving about half a billion a year by using Avastin is small potatoes to another CMS shortcoming. For fiscal year 2009, CMS paid $65 billion in erroneous payments—to deceased doctors, fraudsters, delinquent or imprisoned contractors and other suspended or debarred firms.

Organized fraud of Medicare is becoming more systemic. So President Obama wants CMS to use a new fraud-detection program. Professor Malcolm Sparrow of Harvard University, the nation’s leading expert on health care billing fraud told them how to do this many years ago, but they were not listening.

The President wants to reduce throughout the government “payments in benefits, contracts, grants and loans to ineligible people or organizations,” according to the Washington Post. Better trillions of dollars late over the decades, then never!

3. Five oil company executives, including from BP, admitted at a Congressional hearing this week that they did not have contingency plans worked out for catastrophic failures. What is, by comparison, the worst case scenario for offshore windfarms or solar/thermal conservation, or passive solar architecture? Energy Secretary Stephen Chu still does not note such a criteria to differentiate between energy supply priorities.

4. President Obama now, belatedly, recognizes that the notorious oil industry patsy, the Minerals Management Service (MMS) in the Department of Interior, was a washout non-regulator of offshore drilling inherited from the Bush and Clinton Administrations. Well he also better take a hard look at the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which are variously pleased with being captured by the very industries they are supposed to regulate. Too many agencies, in essence, allow the companies to “self-regulate” – an oxymoron.

Each of these agencies may wake up some day to witness a catastrophic hazardous materials disaster or meltdown that they should have prevented with stronger standards, inspection and law enforcement. Heed this caution, Mr. President!

5. Another $50 billion request by the White House just whisked through Congress for the brutal, spreading, futile war in Afghanistan—the historic graveyard of empires. Republicans loved to vote for this raid on the taxpayers.

But this week, a united Republican cabal, joined by Senators Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and Ben Nelson (D-NE), blocked a $120 billion package (the threat of filibuster again) to extend unemployment benefits, preserve Medicare payments, extend tax credits for corporate research, raise taxes on oil companies, other big companies and investment partnerships. The bill also includes $24 billion to aid state governments in preventing thousands of state layoffs, including teachers.

The point here is not arbitrarily to decry Republican questioning of this domestic bill. It is to show how an overall ignorant, rubberstamping Congress is not heeding the lessons from Vietnam and Iraq – the immense casualties, the destruction and poisoning of these countries by detonations, and laying waste to the environment, and the imperialist policies that also harmed our country in so many tangible and intangible ways.

6. Dana Milbank, the Washington Post reporter-satirist, was at the House of Representatives’ hearing this week where Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX) apologized to BP’s CEO, Tony Hayward, saying the White House’s demand that BP set aside $20 billion for its huge toxic contamination to the Gulf coast and its people was “a shakedown.” He added, for good supplicant measure, that he doesn’t “want to live in a country” that treats a private corporation this way. He later apologized for his apology, at the behest of Republican House leaders.

The Barton outburst illustrates why it should be easy for the Democratic Party to landslide the Republicans in the 2010 Congressional elections. Probably the most craven version of the Republican Party ever, this team takes huge slurries of corporate money while blocking any safeguards for workers, consumers, small taxpayers, and the environment. They even defeated investor rights for shareholders, who own these companies, but whose bosses pay themselves obscenely to control them.

The Democrats have their hand out to the same commercial interests. But if they want to win, they’d better formulate the language of standing with the people over big business by November. And, if the Democrats don’t want November to mark their curtain call, their language of standing with the people needs to be followed by action.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Crazy or brilliant?

Or both?: ["US bin Laden hunter on mission from God"].
Finally, somebody seems to get it. The wars were about getting bin Ladin and bringing him to justice (or were they?). Why are they detaining this guy? Let him go see what he can find. Maybe he is getting divine guidance. We don't know ...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Nader: The end of the Helen Thomas era

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
The termination of Helen Thomas’ 62-year long career as a pioneering, no-nonsense newswoman was swift and intriguingly merciless.

The event leading to her termination began when she was sitting on a White House bench under oppressive summer heat. The 89-year old hero of honest journalism and women’s rights, the scourge of dissembling presidents and White House press secretaries, answered a passing visitor’s question about Israel with a snappish comment worded in a way she didn’t mean; she promptly apologized in writing (see Recorded without permission on a hand video, the brief exchange, that included a defense of dispossessed Palestinians, went internet viral on Friday, June 7.

By Monday, Helen Thomas was considered finished, even though she embodied a steadfast belief, in the praiseworthy words of Washington Post columnist, Dana Milbank, “that anybody standing on that podium [in the White House] should be regarded with skepticism.”

Over the weekend, her lecture agent dropped her. Her column syndicator, the Hearst company, pressed her to quit “effective immediately,” and, it was believed that the White House Correspondents Association, of which she was the first female president, was about to take away her coveted front row seat in the White House press room.

Then, Helen Thomas announced her retirement on Monday, June 10. No doubt she’s had her fill of ethnic, sexist and ageist epithets hurled her way over the years – the very decades she was broadly challenging racism, sexism and, more recently, ageism.

Although the behind the scenes story has yet to come out, the evisceration was launched by two pro-Israeli war hawks, Ari Fleischer and Lanny Davis. Fleischer was George W. Bush’s press secretary who bridled under Helen Thomas’ questioning regarding the horrors of the Bush-Cheney war crimes and illegal torture. His job was not to answer this uppity woman but to deflect, avoid and cover up for his bosses.

Davis was the designated defender whenever Clinton got into hot water. As journalist Paul Jay pointed out, he is now a Washington lobbyist whose clients include the cruel corporate junta that overthrew the elected president of Honduras. Both men rustled up the baying pack of Thomas-haters during the weekend and filled the unanswered narrative on Fox and other facilitating media.

Then, belatedly, something remarkable occurred. People reacted against this grossly disproportionate punishment. Ellen Ratner, a Fox News contributor, wrote – “I’m Jewish and a supporter of Israel. Let’s face it: we all have said things—or thought things—about ‘other’ groups of people, things that we wouldn’t want to see in print or on video. Anyone who denies it is a liar. Giver her [Helen] a break.”

Apparently, many people agree. In an internet poll by the Washington Post, 92% of respondents said she should not be removed from the White House press room. As an NPR listener, R. Carey, e-mailed: “D.C. would be void of journalists if they all were to quit, get fired or retire after making potentially offensive comments.”

Listen to Michael Freedman, former managing editor for United Press International: “After seven decades of setting standards for quality journalism and demolishing barriers for women in the workplace, Helen Thomas has now shown that most dreaded of vulnerabilities—she is human…. Who among us does not have strong feelings about the endless warfare in the Middle East? Who among us has said something we have come to regret?.... Let’s not destroy Ms. Thomas now.”

Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation, wrote: “Thomas was the only accredited White House correspondent with the guts to ask Bush the tough questions that define a free press…. Her remarks were offensive, but considering her journalistic moxie and courage over many decades—a sharp contrast to the despicable deeds committed by so many littering the Washington political scene – isn’t there room for someone who made a mistake, apologized for it and wants to continue speaking truth to power and asking tough questions?”

Last week, in front of the White House, people calling themselves “Jews for Helen Thomas” gathered in a small demonstration. Medea Benajmin—cofounder of Global Exchange, declared that “We are clear what Helen Thomas meant to say, which is that Israel should cease its occupation of Palestine and we agree with that.” While another demonstrator, Zool Zulkowitz, asserted that “by discrediting Helen Thomas, those who believe that Israel can do no wrong shift attention from the public relations debacle of the Gaza Flotilla killings, and intimidate journalists who would ask hard questions about the Israeli occupation of Palestine and American foreign policy.”

Helen Thomas, who grew up in Detroit, is an American of Arab descent. She is understandably alert to the one-sided U.S. military and foreign policy in that region. Her questions reflect concerns about U.S. policy in the Middle East by many Americans, including unmuzzled retired military, diplomatic and intelligence officials.

In 2006 when George W. Bush finally called on her, she started her questioning by saying “Your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of Americans and Iraqis. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true.” Or when she challenged President Obama last month, asking “When are you going to get out of Afghanistan? Why are we continuing to kill and die there? What is the real excuse?”

Asking the “why” questions was a Thomas trademark. Many self-censoring journalists avoid controversial “why” questions, thereby allowing evasion, dissembling and just plain B.S. to dominate the White House press room. She rejected words that sugarcoated or camouflaged the grim deeds. She started with the grim deeds to expose the doubletalk and officialdom’s chronic illegalities.

What appalled Thomas most is the way the media rolls over and fails to hold officials accountable. (British reporters believe they are tougher on their Prime Ministers.) This is a subject about which she has written books and articles—not exactly the way to endear herself to those reporters who go AWOL and look the other way, so that they cancontinue to be called upon or to be promoted by their superiors.

The abysmal record of the New York Times and the Washington Post in the months preceding the Iraq invasion filled with Bush-Cheney lies, deception, and cover-ups is a case in point. As usual, she was proven right, not the celebrated reporters and columnists deprecating her work, including the Post’s press critic, Howard Kurtz.

Thomas practiced her profession with a deep regard for the peoples’ right to know. To her, as Aldous Huxley noted long ago, “facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

Lastly, there is the double standard. One off-hand “ill-conceived remark,” as NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard stated, in praising Ms. Thomas, ended a groundbreaking career. While enhanced careers and fat lecture fees are the reward for ultra-right wing radio and cable ranters, and others like columnist Ann Coulter, who regularly urge wars, mayhem and dragnets based on bigotry, stereotypes and falsehoods directed wholesale against Muslims, including a blatant anti-semitism against Arabs. (See and Jack Shaheen’s book and companion documentary about cultural portrayal of Arab stereotypes, Reel Bad Arabs.)

Ms. Thomas’ desk at the Hearst office remains unattended a week after her eviction. One day she will return to pack up her materials. She can take with her the satisfaction of joining all those in our history who were cashiered ostensibly for a gaffe, but really for being too right, too early, too often.

Her many admirers hope that she continues to write, speak and motivate a generation of young journalists in the spirit of Joseph Pulitzer’s advice to his reporters a century ago—that their job was to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

Monday, June 14, 2010

'Hot' Air America auction yields $170K

Another thing I read today: Tom Taylor's report on the Air America auction, which grossed about $170,000: ["Air America's Chapter 7 auction of equipment yields $169,326"].
Sony and Shure lavalier mics went for $75 apiece. Several Moseley STLs sold for $1,400 each. Some computers went for 50-75 bucks. But many pieces of office furniture were marked down as “no bids”, and in the end, the physical contents of Air America at 641 6th Avenue in Manhattan are now scattered among a couple of dozen buyers who don’t care what it once represented.
Sad too, since a balance of views on the government regulated airwaves is extremely important. Taylor notes that some of the employees were taking good notes and expects there to be a book or two about Air America, or at least a long VF piece.

Umm, so it's about resources after all?

Woke up this morning to this story: ["U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan"].
So, I guess it wasn't about the pipeline but was about minerals? This reminds me of the story ages ago about miners finding gold or silver deposits in Bosnia. BTW, are we still in Bosnia too?
TIME Magazine has had some pretty good reporting from Afghanistan and the news is pretty bleak. Somehow, I think that trillions in minerals found in the ground is only going to make things worse ...

NH primary ballots shape up

A quick note here about the upcoming 2010 New Hampshire primary ballots:
First, incumbent Gov. John Lynch has two challengers in the Democratic primary: Timothy Robertson of Keene and Frank Sullivan of Manchester. On the GOP side, four candidates - Frank Robert Emiro, Sr., Jack Kimball, Jr., John Stephen, and Karen Testerman will face off.
In the U.S. Senate race, Rep. Paul Hodes has no opposition on the Democrat ballot. Republicans have Tom Alciere, Kelly Ayotte, Gerard Beloin, Jim Bender, Bill Binnie, Dennis Lamare, and Ovide Lamontagne. That's going to be a mess.
In NH CD 2, Ann McLane Kuster of Hopkinton and Katrina Swett of Bow face off. The Republicans have five candidates: Former U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass, Robert J. Giuda, Jennifer Horn, Joseph G. Reilly, and Wesley M. Sonner, Jr.
Locally, Senate President, Democrat Syliva B. Larsen will face off against Republican Chris Wood.
In Concord's legislative races, it looks like Republicans could potentially pick up a seat.
In District 10, only three Democrats filed for four potential seats: Mary Stuart Gile, Fran Potter, and Steve Shurtleff, all incumbents. Myril E. Cox and Carrie McGee are running on the Republican side. Barring an aggressive write-in campaign by another Democrat or independent, it looks like Republicans could pick up a seat here.
In District 11, Michael Bartlett, Candace Bouchard, Jim MacKay, Dick Patten, and Bob Williams are all running for five seats. Three Republicans have also filed: Incumbent Lynne F. Blankenbeker, Jeff Newman, and Frank Rosano.
In District 12, there will be a Democrat primary, with five candidates - including three from Wilson Avenue - vying for four seats. Challengers Helen Deloge and Alex Lee face off against incumbents Chip Rice, Mary Jane Wallner, and Rick Watrous. Deloge, Rice, and Watrous all live in Wilson Avenue. On the Republican side, Pamela M. Ean and John A. Kalb are running again.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Politizine reaches milestone: 2,000 posts

This is Politizine's 2,000 post. Wow. It's hard to believe that there have been so many posts here, spanning seven and a half years.
As any regular readers know, some years have been more fruitful than others. Work and family are taking a lot of my time these days. And, like a lot of folks, I'm goofing around more on other sites like facebook than I would like to admit (at 300-plus friends, many who I haven't talked to in years). And who really cares what I think anyway, right?
Earlier this morning when I posted the radio note, I noticed that Blogger was offering new templates. About 20 minutes later, and some new code for a couple of the rail features, and ta-dah, Politizine has been redesigned.
Here's to another 2,000 posts and many more years. Thanks for reading.

On the radio this morning ...

Short notice again but I'll be on Samantha Clemens radio program later today talking politics around 10:25 a.m. ... I think we'll be talking about the primaries that happened last week and the state of the 2010 mid-term elections. Who knows what else.
The Samantha Clemens can be heard every Saturday morning from 10 to 11 a.m. EDT on WWZN AM 1510 in Boston or streaming online at

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

There is hope for us all ...

From Political Wire:

Unknown Candidate Wins Senate Nomination
Alvin Greene (D), a 32 year old unemployed military veteran, has stunned South Carolina insiders by winning the Democratic nomination to challenge Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) this fall, the AP reports. Greene raised no money in the contest, had no signs and no website.

All I can say is, Wow!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Nader: The people are not protected

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
When the Executive Branch does not have worst case scenario planning for each kind of energy source—oil, gas, coal, nuclear, wind, solar and efficiency—the people are not protected.

Enter the 24/7 oil gusher-leak by BP and Transocean – the rig operator – and the impotence of the federal government to do anything but wait and see if BP can find ways to close off the biggest and growing oil leak in American history. Where is the emergency planning or industry knowhow?

Of course, we all saw Barack Obama’s first full press conference in ten months where he said, “In case you were wondering who’s responsible? I take responsibility. It is my job to make sure everything is done to shut this down…The federal government is fully engaged, and I’m fully engaged. Personally, I’m briefed every day. And I probably had more meetings on this issue than just about any issue since we did our Afghan review.”

Sure, so he’s being kept informed. Those are not the words of leadership five weeks after the preventable blowout on the Deepwater Horizon 40 miles off the Louisiana coast. His problem is how long it took for the White House to see this as a national disaster not just a corporate disaster for BP to contain.

That default was not just failing to determine the size of the spill (over ten times greater than BP originally estimated) or the farcical non-regulation, under Republicans and Democrats, by the Minerals Management Service of the Interior Department. It was a failure to realize that our government has no capability, no technology to take control of such disasters or even to find out whether solutions exist elsewhere in the oil and geologic industries. It’s like a spreading fire where the perpetrator of the fire has the primary responsibility to put the fire out because there Is no properly equipped public fire department.

James Carville, an Obama loyalist and defender, called out his champion from new Orleans, where he now lives, and told him: “Man, you got to get down here and take control of this!” With what? Obama has a 16 month long record of turning his back on advice from the Cajuns of Louisiana to environmental groups in Washington, DC. He shook off warnings about the pathetic federal regulators, so called, cushy with the oil industry. During his campaigns, he allowed McCain’s “drill, baby, drill” to turn him more overtly toward favoring offshore drilling, instead of turning onto offshore windpower.

As the multi-directional and multi-depth oil swarm keeps encircling the Gulf of Mexico, strangling the livelihood of its people, the life of its flora and fauna, with its implacably deadly effect, Obama and his supposedly street smart advisors, led by Rahm Emanuel, started out with a political blunder. Presidential specialist, Professor Paul Light at New York University put his finger on it when he said: “The White House made a deliberate political calculation to stand off…to sort of distance themselves from BP, and they’ve been hammered on that.”

Early on, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told him that the federal government does not possess superior technology to BP. And BP CEO Tony Hayward admitted that BP was not prepared for such a blowout. He said “What is undoubtedly true is that we did not have the tools you would want in your tool kit.” Gates really meant that Uncle Sam had nothing superior to nothing or, in less charitable words, was completely out to lunch with the chronic deregulators who still infect our national government.

Obama’s cool is turning cold. He is not reacting fast enough to the public rage that is building up and over-riding his vacuous statements about taking responsibility and being briefed daily. Much of this public rage, incidentally, is coming from the southern Gulf rim, whose elected politicians consistently opposed any regulation of their campaign contributing oil companies in order to avert just these kinds of disasters. Only Florida’s Congressional delegation said—stay out of Florida’s waters.

Politico reported that “Obama skipped the memorial service for the 11 workers killed on the rig earlier this week, instead flying to California, where he collected $1.7 million for Democrats and toured a solar panel plant. On the day that the significant clots of oil started appearing on the Louisiana coast, Obama was sitting down for an interview to talk hoops with TNT’s Marv Albert.”

He must move to properly sequester all the assets of BP and Transocean to fully pay for their damage, thus assuring Americans that BP will not be able to concoct another Exxon/Valdez escape strategy. He must scour the world of knowledge and experience regarding capping underseas oil blowouts, and not just wait week after week for BP to come up with something.

Nobody says that being president is an easy job, even in the best of times. But a President, who can go all out spending hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan in ways that bleed the taxpayers and breed more anti-American fighters, in part to protect Big Oil in the Middle East, better come back home and stop Big Oil’s war here in the Gulf of Mexico. That’s how he’d better start defining “homeland security.” (See for more on BP.)