Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search


Undernews For May 15, 2008

Undernews For May 15, 2008

Washington's Most Unofficial Source
611 Pennsylvania Ave SE #381
Washington DC 20003
Editor: Sam Smith

12 MAY 2008


I don't know what money is today, and I don't think anybody at the Fed does either. - Richard Pratt, Chairman of the Board of the Federal Home Loan Bank, 1982

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. - Adam Smith



Now that the canonization of Barack Obama, aided by his media acolytes, has slowed a bit, it may be considered less than blasphemy to examine what this circus hath wrought. After all, at some point, even in a mythological age, reality raises its ugly head. What follows are glimpses of a gossamer with all the uncertainty that such an effort involves. After all, even with the best tools, it is hard to measure precisely a ghost.


Obama would almost certainly be a better president than either Bush or his preferred heir apparent, John McCain.

He would also likely be a better president than Bill Clinton. The reasons for this are several. He is vastly more honest. This doesn't mean he is without guile - far from it - but it is, for him, apparently a fallback position rather than, as with Clinton, the first thing you exercise upon arising. Further, even though he comes from Chicago, the worst anyone has been able to hang on him is Tony Rezko. Obama has not been impeached, the governmental equivalent to a criminal indictment. And he has not proclaimed a deep concern for minorities and working class whites while simultaneously screwing them. Finally, Obama would probably bring to an end the 28 year Reagan - Bush - Clinton - Bush era that has been disastrous to America.


Obama does mislead, and not unintentionally it would seem. For example, Obama repeatedly uses the politician's trick of providing desriptions of a problem as a substitute for a prescription. This allows him to delude voters into thinking he has sympathy with them without the need to offer solutions.

Has deceived the voters by not telling them that he would keep American troops in Iraq and he a tendency to shift on a number of issues, such as NAFTA and policy towards Iran, depending on the media tenor of the moment.

Misled on extent on lobbyist support

Wrote in his own book, "I am new enough on the national political scene that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views."


Four years ago, Obama was an obscure state senator representing part of one of America's most corrupt and machine-run cities. He is now running as God's gift to America and clean government based on this past, plus what he would like have been a temp job in the U. S. Senate.


Obama's use of southern pulpit cadence and inflection gives him an unfounded reputation for eloquence. His actual words are often corny and trite. He relies on cliches such as hope and change that have far more common with ad agencies than with philosopher kings. He also loses his command of metaphor and meaning when he is removed from a teleprompter and asked some questions, a weakness reflected in his antipathy towards news conferences.


Like Hillary Clinton, Obama has built his campaign around genetic identity rather than on political principles and issues.

Wouldn't have photo taken with San Francisco mayor because he was afraid it would seem that he supported gay marriage


Has offered few good ideas about how to handle the current economic crisis.

Cass Sunstein, a constitutional advisor to Obama, told Jeffrey Rosen of the NY Times: "I would be stunned to find an anti-business [Supreme Court] appointee from either [Clinton or Obama]. There's not a strong interest on the part of Obama or Clinton in demonizing business, and you wouldn't expect to see that in their Supreme Court nominees."

Wrote that conservatives and Bill Clinton were right to destroy social welfare,

Supported making it harder to file class action suits in state courts

Voted for a business-friendly "tort reform" bill

Voted against a 30% interest rate cap on credit cards

Had the most number of foreign lobbyist contributors in the primaries

Is even more popular with Pentagon contractors than McCain

Was most popular of the candidates with K Street lobbyists

Voted against a 30% interest rate cap on credit cards

In 2003, rightwing Democratic Leadership Council named Obama as one of its "100 to Watch." After he was criticized in the black media, Obama disassociated himself with the DLC. But his major economic advisor, Austan Goolsbee, is also chief economist of the conservative organization. Writes Doug Henwood, "Goolsbee has written gushingly about Milton Friedman and denounced the idea of a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures."

Doug Henwood, Left Business Observer: "Top hedge fund honcho Paul Tudor Jones threw a fundraiser for him at his Greenwich house last spring, 'The whole of Greenwich is backing Obama,' one source said of the posh headquarters of the hedge fund industry. They like him because they're socially liberal, up to a point, and probably eager for a little less war, and think he's the man to do their work. They're also confident he wouldn't undertake any renovations to the distribution of wealth."


Has produced no interesting new ideas nor promised to fight for any important new programs


Has no meaningful urban policy


Has not dealt with the criminality of Bush's use of torture.

Aggressively opposed impeachment action against Bush.


Has run his campaign as though leading a cult rather than a political movement.

Has indicated a willingness to name rightwing Christians to his cabinet.


Went to Connecticut to support Joe Lieberman in the primary against Ned Lamont

Paul Street, Z Mag - Obama has lent his support to the aptly named Hamilton Project, formed by corporate-neoliberal Citigroup chair Robert Rubin and other Wall Street Democrats to counter populist rebellion against corporatist tendencies within the Democratic Party. . . Obama was recently hailed as a Hamiltonian believer in limited government and free trade by Republican New York Times columnist David Brooks, who praises Obama for having "a mentality formed by globalization, not the SDS." . . .

Times, UK - Obama is hoping to appoint cross-party figures to his cabinet such as Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator for Nebraska and an opponent of the Iraq war, and Richard Lugar, leader of the Republicans on the Senate foreign relations committee. Senior advisers confirmed that Hagel, a highly decorated Vietnam war veteran and one of McCain's closest friends in the Senate, was considered an ideal candidate for defence secretary.

Richard Lugar was rated 0% by SANE. . . rated 0% by AFL-CIO. . rated 0% BY NARAL. . . rated 12% by American Public Health Association. . . rated 0% by Alliance for Retired Americans. . rated 27% by the National Education Association. . . rated 5% by League of Conservation Voters. . . He voted no on implementing the 9/11 Commission report. . . Vote against providing habeas corpus for Gitmo prisoners. . .voted no on comprehensive test ban treaty. . .voted against same sex marriage. . . strongly anti-abortion. . . opposed to more federal funding for healthcare. . .voted for unconstitutional wiretapping. . .voted to increase penalties for drug violations

Chuck Hagel was rated 0% by NARAL. . . rated 11% by NAACP. . . rated 0% by Human Rights Coalition. . . rated 100% by Christian Coalition. . . rated 12% by American Public Health Association. . . rated 22% by Alliance for Retired Americans. . . rated 36% by the National Education Association. . . rated 0% by League of Conservation Voters. . . rated 8% by AFL-CIO. . . He is strongly anti-abortion. . .voted for anti-flag desecration amendment. . .voted to increase penalties for drug violations. . . favors privatizing Social Security


Dissed Nader for daring to run for president again

Called the late Paul Wellstone "something of a gadfly"

Progressive Punch ranks Obama 24th in the Senate.


Has no clear plan to leave Iraq and Afghanistan.

His top Iraq advisor wrote that America should keep between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in Iraq as of late 2010. Obama, in his appearances, blurs the difference between combat soldiers and other troops and has given no indication that he would reduce the massive mercenary force in Iraq.

Has hawkish foreign policy advisors involved in past US misdeeds and failures

Would probably be good at international negotiations.

Would improve America's image abroad, at least until he did something stupid.

Supports Israeli aggression and apartheid. Obama has deserted previous support for two-state solution to Mid East situation

Has voted numerous times to continue funding the war

Favored cluster bomb ban in civilian areas

Promises not to sign a trade bill without environmental and labor protections.

Won't rule out first strike nuclear attack on Iran

Called Pakistan "the right battlefield ... in the war on terrorism." Threatened to invade Pakistan

AP - He would return the country to the more "traditional" foreign policy efforts of past presidents, such as George H.W. Bush, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. At a town hall event at a local high school gymnasium, Obama praised George H.W. Bush - father of the president - for the way he handled the Persian Gulf War: with a large coalition and carefully defined objectives. . . "The truth is that my foreign policy is actually a return to the traditional bipartisan realistic policy of George Bush's father, of John F. Kennedy, of, in some ways, Ronald Reagan, and it is George Bush that's been naive and it's people like John McCain and, unfortunately, some Democrats that have facilitated him acting in these naive ways that have caused us so much damage in our reputation around the world," he said.


Voted for a nuclear energy bill that included money for bunker buster bombs and full funding for Yucca Mountain.

Comes in at 48th in the ranking of senators by the League of Conservation Voters

Won't oppose nuclear power

Supports federally funded ethanol


Supports the war on drugs

Supports the crack-cocaine sentence disparity

Supports Real ID

Voted against immunity for telecoms' illegal spying on Americans

Supports the PATRIOT Act

Supports the death penalty

Opposes lowering the drinking age to 18

Helped fight for restoration of habeas corpus at Gitmo.

Refused to take a position on the anti-constitutional Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act


Supports No Child Left Behind

Supports charter schools


Has inspired a lot of young and minority voters to get involved in politics


Opposes single payer healthcare

Supported restricting damage awards in medical malpractices suits

Favors healthcare individual mandates that would help insurance companies and banks but not citizens

Received $708,000 from medical and insurance interests between 2001 and 2006


Says "everything is on the table" with Social Security. Clinton seems slightly more supportive of the classic Democratic program


At worst, Obama will be one more fox placed in the chicken coop of democracy by the corporations and their outsourced workers in the media and politics. At best, he will rebel against his upbringing and offer America something new and better. Most likely, however, is that he will serve as a deeply frustrating transition between what should never have happened and what needs to be done - stabilizing our national dysfunctions as they continue to await proper and necessary treatment.



Neal Hall, Vancouver Sun - A police psychologist blasted Taser International at the public inquiry probing the controversial use of Tasers, claiming that Canadian police have been "brainwashed" by the manufacturer to justify "ridiculously inappropriate" use of the electronic weapon.0514 11

Mike Webster accused the company that makes Tasers of instructing police in Canada that when they encounter a person suffering from a "mythical" condition that Taser calls "excited delirium," police have few options other than jolting the person with the controversial electrical weapon, which delivers a five-second shock that incapacitates a person.

"When you think the only tool you have is a hammer, then the whole world begins looking like a nail," Webster told the inquiry in Vancouver.

Excited delirium is not a recognized medical diagnosis, he said, but is a "dubious disorder" used by Taser International in its training of police in Canada and the U.S.

The term is also used by the Institute for the Prevention of In-custody Deaths, which is headed by John Peters, a business associate of Taser International of Arizona. . .

"It may be that police and medical examiners are using the term [excited delirium] as a convenient excuse for what could be excessive use of force or inappropriate control techniques during an arrest," Webster said.

"My own opinion on this is that Canadian law enforcement, and its American brothers and sisters, have been brainwashed by companies like Taser International and the Institute for the Prevention of In-custody Deaths," he added.

"These organizations have created a virtual world replete with avatars that wander about with the potential to manifest a horrific condition characterized by profuse sweating, superhuman strength and a penchant for smashing glass that appeals to well-meaning but psychologically unsophisticated police personnel," Webster said. . .

"It is neither humane nor logical to inflict crippling pain upon someone who has lost his mental balance," Webster told Braidwood.

Police need to create a non-threatening environment to defuse crisis situations by using calm communications skills and neutral body language, he said.

He suggested people who are agitated are in a state of hyper-arousal, which disrupts a person’s ability to process information, including police commands, and causes unpredictable behavior.


From Little Green Footballs

NY TIMES - Susan E. Rice, a former State Department and National Security Council official who is a foreign policy adviser to the Democratic candidate, said that "for political purposes, Senator Obama’s opponents on the right have distorted and reframed" his views. Mr. McCain and his surrogates have repeatedly stated that Mr. Obama would be willing to meet "unconditionally" with Mr. Ahmadinejad. But Dr. Rice said that this was not the case for Iran or any other so-called "rogue" state. Mr. Obama believes "that engagement at the presidential level, at the appropriate time and with the appropriate preparation, can be used to leverage the change we need," Dr. Rice said. "But nobody said he would initiate contacts at the presidential level; that requires due preparation and advance work."

DEMOCRATIC DEBATE TRANSCRIPT, JULY 2008 - QUESTION: In 1982, Anwar Sadat traveled to Israel, a trip that resulted in a peace agreement that has lasted ever since. In the spirit of that type of bold leadership, would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?

OBAMA: I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them - which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration - is ridiculous.

OBAMA WEB SITE, MAY 2008 Obama is the only major candidate who supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions. Now is the time to pressure Iran directly to change their troubling behavior. Obama would offer the Iranian regime a choice. If Iran abandons its nuclear program and support for terrorism, we will offer incentives like membership in the World Trade Organization, economic investments, and a move toward normal diplomatic relations. If Iran continues its troubling behavior, we will step up our economic pressure and political isolation. Seeking this kind of comprehensive settlement with Iran is our best way to make progress.


ELLEN SIMON AP The economic downturn is hitting roughly one in 10 middle-aged and older Americans especially hard, compelling them to borrow money for everyday living expenses and to seek help from family, friends or charities, according to a survey released by the AARP.In the telephone survey of 1,002 adults 45 and older, nearly four in 10 said they had helped a child pay bills or expenses. Among retirees, one-third said they'd helped their children pay bills. Eight percent said they'd helped a parent pay bills or expenses. . . One-third of survey participants said they stopped putting money into their 401(k) or retirement account and 14 percent said they had cut back on their medications.


CBS CHICAGO The e-mails released by the Secret Service as part of a long-running civil rights suit filed by African American agents. . . contain racist and sexist jokes and pictures. The one about the Rev. Jackson has now led to a demand for the release of any other insulting references to members of the Jackson family in Secret Service files.

Rev. Jackson's dealings with the Secret Service date back to his two campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination in the 1980s. He actually asked for and was assigned protective details before other candidates back then.

The Secret Service e-mail, CBS 2 obtained from a court filing in Washington, was titled "The Righteous Reverend," and jokes about the deaths of Jackson and his wife when a missile strikes their plane. The e-mail ends with, it "certainly wouldn't be a great loss and probably wouldn't be an accident either."

When CBS 2 reached him by cell phone Tuesday afternoon, the Rev, Jackson said he wants all Secret Service communications which mention him, all the way back to the 1980's.


From a letter by Rep. John Conyers to the president that he is trying to get Democratic colleagues to sign.

We are writing to register our strong opposition to possible unilateral, preemptive military action against other nations by the Executive Branch without Congressional authorization. As you know, Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power "to declare war," to lay and collect taxes to "provide for the common defense" and general welfare of the United States, to "raise and support armies," to "provide and maintain a navy," to "make rules for the regulation for the land and naval forces," to "provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions," to "provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia," and to "make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution ... all ... powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States." Congress is also given exclusive power over the purse. The Constitution says, "No money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law."

By contrast, the sole war powers granted to the Executive Branch through the President can be found in Article II, Section 2, which states, "The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into actual Service of the United States." Nothing in the history of the "Commander-in-Chief" clause suggests that the authors of the provision intended it to grant the Executive Branch the authority to engage U.S. forces in military action whenever and wherever it sees fit without any prior authorization from Congress. In our view, the founders of our country intended this power to allow the President to repel sudden attacks and immediate threats, not to unilaterally launch, without congressional approval, preemptive military actions against foreign countries. As former Republican Representative Mickey Edwards recently wrote, "The decision to go to war ... is the single most difficult choice any public official can be called upon to make. That is precisely why the nation's founders, aware of the deadly wars of Europe, deliberately withheld from the executive branch the power to engage in war unless such action was expressly approved by the people themselves, through their representatives in Congress." . . .

Our concerns in this area have been heightened by more recent events. The resignation in mid-March of Admiral William J. "Fox" Fallon from the head of U.S. Central Command, which was reportedly linked to a magazine article that portrayed him as the only person who might stop your Administration from waging preemptive war against Iran, has renewed widespread concerns that your Administration is unilaterally planning for military action against that country. This is despite the fact that the December 2007 National Intelligence Estimate concluded that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003, a stark reversal of previous Administration assessments.

As we and others have continued to review troubling legal memoranda and other materials from your Administration asserting the power of the President to take unilateral action, moreover, our concerns have increased still further. For example, although federal law is clear that proceeding under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act "shall be the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance" can be conducted within the U.S. for foreign intelligence purposes, the Justice Department has asserted that the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping in violation of FISA is "supported by the President's well-recognized inherent constitutional authority as Commander in Chief and sole organ for the nation in foreign affairs". As one legal expert has explained, your administration's "preventive paradigm" has asserted "unchecked unilateral power" by the Executive Branch and violated "universal prohibitions on torture, disappearance, and the like."

Late last year, Senator Joseph Biden stated unequivocally that "the president has no authority to unilaterally attack Iran, and if he does, as Foreign Relations Committee chairman, I will move to impeach" the president.

We agree with Senator Biden, and it is our view that if you do not obtain the constitutionally required congressional authorization before launching preemptive military strikes against Iran or any other nation, impeachment proceedings should be pursued. Because of these concerns, we request the opportunity to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss these matters. As we have recently marked the fifth year since the invasion of Iraq, and the grim milestone of 4,000 U.S. deaths in Iraq, your Administration should not unilaterally involve this country in yet another military conflict that promises high costs to American blood and treasure.



BRUNSWICK TIMES RECORD, ME - Despite questions from some residents about whether such a vote would really make a difference to U.S. foreign policy, voters at a town meeting overwhelmingly supported a resolution calling for peace in Iran. Harpswell residents voted 112-24 in favor of the resolution. Selectmen Amy Haible and Jim Henderson voted in favor, while Selectman Mark Wallace opposed. The vote, prompted by a petition signed by 321 residents, authorizes the town to officially ask Maine's congressional delegation not to support funding for military action against Iran without explicit congressional approval, ensure U.S. relations with Iran are consistent with international law and "encourage talks without preconditions between the U.S. and Iran on nuclear issues and ending the violence in Iraq.". . .


LISA VERNON-SPARKS, PROVIDENCE JOURNAL It might be the best-kept secret in the state. And you can check it out at the public library; that is, the public libraries in Coventry, Lincoln and Scituate - just in time for fishing season. Tucked in among the stacks of books are cabinets stuffed with fishing equipment: rods, reels, tackle boxes, hooks, lures, sinkers and floats. If you fancy taking a youngster or two out for a leisurely day of fishing without an outlay of money to get started, here’s your chance. All you need is a library card.

Three branches in the Cooperating Libraries Automated Network, CLAN, allow patrons to borrow a full complement of fishing equipment. The Coventry Public Library has 15 poles and tackle boxes for patrons to borrow for a week at a time. There are no immediate renewals to give as many people as possible a chance to use the poles. And if they’re returned late, the circulation desk will charge the same late fee as a book - 10 cents a day.

The fishing equipment is available year-round, but it’s during the month of May, with spring trout season at its peak and summer just around the corner, that interest begins to surface in borrowing the colorful poles and ready-packed tackle boxes, according to Lynn Blanchette, Coventry library director. . .



NY TIMES A German graduate student in oceanography at M.I.T. applied to the Transportation Security Administration for a new ID card allowing him to work around ships and docks. What the student, Wilken-Jon von Appen, received in return was a letter that not only turned him down but added an ominous warning from John M. Busch, a security administration official: "I have determined that you pose a security threat."

Similar letters have gone to 5,000 applicants across the country who have at least initially been turned down for a Transportation Worker Identification Credential, an ID card meant to guard against acts of terrorism, agency officials said. The officials also said they were sorry about the language, which they may change in the future, but had no intention of withdrawing letters
already sent. . . A British student at M.I.T. who was rejected, Sophie Clayton, 28, said that at first she was amused at what appeared to be a bureaucratic absurdity. But as she pondered the designation, Ms. Clayton said she grew worried. "The two words ‘security threat’ are now in the files next to my name, my photograph and my fingerprints," she said.



Kinky Friedman describes Rev Wright's speech as "another instance of black on black crime."

Lots of talk of whites not voting for Obama, but the latest Zogby poll says antipathy towards all three candidates is pretty even. Asked which candidate they would never vote for, 49% said Clinton, 44% said Obama and 423% said McCain. One of Obama's really dangers is that the media will make more of ethnic differences that they deserve and help to propel them much as it did with the Rev. Wright business.


• HILLARY CLINTON: $6 million a year
• JOHN MCCAIN: $2.5 million a year
• BARACK OBAMA: $250,000 a year




National membership in the ACLU has doubled since Bush took office in 2001 - an extraordinary spurt of growth for the 88-year-old institution. . . The ACLU counted about 250,000 members in the final year of Bill Clinton's presidency. Today, the organization has about 500,000 card-carriers, 2,500 of them in Utah. Fundraising has increased in kind. According the IRS, the nonprofit had about $44 million in annual revenues in the 2000 fiscal year. In the fiscal year ending in March of 2007, it collected more than $80 million. Salt Lake City Tribune


EarthLink will soon shut down Philadelphia's municipal WiFi for good. EarthLink claims it was going transfer the network to the city of Philadelphia for free (as well as donate the WiFi equipment), but blames the conclusion of this months-long drama on the city's inability to get its act together. Current customers will have 30 days to transition to something else, and the plug will officially be pulled on Thursday, June 12. . . EarthLink's decision to jump ship on Philadelphia goes back to last year, when the ISP decided there was no money to be made in municipal WiFi. This, of course, came after the company had already begun to help a number of cities launch municipal WiFi networks (including Philadelphia). In February, EarthLink hung a "for sale" sign on its WiFi business after announcing major losses as a result of the municipal WiFi projects. - Arstechnica


U.S. home foreclosure filings in April edged up from March and were a whopping 65 percent higher than a year earlier, real estate data firm RealtyTrac said. - Reuters


Now that Obama appears to have locked up the nomination, we can move on to other issues like this one posed by Wonkette: "Why won't Bob Barr denounce his unpatriotic phenotype?"


Rules of thumb - The age of your youngest child in months is the duration of uninterrupted dinner conversation in seconds.

More TV hosts seen in meltdown

Washington's Most Unofficial Source
611 Pennsylvania Ave SE #381
Washington DC 20003
Editor: Sam Smith






© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Scoop HiveMind Project: Universal Basic Income - Are We Up For It?

This is an opportunity for you as one of the 4 million potential funders and recipients of a Universal Basic Income to collectively consider the issue:
1. Is UBI is a desirable policy for New Zealand; and
2. How should a UBI system work in practice. More>>


Lyndon Hood: National Announces Plan To Hit Youth With Big Mallets

The National party has announced its youth justice policy, which includes a controversial plan for recidivist serious youth offenders to be hit over the head with a comically large rubber mallet. More>>


Lyndon Hood: This ->

It's been brought to my attention that Labour's new campaign slogan is "Let's do this". A collective call to action. A mission. I myself was halfway out of the couch before I realised I wasn't sure what it was I was supposed to do. More>>


Scoop Hivemind Report: What New Zealanders Think About Affordable Housing

Ordinary citizens have had very few venues where they can debate and discuss as to what they believe has led to the crisis in affordable housing and how we might begin to address this. The HiveMind on affordable housing was about redressing the balance. More>>


New Hivemind Exploration: Opening The Election - Freshwater Quality

This is an opportunity for you as one of the 4 million guardians of our common water resources to help us find mutually agreeable solutions to the critical task of collectively managing these resources for health and sustainability. More>>