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Undernews For October 19, 2008

Undernews For October 19, 2008

FROM THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW
Washington's Most Unofficial Source
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Editor: Sam Smith

19 OCT 2008

MORNING LINE

ROLLING AVERAGES

SLIGHT SLIPPAGE IN PAST WEEK FOR OBAMA


LARGER MAP
National
Obama has a 6 point lead, a slight slippage in the past week and down 2 points over the last ten polls.
Obama is 115 electoral votes ahead of McCain with 115 undecided.
Obama has the exact electoral vote majority of 270
DETAILS & LATEST UPDATES
Democrats
Dems pick up 3-10 Senate seats
Dems in House pick up as many as 11 to 29 seats
Dems pick up as many as 1 governorships or lose 1
DETAILS & LATEST UPDATES

SHOP TALK

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SWAMPOOODLE REPORT: KICKING OBAMA ACROSS THE GOAL LINE

Sam Smith

It is true that the moving averages have Obama ahead, but it is also true that within those averages are some scary anomalies, narrow margins that in no way should be there given the current state of the economy and the dismal McCain campaign.

One of Obama's major political problems has not been his race but his place - not the color of his hide but the culture of his Hyde Park. He has reached well his core constituency - blacks and white liberals - but as soon as the general election got underway he began struggling and stumbling. His style has been too urban, upscale, too post-graduate and too reserved.

Obama's failure to soar during a historic collapse of the economy supports this thesis and suggests that his handlers need to give him several kicks in the butt to ensure he gets across the goal line.

While there are plenty of substantive issues to discuss about Obama once he's in the White House, the main problem right now is to make sure that his lying, mean and decrepit opponent, along with his as his incompetent, reckless and sleazy potential successor, don't get there first.

Here are a few last minute suggestions for his campaign:

- Get out of the pulpit and on to the playground into the bars. No more photos of Obama looking down at us.

- Obama is obsessed with seeming presidential but too often just appears pompous and dull. All he needs to do is observe at the absurd success of Sarah Palin to appreciate how limited is the appeal of unrelieved portentousness.

- Be specific. Give some examples of what Obama will do that everyone can understand. Even after all my years in Washington, I still can't visualize $150 billion being spent on energy over 10 years. But I do know what new railroad trains and tracks or solar panels look like.

- Work on Obama's metaphorical deficiency disorder. Teach him the southern technique of winning arguments by anecdotes rather than just cold facts. His last debate offered a telling example. McCain attacked him for having known Bill Ayers and Obama came back blandly with the fact that the group on which board they had both sat had been endorsed by the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and the Chicago Tribune. He said it and it passed.

I have complained about Obama approaching politics too much from the perspective of a lawyer, but Jon Rowe, who observed and worked in Washington for may years, got much closer to the truth when he said that Obama talks as though he is in moot court, the mock sessions used to train law students. Notes Rowe, "He seems to think an argument is finished once he has stated it. Somehow he doesn't seem to understand the need to drive home a point emotionally as well -- which is to say, to repeat it two or three different ways so that people start to feel it. Things tend to fly by on the mental plane with him. You find yourself thinking that he was impressive but that he still didn't quite connect with you."

A good politician, or a good trial lawyer for that matter, would have come back at McCain when he refused to let the Ayers issue drop, saying something like, "Senator, I wonder whether given your feeling about this board backed by three of the most respectable institutions in Chicago, you would refuse an endorsement from the Chicago Tribune or decline to let your child go the University of Chicago or Northwest U?" And if he didn't give up, Obama might have added, "Why haven't you been as critical of your pal Gordon Liddy's criminal conduct as I have been of Bill Ayers?"

You've got to knock these things down hard and fast and Obama just doesn't have the touch.

The continued deterioration of the economy and McCain's rottenness may make such concerns totally irrelevant, but it sure would be nice if the Democrats could run a campaign that left us cheering more and praying less.

THE REPUBLICAN FRAUD OVER VOTER FRAUD

Progressive Review - Although the poddle press continuous to play into the hands of the GOP on the issue, it is clear that fraud by a voter is a miniscule part of overall election corruption and mismanagement. For voter fraud to work on any scale, you need a large number of people who are not qualified to vote engaging in a conspiracy with a campaign or election officials. Since it is extremely difficult in America to get even registered voters to cast ballots, the idea that there are mass of illegal voters lining up to sway the polls falls on its face. In this election what has been called vote fraud involving ACORN has actually been fraud against ACORN, i.e. registrants who fill up sheets with false names to make their quotas. The idea of one of these non existent voters - let's say Mickey Mouse - actually showing up at the polls is absurd.

Admittedly, once you could find some heavy manipulation going on in places like Chicago in the time of ward leaders like Hinky Dink Kenna and Bathhouse John Coughlin. That era produced anecdotes such as the one in which a voter identified himself as William Croswell Doane, a prominent member of the Episcopal clergy. "Come off it," said an election official, "You're not Bishop Doane." Replied the incensed voter, "The hell I ain't, you bastard."

The era also produced short pencil men - ward heelers who would go the polls early, but not cast their ballot. Rather they would take it outside and with an inconspicuous short pencil mark it and give it the first loyal member of the machine to come up. That voter would cast the marked ballot and bring another unmarked one back to the short pencil man and so on throughout the day.

But these cases did not involve false registration but rather false poll identification or voter ballot control by the machine, neither of which are among the current allegations.

What is happening today is not voter fraud by ACORN but election fraud by the Republican Party.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT JOINS VOTER SUPPRESSION EFFORT

Two senior law enforcement officials have told a national reporter that the FBI is conducting an investigation into ACORN's voter registration effort. The release of the story is a violation of Justice Department regulations that forbid the announcement of investigations still underway and particularly right before an election. It is an obvious attempt by the Bush regime to suppress voter turnout.

Steve Benen, Washington Monthly - Consider this piece that ran in the Wall Street Journal's conservative editorial page:

Allegations of fraud have tainted Acorn voter drives across the country. The good news for anyone who cares about voter integrity is that the Justice Department finally seems poised to connect these dots instead of dismissing such revelations as the work of a few yahoos.

The date on the editorial? November 3, 2006. The Justice Department has always had standing policy of avoiding election law prosecutions shortly before voters head to the polls, but just days in advance of the midterm elections two years ago, as part of the politicization of the Justice Department, Bradley Schlozman apparently rushed ACORN indictments for maximum political benefit to Republicans.

History, I'm afraid, may be repeating itself. The FBI is investigating whether the community activist group ACORN helped foster voter registration fraud around the nation before the presidential election. .

Let's be clear: the Bush administration's politicized Justice Department pulled a scam, got caught, suffered through a massive scandal that forced an Attorney General to resign in disgrace, and now appears to be pulling the exact same scam just two years later. As Josh Marshall put it, "This is a big deal. It may be their last gasp to use the DOJ to help mitigate the scale of Republican defeat on November 4th."

D-Day also had a good item on this: "The Justice Department is using its law enforcement arm to stir up doubt about a legitimate community organization as a means to delegitimize this election. This is designed to sap voter confidence in the process. It's also designed to harass and intimidate low-income and minority voters."

ROLLING STONE: IT'S ALREADY STOLEN

Rolling Stone - Republican secretaries of state of swing-state Colorado have quietly purged one in six names from their voter rolls. Over several months, the GOP politicos in Colorado stonewalled every attempt by Rolling Stone to get an answer to the massive purge - ten times the average state's rate of removal.

- While Obama dreams of riding to the White House on a wave of new voters, more then 2.7 million have had their registrations rejected under new procedures signed into law by George Bush.

- Digging through government records, the Kennedy-Palast team discovered that, in 2004, a GOP scheme called "caging" ultimately took away the rights of 1.1 million voters. The Rolling Stone duo

- Since the last presidential race, "States used dubious 'list management' rules to scrub at least 10 million voters from their rolls." Among those was Paul Maez of Las Vegas, New Mexico - a victim of an unreported but devastating purge of voters in that state that left as many as one in nine Democrats without a vote. For Maez, the state's purging his registration was particularly shocking - he's the county elections supervisor.

THE MYTH OF VOTER FRAUD

Michael Collins, ACLU - We're having our quadrennial encounter with the menace of voter fraud. We are to believe that gangs of undocumented aliens and the unemployed will vote illegally or, if registered, on multiple occasions. They'll do this to capitalize on the fraudulent registrations secured by paid operatives who can't make money in any other way. We're told that this alleged pattern is a menace to democracy. . .

Given the danger proposed, here's some important evidence. The U.S. Department of Justice has voter fraud at the top of its agenda. With their clear emphasis on law enforcement prerogatives, the goal to shut down alleged voter fraud produced next to nothing. [Between 2002 and 2005]: Three years, 38 cases, 11 guilty pleas, and 13 convictions. It is the best outcome the Department of Justice could get. They've been at it 30 years so you'd think they would have learned a trick or too. Yet, voter fraud has been a major focus of the department.

Here is the conclusion of an exhaustive review of voting evidence:

"Though voter fraud does happen, it happens approximately 0.0009% of the time. The similarly closely-analyzed 2004 election in Ohio revealed a voter fraud rate of 0.00004%. National Weather Service data shows that Americans are struck and killed by lightning about as often." - Brennan Center for Justice

In 2005, two major studies were commissioned by the Election Assistance Commission. One was on voter intimidation and the other on polling place fraud. The results were in line with the Brennan Center and others: there is virtually no election fraud and voter suppression is a major problem.

The simple truth is that voter fraud is so rare that it has no relationship with our elections. Yet millions of dollars and countless hours are devoted to this legendary menace to democracy.

There is one obvious question from all of this:

How do you work in a system with people who deny the reality of what happens on Election Day? What does it say about an elections system that perseverates on the "voter" fraud fiction for decades in the repeated absence of any evidence to substantiate that fraud?

There are serious problems with elections in the United States: voter suppression; felon disenfranchisement; unsecured computerized voting on invisible ballots; vote counting conducted in secret; a billion dollars spent on campaigns; and few if any real issues discussed in a serious fashion. These and other manifest problems should be the focus, not a contrivance based on a fiction.

Lorraine C, Minnite, Bernard College - Voter fraud is the "intentional corruption of the electoral process by the voter." This definition covers knowingly and willingly giving false information to establish voter eligibility, and knowingly and willingly voting illegally or participating in a conspiracy to encourage illegal voting by others. All other forms of corruption of the electoral process and corruption committed by elected or election officials, candidates, party organizations, advocacy groups or campaign workers fall under the wider definition of election fraud.

Voter fraud is extremely rare. At the federal level, records show that only 24 people were convicted of or pleaded guilty to illegal voting between 2002 and 2005, an average of eight people a year. The available state-level evidence of voter fraud, culled from interviews, reviews of newspaper coverage and court proceedings, while not definitive, is also negligible.

The lack of evidence of voter fraud is not because of a failure to codify it. It is not as if the states have failed to detail the ways voters could corrupt elections. There are hundreds of examples drawn from state election codes and constitutions that illustrate the precision with which the states have criminalized voter and election fraud. If we use the same standards for judging voter fraud crime rates as we do for other crimes, we must conclude that the lack of evidence of arrests, indictments or convictions for any of the practices defined as voter fraud means very little fraud is being committed.

Most voter fraud allegations turn out to be something other than fraud. A review of news stories over a recent two year period found that reports of voter fraud were most often limited to local races and individual acts and fell into three categories: unsubstantiated or false claims by the loser of a close race, mischief and administrative or voter error.

The more complex are the rules regulating voter registration and voting, the more likely voter mistakes, clerical errors, and the like will be wrongly identified as "fraud." Voters play a limited role in the electoral process

There is a 200-year history in America of elites using voter fraud allegations to restrict and shape the electorate. In the late nineteenth century when newly freed black Americans were swept into electoral politics, and where blacks were the majority of the electorate, it was the Democrats who were threatened by a loss of power, and it was the Democratic party that erected new rules said to be necessary to respond to alleged fraud by black voters. Today, the success of voter registration drives among minorities and low income people in recent years threatens to expand the base of the Democratic party and tip the balance of power away from the Republicans. Consequently, the use of baseless voter fraud allegations for partisan advantage has become the exclusive domain of Republican party activists.

CRASH TALK

Tony Benn, Znet - "THE great inter-war slumps were not acts of God or of blind forces. They were the sure and certain result of the concentration of too much economic power in the hands of too few men. These men had only learned how to act in the interest of their own bureaucratically-run private monopolies which may be likened to totalitarian oligarchies within our democratic state, They had and they felt no responsibility to the nation."

These words are from the 1945 Labour manifesto Let Us Face The Future which brilliantly identified the very same crisis which is now described as a "credit crunch" as if it were a mere hiccup in an otherwise wonderful neo-liberal globalized world which could be corrected with a vast subsidy from the taxpayers to put the Wall Street casino and its partners worldwide back into profit. It reminded me of the fact that when slavery was abolished it was the slave owners, and not the slaves, who received compensation from the government of the day.

Perhaps more important - and never mentioned in the media - is that all the news we get every day and every hour is all about the bankers while presidents, prime ministers and other elected leaders of the world have been reduced to the role of mere commentators who are expected to supply taxpayers' money whenever it is needed to bail out the wealthy.

Indeed, what we are watching is nothing less than the steady transfer of real political power from the polling station to the market and from the ballot to the wallet - reversing the democratic gains we have made over the last century when we were able, increasingly, to use our votes to shape our economic future. . .

We have been told every day by the media that we should put our faith in the market and that elected governments are the problem and not the answer and, for that reason, should not interfere.

These ideas began to emerge in the political mainstream when Margaret Thatcher came to power and in 1994 "new" Labor adopted them as the basis of its own approach which explains why she once described "new" Labor as her "greatest achievement".. . .

Carl Bloice, Black Commentator - An estimated 7,000 people are losing their homes every day.
The number are scary enough but it's not hard to imagine the fear and anxiety that grips the individuals and families that have lost, or are about to lose, their living space and with it - for most - their financial resources built up over their working lives. Millions of people who have never missed a mortgage payment are threatened with the loss of the value their homes. As economist Dean Baker recently noted, 'A whole cohort of workers is now facing retirement with no wealth.'. . .

And, it's not just homeowners that are affected. When the sheriff in Chicago recently announced he was suspending evictions of people being ordered out of their dwelling it was mostly renters he was concerned about, people living in apartment building that had been foreclosed upon. .

As the powers-that-be steadfastly fail to summon up the political will (courage) to effectively confront the foreclosure crisis, efforts are being stepped up to divert attention from its actual cause and direct blame away from those responsible. The most pernicious of these efforts is the assertion that working class people of color are responsible for the situation. . .

Working class African Americans, Latinos and Asians are not the source of this crisis; they are its victims. The perpetrators of the massive con game played with the nation's economy at stake are the banks and mortgage companies and the agencies of government that encouraged them in their nefarious activity. President Bush was only partly right; the country didn't 'build too many houses,' it built more houses than people could afford and the only way to get people to purchase them was to entice or trick them into credit arrangements that could not be sustained.

And make no mistake about it, black people were targeted for 'subprime' mortgages. Even when they could afford better loan terms they were often directed toward the riskier variety because these were more profitable for the creditors and their agents. . .

'If a quick consensus is required, why not include provisions to stop the source of bleeding, to aid the millions of Americans that are losing their homes?' wrote economist Joseph Stiglitz October 1 in a TheNation.com article: 'Here's a Better Bailout Plan.' 'Why not spend as much on them as on Wall Street? Do they still believe in trickle-down economics, when for the past eight years money has been trickling up to the wizards of Wall Street? Why not enact bankruptcy reform, to help Americans write down the value of the mortgage on their overvalued home? No one benefits from these costly foreclosures.'

'It's unacceptable that lawmakers have yet to come out squarely in favor of bold homeowner relief in the bailout bill,' The New York Times said editorially last month as the Department of the Treasury bailout bill was making it torturous way through Congress. . .

'Many of the assets that Mr. Paulson wants to buy with the $700 billion have gone sour because they are tied to mortgages that have defaulted or are at risk of default. Unless homeowners get some help - and it's a pittance compared to what Mr. Paulson wants to give to bankers - the downward spiral of defaults, foreclosures and tumbling home prices will continue, which could push down the value of those assets even further.'

Bloomberg - Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. is the subject of three federal criminal probes and at least 12 subpoenas of individuals to testify before grand juries, according to a lawyer for the bank that last month filed the largest bankruptcy in history. Lead Lehman bankruptcy lawyer Harvey Miller said Oct. 16 in federal court in Manhattan that the investigations were launched by New York U.S. attorneys in Brooklyn and Manhattan as well as in Newark, New Jersey. They are focusing in part on Lehman's role in the $330 billion auction-rate securities market and possible crimes associated with its $6 billion June stock issue, according to a person familiar with the case who requested anonymity. . . "There's been an outcry from people in the streets, and that puts pressure on prosecutors to do something,'' said Todd Harrison, a former New York federal prosecutor now with Washington-based Patton Boggs. "They're going to be looking at all aspects of the credit crisis, including the rating agencies and the mortgage lenders who packaged and sold securities.''

NY Times - The Federal Bureau of Investigation is struggling to find enough agents and resources to investigate criminal wrongdoing tied to the country's economic crisis, according to current and former bureau officials. The bureau slashed its criminal investigative work force to expand its national security role after the Sept. 11 attacks, shifting more than 1,800 agents, or nearly one-third of all agents in criminal programs, to terrorism and intelligence duties. Current and former officials say the cutbacks have left the bureau seriously exposed in investigating areas like white-collar crime, which has taken on urgent importance in recent weeks because of the nation's economic woes. . . Since 2004, F.B.I. officials have warned that mortgage fraud posed a looming threat, and the bureau has repeatedly asked the Bush administration for more money to replenish the ranks of agents handling non-terrorism investigations, according to records and interviews. But each year, the requests have been denied, with no new agents approved for financial crimes, as policy makers focused on counterterrorism.

Joshua Holland, Alternet - According to the Financial Times, Robert Reoch, the London banker who may be responsible for creating the first of the now-infamous debt-based securities, is now "swamped by investors who want to extricate themselves from derivatives-linked messes, or simply to understand the products that came out of the past few years of intense financial innovation." The Washington Post reported that Joe Cassano, the financial products manager "whose complex investments led to (AIG's) near collapse," is raking in $1 million per month in consulting fees from the ailing financial giant to help sort out the toxic sludge on (and off) the bank's books. . .

The focus on home mortgages misses a crucial point: Through mid-July, banks had written off about $435 billion in bad American mortgages, a drop in the bucket relative to the size of the global economy. There's simply no way that even a major drop in the value of the U.S. housing market could possibly threaten the economic health of most of the planet.

That's where "derivatives" come in. These instruments, which Warren Buffet called "the real Weapons of Mass Destruction," are "worth" about $500 trillion, or roughly 10 times the output of the global economy.

So just what is a derivative? A derivative is a piece of paper that can be bought and sold for real money but isn't attached to a real asset. Its value is simply derived from something tangible -- hence the name. . .

There are all sorts of derivatives. They are essentially bets -- you can bet that a market will go up, or down, or that a particular company will do well or poorly. You can bet on interest rates going up or down, or the value of a country's currency, or you can make more exotic bets about just about anything in the world -- even what the weather will be like at some point in the future.

But the current meltdown was caused by debt-backed securities tied, at some point, to the U.S. housing market. When you buy a home, that's an asset. Presuming you make your monthly payments, the mortgage held by the bank is an asset as well. When a number of mortgages are cut up and bundled together and then sold off as a security, that's a derivative.

Writing in Salon, Andrew Leonard offered a useful metaphor. He suggested that we think of the real economy like a football game, with real flesh-and-blood players running around on a real field, hitting each other and moving a real ball toward a real goal post. All those guys, the field, the equipment -- they're tangible, the same way that an asset like your house is tangible.

There are some people who have a direct stake in the game -- like the teams' owners and the players' families, agents, etc. But there are also millions of people who might bet on the outcome of the game but are in no way directly involved in the play. It's these bets that parallel the trillions of dollars in debt-based derivatives that have become so "toxic" -- they were making some people rich when the housing market was flying, but now that it's tanked, they've turned out to be bad bets, and the amount of money at stake is enormous -- far, far larger than the entire value of the U.S. housing market.

Juan Cole, History News Network - The Republican Party that Nixon invented melded the moneyed classes of the Northeast with the white evangelicals of the South. This odd couple went on to simultaneously steal from and oppress the rest of us. The moneyed classes were happy to let the New Puritans impose their stringent morality, since they could always just buy any licentiousness they wanted, regardless of the law. And the New Puritans were so consumed with cultural issues such as homosexuality, abortion, school prayer and (yes) fighting school desegregation that they were happy to let the northeastern Money Men waltz off with a lion's share of the country's resources, consigning most Americans to stagnant wages and increasing debt. The Reagan revolution consolidated this alliance and brought some conservative Catholic workers into it.

These domestic policies at home were complemented by wars and belligerence abroad, which further took the eye of the public off the epochal bank robbery being conducted by the American neo-Medicis, and which were a useful way of throwing billions in government tax revenue to the military-industrial complex, which in turn funded the think tanks and reelection campaigns of the right wing politicians. . .

As a result of the Second Gilded Age and its serf-like subservience to big capital, most corporations in the US don't pay any income taxes, despite doing $2.5 trillion annually in business.

The Reagan Revolution included the stupid idea that you can cut taxes, starve government, abolish regulation of securities, banks etc. and still grow the economy. The irony is that capitalist markets need to be regulated to avoid periodically becoming chaotic (as in 'chaos theory,') but the people who most benefit from regulation are most zealous in attempting to abolish or blunt it.

What those policies did was create the preconditions for a long-term bubble or set of bubbles that benefited (for a while) the wealthiest 3 million Americans and harmed everyone else.

The average wage of the average worker is lower now than in 1973 and has been lower or flat for the past 35 years. That's the condition of the 300 million or so Americans.

In the meantime, the top 1 percent has multiplied its wealth many times over and now takes home 20% of the national income, owning some 45 percent of the privately held wealth in the US. . .

The enormous wealth of a thin sliver or people at the top of US society allows them to buy members of congress and to write the legislation that regulates their industries.

William Greider, Nation - The government's new outline is deliberately vague about how exactly the Treasury and Federal Reserve intend to execute the details. The proposal implies but does not say that the government is taking charge of the banking system and will use its emergency powers to compel bankers to restart lending to restore the real economy of producers and consumers. Maybe that's what Paulson has in mind, but he made no promises. The public money gives a comforting tonic to the bad boys of Wall Street, but it's still packaged as a voluntary approach -- not to be confused with the genuine nationalization that Britain and other governments have undertaken. . .

Without taking explicit control, the government is simply betting the bankers will cooperate in exchange for rescue. Maybe they will start lending again, but maybe not: banks are in a deep hole of their own making, having lost more than a trillion. Typically, they apply tightfisted lending tactics to heal balance sheets -- the opposite of what the country needs from them now. The $125 billion or so targeted for the nine biggest banks will not be enough to heal them all. Institutional Risk Analytics, a bank monitoring firm, says $250 billion in capital injections "will be just the down payment to get through the wave of loan losses headed for some of the larger players in the US banking sector."

Meanwhile, the money provides a feel-good tonic for the club -- the relatively small congregation of financial institutions that exert such oppressive influence over business and society, not to mention politics. Paulson is handing them cheap money (ours) that will initially earn only 5 percent, even as Warren Buffett gets 10 percent dividends on the capital he provided Goldman Sachs. Nor does the public get a controlling interest, or even seats on the board, for its generosity. The choices Paulson makes as he hands out the public money will effectively design the future -- making the big boys even bigger and more arrogant, since they know the government will not let them fail. Informed financiers already see the nine largest banks consolidating into four behemoths. The next president and treasury secretary (if they have the nerve) will have to confront this question of scale and cut the big banks down to size -- small enough to fail without damaging society.

Phil Mattera, Dirt Diggers Digest - Twice in the past month, the Bush Administration has sounded the alarm about the economy and pushed through unprecedented measures: a $700 billion buyout of toxic assets from financial institutions and now a $250 billion plan for the federal government to take ownership interests in banks. Neither of these schemes has been fully implemented, but already there are signs that they are not having the desired effect of calming financial markets. Stocks, in particular, remain incredibly volatile, swinging wildly from day to day.

There are also voices suggesting that by focusing on bailing out the banks, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and his cohorts made a serious miscalculation. As the New York Times put it in its account of Wednesday's 733 point plunge in the Dow: "Investors are recognizing that the financial crisis is not the fundamental problem. It has merely amplified economic ailments that are now intensifying: vanishing paychecks, falling home prices and diminished spending. And there is no relief in sight."

A blunt attack on the Paulson Doctrine also came from the Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Sheila Bair. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, she expressed frustration at the failure of the bailout measures to provide direct help to struggling homeowners. Mortgage defaults are "what's causing the distress at the institution level," Bair says, "so why not tackle the borrower problem?" The Journal notes that Bair has long been pushing the idea of using federal resources to restructure mortgages to avoid foreclosures, but she was apparently thwarted by Bush Administration figures such as White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten.

Not only is the bailout not providing aid to homeowners, it is making things worse. One of the side effects of the plan has been to push mortgage interest rates higher. Rates on 30-year fixed mortgages have jumped to 6.38 percent from 5.87 percent last week. This makes it more difficult for those with predatory mortgages to refinance, and it also drives down home values. All of this will exacerbate the foreclosure problem and make the mortgage-backed securities held by banks even more worthless.

NY Times - The bailout seems to be having no impact at all on the presidential race. Both Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama voted for it, and neither man chose to mention it in this week's final presidential debate.

There is virtually no difference between Obama backers and McCain supporters in terms of supporting the bailout, as is shown in the accompanying chart based on the New York Times/CBS poll taken from Oct. 10 to 13.

Among those who thought the bailout was a good idea, the split in favor of Senator Obama was 55 percent to 37 percent. Among those who opposed the bailout, the split was 53 percent to 37 percent. . .

One question in the poll asked if the beneficiaries would be "mostly just a few big investors and people who work on Wall Street" or whether it would help "homeowners and people throughout the country as well." A large majority of those polled - 63 percent - thought the bailout would benefit only Wall Street, and those voters were overwhelmingly for Senator Obama, by a 59 percent to 31 percent margin. .

Among the 28 percent of Americans who thought everyone would benefit, the Obama lead is a statistically insignificant one point, 44 to 43.

Portfolio - Andrew Lahde, manager of a small California hedge fund, Lahde Capital, burst into the spotlight last year after his one-year-old fund returned 866 percent betting against the subprime collapse. Last month, he did the unthinkable -- he shut things down, claiming dealing with his bank counterparties had become too risky. Today, Lahde passed along his "goodbye" letter

Andrew Lahde - Today I write not to gloat. Given the pain that nearly everyone is experiencing, that would be entirely inappropriate. Nor am I writing to make further predictions, as most of my forecasts in previous letters have unfolded or are in the process of unfolding. Instead, I am writing to say goodbye.

Recently, on the front page of Section C of the Wall Street Journal, a hedge fund manager who was also closing up shop (a $300 million fund), was quoted as saying, "What I have learned about the hedge fund business is that I hate it." I could not agree more with that statement. I was in this game for the money. The low hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale, and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking. These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government. All of this behavior supporting the aristocracy, only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America. . .

I will no longer manage money for other people or institutions. I have enough of my own wealth to manage. . . . I am content with my rewards. Moreover, I will let others try to amass nine, ten or eleven figure net worths. Meanwhile, their lives suck. Appointments back to back, booked solid for the next three months, they look forward to their two week vacation in January during which they will likely be glued to their Blackberries or other such devices. What is the point? They will all be forgotten in fifty years anyway. . . Throw the Blackberry away and enjoy life. . .

BBC - Construction of new US homes fell more than expected last month to reach its lowest level in almost 18 years, Commerce Department figures have shown. The number of new houses and apartments being built in September declined 6.3% compared with the same month in 2007. This fall was much more severe than the 1.6% dip that analysts had expected. The report showed that 817,000 new homes were built across the country last month on a seasonally adjusted basis, the slowest pace since January, 1991.

PAGE ONE MUST

BANKERS ALREADY RIPPING OFF A TENTH OF THE BAILOUT FOR THEMSELVES

Guardian, UK - Financial workers at Wall Street's top banks are to receive pay deals worth more than $70bn, a substantial proportion of which is expected to be paid in discretionary bonuses, for their work so far this year - despite plunging the global financial system into its worst crisis since the 1929 stock market crash, the Guardian has learned.

Staff at six banks including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are in line to pick up the payouts despite being the beneficiaries of a $700bn bail-out from the US government that has already prompted criticism. The government's cash has been poured in on the condition that excessive executive pay would be curbed. . .

The sums that continue to be spent by Wall Street firms on payroll, payoffs and, most controversially, bonuses appear to bear no relation to the losses incurred by investors in the banks. Shares in Citigroup and Goldman Sachs have declined by more than 45% since the start of the year. Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley have fallen by more than 60%. JP MorganChase fell 6.4% and Lehman Brothers has collapsed.

At one point last week the Morgan Stanley $10.7bn pay pot for the year to date was greater than the entire stock market value of the business. In effect, staff, on receiving their remuneration, could club together and buy the bank.

In the first nine months of the year Citigroup accrued $25.9bn for salaries and bonuses, an increase on the previous year of 4%. Earlier this week the bank accepted a $25bn investment by the US government as part of its bail-out plan.

At Goldman Sachs the figure was $11.4bn, Morgan Stanley $10.73bn, JP Morgan $6.53bn and Merrill Lynch $11.7bn. At Merrill, which was on the point of going bust last month before being taken over by Bank of America, the total accrued in the last quarter grew 76% to $3.49bn. At Morgan Stanley, the amount put aside for staff compensation also grew in the last quarter to the end of August by 3% to $3.7bn.

Days before it collapsed into bankruptcy protection a month ago Lehman Brothers revealed $6.12bn of staff pay plans in its corporate filings. .

None of the banks the Guardian contacted wished to comment on the record about their pay plans. But behind the scenes, one source said: "For a normal person the salaries are very high and the bonuses seem even higher. But in this world you get a top bonus for top performance, a medium bonus for mediocre performance and a much smaller bonus if you don't do so well."

BANKS PRINT MONEY; WHY CAN'T THE GOVERNMENT?

Ellen Brown, Global Research - All the king's men cannot put the private banking system together again, for the simple reason that it is a Ponzi scheme that has reached its mathematical limits. A Ponzi scheme is a form of pyramid scheme in which new investors must continually be sucked in at the bottom to support the investors at the top. In this case, new borrowers must continually be sucked in to support the creditors at the top. The Wall Street Ponzi scheme is built on "fractional reserve" lending, which allows banks to create "credit" (or "debt") with accounting entries. Banks are now allowed to lend from 10 to 30 times their "reserves," essentially counterfeiting the money they lend. Over 97 percent of the U.S. money supply has been created by banks in this way. The problem is that banks create only the principal and not the interest necessary to pay back their loans. Since bank lending is essentially the only source of new money in the system, someone somewhere must continually be taking out new loans just to create enough "money" (or "credit") to service the old loans composing the money supply. This spiraling interest problem and the need to find new debtors has gone on for over 300 years -- ever since the founding of the Bank of England in 1694 – until the whole world has now become mired in debt to the bankers' private money monopoly. As British financial analyst Chris Cook observes:

"Exponential economic growth required by the mathematics of compound interest on a money supply based on money as debt must always run up eventually against the finite nature of Earth's resources."

The parasite has finally run out of its food source. But the crisis is not in the economy itself, which is fundamentally sound – or would be with a proper credit system to oil the wheels of production. The crisis is in the banking system, which can no longer cover up the shell game it has played for three centuries with other people's money. Fortunately, we don't need the credit of private banks. A sovereign government can create its own.

Today's credit crisis is very similar to that facing Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s. In 1932, President Hoover set up the Reconstruction Finance Corporation as a federally-owned bank that would bail out commercial banks by extending loans to them, much as the privately-owned Federal Reserve is doing today. But like today, Hoover's plan failed. The banks did not need more loans; they were already drowning in debt. They needed customers with money to spend and to invest. President Roosevelt used Hoover's new government-owned lending facility to extend loans where they were needed most – for housing, agriculture and industry. Many new federal agencies were set up and funded by the RFC, including the HOLC (Home Owners Loan Corporation) and Fannie Mae (the Federal National Mortgage Association, which was then a government-owned agency). In the 1940s, the RFC went into overdrive funding the infrastructure necessary for the U.S. to participate in World War II, setting the country up with the infrastructure it needed to become the world's industrial leader after the war.

The RFC was a government-owned bank that sidestepped the privately-owned Federal Reserve; but unlike the private banks with which it was competing, the RFC had to have the money in hand before lending it. The RFC was funded by issuing government bonds (IOU.s or debt) and relending the proceeds. The result was to put the taxpayers further into debt. This problem could be avoided, however, by updating the RFC model. A system of public banks might be set up that had the power to create credit themselves, just as private banks do now. A public bank operating on the private bank model could fan $700 billion in capital reserves into $7 trillion in public credit that was derivative-free, liability-free, and readily available to fund all those things we think we don't have the money for now, including the loans necessary to meet payrolls, fund mortgages, and underwrite public infrastructure. . .

This was the sort of banking scheme used in Benjamin Franklin's colony of Pennsylvania, where it worked brilliantly well. The spiraling-interest problem was avoided by printing some extra money and spending it into the economy for public purposes. During the decades the provincial bank operated, the Pennsylvania colonists paid no taxes, there was no government debt, and inflation did not result.

Like the Pennsylvania bank, a modern-day federal banking system would not actually need "reserves" at all. It is the sovereign right of a government to issue the currency of the realm. What backs our money today is simply "the full faith and credit of the United States," something the United States should be able to issue directly without having to draw on "reserves" of its own credit. But if Congress is not prepared to go that far, a more efficient use of the earmarked $700 billion than bailing out failing banks would be to designate the funds as the "reserves" for a newly-reconstituted RFC.

CINDY MCCAIN EARNS 105 TIMES MORE THAN JOE THE PLUMBER;
OBAMA'S TAX BILL WOULD LOWER THAT TO 102 TIMES MORE THAN JOE

LA TIMES - The McCain household wasn't immune from the weakening economy, according to tax returns released Friday: Cindy McCain's income fell by nearly a third last year. . . In 2007, Cindy McCain reported income of $4.2 million and ended the year with the federal government owing her almost $1 million. Instead of asking for a refund, she applied the excess tax payments to next year's bill.

PALIN THINKS MORE THAN TWO THIRDS OF U.S. CITIZENS AREN'T REAL AMERICANS

"We believe that the best of America is in the small towns that we get to visit, and in the wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard-working, very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation," she said. "This is where we find the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans," Palin added. - CNN

Fact: More than two thirds of Americans live in urban areas with a population over 50,000

FOREIGNERS LOVE OBAMA

Political Wire - Eight leading foreign newspapers conducted a poll that finds overwhelming support for Sen. Barack Obama in the United States presidential election. He would win by a landslide in every country surveyed.

Canada: Obama 70%, McCain 14%

France: Obama 68%, McCain 5%

Switzerland: Obama 83%, McCain 7%

Poland: Obama 43%, McCain 26%

Japan: Obama 61%, McCain 13%

Mexico: Obama 46%, McCain 13%

Great Britain: Obama 64%, McCain 15%

Belgium: Obama 62%, McCain 8%

The poll also shows that America "can no longer count on the friendship even of its closest neighbors and allies after eight years of the Bush presidency. Only a minority in the countries surveyed describe relations with the US as friendly."

MCCAIN'S VIOLENT PAL G GORDON LIDDY

Carl Bernstein, Huffington Post - Does John McCain "pal around with terrorists? Certainly McCain's continuing "association" and relationship with the convicted Watergate burglar and domestic terrorist G. Gordon Liddy might suggest that is the case, if we are to apply the standards drawn by the McCain campaign.

In 1998, Liddy gave a fundraiser in his Scottsdale, Arizona home for McCain's senatorial re-election campaign -- the two posed for photographs together; and as recently as May, 2007, as a presidential candidate, McCain was a guest on Liddy's syndicated radio show. Inexplicably, McCain heaped praise on his host's values. During the segment, McCain said he was "proud" of Liddy, and praised Liddy's "adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great." From the program:

LIDDY: Your experience in the Hanoi Hilton is remarkable. I mean, I put in five years in a prison [for masterminding the Watergate burglary, and associated crimes], but it was here in the United States, and they didn't torture - the only torture that I had was being forced to listen to rap music from time to time.

McCAIN: Well, you know, I'm proud of you. I'm proud of your family. I'm proud to know your son, Tom, who's a great and wonderful guy. And it's always a pleasure for me to come on your program, Gordon. And congratulations on your continued success and adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great.

Which of Liddy's "principles and philosophies" was McCain referring to? Liddy's advocacy of break-ins? Firebombings? Assassinations? Kidnappings? Taking target practice with figures nicknamed Bill and Hillary?

During the same period that Bill Ayers was a member of the Weather Underground, Gordon Liddy was making plans to firebomb a Washington think tank, assassinate a prominent journalist, undertake the Watergate burglary, break into the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist, and kidnap anti-war protesters at the 1972 Republican convention.

Re Liddy's "continued success and adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great:" Did McCain mean to include Liddy's instructions to listeners of his radio show in 1994 (around the time Ayres and Obama were on a board together discussing education programs and other plots) on how to shoot Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents (aim for the head)?

If ATF agents attempt to curtail a citizen's gun ownership, Liddy counseled, "Well, if the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms comes to disarm you and they are bearing arms, resist them with arms. Go for a head shot; they're going to be wearing bulletproof vests."

More recently, Liddy explained making the Clintons objects of shooting practice: "I did relate that on the 4th of July of last year, when I and my family and some friends were out firing away at a properly-constructed rifle range and we ran out of targets, and so we - I drew some stick figure targets and I thought we ought to give them names. So I named them Bill and Hillary, thought it might improve my aim. It didn't. My aim is good anyway. Now, having said that, I accept no responsibility for somebody shooting up the White House.". . .

GETTING READY FOR THE WAR CRIMES TRIALS OF THE BUSH REGIME

Nat Hentoff, Village Voice - Over the weekend of September 13 and 14, a historic gathering in Andover, Massachusetts, took place and garnered little media attention. But at that two-day conference, serious plans were laid for a war-crimes trial of the Bush administration. Convened by Lawrence Velvel, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, the scheduled participants included two people who have been cited as authorities in this column. . .

This was no ranting MoveOn.org event - instead, its goal is a war-crimes trial beyond anything that has ever been attempted in American judicial history, a goal that echoes the words of Jackson himself: "The common sense of mankind demands that law shall not stop with the punishment of petty crimes by little people. It must also reach men [and women] who possess themselves of great power and make deliberate and concerted use of it to set in motion evils which leave no home in the world untouched.". . .

The conference set about planning trials to determine the guilt of key actors in the Bush administration (and their authorizing lawyers) for having committed war crimes under both American and international law, and to determine the appropriate punishments. Among the items on the conference's agenda: "Creating an umbrella coordinating committee with representatives from an increasing number of organizations involved in war crimes cases; creating a center to keep track of and organize . . relevant briefs and facts on war crimes and prosecutions of war criminals; establishing a chief prosecutor's office such as Nuremberg's."

Keeping in mind the high likelihood that a domestic trial would take much more time and be subject to far more pressure as the full scope of the administration's appalling war crimes was revealed, the conferees also sought to find out "which international tribunals, foreign tribunals and domestic tribunals (if any) can be used and how to begin cases and/or obtain prosecutions before them." . . .

Opening the Andover conference, Dean Lawrence Velvel of the Massachusetts School of Law said: "The goal will be to engage in action so that the conference will not have been . . . merely an exercise in self-expression." (Remember, there is no statute of limitations on murder and many international crimes.)

Velvel listed some of the proposals for action that were raised during the conference. I'll keep score on them and others in this column. Here are some:

- "Requesting state bar authorities to disbar the lawyers who were part of the executive cabal to authorize torture and other abuses that are crimes under international law, domestic law, or both." . . .

- "Obtaining inspector general reports of what was done in given federal departments, like the Department of Justice, the Pentagon, the State Department, the CIA, etc." This won't work, however, unless there is insistent public pressure from such groups as the American Bar Association, the ACLU, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the Electronic Privacy Foundation, and the Constitution Project, among others, insisting that inspector generals be appointed who are fearlessly independent . . .

-"A march of many thousands of American lawyers on the Department of Justice - a la civil rights or Vietnam War marches or the Million Man March. The purpose of the march would be to highlight lawyers' belief that crimes were committed and must be published." American lawyers already have an honorable working model for such a march. Large numbers of Pakistani lawyers took to the streets to protest against then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf when he removed all the country's Supreme Court justices, and placed the chief justice under house arrest for having resisted Musharraf's gutting of Pakistan's Constitution and rule of law.

GOP ELECTION FRAUD SOARS

WATCHING THE COUNT

Seattle Post Intelligencer - King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, a Republican, said last year that the ACORN case in Seattle had nothing to do with manipulating outcomes and everything to do with the workers' efforts to keep their $8-an-hour jobs. If anyone was defrauded, it was ACORN, an acronym for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. "The defendants ... cheated their employers to get paid for work they did not actually perform," Satterberg said. "The defendants simply realized that making up names was easier than actually canvassing the streets." In the Seattle case, temporary workers hired by ACORN for a voter registration drive gathered at the downtown Seattle library to fill out bogus registration forms. They copied names from newspaper stories -- such as those of actress Katie Holmes, New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera and New York Times columnist Frank Rich -- pulled them from baby-name books and telephone directories or just made them up.

They wrote in the addresses of homeless shelters for a majority of the 1,762 phony registrations they turned in to elections officials. But that's as far as it went. In accordance with procedures, elections workers submit the information from any registration they receive to the state's computerized voter system. But if the identification numbers also required on a registration form -- typically, a driver's license number, or the last four digits of a Social Security number -- fail to match up with the voter names in the appropriate databases, the registration is flagged. It county workers can't clear up the discrepancy, the would-be voter is provisionally registered: For poll voters, that means they must show identification at the polling place to vote, and for absentee voters, it means they must mail in proper identification documents with their ballot for the ballot to be validated and counted. Provisional registrations are canceled after two federal election cycles if they are not validated. In the case of the fraudulent ACORN registrations, they were cancelled last year as a result of the criminal investigation, which was triggered when elections workers noticed similarities in handwriting for many signatures on the registration forms. No votes were cast based on those registrations.

Black Box Voting - A firm called Automated Election Services was found to have miscoded the system in heavily Democratic Santa Fe County, New Mexico such that straight party voters would not have the presidential vote counted. Straight party voting is allowed in 15 states. Basically, it means that you can take a shortcut to actually looking at who you are voting for and instead just select a party preference. Then the voting machine makes your candidate choices, supposedly for the party you requested.

Time - Experts say many campus precincts are sorely unprepared to meet student demand. And laws passed after the 2004 election, ostensibly to clamp down on voter fraud, could cause a slew of new problems that disproportionately hit student voters. Which means the question in 2008 isn't whether young voters deliver. "It's can the young voters deliver?" says Matthew Segal, executive director of the Student Association for Voter Empowerment. . . Because local officials have wide latitude in interpreting election laws that vary from state to state, misunderstandings - or misinformation - could have an even greater impact this year than in 2004, given the anticipated bulge in student turnout. Most of the trouble comes from nailing down where college students should be counted as residents if they attend school in one state but go home to another during the holidays. The Supreme Court's position is clear: a 1979 ruling found that all students have the right to vote where they attend college. But local officials often make students travel a rocky road. In recent months, registrars in counties including Montgomery, Va. (home to Virginia Tech), Greenville, S.C. (Furman University), and most recently El Paso, Colo. (Colorado College), issued warnings that were off-putting if not outright alarming: students who register in their college town could be ineligible to be claimed as dependents on their parents' tax returns and might be in danger of losing tuition scholarships. The problem, according to youth-voter advocates and the IRS, was that these dire warnings were incorrect. After widespread outrage, the registrars backed off. But experts worry that the resulting confusion could sour first timers on voting altogether. "It's creating somewhat of a chilling effect," says Steve Fenberg, executive director of the youth civic action group New Era Colorado.

Orlando Sentinel - About 1,245 Orange County residents were erroneously mailed letters last week stating they were ineligible to vote in the upcoming election, the Orange County Supervisor of Elections office confirmed. Officials blamed the problem on a computer glitch. The letters were intended to confirm voters' registration information. However, a glitch inserted an additional sentence stating the voter was ineligible to vote in the Nov. 4 election, said Linda Tanko, a supervisor at the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office. Tanko said the elections office will send corrected letters.

West Virginia Gazette - Three Putnam County voters say electronic voting machines changed their votes from Democrats to Republicans when they cast early ballots last week. This is the second West Virginia county where voters have reported this problem. Last week, three voters in Jackson County told The Charleston Gazette their electronic vote for "Barack Obama" kept flipping to "John McCain". In both counties, Republicans are responsible for overseeing elections. Both county clerks said the problem is isolated. They also blamed voters for not being more careful.

LA Times - Dozens of newly minted Republican voters say they were duped into joining the party by a GOP contractor with a trail of fraud complaints stretching across the country. Voters contacted by The Times said they were tricked into switching parties while signing what they believed were petitions for tougher penalties against child molesters. Some said they were told that they had to become Republicans to sign the petition, contrary to California initiative law. Others had no idea their registration was being changed.

It is a bait-and-switch scheme familiar to election experts. The firm hired by the California Republican Party -- a small company called Young Political Majors, or YPM, which operates in several states -- has been accused of using the tactic across the country. Election officials and lawmakers have launched investigations into the activities of YPM workers in Florida and Massachusetts. In Arizona, the firm was recently a defendant in a civil rights lawsuit. Prosecutors in Los Angeles and Ventura counties say they are investigating complaints about the company. http://prorev.com/2008/10/gop-election-fraud-soars.htmlThe firm, which a Republican Party spokesman said is paid $7 to $12 for each registration it secures, has denied any wrongdoing and says it has never been charged with a crime.

BREVITAS

OUTLYING PRECINCTS

Politics 1 - Despite the frequent pundit references to the so-called "Bradley Effect" -- the phenomena where 2-6% of white voters will purportedly lie to a pollster and claim to be voting for a black candidate when in reality they are voting for the white opponent -- the "Bradley Effect" is simply a political urban legend. So says GOP political consultant Robert Wolfe, who was Southern California Political Director of the 1982 George Deukmejian (R) for Governor campaign against Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley (D). Wolfe told Politics1 that anyone who "claims there was a 'Bradley Effect' in 1982 has no idea what they are talking about. Tom Bradley actually beat us on election day, and by a significant margin, so there was no 'lying' to the exit pollsters. Deukmejian only won because of the absentee ballots. That was the first year California allowed the use of absentee ballots and that was our secret strategy. We piled up absentee ballots from Armenian Democrats, because Deukmejian was Armenian. They were not likely voters, so they were under-polled. But there were roughly 100,000 Armenian voters living just in the area around Los Angeles County -- plus lots elsewhere in the state. It was that absentee effort that gave us the victory -- and earned me a position in the Deukmejian Administration. If it was just the election day votes, we would have lost. . . There just was no 'Bradley Effect' and people should stop claiming there was such a thing. Trust me, I was there."

Washington Post - With New York reeling from a financial meltdown, it appeared that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) would have little trouble convincing his City Council allies to change the law and allow him to run for a third term. But as the council began two days of public hearings in whether the term-limits law should be changed, the mayor encountered unexpected opposition. "No more Bloomberg the King!" said signs outside City Hall, where people lined up to enter the packed hearing room and an adjacent overflow room. . . Inside the hearing room, filled with guffaws, boos and cheers, a coalition of civil rights advocates, activists and politicians, some of them angling for Bloomberg's job, opposed the changes. They noted that voters already backed term limits in referendums in 1993 and 1996. And they said they are piqued that during a financial crisis, a billionaire mayor could use economic fear to create another chance to seek reelection.

Mike Light of Notions Capital has come up with the fact that Joe the Plumber's firm is having a tad of trouble with the Better Business Bureau.

HEALTH & SCIENCE

Times UK - Volumes on personal stereos are likely to be restricted by regulators because of fears that MP3 players and "in-ear" phones are damaging hearing. Up to a tenth of users are listening to music at levels that could cause permanent hearing loss after five years, an influential scientific commission has found. Personal music players are allowed to reach 100 decibels. But with "in-ear" headphones the actual sound at the eardrum can reach 120dB.

FREEDOM & JUSTICE

YOU CAN'T EVEN GO TO THE HOMELAND SECURITY WEBSITE
WITHOUT THEM SPYING ON YOU




READER COMMENTS

NOTE: You can post your comments on any of the above stories by going to our Undernews site and searching for the headline. Once posted, a copy is immediately mailed to the Review and we pick some of the most interesting to publish here. http://prorev.com/indexa.htm

SWAMPOOODLE REPORT: KICKING OBAMA ACROSS THE GOAL:

Another problem Obama has is that (like most liberals) he's been moving steadily to the right while the country is moving in the other direction. He supported a Wall Street bailout that was vehemently opposed by over 80% of the people, a bailout which clearly greatly favors corporate interests. He wants to increase the military budget and America's overseas military presence when most want to cut them. He refuses to take a position on the War on Drugs, which is an extremely major issue for tens of millions of Americans, and a deal-breaker for lots of those. (He hasn't so much as mentioned it, and won't even take a stand on medical marijuana.) His health care plan basically continues the status quo, with a few band-aids that won't really address any of the major problems. Many women make the argument that he'll support Supreme Court justices that will defend Roe v. Wade, but he's reneged on everything else, so there's no reason to think he'll stick to that either. I've come to the conclusion that he'll do whatever is politically expedient at the moment.

I voted for him in the primary, but I see no reason to vote for him now. He's well to the right of me, and I disagree with most of his policies. And I no longer see any significant differences at all between the Democrats and Republicans (basically one single corporate party) so that's not an issue for me at all. I'l be voting third party, doesn't really matter which one.

Nobody's cheering because there's nothing to cheer about. The best I can say about Barack Obama is maybe his Supreme Court nominees won't be quite as crazy as John McCain's. Given that Obama is financed by the same people who financed Clinton, Bush the Weenie, and McCain, even the Supreme Court nominee argument doesn't give hope for positive change.

BRAD PITT'S NEW ORLEANS HOMES MOVE AHEAD

I thank Mr. Pitt for helping to save New Orleans and for being a good American. It goes without saying that he and Ms. Jolie are good hearted people. We hope they and their family always make New Orleans their home. We've enjoyed them being here.

Good on yiz for this effort
, Brad. Paul Newman version 2.0, perhaps?

GETTING READY FOR THE WAR CRIMES TRIALS OF THE BUSH

Trials of the Bush administration for treason and war crimes trials would bring an end to the string of criminally stupid wars that we have engaged in over the years. This is not pacifism. There might be some future time when a war was a necessity. But we must put an end to wars that are declared by the executive branch and passively accepted by the Congress. We must also revitalize the role of the courts in overseeing the behavior of both of the other branches, and demanding ultimate civil and criminal accountability.

Forget it. It's not going to happen. The Democrats do not want to set the precedent of criminally prosecuting a president for lying this country into an unprovoked war. Are we going to dig up LBJ and put him on trial for getting us neck deep in the big muddy? How about Clinton's mucking about in the Balkans?

George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney belong in an insane asylum. Bush is comparable to Adolf Hitler. Bush is mentally ill. Bush suffers from narcissism and megalomania. Bush lied, and thousands of people died. Bush is psychotic. Bush is dangerous. The American people should pursue the involuntary psychiatric hospitalization of Bush and Cheney to safeguard against further atrocities. God will judge and punish Bush and Cheney. - Andrew Yu-Jen Wang, Grantham PA

The American people really, really want to criminally prosecute George W Bush. Forget and ignore all the leeches that have benefited from the Reagan/Bush culture of corruption. America is in the mess it's in because George W Bush is a criminal. Throw in criminal charges for the prosecution of Bush insider trading.

BAILOUT

You might mention to those fat-cat bankers who just got flush with the public's money, they may want to ease up on their credit card fees for people. Least ways if they don't want a war right here. I spent the entire day trying to get four credit card companies to ease up on my monthly fees and payments. You know where it got me, and I started about ten o'clock this morning until after three o'clock? Nowhere. This doesn't make much sense. Bailout? It's going to incite people to violence and hatred, if it hasn't already begun. The bailout may well be the Fort Sumter of these times. - Muw

The economy wasn't bad until all the scammers who lied to buy houses they knew they weren't going to pay for started defaulting.

I think you have that backward. It's not the "all the scammers who lied to buy houses they knew they weren't going to pay for started defaulting."

It's the predatory lenders who pushed people to take subprime loans instead of normal 30 year fixed rate loans. They offered these loans to anyone who thought they could afford them, without all the finance checking that normal 30 year loans required. They even forced people who could borrow for a normal 30 year fixed rate loan to take adjustable rate loans.

For example a friend of mine bought his house 2 years ago. He asked for, qualified for, and signed up for a 30 year fixed loan, he even had a 5% down payment. The mortgage company gave him an adjustable rate loan anyway, and he had to sign it or go back though the whole finance process again and possibly lose the house.

The mortgage company took a good risk borrower and forced him into a subprime loan, whose fault is it when lenders act like predators. My friends was unhappy with the loan and got a 30 year fixed mortgage last winter, thank goodness.

McCain proposed $300B to buy up the bad mortgages, so what was that $700B for again? Not for mortgages. The problem is that the economy is bad, not that the mortgages were bad. People defaulted on their mortgages because they lost their jobs; they lost their jobs because the economy went bad. That's the problem. - wellbasically

The notion that farmers do well in times of inflation is just flat out ludicrous. Three years ago square bales of hay sold in my area for about $3.50 a bale. My costs, just in terms of fuel and twine, to produce 400 bales was about $48. This does not include compensation for my time or other costs that might be associated with up-keep of equipment--which at times can be substantial. (parenthetically, a pound box of screws cost me about $1.75 at that time) At $3.50 a bale, 400 bales less my most immediate costs could net about $1352. Two months ago I brought in 400 bales. The prevailing price for square bales in my area is still $3.50--presently the market will not support a price any higher. My costs to produce 400 bales came to $160. Everyone knows how fuel costs have risen. Twine has nearly tripled. The same pound box of screws now costs $8.60. At the prevailing price of $3.50, 400 bales now nets $1240.

During the S&L crisis in the early 1990s, 1,500 banks failed. So far, seven banks have failed in 2008, the largest being IndyMac. The FDIC has about $53 billion in funds to handle future bank failures. The IndyMac failure is expected to use $4 to $8 billion of those funds. Average Americans will lose $500 million in uninsured deposits in this failure. The FDIC says that they have 90 banks on their 'watch list.'. They do not reveal the banks on the list, so little old ladies with their life savings in the local bank will be

There are 8,500 banks in the U.S. Based on an independent analysis by Chris Whalen from Institutional Risk Analytics, they have identified 8% of all banks, or around 700 banks as troubled. This is quite a divergence from the FDIC estimate. Should you believe a governmental agency that wants the public to remain in the dark to avoid bank runs, or an independent analysis based upon balance sheet analysis? The implications of 700 institutions failing are huge. There is roughly $6.84 trillion in bank deposits.

It is almost beyond belief that $2.6 trillion of these deposits are uninsured. There is only $274 billion of the $6.84 trillion as cash on hand at banks. This means that $6.5 trillion has been loaned to consumers, businesses, developers, etc. The FDIC has $53 billion to cover $6.84 trillion of deposits. Does that give you a warm feeling?

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Any Questions: Scoop Launches New Q&A Website

It’s an easy way to find out party positions and allows you to view candidates’ answers side by side. It’s also a way for you to make your voice heard this election, and get the parties talking about the things that are important to you. More>>

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Binoy Kampmark: Trump And Afghanistan

Donald Trump did what US Presidents have done since George W. Bush: commit. Commit, that is, to the mission; commit more promises; and commit more thoughts to blotted paper about the war that never ends in the graveyard of empires. More>>

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Rawiri Taonui: The Maori Election

The election battle for the Maori seats 2017 opened last year when Maori Party President Tuku Morgan announced a peace deal with the Mana Movement aimed at securing all the Maori seats and holding the balance of power. More>>

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>>

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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>>

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