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Undernews For November 6, 2008

Undernews For November 6, 2008


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

5 November 2008

WORD

If you purify the pond, the lilies die -- William Stafford

CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE REAL OBAMA NOW?

Sam Smith

Over the past few weeks I've been a good boy. I've placed everything having to do with the real Barack Obama into a futures file and spent my time on the far grimmer matter of the real John McCain and Sarah Palin.

Now the party is over and it's time for people to put away their Barack and Michelle dolls and start dealing with what has truly happened.

This, I admit, is difficult because the real Obama doesn't exist yet. He follows in the footsteps of our first postmodern president, Bill Clinton, who observed the principles outlined by scholar Pauline Marie Rosenau:
Post-modernists recognize an infinite number of interpretations . . . of any text are possible because, for the skeptical post-modernists, one can never say what one intends with language, [thus] ultimately all textual meaning, all interpretation is undecipherable.. . . Many diverse meanings are possible for any symbol, gesture, word . . . Language has no direct relationship to the real world; it is, rather, only symbolic.
As James Krichick wrote in the New Republic, "Obama is, in his own words, something of a Rorschach test. In his latest book, The Audacity of Hope, he writes, '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.' "

This is remarkably similar to Ted Koppel's description of Vanna White of TV's Wheel of Fortune: "Vanna leaves an intellectual vacuum, which can be filled by whatever the predisposition of the viewer happens to be."

Obama has left the same kind of vacuum. His magic, or con, was that voters could imagine whatever they wanted and he would do nothing to spoil their reverie. He was a handsome actor playing the part of the first black president-to-be and, as in films, he was careful not to muck up the role with real facts or issues that might harm the fantasy. Hence the enormous emphasis on meaningless phrases like hope and change.

Of course, in Obama's postmodern society -- one that rises above the purported false teachings of partisanship -- we find ourselves with little to steer us save the opinions of whatever non-ideologue happens to be in power. In this case, we may really only have progressed from the ideology of the many to the ideology of the one or, some might say, from democracy to authoritarianism.

The Obama campaign was driven in no small part by a younger generation trained to accept brands as a substitute for policies. If the 1960s had happened like this, the activists would have spent all their time trying to get Martin Luther King or Joan Baez elected president rather than pursing ancillary issues like ending segregation and the war in Vietnam.

Obama himself took his vaunted experience in community organizing and turned its principles on its head. Instead of empowering the many at the bottom, he used the techniques to empower one at the top: himself.

It is historic that a black has been elected president, but we should remember that Obama was not running against Bull Connor, George Wallace or Strom Thurmond. Putting Obama in the same class as earlier black activists discredits the honor of those who died, suffered physical harm or were repeatedly jailed to achieve equality. Obama is not a catalyst of change, but rather its belated beneficiary. The delay, to be sure, is striking; after all, the two white elite sports of tennis and golf were integrated long before presidential politics, but Washington - as Phil Hart said of the Senate - has always been a place that always does things twenty years after it should have.

There is an informative precedent to Obama's rise. Forty-two years ago Edward Brooke became the first black senator to be elected with a majority of white votes. Brooke was chosen from Massachusetts as a Republican in a state that was 97% white.

Jason Sokol, who teaches history at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in History News Network:
|||| On Election Day, Brooke triumphed with nearly 60 percent of the vote. Newspapers and magazines hummed with approval. The Boston Globe invoked a legacy that included the Pilgrims, Daniel Webster, and Charles Sumner, offering the Bay State as the nation's racial and political pioneer. Journalist Carl Rowan was among the unconvinced. For whites, voting for Brooke became "a much easier way to wipe out guilt feelings about race than letting a Negro family into the neighborhood or shaking up a Jim Crow school setup." Polling numbers lent credence to Rowan's unease. They showed that only 23 percent of Massachusetts residents approved of a statewide school integration law; just 17 percent supported open housing. ||||
That's the problem with change coming from the top, as Obama might have heard when he was involved in real community organizing. It also may help to explain why there have been no more Catholic presidents since John Kennedy. Symbolism is not the change we need.

Getting at the reality of Obama is difficult. He performs as the great black liberal, but since he is one half white and one half conservative, that doesn't leave him a lot of wiggle room.

To be sure, in the Senate he got good ratings from various liberal groups, but two things need to be remembered:

First, liberals aren't that liberal any more. Thus getting a 90% score merely means that you went along with the best that an extremely conservative Democratic Party was willing to risk. This is not a party that would, in these times, have passed Social Security, Medicare or minimum wage. In fact, many liberals aren't much interested in economic issues at all - especially that portion of the constituency that controls the money, the media and the message.

Second, politicians reflect their constituency. Obama's constituency is no longer Illinois. He has a whole new set of folks to pander to.

There is one story from Chicago, however, that remains relevant. A citizen walks into his alderman's office looking for a job. "Who sent you?" he asks. "Nobody," he replies. Says the staffer: "We don't want nobody nobody sent."

Who sent Barack Obama remains a mystery. He has risen from an unknown state senator to president in exactly four years and that only happens when somebody sends for you.

The black liberal image falters on a number of other scores including Obama's affection for extreme right wingers like Chuck Hagel and an obvious indifference to anybody who votes like, say, a state senator from Hyde Park. Think back over the campaign and try to recall a single instance when Obama reached out to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party or to the better angels of the Congressional Black Caucus. Instead his ads attacked as 'extreme' the single payer health insurance backed by many of his own supporters, he dissed ACORN and Colin Powell was as radical a black as he wanted to be seen palling around with.

The key issue that has driven Obama throughout his career has been Obama. He has achieved virtually nothing for any other cause. His politics reflects whatever elite consensus he gathers around himself. This is why his "post partisanship" needs to be watched so carefully. If Bernie Sanders and John Conyers don't get to White House meetings as often as Chuck Hagel, Obama will glide easily to the right, as every president has done over the past thirty years. If liberals, as they did with Clinton, watch without a murmur as their president redesigns their party to fit his personal ambitions, then the whole country will continue to move to the right as well.

Since the real Obama doesn't exist yet, it is impossible to predict with any precision what he will do. But here is some of the evidence gathered over the past months that should serve both as a warning and as a prod to progressives not to take today's dreams as a reasonable facsimile of reality:

Business interests

Advisor Cass Sunstein 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."

Obama supported making it harder to file class action suits in state courts. David Sirota in the Nation wrote, "Opposed by most major civil rights and consumer watchdog groups, this big business-backed legislation was sold to the public as a way to stop 'frivolous' lawsuits. But everyone in Washington knew the bill's real objective was to protect corporate abusers."
He voted for a business-friendly "tort reform" bill

He voted against a 30% interest rate cap on credit cards

He had the most number of foreign lobbyist contributors in the primaries

He was even more popular with Pentagon contractors than McCain

He was most popular of the candidates with K Street lobbyists

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 of the Left Business Observer, "Goolsbee has written gushingly about Milton Friedman and denounced the idea of a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures."

Added Henwood, "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."

Civil liberties

He supports the war on drugs

He supports the crack-cocaine sentence disparity

He supports Real ID

He supports the PATRIOT Act

He supports the death penalty

He opposes lowering the drinking age to 18

He supported amnesty for telecoms engaged in illegal spying on Americans

Conservatives

He went to Connecticut to support Joe Lieberman in the primary against Ned Lamont

Wrote Paul Street in Z Magazine, "Obama has lent his support to the aptly named Hamilton Project, formed by corporate-neo-liberal 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."

Writes the London Times, "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 defense 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

Ecology

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

He supports federally funded ethanol and is unusually close to the ethanol industry.

He led his party's reversal of a 25-year ban on off-shore oil drilling

Education

Obama has promised to double funding for private charter schools, part of a national effort undermining public education.

He supports the No Child Left Behind Act albeit expressing reservations about its emphasis on testing. Writes Cory Mattson, "Despite NCLB''s loss of credibility among educators and the deadlock surrounding its attempted reauthorization in 2007, Barack Obama still offers his support. Even the two unions representing teachers, both which for years supported reform of the policy to avoid embarrassing their Democratic Party 'friends,' declared in 2008 that the policy is too fundamentally flawed to be reformed and should be eliminated."

Fiscal policy

Obama rejected moratoriums on foreclosures and a freeze on rates, measures supported by his primary opponents John Edwards and Hillary Clinton

He was a strong supporter of the $700 billion cash-for-trash banker bailout plan.

Two of his top advisors are former Goldman Sachs chair Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers. Noted Glen Ford of black Agenda Report, "In February 1999, Rubin and Summers flanked Fed Chief Alan Greenspan on the cover of Time magazine, heralded as, 'The Committee to Save the World.' Summers was then Secretary of the Treasury for Bill Clinton, having succeeded his mentor, Rubin, in that office. Together with Greenspan, the trio had in the previous year labored successfully to safeguard derivatives, the exotic 'ticking time bomb' financial instruments, from federal regulation."

Robert Scheer notes that "Rubin, who pocketed tens of millions running Goldman Sachs before becoming treasury secretary, is the man who got President Clinton to back legislation by then-Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, to unleash banking greed on an unprecedented scale."

Obama's fund-raising machine has been headed by Penny Prtizker former chair of the Superior Bank, one of the first to get into subprime mortgages. While she resigned as chair of the family business in 1994, as late as 2001 she was still on the board and wrote a letter saying that her family was recapitalizing the bank and pledging to "once again restore Superior's leadership position in subprime lending." The bank shut down two months later and the Pritzker family would pay $460 million in a settlement with the government.

Foreign policy

Obama endorsed US involvement in the failed drug war in Colombia: "When I am president, we will continue the Andean Counter-Drug Program."

He has expressed a willingness to bomb Iran and won't rule out a first strike nuclear attack.

He has endorsed bombing or invading Pakistan to go after Al Qaeda in violation of international law. He has called Pakistan "the right battlefield ... in the war on terrorism."

He supports Israeli aggression and apartheid. Obama has deserted previous support for two-state solution to Mid East situation and refuses to negotiate with Hamas.

He has supported Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel, saying "it must remain undivided."

He favors expanding the war in Afghanistan.

Although he claims to want to get out of Iraq, his top Iraq advisor wrote that America should keep between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in Iraq. Obama, in his appearances, blurred the difference between combat soldiers and other troops.

He indicated to Amy Goodman that he would leave 140,000 private contractors and mercenaries in Iraq because "we don't have the troops to replace them."

He has called Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez an enemy of the United States and urged sanctions against him.

He claimed "one of the things that I think George H.W. Bush doesn't get enough credit for was his foreign policy team and the way that he helped negotiate the end of the Cold War and prosecuted the Gulf War. That cost us $20 billion dollars. That's all it cost. It was extremely successful. I think there were a lot of very wise people."

He has hawkish foreign policy advisors who have been involved in past US misdeeds and failures. These include Zbigniew Brzezinski, Anthony Lake, General Merrill McPeak, and Dennis Ross.
It has been reported that he might well retain as secretary of defense Robert Gates who supports actions in violation of international law against countries merely suspected of being unwilling or unable to halt threats by militant groups.

Gays

Obama opposes gay marriage. He wouldn't have photo taken with San Francisco mayor because he was afraid it would seem that he supported gay marriage

Health

Obama opposes single payer healthcare or Medicare for all.

Military

Obama would expand the size of the military.

National Service

Obama favors a national service plan that appears to be in sync with one being promoted by a new coalition that would make national service mandatory by 2020, and with a bill requiring such mandatory national service introduced by Rep. Charles Rangel.

He announced in Colorado Springs last July, "We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded."

On another occasion he said, "It's also important that a president speaks to military service as an obligation not just of some, but of many. You know, I traveled, obviously, a lot over the last 19 months. And if you go to small towns, throughout the Midwest or the Southwest or the South, every town has tons of young people who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's not always the case in other parts of the country, in more urban centers. And I think it's important for the president to say, this is an important obligation. If we are going into war, then all of us go, not just some." Some have seen this as a call for reviving the draft.

He has attacked the exclusion of ROTC on some college campuses

Presidential crimes

Obama aggressively opposed impeachment actions against Bush. One of his key advisors, Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago Law School, said prosecuting government officials risks a "cycle" of criminalizing public service.

Progressives

Unlike his deferential treatment of rightwing conservatives, Obama's treatment of the left has been dismissive to insulting. He dissed Nader for daring to run for president again. And he called the late Paul Wellstone "something of a gadfly"

Public Campaign Financing

Obama's retreat from public campaign financing has endangered the whole concept.

Social welfare

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

Social Security

Early in the campaign, Obama said, "everything is on the table" with Social Security.

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As things now stand, the election primarily represents the extremist center seizing power back from the extremist right. We have moved from the prospect of disasters to the relative comfort of mere crises.

Using the word 'extreme' alongside the term 'center' is no exaggeration. Nearly all major damage to the United States in recent years - a rare exception being 9/11 - has been the result of decisions made not by right or left but by the post partisan middle: Vietnam, Iraq, the assault on constitutional liberties, the huge damage to the environment, and the collapse of the economy - to name a few. Go back further in history and you'll find, for example, the KKK riddled with members of the establishment including - in Colorado - a future governor, senator and mayor after whom Denver's airport is named. The center, to which Obama pays such homage, has always been where most of the trouble lies.

The only thing that will make Obama the president pictured in the campaign fantasy is unapologetic, unswerving and unendingly pressure on him in a progressive and moral direction, for he will not go there on his own. But what, say, gave the New Deal its progressive nature was pressure from the left of a sort that simply doesn't exist today.

Above are listed nearly three dozen things that Obama supports or opposes with which no good liberal or progressive would agree. Unfortunately, what's out there now, however, looks more like a rock concert crowd or evangelical tent meeting than a determined and directed political constituency. Which isn't so surprising given how successful our system have been at getting people to accept sights, sounds, symbols and semiotics as substitutes for reality. Once again, it looks like we'll have to learn the hard way.

PAGE ONE MUST

WHY IS OBAMA'S FIRST OBLIGATION TO THE REPUBLICANS/

David Sirota, Open Left - Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) delivered Democrats' election-day message this morning on Fox News. Officially speaking for the Obama campaign, McCaskill told Fox that Barack Obama's first order of business as president is to appease Republicans and start filling his cabinet with them. Here's the key exchange:

FOX: If [Obama] wins tonight, what do you expect to happen Wednesday Thursday Friday from a President-elect Obama?

MCCASKILL: He will surprise America how quickly he will try to reach out to the millions of people who are voting for John McCain today - and the millions of people who have questions about his leadership. He'll want to reassure them, and he'll want to find Republicans to work with him in his cabinet.

FOX: You don't predict it's going to be "we have a mandate, were going to govern from the left" you think its going to be more of a bipartisan lets-sort of heal and bring everbody together?

MCCASKILL: He will pleasantly surprise everyone who votes for John McCain today. . .

McCaskill is channeling the "Center-Right Nation" meme we've been seeing through the whole media in the lead up to this election. . . We are told that the only Responsible and Serious thing to do is for a President Obama to govern as a mainstream corporate Republican.

What this analysis fails to consider - or deliberately ignores - is that the entire "center" has shifted. So while I agree with folks like Salon's Joan Walsh that there's no conceptual problem with an Obama presidency being populated by "centrists," there is a conceptual problem if those "centrists" aren't actually in the center of American public opinion. That is, if these "centrists" are actually corporatists whose free market fundamentalism on economic issues is well to the right of public opinion.

Sure, Democrats seem poised to make gains in "red" states and "red" districts. But as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) displayed so well in his silly and stupid declaration about the Patriot Act in 2006 - many of these "red" states and "red" districts are incredibly progressive in supporting strong privacy/civil liberties protections and opposing corporate-written trade policies championed by so-called "centrist" Democrats and Republicans alike. Come on out here to the traditionally "red" swaths of Colorado or Montana, and try running for office bragging about NAFTA or the Patriot Act - i.e. D.C.'s definition of "centrism" - and you better get ready to get crushed at the polls. . .

REVIEW'S MORNING LINE DOES IT AGAIN

The Review, one of the first journals to use moving poll averages, has once again scored well. Our percentage point error rates for this election are:

3% Presidential race popular count
4% State presidential results
6% Governor's races
3% Senate races
6% House races with polls in last month.

We projected Obama winning a sure 291 electoral votes, with 50 other votes leaning his way. We were 8 electoral votes off.

We projected a gain of 4-8 in the Senate. The Democrats have picked up 5 with another 3 too close to call.

We projected a Democratic gain of 0-1 in the governorships. They have picked up one.

The Democrats appear headed towards picking up new seats in line with our projected range.

We would have scored 4% on the governors if it hadn't been for Governor Schweitzer's excessive popularity in Montana: he won by 32% as opposed to the expected 17%. In the House races, with the exception of 2 Democratic races in Pennsylvania, the high errors came exclusively from Republicans who did much better than expected.

Here are some of our past scores:

In 2000 we were 3 points off for the presidential race.

In 2004 we were 1 point off.

In 2006 we projected correctly the number of new Democratic & independent senators. We projected 27-36 new Democrats in the House. There were 31.

NADER FINDS ONE STRONG CONSTITUENCY

For high school students at The Berkeley Carroll School in New York City, the choice was clear, with Nader winning in a landslide.

After hearing presentations from representatives of the five presidential candidates on their records and stances on Iraq, Afghanistan, health care, abortion, the bailout, gay marriage, drilling for oil, immigration, death penalty, public education, and Israel, the tallied vote fell along the following lines:

Nader: 43%
McCain: 4%
Barr: 2%
Obama: 29%
McKinney: 17%

The vote which was conducted on October 28th under the direction of teacher Taylor Black had a unique feature. The student voters made their decision based purely on the candidate's record and stances, not even knowing the candidate's gender, race or party.

"What this vote shows is that when you strip away the money, the parties, and the media bias, the American people are ready by a landslide for the politics of joy and justice to be administered by somebody with a long achieving record they can trust," said independent presidential candidate, Ralph Nader.

DIXVILLE NOTCH

When the first returns came in from Dixville Notch NH, Obama defeated John McCain 15-6. Which is pretty amazing given that there are only 19 registered voters in the town.

LAST ACT

Florida Today - As he headed to the hospital at 4 a.m. for triple bypass heart surgery, Lloyd Chamberlain III did two things: He gave his wife of 33 years his wedding band, and he put his absentee ballot into the mailbox. Voting for U.S. Sen. John McCain for president and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for vice president was one of the last things Chamberlain did in this world. The longtime NASA worker died on the operating table that evening, Oct. 24, after more than 11 hours of surgery. . .

Brevard County elections officials said Chamberlain's vote was received Oct. 25, and it will be counted because, before his death, the ballot was postmarked by the U.S. Postal Service.

"He got his final wish," said Brevard County Supervisor of Elections Bert Childress, who found Chamberlain's ballot.

REDSKINS CALLED IT FOR OBAMA

KARE, Minneapolis- St Paul The only thing as big as politics in the D.C. beltway is Redskins football. Political pundits and football fans noticed a trend between Presidential elections and the Redskins results from their last game before voters make their decision.

From 1940 to 2000 if the Redskins won in the week before the election so did the incumbent party. If they lost so did the incumbents.

In 1980 the Vikings played the Redskins with Jimmy Carter looking for a second term in the White House. The Redskins lost to the Vikings and days later Carter lost to Ronald Reagan.

The trend continued up to 2004 when the Packers beat the Redskins. However President Bush went on to win a second term in the White House. Still the predictor has been correct 94.4% of the time.

The Pittsburgh Steelers beat Washington Monday night, 23-6, so voters will now have to wait and see if Tuesday's election if the predictor makes it 17 out of 18 in 2008.

Below you will find the Redskins results going back to 1940 on election eve.

1940 - W (Pirates) -- Roosevelt (Incumbent) d. Willkie

1944 - W (Brown) -- Roosevelt (I) d. Dewey

1948 - W (Yanks) -- Truman (I) d. Dewey

1952 - L (Steelers) -- Eisenhower d. Stephenson (I)

1956 - W (Cardinals) -- Eisenhower (I) d. Stephenson

1960 - L (Browns) -- Kennedy d. Nixon (I)

1964 - W (Eagles) -- Johnson (I) d. Goldwater

1968 - L (Eagles) -- Nixon d. Humphrey (I)

1972 - W (Jets) -- Nixon (I) d. McGovern

1976 - L (Cowboys) -- Carter d. Ford (I)

1980 - L (Vikings) -- Reagan d. Carter (I)

1984 - W (Falcons) -- Reagan (I) d. Mondale

1988 - W (Saints) -- Bush (I) d. Dukakis

1992 - L (Giants) -- Clinton d. Bush (I)

1996 - W (Colts) -- Clinton (I) d. Dole

2000 - L (Titans) - Bush d. Gore (I)

2004 - L (Packers) - Bush (I) d. Kerry

ON FILIBUSTERS

James Taranto, Wall Street Journal - While abolishing the filibuster would be in the short-term interests of the Democratic Party, in the long run it could backfire. Republicans are unlikely to regain the majority in 2010, when they will again be defending more seats than the Democrats will. But a Republican majority after 2012 is a real possibility, and under those circumstances the remaining Democrats surely would like to retain the ability to filibuster--an ability that, once lost, is gone forever. A future Republican majority would have no reason to restrain itself with a supermajority requirement, especially in the expectation that the next Democratic majority would overturn it again.

Further, the interests of each Democratic senator do not necessarily coincide with those of the party as a whole. If Democrats have 57 or 59 seats, the party could lose several of its members and still muster a majority, but every Democrat's vote would be crucial in stopping a filibuster. Thus more-moderate Dems would see their influence decline under a simple-majority system. Also, not all majorities are party-line majorities; some senators may wish to reserve the ability to block legislation that draws both bipartisan support and opposition.

The last time the Democrats changed the filibuster rule, in 1975 (when the number of votes required for cloture shrank from 67 to 60), they'd had a majority for 20 years and did not expect to lose it. In the past 20 years, by contrast, the Senate majority has flipped four times, an average of less than once per Senate term.

There is a case to be made on the merits against the filibuster, a supermajority requirement that is entirely extraconstitutional. But leaving it in place would be prudent for the Democrats--and it would have the added advantage of forcing Republicans to expend a lot of energy maintaining party discipline to block Democratic initiatives.

Glenn Greenwald, Salon, January 2008 - Harry Reid -- who has (a) done more than any other individual to ensure that Bush's demands for telecom immunity and warrantless eavesdropping powers will be met in full and (b) allowed the Republicans all year to block virtually every bill without having to bother to actually filibuster -- went to the Senate floor yesterday and, with the scripted assistance of Mitch McConnell and Pat Leahy, warned Chris Dodd, Russ Feingold and others that they would be selfishly wreaking havoc on the schedules of their fellow Senators (making them work over the weekend, ruining their planned "retreat," and even preventing them from going to Davos!) if they bothered everyone with their annoying, pointless little filibuster.

To do so, Reid announced that, unlike for the multiple filibusters from Republican colleagues, he would actually force Dodd and company to engage in a real filibuster. This is what Reid said:

"If people think they are going to talk this to death, we are going to be in here all night. This is not something we are going to have a silent filibuster on. If someone wants to filibuster this bill, they are going to do it in the openness of the Senate."

That is what Democrats have been urging Reid to do to the filibustering Republicans all year -- in order to dramatize their obstructionism -- but he has refused to make them actually filibuster anything, generously agreeing instead that every bill requires 60 votes. Instead, he reserves such punishment only for the members of his own caucus trying to take a stand for the rule of law and the Constitution, those who are trying finally to bring some accountability to this administration.

Wikpedia - In 2005, a group of Republican senators led by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), responding to the Democrats' threat to filibuster some judicial nominees of President George W. Bush to prevent a vote on the nominations, floated the idea of making a rules change to eliminate filibusters on judicial nominees with the justification that the current Senate rules can be changed with a simple majority based on the Constitutional stipulation that each Congress can set its own rules. This idea, called the "constitutional option," had been used to defeat filibusters in a few select cases in the history of the Senate, including passing continually filibustered Civil Rights legislation in 1959. Senator Trent Lott, the junior Republican senator from Mississippi, named the plan the "nuclear option." Republican leaders preferred to use the historical term "constitutional option," though opponents and some supporters of the plan continue to use "nuclear option.". . .

MYSTERY MASSIVE WAVES HIT MAINE COAST

Megan Woolhouse Boston Globe Dockworker Marcy Ingall saw a giant wave in the distance last Tuesday afternoon and stopped in her tracks. It was an hour before low tide in Maine's Boothbay Harbor, yet without warning, the muddy harbor floor suddenly filled with rushing, swirling water. In 15 minutes, the water rose 12 feet, then receded. And then it happened again. It occurred three times, she said, each time ripping apart docks and splitting wooden pilings.

"It was bizarre," said Ingall, a lifelong resident of the area. "Everybody was like, 'Oh my God, is this the end?' " It was not the apocalypse, but it was a rare phenomenon, one that has baffled researchers. The National Weather Service said ocean levels rapidly rose in Boothbay, Southport, and Bristol in a matter of minutes around 3 p.m. on Oct. 28 to the surprise of ocean watchers. Exactly what caused the rogue waves remains unknown.

"The cause of it is a mystery," said National Weather Service meteorologist John Jensenius, who first reported the waves from a field office in Gray, Maine. "But it's not mysterious that it happened."

Specialists have posed a variety of possible explanations, saying the waves could have been caused by a powerful storm squall or the slumping of mountains of sediment from a steep canyon in the ocean - a sort of mini tsunami. The last time such rogue waves appeared in Maine was at Bass Harbor in 1926.

Jensenius said the occurrence is so unusual, that specialists don't have a name for the phenomenon. "That's part of our problem," he said.

A similar occurrence in Florida more than 15 years ago continues to baffle researchers. A series of 12- to 15-foot waves hit Daytona Beach on July 3, 1992, injuring more than 20 people and lifting and tossing dozens of cars.

Jeff List, an oceanographer at the US Geological Survey at Woods Hole said he and other researchers studied the occurrence, but no one has been able to pinpoint the cause. And he said similarly enormous waves appeared once on the Great Lakes. . .

Tsunami-like waves may not be as rare on the East Coast as most people think. Jensenius referenced a 2002 article in the International Journal of the Tsunami Society that called the threat of tsunami and tsunami-like waves generated in the Atlantic Ocean "very real despite a general impression to the contrary."

The article said such waves appear "in most cases to be the result of slumping or landsliding associated with earthquakes or with wave action associated with strong storms.". . .

According to the National Weather Service, no earthquakes or seismic activity were reported in the area when the Boothbay waves appeared. List noted that there was no seismic reading when the Daytona waves struck.

Elena Smith, a waitress and part-owner of McSeagull's restaurant overlooking the harbor, said the late-afternoon lunch crowd sat speechless as the waters rose and receded. She was stunned to see the normally safe and placid harbor suddenly run like rapids. Some residents reported seeing massive whirlpools of water that disappeared, leaving clam shells and seaweed in vortex patterns on the harbor floor. "It felt like somebody took the plug out somewhere" in the ocean, Smith said. "It felt like there must have been water missing in the ocean someplace."

CRASH TALK

NY Times - As a senior mortgage underwriter, Keysha Cooper was proud of her ability to spot fraud and other problems in a loan application. . . But as a senior mortgage underwriter at Washington Mutual during the late, great mortgage boom, Ms. Cooper says she found herself in a vise. Brokers squeezed her from one side, her superiors from the other, she says, and both pressured her to approve loans, no matter what. "At WaMu it wasn't about the quality of the loans; it was about the numbers," Ms. Cooper says. "They didn't care if we were giving loans to people that didn't qualify. Instead, it was how many loans did you guys close and fund?" Ms. Cooper, 35, was laid off a year ago and is still unemployed. She came forward to discuss her experiences at the bank in order to help shareholders recover money from WaMu executives. . . "If a loan came from a top loan officer, they didn't care what the situation was, you had to make that loan work," she says. "You were like a bad person if you declined a loan." One loan file was filled with so many discrepancies that she felt certain it involved mortgage fraud. She turned the loan down, she says, only to be scolded by her supervisor. "She told me, 'This broker has closed over $1 million with us and there is no reason you cannot make this loan work,' " Ms. Cooper says. "I explained to her the loan was not good at all, but she said I had to sign it." The argument did not end there, however. Ms. Cooper says her immediate boss complained to the team manager about the loan rejection and asked that Ms. Cooper be "written up," with a formal letter of complaint placed in her personnel file.

Crains - American Express will cut 7,000 jobs. The financial giant, which will cut 10% of its workforce, says it is also suspending management level salary increases next year and instituting a hiring freeze.

Consumerist - Circuit City is closing 155 stores and withdrawing from 12 markets. . . . Employees in certain departments, like car installation, and Firedog, will likely be out of a job within 48 hours. Warranties will still be honored.

BREVITAS

FLOATING HYBRID

BIKE POWERED BY BUMPS IN THE ROAD

OBAMA NATION

ABC News - ABC News has learned that President-elect Obama has offered the White House chief of staff job to Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill. Emanuel, a knowledgeable source tells ABC News, has not yet given his answer. The sharp-tongued, sharp-elbowed, keenly intelligent veteran of the Clinton White House is said to have ambitions to some day be Speaker of the House. But he also has a keen sense of "duty."

Angry Arab News Service - I ran into Lawrence Korb (former assistant secretary of defence under Ronald Regan) and I asked him if he had endorsed Obama. He said that he did not do that publicly but that he was advising him on defense and national security policies. He said that there is a move to appoint Richard Holbrooke as Secretary of State.

Dean Baker, Prospect - I saw Andrea Mitchell talking about who President Obama will turn to for help in dealing with the financial crisis. The first two names were at the top of the list of people who gave us the financial crisis: Robert Rubin and Larry Summers. This would be a bit like turning to Osama Bin Laden for aid in the war on terrorism. Rubin and Summers were both major advocates of the one-sided deregulation of the financial industry under which we maintained the security blanket of "too big to fail" for the Wall Street big boys, but gave them the green light to take whatever risks they wanted in order to enrich themselves.

OUTLYING PRECINCTS

Joe Eskenazi, SF Weekly - Gathered in front of a sculpture of Abraham Lincoln conveniently sitting, yet leaning forward - not unlike someone in the midst of utilizing the toilet - backers of a proposition to rename a Parkside sewage plant after President George W. Bush waited out a cold night. While Barack Obama stormed to victory and re-defined the term “blue state,” there was no joy in sewageville. When all the dust - we’ll assume it was dust - settled, they’d lost by roughly a 70-30 ratio. . . Brian McConnell and Michael Jacinto, the proposition’s co-authors, weren’t ready to retrace their steps yet. But Jacinto noted that the Public Utility Commission’s oft-repeated estimate of $50,000 in city money to accommodate the name change was “pulled out of their posterior,” while both men were surprised at the Guardian and others rationalizing that christening a sewage plant after the president would be disrespectful to its employees - after all, the SEIU Local 1021, the sewage workers’ union, endorsed their proposition.

Times, UK - Cleverer children are more likely to vote for the Green Party or the Liberal Democrats in a general election than other parties when they become adults, research suggests. The study, by the University of Edinburgh and the UK Medical Research Council and published in the journal Intelligence, indicates that childhood IQ is as important as social class in determining political allegiance. The IQs of more than 6,000 subjects were recorded at the age of 10, before any secondary schooling. Twenty-four years later they were asked about their voting habits.

National Council of La Raza - Initial exit polls suggest that at least ten million Latinos voted, representing an increase of 32% from the 2004 presidential election

DRUG BUSTS

Jacob Sullum, Reason - The Marijuana Policy Project's Bruce Mirken notes that the majorities supporting the marijuana decriminalization measure in Massachusetts and the medical marijuana initiative in Michigan (65 percent and 63 percent, respectively) exceed the share of voters who went for Obama in each state (62 percent and 55 percent respectively). In those states at least, you could say marijuana reform has a bigger popular mandate than the president-elect. In retrospect, this is not so surprising: National polls have long indicated that a large majority of Americans think 1) patients who can benefit from marijuana should be able to obtain it legally and 2) people should not go to jail for smoking pot.

TRANSPORTATION

Denver Post - Under its FasTracks program, the Regional Transportation District plans to create six new commuter-rail and light-rail corridors and extend three existing corridors by 2017, potentially creating other pockets where values are driven by proximity to rail. In other markets with rail lines, single-family home values have increased anywhere from 2 percent in San Diego to 32 percent in St. Louis, according to data gathered by the Regional Transit .

FURTHERMORE. . . .

Annals of Improbable Research - A journal called Sexuality, Reproduction & Menopause, that it "seeks to expand the horizon of women's healthcare." The August 2008 issue includes a stellar example of that expansion: "Managing Fertility Treatments and Stress with Astrology," Pat Harris, SRM [Sexuality, Reproduction & Menopause], vol. 6, no. 3, August 2008, pp. 43-4. . . . An "editor's note" on the first page of that article explains why the article is important: "Patients pose challenging questions and as the stress of disease and failed treatments increases, they may ask for your opinion about non-allopathic procedures. Knowing the vocabulary and theories behind such remedies is often helpful in these discussions. Although the research results presented in the following article are not statistically significant, clinicians may benefit from learning more about opinions of astrologers and the work that they do." The journal is an official publication of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

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

ECONOMY TRASHER GREENSPAN GOT HIS START WITH AYN RAND:

Alan Greenspan was not a free market economist. He betrayed his free market roots long ago, and his betrayal was made complete when he took over the Fed.

While all other disciples of Rand advocated the complete elimination of the Federal Reserve Bank, Greenspan took its helm. This is not consistent with a free marketeer.

Greenspan even repudiated some of his own earlier writings. For example, when asked if he still advocated the elimination of all antitrust laws (as he had back in the sixties), he said absolutely not.

Greenspan is now a straw man for those who want to tear down free markets. This debacle was caused by statism, not by freedom. Alan Greenspan was a huge part of that statism, because he was in charge of the second-most statist organization in the country (next to the IRS), and he relished the authority and power.

If you don't understand capitalism, then you can't understand that Greenspan was not a capitalist in practice. If you are setting out to show that Randian economics is unworkable, then you need to critique actual Randian economists, not Alan Greenspan.

OBAMA MAY NAME CONTROVERSIAL CONGRESSMAN AS CHIEF OF STAFF

May be a good move if he is loyal and controllable. Obama will need somebody to watch his rear to minimize the backstabbing from the Dems in Congress

VETERANS ADMINISTRATION SAYS ONE IN SEVEN WOMEN PATIENTS REPORT SEXUAL TRAUMA

The problem is far larger than just a military one. Today's news also reported that over 40% of women perceive having difficulties with sex. Both are symptoms of a problem caused by a belief that pleasure is innate. Rather pleasures of all kinds - from our music preferences and tastes for foods to sex - must be learned. These symptoms are a massive indictment of our "leave it to parents and churches" sex education system" I'd hazard that more than half of the problem is that us males don't have even the slightest understanding of our responsibilities in that "learning pleasure" task.

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