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Undernews For December 8, 2008

Undernews For December 8, 2008


The news while there's still time to do something about it

THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW
611 Pennsylvania Ave SE #381
Washington DC 20003
202-423-7884
Editor: Sam Smith

5 December 2008

SWAMPOODLE REPORT: BAIT AND SWITCH

Sam Smith

Watching Barack Obama's bait and switch left me with an indefinable sense of deja vu until the parallel finally dawned. The personalities were so different that they obscured a common technique.

Marion Barry was elected mayor of Washington in 1978 thanks to a coalition of blacks and white liberals. So strong was white liberal participation that a columnist in the Washington Afro American said Barry was part of a plan by whites to take over the city.

By the end of Barry's second term, however, his constituency had shifted. The blacks were still there but the white liberals had become largely irrelevant thanks to funding from the white business community. The most integrated meetings in town were when the Barry team sat down with its campaign contributors.

His stand on development issues, in particular, had alienated white liberal support. Development, he promised blacks, was going to bring jobs. Since most of the development would be in white neighborhoods, the question of density, traffic and destruction of community would not be a black political issue.

Thus black power cut a deal with white power. The middle class and poor of either race weren't part of the deal although they were mightily affected by it.

In fact, the deal didn't bring jobs to blacks. By 1986 there were some 40,000 more private jobs in DC than in 1980, but a thousand fewer DC residents were employed. All the new jobs in that period went to mostly white suburban commuters.

Entering office with a biracial liberal coalition, Barry had converted his base into one that relied heavily on black votes and white corporate money. The former he attracted by rhetoric, the latter with the real estate at his disposal.

This is in contrast to the popular image of Barry as portrayed in the press, but when I would ask for examples of Barry doing anything that seriously jarred the agenda of the white business community, nobody could come up with an example.

If you ignore Barry's other big shift - from power to cocaine as his drug of choice - and if you substitute Wall Street and similar big lobbies for Washington's local Board of Trade, what Obama is doing to his white liberal constituency seems oddly familiar.

And Barry and Obama are far from alone. The typical black politician of modern times - i.e. a mayor - has been a king whose power has been rigorously circumscribed by a white business community serving as the local parliament. In the end it turned out to be a fool's paradise of black power because within a decade and a half, upper income whites were taking back the cities and the constituents of the black mayors were being evicted in what amounted to socio-economic urban cleansing.

Civil rights and black power - as independent movements - faded in inverse proportion to the rise of black politicians, and with this shift symbols replaced substance. The power of the many became the power of the one.

This wasn't the case of earlier political machines, but these were created upon building an organization of voters rather than of contributors. Once we dumped the old machines in favor of television and dollar driven machines, ordinary people became important only at election time, and they were easily swayed by the exploding tools of propaganda. Thus we found Obama running as a "community organizer" when in fact the only community he was organizing was a temporary one for himself.

Obama is only the latest reincarnation of this trend applied at a national level. But the local precursors are useful in understanding what's going on. And it serves as another reminder of why our system of campaign financing is so terrible.

This doesn't mean that Obama will necessarily be all bad as president. Barry's first two mayoral terms, for example, were arguably the best DC has seen in recent times, judged by the number of people in the city - including blacks, women and gays - who did better during them. My hunch is that Obama will be like the little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead: "When she was good, she was very, very good. . .And when she was bad, she was horrid."

But it does mean that Obama's liberal coalition has served its purpose - to get him elected - and will be replaced by those who will also serve their purpose - to keep him there. That's the way politics is these days. The tone and the target of the 2012 election will be strikingly different as Obama goes after his new constituency. If you don't like it, next time find out what your candidate means when he talks of "change."

PAGE ONE MUST

75 YEARS AGO AMERICANS WERE MUCH SMARTER; THEY REPEALED PROHIBITION

INDEPENDENT, UK - In selected watering holes across America, it's party time tonight. In Washington, the festivities will centER on the venerable City Tavern in Georgetown; for $90, you can taste the cocktail offerings of the capital's most expert bartenders (or "mixologists" as they like to term themselves), listen to a jazz band and, in the words of the invitation, "party like it's 1933".

In San Francisco, after a parade through the streets, celebrants will make their way to the 21st Amendment Brewery, gaining entrance to the revelries within by use of a special password. Similar events are being held in New York, Chicago, New Orleans and other US cities associated with an understanding acceptance of human frailty and having a good time.

By now the reason for these goings-on will be plain. Tonight is the 75th anniversary of the end of Prohibition - of 5 December 1933 when Utah became the deciding 36th state to ratify the 21st amendment to the constitution, and restore to the country's citizens the basic human right to go out and have a drink.

Rarely in the annals of human experience has so well intentioned an idea been such a monument to failure as America's 13-year attempt to eradicate the evil of alcohol. The National Prohibition (or Volstead) Act was passed by Congress in October 1919, overriding the veto of President Woodrow Wilson. The following January, the Act was ratified as the 18th amendment of the constitution after it had been approved by the required three-quarters majority of US states.

The "noble experiment", as its supporters termed it, did indeed lead to a modest decline in alcohol consumption and an overall improvement in public health. But those meager and transient advantages were nothing compared to the unintended side-effects of Prohibition: a drastic decline in federal and state revenues, a surge in clandestine binge drinking and of course speak-easies, bootlegging, moonlighting and mobsters, not to mention the criminalization of millions of US citizens, including some its most eminent politicians, who were technically flouting the law of the land.

Ethan A. Nadelmann, Wall Street Journal - We should consider why our forebears rejoiced at the relegalization of a powerful drug long associated with bountiful pleasure and pain, and consider too the lessons for our time.

The Americans who voted in 1933 to repeal prohibition differed greatly in their reasons for overturning the system. But almost all agreed that the evils of failed suppression far outweighed the evils of alcohol consumption.

The change from just 15 years earlier, when most Americans saw alcohol as the root of the problem and voted to ban it, was dramatic. Prohibition's failure to create an Alcohol Free Society sank in quickly. Booze flowed as readily as before, but now it was illicit, filling criminal coffers at taxpayer expense. . .

When repeal came, it was not just with the support of those with a taste for alcohol, but also those who disliked and even hated it but could no longer ignore the dreadful consequences of a failed prohibition. They saw what most Americans still fail to see today: That a failed drug prohibition can cause greater harm than the drug it was intended to banish.

Consider the consequences of drug prohibition today: 500,000 people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails for nonviolent drug-law violations; 1.8 million drug arrests last year; tens of billions of taxpayer dollars expended annually to fund a drug war that 76% of Americans say has failed; millions now marked for life as former drug felons; many thousands dying each year from drug overdoses that have more to do with prohibitionist policies than the drugs themselves, and tens of thousands more needlessly infected with AIDS and Hepatitis C because those same policies undermine and block responsible public-health policies.

And look abroad. At Afghanistan, where a third or more of the national economy is both beneficiary and victim of the failed global drug prohibition regime. At Mexico, which makes Chicago under Al Capone look like a day in the park. And elsewhere in Latin America, where prohibition-related crime, violence and corruption undermine civil authority and public safety, and mindless drug eradication campaigns wreak environmental havoc.

All this, and much more, are the consequences not of drugs per se but of prohibitionist policies that have failed for too long and that can never succeed in an open society, given the lessons of history. Perhaps a totalitarian American could do better, but at what cost to our most fundamental values?

Why did our forebears wise up so quickly while Americans today still struggle with sorting out the consequences of drug misuse from those of drug prohibition?

It's not because alcohol is any less dangerous than the drugs that are banned today. Marijuana, by comparison, is relatively harmless: little association with violent behavior, no chance of dying from an overdose, and not nearly as dangerous as alcohol if one misuses it or becomes addicted. Most of heroin's dangers are more a consequence of its prohibition than the drug's distinctive properties. That's why 70% of Swiss voters approved a referendum this past weekend endorsing the government's provision of pharmaceutical heroin to addicts who could not quit their addictions by other means. It is also why a growing number of other countries, including Canada, are doing likewise.

PROHIBITION IN THE NATION'S CAPITAL

CITIES MAY LOSE THEIR DAILY PAPERS

Editor & Publisher - Newspaper and newspaper groups are likely to default on their debt and go out of business next year -- leaving "several cities" with no daily newspaper at all, Fitch Ratings says in a report on media. . .

"Much of the business risk for the media sector is likely to continue to be concentrated within the newspaper sub-sector," the report says. "Fitch expects newspaper industry revenue growth will be negative for the foreseeable future as both ad pricing and linage will be under pressure within each of the four main components of newspaper companies' revenue streams: circulation and local, classified and national advertising. Newsprint costs could rise, and it could be difficult to offset revenue declines with cost cuts."

Fitch rates the debt of two newspaper companies, The McClatchy Co. and Tribune Co. as junk, with serious possibilities of default.

WHY CLINTON IS AN AWFUL CHOICE FOR SECRETARY OF STATE

Stephen Zunes, Foreign Policy in Focus - For those hoping for a dramatic change in U.S. foreign policy under an Obama administration -- particularly regarding human rights, international law, and respect for international institutions -- the appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State is a bitter disappointment. Indeed, Senator Clinton has more often than not sided with the Bush administration against fellow Democrats on key issues regarding America's international legal obligations, particularly international humanitarian law. . . The selection of Hillary Clinton, at best, represents a return to the policies of her husband's administration.
Because the Bush administration had taken things to new lows, many seem to have forgotten the fact that the Clinton administration had also greatly alienated the international community. Regarding Iraq, Iran and Israel, the Clinton administration engaged in a series of policies which put the United States sharply at odds with most of its Western allies and a broad consensus of international legal scholars. And these were not the only issues during the Clinton years over which the United States found itself isolated from the rest of the international community: there was U.S. opposition to the land mine treaty, the strengthening of the embargo against Cuba, support for Morocco's occupation of Western Sahara, foot-dragging on the Kyoto Protocols, support for Turkey's vicious military offensive in the Kurdish regions of that country, among others.

Even worse, Hillary Clinton allied herself with the Bush administration on many its most controversial actions, such as the 2003 invasion of Iraq, threats of war against Iran, support for Israel's 2006 offensive against Lebanon and 2002 offensive in the West Bank, opposition to the International Criminal Court, attacks against the International Court of Justice, and support for the unrestricted export of cluster bombs and other anti-personnel munitions used against civilian targets.

Senator Hillary Clinton has opposed restrictions on U.S. arms transfers and police training to governments that engage in gross and systematic human rights abuses. Indeed, she has supported unconditional U.S. arms transfers and police training to such repressive and autocratic governments as Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Pakistan, Equatorial Guinea, Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Kazakhstan, and Chad, just to name a few.

Senator Clinton voted to send tens of billions of dollars unconditionally to Baghdad to prop up Iraq's U.S.-backed regime during the height of its repression, apparently unconcerned about the well-documented reports of death squads being run from the Interior Ministry that were killing many thousands of unarmed Sunni men. . .

Not only has she been willing to support unconditional military assistance to repressive regimes, she has little inclination to control weapons that primarily target innocent civilians. Senator Clinton has refused to support the international treaty to ban land mines, which are responsible for killing and maiming thousands of civilians worldwide, a disproportionate percentage of whom have been children.

She was also among a minority of Democratic Senators to side with the Republican majority in voting down a Democratic-sponsored resolution in 2007 restricting U.S. exports of cluster bombs to countries that use them against civilian-populated areas. . .

Senator Clinton also has a record of dismissing reports by human rights monitors that highlight large-scale attacks against civilians by allied governments. For example, in the face of widespread criticism by reputable human rights organizations over Israel's systematic assaults against civilian targets in its April 2002 offensive in the West Bank, Senator Clinton co-sponsored a resolution defending the Israeli actions, claiming that they were 'necessary steps to provide security to its people by dismantling the terrorist infrastructure in the Palestinian areas.' She opposed UN efforts to investigate alleged war crimes by Israeli occupation forces and criticized President Bush for calling on Israel to pull back from its violent re-conquest of Palestinian cities in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

Similarly, when Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other reputable human rights groups issued detailed reports regarding Israeli war crimes during that country's assault on Lebanon in the summer of 2006, Senator Clinton insisted they were wrong and that Israel's attacks were legal. . .

In Senator Clinton's world view, if a country is considered an important strategic ally of the United States, any charges of human rights abuses -- no matter how strong the evidence -- should be summarily dismissed. Indeed, despite the Israeli government's widespread and well-documented violations of international humanitarian law, Senator Clinton has praised Israel for embracing “values that respect the dignity and rights of human beings.â€

Senator Clinton has also been one the Senate's most outspoken critics of the United Nations, even appearing outside the UN headquarters in New York twice during the past five years at right-wing gatherings to denounce the world body. For example, she has falsely accused the UN of not taking a stand against terrorism, even though terrorism has become -- largely at the insistence of the United States -- a major UN focus in recent years.

Senator Clinton's hostility to international law and the UN system is perhaps best illustrated by her opposition to the International Criminal Court. In 2002, Senator Clinton voted in favor of an amendment by right-wing Senator Jesse Helms that prohibits the United States from cooperating in any way with the International Criminal Court and its prosecution of individuals responsible for serious crimes against humanity, such as those responsible for the genocide in Darfur. In addition, this vindictive law also restricts U.S. foreign aid to countries that support the ICC.. . .

The International Court of Justice (also known as the World Court, which essentially serves as the judicial arm of the United Nations) has also been a target of Senator Clinton's hostility toward international law. For example, in 2004, the ICJ ruled by a 14-1 vote (with only the U.S. judge dissenting, largely on a technicality) that Israel, like every country, is obliged to abide by provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the Laws of War, and that the international community -- as in any other case in which ongoing violations are taking place -- is obliged to ensure that international humanitarian law is enforced. Affronted that an important U.S. ally would be required to abide by its international legal obligations and that the United States should help ensure such compliance, Senator Clinton strongly condemned the decision. .

The UN Charter forbids its member states from using military force unless under direct attack or authorized by the UN Security Council. Customary international law allows for pre-emptive war only in cases of an imminent threat, such as troops massing along the border or missiles being loaded onto launchers. Senator Clinton, however, believes that the United States had the legal right to invade Iraq, even though it constituted no threat to the national security of the United States and there had been no authorization by the UN Security Council to use force. . .

Though an overwhelming majority of Americans, according to public opinion polls, believe that human rights and international law should be a cornerstone of American foreign policy, Senator Clinton has repeatedly prioritized the profits of American arms manufacturers and the extension of Washington's hegemonic reach in parts of the world. It is ironic that, with the long-awaited return of the Democratic Party to power, the new Secretary of State essentially advocates a clear break with the internationalist and law-based principles espoused by such previous Democratic leaders as Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman.

Hillary Clinton is not the first hawk to be appointed to a key position by Obama. The selection of Joe Biden as his vice-president, the pro-war militarist chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was seen as a slap in the face to his dovish constituency. . .

Then came the selection of Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff. . . Then came the word that Obama was going to keep Robert Gates, Bush's current Secretary of Defense and a proponent of the Bush's disastrous Iraq policy, as the Pentagon chief. . . Then came the apparent selection of the recently-retired Marine General James Jones, a prominent hawk who supported John McCain for president, as Obama's national security advisor. . . .

With the selection of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, it is no longer possible to make any more excuses. It is getting harder to deny that Barack Obama intends to tilt his foreign policy to the right. .

It is important to remember, however, that it has been rare for elected Democratic officials to take the lead in building a more progressive foreign policy. From Vietnam to South Africa to the nuclear freeze to Central America to East Timor to Iraq it has been mass movements which have forced the Democrats away from their initially right-wing militarist agenda to one more supportive of human rights and international law. . .

As a result, while it is important to recognize the serious implications of the Clinton appointment, it is also important to realize that the ultimate direction of Obama's foreign policy will not be determined by his Secretary of State, but by the American people.

ISRAEL PREPARING ATTACK ON IRAN AS U.S. TROOPS PROVIDE RADAR SUPPORT

Jerusalem Post - The IDF is drawing up options for a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities that do not include coordination with the United States, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

While its preference is to coordinate with the US, defense officials have said Israel is preparing a wide range of options for such an operation.

"It is always better to coordinate," one top Defense Ministry official explained last week. "But we are also preparing options that do not include coordination."

Israeli officials have said it would be difficult, but not impossible, to launch a strike against Iran without receiving codes from the US Air Force, which controls Iraqi airspace. Israel also asked for the codes in 1991 during the First Gulf War, but the US refused.

"There are a wide range of risks one takes when embarking on such an operation," a top Israeli official said.

Several news reports have claimed recently that US President George W. Bush has refused to give Israel a green light for an attack on Iranian facilities. One such report, published in September in Britain's Guardian newspaper, claimed that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert requested a green light to attack Iran in May but was refused by Bush. . .

The "US European Command has deployed to Israel a high-powered X-band radar and the supporting people and equipment needed for coordinated defense against Iranian missile attack, marking the first permanent US military presence on Israeli soil," Defense News wrote. The radar will shave several precious minutes off Israel's reaction time to an Iranian missile launch.

In a related article at about the same time, Time magazine raised the possibility that through the deployment of the radar, America wants to keep an eye on Israeli airspace, so that the US is not surprised if and when the IAF is sent to bomb Iran, a scenario Washington wants to avoid.

The US army sent 120 EUCOM personnel to Israel's Nevatim Air Base southeast of Beersheba to man the new radar.

RAHM EMANUEL MADE $18 MILLION IN TWO AND A HALF YEARS. HOW?

NY Times - Mr. Emanuel, who was chosen last month to become President-elect Barack Obama's White House chief of staff, went on to make more than $18 million in just two-and-a-half years, turning many of his contacts in his substantial political Rolodex into paying clients and directing his negotiating prowess and trademark intensity to mergers and acquisitions. He also benefited from the opportune sale of Wasserstein Perella to a German bank, helping him to an unusually large payout.

The period before he was elected to a House seat from Illinois is a little-known episode of Mr. Emanuel's biography. . . Mr. Emanuel built up strong ties with an industry now at the heart of the economic crisis, one that will be girding for a pitched lobbying battle next year as the incoming Democratic administration considers a potentially sweeping regulatory overhaul.

ACTIVISTS DEMONSTRATE AT ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND

Tree Hugger - Activists from Rising Tide North America [protested at] the Washington DC offices of Environmental Defense. ED was targeted "because of the organization's key role in promoting the discredited approach of carbon trading as a solution to climate change."

Adding a further twist is that one of the leader activists was Dr Rachel Smolker, the daughter of one of Environmental Defense's founders. Dr Smolker elaborated on the motivation for the action:

"My father was one of the founders of this organization, which sadly I am now ashamed of. The Kyoto Protocol, the European Emissions Trading Scheme and virtually every other initiative for reducing emissions have adopted their market approaches. So far they have utterly failed, serving only to provide huge profits to the world's most polluting industries. Instead of protecting the environment, ED now seems primarily concerned with protecting corporate bottom lines. I can hear my father rolling over in his grave."

According to the Global Justice Ecology Project:

"ED wants to turn the atmosphere and forests into private property, and then give it away to the most polluting industries in the form of pollution allowances that can be bought and sold. Not only is this an ineffective way to control emissions, it is also a disaster for the poor and indigenous peoples who are not party to these markets and are most impacted by climate change."

OUT OF NO LITTLE ACORNS, BIG QUESTIONS GROW

Brigid Schulte, Washington Post - The idea seemed too crazy to Rod Simmons, a measured, careful field botanist. Naturalists in Arlington County couldn't find any acorns. None. No hickory nuts, either. Then he went out to look for himself. He came up with nothing. Nothing crunched underfoot. Nothing hit him on the head.

Then calls started coming in about crazy squirrels. Starving, skinny squirrels eating garbage, inhaling bird feed, greedily demolishing pumpkins. Squirrels boldly scampering into the road. And a lot more calls about squirrel road kill.

But Simmons really got spooked when he was teaching a class on identifying oak and hickory trees late last month. For 2 1/2 miles, Simmons and other naturalists hiked through Northern Virginia oak and hickory forests. They sifted through leaves on the ground, dug in the dirt and peered into the tree canopies. Nothing. . .

The absence of acorns could have something to do with the weather, Simmons thought. But he hoped it wasn't a climatic event. "Let's hope it's not something ghastly going on with the natural world."

To find out, Simmons and Arlington naturalists began calling around. A naturalist in Maryland found no acorns on an Audubon nature walk there. Ditto for Fairfax, Falls Church, Charles County, even as far away as Pennsylvania. There are no acorns falling from the majestic oaks in Arlington National Cemetery. . .

Zell began to do some research. He found Internet discussion groups, including one on Topix called "No acorns this year," reporting the same thing from as far away as the Midwest up through New England and Nova Scotia. "We live in Glenwood Landing, N.Y., and don't have any acorns this year. Really weird," wrote one. "None in Kansas either! Curiouser and curiouser.". . .

GOP DOCUMENTS REVEALS MILITARY INVOLVED IN CONVENTION SECURITY PLANNING

Minnesota ACLU - The American Civil Liberties Union recently came across a revealing RNC Homeland Security document that outlined the planning leading up to the Republican National Convention and how security forces would be working together during the RNC. Many federal, state and local organizations were mentioned in this document, a number of which the ACLU did not know were involved. A number of these agencies are military based, which may directly conflict with Federal law that prohibits the military from engaging in domestic intelligence gathering.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, is one of the organizations that is mentioned in the report that is particular cause for concern. NGA provides mapping tools and imagery intelligence that are obtained from the United State's military spy satellites which are controlled by the National Reconnaissance Office. In other words, during the RNC these top spying tools could have been used to gather intelligence on the homes of activists and media workers who were a part of the demonstrations. That information could have then been relayed to local officials.

A second agency that was involved in the planning is the Pentagon's Northern Command, NORTHCOM. Having NORTHCOMM at the table, assisting in the planning is troubling because it could mean that the military was involved in the crowd control strategies and dealing with potential civil unrest. According to a report in Army Times, it said that an active military unit has been deployed by NORTHCOM in the United States. This deployment marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment within U.S. borders.

"These behaviors are a radical departure from separation of civilian law enforcement and military authority, and could, quite possibly, represent a violation of law," said Teresa Nelson, ACLU of Minnesota.

ONE REASON ASIANS VOTED AGAINST PROP 8 WHILE LATINOS SUPPORTED IT

Hans Johnson, Huffington Post - Lost in the parsing of black and brown balloting [in the Prop 8 vote] was the figure on Asian Americans, who tipped against Prop 8. Hyperbole on blogs and mainstream news about racial divides and fissures in California's progressive coalition obscures the fact that an important people of color community rejected Yes-on-8's appeals to intolerance.

This result was no accident. It reflected sustained organizing, independent fund-raising, and thoughtful communication by Asian American supporters of equal marriage that began three years ago.

Asian Americans, at 6 percent of all voters, admittedly account for half the size of the African American electorate and a quarter of the Latino voter base in the state. . . Asian American opponents of Prop 8 did not capture their suburban and rural constituents. But they heavily won over the large population of urban stakeholders. In the city of Los Angeles, where pluralities of all people of color voted to eliminate equal marriage rights, Asian Americans rejected the measure by a more than 3-to-2 margin.

Latino opponents of Prop 8 seldom compared its revocation of rights from gay people with the anti-immigrant Prop 187 of 1994, an epic act of scapegoating via ballot measure that continues to resonate in California. But Asian American foes of Prop 8 weren't shy in forging compelling parallels with the toll of ignorance, racial discrimination, and even Japanese-Americans' internment during WWII in order to sway their families, friends, and neighbors. . .

NO BLANKET COVERAGE WHEN THE TERROR IS AMERICAN

Bill Blum - The next time you encounter a defender of American foreign policy, someone insisting that something like Mumbai justifies Washington's rhetorical and military attacks against Islam, you might want to point out that the United States does the same on a regular basis. For seven years in Afghanistan, almost six in Iraq, to give only the two most obvious examples . . . breaking down doors and machine-gunning strangers, infidels, traumatizing children for life, firing missiles into occupied houses, exploding bombs all over the place, pausing to torture . . every few days dropping bombs on Pakistan or Afghanistan. . . bombing wedding parties, one after another, 20 or 30 or 70 killed, all terrorists of course, often including top al-Qaeda leaders, the number one or number two man, so we're told; so not completely mindless, not totally random. . .

Does any of that depress you like Mumbai? . . . "The United States military since 2004 has used broad, secret authority to carry out nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks against Al Qaeda and other militants in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere, according to senior American officials. . . The secret order gave the military new authority to attack the Qaeda terrorist network anywhere in the world, and a more sweeping mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the United States," the New York Times informs us. So it's all nice and legal, not an attack upon civilization by a bunch of escaped mental patients. Maybe the Mumbai terrorists also have a piece of paper, from some authority, saying that it's okay what they did.

WHAT DIDN'T GET COVERED IN MUMBAI

Gnani Sankaran, Chief Organizer - Watching at least four English news channels surfing from one another during the last 60 hours of terror strike made me feel a terror of another kind. The terror of assaulting one's mind and sensitivity with cameras, sound bites and non-stop blabbers. All these channels have been trying to manufacture my consent for a big lie called - Hotel Taj - the icon of India. Whose India? Whose Icon ?

It is a matter of great shame that these channels simply did not bother about the other icon that faced the first attack from terrorists - the Chatrapathi Shivaji Terminus railway station.. CST is the true icon of Mumbai. It is through this railway station hundreds of Indians from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Tamilnadu have poured into Mumbai over the years, transforming themselves into Mumbaikars and built the Mumbai of today along with the Marathis and Kolis

But the channels would not recognize this. Nor would they recognize the thirty odd dead bodies strewn all over the platform of CST. No Barkha Dutt went there to tell us who they were. But she was at Taj to show us the damaged furniture and reception lobby braving the guards. And the TV cameras did not go to the government-run JJ hospital to find out who those 26 unidentified bodies were. Instead they were again invading the battered Taj to try in vain for a scoop shot of the dead bodies of the page 3 celebrities.

In all probability, the unidentified bodies could be those of workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh migrating to Mumbai, arriving by train at CST without cell phones and pan cards to identify them. Even after 60 hours after the CST massacre, no channel has bothered to cover in detail what transpired there. . .

It is precisely because Taj is the icon of power and not people, that the terrorists chose to strike.

The terrorists have understood after several efforts that the Aam Aadmi [common people] will never break down even if you bomb her markets and trains. He/she was resilient because that is the only way he/she can even survive.

Resilience was another word that annoyed the pundits of news channels and their patrons this time. What resilience, enough is enough, said Pranoy Roy's channel on the left side of the channel spectrum. Same sentiments were echoed by Arnab Goswami representing the right wing of the broadcast media whose time is now. . .

The same channels celebrated resilience when bombs went off in trains and markets killing and maiming the Aam Aadmis. The resilience of the ordinary worker suited the rich business class of Mumbai since work or manufacture or film shooting did not stop. When it came to them, the rich shamelessly exhibited their lack of nerves and refused to be resilient themselves. They cry for government intervention now to protect their private spas and swimming pools and bars and restaurants, similar to the way in which Citibank, General Motors and the ilk cry for government money when their coffers are emptied by their own ideologies.

The terrorists have learnt that the ordinary Indian is unperturbed by terror. For one whose daily existence itself is a terror of government sponsored inflation and market sponsored exclusion, pain is something he has learnt to live with. The rich of Mumbai and India Inc are facing the pain for the first time and learning about it just as the middle classes of India learnt about violation of human rights only during emergency, a cool 28 years after independence. . .

OBAMA PUTTING KNIFE IN SINGLE PAYER HEALTHCARE

The LA Times reports that "the idea of a federal, single-payer system patterned on those in Europe and Canada, long a dream of the political left, is now virtually off the table." Although this is not widely understood, the Obama plan is not an incremental step towards single payer - as would be lowering the age of Medicare, for example - but a move that would probably delay consideration of the idea for another decade or so. Not only would the Obama proposal give the unjustifiable and expensive role of private insurance companies the force of law, it would solidify the de facto tariff on American goods caused by a system that relies on employer health insurance payments.

TURNOUT NOT AS IMPRESSIVE AS EXPECTED

Heidi Przybyla, Bloomberg - President-elect Barack Obama bet on an unprecedented surge of new voters to carry him to victory last month. He won without the record turnout. About 130 million Americans voted, up from 122 million four years ago. Still, turnout fell short of the 140 million voters many experts had forecast. With a little more than 61 percent of eligible voters casting ballots, the 2008 results also didn't match the record 63.8 percent turnout rate that helped propel President John F. Kennedy to victory in 1960. . .

Experts attribute the shortfall to a combination of reasons: Many disaffected Republicans stayed home. Young voters, particularly those without college degrees, didn't turn out in the numbers that the Obama campaign projected. In states where the presidential race wasn't in doubt -- such as Obama strongholds in California and New York, or reliably Republican outposts such as Oklahoma and Utah -- turnout was lower than in 2004.

An exception was fiercely contested Ohio, where turnout fell from 2004 even after the state was targeted as a top priority by both parties.

Obama, 47, did benefit from unprecedented support among black voters and from increased turnout in demographic groups that backed the Democrat, exit polls

MILITARY UPS ITS CIVILIAN ROLE

Spencer S. Hsu and Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post - The U.S. military expects to have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe, according to Pentagon officials. . .

There are critics of the change, in the military and among civil liberties groups and libertarians who express concern that the new homeland emphasis threatens to strain the military and possibly undermine the Posse Comitatus Act, a 130-year-old federal law restricting the military's role in domestic law enforcement. . .

The Pentagon's plan calls for three rapid-reaction forces to be ready for emergency response by September 2011. The first 4,700-person unit, built around an active-duty combat brigade based at Fort Stewart, Ga., was available as of Oct. 1, said Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr., commander of the U.S. Northern Command

Domestic emergency deployment may be "just the first example of a series of expansions in presidential and military authority," or even an increase in domestic surveillance, said Anna Christensen of the ACLU's National Security Project. And Cato Vice President Gene Healy warned of "a creeping militarization" of homeland security.

"There's a notion that whenever there's an important problem, that the thing to do is to call in the boys in green," Healy said, "and that's at odds with our long-standing tradition of being wary of the use of standing armies to keep the peace."

The Review first started reporting on the militarization of American life in a 1996 story that began, "The nomination of General Barry McCaffrey as drug czar symbolizes the nation's dramatic retreat from the principle of separation of military and civilian power. It further demonstrates the degree to which the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 -- which outlaws military involvement in civilian law enforcement -- is being ignored and undermined by both the drug warriors and the Clinton administration. Disturbing as the McCaffrey appointment may be, however, it is only an unusually visible sign of something that has been going on quietly for a long time -- the military's steady intrusion upon, and interference with, civilian America."

And speaking of General McCaffrey:

David Barstow, NY Times - In the spring of 2007 a tiny military contractor with a slender track record went shopping for a precious Beltway commodity.

The company, Defense Solutions, sought the services of a retired general with national stature, someone who could open doors at the highest levels of government and help it win a huge prize: the right to supply Iraq with thousands of armored vehicles.

Access like this does not come cheap, but it was an opportunity potentially worth billions in sales, and Defense Solutions soon found its man. The company signed Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general and military analyst for NBC News, to a consulting contract starting June 15, 2007.

Four days later the general swung into action. He sent a personal note and 15-page briefing packet to David H. Petraeus, the commanding general in Iraq, strongly recommending Defense Solutions and its offer to supply Iraq with 5,000 armored vehicles from Eastern Europe. "No other proposal is quicker, less costly, or more certain to succeed," he said.

Thus, within days of hiring General McCaffrey, the Defense Solutions sales pitch was in the hands of the American commander with the greatest influence over Iraq's expanding military.

"That's what I pay him for," Timothy D. Ringgold, chief executive of Defense Solutions, said in an interview.

General McCaffrey did not mention his new contract with Defense Solutions in his letter to General Petraeus. Nor did he disclose it when he went on CNBC that same week and praised the commander Defense Solutions was now counting on for help - "He's got the heart of a lion" - or when he told Congress the next month that it should immediately supply Iraq with large numbers of armored vehicles and other equipment.

He had made similar arguments before he was hired by Defense Solutions, but this time he went further. In his testimony to Congress, General McCaffrey criticized a Pentagon plan to supply Iraq with several hundred armored vehicles made in the United States by a competitor of Defense Solutions. He called the plan "not in the right ballpark" and urged Congress to instead equip Iraq with 5,000 armored vehicles. . .

OBAMA: JUST ONE MORE PROBLEM PROGRESSIVES FACE

James Vega, Democratic Strategist - By late 1980's most progressive movements had become increasingly Washington-focused and political campaign- oriented, in contrast to previous eras of independent progressive grass-roots organizing and mobilization. For many younger progressives, working for political candidates and campaigns was actually their sole form of progressive activity. As such, it made sense for them to feel that a victorious campaign naturally ought to deliver a very clear and explicit ideological "payoff" to progressives after the election, one properly proportionate to the effort they invested during the campaign and the degree of their success.

But during past eras of major progressive social movements - the trade union movement of the 1930's and the civil rights movement of the 1960's -- there was a very different perspective.. . . A Democratic President was basically assumed to be a ruthlessly pragmatic centrist who would make all his moves and choices based on a very cold political calculus of what was necessary for his own success and survival. He might have private sympathy for some progressive point of view but there was generally no expectation among social movement progressives that he would "go out on a limb" for progressives out of a personal moral commitment to some social ideal. As a result, the most fundamental assumption of progressive political strategy was always the need to build a completely independent grass roots social movement, one that was powerful enough to make it politically expedient or simply unavoidable for the political system to accede to the movement's demands.

In a widely read 1966 essay, "Non-violent Direct Action", historian and civil-rights activist Howard Zinn clearly expressed this view:

"What the civil rights movement has revealed is that it is necessary for people concerned with liberty, even if they live in an approximately democratic state, to create a political power which resides outside the regular political establishment. While outside, removed from the enticements of office and close to those sources of human distress which created it, this power can use a thousand different devices to persuade and pressure the official structure into recognizing its needs.". .

The "battle for the President's soul" perspective, in contrast, inevitably has several negative consequences:

1. It inherently makes the President the chief protagonist of social change and reduces the progressive movement's role to that of a supplicant. It makes the progressive movement's success appear to be fundamentally dependent on what the President does or says rather than envisioning the movement as an active and independent force for change.

2. The "battle for the president's soul" perspective leads to a personalization of the disagreement between the President and progressives to an almost soap-opera level of melodrama and triviality. In this perspective, the President is described as "betraying" progressives, or "insulting" them, or "turning his back" on them - all of which are purely and entirely journalistic inventions and not accurate descriptions of the President's actual personal emotions. Conservatives gleefully leap in to this miasma of pseudo-journalistic literary fiction to exploit and hopefully exacerbate a split within the Democratic Party. At the same time, they also trumpet any decisions that displease progressives to their supporters as being "victories" won by conservatism when they are, in fact, actually nothing of the kind. . .

There is a compelling piece of dialog that occurs in the HBO series Band of Brothers which deals with the 101st airborne division in WW II. When the division is ordered into Bastogne, the commanding general says to their leader: "you realize that once you go in there, you're going to be completely surrounded."

The officer replies simply: "we're paratroopers, sir, we're always surrounded". . .

Progressives can master the sense of frustration and loss of control that they are currently feeling by thinking about their situation in much the same way. They can say:

We're progressives - we're always betrayed by opportunists, we're always abandoned by the faint- hearted and we always -- always, always -- fight outnumbered. and yet, although it often takes decades, in the long run, we also always eventually win.

There are many years and even many decades when this faith seems bitterly distant and painfully hard to sustain. This year, however, as in few others, progressives can see the truth of it right before their eyes.

FOXES IN THE CHICKEN COOP: ROBERT GATES

Robert Parry, Consortium News - Nearly 16 years ago, during the last transition from a President Bush to a Democrat, Moscow made an extraordinary gesture to Washington: The Kremlin supplied a summary of its intelligence information about secret U.S.-Iranian contacts in the 1980s.

The report was from a national security committee of the Russian Duma to Rep. Lee Hamilton, who had requested what might be in Moscow's files as part of a task force investigation into whether the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1980 had interfered with President Jimmy Carter's bid to free 52 American hostages then held in Iran.

The Russian report arrived late, via the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, showing up on Jan. 11, 1993, but the contents were stunning. The Russians reported that their intelligence revealed that long-rumored meetings between Republicans and Iranians in Europe during Campaign 1980 had indeed occurred.

But this information went against what Hamilton and other members of the task force had decided to conclude, that there had been no such contacts. Hamilton had already rebuffed advice from his chief counsel, Lawrence Barcella, that the investigation be extended a few months because of other late-arriving evidence of Republican guilt.

Instead, Hamilton had ordered the probe wrapped up with a conclusion of Republican innocence. The Russian report just represented another complication, especially since the task force's debunking report had already gone to the printers and was set for release two days later, on Jan. 13, 1993.

So, the Russian report - like much of the other incriminating evidence - was kept secret, unceremoniously stuck into a cardboard box and filed away in a make-shift Capitol Hill storage room.

Barcella told me later that he envisioned this evidence undergoing the fate of the crated Ark in "Raiders of the Lost Ark," lifted into a vast government warehouse in the closing scene. The Russian report, however, ended up in a less grand place, an abandoned Ladies Room off the Rayburn House Office Building's parking garage, where I discovered it in late 1994.

The reason I'm mentioning this document now is that one of the Americans implicated by the Russian report was Robert Gates, who in 1980 was a junior CIA official, who had served on Carter's National Security Council staff before returning to the CIA as executive assistant to CIA Director Stansfield Turner.

As translated by the U.S. Embassy, the Russian report stated, "[Robert] Gates, at that time a staffer of the National Security Council in the administration of Jimmy Carter, and former CIA Director George [H.W.] Bush also took part" in a meeting with Iranians in Paris in October 1980. . .

Gates has denied any role in the secret Republican-Iranian talks, and it is possible that the Russian intelligence isn't any good. . . Indirectly, well-informed Russians assured me that the report to Hamilton was based on their own intelligence data and that the information was considered reliable, not simply picked up from press articles. . .

What is clear is that after Ronald Reagan took office and sent his campaign chief William Casey over to run the CIA in 1981, Gates's career took off. Casey, who also was implicated in the October Surprise controversy, elevated Gates to be the assistant director for intelligence analysis and then to be deputy CIA director.

Later, Gates was linked to both the Iran-Contra scandal, which involved the trading of arms for hostages with Iran, and the Iraqgate controversy, the clandestine military support given to Iraq's Saddam Hussein during his eight-year war with Iran.

HOW CHINA AND HONG KONG HAVE HANDLED THE CRISIS

London Banker - I received in my inbox yesterday documents outlining the efforts being taken by the Hong Kong and Chinese authorities to address the liquidity crisis in their respective jurisdictions. The contrasts with the West are striking, and humbling.

Hong Kong is swiftly introducing a scheme to guarantee credit to SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and exporters. China is introducing controls to limit bank credit to over-extended speculative sectors, accelerate rebuilding in the regions affected by the earthquake earlier this year, and promote improvements in local infrastructure, education and economic adjustment. . .

The US and UK authorities may criticize the banks for their inaction in freeing up lending to commercial businesses constrained by the credit crunch. The Hong Kong and Chinese authorities are implementing guarantee schemes and innovating initiatives to rapidly address the problem. . .

Shortsightedness is a peculiar affliction of the Western economies. We cannot seem to project the consequences of our actions beyond the next quarterly report, fiscal year or - at most - election cycle. Eastern policy makers have a capacity for longer vision - and longer memory - which makes them appreciate sooner the potential consequences of bad policy. Perhaps this is a consequence of the longer term dedication required to gain political ascendancy in their less cyclical hierarchy. . .

As Jim Rohm observed, "Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don't fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgment, repeated every day."

The crisis in debt markets has been rolling since the sub-prime collapse of August 2007. The increasing illiquidity of commercial paper, trade credit, municipal finance and other debt markets was foreseeable and inevitable. And yet the central banks and treasury authorities of the Western nations have done nothing to shield these essential sectors from the ill effects of the financial sector implosion while giving virtually unlimited funds to the banks authoring the collapse.

Any discussion of China always invites criticism of its anti-democratic governance. It is worth remembering that the philosophical defense of democracy lies in the proposition that it is more likely over time to serve the interests of the electorate than a system which disenfranchises the people from the determination of their leadership. If the democratically elected governments - through their appointed executives and central bankers - are free over an extended time span to ignore the interests of the people, then how is a Western democracy superior to a Chinese bureaucracy? From looking at the policies and practices of the past year, the merits of Western democracy are not immediately apparent in ensuring that policy responses to the financial crisis are aligned with the interests of the people. Even over the past decade, it is not clear that the policies of the democratic Western governments have aimed to strengthen and broaden the economy to benefit of the electorate rather than a narrow, self-serving elite. . .

If China and Hong Kong recover sooner, prosper more, and gain global political and economic authority in consequence, it will be because they made fewer mistakes and made them less persistently than their Western counterparts. If the promoters of democracy want to strengthen their case, they might best do so by ensuring that their leadership adheres to policies which promote the longer term health and well being of the economy as a whole rather than the short term enrichment of an undemocratic elite.

AMERICAN TEENS LIE, STEAL AND CHEAT BIG TIME

Agence France Presse - American teenagers lie, steal and cheat more at "alarming rates," a study of nearly 30,000 high school students concluded. The attitudes and conduct of some 29,760 high school students across the United States "doesn't bode well for the future when these youngsters become the next generation's politicians and parents, cops and corporate executives, and journalists and generals," the non-profit Josephson Institute said. . .

Boys were found to lie and steal more than girls. Overall, 30 percent of students admitted to stealing from a store within the past year, a two percent rise from 2006. More than one third of boys (35 percent) said they had stolen goods, compared to 26 percent of girls.

An overwhelming majority, 83 percent, of public school and private religious school students admitted to lying to their parents about something significant, compared to 78 percent for those attending independent non-religious schools.

"Cheating in school continues to be rampant and it's getting worse," the study found. Amongst those surveyed, 64 percent said they had cheated on a test, compared to 60 percent in 2006. And 38 percent said they had done so two or more times.

Despite no significant gender differences on exam cheating, students from non-religious independent schools had the lowest cheating rate, 47 percent, compared to 63 percent of students attending religious schools.

Some 93 percent of students indicated satisfaction with their own character and ethics, with 77 percent saying that "when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know."

WHY FUSION AND INSTANT RUNOFF VOTING ARE IMPORTANT

David Morris, Minneapolis Star Tribune - In the Sixth Congressional District, Michele Bachmann beat Elwyn Tinklenberg by 2 percent. The Independence Party candidate garnered 10 percent of the vote. That much has been widely reported.

Less widely known is that the Independence Party actually endorsed Tinklenberg at its convention. Its members believed that Tinklenberg best represented the party's platform and values. But Minnesota law doesn't permit multiple parties to nominate the same candidate. The Independence Party could be on the ballot only by nominating someone less acceptable than Tinklenberg, a move that effectively defeated its preferred candidate.

A little more than a hundred years ago, Minnesota and the rest of the nation allowed third parties to grow without simply being spoilers. The process is called fusion politics. Third parties can ally (fuse) themselves with major parties (or vice versa). In the 1880s and 1890s third parties like the People's Party and the Populist Party allied with the Democratic Party and won a number of elections. Which led the minority Republican Party, when it controlled state legislatures, to pass laws that banned fusion. One Republican Minnesota legislator was clear about his party's goal: "We don't propose to allow the Democrats to make allies of the Populists, Prohibitionists, or any other party, and get up combination tickets against us. We can whip them single-handed, but don't intend to fight all creation."

By 1907, fusion had been banned in 18 states. Today, it is legal in only seven states: Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina and Vermont.

In 1994, it returned to the national spotlight when Andy Dawkins ran unopposed for the Minnesota House of Representatives in the Democratic primary but also accepted the endorsement of the fledgling New Party. Minnesota's secretary of state sued. The New Party argued that Minnesota's ban on fusion voting interfered with its members' constitutional right to free speech. The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed. In 1997, the court ruled upheld Minnesota's right to forcibly maintain its two-party monopoly.

The New Party disappeared, but other parties arose and survived in Minnesota. One result is that the winners in statewide and federal elections are elected with fewer than 50 percent of the votes. Since 1994, no gubernatorial candidate has won a majority of the vote. . .

While fusion has fallen out of the spotlight, another voting innovation has gained traction: instant-runoff, or ranked-choice, voting. In this process, voters assign a numerical rank to each candidate. After the election the candidate with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated and his or her second-place votes are redistributed. The process continues until only two candidates remain and one is declared the winner by majority vote. Such voting is now in effect in several cities. In 2006, Minneapolis voters overwhelmingly endorsed the process, but a lawsuit may stall its implementation.

Instant runoff is an important and useful innovation. Based on the country's limited experience, it changes the tone of campaigns for the better because candidates are angling to be not only the first choice of their backers but also the second choice of someone else's. Wider political diversity should result when voters have second and third choices.

Instant runoff and fusion address different ends. Instant runoff focuses on the candidate. Its goal is to ensure that the winner has gained a majority of the votes. Fusion's goal is to build political parties. By allowing minor parties to ally with major parties, it enables them to gain an influence on the major party similar to the influence minor parties exercise in European parliaments where parties that gain more than a certain percentage of the vote earn seats based on the proportion of the vote they win. Political parties are now in disrepute, but they can serve an important and enduring role when they develop a coherent and stable value-based program that offers voters a different framework for policymaking.

FREE MARKET FREE FALL

Diana B, Henriques, NY Times - the head of a new congressional panel set up to monitor the gigantic federal bailout says the government still does not seem to have a coherent strategy for easing the financial crisis, despite the billions it has already spent in that effort. Elizabeth warren, the chairwoman of the oversight panel, said in an interview that the government instead seemed to be lurching from one tactic to the next without clarifying how each step fits into an overall plan.
"you can't just say, 'credit isn't moving through the system,' " she said in her first public comments since being named to the panel. "you have to ask why." if the answer is that banks do not have money to lend, it would make sense to push capital into their hands, as the treasury has been doing over the last two months, she continued. But if the answer is that their potential borrowers are getting less creditworthy with each passing day, "pouring money into banks isn't going to fix that problem," she said.

BREVITAS

FREEDOM & JUSTICE

Wired The Fourth Amendment's shield against invasive searches reaches only partially across the border, a federal appeals court ruled, finding that the nation's spies don't need a court order to wiretap an American overseas, though there has to be a good reason for listening in. . The unsigned opinion found that wiretapping overseas was invasive, but that it made no sense to require a court order to wiretap or search an American overseas, since the warrant would have "dubious legal significance" in another country. The test, the court says, is whether the search is reasonable.

Guardian, UK - A Hertfordshire couple in their 60s were horrified to receive a letter last week from a London firm of lawyers accusing them of downloading a hardcore gay porn movie. It demanded they pay L503 for "copyright infringement" or face a high court action. . . The bewildered couple contacted Guardian Money. "We were offended by the title of the film. We don't do porn - straight or gay - and we can't do downloads. We have to ask our son even to do an iTunes purchase." But this Hertfordshire couple are not alone. A large number of people have received this letter, provoking a massive outcry on web forums such as slyck.com and torrentfreak which estimate 25,000 of these letters have been sent out. If all the recipients paid up, it would net L12.5m - more than almost any porn film has made.

Get Up, Australia - The Federal Government is planning to force all Australian servers to filter internet traffic and block any material the Government deems 'inappropriate'. Under the plan, the Government can add any 'unwanted' site to a secret blacklist. Testing has already begun on systems that will slow our internet by up to 87%, make it more expensive, miss the vast majority of inappropriate content and accidentally block up to one in 12 legitimate sites.

OBAMALAND

Political Wire So far, the transition team has received 290,000 applications for jobs in the Obama administration through its website -- www.change.gov -- and officials believe they could wind up with 1 million job-seekers by the time Obama is sworn into office on Jan. 20," the Los Angeles Times reports. "By comparison, before President Bush took office in 2001, he received just 44,000 requests for political jobs. As former President Clinton assumed the White House in 1993, he had received 125,000 applications for jobs." The problem: There are only about 8,000 non-career service positions are available.

Organic Bytes - Vilksack's nomination [for Agriculture Secretary] has now been withdrawn. Although Vilsack told the Des Moines Register he didn't want to comment on why he had been sacked, sources at the Obama transition headquarters reported "a flood of calls and emails" from organic consumers opposing Vilsack's nomination.

ECO CLIPS

Windsor Star - There is both growing public reluctance to make personal sacrifices and a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the major international efforts now underway to battle climate change, according to findings of a poll of 12,000 citizens in 11 countries, including Canada. . Less than half of those surveyed, or 47 per cent, said they were prepared to make personal lifestyle changes to reduce carbon emissions, down from 58 per cent last year. Only 37 per cent said they were willing to spend "extra time" on the effort, an eight-point drop. And only one in five respondents - or 20 per cent - said they'd spend extra money to reduce climate change. That's down from 28 per cent a year ago.

HEALTH & SCIENCE

Reuters - Mice fed junk food for nine months showed signs of developing the abnormal brain tangles strongly associated with Alzheimer's disease, a Swedish researcher said. The findings, which come from a series of published papers by a researcher at Sweden's Karolinska Institutet, show how a diet rich in fat, sugar and cholesterol could increase the risk of the most common type of dementia. "On examining the brains of these mice, we found a chemical change not unlike that found in the Alzheimer brain," Susanne Akterin, a researcher at the Karolinska Institutet's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, who led the study, said in a statement. "We now suspect that a high intake of fat and cholesterol in combination with genetic factors ... can adversely affect several brain substances, which can be a contributory factor in the development of Alzheimer's."

GEORGIA

BBC - A former Georgian ambassador has caused uproar in Georgia by saying his country, not Russia, started August's war over South Ossetia. Erosi Kitsmarishvili, a former envoy to Russia, was testifying at a parliamentary commission hearing into the war the breakaway Georgian region. One lawmaker threw his pen at Mr Kitsmarishvili and then had to be restrained as he charged towards him. Georgia maintains its assault on South Ossetia followed a Russian invasion. "Russia was ready for this war, but the Georgian leadership started the military action first," Mr Kitsmarishvili told the commission. He said he had this information "from high-ranking Georgian officials". However, he said he believed Georgia had been provoked into war by Russia. Mr Kitsmarishvili has been an outspoken critic of the Georgian president since being replaced as ambassador to Moscow, the BBC's Tom Esslemont in Tbilisi says.

DRUG BUSTS

Jennifer Squires, Santa Cruz Sentinel Medicinal marijuana caregivers may be prosecuted as drug dealers, according to a state Supreme Court ruling. The ruling upholds a Santa Cruz County Superior Court jury decision that found medicinal marijuana user Roger Mentch, 53, guilty of cultivating and possessing marijuana for sale. Mentch, who was arrested by sheriff's deputies in 2003, claimed he was a caregiver for five medicinal marijuana patients. He also opened the Hemporium, a medicinal marijuana collective in Felton, where he sometimes sold the pot he grew. . . The court ruled primary caregivers must have an established care-giving relationship with the patient prior to providing that patient with medicinal marijuana, according to the decision. Also, primary caregivers can only provide pot to those patients, not sell the drug to other medicinal users or collectives. Therefore, Mentch's sales to the Hemporium and another collective in the county amounted to dealing drugs

MID EAST

UPI - A total of 13 countries with troops currently stationed in Iraq will soon remove those soldiers from the war-torn country, a military official says. Brig. Gen. Nicolas Matern, Multi-National Corps Iraq deputy commander, said with a U.N. mandate that offered the countries authorization to operate in Iraq set to expire at year's end, coalition forces are set to be significantly depleted, The Times of London reported.

THE MIX

A Miami judge has ruled that there is "no rational basis" for blocking gays from adopting children. The state ban began in 1977.

BOOKSHELF

Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918 by Jeffrey B. Perry. Columbia University Press (November 2008)

FURTHERMORE

Nick Perry, Seattle Times - A University of Washington employee who says her boss unexpectedly drove her to romantic Canlis Restaurant one night and offered her the chance to manage a massive campus housing project - while also declaring his love for her - has filed a claim against the UW seeking $500,000. Emily Carleton says that for about seven weeks this year, her boss, Paul F. Brown, sexually harassed her with late-night e-mails, Valentine's Day cards, unwanted touching, sexual advances and outbursts of anger. She claims she suffered anxiety, humiliation and embarrassment - feelings exacerbated by the way the UW responded to her claims. Carleton, a communications specialist, told UW investigators that her background as a writer and proofreader in no way qualified her to manage the $250 million West Campus development that will provide new dorms and apartments for thousands of students.

Headnotes - 106 Courts 106II Establishment, Organization, and Procedure 106II(K) Opinions 106k106 k. Preparation and Filing. An opinion in prose the law does not demand, for judicial pronouncement may in poetry be if that suits the judge's hand; metrical line is not perverse and rhyme will do just fine. Brown v. State, 216 S.E.2d 356 (1975)

Radar - There is a movement afoot in New York political circles to make sure that if (okay: when) Hillary Clinton accepts the post as Barack Obama's Secretary of State, that her Senate seat is filled by hubby Bill.

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