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Undernews For December 15, 2008

Undernews For December 16, 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

15 December 2008

WORD

From the conclusion of this war we shall be going downhill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded... The shackles, therefore, . . . will be made heavier and heavier, till our rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion. -- Thomas Jefferson

PAGE ONE MUST

LEAVE NO BANKER OR DEVELOPER BEHIND:
MAJOR CHARTER SCHOOL SCANDAL IN DC

David S. Fallis and April Witt, Washington Post When a band of Brookland neighbors packed a public meeting to try to stop one of the District's public charter schools from moving to their quiet cul-de-sac, their pleas seemed to receive a warm reception.

Thomas A. Nida, chairman of the board that supervises one of the nation's largest charter school systems, encouraged testimony from the group on that summer evening in 2007. "And anything else you've got to say, put it in writing and we'll take it," Nida said, noting that the charter board would not decide on the move for a month. "That way we will give everybody a chance to express their views."

What Nida failed to mention was his own stake in the matter. As a senior vice president at United Bank, he had been working on a $7 million loan to the Elsie Whitlow Stokes charter school to finance the very relocation that neighbors opposed.

By the time the D.C. Public Charter School Board approved the move in August 2007 -- with Nida recusing himself from the vote -- the loan deal was done. Nida's employer would receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest payments for years to come.

Homeowners on the losing end of that dispute had encountered one of the hidden financial conflicts of interest in the city's burgeoning charter school movement. Key members of the public bodies that regulate and fund the schools have taken part in official decisions that stood to benefit themselves, their colleagues, employers and companies with whom they have business ties, The Washington Post has found.

The Post's review found conflicts of interest involving almost $200 million worth of business deals, typically real estate transactions, at more than a third of the District's 60 charter schools. The conflicts are documented in thousands of pages of internal charter board documents, land records, tax returns, audits and other records reviewed by The Post.

James V. Grimaldi and Theola Labbe-DeBose,Washington Post - Thomas A. Nida often has played two roles when District charter schools enter into real estate deals. As a banker, he has arranged loans to the schools or their landlords. And as chairman of the public board that oversees charters, he has approved the schools' borrowing and spending. But in one episode, Nida ended up wearing three hats.

The deal centered on the old Kingsman public school, a Northeast landmark that closed in 1993 because of declining enrollment. Kingsman became an eyesore and a haven for drug dealers, with punched-out windows and peeling paint cascading onto the floors. In 2003, a charity bought the dilapidated edifice from the city for about $300,000 and began to renovate it for charter schools.

Nida was the bank officer who handled the initial $2.45 million construction loan to the tax-exempt organization, Charter School Development Corp., known as CSDC. Soon after, Nida was appointed to the Public Charter School Board and began taking official actions that affected CSDC and its tenants. Then, as a banker, he refinanced the loan. After that, he joined the nonprofit group's board of directors, where he further helped expand its financing to obtain city revenue bonds.

Finally, in July 2006, Nida made a move that led to a financial windfall for CSDC. He led the effort and cast the deciding vote that shut down one of the two charter schools renting space in Kingsman, clearing the way for the other tenant to purchase the 54,810-square-foot building.

CSDC made almost $1 million from the sale. "We made a nice gain on it," said Frank Riggs, the former California congressman who is the group's chief executive, "which we need, to be candid with you, to offset the risk for properties we own in northwest Indiana."

Nida did not disclose his multiple roles in the Kingsman deal at a public hearing, according to a transcript, or before the vote, according to two charter board members who voted against the closure. Nida also has not listed his CSDC board membership on the financial disclosure forms he filed with the city. Nida said yesterday that he did not think he needed to disclose the position because it was unpaid.

April Witt and David S. Fallis, Washington Post - The D.C. charter school credit enhancement committee has operated largely out of public view for most of its eight years of existence. Yet it has awarded $47 million in taxpayer loans and guarantees to more than 30 schools or their developers. That generous funding has been a decisive factor in the District's charter school system's becoming one of the largest in the nation.

The committee's generosity has also benefited banks and private companies that have business ties to committee members, including the current chairman, Barbara "Bobbie" Hart, public records show.

Committee members or their employers have had financial ties to about a third of the applicants or projects that the committee has voted to fund with public money. Since Hart joined the committee in 2006, the panel has voted repeatedly to award taxpayer funds to charter schools or developers with ties to Adams National Bank, where Hart is a vice president. Hart has recused herself from all but two votes involving applicants that had given her loan business or were about to, records show. She declined to comment.

Congress created the five-member committee to award taxpayer money to help lease, buy or build charter school facilities. The committee, which operates under the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, has awarded charter schools or their developers about $22 million in "credit enhancement" money, typically for collateral to secure commercial bank loans. The committee has lent an additional $25 million for facility-related expenses. ad_icon

The committee has been dominated by bankers, developers and investment professionals appointed by the mayor's office and the charter school board. Of the 10 people who have served as members since 2000, more than half have been involved privately in the financing or development of schools or worked for companies that were, records show. Overall, almost $20 million in taxpayer funding has been awarded to schools or developers that conducted business with committee members or their companies.

One of the original members of the credit enhancement committee was Matt HoganBruen of Bank of America. During his five years on the committee, it awarded millions in taxpayer subsidies to charter schools or their developers that were Bank of America loan customers, records show.

"It is the policy of Bank of America and the personal policy of Matt HoganBruen not to knowingly vote on transactions positively affecting" Bank of America customers, a bank spokesman said in an e-mail. The statement said it was "not uncommon" for the committee to discuss financing without members knowing which banks were involved.

MPAA PROPOSES VICIOUS INTERNET SPYING, BLACKLISTING

Boing Boing - Tim Jones of the Electronic Frontier Foundation has some good commentary on the news that the MPAA has asked Obama to spy on the entire Internet, and to establish a system where being accused of copyright infringement would result in loss of your Internet connection (and your VoIP line, your access to your university, your lifeline to your parents in the old country, your means of participating in civic life, your means of fighting your parking ticket, etc etc etc). The MPAA also wants Obama to lean on other countries (notably Canada) and force them to adopt US copyright laws.
Here, the MPAA is advocating for a number of things, the most problematic of which is a "three strikes" internet termination policy. This would require ISPs to terminate customers' internet accounts upon a rights-holder's repeat allegation of copyright ingfringement. This could be done potentially without any due process or judicial review. A three-strikes policy was recently adopted by legislation in France, where all ISPs are now banned from providing blacklisted citizens with internet access for up to one year.

Because three-strikes policies do not guarantee due process or judicial oversight of whether the accusations of copyright infringement are valid, they effectively grant the content industry the ability to exile any individual they want from the internet. Lest we forget, there is a history of innocents getting caught up in these anti-piracy dragnets. (Copyfighter Cory Doctorow has wondered what would happen if the MPAA's erroneous notices were subject to a similar three-strikes law.)

Thankfully, members of the European Parliament vehemently rejected these measures, resolving that "The cut of Internet access is a disproportionate measure regarding the objectives. It is a sanction with powerful effects, which could have profound repercussions in a society where access to the Internet is an imperative right for social inclusion." Let's hope the US government's decisions on this are as wise.

THE MID EAST CRISIS EVERYONE IGNORES

Gershon Baskin , The Jerusalem Post - The current water crisis is extremely serious. Years of mismanagement and irresponsible water policies are now being investigated by the state comptroller. This is not the first time that the water sector is under the scrutiny of a public investigatory committee. In June 2001 the Knesset conducted a similar investigation and reported on serious dysfunctionality, but it seems that very little has changed since then.

For at least 10 years water experts have been calling for increased investment in developing new supplies of water, mainly through desalination. But as usual here, the real policy makers are the "Treasury boys" who opposed spending millions of shekels on infrastructure and held up the developments for a decade. They finally had to give in both because of the increase in the water deficit (we pump more than we have and we continue to pollute fresh water sources all over the country) and as a result of the very powerful desalination lobby that has greased the wheels of bureaucracy with a lot of money. . .

The water crisis on the other side of the separation barrier is even more severe than in Israel proper. The Israeli-Palestinian water agreement that was signed in 1995 provided the Palestinians with increased quantities of water. The agreement was supposed to be "interim" to be followed by a permanent status agreement several years later. In the meantime, 13 years have passed, the population has grown, yet no additional allocations have been permitted. . .

It is true that in this joint water pool that we share, there is a zero-sum game. Whatever one side gets is at the expense of the other. Today when the water deficit is more than one full year of rainfall, division of the water resources or it reallocation is a reallocation of the deficit. If we fight over water, everyone loses. . .

Cooperation means changing the "hard disk" in our minds regarding the Palestinians. The occupation mind-set that guides the talks on water led by Kinarti and Nagar can only lead to bad agreements or to . .

The key to resolving the water dispute is cooperation that will bring additional quantities of water to the area and better management and conservation of the water that we have. The international community has many times expressed its willingness to assist in any process that builds real cooperation, especially in the water sector.

Chuck Spinney's 2003 analysis of the water issue.

OBAMA REPORTED TO PROMISE NUKE ATTACK ON IRAN IF ISRAEL IS HIT

Haaretz - U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's administration will offer Israel a "nuclear umbrella" against the threat of a nuclear attack by Iran, a well-placed American source said earlier this week. The source, who is close to the new administration, said the U.S. will declare that an attack on Israel by Tehran would result in a devastating U.S. nuclear response against Iran.. . .

Secretary of state-designate Hillary Clinton had raised the idea of a nuclear guarantee to Israel during her campaign for the Democratic Party's nomination for the presidency. During a debate with Obama in April, Clinton said that Israel and Arab countries must be given "deterrent backing." She added, "Iran must know that an attack on Israel will draw a massive response."

Clinton also proposed that the American nuclear umbrella be extended to other countries in the region, like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, if they agree to relinquish their own nuclear ambitions.

According to the same source, the nuclear guarantee would be backed by a new and improved Israeli anti-ballistic missile system. The Bush administration took the first step by deploying an early-warning radar system in the Negev, which hones the ability to detect Iranian ballistic missiles.

Obama said this week that he would negotiate with Iran and would offer economic incentives for Tehran to relinquish its nuclear program. He warned that if Iran refused the deal, he would act to intensify sanctions against the Islamic Republic. . .

"What is the significance of such guarantee when it comes from those who hesitated to deal with a non-nuclear Iran?" asked a senior Israeli security source. "What kind of credibility would this [guarantee have] when Iran is nuclear-capable?"

A senior Bush administration source said that the proposal for an American nuclear umbrella for Israel was ridiculous and lacked credibility. "Who will convince the citizen in Kansas that the U.S. needs to get mixed up in a nuclear war because Haifa was bombed? And what is the point of an American response, after Israel's cities are destroyed in an Iranian nuclear strike?"

GOING NUTS OVER NUTS

British Medical Journal - Measures imposed to reduce exposure to nuts are often based on irrational fears of nut allergies and are becoming increasingly sensationalist, according to a doctor on bmj.com .

A peanut on the floor of a school bus leading to evacuation and decontamination for fear that it might be eaten by the 10 year old passengers, and schools declaring themselves "nut free" by banning nuts, peanut butter, home baked goods and any foods without ingredient labels, are just some examples cited in this article.

According to Professor Nicolas Christakis from Harvard Medical School, there is no evidence that any of these extreme restrictions work better than more circumscribed policies or that they are worth the money and disruptions they create.

In the US, 150 people die each year from food allergies. This is compared to the 50 who die from bee stings, the 100 who die from lightening strikes, the 45,000 who die in motor vehicle accidents, and the 10,000 who are hospitalized for traumatic brain injury from playing sport. But these issues do not incur such extreme reactions, such as calling for an end to sport.

Christakis says that the "gross over-reaction to the magnitude of the threat" is very similar to mass psychogenic illness, previously known as epidemic hysteria.

Often seen occurring in small towns, schools and factories, these outbreaks of MPI involve healthy people in a flow of anxiety, most often triggered by a fear of contamination. Being around individuals who are anxious heightens others' anxiety.

These extreme measures to reduce exposure to nuts are fueling anxiety in parents, leading to more sensitization, and creating the very epidemic they are designed to stop. A recent study has suggested that early exposure to peanuts actually reduces, rather than increases the risk of allergy.

Christakis concludes by calling for a level-headed strategy to deal with this phenomenon before it spirals out of control.

TORONTO LEADS WORLD ON SWITCH FROM BOTTLED WATER

Tony Clarke, Toronto Star - Toronto's decision to ban the sale and distribution of bottled water on city premises was a watershed moment for water justice advocates the world over. What was truly significant about Toronto's action was not that it banned an environmentally destructive product, but that it included a commitment to ensuring access to tap water in all city facilities.

Toronto is now the largest city in the world to pass such far-reaching regulations controlling the distribution of bottled water on municipal property and promoting the use of publicly delivered tap water. Other Canadian and American municipalities have enacted policies encouraging the consumption of tap water and limiting the distribution of bottled water using taxpayer money, but none as large as Toronto has taken such a comprehensive approach.

Toronto's action is in many ways the result of a diverse North American public campaign that has successfully raised awareness about bottled water as an unnecessary and wasteful product when the majority of people in Canada and the United States have access to clean drinking water from the tap.

As is often the case, Toronto's initiative had its own elected champions steering it forward. City Councillor Glen De Baeremaeker and Mayor David Miller had the progressive vision to include bottled water in their goal of keeping unnecessary packaging out of city landfills. Their efforts were coupled with a concerted grassroots push by Ontario- based activists, public interest organizations, community and student groups, labour unions and environmental networks.

In the days leading up to the Toronto vote, city councilors faced a barrage of lobbying from the bottled water industry. These frantic attempts to defeat the resolution continued over the two days of debates when the industry brought a battery of lobbyists, corporate executives and industry associations into the council chamber to influence the vote. . However, their high-priced strategy ultimately failed to influence elected officials, who voted with a two-thirds majority to ban bottled water and reinvest in the public delivery of drinking water.

For many, Toronto has now become the champion of the "Back to the Tap" municipal movement in Canada. To date, this movement has already seen 17 municipalities from five provinces ban the bottle. With 45 others indicating an interest to follow suit, Toronto's leadership will no doubt inspire more municipalities to stand up and speak out in support of public water. To further enable this municipal movement, Toronto City Council also passed a motion to circulate its resolutions and amended staff report to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the Regional Public Works Commissioners of Ontario.

UPS TURNS TO BIKES


Tree Hugger - UPS is looking for cyclists in Portland, Corvallis and other cities to drag around 200 pound trailers to do deliveries. UPS's Jeff Grant spoke with Jonathan Maus of Bike Portland:

"For every three bikes we use for deliveries, we save an average of 17 gallons of fuel per day (compared to one truck). That's about $50 in savings." Across the entire district, Grant says for every three bikes used during the holiday season, UPS will save $38,000 in vehicle operation and upkeep costs.

Grant told Jonathan that he'll ask staff to deliver about 25-50 packages per day, compared to 150 stops a day for a normal "package car".

EXPERTS BEGINNING TO QUESTION WHETHER RENEWABLE ENERGY IS ENOUGH CHANGE

David Adam, Guardian, UK - Support for renewable energy technology to fight global warming is weakening in the face of worldwide economic problems and the true scale of the carbon reductions required, a survey published today has suggested.

Figures presented at the UN climate talks in Poznan, Poland, show that climate experts have less faith in alternative energy than they did 12 months ago.
The survey shows less support for wind energy, solar power, biofuels, biomass and hydrogen energy as technologies with "high potential" to reduce carbon levels in the atmosphere over the next 25 years.

There was also less support for carbon capture and storage, new nuclear build, small-scale hydropower and natural gas stations as viable ways to hit targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Eric Whan of Globescan, which carried out the survey of "climate decision makers", said: "As the climate crisis deepens they could be becoming less optimistic that individual technologies may be able to solve the problem."

Two of the biggest issues that have yet to make it to the table in the climate change discussion: overpopulation and how to get people to stop moving around so much.

RUBIN NAMED IN SUIT ALLEGING CITIGROUP PONZI SCHEME

Paul Tharp, NY Post - A new Citigroup scandal is engulfing Robert Rubin and his former disciple Chuck Prince for their roles in an alleged Ponzi-style scheme that's now choking world banking.

Director Rubin and ousted CEO Prince - and their lieutenants over the past five years - are named in a federal lawsuit for an alleged complex cover-up of toxic securities that spread across the globe, wiping out trillions of dollars in their destructive paths.

Investor-plaintiffs in the suit accuse Citi management of overseeing the repackaging of unmarketable collateralized debt obligations that no one wanted - and then reselling them to Citi and hiding the poisonous exposure off the books in shell entities.

The lawsuit said that when the bottom fell out of the shaky assets in the past year, Citi's stock collapsed, wiping out more than $122 billion of shareholder value.

However, Rubin and other top insiders were able to keep Citi shares afloat until they could cash out more than $150 million for themselves in "suspicious" stock sales "calculated to maximize the personal benefits from undisclosed inside information," the lawsuit said.

The latest troubles for Rubin, Prince and others emerged in a 500-page investigation by Citigroup investors represented by law firm Kirby McInerney. . .

Rubin cleared $30.6 million on his stock sales, while Prince got $26.5 million, former COO Robert Druskin got nearly $32 million and former Global Wealth Management unit chief Todd Thomson got $25.7 million, the suit said.

Citi denied the allegations and said it "will defend against it vigorously."

EMANUEL REFUSES TO ANSWER REPORTERS' QUERIES

Chicago Sun-Times - President-elect Barack Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, refused to take questions from reporters this morning about whether he was the Obama 'advisor' named in the criminal complaint against Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The complaint states Blagojevich wanted a promise of a high-level appointment or some other reward for Blagojevich in exchange for Blagojevich naming Obama's friend Valerie Jarrett to replace him in the U.S. Senate.

Emanuel was uncharacteristically absent from Obama's news conference this morning. He was spotted two hours later in the lobby of Chicago's City Hall. He was there to listen to his two children performing in a concert with their school, Anshe Emet.

A Sun-Times reporter pressed him to comment about whether he was the emissary named in the criminal complaint.

"You're wasting your time," Emanuel said. "I'm not going to say a word to you. I'm going to do this with my children. Don't do that. I'm a father. I have two kids. I'm not going to do it."

Asked, "Can't you do both? Emanuel replied, "I'm not as capable as you. I'm going to be a father. I'm allowed to be a father," and he pushed the reporter's digital recorder away.

Blagojevch was caught on tape saying that he wanted the Obama advisor in question to know what Blagojevich wanted in exchange for the Jarrett appointment.

Blagojevich said, "He asks me for the fifth CD thing, I want it to be in his head." Emanuel represents the 5th Congressional District in Illinois.

No one in the Obama campaign or administration has been charged with any wrongdoing. Obama said this morning that none of his staff has had a hand in any dealmaking on his Senate replacement.

THINGS LOOK WORSE FOR FORECLOSURES

Bloomberg - U.S. foreclosure filings climbed 28 percent in November from a year earlier and a brewing 'storm' of new defaults and job losses may force 1 million homeowners from their properties next year, RealtyTrac Inc. said.

A total of 259,085 properties got a default notice, were warned of a pending auction or were foreclosed on last month, the seller of default data said in a report today. That's the fewest since June. Filings fell 7 percent from October as state laws and lender programs designed to delay the foreclosure process allowed delinquent borrowers to stay in their homes. . .

Rising unemployment, expiring foreclosure moratoriums and state efforts that "run out of steam" will push monthly filings toward the record of more than 303,000 set in August, Sharga said. The number of homes that revert to lenders, the last stage of foreclosure and known as "real estate owned" or REO properties, will increase to 1 million from as many as 880,000 this year, he said.

"The forces leading to foreclosure are hard to offset in most cases and impossible in many," Robert Hall, a Stanford University professor and chairman of the National Bureau of Economic Research committee that calls the beginnings and ends of recessions, wrote in an e-mail. "Job loss is a major source of defaults at all times, and job losses are running at extreme levels now."

A FEW FACTS ABOUT AUTO WORKERSW

Fact Check - As for whether Toyota workers earn more than employees of U.S. domestic automakers: In 2006, at Toyota's Georgetown, Ky., plant, workers averaged more in base pay and bonuses than UAW members at Ford, General Motors and Daimler Chrylser, according to the Detroit Free Press. The difference was due to profit-sharing bonuses; Detroit's workers aren't getting many of those these days because, well, there's really nothing to share. The transplants don't give out much data, however, so it's hard to tell if this pattern is continuing or even if it applied to all Toyota plants in 2006.

Labor costs only account for about 10 percent of the cost of producing a vehicle. And it's not the cost of American cars that people complain about; they're already often thousands of dollars less than their Japanese counterparts. Whatever changes may be made in the carmakers' labor agreements, we're convinced, and the recent hearings show, that there are much bigger problems in Detroit.

Washington Post - GM workers average about $28 an hour, though new workers receive far less. The Nissan workers make about $25 an hour, the company said.
"The overall compensation for a worker is not that different whether it's a foreign or domestic automaker in the U.S. -- they're all in the same ballpark," said Kristin Dziczek, assistant director of research at the Center for Automotive Research at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. "They have to be. Good wages and benefits avoid unionization." The biggest difference in the labor costs is that the foreign automakers don't have to pay for legions of retirees -- their workers are younger and haven't received benefits that are as generous, Dziczek said.

From a letter from Peter Karmanos, Jr., chairman and CEO of Compuware Corporation, to U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., a critic of bridge loans for American automakers.

Peter Karmanos, Jr - I trust it is safe to say that when you refer to "government subsidies," you are referring to subsidies provided by both federal and state governments. And if this is in fact true, then I am sure you were adamantly against the State of Alabama offering lucrative incentives (in essence, subsidies) to Mercedes Benz in the early 1990s to lure the German automobile manufacturer to the State.

As it turned out, Alabama offered a stunning $253 million incentive package to Mercedes. Additionally, the state also offered to train the workers, clear and improve the site, upgrade utilities, and buy 2,500 Mercedes Benz vehicles. All told, it is estimated that the incentive package totaled anywhere from $153,000 to $220,000 per created job. On top of all this, the state gave the foreign automaker a large parcel of land worth between $250 and $300 million, which was coincidentally how much the company expected to invest in building the plant.

THE BLAGO BEAT

NY Times - In a rare firsthand account of how Mr. Blagojevich, a two-term Democrat, went about the selection process, an Illinois state senator said in an interview that he had felt pressured to respond to the governor's interest in him with a quid pro quo agreement and has withdrawn his name because of increasing wariness about the process.

The state senator, Kwame Raoul, who represents the South Side of Chicago, offered few details of his interaction with the governor's office but said he received a call about a month ago confirming that he was under consideration. Soon afterward, however, Mr. Raoul said he ran head-on into another message: that the governor was looking for a candidate who offered something of tangible value to him.

"It was open knowledge among people in and around Springfield," Mr. Raoul said. "Legislators and lobbyists alike openly talked about the fact that the governor would want to appoint somebody who would benefit him. I can firmly say that I've had these conversations, that I've spoken with both legislators and lobbyists who felt that that would be the consideration in his appointment."

Mr. Raoul would not specifically say what the content of the conversations were, or whom they were with, except that the initial inquiry from the governor's office was made by Victor Roberson, deputy director for intergovernmental affairs. Interest in his candidacy died on both sides, Mr. Raoul said, adding, "Obviously, the perception was that I didn't have anything to give other than my service."

CRASH TALK

Wall Street Journal - Banks lined up to reveal billions in potential losses as a result of alleged fraud by Wall Street investment manager Bernard Madoff. The Royal Bank of Scotland - 58 per cent owned by the taxpayer - said L400 million was at risk in the hedge funds invested with 70-year-old . . . Spanish bank Santander, which owns Abbey and the savings business of Bradford & Bingley, said its potential exposure was more than L2 billion. . . HSBC said it believed it had a potential exposure of around 1 billion US dollars.

Wall Street Journal - New potential victims emerged of Wall Street veteran Bernard Madoff's alleged giant Ponzi scheme, with international banks, hedge funds and wealthy private investors among those sorting out what could amount to tens of billions of dollars in losses. New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon, GMAC LLC Chairman J. Ezra Merkin and former Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman were among the dozens of seemingly sophisticated investors who placed money on what could prove to be history's largest financial scam.

And at least three funds of hedge funds -- which raise money from investors and farm it out to hedge funds -- may have significant losses. Fairfield Greenwich Group and Tremont Capital Management of New York placed hundreds of millions of their investors' dollars into funds overseen by Mr. Madoff. On Friday, Maxam Capital Management LLC reported a combined loss of $280 million on funds they had invested with Mr. Madoff. "I'm wiped out," said Sandra Manzke, Maxam's founder and chairman. The Darien, Conn., fund of hedge funds will have to close as a result of the losses, she said. . .

Details emerged Friday of how Mr. Madoff ran the alleged scam, fostering a veneer of exclusivity and creating an A-list of investors that became his most powerful marketing tool. From New York and Florida to Minnesota and Texas, the money manager became an insider's choice among well-heeled investors seeking steady returns. By hiring unofficial agents, tapping into elite country clubs and creating "invitation only" policies for investors, he recruited a steady stream of new clients.

During golf-course and cocktail-party banter, Mr. Madoff's name frequently surfaced as a money manager who could consistently deliver high returns. Older, Jewish investors called Mr. Madoff " 'the Jewish bond,' " says Ken Phillips, head of a Boulder, Colo., investment firm. "It paid 8% to 12%, every year, no matter what.". . .

Mr. Madoff tapped social networks in Dallas, Chicago, Boston and Minneapolis. In Minnesota, he attracted investors from Hillcrest Golf Club of St. Paul and Oak Ridge Country Club in Hopkins, investors say. One of them estimated that investors from the two clubs may have invested more than $100 million combined. . .

Jeff Fischer, a top divorce attorney in Palm Beach, says many of his clients were also Mr. Madoff's clients. "Every big divorce that came through my office had portfolio positions with Madoff," he says. . .

Richard Spring, a Boca Raton resident and former securities analyst, says he had about $11 million -- or 95% of his net worth -- invested with Mr. Madoff. "That's how much I believed in him," Mr. Spring said. .

Eric Gibson, Wall Street Jouirnal - We can now add colleges and universities to the list of victims of the financial crisis. The stock-market collapse has badly eroded endowments, forcing schools to suspend capital projects, freeze hiring, rethink need-blind financial-aid policies and cut budgets. The Journal reported this week that Harvard University's giant-killer endowment, which stood at $36.9 billion as of June 30, has lost 22% of its value in the months since and that the university's administration is planning for a 30% decline for the fiscal year ending next June. In a letter to the Harvard community two days ago, President Drew Gilpin Faust announced that the school is "reconsidering the scale and pace of planned capital projects, including the University's development in Allston, and . . . taking a hard look at hiring, staffing levels and compensation." Many private colleges and universities are doing the same thing. In response to falling endowments, some have considered suing their brokers for putting funds into risky investments, while others are trying to get a slice of any future congressional stimulus package. Can clamor for a bailout be far behind?

Incredibly, one or two schools have even contemplated making up their shortfalls the old-fashioned way -- by increasing tuition. . . The soup-to-nuts cost (tuition, room and board, extras) of one year at a private college is already in the region of $50,000, bringing the cost of a bachelor's degree to close to a quarter of a million dollars. As one wag has observed, that's like buying a new BMW every year and driving it off a cliff.

Moreover, tuition increases have consistently outpaced inflation. Since 1992, inflation has averaged between 2.5% and 3% a year; annual tuition increases have often been as high as 6%. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the reason that tuition increases at private four-year institutions kept pace with inflation this year is not that these schools suddenly curbed their free-spending ways but that inflation itself jumped dramatically. The average tuition increase was 5.9%, while the Consumer Price Index rose 5.6% in the 12 months from July 2007. . .

In its latest survey, published last month, the Chronicle reports that compensation for private university presidents rose on average 6% in the past year, a figure that represents 50% more than the standard annual merit increase for private-sector employees. The total compensation (salary plus benefits) of three private university presidents for 2007, the most recent year for which data are available, was in the stratosphere: Columbia University's Lee C. Bollinger earned $1,411,894 and Northwestern University's Henry S. Bienen, $1,742,560; Suffolk University in Massachusetts paid David J. Sargent $2,800,461.

Washngton Post - Fannie Mae has agreed to let renters stay in their homes even if the owners of the properties have been foreclosed on. About 4,000 renters live in properties foreclosed on by Fannie Mae. The move comes after the mortgage-finance giant came under pressure from a Connecticut legal aid group to end efforts to evict tenants who are able to pay their monthly bills but whose landlords have lost their buildings to foreclosure.

Palm Beach Post - Congress wanted to guarantee that the $700 billion financial bailout would limit the eye-popping pay of Wall Street executives, so lawmakers included a mechanism for reviewing executive compensation and penalizing firms that break the rules. But at the last minute, the Bush administration insisted on a one-sentence change to the provision, congressional aides said. The change stipulated that the penalty would apply only to firms that received bailout funds by selling troubled assets to the government in an auction, which was the way the Treasury Department had said it planned to use the money. Now, however, the small change looks more like a giant loophole, according to lawmakers and legal experts. In a reversal, the Bush administration has not used auctions for any of the $335 billion committed so far from the rescue package, nor does it plan to use them in the future. Lawmakers and legal experts say the change has effectively repealed the only enforcement mechanism in the law dealing with lavish pay for top executives.

Bloomberg - Almost a third of hedge funds will shut or merge after the $1.5 trillion industry posted its worst ever performance this year, according to IGS Group, which advises hedge funds on raising money. . The number of hedge funds more than tripled in the last decade to a record 10,233 at the end of June, according to Chicago-based Hedge Fund Research Inc. . . Hedge funds typically charge a 2 percent management fee and keep 20 percent of profits. . . Prime brokers, the banks that provide loans and handle fund administration, are cutting off firms they don't expect to be profitable clients, Godden added. Hedge funds will need to manage at least $300 million in assets, up from $100 million a year ago to stay in business, Sullivan said.

Reuters - Homelessness and demand for emergency food are rising in the United States as the economy founders, a report said, and homeless advocates cautioned many cities were not equipped for the increase. A survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors showed that 19 of 25 cities saw an increase in homelessness in the 12 months to October, while four reported a drop and two cities lacked enough data for conclusive results. On average, the cities in the survey saw a 12 percent rise in homelessness, the report said. Although the results do not cover all U.S. cities, homeless advocates said they were in line with anecdotal evidence nationwide. Homeless advocates say families are flooding homeless shelters across the United States in numbers not seen for years, camping out in motels or staying with friends and relatives following foreclosures on tens of thousands of homes during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

NY Times - The Superior Court system in New Hampshire will take the unusual step of halting jury trials for a month early next year because of a widening state budget crisis. John Broderick, the state's chief justice, said suspending trials was essential to avoid layoffs in the judicial system, which has already cut $2.7 million from its budget. The measure will save about $73,000, the monthly amount spent on stipends for jurors. But the head of an association representing civil trial lawyers said it could have a harsh impact on plaintiffs, many of whom have already waited years for a judgment in their case. "What are they going to rely on in the interim?" said Ellen Shemitz, executive director of the New Hampshire Association for Justice. "Some of these people have been harmed by the wrongdoing of others, are out of work as a result and are looking to the courts to protect their rights and provide some kind of financial remuneration."

NY Times - Opponents of a Congressional bailout for Detroit auto companies laid blame for its defeat on the United Automobile workers union, which refused to agree to grant wage concessions in 2009 as a condition of the deal. At a news conference, Ron Gettelfinger, the president of the U.A.W., disputed that description of the events and called on the Treasury and the White House to release financing and "prevent the imminent collapse of the automakers and the devastating consequences that would follow." . . .

Representatives for the union, which had already accepted a series of cuts in its current contract, sought instead to push any more concessions back to 2011, when the U.A.W.'s contract with Detroit auto companies expires.

In a statement Thursday night, the union said it was "prepared to agree that any restructuring plan should ensure that the wages and benefits of workers at the domestic automakers should be competitive with those paid by the foreign transplants. But we also recognized that this would take time to work out and implement" using programs like buyouts and early retirement offers to bring in new workers at lower rates.

"Unfortunately, Senate Republicans insisted that this had to be accomplished by an arbitrary deadline. This arbitrary requirement was not imposed on any other stakeholder groups. Thus, the U.A.W. believed this was a blatant attempt to make workers shoulder the lion's share of the costs of any restructuring plan," the statement said. . .

Mr. Gettelfinger said Friday that "The G.O.P. caucus was insisting the restructuring had to be done on the backs of workers and retirees rather than have all stakeholders come to the table."

Media Matters - Simply put, GM's labor costs are not synonymous with hourly wages earned by UAW employees. Many in the press have casually used the two interchangeably. But they're not.

Felix Salmon at Portfolio did perhaps the best job explaining the misinformation at play: "The average GM assembly-line worker makes about $28 per hour in wages, and I can assure you that GM is not paying $42 an hour in health insurance and pension plan contributions. Rather, the $70 per hour figure (or $73 an hour, or whatever) is a ridiculous number obtained by adding up GM's total labor, health, and pension costs, and then dividing by the total number of hours worked. In other words, it includes all the healthcare and retirement costs of retired workers. [emphasis in original]

Indeed, according to this Associated Press report, a chunk of GM's $70-an-hour labor costs goes toward paying current retirees' pensions and health-care coverage. In other words, that's money that's not going to end up in the pocket of any autoworker when he cashes his paycheck this week. That's money GM has to set aside in order to pay off costs associated with workers already in retirement. That money has absolutely nothing to do with calculating the hourly wage of a full-time UAW employee today. None. "

So, no, UAW workers don't make $70 an hour even if you factor in benefits, because a portion of those benefits are going to people who retired years ago.

Democratic Underground - While Mitch McConnell and other Republicans have hinted that their opposition to investment in the Big Three is all about busting the unions, Jim DeMint refreshingly came out and admitted it yesterday on NPR.

Norris: Now, you know the unions are saying this is also a political ploy on the part of the Republicans to try get rid of unions and use the auto industry troubles to do just that.

DeMint: Well, I'm not trying to get rid of the unions, but I am saying that they appear to be an antiquated concept in today's economy.

DC Indymedia - The sit-in and plant occupation at Chicago's Republic Windows and Doors ended in victory when the union announced that more than 200 workers and members of UE Local 1110 voted unanimously to accept a $1.75 million settlement that includes eight weeks of back pay, two months of continued health coverage, and compensation for unused vacation time.

According to UE, over the five days of the Republic plant occupation, messages of solidarity poured in from around the world. Individual workers, organizations, labor unions and federations sent emails and letters of solidarity. Protests against the Bank of America were also organized across the U.S. as word of the Republic occupation spread.

Stephen Gandel, Time - While the $700 billion bailout has been the focus of attention and scrutiny, the Internal Revenue Service and lawmakers have been quietly making changes to the tax code and how it is followed in an effort to further boost the financial strength of ailing companies. At the same time, though, the changes drain billions of dollars of badly needed tax revenue when the federal deficit is mushrooming. Many of the changes may lower corporate-tax revenue for years to come.

"The IRS has spent the past few months trying to make the rules as liberal as possible," says Robert Willens, an accounting and tax expert in New York. "They have been decreasing corporate taxes pretty consistently."

The IRS this year has issued 113 notices, many of which will lower the taxes companies will pay this year and in the future. That breaks the previous record of 111 in 2006, and is nearly double the 65 issued in the last year of Bill Clinton's presidency. Lawmakers, too, have passed tax changes and are pushing for more, which will save corporations billions of dollars this year. One of the biggest windfalls could come from a proposed change in the so-called carryback rule, which would fatten the tax rebate companies get when they have losses. The extension would be similar to one that was passed after 9/11. . .

Jonathan Stempel, Reuters - Jim Rogers, one of the world's most prominent international investors, called most of the largest U.S. banks "totally bankrupt," and said government efforts to fix the sector are wrongheaded. Speaking by teleconference at the Reuters Investment Outlook 2009 Summit, the co-founder with George Soros of the Quantum Fund, said the government's $700 billion rescue package for the sector doesn't address how banks manage their balance sheets, and instead rewards weaker lenders with new capital. . .

"Without giving specific names, most of the significant American banks, the larger banks, are bankrupt, totally bankrupt," said Rogers, who is now a private investor.

"What is outrageous economically and is outrageous morally is that normally in times like this, people who are competent and who saw it coming and who kept their powder dry go and take over the assets from the incompetent," he said. "What's happening this time is that the government is taking the assets from the competent people and giving them to the incompetent people and saying, now you can compete with the competent people. It is horrible economics.". . .

BREVITAS

OUTLYING PRECINCTS

Frederic Dicker, NY Post - A prominent New York Democratic congressman publicly questioned Caroline Kennedy's credentials to replace Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, saying she's no more qualified to hold office than Jennifer Lopez. Rep. Gary Ackerman of Queens, a 25-year veteran of Congress, declared in a radio interview: "I don't know what Caroline Kennedy's qualifications are." "Except that she has name recognition, but so does J.Lo," Ackerman continued on Steve Malzberg's radio show on WOR. "I wouldn't make J.Lo the senator unless she proved she had great qualifications, but we haven't seen them yet.". . . Ackerman also joked that he had taken himself out of the running for the Senate in a way that appeared to highlight Kennedy's lack of statewide experience. He said he wouldn't want to replace Clinton "because I don't do Utica, and that's a qualification for the job." A Marist College poll Tuesday showed that Kennedy, who lives in Manhattan, has her weakest support for a potential Senate race among upstate voters.

MONEY & WORK

MSNBC - Idled farm workers are searching for food in the nation's most prolific agricultural region, where a double blow of drought and a court-ordered cutback of water supplies has caused hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. [California's] most dire water shortage in three decades is expected to erase more than 55,000 jobs across the fertile San Joaquin Valley by summer and drive up food prices across the nation, university economists predict. "People being thrown out of work are the ones who can least afford it," said Richard Howitt, a professor of agriculture economics at the University of California-Davis, who estimates that $1.6 billion in agriculture-related wages across the valley will be lost in the coming months because of dwindling water. Already the wage losses have hit businesses that are the backbone of the small farm communities that sustain nearly a quarter of the nation's agriculture production.

JUSTICE & FREEDOM

Washington Post - Immigration and civil liberties groups condemned a new U.S. government policy to collect DNA samples from all non-citizens detained by authorities and all people arrested for federal crimes. The new Justice Department rule. . . dramatically expands a federal law enforcement database of genetic identifiers, which is now limited to storing information about convicted criminals and arrestees from 13 states. . . U.S. officials said that probable cause that a person has committed a crime or indications that he is an illegal immigrant subject to removal from the country are appropriate standards for collecting DNA. But Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's technology and liberty project, said the change "turns the presumption of innocence on its head." Charles H. Kuck, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the U.S. rule "casts civilly detained immigrants as criminals, requiring them to submit to DNA testing even in cases where there is no suggestion of any criminal violation."

JESSE VENTURA TALKS ABOUT THE CIA'S INTEREST IN MINNESOTA

MEDIA

PR Watch - The Society of Professional Journalists has issued a statement strongly criticizing the National Broadcasting Corporation for its continued use of retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey as an on-air military analyst, while failing to disclose McCaffrey's multiple conflicts of interest that were recently detailed in the New York Times. "When the retired general offers his insight on the air for NBC, CNBC and MSNBC, viewers are left with the impression he is an objective observer, a former military man speaking from the depths of his experience," it states. "What the networks have failed to tell viewers is that McCaffrey has a financial interest in the war." . . . Writing for the Columbia Journalism Review, Charles Kaiser asks if there is "any limit to the shamelessness of NBC News," which "has never once disclosed any of McCaffrey's multiple conflicts of interest on the air. . . McCaffrey is the living embodiment of all the worst aspects of entrenched Washington corruption -- a man who shares with scores of other retired officers a huge financial interest in having America conduct its wars for as long as possible."

Word is that Detroit newspapers may cut home delivery to three times a week.

THE MIX

Malaysia Sun - The Vatican's chief spokesman has said that the Roman Catholic Church believes homosexuality must not be considered a crime, but added that initiatives aimed at putting all forms of sexual orientation on the same level are wrong. Father Federico Lombardi was commenting on controversy triggered by the Holy See's decision to oppose a proposal by France, backed by the 27-nation European Union, for a United Nations resolution calling governments to decriminalize homosexuality. Lombardi said the Vatican opposed all forms of discrimination, but he added that the proposal, if accepted, could end up making the Catholic Church, which opposes granting marriage rights to homosexuals, guilty of infringing human rights. . . Homosexuality is currently punishable by law in more than 85 countries. It is punishable by death in a number of them, including Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen.

CITIES

NY Times - Ridership on the city's sprawling public transportation system increased about 9 percent from 2003 to 2007. "What you see is that for the first time since at least World War II, all of the growth in travel in the city has been absorbed by non-auto modes, primarily by mass transit," said Bruce Schaller, New York's deputy transportation commissioner for planning and sustainability, who wrote the study. . . Mr. Schaller said that vehicle trips citywide peaked in 1999 and then leveled off, with a dip in 2001 as a result of the terror attack on the World Trade Center. The overall trend has been largely stable traffic volumes across the city from 1999 through 2007. In contrast, during the years when the economy was most buoyant, from 2003 to 2007, transit ridership soared, increasing about 9 percent during those years, according to the city study. The difference is even greater when the focus is on the core commercial district of Manhattan, south of 60th Street. From 2003 to 2007, the study found, traffic entering that area fell by 3 percent. During the same period, transit ridership into the same zone rose 12 percent.

RELIGION & ITS ALTERNATIVES

LA Times - Bill Ritter Jr. was not the first governor of Colorado to declare the first Thursday in May as a day of prayer. But he was the first to attend a celebration of the National Day of Prayer at the state Capitol, joining a crowd of several hundred Christians in 2007. His appearance at the event caught the attention of a Wisconsin-based atheist group, which has mounted a campaign its leaders hope will dissuade him and other governors from participating again. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has filed a lawsuit in state court, seeking to stop the governor from issuing any proclamations it says endorse a particular religion and send a message to nonreligious residents "that they are expected to believe in God.". . . "Everybody has become too comfortable with this interaction of religion and government. Sometimes someone needs to push back," said David Habecker, 63, one of the lawsuit's plaintiffs and a member of the foundation.

ABP - South Carolinians who want to advertise their Christian faith on their car tags won't get to anytime soon, according to a Dec. 11 ruling by a federal judge. In a preliminary injunction, United States District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie ordered state officials to halt production, sales, advertising and distribution of the new license plates. The tags feature a cross superimposed on a stylized stained-glass window and the inscription "I Believe" above the tag number and the name of the state. In a five-page order, Currie said she issued the injunction because federal courts would likely find the law that created the plates a gross violation of the Constitution's ban on government establishment of religion.

REVIEW IRREGULARS. . . .

Thanks to Jorn Barger, Charles Everett, Scott Langill, Chris Harris, Doug Ireland, Larry Bensky, HT Moses and Jim McCusker whose recent communiques have had some effect - subtle, corrective, moderating, enlightening or enabling - on what you read here over the past week.

FURTHERMORE. . . .

The South El Monte city council has ordered its mayor to leave city hall by 11 pm. South El Monte is east of LA, The mayor, who says she needs to work late to get everything done, calls the new rule petty.

GALLERY: REALLY THIN BUILDINGS IN JAPAN

SCRABBLE IS 60 YEARS OLD

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

CHILDREN'S BRAINS

And what will science do should it discover that some of the functional differences may be present pre-birth, the cause of congenital happenstance? Or even, lord help us, in some cases at least, that these differences might be the result of heritable traits passed down over successive generations? What then? Do we, as a society, simply reconcile ourselves to the idea that poverty may well be genetic and conclude that the poor 'have it in their blood' so to speak, and thus will always be with us?

Regarding the UC Berkeley findings that children on the lower rungs of society have different brains than those children of the middle class: reading the article I felt as though ice water was running in my veins and down my spine. Reminds me of Nazi science and the findings regarding race. I imagine that we will be hearing in the next few months that we need to prevent poor people from reproducing.

You're assuming the findings were based on genetics. They were actually based on environmental conditions,

FLOTSAM & JETSAM: HOW CORRUPTION HAS CHANGED

Excellent post. I wish people would pay more attention to the incredibly corrupt Kennedy machine, which has dominated Boston and MA politics for a century now, and has even extended its tendrils into New York. Not surprising that Ted Kennedy would be trying to get his niece appointed as Senator. If people would take off their rose-colored glasses and investigate the Kennedy finances they'd find lots of dirt there. JFK appointing RFK as attorney general is the worst act of presidential nepotism and cronyism in history. But it goes way back. Did you know that their grandfather, Honey Fitz, had his election to Congress in 1917 invalidated because of voter fraud?

IN NEW ZEALAND YOUR VOTE COUNTS

Very informative, but a small error; it's not Liberal Party but Labour Party in NZ - GevN

BLAGOJEVICH AND OBAMA

Is anyone seriously claiming this is not a case of selective prosecution? Fitzgerald had Cheney dead to rights on the Plame case but backed off. Subsequently every U.S. District Attorney who didn't comply with selective politically motivated prosecution was fired, yet here we have the Pat Fitzgeralds and the Mary Beth Buchanans stinking up the Justice Dept. I'm not defending Blagojevich's ethics, but obviously this is selective prosecution intended to embarass and weaken Obama and the Dems.

I'm impressed (not favorably) about how carefully Obama is being protected. Why on Earth should we believe that Obama, who, as Sam has noted, was foisted on us by somebody, is clean?

DISMANTLE THE TSA

Only two things have actually changed to improve real airline security since 9/11, and neither has anything to do with TSA:

- passengers in fear of their collective lives will now die before ceding control to hijackers

- the door to the pilot's cabin has been reinforced and cannot be opened from outside

Everything else is what is known in the business as "security theater" - useless rituals that reassure an ignorant public. - Stephen P. Schaefer

EDUCATING FOR GREATNESS, NOT GRADES

Educational psychologists have long known that adults spend no time on learning that's not in the service of a goal. If they're not going to get something out of the process that they want, little or no learning will take place.

Psychologists also know that the first stage of learning is to map the new material onto existing material. However imperfectly we do it, we must relate the new material to something we already understand (or think we do).

Is it really so surprising, then, to think that children, like other creatures, might not be the simple, conveniently volitionless "meat mechanisms" that our economic system want nearly all of us to be? That even children might respond better if treated as human? - Mairead

EMANUEL REFUSES TO ANSWER REPORTERS' QUERIES

The pony at the bottom of this mess would be the possibility that Rahm ends up considered being too damaged goods to function of chief of staff, and thus, gets replaced. One can only dream.

EXPERTS BEGINNING TO QUESTION WHETHER RENEWABLE ENERGY IS ENOUGH

Fewer people, workplaces and schools in walking distance from homes, and work-from-home would immediately reduce energy needs. Slightly longer term real investment in insulation would cut peak energy demands during the hottest and coldest months.

Slowing down - allowing much more time for travel - would allow energy demand to be cut. Do cargo ships really have to move as fast as possible, or as efficiently as possible?

A slower, less hectic world could be much more pleasant to live in, without sacrificing anything in luxury.

FLOTSAM & JETSAM: THE CRASH OF AMERICAN IMAGINATION

It was actually Hoover's Administration that came up with the idea for large scale public works to boost the economy. FDR ran on two issues: Balance the budget and repeal prohibition. He only achieved the latter. He abandoned trying to balance the budget after about 8 months when the attempt was obviously making the economy worse; only then did he start enlisting advisors who put together the New Deal - essential continuing and expanding the measures Hoover had started. What FDR was best at was making FDR look good, and instilling confidence (really quite unfounded) in his presidency. He cleverly managed to make all his failures appear unavoidable consequences of fate, while taking credit for every success . . even if he had opposed it.

It is true that Hoover's Reconstruction Finance Corporation was a forerunner of the Works Progress Administration. But your division is a bit exaggerated. The WPA was started two years after Roosevelt took office. And he liked the RFC enough to hire his top aide, Tommy Corcoran, from there. And how does your editor know this arcane fact? Because my own father worked with Corcoran at the RFC, then returned to private practice, only to get a call a couple of months into the New Deal from Corcoran urging him to come back, which he did.

FORMER CHAIR OF NASDAQ ARRESTED IN ALLEGED SCAM

Note that in cases involving less influential persons the feds generally seize the defendant's assets, alleging assets were criminally obtained, making hiring adequate legal representation impossible.

FOXES IN THE CHICKEN COOP: OBAMA NAMES PRO NUKE HEAD OF ENERGY

People don't seem to realize that, while nukes have a limited future because of their nature -there's only so much mineable radioactive material available - we don't currently have another source of energy that has its potential yield and doesn't contribute to the climate disaster. We need to focus on high-yield, high-safety installations -- and crank up research into replacement technologies. Or we need to stop being a technological society.

We haven't overcome the basic level of entropic limits: we don't yet (maybe never will) know how to get a lot of energy without giving up something important for it. Personally, I don't think creating massive visual and noise pollution is a good tradeoff to avoid the risk of a nuke accident. Pollution kills, too - and it does it all the time, with certainty. A cataclysm only kills if it happens.

GOING NUTS OVER NUTS

Let's not forget to add avian flu to the hysterical mix. That, too, is once again starting to make its rounds. Folks are already starting to look cross-eyed at my humble flock of chickens. I've already been asked if I feel safe having them in my yard. Let me state here and now to those so concerned, it's not the chickens that give me pause. What's more, I feel perfectly safe with the four varieties of nut trees and bushes surrounding my yard. My only problem seems to be nuts of the two legged variety.

Don't forget the contribution made by insurance companies and lawyers to this nonsense.

The incredible levels of hysteria that have been generated over this non-threat by parents (usually moms in the affluent 'hipster/yuppie' demographic, I've frequently noticed) just tend to reinforce my personal belief that breeding truly does cause degeneration of brain cells.

Well obviously we need to curb this menace. Fell all nut trees, pecans, walnuts. Let's cut down hickories and oaks too, then burn them all in some giant tribute to ignorance and self-loathing. I mean the earth is dirty and dangerous. I think much of D.H. Lawrence's brilliant work centers around human creation of an environment unsuitable for their entire evolution. Every once in a while I think of the scene from Srike Pay wherein the striking miners have received their weekly pittance and make straight for the taverns, They pass a fence where the mine's draft ponies are staring forlornly at a day of idle freedom . Instead of freedom the ponies and the miners see confusion and emptiness. Lawrence thought western civilization was neurotic and wrongheaded.

Lest a anyone rush out and harm a tree to curb this menace, remember that peanuts (a legume) grow underground on a vine. - Lorax

GREAT MOMENTS IN SCIENCE

Ah, yes. Pharmaceutical LSD-25 from Sandoz Laboratories. Profound mystical experience from a tiny tablet. Those were the days. - marc

HARVARD BUDDIES HEAVY ON OBAMA TEAM

It would be well worth the time and effort to locate a copy of The Best And The Brightest, David Halberstam's chronicle of that previous Harvard dominated era. The parallels are already striking.

WAITING TO VOTE

The wait times to vote given by ABC/MIT seem a bit short. Everyone I know in Florida waited 45 minutes to 3 hours to vote.

OBAMA OWES CARTER AN APOLOGY

Isolating Palestinians in enclaves whose only egress is blocked by IDF is not apartheid? Then I guess carpet bombing Lebanon was self defense? Torturing teenagers is entertainment? To most Americans, Carter is the only lucid president we've had in decades.

OBAMA'S MANY VIEWS ON MARIJUANA

Marijuana should be legal or at least decriminalized. The only lives I've seen ruined by pot are the lives of the people that got caught. DUI is a lesser offense than possession of marijuana in many states. How many people do you know that were killed by a marijuana smoker?

OBAMALAND

Democratic Party partisans look exactly like Republican Party partisans -- or fundamentalists of any creed. Strip away the identifying information and it's not possible to tell them apart. Same tactics, same intolerance for "deviationism", same demands for lockstep obedience and purity. Partisan politics is a religion, and we're the worse for it.

RUBIN NAMED IN SUIT ALLEGING CITIGROUP PONZI SCHEME

I can't possibly guess why the Bush Justice Dept. didn't investigate and prosecute this case. I guess the FBI was too busy knocking down doors and terrorizing innocent families of low level fugitive drug dealers. Asking the Feds to oversee finance and protect investors would be like expecting a madam to warn her clients that one of her whores had an STD.



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