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Undernews For August 27, 2008

Undernews For August 27, 2008

Washington's Most Unofficial Source
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Editor: Sam Smith

27 AUG 2008


If he's the answer, then the question must be ridiculous. - NY Governor David Paterson on John McCain



Denver Post - An ABC News producer was arrested outside the Brown Palace Hotel as he attempted to chronicle attendees at a private breakfast held by a Democratic Party campaign committee. ABC said in a statement that Asa Eslocker and a camera crew were "attempting to take pictures on a public sidewalk of Democratic senators and VIP donors leaving a private meeting."

"We're getting under their skin, I think," said Brian Ross, ABC News correspondent whose "Money Trail" reports are running every night this week and next from both nominating conventions.

Eslocker, a member of the investigative team, was charged with trespass, interference and failure to follow a lawful order. He was put in handcuffs and taken by police van to the downtown police station.

He was released after posting $500 bond.

On Tuesday, Ross and his crew were asked to leave Hotel Teatro when they tried to photograph a private function. On Monday, they shot pictures of a party at the Denver Art Museum through the glass.

ABC has video shot at the scene of the arrest, showing a hotel security guard, wearing the uniform of a Boulder County Sheriff's Office, ordering Eslocker off the sidewalk.

Denver Post - Denver police moved against a group of protesters, arresting two near the group's "convergence center" north of downtown. Police said they were drawn to the gathering place for the protest group Unconventional Denver at 4301 Brighton Blvd. after spotting what Lt. J. McDonald termed "suspicious activity." When police arrived, they determined there was no illegal activity "but they found some items that might be used as weapons," McDonald said.

Standing near the house, Michael Gonzalez, 20, of Seattle said he thinks the only suspicious activity was a man working on his mini bus in front of the house. The bus runs on vegetable oil.

Several officers approached the owner of the bus, who was working on the oil filter, Gonzalez said. The officers had Tasers in hand and ordered the van owner to put his hands above his head.

Seeing the police approaching, another person slowly walked toward the back end of the building, which has been rented by Unconventional Denver for the week, he said.

"The cops grabbed him and slammed him on his head," Gonzalez said.

The officers seemed suspicious of the bus, which has a giant drum in the back used to hold the vegetable oil, Gonzalez said.

The officers also said that bricks laying on the dusty ground could be used as weapons, Gonzalez said.

"The bricks were used to hold down banners that we were painting," he said. "They weren't weapons. They were paperweights."

The two men, whose names have not yet been released, were arrested for disobeying a lawful order. Police then discussed whether to seek a search warrant for the house but decided they did not have probable cause for further search.


Washington Post - As prices at the pump soared above $4 a gallon, road fatalities have plummeted nationwide, according to a study by the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute. If current trends continue, traffic deaths this year could reach a low not seen since 1961, when the Beatles were playing small clubs in Liverpool and gas was about 31 cents a gallon.

The study's author, Michael Sivak, said that high fuel costs have not only kept more cars off the road. . . there is evidence that many motorists are slowing down to conserve fuel, which contributes to fewer and less severe crashes, he said. In addition, drivers are cutting back on nonessential trips and leisure driving, which tend to occur at night and on weekends when driving is more hazardous than during a slow commute. And low-income teens and seniors, who have been hit harder by high prices and tend to have more crashes, are driving less to save money, Sivak said.


As Maine Goes - Governor Baldacci speaking by phone from the Democrat convention in Denver with George Hale and Ric Tyler on Bangor’s WVOM: "I think Barack Obama and his campaign, and working together, we need to make sure that he’s connecting to the mailman, to the fireman and policemen, to the teachers; to the women who are out there struggling to raise their famiies, and single heads of households in the difficult economy. He hasn’t been able to connect to that as directly as he needs to. All of us need to do a better job of connecting to them and fighting for them. They feel like there’s nobody out there really watching out for them."

Washington Post -- Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell captured the jitters of the Democratic Party when he conceded that for all Barack Obama's gifts, "he's not exactly the easiest guy in the world to identify with" and urged the presumptive nominee to start punching back against Republican attacks. In a wide ranging interview, Rendell insisted that while Obama still has not won over perhaps 30 percent of Hillary Rodham Clinton's voters, he will have locked down 95 percent of them by midnight tonight, after Clinton speaks to the Democratic National Convention here. But Rendell, a strong Clinton supporter during the primaries, made it clear he thinks Obama still has work to do with the white, working class voters who backed her. "With people who have a lot of gifts, it's hard for people to identify with them," the governor said. "Barack Obama is handsome. He's incredibly bright. He's incredibly well spoken, and he's incredibly successful -- not exactly the easiest guy in the world to identify with.". . . He is a little like Adlai Stevenson," Rendell mused. "You ask him a question, and he gives you a six-minute answer. And the six-minute answer is smart as all get out. It's intellectual. It's well framed. It takes care of all the contingencies. But it's a lousy soundbite. . . Everybody is nervous as all get out. Everybody says we ought to be ahead by 10, 15 points. What the heck is going on?"


Bill Quiqley, Truthout - Katrina hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast three years ago this week. The president promised to do whatever it took to rebuild. . . This is what New Orleans looks like today.

0: Number of renters in Louisiana who have received financial assistance from the $10 billion federal post- Katrina rebuilding program Road Home Community Development Block Grant - compared to 116,708 homeowners.

0: Number of apartments currently being built to replace the 963 public housing apartments formerly occupied and now demolished at the St. Bernard Housing Development.

0: Amount of data available to evaluate performance of publicly financed, privately run charter schools in New Orleans in 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 school years.

0.8: Percentage of rental homes that were supposed to be repaired and occupied by August 2008 which were actually completed and occupied - a total of 82 finished out of 10,000 projected.

4: Number of the 13 City of New Orleans Planning Districts that are at the same risk of flooding as they were before Katrina.

10: Number of apartments being rehabbed so far to replace the 896 apartments formerly occupied and now demolished at the Lafitte Housing Development.

11: Percent of families who have returned to live in Lower Ninth Ward.

20-25: Years that experts estimate it will take to rebuild the City of New Orleans at current pace.

32: Percent of the city's neighborhoods that have less than half as many households as before Katrina.

36: Percent fewer tons of cargo that move through Port of New Orleans since Katrina.

38: Percent fewer hospital beds in New Orleans since Katrina.

41: Number of publicly funded, privately run public charter schools in New Orleans out of total of 79 public schools in the city.

43: Percentage of child care available in New Orleans compared to before Katrina.

46: Percentage increase in rents in New Orleans since Katrina.

56: Percentage fewer inpatient psychiatric beds compared to before Katrina.

80: Percentage fewer public transportation buses now than pre-Katrina.

81: Percentage of homeowners in New Orleans who received insufficient funds to cover the complete costs to repair their homes.

6,982: Number of families still living in FEMA trailers in metro New Orleans area.

8,000: Fewer publicly assisted rental apartments planned for New Orleans by federal government.

10,000: Houses demolished in New Orleans since Katrina.

12,000: Number of homeless in New Orleans even after camps of people living under the bridges have been resettled - double the pre-Katrina number.

14,000: Number of displaced families in New Orleans area whose hurricane rental assistance expires in March 2009.

32,000: Number of children who have not returned to public school in New Orleans, leaving the public school population less than half what it was pre-Katrina.

39,000: Number of Louisiana homeowners who have applied for federal assistance in repair and rebuilding who still have not received any money.

46,000: Fewer African-American voters in New Orleans in 2007 gubernatorial election than in 2003 gubernatorial election.

71,657: Vacant, ruined, unoccupied houses in New Orleans today.

132,000: Fewer people in New Orleans than before Katrina, according to the City of New Orleans current population estimate of 321,000 in New Orleans.

1.9 billion: FEMA dollars scheduled to be available to metro New Orleans for Katrina damages that have not yet been delivered.

2.6 billion: FEMA dollars scheduled to be available to State of Louisiana for Katrina damages that have not yet been delivered.

Greater New Orleans Community Data Center and Policy


John Kenney, New Yorker - Graphic onscreen: Twenty-two minutes until John Kenney. We see John Kenney in his office cubicle, listening to an iPod and looking really closely at the tip of a pencil.

AL TRAUTWIG: Twenty-two minutes now until we see John Kenney try to medal in the elusive sport of bi-monthly-status-meeting commenting. First time for this event, and one that’s unfamiliar to some of our viewers. Mary Carillo, you competed briefly in this event. What should we look for?

MARY CARILLO: Al, this is an event dominated by the Dutch, the Swiss, and, to a great extent, the North Koreans. These are active participants in bi-monthly status meetings, people who really prepare, whereas Americans- new to the sport-tend to be far more lethargic, taking it more as a pastime than as something to really prepare for.

A.T.: John Kenney.

M.C.: Indeed. Kenney has a unique approach to the sport. He appears, at first, almost completely ignorant of what’s happening in a meeting, often looking around with a puzzled expression.

A.T.: A cat-and-mouse game.

M.C.: No. He genuinely has no idea what’s going on.

A.T.: How does he catch up?

M.C.: He might borrow the minutes of the last meeting from whomever he’s sitting next to or even whisper to his neighbor, asking something like "What’s happening? Who’s this Phil guy?". . .

A montage of photographs of John Kenney as a baby, a child, a teen-ager. In every one, he’s sitting at a conference table. In one photo, age four, he appears to be pointing to a staffing chart. During this montage, we hear the voices of two women.

MOTHER: The first words out of his mouth-

SISTER: I’ll never forget this-

MOTHER: His first words were "I’d like to speak to Ted’s earlier point on the Q1 numbers."


Robert Verkaik, Independent, UK - The Catholic Church is under growing pressure to abandon the "homophobic" exhumation and reburial of the body of one its most famous cardinals, in defiance of his wish to lie for eternity next to the man he loved.

Gay rights campaigners have accused the Vatican – which has ordered the disinterment in the first step towards beatification – of attempting to cover up the sexuality of Cardinal John Henry Newman, who died in 1890.

Opposition to the reburial among some British Roman Catholics has been bolstered by a new poll organized by The Church Times which shows that a majority of Anglicans are now against the separation of Cardinal Newman, a former Anglican clergyman, and Father Ambrose St John who lived together as "husband and wife" for most of their late adult lives.

Yesterday, the gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told The Independent: "The Vatican's decision to move Cardinal Newman's body from its resting place is an act of grave robbery and religious desecration. It violates Newman's repeated wish to be buried for eternity with his life-long partner Ambrose St John.

"They have been together for more than 100 years and the Vatican wants to disturb that peace to cover up the fact that Cardinal Newman loved a man. It's shameful, dishonorable betrayal of Newman by the gay-hating Catholic Church."

The Church Times' poll found that 80 per cent of responders were opposed to the Vatican's decision to move Newman's body.

But Austen Ivereigh, former advisor to Cardinal Cormac-Murphy O'Connor, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, told BBC Radio 4's Sunday program that Mr Tatchell's criticism was a nonsense. Mr Ivereigh said the reburial was "part of the process to the journey towards canonization" so his remains can be taken to a suitable city to allow pilgrims "to venerate the saint to be". He added: "I don't think anyone disputes that Cardinal Newman deeply loved Ambrose St John. He did say after St John died that the grief is comparable to a husband losing a wife or wife losing a husband, but he did not mean that the relationship with Ambrose St John was a marriage like a gay relationship. It is simply wrong to read back from today's categories into the Victorian periods when these very intense, passionate, but totally celibate relationships in Oxford and among the Anglocatholic community were very common."

Cardinal Newman and Ambrose St John share a memorial stone and are buried side by side in the same grave in Rednal, Worcestershire. Cardinal Newman wrote shortly before his death: "I wish, with all my heart, to be buried in Father Ambrose St John's grave – and I give this as my last, my imperative will."

On their gravestone is a Latin inscription, "there from the shadow and images into the truth", which many people believe is a posthumous coming out.


Houston Chronicle - Court authorities will be able to track students with a history of skipping school under a new program requiring them to wear ankle bracelets with Global Positioning System monitoring. . .

Linda Penn, a Bexar County justice of the peace, said she anticipates that about 50 students - likely to be mostly high schoolers - will wear the thick ankle bracelets during the six-month pilot program announced Friday. She said the time students wear the anklets will be on a case-by-case basis, but she doubted any will wear them the entire half-year.

"We are at a critical point in our time where we can either educate or incarcerate," Penn said, linking truancy with juvenile delinquency and later criminal activity.

Penn said students in the program will wear the ankle bracelets full-time and will not be able to remove them. They'll be selected as they come through her court, and Penn will target truant students with gang affiliations, those with a history of running away and skipping school, and those who have been through her court multiple times.

Penn said the electronic monitoring is part of a comprehensive program she started four years ago to reduce truancy. She cited programs in Midland and Dallas as having success with similar electronic monitoring measures.


Rosa Brooks, LA Times - "Play" is a mysterious activity children engage in when not compelled to spend every hour under adult supervision, taking soccer or piano lessons or practicing vocabulary words with computerized flashcards.

All in all, "going out to play" worked out well for kids. As the American Academy of Pediatrics' Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg testified to Congress in 2006, "Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practicing adult roles. . . Play helps children develop new competencies . . . and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges." But here's the catch: Those benefits aren't realized when some helpful adult is hovering over kids the whole time.

Thirty years ago, the "going out to play" culture coexisted with other culturally sanctioned forms of independence for even very young children: Kids as young as 6 used to walk to school on their own, for instance, or take public buses or -- gulp -- subways. And if they lived on a school bus route, their mommies did not consider it necessary to escort them to the bus stop every morning and wait there with them.

But today, for most middle-class American children, "going out to play" has gone the way of the dodo, the typewriter and the eight-track tape. From 1981 to 1997, for instance, University of Michigan time-use studies show that 3- to 5-year-olds lost an average of 501 minutes of unstructured playtime each week; 6- to 8-year-olds lost an average of 228 minutes. . . And forget about walking to school alone. Today's kids don't walk much at all (adding to the childhood obesity problem).


LA Times - Long before the mortgage crisis began rocking Main Street and Wall Street, a top FBI official made a chilling, if little-noticed, prediction: The booming mortgage business, fueled by low interest rates and soaring home values, was starting to attract shady operators and billions in losses were possible. "It has the potential to be an epidemic," Chris Swecker, the FBI official in charge of criminal investigations, told reporters in September 2004. But, he added reassuringly, the FBI was on the case. "We think we can prevent a problem that could have as much impact as the S&L crisis," he said.

Today, the damage from the global mortgage meltdown has more than matched that of the savings-and-loan bailouts of the 1980s and early 1990s. By some estimates, it has made that costly debacle look like chump change. But it's also clear that the FBI failed to avert a problem it had accurately forecast.

Banks and brokerages have written down more than $300 billion of mortgage-backed securities and other risky investments in the last year or so as homeowner defaults leaped and weakness in the real estate market spread. . .

Most observers have declared the mess a gross failure of regulation. To be sure, in the run-up to the crisis, market-oriented federal regulators bragged about their hands-off treatment of banks and other savings institutions and their executives. But it wasn't just regulators who were looking the other way. The FBI and its parent agency, the Justice Department, are supposed to act as the cops on the beat for potentially illegal activities by bankers and others. But they were focused on national security and other priorities, and paid scant attention to white-collar crimes that may have contributed to the lending and securities debacle. . .

Sources familiar with the FBI budget process, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the growing fraud problem, say that he and other FBI criminal investigators sought additional assistance to take on the mortgage scoundrels. They ended up with fewer resources, rather than more.

In 2007, the number of agents pursuing mortgage fraud shrank to around 100. By comparison, the FBI had about 1,000 agents deployed on banking fraud during the S&L bust of the 1980s and '90s, said Anthony Adamski, who oversaw financial crime investigations for the FBI at the time.

The FBI says it now has about 200 agents working on mortgage fraud, but critics say the agency might have averted much of the problem had it heeded its own warning.


Treehugger - A gym in Portland, Oregon is taking the green gym philosophy one step further by incorporating an environmental ethic into the whole business plan. First off, the Green Microgym generates as much as 40 percent of its own electricity from solar panels and exercise machines like stationary bikes.

Gym owner Adam Boesel recently demonstrated for the Los Angeles Times the Human Dynamo, an exercise machine consisting of four spin bikes attached to a small generator. While pedaling one of the bikes and turning an arm crank that strengthens the upper body, a digital readout showed the amount of watts Boesel's produced. The Human Dynamo system can produce 200 watts to 600 watts of energy an hour, depending on whether all four bikes are in use.


Ecogeek - Researchers in Massachusetts are working on a technique to turn heat gathered by asphalt into useable energy via water pipes. Their paper, at the International Symposium on Asphalt Pavements and Environment in Zurich, posits that asphalt roads could be better than solar panels in gathering energy.

They say that all the parking lots and roads that sit there baking in the sun all day are basically already solar energy collectors, and that the sheer amount of useable asphalt offsets the lower efficiency factor. We just need a way to transfer that heat into energy on a large scale. The researchers point out how asphalt stays hot even after the sun goes down, which anyone in the Southwest can attest to, and so could continue to generate energy when solar panels can't. A system of heat exchangers could become part of road construction projects and improvements, and the system could help out the issue of heat islands.


US News & World Report - Rocked by warnings that it will cost news organizations $50,000 more per reporter to cover Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. John McCain, a growing number of journalists and press pundits are questioning why the media is staffing up coverage of the political conventions where little major news is expected. At least one paper and several Washington bureaus, we're told, have budgeted only $100,000 for political coverage, and their convention teams will eat most of it, leaving little to put reporters on the campaign trail. Mark Potts, a media consultant who blogs about the industry on, goes further: Leave the campaign coverage to the big shots, like AP, and spend that money at home. "That $50,000 would go a long way toward paying the annual salary for another reporter to cover something readers really care about, like city hall, or local schools."


Reason - A burgeoning fruit and veggie empire threatens law and order in Clayton, California: Eleven-year-old Katie and three-year-old Sabrina Lewis have been selling spare melons, radishes, and of course, zucchini from their family garden at a roadside stand on Saturday mornings. Recently, the cops showed to bust them.

"They said traffic was being stopped and then they came up with we can't have a roadside stand and then they said it was a commercial enterprise," said Katie Lewis. . .

"They may start out with a little card-table and selling a couple of things, but then who is to say what else they have. Is all the produce made there, do they grow it themselves? Are they going to have eggs and chickens for sale next," said Clayton Mayor Gregg Manning.

The mayor later called the girls and their father "self-centered."

NY Times - They can be seen all along Atlantic Avenue - urban foragers of a sort, often bedraggled and always in search of a dollar. Many of them pump gas, but that is not the only hustle along the strip.

As one regular walks on sections of Atlantic, a traffic-clogged 10-mile road that runs from the Brooklyn waterfront to the Van Wyck Expressway in western Queens, he holds a bottle of glass cleaner and offers to wash car windows. Outside an auto parts store, street mechanics replace brake pads and tune transmissions, using tools hauled around in shopping carts.

One recent evening, opposite a BP station at Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights, a taxi with smoke pouring from under its hood pulled over to the sidewalk, and a burly man ran over and lifted the hot, browning hood to expose flames rising from the engine's alternator.

After patting the flames with a rag, the man poured water on the fire. With steam still rising from the engine, the man demanded of the cabby, "Where's my tip?" The driver forked over five singles, which apparently were not enough. "The engine could have exploded!" the man protested. The cabby pulled out two more singles.

But pumping gas is the most common hustle along Atlantic Avenue. Men, and often teenage boys, stand next to self-service pumps and, at a time when it can easily cost $60 to fill a tank, offer their services in exchange for pocket change, asking, "May I pump your gas for you?"

Whatever the hustle, as the road travels east and the neighborhoods along it get poorer, the number of self-styled entrepreneurs only grows. At three stops along the way, they can be seen making a living, or at least a few extra dollars, off the endless rumble of cars and trucks that pummel the avenue's rutted surface. . .

Norwood News - Berta, a 54-year-old Mexican single mother, has sold coquitos y paletas (ices and fruit popsicles) from a cart on the corner of Fordham Road and Webster Avenue for the past 10 years. "My dream is to get enough money to move back to Mexico and buy a house there," says Berta, who did not want to give her real name, in Spanish.

This year, Berta secured a vending permit with help from VAMOS Unidos (Street Vendors Mobilizing and Organizing in Solidarity), a year-old Fordham-based advocacy group that helps 230 vendors, most of whom sell food.

VAMOS Unidos' main goal is to increase the available vending permits, which the city has updated by only 1,000 in nearly 30 years. There are an estimated 5,000 to 15,000 street vendors in the city who operate without a permit. . .

Along the bustling shopping district of Fordham Road, dozens of street vendors hawking items ranging from kebab and fruit to clothes and toys line the sidewalks. "These vendors live in the neighborhood," Samanez says. "But there are no jobs, so this is the only way they can make a living." The average food vendor makes only $30 to $50 per day while working 12 to 14 hours per day, he says. . .

"Businesses draw people, but street vendors draw people away from businesses," says Ozzie Martinez, manager at Best Italian Pizza. "It becomes an annoyance. The vendors are too close to businesses, block sidewalks and are not as clean as they should be."

To complain, Martinez calls the Fordham Road Business Improvement District, which calls the police to move the vendors. The 46th, 48th and 52nd precincts patrol Fordham Road daily, in addition to surprise sweeps every couple of months, according to Lt. Charles Hammer of the 52nd Precinct.

The police and the Health Department are the main city agencies that ticket street vendors for the more than 20 different violations, which are heard at the Environmental Control Board (ECB). For repeat offenders, these violations can cost up to $1,000 each.

In fiscal year 2007, the ECB heard 25,828 vending violations, and in fiscal year 2008 it heard 21,388, according to statistics provided by ECB. Common violations include not displaying a permit, being in a bus stop, and being within 10 feet of a driveway, subway or crosswalk.


Phi Delta Kappa & Gallup - This year's PDK/Gallup poll asked Americans about national education standards, federal funding for public schools, the best way to measure student achievement, and how U.S. schools compare with schools in other countries. Here's what they said:

Americans support an increased use of federal funds to maintain local public schools.

Fewer than 2 of 10 Americans believe the No Child Left Behind legislation should be continued without significant change.

Lack of funding for schools tops the list of "biggest problems facing schools" for the sixth year in a row.

In a change from nine years ago, Americans believe written observations by teachers, as opposed to scores on standardized tests, are a superior way to document student academic progress.

Almost three of four Americans believe teachers should be paid higher salaries as an incentive to teach in schools identified as 'in need of improvement.'


As we have noted, developers are busy conning environmentalists and others into supporting more urban high rises in the name of "smart growth." In Washington, DC, they have even started agitating for an end to the capital's historic height limitation which has helped provide its appealing cityscape. But there are far more human, community-oriented and attractive solutions, starting with the accessory apartment:

Sam Smith, Utne Reader, 2000 - Not everyone who leaves the city wants to. In a large number of cases, the cost and availability of housing provides the impetus. Among the factors that have raised the cost and lowered the availability has been gentrification. The gentrifiers not only upscaled the housing stock, they have reduced it, since they require more space per-capita in which to live than did former residents.

One of the simplest, cheapest and quickest ways to counteract this trend is to permit accessory apartments (sometimes called granny flats) in single-family zones. Many of these apartments exist illegally -- there are an estimated 40,000 in LA alone -- supporting my theory that one of the best places to look for good ideas is in the underground economy. If normally law-abiding people insist on doing something against the rules, there's a good chance that the people know something the law doesn't.

The advantages of such apartments include lowering the effective cost of housing for the homeowner, increasing the supply of housing, providing a social and economic mix within neighborhoods, allowing voluntary individual care to replace some of the need for social services (e.g. the young apartment dweller helping the aged landlord upstairs), providing neighborhood-based economic opportunity and increasing the number of eyes on the street.

Reviving the practice of taking in boarders could also greatly improve the availability of housing. The boarder tradition played a major role in the growth of the American city, proving newcomers with an inexpensive place to stay and adding a source of income to those who had lived in the city long enough to own a house.

A more radical approach is cohousing. Cohousing involves individual homes clustered around a large common house with such facilities as a dining room, children's playroom, workshops and laundries. The houses typically have their own kitchen and are otherwise minimally self-sufficient but with the emphasis on communal facilities. Each cohousing plan is worked out with intense participation by future occupants. There is no single plan for these projects; they are designed for specific and changing needs and hospitable to spontaneity., The cohousing approach has been used for condominiums, cooperatives and non-profit rental housing.

There are other things to do. We could encourage the construction of more two and three family homes that were once a staple of urban America. We could build "grow houses" such as the 575-square foot designs of New Haven architect Melanie Taylor that are being built for as little as $30,000 in the southeastern US. Even more novel are the modular homes designed to grow or deconstruct over time as required by the occupants' changing lifestyle. The design of the Center for Maximum Building Tecnologies in Austin, Tex., allows for modules to be detached and moved to another house when the current owner no longer needs them.



From On the Issues and other sources

- Save Pentagon spending by getting the troops out of Iraq. (Dec 2007)
- More transparency for hedge funds and private equity funds. (Aug 2007)
- Expand embryonic stem cell research. (Jun 2004)
- Voted NO on recommending Constitutional ban on flag desecration. (Jun 2006)
- Voted NO on constitutional ban of same-sex marriage. (Jun 2006)
- Voted YES on loosening restrictions on cell phone wiretapping. (Oct 2001)
- Voted NO on ending special funding for minority & women-owned business. (Oct 1997)
- Voted YES on prohibiting same-sex marriage. (Sep 1996)
- Voted YES on prohibiting job discrimination by sexual orientation. (Sep 1996)
- Rated 60% by the ACLU, indicating a mixed civil rights voting record. (Dec 2002)
- Rated 78% by the HRC, indicating a pro-gay-rights stance. (Dec 2006)
- Rated 100% by the NAACP, indicating a pro-affirmative-action stance. (Dec 2006)
- Re-introduce the Equal Rights Amendment. (Mar 2007)
- Voted YES on repealing tax subsidy for companies which move US jobs offshore. (Mar 2005)
- Rated 32% by the US COC, indicating an anti-business voting record. (Dec 2003)
- Voted NO on restricting class-action lawsuits. (Dec 1995)
- Rated 71% by CURE, indicating pro-rehabilitation crime votes. (Dec 2000)
- Divert drug offenders out of prison system. (Jun 2007)
- Voted NO on increasing penalties for drug offenses. (Nov 1999)
- Hire more teachers and pay them for smaller classes. (Dec 2007)
- $3000 tax credit for college for anyone earning under $150K. (Sep 2007)
- Pay teachers more to get better educational results. (Apr 2007)
- NCLB needs more resources, but also is fundamentally flawed. (Feb 2007)
- Voting for No Child Left Behind was a mistake. (Jul 2007)
- Voted NO on school vouchers in DC. (Sep 1997)
- Voted NO on requiring schools to allow voluntary prayer. (Jul 1994)
- Rated 91% by the NEA, indicating pro-public education votes. (Dec 2003)
- Voted YES on removing oil & gas exploration subsidies. (Jun 2007)
- Voted YES on disallowing an oil leasing program in Alaska's ANWR. (Nov 2005)
- Voted NO on approving a nuclear waste repository. (Apr 1997)
- Take away the billions of subsidy to the oil companies. (Jun 2007)
- Voted NO on confirming Gale Norton as Secretary of Interior. (Jan 2001)
- Voted NO on more funding for forest roads and fish habitat. (Sep 1999)
- Rated 95% by the LCV, indicating pro-environment votes. (Dec 2003)
- Rated 16% by the Christian Coalition: an anti-family voting record. (Dec 2003)
- No trade agreements without workers' & environmental rights. (Jul 2007)
- Voted NO on implementing CAFTA for Central America free-trade. (Jul 2005)
- 1988: led fight against nomination of Robert Bork. (Jul 2007)
- Voted NO on requiring photo ID to vote in federal elections. (Jul 2007)
- Voted NO on allowing some lobbyist gifts to Congress. (Mar 2006)
- Commitment to never use torture; no part of our policy, ever. (Sep 2007)
- Don't Ask Don't Tell is antiquated & unworkable. (Aug 2007)
- Voted YES on requiring FISA court warrant to monitor US-to-foreign calls. (Feb 2008)
- Voted YES on limiting soldiers' deployment to 12 months. (Jul 2007)
- Voted NO on extending the PATRIOT Act's wiretap provision. (Dec 2005)
- Rated 100% by the AFL-CIO, indicating a pro-union voting record. (Dec 2003)
- Allow an Air Traffic Controller's Union. (Jan 2006)
- Raise the $97,500 Social Security cap, but don't raise retirement age. (Sep 2007)
- Voted YES on deducting Social Security payments on income taxes. (May 1996)
- Take away $85B in annual tax cuts for 1% of top earners. (Jul 2007)
- Voted YES on increasing tax rate for people earning over $1 million. (Mar 2008)


Biden has sought to take the lead on drug policy, spearheading creation of a "Drug Czar" and crafting laws to control narcotics--measures that are widely viewed as pretty much of a failure.

CNET gives him a 37% rating, describing him a pro RIAA and pro FBI on tech issues

Opposes lowering drinking age.

One of the most overlooked episodes during the 1987 collapse of Biden's campaign was a snippet of footage captured by C-Span in which the Delaware senator, in response to a question about where he went to law school and what sort of grades he received, delivered this classic line: "I think I have a much higher IQ than you do." . . . Biden's detractors point to that incident as evidence that the senator thinks he is the bee's knees and doesn't care who knows it. Biden, by his own admission, has the capacity to fall in love with his own voice and wander off on tangents about his life that have nothing to do with the topic at hand. - Chris Cillizza, Washington Post

During the 2006 confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, the Post's Dana Milbank wrote this of Biden's performance: "Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., in his first 12 minutes of questioning the nominee, managed to get off only one question. Instead, during his 30-minute round of questioning, Biden spoke about his own Irish American roots, his "Grandfather Finnegan," his son's application to Princeton (he attended the University of Pennsylvania instead, Biden said), a speech the senator gave on the Princeton campus, the fact that Biden is "not a Princeton fan," and his views on the eyeglasses of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)." - Chris Cillizza, Washington Post

While Biden was on his best verbal behavior for much of the rest of the campaign, there is no question that his tendency to shoot from the lip worries some in Obama world. As one Democratic consultant put it: "You know there will be three days in the campaign where someone in Chicago will get a call and respond -- 'What did you say he said?. - Chris Cillizza, Washington Post

During one of the Democratic debates, Biden stood by comments about Obama that "I think he can be ready, but right now I don't believe he is. The presidency is not something that lends itself to on- the-job training." In August, Biden was harshly critical of Obama's lack of experience, saying, "Having talking points on foreign policy doesn't get you there." - Washington Post

- No public funding for abortion; it imposes a view. (Apr 2007)
- Supports partial-birth abortion ban, but not undoing Roe. (Apr 2007)
- Accepts Catholic church view that life begins at conception. (Apr 2007)
- Rated 36% by NARAL,
- Voted YES on Balanced-budget constitutional amendment. (Mar 1997)
- For longer school day & school year, & 16-year minimum. (Oct 2007)
- Voted YES on enlarging NATO to include Eastern Europe. (May 2002)
- Universal national service, in military or Peace Corps. (Dec 2007)
- Voted YES on reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act. (Mar 2006)


Dave McKinney, Chicago Sun Times - Biden has described himself as a 30-year friend of a key figure in the Rezko trial who's pleaded guilty to a federal extortion charge in Chicago and is awaiting sentencing. When the Delaware senator began contemplating his own 2008 presidential run, he initially was helped by Chicago lawyer Joseph Cari Jr., who also served as Biden's Midwest field director in his failed 1988 bid for president.

In 2005, Cari admitted to taking part in an $850,000 kickback scheme that prosecutors say was part of a larger political fund-raising operation for Gov. Blagojevich overseen by Rezko, who was convicted in June of wide-ranging corruption involving state deals.

On the day Cari's name first surfaced in the federal probe of the state Teachers Retirement System, the former finance chairman for the Democratic National Committee and for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was to have hosted a Biden fund-raiser in Chicago. Cari was a no-show at that July 25, 2005, event. Offering Cari a vote of confidence at the time, Biden said, "All I know is Joe Cari is a friend, and he's an honorable guy, but I don't know anything beyond that.". . .

The Obama campaign downplayed the significance of Cari's contributions to Biden, noting that Cari was a prolific donor to an array of other politicians, from Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) to Illinois' other Democratic senator, Dick Durbin. Still, an Obama spokesman said Biden would follow Obama's lead and divest his campaign fund of any money from Cari.


Glenn Greenwald, Salon - Whether rightly or wrongly, Biden is approved of and deemed to have Seriousness credentials by the political establishment because they perceive that he affirms those central precepts and they see his selection as a sign that Obama will, too. And there is much to suggest that that perception -- at least as it applies to Biden -- is correct. In an October, 2001 New Republic article, Michael Crowley recounted that Biden was continuously boasting that the terrorism bill sent to Congress by John Ashcroft (soon to be called The Patriot Act) was a replica of legislation that Biden had long advocated -- ever since the Oklahoma City courthouse bombing. . .

In the wake of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, Biden did, in fact, champion an anti-terrorism bill similar to the one now before Congress (though it was, as he complains, badly watered down by anti-government conservatives and leftist civil libertarians). And Biden doesn't let you forget it. "I introduced the terrorism bill in '94 that had a lot of these things in it," he bragged to NBC's Tim Russert on September 30. When I spent the day with him later that week, Biden mentioned the legislation to me, and to several other reporters he encountered, no fewer than seven times. "When I was chairman in '94 I introduced a major antiterrorism bill--back then," he says in the morning, flashing a knowing grin and pausing for effect. (Never mind that he's gotten the year wrong.) Back in his office later that afternoon, he brings it up yet again. "I drafted a terrorism bill after the Oklahoma City bombing. And the bill John Ashcroft sent up was my bill.". . .

Last night, I spoke with Denver criminal defense attorney and Talk Left blogger Jeralyn Merritt, who said that Biden has long been the leading advocate of the harshest and most aggressive drug criminalization laws and general "anti-crime" measures . . .

In sum, Biden is a reliable supporter of virtually every prevailing bit of conventional wisdom within the American elite political consensus, which is why his selection has been widely praised by the establishment, whose principal concern is that their fiefdom not be disrupted and that their consensus not be challenged.

None of this is to say that Biden is a bad pick. Given the other likely choices that had been bandied about, there were far worse possibilities, and few better ones. . . And on the merits, Biden's opposition to the First Gulf War suggests he's far from the extreme in foreign policy; as Reason's Dave Weigel points out, Biden, even with the numerous times he has supported deploying the U.S. military, doesn't come close to the McCain/Lieberman/Kristol bloodlust for Endless War. Biden's opposition to the series of horrible FISA bills, including the last one supported by Obama in July, demonstrates much the same thing.


National Journal - Barack Obama has attacked the Washington lobbying business and has made a ban on financial donations from federal lobbyists a cornerstone of his campaign. But his running mate, Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, has not, and that is likely to spark a new round of questioning about Obama's claim that, as president, he would insulate himself from lobbyists and special interests.

During Biden's 2008 presidential run, which he ended in January, his campaign raised $121,560 from lobbyists, employees at lobbying firms, and family members of lobbyists, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. That amount doesn't include donations from in-house lobbyists at corporations or advocacy groups.

Biden's 2008 Senate re-election campaign has received $193,310 from lobbyists. Since the 1990 election cycle, Biden has received a total of $344,385 from lobbyists. That makes the lobbying sector, commonly referred to as "K Street" (where many firms have their offices in downtown Washington) the 10th-largest industry or profession to contribute to Biden's campaigns, the center says. . . .

Biden also has family ties to K Street. His, son, R. Hunter Biden, is a founding partner at law and lobbying firm Oldaker, Biden & Belair. William Oldaker, one of the firm's other founders, has been a campaign adviser and fundraiser for Biden for 25 years, according to Delaware news reports. Biden is so close to former Rep. Marty Russo, D-Ill., CEO and senior vice chairman at lobbying firm Cassidy & Associates, that he is godfather to Russo's granddaughter. . .

To be sure, the contributions that Biden received from lobbyists represent a tiny portion of the $27.4 million he has raised since 1990. Still, his K Street ties complicate the Obama campaign's lobbyist-free claim.


Washington Post - A son and a brother of Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) are accused in two lawsuits of defrauding a former business partner and an investor of millions of dollars in a hedge fund deal that went sour, court records show. The Democratic vice presidential candidate's son Hunter, 38, and brother James, 59, assert instead that their former partner defrauded them by misrepresenting his experience in the hedge fund industry and recommending that they hire a lawyer with felony convictions. . . A lawsuit filed by their former partner Anthony Lotito Jr. asserts in court papers that the deal was crafted to get Hunter Biden out of lobbying because his father was concerned about the impact it would have on his bid for the White House. Biden was running for the Democratic nomination at the time the suit was filed. Hunter Biden was made president with an annual salary of $1.2 million, despite his inexperience in the hedge fund industry, the lawsuit said. . . Hunter Biden is one of many children and relatives of prominent members of Congress who have made their careers as lobbyists. He returned to lobbying after less than a year with Paradigm.


NY Times Editorial - There is apparently no limit to the Bush administration's desire to invade Americans' privacy in the name of national security. According to members of Congress, Attorney General Michael Mukasey is preparing to give the F.B.I. broad new authority to investigate Americans - without any clear basis for suspicion that they are committing a crime. . .

Mr. Mukasey has not revealed the new guidelines. But according to senators whose staff have been given limited briefings, the rules may also authorize the F.B.I. to use an array of problematic investigative techniques. Among these are pretext interviews, in which agents do not honestly represent themselves while questioning a subject's neighbors and work colleagues.

Four Democratic Senators - Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Richard Durbin of Illinois and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts - have written to Mr. Mukasey and urged him not to sign the guidelines until they are publicly announced and national security and civil liberties experts have had a chance to analyze them.

We concur, and we would add that there should be full Congressional hearings so Americans can learn what new powers the government intends to take on.

The F.B.I. has a long history of abusing its authority to spy on domestic groups, including civil rights and anti-war activists, and there is a real danger that the new rules would revive those dark days.

Clearly, the Bush administration cannot be trusted to get the balance between law enforcement and civil liberties right. It has repeatedly engaged in improper and illegal domestic spying - notably in the National Security Agency's warrantless eavesdropping program.


Aaron Glantz, Inter Press Service - If John McCain is elected the next U.S. president, wounded veterans could be in for a world of hurt.

On the campaign trail, the Republican's presumptive nominee has talked of a new mission for the Department of Veterans Affairs and argued that veterans with non-combat medical problems should be given vouchers to receive care at private, for-profit hospitals -- in other words, an end to the kind of universal health care the government has guaranteed veterans for generations.

"We need to relieve the burden on the VA from routine health care," McCain told the National Forum on Disability Issues last month. "If you have a routine health care need, take it wherever you want, whatever doctor or health care provider and get the treatment you need, while we at the VA focus our attention, our care, our love, on these grievous wounds of war."

The Republican senator argues that giving veterans a VA card that they can use at private doctors would shorten the long wait times many veterans face in seeing government doctors, who are nearly universally viewed as among the best in the world.

A recent study by the RAND Corporation found that "VA patients were more likely to receive recommended care" and "received consistently better care across the board, including screening, diagnosis, treatment and follow up" than that delivered by other U.S. health care providers.

Virtually all veterans groups oppose McCain's plan. The Veterans of Foreign Wars' national legislative director has said the VA card would "undermine the entire system".


NY Times - The city has agreed to pay $2,007,000 to end a lawsuit brought by 52 people who were swept up in a mass arrest along a Midtown sidewalk during a protest against the invasion of Iraq. They were charged with blocking pedestrians, but videotapes show that at their most annoying, they might have slowed a few people carrying coffee into work. Public order did not seem to be in unusual danger that morning - certainly nothing that called for rounding up 52 people, or spending millions of dollars. Only two people were tried; they were acquitted, and charges against the other 50 were dismissed.

The arrests were made on April 7, 2003, during the opening days of the invasion of Iraq and right after the city persuaded the Republican Party to hold its 2004 convention in New York. The people arrested said their rights to free speech had been abused, and sued the city and the police.


Timothy A Canova, Dissent Magazine - For six of eight years, Bill Clinton governed with Republican majorities in Congress. Not surprisingly, there was much continuity between the Clinton and Bush administrations. Both embraced the so-called Washington Consensus, a policy agenda of fiscal austerity, central- bank autonomy, deregulated markets, liberalized capital flows, free trade, and privatization.

On each of these crucial issues, the most significant differences between Clinton and Bush were differences in timing and degree, not in direction. Both administrations were willfully asleep at the wheel.

Clinton was fortunate to preside over the early stages of a bubble economy. Bush has had the misfortune of presiding as a lame duck through the final stages of the same bubble and, thanks to the deregulation of the Clinton years, without a regulatory structure capable of containing today's speculative fevers.

In 1992, Bill Clinton campaigned on the promise of a short-term stimulus package. But soon after being elected, he met privately with Alan Greenspan, chair of the Federal Reserve Board, and soon accepted what became known as "the financial markets strategy." It was a strategy of placating financial markets. The stimulus package was sacrificed, taxes were raised, spending was cut-all in a futile effort to keep long-term interest rates from rising, and all of which helped the Democrats lose their majority in the House. In fact, the defeat of the stimulus package set off a sharp decline in Clinton's public approval ratings from which his presidency would never recover.

It is easy to forget that Clinton had other alternatives. In 1993, Democrats in Congress were attempting to rein in the Federal Reserve by making it more accountable and transparent. Those efforts were led by the chair of the House Banking Committee, the late Henry B. Gonzalez, who warned that the Fed was creating a giant casino economy, a house of cards, a "monstrous bubble." But such calls for regulation and transparency fell on deaf ears in the Clinton White House and Treasury. .

Although Clinton spoke from the left on trade issues, he governed from the right and ignored the need for any minimum floor on labor, human rights, or environmental standards in trade agreements. After pushing the North American Free Trade Agreement through Congress on the strength of Republican votes, Clinton paved the way for China's entry into the World Trade Organization only a few years after China's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators at Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

During Clinton's eight years in office, the U.S. current account deficit, the broadest measure of trade competitiveness, increased fivefold, from $84 billion to $415 billion. . .

Predatory lending was not an invention of the Bush administration. High-interest payday loans and subprime mortgages took off under Clinton. The morals of the marketplace were once again, "Buyer beware." Many loans, tellingly referred to as "teaser loans," were structured so that the monthly mortgage payments would start off low and rise significantly in the future, even while the overall loan amount-the outstanding principal-would also rise. The borrower would end up worse off several years into the mortgage than when the loan began.

But none of this was considered overly problematic by the Clinton White House. There was simply too much money to be made by lenders, brokers, bankers, bond insurers, ratings agencies, engineers of securitized assets, and managers of special investment vehicles and hedge funds. . . By 1995, the subprime loan market had reached $90 billion in loan volume, and it then doubled over the next three years.

The Federal Reserve has a long history of imposing margin requirements (minimum down payments) on lending for the purchase of securities on major exchanges. . . But with Clinton in the White House and Robert Rubin as his treasury secretary, Greenspan felt no pressure to raise margin requirements even as the stock market bubble reached new heights. . .

By Clinton's final year in office, the price-earnings ratio on technology stocks reached historic peaks and the level of margin debt borrowed from New York Stock Exchange member firms had risen to the highest percent of market value in twenty-five years. The last time the country had purchased so much stock on borrowed money was September 1987, one month before the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 23 percent in one day. . .

During Clinton's first three years in office, the federal government borrowed more than $1 trillion, much from abroad. Then between 1996 and 1998, foreign ownership of U.S. government securities rose 26 percent, from $669 billion to $847 billion. Under Bush, foreign ownership of U.S. government securities rose another 88 percent to $1.6 trillion by 2005.

During the Clinton years, mortgage debt grew by nearly two-thirds, from $4.1 trillion to $6.8 trillion. Under Bush, mortgage debt then doubled to $13 trillion in 2006. Likewise, under Clinton, consumer debt doubled from $856 billion to $1.7 trillion. Under Bush, it grew by another one-third to $2.3 trillion in 2006. . .

In Clinton's final three years, foreign-owned assets in the United States rose nearly 30 percent from $5.9 trillion to $7.6 trillion. Under Bush, foreign ownership of U.S. assets rose by another two- thirds to $12.7 trillion by 2005. . .

The Washington Consensus preaches private competition, transparent markets, and less government regulation. Although many mortgage borrowers have been subject to ruthless, unfettered competition, investment banks and hedge funds are increasingly protected by hidden subsidies. Thanks to the combination of deregulation and Federal Reserve bailouts, profits were privatized while the losses are now socialized. . .

Unfortunately, the myth of the Clinton economy has too often served to limit discussion about the political forces behind the present crisis in the Washington Consensus. For instance, Hillary Clinton, in promising a high-level emergency panel to recommend ways to overhaul at-risk mortgages, proposed in March that such a council of wise men should include two of the people most responsible for undermining the integrity of financial markets, former treasury secretary Robert Rubin and former Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan. . .

The Greatest Generation was able to invest on a scale much greater than today, spending billions of dollars on the Second World War, the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Western Europe and Japan, and the G.I. Bill of Rights that housed, educated, and integrated more than sixteen million returning war veterans. As a percentage of GDP, the U.S. government spent more than twice as much and borrowed more than fifteen times as much as today. But it borrowed at near-zero interest from domestic instead of foreign sources. What made this possible was a Federal Reserve that was strictly accountable to the elected branches, that imposed selective credit controls to prevent inflation in asset markets, and that steered funds away from private speculative activities and into long-term public investment in physical and social infrastructure. This period in public finance, spanning the war years and the early cold war period, presents an alternative paradigm to the bubble economy of the Washington Consensus.

Timothy A. Canova is the Betty Hutton Williams Professor of International Economic Law at the Chapman University School of Law in Orange, California.



Treehugger - According to a new policy brief issued by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the Stockholm International Water Institute and the International Water Management Institute, huge amounts of food -- close to half of all food produced worldwide -- are wasted after production. . . Many of the report's recommendations border on the obvious: improve water productivity, curb wasteful eating habits and optimize food production, to name just a few. Another good idea would be to use water labeling for food products -- so people know how much water went into producing their beef (2,500 gallons per pound, at last count) or favorite cereal, for instance.

Washington Post - The extent of Arctic sea ice is now 2 million square miles below the long-term average for Aug. 26, according to the International Arctic Research Center and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, a figure that is within 400,000 square miles of the all-time record low set in September 2007. . . The shrinking sea ice is increasing the pressure on polar bears in the region: A recent federal aerial survey found nine polar bears swimming in Alaska's Chukchi Sea, with one at least 60 miles from shore.


Ctr on Budget & Policy Priorites - The number of Americans in poverty climbed by 816,000 in 2007, while the poverty rate remained statistically unchanged, overall median income rose modestly, and the number and percentage of Americans without health insurance fell somewhat, according to Census data issued. But the poverty rate remained higher, median income for working-age households remained lower, and the number and percentage of Americans without health insurance remained much greater than in 2001, when the last recession hit bottom. This marks the first time on record that poverty and the incomes of typical working-age households have worsened despite six consecutive years of economic growth. The new data show that in terms of poverty and median income, the economic expansion that started at the end of 2001 was the worst on record. The data provide fresh evidence that the gains from the expansion were quite uneven and flowed primarily to high-income households. Moreover, the weakening of the economy makes it very likely that in 2008, poverty will rise, median income will fall, and the number of uninsured will rise.


Washington Post - Sen. Barack Obama sought more than $3.4 million in congressional earmarks for clients of the lobbyist son of his Democratic running mate, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, records show. Obama succeeded in getting $192,000 for one of the clients, St. Xavier University in suburban Chicago. Obama's campaign has taken a hard stance against the world of lobbying in the nation's capital. Obama said he limits his own efforts to get money for pet projects -- a process known as earmarking -- to those that benefit the public. He has posted his earmark requests on his presidential campaign Web site to encourage transparency. . . The younger Biden started his career as a lobbyist in 2001 and has registered to represent about 21 clients that have brought in $3.5 million to his Washington firm, according to lobbying disclosure forms. Sen. Biden has collected more than $6.9 million in campaign contributions from lobbyists and lawyers since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

A new Time/CNN poll shows Ralph Nader polling 8 percent in New Mexico, 7 percent in Colorado, 7 percent in Pennsylvania, and 6 percent in Nevada.

Chris Lehmann, CQ - Imagine if you were covering the baseball playoffs and you wrote that there was massive speculation about who was going to win. It's manifestly moronic because you're writing about a scheduled event that is going to take place on a known timeline. You're contributing nothing. It's the opposite of news; any useful public information is entirely missing. But that's the way the press bubble operates. Not only do reporters write about what they're talking about, but they're writing about each other. Notice the passive construction in these stories about "rampant speculation" and ask yourself, "Who's doing the speculating?" It's the reporters who are; most voters, being sane people, might think about it for a second but then they move on to the next thing in their day. . .

I have friends who have elaborate conspiracy theories about the coverage, and how the media is leaning one way or the other. In my darker moments I find myself wishing the press were cunning enough to do that. But it's more like sports journalism or, to use that tired cliche, the horse race mentality. If you're a cable news director, you're just not going to devote ten minutes to a major address about the subprime crisis, but if John Edwards confesses to an extramarital affair, even though he's not even a candidate and holds no public office, it will lead to an orgy of coverage. Market share dictates the witless coverage, which is largely for the media's own amusement. You see that all the time on the Sunday political chat shows, which are always about the polls and who is performing better in strategic terms. . . I have family around the country and we always talk politics, and no one ever asks me, "How did Obama perform on his European tour?" It's an asinine question. .

Engadget - For years, Diebold has embarrassed itself by claiming that obvious faults were actually not faults at all, and during the past decade or so, it mastered the act of pointing the finger. Now that it has ironically renamed itself Premier Election Solutions, it's finally coming clean. According to spokesman Chris Riggall, a "critical programming error that can cause votes to be dropped while being electronically transferred from memory cards to a central tallying point" has been part of the software for ten years. The flaw is on both optical scan and touchscreen machines, and while Mr. Riggall asserts that the logic error probably didn't ruin any elections (speaking of logic error), the outfit's president has confessed to being "distressed" about the ordeal. More like "distressed" about the increasingly bleak future of his company.

Valley Wag - Sen. Biden's son Beau, the attorney general of Delaware, is a captain in the Army National Guard, and is set to be deployed to Iraq in the fall.

Chris Cillizza, Washington Post - It's a strange thing to say about a guy who has spent 36 years in the Senate but Biden genuinely has appeal to the blue-collar, working class voters that Obama struggled to attract during the Democratic primaries. Maybe it's Biden roots in hard-scrabble Scranton, Pennsylvania. (Hello, Michael Scott!) Maybe it's the fact that Biden takes Amtrak home to Delaware every night and knows the name of all the conductors and ticket agents on the route. Maybe it's the fact that his personal story -- his wife and daughter were killed a month after he was elected to the Senate in 1972 -- resonates with people who have suffered similar losses. Regardless of what it is, there's little question that, in the words of one Biden advocate, he passed the "have a beer" test. That is, Biden is the kind of guy most voters can imagine themselves having a beer (or, heck, a boilermaker) with -- a crucial hurdle when it comes to electing a president. . . Biden's ability to connect with blue collar voters would almost certainly help Obama in Pennsylvania (aside from Biden's roots in Scranton, he has been a regular figure on Philadelphia television during his campaigns) as well as potentially in Ohio and Michigan as well. It's also worth noting that Biden is a strong Catholic. Obama lost white Catholics badly to Hillary Rodham Clinton during the primary season and, as Post pollster Jon Cohen notes, white Catholics have emerged as one of the bellwether groups in recent elections; the candidate who wins white Catholics has won the presidency in every election since 1972.

Joe Biden is one of the poorer members of Congress. Although he earns $186,000 a yea and got an $800 honoraria for appearing on Bill Maher's show, his total assets are less than $160,000 with liabilities between $130,000 and $360,000. His income includes his Senate salary and a teaching stipend form Widener University. He doesn't have to report his wife's salary from Delaware Technical & Community College but her assets are less than $250,000.

Politico - In our news interview, [McCain] was asked what kind of car he drove, he could simply not answer. As with Politico's question about home ownership, he didn't know and had to ask a nearby aide. "A Cadillac CTS," she told him.

Say Anything Blog - It turns out that Obama's new running mate is one of the leading crusaders in the war on drugs. Which isn't something that's likely to sit well with Obama's base of young, college-aged supporters. Earlier this week, in an interview with the Washington Post, Tommy Chong was asked what the average citizen can do to further the cause of decriminalization. "Check out the people you're voting for," Chong replied. "For instance, Joseph Biden comes off as a liberal Democrat, but he's the one who authored the bill that put me in jail. He wrote the law against shipping drug paraphernalia through the mail - which could be anything from a pipe to a clip or cigarette papers." Barack Obama's V.P. selection Sen. Joe Biden also spnsored the Rave Act, which targets music events where drug use is allegedly prevalent. About medical marijauna, Biden has said: "We have not devoted nearly enough science or time to deal with the pain management and chronic pain management that exists. There's got to be a better answer than marijuana." Biden coined the term "drug czar" and has championed the Office for National Drug Control Policy.

CNET gives Biden a 37% rating, describing him a pro RIAA and pro FBI on tech issues


Slashdot - Security Technology tips a story up at NewScientist about the development of a new surveillance system by German engineering conglomerate Siemens. The system is notable for its integration of many different types of automated data-gathering. It can scan "telephone calls, email and internet activity, bank transactions and insurance records." It uses advanced pattern-recognition software to pick out unusual activities and important pieces of data. So far, the system has been sold to 60 countries. "According to a document obtained by New Scientist, the system integrates tasks typically done by separate surveillance teams or machines. . . This software is trained on a large number of sample documents to pick out items such as names, phone numbers and places from generic text. This means it can spot names or numbers that crop up alongside anyone already of interest to the authorities, and then catalogue any documents that contain such associates.


Overlawyered - In Alabama it is illegal to recommend shades of paint without a license. In Nevada it is illegal to move any large piece of furniture for purposes of design without a license. In fact, hundreds of people have been prosecuted in Alabama and Nevada for practicing "interior design" without a license. Getting a license is no easy task, typically requiring at least 4 years of education and 2 years of apprenticeship.

Why do we need licenses laws for interior designers? According to the American Society of Interior Designers because, "Every decision an interior designer makes in one way or another affects the health, safety, and welfare of the public." This hardly passes the laugh test. Moreover as Carpenter and Ross point out in an excellent article in Regulation: "In more than 30 years of advocating for regulation, the ASID and its ilk have yet to identify a single documented incident resulting in harm to anyone from the unlicensed practice of interior design." Most states do not have license laws for interior designers but the unceasing lobbying efforts of the ASID have expanded such licenses. Fortunately, unlicensed interior designers are fighting back.


Sydney Morning Herald, Australia - Cali Buschgens, 10, was reportedly reprimanded after she was cartwheeling at her school, Belgian Gardens State School in Townsville, ABC reported. The school has banned unsupervised "handstands, cartwheels and other gymnastic movements" during breaks.
Education Minister Rod Welford today called on the school's principal to review the decision following a community backlash. . . A Queensland Education Department spokesman said there was no blanket "ban" on cartwheels and handstands, only that children could not do them unless in a safe and supervised environment. . . The decision to outlaw the activities from the playground were not made after any particular mishap, but was made by the school in the interests of student safety, he said.


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