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Undernews For October 12, 2008

Undernews For October 12, 2008

Washington's Most Unofficial Source
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Editor: Sam Smith

12 OCT 2008


Hey folks! Have you been wondering why Republicans have suddenly stopped talking about 'family values?' Could it be because a divorced John McCain chose as his running mate a stay-at-home mom who hid her last unplanned pregnancy and who has a pregnant, unwed teenager with a self-described "**** redneck" of a boyfriend who "doesn't want kids". . . .and an ex-brother-on-law who tasered her nephew, and a husband with a DUI who loves his country so much he joined a secessionist party? All of which leaves the GOP clinging to one remaining family value: the shot gun wedding. All previous values are null and void because "life happens." - Doonesbury

Sam Smith, Shadows of Hope, 1993 - Encomiums to the wonders of market forces fill speeches and media reports. One National Public Radio reporter even went so far as to describe a form of government called market democracy, apparently a blend of the Bill of Rights and the Wall Street Journal editorial page.

In fact, most free workers in this country were self-employed well into the 19th century. They were thus economic as well as political citizens. Further, until the last decades of the 19th century, Americans believed in a degree of fair distribution of wealth that would shock many today. James L. Huston writes in the American Historical Review: "Americans believed that if property were concentrated in the hands of a few in a republic, those few would use their wealth to control other citizens, seize political power, and warp the republic into an oligarchy. Thus to avoid descent into despotism or oligarchy, republics had to possess an equitable distribution of wealth."

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Such a distribution, in theory at least, came from enjoying the "fruits of one's labor" but no more. Businesses that sprung up didn't flourish on competition because there generally wasn't any and, besides, cooperation worked better. You didn't need two banks or two drug stores in the average town. Prices and business ethics were not regulated by the marketplace but by a complicated cultural code and the fact that the banker went to church with his depositors.

Although the practice was centuries old, the term capitalism -- and thus the religion -- didn't even exist until the middle of the 19th century. Americans were intensely commercial, but this spirit was propelled not by Reaganesque fantasies about competition but by the freedom that engaging in business provided from the hierarchical social and economic system of the monarchy. Business, including the exchange as well as the making of goods, was seen as a natural state allowing a community and individuals to get ahead and to prosper without the blessing of nobility.

In the beginning, if you wanted to form a corporation you needed a state charter and had to prove it was in the public interest, convenience and necessity. During the entire colonial period only about a half-dozen business corporations were chartered; between the end of the Revolution and 1795 this rose to about a 150. Jefferson to the end opposed liberal grants of corporate charters and argued that states should be allowed to intervene in corporate matters or take back a charter if necessary.

With the pressure for more commerce and indications that corporate grants were becoming a form of patronage, states began passing free incorporation laws and before long Massachusetts had thirty times as many corporations as there were in all of Europe. Still it wasn't until after the Civil War that economic conditions turned sharply in favor of the large corporation.

These corporations, says Huston: . . . "killed the republican theory of the distribution of wealth and probably ended whatever was left of the political theory of republicanism as well. . . .[The] corporation brought about a new form of dependency. Instead of industry, frugality, and initiatives producing fruits, underlings in the corporate hierarchy had to be aware of style, manners, office politics, and choice of patrons -- very reminiscent of the Old Whig corruption in England at the time of the revolution -- what is today called 'corporate culture'."

Concludes Huston: "The rise of Big Business generated the most important transformation of American life that North America has ever experienced."

By the end of the last century the Supreme Court had declared corporations to be persons under the 14th Amendment, entitled to the same protections as human beings. As Morton Mintz pointed out in the National Law Journal, this 1888 case ignored the fact that "the only 'person' Congress had in mind when it adopted the 14th Amendment in 1866 was the newly freed slave." Justice Black observed in the 1930s that in the first fifty years following the adoption of the 14th Amendment, "less than one-half of 1 percent [of Supreme Court cases] invoked it in protection of the Negro race, and more than 50 percent asked that its benefits be extended to corporations."

During this period the courts moved to limit democratic power in other ways as well. For example, the Supreme Court restricted the common law right of juries to nullify a wrongful law; other courts erected barriers against third parties such as banning fusion slates. It was during this same time that the myth of competitive virtue sprouted, helping to justify one of the great rapacious periods of American business. It was a time when J.P. Morgan would come to own half the railroad mileage in the country -- the same J. P. Morgan who got his start during the Civil War by buying defective rifles for $3.50 each from an army arsenal and then selling them to a general in the field for $22 apiece.

The founding principles of what we now proudly call the "American free market system" flowered in an era of enormous bribes, massive legislative corruption, and the creation of great anti-competitive cartels. It was a time when the government, in a precursor to industrial policy, gave two railroad companies 21 million acres of free land. And it was also the time that American workers, who had once used commerce to free themselves from the economic and social straitjacket of the monarchy, found themselves servants of a new rigid hierarchy, that of the modern corporation.

The political movement of populism, which Jonathan Rowe calls the "last spasm of economic freedom in an American context," did battle with the new corporations but lost, as did the eurocentric socialists who followed. Save during the depression, generations of Americans would come to accept the myth of the free markets and free enterprise.


Katrina vanden Heuvel, Nation - More than a decade ago, a woman you're likely never to have heard of, Brooksley Born, head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission-- a federal agency that regulates options and futures trading--was the oracle whose warnings about the dangerous boom in derivatives trading just might have averted the calamitous bust now engulfing the US and global markets. Instead she was met with scorn, condescension and outright anger by former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and his deputy Lawrence Summers. In fact, Greenspan, the man some affectionately called "The Oracle," spent his political capital cheerleading these disastrous financial instruments.

On Thursday, the New York Times ran a masterful and revealing front page article exposing the culpability of Greenspan, Rubin and Summers for the era of dangerous turbulence we live in. . .

In 1997, Brooksley Born warned in congressional testimony that unregulated trading in derivatives could "threaten our regulated markets or, indeed, our economy without any federal agency knowing about it." Born called for greater transparency--disclosure of trades and reserves as a buffer against losses.

Instead of heeding this oracle's warnings, Greenspan, Rubin & Summers rushed to silence her. As the Times story reveals, Born's wise warnings "incited fierce opposition" from Greenspan and Rubin who "concluded that merely discussing new rules threatened the derivatives market." Greenspan deployed condescension and told Born she didn't know what she doing and she'd cause a financial crisis. (A senior Commission director who worked with Born suggests that Greenspan and the guys didn't like her independence. " Brooksley was this woman who was not playing tennis with these guys and not having lunch with these guys. There was a little bit of the feeling that this woman was not of Wall Street.")

In early 1998, according to the Times story, one of the guys, Larry Summers, called Born to "chastise her for taking steps he said would lead to a financial crisis. But Born kept at it, unwilling to let arrogant men undermine her good judgment. But it got tougher out there. In June 1998, Greenspan, Rubin and the then head of the SEC, Arthur Levitt, Jr., called on Congress "to prevent Ms. Born from acting until more senior regulators developed their own recommendations." (Levitt now says he regrets that decision.) Months later, the huge hedge fund Long Term Capital Management nearly collapsed--confirming some of Born's warnings. (Bets on derivatives were a key reason.)

"Despite that event," the Times reports, " Congress (apparently as a result of Greenspan & Summer's urging, influence-peddling and pressure) "froze" Born's Commissions' regulatory authority. The next year, Born left as head of the Commission.

Portland Press Herald - In Maine, weekly unemployment claims hit 8,524 during the first week of October. That compares to 5,888 during the same period last year. . . New online job postings in Maine fell from 12,000 to 10,900. . . Year-over-year traffic on the Maine Turnpike plummeted 15 percent in September, to levels last seen in 1999. Beyond tourism travel, it reflects a decline in the movement of goods and commerce linked to jobs. . . L.L. Bean is one of the state's largest employers, with 4,000 year-round workers in Maine. It relies heavily on seasonal help to fill holiday orders, hiring 7,000 workers last fall. This season, it's bringing on 5,400 – a 23 percent reduction.

Market Watch - Federal regulators have ordered Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to start buying $40 billion of troubled mortgage bonds each month as the U.S. government tries to revive the economy, according to a published report. . . The purchases would be separate from the U.S. Treasury's $700 billion bailout plan, which was signed into law earlier this month, Bloomberg noted. Fannie and Freddie were taken over by the U.S. government in early September, in the first of several bailouts the government has launched recently to try to halt the spread of the mortgage-fueled credit crisis.

Washington Post - The stock market's prolonged tumble has wiped out about $2 trillion in Americans' retirement savings in the past 15 months, a blow that could force workers to stay on the job longer than planned, rein in spending and possibly further stall an economy reliant on consumer dollars, Congress's top budget analyst said. . .

Despite the losses, companies will still be obligated to pay out the same pensions promised to employees but will have to recoup the extra costs in other ways, Orszag said. "When pension assets decline in 401(k) plans, the burden is on the workers," he said. "When pension plan assets decline in defined-benefit plans, the burden is on the firm to make up the difference. The firm will have to pass those costs on to their workers, to their shareholders or to consumers."

Defined-benefit plans are company-sponsored programs that provide retirement payouts based on an employee's salary and tenure. The company shoulders the bulk of the investment decisions and risk. Defined-contribution plans, such as 401(k)s, turn those tasks over to the worker and are subject to the whims of the stock market.

Increasingly, employers have switched workers into defined-contribution plans. The federal government has also pushed 401(k) plans heavily, approving a law late last year that makes it easier for employers to automatically enroll their employees in them and other similar retirement plans.

Defined-contribution plans tend to be more heavily weighted in stocks, either through individual holdings or mutual funds. As a result, said Orszag, "the value of assets in defined-contribution plans may have declined by slightly more than that of assets in defined-benefit plans."

Brady Wiseman - Talk about the Fed buying commercial paper is not new. It was in the title of the original Federal Reserve Act in 1913: "An Act To provide for the establishment of Federal reserve banks, to furnish an elastic currency, to afford means of rediscounting commercial paper, to establish a more effective supervision of banking in the United States, and for other purposes." In fact, when the bankers were on their PR campaign to sell the system to the people, they plainly said that the Fed would serve private companies, not just well-connected banks, by buying their commercial paper, thus making the peoples' credit available to, well, the people. In those days, commercial paper was much more widely used by much smaller companies than have access to it today. Another historical fact: Mr. Goldman and Mr. Sachs got their start in banking by peddling commercial paper.

Robert J. Shiller, Washington Post - In his farewell address back in 1796, 20 years after the publication of Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations," George Washington defined the new republic's own distinctive national economic sensibility: "Our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing." From the outset, Washington envisioned some government involvement in the commercial system, even as he recognized that commerce should belong to the people.

Capitalism is not really the best word to describe this arrangement. (The term was coined in the late 19th century as a way to describe the ideological opposite of communism.) Some decades later, people began to use a better term, "the American system," in which the government involved itself in the economy primarily to develop what we would now call infrastructure -- highways, canals, railroads -- but otherwise let economic liberty prevail. I prefer to call this spectacularly successful arrangement "financial democracy" -- a largely free system in which the U.S. government's role is to help citizens achieve their best potential, using all the economic weapons that our financial arsenal can provide.

So is the government's bailout a major departure? Hardly. Today's federal involvement offers bailouts as a strictly temporary measure to prevent a system-wide financial calamity. This is entirely in keeping with our basic principles -- as long as the bailout promotes, rather than hinders, financial democracy.

A reminder: No one has yet told us how much of the fiscal crisis is due to subprime loans and how much to various forms of casino capitalism such as investing with non existent money and how much to the collapse of laundered money for the drug trade and other illegal operations. It would be nice to know.

Michael Hudson, Democracy Now - Well, what upsets the Europeans and the foreigners is that the US plan has done nothing at all about the debt crisis itself. It's bailed out the creditors, but not a penny of the actual debts, the subprime mortgage debts, are addressed. Without any of the media knowing, the Federal Reserve over the last few months has given $850 billion of cash for trash already. This is what the $700 billion discussion in Congress was supposed to be about, but the Fed, without anyone knowing, has already been exchanging these securities. And the securities essentially have been swapped by the US bankers to their pals and not done anything at all to write down the actual subprime debts. . . And if you add up all of the subprime bad loans and defaults, that's altogether $1 trillion. So far, the government has given away $6 trillion already to Wall Street. That's much more than any of the subprime debt. And the volume of derivative trade has been estimated at $450 trillion, an unbelievable amount. So nobody has any idea about how much money is at stake.

And what really triggered a lot of this was the way in which Lehman went bankrupt. The day - and this has not been discussed either in America, but it's all over the European press. The day before Lehman went bankrupt, it basically looted all of its foreign offices. For instance, in England, it emptied out the English account of a few billion dollars, leaving the English employees only with the . . . the little cards they had to use in the vending machines. No salaries were paid. The London office was closed down immediately. And the next day, Lehman used the money that it took from London to pay its closest associates to redeem the derivative trades that it had done. So the English bankers [have] come to the conclusion that the American bankers - well, we won't say "crooks," but let's say they're cronies who deal among themselves and are willing to screw the foreigner.

And this has created such a mistrust abroad that Europeans and Asians and OPEC country investors are simply pulling their money out of the US, because they don't have a clue as to the solvency of the banks. We're seeing the end result of the Alan Greenspan deregulatory revolution, where he said markets are all self-regulating. Right now, you're seeing the markets self-regulate themselves. And the result is a wipeout of the American pyramiding. . .

Forty percent of American income is spent now on rent, and about 15 to 20 percent on interest payments. And without addressing the debt problem, no matter how much money the banks have, they are not going to lend money to somebody who can't afford to take on any more debt. And most people in America right now cannot afford to meet the bank's standards for taking on any more debt. So none of this money that's being given away has any effect at all on real people and purchasing power and cars and goods and services. It's all to settle debt pyramiding among the banks and Wall Street institutions themselves. . .

William Engdahl, Global Research - What's clear from the behavior of European financial markets over the past two weeks is that the dramatic stories of financial meltdown and panic are deliberately being used by certain influential factions in and outside the EU to shape the future face of global banking in the wake of the US sub-prime and asset-backed security debacle. The most interesting development in recent days has been the unified and strong position of the German Chancellor, Finance Minister, Bundesbank and coalition government, all opposing an American-style EU superfund bank bailout. Meanwhile Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson pursues his crony capitalism to the detriment of the nation and benefit of his cronies in the financial world. It's an explosive cocktail that need not have been. . .

There is serious ground to believe that US Goldman Sachs ex CEO Henry Paulson, as Treasury Secretary, is not stupid. There is also serious ground to believe that he is actually moving according to a well-thought-out long-term strategy. Events as they are now unfolding in the EU tend to confirm that. As one senior European banker put it to me in private discussion, 'There is an all-out war going on between the United States and the EU to define the future face of European banking.'

In this banker's view, the attempt of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and France's Nicholas Sarkozy to get an EU common 'fund', with perhaps upwards of $300 billion to rescue troubled banks, would de facto play directly into Paulson and the US establishment's long-term strategy, by in effect weakening the banks and repaying US-originated asset backed securities held by EU banks. . .

It's becoming increasingly obvious that people like Henry Paulson, who by the way was one of the most aggressive practitioners of the ABS revolution on Wall Street before becoming Treasury Secretary, are operating on motives beyond their over-proportional sense of greed. Paulson's own background is interesting in that context. Back in the early 1970's Paulson started his career working for a rather notorious man named John Erlichman, Nixon's ruthless adviser who created the Plumbers' Unit during the Watergate era to silence opponents of the President, and was left by Nixon to 'twist in the wind' for it in prison.

Paulson seems to have learned from his White House mentor. As co-chairman of Goldman Sachs according to a New York Times account, in 1998 he forced out his co-chairman, Jon Corzine 'in what amounted to a coup' according to the Times. . .

Knowing that at a certain juncture the pyramid of trillions of dollars of dubious sub-prime and other high risk home mortgage-based securities would come falling down, they apparently determined to spread the so-called 'toxic waste' ABS securities as globally as possible, in order to seduce the big global banks of the world, most especially of the EU, into their honey trap. . .

What has emerged are the outlines of two opposite approaches to the unfolding crisis. The Paulson plan is now clearly part of a project to create three colossal global financial giants - Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and, of course, Paulson's own Goldman Sachs, now conveniently enough a bank. Having successfully used fear and panic to wrestle a $700 billion bailout from the US taxpayers, now the big three will try to use their unprecedented muscle to ravage European banks in the years ahead. So long as the world's largest financial credit rating agencies - Moody's and Standard & Poors - are untouched by the scandals and Congressional hearings, the reorganized US financial power of Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase could potentially regroup and advance their global agenda over the coming several years, walking over the ashes of a bankrupt American economy made bankrupt by their follies.

By agreeing on a strategy of nationalizing what EU finance ministers deem are 'EU banks too systemically strategic to fail,' while guaranteeing bank deposits, the largest EU governments, Germany and the UK, in contrast to the US, have opted for what will in the longer run allow European banking giants to withstand the anticipated financial attacks from the likes of Goldman or Citigroup. . .

Dean Baker, Prospect - The WSJ reports that Neel Kashkari, the bailout czar, told a group of Wall Street executives that the restrictions on executive compensation in the bailout bill really don't mean anything. Of course anyone who bothered to look at the bill already knew that the compensation restrictions were meaningless before the bill passed. So why do we only see this reported in the media after the fact? . . . It looks to me like the media went into full sales promotion mode on this bailout bill, but I'm open to other explanations.

Hartford Courant - Police are investigating the apparent poisoning of a real estate agent who investigators say was fed a piece of tainted ginger cake by a woman whose house he was trying to sell. . . Police said they were called to the ERA Broder Group real estate office at 43 North Main St. at 11:34 a.m. Thursday on a medical call. A 28-year-old man was ill and ended up requiring treatment at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, police Capt. Paul Melanson said.
"The guy who is the victim is selling a house for Nancy Glass," Melanson said. "He met with her [Thursday] morning to talk about the sale of the house. She offered him a piece of cake. He ate it." When he returned to his firm's office, he began to feel ill and ultimately called 911.

Jason Zweig, Wall Street Journal - Robert Shiller, professor of finance at Yale University and chief economist for MacroMarkets LLC, tracks what he calls the "Graham P/E," a measure of market valuation he adapted from an observation [Benjamin] Graham made many years ago. The Graham P/E divides the price of major U.S. stocks by their net earnings averaged over the past 10 years, adjusted for inflation. After this week's bloodbath, the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index is priced at 15 times earnings by the Graham-Shiller measure. That is a 25% decline since Sept. 30 alone. The Graham P/E has not been this low since January 1989; the long-term average in Prof. Shiller's database, which goes back to 1881, is 16.3 times earnings.

But when the stock market moves away from historical norms, it tends to overshoot. The modern low on the Graham P/E was 6.6 in July and August of 1982, and it has sunk below 10 for several long stretches since World War II -- most recently, from 1977 through 1984. It would take a bottom of about 600 on the S&P 500 to take the current Graham P/E down to 10. That's roughly a 30% drop from last week's levels; an equivalent drop would take the Dow below 6000.

Could the market really overshoot that far on the downside? "That's a serious possibility, because it's done it before," says Prof. Shiller. "It strikes me that it might go down a lot more" from current levels.

In order to trade at a Graham P/E as bad as the 1982 low, the S&P 500 would have to fall to roughly 400, more than a 50% slide from where it is today. A similar drop in the Dow would hit bottom somewhere around 4000. .

Strikingly, today's conditions bear quite a close resemblance to what Graham described in the abyss of the Great Depression. Regardless of how much further it might (or might not) drop, the stock market now abounds with so many bargains it's hard to avoid stepping on them. Out of 9,194 stocks tracked by Standard & Poor's Compustat research service, 3,518 are now trading at less than eight times their earnings over the past year -- or at levels less than half the long-term average valuation of the stock market as a whole. Nearly one in 10, or 876 stocks, trade below the value of their per-share holdings of cash -- an even greater proportion than Graham found in 1932. Charles Schwab Corp., to name one example, holds $27.8 billion in cash and has a total stock-market value of $21 billion.

Those numbers testify to the wholesale destruction of the stock market's faith in the future. And, as Graham wrote in 1932, "In all probability [the stock market] is wrong, as it always has been wrong in its major judgments of the future."

In fact, the market is probably wrong again in its obsession over whether this decline will turn into a cataclysmic collapse. Eugene White, an economics professor at Rutgers University who is an expert on the crash of 1929 and its aftermath, thinks that the only real similarity between today's climate and the Great Depression is that, once again, "the market is moving on fear, not facts." As bumbling as its response so far may seem, the government's actions in 2008 are "way different" from the hands-off mentality of the Hoover administration and the rigid detachment of the Federal Reserve in 1929 through 1932. "Policymakers are making much wiser decisions," says Prof. White, "and we are moving in the right direction.

Investors seem, above all, to be in a state of shock, bludgeoned into paralysis by the market's astonishing volatility. How is Theodore Aronson, partner at Aronson + Johnson + Ortiz LP, a Philadelphia money manager overseeing some $15 billion, holding up in the bear market? "We have 101 clients and almost as many consultants representing them," he says, "and we've had virtually no calls, only a handful." Most of the financial planners I have spoken with around the country have told me much the same thing: Their phones are not ringing, and very few of their clients have even asked for reassurance. The entire nation, it seems, is in the grip of what psychologists call "the disposition effect," or an inability to confront financial losses. The natural way to palliate the pain of losing money is by refusing to recognize exactly how badly your portfolio has been damaged. A few weeks ago, investors were gasping; now, en masse, they seem to have gone numb. . .

This collective stupor may very likely be the last stage before many investors finally let go -- the phase of market psychology that veteran traders call "capitulation."



John Lewis, Politico - As one who was a victim of violence and hate during the height of the civil rights movement, I am deeply disturbed by the negative tone of the McCain-Palin campaign. What I am seeing reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history. Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse.

During another period, in the not too distant past, there was a governor of the state of Alabama named George Wallace who also became a presidential candidate. George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama.

As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy.

During a forum, John McCain described John Lews as one of the "three wisest men" he has known. He probably has now lost his title.


Mark Winston Griffith, DMI - It's easy not to always feel love for ACORN, even if you are on the political left. Social justice advocates and organizers routinely complain that ACORN doesn't always work well in coalitions, or that they suck up all the air in a protest action or press conference, leaving their allies in the shadows. They use a bare-knuckled style of organizing that can be alienating for even those on the sidelines, and they are known to strike deals with their protest targets that can be too narrowly self-interested. . .

But, for all people who consider themselves to be progressive, let's be clear: The current right wing attack on ACORN is a frontal assault on all of us who fight for social and economic justice. ACORN may not always behave in the activist sandbox, but they are one of us, and we better close ranks around them, because the barrel of the right-wing attack gun will be focused on you and me next.

I don't know what the facts on the ground in Ohio and Nevada are, but it's clear that the right wing has declared open season on ACORN and all that it stands for, no matter how many lies need to be told to do it. For instance, over the last few weeks, the right wing has blanketed media airspace with the idea that the Community Reinvestment Act, as aggressively promulgated by ACORN over the past few decades, forced banks to lower their lending criteria, which led to the subprime crisis. They have also taken shots at organizations like the Center for Responsible Lending, which has led progressive, smart research and advocacy campaigns against predatory lending in all forms, not just mortgages.

Implicated are all the rest of us who have used the CRA, the only government edict against bank redlining, to own up to their obligations to lend in neighborhoods of color and low-income areas. Not only is this argument against the CRA and ACORN breath-takingly wrong - most subprime lenders were not even covered by the CRA - but it goes far to make the racist suggestion that the very people that ACORN represents - people of color, low income areas - are inherently high risk and unworthy of credit.

The kissing cousin to this argument is the right-wing's recent disparagement of community organizing and their suggestions that Barack Obama's community organizing activity was radical and un-American simply because he tried to help poor people build power. The RNC is issuing stories on a regular basis, trying not only to discredit ACORN and their voter registration efforts, but also manufacturing links between Obama and ACORN. . .

As a progressive community, we have an obligation to call out ACORN on their stuff. God knows I have. But we also have an obligation to stick up for one of the most effective grassroots social justice organizations this nation has ever seen, an organization that stands on the frontlines everyday, taking body blows for all of us.



From Christian Schubart's Ideen zu einer Aesthetik der Tonkunst (1806), translated by Rita Steblin in A History of Key Characteristics in the 18th and Early 19th Centuries. UMI Research Press (1983

C Major - Completely Pure. Its character is: innocence, simplicity, naivety, children's talk.

C Minor - Declaration of love and at the same time the lament of unhappy love. All languishing, longing, sighing of the love-sick soul lies in this key. . .

Eb Major The key of love, of devotion, of intimate conversation with God. .

D# Minor Feelings of the anxiety of the soul's deepest distress, of brooding despair, of blackest depresssion, of the most gloomy condition of the soul. Every fear, every hesitation of the shuddering heart, breathes out of horrible D# minor. If ghosts could speak, their speech would approximate this key. . .

F Major - Complaisance & Calm. . .

G Major - Everything rustic, idyllic and lyrical, every calm and satisfied passion, every tender gratitude for true friendship and faithful love,--in a word every gentle and peaceful emotion of the heart is correctly expressed by this key.

G Minor Discontent, uneasiness, worry about a failed scheme; bad-tempered gnashing of teeth; in a word: resentment and dislike. . .

Ab Major Key of the grave. Death, grave, putrefaction, judgment, eternity lie in its radius.

Bb Major Cheerful love, clear conscience, hope aspiration for a better world. . .


New Scientist: Why are Saturn's rings so spectacular? It could be that the planet managed to cling onto a moon when all the other gas giants in our solar system had already lost theirs. Today's rings formed when the moon was smashed up.

Sebastien Charnoz and colleagues at the University of Diderot, Paris, suggest it was during the "late heavy bombardment", 700 million years after Saturn formed, that a chunk of debris collided with one of the planet's moons. Because the moon was orbiting at just the right distance from Saturn when it shattered - within the so-called Roche limit - the tiny pieces formed the rings instead of dispersing.

This could explain why other planets don't have rings like Saturn's. Even if other planets had moons within their Roche limits at the birth of the solar system, the team's calculations show that the moons would soon been dragged down into the planet or unshackled from their orbits. Yet



It ain't over 'til it's over. . . The 2000 Gallup tracking poll for Oct 2-4 had Gore ahead by eleven points. A warning for Democrats as well as another unwanted reminder of why Nader was not responsible for Gore's loss. He lost those votes.

At one of his rallies a woman said to McCain, "I've heard that Sen. Obama is an Arab." McCain cut the woman off, saying, "No, ma'am. He's a decent family man and citizen," McCain says. . Change the word Arab to Jew or black and you'll get the import.

Dean Reynolds, CBS News - The Obama aides who deal with the national reporters on the campaign plane are often overwhelmed, overworked and un-informed about where, when, why or how the candidate is moving about. Baggage calls are preposterously early with the explanation that it's all for security reasons. If so, I would love to have someone from Obama's campaign explain why the entire press corps, the Secret Service, and the local police idled for two hours in a Miami hotel parking lot recently because there was nothing to do and nowhere to go. It was not an isolated case. The national headquarters in Chicago airily dismisses complaints from journalists wondering why a schedule cannot be printed up or at least e-mailed in time to make coverage plans. Nor is there much sympathy for those of us who report for a newscast that airs in the early evening . . . I suspect there is a feeling within the Obama campaign that the broadcast networks are less influential in the age of the internet and thus needn't be [accommodated] as in the days of yore. Even if it's true, they are only hurting themselves by dissing audiences that run in the tens of millions every night.

Governing - It took some chutzpah for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to suggest changing term limits law so that he could serve another term as mayor. New Yorkers, though, don't seem to mind chutzpah, as Quinnipiac finds. By a margin of 54 - 42 percent, New York City voters favor extending the eight-year term limit to 12 years so they can elect Mayor Michael Bloomberg to a third term, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released. This compares to a July 16 survey by the independent Quinnipiac University poll in which New Yorkers opposed 56 - 38 percent extending term limits for four more years of Mayor Bloomberg.


Brad Blog - We told you about the bogus challenges --- 6,000 of them --- made by the Montana GOP against voters in six Democratic-leaning counties in the state, based solely on the fact that the voters had filed change of address forms with the U.S. Postal Service within the last 18 months. The GOP claimed, with a straight face, they were fighting "voter fraud", even though there was indications of no such fraud, and the result was little more than chaos at the election offices, just 30 days out from a major election. One of the GOP's challenged voters turned out to be an Army Reservist who would be unable to verify his authenticity --- and thus would lose his right to vote under the challenge --- since he was in New Jersey, about to ship out for his second tour of duty in Iraq. . . On Monday, the state Democratic Party fought back, and announced a lawsuit against the Republicans, to stop the challenges on the basis that they were brought by the GOP only to intimidate voters and suppress turnout. . Faced with a party actually willing to push back by taking them to court, the Montana GOP "waved the white flag of surrender" and backed off their phony challenges.

Wired - A month of primary recounts in the election battleground of Palm Beach County, Florida, has twice flipped the winner in a local judicial race and revealed grave problems in the county's election infrastructure, including thousands of misplaced ballots and vote tabulation machines that are literally unable to produce the same results twice. Experts say the brew of administrative bungling and mysterious technological failures raises new and troubling questions about the county that played a crucial role in the 2000 presidential election debacle, and is one of a handful of counties considered pivotal in the upcoming presidential election. Voting advocates are fearful that problems here -- and perhaps in other election hot spots -- could trigger a replay of the disputed 2000 election.. . . At issue is an Aug. 26 primary election in which officials discovered, during a recount of a close judicial race, that more than 3,400 ballots had mysteriously disappeared after they were initially counted on election day. The recount a week later, minus the missing ballots, flipped the results of the race to a different winner.

John Gideon, Voters United - I'm 61 years old. I've been doing this work full-time for nearly the last five years. I long for the days, before I learned so much, when I was ignorant about dirty tricks, phony voter fraud accusations, voter list purges, voter suppression, poorly designed and inaccurate voting machines, absentee paper ballots that have the voters' political parties on the mail-in envelopes, long lines at the polls, and every other attempt to keep voters from voting and votes from being counted accurately, if at all. . . It was nice thinking our democracy actually worked the way our founding fathers envisioned it would. It was nice thinking that, no matter for whom I voted, the majority voice was heard. Now, it just feels dirty and somewhat depressing.I know way too much. It was nice being ignorant. . .


NY Times - The drug maker Pfizer earlier this decade manipulated the publication of scientific studies to bolster the use of its epilepsy drug Neurontin for other disorders, while suppressing research that did not support those uses, according to experts who reviewed thousands of company documents for plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the company. Pfizer's tactics included delaying the publication of studies that had found no evidence the drug worked for some other disorders, "spinning" negative data to place it in a more positive light, and bundling negative findings with positive studies to neutralize the results, according to written reports by the experts, who analyzed the documents at the request of the plaintiffs' lawyers.




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


The only thing Obama could possibly bomb would be his own campaign

Strange statement, and I don't understand how someone could possibly make this claim. Throughout his time in the Senate, four years now, Obama has vigorously supported and voted for funding for America's wars abroad, including massive bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan. He knows that most of these bombings end up hurting civilians, not so-called "terrorists," yet he has not objected. Not once. Nor has ever called for any investigations into the many bombings against civilians. Not once. He's never even mentioned it. Instead he has very strongly called for more bombings, and has specifically called for the extension of US bombing into Pakistan. Despite the economic crisis he continues to call for increases in the defense budget (which he always votes for) and generally advocates more violence and more war. Wake up folks, he's a bomb-the-hell-out-of-them Clinton-Bush clone.

By the way, I'm a leftist progressive in California who also wants to dump America entirely. There are many, many millions of us in the US, many more than you think. We are leftist, rightists, centrists, blacks, whites, browns and all other kinds. As far as I can tell, the only ones who want to keep this 18th century warmongering embarrassment going are those who want the easy money from the federal gravy train.

And if you don't think we have the right to secede you might want to read the Declaration of Independence. The right to do so is very clearly stated there. Indeed, that's the entire purpose of the document, specifically stated in the very first sentence.

Yeah, I know I'm supposed to be a Leftie and a Pwogwessive and all, but honestly? Really? I'd actually rather take the crazy Alaskan secessionist over the dull-as-dirt Harvard Law buppie, if for no other reason than that I'm bored out of my goddamn' skull with this town right now. - Mike Flugennock
I think living with a member of a secessionist party is the best thing one can say about Palin. I am a card-carrying member of the Second Vermont Republic. We are holding the Second Statewide Convention on Secession "The Vermont Village Green: Alternative to Empire" at the Vermont State House in Montpelier on Nov. 7, 2008. John Howard Kunstler is one of the speakers. - Susan Ohanian

Could someone please explain to me how any American, any 'real' American that is, could possibly be opposed to allowing people to actually vote on what type of government they would like and how they would like to live.

If people feel that those who believe in freedom, independence and self-determination are such a lunatic fringe, then why not allow a vote and settle the matter? Wouldn't that be the democratic approach?

But the Democrats and Republicans will never allow a vote on perpetuating the union because they know damn well that the American people would never vote for it. Wouldn't have in 1789 if they'd been given the choice and won't now.

Wake up folks. This union isn't broken, it's dead. Stone cold dead, deader than the parrot in that Monty Python sketch. All it's doing now is sucking up endless lives and money, and it will just get worse and worse. The only way to dismantle the military-industrial complex is to dismantle the union itself. Both Obama and McCain are committed to expanding it. We'd be better off divided into smaller nations, especially financially, and would be less of a threat to global peace and security.

The trend in the world is towards smaller nations. Every day there are reports of another nationalist or independence movement somewhere. It's the great movement of the 21st century. It's not going to go away, and it will come to the US too. Sooner than you think.

While the above include a number of good points, the problem at the moment is someone whose husband has supported succession is trying to define her opponent as disloyal. You can't have it both ways. - Sam


The fact that anyone who disagrees with the current hipster definition of the Israeli/Palestine conflict gets instantly labeled as an "AIPAC troll" on this site tells me that Prorev enjoys a high level of readership amongst those whose understanding of foreign politics is no greater than what their college 'underground' publication feeds to them as the facts. Then again, a good bit of the uber-naive commentary one reads on this site every day rends to confirm that observation.


The deregulation of the financial sector was achieved by the Democratic Clinton administration and by the current Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Paulson, with the acquiescence of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Paulson bailout saves his firm, Goldman Sachs. The Paulson bailout transfers the troubled financial instruments that the financial sector created from the books of the financial sector to the books of the taxpayers at the US Treasury. This is all the bailout does. It rescues the guilty.

The Paulson bailout does not address the problem, which is the defaulting home mortgages. "The defaults will continue, because the economy is sinking into recession. Homeowners are losing their jobs, and homeowners are being hit with rising mortgage payments resulting from adjustable rate mortgages and escalator interest rate clauses in their mortgages that make homeowners unable to service their debt." - Paul Craig Roberts

Paul, the Fed raised interest rates because it saw rising prices (such as oil) during 2005-2006. The Fed thought that was an overheated economy (a Keynesian interpretation). In truth it was the Fed's mismanagement of the money. So before the rising interest rates, the loss of jobs and the ARM problem was monetary inflation. - Well Basically

Actually, it sounds to me like the revised bailout worked perfectly by convincing the idiots that they were not going to get a free ride. Just because the market didn't miraculously turn around in one day is hardly reason to declare this a failure. Of course it needed to drop. It had become almost as absurdly overvalued as housing. This will either force these greedy fools to come up with workable and sustainable solutions to the mess they created or they will all end up living on the street where they belong.

The super press was dying for a bailout and now can't explain why the market is crashing harder with the bailout passed. So now they claim it's because the banks won't participate. The truth is that the bailout was bad for the economy, the entire thing will be deficit money that will be created by the Fed, increasing inflation which was the problem in the first place. Obama, McCain, Bush, Barney Frank, Hillary etc were all behind the bailout and it didn't work. This is one of those moments when the entire establishment is discredited because it can't explain what it happening. Maybe something good will come out of it but more likely something bad, because there is no room for a real solution to get heard. There is no way for a third party to get through with the right solution.

One can not blame the Fed for the hubris of gamblers. Looking upon the public record section of our local newspaper, one sees that the majority of properties in foreclosure happen to owned by various builders and/or land developers. Seems there may have been something of an over indulgence of property speculation going around these parts. Housing 'inventory' was certainly pushed beyond the area's capacity to support it. So long as the bubble kept growing and the prices kept rising the building continued.


Alcohol and tobacco kill so many people each year. No one has ever died from direct marijuana use. Ever. Honestly, everyone I talk to agrees with me that when stoned, driving is easier. You become more focused.

I can't even tell you how many good things come out of marijuana. Music sounds better, Food tastes better, Movies are funnier, Things become more exciting, Headaches and Stomach aches instantly eliminated, Depression is decreased, Aggression is decreased, Happiness is the only thing you care about, Sex is feels better.

You do not lose brain cells. That is a myth. Use a vaporizer and you the smoke will not hurt your lungs or use a water bong and the smoke is filtered causing less tar to come through.

You do not have problems remembering things just because you smoke. You will only become lazy if you are a teenager. When adults smoke on a daily basis, it does not affect there ability to get up and go, to have a job, to take care of kids, or any other thing. I don't have any kids of my own although I take care of my niece.

I smoke everyday and have never had a single problem doing it. The only thing you have to worry about is the legal matters. If it was legalized, can you imagine how much peace would be floating around?

Stop following what everyone else is saying and just help to legalize it. If you are not a pot head then you are not informed. Get informed. Smoke cannabis. It is the cure for everything wrong in your life. Be stress-free, Be happy, Be high.


It's true that FDR gave us the infamous "commerce clause" which Congress acceded to rather than having the Supreme Court increased to fifteen, nine of which would have been FDR's stooges. If you're tired of some crackpot from Oklahoma thwarting a sensible marijuana policy, thank FDR. Indeed if you're tired of the federal dick in your ass, thank FDR. Additionally, FDR usurped the Congress's legislative function, reducing it to its present weakened capacity wherein it merely authorizes the executive branch to rule by regulations, signing statements and line item veto. Contrary to my grandparents' beliefs, FDR was not God, merely a rich mortal trying to stave off real change.

If we are to blame Reagan for all of today's ills, why not go a bit further back in history? The real root of the problem is the liberal bastion Franklin D. Roosevelt. I seem to recall that he adjusted the nation's economic policies quite a bit and took away American's right to own gold (which as I recall is, along with silver, the only real money under that silly old Constitution). Of course only greedy rich people would want to own gold anyway.


I have Aspergers and I thinks that its unfair to to compare people with Aspergers to Pallin. Albert Einstein had Aspergers.

As did Thomas Jefferson.


Sam, you are an ass. There are books out there that tell you all about Obama. You apparently haven't read any of them. First of all, he was born a Muslim, was schooled and trained as a Muslim, thinks like Muslim, lies and cheats like Muslin, is and will always be a Muslim. And you support him over a real honest to God war hero who suffered, bled, and was tortured for his country? He refuses to meet with military groups and despises the American military. McCain could have gotten out of that prison confinement, you know, but chose to stay rather than give the enemy a good propaganda tool. My God, man, where is your patriotism? I don't think I want to read your rag any more, so you certainly can unsubscribe me. Obama has no respect for the Constitution, the military, or this country. He just wants power. Have you no respect for the Constitution and what it stands for? Do you remember 9/11? I do. I watched my TV in horror as those Muslims took down the two buildings. I will never forget that day and what our Muslim enemies did. I think you have. I have followed your writing for years and think you did a wonderful job of exposing the Clintons. I don't suppose you remember that either. I'd rather see Hilary in the White House than Obama and we all know what a self-serving individual she is. The biggest difference between Clinton and Obama though, is that she is an American and would not hurt our country. If Obama is elected, he will destroy it. I've read everything you ever wrote about her, and yet I would choose her over Obama, and John McCain over all of them. - H. McDermott


"Hands high--let 'er fly" as they say. However, bets can be, and are, made right up to the time the dice pass the center of the table. Hands are not supposed to interfere with the dice as they are thrown. If someone was creating a problem, believe me, either one of the three dealers at the table, the pit boss, or the sky would take care of it. One thing that is considered rude is touching other players or their chips. To me, the story sounds like bull shit. It's second or third hand anecdotal hearsay originating from a media investment banker --considering recent events, a source as creditable as used car salesman or lawyer.

Pit bosses
and casino personnel can be mighty obliging in what they'll allow some folks to get by with at the table, if the folks in question happen to be a 'name' or a prominent celebrity. Look at the shit casinos tolerated from the likes of Frank Sinatra for years, to name just one infamous example.

Above story may or may not be BS, but there are numerous well-documented instances of McCain's violent temper--and the man has admitted to this trait himself.

There have been credible reports circulated that Cindy McCain has been admitted to hospital ERs on at least two separate occasions sporting injuries that are consistent with those resulting from spousal abuse. John McCain is clearly a mean little runt who seemingly has no problems with threatening violence against women. Is this the personality type we really want occupying the White House? What next? "Wife Beaters for McCain", maybe?

I was around for some of those years. I even worked with Sammy Davis, Jr among others. You have no idea what you're talking about. Sinatra and Davis were highly appreciative and respectful of staff. The feeling was more than reciprocated. I never once saw, nor heard of a situation, where either ever behaved in an inappropriate manner in the casinos. I have, however, seen security handle more than one high roller who decided to throw his weight around. It happens all the time and the security types love doing their job. Casinos love giving security the opportunity to do so. The truth is casinos look at the bigger picture and they're not likely to let the prospects of some short term pandering jeopardize their relationship with the clients and customers who really bring in the cash over the long haul. Believe me, they don't care who are--if you fuck around, you fuck with their business, and that's not a good thing.


Better rules of thumb: Stand on 12--16 if the dealer has 2--6, otherwise hit. . . Always stand on hard 17 but always hit soft 17 . . . This covers 90% of basic strategy. . . Now learn pair splits and doubling and you're ready to hold your own. - Daver


According to Barack Obama's television ads, there are three choices on health care, The "extreme" option wherein government would drive costs and taxes to "extreme" limits. Or you could keep your employer paid health care (and we all know everybody has that even if they don't have a job or their employer can't afford it). Or you could believe Obama's bullshit and wind up watching your loved ones die, because after all, what's important is that Barack's grandma will (from her perch in Heaven) see the Chosen One become president. - Slightly Skeptical


I'd rather have a president who can admit he was investigated, rebuked but not found guilty and still admit he made a mistake, than someone who continually professes to not to know what was said when he sat in the audience for 20 years. Look a little closer folks.


Village Voice is wrong on one point: Consumption of alcohol and drugs goes up during a depression. People are looking to escape. I'd say the market for virtual reality is looking good too.


This column is another one of the dozens that make Sam Smith the sharpest observer of electoral politics in the US. And he's not too shabby on other topics, either.

"Liberal" was created in the time of the Gilded Age, when the moneymasters knew they needed a kinder, gentler face. Don't be fooled. Most "liberals" are not liberal. - Robbie

I don't usually read this blog, it was forwarded to me. I know Sam is highly respected by people I respect, and I haven't investigated the larger scope of Sam's arguments, which I hope are more astute than this particular post.

Yes, too many liberals are happy in the self-righteous victim mode, preaching to the choir, and congratulating themselves for being liberal and multicultural and anti everything because it's wrong and we're right.

But the fact is, we live in a country where you have to convince a majority of the people you have something to offer them. You can stand on some fine point where you excoriate Bush's policies and the liberals who support Obama, and find a tiny following of people (probably conservative) who agree with you.

Or you can seize the moment. And this is one such moment. Our financial system is in a meltdown. People's jobs, their retirement, their sense of security is at risk.

If we on the left don't articulate a positive agenda, if we can't find a way to inspire people to something greater than our individual fears of losing our pensions, we are vulnerable to the Sarah Palins and Ann Coulters and the patent idea that some people love America because they hate taxes and support the troops and others, are traitors.

If all we do is criticize, we are impotent. But that's a very safe place. A very, very dangerous safe place. - red Eye

Could it be that some voters
don't care at all about Obama's ethnicity, but are repulsed by his policies and backers. By backers I don't mean the legions of sincere supporters who hope the man will grow into the job, but those corporate globalist financiers who've driven farmers off the land here and around the world, whose ideas are really the same as McCain's funders because they are the same corruptors. If Obama were a character on South Park, his name would be Token. The Dems selected him for the same reasons the GOP selected Palin, that some voters would identify with the image and ignore their policies. The trouble with racists is that, using one criteria, they've made up their minds about someone they don't know. I guess Sam is correct in pointing out that lots of people have prejudged working class whites and their motives. - Ol' Arkansas Boy

Never have so many written so much only to confuse the many that much more. I am far from an


The problem is that the folks from the small towns and American heartland "Go DC" in the same way actors from the boonies "Go Hollywood". Try Joe Biden. He rides that train home every night - to his 6800 SF mansion on 6 1/2 acres? What neighbors? Claims he eats at some diner that's been closed for 20 years? They like to keep the image of what sends them there. The values were dumped about the third free dinner at The Palms. EF, Tucson

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