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Undernews For November 12, 2008

Undernews For November 12, 2008

611 Pennsylvania Ave SE #381
Washington DC 20003
Editor: Sam Smith

12 November 2008


Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital; that, in fact, capital is the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital and deserves much the higher consideration. - Abraham Lincoln



Mark Ames, Nation - From the start, [Lawrence] Summers has been on the wrong side of Obama's supporters. In 1982, while still a graduate student at Harvard, Summers was brought to Washington by his dissertation advisor Martin Feldstein, the supply-side economist, to serve on Ronald Reagan's Council of Economic Advisors. Those first years in the Reagan administration were crucial in the right-wing war against New Deal regulation of the banking system and financial markets -- a war that Reagan's team won, and that we're all paying for today. Although Summers eventually identified himself with the Democratic Party -- albeit the right wing of that party -- nevertheless, as the New York Times's Peter T. Kilborn wrote in 1988:

He worked for 10 months as a top analyst in President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers when his mentor, Martin S. Feldstein, was running it, and his colleagues don't recall him venting anti-Reagan heresies then. "One of the ironies of this business is that Summers's economics are quite close to Feldstein's," said William A. Niskanen, who was a member of the Feldstein council. . .

Some fifteen years after Summers's stint in the Reaganomics war room, he reappears as one of the key villains fighting to suppress the regulatory efforts of a top official, Brooksley Born, who was trying to call attention to the dangers of the unregulated derivatives, such as credit swap defaults, which today are considered the key to the current economic crisis. . .


Channel 2 - Baltimore - We've been telling you how finding a room for the Inauguration is nearly impossible. Hotels in Washington, D.C. are booked and hotels in Baltimore are starting to book up. But there are some hotel rooms, if you have money to spend.

At the sold out Hay Adams Hotel on Lafayette Square, right across from the White House, people are paying a minimum of $949 a night with a four night stay required. The hotel is booked.

Also booked the Four Seasons in Georgetown, which has a Royal Suite for $15,000 a night.

If you have a lot of extra money $25,000 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Capitol Hill can get you four nights in the grand Presidential Suite, with limo service, a day at the spa and a private butler. There are also 2 tickets to the Inaugural parade and designer gloves and scarves.

Then there is the $40,000 "Eco-Inaugural" package at the Fairmont Hotel in Foggy Bottom. The four-night extravaganza includes the exclusive use of a Lexus hybrid vehicle, with a driver, his and her organic spa treatments with a massage and manicures.


We don't know what to make of this. Lord West could have simply trying to get another extreme purported anti-terror bill passed and some of the others could have been simply trying to make the case for Obama. Collectively, however, these items - within three weeks of each other, are a bit unusual and nervous making.

Telegraph, UK, October 15 - Lord West, who advises the Prime Minister on security matters, told the House of Lords: "There is another great plot building up again and we are monitoring this.". . He told peers: "Some of the measures that we have put into place in the past 15 months have made us safer, but that does not mean that we are safe. "The threat is huge. It dipped slightly and is now rising again within the context of 'severe'. There are large complex plots. We unraveled one, which caused damage to al-Qaeda and the plots faded slightly. However, another great plot is building up again, which we are monitoring. . . "We have done all the things that we need to do, but the threat is building - the complex plots are building."

The Daily Telegraph reported two weeks ago that security sources believed terrorist activity was nearing "critical". The threat level is at the "severe end of severe" according to sources who say the level of "ambient activity" among terrorist cells has increased in recent months and they are now operating at full stretch. The source said: "We are not chasing shadows. These are potential threats to security and life. Police and the security network are operating at full capacity."

Colin Powell on Meet the Press, October 19 - The problems will always be there and there's going to be a crisis which will come along on the 21st, 22nd of January that we don't even know about right now.

Senator Joe Biden, October 20 - We're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy. . . I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate, And he's gonna need help. And the kind of help he's gonna need is, he's gonna need you - not financially to help him - we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right.

Agence France Presse, October 20 - The world is on the brink of an avalanche in the spread of devastating weaponry, a new global non-proliferation group warned. . . The Middle East, particularly Iran, is a potential tipping point, according to Gareth Evans, co-chair of the newly formed International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament. . . "The devastation that could be wreaked by one major nuclear weapons incident alone puts 9/11 and almost everything else (in) to the category of the insignificant," he said, referring to the attacks inflicted on the United States in 2001.

CNN November 2 - Top Obama advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski tells CNN that Barack Obama will be faced with "imminent problems" in foreign policy once he takes office.


Scientific Blogging - Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore have shown for the first time that the emotions aroused by joyful music have a healthy effect on blood vessel function.

Music, selected by study participants because it made them feel good and brought them a sense of joy, caused tissue in the inner lining of blood vessels to dilate (or expand) in order to increase blood flow. This healthy response matches what the same researchers found in a 2005 study of laughter. On the other hand, when study volunteers listened to music they perceived as stressful, their blood vessels narrowed, producing a potentially unhealthy response that reduces blood flow. . .

Compared to baseline, the average upper arm blood vessel diameter increased 26 percent after the joyful music phase, while listening to music that caused anxiety narrowed blood vessels by six percent. . .

During the laughter phase of the study, a 19 percent increase in dilation showed a significant trend. The relaxation phase increased dilation by 11 percent on average; a number that the investigators determined was not statistically significant.

Most of the participants in the study selected country music as their favorite to evoke joy, according to Dr. Miller, while they said "heavy metal" music made them feel anxious. "You can't read into this too much, although you could argue that country music is light, spirited, a lot of love songs." says Dr. Miller, who enjoys rock, classical, jazz and country music. He says he could have selected 10 other individuals and the favorite could have been a different type of music.



Roger Roots - Historians of Soviet Russia occasionally note that the communist workers paradise was originally intended to adhere to a written constitution that expressly guaranteed freedoms such as speech, press and assembly. In practice, however, none of the freedoms guaranteed in the Soviet constitution were recognized in the country s legal system, and millions of dissenters and suspected dissenters were imprisoned or killed for disagreeing with the commissars of the state.

The United States Constitution, by contrast, is thought to be in good standing. Yet there are numerous provisions of the U.S. Constitution that are never enforced. These provisions, analogous to dead letters in the U.S. Postal System, are either totally ignored by federal judges or given such a narrow construction that they might as well not exist. As columnist and curmudgeon Joseph Sobran has written, the Supreme Court has, in essence, exercised a "line-item veto" over the document, totally ignoring provisions that interfere with the justices national vision or social objectives.

When the Supreme Court switched to discretionary certiorari in 1925 (thus allowing the court to pick and choose its own docket), the Court paved the way for a highly selective treatment of the Constitution. While some constitutional provisions (e.g., the First Amendment and the Fourth Amendment) are routinely accorded Supreme Court consideration, many others are almost completely ignored.

It can hardly be a coincidence that all of the dead letters happen to place limitations on the scope and power of government. In contrast, the few provisions of the Constitution granting powers to government have been interpreted expansively. The clause giving Congress power to regulate interstate commerce, for example, has been interpreted by the courts to allow Congress to imprison people for acts that can be linked to either commerce or interstate activities only by a tenuous series of conceptual inferences.

There are even provisions which were included in the Constitution to limit government but which have now been interpreted to empower government. The Takings Clause, which states that no person shall be deprived of property "without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation," was recently construed by the Supreme Court to give government at all levels near carte blanche power over all property. In a 2005 decision entitled Kelo v. City of New London, the Court reinterpreted the phrase "for public use" to mean for whatever use any government desires including private use.

Similarly, the Fifth Amendment Grand Jury clause was placed in the Constitution in order to limit government but has now been interpreted in a way that empowers government. As the criminal law grew more complicated during the 1800s, courts began allowing public prosecutors to appear and discuss cases before grand juries (a practice strictly forbidden at the time of the Founding). This became embedded in grand jury practice by the 1900s. Today s Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure state that prosecutors may be present before grand juries at all times and prohibit grand jurors from issuing independent presentments.

There is nothing new about this insidious trend. The Necessary and Proper clause was originally intended to bind Congress to legislating only in ways that were "necessary" to carry out the few limited powers the national government had been granted. By the early nineteenth century, however, the Supreme Court had already interpreted "necessary and proper" to mean only "proper" in the eyes of the government. As Jefferson observed, "[t]he natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground."

Courts have increasingly subjected all rights mentioned in the Constitution to balancing tests, meaning that rights have become mere interests to be balanced against the (always pressing) interests of government. Thus, it is asserted that "no rights are absolute" and that courts may deny the application of a right where "the Government s regulatory interest in community safety . . . outweigh[s] an individual s liberty interest." However, the Supreme Court has abandoned any pretense of balancing tests with regard to governmental powers (such as those found in the Tax Clause or the Spending Clause), for which the Constitution s provisions are described as plenary .

Some rights enshrined in the Constitution are rendered dead by the lack of any remedy to enforce them. For example, in 1974, the Supreme Court held that no taxpayer ever has standing to challenge the secret budget of the CIA (which clearly violates Article 1 s requirement that "No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by law; and a regular Statement and Account . . . of all public Money shall be published").

Finally, there are newly invented "maxims" of law that have crept into modern jurisprudence by means of pronouncements that they are long-recognized. One such so-called maxim originated with Justice Stone s "Footnote Four" in the 1938 case of United States v. Carolene Products Company. Justice Stone proclaimed that most congressional enactments are "presumed constitutional" and will be struck down only if they blatantly contradict explicit constitutional protections. Stone s "presumption of validity" has been cited in dozens if not hundreds of appellate decisions to turn away constitutional challenges. . .

A list of other recently invented "maxims" would include (1) Justice Robert H. Jackson s proclamation in 1949 that the Constitution is not a "suicide pact" (i.e., it should never be interpreted to mean the government is not always in control), and (2) the doctrine of "harmless error" (invented in 1967 in Chapman v. California) by which an appellate court may concede a constitutional violation but uphold a criminal conviction by proclaiming that the defendant would have been convicted even if the Constitution had been followed. There are also insidious doctrines such as "sovereign immunity" (which allows government agents to escape liability for illegal acts on the ground that they are with the government) and the "state secrets" doctrine (which deprives citizens of any redress by the assertion that proof of a constitutional violation would expose intelligence sources or methods), which are found nowhere in the text or the original understanding of the Constitution.

Of course, liberty dies incrementally, and the leviathanic government we see today took generations to bring about. It has been largely forgotten that the prohibition of intrastate liquor sales in the early twentieth century required a constitutional amendment (the Eighteenth) because policymakers and judges recognized that Congress had no constitutional authority to regulate intrastate sales of any commodity. The Supreme Court even wrote in a 1932 decision that "sales of [ ] forbidden drugs qua sales" was "a matter entirely beyond the authority of Congress." The recent Gonzales v. Raich decision (upholding federal drugs laws as trumping California s medical marijuana protections) highlights the fact that recent generations of Supreme Court justices have amended the Constitution without formal process.

A list of constitutional dead letters follows below. I honestly don t know what weight to give some of the Bush Administration s "unitary executive" practices such as its warrantless domestic eavesdropping and treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, which amount to complete abdications of the procedural rights laid out in the 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th Amendments. (If such matters are considered, it becomes arguable that the entirety of the Bill of Rights is a dead letter even if some of the rights are partially recognized for some people.) The list enumerated below, to paraphrase the dead-lettered Ninth Amendment, should not be considered all-inclusive, and there are, no doubt, other dead-lettered constitutional provisions I have neglected to identify.

- The House origination clause requiring that all "Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives," has been rendered a dead letter by neglect. As Congressman Ron Paul has pointed out, the 2008 bank bailout bill with all its tax implications was deliberately introduced in the Senate after House members rejected it a plain violation of this clause. Similar practices have gone on for many years.

- The congressional declaration of war clause. No "war" in the constitutional sense has been declared since 1941, although the executive branch has engaged in numerous undeclared wars and military escapades around the globe.

- The public accounting clause. As already discussed, the secret budget of the CIA is in plain conflict with Article I of the Constitution . . .

The Legal Tender Clause, prohibiting states from making "any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts." The application of the Federal Reserve Act and many other statutes and executive orders are in plain violation of this clause. State and Federal governments demand and provide payment in paper currencies that are unbacked by any precious metals.

The prohibition against bills of attainder, which was supposed to ensure that no one could ever be punished by the legislature has been addressed only four times by the Supreme Court. Congress regularly enacts new laws placing extrajudicial punishments on various groups (felons, convicted sex offenders, disfavored corporations such as Wal-Mart, and even entire industries (e.g., "Big Tobacco")).

- The Contract Clause, prohibiting states from impairing contractual obligations. Long dead and buried. Today the federal courts uphold wage, work, production, pricing, licensing and advertising regulations of every manner, irrespective of the Contract Clause.

The Second Amendment right to bear arms. Despite the recent Heller decision (which issued a "landmark" ruling that the Amendment protects an individual right), there are still thousands of felons and other persons in federal prison for the mere possession of firearms. No defendant has ever been released from prison or cleared of gun charges in federal court on account of judges recognizing the right to bear arms. The gist of the Heller decision is that the Amendment protects a "reasonable" right to bear government-approved arms so long as you are government-approved. Of course, such a limited and conditional reading of the Second Amendment renders it a dead letter. The leaders of the American Revolution were themselves accused (and some convicted) felons, and several were notorious criminals (e.g., John Hancock, an accused tax evader and smuggler; John Paul Jones, a twice-indicted murderer who adopted his name as an alias to avoid arrest).

The Fifth Amendment Grand Jury clause. While federal grand juries do still exist, they are now wholly subject to the control of federal prosecutors the very persons the Clause was intended to limit. The grand juries known to the Framers were civilian institutions that acted independently of prosecutors, could investigate prosecutors, and could indict prosecutors. Today, prosecutors dispense all evidence, witnesses and testimony to the grand jurors, who then retire to a deliberation room to vote on whether to approve the prosecutors wishes. (A "no" vote will just mean that the prosecutors will coerce another grand jury to vote on the same case.)

The Fifth Amendment Double Jeopardy clause. Today, the federal government commonly charges defendants who have been previously charged with essentially the same offense in state court (and vice versa). This usually happens after an acquittal or a "light" sentence in the first prosecution. Because Congress has federalized almost every state crime over the past four decades (something the Founders could never have imagined), federal and state prosecutors are able to get two bites at the apple despite the double jeopardy clause.

The Sixth Amendment right to jury trial in criminal cases. My inclusion of this one may puzzle some readers, because thousands of jury trials take place in American courtrooms annually. But the right to jury trial has been stripped for the vast majority of criminal prosecutions. Supreme Court rulings beginning in the late 1800s confined this right to cases of "serious" rather than "petty" crimes (i.e., punishable by less than six months imprisonment). This distinction exists nowhere in constitutional text, which explicitly guarantees a jury trial "in all criminal prosecutions " and for "all crimes." The change has allowed government to impose its will on the populace with far greater efficiency. Justices Black and Douglas observed in a 1970 concurrence that their colleagues on the Supreme Court had effectively amended the Constitution by applying a balancing test and that "those who wrote and adopted our Constitution and Bill of Rights engaged in all the balancing necessary. They decided that the value of a jury trial far outweighed its costs for " all crimes" and "in all criminal prosecutions."

Of course, plea bargains have replaced jury trials in most "serious" cases, allowing government to prosecute and imprison a far higher proportion of the American population than the Framers could have anticipated. And even where defendants take their charges to trial, they are tried before emasculated juries that are ordered to follow the judges interpretations of the Constitution and the laws. The Founders would have condemned this wholesale takeover of juries by modern judges.

The Sixth Amendment vicinage clause (requiring an "impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed"). In practice today, most federal court proceedings have been centralized into the largest urban areas of each federal court district, leaving rural defendants in many cases to face trials before urban juries drawn from jury districts that do not include the scene(s) of the alleged offense(s).

The Seventh Amendment right to jury trial in civil cases where the amount in controversy exceeds twenty dollars ($20). The eternal drive of government officials at every level to collect petty duties, traffic and parking tickets, fees and other tributes has necessitated that they circumvent the plain language of the Seventh Amendment. Today the Seventh Amendment is one of three articles in the Bill of Rights not incorporated into state court practice by the Fourteenth Amendment. Even in federal courts, the civil remedies mandated by the Seventh Amendment are painted into an extremely narrow corner.

The Ninth Amendment protection of other "rights retained by the people." As already discussed, this important provision, insisted upon by the Anti-Federalists in 1791, has been dead-lettered by a combination of judicial doctrines, maxims and sophistries that in essence leave the people with few or no reserved rights.

The Tenth Amendment. At the heart of the Supreme Court's dead letter file is the abandonment of federalism in order to create a centralized regime run from Washington. Under the Founders intent, of course, each state was to retain its own sovereignty while the federal government was to act as the states mutual delegate in matters of foreign and interstate affairs. The absence of this rule in the pre-amendment Constitution precipitated massive resistance across the colonies. Yet today the federal courts regard the Tenth Amendment as a quaint "truism" a mere statement that the States get to keep whatever jurisdiction is not overtaken by the federal government.

The Fourteenth Amendment Privileges and Immunities clause, which was intended to require states to recognize legal rights recognized by the federal government and other states, was mostly dead-lettered in 1873 in The Slaughterhouse Cases, in which the Supreme Court held the provision applied primarily to freed slaves. In recent decades, courts have looked to the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process clause to replace the dead-lettered Privileges and Immunities clause.

The Twenty-Seventh Amendment, which requires that "No law varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives shall take effect until an election of Representatives shall have intervened," has been rendered a dead letter by means of the Supreme Court s "standing" jurisprudence.

Roger Roots, J.D., Ph.D. is an attorney and criminologist from the state of Montana.


KOB, NM - Governor Bill Richardson isn't counting Val Kilmer out if he decides to run for the state's top job in two years. . . "I like the idea. Val Kilmer is a New Mexican, he was Batman. You know there have been successful actors going into politics. I haven't talked to him about it, I don't know how serious he is, but you know if he jumps in a race he's got name ID, so it can't be discounted," Richardson said.

Kilmer could face some political problems if he does decide to run for governor. He once said in Rolling Stone magazine that he was living in the "homicide capital of the southwest." He also said that 80 percent of the people in San Miguel County were drunk.

Alan Greenblatt, Governing - Actor Val Kilmer tells the New York Post that he's thinking about running for governor: "I know I'm not yet qualified for the job. It's not like I need fame. If that's what it's all about, I wouldn't live in New Mexico. But I don't want to be a train wreck. I have to see if people will put up the money for my run. I have to think about putting my acting on hold. Being famous as a movie actor is one thing, but they take no prisoners in politics. I have to think what this might do to my kids. Or to anybody. I plan to sit down with Arnold Schwarzenegger."


In less than 24 hours a petition calling on Obama not to name Joel Klein Secretary of Education has been signed by more than 800 teachers, educators, school psychologists, professors of education and parent activists. Many of them are from New York City, and know first hand of the "work" of Joel Klien and the privatization of the New York City School system.

From the petition: The administration of Joel Klein as Chancellor of New York City Schools is representative of a particular rigid approach to school change promoted by NCLB which we oppose. Rather than take the advice of educators, Chancellor Klein repeatedly championed and implemented policies that support corporate interests as opposed to children. The NY City Department of Education under Joel Klein has been run like a ruthless dictatorship - with no input from parents or educators. Teachers have not been respected, consulted, nor listened to. And little thought has been devoted to how the policies he has imposed on our schools have been destructive to the children and their futures.

To lay at the door of schools the many problems the of society - and particularly those that afflict people of color and low income - as does Joel Klein, is a transparent media manipulation of complex issues.

While focusing on test scores, he has consistently ignored the crisis of overcrowding in New York schools. Thousands of children are being given special services in hallways or in closets.

Rather than face the complex nature of student achievement and to work for substantive school improvement, Chancellor Joel Klein has joined with others to blame teachers unions and to bash teachers.

He has, at the same time, refused to reduce class size, despite repeated audits and reports from the New York State Comptroller's office and the State Education Department .

Joel Klein has repeatedly demonstrated that his primary goal is improving test scores even when these policies produce cheating and a focus on test preparation. The rise in state test scores that has resulted is not matched by improvements in the more reliable national assessments called the NAEPs. In fact, NYC was 11th out of 12 urban school districts in New York in terms of its gains in the NAEPs over the course of his administration, and there has been no closing of the achievement gap in any subject tested. The available data New York City does not support the claims of improved school achievement under this administration. This singular focus on test scores contradicts the educational platform of the Democratic Party and the Obama campaign.


I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything in my power. Everything. . . Let there be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel. Sometimes there are no alternatives to confrontation. - speech to AIPAC, June 4, 2008

Dan Shapley, Daily Green - The International Energy Agency's latest World Energy Outlook is a rather depressing read, casting in stark terms both the cost of continued reliance on fossil fuels and the magnitude of the challenge to cut back."Current trends in energy supply and consumption are patently unsustainable - environmentally, economically and socially - they can and must be altered", said Nobuo Tanaka, the IEA's executive director. "Rising imports of oil and gas . . . together with the growing concentration of production in a small number of countries, would increase our susceptibility to supply disruptions and sharp price hikes. At the same time, greenhouse-gas emissions would be driven up inexorably, putting the world on track for an eventual global temperature increase of up to 6 degrees C."

Here's a look at some of its conclusions:

- If government policies don't change, the world will spend $1 trillion on energy -- much of it fossil fuels -- and demand will grow 45% by 2030, a slightly slower rate of growth than was predicted last year because of the economic crisis. China and India would account for half the growth in world energy demand, and world cities would account for three-quarters of total demand.

- Demand for oil would rise nearly 25% and will remain the world's "main source of energy" for years to come, even under the most "optimistic" alternative scenarios. But it could come at an increasing cost, as supplies dwindle, oil supplies are nationalized, sources shift to non-traditional forms like oil shale, oil sands and deep-sea deposits, and political instability disrupts supply. "The era of cheap oil is over," Tanaka said.

- Renewable energy, even under current government policies, will become the second-biggest source of electricity sometime in the next few years.

- Carbon dioxide emissions will increase 45% by 2030, if current trends continue unabated. Three-quarters of the increase will come from China, India and the Middle East. Reducing emissions to prevent a 3-degree (C) rise in temperature would take a $4.1 trillion investment ($17 per person per year) by 2030 primarily in energy efficiency so that vehicles, homes and appliances demand less energy. That investment would deliver fuel-cost savings of $7 trillion or more. But to prevent a 2-degree temperature increase, the cost would rise to $9.3 trillion, as the world invested heavily in non-polluting forms of energy, and the fuel-cost savings drops to just $5.8 trillion.

If there's good news in all this, it's that the world managed to spend $4 trillion just in the past few weeks in an effort to stave off a worsening financial crisis. So if the will is there, so are the resources.


Sam Smith - If there is one consistency in media coverage of new administrations, whether Republican or Democrat, it is that the new crowd is brilliant, dramatic, unprecedented, world shaking and historic.

In other words, the coverage is almost always wrong.

The reason nobody cares or notices is that the point is not to demonstrate the sharpness of reporters' brains and eyes but the availability of their butts.

Even with the worst president in history on their docket, it wasn't until both the GOP and Democratic pretenders to the throne led the way that the media was finally willing to describe George Bush as a failure.

And so, less than a week after the polls have closed, we find Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic opening a Facebook group for journalists working on the presidential transition, which promises, "We'll use the space to exchange ideas and stories, and organize social events with members of the transition team." Just what objective journalism needs: more buddy drinking with your sources.

As I described it once: "Official Washington -- including government, media and the lobbies -- functions in many ways like America's largest and most prestigious club, a sort of indoor, east coast Bohemian Grove in which members engage in endless rites of mutual affirmation combined with an intense but genteel competition that determines the city's tennis ladder of political and social power. What appears to the stranger as a major struggle is often only an intramural game between members of the same club, lending an aura of dynamism to what is in truth deeply stable."

Among the victims of this culture - aside from the American people, of course - are those Washington figures who fail to play the game. Howard Dean, in the first post election week, has not only announced his departure from the Democratic National Committee but two hundred staffers of his 50 state strategy - which incidentally helped to put Obama and a Democratic Congress in power - have already been fired.

In another example, John Kerrry - whose only original (albeit inaccurate) thought was that he might be a good president - is among those being mentioned for Secretary of State. That would probably result in a promotion for one of the capital's outsiders and most honorable officials, Russ Feingold. But note how the Washington Post's Al Kamin handles it:

Speaking of secretary of state, it's looking increasingly like Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) may get the nod for that post, a possibility that is driving some Senate Democrats to distraction. No, not that they oppose Kerry. Not at all.

The problem is that the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), has picked up a new job. The second-ranking Democrat, Sen. Christopher Dodd (Conn.), has announced that he's staying on as head of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, what with all the troubles in the industry these days. .

That means, yes indeed, next in line to chair the committee is Sen. Russ Feingold (Wis.), who tends to approach foreign policy and related matters from, let's say, a leftward direction. Feingold was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act and is the leading advocate of cutting and running out of Iraq. That means the Obama administration, in addition to getting smacked around from the right on foreign policy matters, could find itself hammered from the left as well.

A town that sucks up to John Kerry and Rahm Emannuel and snubs Russ Feingold and Howard Dean needs some professional help. As things now stand, Jesus couldn't have his second coming in the capital unless it was on the new president's agenda.


The Hill - Dean paid for national-party staff in all 50 states and developed a single voter database for every Democratic candidate to use in 47 states.

Democratic Party officials are convinced this enabled Obama to build a strong grassroots operation in Republican strongholds, such as Idaho, Nebraska and North Dakota, that pushed him to victory over Clinton in the primary.

The database also helped Obama assemble an unprecedented field operation in other conservative-leaning states such as North Carolina, Virginia and Missouri, throwing McCain on the defensive.

While Republicans had a national voter database for years, Democrats relied on a patchwork of state voter files that were difficult to use. .

But even while Dean kept his head low and his nose to the grindstone, he still drew fire from Democrats on the Hill.

Dean's emphasis on investing resources in states where Democrats had a paltry record of success drew the scorn of former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), who clashed bitterly with Dean in 2005 over the DNC's spending strategy.

At one point, Emanuel stormed out of a meeting with Dean while unleashing a string of expletives. Emanuel wanted Dean to save more money for television ads to help Democratic House candidates later in the cycle.

James Carville, a former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton, argued that Democrats could have captured 40 House seats in 2006 if Dean had listened to Emanuel.

Democrats have since won special elections in solidly Republican districts in Louisiana and Mississippi and are now poised to capture at least 15 more seats, according to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

"He was reviled, and this is his ultimate triumph over Rahm Emanuel, who was one of the most vocal opponents of the 50-state strategy," said Ross K. Baker, a Rutgers University professor who specializes in politics.

Wikipedia - Dean was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1982 and was elected lieutenant governor in 1986. Both were part-time positions that enabled him to continue practicing medicine. In 1991, Dean became Governor of Vermont when Richard A. Snelling died in office. Dean was subsequently elected to five two-year terms, serving as governor from 1991 to 2003, making him the second longest-serving Governor in Vermont history, after Thomas Chittenden (1778-1789 and 1790-1797). Dean served as chairman of the National Governors Association from 1994 to 1995; during his term, Vermont paid off much of its public debt and had a balanced budget 11 times, lowering income taxes twice. Dean also oversaw the expansion of a program which ensures universal health care for children and pregnant women in the state.

An early front-runner in the 2004 Democratic Presidential nomination, Dean denounced the 2003 invasion of Iraq and called on Democrats to more strongly oppose the Bush Administration. Dean showed strong fundraising ability, and was a pioneer of political fundraising via the internet; however, he eventually lost the nomination to Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.

By far the most controversial decision of his career, and the first to draw serious national attention came in 2000, when the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that the state's marriage laws unconstitutionally excluded same-sex couples and ordered that the state legislature either allow gays and lesbians to marry or create a parallel status. Facing calls to amend the state constitution to prohibit either option, Dean chose to support the latter one, and signed the nation's first civil unions legislation into law, spurring a short-lived "Take Back Vermont" movement which helped Republicans gain control of the State House. . .

On January 19, 2004,. . . Dean, who had been suffering with a severe bout of the flu for several days, attended a post-caucus rally for his volunteers at the Val-Air Ballroom in West Des Moines, Iowa and delivered his concession speech, aimed at cheering up those in attendance. Dean was shouting over the cheers of his enthusiastic audience, but the crowd noise was being filtered out by his unidirectional microphone, leaving only his full-throated exhortations audible to the television viewers. To those at home, he seemed to raise his voice out of sheer emotion. Additionally, Dean began his speech with a flushed-red face, clenching his teeth as he rolled up his sleeves.

According to a Newsday Editorial written by Verne Gay, some members of the television audience criticized the speech as loud, peculiar, and unpresidential. In particular, this quote from the speech was aired repeatedly in the days following the caucus:

Not only are we going to New Hampshire, Tom Harkin, we're going to South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico, and we're going to California and Texas and New York ... And we're going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan, and then we're going to Washington, D.C., to take back the White House! Yeah!

This final "Yeah!" with its unusual tone that Dean later said was due to the cracking of his hoarse voice, has become known in American political jargon as the "Dean Scream."

Dean conceded that the speech did not project the best image, jokingly referring to it as a "crazy, red-faced rant" on the Late Show with David Letterman. In an interview later that week with Diane Sawyer, he said he was "a little sheepish ... but I'm not apologetic." Sawyer and many others in the national broadcast news media later expressed some regret about overplaying the story. In fact, CNN issued a public apology and admitted in a statement that they indeed may have "overplayed" the incident. The incessant replaying of the "Dean Scream" by the press became a debate on the topic of whether Dean was the victim of media bias. The scream scene was shown an estimated 633 times by cable and broadcast news networks in just four days following the incident, a number that does not include talk shows and local news broadcasts. However, those who were in the actual audience that day insist that they were not aware of the infamous "scream" until they returned to their hotel rooms and saw it on TV.


Sam Smith, Progressive Review - What Mussolini founded was the estato corporativo - the corporative state or corporatism. Writing in Economic Affairs in the mid 1970s, R.E. Pahl and J. T. Winkler described corporatism as a system under which government guides privately owned businesses towards order, unity, nationalism and success. They were quite clear as to what this system amounted to: "Let us not mince words. Corporatism is fascism with a human face. . . An acceptable face of fascism, indeed, a masked version of it, because so far the more repugnant political and social aspects of the German and Italian regimes are absent or only present in diluted forms."

Thus, although the model generally cited in defense of organized capitalism is that of the contemporary Japanese, the most effective original practitioners of a corporative economy were the Italians. Unlike today's Japanese, but like contemporary America, their economy was a war economy.

Adrian Lyttelton, describing the rise of Italian fascism in The Seizure of Power, writes: "A good example of Mussolini's new views is provided by his inaugural speech to the National Exports Institute on 8 July 1926. . . Industry was ordered to form 'a common front' in dealing with foreigners, to avoid 'ruinous competition,' and to eliminate inefficient enterprises. . . The values of competition were to be replaced by those of organization: Italian industry would be reshaped and modernized by the cartel and trust. . .There was a new philosophy here of state intervention for the technical modernization of the economy serving the ultimate political objectives of military strength and self-sufficiency; it was a return to the authoritarian and interventionist war economy."

Lyttelton writes that "fascism can be viewed as a product of the transition from the market capitalism of the independent producer to the organized capitalism of the oligopoly." It was a point that Orwell had noted when he described fascism as being but an extension of capitalism. Lyttelton quoted Nationalist theorist Affredo Rocco: "The Fascist economy is. . . an organized economy. It is organized by the producers themselves, under the supreme direction and control of the State.". . .

Germany's willingness to accept Hitler was the product of many cultural characteristics specific to that country, to the anger and frustrations in the wake of the World War I defeat, to extraordinary inflation and particular dumb reactions to it, and, of course, to the appeal of anti-Semitism. Still, consideration of the Weimar Republic that preceded Hitler does us no harm. Bearing in mind all the foregoing, there was also:

- A collapse of conventional liberal and conservative politics that bears uncomfortable similarities to what we are now experiencing.

- The gross mismanagement of the economy and of such key worker concerns as wages, inflation, pensions, layoffs, and rising property taxes. Many of the actions were taken in the name of efficiency, an improved economy and the "rationalization of production." There were also bankruptcies, negative trade balance, major decline in national production, large national debt rise compensated for by foreign investment. In other words, a hyped version of what America and its workers are experiencing today.


Chris Bowers, Open Left - More details have emerged on the apparent death of the fifty-state strategy. First, I received this email from the DNC:

Everyone at the DNC remains very dedicated to the [State Partnership Program] and the SPP staffers who made up the success of the 50 state strategy over the past four years. When the program was first adopted in early 2005, an [memorandum of understanding] was signed with the state parties that concludes at the end of this month. This date made sense since it corresponded to the end of the election cycle and was in conjunction with upcoming elections for some of the state party chairs. It was always important that as state parties began the new election cycle they had an opportunity to review what worked, and build upon the earlier infrastructure and hard efforts of those that preceded them. I am sure as the new team arrives at the DNC they will have an appreciation for this program and would like to see it continued.

However, I also obtained part of the email that was sent to 200 organizers who were fired. Here is the relevant graph:

"Because of your efforts and hard work, last night we made history on November 4. Barack Obama is the President Elect and the world, as we know it, is forever changed. This is a bitter-sweet moment because this great victory comes at the end of our SPP program, which was funded only through November 30. Therefore, this memo explains your final paycheck and the transition from the program."

In a follow-up email, I asked the source the following:

Do you think "transition" means a new job, or is it corporate speak for "you're fired?"

The source replied "you're fired."

People inside the DNC are telling me that the program is not dead. This doesn't surprise me, because it is a popular program and I imagine that many of the remaining staffers at the DNC are committed to the program. At the same time, all of the organizers--who were chosen by local state parties--have been fired. That effectively kills the program, no matter the messaging and commitment of the remaining staffers.

The best bet is that the remaining staff at the DNC will try to push for a continuation of the program once the new administration is in place. In the meantime, many of the large donors who always wanted Dean out and the program terminated seem to have, at least, temporarily received their wish. Although I have no evidence to support this at the current time, I wouldn't be surprised at all if this is connected to Rahm Emanuel becoming Chief of Staff..

The DNC organizers were all chosen by the local state parties, not by Dean. Now, the idea that you fire a bunch of locally chosen people, and then send "your own" people back to those local areas, is absurd. The new people will be reviled, and unable to function with the local parties. No one is being replaced. The program is being terminated. 200 community organizers just got fired by Obama's campaign. How ironic.


Danger Room - Flintlock 2008, a joint military exercise that kicked off last week in Bamako, Mali, marked the first deployment for the CV-22 Ospreys of U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command. It is also the first military exercise overseen by U.S. Africa Command, which was formally activated last month.

Max Blumenfeld, a spokesman for Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara and the exercise public affairs officer, told Danger Room the exercise would test the ability of participants to respond to "transnational" threats like human trafficking, drug smuggling, or terrorism. Flintlock is supposed to encourage militaries in the region to share information with each other, he said: "The whole goal of this exercise is to get people talking to each other. We do take these things for granted... there's a lot communication between the various European countries in military to military engagement. Here [in west Africa], this is a new thing.". . .

Flintlock will also feature a sort of "hearts and minds" campaign, with exercise participants setting up rural medical clinics in Senegal and Mali. . .


Mark J. Penn, Politico - The exit poll demographics show that the fastest growing group of voters in America has been those making over $100,000 a year in income. In 1996, only 9 percent of the electorate said their family income was that high. Last week it had grown to 26 percent - more than one in four voters. And those making over $75,000 are up to 15 percent from 9 percent. Put another way, more than 40 percent of those voting earned over $75,000, making this the highest-income electorate in history.

The poorest segment of the electorate, those making under $15,000, has shrunk from 11 percent to 6 percent over the past dozen years. And those making $15,000 to $30,000 annually - the working poor - also shrunk from 23 percent to 12 percent of the electorate.

At the same time, the voters have become more racially diverse (with white voters dropping 9 points from 1996 to 74 percent of the electorate and minorities) and better educated - voters who had attended some college are surging.

While Obama received record votes from the expanded minority communities, that alone would not have led to victory had he not also secured so much support among the growing professional class - and in doing so went beyond the successful 1996 coalition that also climbed the income ladder to include newly targeted soccer moms. Back then, President Clinton got 38 percent of the vote among those making over $100,000. This year Obama earned 49 percent of that vote. He also got 52 percent of a new polling category - those making over $200,000 a year who were no longer among the top 1 percent of earners, as they had been in past elections, but were now the top 6 per cent.

And for all the talk about the surging youth vote, those under 29 went from 17 percent in 1996 and 17 percent in 2004 to a mere 18 percent of the electorate today . . .

So the fusion of expanded minority voting and the expanded upper class, combined with shifting demographics, were key to Obama's victory. . .

69 percent of all Americans in polls I conducted in recent years now also call themselves "professionals," a new class transcending the old class labels or working or middle class or the wealthy. . .


Stephen Adams, Telegraph, UK - Fiction - including poetry - should be taken just as seriously as facts-based research, according to the team from Manchester University and the London School of Economics.

Novels should be required reading because fiction "does not compromise on complexity, politics or readability in the way that academic literature sometimes does," said Dr Dennis Rodgers from Manchester University's Brooks World Poverty Institute.

He said: "Despite the regular flow of academic studies, expert reports, and policy position papers, it is arguably novelists who do as good a job - if not a better one - of representing and communicating the realities of international development.

"While fiction may not always show a set of presentable research findings, it does not compromise on complexity, politics or readability in the way that academic literature sometimes does.

"And fiction often reaches a much larger and diverse audience than academic work and may therefore be more influential in shaping public knowledge and understanding of development issues."

Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner "has arguably done more to educate Western readers about the realities of daily life in Afghanistan under the Taliban and thereafter than any government media campaign, advocacy organization report, or social science research", said the report.

It also praised the winner of this year's Man Booker Prize, The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, for its "passionate depiction of the perils and pitfalls of rampant capitalism in contemporary India".

The novel "deftly highlights the social injustice and moral corruption that underpin the country's apparently miraculous economic development during the past decade," it said. . .

Professor Michael Woolcock, director of the Brooks World Poverty Institute, said they were "not arguing that poets should replace finance ministers."

He said: "Fiction is important because it is often concerned with the basic subject matter of development. This includes things like the promises and perils of encounters between different peoples; the tragic mix of courage, desperation, humour, and deprivation characterizing the lives of the down-trodden."


Sam Smith, Progressive Review - Unnoted in the cheering about the rewriting of some mortgages is that the plan only covers home buyers with down payments of ten percent or less. In other words, more conservative and careful homebuyers are being penalized. Why? Probably because it is the ten percenters that the lenders are most worried about. After all, if you foreclose on a house that has dropped 15% in value but you only lent 70% of the value, you're in much better shape than if you lent 90%.

Joe Nocera, NY Times - So now the mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac say they are going to institute a mortgage modification program. Well, good for them. Announced this afternoon, the plan calls for struggling homeowners with mortgages held by Fannie and Freddie to have their payments reduced to 38 percent of their gross income through a combination of interest rate reductions, principle reductions and longer repayment terms. This comes on the heels of Citigroup's announcement on Monday that it would undertake a mortgage modification program, which came on the heels of a similar announcement last week from JPMorgan Chase, which came on the heels of Countrywide's announcement, and so on.

In other words, just about everyone in the mortgage business has come to see the wisdom of mortgage modification - except one important player: Wall Street. You see, all of these programs deal only with "whole loans" - that is loans on the books of the institutions, unencumbered by securitizations. So far, the attitude of all involved when it comes to securitized mortgages is to throw up their hands and say - "it's too hard to deal with!" And it may well be: mortgages that were sold to Wall Street and wound up in mortgage-backed securities have been sliced and diced and sold and resold to investors with varying risk tolerances. They are serviced by people who owe a fiduciary duty to all these investors, no matter what their place on the risk continuum.

James Grosfeld, the former chief executive of Pulte Homes, summed up the problem in a recent e-mail message: "There are well over $1,000,000,000,000-$1,500,000,000,000 of mortgages trapped within mortgage-backed securities. These are the most risky mortgages ever issued - mortgages poorly underwritten and often with unaffordable payment shock at the end of teaser rate periods. Pool losses will be unprecedented. However, there has been no successful effort on a broad scale to reform these mortgages because of contractual obligations of trustees and servicers to bondholders. Simply put these fiduciaries are scared of being sued by bondholders if they modify loans into affordable new mortgages."

Dean Baker, Prospect - Are Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson Crony Capitalists? The media should be asking this question. After all, they are trying to hide which banks are in trouble and refusing to give out information about who is borrowing from the Fed. This is exactly the behavior that the IMF and widely cited economists denounced when it was done by the East Asian countries during their financial crisis in the late 90s. Are these practices now good economics because our government is doing them?

Chris Carey, Bailout Slueth - The Treasury Department posted a solicitation for companies who will help manage hundreds of billions of dollars worth of stock, warrants and debt it will receive from banks and other participants in its financial industry rescue program. The 16-page solicitation is a good illustration of the level of detail that the government requires from the contractors but does not pass along to the taxpayers who are funding the $700 billion program.

For example, companies bidding on the job must describe the composition and expertise of the employee team that will be overseeing the work, and must provide biographies of the senior members on the project. None of the contracts the Treasury Department has issued to date for work under the Troubled Asset Relief Plan included details on the managers or other key personnel. In one case, involving an accounting-services contract, the agency blacked out the names of the individuals assigned to the project when it posted the agreement on its web site.

The Treasury Department also requires bidders to describe their proposed fees, and the reasons and logic behind them. None of the contracts that the agency has made public included an explanation of how the compensation was determined. In several instances, the sections covering fees were either blacked out or redacted.

Although the price tag on the Treasury Department's Troubled Asset Relief Program is $700 billion, the full amount that the government has invested in its rescue effort for struggling financial institutions appears to be closer to $2.5 trillion.
Bloomberg L.P., the parent company of Bloomberg News, said last week that it filed a lawsuit seeking information on the collateral that a group of banks pledged for some $2 trillion in emergency loans from the Federal Reserve. Bloomberg asked a federal court in New York to require the Federal Reserve to disclose the identity of the banks that borrowed money through certain financing mechanisms, and to disclose what assets they pledged against those loans.

Alice Gomstyn, ABC News - The government said Monday that it was restructuring its AIG plan to include a total of $97.8 billion from the Federal Reserve and a $40 billion infusion from the Treasury Department. The Treasury Department would, in return, receive a stake in AIG in the form of preferred shares. The money for the government's investment would come from the $700 billion financial rescue plan approved last month.

The problem, critics say, is that it's unclear exactly how much money AIG actually needs because there is no certainty about how much the insurance giant will ultimately lose as a result of its credit default swaps -- insurance contracts that kick in when investments such as mortgage-backed securities fail.

"Not only do people not understand what's on the books, it's impossible to put a fair valuation on them," said Barry Ritholtz, the author of "Bailout Nation: How Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy" and the CEO of the institutional research firm Fusion IQ.

Brookly McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for the Treasury Department, said she wouldn't speculate on whether the recently-restructured AIG package was enough. But, she said, "we think that the steps taken today are important to giving them a more sustainable capital structure and helping them to be better able to execute their asset disposition."

Phil Mattera, Dirt Diggers Digest - When Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson chose his protégé Neel Kashkari last month to run the Big Bailout, we were led to believe Kashkari was some kind of whiz kid who would use his background in both engineering and finance to stop the meltdown of the financial sector. A month later, Kashkari has succeeded-in his own mind.

Appearing at an event sponsored by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, the Interim Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability gave a speech with a surprisingly upbeat tone. Kashkari spoke of having made "tremendous progress" and of having "accomplished a great deal in a short period of time." He bragged that his team is "working around the clock" while "ensuring high quality execution." The only problem is that, to the outside world, the bailout is looking more and more like a disaster.

As Kashkari was speaking, news was circulating that American International Group, one of the biggest recipients of federal bailout aid, had reported a $25 billion quarterly loss. At the same time, Treasury revealed it was upping its rescue package for AIG to $150 billion in capital infusions and purchases of the company's toxic assets. Fannie Mae, another ward of the state, reported a $29 billion quarterly loss.

Also while Kashkari was speaking, readers of the Washington Post were learning that amid the initial phase of the bailout in September, the Treasury Department quietly announced a tax code change that gives a huge windfall (estimated by some tax lawyers at $140 billion) to banks that are buying up other financial institutions. The article reports that some tax experts believe the rule change was illegal.

Pro Publica - Goldman, Sachs & Co. urged some of its big clients to place investment bets against California bonds this year despite having collected millions of dollars in fees to help the state sell some of those same bonds. The giant investment firm did not inform the office of California Treasurer Bill Lockyer that it was proposing a way for investment clients to profit from California's deepening financial misery. In Sacramento, officials said they were concerned that Goldman's strategy could raise the interest rate the state would have to pay to borrow money, thus harming taxpayers. "It could exaggerate people's worries about our credit," said Paul Rosenstiel, head of the public finance division of the treasurer's office. Such worries would tend to drive down the price of California bonds. That, in turn, would drive up the interest rate the state and its municipalities pay to borrow money. An increase of a single percentage point on a $1-billion bond issue would cost taxpayers an additional $10 million a year in interest.

Channel 4, DC - Metro is asking the Federal Reserve for help to delay paying back a loan to a Belgian bank. KBC Group loaned Metro $43 million in 2002, and insurance giant American International Group guaranteed the financing deal. But with AIG's collapse, there is no longer a guarantor for the loan, so KBC wants to immediately collect its money. . . . Metro officials met with members of the Federal Reserve on Monday and asked that the federal government step in and guarantee the loan in place of AIG. So far, no word from the Federal Reserve on Metro's proposal.



Here's a theory you might have missed behind "Casper the Friendly Ghost". It goes that Casper is symbolism of homosexuality and the struggle for gays in society. Casper is a boy ghost or male who constantly seeks the company of other boys or other males. The boys seem to think Casper is a nice fellow and find nothing wrong with his company. After a short while of cute playing, the friendship is ruined when grown ups, who represent the more "traditional" views of society, intervene. More than frowning on such relationships, they fear it terribly and steal the innocent boy and run away from poor Casper, who is left to seek out the next relationship.

If you will note at the beginning of The Simpsons, the "Simps" part is visible before the "ons" part. This is undoubtedly a reference to the word(s) "simpleton" or "simple-minded," etc.

I guess it's worth mentioning that of the 101 Dalmatians, the minority of them had blue collars. This has implications ranging from gender discrimination (the color of the collar is associated to the character's gender) to socio-economic generalizations toward blue collar workers.

One thing that always bothered me was that back when Scooby's villains were just people in scary costumes: why did they have super strength? I mean, you would see them pick up insanely heavy objects like sofas or filing cabinets and throw them like they were pillows, or they would smash through wood or metal doors, or even walls with their bare hands. They should have been very seriously injured, but they just kept on going like it was nothing.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned this: the lack of biological parents in cartoon shows. Think of all the characters who live with someone other than their parents: Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Webby living with Uncle Donald then Uncle Scrooge in DuckTales. Gosalyn and Darkwing Duck in Darkwing Duck, Robin and Nightwing living with Batman. Also, Penny and Uncle Gadget. No explanation is given about their parents' whereabouts. When I was a kid I wondered where they were. I think if cartoon creators have a handle enough to show orphans, they should go the full monty and explain where mom and dad are.

Brendan S. mentions several characters seen in the feature Who Framed Roger Rabbit? that were created after 1947, the year the film takes place. I read an interview with the filmmakers where they stated their excuse for this was that these characters were hanging around Toon Town in that year until they were "discovered" a few years later by the studios, as if they really existed and shared the same legends as live action movie stars. A bit of dramatic license. I think a bigger problem is the glaring lack of Tom and Jerry in the film. I guess they couldn't get the rights to these characters.



Jeffrey Goldberg, Atlantic - The rumor about Obama's "Jewish problem" was one of the non-stories of the campaign. Approximately 78 percent of the Jews who voted went for Obama. Obviously, they didn't buy it. It is interesting, however, that if you had been able to tell people that "the guy who will be running the White House is essentially an Israeli," it may have quieted some people down. . Emanuel is emotionally tied to Israel in ways that very few politicians are.

Fark on the president-elect's meeting with Bush: Obama is already sitting down with an unpopular, aggressive world leader without preconditions


Martin Eisenstadt's Blog - By now you've all heard the Fox News report that "unnamed" former McCain advisers leaked that Sarah Palin was confused about whether Africa was a continent, and which countries were in NAFTA. I was perfectly happy staying under the radar as an anonymous source for Fox News' Carl Cameron, but now that Palin has accused her accusers of being "unprofessional…jerks…cowards… taking things out of context, and then tried to spread something on national news" and begun to cast doubt on the Fox News report, maybe she's right to a certain extent. For those of us on the McCain campaign who thought that she acted like a rogue diva and lost John the election, maybe we DO have a responsibility to come out in public. But Sarah… careful what you ask for: some of us may have more to reveal. So yes, to be clear, last week I was the one who leaked those things to a producer at Fox News who works with Cameron. . .

As you know, I was one of the foreign policy advisers on the McCain campaign who worked with Randy Scheunemann to help prep Sarah on her debate with Joe Biden. Did we outright give her a geography quiz when we started the prep? No, of course not. But yes, in the context of the prep, it slowly became apparent that her grasp of basic geo-political knowledge had major gaps. Could she have passed a multiple choice test about South Africa or NAFTA. Probably. But it was clear that she simply didn't have the ease of knowledge that we come to expect from a major party political candidate. Other slights came up, too: Not knowing the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas. Or the difference between the Shiites and Suni. Or when it came to international terrorist organizations, knowing that the IRA was in Northern Ireland, and ETA in Spain.

PR Watch - Barack Obama has been named Advertising Age's 2008 Marketer of the Year for the simplicity, consistency and relevance of his campaign. Hundreds of marketers, agency heads and marketing-services vendors attending the 2008 annual Association of National Advertisers conference voted for Obama's campaign over ad campaigns by major companies like Apple, Zappos, Nike and Coors. Ad Age called Obama's historic November 4 win the "biggest day in the history of marketing," saying marketers have a lot to learn from his campaign. At a time when 70% of the population thought the country was headed in the wrong direction, Obama adopted a simple slogan of "Change" that never varied throughout his campaign, while his competitors tried for months to find similarly simple yet powerful messages. Hillary Clinton first tried the slogan "Experience," then shifted to "Countdown to change," and then used "Solutions for America," while the McCain campaign tried on a long list of labels like "Maverick," "Straight Talker," "Conservative" and "Hero." By the time the McCain campaign settled on "Country First," it was too late. The relentless focus on "change" pressured Mr. Obama's opponents to talk about how their changes would differ from his, rather than focus on their strengths, like their experience, track records and relationships with world leaders.

Matthew Garrahan, Financial Times - Hispanic voters helped clinch a number of swing states for Barack Obama, redrawing the political map in the process. A new generation of Latino voters in Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado flocked to Mr Obama, overturning long-held assumptions about their willingness to back a black candidate. In Florida, newly registered Mexican and Colombian voters also backed Mr Obama, overwhelming the state's traditionally right-leaning Cuban American electorate. In Virginia, hardly known for its immigrants, a surge in registrations since 2004 ensured 150,000 Hispanics made a crucial contribution to Mr Obama's slim victory there. . . The increase in the Latino vote is coming from two directions. More Latinos are turning 18 than any other ethnic group in the country: Latinos comprise about 12 per cent of the electorate but 18 per cent of young voters.. . .
Mr Obama enjoyed overwhelming support from young Latinos, with 76 per cent of those aged 18-29 backing him, according to CNN exit polls.

Overheard on Washington's subway: Woman One: Dammmnnn girl! This Metro so damn crowded. . . Woman Two: Shit yeah. Too many people here. . . Woman One: Don't worry, Obama gonna take care of that.


Brad Blog - This just in from Alaska, where thousands of new ballots continue to be found each day, since it was first reported that turnout in 2008 was 11% lower than in 2004. Thousands of ballots, nearly a third of them, remain uncounted nearly a week after the election. Their numbers could explain the strange results so far in races --- such as those of the felonious Sen. Ted Stevens (R) and the under-investigation Rep. Don Young (R) --- for which pollsters had predicted decisive losses for the Republicans. Even with the newly acknowledged ballots and even with Alaska's once-popular Gov. Sarah Palin and popular Sen. Barack Obama both on the Presidential ballot this year, turnout numbers still remain slightly below those from 2004. The Anchorage Daily News, with numbers somewhat out of date from those now posted below, called it all "puzzling" over the weekend, and pointed out much of what we've detailed here in previous posts.


Bryan Bender, Boston Globe - A senior Pentagon advisory group, in a series of bluntly worded briefings, is warning President-elect Barack Obama that the Defense Department's current budget is "not sustainable," and he must scale back or eliminate some of the military's most prized weapons programs. The briefings were prepared by the Defense Business Board, an internal management oversight body. It contends that the nation's recent financial crisis makes it imperative that the Pentagon and Congress slash some of the nation's most costly and troubled weapons to ensure they can finance the military's most pressing priorities.

Those include rebuilding ground forces battered by multiple tours to Iraq and Afghanistan and expanding the ranks to wage the war on terrorism. The briefings do not specify which programs should be cut, but defense analysts say that prime targets would probably include the new F-35 fighter jet, a series of Navy ship programs, and a massive Army project to build a new generation of ground combat vehicles, all of which have been skyrocketing in cost and suffering long development delays.


Washington Post - In the summer of 1962, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was scanning his morning Washington Post when an item on Page A15 caught his eye. Norman Mailer's most recent article in Esquire magazine had mocked Jacqueline Kennedy for, among other things, being excessively soft-spoken for a first lady. Hoover scribbled a note: "Let me have memo on Norman Mailer." Over the next 15 years, FBI agents closely tracked the grand and mundane aspects of the acclaimed novelist's life, according to previously confidential government files. Agents questioned his friends, scoured his passport file, thumbed through his best-selling books and circulated his photo among informants. They kept records on his appearances at writers conferences, talk shows and peace rallies. They noted the volume of envelopes in his mailbox and jotted down who received his Christmas cards. They posed as his friend, chatted with his father and more than once knocked on his door disguised as deliverymen.. . . The bureau's first confidential memo on Mailer, dated June 29, 1962, noted that the writer "admitted being a 'Leftist' " and said that he had described the FBI as a "secret police organization" that should be abolished.



Phil Leggiere, Don't Tase Me Bro' - A Port Lucie, Fla. teenager was playing a joke on his 13 year old friend, pretending he had a bag of pot. Police charge him with: possession of a counterfeit controlled substance with the intent to deliver.


Ecosalon - The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization stated that it would only take $30 billion a year to launch the necessary agricultural programs to completely solve global food insecurity. (Severe hunger afflicts 862 million people annually.) $30 billion sounds like a lot of money, but considering we've just bailed out Wall Street to the tune of nearly a trillion, it's trifling. . . . Global military and arms trade expenditures hit high at about $1 trillion annually. Approximately $540 billion is spent by the United States alone. . . . The United States Department of Energy spends $23 billion yearly just to develop and maintain nuclear warheads.. . . The U.S. Congress has approved $44 billion of U.S. funds for Iraqi construction projects . . . $30 billion was spent on Homeland Security in 2008, and they're requesting $35 billion for 2009.


Inhabitat - Recently New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed that NYC begin charging shoppers 6 cents for each plastic bag issued at the register. The policy . . . comes several months after Ireland introduced a similar tax that cut the use of plastic bags by 94%. . . The proposal differs from recent measures in Los Angeles and San Francisco, where plastic bags are being banned for certain uses, such as grocery shopping. . . If they are looking for an example, they need only go to the IKEA store in Brooklyn, where a small charge of 5 cents per bag cut the demand by half.


Some gay activists used the term 'nigger' against black passers by during a demonstration in Sacramento. The anger was directed at blacks for their role in approving California's Proposition 8 which outlaws gay marriages.


Telegraph, UK - Her fellow clergy may have turned the other cheek when they saw their new female vicar wore leather jackets and rode a motorbike. But when the Rev Teresa Davies admitted after a Christmas lunch that she and her husband had an open relationship and enjoyed wife-swapping holidays in the south of France, her colleagues' Christian ideals of tolerance and forgiveness were tested to the limit.

Her parish also took objection when the 37-year-old mother-of-two also held three church services while drunk, smelling of alcohol and swaying from side to side, with the result that the choir "fell apart under her direction". At a tribunal, Oxford-educated Mrs Davies was found to have "acted in a manner that is unbecoming or inappropriate to the office and work of a clerk in holy orders" and was barred from ministry for 12 years.


Auto 123 - We've spotted GM testing a vehicle for a very specific customer and this may very well be the strangest, most unique test car we've ever seen. While we haven't been able to get anyone to comment officially on this vehicle, privately we've been told this is in fact the next-generation "Cadillac One" presidential limo.

We think this behemoth might actually be more of a truck than a limo. With so much armor being added, it appears GM may have needed a medium-duty truck chassis like the Topkick platform. . . As far as powertain, all we can say for sure is that it sounded like a very large diesel was under the hood. Possibly a V8 Duramax. Style-wise, we can see bits and pieces from a few different Cadillac models. Xenon headlights from the Escalade adorn the front while the rear seems to have some STS parts. We can also see holders on the top of the front fenders where two small American flags would traditionally go. The doors on this limo are absolutely astounding. We'd guess they are at least 8 inches)thick.

Rules of Thumb - Driving for 30 miles at 75 mph will get you someplace 5 minutes sooner than driving 30 miles at 50 mph. Your chances for death in an accident at 75 mph are 50% greater than at 50 mph.




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Biden In Tokyo: Killing Strategic Ambiguity
Could it have been just another case of bumbling poor judgment, the mind softened as the mouth opened? A question was put to US President Joe Biden, visiting Tokyo and standing beside Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida: “You didn’t want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons. Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?” The answer: “Yes. That’s a commitment we made.”.. More>>

Dunne Speaks: Robertson's Budget Gamble On Treasury
The popular test of the success or failure of Grant Robertson’s fifth Budget will be its impact on the soaring cost of living. In today’s climate little else matters. Because governments come and governments go – about every six to seven years on average since 1945 – getting too focused on their long-term fiscal aspirations is often pointless... More>>

Keith Rankin: Liberal Democracy In The New Neonationalist Era: The Three 'O's
The proposed ‘New Zealand Income Insurance Scheme’ (‘the scheme’) has attracted strong debate among the more left-wing and liberal groupings, within New Zealand-Aotearoa. This debate should be seen as a positive rather than negative tension because of the opportunity to consider and learn from the implications and sharpen advocacy... More>>

Digitl: Infrastructure Commission wants digital strategy
Earlier this month Te Waihanga, New Zealand’s infrastructure commission, tabled its first Infrastructure Strategy: Rautaki Hanganga o Aotearoa. Te Waihanga describes its document as a road map for a thriving New Zealand... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Leaking For Roe V Wade
The US Supreme Court Chief Justice was furious. For the first time in history, the raw judicial process of one of the most powerful, and opaque arms of government, had been exposed via media – at least in preliminary form. It resembled, in no negligible way, the publication by WikiLeaks of various drafts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership... More>>

The Conversation: Cheaper food comes with other costs – why cutting GST isn't the answer

As New Zealand considers the removal of the goods and services tax (GST) from food to reduce costs for low income households, advocates need to consider the impact cheap food has on the environment and whether there are better options to help struggling families... More>>