Friday, December 12, 2008
"Now those reviews will be conducted by other federal agencies, like the Army Corps of Engineers or the Federal Highway Administration."
ProPublica also explains why it will be difficult for Obama to reverse the rule changes. They also have a page that tracks a great many more Bush League midnight regulations. It is truly amazing how many things these criminals are putting in place to gut environmental protections and civil rights. It's as if they were intent on destroying as much as they can on their way out - contaminating our drinking water, mining uranium on the brink of the Grand Canyon, loosening endangered species protections, stripping protections from wilderness areas, lowering air quality standards... allowing federally-funded institutions to deny abortion requests for religious reasons, expanding police surveillance authority, limiting employee access to medical and family leave time... the list goes on and on.
Fortunately, the site also shows which rule changes are still open for public comment and which are closed, finalized, or already in effect. If you can find a few minutes, take a look. Send in your comments on the ones that are still open, and write your representatives about the ones that are under OMB or Congressional review. Once these things go into effect, it can take years to reverse them.
UPDATE: I've also added ProPublica to the blogroll. For some reason, the blogroll is working intermittently on the main page; however, it still works consistently on individual post pages. So if you don't see the blog list, just click on the title of any post and they should appear.
...in order for the Beltway press to gin up the Blago story this week, basic journalism guidelines had to be set aside and in some cases brazenly ignored. That's the only way this story worked because simply reporting the facts as presented by the prosecutors would have made it painfully clear that, in terms of Obama's involvement, there was none. In fact, Obama had thwarted Blago's money-making scheme.
But that wasn't the story the press wanted to tell. (i.e. Obama the reformer rebukes corrupt local pol.) So lots of reporters and pundits consciously, and often systematically, took it upon themselves to make the story more appealing.
Of course the sources used in all the stories implying Obama's career is tarnished because he happens to be from Illinois are... drum roll please... Republican leaders. But that fact is always buried several paragraphs deep in stories that breathlessly report that "questions are being raised by some" about what Blago's problems mean about the president-elect.
Your liberal press in action.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Anna Dyson, an architectural scientist from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, is leading the way to make solar energy a real alternative to pollution-emitting fossil fuels. Her system contains rows of thin lenses that track the sun's movement. Sunlight floods each lens and is focused onto a postage-stamp sized, high-tech solar cell. Dyson says, "Really, what we want to do is be capturing and transferring that energy for usable means."
Conventional solar systems are about 14 percent efficient. This system has a combined heat and power efficiency of nearly 80 percent. "What they're doing is very efficiently capturing and transferring that light into electricity and the solar heat into hot water," Dyson explains.
Watching the video, I get the impression these are best suited to large-scale use - office buildings, malls, and such. They have a lot of moving parts, and they can't be cheap to make.
But there's been another breakthrough more likely to show up in your home: researchers are reporting record efficiencies for dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs). And although an efficiency of 10% doesn't sound very exciting compared to the 80% Dyson is claiming, or even the 14% achieved by conventional cells, it's a record for DSSCs, which have lots of other advantages. They're cheap to make, can be fashioned into flexible sheeting, and are tough enough to take on the elements without being encased in glass. They also work better in low-light environments. Until recently, these cells topped out at about 7% efficiency; they also degraded quickly with exposure to heat and UV light. The new cells are more stable at high temperatures and retain high output after long hours in direct sunlight.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The hoo-hah over Illinois Gov. Blagojevich and his "pay for play" scandal is revealing. The media - including a lot of mainstream outlets - are giving it a lot more coverage than they ever devote to Republicans in trouble, and painting it as problematic (or worse) for Illinois Democrats from Jesse Jackson, Jr., to Barack Obama. And they're using it as an excuse to revive all manner of guilt-by-association innuendo against the president-elect in particular. (Did you know, they ask with a wink and a nudge, that Blagojevich once held the very House seat later occupied by Obama's chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel? Surely some corruption cooties rubbed off.)
The mainstream media, one can hope, will tire of this silly game soon. Obama, after all, not only refused to play ball, but seems to have set in motion the events that brought Blagojevich down. But they've already planted the seed. Meanwhile, the Billos and Hannitys of the far right never let a little thing like reality get in the way of a good smear campaign. They'll harp on this forever.
Truth be told, the GOP lost the 2008 elections because the economy is in the shitter, and as the party in power, they got the blame. Prosperity and economic security are the change the voters want. There are hard times coming, and when people realize Obama can't wave a magic wand and undo the damage of the last 28 years, there will be a backlash. The right-wing hatemongers need seduce only so many minds back to the Dark Side in order to get back into a position of influence; and they will never stop trying. I'd like to think America has wised up to their cynical game, but I'm not convinced. Time will tell.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
"...the U.S. will enter a long period which could be worse than the Great Depression... might lead to martial law..."
"...severe stagnation and deflation... food riots..."
"...the U.S. will go bankrupt sooner or later..."
"...'capitalism I' is over, and things will get very bad before we get to a new form of 'capitalism II'..."
"...our entire modern society will crash and break down..."
How to prepare for the coming depression? A quick, unscientific survey of web sites seems to reveal three prevalent threads:
- Stock up on dry beans and canned goods, and learn to garden and can your own veggies;
- Buy gold and other precious metals, which will hold their value through collapse of the currency system; and
- Be prepared to live off the land and to ward off aggressors - this means getting weapons and learning to use them for hunting and self-defense.
NOTE: This is not an endorsement of any of the above predictions or advice. But they sure do provide food for thought.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Yesterday, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers issued a new guidance document to clarify how many of the nation's waterways will not, for Clean Water Act purposes, be protected....
The day before, the Administration approved new rules that would legalize the practice of dumping mining waste from coal mining into streams....
Factory feedlots will also benefit from a last-minute Bush rule -- 15,000 of them would be issued a get-out-jail-free pass saying they don't have to comply with the Clean Water Act as long as they promise they won't pollute.
How much more can this imbecile wreck in the 46 days remaining to him?
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
"When materials are brought down to the nanoscale dimension, their properties for some performance characteristics dramatically change," said [Texas A&M ChemEng prof. Tahir] Cagin who is a past recipient of the prestigious Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology. "One such example is with piezoelectric materials. We have demonstrated that when you go to a particular length scale – between 20 and 23 nanometers – you actually improve the energy-harvesting capacity by 100 percent."
How much energy would be saved if we could unplug all the wall warts that we use to power our electronics? One estimate says they use more than 58 billion kilowatt-hours, wasting $3.5 billion annually in standby losses alone (because they typically draw 3-4 watts of power even when they're not being used) and consuming the output of 10 large power plants - and that's just in the United States.
Of course we can avoid the standby losses by unplugging the damn things when we aren't using them, or by using the more modern "switching mode" power supplies, which only draw current when they're actually being used; but it would be even better if our electronic devices could just convert ambient noise to the juice they need to power themselves.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
What's more, chronic fat consumption seems to shut down the production of NAPEs by the intestine, not their effectiveness in the brain:
Animals fed a high-fat diet for 35 days lose the normal increases in circulating NAPE after a fatty meal. That suggest that derangements in NAPE secretion associated with chronic high-fat feeding may contribute to diet-induced obesity precipitated by overexposure to triglyceride-rich foods. However, those animals still responded to NAPE treatment.So treatment with NAPEs may be useful in treating obesity by breaking the cycle of fat consumption.
I could use some of this stuff. Preferably with gravy.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
Oh, and he's a minotaur, too.
The man known as Kevin Werbach in the real world is also known in World of Warcraft as Supernovan Jenkins, a 70th-level Taurean Shaman. Werbach is obviously a gamer, a participant in virtual worlds. I prefer Second Life myself, as does Werbach's co-team lead Susan Crawford; they're both also proponents of net neutrality. I take this as a very good sign.
I just wonder how they feel about online poker.
The Drum Major Institute bills itself as "a non-partisan, non-profit think tank providing ideas that fuel the progressive movement." Founded by Harry Wachtel, lawyer and advisor to MLK, and relaunched in 1999 by their sons, William Wachtel and Martin Luther King III, and Ambassador Andrew Young, the institute conducts research into social and economic issues, and advocates for progressive policies to benefit the middle class.
I'm just discovering this site, but it looks very promising and I've added feeds for both their main page, featuring daily (more or less) articles from a handful of contributors, and their blog, which has more frequent posts from a broader range of sources. Enjoy reading them.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
In his latest post, he writes:
In the first two weeks since the election, President-elect Barack Obama has broken with a tradition established over the past eight years through his controversial use of complete sentences, political observers say.
Millions of Americans who watched Mr. Obama's appearance on CBS' "Sixty Minutes" on Sunday witnessed the president-elect's unorthodox verbal tick, which had Mr. Obama employing grammatically correct sentences virtually every time he opened his mouth.
But Mr. Obama's decision to use complete sentences in his public pronouncements carries with it certain risks, since after the last eight years many Americans may find his odd speaking style jarring.
Dingell, who represents Michigan and is married to a GM exec, has battled the more liberal Waxman on fuel efficiency standards. The move is seen as good news for environmentalists, and is a sign that the House understands the mandate for change that the 2008 elections represent. Waxman defeated Dingell by 15 votes (137-122) in the caucus vote. According to a report at politico.com, Representative-elect Gerry Connolly of Virginia said 18 of the 26 freshman legislators had committed to Waxman before the vote. However, unless at least 21 of the 26 actually voted for him, it means Waxman also got a majority of the returning members of the caucus - and thus would have won the chair even with an even split among the newcomers.
Progressives have been stewing over the number of familiar faces from the Clinton era among President-elect Obama's high-profile appointees, but author David Corn, speaking on today's Democracy Now! program, said that there are "a bunch of people who have been progressive public policy advocates, academics and other experts, who have spent their whole adult careers devoted to policy making, not necessarily to going between government and private sector and making a bunch of money."
It makes sense that as a relative newcomer to Washington, Obama would want some people with experience around him. I think it's encouraging that he has also brought some people who are passionate about the change we need. Yes, some of Obama's appointees have checkered pasts when it comes to AIPAC and PNAC and Gitmo; but he strikes me as a strong leader and a passionate advocate for change, and these people are going to know there's a new boss. They're going to have a chance to make a case to him for what they believe in, but ultimately he is the man who will make the decisions; and they, if they are faithful employees, will implement what he decides regardless of their personal views. I think we on the left should continue to pressure Obama for liberal and progressive changes, but I don't think we need to panic over his appointments. He said from the start that he planned to forge a team of rivals, and I think he deserves to be judged more by what he does than by whom he chooses to do it through.
Mr. Gregory C. Soumas
Board of Elections in the City of New York
New York, NY 10004-1609
November 17, 2008
Dear Mr. Soumas:
I would like to publicly apologize for being such a dim-witted dilettante on Election Day. I was under the naïve assumption that I could vote where I voted in the last two elections. Your thoughtful letter pointed out that if I had voted in the recent primary election in September I would have discovered that I was no longer registered in the polling place I have voted in since 2004. Considering your position at the Board of Elections and your deep respect for the democratic process I must assume that my local 14th St. poll worker, Betty J. Williamson's assertion that my name was on the active voter rolls for the primary in September of this year was erroneous and that she must be as confused and wrongheaded as I am. If Ms. Williamson saw my name in the book in September that would mean that you are lying. Certainly you wouldn't lie about a thing like that. That is unbecoming of a man of your bureaucratic stature. And why would anyone in the Board of Elections be eliminating legitimate voters from the rolls in late September and October of 2008? That's just crazy and un-democratic.
I should also apologize for the misguided actions of Justice Paul G. Feinman in issuing a court order on Election Day allowing me to vote on 14th St. He apparently thought that a printed out record from your own Board of Elections computer verifying my polling place as 14th St was justification for issuing the court order. If he had only thought to contact you, you could have helped him understand the logic and wisdom of eliminating my name from the book on 14th St. where I have always voted and leaving my name registered at a place I have never voted.
I must also thank you for sending your letter not to me but to all the major newspapers in the New York area and across the internet. I understand it was your way of clearing up this matter and for that I am grateful. I am particularly appreciative of your sending a copy of my voter registration card with my home address and driver's license number to all the newspapers and, by extension, to millions across the internet. What celebrity dilettante wouldn't want his private information made public? What kind of snob gets angry that his family's safety might be compromised? It comes with the territory, right? I was thinking of returning that favor by publishing your home address in this letter but then I thought that maybe one of the thousands of New Yorkers that were taken off the voter rolls in the last two months might not understand what a patriotic upstanding man you are and might show up at your doorstep with the misguided assumption that you are a petty vindictive corrupt scumbag.
New Yorker since 1961
Voter since 1976
P.S. If anyone reading this letter had a similar experience on Election Day it can and should be reported at 866ourvote.org.
Commissioners of Elections
Marcus Cederqvist, Executive Director
George Gonzalez, Deputy Executive Director
Pamela Perkins, Administrative Manager
Beth Fossella, Coordinator, Voter Registration
Steven H. Richman, General Counsel
Troy Johnson, Chief Clerk
Timothy Gay, Deputy Chief Clerk
[updated to correct the spelling of Mr. Robbins' name in the headline]
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Others have predicted devastating economic (and other) consequences of global water shortage, peak oil, and the race to the bottom of the world labor market.
Oil wars. Water wars. Riots and revolts. Economic catastrophe.
As bleak as these predictions sound, a worldwide economic collapse may be the only thing that can save humanity from itself. The modern American economy is built on consumption at a level that is unsustainable in the long run, is contributing immensely to global warming, and left unchecked, could render the planet incapable of supporting life as we know it. And as China and India adopt the same economic model, the situation only threatens to get worse. A global economic collapse on the scale envisioned by Celente would force us back to simpler times, when business was conducted on a personal level, goods and services were produced and used locally, and simply getting by was a more realistic goal than the perpetual growth that modern capitalism requires. It may be the only thing that could bring about the drastic reductions in consumption and fossil fuel usage needed to forestall the impending climate crisis.
It's been argued that the Black Plague that swept the world in the 14th century, and the attendant death of somewhere between a quarter and half of the population, led to times of relative plenty and ultimately to the Renaissance. Could the fall of modern civilization, and another massive die-off, turn out to be the key to survival of the species?
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
The election is over, the results are now known;
The will of the people has been clearly shown.
We should show by our thoughts and our words and our deeds
That unity's just what our country now needs.
Let's all get together - let bitterness pass:
I'll hug your elephant; you kiss my ass.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
1. Declare a new policy of openness and accountability in government.
The abuses of the Bush-Cheney era have been conceived, planned, and largely executed behind an unprecedented veil of secrecy. From the clandestine meetings with oil company executives to define the administration's energy policy, to the secret and unwarranted snooping on citizens' email, phone conversations, and reading habits, to the secret prisons at Guantanamo and elsewhere, the government has been sneaking around behind our backs far too much for far too long. The Obama administration should make transparency and disclosure the default. Policy discussions, cabinet meetings, and inner workings of all government agencies should be open to public inspection, except when there is a certified national security reason for secrecy. And by certified, I mean there should be a governing body, to include representation from the judicial branch, from both major parties in Congress, and properly vetted members of the general public, which has the power to review and either approve or overturn any claim of a requirement for secrecy. FOIA requests should be granted as a matter of course, unless the requested information has been explicitly designated as classified.
2. Make survivability of life on the planet priority number one.
Of course the economy is important. So is health. And war is abominable. But if the economy is humming, and everyone has free access to all the health care imaginable, and the world is at peace, it's all for naught if the planet cannot sustain life. We can argue over whether global warming is man-made, and whether it threatens our survival, but let's at least agree that if anything does threaten the long-term survival of the species, that trumps all other considerations. Peace, freedom, and prosperity are secondary considerations next to survival. Explicitly saying so helps to set the stage for serious discussions about the environment.
3. Initiate a 10-year program to achieve 100% clean electricity, and work to eliminate dependence on foreign oil.
Obama has said he wants to create jobs that can't be outsourced, rebuilding America's energy infrastructure. An effort similar to that which followed JFK's pledge to go to the moon in 10 years could get us to an electric grid with a zero carbon footprint within 10 years; it would have a huge impact on carbon dioxide emissions, while helping the economy by creating those millions of jobs. At the same time, improvements in our transportation system - modernizing and promoting mass transit, development of more efficient cars, and other measures could reduce our dependence on petroleum to the point that we could satisfy our own needs without having to import a drop - this latter goal may not be met in ten years, but we can make signifcant progress in any event.
4. Begin building a bottom-up economy.
With the mortgage industry already on life support and the automobile industry begging for transfusions, the time has come to recognize that "too big to fail" is simply too big. The solution to this problem is not consolidation of the survivors into bigger and bigger entities, it is to rebuild our economy around the small businesses that have always been the backbone of the American economy. Rather than bailouts of megacorportations, the economic recovery should concentrate on revitalizing small businesses. A condition of bailing out any too-big-to-fail corporation should be its breakup into smaller units that can be allowed to succeed or fail on their own merits.
5. Take steps to restore America's moral leadership in the world.
This is a long-term project; we cannot reclaim our honor overnight. It starts at home with restoration of habeas corpus, due process for all defendants, and enforcement of the Posse Comitatus Act, and with moral treatment of the less fortunate among us (including universal health care and social programs such as Project Head Start). It continues with the closing of Guatnánamo and termination of the indefensible practice known as extraordinary rendition, and with holding both our military and the mercenaries we hire to supplement our military accountable for war crimes and for abuses committed in occupied countries. And it culminates with predicating our support of foreign governments as much on their legitimacy and their human rights records as on their willingness to do our bidding or their ability to turn a profit for well-connected American corporations.
There's much more to be done. Get the money out of politics. Break up the media monopolies. Reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. Bring back the separation of church and state. Guarantee a woman's right to choose. Allow adults who love each other to marry. Allow responsible adults to gamble online if they so choose, and use the intoxicants of their choice in the privacy of their own homes. Correct the mistaken notion that corporations, which do not suffer from human limitations, deserve the same rights and privileges as flesh and blood human beings. And on and on. But with transparency in government and a guarantee of free speech, many of these things will take care of themselves.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Only rarely does one know that one is experiencing history while it happens. Barack Obama's victory is one of those occasions.
There have been two or three other occasions when I have had that feeling. A couple of them were tragic, and their dates are forever seared into my memory: November 22, 1963, and September 11, 2001. But the third - one whose exact date I can't even name - is the one those words recalled, and which in retrospect is the one that most closely resembled last night. It was the night Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon.
Then, as now, I was aware that I was witnessing the unfolding of events that changed the world. Then, as now, the realm of the possible was profoundly and forever expanded by the completion of a difficult journey undertaken amid doubt that it could be completed. Then, a man had called on a nation to undertake such a journey; now, it seems, a nation has called forth a man.
I originally supported Barack Obama because of what he was not. He was not a neocon, he was not a religious fundamentalist, he was not a fearmonger. But over the course of a summer and an early autumn, I came to see in him the promise of a true statesman, a leader who has the potential to unite us again as Americans, to unite us again with our allies around the world, to awaken us again to what is possible, and hopefully, to inspire us again to rise to the challenges of our time and accomplish greater things that we have dared to aspire to. And last night, as on that night in 1969, I had the same thought: if we can do this, we can do whatever we need to do.
Yes, we can.
The Obama campaign was provided with reports from the Secret Service showing a sharp and disturbing increase in threats to Obama in September and early October, at the same time that many crowds at Palin rallies became more frenzied. Michelle Obama was shaken by the vituperative crowds and the hot rhetoric from the GOP candidates. "Why would they try to make people hate us?" Michelle asked a top campaign aide.
Because, Michelle, they're scum.
Today the politics of divisiveness and fear has been repudiated, and we have in some small part fulfilled the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr., as this one man has been judged not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.
Last night in his acceptance speech, President-elect Obama thanked "the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics" - and I was proud to know I was part of that team.
Tomorrow I will be just as proud to poke and prod and try to pressure the president-to-be into doing the right things for the American people, the people of the world, and the very future of life on earth. The hard work is just beginning. For today, I'm just going to enjoy what we have accomplished.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
1972: Ford 13, Carter 11
1980: Reagan 17, Carter 3
1984: Reagan 29, Mondale 1
1988: GHW Bush 34, Dukakis 3
1992: GHW Bush 15, Clinton 2
1996: Dole 18, Clinton 8
2000: GW Bush 21, Gore 5
2004: GW Bush 19, Kerry 7
So in the past eight presidential elections, from 36 years ago to the present time, Dixville Notch has gone Republican - and usually by a landslide. So it's no surprise that their results today were lopsided too. Know what's a surprise?
Obama 15, McCain 6.
Monday, November 3, 2008
At the Obama campaign office where I was waiting for my canvassing assignment Saturday afternoon, I saw this sign:
YOU STOLE MY OBAMA SIGN
SO I BOUGHT ANOTHER ONE
AND MADE ANOTHER CAMPAIGN DONATION
PLEASE STEAL MORE SIGNS
Then there's this approach:
It's not about taxes. I'm pretty sure mine are going to go up no matter who is elected.
It's not about foreign policy. I think we'll figure out a way to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan no matter which party controls the White House, mostly because the people who live there don't want us there anymore....
I've learned that this election is about the heart of America. It's about the young people who are losing hope and the old people who have been forgotten. It's about those who have worked all their lives and never fully realized the promise of America, but see that promise for their grandchildren in Barack Obama. The poor see a chance, when they often have few. I saw hope in the eyes and faces in those doorways.
I went canvassing on Saturday myself, and I had a couple of memorable encounters. One was with a twenty-something Latino voter who recently got his citizenship and is thrilled to be taking part in the most important ritual of democracy. "I've been here six years," he beamed, "and this is my first time to vote." He went on for several minutes about how much Obama's message resonates with him; he would have gone on longer if I hadn't excused myself to continue my rounds.
Another experience was not as pleasant. Our marching orders were to speak to individuals on our lists who had been identified as potential Obama supporters, even if McCain paraphernalia were in evidence - after all, a given household may be split in its loyalties or leanings. So as I approached one house with a stern-looking middle-aged man raking leaves in the yard, I didn't let the McCain sign by the driveway deter me. I was looking for a 20-year-old, evidently this guy's son.
He seemed friendly enough, despite the Obama hat and button I was wearing. No, he said, his son wasn't home, but was there something I'd like to leave for him?
"Yes, if you don't mind, I have some literature for him from the Obama campaign that I'd like to -"
"I don't want it." His expression, his posture, his whole attitude changed at the mention of Obama's name.
"He doesn't want it?" I had to ask.
"He might. I don't. If you want him to have that," he said, looking at the packet in my hand as if he feared catching a disease from it, "you'll have to give it to him yourself." I think he may have had a slight pang of conscience, as he added in a somewhat less assertive tone, "he gets off work about 4."
I hope that if some McCain canvasser showed up at my door and asked me to give his literature to my daughter, I would take it and faithfully deliver it even though I disagree with just about everything I think the GOP stands for. Of course I can't say what I would do in ay hypothetical situation - I'll find out when and if such a scenario arises - but I think I'd do the right thing, especially if I had explicitly offered to take a message for her.
This seems somehow typical of the pettiness I see from way too many McCain supporters. At least he wasn't like the schoolteacher and Republican delegate in Michigan who refused Halloween candy to children whose parents support Obama:
Hey lady, it's pretty bad when even Fox is calling you on your outrageous behavior.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Friday, October 31, 2008
Indeed, when the Clinton administration considered forging a stronger relationship with the KLA as a means of bringing all parties to the bargaining table, GOP officials questioned whether such a policy would be a tacit support for a "group with terror, drug ties."
"Such an effusive embrace by top Clinton Administration officials of an organization that only a year ago one of its own top officials labeled as 'terrorist' is, to say the least, a startling development," read a paper put together by the Senate Republican Policy Committee.
And yet, John McCain, the current Republican standard-bearer, was one of the KLA's most outspoken supporters. Back in May 1999, when it seemed as if NATO air raids would prove ineffective in stopping the violence, and calls were being made to send in ground troops, McCain suggested that the U.S. simply fund the KLA instead.
Sorry, Mac. Sauce for the goose, and all that...
Exxon announced yesterday that it broke its own record for most profitable quarter. The company earned $14.8 billion, a 15% gain over the previous record set last quarter and a 58% gain over the same quarter a year ago.
Shell also announced record earnings yesterday. Their current cost of supply (CCS) net profit was $10.9 billion, a 71% year-over-year increase for the third quarter.
Meanwhile, the oil industry is in line for $32.9 billion "in tax breaks, subsidies and other handouts" over the next 5 years, according to a study published in July by the nonprofit Friends Of the Earth.
A man who appears equipped to be a true uniter, a man who gives me more hope for the future than I have had in years, stands poised to win a solid majority of the popular vote and a veritable landslide in the Electoral College, yet I fear bitter violence between Americans. I fear riots in the streets, and worse.
There are two scenarios that trouble me. In the first, Barack Obama wins the landslide he deserves, and there is rejoicing in the streets. Confined perhaps at first to urban areas, there is raucous celebration into the night. But not everyone is happy. In particular, the right-wing militia groups and just plain everyday rednecks - the ones Sarah Palin has been busily whipping into a frenzy, those she has convinced that Obama is a racist, a terrorist, and a traitor, the ones who scream "kill him" at her rallies - are mightily pissed off. And they also take to the streets. Unlike the revelers, this bunch shows up armed and looking for a fight. The confrontations turn ugly, and mob-on-mob violence ensues. In normal times, this would not go very far, because cooler heads would prevail; only a small right-wing fringe would participate in the backlash. But the McCain-Palin campaign and their allies in the right-wing echo chamber have so demonized the left, and stirred up so much out-and-out hatred, there's all too good a chance this could escalate way out of control.
In the other scenario, John McCain - against all odds and in defiance of both advance polling and exit polls - pulls off the incredible upset. This time it's just too much to be swallowed even by the hitherto hypnotized public. People across the country take to the streets to protest the theft of yet another presidential election. Bolstered by evidence of electronic vote tampering, enraged by the voter-suppression tactics that prevented millions of Americans from voting at all, they march and chant and demonstrate - the vast majority of them peacefully - and the government response comes in the form of phalanxes of militarized police in full riot gear, rounding up the protesters and hauling them away for "rioting in furtherance of terrorism." This brings even more and angrier people into the streets in defiance of the government crackdown. Again, the well-armed and well-agitated right-wing loonies join the fray; and again, it escalates out of control.
This is the disaster that the right wing flirts with when they demonize the opposition. No matter the official results of the election, they have conditioned so may people on one side to hate those with whom they disagree that at least some of them are bound to bring that hatred to the surface in the form of violence against the evil liberals. Will it escalate to full-blown civil war? I hope not, but I don't rule it out. Will there be violence? Count on it.
It is very much to Barack Obama's credit that he spent thirty minutes on Wednesday night talking about the issues, about the problems Americans face and about what he plans to do about them, without ever once mentioning George W. Bush, John McCain, or Sarah Palin. It is vastly to his credit that he stops crowds at his rallies if they stoop to booing McCain or Palin, telling them "you don't have to boo, just vote." And it is to the eternal shame of the GOP and the McCain-Palin campaign, and their hate-mongering tools in the right-wing media, that their whole argument consists of telling people that liberals are anti-American, anti-freedom, pro-terrorism, and generally evil beings who want to destroy America. In so doing, they are fomenting hatred and inciting violence. And when that violence comes to pass, the blood will be on their hands.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
On Fox, the infomercial was followed in short order by a McCain ad that tried to make Obama look unattractive while the voice-over said he was unprepared. It served only to make McCain look pathetic. He cannot compare, let alone compete.
But let's not get complacent. Volunteer this weekend. This is history in the making, people; you will want to be able to tell your grandchildren you were part of it.
"By the way, no one will delay the World Series game with an infomercial when I'm president," says John McCain. Apparently, he believes it's more important to see grown men making millions playing a child's game than to hear a candidate's plea for support of the changes he envisions for the direction of the country.
Presumably a President McCain would declare by executive order that TV networks are not allowed to sell blocks of time to advertisers that might conflict with coverage of a World Series game. (Well, actually, the TV networks can do what they want, but I guess the commissioner of baseball would be precluded from changing the start time of the game. He didn't say nobody could preempt coverage, only that nobody would delay the game. Either way, though, methinks the man doth slightly overstep the authority vested in the Chief Executive by the Constitution.)
But the funniest part of this comes up when you look at the facts. There are two of those I'd like to point out:
First, Obama's address - according to that pillar of the liberal media, the Fox Network - will not change the start time of the game. It will merely preempt pre-game talk - "you know, Joe Buck."
Second, McCain's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention forced the NFL season opener to begin 90 minutes ahead of its planned prime-time start - providing a lead-in that was widely credited for helping McCain's acceptance speech get higher TV ratings (if lower approval ratings) than Obama's.
So it's OK to push sports around on TV if it gives the Republican candidate a bigger audience share than he could have gotten on his own, but it's not OK to preempt some pre-game commentary to let a Democrat speak his piece.
Hey, this isn't just a political blog. We also do humor here in the Canyon. Thanks for the laughs, John.
Presidential candidate Barack Obama surprised political observers yesterday by suddenly withdrawing from the campaign trail to spend some time with his elderly rival John McCain. McCain who is 97 years old and very frail is said to be fading fast and Obama wanted to see him one last time before he was gone forever. ‘Barack knows that he could never have got this far if it hadn’t have been for old man McCain. He owes everything to him.’
Obama reportedly sat at the bedside of the dying Republican nominee trying to make sense of the confused ramblings coming from the old man’s mouth, according to an assistant to the Illinois senator. ‘Grandpa McCain’s mind had gone unfortunately, he just kept claiming everyone was a terrorist and then he’d go off on some incomprehensible rant about dividing up a pie or making a bigger pie or something. He’s completely lost it.’
"Don't tell Matt Drudge or FOX News, but John McCain himself took the same basic approach to taxes as Barack Obama -- at least until the 2008 presidential campaign brought about some changes in his views."In other words, he was for middle-class tax relief before we was against it.
McCain knows a middle-class tax cut is better than the Bush give-away to the wealthy that he voted against. Yet now he parrots the party line to keep the GOP's real base from revolting. This is a man who will say anything to get elected.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Well, maybe. It appears that a good portion of that money will be used to line the pockets of investment bankers and to fuel acquisitions.
Uncle Sam has a new name on Wall Street — Sugar Daddy. Bonuses for investment bankers and traders are projected to fall by 40% this year. But analysts, compensation consultants and recruiters say the drop would be much more severe, perhaps as much as 70%, had it not been for the government's efforts to prop up the financial firms.
Bonuses? The economy is in the shitter, and the taxpayers are funding bankers' bonuses? What's wrong with this picture?
The Wall St. Journal says:
The Treasury's bailout plan is fueling a long-simmering war between financial institutions, prompting fears among small banks that big banks getting rescue money will be encouraged to buy smaller rivals.
Big banks say the purchase of smaller, ailing institutions by larger ones promotes the recovery of the sector. But representatives of some 8,000 community banks -- the bulk of which remain financially sound -- worry that a taxpayer-subsidized consolidation could sweep up healthy institutions that are too small to fight back.
And Bloomberg quotes an industry insider:
Government funds may be used to finance acquisitions, prompting a potential “wave” of deals, Colin Devine, an analyst with Citigroup Inc. said yesterday in a research note.
Just what we need: another round of megabanks buying up local and regional institutions. We wouldn't want want local dollars supporting local economies, would we?
And the New York Times (among others) points out that all of this is actually intended by the administration:
In point of fact, the dirty little secret of the banking industry is that it has no intention of using the money to make new loans...
Treasury wants banks to acquire each other and is using its power to inject capital to force a new and wrenching round of bank consolidation. As Mark Landler reported in The New York Times earlier this week, “the government wants not only to stabilize the industry, but also to reshape it.”
I'm suspicious whenever this administration wants to "reshape" an industry, because inevitably it means one thing: the rich get rich. Redistribution of wealth is nothing new; they've been redistributing it for years - from working stiffs to fat cats.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer has something to say about this. In an editorial published today, they say the "bailout is already off the beam."
The federally forced sale of Cleveland's National City Bank to a Pittsburgh rival Friday requires urgent congressional hearings to force federal regulators to reveal why they've veered so far from the intent of the $700 billion bailout. Instead of vacuuming up troubled assets, the bailout is being funneled into bank acquisitions.I have to agree. The backbone of the economy is on Main Street, where the goods and services are produced, and not on Wall Street where they are commoditized and made the objects of speculation. I agree with the Plain Dealer that Congress needs "to force federal regulators to reveal why they've veered so far from the intent of the $700 billion bailout."
Such bank sales might make sense if the banks being bought out genuinely were failing. But using the taxpayers' dime to sink wounded banks that might otherwise survive is a far more questionable and inefficient way to rid the system of bad debt. It also runs directly counter to how the Treasury promised to use the money.
In fact, I'll go the Cleveland paper one better. Congress needs to re-enact Glass-Steagall and take additional steps to introduce some adult supervision into the out-of-control greedfest of casino capitalism that is the banking industry. And Justice should start enforcing anti-trust regulations in the finance sector and elsewhere. It's time to recognize that, as Bernie Sanders puts it, "too big to fail" is too big to exist.
There's something surreal about how fast the GOP has gone from arrogant triumphalism to its death throes. Just yesterday, the GOP's mighty Titanic was cruising along, its opulent decks lined with fat-cat financiers and neoconservative warmongers, all smoking cigars, drinking champagne and extolling the deathless virtues of their fearless captain. The compliant media issued glowing dispatches. Karl Rove cackled with glee as he plotted out a permanent Republican majority.Of course it's more than a little premature to exult in the demise of the Grand Oil Party - they've stolen elections before and they could do it again - indeed, they're trying* - but it does seem that a clear majority of Americans now realize what a house of cards "movement conservatism" was and is. If we're lucky, we may see the Republican Party move backs towards the political center and away from its dual (laissez-faire and religious) fundamentalist base. That would be a step forward for America and the world.
Then the luxury liner hit an iceberg known as reality. The biggest damage was done by the Wall Street crisis, which happened just in time to tilt a close race toward Obama. But the economic meltdown was only one of the disasters for which the GOP is largely responsible. The war that was going to establish American hegemony forever turned out to be one of the worst foreign-policy blunders in our nation's history. The GOP's free-market idolatry led to the gravest financial crisis since the Depression. Its ideological insistence on cutting taxes for the richest Americans ran up a record deficit. Its embrace of torture and denial of due process assaulted the Constitution and eroded America's moral standing. Its doctrine of the "unitary executive" concentrated unprecedented power in the hands of the executive branch. Its anti-scientific denial of global warming endangered the entire planet.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Over at DailyKos they've pointed out a column by Mark Levin at the National Review that decries, among other things, the existence of "special Obama flags."
Saturday, October 25, 2008
People over 50 remember that period very well, and many much younger people view it with envy and fascination. After all, today's youth listen to the Beatles, Stones, Doors, Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead, considering them their own. (We in the '60s rarely listened to the music of the '20s, '30s and '40s.) College students flock to courses on the '60s, viewing that decade as one of turmoil, excitement, and progressive change. The verdict's in: the war was wrong, segregation and all racism was wrong, sexism and homophobia were wrong—and the limited social progress as we've seen since the '60s is largely rooted in the tireless efforts of the activists of that decade. The '60s were good!Like the attempts to smear Barack Obama as a Muslim or an ACORN supporter or a Socialist, the attempts to link him with Ayers presume there would be something wrong with that if it were true - and any attempt to deny the purported connection only reinforces the implied evil of the person or group they're trying to associate him with (as in "No, he's not an Arab, he's a decent family man...").
But McCain doesn't see it that way. Nor does Sarah Palin. She of course is 44 years old, but obviously atypical of her generation. There's no reason you can't be the popular governor of a state of 676,987 while expressing contempt for such '60s fixtures as "community organizers," sexual liberation and the questioning of wars of aggression. Palin, the lipstick-painted pit-bull, has chosen to attack Ayers as a "terrorist" decades after the demise of the Weather Underground, after he's become a Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and received a Citizen of the Year award (1997) from the city of Chicago for his work on education reform. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley (son of the infamous Mayor Daley who ordered the police attack on antiwar protesters at the Democratic Convention in 1968), who regularly consults Ayers on school issues, says: "He's done a lot of good in this city and nationally." But for Palin, he's a terrorist, present-tense.
Friday, October 24, 2008
[Update: the original post had an edited-for-TV condensation of the 911 calls involved. I have replaced it with a more complete version. Wouldn't want to quote the man out of context, after all...]
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Sunday, October 19, 2008
But if there's one thing they're afraid of, it's American voters. Why else have they disenfranchised millions of legitimate voters? They know that if the people's will is expressed in 16 days, their reign of terror is over. Our national nightmare is, after all, their most cherished dream: permanent one-party rule.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
I sincerely believe that the biggest difference between Bush and McCain is that Bush has sociopathic tendencies. He either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about what cost his actions may bring to others. In the middle of the current financial crisis, he claimed that he was glad he was at the helm when it occurred; never once considering the fact that he and his minions were largely responsible for it. If Alfred E. Neuman found Jesus, he’d be re-christened “Bush.”
I believe McCain knows what he’s doing. Maybe, he even regrets it. That makes him the sadder of the two and, also, the more dangerous. He has built a career on lies and exaggerations and, now, he somewhat believes them. Like most spoiled kids, he has lived in a bubble. Today, he’s not only battling his own demons but the new and ugly presence of reality.
With his Cryptkeeper’s grin and his total lack of empathy for the “regular folks” he champions, McCain has resorted to the kind of campaign ethics Karl Rove made famous – only he’s screwed it up.
- Ed Naha
Friday, October 17, 2008
In this light, you can see the ACORN flap for what it is: just one piece of a scheme to do anything and everything - ethics and constitutionality be damned - to keep Democrats from voting. Pathetic? Pathological.
The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.
The US code reads:
the term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents;
Either definition easily applies to what is going on right now, provoked at least in part by the scurrilous lies being bandied about by the right concerning ACORN:
An ACORN community organizer received a death threat and the liberal activist group's Boston and Seattle offices were vandalized Thursday, reflecting mounting tensions over its role in registering 1.3 million mostly poor and minority Americans to vote next month.
Attorneys for the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now were notifying the FBI and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division of the incidents, said Brian Kettenring, a Florida-based spokesman for the group.
Republicans, including presidential candidate John McCain, have verbally attacked the group repeatedly in recent days, alleging a widespread vote-fraud scheme, although they've provided little proof. It was disclosed Thursday that the FBI is examining whether thousands of fraudulent voter-registration applications submitted by some ACORN workers were part of a systematic effort or isolated incidents.
Kettenring said that a senior ACORN staffer in Cleveland, after appearing on television this week, got an e-mail that said she "is going to have her life ended."
A female staffer in Providence, R.I., got a threatening call from someone who said words to the effect of "We know you get off work at 9," then uttered racial epithets, he said.
When is the McCain campaign going to realize that the sick, irresponsible attacks they are making on Obama, ACORN, and their political opponents in general, are fomenting hatred and violence? There is a breakdown in the moral fiber of our country underway, and McCain and Palin have become the leading cheerleaders for it. It's time for Americans to say "enough is enough."
- Sen. John McCain
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Friday, September 5, 2008
There are three things you never want to see:
- Jim Hightower - Thieves In High Places
- Water coming out of your electrical sockets.
- Flames shooting out of your sock drawer.
- A press release coming out of the White House that begins: "The Bush administration today announced revised standards for..."
The stated purpose of the proposed rule "Amending the Formats of the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants" is to enhance the clarity of the lists of endangered and threatened species. However, the rule's title and its complicated legalese disguise the fact that it instead proposes regulatory changes would make significant changes in the way endangered species are listed and habitat is protected.
If in place at the time, this rule may have stopped the listing and protection of the bald eagle, Canada lynx, grizzly bear, brown pelican, the gray wolf and the jaguar. The proposed rule narrowly defines "the geographic area where the species is listed for purposes of the Act." This deceptively simple change could be interpreted to limit the area that endangered species will be protected only to their current range, which is usually drastically smaller than their historic range.