Friday, November 21, 2008

The Jeff Farias Show - 11/20/2008

Great interview with young talents Dakota and the Black River Bandit!

read more | digg story

Buy their sardonically titled CD "Reagan Lives!" at Independent Freedom Tribe records !

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Strategy for Helping U.S. Automakers and Reforming Health Care

If the U.S. auto industry wants a bailout, let us respond by offering to foot their health care bills. The U.S. auto industry is at a comparative disadvantage to foreign auto companies because they pay for part of employee (including retired employee) health insurance. This dollar figure has grown far faster than inflation for over a decade. If the U.S. government offered to include all auto industry employees in its government employee health care pool (this is Obama's plan for national health care), it would not only take a huge weight off of Detroit's shoulders, but also benefit the US by serving as a proof-of-concept for national health care. The success of the plan will take a lot of wind out of the sails of the anti-national healthcare lobbying groups (who derailed Hillary's proposal in 1993).

It's a win-win idea!

Myth That Doctors Love Private Healthcare

New survey:
Many doctors plan to quit or cut back...dealing with our current system involves too much paperwork

Remember, a Single Payer, Universal National Health Care system streamlines paperwork.

I like the quote from the doctor who says he was trained in medicine, not in running a business. The myth is that as true Americans, everyone in their heart of hearts really wants to RUN A BUSINESS.

Yes, I know a lot of doctors do get off on being entrepreneurs. But this survey casts doubt on the true prevalence of that trait. Also, it will be interesting to see how the changing demographics (more women, more minorities) of doctors alter how common this trait is among doctors.

Monday, November 17, 2008

So Crazy It Might Just Work

Crazy scheme to fix the economy:


The Theta Plan, as it is known, has drawn mixed reviews from economists. While most agree that the financial theory behind the scheme is "crazy," others counter that the idea of [sneaking into the Federal Reserve Bank with two cans of Barbasol and a giant fishing net in order to adjust the overnight lending rate while no one is looking] is so outside the realm of conventional thinking that, paradoxically, it just might work.


From The Onion

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Holding the Bush Administration Accountable: Obama's Agenda

I was reminded of how strong the urge for vindication is for those aghast at the Bush Administration's seemingly precedent-forming legal maneuvers over the past 8 years over at Democracy Interactive yesterday.

Is it wise or foolish to be bipartisan and forgiving? I cringed during the early Clinton years as he reached across the aisle, but felt I had been taught an important lesson in leadership and grew to see his approach as difficult to stomach but wise and ultimately strategic. Of course, it might be easier for me to appreciate Clinton's middle of the road approach because I directly benefited from some of the "concessions" he was able to wrangle from the Republicans (portability of health insurance). Less substantial, but gratifying all the same, was the real difference it makes in cultural approval of a Democratic leader. Clinton effectively took the bite out of Republican attacks in the early Clinton years.

Obama is of the same mold, albeit more overtly and perhaps (I guess we won't know for while) less strategically (or, "more sincerely", judging from his writings).

Do we take this as a reminder to reach for the higher ground, a lesson in civility? Or do we force Obama to take a more aggressive stand?

For now, my hope is that Obama will, strategically, use the goodwill to get some real legislative victories in his first year, but not abandon the real need for Democrats to resolve the injustices of the past 8 years. The accountability can, and from a strategic political perspective, should, come later. I hope there is some way he can signal such intentions to the Democratic base and that the Democratic base will be perceptive and patient. That is my wish. And I say this as someone who voted against Obama in the primary largely due to my fear (based on reading his books) that he would be far too bipartisan for my tastes (and as someone who came to be fan of Max and the Marginalized after hearing their song "Revenge").

Health Care

On Obama's innovative Change.gov site last week, I sent my two cents of advice. My number one priority for the agenda is Healthcare. Universal healthcare is a policy that has the potential to lift all boats during this economic malaise. I won't list all the numerous benefits of Universal Healthcare here (but do want to remind pro-business folks that it will help our businesses compete with foreign businesses who don't' have to worry about paying for their employees healthcare....Ford and Chrysler anyone???) but I am convinced that tackling this issue would be far more productive than short term fixes to the economy (though I think investment in infrastructure is a close second).

Given that one of my biggest concerns vis a vis Obama winning the Democratic Primary was his lukewarm stance on Universal Healthcare (see Krugman's critiques), I was very pleased to see Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) quickly chiming in this week . This could be very good dynamic, with the Congress leading the charge rather than the Administration (as opposed to the opposite in 1992). Keeping my fingers crossed.

I also hope to see more recognition of what is at stake for women, and hope there is more visibility for the women's groups that are making it clear that women have the most to gain from Universal Healthcare.

Quote of the Day

On Sarah Palin, Andrew Sullivan points out " But even if she is history, she is history that matters", and then goes on to say:


"The impulsive, unvetted selection of a total unknown, with no knowledge of or interest in the wider world, as a replacement president remains one of the most disturbing events in modern American history. That the press felt required to maintain a facade of normalcy for two months -- and not to declare the whole thing a farce from start to finish -- is a sign of their total loss of nerve."


One of the most irritating tactics of the Republicans, ever since at least Reagan, is trying to come off as being for the "common man", when in fact they are and have always been a party of, and for, the wealthy ("not that this is anything wrong with that..."). Toward that goal, they have succeeded in placing figure heads that appeal to the working class. With Reagan, they found, quite appropriately, an actor. This was a landmark in politics, a milestone representative of the culmination of the video age. Bush Sr. was an aberration for the Republicans, a result of the inconvenient settlement of the Republican primary in 1980 which resulted in Bush being picked as vice-president.

Not quite willing, perhaps out of incredulity, to pick a true "common man", the Republicans found in Bush Jr. a man of their social class that, due to his dimness, actually fit the role of the "common man" quite well. His lack of qualifications pushed the limits of the public, no, the press, even more. The envelope had been pushed and tested: yes, the press would let such a character pass their inspection.

With Palin, we had a run in with pushing that envelope even further. And I supposed in 2012 we'll see if the Republicans continue with that tactic or whether a new age is truly borne.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Apologies from the GOP

Glenn Greenwald talks about something strange going on with the GOP and notes, in contrast:

In the last eight years, George Bush has apologized a grand total of twice for things he did (for Abu Grahib and when he demanded that a blind reporter remove his sunglasses -- and he only acknowledged personal responsibility in the latter case) and Dick Cheney once (when he joked about inbreeding in West Virginia).

Fiscal Conservative

Friday, October 17, 2008

Can We End the American Entrepreneur Myth Yet?

From Bloomberg:


Almost 95 percent of 21.5 million owners of small businesses who file as sole proprietors had receipts under $100,000 in 2007.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe is not a plumber, and he made up his story

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters in the United States in 2007 was $47,350.

Biden says:

“You notice John [McCain] continues to cling to the notion of this guy Joe the plumber,” Biden said on NBC’s Today show. “I don't have any Joe the plumbers in my neighborhood that make $250,000 a year that are worried.”

“The Joe the plumbers in my neighborhood, the Joe the cops in my neighborhood, the Joe the grocery store owners in my neighborhood — they make, like 98 percent of the small businesses, less than $250,000 a year,” said the Democratic VP nominee. “And they’re going to do very well under us, and they’re going to be in real tough shape under John McCain.”


Biden is smart, because it turns out Joe is NOT, in fact, a plumber.

It also turns out Joe is one of those 75% of Americans that doesn't make more than 95% of Americans but thinks that one day he will. Some call it optimism, but mathematicians call it delusional.


COURIC: Well, he supposedly will raise taxes only on people who make over $250,000 a year. Would you be in that category?
WURZELBACHER: Not right now at presently, but, you know, question, so he's going to do that now for people who make $250,000 a year. When's he going to decide that $100,000 is too much, you know?


According to divorce records, Joe made about $40,000 a year as of 2006.

Oh, and it turns out Joe doesn't really worry too much about taxes, becase Joe doesn't pay his taxes. A true liberatarian hero.

Update:
This Joe the Plumber story is just falling all to pieces for McCain. It turns out Joe The Not-Really A Plumber is the possible grandson of Charles Keating, and actually lived on (no joke) Keating Drive, in Mesa, Arizona.

As I Suspected, Joe the Rich Plumber is an Anarchist

Joe, I don't want to live on your island. I can fix my own damn plumbing, thank you.

Should taxpayers help Joe buy a plumbing business that someone else owns?

Let's see, Joseph wants to buy a business that makes in profits $250,000 - $280,000 a year. So, the cost of purchasing must be, let me do that math:

Annual return on investment would have to be in the 5 to 15% range, let's say 10%. So, Joe can afford to shell out:
$2,500,000 - 2,800,000 dollars
He's a effing millionaire.

And he's concerned about paying 3% additional tax on the amount of profit he'll make over $250,000, anywhere between $0 and, OH MY GOD, $900!!!

UPDATE:
He is not a millionaire, but a bit confused about the difference between income and expense, or a deceptive liar:

He acknowledged that he wants to buy a plumbing company for $250,000 to $280,000. That wouldn't be how much profit he would make from the firm.

He would make much less, he said.

Yeah, like only $30,000 !!!

AHHHGGG!! Thanks McCain for bringing up this total diversion. I guess we can count on that from you.

Transcript of Obama's Talk with Joe the Rich Plumber

From Spread the Wealth?


Outside Toledo, Ohio, on Sunday, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was approached by plumber Joe Wurzelbacher, a big, bald man with a goatee who asked Obama if he believes in the American dream.

"I'm getting ready to buy a company that makes 250 to 280 thousand dollars a year," Wurzelbacher said. "Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn't it?"

Obama said, "First off, you would get a 50% tax credit so you'd get a tax cut for your healthcare costs….. if your revenue is above 250 – then from 250 down, your taxes are going to stay the same. It is true that from 250 up – from 250 – 300 or so, so for that additional amount, you’d go from 36 to 39%, which is what it was under Bill Clinton. And the reason why we’re doing that is because 95% of small businesses make less than 250. So what I want to do is give them a tax cut. I want to give all these folks who are bus drivers, teachers, auto workers who make less, I want to give them a tax cut. And so what we’re doing is, we are saying that folks who make more than 250 that that marginal amount above 250 – they’re gonna be taxed at a 39 instead of a 36% rate.”

Responded Wurzelbacher, "the reason I ask you about the American dream, I mean I've worked hard. I'm a plumber. I work 10-12 hours a day and I'm buying this company and I'm going to continue working that way. I'm getting taxed more and more while fulfilling the American dream."

"Well," said Obama, "here's a way of thinking about it. How long have been a plumber?"

Wurzelbacher said 15 years.

Obama says, “Over the last 15 years, when you weren’t making 250, you would have been given a tax cut from me, so you’d actually have more money, which means you would have saved more, which means you would have gotten to the point where you could build your small business quicker than under the current tax code. So there are two ways of looking at it – I mean one way of looking at it is, now that you’ve become more successful through hard work – you don’t want to be taxed as much.”

“Exactly," Wurzelbacher said.

Obama continued, “But another way of looking at it is 95% of folks who are making less than 250, they may be working hard too, but they’re being taxed at a higher rate than they would be under mine. So what I’m doing is, put yourself back 10 years ago when you were only making whatever, 60 or 70. Under my tax plan you would be keeping more of your paycheck, you’d be paying lower taxes, which means you would have saved…Now look, nobody likes high taxes."

"No," said Wurzelbacher.

"Of course not," said Obama. "But what’s happened is that we end up – we’ve cut taxes a lot for folks like me who make a lot more than 250. We haven’t given a break to folks who make less, and as a consequence, the average wage and income for ordinary folks, the vast majority of Americans, has actually gone down over the last eight years. So all I want to do is – I’ve got a tax cut. The only thing that changes, is I’m gonna cut taxes a little bit more for the folks who are most in need and for the 5% of the folks who are doing very well - even though they’ve been working hard and I appreciate that – I just want to make sure they’re paying a little bit more in order to pay for those other tax cuts. Now, I respect the disagreement. I just want you to be clear – it’s not that I want to punish your success – I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you – that they’ve got a chance at success too.”

Wurzelbacher said it seemed as though Obama might support a flat tax.

Obama says, “you know, I would be open to it except here’s the problem with a flat tax is that if you actually put a flat tax together, in order for it to work and replace all the revenue that we’ve got, you’d probably end up having to make it like about a 40% sales tax. I mean that’s the value added, making it up. Now some people say 23 or 25, but in truth when you add up all the revenue that would need to be raised, you’d have to slap on a whole bunch of sales taxes on. And I do believe for folks like me who have worked hard, but frankly also been lucky, I don’t mind paying just a little bit more than the waitress that I just met over there who’s things are slow and she can barely make the rent."

Obama said, "My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody. If you’ve got a plumbing business, you’re gonna be better off if you’re gonna be better off if you’ve got a whole bunch of customers who can afford to hire you, and right now everybody’s so pinched that business is bad for everybody and I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody."

That's the key moment McCain is jumping out…"when you spread the wealth around it's good for everybody."

"But listen," Obama said, shaking Wurzelbacher's hand, "I respect what you do and I respect your question, and even if I don’t get your vote, I’m still gonna be working hard on your behalf, because small businesses are what creates jobs in this country and I want to encourage it.”

"Guys I gotta get out of here and go prepare for the debate," Obama said, "but that was pretty good practice right there."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

You Just Might Be Surprised: WSJ Defends Bill Ayers

Lots of attention today about how McCain will be bringing up the Ayers connection tonight in the debate. Well, Thomas Frank was given space on the Wall Street Journal opinion page to say "Republican campaign masterminds have sought to plunge [Obama] back into " a time and place he that predates him "in the most desperate and grotesque manner yet."

It's refreshing to hear some pride taken in Bill Ayers.


Bill's got lots of friends, and that's because he is today a dedicated servant of those less fortunate than himself; because he is unfailingly generous to people who ask for his help; and because he is kind and affable and even humble. Moral qualities which, by the way, were celebrated boisterously on day one of the GOP convention in September.

Mr. Ayers is a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), where his work is esteemed by colleagues of different political viewpoints. Herbert Walberg, an advocate of school vouchers who is a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, told me he remembers Mr. Ayers as "a responsible colleague, in the professional sense of the word." Bill Schubert, who served as the chairman of UIC's Department of Curriculum and Instruction for many years, thinks so highly of Mr. Ayers that, in response to the current allegations, he compiled a lengthy résumé of the man's books, journal articles, guest lectures and keynote speeches. Mr. Ayers has been involved with countless foundation efforts and has received various awards. He volunteers for everything. He may once have been wanted by the FBI, but in the intervening years the man has become such a good citizen he ought to be an honorary Eagle Scout.



And finally:

There are a lot of things to call this tactic, but "country first" isn't one of them. The nation wants its hope and confidence restored, and Republican leaders have chosen instead to wave the bloody shirt. This is their vilest hour.

Bernstein: Again With the Trickle Down!?!

Over at Huffington Post:


If your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. That's what came to mind this AM when I read that John McCain's plan to address the ailing economy includes a big cut in the capital gains tax rate, from 15% to 7.5% for the next two years.

How wrongheaded is this? Let me count the ways.

First, the McCain folks may have missed this, but asset values have been falling, big time. Remember, John?... That whole financial mess that folks have been talking about? When capital assets, like stocks or bonds, lose value, that's a capital loss, and it's already deductible from your taxes.

Further on:

If you want to provide income and job opportunities to people who are hurting, your best bet is to do so directly, through tax cuts targeted at them, and through infrastructure investment designed to create new, quality jobs. That's what Obama aims for in his recently announced package.

Finally, and this is important, does anyone really believe that this allegedly temporary cut will really sunset in two years? Like Dr. Phil says, "this ain't my first rodeo!" That's the tripwire in the Bush cuts. They end in 2011, but anyone who wants to let them do so is accused of supporting the "largest tax increase in history."


And finally

So we are yet again left with John McCain getting it wrong on economic policy. There is absolutely a need to help struggling families right now, but if this is the best he can come up with, we'd all be much better off if he put the hammer back in the tool shed and left the policy construction to others.

read the entire article

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Who Among You Will Not Vote? The Weight of a Snowflake

The Weight of a Snowflake by Noni Mausa at AngryBear:


Vote.

I was taught, by example, how to vote. My parents got up in the
morning and dressed as though for church. The day was somehow quieter
than other days, even in a household with five kids.

We drove to the polling site and while one parent went in to vote, the
other would ride herd on us in the car, but it never took much effort
to keep us quiet. It was voting day.

Formal, sober, quietly determined, everyone in my hometown migrated to
the polls, and we kids were taught that the actual voting was both a
purely personal choice, and a secret. The secret might be shared, but
it was uncouth to ask "How did you vote?"

It was never said outright, I think, but we were shown that the vote
was sacred: "set apart for a special purpose". My parents treasured
their vote, it was at once a right, and a privilege, and an
obligation.

To add one voice to the larger voice of the nation, and together say
in some mystical way what path the nation will take, is in its own way
a religious action, full of faith and determination and patience in
the face of a flurry of mere arithmetic.

To choose not to vote is an act of negligence or even despair – both
of them equally undermine our shared nation.

I vote for meat on my neighbour's plate, not mine. For the health of
my neighbour's children, the peace of our streets, the knowledge in
our libraries and the significance and beauty of our images and songs.
I vote for the strength of the whole, not the benefit of one walled
garden at the cost of a wilderness outside.

Arithmetic is the enemy of the vote. The vote is more than a grain of
sand on a scale, it is an action in which citizens make themselves
manifest as a part of the whole. To neglect it is to become a
political ghost, moving voiceless through the world.

An old woman who told stories, who was prisoner of the Nazis, who left
her Dutch home for a new home and language and land, told this story:

"Tell me the weight of a snowflake," a mouse asked a wild dove.

"Nothing more than nothing," the dove answered.

"In that case I must tell you a marvelous story," the mouse said.
"I sat on the branch of a fir, close to its trunk, when it began to
snow. Not heavily, not a raging blizzard, no -- just like in a dream
without any violence the snow silently fell.

Since I had time, I counted the snowflakes setting on the twigs
and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,741,952 when the
next snowflake dropped onto the branch - "nothing more than nothing"
as you say - the branch broke off."

Having said that the mouse went away.

Vote.

John Cleese on Sarah Palin

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Last of the Couric Interviews

I love Katie Couric's response to the claim it was Gotchya Journalism!

Paul Krugman Wins Nobel Prize!

Today's news, that Paul Krugman won the Nobel Prize in Economics is going to send shockwaves through the Economics profession.

I have been following Paul Krugman for 15 years now, and this is just amazing news. I have great admiration and respect for him.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Has Anyone Seen My Dog? - McCain

I. CANT. STOP. LAUGHING.

I Know How to Win Wars

Please help me out. When Grampy McNuggets keeps saying "I know how to win wars", what the @#$!&@ is he talking about? Have I missed a war? Was he involved in the planning of Desert Storm and we just didn't know?

Republican Rage: McCain = Paul von Hindenburg

From CNN:


...
One member of the Palin audience in Jacksonville, Florida, Tuesday shouted out "treason." And at another rally in the state Monday, Palin's mention of the Obama-Ayers tie caused one member to yell out: "kill him" -- though it was unclear if it was targeted at Obama or Ayers.

At several recent rallies, Palin has stirred up crowds by mentioning the "liberal media." Routinely, there are boos at every mention of The New York Times and the "mainstream media," both of which are staples of Palin's stump speech.

Some audience members are openly hostile to members of the traveling press covering Palin; one crowd member hurled a racial epithet at an African-American member of the press in Clearwater, Florida, on Monday.

And at a McCain rally in New Mexico on Monday, one supporter yelled out "terrorist" when McCain asked, "Who is the real Barack Obama?" McCain didn't respond.

So far, neither Palin nor McCain have explicitly called on their supporters to tamper down the attacks.


...

Also, the McCains said months ago they didn't wanted their son Jimmy -- a Marine serving in Iraq -- dragged into the campaign.

But on Thursday, Cindy McCain brought up her son.

She criticized the Illinois senator for voting against a bill to fund troops in Iraq, a regular line of attack from her husband's campaign.

"The day that Sen. Obama cast a vote not to fund my son when he was serving sent a cold chill through my body, let me tell you," she told a Pennsylvania crowd before introducing her husband and his No. 2.


The vote Cindy McCain is referencing came in May 2007, when Obama was one of 14 senators who voted against a war-spending plan that would have provided emergency funds for American troops overseas.

A CNN fact check deemed the charge that Obama voted against troop funding "misleading."


Update:

McCain Faces Backlash Over Rabid Crowds frighteningly demonstrates that McCain is unable to contain the crowds that Palin has unleashed. Let me be the first to compare Palin to Hitler in 1932. McCain = Paul von Hindenburg.

Update 2:
I'm not the only one who sees this:

Is John McCain our Paul von Hindenburg?

McCain is a weak figure, the Hindenberg to Palin's Hitler.

Update 3:
WSJ comment:

People are conflicted about what they want. They want activist liberal government but they also want muscular American foreign policy and a dynamic capitalist system. So, logically, the only way to go forward is National Socialism.

Vote McCain/Palin, our version of Hindenburg/Hitler ticket, an aging war hero and a revolutionary who “speaks” to women and the great middle….

You know the next step of the pirouette… the war hero dies and there is a new terror attack resulting in a new Enabling Act….

Some things never change.

Comment by Only way to go forward now! - September 12, 2008 at 1:07 pm


This YouTube video has been out since Palin was announced as McCain's running mate, but it kind of fits in here:

Officially Worse Than 1929

In October of 1929 the Dow fell from about 350 to 200. By the end of today you'll probably be able to say it fell from 14,000 to 7,000.

Dow at 7,882

Wall Street Crash of 1929

TAX and spend on infrastructure, or CUT TAXES and spend on military: Responsible versus Irresponsible Budget Management

The National Debt now exceeds 10 Trillion Dollars.

You might be surprised to see the following, so please click to enlarge:

US NATIONAL DEBT BY PRESIDENT

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Tom Brokaw Stinks

The future of Social Security is not agreed upon by economists. NYT Columnist and Princeton Economist Paul Krugman thinks its fine, and all the whoopla in the 90's scaring college students into thinking it won't be there for them was a Republican scare tactic to usher in an era of privatizing it. So it was pretty bizarre to see Brokaw state in his question that Social Security is in jeopardy.

Not much has been made about this, at least from the Democratic side and with good reason at this point ("I've never seen anyone who thought they won the baseball game walk off the field complaining about the last call by the umpire," Howard Kurtz quotes an Obama spokesman). But I do want to express my own annoyance with Brokaw. To do so, I'll share these quotes from the Wash Post blog, with which I agree:



National Review's Byron York reports the anti-Brokaw sentiment from the GOP side:

" 'This was the worst-moderated debate in the history of presidential debates,' one McCain campaign insider told me just moments after John McCain and Barack Obama left the stage at Belmont University in Nashville. 'The audience and the American people should feel robbed -- that the one opportunity they had to ask questions of the presidential candidates was taken from them by Tom Brokaw.' . . .

"For much of the night Brokaw seemed to ask a question of his own for every question that came from the audience or from the Internet. If McCain's advisers were hoping for a genuine New Hampshire voter-interaction town hall experience, they didn't get it. Of course, neither did Obama, but after the debate Camp Obama didn't seem nearly as unhappy. They didn't see the debate as a true town hall -- the kind of event Obama has declined to participate in with McCain -- but they weren't particularly bothered."

At Power Line, Paul Mirengoff also tut-tuts Tom:

"Brokaw was a dreadful moderator. Instead of inviting the candidates to debate the answers their opponent gave in response to the audience questions, Brokaw interposed his own (often lame) questions. This was an impediment to real debate as well as an unwarranted intrusion by Brokaw into the 'townhall.'

"Naturally, the candidates at times brushed aside Brokaw's question and did what they were there to do -- debate each other in response to audience questions. This was one reason why the candidates kept exceeding the time limit. Brokaw should have (1) realized what was going on and stopped asking his own questions and/or (2) enforced the time limit. He did neither."

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Note to McCain: Overhead projector != Planetarium projector

During last night's presidential debate, McCain took Obama to task for approving funding for an "overhead projector." Howard Covitz, who used to work at Chicago's Adler Planetarium, prepared this helpful graphic for McCain to show the difference between a simple overhead projector and a Zeis Mark IX planetarium projector.

read more | digg story

McCain Hates Science Education And Is an Idiot: OVERHEAD PROJECTOR? NOT!

Based on what McCain said in last night's debate, he thinks this is an OVERHEAD PROJECTOR (like the kind your teacher had in your classroom):


Planetarium Projector



What an asshole.

UPDATE:
Adler Responds

From my former boss there from 15 years ago:

Adler president to McCain: Sky machine not an overhead projector

October 8, 2008

BY ANDREW HERRMANN Staff reporter/aherrmann@suntimes.com
The president of the Adler Planetarium lifted a black cloth off a familiar schoolroom device Wednesday and declared, "That’s an overhead projector.’’

Behind Paul H. Knappenberger Jr. was an automobile-sized machine. That, he said, is a "planetarium projection system.’’

The overhead, "you can probably get for $10 or so on eBay,’’ said Knappenberger.

But to replace the Adler’s sky machine, which creates stars on a domed ceiling, would cost $3 million to $5 million.

Knappenberger felt obligated to distinguish the two after Sen. John McCain, during Tuesday night’s presidential candidate debate, criticized Obama for trying to win federal support for a new star device, calling it a "$3 million overhead projector" and dismissing it as a "pork barrel earmark.’’

Knappenberger said the mention put the Adler "in front of the American public as having been frivolous or foolish in asking for $3 million for an overhead projector.’’

"I just wanted to clarify that is not the case," he said.

Obama’s efforts to secure the $3 million have been unsuccessful. But Knappenberger said the Adler would try again.

The current star system — a Mark VI Zeiss Projector — was installed in 1967. The manufacturer no longer makes replacement parts, and the inside is disintegrating, so errant, escaping light projects onto the dome.

"New stars are appearing in our sky almost daily, [and] not where they belong,’’ said Knappenberger.

Some 80,000 school children, mostly from the Chicago area but also from all 50 states, visited the Adler in 2007, officials said.

"The national surveys have shown that U.S. students are falling further behind each year in math and science compared to other countries around the world,’’ said Knappenberger. "It’s not comforting to hear somebody who’s running for the presidency not support efforts to improve math and science."

McCain supporters charge that the planetarium earmark was a way for Obama to reward ComEd executive Frank Clark, who serves as the Adler board chairman and is also a major fund-raiser for Obama.

Knappenberger said the planetarium started asking local congressmen for federal help in 2005, before Obama declared his candidacy for president.



UPDATE 2:
And from the Wall Street Journal:


Paul Knappenberger was watching the presidential debate Tuesday night when the planetarium he runs was suddenly turned into a political football. “My phone started ringing,” he says. “My computer went berserk.”




Paul Knappenberger with an ordinary projector and a star projector at Chicago’s

Alder Planetarium. (WSJ Photo/Joe Barrett)

The transformation of the Adler Planetarium, a 78-year-old cultural landmark on the shore of Lake Michigan, occurred when GOP presidential hopeful John McCain was making a dig at Democratic rival Barack Obama’s spending habits. “While we were working to eliminate pork-barrel earmark projects, he voted for nearly $1 billion in pork-barrel earmarks, including $3 million for an overhead projector at a planetarium in Chicago, Ill.,” the Arizona senator said. “My friends, do we need to spend that kind of money?”

Wednesday morning, Knappenberger called a news conference under the domed roof of the facility’s Sky Theater to argue that that kind of money is indeed worth spending. The planetarium has offered millions of students a chance to see something they normally can’t in Chicago—a dark, night sky—“an inspiring opportunity to get students interested in science, interested in math, he said.

He said McCain’s comment “doesn’t sit well” with someone who has dedicated his career to that pursuit.

He also pulled out an old overhead projector—the kind found in classrooms—to clarify the difference between it and the Mark VI Zeiss Projector that has been recreating a view of the stars and planets since it was installed in 1967. It is only the second projector for the planetarium, which was the first of its kind in the Western Hemisphere when it was founded in 1930.

Today, the instrument—which consists of two large blue balls that shine pinpoints of light on the ceiling–is in dire need of replacement. Parts are wearing out and replacements are no longer available. “New stars are appearing almost daily,” he joked.

Knappenberger said the cost of replacing the projector will run between $3 million and $5 million as part of a $10 million project to renovate the entire theater. Last year, the planetarium requested help from Illinois Sens. Obama and Dick Durbin and the area’s six congressman, all of whom backed the federal earmark request. At some point in the budget process, though, the funding was turned down.

The planetarium has received pledges of between $3 million and $4 million from private sources and will try again for federal help—as well as state and city funding—during the next budget cycle, Knappenberger said.

McCain pounced on the projector project again Wednesday, telling an audience in Bethlehem, Pa. that he had mentioned the projector at the debate and added: “Coincidentally, the chairman of that planetarium pledged to raise more than $200,000 for Sen. Obama’s campaign. We don’t know if they ever discussed the money for the planetarium, and no one has asked Sen. Obama. But even the appearance of this kind of insider-dealing disgusts Americans. I’m going to put a stop to that, my friends, if I’m president.”



Update 3:

University of Chicago Professor says:

The way Sen. McCain has phrased it suggests that Sen. Obama approved spending $3 million on an old-fashioned piece of office equipment (overhead projector).
...
I find it appalling that Sen. McCain would call a science education tool for public (largely children) for a historic planetarium with millions of visitors a year a wasteful earmark. The planetarium's focus, as stated on their website (http://adlerplanetarium.org) is "on inspiring young people, particularly women and minorities, to pursue careers in science." Is an investment in such public facility at the time when US competitiveness in math and sciences is a constant source of alarm a waste?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

McCain's Health Care Plan

Good column by Paul Krugman on McCain's Health Care Plan.


Basically, McCain wants to remove the tax benefit companies get for providing health insurance to their employees, and instead have people buy it for themselves with a tax credit. On the surface this sounds enticing and modern because it removes the need to stay at a company just because of health insurance benefits, which is indeed a problem facing employees in today's loyalty-free workplace.

The removal of the tax incentive for employers will surely result in employers dropping health insurance coverage as a benefit for their employees. I remember being puzzled in college as to why employers are so depended on for health coverage. Well, I was in college during the great DOWNSIZING of corporations, so you can see why it seemed so illogical for both employees and employers...employers were the last persons you wanted to be reliant on, and what's in it for the employer? Well, once upon a time, employers strove to attract employees, who were seen as a LONG TERM INVESTMENT, and offering health insurance was a sweet benefit. But at some point it became the norm, and thereafter, the culture changed so employees became disposable and interchangeable.

(By the way, universal health coverage takes care of this problem)

But the major flaw, if not deception, in McCain's "let the free market work" plan is that insurance is not, as economists would call it, a normal good. Insurance is peculiar in that the more folks that are in a SINGLE PLAN, the more risk is diversified, and the more affordable it is overall. This, by the way, is why UNIVERSAL COVERAGE makes so much sense, because you are broadening the pool way larger than any private insurer could...to include the entire COUNTRY.

This is also why small companies cannot afford group health insurance, compared to large corporations. Large corporations have lots of employees in their plan, so it is less riskier for insurance companies...the risk is diversified.

If small businesses are paying through the roof for group health insurance, what do you think will happen when the plans are now made up of INDIVIDUALS?

So, what will happen in McCain's plan is that private insurance companies will offer really inexpensive plans to those who are young, male and healthy. And VERY EXPENSIVE plans (or more likely, plans that disguise the fact that they don't cover much at all) for everyone else.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

On the Efficiency of Finance

From Michael Perelman:


Capitalism is the most efficient system known to mankind. Central to this efficiency is the ability of markets to channel capital where it is most effective. The current financial crisis might be expected to throw some doubts on this dogma, but I do not expect that to be the case.

For example, in 2001, in the wake of dot.com bubble, 2, the New York Times reported on one of the many excesses of the period:

"In the last two years, 100 million miles of optical fiber -- more than enough to reach the sun -- were laid around the world as companies spent $35 billion to build Internet-inspired communications networks. But after a string of corporate bankruptcies, fears are spreading that it will be many years before these grandiose systems are ever fully used."

The response was not to rethink the system, but to double down lowering interest rates to reignite the stock market. Investors, the government, and even ordinary people applauded the decision Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan, who appeared to be the wisest man in the universe at the time.

Greenspan's manipulation of the interest rate appeared to be so beneficial, because it occurred without any direct effect on the proverbial taxpayer. Peripherally, why is it that this taxpayer ranks so much higher in our concern relative to the workers who make everything possible?

In retrospect, Greenspan's policy provided the fuel that helped to make the crisis possible, if for no other reason that falling interest rates reduce the payment on mortgages. So, for the same payments, people can afford to buy more expensive housing. Once housing prices begin to rise, housing becomes an investment as well as the source of shelter. In addition, people who suffered losses during the dot.com bust, saw housing is a safer investment than the stock market.

Just as the solution to the dot.com crisis produce the current crisis, the present bailout, if it works at all, will create the preconditions for the next one. The purpose of the bailout is to create confidence. Back in the 19th-century, the governor of Illinois gave an excellent analysis of the way confidence worked in financial markets. He said that confidence "could only exist when the bulk of the people were under a delusion. According to their views, if the banks owed five times as much as they were able to pay and yet if the whole people could be persuaded to believe this incredible falsehood that all were able to pay, this was 'confidence'."

His words may perhaps be the most succinct analysis of fictitious capital that I have read.

Derivatives

I learned about Derivatives way, way back in 1989 when I worked at the Chicago Board of Trade. Although at first I was a bit overwhelmed at their very existence and seemingly unfathomable potential for complexity, I took it that they were well understood by the mainstream business class. So, it still seems bizarre to me these days when financial reporters seem to have to instruct the audience about them. Anway, I like how Warren Buffet put it:

"The range of derivatives contracts is limited only by the imagination of man (or sometimes, so it seems, madmen)."


Back in 1989, these class of investments seemed to just simply be called Derivatives (ocassionally Shorts, Forwards, etc), but perhaps nowadays the jargon has expanded. They served a useful purpose for commodities markets, protecting the farmer (I posess no objective lens on this, I was exposed to the CBOT just out of High School) from the vagaries of weather. I'm supposing now that the real problem that eventually sprung up was the application of these hedge strategies to inappropriate lengths... insuring against nature is one thing, but insuring against man-made calamities is another.

Anyway, be sure you understand Derivatives.

Your Wikipedia Reading for Today

List of Notable Business Failures

Wow, 2008 has so many they had to be included in their own separate section.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

On the Bailout, or Your Wikipedia Assignment

I still have conflicting opinions on the bailout (not, however, on the Paulson bailout plan, which is clearly reckless). I think it behooves anyone hoping to formulate an opinion to brush up on the following:

Federal Reserve

Federal Reserve Act (I think the resulting compromise legislation effectively debunks conspiracy theories propounded by Libertarians)

Shadow Banking System

Extra credit:
Commercial Paper

Money Fund

In any case, I think opinions necessarily have to fall into the Practical and the Ideal, so keep that in mind when you hear people talk about the bailout.

Friday, September 26, 2008

David Letterman Reacts to John McCain Suspending Campaign

Sarah Palin like a talking points machine gone out of control

The Christian Science Monitor reports on the Couric interview:

[Sarah Palin] on whether the $700 billion bailout of the U.S. financial sector is a good idea.

"That’s why I say I, like every American I’m speaking with, we’re ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the healthcare reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Helping the—it’s got to be all about job creation too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans and trade—we’ve got to see trade as opportunity, not as competitive, scary thing, but one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today—we’ve got to look at that as more opportunity."

If you didn’t quite catch the meaning of the above, don’t bother re-reading it. It doesn’t get any clearer. U.S. News and World Report columnist Robert Schlesinger called the statement a “talking points machine gone out of control.”

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dodd's Plan versus Paulsen's Plan

Compare and contrast:

Bush Administration or Paulsen's Plan

Democratic Senator Chris Dodd's Plan in PDF in HTML

Senator Chris Dodd is my hero

The Bush Admin presented a disingenous proposal that would have given unprecedented powers to the Treasury Secretary. Probably was only Chris Dodd that stood between the Administration's juggernaut and the welfare of Americans, as he stopped it in its tracks. Here are exerpts from his opening statement.


Less than six months ago, our Committee held a hearing in this very room on what at the time seemed an inconceivable event – the government’s 30 billion dollar intervention in the sale of Bear Stearns to JP Morgan. Now – after spending hundreds of billions more to prop up, bail out, and wind down a multitude of institutions – the U.S. government effectively runs, supports, or outright owns vast swaths of the financial sector.

...

Barely 72 hours ago, Secretary Paulson presented a proposal that he believes is urgently needed to protect our economy. This proposal is stunning and unprecedented in its scope and lack of detail. It would allow him to intervene in the economy by purchasing at least $700 billion of toxic assets. It would allow him to hold onto those assets for years, and to pay millions of dollars to hand-picked firms to manage those assets. It would do nothing to help even a single family save a home. It would do nothing to stop even a single CEO from dumping billions of dollars of toxic assets on the backs of taxpayers – and walking away with a bonus and a golden parachute. And it would allow him to act with utter and absolute impunity – without review by any agency or court of law. After reading this proposal, I can only conclude that it is not just our economy that is at risk, Mr. Secretary, but our Constitution, as well.



Nevertheless, in our efforts to restore financial security to American families and stability to our markets, this Committee has a responsibility to examine this proposal carefully and in a timely manner.



In my view, any plan to address this crisis must embody three principles. First, American taxpayers must have some assurance that their hard-earned money is being used correctly and responsibly. Second, we must put in place proper oversight so that the executors of this plan are accountable and their actions transparent. Finally, we must address the root cause of this crisis by putting an end to the rising number of foreclosures sweeping across the nation.



In the longer term, it is clear that our current economic circumstances demand that we rethink, reform, and modernize supervision of the financial services industry. Certain basic principles should form the foundation for reform.



We need a leader in the White House who will ensure that regulators are strong cops on the beat, and do not turn a blind eye to reckless lending practices.



We need to remove incentives for regulators to compete against each other for bank and thrift “clients” by weakening regulation.



We need to ensure that all institutions that pose a risk to our financial system and taxpayers are carefully and sensibly supervised.

And we need to accept the premise that consumer protection and economic growth are not in conflict, but inextricably linked. If we learn nothing else from this crisis, it is that the failure to protect consumers can cause the collapse of our largest financial institutions, the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, and the draining of hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth from hardworking Americans.






See:


http://dodd.senate.gov/index.php?q=node/4572

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Palin's e-mail secrecy an open secret in Alaska

Palin routinely uses a private Yahoo e-mail account to conduct state business. Others in the governor's office sometimes use personal e-mail accounts, too. The practice raises questions about backdoor secrecy in an administration that vowed during the 2006 campaign to be "open and transparent."

read more | digg story

Palin, Using Personal Email for Government Business, Gets Hacked

The reason Administrations and Governors are supposed to use government email systems for governing is that it is secure. But if they want to do something illegal, they use non-Government accounts. Palin, however, was so backwards that she used unsecure email accounts that were easily hacked. Do we really want this person in control of this country?

read more | digg story

Stiglitz: The Fall of Wall Street Is to Market Fundamentalism What the Fall of the Berlin Wall Was to Communism

A brilliant, important and readable explanation of what caused the Wall Street meltdown and what to do now to get back on our feet."In this sense, the fall of Wall Street is for market fundamentalism what the fall of the Berlin Wall was for communism -- it tells the world that this way of economic organization turns out not to be sustainable."

read more | digg story

Woodward's New Book: Bush Worst President EVER

Citing curious absences and an "odd detachment," journalist Bob Woodward argues that President Bush ultimately fell short as commander-in-chief during the Iraq war. Woodward fields questions about this assertion, and about his new book, The War Within.

read more | digg story

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Unexpected Source, Great Nugget on Anti-Intellectualism

Of all the pundits out there, one of those I disdain the most is David Brooks. But, to my surprise, there is a great nugget out there by him:

Sarah Palin has many virtues. If you wanted someone to destroy a corrupt establishment, she'd be your woman. But the constructive act of governance is another matter. She has not been engaged in national issues, does not have a repertoire of historic patterns and, like President Bush, she seems to compensate for her lack of experience with brashness and excessive decisiveness.

The idea that "the people" will take on and destroy "the establishment" is a utopian fantasy that corrupted the left before it corrupted the right. Surely the response to the current crisis of authority is not to throw away standards of experience and prudence, but to select leaders who have those qualities but not the smug condescension that has so marked the reaction to the Palin nomination in the first place.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Alaska Women Reject Palin

Reportedly the biggest political rally in Alaskan history.



Alaska Women Reject Palin

Palin's Great Idea

Classic!

[Palin] also said she would play a role in an effort to reform government.

"I've got another idea that I think Senator McCain likes. In Alaska, we took the state checkbook and put it online, so everyone can see where their money goes. We're going to bring that kind of openness to Washington," she said.

In fact, there already is a searchable database that allows the public to track federal grants and contracts, and Obama was a principle force behind the 2006 law that created it, along with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.


from Palin Spells Out Her Role

What an idiot!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sarah Palin

Saw her speech at the convention tonight. I was surprised with how unpleasant she seemed. Her meanness shined through quite clearly. I felt sorry for her eldest son, Track, when she talked about him going to Iraq next week. Something in his eyes almost bespoke of the terror this woman has represented to him.

Biden should have no trouble trouncing her in the debate...after tonight there is clearly no pressure on him to "be gentle". I'm praying that Biden takes advantage of this moment to stop a very dangerous person in her tracks (slight exaggeration, I hope, but kind of like the what-if scenario where you got to debate Hitler on German "TV" in 1932).

Anway, I'm posting this account of her time in public office, all the more so because I lived in a town of 5,000 population and was involved in the town's politics. Sounds very similar, I can totally imagine what this writer describes.



ABOUT SARAH PALIN
by Anne Kilkenny
August 31, 2008

I am a resident of Wasilla, Alaska. I have known Sarah since 1992. Everyone here knows Sarah, so it is nothing special to say we are on a first-name basis. Our children have attended the same schools. Her father was my child's favorite substitute teacher. I also am on a first name basis with her parents and mother-in-law. I attended more City Council meetings during her administration than about 99% of the residents of the city.

She is enormously popular; in every way she's like the most popular girl in middle school. Even men who think she is a poor choice and won't vote for her can't quit smiling when talking about her because she is a "babe".

It is astonishing and almost scary how well she can keep a secret. She kept her most recent pregnancy a secret from her children and parents for seven months.

She is "pro-life". She recently gave birth to a Down's syndrome baby. There is no cover-up involved, here; Trig is her baby.

She is energetic and hardworking. She regularly worked out at the gym.

She is savvy. She doesn't take positions; she just "puts things out there" and if they prove to be popular, then she takes credit.

Her husband works a union job on the North Slope for BP and is a champion snowmobile racer. Todd Palin's kind of job is highly sought-after because of the schedule and high pay. He arranges his work schedule so he can fish for salmon in Bristol Bay for a month or so in summer, but by no stretch of the imagination is fishing their major source of income. Nor has her life-style ever been anything like that of native Alaskans.

Sarah and her whole family are avid hunters.

She's smart.

Her experience is as mayor of a city with a population of about 5,000 (at the time), and less than 2 years as governor of a state with about 670,000 residents.

During her mayoral administration most of the actual work of running this small city was turned over to an administrator. She had been pushed to hire this administrator by party power-brokers after she had gotten herself into some trouble over precipitous firings which had given rise to a recall campaign.

Sarah campaigned in Wasilla as a "fiscal conservative". During her 6 years as Mayor, she increased general government expenditures by over 33%. During those same 6 years the amount of taxes collected by the City increased by 38%. This was during a period of low inflation (1996-2002). She reduced progressive property taxes and increased a regressive sales tax which taxed even food. The tax cuts that she promoted benefited large corporate property owners way more than they benefited residents.

The huge increases in tax revenues during her mayoral administration weren't enough to fund everything on her wish list though, borrowed money was needed, too. She inherited a city with zero debt, but left it with indebtedness of over $22 million. What did Mayor Palin encourage the voters to borrow money for? Was it the infrastructure that she said she supported? The sewage treatment plant that the city lacked? or a new library? No. $1m for a park. $15m-plus for construction of a multi-use sports complex which she rushed through to build on a piece of property that the City didn't even have clear title to, that was still in litigation 7 yrs later--to the delight of the lawyers involved! The sports complex itself is a nice addition to the community but a huge money pit, not the profit-generator she claimed it would be. She also supported bonds for $5.5m for road projects that could have been done in 5-7 yrs without any borrowing.

While Mayor, City Hall was extensively remodeled and her office redecorated more than once.

These are small numbers, but Wasilla is a very small city.

As an oil producer, the high price of oil has created a budget surplus in Alaska. Rather than invest this surplus in technology that will make us energy independent and increase efficiency, as Governor she proposed distribution of this surplus to every individual in the state.

In this time of record state revenues and budget surpluses, she recommended that the state borrow/bond for road projects, even while she proposed distribution of surplus state revenues: spend today's surplus, borrow for needs.

She's not very tolerant of divergent opinions or open to outside ideas or compromise. As Mayor, she fought ideas that weren't generated by her or her staff. Ideas weren't evaluated on their merits, but on the basis of who proposed them.

While Sarah was Mayor of Wasilla she tried to fire our highly respected City Librarian because the Librarian refused to consider removing from the library some books that Sarah wanted removed. City residents rallied to the defense of the City Librarian and against Palin's attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew her termination letter. People who fought her attempt to oust the Librarian are on her enemies list to this day.

Sarah complained about the "old boy's club" when she first ran for Mayor, so what did she bring Wasilla? A new set of "old boys". Palin fired most of the experienced staff she inherited. At the City and as Governor she hired or elevated new, inexperienced, obscure people, creating a staff totally dependent on her for their jobs and eternally grateful and fiercely loyal--loyal to the point of abusing their power to further her personal agenda, as she has acknowledged happened in the case of pressuring the State's top cop (see below).

As Mayor, Sarah fired Wasilla's Police Chief because he "intimidated" her, she told the press. As Governor, her recent firing of Alaska's top cop has the ring of familiarity about it. He served at her pleasure and she had every legal right to fire him, but it's pretty clear that an important factor in her decision to fire him was because he wouldn't fire her sister's ex-husband, a State Trooper. Under investigation for abuse of power, she has had to admit that more than 2 dozen contacts were made between her staff and family to the person that she later fired, pressuring him to fire her ex-brother-in-law. She tried to replace the man she fired with a man who she knew had been reprimanded for sexual harassment; when this caused a public furor, she withdrew her support.

She has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in help. The City Council person who personally escorted her around town introducing her to voters when she first ran for Wasilla City Council became one of her first targets when she was later elected Mayor. She abruptly fired her loyal City Administrator; even people who didn't like the guy were stunned by this ruthlessness.

Fear of retribution has kept all of these people from saying anything publicly about her.

When then-Governor Murkowski was handing out political plums, Sarah got the best, Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: one of the few jobs not in Juneau and one of the best paid. She had no background in oil & gas issues. Within months of scoring this great job which paid $122,400/yr, she was complaining in the press about the high salary. I was told that she hated that job: the commute, the structured hours, the work. Sarah became aware that a member of this Commission (who was also the State Chair of the Republican Party) engaged in unethical behavior on the job. In a gutsy move which some undoubtedly cautioned her could be political suicide, Sarah solved all her problems in one fell swoop: got out of the job she hated and garnered gobs of media attention as the patron saint of ethics and as a gutsy fighter against the "old boys' club" when she dramatically quit, exposing this man's ethics violations (for which he was fined).

As Mayor, she had her hand stuck out as far as anyone for pork from Senator Ted Stevens. Lately, she has castigated his pork-barrel politics and publicly humiliated him. She only opposed the "bridge to nowhere" after it became clear that it would be unwise not to.

As Governor, she gave the Legislature no direction and budget guidelines, then made a big grandstand display of line-item vetoing projects, calling them pork. Public outcry and further legislative action restored most of these projects--which had been vetoed simply because she was not aware of their importance--but with the unobservant she had gained a reputation as "anti-pork".

She is solidly Republican: no political maverick. The State party leaders hate her because she has bit them in the back and humiliated them. Other members of the party object to her self-description as a fiscal conservative.

Around Wasilla there are people who went to high school with Sarah. They call her "Sarah Barracuda" because of her unbridled ambition and predatory ruthlessness. Before she became so powerful, very ugly stories circulated around town about shenanigans she pulled to be made point guard on the high school basketball team. When Sarah's mother-in-law, a highly respected member of the community and experienced manager, ran for Mayor, Sarah refused to endorse her.

As Governor, she stepped outside of the box and put together of package of legislation known as "AGIA" that forced the oil companies to march to the beat of her drum.

Like most Alaskans, she favors drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She has questioned if the loss of sea ice is linked to global warming. She campaigned "as a private citizen" against a state initiaitive that would have either a) protected salmon streams from pollution from mines, or b) tied up in the courts all mining in the state (depending on who you listen to). She has pushed the State's lawsuit against the Dept. of the Interior's decision to list polar bears as threatened species.

McCain is the oldest person to ever run for President; Sarah will be a heartbeat away from being President.

There has to be literally millions of Americans who are more knowledgeable and experienced than she.

However, there's a lot of people who have underestimated her and are regretting it.

CLAIM VS FACT

* "Hockey mom": true for a few years

* "PTA mom": true years ago when her first-born was in elementary school, not since

* "NRA supporter": absolutely true

* social conservative: mixed. Opposes gay marriage, BUT vetoed a bill that would have denied benefits to employees in same-sex relationships (said she did this because it was unconsitutional).

* pro-creationism: mixed. Supports it, BUT did nothing as Governor to promote it.

* "Pro-life": mixed. Knowingly gave birth to a Down's syndrome baby BUT declined to call a special legislative session on some pro-life legislation

* "Experienced": Some high schools have more students than Wasilla has residents. Many cities have more residents than the state of Alaska. No legislative experience other than City Council. Little hands-on supervisory or managerial experience; needed help of a city administrator to run town of about 5,000.

* political maverick: not at all

* gutsy: absolutely!

* open & transparent: ??? Good at keeping secrets. Not good at explaining actions.

* has a developed philosophy of public policy: no

* "a Greenie": no. Turned Wasilla into a wasteland of big box stores and disconnected parking lots. Is pro-drilling off-shore and in ANWR.

* fiscal conservative: not by my definition!

* pro-infrastructure: No. Promoted a sports complex and park in a city without a sewage treatment plant or storm drainage system. Built streets to early 20th century standards.

* pro-tax relief: Lowered taxes for businesses, increased tax burden on residents

* pro-small government: No. Oversaw greatest expansion of city government in Wasilla's history.

* pro-labor/pro-union. No. Just because her husband works union doesn't make her pro-labor. I have seen nothing to support any claim that she is pro-labor/pro-union.

WHY AM I WRITING THIS?

First, I have long believed in the importance of being an informed voter. I am a voter registrar. For 10 years I put on student voting programs in the schools. If you google my name (Anne Kilkenny + Alaska), you will find references to my participation in local government, education, and PTA/parent organizations.

Secondly, I've always operated in the belief that "Bad things happen when good people stay silent". Few people know as much as I do because few have gone to as many City Council meetings.

Third, I am just a housewife. I don't have a job she can bump me out of. I don't belong to any organization that she can hurt. But, I am no fool; she is immensely popular here, and it is likely that this will cost me somehow in the future: that's life.

Fourth, she has hated me since back in 1996, when I was one of the 100 or so people who rallied to support the City Librarian against Sarah's attempt at censorship.

Fifth, I looked around and realized that everybody else was afraid to say anything because they were somehow vulnerable.

CAVEATS I am not a statistician. I developed the numbers for the increase in spending & taxation 2 years ago (when Palin was running for Governor) from information supplied to me by the Finance Director of the City of Wasilla, and I can't recall exactly what I adjusted for: did I adjust for inflation? for population increases? Right now, it is impossible for a private person to get any info out of City Hall -- they are swamped. So I can't verify my numbers.

You may have noticed that there are various numbers circulating for the population of Wasilla, ranging from my "about 5,000", up to 9,000. The day Palin's selection was announced a city official told me that the current population is about 7,000. The official 2000 census count was 5,460. I have used about 5,000 because Palin was Mayor from 1996 to 2002, and the city was growing rapidly in the mid-90's.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Race to the Bottom

Campaign for America's Future reports:


BUSINESS - RACE TO THE BOTTOM CONTINUES AS CHINA WAGES RISE

Fortune magazine reports that with China's wages and environmental standards gradually rise, corporations are now looking to move their outsourcing operations to countries where conditions are even more desperate. "China's actions to strengthen its environmental and worker protections are unquestionably good moves for the country, its people, and the global economy," writes the magazine. "But for outsourcers focused on rock-bottom production prices, the search is on for new low-cost countries."

Of course, this race-to-the-bottom dynamic is encouraged by a standards-free U.S. trade policy that allows companies to troll the world for the worst conditions, exploit those conditions, and sell the products of that exploitation back into the American market. Put another way, our trade policy is helping foreign governments manufacture comparative advantages out of their horrific labor, environmental and human rights records.



Marx continues to be right.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Hillary's Op-Ed in the WSJ


No Crisis Is Immune
From Exploitation
Under Bush
By HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
August 6, 2008; Page A15

Tucked away on the Cayman Islands sits Ugland House, an unassuming, nondescript building of modest scale and size. However, according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), this five-story office building is home to more than 18,000 corporate entities, nearly half of which have U.S. ties.

In the past few years, the number of corporations flocking to places like the Cayman Islands to evade U.S. taxes has exploded. One of these companies, former Halliburton subsidiary KBR, has used offshore tax havens to avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars in federal taxes. To no one's surprise, instead of cracking down on KBR, the Bush administration has rewarded the company in April of this year with a 10-year, $150 billion contract in Iraq.

There appears to be no crisis, tragedy or disaster immune from exploitation under the Bush administration. The examples of the waste, fraud and abuse are legion -- from KBR performing shoddy electrical work in Iraq that has resulted in the electrocution of our military personnel according to Pentagon and Congressional investigators, to the firing of an Army official who dared to refuse a $1 billion payout for questionable charges to the same company. In another scam, the Pentagon awarded a $300 million contract to AEY, Inc., a company run by a 22-year-old who fulfilled an ammunition deal in Afghanistan by supplying rotting Chinese-made munitions to our allies.

But the fraud and waste are not limited to the war. In the weeks after Hurricane Katrina, for example, FEMA awarded a contract worth more than $500 million for trailers to serve as temporary housing. The contractor, Gulf Stream, collected all of its money even though they knew at the time that its trailers were contaminated with formaldehyde.

While touting fiscal responsibility, President Bush and his administration have lined the pockets of political cronies like Halliburton and Blackwater. While calling for earmark reform, the president has allowed no-bid and questionable contracting throughout the federal government to dwarf earmark spending by a 10-to-1 ratio.

If we're going to get serious about putting our nation's fiscal house in order, let's talk about putting an end to billions in no-bid contract awards to unaccountable contractors. Let's talk about the number of lucrative contracts and bonuses being paid for duties never performed, promises never fulfilled, and contracts falsely described as complete. And let's talk about reforming the federal contracting system so that we can take on the real waste, fraud and abuse in our federal government.

I've proposed a comprehensive overhaul to root out corruption in no-bid contracts and other shady deals. Reforms must include the following:

- Instead of rewarding companies that exploit tax shelters and incorporate in tax havens, let's ban the federal government from contracting with companies that hide profits offshore.

- We should put in place safeguards so that contracts are awarded to responsible companies that abide by the law and complete the work they're hired to do.

- Let's put a stop to the disgraceful practice of giving bonuses to contractors for work never performed, which has been allowed to happen in Iraq and throughout the federal government according to the GAO and inspectors general.

- We need to increase transparency and competition in the contracting system, and to stop the ideological privatization of critical governmental functions.

In 1941, as the U.S. mobilized and entered World War II, then Sen. Harry Truman proposed and chaired the Senate Special Committee to investigate the National Defense Program. Over the course of three years, Truman set about investigating a president of his own party in order to discover and eliminate wasteful and fraudulent spending. By some estimates, the "Truman Committee" saved the American people some $15 billion -- more than $165 billion in today's dollars.

Truman took on the war profiteers because he understood that when the lives of Americans hang in the balance, we cannot afford to misuse even a single dollar. In the Democratic Congress, we've proposed a new Truman Committee to address the waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan that has already taken place, a proposal stymied by the president and his allies. And my proposal would prevent waste, fraud and abuse in future contracting.

Of course, we need far more than a Truman Committee. We need the Truman spirit in the White House, where the buck finally stops.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Dedicated to My Dad, Who Rode the Last Crest of American Prosperity

The economic story of my generation:


Inequality on this scale is bad for many reasons but it is also bad for the economy. The wealthy devote a smaller percentage of their earnings to buying things than the rest of us because, after all, they’re rich. They already have most of what they want. Instead of buying, the very wealthy are more likely to invest their earnings wherever around the world they can get the highest return.

This underlying earnings problem has been masked for years as middle- and lower-income Americans found means to live beyond their paychecks. But they have now run out of such coping mechanisms. As I've noted elsewhere, the first coping mechanism was to send more women into paid work. Most women streamed into the work force in the 1970s less because new professional opportunities opened up to them than because they had to prop up family incomes. The percentage of American working mothers with school-age children has almost doubled since 1970 — to more than 70 percent. But there’s a limit to how many mothers can maintain paying jobs.

So Americans turned to a second way of spending beyond their hourly wages. They worked more hours. The typical American now works more each year than he or she did three decades ago. Americans became veritable workaholics, putting in 350 more hours a year than the average European, more even than the notoriously industrious Japanese.

But there’s also a limit to how many hours Americans can put into work, so Americans turned to a third coping mechanism. They began to borrow. With housing prices rising briskly through the 1990s and even faster from 2002 to 2006, they turned their homes into piggy banks by refinancing home mortgages and taking out home-equity loans. But this third strategy also had a built-in limit. And now, with the bursting of the housing bubble, the piggy banks are closing. Americans are reaching the end of their ability to borrow and lenders have reached the end of their capacity to lend. Credit-card debt, meanwhile, has reached dangerous proportions. Banks are now pulling back.

As a result, typical Americans have run out of coping mechanisms to keep up their standard of living. That means there's not enough purhasing power in the economy to buy all the goods and services it's producing. We’re finally reaping the whirlwind of widening inequality and ever more concentrated wealth.


from Robert Reich

Monday, July 28, 2008

"What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?"

Slowly but surely the tide of justice comes in.

Justice Officials Repeatedly Broke Law on Hiring, Report Says

Excerpt:

Goodling passed over hundreds of qualified applicants and squashed the promotions of others after deeming candidates insufficiently loyal to the Republican party, said investigators, who interviewed 85 people and received information from 300 other job seekers at Justice. Sampson developed a system to screen immigration judge candidates based on improper political considerations and routinely took recommendations from the White House Office of Political Affairs and Presidential Personnel, the report said.

Goodling regularly asked candidates for career jobs: "What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?" the report said. One former Justice Department official told investigators she had complained that Goodling was asking interviewees for their views on abortion, according to the report.

In one case, Goodling refused to extend the temporary assignment of a prosecutor because of her "perception of the [lawyer's] sexual orientation," according to the report.

Monday, July 21, 2008

New term: E. coli conservatism


What's clear, though, is that imports of agricultural products have increased by 78% since 1973, but inspections of those products have decreased by 78% over the same period, according to the Coalition for a Stronger FDA, whose membership includes former chiefs of the Department of Health and Human Services, of which the FDA is a part.That's a problem because the FDA itself says pesticide violations or infectious disease occur three times more often in imported foods than in domestic foods. In 1991, there were 1.5 inspections for each $1 million worth of imported agriculture commodities; in 2006 there were only 0.4.


Please read the rest of the LA Times opinion piece by Eric Lotke at:

Downsizing government to death

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Petition Fraud in Arizona

A national anti-affirmative action group is raising over $1 million in Arizona in order to hire clueless surrogates to fraudulenty collect signatures for a petition to change the Arizona constitution.

Petition Fraud in Arizona

I've met the attorney leading the fight against this. She is truly amazing and an inspiration. She has done Arizona a great service by bringing her small but committed group to help uncover the corruption going on here. Please give her group, BAMN, support!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Universal Healthcare for Women

Hopefully I'll get around to writing more about this later, but here's the idea:
Universal Healthcare too big of a pill to swallow for the U.S. all at once? Start out with Universal Health insurance for women only.

This has many facets of advantage, both in terms of political feasibility (due to leveraging psyche of those ideologically opposed to universal healthcare) and in terms of righting innate economic barriers due to life cycle issues.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Mormon democrat not an oxymoron : Hope for Arizona

I'm not Mormon, but here in Arizona, well, we have quite a few. In local races, the Mormon affiliation seems to be very important, if for nothing else, financing. So, I was pleased to see that, first of all, there is a site called:

Mormon Democrats

And then, there is an article to read from Utah State University:
A Mormon democrat not an oxymoron

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Aware of the Internet and its Traditions



Flashbacks...
Americans passed on acknowledged technophile Gore at the threshold of the Internet's boom.

McCain does not use a computer.