Rear Adm Galson was appointed Acting Surgeon General when
the previous Surgeon General,
Vice Admiral Richard Carmona,
left office at the expiration of his term on July 31, 2006. Rear
Adm. Galson took office October 2007. So for about 14 months the
US didn't have any Surgeon General at all, and since October 2007
an Acting Surgeon General.
So why did Vice Adm. Richard Carmona leave office?
After leaving office Carmona was very critical of the Bush administration
accusing it of suppressing scientific findings which conflicted with
the Bush administration's ideological agenda.
Wow. What was that about?
Carmona released a Surgeon General's report asserting that the
health effects of secondhand tobacco smoke were clear.
"The debate is over. The
science is clear: Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance, but a serious
The Bush administration pressured him not to testify in the tobacco
industry's racketeering trials.
"Carmona accused the Bush Administration of preventing him from speaking out on
certain public health issues such as embryonic stem cell research, global
climate change, emergency contraception, and abstinence-only education,
where the Administration's political stance conflicted with scientific and
medical opinion" according to his Wikipedia page, referencing this
New York Times article.
More from that article:
He was ordered to mention President Bush three times on every page of every
speech he gave, Dr. Carmona said. He was asked to make speeches to support
Republican political candidates and to attend political briefings, at least one
of which included Karl Rove, the president's senior political adviser, he said.
And administration officials even discouraged him from attending the Special
Olympics because, he said, of that charitable organization's longtime ties to
the Kennedy family.
"I was specifically told by a senior person, `Why would you want to help those
people?' " Dr. Carmona said...
After serving one full term as surgeon general, Dr. Carmona was not asked by
the White House to serve another. Before becoming surgeon general, he was in
the Army Special Forces, earned two purple hearts in the Vietnam War, was a
trauma surgeon and a leader of the Pima County, Ariz., SWAT team.
We can't hold our breath that long but we sure wish we could!
05 January 2009
Meg Whitman, Former Ebay CEO, Wants to be Governor of California
by Alan Smithee
Meg Whitman and John McCain
Term limits say that current Governor Arnold Schwarzeneggar has to step
down in 2010. Republican Meg Whitman
has resigned her positions from several boards
including Ebay, Dreamworks and Procter & Gamble and
is indicating she is eyeing The Govinator's job.
Whitman was a big supporter of Mitt Romney when he ran for the
republican presidential nomination often appearing on talking heads
shows and serving on his "National Finance Team".
When McCain got the nod and Romney dropped out she campaigned for
McCain and he said she would be his top pick for Treasury Secretary
should he win which as we all know he didnt so she wasn't. Whitman
became national co-chair for McCain's presidential campaign. She
also spoke at the Republican National Committee meeting about
the prospects of a McCain presidency.
Whitman asked fellow Mormon Romney to help
arrange an audition
for her for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir but it never happened, or hasn't
thus far. Apparently she has ambitions as a singer.
She has never held elected office but then again neither had
Schwarzeneggar before becoming California governor.
It's difficult to forecast what the political landscape might look
like in 2010 but right now the mood in California is probably not
very favorable to republicans. Besides having just handed democratic
presidential candidate Barack Obama a significant victory (60%/8.2M v.
36.5%/5M) for McCain California is currently going through an
economic budget crisis, huge foreclosure rates, and other pains
widel associated with the recent dominance of republicans
But 2010 is a long way off and gubernatorial elections often
ride as much on who the candidates are as they do on issues.
Other potential republican
candidates for 2010 include
former Congressman Tom Cambell, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina,
state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, and 2002 gubernatorial
candidate, businessman, and Rudy Giuliani supporter Bill Simon.
Some democratic names include former Governor and
current Attorney General Jerry Brown, State Controller
John Chiang, Senator and former San Francisco Mayor Diane Feinstein,
Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, San Francisco Mayor Gavin
Newscom, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell,
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and businessman and
former State Controller Steve Westly.
Those are crowded fields but the election is nearly two years away.
04 January 2009
Franken Wins! For Now.
by Alan Smithee
Al Franken Reaching Out To Voters
Democrat Al Franken
will be declared the winner of the Senate race
against republican Norm Coleman by the Minnesota Secretary of State,
Mark Ritchie, at 2:30PM CST
tomorrow. After almost two months of vote counting and recounting
Franken ended up with a 225 vote lead out of about 3 million votes cast.
Incumbent Norm Coleman has 7 days to file a challenge in court.
The fiercely republican Wall Street Journal thinks
something funny is going on but can't quite put their
finger on it. Oh well, they wrote an op-ed piece anyhow.
And to the sore-loser republicans: Face it, your party's problem
isn't procedural details in Minnesota or elsewhere, it's your
failed policies and support for a disasterous presidency.
This country has serious problems for Congress and the new President
to deal with. The economy is beyond precarious and may be in free-fall.
Entire major industries are going bankrupt. We have two wars, one
of which, in Iraq, seems to have long passed its expiration date.
There is a violent crisis in Gaza which the United States can be
very influential in settling. The new Obama administration needs
Senate confirmations for several top-level cabinet positions so they
can get to work and hit the ground running.
What the republicans need to understand is that their obstructionism
is only doomed to further damage their party in the eyes of the
nation. They need to stop acting like this is some sort of team
sport and ask themselves only two questions: What does this country
need? And how can they help?
02 January 2009
Why Isn't Madoff in Jail?
by Alan Smithee
Happy New Year! Liberty Hotel Boston 2009
A lot of people are asking why Madoff isn't in jail. No one who
really knows (e.g., the DA's office or SEC) is talking, which we
suppose is understandable.
But lacking ANY FACTS WHATSOEVER we'll speculate because that's
what we like to do.
We suspect Madoff isn't in jail because the prosecutors need to
unwind this mess which seems to have swallowed $50 billion. To
do that will take information. Madoff's records have already
been reported as abysmal and contradictory, he kept several
sets of books which documented financial transactions in conflicting
So prosecutors who are probably more concerned with trying to get his victims
as much of their money back as possible than immediately punishing
Madoff probably made a deal: So long as Madoff cooperates with
investigators he can remain under house arrest.
That's a tricky proposition because as soon as he does give prosecutors
enough information for them to work without him they may as well lock
But Madoff, and no doubt his attornies, seem to be shrewd cookies
and can probably drag this state of affairs out for years. Add
the claim that Madoff is in a very precarious psychological
state which may well be a ploy to delay this investigative process
(we can imagine his lawyer saying "Bernie's having a really bad day
again, can we postpone the meeting until next week?") Then again,
maybe he is nuts, it wouldn't shock us.
And then what? Who knows. Who cares. Madoff is 70 years old, he's worse than
washed up, he's facing prison. We'd guess the biggest concern right
now is suicide and then he takes useful information with him to the grave.
Of course what his lawyers must be shooting for is some sort of
immunity or plea deal in exchange for Madoff's cooperation with
prosecutors. Maybe get him confined to some sort of fancy hospital for
the rest of his life.
That said, one ominous rumor which is circulating is that Madoff
may've ripped off the "wrong" people in Russia. Wrong in that
they're not the sort of people who look to the legal system for
justice but prefer their own style of execution.
This tends to back up the first theory, that prosecutors still
need lots of information from Madoff and they know if they put
him into the prison population he'd be killed in a matter of days.
30 December 2008
Blago Appoints Obama Senate Seat Replacement
The Bush Legacy
Franken v. Coleman update
by Alan Smithee
Burris, Blagojevich, and the Devil Makes Three
Despite urgings not to appoint a replacement for President-Elect
Obama's Illinois Senate seat a defiant Governor Blagojevich appointed
former state Comptroller Roland Burris.
Blagojevich's announcement came less than an hour after the
Senate Democratic leadership warned him that they would not
seat anyone the Illinois Governor appoints. The Senate has
the ultimate power to decide who to seat or not to seat.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White (who happens to be
black) said he would not certify Burris though that may be
Everyone who knows Burris seems to be falling over each other to
say he is a "good and decent man".
President-Elect Obama issued a statement shortly after the announcement
of the Blagojevich appointment that Burris should not be seated.
Bush Legacy! Get Your Red Hot Bush Legacy!
The Bush administration has come up with a devilishly clever way to
save the president's legacy: Tie it to Obama's coattails!
Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has been selling this angle in
interviews lately. It goes like this: If things go well for the Obama
administration some of the credit should go to the solid foundations laid by
the Bush administration.
Which is kind of like a lousy baseball player taking credit for
winning the game because he laid the foundation for the next at
bat to hit one out of the park. Maybe he tired out the pitcher.
Really sort of pathetic if you ask us.
It's Official: Franken Leads Coleman
Ok, it's only
by 50 votes
but it's been accepted by Minnesota state Canvassing Board.
Palestinians Should Greet the Israelis as Liberators!
by Alan Smithee
Stop! Or I'll Shoot!
What an insane headline! Not only does it fly in the face of
everything you're told about the Israeli/Palestinian situation
but it even has the audacity to echo the Bush administration's
shameless promotion of the US invasion of Iraq!
But is there any truth to the statement anyhow?
The Palestinian Authority (we'll call it "PA") consists of two
disjoint pieces one in the West Bank and the other in the Gaza
The portion in the West Bank is run by Fatah, the late Yassir Arafat's
party, and the Gaza strip portion run by Hamas,
labelled a terrorist organization by the US and others.
The world mostly ignored the Taliban rule in Afghanistan in the
late 1990s as they
battered every imaginable human right from refusing women
medical care (no female doctors allowed, and they decided it was indecent
for a man to treat a woman) or no teaching girls to
read (you could be executed in Taliban Afghanistan for that),
and on and on, you've heard it all before about the horrors
of life under the Taliban's sub-medieval Islamic rule.
And what did tolerating their way of doing things get us? It got
us 9/11 and a war in Afghanistan which has raged for almost six
years now. Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda operated out of
So here we are again, the world's Arab-Muslim community
in particular, tolerating and often encouraging the
murderous lunatics running Gaza, and condemning Israel's attempts
to contain these Hamas and Fatah thugs claiming they are the
legitimate leaders of the Palestinians.
Has the world really gone that crazy?
And what about the Palestinians? Well, we could give you the
litany of horrific conditions within the Palestinian Authority. Of
heartbreaking rates of infant mortality, starvation, and other
But it's so easy to blame all that on Israel somehow. Any
factual basis for that blame is unnecessary, we just work
backwards from the conclusion we wish to draw.
But even if it were somehow Israel's fault, they certainly
have to contain these violent lunatics which no doubt
impedes commerce in the PA, isn't Hamas and Fatah's
violence, such as firing daily rocket barrages at Israeli
towns, also culpable?
The solution is so simple it makes one crazy to think about it: Throw
off these Hamas and Fatah terrorist thugs and just embrace Israel and
work things out and ask for help and cooperation in feeding and
housing and educating your children, etc.
How is life in Israel? Generally much like any
Western European country. In fact, over 15% of Israeli citizens
are Arabs and they live the same privileged life, own stores
and factories, and some of the best restaurants and cafes
in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Did you know Israel lets Muslims
run a parallel system for civil legal issues such as marriages
and divorces which has full authority? Christians in Israel
also have a similar system which operates within the Israeli
Ok, this sounds overly rosy. It happens to be true, but compromise
demands that we color the truth soas not to stretch the credulity
of the reader.
Of course there are frictions between Jews and
Arab Muslims within Israel, some quite contentious. But they
sue each other or hold demonstrations or form political
parties and get seats in the Israeli parliament. The United
Arab List Ta'al has
4 seats currently.
All the things people
do in civilized societies.
How many seats do you think Jews have in the PA, or any Arab
country's, parliament? Zero. When Israeli "settlers", people
who worked (usually collective) farms in areas which had been
given to the PA, offered to buy these farms from the Palestinians
for the market price and in some cases above-market prices
the PA refused absolutely.
Let's make it simple. Arab Muslims may make up 15% of the population
of Israel, but Jews make up ZERO percent of the population of the
PA. One thing has never changed: Islamic thugs can't stand the stink
of a Jew in their country. A lot of what we see has evolved from
the old Islamic prohibitions against Jews owning property.
Of course those trying hard to sympathize with the likes of
Hamas and Fatah never consider these thugs' filthy, racist
character. Only Israel is capable of evil in their eyes,
Hamas and Fatah are merely freedom fighters to be cheered!
But what the Jewish and Arab Israeli citizens
don't do is fire rockets at each other or walk
into crowded pizza places on a Saturday night with a bomb
strapped to their chests soas to kill as many teen-agers as
possible. They don't throw each other off high buildings
as a way to settle differences!
So why does this violence go on? Why are relations between Israel and
the PA so violently contentious?
Because a lot of the foreign aid for the PA comes from individuals
and countries who want to see Israel destroyed and for Jerusalem
to be under Muslim rule
again. They see it as their way into heaven. Really.
And he who pays the piper calls the tunes.
This just in: an article on Huffington
Post which is very similar to ours in sentiment:
Israel and Gaza and Qassam Rockets
by Alan Smithee
This is perhaps slightly off-topic but we are shocked at the
comments we are seeing in various blogs and news sources on
today's air raids by Israel in Gaza.
Apparently the popular media has done such a poor job of reporting on
events in the area that many seem to think Hamas fired a single
rocket into Israel, and Israel responded with a massive air attack.
What has actually been going on is almost daily rocket and mortar attacks,
for months and years,
coming from the Palestinians in Gaza fired at Israeli towns
across the border, notably Sderot and Ashkelon.
Now, we could retreat into the litany of complaints each side
has about each other but let's at least get these facts straight.
Imagine for a moment if Cuba was launching rockets at Miami on
a daily basis for months and the United States' response. We think
it's safe to say it wouldn't go on for months, Cuba would be
occupied forthwith after the first attack. Imagine tolerating
near-daily attacks for years!
But maybe you're not sure about this daily rocket barrage from
the Palestinians because, as we noted, it's rarely mentioned in
the mass media.
When something like this isn't mentioned in our
usual news sources it's hard for us to accept that it exists,
it sounds like some crazy exaggeration or fabrication after the
So, we're going to show you how to easily prove to yourself that
this daily rocket attack has been going on.
Type into the search box the single word qassam (you
can try again later with kassam, an alternate spelling.)
This is the type of rocket the Palestinians use in these daily
Below is some of what we got back from that search and searching
The New York Times. There
are many more daily, detailed reports from Israeli press sources such
as Ynetnews and Ha'aretz but we wanted to minimize those soas
not to raise any suspicions:
"...Palestinian militants in Gaza have long launched Kassam and other
rockets at Israeli towns across the border, and in the past six weeks the
number of attacks has increased dramatically. After the attack, Israeli
officials said the number of Palestinian rocket attacks could now spike to
200 a day. Hamas announced that it had sent a rocket toward Askelon; one man
in the Israeli town of Netivot, east of the Gaza strip, was killed. Israel
also expects Hamas to launch suicide attacks against Israel. A Hamas leader
promised as much Saturday."
Imagine, 200 missile attacks a day, and some are shouting that
Israel lacks restraint.
It's amazing how many different reasons there are to dislike Bush. Bad
decisions, no decisions, suspicions of conflicts of interest and
enriching himself and his via the office, support for torture,
flawed political philosophy,
flawed religious philosophy, flawed economic philosophy...
"Bush has fucked up so bad," ...
"that he's made it hard for a white man to run for
president. 'Gimme anything but another white man, please! Black man, white
woman, giraffe, anything!' A white man's had that job for hundreds of years -
and one guy fucked it up for all of ya!"
That might be something of an exaggeration, or perhaps an
amusingly tasteless way to put it, but it has a ring of truth: Bush
has polluted many of the institutions he has been associated with,
especially the republican party and the word "conservative".
At this point what does "conservative" mean? What do republicans
stand for? Their philosophy of lower taxes and "deficits don't
matter" has gotten us into record debt and seems to have contributed
greatly to destroying the US, and possibly the entire world's, economy.
The so-called conservative republicans now stand for
endless war and an atmosphere where even talking about how
we can win is made out to be treasonous nonsense.
When did winning wars become treasonous nonsense? Well,
first under the republican president Nixon during the Vietnam war.
That war dragged on for six years of his administration and
escalated. Thousands of our boys died, a million or more of their people
died at our hands, at an enormous cost. People who suggested that
we should either accomplish our goals (after all, compare the US
to little Vietnam!), whatever they were, or get out, were vilified. Such people
were labeled treasonous weirdos, peaceniks, and other derogatory
terms by Nixon and his republican cohorts.
And where are we now with Bush? Almost six years into
a war. It's not even clear who we are at war with. Some
faceless group of people called "terrorists" or "al Qaeda".
Is it really possible that an enemy which doesn't even have a
country, a stable base of operations, has had the mighty US military
pinned down for almost six years?
Or has Bush accomplished the perma-war of dystopic science fiction
novels? Wars not fought for any particular objective other than
to confront and kill some vaguely defined evil, war for war's
sake, war as an activity of this society as much as manufacturing
or retail or education.
Indeed we will be glad to see the back of this president!
24 December 2008
Coleman v Franken Minnesota Senate Race Update
by Alan Smithee
A Fight to the Death!
The Minnesota state supreme court
the end of year recount deadline to January 2. They've ordered
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie to count uncounted
absentee ballots no later than January 4. At that point
either or both candidates could challenge the results in court.
At this point it's highly unlikely that Minnesota will have this
Senate seat filled when the new Senate is sworn in on January 6.
The Huffington Post has an
reporting that Coleman and Franken have reached a deal that would
count a rejected absentee ballot only if both sides agree it
was wrongly rejected. The deal is still subject to approval
by the Minnesota Supreme Court. Although it seems fair on the
surface the court's interest isn't that the two candidates are
treated fairly but, rather, that the voters and the voting process
are treated fairly.
But look at this interchange between David Gregory and
Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on Meet The Press today
MR. GREGORY: Let, let's talk about Iraq. The president's final visit there as
president happening just a week ago today, and what became, obviously, the most
noticed image of that, that trip was this press conference with the prime
minister and a member of the press throwing his shoes. As the president
pointed out, as you've pointed out, certainly a sign of freedom in Iraq.
SEC'Y RICE: Yes.
This echoed Bush's
"Yeah, I think it's a reporter. At least that's what they told me on the way
out, that it's a person who works in the Iraqi press, stands up and throws his
shoe. And it was amusing...So this happens and it's a sign of a free society."
A free society? Forget that the reporter who threw the
for the moment, though that's not how we like to think we treat
prisoners in a free society. It does happen, but in a country with
Iraq's history it seems all the more predictable and odious.
But how was this a symbol of a free society? That the man stood
up and took a chance to express his views?
As we remember this is a country which suffers nearly daily
suicide bombings often killing dozens of civilians in a most
Are suicide bombers also a "symbol of a free society"?
What fluff! And shame on David Gregory for feeding this
pap to Secretary of State Rice in his new role as Meet the
Press anchor. Believe it or not that show's format used
to be a few well known members of the press grilling some
government official or similar and trying to get some
beads of sweat on their brows.
Now instead we have David Gregory throwing softballs at
the Secretary of State echoing the President's nonsensical
And now for some good news! The reporter who threw the
Iraqi attorney Khalil al-Dulaimi's
offer to defend him. Mr al-Dulaimi defended Saddam
Hussein and we all know how that turned out!
19 December 2008
Franken Pulls Ahead in Minnesota
by Alan Smithee
Franken v. Coleman
In the non-stop roller coaster of the Minnesota Senate recount
between incumbent republican Norm Coleman and
challenger democrat Al Franken we get another turnover.
According to this Minneapolis-St Paul Star Tribune
Franken has picked up "several hundred votes" putting him in
the lead against Coleman.
There are still several hurdles ahead including wading through
the rest of the challenged ballots which by our count seem
to be now down to somewhat under 1,000 ballots. And no
doubt we'll see further litigation by whoever ends up behind
when this current phase of recount ends. It's highly likely
we won't see an end to this election in 2008.
The Washington Post just posted an
article by Chris Cillizza
claiming Franken is ahead by 126 votes, but also noting that
about 1,000 ballots still need to be sorted through.
17 December 2008
THE ELECTION THAT WOULDN'T END!
by Alan Smithee
All Around the Mulberry Bush...
Franken v. Coleman for Minnesota Senate Seat
Republican incumbent Norm Coleman
in front of
Minnesota Supreme Court to block improperly rejected
absentee ballots. Coleman argues that each county has
its own way of rejecting ballots and that should be
honored. Franken argues that there are state-wide
standards which must be followed. No ruling yet.
Coleman has picked up 237 more votes as the Canvassing Board
disposes of challenges. Franken picked up 65. That puts
Coleman ahead 360 votes but that lead is fragile as there
are thousands of challenges yet to be reviewed. The state
Canvassing Board is shooting for Friday to end this phase
of the recount but litigation will continue.
Don't expect a replacement for Obama Illinois Senate seat soon
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was supposed to appoint a
replacement for President-elect Obama's Senate seat but he's
been arrested for allegedly trying to sell the seat, so that's
the Illinois Supreme Court rejected an emergency request from the
state's Attorney-General Madigan to consider removing Blagojevich, and
any temporary restraining order. Madigan basically argued that
the severity and nature of the federal case against him rendered
him unable to perform his duties.
Governor Blagojevich is fighting back against the corruption charges
and has indicated he will be making public statements in his defense
The defense of Blagojevich mainly rests on claims that
although there was a lot of talk nothing actually happened. For
example, no money or other profit was taken, no seat was sold, and
mere talk is just that, talk, and not criminal. There's a fine
line between conspiracy and horse-trading in politics.
What about Hillary Clinton's New York Senate seat?
Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President John F. Kennedy, has begun her
for Clinton's Senate seat. In Syracuse today she said "she would
be honored be considered for the position of U.S. senator". Caroline's
uncle, the late Robert F. Kennedy, was Senator from New York when
he was assassinated in 1968.
Caroline Kennedy currently lives on Park Avenue in Manhattan with
her husband Edwin Schlossberg and two daughters, Rose (after
Caroline's grandmother) and Tatiana (after Edwin's grandmother),
and son John aka "Jack" (after her great grandfather John Bouvier III.)
Caroline Kennedy is an attorney, writer, and serves on the boards of
The appointment will be made New York Governor David Paterson.
Andrew Cuomo, current Attorney-General and son
of former NY Governor Mario Cuomo, Nassau County District Executive
Tom Suozzi, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Bronx Borough President
Adolfo Carrion Jr, Representative Jerrold Nadler, Representative
Steve Israel, Representative Carolyn Mahoney, Representative Kirsten
Gillibrand, and Representative Brian Higgins.
Janet Napolitano, Governor of Arizona, to be Secretary of
Governor Naplitano, by state law, will be replaced by
Arizona Secretary of State Jan Brewer, a republican. This
poses a particular problem for Arizona democrats because
the legislature is republican-dominated and only Napolitano's
veto stood in the way of their rubber-stamping their republican
agenda. Pity poor Arizona!
And last but not least, what about Vice President-Elect Joe Biden's
Delaware Senate seat?
This has already been decided. Delaware Governor Ruth Ann Minner will
appoint long-time Biden Senate aide Ted Kaufman to fill the seat. There
had been some speculation that Joe Biden's son Beau might get the
nod but Beau took himself out of the running as he is currently
serving as Attorney General of Delaware and a Captain in the
Delaware National Guard, in the Judge Advocate General's
Corps (he's a lawyer), currently in Iraq.
16 December 2008
Barack Obama Elected 44th President of the United States!
by Alan Smithee
Did Someone Order Change?
What? You already heard this? But it only happened yesterday, a few
hours ago, at 3PM!
On December 15th after the general election the electoral college
gets together and casts their votes. That's what actually elects
a president, not any of this nonsense on the first Tuesday after
the first Monday in November.
And next, on January 6th, 2009 when the new congress convenes their
first order of business will be to certify the results of yesterday's
electoral college vote. Then onwards to the inauguration and swearing
in and if all goes as planned Barack Hussein Obama will become the
44th President of the United States of America.
For the record the results were: Barack Hussein Obama: 365 votes,
John Sidney McCain III: 173 votes. No faithless electors or other
12 December 2008
Nader A Spoiler AGAIN!
by Alan Smithee
No matter who you vote for the government wins
And nobody cares.
In Missouri Barack Obama received 1,441,911, John McCain
1,445,814, a difference of 3,903 votes more for the republican
Ralph Nader received 17,813 votes, way more than McCain beat
Obama by in Missouri. It's reasonable to assume most if not
all of Nader's votes would've gone to the democratic candidate
if Nader wasn't on the ticket (granted some might not have
voted at all.) In which case Obama would have won Missouri
by almost 14,000 votes.
However, not so fast! Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr got 11,386 votes.
Let's add those to the republican count.
And Constitution Party's Chuck Baldwin got 8,201 votes. They're
basically another right-wing party. Pat Buchanan once threatened
Bob Dole that he'd run as the Constitution Party's candidate if
Dole didn't choose a VP candidate Pat liked. Need we say more? Add
their votes to the republicans' count.
Finally, the Green Party was only represented by write-ins and
received 75 votes for their candidate former congresswoman
Cynthia McKinney. We'll definitely give those votes to the democrats.
So where does that leave us? 1,459,799 for Obama and 1,465,401. Wow,
John McCain still wins Missouri by 5,602, more than without the
Oh well, so much for that stupid line of thinking.
11 December 2008
Barney Frank and Democrats Fought Republicans on Sub-Prime Lending
by Alan Smithee
Congressman Barney Frank Sets The Record Straight
Congressman Barney Frank in a letter to the editor
of the Wall Street Journal disputing
their characterization of the history of sub-prime lending,
which the Wall Street Journal refused to publish (but
the Huffington Post did)
documents how he and fellow
democrats actually fought the Bush administration on
extension of sub-prime lending practices.
As Mark Zandi notes in his recent excellent study of the financial crisis, when
"the Bush administration put substantial pressure on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
to increase their funding of mortgage loans to lower-income groups," I and
other Democrats stepped up our efforts to pass legislation that banned the
inappropriate loans that have led to the current crisis. In Zandi's words,
"Democrats in Congress worried about increasing evidence of predatory
lending...and the Democrats wanted a federal (law) that would cover all lenders
nationwide. The Bush administration and most Republicans in Congress were
opposed, believing legislation would overly restrict lending and thus slow the
march of homeownership...the last attempt to pass any predatory lending
legislation occurred in 2005 but it was also stymied."
...when the Democrats achieved a majority in 2007, and I became Chairman of the
Financial Services Committee, the first major piece of legislation the
committee approved was a bill adopting the regulatory upgrade for Fannie and
Freddie that had been strongly advocated by the Bush administration, but which
it had been unable to get the Republican Congress to pass. Next, we moved on to
anti-predatory lending legislation and succeeded later in 2007 in passing a
bill that, had it been law earlier - when we were in the minority and unable to
enact it - would have prevented most of the bad loans.
10 December 2008
Now Norm Coleman is Under Investigation?!
by Alan Smithee
Norm Coleman in Hippier, er, Happier Times
The drama of the Minnesota senate race between republican
incumbent Norm Coleman and challenger democrat Al Franken, which still
hasn't been decided even after completion of a recount,
To add to the twists and turns of missing ballots and ballot
challenges how about the FBI investigating Norm Coleman?
Allegedly an associate of Coleman, Nasser Kazeminy, tried to
illegally funnel $100,000 to Coleman and his wife via his
Some are already asking Coleman to resign immediately if he
wins the recount.
Craig, Blagojevich, Rezko, Franken v. Coleman
by Alan Smithee
Rod Blagojevich On Facebook
He may be getting fitted for a new number!
The Minnesota Court of Appeals rejected Senator Larry Craig's (ID-R) request
to withdraw his guilty plea and be retried.
Craig argued that his toe-tapping and other movements in his
bathroom stall in the Minnesota-Saint Paul airport in June 2007
were protected by his free speech rights.
Without agreeing that toe tapping is a protected form of speech
the appeals court said the government has every right to make
and enforce laws regarding offensive speech, particularly where
the other party cannot easily escape that speech, and felt that
sexually suggestive toe-tapping and other movements directed at
someone in a bathroom stall easily fits that criteria.
Craig has spent over $200,000 in campaign funds on his legal
defense in this case. He was up for re-election in November
but chose not to run so will retire in January. Republican
Jim Risch bettered Democrat Larry LaRocco so will be the
new junior Senator from Idaho. Stay out of airport bathrooms
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, the 'j' is pronounced like a 'y',
blag-o-YEV-itch, was just freed on $4,500 bail.
The notable accusation is that he allegedly tried to sell
the appointment to Obama's senate seat, apparently for
a lucrative position for his wife and other offers. The
prosecutor's office claims he was caught wheeling-dealing on wiretap.
It's also alleged that he threatened the (Chicago) Tribune corporation,
who has just entered chapter 11 bankruptcy protection,
with witholding money they'd been promised by the state if
they didn't fire certain editors and, possibly, suppress this
latest round of corruption reporting.
Republican George Homer Ryan,
Blagojevich's predecessor in the Illinois
governor's role, entered federal prison on November 7, 2007 to
begin a six year sentence for all sorts of corruption charges.
Ryan can currently be found in the satellite prison camp
adjacent to the Federal Correction Institution at Terre Haute,
Tony Rezko is currently serving time for fraud and other charges. He's
had a colorful career which included executive director of the Muhammed
Ali Foundation and made a fortune in real estate mostly in the Chicago
area. He's also currently under indictment for creating inflated assets
soas to obtain millions of dollars in loans from GE Capital.
Rezko was a major contributor to Illinois Governor Blagojevich
and has hired the governor's wife on various occasions to help
with real estate matters.
Rezko did fundraising for Barack Obama's first senate run and
made contributions himself directly or indirectly through his
companies. Obama says he located $250,000 in contributions
associated with Rezko and has donated them to non-profits. There's
also a rather complicated relationship surrounding a home
the Obamas purchased in 2005 whose details you can find
Needless to say the few remaining republican faithful are salivating
over all this as a road to attack President-elect Obama, reminiscent
of the Whitewater and other investigations into Clinton's dealings
from the start of his term which produced, ultimately, nothing.
House GOP minority leader John Boehner has already
thrown down the gauntlet
on this strategy of running smear campaigns against any and all
democrats as the GOP strategy to get back into favor with voters.
We wonder if, instead, the republicans will actually ever do anything
constructive, like figuring out where they went so wrong over the
past several years, rather than hoping to drag down the democrats
down to their level or below by flinging mud.
As they say, never wrestle with a pig. You'll both get covered in
shit, but the pig will enjoy it.
Franken v. Coleman
The hotly contested Senate race in Minnesota continues with
Coleman withdrawing 475 ballot challenges today.
Right now it's looking more and more like this senate race is
headed for the Senate for resolution.
06 December 2008
Chambliss, Franken, and the Myth of 60
by Alan Smithee
As of this minute the status of the Minnesota senate election between
Al Franken and Norm Coleman seems up in the air. Some articles claim
Coleman is ahead around 75 votes, others that Franken is ahead some
number under 100 votes.
They still have the fight over disputed ballots ahead, thousands of them split
about equally between the two sides, and Minneapolis is frantically
trying to locate 133 ballots which are just missing. At this point
that's enough ballots to settle the election tho it's unlikely they will.
A possible result is that the Senate will settle the election. This
would be the first time the Senate has done this
then it wasn't conclusive and ended up in a special election.
The Myth of 60
Much has been made of the magic 60 Senate vote threshold for
the democrats, mostly because they definitely hold 58 seats
and if they won both Georgia and Minnesota could have that
magic 60. But they lost Georgia, so even if Franken wins they're
only looking at 59 democrats.
This is of some importance because if the minority republicans
choose to try to block legislation by fillibuster, exercising
their right to endlessly debate a topic, it takes 60 votes to
stop them and call for a vote by a motion known as cloture.
When republican Chambliss beat Martin in a run-off for the
Georgia Senate seat last week the papers screamed about how
the hopes for 60 democratic Senate seats had been dashed.
This is only technically true.
There are currently and indisputably 58 democratic seats in the
If Franken wins that will be 59 democratic seats.
There are 41 republican seats, and, similarly, this could become
42 republican seats if Coleman beats Franken.
But that leaves two seats missing. Those are held by two independents,
Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
I think that's a pretty safe 59, 58 democrats plus Sanders.
Lieberman was the democratic candidate for Vice President in 2000,
he ran with Al Gore. He was first elected democratic senator from Connecticut
In 2006 at least in part owing to his support of the Iraq war Lieberman
failed to win the Connecticut democratic party's nomination for the
senate which instead went to Ned Lamont. Lieberman ran anyhow as
a third-party independent candidate and won. Apparently the lack
of support from democrats shook him and 2006-2008 he seemed to
become more and more allied with republicans.
Lieberman even went so far as to speak at the 2008 Republican National
Convention in support of John McCain and campaigned for McCain.
After McCain lost it was assumed Lieberman would lose his committee
assignments, particularly Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
There was a much-publicized meeting between Liberman and democratic
Senate majority leader Harry Reid shortly after the election and
it seemed some hatchets were buried and Lieberman was likely to
keep his democratic committee assignments.
Lieberman subsequently appeared on "Meet the Press" and mostly
dodged questions about his brief republican love affair and kept
repeating how he only wished to look forward.
Clearly Senator Lieberman is an opportunist who will go with whomever
he perceives as ahead and right now the democrats are ahead so
Lieberman has declared his unwavering loyalty to the democratic
That makes 60.
The democrats never needed Martin (Georgia) or Franken (Minnesota)
for 60 though Franken's
vote could be useful in case Lieberman hits his head in the shower
02 December 2008
Chambliss versus Martin in Georgia
Franken versus Coleman in Minnesota
by Alan Smithee
Saxby Chambliss with President Bush
Separated At Birth?
Georgia Results (All times Eastern) Georgia Screws Itself! Elects republican Chambliss!
Gives up their one chance for access to democrat majority government!
03:41: Chambliss 1,220,854 (57%), Martin 905,637 (43%), 99% reporting.
23:05: Chambliss 1,196,278 (57%), Martin 888,475 (43%), 98% reporting.
21:40 Chambliss 1,009,730 (59%), Martin 697,075 (41%), 82%
reporting. Chambliss widely projected to win.
20:16 Chambliss 335,990 (65%), Martin 181,605 (35%), 22% reporting.
20:07 Chambliss 253,095 (65%), Martin 136,888 (35%), 18% reporting.
19:55 Chambliss 102,271 (66%), Martin 52,464 (34%), 6% reporting.
19:43 Chambliss 48,655 (69%), Martin 22,006 (31%), 3% reporting.
19:37 Chambliss 32,892 (69%), Martin 15,062 (31%), 2% reporting.
19:23 Chambliss 15,744 (68%), Martin 7,312 (32%), 1% reporting.
19:17 Chambliss 5,616 (68%), Martin 2,683 (32%)
19:15 Chambliss 2,242 (61%), Martin 1,453 (39%)
19:13 With one precinct reporting it's Chambliss 331, Martin
They're voting in Georgia! Voting is
in the runoff election
between republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss and democratic
challenger Jim Martin.
Polls close at 7PM, minutes from now. We will keep you posted
here on results as they become available.
Franken vs Coleman
Meanwhile, in the Minnesota senate election recount, 171 ballots
were found just hours ago giving republican incumbent Norm
Coleman 54 more votes and democratic challenger Al Franken
91 more votes for a net gain of 37 for Franken (the remainder went
to other candidates.)
Coleman was leading Franken by 215 votes, so that whittles
Coleman's lead down to 178.
And there are still almost 6,000 ballots which have been challenged
by the two candidates, roughly 3,000 each.
The possibility still exists for the US Senate to just pick a winner,
that's within their power though this hasn't happened since 1974. But
it does happen in disputed elections such as this one.
Since the democrats have a solid majority in the Senate this could
bode well for Franken so it's probably in his interest to push
events towards a Senatorial resolution.
01 December 2008
Showdown in Georgia!
Palin as Political Angel of Death?
The-Election.com Endorses Jim Martin!
by Alan Smithee
Jim Martin The Right Choice for Georgia
Tomorrow is the day for the runoff election between
republican incumbent Senator
Saxby Chambliss and democratic challenger Jim Martin
in Georgia. Georgia law requires that the winner
get 50% plus one vote (or more) in November or else
there's a runoff between the top two vote-getters.
Among those campaigning for Chambliss is Sarah Palin, you betcha!
This race is important because the democrats are two senate seats
away from the magic 60 seats needed to procedurally stop filibusters
which are a tool for the minority party, the republicans,
to oppose legislation.
Jim Martin winning would give the senate democrats 59 of the needed
60 seats. There is another senate race in Minnesota whose outcome
is yet to be determined, between republican incumbent Norm Coleman
and democratic challenger Al Franken. In Minnesota the race was
too close to call so they are now going through a recount which
may take another two weeks, or more if there are court
challenges, to settle.
If the democrats can take both the Georgia and Minnesota seats
they have the magic 60. This, along with a democrat-dominated
House of Representatives and White House basically means
the democrats can pass legislation just about unchallenged.
There are still other checks and balances in our government
such as getting legislation past committees and onto the
floor for a vote as well as potential court challenges if
legislation can be argued to be unfair or in violation of
other laws including the Constitution. And, of course,
mere appeals to reason as guileless as that sounds in this
day and age.
Right now tomorrow's runoff election in Georgia is very hard
to call partly because it will probably be very close but also
because such runoff elections are relatively rare. One thing
which is almost certain is that turnout will be much lower than
in the November election; people tend to just not come out for
runoff or other off-season elections.
And what about Sarah?
Another factor is Sarah Palin's highly publicized campaigning
for fellow republican Chambliss. Palin appeals mostly to
people who would have voted republican anyhow, and polarizes
democrats negatively. She showed little appeal in the important
political center where swing voters might be swayed.
But this election is a little different. Turnout will be very
much key to the outcome, and if Palin can motivate the party
loyal to come out and vote that would be a big plus for Chambliss.
The democratic base in Georgia counts many African-Americans among
them, so Jim Martin has been putting his effort into appealing to
that community to show up and vote.
If Chambliss loses, particularly if he loses decisively, it could
be another nail in the cardboard coffin of Sarah Palin's national
political career. Many republicans blame her for McCain's poor
showing in November, and another loss might just label her as
"box office poison" politically.
The-Election.com endorses Jim Martin for Senator
All that said we urge Georgians to vote for democrat Jim Martin tomorrow.
Our reasoning is simple and appeals to their own self-interest.
The White House and both Houses of Congress will, in either case,
be heavily dominated by democrats. Currently both Senators from
Georgia are republicans, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson who
will be up for election again in 2010.
If Georgians elect Chambliss they will be shut out of the dominant
political party in the senate. Georgia has already elected a
majority republican (7-6) congressional delegation.
Let's be brutally honest: The democrats will control the purse
strings for the next few years at least. Georgia is going into
this election a republican state. That's not a good position to
Voting for democrat Jim Martin will give Georgia the representation
it needs in the Senate. Voting for Saxby Chambliss risks being
shut out in the cold politically and economically for the next
two years at least.
Regardless of personal feelings about party loyalty Georgians would do
well to vote for democrat Jim Martin tomorrow.
25 November 2008
by Alan Smithee
Not Dead, Only Sleeping!
From 2001 to 2006 the republican party controlled the White House
and both houses of Congress. They even had a very sympathetic
US supreme court.
The republicans used this political dominance to enact their
views on economics, politics, and a raft of social issues.
The result was that their economics views were a total disaster and
have sunk the US (and world) economy into its worst downturn since
the Great Depression, their social issues have mostly been rejected
by the voters, and politically they're in full retreat and have
now completely lost control of those same three institutions: The
White House and both houses of Congress. The supreme court is probably
still pretty sympathetic but the republicans don't really have
anything to bring before them.
George W. Bush is wrapping up the most unpopular presidency in the
history of this country. And that includes contenders like
Richard Nixon who had to resign in disgrace and Herbert Hoover
whose name is forever synonymous with the Great Depression. And
those are just in recent memory, James Buchanan was a remarkably
unpopular president but nobody remembers him. Suffice it to say
Buchanan was Lincoln's immediate predecessor and is often credited
with dragging the US into its Civil War. Bush is worse than all
George W Bush isn't just the worst president
of the United States, ever. He's the worst president of any kind,
ever. That would include PTA presidents and company presidents
and the president of your local high school class of 2010.
But the situation for republicans is much worse than just
George W Bush's legacy. A failed individual could be written
off. Richard Nixon was a failed individual but republicans
pressed on and six years after Nixon's resignation, two
of those years with republican president Gerald Ford in
the White House, elected Ronald Reagan to two full terms.
So what's different this time?
What's different is that the republicans got what they wanted
from 2001-2006, and with Bush still in the White House didn't
see any major reversals of those policies since 2006. The
presidential veto is, if nothing else, a great way to make
sure nothing to the president's disliking happens. It takes
66 votes in the Senate to over-ride a presidential veto and
the democrats were nowhere close to that 2006-2008.
The republicans got what they wanted, and it failed. It failed
miserably. It failed indisputably and before their very eyes.
"Deficits don't matter" said vice-president Dick Cheney in 2002.
And so the republicans ran up the deficits by record amounts, over
$3 trillion between 2001-2006. And to finance those deficits they
had to go into the credit markets and sell treasury bills. And
to make those t-bills attractive they had to keep cranking up
interest rates which cranked up all interest rates and mortgages
become unaffordable, businesses couldn't borrow at interest rates
which let them remain profitable, adjustable mortgages adjusted
sharply upwards putting millions of homeowners in danger of
foreclosure, and the economy collapsed.
Deficits don't matter???
And as part of their program to get government off our backs
the republicans de-regulated and de-regulated. The free
market will take care of regulating markets much better than
any government bureaucrat can they kept telling us. They quoted Ronald Reagan
on how the scariest words in the english language were "we're
from the government and we're here to help you" to loud
guffaws from their amen chorus.
Wall street figured out what this massive deregulation meant. It meant
they could sell insurance against default on bonds and other securities
knowing full well they couldn't actually make good on that insurance
should it come to pass.
Why, they sold the insurance to people who didn't even own the
bonds being insured. Imagine if your neighbor could buy fire
insurance on your house? But that's just what was going on,
it was just a big gambling parlor.
Of course that alone wouldn't have mattered much, let the idiots
lose their money if they like. None of our concern, this is wall
street after all, they're big boys and girls, they know what they're
getting themselves into.
Unfortunately, they didn't know what they were getting themselves into,
or ignored the potential dangers.
It wasn't just that they sold this bond insurance, they sold
way more than they could ever make good on. Since a lot of
these bonds were bundles of mortgages then when the republicans
funding the republican deficits started to create pressure
on the mortgage market these bonds came into question and
the whole house of cards came tumbling down.
And they didn't just bring down the insurance underwriters. Often
these were sold by big investment banks, brokerage houses, and
sometimes even an insurance company. Hundreds of billions of
dollars worth of phony insurance. So when the scheme came crashing down
to earth it took entire companies with names like Bear-Stearns,
Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, AIG, down with it. Ooops!
But ask any republican! Deficits don't matter! Regulation is bad,
markets can and will regulate themselves!
Sadly, quite a few republicans still cling to their ideology in
an unconditional love sort of way.
They believe that they must
have been right so something else is to blame. For example, their
tax reductions didn't go far enough, or their deregulation didn't
deregulate enough and other delusional reasoning that somewhere
way out there is this magic point where the effects reverse
and lowering taxes actually raises tax revenues because it has caused such
great stimulation of the economy. The
is an example of one of these theories, now completely discredited.
So what can republicans do?
Beats us. But something which won't work is just regrouping
and trying to find a new way to sell their tried and disproven
ideas. Talk about putting lipstick on a pig!
About all they have left at this point are those with some
sort of strong nostalgic, emotional commitment to the word
"republican" and their failed ideas, some number of people
who have drunk the kool-aid and can now live on
a blind hatred of democrats and (shudder!) liberals, and
those who don't give a damn if anyone ever eats again they
feel their "conservative" point of view is morally superior.
That latter group tend to make up the religious right though
there are quite a few secular "libertarian" types mixed in. These
folks just believe there is this order to the universe, either
from the will of god and/or their personal notion of right and wrong
and it says conservative is right, facts and observation be damned.
As the old expression goes, for these die-hard conservatives
"are you gonna believe us? or your lyin' eyes?!" is the beginning,
middle, and end of the argument.
I was just reading a screed by one of these self-described libertarian
conservative liberal-hating types. The self-absorbed narcissism
made me shudder with revulsion. There's nothing much more there
to the red-hot anger directed against taxes or government
regulation than "get your hands off my stuff!" You can get
similar deep philosophy by entering your average 15 year old's
bedroom uninvited and snooping around a little. Then again,
the 15 year old may be right. But this angry bunch is just
shallow and self-interested. The spoiled children of the right.
What most libertarian types seem to have in common is that they
believe we can completely (or almost completely, these are
called "minarchists") dismantle government and everything will
pretty much stay the same or get better. Someone will fix the
roads because, gosh darn it, we need the roads to be fixed! Someone
will keep our food processing companies honest and clean because,
gosh darn it, we need wholesome food! It's basically an ideology
which says if you can imagine something is desirable then
dagnabit the free market will provide. Forget little details
like the free market for over 50 years didn't provide electricity
to large segments of this country until the government instituted
a rural electrification program. It would have come eventually because,
gosh darn it, people wanted eletricity!
And you wonder why they attract the ultra-religious. All they
offer is prayers that the free market, which may as well be a
god in their religion, will deliver whatever is needed. You want
health care? PRAY FOR IT! You want clean water? PRAY FOR IT! And
on and on.
My best advice for those who really hate democrats and
liberals so much is to gather your thoughts and try to
make what you believe
coherent in some way, try to find others who believe what
you believe, and form new political parties.
Because the republican party is a hopeless amalgam of mostly
overly-nostalgic liberal-haters and that sort of thing just
won't be able to move forward. As they say, it's nearly
impossible to drive while only looking in the rear-view
mirror. Unfortunately, your windshield is all muddied up also.
You have lost your way.
Oh, and one more thing as the republican party gets tossed into
the dustbin of history: Demanding "fair" play (by your definition)
and compromise doesn't work until you have something credible
to offer. We wouldn't go half-way with nazis or communists, and
doing the same with republicans whose ideas were also tried and
failed would be similarly foolish.
Ouch? That stings? Then do something new!
24 November 2008
Recount Roundup! Ch-ch-ch-changes!
by Alan Smithee
Delaware State Attorney General Captain Beau Biden
Now separated by less than 100 votes Al Franken and Norm Coleman
are still going at it in the Minnesota Senate seat recount. The
current issue is missing ballots. Some counties did not turn over
as many ballots as they had reported as counted.
Out of over 316,000 votes cast in the Virginia fifth district
it looks like challenger Tom Perriello has won. This gives
Virginia democrats a 6-5 majority in the house. The republicans
went into the election with an 8-3 majority but have now lost 3 seats
Al Gore is down in Georgia campaigning for democratic challenger
Jim Martin. Martin will be in a runoff election December 2nd
against republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss. Former president
Bill Clinton was stumping for Martin last week. Mitt Romney
and Mike Huckabee have shown up on behalf of Saxby Chambliss.
Right now the race is thought to be a dead heat which isn't
surprising since that's how they got into a runoff in the
first place. A lot of money is being spent on this race and
most likely it will come down to which candidate can get out
the most voters since runoffs tend to attract a light turnout.
There was some speculation that Vice President-elect Joe Biden's
son Captain Beau Biden might be appointed to finish his father's term
but Captain Biden has decided to continue with his military career
and has now deployed to Iraq. Captain Biden is a prosecutor
for the 261st Signal Brigade of the Delaware Army National Guard, and
its subordinate units. He is also Delaware's Attorney General! Busy
However, Ted Kaufman has indicated that he will not be a candidate
in the 2010 special election for the Delaware senate seat leaving
speculation that Captain Biden might run for the seat at that time.
Illinois Governor hints that he'll make the appointment a
Christmas gift for someone.
20 November 2008
Bush, Cheney and Paulson
Should Resign Now!
This is the world economy's "9/11"
by Alan Smithee
World Leaders Won't Shake Bush's Hand!
The stock markets are again in free-fall. The Dow Jones Industrial
Average is down almost 500 points at the close to about 7500. Oil,
now below $50 down $5 just today (10%!)
is no longer a bargain, it's terrifying. The automakers are on
the verge of bankruptcy and every hour brings more horrible
news about our banks and economics.
Treasury secretary Paulson spoke this afternoon and had nothing to say,
he just rambled on about recent history, why he believes he did the
right thing in regards to Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy and similar.
Who cares? What's the plan? Paulson had nothing to say on that.
At the administration's urging Congress gave Paulson
and the Bush administration a "check"
for $700 billion dollars. Paulson won't explain where the
$250 billion he's spent so far has gone, or why he asked
for it if it's doing no good. Almost an equal amount has
been pumped into the financial system by other means,
we're about $1.5 trillion dollars into this and Paulson
the other day insisted that markets are stabilizing!
As the video above evidences the leaders at the ongoing G20
meeting all refused to shake George Bush's hand! Look at
the video. This is both embarrassing and disheartening, they
only invited the current president of the United States to
the party because they had to. He's being shunned!
President George Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, and
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson should resign immediately.
This would make House Speaker Nancy Pelosi president of the United
States until Barack Obama is inaugurated on January 20th.
Pelosi can appoint a new vice-president and fill any
slots such as treasury secretary presumably with Barack Obama's
The current sitting congress probably doesn't have enough votes to
remove Bush and Cheney. That would require a 2/3 vote of the
Senate etc. and party politics are just too heated to expect so many
republicans in congress to do the decent thing, and quickly, it's
just too much to expect. Party loyalties on the part of republicans
in congress trump everything right now, the country be damned.
Consequently we call on Bush, Cheney, and Paulson to resign. They
have failed, their economic views and emergency actions have failed,
they have lost all credibility with the world's leaders.
At this point Bush is holding onto his position only because
we can't force him out. It's all pomp and circumstance and
formality, exactly what this country is NOT supposed
to be about. All he has left are some privileges of the office.
Is it worth taking the country down just to cling to power for
another 60 days? Or can they just not admit failure?
George Bush, Dick Cheney, Henry Paulson:
For once in your
lives do the decent thing and
You have all failed,
and you are taking the United States of America down with you.
20 November 2008
The US Automakers Bailout
by Alan Smithee
And...Who Owns Whom?
Should the government bail out the automakers, or not?
This is a tough question for a lot of reasons, we think we've
made up our minds however.
First and foremost one has to try to form an opinion without
reviewing the companies' balance sheets in detail, the
details of their business plans going forward, etc. Congress
can review many of these details but let's be honest, we the
people don't have the time or inclination or in many cases
even the ability to figure out what's wrong with these companies
and whether or not a bailout would fix them. All we can really
do is engage in over-simplified sound bites or grand moral
principles we hope cover the situation at hand.
That said, we do believe there're a lot of questionable claims
being made in support of a bailout.
For example, the claim that if the automakers are not bailed
out, and are left to go bankrupt, about three million jobs will be lost.
This is wordplay on the word "bankrupt". There are three
major forms of corporate bankruptcy, two of which apply
here (the third is generally for individuals or very small
Those making the 3 million jobs lost claim are using the word
"bankruptcy" to refer to Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This is also
known as liquidation, where a company is, as the word implies,
In a chapter 7 bankruptcy all the creditors and employees are told the
bad news, it's over, there's nothing or almost nothing left,
the company is washed up, done. A bankruptcy court takes over
the wind-down, assets are sold, taxes, back wages, creditors are
paid roughly in that order, often less than the total amount they
But chapter 7 isn't likely for companies like GM,
Ford, or Chrysler. GM, for example, still takes in around
180 billion dollars a year in revenue. The problem is that
they spend more than 180 billion dollars. But it's not
like a company which is scraping bottom. This is one major
reason why people keep using the word "mismanagement" in
speaking about these companies. How can they have $180B in
revenue and not be able to break even?
So what is likely?
What is more likely is Chapter 11 bankruptcy which is also
referred to as reorganization.
In a chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy first, through the
bankruptcy court, all creditors are informed that any
attempts to collect debts must be stopped. The company
is protected from any further creditor actions. But
the business continues operating as usual, more or less.
Warning! Too Much Detail on Chapter 11 Bankruptcy from here...
Worse! none of us are bankruptcy lawyers so take some of this
with a grain of salt.
The reasoning goes like this: It's assumed the company has a
chance of surviving but creditors' actions are making that
impossible. In a typical scenario one or more creditors are
making it impossible for the company to continue operating.
For example, if the electric company shuts the electricity
off many companies can no longer operate, even if that
electric bill is not a large portion of money owed. So,
the electric company's actions to collect their bill
is threatening the company's ability to pay any of the
In essence the electric company (and it
could be any creditor, we're not picking on the electric
company) has made themselves the most "senior creditor", the
creditor who must be paid first before all other creditors,
including employees' wages, taxes, etc., by threatening
to shut off the electricity.
The law recognizes that this
situation is not fair to anyone involved, it would
just shut down the company and cease any revenues, so protects
the company from any further collection action such as
shutting off the electricity.
Then an executor is appointed by the court, someone the court
trusts can help approve day to day decisions on bills
while the company is under protection. Since chapter 11
can take a year or more, particularly for a big company,
someone has to be paid if there's any revenue.
Next a plan is proposed to the court by the company's
management which would resolve their problems. For example
it might propose to break contracts such as a multi-year
office rental agreement which the company can no longer
afford due to business conditions and allow the company
to move into cheaper space if that's practical.
debts might be put onto a pay-off schedule which are
less severe. Sometimes that even helps a creditor because
now there's some assurance from the court that the company
will pay off that debt and the creditor could for example
bring that to a bank and borrow the money to be paid off
by the protected company's payments.
There are many other approaches, such as offering past creditors
less than the full amount of their debt. Many companies will
take that once bankruptcy is on the table:
A bird in hand is worth two in the bush as the old
saying goes. Particularly if there is some cash on hand and
a check can be written right away.
For completeness' sake the plan is sent to the creditors for approval.
The creditors each get to vote on the plan
roughly in proportion to the amount owed
to them. If an agreement cannot be reached then the court can
order the company into chapter 7 liquidation, it's over. This
can, for example, happen if the company owns assets which
could be sold to pay off debts but would close the company.
easy example of a creditors' rejection
might be a farmer. Assuming the land being farmed
is owned outright and not mortgaged heavily creditors might
opt to force the farmer to sell the land to pay debts versus
taking less than the debts' full values or long-term pay outs
being proposed. Of course selling the land puts the farmer out of business.
Or the creditors may just not believe the plan can work and
would rather take what they can right now by liquidating the
company. Long-term payouts take a lot of faith that the company
can right itself. The courts can intervene to block what they
see as an unreasonable creditor. Remember that some of this
is about protecting the creditors from unreasonable creditors,
but that's limited and we're getting into far too much detail.
The point is that the automakers are much more likely to
go into this sort of chapter 11 reorganization. They
continue operating and try to work out, with the help of
a court, how they are going to go forward and get out
of chapter 11 protection and operate like a normal business.
So what happens to employees in a chapter 11 bankruptcy?
It depends. But if the company is going to continue operating
they're probably going to need most of the employees. What
might happen is that contracts such as with unions might be
cancelled, or just problematic details such as any parts
of the agreement which require too many employees for the
current business conditions, or make it very expensive to
let go excess employees.
We should note that in a chapter 11 common stock at least is
usually cancelled, made worthless, zero.
And the company is generally protected from typical shareholder
lawsuits though it's difficult to protect against all.
source of lawsuits is that you cannot go into bankruptcy
to cover up fraudulent behavior. Some creditors, probably
a group of large common shareholders who lost everything,
are likely to pursue that path to prevent the company
from working out problems under chapter 11, and if nothing
else to punish the company's management by trying to
argue that they acted in a criminal manner. What they're
usually seeking is a payoff to drop their lawsuit.
Consequently, we don't think an outright bailout of the automakers
is a good idea or nearly as necessary or urgent as various
supporters of a bailout are describing. Someone has to explain
why they can't just go into chapter 11 reorganization and
try to restructure their company so they are profitable again.
Right this moment it looks like congress is taking a similar
view as evidenced by remarks made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
To that we'd like to add that even if one or more automakers
go out of business entirely people will still buy about the
same numbers of cars. They'll just buy them from someone else.
Some say the problem is that many of these will then be imports
and imports don't create US jobs. There's some truth to that
though it's not that simple. Companies like Toyota do a lot
of manufacturing in the US, and their dealerships are here
But the point is that we might end up with one less US car
company, or even two less. It's unlikely all three major
US car companies would go out of business. And whoever is
remaining will pick up as much of that business as they
deserve, based on the price and quality of their product. But
the marketplace will be less diluted which will help those
standing become profitable.
Finally, we would recommend that if congress decides to let
things take their course with the automakers that an adequate
amount of money be earmarked for the inevitable urgencies
such as extending and expanding unemployment benefits (most
likely some will lose their jobs), emergency assistance
for health care and insurance, mortgage foreclosures, etc.
Also monies for job re-training and re-location.
19 November 2008
Boehner Re-Elected House GOP Minority Leader
Minnesota Senate Recount Begins!
by Alan Smithee
Boehner Gets It Because The Republicans Don't ``Get It''
Ohio congressman John Boehner has been re-elected as GOP minority
leader. This is too bad for the republicans as Boehner is an iconic
symbol of the "old bad republican party"; huge deficit
spending, attack dog and dirty tricks politics, doctrinaire
"my way or the highway" attitudes, immune to facts and reason,
and a proponent of a financial
vision which we now know does not work.
So we imagine the republicans' plan to dig the party out of
its current hole is to put the same people in charge who
dug them into that hole?
We recall an interchange between Wolf Blitzer and John Boehner on CNN
a few months ago. Blitzer suggested that perhaps it was his party's
enormous spending and deficits which had them in trouble in the then
Boehner replied angrily that there's a WAR going
on, that's why there are deficits! Blitzer countered that the
republicans in congress, when they were in the majority 2001-2006,
ran up over 3 trillion dollars in new debt, but the war is only
estimated to have cost about $600 billion by that time (less,
actually, by 2006), what about the other $2.5 trillion?
got flustered and angry and changed the subject.
As we said, completely immune to facts or reason.
Well, the republicans can do what they like. Maybe they enjoy
the dark, warm, security of the hole they're in and don't
really want to lead. Look at what a mess they got the country
into when they tried!
At the start of the recount Coleman is ahead of Franken by 215 votes.
Minnesota law mandates a recount if the difference between two
candidates is less than one half of one percent which would be
about 14,000 votes, far less than the 215 separating the two
The recount is expected to take until at least December 5th which is
when the Minnesota state board convenes to certify the state's election
results (which aren't just this race.) It could go longer as the
recount is done ballot by ballot by hand.
Yesterday it was announced though not yet officially confirmed that
democrat challenger Mark Begich beat incumbent republican convicted felon
Ted Stevens in Alaska. A challenge is possible though none has been
Assuming the Begich election stands the democrats have 58 seats
in the senate. If Franken wins that would be 59. On December
2nd Saxby Chambliss faces Jim Martin in a runoff for that Georgia
Senate seat. Bill Clinton was seen down in Georgia today stumping for
Martin. If Martin also wins that'd give the democrats the magic
60 they need to thwart most procedural maneuvers available to
the minority republicans.
As we've noted before, to some extent even 60 may be symbolic. There
are two independents in the senate: Joe Lieberman from Connecticut
and Bernie Sanders, Vermont.
Lieberman was a democrat but had lost
a bitter nomination battle in his state, ran as an independent anyhow,
and won. Then Lieberman proceeded to campaign with republican
John McCain and even spoke at the Republican National Convention
(which is more than we can say for Bush or Cheney.)
But in the past few days Lieberman seems to have buried the hatchet
with the democrats. For example, he has retained his chairmanship
of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs even though many
senate democrats wanted him out for his republican shenanigans.
This makes it likely that Lieberman will tend to vote with the
democrats, particularly on procedural matters.
Bernie Sanders, Vermont, ran for the senate
as an independent but describes himself as a
"democratic socialist". All tolled he is more
likely to vote with the democrats on most matters
than the republicans though exceptions exist.
Given that accounting the democrats may only have to win
one of those three Senate races to lock up cloture
ability (a procedure to stop debate and hence filibustering
which requires 60 votes.) If the Begich victory holds the
democrats may already be there for all intents and purposes.
However, if they can take Minnesota and Georgia their
60 votes would be indisputable.
And that doesn't even begin to count senate defectors from the
republican party, something which is common when one party
so totally dominates the senate.
McCain, Cheney, Stevens!
by Alan Smithee
Proof: Bush Pardons Turkeys!
John McCain Prepares for Senate Re-election run in 2010
According to this
John McCain met with "top advisers" (would those be the same who
gave him Sarah Palin?) about setting up a political action committee
as a run up for a run for another term as senator for the run-down
Bush and Cheney up to Mischief?
According to this
CNN article Vice President Dick "Dick" Cheney has been indicted by
a grand jury in Texas, along with former Attorney-General Alberto
Gonzales on charges related to prisoner abuse in federal detention
centers. This arises from Cheney's investments in companies in charge
of these detention centers (many are privately operated under contract),
and Gonzales halting an investigation into conflicts of interest while
Why is this interesting? The CNN article even says the Attorney-General,
Juan Angel Guerra, of the small county in southernmost Texas
is a loose cannon.
If you notice there have been many informal accusations made against
members of the Bush administration, often by members of Congress,
but almost no indictments lately.
The reason is that Bush made it perfectly clear with his
pardon of "Scooter" Libby that he'll use his presidential
pardon powers to just exonerate any such charges.
So there's little point in charging anyone in the Bush administration
right now, they all have George W Bush "Get Out of Jail Free!" cards.
So Congress may as well wait until the Bush presidency is over
and he loses his pardon powers and then begin indictments. Bush
can't pardon someone who hasn't been charged with any crime (though
no doubt his legal team is pondering that problem also.)
What can Bush do?
Easy! Figure out the charges most likely to be brought against
members of his administration successfully and use his considerable
political influence (particularly in Texas) to get them
indicted and convicted (not sure a conviction is necessary) now so
he can pardon them before he leaves office on January 20th.
As Cheetah would say to Tarzan: It's a jungle out there!
And Begich beats Stevens in Alaska!
It looks like Ted Stevens, the incumbent republican senator from
Alaska and convicted felon, has narrowly lost his re-election
bid to democrat and Anchorage mayor Mark Begich. Begich leads
Stevens by about 3,700 votes as absentee ballots etc. are counted
to determine the winner.
In theory Stevens could pursue a recount, but given that he's a
convicted felon (7 counts of lying about more than $250,000 in
gifts) it puts him into an awkward position to challenge the
result to say the least.
If this result stands then the democrats have 58 seats in the
senate with two more still counting: In Minnesota Al Franken (D)
vs Norm Cole (R) is headed to a recount, they're separated by
a little over 200 votes right now. And in Georgia incumbent
republican Saxby Chambliss versus democrat Jim Martin is headed
to a run-off election on December 2nd. Early voting began on
Monday in the Chambliss/Martin run-off.
If democrats pick up those two seats, and the likelihood is getting
stronger, then they'll have the 60 votes necessary to invoke
cloture, a senate procedure to end a filibuster.
17 November 2008
Gulf War Illness: More Republican Fallout
by Alan Smithee
Republicans don't believe in federal funding for medical research.
They see it as waste and reason that if there was a market for
the cure for a disease then the pharmaceutical companies would
invest their own money in the research.
Well, today we found out in a federal report from the "Research
Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses" that Gulf
War Illness is very real.
Worse, any treatment has been delayed for several years due to
funding cuts in research into the disease beginning in 2001.
Ah yes, 2001, 2001...what happened in 2001? Oh right, George Bush
was elected (sort of) president, both houses of congress were dominated
by the republican party. It was a new republican age, morning in
America and all that.
And, oops, guess there wasn't a gold rush to cure our Gulf War veterans!
So much for: The private sector and free markets will provide.
And once again the republicans have really screwed our returning
veterans even as they bellow their super-patriotic, militaristic
How many Gulf War vets have been affected? About one quarter of
the 697,000 who served in the 1991 war, over 174,000 vets.
174,000 sick vets and the republicans cut their medical funding.
That really is sick, pun intended.
The report suggests (remember, the research has been
crippled) the cause of the illness is exposure to
toxic chemicals, including pesticides and a drug
administered to protect against nerve gas.
Symptoms include memory and concentration problems, chronic
headaches, widespread pain, gastrointestinal problems, etc. The
illness may also lead to an increase in ALS, "Lou Gerhig's Disease",
a crippling and always fatal disease.
Basically, the vets were poisoned in so many ways that parts of
their body just couldn't recover fully. Depleted uranium and
anthrax vaccines have been cleared, they're not the cause as
These vets were exposed to these chemicals with reasonable intentions,
to protect them from very deadly nerve gas and to clear out dangerous
insects and parasites from where they had to live and work.
But the simple fact is that they were exposed serving us, so we
owe it to them to make that as right as we can and not sacrifice
them on some altar of republican "thriftiness" while at the same
exact time Bush and the republicans ran up the largest deficits
and increase in the size of the government in the history of the
This one isn't even hard, as an American I am ashamed of the treatment
of these veterans by our government and hope this can be improved
as soon as possible by the incoming administration.
Alaska Senate Race: Begich Pulls Ahead of Stevens
by Alan Smithee
Begich, left, Stevens, right
Democratic Anchorage mayor Mark Begich has pulled
slightly ahead of incumbent and convicted felon
senator Ted Stevens in Alaska's razor-thin senate race.
Begich is 814 votes ahead of Stevens out of 279,000
ballots counted thus far. Another 35,000 ballots remain to be
If Begich takes this race that will give democrats 59 seats in the
senate, one shy of the magic number to invoke cloture should
republicans try to delay legislation via filibuster. Two other
senate races remain undecided:
The Georgia senate race will
be decided by a run-off election on December 2nd. The democratic
challenger Jim Martin has a fair chance of unseating republican incumbent
In Minnesota, democratic challenger
Al Franken holds on to a very slim lead over republican
incumbent Norm Coleman in that senate race.
For the democrats to have
60 votes two of these three undecided elections would have to
go for the democrats though there are two independent senators,
Connecticut's Joe Lieberman and Vermont's Bernie Sanders, either or
both of whom might decide to vote with democrats on a cloture
Back to Alaska. If Stevens were to win and then resign or be
removed due to his felony convictions (or any reason for that matter)
that would leave the
Alaska seat open. It's
not entirely clear
whether that would allow Governor Sarah Palin (remember her?) to
appoint a replacement, or if there would be a special election
to replace Stevens. Alaska law just isn't entirely clear on this
matter according to the referenced article. Of course, if Begich
does win then none of this becomes a problem.
12 November 2008
``Headline: Catholic Bishops will fight Obama on abortion''
by Alan Smithee
The bishops, and anyone else in this country, are certainly within
their rights to express and even, within the law, act on their
But what is it they are "fighting" for? Presidents don't perform
What they are fighting for is two-fold:
First, they don't want the government to make access to abortions
easier, such as by providing financial support for those who
cannot afford an abortion. This is true, but not their primary bone of
What the bishops want is for abortion to be made illegal. This
is something Obama, and other politicians, can help them with
So what they are asking for is that Obama, and his colleagues,
make available law enforcement agents with guns and sticks to
stop women from getting abortions.
That's the bottom line, using the force and power of government,
violence if necessary, to stand between women and abortions.
Which is to say that the bishops have given up on providing
moral authority. Since these women aren't (oh it probably does happen,
but that's not their complaint)
being forced to get abortions, and are just as free to listen
to the arguments against abortion being put forth by
the bishops et al as they are are to get abortions, we
have to assume the bishops' expressed frustration derives from
a failure to get women to follow their advice voluntarily.
Of course, these bishops also condemn any form of birth control
(other than perhaps abstinance or "rhythm".) They oppose
birth control for much the same reason as they oppose abortion.
Yet we don't hear them railing at Obama or anyone else to make
birth control illegal. We suppose they would like to, but it
would only make them look foolish or distance them from their
non-Catholic anti-abortion colleagues: Protestant
fundamentalists don't generally have a problem with birth control.
Since we've now determined that women won't follow these clergies'
advice we have to assume that women will continue to get abortions
even if their wish is granted and big men with sticks and guns
try to stop them, doctors are hauled off to jail, etc.
So it's not really abortions they want Barack Obama to
stop. It's the legality
of abortions they want stopped. They've already failed to stop abortions.
And what are illegal abortions?
You have to be somewhat over 40 years old to remember the era
of illegal abortions but they were nasty affairs performed
in motel rooms or kitchens and without any hospital backup. If,
for example, a woman began bleeding severely, not uncommon,
and the aborter (once illegal, few actual doctors were involved)
couldn't deal with it then the woman was often dumped somewhere
and left to bleed to death. One couldn't risk a hospital for
a botched illegal procedure, they'd ask too many questions.
Many of the illegal abortions were performed by women on
themselves, often on bad advice such as injecting various
irritating household chemicals into their vagina hoping it
would induce abortion. Or using various implements, coat
hangers were indeed a common abortion tool.
This wasn't a big deal for older, wealthy women who could either
pay for a reasonably safe illegal abortion, or fly to some country
where abortion was legal and safe.
So who did the brunt of the death and suffering fall on? The poor,
not even the poor, but the merely average. You had to be quite
rich to afford a safe illegal abortion.
And the young, young women.
But didn't they bring this on themselves?
We hope you
are not overweight and you're getting lots of strenuous exercise,
and otherwise doing everything to avoid health problems. Because
if not then maybe we should suggest that medical help for your
future ailments be made illegal? And certainly don't ski or engage
in any other risky behaviors, driving when not absolutely necessary
by our standards.
No, the limit of polite conversation is
perhaps to charge you slightly higher health insurance premiums,
or perhaps make you pay for such self-induced health problems. But
it's never suggested that we ban you from hospitals and medical
care entirely and let you die clutching your chest or coughing
up blood on some street corner because it was your own
But, of course, that's exactly what these bishops
are suggesting, making a medical procedure illegal and letting
the woman bear the consequences.
But why can't they just love their child, let it be born
and make the best of it? Life can be rough but things can work
It sounds reasonable, aren't these upbeat thoughts so easy when
it's somebody else's life?!
But the bishops also oppose abortion in the case of incest,
rape, and even where carrying the pregnancy to term might
threaten the life of the mother. See our
article on this topic and how McCain just doesn't
believe women tell the truth about these things. Ok,
McCain isn't a Roman Catholic bishop, he's not even a
Roman Catholic. But we believe McCain is expressing
the bishops' sentiments exactly.
So let's get this straight. You're a 15 year old girl.
Your father, or your brother, uncle, etc., raped you.
Now you're pregnant. But hey it's your fault, deal with
it? Have the baby? Why? Because this world is filled
with nothing but love and compassion which will swaddle
your infant like a warm blanket?
Let's be bluntly honest. You can go through a city and
find women with small children living in filth, homeless,
hungry, cold. Mostly we will walk right by them perhaps
shaking our heads at their bad luck, maybe we'll think
of a charity which can help not really knowing why it
isn't helping her.
But being hungry and cold and homeless
is perfectly legal in this country, even if you're a small
child, even if you're a newborn baby. The concern stops at
the moment of birth. You can't call the police to report
a hungry woman with child and expect them to respond. Face it,
we don't really give a damn, except perhaps as convenient
to us, throw a quarter in the bucket and hope it helps.
But abortion? Give these bishops their way and that's exactly
what they will get, law enforcement, the police rushing past the cold, hungry,
homeless woman with child, guns brandished, swinging into
action to stop an illegal abortion!
As Barack Obama has said, and we wholeheartedly agree, no one
is PRO-abortion. The difference is that some of
us would like to see abortions avoided voluntarily rather than
sending in big men with guns and sticks to stop them.
Interesting article from a gynecologist who worked in the days
when abortion was illegal:
Happy Veterans day, particularly to our nation's veterans! It's
worthwhile reminding ourselves that veteran's day is on November 11th,
the anniversary of the signing of the armistice which ended World War I
in 1918. To much of the western world it is known as Armistice
Day. In 1954 Congress amended an earlier act signed into law
by President Eisenhower making November 11th a day to celebrate
all veterans, and to change its official name to Veterans Day (no
apostrophe!) We think it fitting that our veterans be honored on
the day a war ended, when victory was achieved. Somehow it seems
to have become quaint and old-fashioned to look forward to
victory in war, but we still hold that idea dear, to the end
of the conflict!
Veterans Day 2008
Something both John McCain and Al Gore have in common is that
they each campaigned for president shunning the sitting
president. And they both lost.
In Al Gore's case in 2000 it was President Bill Clinton being
shunned. We don't know the exact reason but it was probably either
that Gore and Clinton didn't get along, or that Gore
wanted to distance himself and his campaign
from the various accusations against
Clinton, or both.
In 2008 Senator John McCain shunned sitting President George
W. Bush. Again, we don't know the exact reason, but it was
probably either that McCain and Bush didn't get along, or that
McCain wanted to distance himself and his campaign from the
widespread unpopularity of GW Bush and his administration, or
Let's assume in both cases it was to avoid association with
the sitting presidents' problems.
It would be an interesting quandary for a candidate. Distancing
oneself from a sitting president within the same party would
seem to telegraph something out of balance to the voting
public. President Bush wasn't even at the Republican National
Convention (his speech was via satellite video.)
John Mccain presented himself to the electorate as a "maverick", but
"outsider" may've been more accurate.
We think McCain's loss was a blessing for many reasons, but
one reason is that he wouldn't have had much sway with the
republicans in Congress. So we would have had the very
strange situation of a sitting president at odds both with
the members of the other party in Congress, and members of
his own party also? I don't think we need to see where that
leads right now with so many red-hot irons in the fire.
10 November 2008
by Alan Smithee
Change.gov Barack Obama's Transition Site
Click To Visit
Change.gov is President-Elect Barack Obama's official site to
communicate what's happening with the entire planet. It's new,
it's just shaping up, it's a welcome relief from the current
president who seemed to be at war with everyone except his
(very) small circle of friends.
An interesting feature on change.gov is the blog with a
stream of items and videos about what is happening with
the transition team.
The agenda area is currently brief and to the point, if we
The Obama Administration has a comprehensive and detailed agenda to carry out
its policies. The principal priorities of the Obama Administration include: a
plan to revive the economy, to fix our health care, education, and social
security systems, to define a clear path to energy independence,
to end the war
in Iraq responsibly and finish our mission in Afghanistan,
and to work with our
allies to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, among many other
domestic and foreign policy objectives.
You are also invited to submit your stories and vision.
We think it's a very nice start.
08 November 2008
California's Proposition 8
by Alan Smithee
The Threat! (?)
We were reading a book review of Bernard-Henri Levi's new
book "Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism"
in the New York Observer and the reviewer said (paraphrased)
that people, and electorates, continually balance between
tolerance of injustice and tolerance of disorder.
Californians passed it 52.4% for, 47.6% against with
about 11 million votes cast. The vote difference
was about 500,000 and there remain about 2.7 million
absentee and provisional ballots left to be counted though
it's not thought likely they will change the outcome.
Passing it meant no more gay marriages in California, put simply.
It intends to overturn the California Supreme Court ruling of
May 15, 2008 which said gay marriage was legal under California's
constitution and law.
So, back to injustice versus disorder.
We believe these forces factored into this result.
Tolerance of injustice is relatively easy when you're not the
victim of that injustice. A clever political campaign might go
one step further and convince the electorate they are indeed
the victim of the injustice, just not in the obvious way the
proposition seems to lay out.
The reasoning goes that tolerating gay marriage is an injustice
to the institution of (non-gay) marriage, that it somehow defiles
or dilutes the institution.
Mostly symbolic although perhaps there's
some outside fear that next the rights which come with marriage
such as inheritance or not being compelled to testify against a
spouse in court will be the next target. After all, if anyone
can get married then why should marriage confer any peculiar
rights at all?
But that is getting fairly far-fetched and afield, the proposition
promises no such shoring up of rights under marriage. It doesn't
even attempt to list these rights.
Of course, what the proposition does do is pave a path to
define those rights through this ballot process. That might
be as great a concern to the supporters of proposition 8
as defining marriage. That is, if someone did want to
remove a marriage right, say the right to not testify against
a spouse, the path is now clear: Go out and get it on the ballot.
By challenging the court's ruling they also challenged the court's
authority to protect the very rights they believed they were protecting.
We are not sure we'd like our rights, any rights, up
for grabs in the circus and passions of an election versus
the carefully considered context of a court room.
For gay supporters the issue is much more palpable. Those rights
delineated for married couples, from visitation rights in a hospital
to testifying in court or filing joint tax returns, are practical
matters, not symbols. Either you can stay with a loved one who
is gravely ill in a hospital overnight (often limited to a spouse
or parent), or you cannot.
Supporters might say, alright, we can see that concern, even
a good friend ought to be able sit by your bedside at your
time of need if that is who you want there, marriage seems
almost superfluous to the decision.
Of course, once we go down that road, aren't all marriage
rights subject to extension to most anyone? We can will our
property to anyone, but only a spouse gets certain tax benefits.
Maybe we should extend the tax benefits to a "partner", just
to be fair. And on and on. Until what marriage rights are left?
We argue that this so-called "defense of marriage" proposition is nothing of
the sort. By denying marriage to some it opens the Pandora's box
of a review of those rights currently given in marriage only.
So the injustice we mentioned earlier might well be to the
tradition of marriage. Rather than honoring that tradition
as something special and a conferring of rights it is now
laid bare on the table to be picked apart and extended to
non-married people. This is what terms like "civil union" invite,
the extension of marriage rights to non-married people.
We think the people who voted for this proposition in the belief
were defending marriage were fooled.
They were fooled into thinking that voting for this proposition
avoids disorder, that is, preserves the order they see as
marriage being only between a man and a woman. And, in trade,
tolerates injustice, something preserving order often requires. The injustice
is to gay couples who want to be part of this institution of marriage.
The supporters may have accomplished just the opposite of their
expressed intent and severely weakened
the institution of marriage and any special rights it extends.
Worse, they took this conferring of rights away from the
courts and moved it to the ballot box. As the old adage
goes, can 51% of the electorate vote to kill the other 49%?
We sincerely hope this is not the end of this story, and that more
considered thought prevails.
07 November 2008
Cliffhanger in Minnesota!
by Alan Smithee
Al Franken v. Norm Coleman in MN
One of the senate seats in Minnesota (MN) hangs by a hair!
Al Franken challenged the incumbent Norm Coleman and as of this
writing are separated by
Franken (D): 1,211,540, Coleman (R): 1,211,301, and third-party candidate
Dean Barkley 437,377. That's .008 percent, less than one hundredth
of one percent.
And the recount hasn't even started! These numbers are already
changing from the preliminary review of ballots in
preparation for the coming recount.
If Franken ultimately wins it will push the democrats in the senate
one more vote towards a filibuster-proof majority which would be
Right now the democrats hold 57 seats, republicans 40, independents
2 (Lieberman CT and Sanders VT), with 2 seats
yet to be decided: Franken and Coleman in Minnesota
and Georgia where they'll have a run-off
between republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss and democrat James
Martin in December.
If the democrats take both of those seats then they'll have 59 seats, one short
of the magic 60 number. But that would probably give it to the democrats,
Bernie Sanders, senator from Vermont, is more likely to vote with
which forces the end of
, a tool the minority party (republican) can use to indefinitely delay
a vote on a bill by extending debate endlessly generally offering to stop only
when changes they want are made to the bill or the bill is abandoned
entirely. This can be stopped by invoking the cloture rule which
just ends the debate. But it takes 60 votes and the democrats are
slightly short of that.
We think this 60-vote threshold is over-rated though it is interesting.
Ultimately, a senator has to represent his or her contituents. Hostile
tactics such as filibusters by a few individual minority party
senators can cost, politically, on other matters.
Some famous filibusters went day and night non-stop
and included the reading of telephone books and every word of major
newspapers including the ads insisting that it all
be entered into the congressional record as debate on the matter at hand.
But those were typically small groups of senators fighting the
entire senate and not particularly along party lines. For example,
in the bad old days of segregation senators from the south would
use filibusters to try to stop civil rights legislation.
Threats of filibuster are sometimes effective and have been
used recently, typically to try to force some sort of compromise
on a matter by the minority party.
The point is that with such a decisive democratic majority in both houses
of congress, and the white house, the republicans have to choose their
fights very carefully and with full consideration of their states'
interests as opposed to displays of party loyalty.
Another spectre for the republicans is that of senators switching
party affiliation. Senators can switch affiliation at any time. This
has happened many times over the years, often a minority party
senator moving to the majority party. Again, the consideration
is often their state's interests versus party loyalty. Becoming
a member of the majority party usually puts a senator in a better
position to get their states' interests legislated (that is,
Finally, the number for cloture is not really 60 senators. It's
three-fifths of the sitting senators which is 60 only if all
100 seats are filled. Seats can go empty due to death, illness,
removal (rare, but consider convicted felon Ted Stevens, AK),
or resignation. For example, republican Texas senator Kay Bailey
Hutchison has been hinting that she may resign her senate seat
to run for governor of Texas.
This is a less likely path to
cloture as senate vacancies tend to be filled in a matter of
hours (usually a replacement is appointed by the state's
governor.) But it could happen and leave small periods of
time when the democrats could pass legislation without any
chance of opposition by the republicans. It also doesn't
take very much time to rush a bill to the floor and vote
on it when the senate is in session.
06 November 2008
So What Just Happened?
by Alan Smithee
Copley Square / Boston Public Library
11 November 2008 12:30AM
What happened on election day 2008 was more cultural than political.
This election reminded us
riots which ensued
when the ballet The Rite of Spring premiered in
Paris in 1913. People were scandalized, it symbolized
a departure from one world to a new, unknown world. Except
that this time the people who took to the streets seemed happy!
The video in this article was recorded on the streets of Boston
the night of the election, around 12:30AM. Thousands of people
took to the streets in various parts of the city.
The police were everywhere in large groups. This particular
video was shot in Copley Square, in front of the Boston Public
Library. It's worthwhile viewing. We'll add more videos as we
P.S. Sorry that the video is dark but we think it conveys the
event. It was shot on an old Sony DSC-P100.
04 November 2008
The Electoral College
by Alan Smithee
US Electoral College Map (click for larger version)
We don't vote for the president and vice-president today. We vote
for the apportionment of electors in the electoral college, and they
vote for who is to be president and vice-president on December 15th.
So what is the electoral college and how might we write a little
about it without putting you to sleep?
The US constitution actually calls for the president and vice-president
to be elected by an indirect method via the electoral college.
The term Electoral College was only first written into law
in 1845 (that oughta settle some heated bar bets!)
There are 538 members (electors) of the electoral college, allocated to
the states: One for each
senator and one for each representative to congress, plus one
for the District of Columbia (why do we always say
Washington, D.C.? Is there any other place in D.C.?)
In order to be elected president or vice-president a candidate must
get an absolute majority of the electors. For 2008 that would
be 270 votes. It's possible that neither candidate gets the
required 270 votes in which case other rules kick in.
In all states plus the District of Columbia it is a winner-takes-all,
whichever candidate wins the popular vote gets all the electoral
votes for that state.
The two exceptions are Maine and Nebraska. They break up the state
into their congressional districts and assign electors based on the
who wins the popular vote in each congressional district.
This means that for most states it's always the number of electors
for the winning candidate and zero for the loser. In Maine and
Nebraska it can (and usually is) split based on the above results.
Now it gets interesting. As far as the federal government is concerned
there is no legal requirement that an elector actually vote according
to the above formulas (winner take all or per district.)
An elector who does not vote according to the state's designated
formula is known as a faithless elector.
24 states have laws which punish faithless electors, but the
punishments aren't very severe and aren't likely to be enforced
anyhow, it probably depends on perceived motivation. Besides, in
all 24 of those states they may only be punished after the
vote is cast so as far as the election itself goes any punishment
is somewhat academic except as a threat beforehand.
In fact, no faithless elector has ever been punished, and
any such punishment has never been decided on for its constitutionality
in the supreme court of the United States. There have been 158
cases of faithless electors in all of US history, and 71 of those
were because the candidate died between election day and December
15th when the electoral college actually votes.
In 1836, 23 Virginia
electors changed their vote together, refusing to vote for
Martin Van Buren's running mate Richard Mentor Johnson for various
reasons, among them his open relationship with a mulatto woman
whom he referred to as his common law wife and with whom he had two daughters.
Johnson became vice-president anyhow. Failing to achieve a majority
the twelfth amendment rules swung in and congress settled the
matter. And that's more than enough on the 1836 election.
Where were we? Oh yes, if you add the 71 electors who changed their
vote because the candidate died to the 23 in 1836 you get 94 faithless
electors accounted for. So, out of a total of 158 there are 64
remaining faithless electors in US history. Not too many.
In 2004 one Minnesota elector cast his vote for president for
John Edwards, apparently by accident. In 2000 the DC elector
refused to vote at all in protest of DC's lack of statehood. In
1976 one elector voted for Ronald Reagan rather than the actual
presidential candidate that year Gerald Ford. In 1972 a
faithless elector voted for a libertarian party candidate. And
on and on.
Faithless electors have never made a difference in the
outcome of a presidential election though in 2000 it was
close, George W. Bush won with 271 electors and the
faithless elector who refused to vote was pledged to Al Gore.
So what effect does our indirect electoral college voting system have on our
Several effects have been postulated but one interesting effect is
that a presidential candidate can win an election by only winning
the winner-take-all electors in eleven (11) states: California,
Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan,
Georgia, New Jersey and South Carolina. The candidate could, in
theory, ignore the other 39 states and DC and still become president.
It's not very likely that any candidate would feel certain enough
of their winning exactly those 11 states so the effect is probably
remote but it does illustrate that candidates would do well in
concentrating on those states in their efforts. Some would say
that makes for lopsided elections and election platorms.
Conversely, this system gives disproportionate (compared to
their population) weight to low-population states such as
Alaska. Alaska has three electoral votes for a population
of about 680,000 or one electoral vote per 226,000. In
contrast, Calfornia has 55 electors for a population of
36.5 million or one elector per 663,000 (we assume these
proportions roughly reflect the voting population.) So
each voter's vote in Alaska has over twice the clout as
Others have criticized the electoral college system because
it discourages people from bothering to vote in states where
the outcome is pretty well known before election day. For example,
it's highly, highly, (did we say highly?) likely that the
popular vote in Massachusetts will go for Barack Obama today.
Since the electors are chosen winner-take-all it doesn't matter if
Obama wins MA by one vote or one million votes, he gets the same
number of electors from MA (12, for those keeping score at home.)
So, the reasoning goes, once you're fairly certain the vote in
your state will go a particular way why bother to vote at all?
Well, as a public service, one good answer is that there will be
other elections on your ballot which are voted by direct
vote. For example, all congressmen/women/others are up for
election this year, and there are probably some local elections
in your district for dog catcher or something you wouldn't want
to miss out on.
And, besides, the media is going to crow and crow
about the popular result for each presidential candidate
and how much of a mandate it seems to gives him. A president
with a landslide in the popular election can feel more confident
about the attractiveness of his policies to the voters than one
who barely squeaked by (or, in the case of our current president,
didn't win the national vote at all in 2000.)
So you should go out and vote anyhow...go ahead...we'll wait...
Conversely, if the president were instead chosen by popular vote
then every vote would count because your vote for Obama in
MA might nullify a vote for McCain in Nebraska. Under the electoral
college system there is no such effect, MA can go for Obama and
NE can go for McCain regardless of how you vote in MA.
Only three times in US history has the electoral college vote
gone the opposite of the nation's popular vote as a whole.
1876 democrat Samuel Tilden won the popular vote by over
3% but lost the
electoral college vote to Rutherford B Hayes by one vote in
a very heated and historic contest. In 1888 the democrat,
Grover Cleveland, beat republican Benjamin Harrison in the
popular vote by about 1% but Harrison won with 233 electoral
votes versus Cleveland's 168.
Finally, and probably fresh in a lot of your minds, in 2000
Al Gore won the popular vote by about a half percentage point
(about 500,000 votes), but George Bush won the election,
271 electoral votes to Gore's 266.
One last question: Who are these electors, how are they chosen? (Ok,
perhaps that was two questions.)
How they are chosen varies from state to state though not by much,
it's basically party politics with a few exceptions where they're
chosen in a primary election. The constitution
only forbids them from being federal office holders or otherwise
sworn an oath to the United States but later rebelled against
the US (this came up during the Civil War.)
The names of
the electors are made available shortly after the election,
for details. You can also find a link to the 2004 electors on that
In practice it doesn't matter a lot who the actual electors are because
their vote is pre-ordained by the state's (or congressional district's)
popular vote. The only exception is if an election result hung on
the decision of a faithless elector or other irregularity (e.g., a
candidate dying) leaving the choice entirely up to the elector.
For even more gruesome details on the electoral college and its history:
Well, that was pretty boring, sorry, but at least we kept it reasonably
short and to the point.
04 November 2008
Barack Obama Takes Dixville Notch, NH by a Landslide!
by Alan Smithee
Dixville Notch Votes!
The first results are in from Dixville Notch, New Hampshire and
the results are decisive: 15 votes for Barack Obama, 6 for John
Ok, there are only 21 voters in Dixville Notch. But it's the
first time since 1968 the town has gone for the democrat.
03 November 2008
Vote For Obama/Biden and Democrats Tomorrow
by Alan Smithee
The-Election.com Endorses Obama/Biden
We support Obama/Biden for president. Obama presents
the vision and leadership this country needs right now. And
we urge you to vote for democrats to help smooth our new president's transition.
Obama's major opponent, John McCain, does not get our
support. Here is why.
When Obama speaks of change he is promising a change
in direction for this country, something which is so sorely needed.
When John McCain speaks of change, he is only referring to a change
in direction for his republican party which has strayed so far
from common sense and even their own dignity under George W. Bush.
We hope the republicans find their way and we wish them luck. The
republican party has been dominated by neo-conservative ideologues who
try to respond to every problem which comes their way by consulting
magic decoder rings and producing predictable, formulaic
answers. They have also pandered for votes from a right-wing fringe
whose thought processes, to be frank, sometimes scares us.
claiming to lead the so-called "Christian Right" the republicans have only
put them at odds with much of the rest of the country and
let fear present them as a freak show. We know there
are a lot of decent, thoughtful, people who also happen to be
very serious about their religion. They need to begin speaking
with their own voices, not through the voices of republican spin doctors.
Throughout the Bush administration
republicans increased spending and the size of government while
cutting taxes. This led to the largest increase in government
debt in US history and, ultimately, to our current financial
John McCain is correct, his party needs a change. We don't know if
he's the man to do it, but at least he admits they have a big problem.
But that's not what we want in a president. We want a person who
can lead our country out of the current crisis and into
a brighter future, not a president who promises to use his office
to improve the republican brand. The republicans can fight that
fight among themselves without dragging the rest of the country
through their pain.
John McCain likes to label himself a "maverick". To a great
extent this is his way of distancing himself from the mainstream
republican party and in particular George W. Bush.
But what we fear most from a John McCain presidency is that we will
soon find out that he really has no influence within
the republican party. Another
way to look at the word "maverick" is "outsider".
A John McCain presidency would be deadlocked and
ineffective, the last thing we need r