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06 January 2009 20:41 EST

CNN's Sanjay Gupta Obama Choice for Surgeon General
Former Surgeon General Vice Admiral Richard Carmona, MD
Former Surgeon General Vice Admiral Richard Carmona, MD
Enemy of The State?

Well, who cares. Gupta seems eminently qualified and we wish him well.

But it led us to ask...Who is the current Surgeon General of the United States?

TRICK QUESTION! There is none.

TRICK ANSWER! Well, there is an ACTING Surgeon General, Rear Admiral Steven K. Galson.

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 health hazard."

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,[7] 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.

Countdown to Obama Inauguration , as of this moment 13 days, 2 hours, 51 minutes, 58 seconds.

We can't hold our breath that long but we sure wish we could!

Article: 000177
05 January 2009 16:38 EST

Meg Whitman, Former Ebay CEO, Wants to be Governor of California
Meg Whitman and John McCain
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 in politics.

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.

Article: 000176
04 January 2009 23:15 EST

Franken Wins! For Now.
Al Franken Reaching Out To Voters
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.

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) says Franken should be seated immediately when the new Congress convenes on Tuesday or as soon as possible thereafter.

Meanwhile, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) has vowed to block Franken's seating, by filibuster if necessary.


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?

Article: 000175
02 January 2009 12:45 EST

Why Isn't Madoff in Jail?
Happy New Year! Liberty Hotel Boston 2009
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 ways.

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 him up.

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.

Article: 000174
30 December 2008 18:28 EST

Blago Appoints Obama Senate Seat Replacement
The Bush Legacy
Franken v. Coleman update
Roland Burris and Rod Blagojevich
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 meaningless.

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.

Now on to more disputed absentee ballots...

Also, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said over the weekend: "If the Canvassing Board declares a winner, that should be our senator. [The Senate] could seat a senator pending the litigation."

Article: 000173
29 December 2008 12:39 EST

Palestinians Should Greet the Israelis as Liberators!
Comic: Palestinian Authority Shooting self in head with gun
	      labelled 'Hamas'
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 Strip.

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.

Doing a little research we learn that when Hamas took over from Fatah in Gaza in 2007 they invited the German newspaper Der Spiegel to a tour of Fatah's torture chambers and backroom execution facilities . Lovely.

Hamas themselves were no slackers. To celebrate winning an election in Gaza they proceeded to throw Fatah rivals off high-rise Gaza buildings. . Here's a video of the execution if you feel that will help but we warn you it's stomach-churning.

Not to be outdone Fatah quickly began throwing Hamas leaders off of roofs to their death (see same stories.)

Hamas of course does not recognize Israel's right to exist while demanding Israel recognize Hamas' right to exist. Well, Israel certainly recognizes the Palestinian Authority's right to exist.

And then there are the near-daily rocket barrages from Hamas' Gaza over the past few years. Today they managed to kill an Israeli Arab (Bedouin) construction worker in a barrage of 60 rockets fired at Ashkelon, an Israeli town near Gaza.

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 Taliban Afghanistan.

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 deprivations.

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 government.

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:

Hamas Is Largely to Blame for Israel's Gaza Offensive

Article: 000172
27 December 2008 14:01 EST

Israel and Gaza and Qassam Rockets
6 Qassam Rockets Ready to be Launched
Qassam Rockets

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 fact.

So, we're going to show you how to easily prove to yourself that this daily rocket attack has been going on.

Open up

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 attacks.

Below is some of what we got back from that search and searching UPI and 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:

Dec 25, 2008, Associated Press: Israel set for Gaza invasion after rocket barrage
Dec 25, 2008, BBC News: Israel warns Hamas over rockets
Dec 24, 2008 Ynetnews, Israel: Qassam damages Sderot factory; 3 suffer from shock
Dec 19, 2008 ABC Online, Australia: Rockets fired in Gaza Strip after Hamas ends ceasefire Palestinian militants have fired two rockets from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel...
Dec 18, 2008 All News Web: Israel: 40 rockets fired from Gaza in less than one week
Dec 17, 2008 Christian Broadcasting Network, Virginia: Rockets Pound Israel before Truce Ends
Dec 16, 2008 UPI: Kassam rockets fired on Israeli targets
Dec 13, 2008 Ynetnews, Israel: Rocket, mortars land in Negev
Nov 6, 2008 New York Times: MIDDLE EAST; Gaza: Rocket Fire and Israeli Strike Disrupt Cease-Fire Hamas fired dozens of rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip on Wednesday...
Nov 5, 2008 UPI: Palestinians launch Gaza rocket attack
Aug 9, 2008 UPI: Gaza rocket firings break cease-fire
Jan 9, 2008 New York Times: At Gaza's Edge, Israelis Fear Rockets' Whine "A little more than three weeks ago, on Dec. 13, Ms. Sasson's daughter Nofit, 21, was on the roof terrace hanging out laundry when she heard the red alert and then saw a Qassam whistling toward her. She ran screaming down the stairs; the rocket hit the house next door, exploding and then embedding itself in the wall between the houses, just next to canisters of bottled gas, shattering windows and cracking walls."

We strongly encourage you to do your own research.

This just in from Time Magazine:

The Gaza Air Strikes: Why Israel Attacked

"...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.

Article: 000171
26 December 2008 12:26 EST

3 out of 4: Good Riddance to W!
Bush in front of Mission Accomplished banner
Yeah, Right, Now Go Home

According to a CNN/Opinion Research poll 75% are glad Bush is done.

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...

As Chris Rock said:

"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!

Article: 000170
24 December 2008 12:47 EST

Coleman v Franken Minnesota Senate Race Update
Ancient Mosaic of Two Gladiators in Combat
A Fight to the Death!

The Minnesota state supreme court has extended 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 article 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.

The unofficial count has Franken ahead by 47 votes.

Article: 000169
21 December 2008 21:35 EST

Shoe Thrower is Democracy and Freedom? Nonsense.
Attorney Khalil al-Dulaimi's Previous Client

By now we've all seen the video of the journalist in Baghdad throwing his shoes at Iraq. It's even inspired a few online "throw the shoe at the president" games.

But look at this interchange between David Gregory and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on Meet The Press today (full transcript):

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.


This echoed Bush's remark: "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 shoe was beaten 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 gruesome way.

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 happy talk?

And now for some good news! The reporter who threw the shoes has rejected Iraqi attorney Khalil al-Dulaimi's offer to defend him. Mr al-Dulaimi defended Saddam Hussein and we all know how that turned out!

Article: 000167
19 December 2008 14:19 EST

Franken Pulls Ahead in Minnesota
Al Franken and Norm Coleman
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 article 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.

Article: 000167
17 December 2008 19:30 EST

Children Playing Musical Chairs
All Around the Mulberry Bush...

Franken v. Coleman for Minnesota Senate Seat

Republican incumbent Norm Coleman argues 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 on hold.

Today 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.

Meanwhile Governor Blagojevich is fighting back against the corruption charges and has indicated he will be making public statements in his defense soon.

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 campaign 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 several non-profits.

The appointment will be made New York Governor David Paterson. Other hopefuls include 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.

And a replacement for Governor Bill Richardson?

Bill Richardson will be Obama's new Commerce Secretary. He was New Mexico's Governor so will need to be replaced. A likely replacement will be New Mexico Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish who would become New Mexico's first female governor (ed., this is probably a done deal now.) .

Janet Napolitano, Governor of Arizona, to be Secretary of Homeland Security

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.

Article: 000166
16 December 2008 18:26 EST

Barack Obama Elected 44th President of the United States!
Barack Obama looking serious in sunglasses
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 anomalies.

Article: ######
12 December 2008 19:14 EST

Nader A Spoiler — AGAIN!
Ralph Nader photo, deep in thought
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 ticket.

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 third-party candidates.

Oh well, so much for that stupid line of thinking.

Article: 000164
11 December 2008 17:01 EST

Barney Frank and Democrats Fought Republicans on Sub-Prime Lending
Congressman Barney Frank explains
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.

From Congressman Frank's letter:

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.

Article: 000163
10 December 2008 16:54 EST

Now Norm Coleman is Under Investigation?!
Norm Coleman young with very long hair
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, continues.

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 wife's employer.

Some are already asking Coleman to resign immediately if he wins the recount.

More breaking news as it breaks!

Article: 000162
09 December 2008 16:52 EST

Craig, Blagojevich, Rezko, Franken v. Coleman
Rod Blagojevich On Facebook
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 Jimmy!

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, Indiana.


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 here.

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.

At this point no one knows who is ahead in this race, estimates are as close as Franken by four votes. .

Right now it's looking more and more like this senate race is headed for the Senate for resolution.

Article: 000161
06 December 2008 17:40 EST

Chambliss, Franken, and the Myth of 60
Joe Lieberman and George W Bush Kiss
Smooch Smooch!

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 since 1974 and even 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 Senate.

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.

Bernie Sanders is a "self-described democratic socialist" and caucuses with the democratic party.

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 1988.

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 party.

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 again.

Article: 000160
02 December 2008 18:37 EST

Chambliss versus Martin in Georgia
Franken versus Coleman in Minnesota
Saxby Chambliss with President Bush
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 106.

They're voting in Georgia! Voting is light 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.

Article: 000159
01 December 2008 14:36 EST

Showdown in Georgia!
Palin as Political Angel of Death? Endorses Jim Martin!
Jim Martin – The Right Choice for Georgia
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. 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 be in.

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.

Article: 000158
25 November 2008 16:05 EST

Not Dead, Only Sleeping!
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 of them!

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 Laffer Curve 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!

Article: 000157
24 November 2008 19:43 EST

Recount Roundup! Ch-ch-ch-changes!
Delaware State Attorney General Captain Beau Biden
Delaware State Attorney General Captain Beau Biden

Franken V. Coleman

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.

Virginia: Democrat Tom Perriello defeats Republican Virgil Goode by 745 votes in recount

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 to democrats.

Al Gore Campaigns in Georgia Senate Runoff Race

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.

Biden aide Ted Kaufman Fills Biden's Senate Seat

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 guy!

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.

No Decision Yet on Obama's Senate Seat

Illinois Governor hints that he'll make the appointment a Christmas gift for someone.

Article: 000156
20 November 2008 16:00 EST

Bush, Cheney and Paulson
Should Resign Now!

This is the world economy's "9/11"

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 picks.

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 resign now. You have all failed, and you are taking the United States of America down with you.

Article: 000155
20 November 2008 13:44 EST

The US Automakers Bailout
Auto Companies Family Tree
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 companies.)

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, liquidated.

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 claim.

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 other creditors.

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.

Or some 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.

An 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.

One important 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. here

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 of necessity.

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.

Article: 000154
19 November 2008 13:56 EST

Boehner Re-Elected House GOP Minority Leader

Minnesota Senate Recount Begins!

Congressman John Boehner
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 upcoming election?

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?

Boehner 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!

Minnesota Senate Recount Begins

The recount in the Minnesota Senate race between republican incumbent Norm Coleman and democratic challenger Al Franken has begun (link to New York Times article).

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 candidates currently.

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 announced.

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.

Article: 000153

McCain, Cheney, Stevens!
President Bush and a Turkey being pardoned for Thanksgiving
Proof: Bush Pardons Turkeys!

John McCain Prepares for Senate Re-election run in 2010

According to this CNN article 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 old guy.

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 Attorney-General.

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!

This just in! 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.

Article: 000152
17 November 2008 17:13 EST

Gulf War Illness: More Republican Fallout
George HW Bush and wife Barbara greeting troops
Thanks Suckers!

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 claptrap.

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 some suggested.

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 United States.

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.

Article: 000151
13 November 2008 20:43 EST

Alaska Senate Race: Begich Pulls Ahead of Stevens
Mark Begich and Ted Stevens
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 counted.

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 Saxby Chambliss.

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 motion.

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.

Article: ######
12 November 2008 14:23 EST

``Headline: Catholic Bishops will fight Obama on abortion''
(presumably dead woman, naked, bloody, in corner of room)
She Had a Right to Life Also, no?

ABC News: Bishops Fire Warning Shot Across Bow of HHS Obama
Chicago Tribune: Catholic bishops plan to forcefully confront Obama
Boston Globe: Catholic bishops warn Obama they'll fight on abortion
New York Times: U.S. Bishops Urged to Challenge Obama

The bishops, and anyone else in this country, are certainly within their rights to express and even, within the law, act on their opinions.

But what is it they are "fighting" for? Presidents don't perform abortions.

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 contion.

What the bishops want is for abortion to be made illegal. This is something Obama, and other politicians, can help them with directly.

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 damned fault!

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 out.

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 previous 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:

...However, not simply coat hangers were used.

Almost any implement you can imagine had been and was used to start an abortion - darning needles, crochet hooks, cut-glass salt shakers, soda bottles, sometimes intact, sometimes with the top broken off...

Article: 000149
11 November 2008 00:10 EST

Parallel Between McCain and Gore
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 Poster
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 both.

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.

Article: 000148
10 November 2008 17:48 EST – Barack Obama's Transition Site
Click To Visit 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 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 may quote:

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.

Article: 000147
08 November 2008 14:00 EST

California's Proposition 8
Smiling Gay Family (two women, two young children)
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.

This made us think about California's proposition 8 which just passed on election day. The proposition's title sums it up: "Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry" .

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 that they 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.

Article: 000146
07 November 2008 12:36 EST

Cliffhanger in Minnesota!
Al Franken v. Norm Coleman in MN
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 239 votes, 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 60.

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 democrats for cloture which forces the end of filibusters , 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, pork!)

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.

Interesting times!

Article: 000145
06 November 2008 02:01 EST

So What Just Happened?

Boston, MA
Copley Square / Boston Public Library
11 November 2008 12:30AM
(requires recent flash player and javascript enabled)

What happened on election day 2008 was more cultural than political.

This election reminded us of the 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 prepare them.

P.S. Sorry that the video is dark but we think it conveys the event. It was shot on an old Sony DSC-P100.

Article: 000144
04 November 2008 15:01 EST

The Electoral College
US Electoral College Map
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 elections?

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 each Californian's.

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.

In 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, see this page for details. You can also find a link to the 2004 electors on that web page.

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.

Article: 000142
04 November 2008 00:46 EST

Barack Obama Takes Dixville Notch, NH by a Landslide!
Dixville Notch, New Hampshire
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 McCain.

Ok, there are only 21 voters in Dixville Notch. But it's the first time since 1968 the town has gone for the democrat.

Article: 000141
03 November 2008 13:32 EST

Vote For Obama/Biden and Democrats Tomorrow Endorses Obama/Biden 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.

In 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 crisis.

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