Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Should We Dispose of Disposals?

The best way to get rid of your leftover food.

I'm sorry to say I live in an apartment without a composter for organic waste. Given the circumstances, am I better off feeding my leftover mashed potatoes into the garbage disposal, so they don't end up in a landfill? Or should I throw them in the trash can, so they don't end up the water supply?

For years, the great garbage-disposal wars have been going on without most of us even noticing. Cities like New York—along with many governments in Europe—banned disposals altogether, arguing that the added food waste would overtax the water-treatment system. (New York removed the ban for residential kitchens in 1997.) Meanwhile, the appliance manufacturers—along with homeowners and restaurants who prefer getting rid of food through the drain—have argued that the disposal is actually a green machine, reducing the amount of trash sent to landfills.

Mark Crispin Miller: Spoonamore Reveals The Plan To Steal The Next Election

Here, in this shattering new interview, Stephen Spoonamore goes into harrowing detail about the Bush regime's election fraud, past, present and--if we don't spread the word right now--to come. Since he's the only whistle-blower out there who knows the perps themselves, and how they operate, we have to send this new piece far and wide.

Here Spoon tells us that McBush's team--i.e., Karl Rove and his henchpersons-- have their plan in place to steal this next election: by 51.2% of the popular vote, and three electoral votes.

Those who remember the Depression fear its return

The worldwide economic depression that began on Oct. 29,1929, is still everywhere if we'd look. Our infrastructure got built, our population shifted forever, our national character was forged.

But for some reason, the lessons have been lost.

Geneva Spickard draws a long line to represent a bunch of celery and divides it into thirds. She laments that her daughter only uses the middle third.

Treasury Would Emerge With Vast New Power

During its weeklong deliberations, Congress made many changes to the Bush administration’s original proposal to bail out the financial industry, but one overarching aspect of the initial plan that remains is the vast discretion it gives to the Treasury secretary.

The draft legislation, which will be put to a House vote on Monday, gives Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and his successor extraordinary power to decide how the $700 billion bailout fund is spent. For example, if he thinks it wise, he may buy not only mortgages and mortgage-backed securities, but any other financial instrument.

Will Wall Street's Meltdown Turn America Into a Police State?

By Scott Thill, AlterNet
Posted on September 30, 2008, Printed on September 30, 2008

"Raw capitalism is dead." -- Henry Paulson, U.S. Treasury secretary

"Can't we just all go out and say things are OK?" -- President Bush, to congressional leaders during bailout negotiations

I'm not much of an Army Times reader, but after reading that a brigade was shipping from Iraq in October to serve as "an on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks" in the homeland right before the election, my antennae perked up. Same as they did when I read that an electoral college doomsday scenario exists in which Dick Cheney casts the deciding vote that gives McCain-Palin the White House.

That is, if Cheney and Bush don't take it for themselves. That may sound like fantasy, but don't kill the messenger. They are all strands of the Gordian knot the Bush administration has tied around the neck of the American people for the last two presidential terms, best represented today by the failed bailout of banks, brokers and other complicit parties that have since jacked the American people out of trillions. And while the Army Times revelation or election doomsday may turn out to be paranoia rather than prescience, the evidence just isn't there.

Why Conservatives Led the Fight Against the Bailout Deal

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
Posted on September 30, 2008, Printed on September 30, 2008

On Monday, the Bush administration's massive Wall Street bailout went down to a narrow defeat in the House. After the 228-205 vote, markets crashed, and the usual partisan finger-pointing followed. According to the Washington Post, Speaker Nancy Pelosi "maintained that Democrats 'delivered on our side of the bargain' by getting 60 percent of House Democrats to support a bill that was built around the Bush administration's proposal, whereas 67 percent of House Republicans voted against it."

At first glance, it may appear that the 133 House Republicans who broke with their party's leadership did so out of principle -- that they bravely stood up against a massive cash transfer to those most responsible for precipitating the financial crisis in the first place. They appeared to be gambling a lot in taking that principled position, despite the fact that the bailout had drawn fire from across the political spectrum. The conventional wisdom, after all, has gelled around the idea that only an unprecedented cash infusion into the ailing banking system will stave off a potential Next Great Depression. The message many rebellious conservatives sent was that it takes courage to roll the dice with the world's economy six weeks before an election, even if the public was deeply skeptical of the measure (the reality is that almost none of the lawmakers who face tight races this fall voted for the bailout, fearing a backlash from voters; Congress is not known for courage or principle on the eve of an election).

The cost of 'no government'

By Julian Delasantellis

In the inky blackness of the night, I hear them. Here in the US Pacific Northwest, with the sun no longer ionizing the upper levels of the atmosphere, I can hear AM radio signals from stations up to 3,000 kilometers away, all the way to Chicago and beyond. For the most part they carry the buzz of call-in political talk shows, and it all sounds pretty much the same from one end of the radio spectrum to the other - when it comes to the financial system bailout bill that went down to defeat on Monday in the US House of Representatives, a violent, vitriolic, passionate, deeply visceral opposition to events transpiring in Washington, DC, can be heard.

If I didn't know better, I might have thought that I was listening to voices being broadcast from behind the borders of some oppressive dictatorship; it's citizens, like resistance fighters in World War II Europe, desperately calling out for help from the free world. So great is the alienation of the government from its people on this issue, you might have thought that the callers were making one final testament of the truth, for surely they believed that come the next dawn would also come the trucks to carry them off to the re-education camps.

Why the US is losing in Afghanistan

By Anthony H Cordesman

Most of the literature on the cost of the Iraq War, Afghan War, and "war on terror" focuses on the burden it places on the federal budget and the US economy. These are very real issues, but they also have deflected attention from another key issue: whether the war in Afghanistan is being properly funded and being given the resources necessary to win.

The situation in Afghanistan has now deteriorated steadily for more than five years, an assessment the US intelligence community has agreed to in its latest analysis of the war. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) commander in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, has noted that violence was at least 30% higher in September 2008 than in September 2007, and was driven by three factors:
  • The insurgents have adapted their tactics to smaller scale IEDS and ambush type attacks.
  • The US and NATO/International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have greater presence, and therefore greater contact with the insurgency.
  • A deteriorating condition in these tribal areas of Pakistan. More drugs and insurgents are being sent over the border.
  • Monday, September 29, 2008

    Thomas Frank: Wrecking, Wrecking, Wrecked

    The great fear that hung over the business community in the 1970s was death by regulation, and the great goal of the conservative movement, as it rose to triumph in the 1980s, was to remove that threat--to keep OSHA, the EPA, and the FTC from choking off entrepreneurship with their infernal meddling in the marketplace.

    Defunding those agencies was one way to stop the killer bureaucrats; another was to stuff them full of business-friendly personnel who would go easy on regulated. The signature conservative regulatory idea became "voluntary enforcement", because everyone now knew that efficient markets regulated themselves. Bad practices or tainted products drove away consumers; therefore firms had an incentive to behave, an incentive far more powerful than some top-down scheme in which big brother told them what to do.

    House Votes Down Financial Bailout Deal

    by Julie Hirschfeld Davis

    The House today defeated a $700 billion emergency rescue for the nation's financial system, ignoring urgent warnings from President Bush and congressional leaders of both parties that the economy could nosedive into recession without it.

    Stocks plummeted on Wall Street even before the 228-205 vote to reject the bill was announced on the House floor.

    Bush and a host of leading congressional figures had implored the lawmakers to pass the legislation despite howls of protest from their constituents back home. Despite pressure from supporters, not enough members were willing to take the political risk just five weeks before an election.

    Common insecticide can decimate tadpole populations

    Insecticide malathion initiates chain reaction that deprives tadpoles of food source, indirectly killing them at doses too small to kill them directly

    PITTSBURGH—The latest findings of a University of Pittsburgh-based project to determine the environmental impact of routine pesticide use suggests that malathion—the most popular insecticide in the United States—can decimate tadpole populations by altering their food chain, according to research published in the Oct. 1 edition of Ecological Applications.

    Gradual amounts of malathion that were too small to directly kill developing leopard frog tadpoles instead sparked a biological chain of events that deprived them of their primary food source. As a result, nearly half the tadpoles in the experiment did not reach maturity and would have died in nature. The research was funded by a National Science Foundation grant.

    Experiment Demonstrates 110 Years of Sustainable Agriculture

    The oldest continuous cotton production experiment shows that winter legumes are as effective as nitrogen fertilizer in producing non-irrigated, 10-yr average cotton yields.

    MADISON, WI, September 29, 2008A plot of land on the campus of Auburn University shows that 110 years of sustainable farming practices can produce similar cotton crops to those using other methods.

    In 1896, Professor J.F. Duggar at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama (now Auburn University) started an experiment to test his theories that sustainable cotton production was possible on Alabama soils if growers would use crop rotation and include winter legumes (clovers and/or vetch) to protect the soil from winter erosion.

    Two Portraits of a Bioterror Suspect

    As FBI Paints Ivins as Killer, Friends Recall Him as Good, if Flawed

    By Anne Hull, Marilyn W. Thompson and Lyndsey Layton
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Sunday, September 28, 2008; Page A01

    Two days before he was found unconscious at home, felled by a lethal dose of Tylenol and valium, microbiologist Bruce E. Ivins logged on to one of the "express computers" on the second floor of the library in downtown Frederick.

    He typed in the name of a Web site devoted to the anthrax-mailings investigation, a perplexing, unsolved case that had dragged on for seven years. At 7:13 p.m., the computer connected to a page that included comments from FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, who was confident that the case soon would be solved. "I tell you, we've made great progress in the investigation," he said.

    Paul Krugman: The 3 A.M. Call

    It’s 3 a.m., a few months into 2009, and the phone in the White House rings. Several big hedge funds are about to fail, says the voice on the line, and there’s likely to be chaos when the market opens. Whom do you trust to take that call?

    I’m not being melodramatic. The bailout plan released yesterday is a lot better than the proposal Henry Paulson first put out — sufficiently so to be worth passing. But it’s not what you’d actually call a good plan, and it won’t end the crisis. The odds are that the next president will have to deal with some major financial emergencies.

    Sunday, September 28, 2008

    Correntewire: The Crisis Explained

    By one RDF:

    Joe goes to the track and bets $2 on a horse.

    Two guys standing nearby get into a discussion and Fred says to Sam, “I’ll bet you $5 that Joe wins his bet.”

    Next to them are Bill and Bob. Bill says: “I’ll bet you $10 that Fred welshes on his bet if he loses.”

    Next to them is Sally. Sally says: “For $3 I’ll guarantee to Bill that if Bob fails to pay off, I’ll make good on the bet.”

    Deal reached on financial markets bailout

    Congress leaders, Bush administration reach tentative deal on financial bailout deal

    Sep 28, 2008 00:38 EST

    Congressional leaders and the Bush administration reached a tentative deal early Sunday on a landmark bailout of imperiled financial markets whose collapse could plunge the nation into a deep recession.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the $700 billion accord just after midnight but said it still has to be put on paper.

    More Americans are on food stamps but say the aid is not enough

    Krystal Follet’s husband left her in January. Her boss fired her in March. Her landlord gave her an eviction notice two weeks ago.

    A tough year for someone with two children to feed.

    Follet has turned to food stamps. The 31-year-old Arlington woman is among millions of Americans applying for government help to get enough to eat.

    "I don’t know how I would have fed them," Follet said. "Even when I worked, it was a struggle trying to get everything paid."

    The number of people on food stamps has been increasing for months. In June, the figure was 28.6 million, according to the government.

    A shattering moment in America's fall from power

    The global financial crisis will see the US falter in the same way the Soviet Union did when the Berlin Wall came down. The era of American dominance is over

    John Gray, The Observer
    Sunday September 28 2008

    Our gaze might be on the markets melting down, but the upheaval we are experiencing is more than a financial crisis, however large. Here is a historic geopolitical shift, in which the balance of power in the world is being altered irrevocably. The era of American global leadership, reaching back to the Second World War, is over.

    You can see it in the way America's dominion has slipped away in its own backyard, with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez taunting and ridiculing the superpower with impunity. Yet the setback of America's standing at the global level is even more striking. With the nationalisation of crucial parts of the financial system, the American free-market creed has self-destructed while countries that retained overall control of markets have been vindicated. In a change as far-reaching in its implications as the fall of the Soviet Union, an entire model of government and the economy has collapsed.

    Save Pensions

    THE meltdown in the financial industry isn’t merely a housing story populated by panicked home owners. Near retirees’ and retirees’ lives have been turned upside down, too, as their risky 401(k) savings accounts erode.

    It’s too bad that, in their plan to bail out investment firms, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, do not address the problems of older workers and retirees. The Treasury-Federal Reserve proposal should give not only investment banks but also retirees and those close to retirement the option to clear the junk — bad mortgage-based securities and their derivatives — out of their 401(k) accounts and invest in government-guaranteed bonds.

    Frank Rich: McCain’s Suspension Bridge to Nowhere

    WHAT we learned last week is that the man who always puts his “country first” will take the country down with him if that’s what it takes to get to the White House.

    For all the focus on Friday night’s deadlocked debate, it still can’t obscure what preceded it: When John McCain gratuitously parachuted into Washington on Thursday, he didn’t care if his grandstanding might precipitate an even deeper economic collapse. All he cared about was whether he might save his campaign. George Bush put more deliberation into invading Iraq than McCain did into his own reckless invasion of the delicate Congressional negotiations on the bailout plan.

    By the time he arrived, there already was a bipartisan agreement in principle. It collapsed hours later at the meeting convened by the president in the Cabinet Room. Rather than help try to resuscitate Wall Street’s bloodied bulls, McCain was determined to be the bull in Washington’s legislative china shop, running around town and playing both sides of his divided party against Congress’s middle. Once others eventually forged a path out of the wreckage, he’d inflate, if not outright fictionalize, his own role in cleaning up the mess his mischief helped make. Or so he hoped, until his ignominious retreat.

    Behind Insurer’s Crisis, Blind Eye to a Web of Risk

    “It is hard for us, without being flippant, to even see a scenario within any kind of realm of reason that would see us losing one dollar in any of those transactions.”

    — Joseph J. Cassano, a former A.I.G. executive, August 2007

    Two weeks ago, the nation’s most powerful regulators and bankers huddled in the Lower Manhattan fortress that is the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, desperately trying to stave off disaster.

    As the group, led by Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., pondered the collapse of one of America’s oldest investment banks, Lehman Brothers, a more dangerous threat emerged: American International Group, the world’s largest insurer, was teetering. A.I.G. needed billions of dollars to right itself and had suddenly begged for help.

    Saturday, September 27, 2008

    Bachmann Blames President Clinton, ‘Blacks,’ And ‘Other Minorities’ For Current Financial Crisis

    Yesterday in a Senate hearing on the financial crisis, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) spoke on what caused the situation. To make her point, she read from an article called “How A Clinton-Era Rule Rewrite Made Subprime Crisis Inevitable,” written by Terry Jones in the right-wing publication Investor’s Business Daily.

    The article criticizes the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) for pushing “Fannie and Freddie to aggressively lend to minority communities.” Jones goes on to say that Clinton was misguided to push “homeownership as a way to open the door for blacks and other minorities to enter the middle class.”

    Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) sharply criticized Bachmann and other conservatives who have been trying to pin the economic crisis on minorities:

    I personally am not going to just sit by and let people trash programs that helped folks get into housing who have been struggling to get in.

    The great crash of 2008

    James Buchan
    Published 25 September 2008

    The world's financial institutions are gripped by fear, yet policymakers can do nothing. They are ignorant of how banks now work and have to take poacher-turned-gamekeeper Henry Paulson at his word

    Of all the phantoms conjured from the financial depths in the past ten days, the most ghastly appeared on the dark Wednesday, 17 September, when interest on the short-term obligations of the United States government, the one-month Treasury bill, turned negative and became a penalty. Such terror had overtaken the markets that they were willing to suffer a loss on their money in the hope that, in the deep bosom of the US Treasury, some of it would be kept safe.

    Yet the terror of that day was not just to do with loss: money lost, job gone, wife fled, house foreclosed, sailboat beached. It was an elemental panic, such as overran the financial markets on 19 October 1987, the day the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 23 per cent. It was a recognition that the world is not as we have been told and that the conception of value that lies at the root of modern society is, and has always been, a fiction.

    'Cod delusion' leaves devastated stocks on the brink

    17:19 26 September 2008
    NewScientist.com news service
    Debora MacKenzie

    Fishing vessels on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland are this week destroying the best hope for years that the region's cod fishery, once the world's most abundant, might yet recover.

    And at a meeting in Vigo, Spain, governments have rejected a simple measure that might have given the cod a fighting chance.

    A Better Bailout

    by Joseph E. Stiglitz

    The champagne bottle corks were popping as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced his trillion-dollar bailout for the banks, buying up their toxic mortgages. To a skeptic, Paulson's proposal looks like another of those shell games that Wall Street has honed to a fine art. Wall Street has always made money by slicing, dicing, and recombining risk. This "cure" is another one of these rearrangements: somehow, by stripping out the bad assets from the banks and paying fair market value for them, the value of the banks will soar.

    There is, however, an alternative explanation for Wall Street's celebration: the banks realized that they were about to get a free ride at taxpayers' expense. No private firm was willing to buy these toxic mortgages at what the seller thought was a reasonable price; they finally had found a sucker who would take them off their hands--called the American taxpayer.

    Matt Taibbi, RollingStone.com: Mad Dog Palin

    I'm standing outside the XCEL ENERGY CENTER in St. Paul Minnesota Sarah Palin has just finished her speech to the Republican National Convention, accepting the party's nomination for vice president. If I hadn't quit my two-packs-a-day habit earlier this year, I'd be chain-smoking now. So the only thing left is to stand mute against the fit-for-a-cheap-dog-kennel crowd-control fencing you see everywhere at these idiotic conventions and gnaw on weird new feelings of shock and anarchist rage as one would a rawhide chew toy.

    All around me, a million cops in their absurd post-9/11 space-combat get-ups stand guard as assholes in papier-mache puppet heads scramble around for one last moment of network face time before the coverage goes dark. Four-chinned delegates from places like Arkansas and Georgia are pouring joyously out the gates in search of bars where they can load up on Zombies and Scorpion Bowls and other "wild" drinks and extramaritally grope their turkey-necked female companions in bathroom stalls as part of the "unbelievable time" they will inevitably report to their pals back home. Only 21st-century Americans can pass through a metal detector six times in an hour and still think they're at a party.

    Friday, September 26, 2008

    Condemned to Repeat It: When Our National Memory Fails

    By Sara Robinson
    September 25th, 2008 - 2:34pm ET

    Those who don't remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

    Santayana's warning is now such a persistent cliche only because it's so painfully true.

    Where have we seen this kind of meltdown before? Oh, yeah, right—we've got those family snapshots of our grandparents waving at the camera from the edge of this very same vertiginous wealth-eating abyss in 1929, as their family fortunes whirled out of sight through the yawning hole at their feet. And, as Kevin Phillips has told us more than once, the path to that chasm was well-worn even then. The Spaniards forged the trail to this dark place in the 16th century. The Dutch sacrificed their last shot at being a world power here in the 17th. And the Brits dropped by and flung their empire into this same pit in the early 20th.

    What Did Bush Tell Gonzales?

    Sources say Alberto Gonzales now claims that President Bush personally directed him to John Ashcroft's hospital room in the infamous wiretap renewal incident—and that in another instance the President asked him to fabricate fictitious notes

    by Murray Waas

    In March 2004, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales made a now-famous late-night visit to the hospital room of Attorney General John Ashcroft, seeking to get Ashcroft to sign a certification stating that the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program was legal. According to people familiar with statements recently made by Gonzales to federal investigators, Gonzales is now saying that George Bush personally directed him to make that hospital visit.

    Michael Kinsley: The Ponzi Economy

    They keep telling us that this is the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. But there is at least one difference: in the Great Depression, nobody needed to be told they were in a depression. Today, except for relatively few investment bankers and somewhat more middle-class homeowners, who would guess that things are so dire? Life goes on, reasonably normally. Maybe it's easier to get a cab in New York City--a reliable real-life indication of an economic downturn--but then maybe the effect of the financial crisis is canceled out by the effect of that other crisis, the one about energy. Now, there is a crisis you can sink your teeth into. But this? It's like some terrible, ominous dream where you're being pursued by this huge, ugly, horrible ... what, exactly?

    Glenn Greenwald: Why Is a US Army Brigade Being Assigned to the 'Homeland'?

    Several bloggers today have pointed to this obviously disturbing article from Army Times, which announces that "beginning Oct. 1 for 12 months, the [1st Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division] will be under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North" -- "the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities." The article details:

    They'll learn new skills, use some of the ones they acquired in the war zone and more than likely will not be shot at while doing any of it.

    They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack. . . .

    The 1st BCT's soldiers also will learn how to use "the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded," 1st BCT commander Col. Roger Cloutier said, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them.

    Glenn Greenwald: Correction on Sarah Palin

    Three weeks ago -- before Sarah Palin's interview with Charlie Gibson was announced -- I mocked the idea that the McCain campaign was afraid to have Palin face our mighty press corps, and I defended Palin as follows:

    When they decide in a couple of weeks that Palin is ready to do so, she'll go and sit down with Brit Hume or Larry King or Charlie Gibson or some other pleasant, accommodating person who plays a journalist on TV and have a nice, amiable, entertaining chat about topics that are easily anticipated. . . . .

    Sarah Palin isn't Dan Quayle. She is extremely smart -- much smarter than the average media star who will eventually be interviewing her -- and she is very politically skilled as well. She didn't go from obscure small-town city council member to Governor to Vice Presidential nominee by accident. She'll be more than adequately prepared for the shallow, 30-second, rote exchanges that pass for political interviews in our Serious mainstream discourse. Anyone expecting her to fall on her face or be exposed as some drooling simpleton is going to be extremely disappointed. That might (or might not) happen with real questioning, but she's not going to face that.

    I was so wrong about that -- the parts about Palin, that is, not the press (though, in fairness, Gibson was far more adversarial than I expected and Katie Couric was even better).

    How Wall Street Can Bail Itself Out Without Destroying The Dollar

    by Thom Hartmann

    For Grover "Drown Government In The Bathtub" Norquist, this bailout deal will work out very well. At a proposed cost of $4,780 per taxpayer, it'll further the David Stockman strategy of so indebting us that the next president won't have the luxury of even thinking of new social spending (expanding health care, social security, education, infrastructure, etc.); taxes will even have to be raised just to pay for the bailout. It'll debase our currency, driving up commodity prices and interest rates, which will benefit the Investor Class while further impoverishing the pesky Middle Class, rendering them less prone to protest (because they're so busy working trying to pay off their debt). It'll create stagflation for at least the next half decade, which can be blamed on Democrats who currently control Congress and, should Obama be elected, be blamed on him.

    But there's another way: Create an agency to fund the bailout, loan that agency the money from the treasury, and then have that agency tax Wall Street to pay us (the treasury) back.

    It's been done before, and has several benefits.

    Paul Krugman: Where Are the Grown-Ups?

    Many people on both the right and the left are outraged at the idea of using taxpayer money to bail out America’s financial system. They’re right to be outraged, but doing nothing isn’t a serious option. Right now, players throughout the system are refusing to lend and hoarding cash — and this collapse of credit reminds many economists of the run on the banks that brought on the Great Depression.

    It’s true that we don’t know for sure that the parallel is a fair one. Maybe we can let Wall Street implode and Main Street would escape largely unscathed. But that’s not a chance we want to take.

    So the grown-up thing is to do something to rescue the financial system. The big question is, are there any grown-ups around — and will they be able to take charge?

    Is the bailout needed? Many economists say 'no'

    WASHINGTON — A funny thing happened in the drafting of the largest-ever U.S. government intervention in the financial system. Lawmakers of all stripes mostly fell in line, but many of the nation's brightest economic minds are warning that the Wall Street bailout's a dangerous rush job.

    President Bush and his Treasury secretary, former Goldman Sachs chief executive Henry Paulson, have warned of imminent economic collapse and another Great Depression if their rescue plan isn't passed immediately.

    Don't blame cities for climate change, see them as solutions

    Cities are being unfairly blamed for most of humanity's greenhouse gas emissions and this threatens efforts to tackle climate change, warns a study in the October 2008 issue of the journal Environment and Urbanization.

    The paper says cities are often blamed for 75 to 80 percent of emissions, but that the true value is closer to 40 percent. It adds that the potential for cities to help address climate change is being overlooked because of this error.

    "Blaming cities for greenhouse gas emissions misses the point that cities are a large part of the solution," says the paper's author, David Satterthwaite, a Senior Fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). "Well planned, well governed cities can provide high living standards that do not require high consumption levels and high greenhouse gas emissions."

    PAC man

    Our Country Deserves Better PAC aims to 'define' Obama's 'weaknesses' and make him 'an unacceptable choice to serve as our nation's next president and Commander in Chief'

    He maintains that the newly-launched anti-Obama political action committee is not tied, nor related, to the campaign of Sen. John McCain and that it is not out to Swiftboat Sen. Barack Obama. The PAC intends to "define [his] weaknesses as a candidate, and thus make him an unacceptable choice to serve as our nation's next president and Commander in Chief." One of the group's earliest fundraising pitches, posted at the TownHall Spotlight, is titled "Barack Obama Sinks To A New Low." And among its ready-for-prime-time television advertisements are spots titled, "Obama Mocks America's Christian Heritage," "Obama's Patriotism Problems" and "Obama's Wrong Values."

    He also pointed out that the PAC has clearly defined ethical lines that it will not cross when criticizing Obama.

    Meet Joe Wierzbicki, the coordinator of Our Country Deserves Better PAC.

    Era of U.S. financial dominance at an end: Germany

    By Noah Barkin and Kerstin Gehmlich
    Thu Sep 25, 12:16 PM ET

    Germany blamed the United States on Thursday for spawning the global financial crisis with a blind drive for higher profits and said it must now accept more market regulation and a loss of its financial superpower status.

    In some of the harshest criticism of the United States since the crisis threw Wall Street banks into financial disarray this month, German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck said the turmoil would leave "deep marks" on both sides of the Atlantic, but called it primarily an American problem.

    "The world will never be as it was before the crisis," Steinbrueck told the Bundestag lower house of parliament.

    China banks told to halt lending to US banks-SCMP

    BEIJING, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Chinese regulators have told domestic banks to stop interbank lending to U.S. financial institutions to prevent possible losses during the financial crisis, the South China Morning Post reported on Thursday.

    The Hong Kong newspaper cited unidentified industry sources as saying the instruction from the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) applied to interbank lending of all currencies to U.S. banks but not to banks from other countries.

    Talks Falter on Bailout Deal

    White House Summit Fails to Yield Accord as House GOP Floats New Plan

    By Paul Kane and Lori Montgomery
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Friday, September 26, 2008; A01

    A renegade bloc of Republicans moved to reshape a massive bailout of the U.S. financial system yesterday, surprising and angering Bush administration and congressional leaders who hours earlier announced agreement on the "fundamentals" of a deal.

    At a meeting at the White House that included President Bush, top lawmakers and both presidential candidates, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) floated a new plan for addressing the crisis that has hobbled global markets.

    'Boogie Man' Lee Atwater: Truly Scary

    By Neely Tucker
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Friday, September 26, 2008; C01

    In the can't-look-away documentary "Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story," the career of the wildly successful, and wildly controversial, late Republican political operative comes back to us in ways that are funny, sad and mean. There is more than one moment in this film that will likely pop your jaw open.

    Consider then-Secretary of State James A. Baker eulogizing Atwater at his 1991 funeral as "Machiavellian . . . in the very best sense of that term." (My dictionary defines the term as "characterized by unscrupulous cunning, deception, expediency or dishonesty.") There's Ed Rollins, the veteran Republican campaign manager, describing how Atwater went from protege to backstabber in such outrageous fashion that Rollins profanely threatened to beat him up. And then there's one of Atwater's musician buddies, a white guy, insisting that Atwater had so much soul that he was actually a "black person in a white body."

    How Positive Thinking Wrecked the Economy

    By Barbara Ehrenreich, Barbaraehrenreich.com
    Posted on September 26, 2008, Printed on September 26, 2008

    (A shorter version of this appears as an op ed in the New York Times yesterday.)

    Greed -- and its crafty sibling, speculation -- are the designated culprits for the ongoing financial crisis, but another, much admired, habit of mind should get its share of the blame: the delusional optimism of mainstream, all-American, positive thinking. As promoted by Oprah, scores of megachurch pastors, and an endless flow of self-help bestsellers, the idea is to firmly belief that you will get what you want, not only because it will make you feel better to do so, but because thinking things, "visualizing" them -- ardently and with concentration -- actually makes them happen. You will be able to pay that adjustable rate mortgage or, at the other end of the transaction, turn thousands of bad mortgages into giga-profits, the reasoning goes, if only you truly believe that you can.

    Positive thinking is endemic to American culture -- from weight loss programs to cancer support groups -- and in the last two decades it put down deep roots in the corporate world as well. Everyone knows that you won't get a job paying more than $15 an hour unless you're a "positive person" -- doubt-free, uncritical, and smiling -- and no one becomes a CEO by issuing warnings of possible disaster.

    Bailout Backlash: Five Surprising Things That Happened on Thursday

    By AlterNet Staff, AlterNet
    Posted on September 26, 2008, Printed on September 26, 2008

    Even news junkies had a hard time keeping up with a flurry of events on September 25 on Wall Street, Washington and the presidential campaigns. Here's a round-up of what happened:

    1. Outrage over the bailout spreads across the Internet and to Wall Street

    The Internet is flooded with angst about Treasury Secretary Paulson's proposed $700 billion bailout:

    A lot of the online rage is channeled in the form of signatures on petitions and electronic letters to members of Congress. Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent-Vt.) is circulating a popular one on the left-wing blog Huffington Post. The 1.9-million member Service Employees International Union is also circulating a sign-on letter to Congress that reads in part: "No deal. No blank check." StopTheHousingBailout.com reasons: "A bailout tells responsible Americans that they are suckers."

    Al-Qaeda's opportunity to hurt the US

    By Michael Scheuer

    When Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States in al-Qaeda's name in the late summer of 1996, he outlined ambitious worldwide Islamist goals but noted that al-Qaeda could not accomplish them on its own.

    He said that al-Qaeda could, at best, serve as the vanguard that would attack the United States, assist Muslim insurgencies around the world and generally try to incite Muslims to join the jihad against the United States, Israel and the police states that govern much of the Arab and Muslim world.

    Thursday, September 25, 2008

    Simple device which uses electrical field could boost gas efficiency

    With the high cost of gasoline and diesel fuel impacting costs for automobiles, trucks, buses and the overall economy, a Temple University physics professor has developed a simple device which could dramatically improve fuel efficiency as much as 20 percent.

    According to Rongjia Tao, Chair of Temple's Physics Department, the small device consists of an electrically charged tube that can be attached to the fuel line of a car's engine near the fuel injector. With the use of a power supply from the vehicle's battery, the device creates an electric field that thins fuel, or reduces its viscosity, so that smaller droplets are injected into the engine. That leads to more efficient and cleaner combustion than a standard fuel injector, he says.

    Bailout Could Deepen Crisis, CBO Chief Says

    Asset Sales May Lead to Write-Downs, Insolvencies, Orszag Tells Congress

    By Frank Ahrens
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, September 25, 2008; D04

    The director of the Congressional Budget Office said yesterday that the proposed Wall Street bailout could actually worsen the current financial crisis.

    During testimony before the House Budget Committee, Peter R. Orszag -- Congress's top bookkeeper -- said the bailout could expose the way companies are stowing toxic assets on their books, leading to greater problems.

    Ex-bankers on pushing customers to rack up debt

    By Deborah Feyerick
    CNN Correspondent

    BELFAST, Maine (CNN) -- As an account manager for credit card giant MBNA, Cate Colombo spent four years speaking to customers, answering questions about interest rates and waiving late fees.

    Kathy Ellingwood did the same. She lasted only a year and a half before quitting this summer.

    The women worked in different departments at the sprawling customer call center in Belfast, Maine, yet they share similar stories about aggressive selling tactics they claim they were told to use to push cash advances, sometimes getting customers to max out their credit cards.

    Absence of Leadership

    It took President Bush until Wednesday night to address the American people about the nation’s financial crisis, and pretty much all he had to offer was fear itself.

    There was no acknowledgement of the shocking failure of government regulation, or that the country cannot afford more tax cuts for the very wealthy and budget-busting wars, or that spending at least $700 billion of taxpayers’ money to bail out Wall Street and the banks should be done carefully, transparently and with oversight by Congress and the courts.

    History of monetary imperialism

    By Henry C K Liu

    Over the course of the 19th century, enough gold was known to have been accumulated by Britain to make it credible for the British Treasury to introduce paper currency backed by its gold to force the demonetization of silver in Europe to advance British monetary imperialism.

    Many historians inaccurately ascribe to 19th century mercantilism as the policy of accumulating gold for a country through export of merchandise. The fact is that gold accumulation can only be achieved by a purposeful policy of monetary imperialism. Mercantilism under bimetallism gave a trade surplus country both silver and gold. Only monetary imperialism could cause an inflow of gold with an outflow of silver.

    A dangerous obsession

    By Ali Gharib and Eli Clifton

    WASHINGTON - A group of hardline United States neo-conservatives and former Israeli diplomats were behind the controversial, allegedly Islamaphobic DVD which was recently distributed in US swing states ahead of November's presidential elections.

    The 60-minute movie,Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West , was an initiative of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), but produced by the Clarion Fund, an organization described as a "front" for Israeli group Aish Hatorah.

    Some 28 million copies of Obsession are currently being inserted in newspapers and delivered by mail in key electoral swing states - such as Michigan, Ohio and Florida which, according to recent polling, could go either way.

    Critics allege the movie Obsession is "hate propaganda" which paints Muslims as violent extremists and, among other things, explicitly compares the threat posed by radical Islam to that of Nazi Germany in the 1930s - at least two major metropolitan newspapers refused to run the movie because of its perceived bias.

    A bailout and a new world

    By Pepe Escobar

    WASHINGTON and SAO PAULO - The George W Bush administration's US$700 billion no-accountability scheme, globally, informally dubbed "cash for trash", is making all the headlines. Simultaneously, there's the small matter of the United Nations General Assembly sanctioning the troubled birth of a new, multipolar world. As a 21st-century counterpart to the Dadaist Manifesto, this chain of events is priceless.

    One just had to listen to the speeches. Brazilian President Lula da Silva passionately expounded the new political, economic and commercial geography of the multipolar world. He praised the Union of Latin American Nations (UNASUR) - the first treaty uniting all South American nations in 200 years. He blasted supranational economic institutions that now have no authority - and no policies - to prevent "speculative anarchy".

    Wall Street Takes Welfare It Begrudges to Ordinary Americans

    By Mimi Abramovitz, Women's eNews
    Posted on September 25, 2008, Printed on September 25, 2008

    Today we sit and watch as the high-rolling gamblers and critics of "big government" take welfare. These are many of the same people who thought it was just fine to deprive millions of women of critical resources and let them fend for themselves.

    Even before the catastrophic news out of Wall Street in recent days, women have been worried about their economic security.

    Wednesday, September 24, 2008

    CU-Boulder study suggests air quality regulations miss key pollutants

    A new study led by the University of Colorado at Boulder reveals that air quality regulations may not effectively target a large source of fine, organic particle pollutants that contribute to hazy skies and poor air quality over the Los Angeles region.

    According to the study, a much smaller percentage of organic haze than was previously thought is directly emitted by vehicles and industrial processes. Instead, 75 percent of fine, organic particle pollutants form when reactive gases called VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are oxidized and condense onto existing particles in the air.

    "Air quality regulations today effectively target most sources of 'primary,' or directly emitted particles," said lead author Ken Docherty, a researcher with the university's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. "Yet our study indicates that the 'secondary,' or chemically formed particles contribute more significantly to poor air quality, even in very polluted urban regions.

    NYT Econ Journalist David Cay Johnston: It Doesn't Add Up

    NYT Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston, author of Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill, has written a letter to fellow journalists that deserves wide attention, urging a fundamentally skeptical approach to reporting on this purported crisis, warning against repeating the mistakes of the recent past, reporting on other Bush Administration panics:
    Journalists, start your skepticism.

    In covering the proposed $700 billion bailout of Wall Street don't repeat the failed lapdog practices that so damaged our reputations in the rush to war in Iraq and the adoption of the Patriot Act. Don't assume that Congress must act instantly, as so many news stories state as if it was an immutable fact. Don't assume there is a case just because officials say there is.

    The coverage of the Paulson plan focuses on the edges, on the details. The focus should be on the premise. And be skeptical of what gullible Congressional leaders, most of them up before the voters in a few weeks, say after being given a closed-door meeting on supposed horrors.

    The Wrong Emergency

    What Washington doesn't understand about the financial crisis.

    Roger Lowenstein, The New Republic Published: Tuesday, September 23, 2008

    Congress should think long and hard before giving Hank Paulson $700 billion to buy fallen mortgage securities. Paulson has draped his bailout plan in the cloak of a national emergency. Much as George W. Bush demanded expedited action from Congress to help fight terrorism, the treasury secretary wants his war-chest pronto. And just as Dick Cheney and his minions argued that the terrorism threat was too grave for the White House to submit to the customary checks and balances, so Paulson wants an appropriation with no conditions, no terms--nothing written down about how he would spend the money.

    All Paulson has said is that the Treasury (and not an independent agency, as was the case during the 1980s savings and loan crisis) needs the money to buy distressed mortgage paper. Since almost no restrictions govern the use of the bailout, money could be used to buy securities held by strong institutions as well as weak ones. What price they would pay, how that price would be set, and for what assets--all to be determined later. The Treasury's charter would turn every bank into the equivalent of the former Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac--a government sponsored (but now quite government owned) enterprise, a half-man, half-beast Centaur seeking profit for their shareholders and distributing their losses to taxpayers.

    Thomas Frank: It's Judgment Day for McCain

    Last week, Republican presidential candidate John McCain called for a commission to "find out what went wrong" on Wall Street. It was an excellent suggestion: Public inquiries into Wall Street practices served the country well in the 1930s.

    And Mr. McCain has a special advantage to bring to any such investigation -- many of the relevant witnesses are friends or colleagues of his. In fact, he can probably get to the bottom of the whole mess just by cross-examining the people riding on his campaign bus. So the candidate should take a deep breath, remind himself that the country comes first, pull the Straight Talk Express over at a rest stop, whistle up his media pals, and begin.

    Shipping containers could be 'dream' homes for thousands

    CORRALES, New Mexico (AP) -- It was a side trip through a destitute, ramshackle neighborhood in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, that detoured Brian McCarthy from building houses in Albuquerque to an idea to offer the very poor a chance to own a home.

    His answer lies in a humble steel shipping container 40 feet long, 8 feet wide and 8½ feet tall.

    McCarthy, 30, and three partners, Pablo Nava, 22; Kyle Annen, 23; and Mackenzie Bishop, 22, have made a prototype out of a standard shipping container that hauls goods worldwide -- a 320-square-foot home with a kitchen, bath with toilet, sleeping areas, windows and a bright blue door. The exterior is painted with a white epoxy coating that has light-reflecting properties to prevent the sun's heat from penetrating.

    Trust Me

    The nation’s financial mess was caused to a great degree by a culture of lax regulation and even less oversight, in which ordinary Americans were told to trust the government and Wall Street to do the right thing.

    President Bush’s proposed solution, which he wants Congress to authorize immediately, tells taxpayers to write a check for $700 billion and trust the government and Wall Street to do the right thing — with inadequate regulation and virtually no oversight.

    We agree with Senator Barack Obama that the administration’s plan lacks regulatory muscle, and we agree with Senator John McCain when he said: “When we’re talking about a trillion dollars of taxpayer money, ‘trust me’ just isn’t good enough.”

    Daily Kos: Ben Stein almost lets out the Big Secret

    by Inky99
    Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 10:48:49 AM PDT

    Ben Stein, a man whose character and politics I find to be despicable, has a column today that I noticed on Yahoo Finance. A good buddy of mine, who stays closely abreast of these kinds of financial shenanigans, told me the other day that Ben Stein, in spite of his character flaws, had some really astute observations on this whole mess. So out of curiosity today, I clicked on the link.

    And I have to admit, I am astounded by what he said. And even more by what he didn't say. The Big Question he leaves unanswered. It's seriously mind-blowing.

    Saving the wealthy with socialism, conservative-style

    Thomas F. Schaller
    September 23, 2008

    Like it or not, we're all socialists now. You can thank those free-market conservatives and their deregulatory idol, George W. Bush, for that.

    Conservatives love to wield the word socialism like some all-purpose, liberal-slaying sword. Redistribution to the poor, the right to unionize and affirmative action are decried as anti-market, unfair advantages for filthy socialists who can't compete and fail to appreciate the almighty, equalizing power of self-determination and an unfettered market.

    Fury at $2.5bn bonus for Lehman's New York staff

    By David Prosser
    Monday, 22 September 2008

    Up to 10,000 staff at the New York office of the bankrupt investment bank Lehman Brothers will share a bonus pool set aside for them that is worth $2.5bn (£1.4bn), Barclays Bank, which is buying the business, confirmed last night.

    The revelation sparked fury among the workers' former colleagues, Lehman's 5,000 staff based in London, who currently have no idea how long they will go on receiving even their basic salaries, let alone any bonus payments. It also prompted a renewed backlash over the compensation culture in global finance, with critics claiming that many bankers receive pay and rewards that bore no relation to the job they had done.

    A spokesman for Barclays said the $2.5bn bonus pool in New York had been set aside before Lehman Brothers filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States a week ago. Barclays has agreed that the fund should continue to be ring-fenced now it has taken control of Lehman's US business, a deal agreed by American bankruptcy courts over the weekend.

    Shady deals in Iraq's arms bazaar

    By Pratap Chatterjee

    SAN FRANCISCO - Clandestine gun suppliers, funded by the United States and Iraqi governments, have flooded Iraq with millions of weapons since 2003, charges a new Amnesty International investigation.

    Because of faulty or non-existent government tracking systems, many of those guns have gone missing, and some have turned up in the hands of insurgents.

    Contracts with one of these companies, Taos Industries, account for almost half of the US$217 million Baghdad and Washington have officially spent to arm the Iraqi army, police and security forces employed by various Iraqi ministries.

    Tuesday, September 23, 2008

    The campaign-obsessed press never saw Wall Street's calamity coming

    by Eric Boehlert

    On Monday afternoon, September 15, my new issue of Newsweek arrived in the mail just as the fear on Wall Street began to morph into unbridled panic. By then, investment powerhouses Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch had been wiped out, while insurance giant AIG teetered on the brink.

    Flipping open Newsweek, I knew the magazine had gone to print over the weekend and wouldn't have the most up-to-date information on the financial calamity that erupted Sunday and spilled over into Monday. But I was curious about what kind of financial coverage the magazine offered up since, during the previous news week cycle, the government had stepped in and made the unprecedented move of bailing out troubled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

    Nice Bailout. Now Pay for It!

    Congress and the president favor a $700 billion Wall Street bailout, but they're afraid to say how they'll pay for it.

    By Daniel Gross
    Posted Monday, Sept. 22, 2008, at 5:21 PM ET

    To spend is to tax, as capitalist deity Milton Friedman is said to have put it. If so, over the last several months, we've seen an orgy of tax increases and potential increases. Time was, that prospect would have set off a revolution.

    Consider the spree of actions that have the potential—directly and indirectly—to cost taxpayers money: the government accepting $30 billion of Bear Stearns' drecky collateral for a $29 billion loan to JPMorgan, giving investment banks access to the discount window, assuming responsibility for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, guaranteeing money market funds (up to $50 billion), making a big loan to AIG (up to $85 billion), and now proposing the mother of all bailouts—up to $700 billion.

    $13 Billion in Iraq Aid Wasted Or Stolen, Ex-Investigator Says

    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Tuesday, September 23, 2008; Page A19

    A former Iraqi official estimated yesterday that more than $13 billion meant for reconstruction projects in Iraq was wasted or stolen through elaborate fraud schemes.

    Salam Adhoob, a former chief investigator for Iraq's Commission on Public Integrity, told the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, an arm of the Democratic caucus, that an Iraqi auditing bureau "could not properly account for" the money.

    Democrats battling to add restrictions to $700 billion bailout

    WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats inched close to agreement Monday on the terms of a $700 billion rescue package to stabilize shaky financial markets, but continued to encounter White House resistance to key points.

    "The Bush administration has called on Congress to rubber-stamp its bailout legislation without serious debate or efforts to improve it. That will not happen," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

    Four Simple Things to Look for in a Bailout Plan That Isn't a Taxpayer Rip-off

    By Hillary Rosen, Huffington Post
    Posted on September 23, 2008, Printed on September 23, 2008

    Lots of smart people with extensive financial and economic expertise will weigh in on the bailout legislation now winding its way through Congress.

    I am going to look for four simple things:

    1. Taxpayers need equity in the companies we are saving.

    If the government is guaranteeing rather than buying the "bad" paper, once those investments pay off -- and many of them eventually will -- we will have gotten nothing for our money. We will absorb the losses but get nothing for the gains.

    Monday, September 22, 2008

    The Shadow Banking System is Unravelling

    Nouriel Roubini | Sep 21, 2008

    The Financial Times published in its Monday edition my Op-Ed column “The Shadow Banking System is Unravelling”. The column was written and posted on their web site a few hours before the sudden announcement of the end of major independent broker dealers with the Fed announcement that Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs will become bank holding companies and will be thus regulated as banks. This is the additional step in the demise of Wall Street as we know it and the unraveling and demise of the “shadow banking system” that I described in my Financial Times Op-Ed column.

    Here is the text of my Op-Ed column:

    The shadow banking system is unravelling

    Nouriel Roubini

    Financial Times Published: September 21 2008 17:57 | Last updated: September 21 2008 17:57

    Last week saw the demise of the shadow banking system that has been created over the past 20 years. Because of a greater regulation of banks, most financial intermediation in the past two decades has grown within this shadow system whose members are broker-dealers, hedge funds, private equity groups, structured investment vehicles and conduits, money market funds and non-bank mortgage lenders.

    Glenn Greenwald: The Complete (Though Ever-Changing) Elite Consensus Over the Financial Collapse

    John Diamond, USA Today, February 4, 2004 -- "A desert mirage: How U.S. misjudged Iraq's arsenal":
    The assertion that Saddam had chemical and biological weapons -- and the ability to use them against his neighbors and even the United States -- was expressed in an Oct. 1, 2002, document called a National Intelligence Estimate. The estimate didn't trigger President Bush's determination to oust Saddam. But it weighed heavily on members of Congress as they decided to authorize force against Iraq, and it was central to Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations Security Council a year ago this week. . . .

    The Bush and Clinton administrations, foreign intelligence services, and Republicans and Democrats in Congress all took it as a given that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons.

    Walter Pincus, The Washington Post, August 11, 2007 -- "How the Fight for Vast New Spying Powers Was Won":
    For three days, Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, had haggled with congressional leaders over amendments to a federal surveillance law, but now he was putting his foot down. "This is the issue," said the plain-spoken retired vice admiral and Vietnam veteran, "that makes my blood pressure rise. . . .

    McConnell won the fight, extracting a key concession despite the misgivings of Democratic negotiators. Congressional, administration and intelligence officials last week described the events leading up to the approval of this surveillance, including a remarkable series of confrontations that ended with McConnell and the White House outmaneuvering the Democratic-controlled Congress, partly by capitalizing on fresh reports of a growing terrorism threat.

    "We had a forcing function," a senior administration official said, referring to the intelligence community's public report last month that said al-Qaeda poses a growing threat to the United States and to lawmakers' desire to leave town in August. . . .

    A critical moment for the Democrats came on July 24, when McConnell met in a closed session with senators from both parties to ask for urgent approval of a slimmed-down version of his bill. Armed with new details about terrorist activity and an alarming decline in U.S. eavesdropping capabilities, he argued that Congress had days, not weeks, to act.

    "Everybody who heard him speak recognized the absolute, compelling necessity to move," Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), vice chairman of the intelligence panel, said later of the closed session.

    Democrats agreed. As delivered by McConnell, the warnings were seen as fully credible. "He's pushing this because he thinks we're in a high-threat environment," the senior aide said. . . .McConnell deemed [the Democratic draft's] fine print unacceptable, however, and in the end, it was the Republican bill, a near-copy of his proposal, that passed both chambers of Congress.

    David Herszenhorn, New York Times, today, "Congressional Leaders Stunned by Warnings":
    It was a room full of people who rarely hold their tongues. But as the Fed chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, laid out the potentially devastating ramifications of the financial crisis before congressional leaders on Thursday night, there was a stunned silence at first.

    Mr. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. had made an urgent and unusual evening visit to Capitol Hill, and they were gathered around a conference table in the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

    "When you listened to him describe it you gulped," said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York.

    As Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut and chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, put it Friday morning on the ABC program "Good Morning America," the congressional leaders were told "that we’re literally maybe days away from a complete meltdown of our financial system, with all the implications here at home and globally."

    Mr. Schumer added, "History was sort of hanging over it, like this was a moment."

    When Mr. Schumer described the meeting as "somber," Mr. Dodd cut in. "Somber doesn't begin to justify the words," he said. "We have never heard language like this."

    "What you heard last evening," he added, "is one of those rare moments, certainly rare in my experience here, is Democrats and Republicans deciding we need to work together quickly."

    Leave aside for the moment whether this gargantuan nationalization/bailout scheme is "necessary" in some utilitarian sense. One doesn't have to be an economics expert in order for several facts to be crystal clear:

    First, the fact that Democrats are on board with this scheme means absolutely nothing. When it comes to things the Bush administration wants, Congressional Democrats don't say "no" to anything. They say "yes" to everything. That's what they're for.

    They say "yes" regardless of whether they understand what they're endorsing. They say "yes" regardless of whether they've been told even the most basic facts about what they're being told to endorse. They say "yes" anytime doing so is politically less risky than saying "no," which is essentially always and is certainly the case here. They say "yes" whenever the political establishment -- meaning establishment media outlets and the corporate class that funds them -- wants them to say "yes," which is the case here. And they say "yes" with particular speed and eagerness when told to do so by the Serious Trans-Partisan Republican Experts like Hank Paulson and Ben Bernake (or Mike McConnell and Robert Gates and, before them, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell).

    Fleecing What’s Left of the Treasury

    By Chris Hedges

    The lobbyists and corporate lawyers, the heads of financial firms and the crooks who control Wall Street, all those who spent the last three decades assuring us that government was part of the problem and should get out of the way, are now busy looting the U.S. treasury. They are also working feverishly inside the Democratic and Republican parties to blunt any effective regulatory reform as they pass on their distressed assets to us. The process is stunning in its hubris and mendacity, and two of the most potent enablers of this unprecedented act of corporate welfare are John McCain and Barack Obama.

    The federal government, reeling backward from the meltdown of financial markets, is now considering taking responsibility for the bad assets of numerous financial companies. But if that intervention does not include robust new mechanisms of regulation, accountability and control we will see nothing more than a massive taxpayer-funded bailout of stockholders and the financial industry.

    Frank Rich: Truthiness Stages a Comeback

    NOT until 2004 could the 9/11 commission at last reveal the title of the intelligence briefing President Bush ignored on Aug. 6, 2001, in Crawford: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” No wonder John McCain called for a new “9/11 commission” to “get to the bottom” of 9/14, when the collapse of Lehman Brothers set off another kind of blood bath in Lower Manhattan. Put a slo-mo Beltway panel in charge, and Election Day will be ancient history before we get to the bottom of just how little he and the president did to defend America against a devastating new threat on their watch.

    For better or worse, the candidacy of Barack Obama, a senator-come-lately, must be evaluated on his judgment, ideas and potential to lead. McCain, by contrast, has been chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, where he claims to have overseen “every part of our economy.” He didn’t, thank heavens, but he does have a long and relevant economic record that begins with the Keating Five scandal of 1989 and extends to this campaign, where his fiscal policies bear the fingerprints of Phil Gramm and Carly Fiorina. It’s not the résumé that a presidential candidate wants to advertise as America faces its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. That’s why the main thrust of the McCain campaign has been to cover up his history of economic malpractice.

    After the Financial Crisis, a Clean-Up That Changes Everything

    The dominoes fell one right after the other: the demise of Lehman Brothers tipping into the rushed sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America followed by the federal takeover of AIG. Then, the desperate credit crunch of Wednesday caused the emergency maneuvering by the Federal Reserve and the Treasury on Thursday and Friday.

    In a week, the financial crisis of 2008 changed everything — and now comes the cleanup: if the administration's $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan is approved by Congress, the United States will see changes to its political economy that were unimaginable a week ago.

    Sanders Op-Ed: Billions for Bailouts! Who Pays?

    By Senator Bernie Sanders

    The current financial crisis facing our country has been caused by the extreme right-wing economic policies pursued by the Bush administration. These policies, which include huge tax breaks for the rich, unfettered free trade and the wholesale deregulation of commerce, have resulted in a massive redistribution of wealth from the middle class to the very wealthy.

    The middle class has really been under assault. Since President Bush has been in office, nearly 6 million Americans have slipped into poverty, median family income for working Americans has declined by more than $2,000, more than 7 million Americans have lost their health insurance, over 4 million have lost their pensions, foreclosures are at an all time high, total consumer debt has more than doubled, and we have a national debt of over $9.7 trillion dollars.

    Paul Krugman: Cash for Trash

    Some skeptics are calling Henry Paulson’s $700 billion rescue plan for the U.S. financial system “cash for trash.” Others are calling the proposed legislation the Authorization for Use of Financial Force, after the Authorization for Use of Military Force, the infamous bill that gave the Bush administration the green light to invade Iraq.

    There’s justice in the gibes. Everyone agrees that something major must be done. But Mr. Paulson is demanding extraordinary power for himself — and for his successor — to deploy taxpayers’ money on behalf of a plan that, as far as I can see, doesn’t make sense.

    Worlds apart on healthcare

    ON FEW ISSUES do Barack Obama and John McCain diverge as dramatically as they do on healthcare. Both say they want to reduce costs and expand coverage to the 47 million uninsured. But while Obama wants to build on the existing employer-based system with new coverage plans for families and businesses, McCain aims to move the country away from work-based insurance and toward a system in which all Americans cut their own deals with private insurers.

    If the national campaign ever gets past lipstick and the collapse of investment banks, these differences on healthcare may get the attention they deserve.

    Meltdown and Bailout: Why Our Economic System Is on the Verge of Collapse

    By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
    Posted on September 22, 2008, Printed on September 22, 2008

    The immediate cause of our financial meltdown is unchecked, unbridled greed. Mainstream newspapers and the business press are doing a fairly good job of explaining how the lack of regulatory oversight led us into this nightmare.

    But you have to dig down one layer to find the cause of that situation. Under cover of the ideological euphemism known as the "free market" and with enormous cash investments over the past four decades, business elites have captured the regulatory organs of powerful democratic states -- nowhere more so than the United States -- and promoted their own narrow economic agendas for short-term gain.

    Too big to fail versus moral hazard

    By Henry C K Liu

    "Too big to fail" is the cancer of moral hazard in the financial system. Moral hazard is a term used in banking circles to describe the tendency of bankers to make bad loans based on an expectation that the lender of last resort, either the Federal Reserve domestically or the International Monetary Fund globally, will bail out troubled banks.

    Barely 48 hours after US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson declared his firm commitment against the danger of "moral hazard" by promising that no more taxpayer money would be used to bail-out failing financial firms on Wall Street except in extreme situations, US authorities succumbed to the "too big to fail" syndrome in the case of American International Group Inc (AIG), the giant global insurance conglomerate founded in Shanghai in 1919. Paulson's moral hazard aversion had prevented Lehman Brothers Inc, the country's fourth-largest investment bank, from getting a government bailout. Without a needed government guarantee to limit the exposure of potential buyers, Lehman was forced to file bankruptcy protection at midnight on Sunday, September 14.

    Rules, leverage and the fall of man

    By Julian Delasantellis

    There is a story of an 18th century Frenchwoman, an enthusiastic and purposeful fan of the French Revolution's Reign of Terror, and of that peculiar sport's head cheerleader, Madame de la Guillotine. At the 1793 execution of Marie Antoinette, like a Los Angeles Lakers fan sharing courtside seats with Jack Nicholson and the rest of the beautiful people, she bragged at how near she was to the action.

    "I was standing so close," the fan beamed. "I could hear the whisper of the axe."

    Fast forward to today, and even though I was eight time zones away, on late Wednesday afternoon I heard the whisper of the axe come down on a third of a century of the history of the capitalist world - the era of deregulation.

    Last major investment banks change status

    Mon Sep 22, 1:31 PM ET

    It was the end of an era on Wall Street as the Federal Reserve granted permission for the last two major investment banks — Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley — to become bank holding companies in order to stay in business.

    The Fed announced late Sunday evening that it had approved the request, which will allow Goldman and Morgan Stanley to create commercial banks that can take deposits, bolstering the resources of both institutions.

    The change is the latest seismic shift on Wall Street as the financial system tries to cope with mounting problems that began more than a year ago with the subprime mortgage crisis.

    Top 25 Censored Stories for 2009

    #1. Over One Million Iraqi Deaths Caused by US Occupation

    # 2 Security and Prosperity Partnership: Militarized NAFTA

    # 3 InfraGard: The FBI Deputizes Business

    # 4 ILEA: Is the US Restarting Dirty Wars in Latin America?

    # 5 Seizing War Protesters’ Assets

    # 6 The Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act

    # 7 Guest Workers Inc.: Fraud and Human Trafficking

    # 8 Executive Orders Can Be Changed Secretly

    #9 Iraq and Afghanistan Vets Testify

    # 10 APA Complicit in CIA Torture

    # 11 El Salvador’s Water Privatization and the Global War on Terror

    # 12 Bush Profiteers Collect Billions From No Child Left Behind

    # 13 Tracking Billions of Dollars Lost in Iraq

    # 14 Mainstreaming Nuclear Waste

    # 15 Worldwide Slavery

    # 16 Annual Survey on Trade Union Rights

    # 17 UN’s Empty Declaration of Indigenous Rights

    # 18 Cruelty and Death in Juvenile Detention Centers

    # 19 Indigenous Herders and Small Farmers Fight Livestock Extinction

    # 20 Marijuana Arrests Set New Record

    # 21 NATO Considers “First Strike” Nuclear Option

    # 22 CARE Rejects US Food Aid

    # 23 FDA Complicit in Pushing Pharmaceutical Drugs

    # 24 Japan Questions 9/11 and the Global War on Terror

    # 25 Bush’s Real Problem with Eliot Spitzer

    Saturday, September 20, 2008

    More Subprime Loans, Now!

    Why the world needs cheap loans at insanely high interest rates.

    By Daniel Gross
    Updated Friday, Sept. 19, 2008, at 5:10 PM ET

    What the world needs right now is more subprime lending—a lot more of it. Yes, I know that in the public imagination, subprime lending is the scourge responsible for crippling the U.S. financial system. The massive extension of credit to people who lacked extensive credit histories and documented wages seems, in hindsight, supremely stupid. But far from the madding, depressed crowds of Wall Street, billions of people are starving for credit.

    Lending tiny sums to people who live on a few dollars a day—street vendors in New Delhi, goatherds in Kenya—doesn't carry the glamour or financial rewards of haute banque. And compared with efforts to vaccinate children or build dams, it seems like an exercise comparable to shooting pellets at a runaway rhinoceros. But in an era when a great deal of foreign aid has been wasted or has fallen into the hands of corrupt officials, microlending has built a track record of effective poverty relief. Microcredit pioneer Muhammad Yunus, who founded Bangladesh's Grameen Bank in 1983, won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. And microfinance, which now touches the lives of more than 100 million people, is one of the few bright spots in the troubled financial sector. "We've helped about 80,000 entrepreneurs, and the repayment rate is about 98 percent, which is a better performance than consumer credit-card portfolios in the U.S.," says Premal Shah, president of Kiva.org, an online microcredit organization that allows computer programmers in Seattle to lend sums as low as $25 directly to small-scale grocers in Uganda.

    A Nation of Village Idiots

    Don't let them tell you this economic meltdown is a complicated mess. It's not. Our national financial crisis is readily understood by anyone who has seen greed and hypocrisy. But we are now witnessing them on a profound, monumental scale.

    Conservative Republicans always want the government to stay out of business and avoid regulation as long as they are making lots of money. When their greed, however, gets them into a fix, they are the first to cry out for rules and laws and taxpayer money to bail out their businesses. Obviously, Republicans are socialists. The Bush administration has decided to socialize the debt of the big Wall Street Firms. Taxpayers didn't get to enjoy any of the big money profits on the phony financial instruments like derivatives or bundled sub-prime paper, but we get the privilege of paying for their debt and failures.

    Florida admits it let crooked mortgage brokers run wild

    TALLAHASSEE — In a stinging critique of the state's oversight of the mortgage industry, top Florida investigators found that state regulators failed to alert police agencies to crooked mortgage brokerages, ignored citizen complaints and allowed hundreds of people with criminal histories to peddle loans.

    The report released Tuesday to Gov. Charlie Crist and the Cabinet criticized the Office of Financial Regulation, saying the agency broke down in key areas, including screening brokers and shutting down shoddy operations, while the state grappled with the nation's worst home loan fraud crisis.

    Amy Goodman: Wall Street Socialists

    The financial crisis gripping the U.S. has the largest banks and insurance companies begging for massive government bailouts. The banking, investment, finance and insurance industries, long the foes of taxation, now need money from working-class taxpayers to stay alive. Taxpayers should be in the driver’s seat now. Instead, decisions that will cost people for decades are being made behind closed doors, by the wealthy, by the regulators and by those they have failed to regulate.

    Tuesday, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury Department agreed to a massive, $85-billion bailout of AIG, the insurance giant. This follows the abrupt bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the 158-year-old investment bank; the distressed sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America; the bailout of both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; the collapse of retail bank IndyMac; and the federally guaranteed buyout of Bear Stearns by JPMorgan Chase. AIG was deemed “too big to fail,” with 103,000 employees and more than $1 trillion in assets. According to regulators, an unruly collapse could cause global financial turmoil. U.S. taxpayers now own close to 80 percent of AIG, so the orderly sale of AIG will allow the taxpayers to recoup their money, the theory goes.

    Hello? If McCain Had His Way, That'd Be Our Social Security Money Wall Street is Losing

    What do we democrats have to say about the mess on Wall Street?

    Today Obama said it proves that the Republican economic philosophy has failed, and I heard him mock McCain for calling for a commission because "we know how we got into this mess." Now some people think about things like "economic philosophy" a lot, and many have at least a general notion of how we got into this mess. But even though everybody cares how much money ends up in their pockets, most people are understandably a little fuzzy about all the policies and philosophies and market forces behind our very complex economy. To further confuse the issue, McCain is also saying something about reform, and taking on "fat cats," and accusing Obama of being just as cozy with these Wall Streeters as anyone else. And at this point, slightly more voters trust John McCain to handle the economy than trust Barack Obama.

    McCain and the Zigzag Express

    In this crisis, the GOP candidate has swerved all over the road.

    Jonathan Alter

    John McCain's whole campaign is based on the idea that Barack Obama is risky, untested and can't be trusted to protect the nation in a crisis. But this week it was McCain who seemed unpresidential, as his Zigzag Express swerved back and forth across the median strip. His approach to the greatest financial crisis since 1933 was erratic and off-key. Would his presidency be any different?

    McCain's first reaction to the climactic events of Sunday, Sept. 14, when Lehman Brothers fell, Merrill Lynch was sold and AIG began to totter, was to repeat his longstanding sound bite that "the fundamentals of the economy are strong." When Obama predictably leapt on this clueless comment with a TV ad, McCain quickly backtracked by saying that he was merely talking about the strength of "the American worker" and anyone who disagreed obviously had a problem understanding the importance of working people. He told the morning shows that he was a Republican in the mold of Teddy Roosevelt, though his true views on free-market economics are more in tune with Herbert Hoover.

    Historic Market Bailout Set in Motion

    President Cites Urgent Need For Sweeping Intervention

    by David Cho and Binyamin Appelbaum
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Saturday, September 20, 2008; Page A01

    The Bush administration yesterday proposed a historic $500 billion bailout of financial firms that would let the government rather than the cold judgment of the marketplace decide the winners and losers from the crisis that has shaken the U.S. economy for the past year.

    The plan, which would be the most sweeping government intervention in the markets since the Great Depression, calls for the Treasury to buy the troubled mortgage securities that have been toppling major financial firms and are at the heart of Wall Street's turmoil.

    Van Jones: We Can't Drill Our Way Out of Our Energy Problems

    The following speech was given at Netroots Nation 2008 in Austin, Texas.

    I have a little bit of whiplash. Thirty-six hours ago I was in the Arctic with Jimmy Carter. This is not a joke, you all. (Laughter) It sounds like a joke, right? You hear about the black guy in the Arctic with Jimmy Carter? No, I was really ... (Laughter)

    I was really in the Arctic, man, the abominable snow Negro. No, I was really there. (Laughter) And the reason, so I'm a little bit jet-lagged, but I want you to know, if you didn't know, it was kind of kept quiet until it was over. But a number of people, huge dignitaries, all got on a boat and went to the Arctic. We spent eight days. Jimmy Carter was there. Madeline Albright. Tom Daschle. Larry Page from Google. But not just liberals and progressives; the head of DuPont was there, eight days on a boat, to look and see if what's happening with climate change is real. The head of Monsanto was there. We had Republicans and Democrats, young people, old people, state leaders, Catholics, evangelicals.

    Hard Truths About the Bailout

    The fifth major federal bailout this year — after Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the American International Group — is now in the works. Taxpayers have every right to be alarmed and angry. The latest plan is not necessarily a bad one, and officials had to move quickly to prevent credit markets from seizing up.

    But make no mistake, this crisis could have been avoided if regulators had enforced rules and officials had dared to question risky lending and other dubious practices.

    If done right, this bailout could succeed where the others have failed and remove the threat of a systemwide financial collapse. But the upfront cost will be enormous. So will the risk of losses in the long run — on top of the risks already incurred.