Friday, October 31, 2008
It's true, as those commentators point out, that this episode is just the latest in the McCain campaign's increasingly desperate (and laughably inept) attempt to win by sinking lower and lower into McCarthyite muck. But it goes far beyond just the McCain campaign. The neoconservative Right has been doing exactly this for a long time -- playing frivolous games with the "anti-semitism" accusation, casually tossing it at anyone who utters any criticism of Israel or who advocates some even-handed approach to Israel's conflicts with its various enemies.
While I have had to focus on assimilating new news and information, checking reports, blogging and taping and speaking, my mind is so full of the people I have met and the stories they have told. Each city has crystallized a scene or moment that will stay with me forever. I wish I could show you each of them. They are the real story.
Documents reveal how Ohio routed 2004 voting data through company that hosted external Bush Administration email accounts
Newly obtained computer schematics provide further detail of how electronic voting data was routed during the 2004 election from Ohio’s Secretary of State’s office through a partisan Tennessee web hosting company.
A network security expert with high-level US government clearances, who is also a former McCain delegate, says the documents – server schematics which trace the architecture created for Ohio’s then-Republican Secretary of State and state election chief Kenneth Blackwell – raise troubling questions about the security of electronic voting and the integrity of the 2004 presidential election results.
The long-feared capitulation of American consumers has arrived. According to Thursday’s G.D.P. report, real consumer spending fell at an annual rate of 3.1 percent in the third quarter; real spending on durable goods (stuff like cars and TVs) fell at an annual rate of 14 percent.To appreciate the significance of these numbers, you need to know that American consumers almost never cut spending. Consumer demand kept rising right through the 2001 recession; the last time it fell even for a single quarter was in 1991, and there hasn’t been a decline this steep since 1980, when the economy was suffering from a severe recession combined with double-digit inflation.
By Naomi Klein, The Nation
Posted on October 31, 2008, Printed on October 31, 2008
In the final days of the election, many Republicans seem to have given up the fight for power. But that doesn't mean they are relaxing. If you want to see real Republican elbow grease, check out the energy going into chucking great chunks of the $700 billion bailout out the door. At a recent Senate Banking Committee hearing, Republican Senator Bob Corker was fixated on this task, and with a clear deadline in mind: inauguration. "How much of it do you think may be actually spent by January 20 or so?" Corker asked Neel Kashkari, the 35-year-old former banker in charge of the bailout.
When European colonialists realized that they had no choice but to hand over power to the indigenous citizens, they would often turn their attention to stripping the local treasury of its gold and grabbing valuable livestock. If they were really nasty, like the Portuguese in Mozambique in the mid-1970s, they poured concrete down the elevator shafts.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
by Andrew J. Bacevich
A week ago, I had a long conversation with a four-star U.S. military officer who, until his recent retirement, had played a central role in directing the global war on terror. I asked him: what exactly is the strategy that guides the Bush administration's conduct of this war? His dismaying, if not exactly surprising, answer: there is none.
President Bush will bequeath to his successor the ultimate self-licking ice cream cone. To defense contractors, lobbyists, think-tankers, ambitious military officers, the hosts of Sunday morning talk shows, and the Douglas Feith-like creatures who maneuver to become players in the ultimate power game, the Global War on Terror is a boon, an enterprise redolent with opportunity and promising to extend decades into the future.
By Sally Kohn, Movement Vision Lab
Posted on October 30, 2008, Printed on October 30, 2008
Over the last 40 decades, conservatives have launched a concerted attack on taxes with such success that now candidates of both parties reliably compete with each other to prove who is more anti-tax. When John McCain and Sarah Palin attack taxes, that's one thing. But when Barack Obama starts doing it, we have a big problem.
Conventional wisdom has it that Americans hate taxes. But the conventional wisdom is wrong.
More than three years before the current financial crisis, in a series Greenspan, the Wizard of Bubbleland that began on September 14, 2005, I warned:
Through mortgage-backed securitization, banks now are mere loan intermediaries that assume no long-term risk on the risky loans they make, which are sold as securitized debt of unbundled levels of risk to institutional investors with varying risk appetite commensurate with their varying need for higher returns. But who are institutional investors? They are mostly pension funds that manage the money the US working public depends on for retirement. In other words, the aggregate retirement assets of the working public are exposed to the risk of the same working public defaulting on their house mortgages.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Sometimes, when a political campaign has run out of ideas and senses that the prize is slipping through its fingers, it rolls up a sleeve and plunges an arm, shoulder deep, right down to the bottom of the barrel. The problem for John McCain, Sarah Palin, and the Republican Party is that the bottom was scraped clean long before it dropped out. Back when the polls were nip and tuck and the leaves had not yet begun to turn, Barack Obama had already been accused of betraying the troops, wanting to teach kindergartners all about sex, favoring infanticide, and being a friend of terrorists and terrorism. What was left? The anticlimactic answer came as the long Presidential march of 2008 staggered toward its final week: Senator Obama is a socialist.
"This campaign in the next couple of weeks is about one thing," Todd Akin, a Republican congressman from Missouri, told a McCain rally outside St. Louis. "It's a referendum on socialism." "With all due respect," Senator George Voinovich, Republican of Ohio, said, "the man is a socialist." At an airport rally in Roswell, New Mexico, a well-known landing spot for space aliens, Governor Palin warned against Obama's tax proposals. "Friends," she said, "now is no time to experiment with socialism." And McCain, discussing those proposals, agreed that they sounded "a lot like socialism." There hasn't been so much talk of socialism in an American election since 1920, when Eugene Victor Debs, candidate of the Socialist Party, made his fifth run for President from a cell in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, where he was serving a ten-year sentence for opposing the First World War. (Debs got a million votes and was freed the following year by the new Republican President, Warren G. Harding, who immediately invited him to the White House for a friendly visit.)
As we are facing the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression as a result of conservative deregulation, it's only logical that we would look to how we successfully dealt with the last major economic crisis -- the progressive principles that shaped President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "New Deal."
The conservative response? Pretend that the New Deal sucked.
Last month Jonah Goldberg wrote on the National Review blog The Corner  that the New Deal is to blame for making it a "Great" depression:
...we shouldn't let invocation of the Great Depression — and our fear of it — justify all of this New Deal talk. Say it with me: The New Deal prolonged the Great Depression. In fact, if anything it was the New Deal itself that made the Great Depression "Great." By 1938 one in six Americans were still without jobs. It wasn't until WWII, when FDR started describing himself as "Dr. Win the War" instead of "Dr. New Deal" that America finally started to lift itself out of its state-imposed economic stupor.
Yesterday, the Heritage Foundation's Conn Carroll claimed  that the New Deal created a wholly separate Depression:
One of the great untold stories about the Depression is that there were really two of them. By the mid-1930’s the U.S. economy was well along the road to recovery with the number of unemployed dropping from 13 million in 1933 to 7.6 million in 1936. The the Supreme Court, bowing to the court packing pressure of FDR, approved the Wagner Act and the economy tanked again.
Wednesday October 29 2008
We are about to enter the twilight zone, that strange black hole in political time and space that appears no more than once every four years. It is known as the period of transition, and it starts a week from today, the time when the United States has not one president but two. One will be the president-elect, the other George Bush, in power for 12 more weeks in which he can do pretty much whatever he likes. Not only will he never again have to face voters, he won't even have to worry about damaging the prospects of his own party and its standard bearer (as if he has not damaged those enough already). From November 5 to January 20, he will exercise the freest, most unaccountable form of power the democratic world has to offer.
How Bush might use it is a question that gained new force at the weekend, when US forces crossed the Iraqi border into Syria to kill Abu Ghadiya, a man they said had been funnelling "foreign fighters" allied to al-Qaida into Iraq. That American move has touched off a round of intense head-scratching around the world, as foreign ministers and analysts ask each other the time-honoured diplomatic query: what did they mean by that? To which they add the post-Nov 4 question: and what does it tell us about how Bush plans to use his final days in the White House?
The planet is headed for an ecological "credit crunch", according to a report issued by conservation groups.
The document contends that our demands on natural resources overreach what the Earth can sustain by almost a third.
The Living Planet Report is the work of WWF, the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network.
By Kevin Phillips, Huffington Post
Posted on October 29, 2008, Printed on October 29, 2008
The time has come to review how back in 2005-2006 George W. Bush -- now increasingly perceived as another Herbert Hoover -- picked two top appointees who helped steer him towards his fateful 2008 rendezvous with a second Great Crash.
One of them, a top level financier, insured that Washington's eventual rescue policies would concentrate on trying to bail-out Wall Street while ignoring the gnawing cancer of its warped ambitions and financial malpractices. The second, a professor, misapplied dogma about how to guard against severe downturns into a disastrous attempt to refight the onset of the 1930s depression -- his academic specialty. He did not understand the very different context of our own era of cyber-spatial financial recklessness and gathering global inflation.
By Maria Luisa Tucker, AlterNet
Posted on October 29, 2008, Printed on October 29, 2008
If your office is a mess, you're known as a chatty Cathy, and you consider yourself hard to scare, then chances are, you will be voting for Obama in six days. But your neighbor, an optimistic clean freak who prides himself on the fact that he has woken up at 5 a.m. every day for the last 10 years, is a likely McCainiac.
It may sound a little like political palm reading, but some social psychologists say personality and biology may form the basis of a person's political leanings. While there's no Republican or Democrat gene, researchers are coming closer to pinpointing fundamental psychological and biological differences between conservatives and liberals.
Part I: US government throws oil on fire
US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson asserts that the full resources of the Treasury Department are being used to ensure the success of its US$700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). The "full resources of the Treasury Department" commands the full faith and credit of the United States anchored by Treasury's taxing authority as approved by Congress. Tax payments in the US are made to the US Treasury via the Internal Revenue Service.
The Congress can approve taxes for and spending by the Administration, but Congress cannot create money like the Federal Reserve can. The Treasury's money can only come from future taxes approved by Congress. Article I - Section 7.1 of the Constitution stipulates that "All Bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives". The Federal Reserve has the authority to create money as part of its monetary policy prerogative but the Treasury does not have any constitutional authority to expand the money supply. The Treasury must depend on tax revenue for funds beyond which the Treasury must sell sovereign debt to raise funds up to the national debt ceiling approved by Congress. Section 8.2 stipulates that only Congress has the power to borrow money on the credit of the United States. Proceeds from sovereign debt are advances on sovereign liability and not revenue, and must be paid back from future tax revenue.
As the US public is dimly aware, things are not going very well in Afghanistan.
The most recent United Nation situation map for Afghanistan issued September 3 paints a grim picture: there are large swaths of the country where things are getting worse. This includes the entire area surrounding Kandahar on the Pakistan border in the south, as well as areas on the Pakistan-Tajikistan border in the northeast and other areas on the Turkmenistan border to the northwest.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
1 hr 12 mins ago
TUESDAY, Oct. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Since 1999, Keith and Deborah Krinsky of Magalia, Calif., have seen their health insurance deductible soar from $1,000 to $10,000.
And their health-care costs have put them in a financial hole.
A combination of Keith's chronic asthma and potential heart problems, Deborah's connective tissue disorder and fallen arches, and their kids' various scrapes and stumbles led them to amass a pile of credit card debt and forced them to refinance the mortgage on their house -- which they now are having trouble paying.
Keith, once a plant manager for a trucking company in Chico, took a $30,000 pay cut to get a job with better health benefits. Deborah, who doesn't work because of her disability, said they are still fighting desperately to stave off foreclosure.
The Fed Chairman Who Faced Down Economic Crisis Looks to Obama
The announcement that Paul A. Volcker is a key economic adviser to Sen. Barack Obama – cited by the Democratic presidential nominee during the last debate and appearing with him at a campaign event in Florida last week — was met with surprise in some circles.
Volcker, 81, is celebrated as the Federal Reserve chairman who broke the plague of global inflation in the early 1980s. But he did it be engineering a violent crackdown on excess credit — at one point the short-term bank rate jumped to 20 percent — and the 1982 drop in gross domestic product was one of the sharpest in the postwar era.
NEW YORK - The Treasury's $700 billion program to rescue the financial services industry, which began with a three-page memo six weeks ago, is evolving yet again.
When the fleshed-out proposal was passed by Congress and signed into law Oct. 3, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson's plan was to use the money to buy "toxic" mortgage-related securities weighing down banks and clogging the flow of credit to business and consumers.
In Pursuit of an Unlikely Crime
Earlier this month, Republicans in Ohio lost their lawsuit challenging a state rule that allows voters to register and vote early on the same day. But the state party had no intention of conceding the point. GOP officials demanded records from all 88 county boards of election identifying every person who took advantage of same-day registration and voting. In one county, the Republican district attorney even opened a grand jury investigation.
“He’s investigating people who the law says are allowed to vote,” said Ohio ACLU lawyer Carrie Davis. After it was revealed that the district attorney was also the local chairman of the McCain campaign, he was forced to appoint a special prosecutor to handle the case.
With one fell stroke, giving Americans universal access to health care will undermine some of the deepest and most persistent myths of the conservative worldview.
We've worked hard to build a progressive political juggernaut that will, God willing and the creek don't rise, put us in control of both Congress and the Executive Branch starting just a week from now.
But it's one thing to get power, and another thing to keep it.
Someone (OK, it was Rick Perlstein) recently asked a group of friends to name the single most important policy step progressives could take to solidify a long-term grip on the government — the kind of extended run we had from 1932 through to the Age of Reagan.
The American Civil Liberties Union on Monday unveiled a nearly 100 page plan to dial back what it sees as the myriad abuses of the Bush administration, including torture, extraordinary rendition, warrantless wiretapping and surveillance of peaceful activists.
Peter Walker, Elana Schor in Washington and agencies
Tuesday October 28 2008 09.53 GMT
US police claim to have foiled an alleged plot by two skinhead neo-Nazis to assassinate Barack Obama as the culmination of a murder spree targeting black people.
According to federal authorities, Daniel Cowart, 20, and Paul Schlesselman, 18, who were arrested in Tennessee on Wednesday, planned to attack an unidentified high school where most pupils were African-American. They intended to shoot 88 people and behead 14 others, before trying to shoot Obama.
Recent studies hint that exposure to the toxic chemicals, such as methylmercury can cause harm at levels previously considered safe. A new analysis of the epidemiological evidence in the International Journal of Environment and Health, suggests that we should take a precautionary approach to this and similar compounds to protect unborn children from irreversible brain damage.
Philippe Grandjean of the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston, and the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, explains that the causes of suboptimal and abnormal mental development are mostly unknown. However, severe exposure to pollutants during the development of the growing fetus can cause problems that become apparent as brain functions develop - and ultimately decline - in later life. Critically, much smaller doses of chemicals, such as the neurotoxic compound methylmercury, can harm the developing brain to a much greater extent than the adult brain.
By Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 28, 2008; D01
The market downturn is ravaging public pension funds across the United States, with many state and local governments seeing more than 20 percent of their retirement pools swept away in the turmoil.
Even before the financial crisis, many large pension funds already were considered to be inadequately funded, according to the Government Accountability Office. The losses could force some states and local governments to ask taxpayers to pay more into the funds or to demand more contributions from the police, teachers and other government employees whom the benefits cover.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Economic data rarely inspire poetic thoughts. But as I was contemplating the latest set of numbers, I realized that I had William Butler Yeats running through my head: “Turning and turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer; / Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”
The widening gyre, in this case, would be the feedback loops (so much for poetry) causing the financial crisis to spin ever further out of control. The hapless falconer would, I guess, be Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary.And the gyre continues to widen in new and scary ways. Even as Mr. Paulson and his counterparts in other countries moved to rescue the banks, fresh disasters mounted on other fronts.
Maybe the polls and the conventional wisdom are all wrong, and John McCain will pull off a stunning upset. But right now the election looks like a blue sweep: a solid victory, maybe even a landslide, for Barack Obama; large Democratic gains in the Senate, possibly even enough to produce a filibuster-proof majority; and big Democratic gains in the House, too.Yet just six weeks ago the presidential race seemed close, with Mr. McCain if anything a bit ahead. The turning point was the middle of September, coinciding precisely with the sudden intensification of the financial crisis after the failure of Lehman Brothers. But why has the growing financial and economic crisis worked so overwhelmingly to the Democrats’ advantage?
LONDON (AFP) — The Financial Times, the respected business daily, endorsed Barack Obama on Monday to become the next US president, even though it prefers the trade policies of his Republican rival John McCain.
The newspaper, which has a daily readership of about 1.3 million worldwide according to its parent company Pearson, said the Democrat's policies blended the "good, not so good and downright bad" but he was "the right choice".
By Peter Dreier and John Atlas, The Nation
Posted on October 27, 2008, Printed on October 27, 2008
An increasingly desperate Republican attack machine has recently identified the community organizing group ACORN as Public Enemy Number One. Among ACORN's alleged crimes, perhaps the most serious is that it caused, nearly single-handedly, the world's financial crisis. That's the fantasy. In the reality-based world, it was ACORN that sounded the alarm about the exploitative lending practices that led to the current mortgage meltdown and financial crisis.
Monday October 27 2008 15.00 GMT
With polls showing Barack Obama pulling ahead of John McCain in the US presidential race, the Republican party's hard-right evangelical allies are starting to panic. As the political elites in the movement freak out, they're sowing the seeds of grassroots anxiety that God will punish America for electing Obama.Theodicy lies at the heart of the evangelical right's political strategy: Christians must perpetually engage in spiritual warfare with Satan, and take dominion over governmental and legal institutions. God will be pleased then; but if these Christian soldiers fail to vanquish Satan, God won't be happy at all. Chaos ensues: socialism, Bible burning, abortions in public schools, boy scouts forced into homosexuality!
Sunday, October 26, 2008
The US Air Force (USAF) is planning to set up a new Global Strike Command for its nuclear weapons as part of a re-organisation after recent mishaps.
The move follows the discovery that six nuclear weapons were mistakenly flown across the US, and that nuclear missile fuses were sent unknowingly to Taiwan.
The blunders resulted in the sacking of two of USAF's most senior officials.
BILL MOYERS: Watching Alan Greenspan testify before Congress this week, I tried, I tried very hard not to keep thinking of Ayn Rand. I failed.
The philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand was Alan Greenspan's ideological guru, his intellectual mentor. She was also one of the most amazing fantasists of the last century, the author of two of the most influential books of my generation THE FOUNTAINHEAD and ATLAS SHRUGGED, both timeless best-sellers.
Rand was a hedonist, an exponent of radical self-interest, who so believed in unfettered, unbridled capitalism that she advocated the abolition of all state regulations except those dealing with crime. In the gospel according to Rand, the business community was constantly beleaguered by evil forces practicing, are you ready for this? Altruism! Yes, the unselfish regard for the welfare of others was a menace to greed, and Rand would have none of it.
By Daniel Gross
Posted Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008, at 3:59 PM ET
It's hard to overstate the poor numbers coming out of Wall Street in recent months. But could it be that we're overstating the gravity of the situation? As job losses have mounted and consumer confidence has plunged, policymakers, news organizations, econo-pundits, and even some of my Slate colleagues have noted that the unemployment rate, which rose to 6.1 percent in September, seems to be at a nonrecessionary, noncatastrophic, low level. The unemployment rate is still below where it was in 2003; and between September 1982 and May 1983, the last very deep recession, it topped 10 percent. (Go here for a chart and historical data).
By Daniel Gross
Posted Friday, Oct. 24, 2008, at 3:55 PM ET
Thrift, like the repossession business, is a classic counter-cyclical industry. When the gross domestic product shrinks and the bulls are stricken, Americans are called to rouse themselves from a consumption-induced daze and start saving and investing rather than borrowing and splurging. At about this time in the economic cycle, we hear a lot more from Warren Buffett and a lot less from Donald Trump. Coupon-clippers are exalted, and high-flyers are laid low. Of course, once the good times begin to roll again, the calls for thrift subside.
By David Greenberg
Posted Friday, Oct. 24, 2008, at 4:34 PM ET
President Bush's vacillating response to the financial crisis has occasioned fond memories of the last president to face a banking catastrophe, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The comparisons are bound to be invidious. FDR's response to the panic of 1933 represented his finest hour—one of them, at any rate—while Bush's moves exhibit all the surefootedness of a dying animal. Yet FDR's early years should be revisited, not as an exercise in nostalgia or an excuse to bash Bush but as a chance to understand how FDR earned the reputation for sterling leadership that he retains today.
IT seems like a century ago now, but it was only in 2005 that a National Journal poll of Beltway insiders predicted that George Allen, then a popular Virginia senator, would be the next G.O.P. nominee for president. George who? Allen is now remembered, if at all, as a punch line. But any post-mortem of the Great Republican Collapse of 2008 must circle back to the not-so-funny thing that happened on his way to the White House.That would be in 2006, when he capsized his own shoo-in re-election race by calling a 20-year-old Indian-American “macaca” before a white audience (and a video camera). “Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia,” Allen told the young Democratic campaign worker for good measure, in a precise preview of the playbook that has led John McCain and Sarah Palin to their tawdry nadir two years later.
The right seems to have decided that the culture war, like just about everything else, sells better if promoted by attractive youthful spokesmoms. Goodbye Pat Buchanan, hello Sarah Palin -- and an especially big shout-out to that bright-eyed smiling newcomer to the national hate sweeps, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. Bachmann, as you may know, has become a YouTube star, thanks to her interview on "Hardball," in which, talking to an incredulous Chris Matthews, she called for the news media to ferret out "anti-American" members of Congress.
The stronger Obama gets, the more unhinged the Republicans become -- at least, those Republicans who haven't already detached (Chris Buckley! Colin Powell! Charles Krauthammer! Peggy Noonan! Kenneth Adelman!) -- although to be fair, Bachmann has been sending bulletins from Outer Wingnuttia for quite a while. In August she mocked Nancy Pelosi for "global warming fanaticism ... She has said that she's just trying to save the planet. We all know that someone did that over 2,000 years ago." Bachmann also claimed that Democrats want high gas prices in order to force Americans to move to "the inner city." Watch out, Real America, Democrats want to turn you into blacks.
Two in ACORN controversy say investigator's visits were intimidating
ALBUQUERQUE – Republican Party attorney Pat Rogers refused to say Thursday if a private detective who visited the addresses of two of the 10 Albuquerque voters cited at a news conference last week about voter fraud was working for the GOP.
Project Vote, a nonprofit that works with the community-organizing group ACORN, charged yesterday that the 10 voters are eligible voters and that the visits constitute voter intimidation. The group called on U.S. Attorney Gregory J. Fouratt to investigate.
When asked by the New Mexico Independent if the private investigator worked for Rogers’ law firm, Rogers said, “I have no interest in responding to ACORN’s accusation.”
Saturday, October 25, 2008
SOME of the US's pristine forests could soon be criss-crossed with roads for logging and mining as the federal government once again relaxes conservation rules - this time in Idaho.
US national parks are still protected, but at threat are so-called "roadless" areas of national forests. These cover more than 230,000 square kilometres - an area nearly as large as the UK. Bill Clinton banned virtually all development in these areas just before leaving office in January 2001. The Bush administration scrapped this policy in 2005, working out rules on a state-by-state basis instead.
Several Democratic lawmakers lashed out Friday at hedge funds that have threatened to block attempts to renegotiate mortgages for struggling homeowners.
At least two funds, Greenwich Financial Services and Braddock Financial, have told banks that they may take legal action if loans are renegotiated in a way that hurts the funds’ financial interests.Many hedge funds have purchased securities backed by mortgages. The New York Times reported Friday that Greenwich Financial and Braddock Financial, and possibly other funds, were resisting attempts to renegotiate the loans.
Saturday, October 25, 2008; A14
THE VERY "fabric of democracy," or so Sen. John McCain warned at the final presidential debate, is at stake. "We need to know the full extent of Senator Obama's relationship with ACORN, [which] is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country," Mr. McCain said, referring to the liberal group the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Mr. McCain's hyperbole about ACORN, which has endorsed Mr. Obama, is unwarranted.
By Joseph L. Galloway | McClatchy Newspapers
This is an autumn of great discontent as not just the United States, but the entire world trembles on the brink of an economic recession that may bring the kind of pain that's known only to the oldest among us.
With days to go before Election Day, the nation watches as a presidential candidate and his political party unravel, frantically dragging every ugly ghost out of the closet in an attempt not only to fool everyone, but also to scare everyone.
The closer you look at the current economic crisis, the more harrowing it becomes.
The focus in the presidential campaign has been almost entirely on the struggles faced by the middle class — on families worried about their jobs, their mortgages, their retirement accounts and how to pay for college for their kids.Each nauseating plunge in the Dow heightens their anxiety. Each company that goes under and each government report showing joblessness on the rise intensifies their fear.
October 25, 2008
An internal Air Force investigation into the activities of Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann appears to be the more significant of the two probes because it was launched only after a preliminary inquiry found sufficient grounds to move forward, military officials said.
Asian and European leaders have called for comprehensive reform of the global financial system.
Ending a summit in Beijing, they also urged the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to play a greater role in helping countries hit by the market turmoil.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon called for action to help affected developing nations.
Friday, October 24, 2008
By Scott Lanman and Steve Matthews
Oct. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said a ``once-in-a-century credit tsunami'' has engulfed financial markets and conceded that his free-market ideology shunning regulation was flawed.
``Yes, I found a flaw,'' Greenspan said in response to grilling from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. ``That is precisely the reason I was shocked because I'd been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.''
Thu Oct 23, 5:21 pm ET
WASHINGTON – Unemployment claims, already well into recession territory, are rising even faster than expected, leading economists to warn Thursday that the worst is yet to come.
As the Labor Department released bleak new numbers on the job market, Goldman Sachs, Chrysler and Xerox all announced they were cutting workers by the thousands, adding to the woes of an economy beset by tighter credit and wobbly banks.
The government said new applications for unemployment insurance rose 15,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 478,000, above analysts' estimates of 470,000. Jobless claims above 400,000 are considered a sign of recession.
Even before the spectacular presidential election campaign became a national obsession, and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression crowded out other news, coverage of the Iraq War had dwindled to next to nothing. National newspapers had long since discontinued their daily feasts of multiple - usually front page - reports on the country, replacing them with meager meals of mostly summary stories buried inside the paper. On broadcast and cable TV channels, where violence in Iraq had once been the nightly lead, whole news cycles went by without a mention of the war.
The tone of the coverage also changed. The powerful reports of desperate battles and miserable Iraqis disappeared. There are still occasional stories about high-profile bombings or military campaigns in obscure places, but the bulk of the news is about quiescence in old hot spots, political maneuvering by Iraqi factions, and the newly emerging routines of ordinary life.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Two former Senators -- conservative Democrat Chuck Robb and conservative Republican Dan Coats (that's what "bipartisan" means) -- have a jointly authored Op-Ed in The Washington Post today decreeing what the U.S. must do towards Iran. The essence: Iran must be prevented, using any means necessary, from not only obtaining nuclear weapons, but also denied even "the ability to quickly assemble a nuclear weapon," which means "the complete cessation of enrichment activities inside Iran," even for civilian purposes.To achieve that, the Patriot Act should be used to block all Iranian banks from any involvement in the U.S. economy and "our European allies [must] sever commercial relations with Tehran."
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan today engaged in an attempt to rewrite history that was so egregious that even CNBC anchor Mark Haines, a free-market cheerleader, was aghast.
The offense was on the first page of Greenspan's written testimony  before the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee. "In 2005, I raised concerns that the protracted period of underpricing of risk, if history was any guide, would have dire consequences," he said.
He may be technically correct, but that warning was at best a footnote to his main message, which was that Congress and the White House should more or less leave markets alone, and that the masters of Wall Street will always do what's best.
Investments might range from direct subsidies helping consumers or businesses buy more energy-efficient appliances to technical assistance retrofitting buildings to public awareness campaigns, though the study does not recommend any specific approach.
A powerful greenhouse gas is at least four times more prevalent in the atmosphere than previously estimated, according to a team of researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.
Using new analytical techniques, a team led by Scripps geochemistry professor Ray Weiss made the first atmospheric measurements of nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), which is thousands of times more effective at warming the atmosphere than an equal mass of carbon dioxide.
Wherever John McCain appears on the stump in these waning days of the presidential campaign, he is always accompanied by his imaginary friend “Joe the Plumber,” but it is the specter of Karl Marx that lurks just offstage. Reverting back to the Republicanism of eons ago, when he was just a child, he inveighs against the “socialist” design of Barack Obama’s tax platform. This delusional ranting, like so much of Mr. McCain’s behavior this year, tell us nothing about Mr. Obama (or socialism!) but much about him.
Let’s begin with the dishonesty of the McCain rant. What Mr. Obama proposes is to restore the tax rates on the wealthy to the same level as during the Clinton administration – that is, to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire without renewing them for individuals and families reporting more than $250,000 in annual income. There is nothing radical in this idea, let alone socialistic, (especially compared with the bank nationalizations and other violations of capitalist orthodoxy that Mr. McCain has supported recently as emergency measures).
Let's face it, nuclear weapons are the elephant in the room that no one likes to talk about. So let's approach the issue from the less threatening perspective of the awesome picture of the glider.
The glider looks like it's suspended above the runway, but in reality it's screaming toward the photographer at over 200 kilometers an hour in a maneuver known as a high-speed low pass. The pilot starts about 2,000 feet (609 meters) high and over a kilometer from the runway. He then dives to convert altitude into speed and skims the runway. Next, he does a steep climb to reconvert some of that speed into altitude so he can turn and land.
Given that the glider has no engine, you might wonder how the pilot can be sure he'll gain enough altitude in the climb to safely turn and land. The laws of physics tell us exactly how altitude is traded for speed and vice versa. While there is a loss due to the air resistance of the glider, that is a known quantity which the pilot takes it into account by starting from a higher altitude than needed for the landing phase.
This year began with three landmark events. Oil reached US$100 per barrel for only the second time in history as gasoline prices began an ascent toward the highest prices in a generation. And on January 3, Democratic Senator Barack Obama became the first African American to win the Iowa caucus.
In his historic victory speech, Obama chose to highlight just a handful of policy issues in the 15-minute address, making his focus on oil all the more significant. Obama forcefully declared that he would free the United States once and for all from "the tyranny of oil" and then pledged to be the president "who ends the war in Iraq and finally brings our troops home". An already raucous crowd met these pronouncements with thunderous applause and waves of cheers.
The Bush Doctrine in RuinsBy Tom Engelhardt
On the brief occasions when the President now appears in the Rose Garden to "comfort" or "reassure" a shock-and-awed nation, you can almost hear those legions of ducks quacking lamely in the background. Once upon a time, George W. Bush, along with his top officials and advisors, hoped to preside over a global Pax Americana and a domestic Pax Republicana -- a legacy for the generations. More recently, their highest hope seems to have been to slip out of town in January before the you-know-what hits the fan. No such luck.
Of course, what they feared most was that the you-know-what would hit in Iraq, and so put their efforts into sweeping that disaster out of sight. Once again, however, as in September 2001 and August 2005, they were caught predictably flatfooted by a domestic disaster. In this case, they were ambushed by an insurgent stock market heading into chaos, killer squads of credit default swaps, and a hurricane of financial collapse.
WASHINGTON - The final draft of the United States-Iraq Status of Forces agreement on the US military presence represents an even more crushing defeat for the policy of the George W Bush administration than previously thought, the final text reveals.
The final draft, dated October 13, not only imposes unambiguous deadlines for withdrawal of US combat troops by 2011, but makes it extremely unlikely that a US non-combat presence will be allowed to remain in Iraq for training and support purposes beyond the 2011 deadline for withdrawal of all US combat forces.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Last week, I appeared on Fox News to discuss Barack Obama's tax proposals. You can watch the clip here  - and make sure to watch the end where Fox News tries to drown me out with music.
Not surprisingly, the "debate" centered around the false premise that Obama's tax cuts are actually welfare. I say that's false because - as I pointed out on the show - everyone pays some form of taxes, whether it's income, property, sales or payroll taxes. When you take all those taxes together, most working- and middle-class Americans pay a higher effective tax rate than the Warren Buffetts of the world (as Warren Buffett, by the way, readily acknowledges). So Obama's plan to pass refundable income tax credits is only a handout if you look exclusively at one slice of taxes - in this case, income taxes. But in the overall tax scheme, those tax credits are aimed at better equalizing the tax structure so as to diminish the gap between Warren Buffett's very low effective tax rate and Joe Sixpack's high effective tax rate. Only in the asylums of Fox News and Republican Party politics is reducing that effective tax rate gap billed as theft from the rich to finance "welfare."
The website of the Ohio Secretary of State is being set to "static mode" following a recent series of "security breach" attempts, as well as suspicious packages and a number of death threats sent to the office, according to a press release issued late this afternoon. (Posted in full at end of this article.)The threats against Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's office come in the wake of a rash of recent burglaries and vandalism at ACORN offices in Massachusetts and Seattle, as well as death threats delivered to a number of their workers following much-hyped media reports of "voter fraud" by the community organization.
By H.D.S. Greenway | October 21, 2008
THE OTHER DAY I went to hear my favorite soldier-scholar, Andrew Bacevich, give a talk at Boston University, where he teaches. A retired colonel and Vietnam veteran, Bacevich's new book is called "The Limits of Power, The end of American Exceptionalism."
Bacevich has migrated from a conservative outlook to what might be called a neo-Niebuhrean position - his thinking being influenced by the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, whom Bacevich calls "the most clear-eyed of American prophets."
Niebuhr warned against "dreams of managing history," a combination of arrogance and narcissism that posed a moral threat. That's why Niebuhr is often held in contempt by neo-conservatives for whom power is everything. Bacevich's concern is that the dream has become a physical threat that could lead to America's inevitable decline.
By JUSTIN ROOD and TOM SHINE
October 22, 2008
Angry lawmakers from both parties assailed the top dogs of the big three credit rating companies Wednesday morning, assigning severe blame for the financial crisis on their firms' failure to assess the risk of trillions in subprime-mortgage related investments.
"You're the gatekeepers, you're the guys," chided a visibly frustrated Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. "You're the ones who make all the money. That's why you're there. Now we face a situation where we've got a house of cards that has fallen, and here we are trying to resurrect it."
Warming up a crowd in North Carolina on Saturday, Republican Rep. Robin Hayes offered the diagnosis that “liberals hate real Americans that work and achieve and believe in God.”
His remarks came shortly after he had said he would “make sure we don’t say something stupid, make sure we don’t say something we don’t mean.”Hayes had followed Rep. Patrick McHenry, also a North Carolina Republican, who laid out the choice between McCain and Obama.
Free-market fundamentalists have been operating in denial mode for more than a year, since the US financial sector imploded in a credit crisis from excessive debt in August 2007, claiming that the economic fundamentals were still basically sound, even within the debt-infested financial sector.
As denial was rendered increasingly untenable by unfolding events, champions of market fundamentalism began clamoring for increasingly larger doses of government intervention in failed free markets around the world to restore sound market fundamentals. For the market fundamentalist faithful, this amounts to asking the devil to save god.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Social Security's future: Obama would tax higher incomes more, McCain favors private accounts
Barack Obama wants to raise taxes on high-income workers to ease Social Security's looming cash crunch. John McCain favors voluntary private accounts for younger workers, saying they can't count on the same government benefits as today's retirees.
Beyond those generalities -- and a shared opposition to an increase in the retirement age -- the two presidential rivals are long on commitment and short on specifics when it comes to the government's huge retirement income program.
By THOMAS FRANK
The conservative movement made its name battling moral relativists on campus, bellowing for a "strict construction" of our nation's founding documents, and pandering to people who believe that the Book of Genesis literally records the origins of human existence.
And yet here are the words of Ronald Reagan's pollster, Richard Wirthlin, as recorded in one of the main Reagan strategy documents from 1980: "People act on the basis of their perception of reality; there is, in fact, no political reality beyond what is perceived by the voters."
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Sunday October 19 2008
Every so often, a famous actor or producer will contact Seymour Hersh, wanting to make a movie about his most famous story: his single-handed uncovering, in 1969, of the My Lai massacre, in which an American platoon stormed a village in South Vietnam and, finding only its elderly, women and children, launched into a frenzy of shooting, stabbing and gang-raping. It won him a Pulitzer prize and hastened the end of the Vietnam war. Mostly, they come to see him in his office in downtown Washington, a two-room suite that he has occupied for the past 17 years. Do they like what they see? You bet they do, even if the movie has yet to be made. 'Brad Pitt loved this place,' says Hersh with a wolfish grin. 'It totally fits the cliché of the grungy reporter's den!' When last he renewed the lease, he tells me, he made it a condition of signing that the office would not be redecorated - the idea of moving all his stuff was too much. It's not hard to see why. Slowly, I move my head through 180 degrees, trying not to panic at the sight of so much paper piled so precipitously. Before me are 8,000 legal notepads, or so it seems, each one filled with a Biro Cuneiform of scribbled telephone numbers. By the time I look at Hersh again - the full panorama takes a moment or two - he is silently examining the wall behind his desk, which is grey with grime, and striated as if a billy goat had sharpened its horns on it.
Stop anyone on the street, and they'll know of Arianna Huffington --- and she's glad they do. But the Left's second most influential blogger prefers anonymity.
"Digby" prolifically pumps out her dispatches from the People's Republic of Santa Monica, a few miles from Huffington's West Coast office. Her writing gives no gender clues, she comes off like a vengeful prosecutor --- and the logo on her otherwise bare-bones site, which she calls Hullabaloo, shows a screaming Howard Beale in a classic scene from Network.
last updated: October 21, 2008 10:17:26 AM
WASHINGTON — An ugly line has been crossed in this presidential campaign, one in which some people don't mind calling Barack Obama a dangerous Muslim, a terrorist and worse.
"To me, this all feels much worse than we've seen in some time," said Kathryn Kolbert, the president of People for the American Way, which monitors political speech.
Experts agree on the reasons: Obama, the Democratic nominee, is different from any other major presidential candidate in history in many ways, and people often don't accept such change gracefully.
PORTLAND, Ore. – New research at Oregon Health & Science University reveals millions of children from low- to middle-income families are going without health insurance, even when at least one parent has private health insurance through his or her employer.
"They just can't afford to insure their kids. And this scenario is not just for low-income families. We found that many middle-income families, households earning between $24,000 and $75,000 annually couldn't afford the cost to insure their child," said principal investigator Jennifer DeVoe, M.D., D.Phil., an assistant professor of family medicine, OHSU School of Medicine
Concerns about deployment of military on U.S. soil growing -- while mainstream media buries its head in the sand: Naomi Wolf
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
by Naomi Wolf 
The following is the spin of military spokespeople in response to questions about the deployment of the First Brigade on US soil for the first time in over 200 years.
The Army Times initially reported  that the First Brigade would handle domestic crowd control and subduing 'unruly individuals' and that they had 'lethal and nonlethal technologies' to do so. Then it issued a correction declaring that the 'nonlethal' package was not for domestic crowd control. Then after a hue and cry was raised by many citizens, Northern Command (NorthCom) offered a wholesale revision  of their mission – and the mainstream media is eating it up. Here is an excerpt from the articled linked to in the previous sentence:
Instead, the soldiers of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Ga., have been training to back up civilian authorities in providing medical care and dealing with chemical, biological, high explosive or nuclear attack.
Despite conspiracy theories that this could be a first step toward martial law in the U.S., there won't be tanks on Main Street or active-duty troops putting down demonstrations. That is barred by federal law banning the military from being used on U.S. soil for domestic law enforcement.
By Pam Martens, CounterPunch
Posted on October 21, 2008, Printed on October 21, 2008
In 1897, when 8-year old Virginia O'Hanlon posed her Santa Claus query to the New York Sun, she received a heart-warming editorial response reassuring her that "He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist."
Today, we hand our 8 year olds a $13 trillion national debt while our Congress hands Wall Street banksters the national purse without so much as a hearing to determine the cause of the debt collapse. Worse still, the money is doled out to the very same individuals who leveraged their institutions to casino status.
WASHINGTON - The present United States policy in Afghanistan of using air strikes to target local Taliban leaders was rejected by the top US commander in Afghanistan in early 2004 as certain to turn the broader population against the US presence.
Lieutenant General David Barno, the three-star general who commanded the Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan, the overall US and coalition command for Afghanistan from October 2003 to mid-2005, recalled in an interview that he had ordered that such air strikes be halted in Afghanistan in early 2004. He said the decision did not prohibit air strikes for close support of US troops in contact with the Taliban.
Monday, October 20, 2008
By Spencer Ackerman 10/20/08 12:10 PM
Prediction time. When the definitive history of the Bush administration’s prosecution of the Iraq war is written, its attempt to force the Iraqi government to sign a bilateral agreement authorizing an indefinite occupation will stand as its final massive blunder.Let’s review. In November 2007, George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki agreed in principle to a late-2008 deal that would set the legal terms for a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq. The Maliki government reportedly didn’t like the legal basis for the U.S. occupation — a United Nations Security Council mandate — because it considered it an affront to Iraqi sovereignty. Bush used that dissatisfaction as an opportunity to make the occupation an enduring strategic feature of U.S. foreign policy. His critics, including myself, feared that he would get his way.
By Chris Hedges
Our oligarchic class is incompetent at governing, managing the economy, coping with natural disasters, educating our young, handling foreign affairs, providing basic services like health care and safeguarding individual rights. That it is still in power, and will remain in power after this election, is a testament to our inability to separate illusion from reality. We still believe in “the experts.” They still believe in themselves. They are clustered like flies swarming around John McCain and Barack Obama. It is only when these elites are exposed as incompetent parasites and dethroned that we will have any hope of restoring social, economic and political order.
Remember how Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson promised full transparency in spending the $700 billion bailout money? And remember how bailout opponents predicted that the failure to mandate such transparency would allow all sorts of Halliburton-style shenanigans? From the looks of the first private contracts issued by the Treasury Department, it looks like the bailout opponents were correct.
Forty years ago, Richard Nixon made a remarkable marketing discovery. By exploiting America’s divisions — divisions over Vietnam, divisions over cultural change and, above all, racial divisions — he was able to reinvent the Republican brand. The party of plutocrats was repackaged as the party of the “silent majority,” the regular guys — white guys, it went without saying — who didn’t like the social changes taking place.It was a winning formula. And the great thing was that the new packaging didn’t require any change in the product’s actual contents — in fact, the G.O.P. was able to keep winning elections even as its actual policies became more pro-plutocrat, and less favorable to working Americans, than ever.
Monday October 20 2008
A year or two ago, if you'd told me that Barack Obama would be leading John McCain by a seemingly comfortable margin with two weeks to go and asked me what, in their desperation, the Republicans would be talking about to try and scare my fellow Americans into voting against him, I'd have said race. After all, Republicans have race-baited in one form or other in most of our presidential contests since Richard Nixon's time, so it would have seemed impossible to me that they'd miss the chance to do so at a time when Democrats had actually gone to the trouble of nominating an African-American candidate.
It's true that we're hearing racial-code talk here and there. But the main fear tactic being employed now is something else. It's that Obama and his associates - and for that matter his supporters and even the regions of the country that he's destined to carry - are anti-American.'
By Russell Baker, David Bromwich, Mark Danner, Andrew Delbanco, Joan Didion, Ronald Dworkin et al.
For an election in which so much is at stake, we asked some of our contributors for their views.
- Russell Baker
- David Bromwich
- Mark Danner
- Andrew Delbanco
- Joan Didion
- Ronald Dworkin
- Frances FitzGerald
- Timothy Garton Ash
- Paul Krugman
- Joseph Lelyveld
- Darryl Pinckney
- Thomas Powers
- Michael Tomasky
- Garry Wills
The new century has opened with a pervasive sense of American decline, and for good reason. The history of the Bush years is anything but a tonic for the spirit: the nation deceived by official lies into endless Middle Eastern warfare, loss of America's good reputation around the world, erosion of the middle class, astounding budget deficits, growing financial dependence on China, that sinister power-grabbing operation in the vice-president's office, torture....
And now the collapse of Wall Street, home office of triumphant world capitalism, its famous masters of the universe forced to endure the humiliation of asking for government handouts. Serious people who understand these things speak of the worst calamity since the Great Depression.
These and other loans, bonds or assets are bundled into portfolios - or Collateralised Debt Obligations (CDOs) - and sold on to investors globally.
A look at the regions of the world most affected by the financial crisis, and what governments are doing to try to alleviate the financial turmoil.
Background: Rich in resources with a well-educated workforce and one of South America's largest economies, but it has also fallen prey to a boom and bust cycle.
Key data: Gross National Income per capita: $6,050 (World Bank, 2007)
Latest: The government is considering a host of measures to contain the impact of the global financial crisis, including a pact with businesses and unions to avoid job losses, higher tariffs on imports, trade barriers and a weaker peso, local media have reported.
2 hrs 37 mins ago
TAMPA, Florida (Reuters) – Democrat Barack Obama criticized Republican White House rival John McCain for a "say anything, do anything" political style on Monday as he opened a two-day tour to kick off early voting in Florida.
McCain told supporters in Missouri that "nothing is inevitable" and he could still beat Obama, who leads in national opinion polls as the pair began a two-week sprint to the November 4 presidential election.
"In the final days of campaigns, the say-anything, do-anything politics too often takes over," Obama told about 8,000 supporters in Tampa, Florida. "We've seen it before and we're seeing it again today. The ugly phone calls. The misleading mail and TV ads. The careless, outrageous comments."
Mon Oct 20, 1:28 pm ET
WASHINGTON – Freddie Mac secretly paid a Republican consulting firm $2 million to kill legislation that would have regulated and trimmed the mortgage finance giant and its sister company, Fannie Mae, three years before the government took control to prevent their collapse.
In the cross hairs of the campaign carried out by DCI of Washington were Republican senators and a regulatory overhaul bill sponsored by Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. DCI's chief executive is Doug Goodyear, whom John McCain's campaign later hired to manage the GOP convention in September.
Freddie Mac's payments to DCI began shortly after the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee sent Hagel's bill to the then GOP-run Senate on July 28, 2005. All GOP members of the committee supported it; all Democrats opposed it.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
By Diane McWhorter
Posted Friday, Oct. 17, 2008, at 7:07 PM ET
I finally understand the switch of doom that tripped somewhere deep in my soul during Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican National Convention. Her rhetorical star turn—the exuberant snideness, the gut-level rapport with the audience, the frank pleasure at being a yokel on the big stage—reprised the great gifts of the politician who dominated my youth: George Corley Wallace, perpetual governor of Alabama and frequent candidate for president of the less-than-United States.
U.S. Rep John Lewis of Georgia also noticed the similarity. He issued a statement last week accusing Palin and John McCain of "sowing the seeds of hatred and division." He invoked "another period, in the not too distant past," when George Wallace "created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who only desired to exercise their constitutional rights."
Published 16 October 2008
The journey from college kid to presidential candidate was short. Yet it is the audacity of that choice, his faith in himself, that could see Barack Obama succeed. Alec MacGillis travelled with him on his year-long attempt to win over America
It was early October 2007 in Iowa, the drying stalks still stood in cornfields grown more precious in the age of ethanol, and far away, in the moneyed precincts of both coasts, Barack Obama's top donors were anxious. Despite having raised heaps of cash, he was trailing Hillary Clinton by more than 20 points in the national polls with only three months to go before Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucus. For the worriers, it was getting late. But for Iowa voters, it was early enough that many barely knew what to make of this biracial rookie senator and still muffed his exotic name. In Waterloo, it had been "Hi, Senator Barack." Now, here at the Buchanan County fairgrounds in Independence, it was "Hi, Obama," from a nervous Geri Punteney as she rose in the front row to ask her question.
But it wasn't a question, really. "I have a brother who's dying of cancer," she said, and as soon as it was out she had broken into sobs, and then apologies for her sobs, and more sobs. Obama stepped forward, as if knowing what was expected of him and yet slightly embarrassed by it. He took her hand with some consoling mumbles. Punteney, 50, collected herself enough to tell the rest: her 48-year-old brother was working as a truck driver despite having cancer, so as not to lose his insurance. She herself had stopped working at a riverboat casino to care for her mother, and so was forgoing needed dental surgery. "I don't think it's fair that my brother has to work when he's dying of cancer just to keep his insurance," she said.
Robin McKie, science editor
Sunday October 19 2008
Britain is ignoring the dangers posed by one of the world's worst air pollutants: ozone. Researchers say that levels of the gas - a powerful contributor to global warming and the cause of hundreds of deaths a year from respiratory illnesses - are rising at an alarming rate.
They have also warned that measures to curtail the gas are failing. As a result, ozone-related deaths, of which there are about 1,500 a year in the UK, could rise by 50 per cent over the next decade. Stronger international treaties need to be set up to counter the threat, they insist.
Make no mistake: we are witnessing the biggest crisis since the Great Depression. In some ways it is worse than the Great Depression, because the latter did not involve these very complicated instruments - the derivatives that Warren Buffett has referred to as financial weapons of mass destruction; and we did not have anything close to the magnitude of today's cross-border finance.
The events of these weeks will be to market fundamentalism what the fall of the Berlin Wall was to communism. Last month in the United States almost 160,000 jobs were shed - making more than three-quarters of a million this year. My guess is that things will get considerably worse. I have been predicting this for some time, and so far, unfortunately, I have been right.
There are several reasons for my pessimism. The extreme credit crunch is a result of the banks having lost a lot of capital. And there is still uncertainty about the value of the toxic mortgages and other complex products on their balance sheets. The US economy has been fuelled by a consumption binge. With average savings at zero, many people borrowed to live beyond their means. When you cut off that credit you reduce consumption. This, in turn, will dampen the US economy, which helps keep the global economy growing. The American consumer has not only sustained the US economy, he has sustained the global economy. The richest country in the world has been living beyond its means and telling the rest of the world it should be thankful because America fuelled global economic growth.
Four important economic reports today show the real economic downturn is worsening very rapidly. This is why strong, informed leadership matters.
Four important economic reports today show the real economic downturn is worsening very rapidly.
The Federal Reserve reports  that industrial production plunged 2.8 percent in September following a plunge of 1.0 percent in August. The plunge in industrial output in September is the worst one-month loss since December 1974 as the first OPEC oil-price hike devastated U.S. industry. Part of the September shut-down was the result of Gulf Coast storms, but even with the far greater devastation of Katrina, output fell only for one month and that was a 1.8 percent decline in September 2005.
Indeed, industrial production (which includes mining and utilities as well as manufacturing) has now plunged in seven of the past eight months and by 4.5 percent yr/yr. Over just the past three months (July to September) U.S. output plunged by 3.8 percent; again the worst three month plunge since early 1975 and one of the worst in U.S. history. Manufacturing output plunged by 2.6 percent in September, the worst one-month plunge since May 1980, when the Federal Reserve slammed on the monetary policy brakes, sending interest rates skyrocketing. Manufacturing production has fallen in six of the past eight months and by 4.8 percent year over year.
Saturday October 18 2008
Financial workers at Wall Street's top banks are to receive pay deals worth more than $70bn (£40bn), a substantial proportion of which is expected to be paid in discretionary bonuses, for their work so far this year - despite plunging the global financial system into its worst crisis since the 1929 stock market crash, the Guardian has learned.Staff at six banks including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are in line to pick up the payouts despite being the beneficiaries of a $700bn bail-out from the US government that has already prompted criticism. The government's cash has been poured in on the condition that excessive executive pay would be curbed.
Memo approves bypassing laws
Last updated October 17, 2008 11:30 p.m. PT
By CHARLIE SAVAGE
THE NEW YORK TIMES
WASHINGTON -- In a newly disclosed legal memorandum, the Bush administration says it can bypass laws that forbid giving taxpayer money to religious groups that hire only staff members who share their faith.
The administration, which has sought to lower barriers between church and state through its religion-based initiative offices, made the claim in a 2007 Justice Department memorandum from the Office of Legal Counsel. It was quietly posted on the department's Web site this week.
OLD Mr. Straight Talk has become so shaky a speaker that when he does talk straight, it’s startling. On Wednesday night, John McCain mustered exactly one such moment of clarity: “Senator Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago.”Thanks largely to this line, McCain’s remaining base in the political press graded his last debate performance his best. The public, not so much. As with the previous debates, every poll found Barack Obama the winner, this time by as much as two-to-one ratios. Obama even swept the focus group convened by the G.O.P. pollster Frank Luntz in the once-impregnable McCain bunker of Fox News.
The presidents of the US, France and the European Commission have unveiled plans for a series of summits to discuss the global financial crisis.
Speaking before talks at Camp David with Nicolas Sarkozy and Jose Manuel Barroso, George W Bush said it was "essential that we work together".
The first summit will be held in the US after November's presidential election.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
The most important questions raised by the health care proposals of the presidential candidates concern their values and judgment. These will guide a new president through the tortuous, unpredictable process of leading health care change. The specifics of candidates' proposals matter. But more important is what health plans communicate about a prospective president's fundamental beliefs and character.
By this standard, John McCain emerges not as a maverick or centrist but as a radical social conservative firmly in the grip of the ideology that animates the domestic policies of President George W. Bush. The central purpose of President Bush's health policy, and John McCain's, is to reduce the role of insurance and make Americans pay a larger part of their health care bills out of pocket. Their embrace of market forces, fierce antagonism toward government, and determination to force individuals to have more "skin in the game" are overriding — all other goals are subsidiary. Indeed, the Republican commitment to market-oriented reforms is so strong that, to attain their vision, Bush and McCain seem willing to take huge risks with the efficiency, equity, and stability of our health care system. Specifically, the McCain plan would profoundly threaten the current system of employer-sponsored insurance on which more than three fifths of Americans depend, increase reliance on unregulated individual insurance markets (which are notoriously inefficient), and leave the number of uninsured Americans virtually unchanged. A side effect of the McCain plan would be to threaten access to adequate insurance for millions of America's sickest citizens.
By Naomi Wolf, AlterNet
Posted on October 18, 2008, Printed on October 18, 2008
Dear Conservative America:
I am reaching out with a warning to you that is as heartfelt as the one I have been bringing my fellow citizens for months. But you are the most important audience of all for this, because you hold the key to whether or not we can save our republic in time.
I have been arguing that we are seeing the classic building blocks being laid for a police state: My thesis in The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot is that we are seeing the classic 10 steps being set in place that always underlie a violent police state. My argument in its sequel, Give Me Liberty, is that we must rise up as tactically and effectively as patriots to stop this suppression of freedom.
Don't trust me as a gambler. You'd probably make more by putting your money into credit-default swaps. Nonetheless, I'd like to make a small wager on who the single significant holdover from the Bush administration might be should an Obama presidency actually happen. Keep a close eye on Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. He was clearly sent into the Rumsfeld breach back at the end of 2006 to begin the clean-up of the Bush administration's foreign policy mess and -- my guess -- to prevent Dick Cheney and pals from attacking Iran. And this, with a little help from onrushing reality, he seems to have accomplished. He remains the singular adult in the Bush foreign policy playpen, a skilled bureaucratic maneuverer from his CIA days, who claims he plans to leave Washington in January but would never say "never" to an offer ahead of time.
Like Obama, he's plunked for an intensified Afghan War and, just last week, a key national security advisor to the candidate, former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig, praised Gates, suggesting he had been a splendid secretary of defense and adding that "he'd be an even better one in an Obama administration."
By Ryan J. Donmoyer
Oct. 16 (Bloomberg) -- ``Joe the plumber,'' the Toledo, Ohio, man whose complaints about Barack Obama's tax plan were featured in the final presidential debate, owes the state of Ohio almost $1,200 in back income taxes.
According to records on file with the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas, the state filed a tax lien against Samuel J. Wurzelbacher for $1,182.98 on Jan. 26, 2007, that is still active.
It was supposed to be a presidential election about the war in Iraq, with the war’s most stalwart defender in the Senate squaring off against an early and vigorous dissenter. But a global economic disaster has a way of refocusing the public debate.
At bottom, Sen. John McCain, the GOP presidential nominee, argues for staying in Iraq and Sen. Barack Obama, his Democratic opponent, argues for leaving. Still, the varying ways that McCain and Obama have discussed Iraq have taken some curious turns.
A senior McCain adviser, Steve Schmidt, famously charged that “You never heard the word ‘victory’ from Sen. Obama” — which is half true. Obama doesn’t use the word “victory” to describe Iraq — but then, neither does Gen. David Petraeus, whom McCain has apotheosized.