Sunday, November 30, 2008

The GOP's McCarthy gene

Think Goldwater is the father of conservatism? Think again.
By Neal Gabler
November 30, 2008
Ever since the election, partisans within the Republican Party and observers outside it have been speculating wildly about what direction the GOP will take to revive itself from its disaster. Or, more specifically, which wing of the party will prevail in setting the new Republican course -- whether it will be what conservative writer Kathleen Parker has called the "evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy" branch or the more pragmatic, intellectual, centrist branch. To determine the answer, it helps to understand exactly how Republicans arrived at this spot in the first place.

Surprise! Bailout oversight not happening

Sat Nov 29, 2008 at 01:30:04 PM PST

TPM reports an "interesting nugget" from the continuing bailout saga: an unnamed Republican Senator is blocking the confirmation of Neil Barofsky, nominated by the White House to the newly created position of Special Inspector General at the Treasury Department.

Last week, Sen. Chris Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat who chairs the banking committee, issued a little-noticed statement saying that although the nomination "was cleared by members of the Senate Banking Committee, the leadership of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and all Democratic Senators," it was "blocked on the floor by at least one Republican member." (itals ours.) [meaning theirs]

TPM further notes that, "Senate rules allow any senator to anonymously block a vote on confirmation to any federal post, for any reason."

Bush aides push for rule to hamper worker health protections

Bush administration aides are rushing to pass a safety rule which would make government regulation of workers' exposure to toxic chemicals more difficult; a rule President-elect Barack Obama opposes.

Public health officials worry the decreased protections will result in additional, unnecessary deaths.

Commentary: So much for letting the free market rule

Hear that humming sound? That's the printing presses at the United States Treasury running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, churning out an ocean of green paper to bail out the billionaire bankers, brokers and assorted brigands who are responsible for the economic disaster that's befallen us.

They're busy running off $3.7 trillion in bailout money for those who don't deserve it. It's a Happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas to the very pirates whose greed got us, and them, in all the trouble.

Isn't capitalism grand?

Salmon-tracking network upends some sacred cows

WASHINGTON — They were two of the 1,000 juvenile salmon implanted with almond-sized transmitters as they headed out of the Rocky Mountains, down the Snake River bound for the sea.

Their remarkable three-month, 1,500-mile journey of survival to the Gulf of Alaska was tracked by an underwater acoustic listening network that has wired the West Coast from just north of San Francisco to southeastern Alaska. The tracking network could provide a model for a global system.

Greenhouse gases will heat up planet 'for ever'

New study shows the effects of CO2 pollution will be felt for hundreds of thousands of years

By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
Sunday, 30 November 2008

Global warming is for ever, some of the world's top climate scientists have concluded. Their research shows that carbon dioxide emitted from today's homes, cars and factories will continue to heat up the planet for hundreds of thousands of years.

Their findings – which contradict a widespread belief that the atmosphere would recover quickly once humanity stopped polluting it – come at the beginning of the most crucial week for the climate this year. Tomorrow Britain's powerful Climate Change Committee will lay out a road map to put the country on track to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. At the same time, the world's governments will meet in Poznan, in Poland, to try to set the world on the path to agreeing a new international treaty next year, billed as the last chance to keep global warming to tolerable levels.

Saved by their stripes: Africa's vanishing herds

Jessica Aldred, Sunday November 30 2008 00.01 GMT

As the rain begins to fall on Tanzania's Tarangire National Park, thousands of zebra, wildebeest and giraffe will begin one of the world's greatest migrations. But many of the herds trampling across the grass at the foot of the Rift Valley highlands are falling in number - and scientists do not know why.

To find out, they are using a new 'photo-fit' system that can recognise individual animals by their unique skin patterns, which are as distinct as a human fingerprint.

It's a depression


WASHINGTON -- Few prominent economists will say it, but to me it looks and feels like we are in another Great Depression or a reasonable facsimile.

The current meltdown is dubbed a "financial crisis." But a rose by any other name would still inflict the same hardship and suffering on most people and businesses.

Clearly, the lessons have not been learned from the Herbert Hoover era. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, a columnist for The New York Times, says the current banking crisis is "functionally similar to that of the Great Depression."

Glenn Greenwald: Mumbai, the NYT's revisionism, and lessons not learned

The New York Times Editorial Page, today, on poor U.S./Latin American relations:

[T]he Bush administration did enormous damage to American credibility throughout much of the region when it blessed what turned out to be a failed coup against Mr. Chávez.

Indeed it did. But what the Times fails to mention, and is apparently eager to erase, is that "the Bush administration" was far from alone in blessing that coup attempt:

The New York Times Editorial Page, April 13, 2002 -- one day after the coup:

With yesterday's resignation of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona. . . .

In Maryland, Focus on Poultry Industry Pollution

WILLARDS, Md. — Standing before a two-story-tall pile of chicken manure, Lee Richardson pondered how times had changed.

“When I left school and started working the land, this stuff was seen as farmer’s gold,” said Mr. Richardson, 38, a fifth-generation chicken grower, explaining that the waste was an ideal fertilizer for the region’s sandy soil. “Now, it’s too much of a good thing.”

How to handle the 650 million pounds of chicken manure produced in the state each year has sparked a fierce debate between environmentalists and the state’s powerful poultry industry. State officials hope to bring Maryland in line with most other states next month by enacting new rules for where, how and how long chicken farmers can spread the manure on their fields or store it in outdoor piles.

Study's Claim on the 'Myth' of Obama's Small Donor Base Is Itself a 'Myth'

The Campaign Finance Institute (CFI) study disclosing that Barack Obama actually raised most of his campaign money from "larger" not "small" donors has gained wide, approving, coverage in recent days, from USA Today to the New York Times and Los Angeles Times and countless web sites, even making Huffington Post at least twice, including as a top link. Inevitably the headlines refer to the "myth" of Obama riding a wave of small donations to victory. That study's author himself uses it.

But the "myth" is actually in the spinning of the report, including by its author, Michael Malbin, a former speechwriter for Dick Cheney, when he was Pentagon chief, and a resident fellow at The American Enterprise Institute from 1977 to 1986.

At the Last Minute, a Raft of Rules

Bush White House Approves Regulations on Environmental, Security Matters

By R. Jeffrey Smith and Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, November 30, 2008; A04

In a burst of activity meant to leave a lasting stamp on the federal government, the Bush White House in the past month has approved 61 new regulations on environmental, security, social and commercial matters that by its own estimate will have an economic impact exceeding $1.9 billion annually.

Some of the rules benefit key industries that have long had the administration's ear, such as oil and gas companies, banks and farms. Others impose counterterrorism security requirements on importers and private aircraft owners.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


It's the most overrated virtue in politics.

Critics of appointing Hillary Clinton secretary of state have focused on the issue of whether she'll be faithful to her new boss. The senator, we are reminded, has her own interests, which diverge from those of President-elect Obama's, and a marked tendency to put her own ambitions first. Perhaps so, but I doubt Obama will have much trouble with disloyalty in his administration, from Clinton or anyone else, for the same reason it wasn't a problem in his campaign: He doesn't spend a lot of time worrying about it.

Loyalty is a wonderful human quality and a necessary political one. No president would think of moving into the White House without known and trusted advisers such as David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett. At the same time, the recurrent presidential obsession with forms of disloyalty, including leaks, disobedience, and private agendas, is a marker for executive failure. Those presidents who fixated on personal allegiance, such as Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and George W. Bush, tended to perform far worse in office than those, such as Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton, who could tolerate strong, independent actors on their teams.

Glenn Greenwald: Mumbai, the NYT's Revisionism, and Lessons Not Learned

The New York Times Editorial Page, today, on poor U.S./Latin American relations:

[T]he Bush administration did enormous damage to American credibility throughout much of the region when it blessed what turned out to be a failed coup against Mr. Chávez.

Indeed it did. But what the Times fails to mention, and is apparently eager to erase, is that "the Bush administration" was far from alone in blessing that coup attempt:

The New York Times Editorial Page, April 13, 2002 -- one day after the coup:

With yesterday's resignation of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona. . . .

Early yesterday [Chávez] was compelled to resign by military commanders unwilling to order their troops to fire on fellow Venezuelans to keep him in power. He is being held at a military base and may face charges in Thursday's killings.

New presidential elections should be held this year, perhaps at the same time the new Congress is chosen. Some time is needed for plausible national leaders to emerge and parties to reorganize. But Venezuela urgently needs a leader with a strong democratic mandate to clean up the mess, encourage entrepreneurial freedom and slim down and professionalize the bureaucracy.

That was one of the most Orwellian editorials written in the last decade. The Times -- in the very first line -- mimicked the claim of the Bush administration that Chavez "resigned," even though, several paragraphs later, they expressly acknowledged that Chavez "was compelled to resign by military commanders" (the definition of a "coup"). Further mimicking the administration, the Times perversely celebrated the coup as safeguarding "Venezuelan democracy" ("Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator"), even though the coup deposed someone whom the Times Editorial itself said "was elected president in 1998" and -- again using the Times' own language -- "handed power to" an unelected, pro-American "respected business leader, Pedro Carmona," who quickly proceeded to dissolve the democratically elected National Assembly, the Supreme Court and other key institutions.

Glenn Greenwald: How the media talks about torture and the rule of law

Yesterday, The New York Times' Mark Mazzetti, in reporting on John Brennan's withdrawal from consideration for a top intelligence post, wrote:

The opposition to Mr. Brennan had been largely confined to liberal blogs, and there was not an expectation he would face a particularly difficult confirmation process. Still, the episode shows that the C.I.A.’s secret detention program remains a particularly incendiary issue for the Democratic base, making it difficult for Mr. Obama to select someone for a top intelligence post who has played any role in the agency’s campaign against Al Qaeda since the Sept. 11 attacks.

I quoted that paragraph yesterday to show how the establishment media is acknowledging the role blogs played in this episode, prompting Billmon to materialize in the comment section and make this point:

Glenn should have noted the sly way that asshole Mazzetti slides from "the CIA's secret detention program remains a particularly incendiary issue for the Democratic base" -- because, of course, only those wacko lefties worry about war crimes -- to the completely bogus assertion that said concerns have made it "difficult for Mr. Obama to select someone . . . who has played any role in the agency’s campaign against Al Qaeda since 9/11" (emphasis mine).

So, according to the New Pravda (sometimes known as the New York Times) to criticize crimes against humanity is to oppose the entire campaign against the people responsible for 9/11. Dick Cheney couldn't have put it better.

Now THAT'S some sleazy journalism we can believe in.

Amazon deforestation accelerates

The destruction of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil has accelerated for the first time in four years, Brazilian officials say.

Satellite images show 11,968 sq km of land was cleared in the year to July, nearly 4% higher than the year before.

The government said the figure was unsatisfactory but could have been a lot worse if it had not taken action against illegal logging.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Win-Win Bankruptcy Reform

By Rich Leonard
Friday, November 28, 2008; A29

I watched a middle-aged widow lose her home recently.

Her story was familiar. She owned her simple brick residence outright until four years ago, when a mortgage broker stopped by and offered her a loan too good to be true. In exchange for taking on a modest monthly payment, she could make some needed repairs and consolidate other debts.

More sophisticated than many borrowers, she realized she was getting an adjustable-rate mortgage. What she didn't realize was that, in the biggest "bait-and-switch" ever pulled by an entire industry, her ARM was not tied to the prime rate or any other index, as adjustable-rate mortgages have traditionally been. Her rate simply adjusted periodically, ever upward. When it hit 14 percent, her social worker's salary could no longer cover the payments.

Hate crimes and illegal immigration: O'Reilly reverses the reality

-- by Dave

Earlier this week on The O'Reilly Factor, the Papa Bear did what right-wingers constantly do when discussing hate crimes: he conflated them with ordinary crimes in a way that deliberately confuses the public regarding the nature of these crimes.

As you can see in this clip (or from the transcript), O'Reilly starts out by discussing the horrendous hate crime on Long Island wherein a group of six young white thugs went out looking for Latinos to harm for "sport", and they wound up killing an Ecuadoran immigrant named Marcelo Lucero.

But then he seems to connect this crime to a completely unrelated tragedy involving the deaths of two women at the hands of a drunken driver who happened to be an illegal immigrant.

What to Do

By Paul Krugman

What the world needs right now is a rescue operation. The global credit system is in a state of paralysis, and a global slump is building momentum as I write this. Reform of the weaknesses that made this crisis possible is essential, but it can wait a little while. First, we need to deal with the clear and present danger. To do this, policymakers around the world need to do two things: get credit flowing again and prop up spending.

The first task is the harder of the two, but it must be done, and soon. Hardly a day goes by without news of some further disaster wreaked by the freezing up of credit. As I was writing this, for example, reports were coming in of the collapse of letters of credit, the key financing method for world trade. Suddenly, buyers of imports, especially in developing countries, can't carry through on their deals, and ships are standing idle: the Baltic Dry Index, a widely used measure of shipping costs, has fallen 89 percent this year.

Paul Krugman: Lest We Forget

A few months ago I found myself at a meeting of economists and finance officials, discussing — what else? — the crisis. There was a lot of soul-searching going on. One senior policy maker asked, “Why didn’t we see this coming?”

There was, of course, only one thing to say in reply, so I said it: “What do you mean ‘we,’ white man?”

Seriously, though, the official had a point. Some people say that the current crisis is unprecedented, but the truth is that there were plenty of precedents, some of them of very recent vintage. Yet these precedents were ignored. And the story of how “we” failed to see this coming has a clear policy implication — namely, that financial market reform should be pressed quickly, that it shouldn’t wait until the crisis is resolved.

Radical Solutions for a Crazy Economy

By Nouriel Roubini, Forbes
Posted on November 28, 2008, Printed on November 28, 2008

The U.S. economy is confronting a toxic mixture: deflation, a liquidity trap and debt deflation, as well as rising household and corporate defaults. Put plainly, the signs of a "stag-deflation" -- a deadly combination of stagnation/recession and deflation -- are now clear.

We are in a severe recession, and now the recent readings of both the Producer Price Index and the Consumer Price Index show the beginning of deflation. The slack in goods markets -- with demand falling and supply being excessive (because of years of excessive over-investment in new capacity in China, Asia and emerging market economies) -- means firms have lower pricing power and a need to cut prices to sell the burgeoning inventory of unsold goods.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Beware Rumsfeld's Snow Job

The former defense secretary's revisionist op-ed.

By Fred Kaplan

Donald Rumsfeld is writing his memoirs, and if his op-ed in the Nov. 23 New York Times is any preview, it should be a classic of self-serving revisionism.

On the surface, the former defense secretary's piece seems to be a warning—sound, if unoriginal—that merely sending more troops to Afghanistan won't fix that country's problems or win the war.

But his real intent is clearly to justify his own policies on the war in Iraq, to refute the (properly) widespread idea that he committed serious errors, and even more to deny that he held the views that he actually did hold.

Maddow: Why compromise with GOP 'in hilarious disarray'?

11/25/2008 @ 11:09 am
Filed by David Edwards and Muriel Kane

With a mandate from the voters, Barack Obama would appear to have an open field to put through his own agenda without worrying about the opposition. MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, however, is concerned that Obama is too set on finding consensus to take a hard stand on an issue as contentious as war crimes.

"Why is the President-elect with strong majorities in Congress and the Republican party in utter, hilarious disarray, acting already like he has to fear and accommodate the Republicans in order to get anything done?" Maddow wondered on Monday. "While Obama has repeated his stand to close the prison at Guantanamo and reassert American laws against torture, Newsweek and both report that now he may not push for prosecutions of Bush officials."

Panel Asks How Inquiry Began on Spitzer Banking

ALBANY — Eight months after a federal investigation into a prostitution ring brought about the downfall of Gov. Eliot Spitzer, the question persists in some circles: Was the federal government out to get Mr. Spitzer?

No evidence has surfaced to support such an assertion, and the prosecutor in the case has said that politics played no role in the pursuit of Mr. Spitzer, a Democrat. But that has not put to rest suspicions, expressed on left wing blogs, that Mr. Spitzer, a zealous pursuer of Wall Street wrongdoing who some thought could one day be president, had been singled out.

As mortgages went bad, executives cashed out

While Irvine subprime lender New Century was failing, key executives continually changed their stock trading plans and often sold within days of colleagues' trades, a Times investigation shows.
By William Heisel
November 26, 2008
The subprime lending industry was starting to buckle under the weight of bad loans in November 2006, when executives at Irvine-based New Century Financial Corp. held a conference call to release their latest earnings.

Loan volume was down and defaults were up, the earnings report showed, and in recent weeks at least five stock analysts had downgraded the company's shares. Moreover, four executives had sold nearly $20 million in stock in the last four months, six times as much as they had sold over the previous 12 months.

Thomas Frank: Government by Contractor Is a Disgrace

Back in 1984, the conservative industrialist J. Peter Grace was telling whoever would listen why government was such a wasteful institution.

One reason, which he spelled out in a book chapter on privatization, was that "government-run enterprises lack the driving forces of marketplace competition, which promote tight, efficient operations. This bears repetition," he wrote, "because it is such a profound and important truth."

4 new reports reveal battered economy

WASHINGTON – The government released a quartet of reports Wednesday that paint a bleak picture of the nation's economy: Jobless claims remain at recessionary levels, Americans cut back on their spending by the largest amount since the 2001 terrorist attacks, orders to U.S. factories plummeted and homes sales fell to the lowest level in nearly 18 years.

The Labor Department reported that initial requests for unemployment benefits fell to a seasonally adjusted 529,000 from the previous week's upwardly revised figure of 543,000. But claims remain at recessionary levels. The four-week average, which smooths out fluctuations, rose to 518,000, its highest level since January 1983, when the economy was emerging from a steep recession.

Military reform 30 years on

America’s Defense Meltdown edited by Winslow T Wheeler

Reviewed by David Isenberg

WASHINGTON - When it comes to the United States military establishment, all the duly anointed experts, regardless of their political ideology, hold the same conventional wisdom; namely, that it is currently the finest, most powerful, best-led, best-equipped, best-trained example in all of its history.

At a time when the US military is being used as the primary instrument to fight global terrorism such a sentiment strikes many as comforting. There is only one problem with it - it is wrong. That, at least, is the view of the 13 specialists - including former Pentagon insiders, retired military officers and defense specialists who contributed to this book.

Weapons come second

By Frida Berrigan

Even saddled with a two-front, budget-busting war and a collapsing economy, Barack Obama may be able to accomplish a lot as president. With a friendly Congress and a relieved world, he could make short work of some of the most egregious overreaches of the George W Bush White House - from Guantanamo to those presidential signing statements. For all the rolling up of sleeves and "everything is going to change" exuberance, however, taking on the Pentagon, with its mega-budget and its mega-power, may be the hardest task he faces.

FDA finds traces of melamine in US infant formula

Traces of the industrial chemical melamine have been detected in samples of top-selling U.S. infant formula, but federal regulators insist the products are safe. The Food and Drug Administration said last month it was unable to identify any melamine exposure level as safe for infants, but a top official said it would be a "dangerous overreaction" for parents to stop feeding infant formula to babies who depend on it.

"The levels that we are detecting are extremely low," said Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. "They should not be changing the diet. If they've been feeding a particular product, they should continue to feed that product. That's in the best interest of the baby."

Volcker will head new Obama board

President-elect Barack Obama on Wednesday will announce the creation of a president’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, chaired by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, to provide outside advice from heavyweight thinkers, officials said.

Obama, who will be the sixth president Volcker has served, plans to make the announcement in Chicago at his third news conference on the economy in three days, allowing him to dominate news coverage during Thanksgiving week.

The officials said the idea came from Obama, who wanted to preserve the advisory structure he had come to appreciate over the course of the campaign. The new body also reflects the magnitude of the nation’s economic problems, which Obama wants to solve in an integrated way – not just through attention to markets, but also to jobs, wages and housing foreclosure.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Transporting broiler chickens could spread antibiotic-resistant organisms

A study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found increased levels of pathogenic bacteria, both susceptible and drug-resistant, on surfaces and in the air inside cars traveling behind trucks that carry broiler chickens. The findings indicate a novel pathway for potential human exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria from intensively raised poultry.

Global warming is changing organic matter in soil

New research shows that we should be looking to the ground, not the sky, to see where climate change could have its most perilous impact on life on Earth.

Archeology of homelessness

Archeology as a tool for contemporary decisions not just for understanding the past

INDIANAPOLIS –No matter what you see in the movies, archaeology isn't really about finding ancient temples or golden idols. It's about the day-to-day "stuff"— the material culture—of people's lives. It doesn't even have to be ancient, as a study of homeless peoples' stuff in Indianapolis is showing. Instead of being an exotic field, archaeology may even help the homeless to live better lives.

Larry J. Zimmerman, Ph.D., an Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis professor of anthropology and museum studies at the School of Liberal Arts and Jessica Welch, an IUPUI student and a formerly homeless woman, have completed a unique study of the material culture of the homeless. The researchers discovered that the problem of homelessness is broader and much more complex than previously thought.

76 percent of American middle-class households not financially secure

As the economy continues to reel, a new report finds that 4 million American households lost economic security between 2000 and 2006 and that a majority of America's middle class households are either borderline or at high risk of falling out of the middle class altogether. The new report, "From Middle to Shaky Ground: The Economic Decline of America's Middle Class, 2000-2006," was published by the policy center Demos and the Institute for Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University.

Ocean growing more acidic faster than once thought

University of Chicago scientists have documented that the ocean is growing more acidic faster than previously thought. In addition, they have found that the increasing acidity correlates with increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The increasingly acidic water harms certain sea animals and could reduce the ocean's ability to absorb carbon dioxide.

Little Gain From Oil Sands Carbon Capture: Report

CALGARY, Alberta - Canada's government saw only limited opportunities to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands using carbon capture and storage technology, according to briefing notes obtained by a Canadian media.

The notes, prepared by a carbon capture task force, were used by Canadian federal and provincial politicians and were obtained by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp, which said it requested them under freedom of information legislation.

Carbon capture and storage would see carbon-dioxide removed from the emissions of oil sands upgraders that turn tar-like bitumen into refinery-ready synthetic crude. The captured CO2 would be put into underground reservoirs for permanent storage instead of being pumped into the atmosphere.

Talking Turkey: Ten Myths Conservative Believe About Progressives

By Sara Robinson
November 25th, 2008 - 2:06am ET

Oh, Lordy. It is that time again. Thursday is Thanksgiving— the official kickoff event of the 2008 holiday season. For a lot of progressives, these festivities also mean that we're about to spend more quality time with our conservative relatives over the next six weeks than is strictly good for our blood pressure, stress levels, or continued sanity.

Personally, I'm not a wholehearted fan of turkey—probably because the mere smell of it instantly slams me back into memories of several decades of Thanksgiving dinner arguments with conservative kin that took a turn for the ugly. We all know we're supposed to stick to "safe" topics like the kids, college football, and the weather; and avoid controversial issues like religion, politics and whether oysters belong in a proper bird stuffing. But the afternoon is long, and after the approved topics have been exhausted and that third bottle of Cabernet vanishes and the tryptophan torpor hits, decorum and discipline are at high risk of going all to hell. After that, things can and do get contentious, usually in ways that make everyone wish we could all just go back to fighting over oysters in the stuffing.

U.S. Sending a Convict Back to Yemen

WASHINGTON (AP) — Osama bin Laden’s former driver is being transferred from the United States detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to his home country, Yemen, a senior defense official said Monday.

The detainee, Salim Hamdan, was convicted in August of aiding Al Qaeda and sentenced to five and one-half years in prison. Mr. Hamdan would be eligible for release in January with credit for time served.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter, said Mr. Hamdan would serve the rest of his sentence in Yemen.

Of Obama, Kerry and Richardson: Keeping one's friends at a distance


Whether from an exceptional eye for irony or a keen sense of justice, yesterday the New York Times' Jeff Zeleny perfectly captured, as he put it, "the stark image of the transfer of power that is under way in Washington."

Far away from the centers of official authority, "Mr. Obama and his new [economic] team arrived in a room of dozens of reporters." Earlier, "President Bush made brief remarks at the Treasury Department with Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr.," standing "nearly alone on the steps of the Treasury Department."

I saw the video tape of his "brief remarks" and, after eight years, the man still looked uncomfortable in his own skin, still looked ineffably clueless and still utterly bereft of personal responsibility.

"This is a tough situation for America," said Bush, as though these gargantuan troubles descending on us somehow magically appeared, inexplicable in their origins and impersonal in their nature.

It was an extraordinarily bizarre scene, for he also looked withered and beaten, and I'd like to think that was because it has finally dawned on him that God never was at his back.

Zombie Economics: Don't Bail out the System that Gave Us SUVs and Strip Malls

By James Howard Kunstler,
Posted on November 25, 2008, Printed on November 25, 2008

Though Citicorp is deemed too big to fail, it's hardly reassuring to know that it's been allowed to sink its fangs into the Mother Zombie that the U.S. Treasury has become and sucked out a multibillion dollar dose of embalming fluid so it can go on pretending to be a bank for a while longer.

I employ this somewhat clunky metaphor to point out that the U.S. government is no more solvent than the financial zombies it is keeping on walking-dead support. And so this serial mummery of weekend bailout schemes is as much of a fraud and a swindle as the algorithm-derived-securities shenanigans that induced the disease of bank zombification in the first place. The main question it raises is whether, eventually, the creation of evermore zombified U.S. dollars will exceed the amount of previously created U.S. dollars now vanishing into oblivion through compressive debt deflation.

Pepe Escobar: Bush comfortable on the SOFA

WASHINGTON - The Iraqi parliament has its date with destiny this Wednesday, after dozens of its 375 members nearly came to blows debating the proposed US-Iraqi Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). And that's not counting an even higher percentage that's not familiar with the final text because they simply had no time to digest it. It's literally a take it or leave it, do or die affair; parliament goes into recess immediately after the vote.

At the finish line, it's still unclear how all 56 Sunni MPs will vote. Critics inside and outside Iraq are already spinning the pact as a joint Shi'ite-Kurdish conspiracy (the 83-member United Iraqi Alliance plus the 53-member Kurdistan Alliance, both pro-pact on the grounds it's the lesser of all evils because at least it sets a timetable for US withdrawal).

Obama not a ghost of Clinton past

By Julian Delasantellis

It now seems probable that come next January 20 those in charge in Washington DC will look very different to those in charge previously.

I'm not talking about the obvious factor of pigmentation chromatism, the issue that convulsed the nation for both the more than 300-odd days of the campaign as well as the more than 300 years history of the United States. During the presidential campaign, most of the country seemed to have accepted the possibility of an African-American president, with the possible exception of a narrow band of the nation that stretched in an arc from southwestern Pennsylvania across the deep south to Oklahoma.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Forgiving and Forgetting

Eric Holder will have his hands full at the Justice Department.

The U.S. Justice Department faces an internal crisis in morale and a public crisis in credibility. And while every Justice Department pushes its political agenda alongside its lofty goals of upholding the law, the Bush Justice Department sometimes pushed its political agenda in direct violation of the law. The question now is whether Eric Holder, Barack Obama's pick for attorney general, can fix it.

Nobody knows better than Holder that the line between law and politics at DoJ can be blurry. The one stain on his otherwise gilded legal career was the role he played, as No. 2 in the Clinton Justice Department, in the pardon of fugitive commodities trader Marc Rich during Clinton's last hours. Holder didn't give the pardon application much thought before concluding that he was "neutral leaning towards favorable." Clinton relied in part on that advice in granting the pardon. Holder later testified before Congress that he'd made a mistake.

Bill Richardson, GM, Citibank: Where is the Bail-Out Debate on Offshoring Middle Class Jobs Overseas?

A bit more than a decade ago, I received a briefing at Sandia National Weapons Laboratories on a few of their private-public partnerships, or CRADAs (Cooperative Research and Development Agreements). Intel had a CRADA with Sandia and Los Alamos Labs on developing extreme ultra-violet lithography. Many other top tier firms did too.

But the CRADA that interested me most was General Motors.

GM's tech team was with us -- and we learned about a great number of tax-payer supported national security research technological achievements that could prove useful to the auto industry. I asked whether these acquired technologies would be applied differentially to GM's production base in the U.S. -- and whether they would be careful of extending such technology in their China operations.

The answer was pretty shocking.

GM said that it was taking all of the technology it could get its hands on -- whether from the labs or elsewhere -- and fully deploying it in China.

Last Secrets of the Bush Administration

How to find out what we still don't know.

By Charles Homans

In March 2001, U.S. Archivist John W. Carlin received a letter from Alberto Gonzales, then counsel to the newly inaugurated president George W. Bush. It concerned an important deadline that was looming—one that Bush owed to Richard Nixon.

In 1974, Congress ordered a lockdown on all records kept by the Nixon White House, afraid that the outgoing president would try to wipe out the paper trail of his disastrous second term and chastened by the recent destruction of decades’ worth of FBI files by the late director J. Edgar Hoover’s loyal secretary. That order was expanded four years later into a law requiring that all presidents’ papers—everything from briefings to personal notes and everyday communications between the president, vice president, and their staffers—be handed over to the National Archives twelve years after their terms ended for eventual public release. Ronald Reagan was the first chief executive to whom the Presidential Records Act applied, and his papers were due to be turned over to Carlin at the beginning of Bush’s term.

Why America Feels Like it's Been Ruled by a Foreign Occupier

John Hallmann
Posted November 23, 2008 | 07:05 PM (EST)

As Obama takes over the wreckage this country is in, one can't help but feel like something alien to America has been controlling it these past eight years. The wave of emotion that has erupted with the election of Barack Obama reminds me of the Allied victory in France in WWII. After a long foreign occupation in which foreign German interests occupied the agenda of France, French governance would once again be representing the concerns of it's populace. That hope seems to pervade America after it's long neocons occupation. Here are a few of the parallels that I see.

Future of Agriculture

You may have watched the video to your right. If you haven't, it's Barack Obama's recent address on his commitment to fighting global climate change. Other than the 'clean' coal business, it sounds very reassuring if you spend a lot of time worrying about the environment.

Still, when I say, "the environment," I do remember the areas and issue sets I used to think about when someone else said that: waste from heavy industry, urban air quality, water pollution (via manufacturing, chemical dumping and road runoff in urban areas), bad logging practices, and wilderness reserves. But the environment includes the whole planet, including that half of the land mass (give or take) devoted to food and fiber production for human uses. Agriculture is the largest source of what's called non-point water pollution, basically runoff from large areas, and the primary cause of the enormous ocean dead zones at the mouths of our rivers. It's a major factor in soil erosion, and depending on who you ask, may be responsible for nearly 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Early transition? Obama takes the lead in economic crisis

James Rosen and Steven Thomma | McClatchy Newspapers

last updated: November 23, 2008 09:34:04 PM

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama took center stage in the economic crisis for the third day running Sunday as he dispatched aides to pitch his rapidly expanding stimulus plan on TV and announced plans to introduce his economic team Monday.

Appearing on the Sunday talk shows, his advisers indicated that the ambitious plan he announced Saturday to create 2.5 million public works and alternative-energy jobs, will be far more costly than previously discussed. Along with other possible steps to turn around the economy, it could cost the government as much as $700 billion.

This would be four times the size of the $175 billion stimulus package Obama promoted as a White House candidate.

The eco machine that can magic water out of thin air

Ed Pilkington in New York, Sunday November 23 2008 00.01 GMT
The Observer, Sunday November 23 2008

Water, Water, everywhere; nor any drop to drink. The plight of the Ancient Mariner is about to be alleviated thanks to a firm of eco-inventors from Canada who claim to have found the solution to the world's worsening water shortages by drawing the liquid of life from an unlimited and untapped source - the air.

The company, Element Four, has developed a machine that it hopes will become the first mainstream household appliance to have been invented since the microwave. Their creation, the WaterMill, uses the electricity of about three light bulbs to condense moisture from the air and purify it into clean drinking water.

Kabul 30 Years Ago, and Kabul Today. Have We Learned Nothing?

'Terrorists' were in Soviet sights; now they are in the Americans'.

by Robert Fisk

I sit on the rooftop of the old Central Hotel - pharaonic-decorated elevator, unspeakable apple juice, sublime green tea, and armed Tajik guards at the front door - and look out across the smoky red of the Kabul evening. The Bala Hissar fort glows in the dusk, massive portals, the great keep to which the British army should have moved its men in 1841. Instead, they felt the king should live there and humbly built a cantonment on the undefended plain, thus leading to a "signal catastrophe".

Like automated birds, the kites swoop over the rooftops. Yes, the kite-runners of Kabul, minus Hollywood. At night, the thump of American Sikorsky helicopters and the whisper of high-altitude F-18s invade my room. The United States of America is settling George Bush's scores with the "terrorists" trying to overthrow Hamid Karzai's corrupt government.

US rescues ailing Citigroup bank

The US government has announced a rescue plan for troubled banking giant Citigroup after its shares plunged by more than 60% last week.

The US Treasury is set to invest $20bn (£13.4bn) in return for preferred shares in Citigroup.

The Treasury and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp will also guarantee up to $306bn (£205bn) of risky loans and securities on Citigroup's books.

Obama to introduce his economic team today

By BETH FOUHY, Associated Press Writers

CHICAGO – Eager to calm economic anxieties, President-elect Barack Obama is rolling out an economic vision that will require congressional cooperation even before he settles into his new desk in the White House's Oval Office.

Obama will introduce his new economic leadership team Monday, a key step toward enacting a huge new economic recovery plan that aims to save or create 2.5 million jobs over the next two years.

The plan is likely to far exceed the $175 billion Obama proposed during the campaign. It would include an infusion of money for infrastructure projects, new environmental technologies and tax cuts for low- and middle-income taxpayers. It will not call for tax hikes for the wealthy.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Assembly Line

Debunking the myth of the $70-per-hour autoworker.

Jonathan Cohn, The New Republic Published: Friday, November 21, 2008

If you've been following the auto industry's crisis, then you've probably read or heard a lot about overpaid American autoworkers--in particular, the fact that the average hourly employee of the Big Three makes $70 per hour.

That's an awful lot of money. Seventy dollars an hour in wages works out to almost $150,000 a year in gross income, if you assume a forty-hour work week. Is it any wonder the Big Three are in trouble? And with auto workers making so much, why should taxpayers--many of whom make far less--finance a plan to bail them out?

Well, here's one reason: The figure is wildly misleading.

Let's start with the fact that it's not $70 per hour in wages. According to Kristin Dziczek of the Center for Automative Research--who was my primary source for the figures you are about to read--average wages for workers at Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors were just $28 per hour as of 2007. That works out to a little less than $60,000 a year in gross income--hardly outrageous, particularly when you consider the physical demands of automobile assembly work and the skills most workers must acquire over the course of their careers.

The Summers Conundrum

By Mark Ames

November 10, 2008

The conventional wisdom is that Summers is the "centrist" choice--Fareed Zakaria ("I think Summers is an extraordinarily brilliant guy") and David Gergen ("Larry Summers would be superb at this job"), two titans of centrism, both weighed in Sunday on the Stephanopoulos show in favor of Summers. And yet so far the debate over Summers has been largely confined to two outrageous moments in his career: his 1991 World Bank memo calling Africa "UNDER-polluted," and his more recent declarations, while serving as president of Harvard, about women's genetic inferiority in math and science. By themselves, these two incidents might be dismissed as merely provocative in a maverick-moron sort of way, as many of Summers' supporters argue; but in the context of Summers's track record, in which he oversaw the destruction of entire economies and covered up cronyism and corruption, his Africa memo and sexist declarations aren't exceptions but rather part of a disturbing pattern. From the start, Summers has been on the wrong side of Obama's supporters. In 1982, while still a graduate student at Harvard, Summers was brought to Washington by his dissertation advisor Martin Feldstein, the supply-side economist, to serve on Ronald Reagan's Council of Economic Advisors. Those first years in the Reagan administration were crucial in the right-wing war against New Deal regulation of the banking system and financial markets--a war that Reagan's team won, and that we're all paying for today.

Bill Moyers Journal (with Deborah Amos)

scroll down in link--Dictynna

Outside the Capitol, the deepening recession could be seen in one historic statistic after another. For example, new housing starts dropped to 50-year lows. Hundreds of thousands jobs lost in just a month. The stock market sunk again, taking retirement savings with it. There is no end in sight.

Joining me now to talk about what we learned this week is Joe Nocera. He's an award-winning business columnist for the NEW YORK TIMES. Last year, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in commentary. His latest book, GOOD GUYS AND BAD GUYS, is a collection of his writing covering the saints and scoundrels of American business.

DEBORAH AMOS: Welcome to the Journal.

JOE NOCERA: Thanks for having me.

DEBORAH AMOS: Henry Paulson told us this week that we've turned a corner, that the markets are stabilized. But yet we saw banks losing their value. I read at Citicorp they've even taken the stock ticker off the televisions in the office because the news is so bad. So if Paulson's convinced we're stabilizing, is the bailout working?

JOE NOCERA: In a word, no. The bailout was intended to restore capital in the major banks. And one of the reasons they gave it to all nine banks that they gave it to was they wanted to try and disguise which banks were troubled and which weren't, so that people wouldn't lose confidence in particular institutions. But everybody knew that Citicorp was in the worst trouble. And events over the last few weeks have just kind of worsened its condition. And now the market really doesn't believe that the $25 billion they got from the federal government is going to be enough. And in fact Paulson's statement was really premature. And the sad part is, to me, that his actions this week have really kind of signaled that he's shutting down between now and January 20th. It's like, "I'm done. I'm out of here."

Don't Get Depressed, It's Not 1929

Why all those Great Depression analogies are wrong.

By Daniel Gross

It's difficult to avoid the comparisons between the current sad state of financial affairs and the Great Depression. "This is not like 1987 or 1998 or 2001," Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain said at a conference on Nov. 11. "We will in fact look back to the 1929 period to see the kind of slowdown we are seeing now." Time depicted President-elect Barack Obama on its cover as Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And in Washington, the buzz is all about what the new team will do in its first 100 days. What's next? Show trials in Moscow?

All this historically inaccurate nostalgia can occasionally make you want to clock somebody with one of the three volumes of Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.'s history of the New Deal. The credit debacle of 2008 and the Great Depression may have similar origins: Both got going when financial crisis led to a reduction in consumer demand. But the two phenomena differ substantially. Instead of workers with 5 o'clock shadows asking, "Brother, can you spare a dime?" we have clean-shaven financial-services executives asking congressmen if they can spare $100 billion. More substantively, the economic trauma the nation suffered in the 1930s makes today's woes look like a flesh wound.

The Un-Paulson

Why Timothy Geithner is a strong choice for treasury secretary.

By Daniel Gross

On Friday afternoon, the markets shot up nearly 7 percent following the news that President-elect Obama was poised to name Timothy Geithner, president of the New York Federal Reserve, as the next treasury secretary. Why was this leak worth several hundred billion dollars in market capitalization?

After all, our next treasury secretary won't be a guy who made a fortune on Wall Street (like Robert Rubin or Henry Paulson), or who served as CEO of a Fortune 500 company (like Paul O'Neill or John Snow), or who's been a distinguished economist (like Larry Summers), or who held high elective office (like Lloyd Bentsen). Rather, Geithner has been an extremely effective meritocratic bureaucrat for 20 years—a sort of community organizer for the financial world.

The Reckoning: Citigroup Pays for a Rush to Risk

“Our job is to set a tone at the top to incent people to do the right thing and to set up safety nets to catch people who make mistakes or do the wrong thing and correct those as quickly as possible. And it is working. It is working.”

Charles O. Prince III, Citigroup’s chief executive, in 2006

In September 2007, with Wall Street confronting a crisis caused by too many souring mortgages, Citigroup executives gathered in a wood-paneled library to assess their own well-being.

There, Citigroup’s chief executive, Charles O. Prince III, learned for the first time that the bank owned about $43 billion in mortgage-related assets. He asked Thomas G. Maheras, who oversaw trading at the bank, whether everything was O.K.

Mr. Maheras told his boss that no big losses were looming, according to people briefed on the meeting who would speak only on the condition that they not be named.

Housing is bad enough, but wait — it'll get worse

WASHINGTON — If you think the housing slump can't get much worse, Martin Feldstein thinks that both home prices and the broader economy can — and very likely will — get a whole lot worse.

The Harvard University professor and former chief economic adviser to Ronald Reagan isn't part of the crowd that continually forecasts doom. For two decades, he's headed the National Bureau of Economic Research, which officially determines when U.S. recessions begin and end.

Credit and Credibility

What role did the credit rating agencies play in the current economic crisis? This week, a former managing director at Standard & Poor's speaks out on U.S. television for the first time about how he was pressured to compromise standards in a push for profits.

Segway inventor touts island as an energy model

MYSTIC, Conn. – Energy independence is still only a hypothetical goal for the U.S., but the owner of a tiny island off the coast of Connecticut says he has already achieved that feat and is offering his work as a model.

Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway and numerous medical devices, jokingly refers to his North Dumpling Island as an independent nation and himself as Lord Dumpling. Kamen claims to have his own currency and offers visas to visitors to the tiny island a few miles from Mystic, where he is the only resident.

But Kamen, who bought the three-acre island in the 1980s as a retreat, is serious about energy independence and the lessons it offers at a time of volatile gas prices and fears about global warming.

Banking Regulator Played Advocate Over Enforcer

Agency Let Lenders Grow Out of Control, Then Fail

By Binyamin Appelbaum and Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, November 23, 2008; A01

When Countrywide Financial felt pressured by federal agencies charged with overseeing it, executives at the giant mortgage lender simply switched regulators in the spring of 2007.

The benefits were clear: Countrywide's new regulator, the Office of Thrift Supervision, promised more flexible oversight of issues related to the bank's mortgage lending. For OTS, which depends on fees paid by banks it regulates and competes with other regulators to land the largest financial firms, Countrywide was a lucrative catch.

Rich countries launch great land grab to safeguard food supply

• States and companies target developing nations
• Small farmers at risk from industrial-scale deals

Julian Borger, diplomatic editor
The Guardian, Saturday November 22 200

Rich governments and corporations are triggering alarm for the poor as they buy up the rights to millions of hectares of agricultural land in developing countries in an effort to secure their own long-term food supplies.

The head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, Jacques Diouf, has warned that the controversial rise in land deals could create a form of "neo-colonialism", with poor states producing food for the rich at the expense of their own hungry people.

Eight Years Is More Than Enough

As the sun sets on the Bush administration, the survival rite known as burrowing is under way. Burrowing is when favored political appointees are transformed into civil servants and granted instant tenure on the federal payroll.

There is, of course, nothing new in this cynical practice. Dozens of political loyalists were burrowed in the final months of the Clinton administration. But the score of Bush burrowers who have so far come to light bring with them the worst pro-industry, anti-regulatory biases that have made this administration such a disaster.

At the Interior Department, six senior managers were brazenly burrowed as a package. One of the protected appointees was earlier criticized by the agency’s inspector general for overriding career experts in the field to deliver a posh grazing agreement to a Wyoming rancher. Another has survived in a management position affording clout to continue the scandalous mining industry bias of the Bush years.

The Dirty Secret of the Financial Crisis: Our Banking System's Broken

By William Greider, The Nation
Posted on November 22, 2008, Printed on November 23, 2008

Henry Paulson's $700 billion plan to save the world is dead or dying, but the bailout was not killed by his arrogance or his grossly misleading claims about what the public's money would buy. The plan collapsed because it didn't work. The Treasury secretary has launched a PR offensive to revive his falling influence. Too late. The Democrats should be equally embarrassed. In September their leaders in Congress rushed to embrace the Paulson solution, no hard questions asked. They now claim they were duped.

Paulson's squad at Treasury pumped $250 billion into the largest banks, buying their stock at inflated prices on the assumption it would persuade investors to step forward with their capital too. Instead, savvy financial players realized Paulson was spitting into a high wind, trying to save a system with stout talk.

Friday, November 21, 2008

National Intelligence Council Report: Sun Setting on The American Century

by Tim Reid

WASHINGTON _ The next two decades will see a world living with the daily threat of nuclear war, environmental catastrophe and the decline of America as the dominant global power, according to a frighteningly bleak assessment by the US intelligence community.

"The world of the near future will be subject to an increased likelihood of conflict over resources, including food and water, and will be haunted by the persistence of rogue states and terrorist groups with greater access to nuclear weapons," said the report by the National Intelligence Council, a body of analysts from across the US intelligence community.

The analysts said that the report had been prepared in time for Barack Obama's entry into the Oval office on January 20, where he will be faced with some of the greatest challenges of any newly elected US president.

Down At The Mall, The Shopping Spree is Over

There's an e-mail making the rounds this week:


By the end of Dec. 2008 as announced Circuit City Filed Bankruptcy, they promised to keep all stores open for the holiday season, but afterwards, they plan on closing 155 stores nationwide.

Ann Taylor closing 117 stores nationwide. A company spokeswoman said the company hasn't revealed which stores will be shuttered. It will let the stores that will close this fiscal year know over the next month

Eddie Bauer to close more stores. Eddie Bauer has already closed 27 shops in the first quarter and plans to close up to two more outlet stores by the end of the year.

Everyday New Yorkers hurt most

First published in print: Friday, November 21, 2008

New York can cut after-school programs, jam more kids into crowded classrooms and lay off teachers.

The state can eliminate drug treatment for addicts on parole even if it's been shown to reduce recidivism.

We can hike transit fares, raise college tuition, and tell charitable organizations that they're responsible for the vulnerable New Yorkers now receiving state assistance.

But asking those residents who benefited most from the boom years to contribute a little more?

Paul Krugman: The Lame-Duck Economy

Everyone’s talking about a new New Deal, for obvious reasons. In 2008, as in 1932, a long era of Republican political dominance came to an end in the face of an economic and financial crisis that, in voters’ minds, both discredited the G.O.P.’s free-market ideology and undermined its claims of competence. And for those on the progressive side of the political spectrum, these are hopeful times.

There is, however, another and more disturbing parallel between 2008 and 1932 — namely, the emergence of a power vacuum at the height of the crisis. The interregnum of 1932-1933, the long stretch between the election and the actual transfer of power, was disastrous for the U.S. economy, at least in part because the outgoing administration had no credibility, the incoming administration had no authority and the ideological chasm between the two sides was too great to allow concerted action. And the same thing is happening now.

America in Free Fall

By Robert L. Borosage, Campaign for America's Future
Posted on November 21, 2008, Printed on November 21, 2008

Free fall. The U.S. has lost private sector jobs for 10 straight months. One quarter of all businesses in the U.S. plan to cut payroll over the next year. Retail sales fell in October by the largest monthly drop on record. Auto sales have collapsed, driving the auto companies towards the precipice. Unemployment is up to 6.1 percent, with most analysts predicting it will soar past 8 percent over the next year. (That translates into unemployment among young minority men at rates of 50 percent or more). States are now facing $100 billion in deficits in operating budgets for the next fiscal year. Twelve million homes are "under water," worth less than their mortgages. The U.S. has joined Germany and Japan in what is becoming a global recession.

"The era of big government is over" is over. In the crisis, we are, as Richard Nixon once said, "all Keynesians now." Former Clinton Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers, until recently notable deficit hawks, now call for substantial fiscal stimulus -- deficit-funded federal spending -- to get the economy going.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Research finds way to double rice crops in drought-stricken areas

University of Alberta research has yielded a way to double the output of rice crops in some of the world's poorest, most distressed areas.

Jerome Bernier, a PhD student in the U of A Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, has found a group of genes in rice that enables a yield of up to 100 per cent more in severe drought conditions.

Plumbing the oceans could bring limitless clean energy

FOR a company whose business is rocket science Lockheed Martin has been paying unusual attention to plumbing of late. The aerospace giant has kept its engineers occupied for the past 12 months poring over designs for what amounts to a very long fibreglass pipe.

It is, of course, no ordinary pipe but an integral part of the technology behind Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC), a clean, renewable energy source that has the potential to free many economies from their dependence on oil.

Guest Columnist: Bailing Out Detroit

A chorus of politicians from Michigan and elsewhere are warning that another economic catastrophe looms if something is not done, this time for the “Big Three” Detroit automakers. In the last eight years the Big Three have lost 90 percent of market capitalization, a third of its employees and much of its market share.

Pending in the lame-duck session of Congress are proposals to divert some of the $700 billion bailout fund from the financial sector to help the automakers through the middle of 2009 when they are projected to run out of operating cash

Stocks Are Hurt by Latest Fear: Declining Prices

After gyrating wildly for weeks, the stock market lurched lower on Wednesday, falling to its lowest point in nearly six years, as concern spread that the economy might be facing a chronic and debilitating decline in prices.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed below 8,000 for the first time since early 2003 after new reports painted a grim picture of the economy and raised the specter of deflation, which would put more strain on hard-pressed businesses and workers.

TARP flip-flop true to form

By Julian Delasantellis

I would never say this to my students, but I can't tell you the amount of class time I missed, from both college and secondary school, attending thoroughbred racing investment parlors when I was young.

I can't say that I ever won a whole lot in these visits; before I was licensed to drive, I was happy to have won back the bus fare it cost to get me there. But I did receive a priceless early education in applied statistics (in the final analysis, I realized that a conditional probability is the same thing as a bet, called a perfecta in North America, that calls for two horses to finish in a specific order) and I learned to read the racing form.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

US consumer prices in record fall

US consumer prices dropped by a record 1% in October compared with the previous month, as fuel costs fell for a third month in a row.

The news sent Wall Street down more than 5%, while European markets closed with losses of more than 4%.

Thomas Frank: It's Time to Give Voters the Liberalism They Want

Don't believe pundits who say there's a centrist mandate.


It is possible, I suppose, that the pundits are right and the public didn't really mean it when it elected a liberal Democrat president and gave Democrats even larger majorities in both houses of Congress. Maybe America really wants the same nice, reassuring, centrist thing as always.

But it is also possible that, for once, the public weighed the big issues and gave a clear verdict on the great economic questions of the last few decades. It is likely that we really do want universal health care and some measure of wealth-spreading, and even would like to see it become easier to organize a union in the workplace, however misguided such ideas may seem to the nation's institutions of higher carping.

How to Stop the Looming Depression Without Lining Fat-Cat CEOs' Pockets

By Mike Davis,
Posted on November 19, 2008, Printed on November 19, 2008

No one should be shocked to discover that, in his transition to the presidency, the "inexperienced" former senator from Chicago has turned to the last Democratic administration that had experience in Washington. It seems, however, that the Obama team is doing so big time. Looking at lists of early appointees for the transition period and the administration to come, from Rahm Emanuel on down, you might be forgiven for concluding that Hillary had been elected president in 2008. Clintonistas are just piling up in the prospective corridors of power.

Iraq bids farewell to US arms

By Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON - The text of the United States-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed by US ambassador Ryan Crocker and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari on Monday closes the door to a further US military presence beyond 2011 even more tightly than the previous draft and locks in a swift end to Iraqi dependence on the US military that appears to be irreversible.

The agreement ends the George W Bush administration's aspiration for a long-term military presence, aimed both at projecting power in the region from bases in Iraq and at maintaining that Iraqi military dependence on US training, advice and support.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Clinton to accept offer of secretary of state job

Ewen MacAskill in Washington, Tuesday November 18 2008 00.01 GMT
The Guardian, Tuesday November 18 2008

Hillary Clinton plans to accept the job of secretary of state offered by Barack Obama, who is reaching out to former rivals to build a broad coalition administration, the Guardian has learned.

Obama's advisers have begun looking into Bill Clinton's foundation, which distributes millions of dollars to Africa to help with development, to ensure there is no conflict of interest. But Democrats believe the vetting will be straightforward.

Water vapor confirmed as major player in climate change

Water vapor is known to be Earth's most abundant greenhouse gas, but the extent of its contribution to global warming has been debated. Using recent NASA satellite data, researchers have estimated more precisely than ever the heat-trapping effect of water in the air, validating the role of the gas as a critical component of climate change.

Andrew Dessler and colleagues from Texas A&M University in College Station confirmed that the heat-amplifying effect of water vapor is potent enough to double the climate warming caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Net Neutrality Advocates In Charge Of Obama Team Review of FCC

By Sarah Lai Stirland
November 14, 2008 | 5:35:25 PM

The Obama-Biden transition team on Friday named two long-time net neutrality advocates to head up its Federal Communications Commission Review team.

Susan Crawford, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, and Kevin Werbach, a former FCC staffer, organizer of the annual tech conference Supernova, and a Wharton professor, will lead the Obama-Biden transition team's review of the FCC.

Papers Offer Close-Up of Rehnquist and the Court

STANFORD, Calif. — Not long after he arrived at the Supreme Court in 1972 after three years in the Nixon administration, Justice William H. Rehnquist faced stinging criticism for participating in a decision dismissing a challenge to Army surveillance of domestic political groups in the Vietnam War era.

He had voted with the majority in the 5-to-4 decision, issued that June, after giving Senate testimony as a Justice Department official defending the spying and criticizing the suit.

That summer, Justice Rehnquist struggled with whether he should publicly explain his decision to remain on the case. The materials on the surveillance suit, filled with emotion, calculation and even anguish, were released on Monday by the Hoover Institution, along with court files covering Justice Rehnquist’s first three years on the court and other materials.

Clash over $700bn bank bail-out

US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has clashed with members of Congress over the $700bn US financial bail-out plan.

Mr Paulson told a Congressional committee that injecting cash into banks was the most effective way to stabilise the financial system.

However critics on the committee said that more of the money should be used to help struggling homeowners avoid losing their homes.

Having a 'Better' Economist in Obama's Treasury Won't Cut It

By Rebekah and Stephen Hren, Huffington Post
Posted on November 17, 2008, Printed on November 18, 2008

Something fundamental is wrong with our system of political economy, and we need to fix it. It's not just that we're spending more than we make in terms of money, it's that we've been consuming more than we produce on an ecological level as well. The overall long-term results are not surprising: we are using everything up and ruining whatever's left, including not just fossil fuels, topsoil, forests, water. and minerals, but many species and even our own climate. Having been bequeathed perhaps the most fabulous paradise in the entire universe, we are taking a giant crap on it and trying to figure out where to move to next. Maybe those folks making all those crazy crop circles can tell us where to go.

It needn't be this way, not at all. We humans have some amazing things going for us, things like intelligence, empathy, and opposable thumbs. Of course we're a little self-centered and prone to believing irrational things like it would be fun to be famous or that we can have an economy based on debt and never-ending growth on our tiny, little abused orb. Fortunately, with a few adjustments, we don't have to shove the whole thing in the disposal and depend on NASA to ship us off to greener pastures (a quaint little bubble on the moon, perhaps).

Japan economists call for 'Obama bonds'

By Kosuke Takahashi

TOKYO - Japanese economists, increasingly concerned that the United States might seek to pay its enormous and growing debt obligations in a weakened US dollar, are looking to the possibility of US Treasuries being issued in yen.

The US government needs to borrow at least US$1 trillion in the coming year, excluding the US Treasury's $700 billion plan to bail out the financial and other industries, said Kazuo Mizuno, chief economist in Tokyo at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities Co, a unit of Japan's largest publicly traded lender by assets. That amount is likely to grow as the US government continues to rescue failed parts of the economy and has to raise more debt - that is, issue government bonds, or Treasuries - to fund such rescues.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Deregulator Looks Back, Unswayed

WASHINGTON — Back in 1950 in Columbus, Ga., a young nurse working double shifts to support her three children and disabled husband managed to buy a modest bungalow on a street called Dogwood Avenue.

Phil Gramm, the former United States senator, often told that story of how his mother acquired his childhood home. Considered something of a risk, she took out a mortgage with relatively high interest rates that he likened to today’s subprime loans.

A fierce opponent of government intervention in the marketplace, Mr. Gramm, a Republican from Texas, recalled the episode during a 2001 Senate debate over a measure to curb predatory lending. What some view as exploitive, he argued, others see as a gift.

Gulf War illness is real, new federal report says

By Alan Silverleib

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An extensive federal report released Monday concludes that roughly one in four of the 697,000 U.S. veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War suffer from Gulf War illness.

That illness is a condition now identified as the likely consequence of exposure to toxic chemicals, including pesticides and a drug administered to protect troops against nerve gas.

The 452-page report states that "scientific evidence leaves no question that Gulf War illness is a real condition with real causes and serious consequences for affected veterans."