Monday, March 30, 2009

March 30:

1981 : President Reagan shot

On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan is shot in the chest outside a Washington, D.C., hotel by a deranged drifter named John Hinckley Jr.

The president had just finished addressing a labor meeting at the Washington Hilton Hotel and was walking with his entourage to his limousine when Hinckley, standing among a group of reporters, fired six shots at the president, hitting Reagan and three of his attendants. White House Press Secretary James Brady was shot in the head and critically wounded, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy was shot in the side, and District of Columbia policeman Thomas Delahaney was shot in the neck. After firing the shots, Hinckley was overpowered and pinned against a wall, and President Reagan, apparently unaware that he'd been shot, was shoved into his limousine by a Secret Service agent and rushed to the hospital.

The president was shot in the left lung, and the .22 caliber bullet just missed his heart. In an impressive feat for a 70-year-old man with a collapsed lung, he walked into George Washington University Hospital under his own power. As he was treated and prepared for surgery, he was in good spirits and quipped to his wife, Nancy, ''Honey, I forgot to duck,'' and to his surgeons, "Please tell me you're Republicans." Reagan's surgery lasted two hours, and he was listed in stable and good condition afterward.

The next day, the president resumed some of his executive duties and signed a piece of legislation from his hospital bed. On April 11, he returned to the White House. Reagan's popularity soared after the assassination attempt, and at the end of April he was given a hero's welcome by Congress. In August, this same Congress passed his controversial economic program, with several Democrats breaking ranks to back Reagan's plan. By this time, Reagan claimed to be fully recovered from the assassination attempt. In private, however, he would continue to feel the effects of the nearly fatal gunshot wound for years.

Of the victims of the assassination attempt, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and D.C. policeman Thomas Delahaney eventually recovered. James Brady, who nearly died after being shot in the eye, suffered permanent brain damage. He later became an advocate of gun control, and in 1993 Congress passed the "Brady Bill," which established a five-day waiting period and background checks for prospective gun buyers. President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law.

After being arrested on March 30, 1981, 25-year-old John Hinckley was booked on federal charges of attempting to assassinate the president. He had previously been arrested in Tennessee on weapons charges. In June 1982, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. In the trial, Hinckley's defense attorneys argued that their client was ill with narcissistic personality disorder, citing medical evidence, and had a pathological obsession with the 1976 film Taxi Driver, in which the main character attempts to assassinate a fictional senator. His lawyers claimed that Hinckley saw the movie more than a dozen times, was obsessed with the lead actress, Jodie Foster, and had attempted to reenact the events of the film in his own life. Thus the movie, not Hinckley, they argued, was the actual planning force behind the events that occurred on March 30, 1981.

The verdict of "not guilty by reason of insanity" aroused widespread public criticism, and many were shocked that a would-be presidential assassin could avoid been held accountable for his crime. However, because of his obvious threat to society, he was placed in St. Elizabeth's Hospital, a mental institution. In the late 1990s, Hinckley's attorney began arguing that his mental illness was in remission and thus had a right to return to a normal life. Beginning in August 1999, he was allowed supervised day trips off the hospital grounds and later was allowed to visit his parents once a week unsupervised. The Secret Service voluntarily monitors him during these outings. If his mental illness remains in remission, he may one day be released.


General Interest
1981 : President Reagan shot
1814 : Allies capture Paris
1855 : Violence disrupts first Kansas election
1867 : Seward's Folly
1870 : 15th Amendment adopted

American Revolution
1775 : King George endorses New England Restraining Act



Contrary to our earlier report,
the provision for a commission to study the creation of a national draft was dropped from legislation providing for an expanded Americorps and Peace Corps. The provision has been reintroduced as HR1444.


Boston Globe -
President Barack Obama's aunt, a Kenyan immigrant who ignited controversy last year for living in the United States illegally, has returned to her quiet apartment in a Boston public housing project to prepare for an April 1 deportation hearing that will be closed to the public.

Zeituni Onyango, a tall, frail-looking woman in her late 50s who walks with a cane, had fled Boston to stay with relatives in Cleveland last fall after media attention erupted over her case. She was spotted at Obama's inaugural festivities in January and, according to neighbors, returned to Boston a few weeks ago for her third attempt to fight removal from the United States. She had been living in the country illegally since she was ordered deported in 2004. Now the woman Obama called "Auntie Zeituni" and described as a kindly woman who kissed him on both cheeks and guided him during his trip to Kenya 20 years ago, is in a national spotlight, where her case is seen as a test of the Obama administration's commitment to enforcing immigration laws. Critics, outraged that she is living in taxpayer-funded public housing while thousands of citizens and legal immigrants are on waiting lists, are scrutinizing the case for political favoritism. Others caution that she may have legitimate grounds to stay in the United States.


Washington Post
- Under Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's proposed fiscal 2010 spending plan, the April 16 holiday, which commemorates the day President Abraham Lincoln freed the District's 3,000 slaves in 1862, would be discontinued next year. This would avoid paying holiday rates to critical personnel, saving $1.3 million -- enough to pay for 23 full-time employees, the mayor's office said. . .


Memphis Commercial Appeal -
A pair of Memphis legislators argued over whether a bill to fine people who wear their pants so low they expose their underwear amounts to "legislating fashion" or "legislating decency and hygiene." The "Saggy Pants Bill" makes it a misdemeanor to "knowingly wear pants below the waistline, in a public place, in a manner that exposes the person's underwear or bare buttocks." It defines underwear as "clothing worn between the skin and outer layer of clothing, including but not limited to boxer shorts and thongs."


CBS 5, San Francisco -
One week after President Barack Obama's top law enforcement official seemed to indicate the feds would no longer raid pot clubs, DEA agents busted a medical marijuana facility in San Francisco.As agents carried large plastic containers of marijuana plants out of Emmalyn's California Cannabis Clinic at 1597 Howard Street, a small crowd of protesters formed a gauntlet outside the door, booing the agents and chanting, "our medicine is marijuana … listen to Obama!" DEA spokeswoman Casey McEnry told CBS 5 the documents regarding the raid are sealed, so the DEA was not able to give any details. "Based on our investigation we believe there are not only violations of federal law, but state law as well," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Anthony D. Williams in a written statement.

Boston Globe - Dozens of Massachusetts cities and towns are taking steps to impose stiff new fines for smoking marijuana in public and even to charge some violators with misdemeanors, a trend that critics say subverts the state ballot question passed overwhelmingly last fall to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. In recent weeks, at least seven communities - Duxbury, Lynn, Methuen, Medway, Milford, Salem, and Springfield - have passed bylaws that target people who light up in public. And two dozen cities and towns expect to vote this spring on similar measures, which proponents liken to local open container laws that ban drinking alcohol in public. . . Question 2 passed by a vote of 65 to 35 percent, making Massachusetts one of a dozen states to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, Bernath said. Proponents of the change, including billionaire financier George Soros, who spent more than $400,000 in favor of decriminalization, said that it would ensure that those caught with small quantities would avoid the taint of a criminal record.


The Connecticut Supreme Court
has ruled that an intoxicated man who started his car remotely and then sat behind the wheel without ever driving the vehicle can still be prosecuted from driving under the influence. The chief justice wrote, "The defendant clearly undertook the first act in a sequence of steps necessary to set in motion the motive power of a vehicle," The man, who could got to prison for a year, has a wife and two children. Said Jessica Cyr, "I don't know what I'm going to do. I've got no job. My husband won't be able to work. If I turn my heat on, the boiler leaks. . . . I can't believe it."

Reuters - Turkish police providing security for a water crisis forum in Istanbul say the cheapest way to keep protesters at bay is to use water cannons. . . Turkish police, who on Monday fired water canons and tear gas to disperse protesters gathered at the start of the forum, told state-run Anatolian they prefer to use water because it is cheaper than tear gas.


Slashdot -
After receiving a Rule 11 Sanctions Motion in a Houston, Texas, case, UMG Recordings v. Lanzoni, the RIAA lawyers thought better of proceeding, and agreed to voluntarily dismiss the case 'with prejudice', which means it is over and cannot be brought again. The defendant's motion papers detailed some of the RIAA's litigation history against innocent individuals, such as Capitol Records v. Foster and Atlantic Recording v. Andersen, and argued that the awarding of attorneys fees in those cases has not sufficiently deterred repetition of the misconduct, so that a stronger remedy - Rule 11 sanctions - is now called for."


The Chinese,
according to Xinhua News Agency, are using 'tailor made' abortion pills to reduce the number of gerbils in the western part of the country. The pills allegedly don't affect other animals. Gerbils are being blamed for the desertification of the area being they use up too much grass.





Ralph Brauer, Progressive Historians - Geithner and Summers along with Rubin are why this financial crisis will not be satisfactorily resolved, for in order to take the necessary steps to alleviate it all would have to admit their part in causing it and even more pointedly admit that their boss at the time, William Jefferson Clinton, also played a role. . .

If one parceled out blame the way they do in auto accidents, the GOP would bear the majority of it for they supplied the Congressional majority--and even put their names on the bill that caused this mess, the Gramm-Leach Bliley Act. But Rubin and his two sidekicks convinced Bill Clinton that the bill would be a good idea. So on Rubin's advice, Clinton looked the other way while Citi put its considerable lobbying forces into motion to make Gramm-Leach-Bliley possible, which is why one of the pens Bill Clinton used to sign the bill hangs in a prominent place in the office of former Citi CEO Sandy Weill--the man who created what was once America's largest financial institution out of a loan-sharking business.

Both Geithner and Summers played a role in this fiasco. Summers was the more prominent for he served as Rubin's assistant Treasury Secretary before succeeding his mentor, who for his role in making Citi's mergers legal received a cushy job at Citi as his reward. Geithner at the time was serving as Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs under both Rubin and Summers. Several commentators have noted the closeness of the three.

Where Rubin's fortunes fell as Citi plunged into one of the greatest bubble implosions in economic history, one that rivals the collapse of the East India Company or the Tulip Bulb fiasco, Summers and Geithner were fortunate to remain some distance from ground zero. . .

Summers was chased from the Presidency of Harvard only to reemerge as one of Barack Obama's chief economic advisors. Geithner became head of the New York federal reserve where his chief accomplishment was to sign off on the Bush Administration's bailout plan, a plan that was supposed to rescue companies at the center of this mess--one of which was Citi. . .

The Glass-Steagall Act, as it became known, was one of the most important pieces of economic legislation in American history. Essentially it prohibited banks from entering into the securities market, which Glass felt was one of the root causes of the Great Depression. Sixty years later this history was ruled irrelevant for the "new economy" of the 1990s as Rubin openly campaigned for the repeal of Glass-Steagall.

If Glass-Steagall was one of America's greatest pieces of economic legislation, the bill which repealed it--Gramm-Leach-Bliley--is surely one of the worst. . . What is still not generally understood about GLB is that it not only allowed banks to play with the likes of derivatives and subprime mortgages, it spurred the economic concentration and interlocking institutions that lie at the center of this crisis. . .

The presence of Geithner and Summers in the administration of Barack Obama merely testifies that as long as they have the President's ear, the roots of this crisis--and hence its long term resolution--will be ignored, for to do otherwise would be to admit they helped to cause it. Yet we also should remember had Barack Obama not won in November, waiting in the wings was the man whose name is on the bill that repealed Glass-Steagall--Phil Gramm. . .

Geithner, Summers and Rubin ultimately were part of a fascinating convergence that took place at the end of the last century. For the first time since Grover Cleveland's Democrats and William McKinley's Republicans agreed on economic fundamentals, in the 1980s and 90s the two parties occupied the same economic common ground.

Gramm-Leach Bliley is not the result of some conspiracy or even a bald-faced attempt by Wall Street to buy off Congress and the Executive branch--although record amounts of lobbying funds were spent to be sure it passed. In the end GLB is about the power of shared ideas, an economic orthodoxy that made the likes of Rubin, Summers and Geithner indistinguishable from their Republican counterparts. . .

DC Examiner - Goldman Sachs has been everywhere in the crisis, yet has almost entirely escaped critical public attention. Goldman Sachs alumni have been in the forefront of the government's response to the crisis under both the present and former presidential administrations. . . What Goldman giveth, Goldman also taketh away. While little is known about where the AIG bailout money went, we do know that Goldman Sachs received $12.9 billion of it. As one Wall Street insider recently observed to The Examiner: "This is an investment bank that earned more than $12 billion and paid its CEO $68 million in 2007. Even in 2008, this self-proclaimed home to the 'Masters of the Universe' paid out more than $10 billion in compensation and received its own $10 billion in taxpayer funding." Congress ought to stop swatting at AIG bonus gnats and take on the real masters of the bailouts.

Real Clear Politics - No wonder Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn) went wobbly last week when asked about his February amendment ratifying hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses to executives at insurance giant AIG. Dodd has been one of the company's favorite recipients of campaign contributions. But it turns out that Senator Dodd's wife has also benefited from past connections to AIG as well. From 2001-2004, Jackie Clegg Dodd served as an "outside" director of IPC Holdings, Ltd., a Bermuda-based company controlled by AIG. IPC, which provides property casualty catastrophe insurance coverage, was formed in 1993 . . . In 2001, in addition to a public offering of 15 million shares of stock that raised $380 million, IPC raised more than $109 million through a simultaneous private placement sale of 5.6 million shares of stock to AIG - giving AIG a 20% stake in IPC. (AIG sold its 13.397 million shares in IPC in August, 2006.)

Daily Beast - The New York Times reports that, last year, the top 25 hedge fund managers made $11.6 billion. Leading the way was James Simons of Renaissance Technologies, who made $2.5 billion. John Paulson of Paulson & Company was next, with a rake of $2 billion. John D. Arnold, who is in his early 30s, made $1.5 billion, while George Soros made $1.1 billion. Wall Street may want to hold the champagne, however: "In a year when losses were recorded at two of every three hedge funds, pay for many of these managers was down by several million, and the overall pool of earnings was about half the $22.5 billion the top 25 earned in 2007."

Ken Silverstein, Harpers - Gary Gensler, the former Goldman Sachs employee and derivatives cheerleader who President Obama nominated to head the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Gensler's nomination sailed through the Senate Agricultural Committee but Senator Bernie Sanders has placed a hold on the nomination (as has a second senator who is as yet unnamed). A statement from Sanders's office said: "While Mr. Gensler is clearly an intelligent and knowledgeable person, I cannot support his nomination. Mr. Gensler worked with Sen. Phil Gramm and Alan Greenspan to exempt credit default swaps from regulation, which led to the collapse of A.I.G. and has resulted in the largest taxpayer bailout in U.S. history. He supported Gramm-Leach-Bliley, which allowed banks like Citigroup to become "too big to fail." He worked to deregulate electronic energy trading, which led to the downfall of Enron and the spike in energy prices."


This is a little old, but we just came upon it thanks to the Annals of Improbable Research

Telegraph, UK, 2008 - Telegraph, 2008 - Police and medical personnel were called to Lan Tian park in Hong Kong after the man, named as 41-year-old local Le Xing, got into difficulty after he put his penis through a hole in the bench and got stuck when he became aroused. Mr Xing, described in reports as "lonely and disturbed", told police that he thought it would be fun to have sex with the bench. When officers and doctors arrived at the scene they tried to release some of the pressure by removing some of his blood. But their efforts proved unsuccessful, forcing them to cut the bench from the ground and take it, with Xing attached, to a city hospital. It took doctors four hours to cut him free. They later said that if he had been stuck for just an hour longer they may have been forced to amputate his penis.

There have been several recent cases of people having sex with unusual objects. In May 2008, Edward Smith, claimed to be involved in an intimate relationship with a white Volkswagen Beetle.

Telegraph, 2008 - A 32-year-old man has been arrested in Wiltshire for allegedly simulating a sex act with a lamp-post. . . . The incident echoes a similar case last week when a Polish contractor was caught on his knees with a vacuum cleaner in a hospital staff canteen. . . In 1993, Karl Watkins, an electrician, was jailed for having sex with pavements in Redditch.

Telegraph, UK, 2008 - A Polish worker has come up with an unusual excuse after being caught in the act with a vacuum cleaner. The building contractor claimed he was cleaning his underpants with Henry Hoover when he was found naked and on his knees in a hospital's staff canteen. A stunned security guard stumbled onto the man in the middle of a compromising act with the cleaner, which has a large smiley face painted on its front and a hose protruding from its "nose". According to the Sun, the contractor was supposed to be locking up the building site near the Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital where his firm is refurbishing administration offices. . . When later questioned by his employers, the man said he was vacuuming his underpants, which was "a common practice in Poland". He has since been fired.

Telegraph, UK, 2007 - A "cycle-sexualist" caught half-naked in a compromising position with his bicycle has been put on probation for three years.He was caught by two cleaners who walked in on him in a hostel room. The 51-year-old was naked from the waist down and when the women opened the door he paused only to ask, "What is it, hen?", before continuing to "move his hips back and forth as if to simulate sex". The police were called and at a hearing last month Mr Stewart was placed on the sex offenders' register after admitting a sexual breach of the peace. . . Sheriff Colin Miller added: "In almost four decades in the law I thought I had come across every perversion known to mankind, but this is a new one on me. I have never heard of a 'cycle-sexualist'. "


McClatchy - The CIA, which has been monitoring foreign countries' use of electronic voting systems, has reported apparent vote-rigging schemes in Venezuela, Macedonia and Ukraine and a raft of concerns about the machines' vulnerability to tampering.

Appearing last month before a U.S. Election Assistance Commission field hearing in Orlando, Fla., a CIA cybersecurity expert suggested that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his allies fixed a 2004 election recount, an assertion that could further roil U.S. relations with the Latin leader.

In a presentation that could provide disturbing lessons for the United States, where electronic voting is becoming universal, Steve Stigall summarized what he described as attempts to use computers to undermine democratic elections in developing nations. His remarks have received no news media attention until now.

Stigall told the Election Assistance Commission, a tiny agency that Congress created in 2002 to modernize U.S. voting, that computerized electoral systems can be manipulated at five stages, from altering voter registration lists to posting results. . .

Stigall, who's studied electronic systems in about three dozen countries, said that most countries' machines produced paper receipts that voters then dropped into boxes. However, even that doesn't prevent corruption, he said.


BBC - Primary school pupils should learn how to blog and use internet sites like Twitter and Wikipedia and spend less time studying history, it is claimed. . . The Guardian newspaper says draft copies it has seen shows pupils will no longer have to study the Victorian period or the Second World War. . . The review of the primary school curriculum was commissioned by Schools Secretary Ed Balls last year and is being drawn up by Sir Jim Rose, former chief of England's schools watchdog, Ofsted.

The Guardian said the draft review requires primary school children to be familiar with blogging, podcasts, Wikipedia and Twitter as sources of information and forms of communication.

They must gain "fluency" in handwriting and keyboard skills, and learn how to use a spellchecker alongside how to spell, the article said.

The government says history will still be studied. Every child would learn two key periods of British history but it would be up to the school to decide which ones. While schools would still be able to opt to teach Victorian history or the Second World War, they would not be required to, the Guardian said.


Stephen Labaton, NY Times, 1999 - Congress approved landmark legislation today that opens the door for a new era on Wall Street in which commercial banks, securities houses and insurers will find it easier and cheaper to enter one another's businesses.

The measure, considered by many the most important banking legislation in 66 years, was approved in the Senate by a vote of 90 to 8 and in the House tonight by 362 to 57. The bill will now be sent to the president, who is expected to sign it, aides said. It would become one of the most significant achievements this year by the White House and the Republicans leading the 106th Congress.

"Today Congress voted to update the rules that have governed financial services since the Great Depression and replace them with a system for the 21st century," Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers said. "This historic legislation will better enable American companies to compete in the new economy."

The decision to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 provoked dire warnings from a handful of dissenters that the deregulation of Wall Street would someday wreak havoc on the nation's financial system. The original idea behind Glass-Steagall was that separation between bankers and brokers would reduce the potential conflicts of interest that were thought to have contributed to the speculative stock frenzy before the Depression. . .

Administration officials and many Republicans and Democrats said the measure would save consumers billions of dollars and was necessary to keep up with trends in both domestic and international banking. Some institutions, like Citigroup, already have banking, insurance and securities arms but could have been forced to divest their insurance underwriting under existing law. Many foreign banks already enjoy the ability to enter the securities and insurance industries. . .

Consumer groups and civil rights advocates criticized the legislation for being a sop to the nation's biggest financial institutions. They say that it fails to protect the privacy interests of consumers and community lending standards for the disadvantaged and that it will create more problems than it solves.

The opponents of the measure gloomily predicted that by unshackling banks and enabling them to move more freely into new kinds of financial activities, the new law could lead to an economic crisis down the road when the marketplace is no longer growing briskly.

"I think we will look back in 10 years' time and say we should not have done this but we did because we forgot the lessons of the past, and that that which is true in the 1930's is true in 2010," said Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota. "I wasn't around during the 1930's or the debate over Glass-Steagall. But I was here in the early 1980's when it was decided to allow the expansion of savings and loans. We have now decided in the name of modernization to forget the lessons of the past, of safety and of soundness."

Senator Paul Wellstone, Democrat of Minnesota, said that Congress had "seemed determined to unlearn the lessons from our past mistakes."

"Scores of banks failed in the Great Depression as a result of unsound banking practices, and their failure only deepened the crisis," Mr. Wellstone said. "Glass-Steagall was intended to protect our financial system by insulating commercial banking from other forms of risk. It was one of several stabilizers designed to keep a similar tragedy from recurring. Now Congress is about to repeal that economic stabilizer without putting any comparable safeguard in its place."

Others said the legislation was essential for the future leadership of the American banking system.

"If we don't pass this bill, we could find London or Frankfurt or years down the road Shanghai becoming the financial capital of the world," said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York. "There are many reasons for this bill, but first and foremost is to ensure that U.S. financial firms remain competitive.". . .

One Republican Senator, Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, voted against the legislation. He was joined by seven Democrats: Barbara Boxer of California, Richard H. Bryan of Nevada, Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland, Mr. Dorgan and Mr. Wellstone.

In the House, 155 Democrats and 207 Republicans voted for the measure, while 51 Democrats, 5 Republicans and 1 independent opposed it. Fifteen members did not vote. . .


Sam Smith

One of the greatest problems with our politics is that the values of the mainstream have been increasingly defined by the elite. And it's not just the right - effective as it has been at convincing people that gay marriage and abortion are the major obstacles to a decent life. Now that the Democrats are in power, we are seeing the flip side of this manipulation of debate and information and what amounts to a damming of the mainstream.

Both parties are primarily beholden to their campaign contributors, the very people who have led us into our current disaster, and while their approaches may vary, both parties share a common obeisance to the most powerful and wealthiest. The question of what would help the bulk of Americans becomes of secondary concern.

You can see this revealed as supposedly liberal columnists worry about populism, almost as though it was a new form of terrorism. You can see it in a stimulus bill badly skewed towards the desires of the top of the heap. You see it in the White House seeking to further institutionalize the private health insurance industry, among the most useless businesses in America.

The list could go on and on, but there's another list that's even more important: that of issues blocked by the establishment's dam from even entering the mainstream downstream (and ignored by the major media) even though many have widespread support.

Test it out. Circulate the list below among friends or at the next meeting of your favorite group. Add ideas to it or delete them. Come up with your own damn list. If you try it as formal poll, include a question about the participant's political leanings, for it is useful to know which issues cut best across ideology. Then post what you've found on the web (a copy to the Review would be much appreciated). The web has been well used by major manipulators of opinion on both left and right, but its potential to help ordinary American communities and groups take back the town meeting approach that the power brokers have co-opted and to find unity with other communities and groups remains largely a dream.

In the best of worlds, every political and civic organization in the country would come up with its own plan and priorities, instead of having it determined by the big players in Washington and Wall Street. It would be an easy but effective first step in a populist revival that the capital - in all its persuasions - fears so much. It would help undam the mainstream.

Here's a starter list. Just add anything you want and cross out anything you or your group doesn't agree with and see what's left:


Nationalization of failed financial institutions.

End of secrecy by financial institutions on the use of federal funds

Use of federal revenue sharing to get more recovery funds quickly to the state and local level

A return to the financial controls of the Glass-Steagel Act

Greater use of stimulus funds to help small business.

Use of local bankruptcy judges to reorganize loans threatened with foreclosure.

State banks modeled on the North Dakota example

Changing pro-lender state laws endangering homeowners

Creating cap on credit card interest rates to levels of the 1980s.


Single payer healthcare


An end to our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

No torture.


End of more than one foreign tour for National Guard troops.


Decriminalization of marijuana.


Federal support of local public schools but without federal interference


Use of only secure and verifiable voting machines.

Public campaign financing

Instant runoff voting


An end to illegal wiretapping by the government

Respect for the 10th Amendment by leaving states and the individuals those powers not specifically granted the federal government under the Constitution. Government should be conducted at the lowest practical level.

Restoring the right of juries to judge both the law and the fact.


No dismantling of Social Security

If you take a poll or a meeting vote, please let the Review know. Breakdown by political persuasion would be helpful.


Roll Call - Liberal House Democrats are stewing that they have yet to get face time with President Barack Obama, despite his whirlwind charm offensive that has ushered every other major faction of the Caucus into the White House for private meetings.

"Members are either taking it as a slight, or that we're irrelevant in the planning process," said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. . .

The group's members have proved to be among the most reliable supporters of mainline Democratic priorities, prompting a view among some party leaders that they require less servicing. Rep. Lynn Woolsey (Calif.), the group's other co-chairman, warned the White House against drawing that conclusion. "Maybe they think that they can take us for granted, but they can't," she said.

The administration has yet to schedule a get-together with the group, though White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Obama looks forward to meeting with them "soon."

"The fact that Obama has spent time courting House Republicans, the most legislatively irrelevant group on the Hill, and still hasn't met with Progressives, the center core of his party - it's incredible," said David Sirota, a liberal columnist and former aide to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who founded the Progressive Caucus in the early 1990s when he served in the House. . .


Washington Post - Legislation passed by Congress last August in response to fears of lead-tainted toys imported from China went into effect last month. Consumer groups and safety advocates have praised it for its far-reaching protections. But libraries and book resellers such as Goodwill are worried about one small part of the law: a ban on distributing children's books printed before 1985.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the agency charged with enforcing the act, lead in the books' inks could make its way into the mouths of little kids. Goodwill is calling for a change in the legislation even as it clears its shelves to comply, and libraries are worried they could be the next ones scrubbing their shelves. . .

Scientists are emphatic that lead, which was common in paints before its use was banned in 1978, poses a threat to the neural development of small children. But they disagree about whether there is enough in the ink in children's books to warrant concern. Some even accuse the safety commission of trying to undermine the law by stirring up popular backlash. . .

"On the scale of concerns to have about lead, this is very clearly not a high priority," said Ellen Silbergeld, a MacArthur scholar and professor of public health at Johns Hopkins University who is considered one of the leading experts on lead poisoning.

"It doesn't take a tremendous amount of intelligence to figure out what the highest-risk sources of lead are," Silbergeld said. "This is a way of distracting attention from their failure to protect children from the clear and present dangers of lead. I think this is just absurd, and I think it's disingenuous." She said that toys, poorly made jewelry and other trinkets were cause for much more alarm.


Rasmussen Reports - Nearly one-third of Americans under the age of 40 say satirical news-oriented television programs like The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart are taking the place of traditional news outlets. . .

Among all Americans, 24% say programs like The Colbert Report and The Daily Show are taking the place of traditional news venues, but 45% do not think so. . .

Thirty-six percent (36%) of Americans have a favorable opinion of Jon Stewart, host of "The Daily Show," while 35% have a favorable view of Stephen Colbert of "The Colbert Report." Twenty-two percent (22%) regard both Stewart and Colbert unfavorably. . .

The findings are more bad news for one traditional news outlet - daily newspapers. A survey released earlier this month found that most young readers are rejecting daily print papers but are not going to the local paper's website as an alternative.


Sam Smith, Progressive Review - I only met John Hope Franklin once and then just briefly. But I immediately liked him. My wife and I were at a conference at the former farm of Alex Haley in Tennessee, now owned by the Children's Defense Fund. Franklin spoke and had told the story that historian Andrew McMichael recites in the item below.

Sometime during the weekend, we came across Franklin standing near a cottage fence. My wife, a local historian and author, introduced herself and mentioned some of her experiences as a white woman writing about black history. He was immediately sympathetic. I don't remember the details of the conversation, only his encouraging parting words: "You go, girl."

Having spent my life covering the powerful, it hit home. How seldom do those at the top of the heap treat strangers with such interest and friendliness? I recall a spring training in Florida long ago with my young boys when you could still just wander onto the field after practice. Another fan remarked casually to Willie Stargell, "I'm from Pittsburgh, too." Stargell didn't even look at him, saying only, "That's your problem, mister." Or the time, at Joe Rauh's memorial service, when I went up to John Kenneth Galbraith, and introduced myself as the guy whose band had played at three of his annual spring parties long ago. His sole response: "You have a good memory." I told his wife the same thing, however, and she treated me like a long lost friend, including a big hug.

From such experiences I had learned the same lesson as John Hope Franklin did after meeting W E B DuBois: be nice to people you don't know. As another DuBois - Blanche - put it, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."

Andrew McMichael, Progressive Historians - John Hope was a "larger-than-life" historian. Many will laugh, but in the historical profession, John Hope was a rock star. . . At annual meetings he was always mobbed. There would be throngs of historians coming up to say hello, a sort of "kiss-the ring" moment.

And John Hope always took the time to stop and talk to them. Always. Regardless of what he was doing, this famous person, famous historian, always took some time to give some words of encouragement to the newer generation of historians. . .

Around the time he got the Presidential Medal of Freedom I asked him about this. I said "You know, you can hardly make it across a room without getting mobbed. And yet you always take time to speak to everyone. How do you have the patience?"

Here was what he told me.

Decades ago, he was the second African American ever to enter graduate school at Harvard University. The first was WEB DuBois. One day John Hope was on campus--I believe it was the library--and he saw DuBois at a table, working. So he went over to speak to him. John Hope walked over (nervously, as he described it) to DuBois and said "Um, hello Mr. DuBois. My name is John Hope Franklin. You were the first black grad student at Harvard. I'm the second." He said that DuBois never looked up to acknowledge him, mumbled something, and then ignored him.

John Hope told me that at that moment he decided that he would never ignore anyone, especially grad students, who wanted or needed a moment of his time. .


Chicago Tribune - Before its portfolio of bad loans helped trigger the current housing crisis, mortgage giant Freddie Mac was the focus of a major accounting scandal that led to a management shake-up, huge fines and scalding condemnation of passive directors by a top federal regulator.

One of those allegedly asleep-at-the-switch board members was Chicago's Rahm Emanuel-now chief of staff to President Barack Obama-who made at least $320,000 for a 14-month stint at Freddie Mac that required little effort. . . The Freddie Mac money was a small piece of the $16 million he made in a three-year interlude as an investment banker a decade ago. . .

He was named to the Freddie Mac board in February 2000 by Clinton, whom Emanuel had served as White House political director and vocal defender during the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky scandals.

The board met no more than six times a year. Unlike most fellow directors, Emanuel was not assigned to any of the board's working committees, according to company proxy statements. Immediately upon joining the board, Emanuel and other new directors qualified for $380,000 in stock and options plus a $20,000 annual fee, records indicate.

On Emanuel's watch, the board was told by executives of a plan to use accounting tricks to mislead shareholders about outsize profits the government-chartered firm was then reaping from risky investments. The goal was to push earnings onto the books in future years, ensuring that Freddie Mac would appear profitable on paper for years to come and helping maximize annual bonuses for company brass.

The accounting scandal wasn't the only one that brewed during Emanuel's tenure.

During his brief time on the board, the company hatched a plan to enhance its political muscle. That scheme, also reviewed by the board, led to a record $3.8 million fine from the Federal Election Commission for illegally using corporate resources to host fundraisers for politicians. Emanuel was the beneficiary of one of those parties after he left the board and ran in 2002 for a seat in Congress from the North Side of Chicago.

The board was throttled for its acquiescence to the accounting manipulation in a 2003 report by Armando Falcon Jr., head of a federal oversight agency for Freddie Mac. The scandal forced Freddie Mac to restate $5 billion in earnings and pay $585 million in fines and legal settlements. It also foreshadowed even harder times at the firm.


Senator Bernie Sanders - In the midst of this financial disaster, one of the great frustrations that I hear from my constituents is that while taxpayers are spending hundreds of billions bailing out major financial institutions, and while these big banks are getting near-zero interest rate loans from the Fed, these very same financial institutions are now charging Americans 20 percent or 30 percent interest rates on their credit cards. In fact, one-third of all credit card holders in this country are now paying interest rates above 20 percent and as high as 41 percent – more than double what they paid in interest in 1990. Recently, some major institutions such as Bank of America have informed responsible cardholders that their interest rates would be doubled to as high as 28 percent, without explaining why the increase was taking place.

At a time when many Americans in the collapsing middle class use credit cards for groceries, gas and college expenses, what Wall Street and credit card companies are doing is not much different from what gangsters and loan sharks do when they make predatory loans. While the bankers wear three-piece suits and don't break the knee caps of those who can't pay back, they are still destroying people's lives.

The Bible has a term for this practice. It's called usury. And in The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri's epic poem, there was a special place reserved in the Seventh Circle of Hell for sinners who charged people usurious interest rates.

Today, we don't need the hellfire and pitch forks, we don't need the rivers of boiling blood, but we do need a national usury law.

We need a national law because state laws no longer work. States used to protect consumers from predatory lenders, but strong state usury laws were obliterated by a 1978 U.S. Supreme Court decision. Justices allowed national banks to charge whatever interest rate they wanted if they moved to a state without an interest rate cap like South Dakota or Delaware.

That is why I have introduced legislation to require any lender in this country to cap all interest rates on consumer loans at 15 percent, including credit cards. Why did I select 15 percent as the appropriate rate to deal with the usury which is going on in this country? The reason is that 15 percent is the maximum that Congress imposed on credit union loans almost 30 years ago when it amended the Federal Credit Union Act. And that approach has worked. Under current law, credit unions are allowed to charge higher interest rates only if their regulator, the National Credit Union Administration, determines that it is necessary to maintain the safety and soundness of these institutions. Right now, while most credit unions charge lower rates, the NCUA allows credit unions to charge an interest rate as high as 18 percent.

Unlike their counterparts at the big banks, credit unions are not lining up for hundreds of billions in bailouts. In fact, they're doing quite well. As Chris Collver, legislative and regulatory analyst for the California Credit Union League recently stated; "It hasn't been an issue. Credit unions are still able to thrive." In my view, if these rules have worked well for credit unions for decades they can work for all financial institutions.

In 1991 former Senator Al D'Amato offered an amendment to cap credit card interest rates at 14 percent. The amendment passed the Senate by a vote of 74-19, but never became law. Now is the time to return to that debate.


Well, maybe it's like Casey says: A fella ain't got a soul of his own, just a piece of a big soul, the one big soul that belongs to everybody. And then it don't matter, I'll be around. In the dark. I'll be everywhere. Wherever you can look. Whenever there's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Whenever there's a cop beaten' up on a guy, I'll be there. I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad, and I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry and they know suppers ready. And when people are eaten' stuff they raise, and livin' in the houses they build, I'll be there, too!!!" --- Tom Joad in "The Grapes of Wrath"


You can't help respecting someone who can spell Tuesday even if he can't spell it right. -- Winnie the Pooh

The spelling of words is subordinate. Morbidness for nice spelling and tenacity for or against one letter or so means dandyism and impotence in literature - Walt Whitman

I don't see any use in spelling a word right, and never did. I mean I don't see any use in having a uniform and arbitrary way of spelling words. We might as well make all our clothes alike and cook all dishes alike. - Mark Twain

I have no respect for a man who doesn't know more than one way to spell a word - Walt Whitman

Economy Got You Down? See the animation!‏

New Fiore Animation!

Click here for the new animation.

Firesign update: Phil Proctor gets Pulped‏

Phil Proctor will be performing this Friday & Saturday
and next (March 27 & 28 and April 3 & 4) in "They
Killed Him Dead" and "Flame City" at the Stories From
the Golden Age Theatre in Holllllywood:

(the website just says Saturday, but Phil says on his
Facebook page that it's Friday & Saturday, and the
newer graphic also says F&S).

Are you a machine that only answers no?
-- Firesign Theatre

The Politics of Being Illogical

posted by: Chris F. 2 days ago
The Politics of Being Illogical

As I argued in a previous article, it makes no sense whatsoever to continue to criminalize and wage a costly battle against the cannabis drug. In an online forum with the public, where President Obama answered unfiltered questions sent in by millions, he would've been remiss to ignore the popularity of the one topic that kept popping up in different areas of discussion: the legalization of marijuana.

(It is inconclusive whether the popularity of the marijuana-related questions were the result of a voting campaign by particular interest groups, or in fact, the public at large is finding the issue of legalization much easier to digest given the condition of our economy.)

To his credit, President Obama did ultimately address the issue of whether marijuana should be legalized, albeit with a statement the U.S. Supreme Court would be proud of. Although the President did not explicitly state his opposition to the decriminalization of marijuana, he instead relayed his belief that it was not a "good strategy for our economy".

I can fully understand that Mr. Obama's primary concern, as it should be, is to lead our nation out of this deep financial crisis and use all the influence and negotiating acumen he possesses to create and pass the legislation that is probably necessary to keep our economy from falling much further.

It might appear to some, at least given the words from most of their members, that the Republican Party might be somewhat hesitant to give their full approval to all that President Obama seeks from Congress. Given the stress and opposition already in place, had he come right out and announced his support for the legalization of marijuana, his efforts to work with Congress for all of these economic and mortgage packages would've been made that much harder.

That's not to say the savings and revenue realized from such decriminalization and resulting taxation would've been fictional or insignificant in any way. Just the opposite.

But in the world of politics and Washington, D.C., negotiations and conflict are a daily occurrence, and the microscope is so trained on the opposition, by both parties, that everything said or done can be used positively or negatively. Elections for 435 members of Congress are every two years, which essentially means they are constantly running for office. Good or bad, polls in their district will largely dictate what they say and do as Representatives. Even national polls may influence the talking points of national candidates.

For instance, it is definitively Unconstitutional to prohibit same-sex marriages, yet most politicians, including President Obama, have failed to support such a right, maybe because most polls show a lack of support nationally. Add in the factor of an opponent whose most vocal supporters would be energized by such an issue, and it instantly becomes a topic to largely avoid, regardless of how wrong it is.

This could be tied to the backlash against several Republican legislators in California I noted in another previous article. They decided, on their own, to act in a way they thought was best. Yet, because of their party, and a few vocal constituents, they could face political retribution.

This is politics. Speaking with vagueness; acting with polling support; rarely saying and doing the right thing before everyone else believes it to be the right thing as well.

Read more: politics

South Carolina Unemployment Surges to 11 Percent

Posted by Ali Frick, Think Progress at 5:25 AM on March 28, 2009.

Five counties in the state face more than 20 percent unemployment.

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Unemployment in South Carolina reached 11 percent in February, a “dramatic increase from January’s 10.3 percent.” Five counties in the state face more than 20 percent unemployment, with the highest, Allendale County, at 23.4 percent. Even as he is being warned about enusing “chaos,” Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) continues his efforts to block $700 million in federal stimulus aid to the state, a move that could result in at least 4,700 teachers and prison guards being laid off.


Tagged as: south carolina, unemployment

Ali Frick is a Research Associate for The Progress Report and at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

America's Dumbest Criminal Sticks Up Cop at Police Convention

Posted by Joshua Holland, AlterNet at 5:27 AM on March 29, 2009.

Apt description, no?

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Gosh, this is a rich and hearty serving of stupid:

Retired police chief John Comparetto was attending the meeting of 300 officers when he was allegedly held up at gunpoint in the men's toilets.

He handed over money and a phone but then he and some colleagues gave chase as the suspect tried to flee in a taxi.

They arrested a 19-year-old man over the incident near Harrisburg.

Mr. Comparetto described the suspect as "probably the dumbest criminal in Pennsylvania."

Actually, chief, he may be the dumbest in all of these United States.

The punch-line to this story is just beautiful ... wait for it ...

When a journalist asked the suspect for comment as he was led from court, he said: "I'm smooth."

He's smooth. And you thought George W. was America's dumbest criminal.


Tagged as: weird news

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet.

Christian Fundamentalist Group Preaches Patriarchy and Women's Fertility as Weapons for Spiritual Warfare

By Mark Karlin, BuzzFlash. Posted March 30, 2009.

Author Kathryn Joyce explains the bizarre Quiverfull movement dedicated to exploding the birthrate of ultra-conservative Christians.

When Americans think of patriarchal societies, female submission, or extreme gender inequality based on religious teachings, visions of Muslim women in burkas or Hindus in poorly arranged marriages may come to mind. The reality, though, is that a growing number of American Christian fundamentalists also have rejected feminism and egalitarianism, embracing instead male dominance and what they call the "Quiverfull" belief system. Picture the Massachusetts Bay Colonies before Hester Prynne's day. The women in such communities live within a stringently enforced doctrine of wifely submission and male "headship," including a selfless acceptance of possibly constant pregnancies and as many children under foot as God might bring. They reject not only "reproductive rights" of any kind, but also higher education and workforce participation for women.

In her book Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement, journalist Kathryn Joyce approaches Quiverfull followers with deep curiosity and the restraint of a good journalist. In a recent interview, she discussed the beliefs and lifestyle of inequaity that has taken a foothold in corners of American society.

* * *

Mark Karlin: You wrote the book called Quiverfull, Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement. In the beginning of the book, you give an overview of what the Quiverfull movement is. Can you describe it to us?

Kathryn Joyce: Quiverfull itself is a movement and a conviction among deeply conservative, theologically conservative Christians and pro-life purists who believe that you should accept as many children as God will give you based on Psalm 127, which reads: "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies at the gate." So it's kind of a dual emphasis on accepting as many children as God will give you, both as a demonstration of radical trust and obedience in God and also a really concerted effort to win the culture wars demographically.

From Psalm 127, a lot of emphasis is placed on militaristic imagery, particularly arrows. So the children become the arrows of the parents, part of their tools of war, in order to go out against the enemy. They put a lot of stress on the fact that Christians need to remember that their way of being in the world is a way of being at war with the world, so having more children than their enemy can help them to effect their changes.

Karlin: I assume it also is tied into a group that is primarily white. It often seems to me that many of the fundamentalist movements coincide with racial identity, and that white culture is under attack. There's more minorities in the world, so the idea to go forth and multiply is to get the white birth rate up, in essence.

Joyce: I agree. I think that that's not the only motivation or not necessarily the motivation of everybody who follows these convictions, but I think there's often a really strong racial undertone when people talk about the "demographic winter" occurring in Europe. There's the idea that Europeans, which we can read easily as white Europeans, are not having enough children, so this is necessitating vast immigration. They talk about the demographic winter in Europe, which is not to say a concern for a lack of enough total babies being born, but a lack of the right babies.

Karlin: Or the white babies.

Joyce: Exactly.

Karlin: When I first saw this title, I looked up Quiverfull and saw that it was associated with the larger Christian fundamentalist movement. But the subtitle said, "the Christian patriarchy movement." My perception of the fundamentalist movement overall is that it is a patriarchal movement. What makes this distinct?


See more stories tagged with: quiverfull, patriarchy, kathryn jocye, quiverfull: inside the ch

Mark Karlin is the editor of