Tuesday, December 29, 2009

City Council Meeting for Vote to Hire Tim Johnson as City Manager (12/18/09) Part Four (Last)

Here are the last two segments of the December 18, 2009 Council Meeting on offering the city manager position to Tim Johnson. Once again, the right hand portion of the video is clipped in Google Blogger so best to view on YouTube. With a Mac you can do it by clicking on the large start button in the middle of the picture as you also hold down the "control" key. From the menu that appears, choose the first "Watch on YouTube" option.

Council 121809- Part 13: Councilor Button Comments on Hiring Process and Mr. Johnson's Experience.

In this segment, Councilor Button comments on the hiring process and Mr. Johnson's experience to run the city. Citing his "public service experience," Councilor Button states that he feels Mr. Johnson's "skills," recommendations," and "training," "prepare him for that responsibility."


Council 121809 - Part 14: Council Votes to Offer Job to Johnson, Collins Comments

In this segment, Council votes 4 to 2 to offer city manager job to Tim Johnson. Tim Collins comments on negotiations with Mr. Johnson and the confidentiality of the background check. Mayor Dorrah adjourns the meeting.


The DVD of this Council Meeting will be offered to the County Library in the next few days if they care to have it.

Monday, December 28, 2009

City Council Meeting for Vote to Hire Tim Johnson as City Manager (12/18/09) Part Three

Here are two more segments of the December 18, 2009 Council Meeting on offering the city manager job to Tim Johnson. I hope to have the rest of the meeting up before the New Year. One again, the right hand portion of the video is clipped in Google Blogger so best to view on YouTube. With a Mac you can do it by clicking on the large start button in the middle of the picture as you also hold down the "control" key. From the menu that appears, choose the first "Watch on YouTube" option.

Council 121809- Part 11: Councilor Calder Responds to Peggy Timm. Moves to Offer Job to Johnson.

In this segment, Councilor Calder responds to Peggy Timm's questions about Tim Johnson's qualifications and makes motion to Offer Job to Tim Johnson. Councilor Bonebrake seconds the motion.


Council 121809- Part 12: Councilor Bryan Comments on Process and Mr. Johnson's Experience.

In this segment, Councilor Bryan comments that the public process for the hiring has not been handled properly and states that "Mr. Johnson does not have the professional experience specific to managing a city." Mayor Dorrah also closes public [input] portion of meeting

Saturday, December 26, 2009

SUPERPOWER: "The History You Don't Know"

"The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know"


From Informaion Clearing House:

To watch segments of this film, go to:

"The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know." ~Harry S. Truman
Length: 119 minutes

Please visit http://www.superpowerthemovie.com/home.html to purchase this movie

The heart of Superpower lies in the analysis produced from a re-examination of history through a series of interviews with historians, documentarians, and academians such as Bill Blum, Chalmers Johnson, Michael Chossudovsky, and Noam Chomsky, and others with expertise in this subject such as the Executive Producer of The Unit, Command Sergeant (Ret.) Eric Haney; former Chief Economist for the US Department of Labor, Morgan Reynolds; three-time Noble Peace Prize nominee, Kathy Kelly; and Lt. Col. (Ret) Karen Kwiatkowski.

Examining key moments in America's history elicits a more consistent and plausible set of motives for US foreign policy actions guided by global expansion and military dominance, rather than the hyperbolic calls for democracy and totalitarian regime change that we have become so accustomed to hearing.

Should citizens trust that their government will keep them safe, a government that keeps secrets, and lies, in the name of national security? Does the simple act of withholding information lead to a world of eroding civil liberties and corruption? Superpower presents a view of US foreign policy, which lies in stark contrast to that depicted by corporate media, popular pundits, and US heads of state.

Posted December 24, 2009 - Our thanks to Amilcar for research regarding this item.

To watch more segments, go to:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

City Council Meeting for Vote to Hire Tim Johnson as City Manager (12/18/09) Part Two

Apologies to all for taking so long to get just two more segments of the Council meeting up on the blog, and for the poor video quality (technical difficulties! ;-)) Each segment takes quite a bit of time to edit, save, upload and etc.

Editorial Comment ( ok, most of my comments are editorial): I also forgot to mention, that in my conversations with Tim Johnson, he didn't automatically dismiss my views on some issues, even when he may have disagreed. Instead, he dialogued with me about solutions to problems that would lead to agreement between different perspectives. It was not a conversation that led me to believe he would eject someone from his office simply because there were questions that made him defend a policy, or implied disagreement--he tried to find solutions that accommodated my views. I think he would do the same for you.

In any event, here are two more segments:

Council 121809-Part 9E: Mayor Dorrah Defends Johnson, Reads Last of Recommendation Letters


Council 121809-Part 10: Peggy Timm questions Lack Of Information, Dorrah Defends Confidentiality


A Note from Lorelei Nalley:

Sirs, for six months we the people have listened to
you about the topic of Mr. Brocato, ad nauseam. It is
now my turn as a citizen of Baker City to speak out.

Mr. Pope--- I cringe every time you open your mouth to speak or put a pen to paper to write. I am surprised that nobody has tied a string around your feet and made a balloon of you.

Mr. Bass---You have not got an ounce of oak in you unless it is in the autumn leaves that fall from it's branches and go where ever the wind scatters them. Eventually you land someplace just in time for the snow to bury you and render you useless.

Mr. Bryan---You are the worst of the bunch. You would have been better suited for Salem, and I mean Salem, Massachusetts in the late 1600's when whisperings, back stabbing, innuendos, bald faced lies lead to the imprisonment, stoning, hangings, and the burning at the stake of innocent people. Only this time you are not attacking Ms. Calder, this time it is a man you do not even know. With friends like you who needs enemies.

I am ashamed to say that I voted for each of you. I TRUSTED you all. You made spoken, written, and implied promises of serving your community. Instead you have become self serving. I would have been better off burning my ballot. It has come to no good having you serve on the city council.

As I see it there is not a thimbleful of honor amongst the three of you.

My husband says that not all people will take on so much responsibility and then turn around and let so many people down.

You all have wasted tax payers money and squandered the time the voters gave you to act on our behalf. The recall was an expensive bad joke. We, the people, now have to pay for that frivolous action. That money could have been used in so many other USEFUL ways, now we don't have it. The voters have spoken. The majority of us voted NO to have Mayor Dorrah and Ms. Calder removed from office. What part of NO don't you understand---the N or is it the O? Even dogs and two year old children understand the meaning of NO and we get a better response from them.

When our Mayor walked into Mr. Brocato's office and asked him to resign or be fired---Mr Brocato was told then that the Mayor had the votes. I don't think our Mayor realized, at the time, how much of a vote he really had. He had the vote of the PEOPLE not just the council. We, the PEOPLE have spoken.

Now is the time for ALL THREE of you to make a decision. Either work for the PEOPLE of Baker City or step down.

Quite frankly I think a good portion of the people would prefer that you chose the latter. We need people that want to serve our needs and care for the betterment of our community. We don't need people that are in the office for self grandisement and wasting our time and money.

Lorelei Nalley

Warren Zevon-Knocking on Heaven's Door

[This song was written by Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman) in 1973. It's been a favorite ever since. Bobby lives, Warren is gone, but no special meaning on my part here. I just go to dark places sometimes.]

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"Are you feeling like a chump yet?"

A few items on Obama and Heath Care
[Edited, 2 links added, 12/24/09]

Below are interesting links on Obama's behavior with regard to getting real reform for Americans who have looked for actual progress and solutions to their financially burdensome and disaster provoking health care dilemma. (Do I blame the wellspring for much of the anti-health care sentiment on the Republican leadership and the likes of Fox News? Of course I do! But they were not elected on a platform that promised real reform. Obama wasted the political capital he was given by a vast majority of the American people and frankly, he lied to us.)

On Wednesday, Obama told NPR that:
"This notion I know among some on the left that somehow this bill is not everything that it should be ... I think just ignores the real human reality that this will help millions of people and end up being the most significant piece of domestic legislation at least since Medicare and maybe since Social Security," (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=121783002) but many are questioning his spin on the health care/insurance "reform" that is presently before congress. No one really knows what the Senate-House reconciliation will produce, but it is not likely to meet the hopes of many of his supporters, or his own promises, during the '08 election campaign and after he became President.

The first link below, from July of this year, shows Obama saying that any plan he signs "must include . . . a public option to increase competition and keep insurance companies honest." He also reaffirmed his opposition to any mandate requiring everyone to purchase insurance, whether they can afford to or not: "If a mandate was the solution we could try that to solve homelessness by mandating everyone to buy a house--the reason they don't have a house is that they don't have the money." It points out that 59 % support a public option, and that only 33 % support a mandate to purchase insurance.

You can watch the video whether you contribute to the cause or not (No Mandate!)--Must See: https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/obamapromise?refcode=sbjt_prom

Obama rejected mandates during his campaign

Obama also rejected mandates in the January 21, 2008 Democratic Presidential candidates debate, using the notion of promoting mandating the purchase of insurance against Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. He also indicated support for an open process, enlisting the American people in the process, and opposition to secret, "behind-closed-doors" deals with insurance and drug companies, deals that he ultimately made with drug companies and others after he became President. He also said that we need to be "very clear about who is carrying water for the drug companies and the insurance companies and who is looking out for the families who are struggling. . ." So who now is carrying water for the insurance and drug companies? Watch:


Aother article from the Washington Independent:

Obama: Health Reform Bills Not Compromised ‘in Any Significant Way’
By MIKE LILLIS 12/22/09 3:16 PM

Liberals might be grumbling about the concessions needed to pass health care reform this year, but President Obama has no regrets. In an interview with The Washington Post Tuesday, Obama said he’s “very enthusiastic” about the reforms contained in the Senate bill, which, he added, accomplishes “95 percent” of his campaign goals.

In listing those priorities, Obama cited the 30 million uninsured Americans projected to receive coverage, budget estimates of more than $1 trillion in savings over the next two decades, a “patients’ bill of rights on steroids” to protect consumers from being dropped by insurance companies, and tax breaks to help small businesses pay to cover employees. [...]

“We don’t feel that the core elements to help the American people have been compromised in any significant way,” Obama said. “Do these pieces of legislation have exactly everything I want? Of course not. But they have the things that are necessary to reduce costs for businesses, families and the government.”

In a curious claim, Obama also told the Post that the public option “has become a source of ideological contention between the left and right,” but added, “I didn’t campaign on the public option.”

That’s curious because he did campaign on the public option. It’s here, in “Barack Obama’s Plan for a Healthy America:”

Specifically, the Obama plan will: (1) establish a new public insurance program available to Americans who neither qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP nor have access to insurance through their employers, as well as to small businesses that want to offer insurance to their employees.

Easier said than done.

And then there's this one:


Huffington Post
First Posted: 08- 9-09 12:30 AM | Updated: 09- 8-09 05:12 AM

Oh my! But guess what--the White House lobbied against North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan's amendment which would have allowed safe, less expensive drug imports from other countries. Obama said "We'll allow the safe re-importation of low-cost drugs from countries like Canada" during his campaign, but his White House lobbied against Dorgan's bill, and it failed without a whimper from Obama.


The Senate Health Care Bill: Leave No Special Interest Behind


See also:

Study Reveals “Revolving Door” Between Capitol Hill Staffers and Healthcare Lobbyists


Obama Double-Crossed Progressives on Health Care

By Matthew Rothschild
From: http://www.progressive.org/wx122309.html

December 23, 2009 "The Progressive" -- - Are you feeling like a chump yet?

If you're a good progressive, and you wanted single-payer health care for all, or, second best, Medicare for All Who Want It, or third best, a robust public option, or fourth best, a paltry public option, now you've got nothing, nada, zippo.

Has it ever crossed your mind that this is the way President Obama wanted it to be?

That he tossed in the public option at the beginning only to get progressives on board, knowing full well that he was going to jettison the public option by the end?

Have you considered that maybe Max Baucus wasn't the problem?

And that maybe Olympia Snowe wasn't the problem?

And that maybe even hideous Joe Lieberman wasn't the problem?

But that Obama himself was the problem?

After all, Obama never once said he wouldn't sign a health care bill that didn't have a public option in it. [Well, Mr. Rothschild, he did in fact say that--see the ActBlue link above--Obama Promised! https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/obamapromise?refcode=sbjt_prom]

After all, Obama dumped on the public option at almost every opportunity, calling it just a "sliver" of the overall package, and not the most important sliver at that.

After all, Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, was huddling regularly with Max Baucus when the Montana Senator squashed the public option the first time.

And after all, Obama didn't even ask Lieberman to back the public option.

Seems to me that Obama played us all for fools.

His discussion of the public option was a cynical charade from the start, and now he expects all good progressives to rally around this "historic" health care bill?

Forget about it.

The most historic thing about Obama's health care bill is the double-cross he dealt progressives.

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.
© 2009 The Progressive

This could go on and on . . . . But lastly, two items from BBC:

BBC World News - US Congressman DENNIS KUCINICH on healthcare reform 1300g 24Dec09

Obama's bonanza for lobbyists

US President Barack Obama's decision to leave Congress to flesh out his healthcare plans has provided rich pickings for lobbyists on Capitol Hill, as The Report's Simon Cox discovered.


As any viewer of the long-running but now ended US political drama The West Wing could tell you, lobbyists are almost part of the fixtures and fittings on Capitol Hill.

Back on the campaign trail in 2008, Barack Obama announced that he was "the only candidate who isn't taking a dime from Washington lobbyists".

But leading lobbyist John Jonas argues that today, the way the President has chosen to present his healthcare reforms has created a bonanza for the industry.

"That's kind of one of those curious things the way the world works out. Obama has made a lot of noise about his dislike for lobbyists, raised a lot of concerns about their negative influence on the process," said Mr Jonas.

"Former president Bill Clinton did not have those concerns, but interestingly, by leaving the process to Congress by not being prescriptive in the way Mr Clinton was, President Obama has really allowed lobbyists to have much influence on the process because it hasn't come in a pre-packaged form.

“ In the US lobbying is a great sport. The insurance industry is once again triumphing over the public interest ”
Congressman Dennis Kucinich
"It has been developed in a variety of different committees and so we've had a much more porous process."

Lobbyists trying to influence the reforms have focused their efforts on winning the argument about the economic cost.

Washington has been awash with dollars spent on lobbying, with an estimated $250m (£156m) spent in the last six months alone. Tales circulate of several lobbyists vying for the attention of a single senator or congressman as they make their way to vote.

'Gucci Gulch''

As someone firmly on the left of the Democratic Party and strongly pro-health reform, Congressman Dennis Kucinich is unlikely to be on any lobbyist's list.

He put forward his own failed bill, which would have introduced a US version of the British National Health System in America.

As a long-time advocate of the controversial so-called public option - a government insurance plan that would compete with private insurers - Congressman Kucinich has watched lobbyists' attempts to influence Mr Obama's healthcare reform with growing alarm.

46 million uninsured, 25 million under-insured
Healthcare costs represent 16% of GDP, almost twice OECD average
Reform plans would require all Americans to get insurance
Some propose public option to compete with private insurers
"In the US, lobbying is a great sport. The current bill before Congress is called HR 3200 - I explain to people how that got its bill number: 3200 is the number of lobbyists who are promoting the interests of the private insurance companies," he said.

"We have an area where people move through to try to go to vote, an open space called Gucci Gulch, where all the people with their $2,000 suits and their Gucci shoes gathered to importune members of Congress, and frankly the lobbyists have been successful.

"The insurance industry is once again triumphing over the public interest.

"They have moved mightily to forestall a very weak so-called 'public option' that would give people who could not find private insurance an opportunity to find any kind of insurance, and they are aggressively knocking down each and any effort towards substantive economic reform."


So who are these Machiavellian figures who prowl "Gucci Gulch" looking to buttonhole senators and congressmen?

Nick Allard, who formerly worked for the late Senator Ted Kennedy before joining advocacy firm Patton Boggs, rejects this stereotyped view of his industry.

"That expression plays into the popular image of influence peddlars, and cigar-chewing people who get results and influence with money," he says.

“ The dirty little secret about our government is that it can't be bought, it can't even be rented for a little while ”
Nick Allard, lobbyist
"Really the way you get things done is kind of boring and embarrassing, but it is by rolling up your sleeves and making a good case on the merits."

But, as I stood with him on the spot which Dennis Kucinich called the Gucci Gulch, he admitted he will make last-minute attempts to catch a Congressman before a final vote.

"At the final stages of legislation where things are really stacked up the only chance to get them is here," he says.

Some $250m (£156m) have been spent by lobbying firms in the past six months but Nick Allard denies that this money has bought undue influence:

"The dirty little secret about our government is that it can't be bought, it can't even be rented for a little while. There are exceptions of course, but by and large money doesn't buy results," he told me.

"If it was that easy you wouldn't need to hire expert advocates."

President Obama hoped to have his plans ready by summer but he will be lucky to have one by the end of the year. Whatever the outcome, it appears the lobbyists win either way.

You can listen to The Report via the BBC

or download the
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/10/01 09:01:53 GMT


I'm so tired of being a chump for the Democratic establishment!

So . . . I signed up with Oregon's new Progressive Party (hoping not to be a chump for them). At least they support "Every American will have access to guaranteed quality health care, regardless of their financial means," although I probably wouldn't be able to support some of their positions on mass immigration.

Oregon Progressive Party:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Elephant in the Climate Change Living Room Revisited

Think Out Loud from OPB really outdid themselves on Monday & Tuesday of this week, tackling two very contentious issues: Wyden's introduction of the Oregon Eastside Forests Restoration, Old Growth Protection, and Jobs Act of 2009, and the perhaps even more controversial population elephant in the climate change living room (Population control called key to deal http://bakercountyblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/hell-on-earth.html.

The first is found at http://www.opb.org/thinkoutloud/shows/forest-agreement/, and the second, "The "P" Word and Climate Change" from this morning, at http://www.opb.org/thinkoutloud/shows/p-word-and-climate-change/. Both episodes include many useful and informative links, along with the usual voicing of opinions from those confident enough to speak up.

I recommend checking out both programs and getting the podcasts if you can. If you have an application like iTunes, you can subscribe using the link http://www.opb.org/programs/podcast.php?tol by clicking on the "Advanced" tab in your toll bar, clicking on "Subscribe to podcast," and pasting in http://www.opb.org/programs/podcast.php?tol .Or, more simply, just go to the link and download what you want.

In the first, environmental consultant, spokesperson, and thinker, Andy Kerr (who left Joseph, Oregon several years ago in a moment of preservational sanity), does a good job of explaining both the bill and his move towards collaboration with any semi-rational folks from the timber industry that he could find.

There are also interesting comments to be mined in an Oregonian article, "Wyden bill aims to end eastern Oregon timber
disputes" at: http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2009/12/wyden_bill_aims_to_end_eastern.html.

The second is found at http://www.opb.org/thinkoutloud/shows/p-word-and-climate-change/. It is an expansion, or at least a different version of the ideas found in the Population control called key to deal article from my Dec. 15 blog.

Some years ago, I was active in the "Zero Population Growth" organization, but I left when they changed their name to "Population Connection" (http://www.populationconnection.org/site/PageServer), at which time they began to soft-pedal the importance of mass immigration to US population growth. Immigration (immigrants and children of immigrants) now accounts for over 75% of our under-developed nation style population growth. We had achieved essentially zero population growth in the mid-1970's, but once the effects of the 1965 immigration bill and all future amnesties got rolling, we were on the hopeless track of unsustainable poplulation growth once again. The result of ignoring mass immigration is essentially that instead of plateauing out at about 260 million people, the US started on an unmanageable, unsustainable and crash producing population trajectory that has left us with over 300 million people and no end in sight. Call me crazy, but if I wanted to live in the conditions found in Mexico City (scrounging for existence on dumps), Mumbai (Bombay, Population density (/km²) of 23,088 people), or Delhi, India (Population density (/km²) of 28,438 people: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cities_proper_by_population), I could move there. Interestingly, immigration's contribution to US population growth was (mysteriously) absent for today's "Think Out Loud" commentary. But hey, you can't be too politically correct these days.

Anyway, a coherent explanation of one of the important ideas discussed today, i.e., individual reproduction's contribution to carbon emissions, water use, etc., can be found in the Oregon State press release for Murtaugh and Schlax's paper on the issue, "Reproduction and the carbon legacies of individuals" at http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2009/jul/family-planning-major-environmental-emphasis.

The research paper they produced is at: http://blog.oregonlive.com/environment_impact/2009/07/carbon%20legacy.pdf

It is important stuff for understanding the effects of population growth and a reproducing individual's contribution to consumption and pollution, especially at the rates Americans consume and pollute. It is a powerful argument for having fewer children and for greatly reducing the rate of immigration into America of those who value large families.

Other links from the show and elsewhere:
Albertideation: http://albertideation.com/2009/10/20/worldpopulationvideo/

Numbers USA


See also:

Over the years, some special interest "liberals" and ethnically and racially oriented groups have tried to paint Roy Beck as a right wing xenophobe, but this is not true. I met him in the late nineties, and he is simply a decent and concerned person, like Garrett Hardin was (Humanist of the Year), who is concerned about population growth and its consequences. Please don't buy into the smears, and just consider the evidence and the numbers.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Is Peace President Obama America's Newest War Criminal?

[Edited 12/22/09 & link to Greenwald's award winning post on civil liberties added.]

Some may have cheered at the news that Peace President Obama may have ordered the air strike on alleged Al Qaeda camps in Yemen last Friday, December 18th. At least two reports have indicated that Peace President Obama ordered the cruise missile attacks. Others indicate that Yemen is taking responsibility. Given history, I tend to believe the former.

In any event, below are a few articles concerning the episode that involved the killing of something in the range of 49 to 120 people. primarily civilians, which may have included 17 women and twenty-three children.

Back in September of 2008, I wrote a progressive friend who supported then candidate Obama a note of caution:

He said: "Did you see Melissa Etheridge perform at the Democratic Convention? I liked it. She's playing a 12 string Ovation. I was moved by the medley she put together." [Dylan's "the Times They Are A Changing,'" "Give Peace A Chance," ad nauseem]

I responded:

"I remember thinking after the "Reagan Revolution" and etc., that Dylan's song, "The Times They Are A Changin," a favorite of mine, was thinking something different from where we actually began heading. It was nice that she brought it up, but frankly, I don't think Obama is a change agent, what with his fealty to the Israel lobby, support for the war in Afghanistan, usual suspects advisors, etc. I realize it made everybody feel good, but.... And the Born In the USA part, devoid of any of Springsteen's original context, left me cold. More nationalistic nonsense. Great convention rhetoric though.

Sorry--that's where I'm at.

On November 9.2008, I also told him:

"We can hope that he doesn't "reach accross the aisle" too much to allow those neanderthals too much influence and that he will reverse all the negative Bush actions on the environment. . . . .

Sorry if I seem too cynical, but right now I'm afraid he is on track to become another war criminal, a la Bill Clinton

Oh well . . . .

I think Obama ok'd it, as is stated by ABC:

Obama Ordered U.S. Military Strike on Yemen Terrorists
Cruise Missiles Launched Thursday Hit Two Suspected al Qaeda Sites; Major Escalation of US Efforts Against Terrorists


We reap what we sow, and Glenn Greenwald reinforces that view:

Cruise missile attacks in Yemen

The widely recognized causes of the 9/11 attacks seem stronger and more alive than ever

Glenn Greenwald

Also reproduced at: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article24232.htm
And: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/12/21-3

Dec. 21, 2009 |

(updated below)

Given what a prominent role "Terrorism" plays in our political discourse, it's striking how little attention is paid to American actions which have the most significant impact on that problem. In addition to our occupation of Iraq, war escalation in Afghanistan, and secret bombings in Pakistan, President Obama late last week ordered cruise missile attacks on two locations in Yemen, which "U.S. officials" say were "suspected Al Qaeda hideouts." The main target of the attacks, Al Qaeda member Qasim al Rim, was not among those killed, but: "a local Yemeni official said on Sunday that 49 civilians, among them 23 children and 17 women, were killed in air strikes against Al-Qaeda, which he said were carried out 'indiscriminately'." Media reports across the Muslim world -- though, not of course, within the U.S. -- are highlighting the dead civilians from the U.S. strike (one account from an official Iranian outlet began: "U.S. Nobel Peace Prize laureate President Barack Obama has signed the order for a recent military strike on Yemen in which scores of civilians, including children, have been killed, a report says").

For many people, the mere assertion by anonymous U.S. Government officials that these attacks targeted "suspected al-Qaeda sites" will be sufficient to deem them justified. All credible reports confirm that there is indeed a not insignificant Al Qaeda presence in Southern Yemen, so that claim, at least, seems at least grounded in reality. Yet arguments about justification to the side for the moment, here we have yet another violent attack by the U.S. which -- even under the best-case scenario -- has killed more Muslim civilians than it did "Al Qaeda fighters," and failed to kill the main target of the attack. When it comes to undermining Al Qaeda -- both in Yemen and generally -- isn't it painfully obvious that the images of dead Muslim women and children which we constantly create -- and which we again just created in Yemen -- will fuel that movement better than anything else we can do?

Consider what else is happening around the Muslim world that is quite consistent with all of that yet receiving virtually no attention in the West (though receiving plenty of attention there). Pakistani lawyers -- many of the same ones who protested the tyrannical practices of General Musharraf -- held a large protest in Islamabad this weekend objecting to the presence of "notorious" Blackwater agents in their country. Palestinians are consumed with a recent incident in which West Bank settlers torched one of their mosques, burning holy books and leaving threatening messages; that was preceded by the Israeli Justice Minister proclaiming that "step by step, Torah law will become the binding law in the State of Israel." And perhaps most significantly of all, while reports have focused on alleged tension between the Obama administration and Israel over the latter's uncooperative conduct, this is what is actually happening:

Behind the scenes, strategic security relations between the two countries are flourishing. Israeli officials have been singing the praises of President Obama for his willingness to address their defense concerns and for actions taken by his administration to bolster Israel’s qualitative military edge -- an edge eroded, according to Israel, during the final year of the George W. Bush presidency.

Among the new initiatives taken by the administration, the Forward has learned, are adjustments in a massive arms deal the Bush administration made with Arab Gulf states in response to Israeli concerns. There have also been upgrades in U.S.-Israeli military cooperation on missile defense. And a deal is expected next year that will see one of the United States’ most advanced fighter jets go to Israel with some of America’s most sensitive new technology.

Amid the cacophony of U.S.-Israel clashes on the diplomatic front, public attention given to this intensified strategic cooperation has been scant. But in a rare public comment in October, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren praised the Obama administration’s response to complaints about lost ground during the close of the Bush years as "warm and immediate."

"We came to the Obama administration and said, ‘Listen, we have a problem here,'" Oren, told a gathering of the National Jewish Democratic Council. "The administration’s reaction was immediate: we are going to address this issue, we are going to make sure that we maintain your QME [qualitative military edge]."

All of this is being done pursuant to this:

America’s commitment to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge was codified directly into U.S. law via 2008 legislation backed by AIPAC. This legislation requires the president to report to Congress periodically on actions taken by the administration to ensure Israel’s advantage.

I have to confess that I didn't realize that a law was enacted last year making it a legal requirement for America to maintain "Israel’s qualitative military edge," and -- even more amazingly -- that the President of the U.S. is required to report regularly to the U.S. Congress on the steps he's taking to ensure Israel's superiority. That's a rather extraordinary law, and the administration seems to be fulfilling its requirements faithfully.

Whatever else is true, and even if one believes it's justified to lob cruise missiles into more countries where we claim "suspected Al Qaeda sites" are located, one thing seems clear: all of the causes widely recognized as having led to 9/11 -- excessive American interference in the Muslim world, our alliance with their most oppressive leaders, our responsibility for Israel's military conflicts with its Muslim neighbors, and our own military attacks on Muslims -- seem stronger than ever. As we take more actions of this sort, we will create more Terrorists, which will in turn cause us to take more actions of this sort in a never-ending, self-perpetuating cycle. The U.S. military, and the intelligence community, and its partners in the private contractor world will certainly remain busy, empowered, and well-funded in the extreme.

* * * * *

The excellent academic and political website, 3quarksdaily, gave out prizes this weekend for the best articles of the year in politics, philosophy, science and other categories. The prizes for politics were judged by historian and scholar Tariq Ali. This post of mine (http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2009/11/24/civil_liberties/index.html) on Obama's civil liberties record and the multi-tiered system of justice being created for "War on Terror" detainees was chosen as the top prize winner, which includes a $1,000 award. Thank you to 3quarksdaily and Ali for this selection.

UPDATE: For those struggling to understand the basic point here, there are two primary issues I'm examining with regard to the strike in Yemen: (1) what happened and (2) how it's being depicted in various parts of the Muslim world. The citation to the "official Iranian outlet" pertains to number (2), not to number (1) -- as I made explicitly clear.


Report: Obama Ordered US Military Strike on Yemen

ABC News is reporting the US military bombed two sites in the Middle Eastern nation of Yemen on Thursday on direct orders from President Obama. The strikes are seen as a major escalation of the Obama administration’s campaign against al-Qaeda. US officials told ABC the target of the strikes was a pair of suspected al-Qaeda training camps. A human rights activist in Yemen said twenty-three children and seventeen women were among the sixty-four people killed. Earlier this month, President Obama hinted that Yemen could soon be attacked. [See article]

US Attacking Yemen After All
Posted By Jason Ditz On December 18, 2009 @ 4:08 pm

Just one day after a very public denial that American forces were in the process of attacking sites in Northern Yemen, President Barack Obama ordered multiple cruise missile attacks on sites across the tiny, coastal nation.
[See article

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Don Henley
"The Eagles", from "Hell Freezes Over" album, 1994
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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Obama Oversees Trashing of the Dream- Ensures Continued Despair & Corporate Control of Government

In This Edition"

- Matt Taibbi: Obama's Big Sellout

- Bill Moyers Journal - "Truth is, our capitol's being looted"

- Robert Reich: Slouching Toward Health Care Reform


Bill Moyers is said to be leaving PBS in the spring, so cherish one of the few outstanding journalists left while you have time.

On Friday's"Journal," Moyer's guests were Robert Kuttner and Matt Taibbi, both of whom have been mentioned on this blog. (Taibbi's blog is linked on my sidebar, but here it is: http://trueslant.com/matttaibbi/) Moyers referred to Matt Taibbi's December 9, 2009 article in Rolling Stone, so I will put it first, followed by the transcript from Fridays Bill Moyers Journal.

In the third article, Robert Reich writes about Obama and the Democrat's deal making with "Big Insurance, Big Pharma, and the AMA," as well as the Republicans, and how real health care reform slipped through the cracks in the process.

Obama's Big Sellout
The president has packed his economic team with Wall Street insiders intent on turning the bailout into an all-out giveaway


Posted Dec 09, 2009 2:35 PM

(Watch Matt Taibbi discuss "The Big Sellout" in a video on his blog, Taibblog: http://taibbi.rssoundingboard.com/matt-taibbi-on-obamas-economy)

Barack Obama ran for president as a man of the people, standing up to Wall Street as the global economy melted down in that fateful fall of 2008. He pushed a tax plan to soak the rich, ripped NAFTA for hurting the middle class and tore into John McCain for supporting a bankruptcy bill that sided with wealthy bankers "at the expense of hardworking Americans." Obama may not have run to the left of Samuel Gompers or Cesar Chavez, but it's not like you saw him on the campaign trail flanked by bankers from Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. What inspired supporters who pushed him to his historic win was the sense that a genuine outsider was finally breaking into an exclusive club, that walls were being torn down, that things were, for lack of a better or more specific term, changing.

Then he got elected.

What's taken place in the year since Obama won the presidency has turned out to be one of the most dramatic political about-faces in our history. Elected in the midst of a crushing economic crisis brought on by a decade of orgiastic deregulation and unchecked greed, Obama had a clear mandate to rein in Wall Street and remake the entire structure of the American economy. What he did instead was ship even his most marginally progressive campaign advisers off to various bureaucratic Siberias, while packing the key economic positions in his White House with the very people who caused the crisis in the first place. This new team of bubble-fattened ex-bankers and laissez-faire intellectuals then proceeded to sell us all out, instituting a massive, trickle-up bailout and systematically gutting regulatory reform from the inside.

How could Obama let this happen? Is he just a rookie in the political big leagues, hoodwinked by Beltway old-timers? Or is the vacillating, ineffectual servant of banking interests we've been seeing on TV this fall who Obama really is?

Whatever the president's real motives are, the extensive series of loophole-rich financial "reforms" that the Democrats are currently pushing may ultimately do more harm than good. In fact, some parts of the new reforms border on insanity, threatening to vastly amplify Wall Street's political power by institutionalizing the taxpayer's role as a welfare provider for the financial-services industry. At one point in the debate, Obama's top economic advisers demanded the power to award future bailouts without even going to Congress for approval — and without providing taxpayers a single dime in equity on the deals.

How did we get here? It started just moments after the election — and almost nobody noticed.
Read entire Article: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/31234647/obamas_big_sellout/print

Bill Moyers Journal

December 18, 2009

BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the JOURNAL.

Something's not right here. One year after the great collapse of our financial system, Wall Street is back on top while our politicians dither. As for health care reform, you're about to be forced to buy insurance from companies whose stock is soaring, and that's just dandy with the White House.

Truth is, our capitol's being looted, republicans are acting like the town rowdies, the sheriff is firing blanks, and powerful Democrats in Congress are in cahoots with the gang that's pulling the heist. This is not capitalism at work. It's capital. Raw money, mounds of it, buying politicians and policy as if they were futures on the hog market.

Here to talk about all this are two journalists who don't pull their punches. Robert Kuttner is an economist who helped create and now co-edits the progressive magazine THE AMERICAN PROSPECT, and the author of the book OBAMA'S CHALLENGE, among others.

Also with me is Matt Taibbi, who covers politics for ROLLING STONE magazine where he is a contributing editor. He's made a name for himself writing in a no-holds-barred, often profane, but always informative and stimulating style that gets under the skin of the powerful. His most recent article is "Obama's Big Sellout," about the President's team of economic advisers and their Wall Street connections. It's been burning up the blogosphere. Welcome to both of you.

BILL MOYERS: Let's start with some news. Some of the big insurance companies, Well Point, Cigna, United Health, all surged to a 52 week high in their share prices this week when it was clear there'd be no public option in the health care bill going through Congress right now. What does that tell you, Matt?

MATT TAIBBI: Well, I think what most people should take away from this is that the massive subsidies for health insurance companies have been preserved while it's also expanded their customer base because there's an individual mandate in the bill that's going to provide all these companies with the, you know, 25 or 30 million new people who are going to be paying for health insurance. So, it's, obviously, a huge boon to that industry. And I think Wall Street correctly read what the health care effort is all about.

ROBERT KUTTNER: Rahm Emanuel, the President's Chief of Staff, was Bill Clinton's Political Director. And Rahm Emanuel's take away from Bill Clinton's failure to get health insurance passed was 'don't get on the wrong side of the insurance companies.' So their strategy was cut a deal with the insurance companies, the drug industry going in. And the deal was, we're not going to attack your customer base, we're going to subsidize a new customer base. And that script was pre-cooked so it's not surprising that this is what comes out the other side.

BILL MOYERS: So are you saying that this, what some call a sweetheart deal between the pharmaceutical industry and the White House, done many months ago before this fight really began, was because the drug company money in the Democratic Party?

ROBERT KUTTNER: Well, it's two things. Part of it was we need to do whatever it takes to get a bill. Never mind whether it's a really good bill, let's get a bill passed so we can claim that we solved health insurance. Secondly, let's get the drug industry and the insurance industry either supporting us or not actively opposing us. So that there was some skirmishing around the details, but the deal going in was that the administration, drug companies, insurance companies are on the same team. Now, that's one way to get legislation, it's not a way to transform the health system. Once the White House made this deal with the insurance companies, the public option was never going to be anything more than a fig leaf. And over the summer and the fall, it got whittled down, whittled down, whittled down to almost nothing and now it's really nothing.

MATT TAIBBI: Yeah, and this was Howard Dean's point this week was that this individual mandate that's going to force people to become customers of private health insurance companies, the Democrats are going to end up owning that policy and it's going to be extremely unpopular and it's going to be theirs for a generation. It's going to be an albatross around the neck of this party.

ROBERT KUTTNER: Think about it, the difference between social insurance and an individual mandate is this. Social insurance everybody pays for it through their taxes, so you don't think of Social Security as a compulsory individual mandate. You think of it as a benefit, as a protection that your government provides. But an individual mandate is an order to you to go out and buy some product from some private profit-making company, that in the case of a lot of moderate income people, you can't afford to buy. And the shell game here is that the affordable policies are either very high deductibles and co-pays, so you can afford the monthly premiums but then when you get sick, you have to pay a small fortune out of pocket before the coverage kicks in. Or if the coverage is decent, the premiums are unaffordable. And so here's the government doing the bidding of the private industry coercing people to buy profit-making products that maybe they can't afford and they call it health reform.

BILL MOYERS: So explain this to the visitor from Mars. I mean, just this week, the Washington Post and ABC News had a poll showing that the American public supports the Medicare buy-in that-


BILL MOYERS: By a margin of some 30 points-


BILL MOYERS: And yet, it went down like a lead balloon.

ROBERT KUTTNER: Look, there are two ways, if you're the President of the United States sizing up a situation like this that you can try and create reform. One is to say, well, the interest groups are so powerful that the only thing I can do is I can work with them and move the ball a few yards, get some incremental reform, hope it turns into something better. The other way you can do it is to try to rally the people against the special interests and play on the fact that the insurance industry, the drug industry, are not going to win any popularity contests with the American people. And you, as the president, be the champion of the people against the special interests. That's the course that Obama's chosen not to pursue.

MATT TAIBBI: And I think, you know, a lot of what the Democrats are doing, they don't make sense if you look at it from an objective point of view, but if you look at it as a business strategy- if you look at the Democratic Party as a business, and their job is basically to raise campaign funds and to stay in power, what they do makes a lot of sense. They have a consistent strategy which involves negotiating a fine line between sentiment on the left and the interests of the industries that they're out there to protect. And they've always, kind of, taken that fork in the road and gone right down the middle of the line. And they're doing that with this health care bill and that's- it's consistent.

Read the rest of this transcript at: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/12182009/transcript4.html.
Robert Reich's Blog
Robert Reich was the nation's 22nd Secretary of Labor and is a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. His latest book is "Supercapitalism." This is his personal journal.

Slouching Toward Health Care Reform

"Don't make the perfect the enemy of the better," says the President and congressional insiders when confronted with the sorry spectacle of a health-care bill whose scope and ambition continue to shrink, and whose long-term costs to typical Americans continue to grow. They're right, of course. But by the same logic, neither the White House nor congressional Democrats will be able to celebrate the emerging legislation as a "major overhaul" or "fundamental reform." At best, it's likely to be a small overhaul containing incremental reforms.

Real reform has moved from a Medicare-like public option open to all, to a public option open to 6 million without employer coverage (still in the House bill), to a public option open only to those same people in states that opt for it, or about 4 million (the original Harry Reid version of the Senate bill), to no public option but expanded Medicare (the Senate compromise) to no expanded Medicare at all (the deal with Joe "I love all the attention" Lieberman).

In other words, the private insurers are winning and the public is losing.

Pharmaceutical companies are winning as well. Yesterday, proposals to allow US pharmacies and wholesalers to import prescription drugs from Europe and Canada were defeated in the Senate. No matter that American consumers pay up to 55% more for their prescription drugs than Canadians, or that the measure would have saved the government at least $19.4 billion over ten years (according to the Congressional Budget Office). Big Pharma's argument that the safety of such drugs couldn't be assured was belied by the defeat of another proposed amendment that would have allowed drug imports only if their safety and economic benefits were certified by the Secretary of Health and Human Service.

Doctors and hospitals are also winning. More and more of the putative "savings" from health care reform ("savings" should really be understood as projected costs that are under the wildly-escalating costs projected without such savings) rely on contraints on future Medicare spending. But the details of such constraints keep vanishing, while ever more of the messy work of coming up with them is assigned to a so-called Medical Advisory Board that will supposedly recommend them later on. What no one wants to admit is that Congress never actually implements promised Medicare savings. When crunch time comes, it caves in to the AMA and the AARP. In a few years time, when boomers swell the ranks of seniors, and the political power of the AMA and AARP together rival that of Wall Street, the cave-ins will be boggling.

Meanwhile, opponents of abortion are winning, too. Ben Nelson (a Nebraska Democrat who enjoys being the spoiler even as much as Joe Lieberman) is holding out for even more restrictions.

The political reality right now is that Harry Reid will do anything to get sixty votes -- which means Lieberman, Nelson, and even Olympia Snowe are able to use extortion on behalf of Big Insurance, Big Pharma, the AMA, and abortion foes. The President, meanwhile, remains eerily above the fray. Having closed deals months ago with Big Insurance, Big Pharma, and the AMA -- in order to get their support in exchange for guaranteeing them big profits -- his only apparent interest is keeping the deals going while helping Reid corral sixty votes for just about anything. (The deals have caused some awkwardness for the White House. Drug importation would have cost Big Pharma far more than the $80 billion price tag it agreed to, forcing the White House to oppose importation even though the President had publicly supported it during his presidential campaign last year, and even though John McCain supported yesterday's amendment.)

Is the effort worth still worth it? Yes, but just. Private insurers will have to take anyone, regardless of preconditions. And some 30 million people who don't now have health insurance will get it. But because Big Insurance, Big Pharma, and the AMA will come out way ahead, the legislation will cost taxpayers and premium-payers far more than it would otherwise. Cost controls are inadequate; in fact, they barely exist. If Wall Street's top brass are "fat cats," as the President described them last weekend, the top brass of Big Insurance, Big Pharma, and the AMA are even fatter. While they don't earn as much, they're squeezing the public for even more.

We are slouching toward health-care reform that's better than nothing but far worse than we had imagined it would be. Even those of us who have seen legislative sausage-making up close, even those of us who never make the perfect the enemy of the better, are concerned. That two or three senators are able to extort as much as they have is appalling. Why hasn't Reid forced much of the bill into reconciliation, requiring only 51 votes? Why has the President been so cowed? In all likelihood, the White House and the Dems eventually will get a bill they can call "reform," but they will not be able to say with straight faces that the reform is a significant improvement over the terrible system we already have.
posted by Robert Reich | 5:57 AM

Saturday, December 19, 2009

City Council Meeting for Vote to Hire Tim Johnson as City Manager (12/18/09) Part One

I filmed the special City Council meeting concerning the appointment of Tim johnson to fill the position of city manager for Baker City on Friday, December 18, 2009. As there is no other video record that I am aware of, I am publishing the video of the meeting, in the public interest, in several segments on YouTube. Those YouTube segments may be accessed from this blog as they become available. Google Blogger tends to cut off portions of the right side of the video, so if you want the full view, it is better to view them on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=chrischristie1948&ytsession=Z6UGcoFaVykIyDwVq6AYsI5jvODdRK3Ye7yk4BuQeYshopzRgyRtvJjG1fPlztLijpl0Ssd7QYc09YYnmbdkcfuj24DDN5osVrf9vSMApEZThHN7PxpgPk7fTP1HBz0vvH3WEBZfnLRNGuqoa5t43K1a-_lTxOdeH0Jk1DazcJYZf4g5T7aw19SGSVemb06MSszrC850FAo#p/u

I don't really have a dog in this fight, because as Councilor Button and others have said, any of the four finalists would probably do a good job for Baker City. In the interest of full disclosure though, I must tell you that I have spoken with Tim Johnson twice. I find him to be very intelligent and much more informed in many ways than I am when it comes to managing city governments and making cities successful (ok, that may be a low bar ;-)). He is also very open, personable, friendly, and frank. He has said that he favors an "open, shared, and participatory" government, and that the city's actions will be "measurable, accountable and time bound." He has also suggested that he may remove the door to his office ;-). It is my hope that those traits will translate into a successful city manager for Baker City.

My own bias is exposed in certain ways in the descriptions of the proceedings. Most importantly, I feel that Councilor Pope's letter, and Tim Collins' reading of it, was an attempt to "poison the well" prior to Mr. Johnson's taking charge." Poisoning the Well" is, as first described by John Henry Newman, an attempt "to cut the ground from under [someone's] feet;—to poison by anticipation the public mind against [someone]."

In yesterday's Herald (Councilor's List Down To Johnson), it was reported that "Dorrah said Councilors discussed Johnson's and Hulse's background checks during an executive session, which is closed to the public, because the city agreed to keep the information confidential."

Obviously, Councilor Pope and temporary city manager Collins, were not in full agreement with that view, as the proceedings shown below demonstrate.

Some have suggested ulterior motives, because in the same article, assistant city manager Jennifer Watkins "told the Council Thursday that in the event the Council decides to postpone making a decision, Tim Collins, city manager pro-tem, has offered to stay on for an additional six months." The theory is that Collins, Watkins, and city staff are afraid of personnel decisions that might be made by a Brocato replacement who actually works for the Council. Some people have also told me that city manager pro-tem Collins was largely responsible for the selection of Freeman and Associates, the firm that returned a very unflattering background check on Tim Johnson.

Below is the first set of several segments of the Council Meeting. I will post more as I have time to process them for YouYube. Without further adieu, here are the first segments:

Council 121809-Part1
Part one of the Special City Council meeting to vote on hiring Tim Johnson as the new Baker City city manager. (short)


Council 121809-Part 2: Poisoning the Well
Part two of the Special City Council meeting to vote on hiring Tim Johnson as the new Baker City city manager. Tim Collins reads portions of Milo Pope's letter referring to a conclusion drawn by Mr. Freeman of Freeman & Associates in a background report for city manager candidate Tim Johnson. Normally this type of personnel issue is handled in executive session, and by reading some of the letter in public, people are told of a negative report with no specific allegations or any evidence being presented to substantiate a negative opinion.


Council 121809-Part 3: Councilor Calder expresses displeasure at Collins for reading letter
Part three of the Special City Council meeting to vote on hiring Tim Johnson as the new Baker City city manager. Councilor Calder expresses displeasure that staff read parts of Councilor Pope's letter in a public session.


Council 121809-Part 4: Councilor Bryan suggests reading Councilor Pope's letter into the record.
Part four of the Special City Council meeting to vote on hiring Tim Johnson as the new Baker City city manager. Councilor Bryan suggests reading Councilor Pope's letter into the record.


Council 121809-Part 5: Councilor Bonebrake responds to innuendo in Councilor Pope's letter
Part five of the Special City Council meeting to vote on hiring Tim Johnson as the new Baker City city manager. Councilor Bonebrake responds to innuendo in Councilor Pope's letter, citing a preponderance of evidence favorable to Tim Johnson's 30 year career as a public servant. ". . . there is absolutely nothing in his record that would indicate lawsuits or conflict or grievances, or anything else . . . .


Council 121809-Part 6: Councilor Button supports Tim Johnson and says "it is time to move on."
Part five of the Special City Council meeting to vote on hiring Tim Johnson as the new Baker City city manager. Councilor Clair Button notes that "None of us is perfect and I think that if anyone of us were subjected to the degree of scrutiny Mr. Johnson was put through, there is not one person here who would not find something in the way of a person who was disaffected with you at some point in the past. That is not to say that there are not things we need to discuss . . . . I recognize that there are some people who will never accept the past decisions of this council and who will not accept the voice of the voters as was represented in the recall election . . . . I personally take that as an acclamation from the public to move on . . . ."


Council 121809-Part 7: Councilor Bass says " I really don't have a whole lot to say."
Part seven of the Special City Council meeting to vote on hiring Tim Johnson as the new Baker City city manager. In this segment, Councilor Sam Bass says " I really don't have a whole lot to say. . . . . We have said thing and said things and said things, and nobody seems to care one way or the other, uh, I did not vote for Mr. Johnson."


Council 121809-part 8: Councilor Bryan--Poisoning the well, part 2
In this segment: Councilor Bryan--"I have . . . great concerns about his character and fitness for the city manager position. I don't think this is the time or place to provide more detailed information . . . it is not appropriate . . . the bottom line is that the background check was not a positive reflection on Mr. Johnson in this position and was not a recommendation to hire him."


Council 121809-Part 9A: Mayor Dorrah Defends Johnson, Reads Recommendation Letters
Part 9A of the Special City Council meeting to vote on hiring Tim Johnson as the new Baker City city manager. Here, Mayor Dennis Dorrah defends Johnson and reads recommendation letters. "One thing I'd like to point out from the discussion with Mr. Freeman--he pointed out that on a criminal background check--which was, this was almost a criminal background check, that 98% of the people he checks out, do not pass their, do not meet their satisfaction. On a positive note. . . ." [Dorrah reads some of around ten letters praising Tim Johnson's success and abilities.]


Council 121809-Part 9B: Mayor Dorrah Defends Johnson, Reads Recommendation Letters
Part 9B of the Special City Council meeting to vote on hiring Tim Johnson as the new Baker City city manager. Here, Mayor Dennis Dorrah reads more of around ten letters praising Tim Johnson's success and abilities.


Council 121809-Part 9C: Mayor Dorrah Defends Johnson, Reads Recommendation Letters
Part 9C of the Special City Council meeting to vote on hiring Tim Johnson as the new Baker City city manager. Here, Mayor Dennis Dorrah reads more of around ten letters praising Tim Johnson's success and abilities.

I will be adding more clips as time allows.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dear Mr. Hope & Change--It's The People and the Economy, Stupid!

In This Issue:

- Break up the Big Banks!
- Simon Johnson is "Intellectual of the Year"


For all the good links in the following article, please see:

Paul Volcker Picks Up A Bat
Posted: 17 Dec 2009 04:15 AM PST

For most the past 12 months, Paul Volcker was sitting on the policy sidelines. He had impressive sounding job titles – member of President Obama’s Transition Economic Advisory Board immediately after last November’s election, and quickly named to head the new Economic Recovery Board.

But the Recovery Board, and Volcker himself, have seldom met with the President. Economic and financial sector policy, by all accounts, has been made largely by Tim Geithner at Treasury and Larry Summers at the White House, with help from Peter Orszag at the Office of Management and Budget, and Christina Romer at the Council of Economic Advisers.

With characteristic wry humor, Volcker denied in late October that he had lost clout within the administration: “I did not have influence to start with.”

But that same front page interview in the New York Times contained a well placed shock to then prevailing policy consensus.

Volcker, legendary former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board with much more experience of Wall Street than any current policymaker, was blunt: We need to break up our biggest banks and return to the basic split of activities that existed under the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 – a highly regulated (and somewhat boring) set of banks to run the payments system, and a completely separate set of financial entities to help firms raise capital (and to trade securities).

This proposal is not just at odds with the regulatory reform legislation then (and now) working its way through Congress; Volcker is basically saying that what the administration has proposed and what Congress looks likely to enact in early 2010 is essentially — bunk.

Speaking to a group of senior finance executives, as reported in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, Volcker made his point even more forcefully. There is no benefit to running our financial system in its current fashion, with high risks (for society) and high returns (for top bankers). Most of financial innovation, in his view, is not just worthless to society – it is downright dangerous to our broader economic health.

Volcker only makes substantive public statements when he feels important issues are at stake. He also knows exactly how to influence policy – he has not been welcomed in the front door (controlled by the people who have daily meetings with the President), so he’s going round the back, aiming at shifting mainstream views about what are “safe” banks. Many smart technocrats listen carefully to what he has to say.

This strategy is partly about timing – and in this regard Volcker has chosen his moment well. The economy is starting to recover, but this process is clearly going to take a while and unemployment will stay high for the foreseeable future. At the same time, our biggest banks are making good money – mostly from trading, not much from lending to small business – and they are lining up to pay very big bonuses.

Not only is this contrast – high unemployment vs. bankers’ bonuses – annoying and unfair, it is also not good economics. Bankers are, in effect, being rewarded for taking the risks that created the global crisis and led to massive job losses. And they are being implicitly encouraged to do the same thing again.

The case for keeping big banks in their current configuration is completely lame. Even if we are lucky enough to avoid another major any time soon, the fiscal costs are enormous and coming right at you (and your taxes).

Now that Paul Volcker has picked up his hammer, he will not lightly set it aside. He knows how to sway the policy community and he knows how to escalate when they don’t pay attention. Expect him to pound away until he prevails.

By Simon Johnson

This is a a slightly edited version of a post that previously appeared on the NYT’s Economix; it is used here with permission. If you would like to reproduce the entire piece, please contact the New York Times for permission.

For all the good links in the following article, please see:

Move Over, Bernanke
Posted: 17 Dec 2009 04:00 AM PST

Ben Bernanke is Person of the Year. Matt Yglesias has criticism, although he does say it was an appropriate choice. Now, the Time award is meant to recognize newsworthiness, not necessarily exceptional conduct, and it’s hard to deny that Bernanke has been newsworthy. But I think that 2008 was Bernanke’s year, not 2009–that was the year of the real battle to prevent the collapse of the financial system. As far as the crisis is concerned, I would say the face of 2009 has been Tim Geithner–PPIP, stress tests (largely conducted by the Fed, but Geithner was the front man), Saturday Night Live, regulatory “reform,” and so on. But I can see why Time didn’t want to go there. Besides, I’m not sure that the financial crisis was the story of 2009; what about the recession? They’re related, obviously, but they’re not the same thing.

But in real news, Simon was named Public Intellectual of the Year by Prospect Magazine (UK). (This year they seem to have restricted themselves to financial crisis figures; David Petraeus won in 2008.) Over Ben Bernanke, among others. (Conversely, Simon didn’t make Time’s list of “25 people who mattered”–but Jon and Kate Gosselin did, so that’s no surprise.) The article says that Simon “has also done more than any academic to popularise his case: writing articles, a must-read blog, and appearing tirelessly on television,” which sounds about right to me.

Prospect got one thing wrong, though. The article has a cartoon of Simon holding a sledgehammer and towering over a Citigroup in ruins. But no matter how many times you keep taking whacks at Citigroup, it refuses to die. One hundred years from now, maybe people will still be saying there are two common ingredients in all U.S. financial crisis: excess borrowing … and Citibank.

By James Kwak

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hell on Earth

In This Edition:

- Copenhagen Climate "Talks"
- Joe Lieberman, Veterans, & Health Care "Reform"
- Dean: Public Option Essential to Real Health Care Reform
- Simon Johnson on Economic "Reform"
- McCain Leads Senate Effort to Reinstate Glass-Steagall
- U.S. gave up billions in tax money in deal for Citigroup's bailout repayment


Copenhagen Climate "Talks"

Copenhagen: Only the numbers count – and they add up to hell on earth
Climate Interactive's software speaks numbers, not spin – which is where the true understanding of the Copenhagen summit lies

Bill McKibben

guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 15 December 2009

Climate change activists form the number 350 at the Sydney Opera House in Australia. Photograph: Tim Cole/EPA

The Bella centre is a swirl of chatter, the streets of Copenhagen are a swirl of protest. Depending on what hour you listen to the news bulletin, the UN climate negotiations have "come off the rails" or are "back on track" or have "stalled" or are "moving swiftly". Which is why the only people who really understand what's going on may be a small crew of folks from a group of computer jockeys called Climate Interactive. Their software speaks numbers, not spin – and in the end it's the numbers that count.

First number to know: 350. It's what scientists have been saying for two years is the maximum amount of carbon dioxide we can safely have in the atmosphere, measured in parts per million. Those scientists have been joined by an unprecedented outpouring from civil society: in late October, activists put on what CNN called "the most widespread day of political action in the planet's history," with 5,200 demonstrations in 181 countries, all rallying around that number. Three thousand vigils last weekend across the planet spelled out the number in candles. Thousands of churches rang their bells 350 times on Sunday, and yesterday the World Parliament of Religions, meeting in Melbourne and representing the "largest interreligious gathering on earth" sent an emergency 350 declaration here to Copenhagen.

The second number: 100. That's (roughly) how many countries are backing a 350 target here at Copenhagen. That's more than half the nations in attendance – unfortunately, they're the small, poor ones. But it's amazing to see them, in the face of enormous pressure, keeping the idea of real action alive. Yesterday Mohamed Nasheed, president of the Maldives, spoke to a roaring crowd of thousands: "We know what the laws of physics say: the most important number in the world is 350."

The third number: 4%. That's how much the US is offering to cut its emissions from their 1990 levels by 2020. Scientists tell us that the developed world would need to reduce by at least 40% to get us back on a 350 track, so the American offer is exactly an order or magnitude off. And they're not alone. All the rich countries, not to mention China, are looking to do as little as possible and still escape here with some kind of agreement they can hide behind.

The fourth number – and the most important one. When the folks at Climate Interactive plug in every promise made at these talks (the American offer on the table, the Chinese promise to reduce "energy intensity", the EU pledges, and so on) their software tells them almost instantly how much carbon they would eventually produce. When they hit the button last night, the program showed that by 2100 the world's CO2 concentrations (currently 390) would be – drumroll please – 770. That is, we would live in hell, or at least a place with a similar temperature.

So that's the scorecard. You may hear a lot of happy talk from world leaders over the next few days as they "reach a historic agreement". But that's how it all adds up.

• Bill McKibben is the coordinator of 350.org (http://www.350.org/)

Other Links:

[The Elephant in the Climate Change Living Room--Human Population Size & Growth - Chris]

Population control called key to deal
By Li Xing (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-12-10 07:37


COPENHAGEN: Population and climate change are intertwined but the population issue has remained a blind spot when countries discuss ways to mitigate climate change and slow down global warming, according to Zhao Baige, vice-minister of National Population and Family Planning Commission of China (NPFPC) .

"Dealing with climate change is not simply an issue of CO2 emission reduction but a comprehensive challenge involving political, economic, social, cultural and ecological issues, and the population concern fits right into the picture," said Zhao, who is a member of the Chinese government delegation.

Many studies link population growth with emissions and the effect of climate change.

"Calculations of the contribution of population growth to emissions growth globally produce a consistent finding that most of past population growth has been responsible for between 40 per cent and 60 percent of emissions growth," so stated by the 2009 State of World Population, released earlier by the UN Population Fund.

Although China's family planning policy has received criticism over the past three decades, Zhao said that China's population program has made a great historic contribution to the well-being of society.

As a result of the family planning policy, China has seen 400 million fewer births, which has resulted in 18 million fewer tons of CO2 emissions a year, Zhao said.

The UN report projected that if the global population would remain 8 billion by the year 2050 instead of a little more than 9 billion according to medium-growth scenario, "it might result in 1 billion to 2 billion fewer tons of carbon emissions".

Meanwhile, she said studies have also shown that family planning programs are more efficient in helping cut emissions, citing research by Thomas Wire of London School of Economics that states: "Each $7 spent on basic family planning would reduce CO2 emissions by more than one ton" whereas it would cost $13 for reduced deforestation, $24 to use wind technology, $51 for solar power, $93 for introducing hybrid cars and $131 electric vehicles.

She admitted that China's population program is not without consequences, as the country is entering the aging society fast and facing the problem of gender imbalance.

"I'm not saying that what we have done is 100 percent right, but I'm sure we are going in the right direction and now 1.3 billion people have benefited," she said.

She said some 85 percent of the Chinese women in reproductive age use contraceptives, the highest rate in the world. This has been achieved largely through education and improvement of people's lives, she said.

This holistic approach that integrates policy on population and development, a strategy promoting sustainable development of population, resources and environment should serve as a model for integrating population programs into the framework of climate change adaptation, she said.

(China Daily 12/10/2009 page10)

Copyright By chinadaily.com.cn. All rights reserved

Regulation, Not the "Free Market," Drives Technological Innovation

US left behind in technological race to fight climate change

A speech by the US energy secretary, Steven Chu, shows how America's unquestioning belief in the free market has held back technological innovation

guardian.co.uk 12/15/09


I have just been watching the tragic sight of a fallen giant flailing around on its back like a beetle, desperately trying to turn itself over.

The occasion was a speech by the US secretary of energy, Steven Chu. He is, of course, a Nobel physicist, brilliant, modest, likeable, a delightful contrast to the thugs employed by the previous administration. But his speech was, in the true sense of the word, pathetic: it moved me to pity.

Yesterday afternoon in Copenhagen – where the UN climate talks are entering their second week – Professor Chu unveiled what would have been a series of inspiring innovations, had he made this speech 15 years ago. Barely suppressing his excitement,
he told us the US has discovered there is great potential for making fridges more efficient, and that the same principle could even be extended to lighting, heating and whole buildings. The Department of Energy is so thrilled by this discovery that it has
launched a programme to retrofit homes in the US, on which it will spend $400m a year. . . . .

Copenhagen police release hundreds of detained activists
Only 13 protesters remain in custody after nearly 1,000 arrests during demonstrations at climate change summit

High-profile activist's arrest fuels fears of police crackdown in Copenhagen
Climate Justice Action spokesman to face charges, as Danish
police prepare for mass protests at Copenhagen's Bella centre
Bibi van der Zee
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 15 December 2009


A high-profile climate activist was arrested ahead of tomorrow's major protests planned outside the Copenhagen climate summit, fuelling anxiety about how the Danish authorities are policing demonstrations.

Tadzio Mueller, a spokesman for the umbrella group Climate Justice Action (CJA), was arrested today by plainclothes police as he left the Bella centre, where the official climate talks are taking place. The police are holding him at the Retorvej detention
centre, and he will be charged in court tomorrow morning. The police refused to say what charges will be brought. . . . .

Joe Lieberman, Veterans, & Health Care "Reform"

Joe Lieberman and the Health Care Train Wreck
Tuesday 15 December 2009
by: William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed


When last we heard from Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, he was throwing sand into the gears of the Democratic push for health care reform by declaring he would filibuster any legislation containing the so-called public option. "I feel so strongly about the creation of another government health insurance entitlement," said the senator back in November. "The government going into the health insurance business - I think it's such a mistake that I would use the power I have as a single senator to stop a final vote."

This pronouncement came at the same time as word got out that Lieberman was also planning to actively campaign for GOP candidates during the 2010 midterms, further undercutting his erstwhile party's hold on the majority in Congress."There's a hard core of partisan, passionate, hardcore Republicans," he said at the time. "There's a hard core of partisan Democrats on the other side. And in between is the larger group, which is people who really want to see the right thing done, or want something good done for this country and them - and that means, sometimes, the better choice is somebody who's not a Democrat."

For some reason, these twin insults did not motivate the Democratic Congressional leadership to expunge this hypocritical cretin from their ranks. Lieberman kept his committee chairmanship and was not even mildly censured by his colleagues. One month later, the decision to ignore his brazen disregard for his colleagues has come back to bite us all, for Mr. Lieberman has once again elbowed his way into the center of the health reform debate, and with a vengeance. "Mr. Lieberman threatened on national television to join the Republicans in blocking the health care bill, President Obama's chief domestic initiative," reported The New York Times on Tuesday. "Within hours, he was in a meeting at the Capitol with top White House officials. And on Monday night, Democratic senators emerged from a tense 90-minute closed-door session and suggested that they were on the verge of bowing to Mr. Lieberman's main demands: that they scrap a plan to let people buy into Medicare beginning at age 55, and scotch even a fallback version of a new government-run health insurance plan, or public option."

This turn of events is sickening and appalling on a couple of different levels.

First, of course, is the shameless reality that is Mr. Lieberman himself. During his 2004 presidential run, and again during his 2006 Senate campaign, Lieberman actively supported the public option's inclusion in any health care reform, and specifically supported the expansion of Medicare. As late as this past September, Lieberman continued to support such an expansion, as reported by The Connecticut Post. "As to how 47 million uninsured will afford coverage," said The Post, "Lieberman said only 12 million don't have insurance because they cannot afford it. By allowing citizens who are not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid to buy in for a rate below the private market, the government can extend coverage to more of those who are currently uninsured, he said."

That was then, and this is now. In one of the most astounding examples of political flip-floppery, Lieberman opened this week by declaring himself dead-set against the very health care reform policies he once championed, and once again announced his intention to don a Republican cloak and tear up the Democrats' legislative efforts. Again.

Why? One would have to be deep into a severe state of personal denial to believe Lieberman has legitimate concerns about the impending health care legislation, given the fact that he very recently supported the exact provisions he now wants removed or destroyed. The only sensible explanation would seem to be that Lieberman is actively needling the Democratic leadership, and has become such an obnoxious obstructionist only to keep his name in the news. Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo explains the situation, and what it means going forward:

The key issue senate Democrats now have in dealing with Joe Lieberman isn't his position on the Medicare Buy-In. They need to confront the problem that Lieberman isn't negotiating in good faith. No surprise that Republicans are giddy with what a problem he's creating for Harry Reid & Co. But in my conversations with them, it's as clear to them as it is to anyone else that he's now basically mocking his Democratic colleagues by moving the goal posts every time a new agreement is struck.

This puts the Democrats in an extremely difficult, politically untenable position. Yes, they need 60 votes. But they're not going to be able to hang on to Lieberman's vote long enough to get the bill passed. That now seems unquestionably clear. People who say that the Dems should just move to reconciliation don't necessarily realize the difficulties involved - either procedurally or politically, in terms of losing even more Democratic votes. Personally, I'd like to see them try it. But I don't know if it's possible.

Until a couple days ago I was close to certain a health care bill would pass. I still feel relatively confident one will simply because the Dems just don't have any choice but to pass one. Once it is passed, if it is, it's definitely time for the Democratic caucus to strip Lieberman of all the benefits he receives as a member of the Democratic caucus. But that doesn't accomplish anything at the moment. The only path I can see for the Dems is that they need to try to put 60 votes together with Sen. Snowe. Yes, that sounds crazy to me too. But I think she actually has a set of policy priorities that could be met. I don't think that's true with Lieberman. So further negotiating just means more game-playing.

The solution to all this, one would think, would be for the Democratic leadership in Congress to wrap Lieberman in bright red wrapping paper, slap on a bow, and ship him across the aisle to his ideological compatriots in the GOP as an early Christmas present. Strip him of his leadership position, show him the door, and publicly denounce him as nothing more than a stinking chunk of cholesterol clogging up the arteries of progress.

But no. Of course that isn't going to happen. Instead, Democrats appear poised to once again knuckle under to this fraud and further denude what has already become a half-a-loaf bill. According to several sources, Rahm Emmanuel and the White House are actively pressuring the Democratic leadership in Congress to give Lieberman whatever he wants in order to pass some form of health reform legislation, no matter how ragged, damaging and useless the final product may turn out to be.

The Senate won't vote on health care reform until next week, and the process has changed course two dozen times already, so the outcome of this latest idiot eruption is far from certain, but the writing does appear to be on the wall this time around. Joe Lieberman doesn't give a tinker's damn about the people he represents, the party that coddles him, his own positions on key issues or anything else beyond getting his mug in front of television cameras in the guise of someone who actually matters. The Obama administration is once again moonwalking away from doing the right thing on this issue, and the jellyfish pond that is Congress appears poised to do what jellyfish do: float, flop, flounder and drift with the scum in this rising tide.

In short, this whole thing is about to become a train wreck of galactic proportions. Stay tuned.

135,000 Uninsured Americans Will Die Before Health Reform Takes Effect, Analysis Finds

Over 6,600 Uninsured Veterans Will Die by 2013: Estimate

By Brad Jacobson


December 15, 2009 "Raw Story" -- If Democrats manage to pull off efforts to reform the US healthcare system and ensure coverage for millions who are currently without insurance, the new system -- by design -- will likely still leave tens of thousands to die without insurance before reforms kick in.

A Raw Story analysis, based on a recent Harvard Medical School study, estimates that 135,000 American citizens and over 6,600 US veterans will die due to a lack of health insurance before current proposed healthcare reform measures would take effect.

One hundred and thirty-five thousand US lives far exceeds the total number of Americans who died in the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the attacks of 9/11 combined. The lives of over 6,600 US veterans is more -- by over 1,300 -- than the total number of US soldiers who have thus far died in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a professor of medicine at Harvard University and co-author of the Harvard Medical School study, called Raw Story's estimates "quite reasonable."

Even more shocking is that these are modest estimates.

Health reform policy experts who spoke with Raw Story confirmed that the House and Senate bills would do virtually nothing for currently uninsured Americans until 2013 and 2014, respectively. Raw Story's calculations are based on the House health reform bill's projections. The Senate bill, however, would add another year of lethal lag time, driving up the estimated death rate by tens of thousands more US citizens and veterans. . . . .

Dean: Public Option Essential to Real Health Care Reform

The Associated Press reports:

Former Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean, a leading figure in the liberal wing of his party, said Monday he doubts there can be meaningful health care reform without a direct government role.

Dean urged the Obama administration to stand by statements made early on in the debate in which it steadfastly insisted that such a public option was indispensable to genuine change, saying that Medicare and the Veterans Administration are "two very good programs that have been around for a long time." Dean appeared on morning news shows Monday amid increasing indications the Obama White House is retreating from the public option in the face of vocal opposition from Republicans and some vocal participants at a town-hall-style meetings around the country.

The former Vermont governor was asked on NBC's "Today" show about President Barack Obama's statement over the weekend that the public option for insurance coverage was "just a sliver" of the overall proposal. Obama's health and human services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, advanced that line, telling CNN Sunday that a direct government role in a system intended to provide virtually universal coverage was "not the essential element." Dean, a physician, argued that a public option is fair and said there must be such a choice in any genuine shake up of the existing system.

"You can't really do health reform without it," he said. Dean maintained that the health insurance industry has "put enormous pressure on patients and doctors" in recent years.

He called a direct government role "the entirety of health care reform. It isn't the entirety of insurance reform ... We shouldn't spend $60 billion a year subsidizing the insurance industry." Dean also said he doesn't foresee any Republican support for a public option. "I don't think the Republicans are interested and in order to have a bipartisan bill, you've got to have both sides interested," he said.

Dean urges defeat of emerging health care bill
The Associated Press
Wednesday, December 16, 2009; 8:52 AM

WASHINGTON -- Former Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean argued Wednesday that the health care overhaul bill taking shape in the Senate further empowers private insurers at the expense of consumer choice.

"You will be forced to buy insurance. If you don't, you'll pay a fine," said Dean, a physician. "It's an insurance company bailout." Interviewed on ABC's "Good Morning America," he said the bill has some good provisions, "but there has to be a line beyond which you think the bill is bad for the country."

"This is an insurance company's dream," the former Democratic presidential candidate said. "This is the Washington scramble, and it's a shame."

Dean asserted that the Senate's health care bill would not prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage for preexisting conditions and he also said it would allow the industry to charge older people far more than others for premiums.

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., a prominent House liberal, protested the absence of any government-run insurance option in the Senate bill.

"We can't let the perfect be enemy of the good," Weiner said on CBS' "Early Show," "but we are reaching a tipping point."

When House and Senate negotiators go to conference to work out a compromise bill, Weiner said, "We should move away from some of the things the Senate has done and move back to where the House is. You need to contain cost. You do that with a public option."

Is Joe Lieberman Protecting Israel?

By Robert Parry

December 16, 2009 "Consortiumnews" - http://www.consortiumnews.com/2009/121509.html


Sen. Joe Lieberman’s latest threat to scuttle health-care reform – vowing to join a Republican filibuster to block an over-55 buy-in to Medicare, a proposal that he has long championed – is raising questions about his motives. But no one is mentioning the unmentionable, the cause that has come to define Lieberman’s career: Israel.

Is it possible that Lieberman’s obstructionist behavior doesn’t relate to Connecticut’s insurance industry or to his political ego – the two most cited explanations – but rather to a calculation that he can use his leverage on health care to limit the pressure that President Barack Obama can put on Israel to make concessions on a Mideast peace plan?

After all, the more common explanations of Lieberman’s behavior have holes in their logic.

While it is true that Lieberman’s constituent Hartford-based insurance companies fear any government intrusion in their industry, the actual proposals for the Medicare buy-in or the tightly constrained “public option” actually would benefit the industry in the near term.

Those uninsured Americans 55 to 64 are customers whom the insurance industry doesn’t want. They are the part of the uninsured population that is most likely to need medical care, which is why private insurers have driven up the rates so high that these people can’t afford to buy health insurance.

Letting these desperate Americans buy into Medicare wouldn’t cost the health insurance industry much of anything – and it would reduce the moral (and PR) crisis that has led so many Americans to view private insurers as vultures preying on the most vulnerable.

In his past position in favor of the Medicare buy-in, Lieberman has recognized this reality, noting that this over-55 group faces a particular crisis because they have “retired early or unfortunately have been laid off early” and can’t afford health insurance.

Though Lieberman has long been a major recipient of health insurance industry backing, that has never before prevented him from favoring this Medicare buy-in. Only now does Lieberman say that he would join a Republican filibuster to kill the entire bill if his earlier proposal is included.

So, Senate Democratic leaders have reportedly agreed to drop the buy-in provision to appease Lieberman even though such a watered-down Senate bill may complicate reconciliation with a more liberal House bill and is infuriating the Democratic base.

Killing the Public Option

Similarly, Lieberman has protested any inclusion of a government-run insurance option even if it is only triggered by the failure of private insurers to offer affordable alternatives or if it is so tightly constrained that it would attract only a few million customers, again drawn primarily from the ranks of Americans most in need of medical care.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that only about six million people would sign up for the House version of the public option whose rates would likely exceed those of private plans because the sick would gravitate to the government plan. The current Senate version, with a state-by-state opt-out provision, would draw even fewer customers, the CBO said.

Yet either version actually helps the health insurance industry by siphoning off sick people and thus allowing the industry to corner the market on healthier customers, where the biggest profits lie.

So, Lieberman may not be serving the industry’s best interests by jeopardizing passage of a health reform bill. Not only does the industry stand to pick up tens of millions of new customers who will be compelled to buy insurance – and sometimes with government subsidies – but a decent reform bill also blunts demands for more radical changes.

If Americans grow more furious with the current system – its rising costs and its failure to cover nearly 50 million people – voters might press for a single-payer approach which could eliminate private insurers altogether.

For these reasons, the Lieberman-is-in-the-pocket-of-the-insurance-lobby explanation isn’t entirely convincing.
. . . .
The Israel Factor

Which brings us to Israel, which arguably has become Lieberman’s most treasured priority in his political life.

Mark Vogel, chairman of the pro-Israel National Action Committee, once said, “Joe Lieberman, without exception, no conditions … is the No. 1 pro-Israel advocate and leader in Congress. There is nobody who does more on behalf of Israel than Joe Lieberman.”

It was Lieberman’s embrace of neoconservative ideology and his aggressive support for wars against Israel’s Muslim enemies, the likes of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, that led Connecticut Democrats to deny Lieberman the Senate nomination in 2006 and prompted his successful run as an Independent.

Partly because Obama opposed the Iraq War, Lieberman went on the stump for Republican John McCain in 2008, even questioning Obama’s patriotism.

Standing with McCain in August 2008, Lieberman called the election a choice “between one candidate, John McCain, who has always put the country first, worked across party lines to get things done, and one candidate who has not.’

Since the start of Obama’s presidency, Israel’s hawkish Likud government has made no secret of its concern that Obama might pressure it into making territorial and other concessions to the Palestinians and Syria to secure a Mideast peace agreement.

In Washington, the still-influential neocons also have been demanding that Obama continue Bush’s belligerent policies and side with Israel in a hard-line approach to Iran.

In that sense, Lieberman and the neocons have much in common with Republicans, such as Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, who declared in July that “If we’re able to stop Obama on this [health reform], it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.”

A broken Obama could be easier to manipulate regarding Mideast peace talks and Iran.
. . . .
Lieberman has been careful not to connect his disruptive behavior on health-care reform to his support for Israel, but there can be little doubt that a chastened Obama, either defeated on health care or forced to sign a bill that liberals will view as a betrayal, will have much less political capital to expend in applying pressure on Israel.

A hobbled Obama won’t be able to push Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt expansion of West Bank settlements or to take other steps that might lead to a Palestinian state. Obama also could be pushed around himself if Israel – itself an undeclared nuclear power – decides to launch airstrikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The Israel explanation for Lieberman’s behavior on health-care reform is the one that seems to make the most sense.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.

Simon Johnson on Economic "Reform"

“Wake Up, Gentlemen”
Posted: 15 Dec 2009 03:06 AM PST


The guiding myth underpinning the reconstruction of our dangerous banking system is: Financial innovation as-we-know-it is valuable and must be preserved.  Anyone opposed to this approach is a populist, with or without a pitchfork.

Single-handedly, Paul Volcker has exploded this myth.  Responding to a Wall Street insiders‘ Future of Finance “report“, he was quoted in the WSJ yesterday as saying: “Wake up gentlemen.  I can only say that your response is inadequate.”

Volcker has three  main points, with which we whole-heartedly agree:

1. “[Financial engineering] moves around the rents in the financial system, but not only this, as it seems to have vastly increased them.”

2. “I have found very little evidence that vast amounts of innovation in financial markets in recent years have had a visible effect on the productivity of the economy” and most important:

 3. “I am probably going to win in the end”.

Volcker wants tough constraints on banks and their activities, separating the payments system – which must be protected and therefore tightly regulated – from other “extraneous” functions, which includes trading and managing money.

This is entirely reasonable – although we can surely argue about details, including whether a very large “regulated” bank would be able to escape the limits placed on its behavior and whether a very large “trading” bank could (without running the payments system) still cause massive damage. 

But how can Mr. Volcker possibly prevail?  Even President Obama was reduced, yesterday, to asking the banks nicely to lend more to small business – against which Jamie Dimon will presumably respond that such firms either (a) are not creditworthy (so give us a subsidy if you want such loans) or (b) don’t want to borrow (so give them a subsidy).  (Some of the bankers, it seems, didn’t even try hard to attend – they just called it in.)

The reason for Volcker’s confidence in his victory is simple - he is moving the consensus.  It’s not radicals against reasonable bankers.  It’s the dean of American banking, with a bigger and better reputation than any other economic policymaker alive – and with a lot of people at his back – saying, very simply: Enough.

He says it plainly, he increasingly says it publicly, and he now says it often.  He waited, on the sidelines, for his moment.  And this is it.

Paul Volcker wants to stop the financial system before it blows up again.  And when he persuades you – and people like you – he will win.  You can help – tell everyone you know to read what Paul Volcker is saying and to pass it on.
By Simon Johnson

McCain Leads Senate Effort to Reinstate Glass-Steagall
December 15, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Throughout the financial crisis one law has been cited over and over as a main cause of the collapse and, more significantly, the resulting bailouts of “too big to fail” banks. That law is the Gramm-Leach-Biley Act, which repealed a New Deal-era financial regulatory rule known as the Glass-Steagall Act, which was signed into law by FDR to keep regular commercial banks separate from Wall Street investment banks. The law was repealed in 1999 by Bill Clinton; the pen that signed the law to repeal it is now hanging as a trophy in the halls of Citigroup’s corporate headquarters.

Now there’s a movement in the Senate to reinstate the Glass-Steagall protections. It’s being championed by Sen. John McCain [R, AZ] of all people. Newsweek reports:

John McCain lost the 2008 presidential election because of the financial crisis—at least that’s what his chief strategist, Steve Schmidt, suggested. “We were three points ahead on Sept. 15 when the stock market crashed. And then the election was over,” Schmidt said in a postmortem earlier this year. McCain was tarred with the regulatory failures of the Bush years, and it didn’t help that he had been a longtime acolyte of the Senate’s dean of deregulation, Phil Gramm, who once derided Americans as “a nation of whiners.” McCain also seemed to have few new ideas of his own about how to address the financial panic.

More than a year after the election, the Arizona Republican is looking to repair that reputation by joining up with Democratic firebrand Maria Cantwell to propose something that will be anathema to both Wall Street and the Obama administration. According to two congressional sources, the two maverick senators want to reinstate Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression-era law that forced the separation of regular commercial banking from Wall Street investment banking. The senators’ proposal echoes a failed amendment introduced in the House last week by Rep. Maurice Hinchey of New York.

The Senate prospects for the success of the McCain-Cantwell bill—which the two plan to announce together on Wednesday morning—seem bleak at best. But McCain and Cantwell join a still small but not insignificant insurgency of chronic doubters, including former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, who say not nearly enough is being done to change Wall Street and, in particular, to address the “too big to fail” problem. The issue is one of the few in Washington that can unite the left and right sides of the political spectrum. Democrats like Cantwell deplore Wall Street’s outsize role in the real economy and its lobbying influence, and conservatives such as McCain are appalled at the way the market system has been undermined—some would say rigged—by the power of the big banks.

By proposing a bill to reinstate Glass-Steagall, McCain and Cantwell are going well outside the usual D.C. thinking on financial regulation. An anonymous Treasury official, for example, is quoted in the article as saying, “I think going back to Glass-Steagall would be like going back to the Walkman.” Bringing back Glass-Steagall is something that has made a lot of sense to the grassroots and former officials who are no longer in power, but it hasn’t really found much support among people that are currently in positions of power in D.C.

There’s always more to the story than campaign contributions, but in cases like this it’s hard not to take a look. According to OpenSecrets.org, in 2008, financial firms gave an uncommonly large amount of money to the campaigns of current members of Congress. Included in their list (http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/recips.php?cycle=2010&ind=F)of top ten recipients for this year are such powerful senators as Senate Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Chuck Schumer [D, NY], Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] and Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd [D, CT].

U.S. gave up billions in tax money in deal for Citigroup's bailout repayment

Firms exempted from rule when U.S. sells its stake
By Binyamin Appelbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 16, 2009; A01

The federal government quietly agreed to forgo billions of dollars in potential tax payments from Citigroup as part of the deal announced this week to wean the company from the massive taxpayer bailout that helped it survive the financial crisis.

The Internal Revenue Service on Friday issued an exception to long-standing tax rules for the benefit of Citigroup and a few other companies partially owned by the government. As a result, Citigroup will be allowed to retain billions of dollars worth of tax breaks that otherwise would decline in value when the government sells its stake to private investors.

While the Obama administration has said taxpayers are likely to profit from the sale of the Citigroup shares, accounting experts said the lost tax revenue could easily outstrip those profits.

The IRS, an arm of the Treasury Department, has changed a number of rules during the financial crisis to reduce the tax burden on financial firms. The rule changed Friday also was altered last fall by the Bush administration to encourage mergers, letting Wells Fargo cut billions of dollars from its tax bill by buying the ailing Wachovia.

"The government is consciously forfeiting future tax revenues. It's another form of assistance, maybe not as obvious as direct assistance but certainly another form," said Robert Willens, an expert on tax accounting who runs a firm of the same name. "I've been doing taxes for almost 40 years, and I've never seen anything like this, where the IRS and Treasury acted unilaterally on so many fronts."
For rest of article, See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/15/AR2009121504534_pf.html