Friday, April 30, 2010

Arizona Clairifies Illegal Immigrant Law

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a new law Friday that clarifies certain provisions of the controversial illegal immigrant law she signed April 23 that drew national scorn from even Republicans and threats of economic boycotts by Latino advocates.

Rather than asking a suspected illegal immigrant on contact by police, the revision requires law enforcement to question the person on other law infractions before seeking documentation the person is in the state legally.

"These new statements make it crystal clear and undeniable that racial profiling is illegal, and will not be tolerated in Arizona," she said in a statement.

The changes include one strengthening restrictions against using race or ethnicity as the basis for questioning by police and inserts those same restrictions in other parts of the law. Another change expands possible state and federal violation to local civil ordinances  that can trigger questioning on immigration status.
Left unchanged is making it a crime to be in the state illegally, a provision that preempts the federal government.

While the added legislation may reduce the chances of racial profiling, it does not eliminate the burden of people questioned from producing legal papers which opponents claim few people legally in the country do.

Stephen Montoya, a Phoenix lawyer representing a police officer whose lawsuit was one of three filed Thursday to challenge the law, told the Arizona Republic the changes wouldn't derail the lawsuit because the state is still unconstitutionally trying to regulate immigration, a federal responsibility. He agreed the chances of racial profiling might be reduced.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, said the new wording regarding local civil ordinances could spur complaints of racial profiling based on complaints about cars parked on lawns and debris in yards.

Both the law and the changes to it will take effect July 29 unless blocked by a court or referendum filing.
Lawmakers approved the follow-on bill several hours before ending their 2010 session.

Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer 

Disastrous, Shameful Oil Spill Endangers Economy, Wildlife In Gulf

 Snorted one liberal cable television anchor, "What do you think of that 'Drill Baby Drill' thingy now," referring to recent chants by Sarah Palin and heard frequently by Republicans, conservatives and many voters during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Frankly, Virginia, I don't give a damn about the political fallout of the oil spill tragedy now washing ashore off the Gulf of Mexico. It will have a crippling effect on Gulf Coast businesses, still reeling from Hurricane Katrina, and and a killing effect on wildlife.

The reason is that politicians, environmentalists and oil producers all lie, promoting or protecting their turf. One example will suffice and I will then dive into the substance of the gulf disaster.

After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and several Fox News anchors stated categorically that not one drop of oil was spilled from the off-shore oil platforms in the Gulf.

Fact check: The U.S. Minerals Management Service reported the combined impact of both hurricanes resulted in 124 platform spills amounting to 17,700 barrels (714,000 gallons) of total petroleum products. Production was ceased for months on those damaged rigs.

Of course, those gallons are a drip compared to the estimated 210,000 gallons leaked daily from Deepwater Horizon's oil rig with no reliable estimate when it will be capped. The rig operated by British Petroleum bores 5,000 feet from the water surface into the continental shelf..

There is no clear answer whether the drilling devise had two independent safety features as required that are designed to prevent the explosion and fire that killed 11 platform crew.

A lawsuit filed against Halliburton Inc., the service contractor, improperly performed its job in cementing the well, "increasing the pressure at the well and contributing to the fire, explosion and resulting oil spill."

The oil rig has suffered a series of spills, fires and even a high seas ship collision because of equipment failure, human error and bad weather since it's operation began nine years ago, according to an article in Friday's Los Angeles Times.

The Times quoted federal inspectors and the Coast Guard saying such mishaps are not at all unusual.

Deepwater Horizon's oil rig is a complicated construction of pipes, concrete and valves that gave way 5,000 feet below in a manner that no one has yet been able to explain.

Scott Bickford, a lawyer for several Deepwater Horizon workers who survived the blast, said he believes a "burp" of natural gas rose to the rig floor and was sucked into machinery, leading to the explosion.

According to the Times, this oil platform since 2002 sustained numerous equipment and human failures, small fires and a total of 1,300 barrels of petroleum products dumped into the Gulf.

From 2000, the Coast Guard issued six enforcement warnings, one civil penalty, 18 incidents of pollution and 16 investigations of accidents covering fires to slip-and-fall accidents.

The U.S. worst oil spill in history was when the Exxon Valdez tanker spilled 10 million gallons on an Alaskan shoreline in 1989. At the rate the new Gulf spill is leaking, that amount will be surpassed in about 40 days.

This spill will have a critical economic impact on tourism and fishing industries along the Gulf coastline from Louisiana to Florida.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said the spill endangers 445 species of fish, 45 species of mammals, 32 species of amphibians and reptiles, and 134 species of birds.

The economic and ecological damage at its present rate will surpass that of the Exxon Valdez and the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969. The Santa Barbara Union Oil platform leaked an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 barrels of crude oil over a 10-day period, killing upwards of 10,000 birds and crippling the coastal economy.

National Oceanic Atmospheric Association spokesman Tom Brosnan said at a news conference today, "The challenge with this type of oil is it's going to float, and, depending on what the wind and waves do, it may stick around for a while."

Wildlife officials outline the species threatened by the Gulf spill.

Sea Creatures -- Bluefin tuna, bottlenose dolphin, sperm whale, oysters, West Indian manatee and the Gulf manhaden.

Land Creatures -- About 5 million migratory birds stop to lay eggs and others to feed.  When oil coats a bird's feathers it is no longer able to repel water or trap air, resulting in the bird's death by hypothermia. Some 96 species of migratory songbirds, such as warblers, buntings and swallows, make stops along the Gulf shore on their annual journey from the United States to Central and South America. The brown pelican, Louisiana's state bird, once on the endangered species list, is also at risk. Beach nesting birds, such as royal terns, sandpipers, the reddish egret and snowy plovers, will be negatively impacted as tar balls begin rolling in.their feathers.

Reptiles -- Both endangered species, the loggerhead turtle and the Kemp's ridley turtle come to the gulf to feed beginning in May, and lay their eggs along the coast's beaches. In addition, the endangered diamondback terrapin, which is found in the marshes of Alabama, may see its food supply compromised when the oil slick washes ashore. Even the alligator, an animal that is not now in danger of extinction, may encounter a steep decline in the fish it feeds on in the brackish estuaries that border the gulf.

Unlike man who seldom replenishes the spoils he robs from the earth, nature has a way of resurrecting its species over a long period of time.

There is a delicate balance in government policy that must be achieved weighing economic interests against the environmental impact of those decisions. If we destroy the environment, we destroy ourselves. It is a lesson we should have learned from Native Americans but didn't.

Government policy makers have short memories but nature doesn't. Sarah Palin, in particular, or Mike Huckabee, who may or may not want to be policy makers, should know from the Exxon Valdez accident and now the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that drilling and transportation of oil carries humongous risks and insults the intelligence of even the most harmless royal tern when they blithely chant "Drill Baby Drill."

It proves that our nation's energy policy cannot be dictated by sound bites.

As for the politics, the Gulf oil spill -- despite perhaps being a statistical anomoly as far as major accidents occur -- would shift the search for energy to cleaner sources such as solar panels and wind farms with the bridge to those sources being natural gas.

Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer

No Love Between Press And President

A survey of correspondents covering the White House concludes they have a "surprisingly hostile relationship -- as contentious on a day-to-day basis as any between press and president in the past decade."
Gee, after listening to Fox's Bill O'Reilly for years I thought the liberal left wing mainstream press was in the hands body and soul of the Democrats and particularly President Barack Obama.

Politico's Josh Gerstein and Patrick Gavin agree to that perception and illustrate it with this scene from last year's White House Correspondents Association dinner when Obama took the podium:
“Most of you covered me,"  the president said. "All of you voted for me," he joked.

 The two themes of malcontent are lack of access to the president and his White House henchmen playing favorites, primarily the New York Times.

Gee, I recall that the major complaint against Obama in the early days of his administration was that he was overexposed. His face was everywhere. He exploited every form of media known to mankind.

Despite the Obama administration's claim to transparency the two reporters discovered that Obama has conducted only one full-blown press conference in the last 10 months. The White House counters that by saying Obama has had 150 sit-down interviews with selected reporters during his time in the Oval Office.

Here's a laundry list Politico compiled:

— Day-to-day interaction with Obama is almost nonexistent, and he talks to the press corps far less often than Bill Clinton or even George W. Bush did. Clinton took questions nearly every weekday, on average. Obama barely does it once a week.

— The ferocity of pushback is intense. A routine press query can draw a string of vitriolic e-mails. A negative story can draw a profane high-decibel phone call or worse. Some reporters feel like they’ve been frozen out after crossing the White House.

— Except toward a few reporters, press secretary Robert Gibbs can be distant and difficult to reach — even though his job is to be one of the main conduits from president to press. “It’s an odd White House where it’s easier to get the White House chief of staff on the phone than the White House press secretary,” one top reporter said.

— And at the very moment many reporters feel shut out, one paper — The New York Times — enjoys a favoritism from Obama and his staff that makes competitors fume, with gift-wrapped scoops and loads of presidential face time.

One theme I found striking throughout the Politico account was this contradiction:

While reporters of all stripes hate it when their sources demand anonymity, nearly all of the high-profile White House correspondents would talk to the two reporters only on condition their names not be used.

One of the exceptions was veteran ABC reporter Ann Compton.who believes the White House is still in presidential campaign mode where they flawlessly controlled the agenda but have failed and react retaliatory since taking power.

“They ain’t seen nothing yet,” the longtime ABC reporter said. “Wait till they have to start really circling the wagons when someone in the administration is under attack, wait till there’s a scandal, wait till someone screws up, then it’ll get hostile.”



If you have the time, this Politico article is worth reading. My sense is that the constitutional relationship between press and president is the same as mixing oil with water. The reporter's job is adversarial, at least in theory. No one said it is easy. The grousing you hear from today's White House correspondents is no different than what we heard since the Truman administration. That's the way is should be. That and fear of being snubbed by sources within the White House is why so many reporters' names were anonymous. They didn't want to be portrayed as whiners.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Obama's 'Speech' On Energy Legislation

 The following is a speech written for President Obama in advance of the Senate introducing a climate/energy/jobs bill that Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) had scheduled to introduce this past Monday.

 “Yes, if we pass this energy legislation, a small price on carbon will likely show up on your gasoline or electricity bill. I’m not going to lie. But it is an investment that will pay off in so many ways. It will spur innovation in energy efficiency that will actually lower the total amount you pay for driving, heating or cooling. It will reduce carbon pollution in the air we breathe and make us healthier as a country. It will reduce the money we are sending to nations that crush democracy and promote intolerance. It will strengthen the dollar. It will make us more energy secure, environmentally secure and strategically secure. Sure, our opponents will scream ‘carbon tax!’ Well, what do you think you’re paying now to OPEC? The only difference between me and my opponents is that I want to keep any revenue we generate here to build American schools, American highways, American high-speed rail, American research labs and American economic strength. It’s just a little tick I have: I like to see our spending build our country. They don’t care. They are perfectly happy to see all the money you spend to fill your tank or heat your home go overseas, so we end up funding both sides in the war on terrorism — our military and their extremists.”

The author, in a fit of fantasy, is Thomas Friedman, the New York Times esteemed columnist.

He was ruing the legislation was sidelined because one of its authors, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) threw a fit and withdrew his support because at the time it appeared Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) was going to replace its priority with a new immigration reform law which hasn't even been crafted.

"For the first time," Friedman wrote, the government would "put a long-term fixed price on carbon — precisely the kind of price signal U.S. industry and consumers need to start really shifting the economy to clean-power innovations."

He said the bipartisan bill has the support of key industry players and the only way to get it jump started is President Obama's leadership. The president may have done just that Wednesday with the administration's announcement that it will allow construction of an off-shore wind farm near Cape Cod in Nantucket Sound.

"President Obama has done a superb job in securing stimulus money for green-technology and in using his regulatory powers to compel the auto industry to improve mileage standards to a whole new level. But he has always been rather coy when it comes to when and how much he will personally push an energy/climate bill that would fix a price on carbon-emitting fuels," Friedman wrote.

To counter Republicans running around screaming “carbon tax” and hurting Democrats in the midterm elections, Obama needs to take the leadership, he said.

"He needs to confront it head-on, because — call me crazy — I think doing the right and hard thing here will actually be good politics, too. I’d love to see the president come out, guns blazing with this message."




Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer

Hawaii To Birthers -- Drop Dead

Hawaii Gov. Linda expected to sign a law passed by the Legislature Tuesday that authorizes a state agency to ignore repeated requests for certified copies of  President Obama's birth certificate.

The law provides an exemption in the public records act to ignore repeated, duplicative requests from groups or individuals. Hawaii Health Director Dr. Chiyonne Fukino has issued two statements since 2008 verifying Barack Hussein Obama in deed was born in Honolulu in August 1961. 

Her office says they still receive from 10 to 20 email requests each week seeking verification of Obama's birth records.

Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer

Finally, Straight Talk From Arizona

Arizona's Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik says he will not enforce the state's new anti-immigrant law because it is unnecessary as well as  probably unconstitutional. It's nice to finally hear some straight talk out of that state rather than the echo chamber of political proponents and opponents.beating the drums and creating mass hysteria.

Here's the video clip from the Keith Olbermann "Countdown" show on MSNBC. With apologies for the Pillsbury commercial, note the politician blowhards preceding the sheriff's interview.

Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer

Feds Green Light Wind Farm For Cape Cod

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has reignited a civil war in Cape Code pitting neighbors against one another and drawing the wrath of the Kennedy family, no less,  by announcing development of the nation's first off-shore wind farm.

The project submitted by Wind Farms Associates has been nine years under regulatory review and would spread across 25 square miles of Nantucket Sound.

 The late Sen. Ted Kennedy opposed the project from the outset. His nephew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental attorney who supports clean energy, called Wind Farms proposed in his back yard a giant "boondoggle."

Salazar said "This will be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic Coast" as the Obama administration progresses to close the gap of wind industry power now being harnessed in Europe and China.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick who joined Salazar at the announcement in Boston said construction could begin in a year.

To appease the Kennedy family and other opponents, Salazar said he has limited the number of wind turbines to 130 from the original 170, moved them 5.2 miles from the nearest shore and 13.8 miles from Nantucket Island and ordered Wind Farms to paint them a color to blend in with the sea environment. Each turbine rises 440 feet above water.

The developers say wind will provide the 225,000 population of Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's vineyard 75% of their energy power source and 1,000 construction jobs. The project engineers claim the wind power will produce the equivalent of a medium-sized coal-fired plant and reduce carbon emissions the equivalent of 175,000 vehicles being taken off the road.

During the years of public hearings, opponents said the project would create an industrial eyesore in a pristine area which is a polite way of saying they didn't want it in their backyard. As the New York Times reported, Wind Farms Associates has produced some strange bedfellows, being favored by Greenpeace and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Robert Kennedy on Fox News earlier said,  “It’s going to cost the people of Massachusetts $4 billion over the next 20 years in extra costs."

Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, said Wednesday that the government had conducted an exhaustive review and that he had faith in the process. The other senator from the state, Republican Scott Brown, said he opposed the project. Brown said the wind farm would hurt tourism and boating in the area.

The Boston Globe in an editorial Tuesday called for Salazar to green light the project. It contended opponent arguments were "ultimately unpersuasive, especially when weighed against the urgent need to develop clean sources of energy in a world that is growing warmer."

Opponents vowed to seek an immediate injunction to stop it, although after nine years, the Times noted, the courts may decide that it has been reviewed enough.

Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Inmates Run the Asylum In Oklahoma

 If you think the Arizona Legislature has gone mad enacting Draconian anti-immigrant laws, the Oklahoma Legislature also dominated by Republicans are the inmates running the asylum.

The Sooner State is $1.2 billion in the red, its pro-life Republicans cut funding for teen child care centers which they support, while at the same time spending 10 times those savings fighting challenged anti-abortion legislation in the courts.

Within hours after the Oklahoma Senate voted 36-12 overriding the governor's veto last week, a New York reproductive rights group filed suit in an Oklahoma City district court claiming the new law violates a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy and constitutional rights to equal protection.

Democratic Gov. Brad Henry said the law likely would be overturned in costly litigation. He also criticized it for lacking stipulations for rape or incest victims.

To appreciate the extent two pro-life laws go to make it difficult for women seeking a constitutional right to an abortion, the Oklahoman newspaper described the provisions:

House Bill 2780

• Requires women seeking an abortion to be shown an ultrasound at least an hour before undergoing the procedure.
• The health care provider must describe fetal development, including the heart beat and development of organs or limbs. The woman can avert her eyes, but health care providers are required to give an explanation.

• Women seeking an abortion because of a medical emergency are not required to view an ultrasound image. A written certificate detailing the medical emergency will stay in a patient’s file for up to seven years.

• A doctor who does not comply with the ultrasound requirement can be sued by the woman seeking an abortion; the patient’s spouse, parent, sibling or guardian; or another health care provider.

• The district attorney or attorney general also can bring legal action to stop the provider from doing abortions.

• A physician who violates the injunction could be fined up to $100,000.

House Bill 2656

• Protects a health care provider from a lawsuit if their omission of information about the health or condition of an unborn child "contributed to the mother not having obtained an abortion” even when a fetus has severe disabilities.

Oklahoma lawmakers "stooped to a new low this week by passing two bills that constitute a reprehensible intrusion of government into women's lives," observed the San Jose Mercury News editorial.

In cutting off debate for the override vote, Sen. Anthony Sikes pointed out in support of the legislation that the author of the house bill was a woman, Rep. Lisa Billy as if only women know best. "This (ultrasound) is done a high percentage of the time prior, to determine the size and weight,” Sykes said. "And it’s done again after the murder of that child to make sure they didn’t leave any of it in the womb.”

But the cost of court-challenged legislation worries not only the Democratic governor but some Republicans in the Legislature.

"I respect my colleagues' right to put those issues out there, and I generally vote for most of them, if not all of them. But in these budget times, it is kind of concerning," said Republican state Rep. Doug Cox.

"It simply makes no sense to continue to pass unconstitutional measures that run up legal bills and waste taxpayers' money,"  Gov.Henry said.

In the past three years, the number of Oklahoma laws challenged in court increased from 15 in 2007 to 18 in 2008 and 24 last year. While the state attorney general's office handles some of the litigation in house, two earlier abortion bills ruled unconstitutional were litigated by outside law firms which billed the state $90,000.

"In addition to being constitutionally suspect, these bills are fiscally irresponsible," said University of Oklahoma constitutional law professor Joseph Thai. "Taxpayers may not appreciate that a challenged law costs hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to litigate."

Attorney Michael Salem who reached a "six figure" settlement for the state last year in a court-challenged state initiative law said billable attorney hours can climb into the thousands and more, adding insult to injury,  when the state loses and must pay the plaintiff's attorney fees and court costs.

Oklahoma's anti-immigration bill passed three years ago is still tied up in court litigation. The Legislature this year was outraged Attorney General Drew Edmondson declined to challenge Congress's new health overhaul law.

A bill the Oklahoma House is considering this session would authorize the death penalty for child rapists, a penalty the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in a Louisiana case two years ago.

Tom Daxon, a former budget director under Republican Gov. Frank Keating said lawmakers should only pick legal fights they think they can win. "If we have a situation where we're fighting constitutional battles on 20 bills, that could become a significant factor, and an especially significant factor given the budget situation," Daxon said.

And those budget cuts for child care? Democratic Sen. Andrew Rice, reminded lawmakers of cuts in this year’s budget that did away with prenatal care at an Oklahoma City school for teen mothers.

"When the budget comes down the road, let’s ask ourselves if we’re being pro-life with the budget,” said Rice. "These girls did what we wanted them to do. They had their babies. Are we going to find the money to enable them to take care of unborn babies and babies when they’re born?”


 I see a disconnect in reality with the Republican Legislature in Oklahoma. They cut funds for prenatal and child care for a program their conservative values support. At the same time they spend taxpayers money as if it's going out of style to defend legislation they know in advance will be challenged or killed in court. That's not being penny wise and pound foolish. It is insanity as in repeating the same mistake over and over until by some remote chance believing they will get it right. These are the same people who complain government is too intrusive and chant slogans as "Get Out Of Our Lives." I challenge anyone from Oklahoma -- hell, even across America -- to convince me otherwise.

Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer 

Game Over, Debate Open For Financial Reform

Threatened with mandatory sessions into the weekend, Republicans caved in late Wednesday after three consecutive days of filibuster votes and agreed by unanimous consent to begin debates on the chamber's version of finance reform.

The joke circulating the Capitol corridors was that Senate Minority Leader Mitch O'Connell, who kept the Republicans in line, did not want to be deprived of returning home to Kentucky to watch Saturday's running of the Kentucky Derby.

The Washington Post reported McConnell was willing to concede as long as Democrats would allow a reasonable number of amendments to the bill, a 1,300-page monstrosity authored by Senate Finance Committee chairman Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut).

The political grandstanding was an effort by Democrats to embarrass Republicans, portraying them as pawns of the banking financial lobbies, extremely unpopular among the nation's voters. Republicans argued they were attempting to make the legislation tougher against unruly banking activities they described as unregulated "gambling casinos."

With politics finally taking a back seat to substance, I offer you a broad outline of the Senate financial reform bill and the House version passed months ago.


Lawmakers want to squash the idea that some financial firms are "too big to fail" and avert anymore bailouts like AIG's and Citigroup's. But they also want to prevent the potential for disaster that can come from refusing to bail out troubled firms, as the Bush administration did in 2008 with Lehman Bros.
Seeking a middle ground between bailout and bankruptcy, the Senate bill sets up a new process for "orderly liquidation" of large firms that get into trouble. Republicans object to parts of the bill that would let the fund borrow more money from the U.S. Treasury if needed.
The House bill, like the Senate's, sets up a new liquidation process, but it would be simpler to invoke and it would come with a higher taxpayer and bank assessment price-tag.
Neither bill in their present forms guarantees no bailouts if a large firm such as Goldman Sachs is about to collapse.


Democrats want to put a stop to abusive home mortgages and deceptive credit cards. The Senate bill creates a financial consumer protection bureau inside the Federal Reserve to regulate such products, which are now overseen inadequately by several regulators.
Obama and many Democrats want the watchdog to be an independent agency, with more power than a Fed unit would have. The House bill included the White House proposal for an independent agency.
If the bill is enacted, consumers can expect stronger protections. Credit card firms, mortgage lenders and payday loan companies all face a tougher regulatory regime ahead, regardless of where the watchdog is situated.


Obama wants to ban risky trading unrelated to customers' needs at banks that enjoy a competitive edge in the market because they have some form of taxpayer support. Obama proposed a ban on such proprietary trading in January with adviser Paul Volcker, a former Federal Reserve Board chairman, at his side. The so-called "Volcker rule" may become law, but probably not as written.
Provisions embodying the Volcker rule are in the Senate bill, but it leaves the door open to regulators watering down or invalidating the rule later. The Volcker rule is not in the House bill, which was approved before Obama unveiled it.
Volcker, a widely respected economic sage, says enacting his rule would help head off the next financial crisis. Large financial firms could lose a major profit center if the rule becomes law, but the Senate bill as written falls well short of making that a certainty.


The unpoliced, $450-trillion over-the-counter derivatives market was a hothouse for risk during the boom years that greatly amplified the crisis when it finally hit.
The Senate bill would impose a new set of rules along the lines of those sought by Obama. He wants to force as much of the derivatives traffic as possible through exchanges, electronic trading platforms and central clearinghouses.
The House bill is similar but exempts a wider range of end users of financial contracts from mandatory central clearing.
A handful of Wall Street megafirms -- Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley -- dominate the market. The substantial profits they reap from it could be reduced if more transparency and accountability impinged on their franchise. It would protect investors such as those who lost billions in offerings promoted by Goldman Sachs, as an example from the civil suit brought against the firm by the Securities Exchange Commission.


Lawmakers want some sort of new entity that can spot and head off the next crisis -- something that existing regulators have failed repeatedly to do.
The Senate bill would set up a nine-member council of regulators, chaired by the Treasury secretary. The House bill proposes a similar interagency council but gives the Fed a bigger role as chief policy agent.
Big banks and financial firms would be forced into a tighter regulatory straitjacket than their midsized and small rivals under Congress' proposals.
The jigsaw puzzle of the U.S. bank supervision system let problems fester in the cracks. But efforts to fix it have lost headway amid resistance from turf-protecting agencies and bank lobbyists keen to preserve the status quo.
The Senate bill would let the Fed keep oversight of large bank holding companies with assets over $50 billion. That would cover about 44 major firms, including giants already under the Fed, such as Citigroup and Bank of America. The Fed would lose authority over state banks with less than $50 billion in assets, under the Senate bill. Those banks would shift to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, which would be in charge of all state banks and thrifts, as well as holding companies of state banks under $50 billion.
National banks with assets below $50 billion would be under the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which would also absorb the Office of Thrift Supervision, which would close.
The House bill preserved the Fed's and the FDIC's bank supervision roles intact.
Banks would lose the ability to shop around for the weakest regulator.


These two giant mortgage lenders were responsible for issuing most of the sub-prime loans that led to the 2007 housing market collapse. They are EXEMPT from the current legislation under debate. Congress essentially took control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2009. Both Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and the Senate's Chris Dodd said new rules regulating these two giants will be addressed in separate legislation.

Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

From Yesteryear, Tea Party Motto Might Be "In Your Heart, You Know We're Right"

 I didn't realize it at the time I was growing up in Orange County, Calif., in the 1950s that a large percentage of family friends were members of the Tea Party movement before the name became a part of our national discussion some six decades later.

They were white, well-educated middle and upper class folks who recognized the country was headed in a direction foreign to them. No, it wasn't big government because they had experienced that already with the Roosevelt administration.

The group had its extreme fringes fueled by Sen. Joesph McCarthy and Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society who peddled fear that a "Red Was Under Every Bed."

By the time the Kennedy administration came, that fear transferred to a resentment that minorities were gaining special treatment from the government. Programs such as affirmative action and quotas were repugnant to their way of life. Mandatory busing of black children to formerly white schools in urban areas was social engineering they detested.

The whites were losing their grip on the highest rung of the nation's power ladder and it made those who clung to those beliefs angry.

By1964 the rallying cry for my people was echoed by Sen. Barry Goldwater in his bid for the presidency with the slogan, "In Your Heart, You Know We're Right."

It comes as little surprise to me that the mutation of the Tea Party movement today has the same DNA of decades earlier.and probably farther back to the days of the "No Nothing" party. As a social and political phenomenon, they are diced, sliced and dissected by many in polls and academic circles.

The reason? They pose a threat to the status quo.

One of the earliest academic studies suggest 25% of Tea Party members polled hold strong racial resentment which explains the widely distributed news video footage of their rallies holding signs depicting President Obama as a witch doctor who promotes "white slavery."

"The Tea Party is not just about politics and size of government. The data suggests it may also be about race," said Christopher Parker who directed the study for the University of Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexuality.

One of the questions asked in the survey of respondents in California and six contested battleground states in the November midterm elections was blacks could improve their economic standing "without special favors" as other ethnic groups such as the Irish and Italians did. While 88% of Tea Party members agreed, their opponents disagreed by 56%.

Because of a national shifting of demographics where Hispanic and minority births are outpacing white births, the Tea Partiers "feel a loss ... like their status has been diminished," said David Bositis of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

"If you listen to [their] language, it's always about 'taking our country back.' But it's really not taking the country back as is. It's taking the country back"—as in time, said Bositis...(T)hey use coded language"—questioning the patriotism of the president or complaining about "socialist" schemes to redistribute wealth.

Bositis, who is not an academic, wonders where the Tea Partiers were during the Bush administration when two wars and a drug entitlement program for seniors helped plunge the nation from a surplus into a trillion dollar deficit.

Naturally, Tea Party activists bristle at the labeling in broad, sweeping terms that the splintered coalition of groups are racist. As Dana Kilcullen, founder of Tea Party Fort Lauderdale pointed out, the reason few blacks are members is because 95% of them voted for Obama in 2008.

There is an overwhelming tendency in the media to highlight the more extreme elements of the Tea Party and overlook the honest passions the vast majority have against banks which plunged the nation into economic chaos and the government spending money they don't have.

Typically, the media focuses on arguments from people who I heard complain about essentially the same thing 60 years ago except this time it reflects current events. Here's the concluding paragraph in Newsweek's analysis of the Tea Party:

."It really makes me mad," says Tom Fitzhugh, a Tea Party activist in Tampa. "They have tried to portray us as a bunch of radical extremists." He considers Obama an abomination—possibly "the most radical-voting senator that ever was" and someone likely to "take us down the path of destruction." He believes the administration is intent on taking away his guns, trampling on states' rights, and opening the borders with Canada and Mexico. He has serious doubts that Obama was born in the U.S. and suspects that the president is a closet Muslim. (There's no evidence to support any of these accusations.) But his anger has nothing to do with race, he says. The real issue is that Obama is "taking down the Constitution and the way it's governed us for [hundreds of] years." All he wants, in other words, is to take his country back.

 Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer

Seven New Yorkers Walk By As Homeless Man Dies of Stab Wounds

 A homeless man lay in a pool of blood from stab wounds after attempting to rescue a woman being attacked while seven New Yorkers walked and gawked passing by for an hour, police said.

Police said it was unknown if Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax, a Guatemalan immigrant, was dead as passersby watched. It took four 911 calls until police and firemen arrived at the correct address and determined. he had died of the wounds.

Detectives reconstructed the crime scene from a store's video camera. The footage showed seven people going by, some turning their heads to gawk and one who turned the body over, exposing what appeared to be blood on the sidewalk, and then walking away.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said Tale-Yax, 31, was walking behind a man and a woman in Queens at about 6 a.m. April 18 when the pair began fighting. The man and woman ran off in different directions before the immigrant caught up with the male. The surveillance camera filmed the stabbing.

No arrests have been made as of Monday.

In 1964, the media exaggerated the sensational murder case of Kitty Genovese in which initial reports claimed 38 witnesses watched or heard and failed to intervene or even contact police as a serial murderer raped and assaulted her.

The American Psychologist published a story in 2007 which debunked most of the media reports of the Genovese case which is one of many documented accounts of bystander effect, a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases where individuals do not offer help in an emergency situation when other people are present.

Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer 

Bush-Cheney In 2010

 Former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have taken different paths after leaving the White House but neither can escape the wrath of their liberal critics.

Chris Matthews on his MSNBC show "Hardball" Monday was both harsh and catty on news that Bush's memoirs will be published Nov. 9. Matthews, author of several books with paltry sales, sniped that Bush's book obviously must be ghost-written.

David Corn, the man from Mother Jones, opined on Politics Daily,  that the "Dark Lord," as he calls Cheney, will crawl out of his bunker during the campaign for midterm elections and offer his services to any Republican candidate who will have him.

Corn's objectivity of Cheney is akin to Alec Baldwin writing nice about Kim Bassinger.

These (Corn and Mathews) are the same guys who criticize Fox News for wailing unfairly over President Obama.

I don't pretend to be the last civil person in the country still standing. While in office for eight years, I was convinced Bush was the dumbest president of all time and the worst since Millard Fillmore. I figured Cheney for what he was -- a sinister, evil manipulator whose thirst for power was thwarted and spent the second term sulking.

But, hey!. They're gone, out of power, but not out of mind since we're still cleaning up the mess they created. I say let bygones be bygones.

No, I will not buy Bush's book "Decision Points" by Crown Publishers selling for $35 nor the autographed copy for $350. According to the flack promoting the book it is "gripping, never-before-heard detail" on such historic events as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the 2000 presidential election along with Bush's decision to quit drinking, his relationship with his family and other personal details.

I am curious, honestly, what he writes about George H.W. Bush, his father, who was portrayed in the movie "W" as a snobbish Ivy League patrician who heaped praise on his son as often as he could throw a manhole cover 90 feet, the distance between first base and second.

"Since leaving the Oval Office, President Bush has given virtually no interviews or public speeches about his presidency," Crown said in a statement. "Instead, he has spent almost every day writing 'Decision Points,' a strikingly personal and candid account revealing how and why he made the defining decisions in his consequential presidency and personal life."

Here's how Corn describes Cheney, who suffered his fifth heat attack in February:

During the previous months, he had emerged regularly to accuse President Barack Obama of undermining the national security of the United States. Repeatedly, he had claimed that Obama — who expanded the war in Afghanistan and who has stepped up the use of drones to kill Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives — was soft on the terrorists.  

Okay, David. We get the picture.

Corn suggests Cheney is turning to political endorsements which may or may not be a kiss of death on candidates. With his popularity soaring from 19% when he left office to 38% today, who knows?

Cheney has endorsed Tea Party fav Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate in Florida and Trey Grayson over the libertarian Republican Rand Paul for Senator in Kentucky. His endorsement for Kay Bailey Hutchinson in the Texas governor's race didn't turn out to well as she lost by 20 points, Corn is happy to remind us.

The gleeful Corn was flabbergasted that Cheney considered telling Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy to commit a physically impossible act upon himself while sitting as Presiding Officer of the Senate as "sort of the best thing I ever did."

My my, gentlemen. Can't we just get along?

Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer

Monday, April 26, 2010

Arizona Law Author Not As Portrayed By Rachael Maddow

 I happened to be watching Rachael Maddow's show on MSNBC Monday night and naturally my interest peaked when she introduced viewers to the man who she said wrote the Arizona law that allows police officers to ask for legal papers from suspected illegal immigrants.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the law Friday and ever since the state has been subject to ridicule by immigration reform advocates, protests from Mexicans and sanctions from Mexican businessmen shipping supplies into the state.

What Maddow reported may well be true for the most part but linking the bill's alleged author as some right-wing nut likely was a step too far.

He is Kris Kobach, 43, an attorney who has done work for the Federation For American Immigration Reform (FAIR) which she described as a far-right racist organization. Kobach is currently running for Kansas secretary of state.

I can't vouch for FAIR's dubious credentials as Maddow described them. I suggest you first see the video of Maddow's segment on the Arizona law.

In that video she refers to Kobach boasting his authorship of the law on his website. That is not true. What she referred to in fact was a website of the Wichita Eagle. The poltical blog wrote:

"Kris Kobach, the University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor who hopes to win the Kansas secretary of state seat this year, got a big victory in Arizona. Kobach helped write the landmark, though misguided, legislation to turn immigration offenses into state crimes, including giving police powers to stop and arrest undocumented residents. The Republican governor is expected to sign the bill. The Association of Chiefs of Police opposes it; Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said that “anyone who looks Latino or has an accent can be swept up, arrested and detained while their immigration status is verified.” Kobach told Time: “There are some things that states can do and some that states can’t do, but this law threads the needle perfectly.”

I believe Maddow does a service exposing websites to the sometimes devious creatures supporting them. But, in the case of Arizona law SB 1070 that successful plaintiffs can be reimbursed for court costs and attorney fees does not mean that FAIR would benefit as she alleges.

The FAIR website has no reference to Kobach. Kobac's website has no mention of affiliation with FAIR.

As much as I dislike the Draconian law in Arizona, I think it would be fair on Maddow's part to seek Kobach out and put him on her show. I would like to hear his view on the law, not her spin.

Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer

Did You Hear The One About the Jewish Merchant And The Taliban Fighter?

National Security Advisor retired Marine Gen. Jim Jones told a joke about a Jewish merchant and Afghanistan Taliban fighter in opening remarks to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy this past weekend.

It drew laughter from the group and an immediate slapdown by Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League Jones immediately apologized.

Here's the joke as reported by Mark Silva of the website The Swamp.

"In order to set the stage for my remarks, I'd just like to tell you a story that I think is true. It happened recently in southern Afghanistan.
"A member of the Taliban was separated from his fighting party and wandered around for a few days in the desert, lost, out of food, no water. And he looked on the horizon and he saw what looked like a little shack and he walked towards that shack. And as he got to it, it turned out it was a little store own by a Jewish merchant.
"And the Taliban warrior went up to him and said, "I need water, give me some water." And the merchant said, "I'm sorry, I don't have any water but would you like a tie. We have a nice sale of ties today."
"Where upon the Taliban erupted into a stream of language that I can't repeat, about Israel, about Jewish people, about the man himself, about his family, and just said, "I need water, you try to sell me ties, you people don't get it."
"The merchant stood there until the Taliban was through with his diatribe and said, "Well I'm sorry I don't have water for you and I forgive you for all of the insults you've levied against me, my family, my country. But I will help you out. If you go over that hill and walk about two miles there is a restaurant there and they will have all the water you need."
"And the Taliban, instead of saying thanks, still muttering under his breath, disappears over the hill, only to come back an hour later, and walking up to the merchant says, "You're brother tells me I need a tie to get into the restaurant." 

Really, now, is that going to sink U.S.-Israeli relations further into the ground as some thin-skinned pundits assert?

Lighten up, guys and gals.

Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer

Fact-Checking The Newsmakers

The Senate late Monday voted 57-41 to block floor debate on the financial reform bill, sending it back to Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd's Senate Finance Committee for additional bipartisan haggling. Republicans are probably correct that the legislation needs more work to eventually insure passage.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) told David Gregory, moderator of "Meet The Press", on Sunday that negotiations were close.

"Inches?" asked Gregory.

 "Well--but inches sometimes are miles, but I'm hoping they're half-inches," Shelby replied.

During the MTP segment, Shelby appeared to me as the cat who just ate the canary. He was cautious and succinct in his comments unlike the loquacious Dodd. Before interrupted by Gregory's question, Shelby had embarked on his longest answer.

This is a very complicated piece of legislation, over 1,300 pages as the Dodd bill now stands.  But we're--what we're trying to do is improve two or three things in it.  It's, it's very, very tedious.  We're going to continue to work today, as Sen. Dodd said.  I think we're closer than we've ever been.  And will we get a bill by tomorrow?  I, I doubt it.  I would always hope so because there's so, so much involved.  But I think we will get a bill.  If the Democrats want a bill and will give us some things that we think that are substantive in nature, like make the "too big to fail," send a message that nothing is too big to fail in this country and tighten up the language. There's some flexibility in the language there that we're talking about is--and...

Shelby was quoted by Reuters Monday morning telling a group of bankers: "If we hang together on the floor, we can create critical mass." Whatever that means.

Okay, this is a long-winded end run around the selling of financial reform. The argument is divided into two parts. One is the substantive nature of the legislation. The other is the politics. There is a third party to this issue. That would be the voters. They think the politicians who make the rules are idiots and the bankers crooks.

For voters to understand the substance of the legislation, they are required to download a pdf of the Senate bill which runs about 1,300 pages. The chances of that happening is about as remote of a fifth grader understanding Enstein"s theory on relativity.

Accordingly, voters are at the mercy of politicians, bankers and the media in all its forms to explain it. Good luck. Most people listen to only what they want to hear that confirm their preconceived beliefs.

The politics of financial reform is as easy to explain as eating the icing on a cake.

Senate Republicans, as they have illustrated in the past, would prefer to vote against any Obama administration and Democratic proposal on principle as the party of no. Financial reform is different because Republicans recognize their voters want it. So they are holding Dodd's legislation hostage until they receive concessions that Shelby and his cohorts believe will make it stronger -- or as some Democrats believe will grease the bankers' greed machine.

We are told that substantive measures such as no bailouts for banks, an early warning system to detect high-risk deals in the derivative default markets, and a consumer protection agency are included in the package.

I'm sitting here, reviewing the evidence, and can't help wondering that the reform President Obama once touted as never again allowing the financial institutions leading us into a major depression is an act of unfilled promises.

And, here, I give Gregory credit for this question Sunday that essentially went unanswered:

All right.  But, but, but, but there--people I talk to on Wall Street say that kind of rhetoric is totally over the top, that they want stringent regulation but that there are details that are very important that, frankly, a lot of senators and congressmen and women don't understand because of their complexity and yet they're willing to just, because of this political atmosphere, pass sweeping regulation that could hurt competitiveness, that could send jobs overseas and all the, all the rest..

This leads me to the second tier of this essay and that is the rash of criticism our top news gathers, particularly David Gregory as moderator of the once esteemed "Meet The Press" program, are receiving from competitors and political website commenators.

Gregory last week refused to commit to a fact-check analysis of his show, a challenge initiated by Jack Tapper of ABC News with other less high-profile critics following suit. For details on that skirmish, I suggest you check out Jack McDonough's  Swimming Freestyle website and Steven Benen's Politcal Animal column in Washington Monthly.

In reviewing the transcripts of Sunday's show, I did see an opening for Gregory challenging Sen. Shelby on this exchange:

MR. GREGORY:  If the, if the, if the, if the complaint is government's not up to it, we had regulators before, can they do it this time, and we're so worried about bailouts, look at the track record of bailouts so far.  The president was boasting yesterday that GM and Chrysler have paid off their debts, not completely, but, but, but way ahead of schedule.  TARP is now $186 billion back.  The overall payment is supposed to be around $87 billion.  The record's been pretty good that the government's and the taxpayer have done OK so far in bailouts, have they not?
SEN. SHELBY:  First of all, the payback by General Motors and Chrysler will never happen, not all of it.  That's misleading, even what the president said there.  And they paid back some money that they were already given by the TARP money.  They haven't paid back the other, and they won't.  Some of the banks have paid back the money, and that's good.

As The Moderate Voice's  Robert Stein pointed out, Gregory's interview a week ago Sunday with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was a sorry demonstration of understanding the complexities of our financial institutions and the substance of the financial reform legislation in particular.

As a result,, I watched MTP Sunday, and downloaded the transcript, and am relatively secure in the belief that Mr. Gregory did his homework before the show featuring Dodd and Shelby.

I think we must cut Gregory and his ilk some slack when it comes to challenging facts in interviews with self-serving politicians. It is a fine line in talk television.

On one extreme is Fox News giant Bill O'Reilly who oftentimes trashes the interviewee, sending the segment into the cutting room floor.

George Stephenopoulos of ABC agreed to fact-checking after criticism for allowing a politico go unchallenged.

There is Chris Mathews, host of MSNBC's "Hardball" who can be a bulldog holding lightweights such as Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann accountable when she suggests the media should investigate Congress members for their patriotism.

But the newsman who got it right from the start was the late Tim Russert who not only did his homework, challenged stupid self-serving politicians for contradictory remarks but forced the people whom he interviewed to sweat and prepare before appearing on "Meet The Press." Russet had a knack of axing a dimwit such as the Klan's David Dukes and then quickly moving on to continue the interview without the verbal pyrotechnics of a Bill O'Reilly.

That, I am certain, is the problem faced by David Gregory. He's following in the footsteps of a giant in the industry. It is akin to the names of coaches we have long since forgotten who followed the legendary Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers in the National Football League and John Wooden  who won nine national college basketball championships at UCLA.

Gregory has had time to get comfortable in his job, perhaps received a good kick in the ass by his fact-checking critics, but the poor soul may never walk away from the shadows of the broad shoulders of Tim Russert.

Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer

Sunday, April 25, 2010

100,00 Rally Against Marine Air Base On Okinawa

Tensions between the United States, Japan and the people of Japan's Okinawa island are so strained over a U.S. Marine air base that the long-brewing controversy could topple the Tokyo government, Reuters news agency reports.

About 100,000 people rallied Sunday near the Futenma air base demanding the facility moved off the island in defiance of a pending 2006 agreement that it be relocated to a northern, less populous area of Okinawa.

Another proposal to move parts of the base 100 miles from Okinawa to the small island of Tokunoshima was greeted there with about 15,000 protesters last week.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama arbitrarily set a decision deadline for May but Tokyo media say Okinawans believe he has mishandled the controversy. Hatoyama's Democratic Party swept to power last year with a 70% majority but support has waned to about 30% pending a poll of its upper house in July to enact the base relocation smoothly.

"To save the life, property and living environment of citizens, we Okinawans urge both Japanese and U.S. governments to give up the relocation of the Futenma airfield," based on a 2006 pending pact, Kyodo News quoted a resolution adopted at the rally as saying.
In the campaign that swept his Democratic Party to power last year, Hatoyama had raised hopes the airbase would be moved off Okinawa, if not outside Japan entirely. 

However, Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada reportedly informed U.S. Ambassador John Roos Friday that Tokyo was leaning in favor of the 2006 deal with some runway design changes to the northern part of Okinawa.

The Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is home to about 4,000 Marines of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. The air station operates a variety of fixed and rotary-wing aircraft in support of the III Marine Expeditionary Force. It also is used by a United Nations air group. It is.situated in the center of Ginowan City (pop. 89,000).

The locals are upset at the base operations because of noise and pollution. In August 2004 a Marine helicopter crashed into Okinawa International University injuring three crew but none on the ground.

Three Marines raped a 12-year-old Okinawa girl in 1995 that infuriated Ginowan residents and triggered the animosity of relations between islanders and the U.S.

Futenma Airfield was a World War II Imperial Japanese air base until it was captured during the Battle of Okinawa in April 1945. It was initially used by the Eighth Air Force to station B-29 strategic bombers in the planned invasion of the Japanese mainland..

Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer

Coffee, Tea Or Me?

 Under the category every little bit of news helps, the National Coffee Party Sunday was featured by Newsweek. Its soft-spoken Korean-American founder stressed she hoped the group can overcome the temptation to shout, scream, spit, rant, curse and grab attention as does those nasty people in the Tea Party movement.

Lots of luck, Annabel Park.

For those who muddle through life without a Facebook page such as myself, the Coffee Party is the progressive's answer to the conservative Tea Partiers. All Park asks is members keep a civil tongue and calmly and intelligently discuss the nation's pressing issues.

The Newsweek article wasted no time documenting a National Coffee Day gathering -- 500 meetings throughout the country several Saturday's ago -- in which she was the star attraction at Washington D.C.'s extremely liberal clientele at Busboys and Poets cafe.

But from the moment folks in the crowd stood up to speak their minds, Park knew these people had not come to sip cappuccinos and set an example of civility for an overheated nation. They were angry. They hated the Tea Party, and the Republican Party. They wanted to get even. One audience member said America was under the thumb of oligarchs and denounced "moneyed interests." A few people hissed when Sarah Palin's name was mentioned. 

... Park, a 42-year-old Korean-American with a smile that can only be described as "kind," regularly tried to steer the talk back to the group's more centrist principles. But when someone asked how many people in the room were Republicans, all 80 hands remained down. "I like the civility idea, but I hate the Tea Party people," said attendee Karen Anderson. By the end of the event, some in the crowd had decided the movement, barely two months old at the time, needed a new leader. China Dickerson, a 26-year-old community organizer, said the Coffee Party wouldn't last "unless we get someone a little more powerful to head it." She wanted a rabble-rouser, "not someone that says we can all work together." 

Park, who admits she's an amateur in the political arena, stood her ground.  "We don't want conflict and confrontation," she said.

Launching of the Coffee Party in January triggered an avalanche of right-wing attacks claiming all sorts of nasty charges that Park worked for the Obama presidential campaign and the group is financed by the world's most evil monster George Soros and supported by the equally sinister MoveOn.Org. One on-line commentator claimed the ethnic Korean leader was an agent for the Chinese Community Party.

The Coffee Party website denies all charges. It's a newsy page dutifully reporting Newsweek's estimate the organization has 200,000 members. Every time she writes a new item on her Facebook Page, it receives 1 million hits, Newsweek said.

The website lists five ways people can help spread the Coffee Party gospel. 1) Speed dial Congress; 2) Contact local media; 3) Invite friends to join; 4) Print copies of the group's flyer and post it everywhere people gather; and 5) donate $5.

The online New Hampshire Sentinel, which supports the Coffee Party, said each meeting begins with a pledge
 “to conduct myself in a way that is civil, honest and respectful toward people with whom I disagree.”

“But is it possible," the publication asks, "to accomplish anything significant without making “a ruckus”?

“Anger, fear, these are powerful, and there’s a lot of interesting political science research on the power of emotions,” Steven Greene, a political science professor at North Carolina State University told the Raleigh News & Observer. “Negative emotions seem to be more politically effective.”
Yael T. Abouhalkah, editorial page columnist for the Kansas City Star, finds the Coffee Party vs Tea Party fight rather amusing.

Coffee Party supporters spend too much time maintaining their followers aren't automatically liberal, pro-Obama people. Um, yes, most are.

Tea Party backers spend too much energy claiming their supporters aren't automatically conservative, anti-Obama people. Again, yeah, the large majority are.

While it's entertaining, the spat has produced lots of rumors about the Coffee Party, which some of its organizers have taken time to try to shoot down. You can read them (on) Google to your heart's delight to ...
Or, you can just call it like it is and recognize the Coffee Party is a liberal response to the conservative Tea Party.

Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Senate Grownups Play Childish Games Over Climate Control Bill

If the grownups in Congress can't stand up to political heat, no wonder all incumbents are subject to the wrath of voters.

The latest example of profiles in timidity is Sen. John Kerry who said Saturday he is withdrawing the long-awaited climate change legislation scheduled to be introduced Monday.

The reason is petty politics. The public be damned.

What's at stake is a climate bill Kerry (D-Massachusetts) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) worked on for six months that drew bipartisan support and backing from the Obama administration.

Instead, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) announced a shift in priorities and is considering leap-frogging immigration reform as the next major legislative battle in deference to a clamor from Hispanics who are whipping up support because of a new anti-illegal immigrant law passed Friday in Arizona.

As a result, Graham wrote a letter to Kerry threatening to withdraw support for climate control as a "cynical political ploy" by the Democrats knowing Senate Republicans are opposed to certain immigration reforms and would hurt their chances in the midterm elections in November.

As President Lyndon Johnson might have said, these guys can't chew gum and walk at the same time.

Graham fears the divisive immigration bill would seek amnesty for an estimated 12 million immigrants living in the country without proper documentation.

One can only assume President Obama is pushing Reid as a trial balloon testing the political waters for immigration reform to honor a campaign pledge and appease growing restlessness among Hispanic supporters. Climate change also is one of Obama's ambitious goals.

In his statement, Kerry tried to assure environmentalists and other backers that the delay will be short.

The bill aims to cut emissions of polluting greenhouse gases 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 and expand domestic production of oil, natural gas and nuclear power. Carol Browner, White House energy adviser, praised Kerry, Graham and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut) for their efforts, saying Obama wants the bill passed by Congress this year.

"Moving forward on immigration — in this hurried, panicked manner — is nothing more than a cynical political ploy," Graham said. "Let's be clear, a phony, political effort on immigration today accomplishes nothing but making it exponentially more difficult to address (energy and climate change) in a serious, comprehensive manner in the future."

Kerry praised Graham for his work and was joined by Lieberman who said he's disappointed that "allegations of partisan politics will prevent us from introducing the bill on Monday as planned."

Reid is up for re-election this year and trailing in polls in Nevada, where Latinos are an important constituency. With Democrats facing a tough political climate in the midterm elections, energized Hispanic voters could make a difference in several states.

In a statement Saturday that was both conciliatory and noncommittal, Reid said he is committed to passing both immigration and energy this year.

"I will not allow him (Graham) to play one issue off of another, and neither will the American people. They expect us to do both, and they will not accept the notion that trying to act on one is an excuse for not acting on the other."

Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer 

Splended Pat Tillman Documentary In Search Of An Audience Spurned by The Neo-Cons

"God damn sportswriters" is a common expression often heard from the news desks of metropolitan newspapers.

I thought of that today reading Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Dwyer's mea culpa account of Pat Tillman who was killed in Afghanistan six years and two days ago. Dwyer admitted he was among the hordes of sportswriters and even hard journalists who portrayed Tillman as a sports and patriotic hero shot in the line of duty defending his nation.

My rap on Dwyer is he didn't fully review the documentary film -- "The Tillman Story" -- and only alluded to the fact distribution of the film has been difficult. Most of his column was spent apologizing for asking only softball questions to Tillman's surviving family and wallowing in Tillman's football playing days at Arizona State and the Arizona Cardinals.

To Dwyer's credit he said he was mortified halfway through the documentary the impact of what an imbecile he and his fellow hero worshippers were as Tillman's mother Mary (Dannie) on her own took on the government and the military to get the truth of what happened to her son.

Pat Tillman gave up a lucrative contract with the Cardinals to join the army and was killed by members of his own squad in what the military calls "friendly fire." While the military stonewalled, the publicity machine from the Bush administration brought the nation to tears using Tillman's death as a pawn to promote the war effort.

As the true story began to unravel, bits of truth emerged that Tillman was a complex person, not just a red, white and blue patriot portrayed on Fox News. The documentary shows a film clip of Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter saying that they'd heard a rumor that Tillman read Chomsky and wanted to vote for John Kerry. Both agreed they they couldn't  "believe that."

Dwyer, seeking atonement, writes:

Dannie Tillman did what a nation full of high-paid, overblown journalists should have done. She went after the real story while the beautiful people on TV and the nerds with notepads broadcast and wrote morality plays. She got in the military's face, in the government's face. She didn't let up. She was doing journalism while journalists were doing what we mostly do now — chase Web hits and take short cuts to higher profits.

A housewife got the real story, or as much of it as anybody probably will. Professionals trained to do so gathered moss and wrote slop.

Among the slop Dwyer admits writing:

I loved the stories about him riding his bike to training camp and, when he drove, parking his junky old car next to the Beemers and Mercedes in the team lot.

The documentary film was introduced at the Sundance Film Festival in January this year by director Amir Bar-Lev. Michael Moore, a documentary artist in his own right, described the film as "one of the most important movies you'll ever see about the U.S. military."

CAA and Submarine Entertainment, which is marketing it hoped the Tillman name recognition will help play to a right-wing audience. The flaw is while the film does put the spotlight on a neocon and Bible-belt hero, it mainly serves to tear down assumptions about him.

Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer

About The BS And Cops vs Illegal Immigrants in Arizona

It is extremely difficult in the interest of honesty and fairness to write about the immigration controversy now going on in Arizona. My personal reason is that I don't live in Arizona and experience first hand the pros and cons of the issue.

I'm geographically close, however. I have lived in Southern California for all but 13 years of my life now extending into its seventh decade. My life's experience is growing up in a strong Mexican environment in San Juan Capistrano, married a Latina and have a beautiful daughter-in-law who is third generation Latina.

I have witnessed from all angles the brewing controversy in California now reaching feverish pitch in Arizona. Another chapter of my life's impressions comes from a decade covering police and sheriff departments as a newspaper reporter in Santa Ana and San Diego, both with strong, vibrant Latino communities.

These experiences makes me dreadfully fearful of the abuse that could be inflicted by cops enforcing the new law in Arizona.

The first is obvious and highly promoted by progressives and immigration reform advocates. That is, the cops stopping my daughter-in-law, as an example, because she looks like who she is, an ethnic Mexican woman. The likely prospects of that happening is 0-100, totally preposterous drivel. Cops aren't that stupid.

But cops are people and they make bad judgment calls sometimes and here's where.

Cops are judged by their superiors on performance ratings which include the number of arrests. Cops learn from valuable tools such as profiling so they don't waste their time looking for a white guy when witnesses of a crime describe the perp as a black man.

Put the two together in Arizona and what you have is this scenario:

A patrolman seeking promotion is reamed out by his sergeant for lagging behind his squad in arrests. No problem, the patrolman figures. So he drives to a barrio, looks over the cast of suspects and correctly picks one poor soul and asks for his papers. Presto! Off to the federal poky he goes. Do that just enough times not to appear too obvious and his arrest rate leaps towards the top of the squad.

Gov. Jan Brewer at the signing ceremony Friday announced the Legislature is spending $200,000 to train law enforcement officers in the state how to enforce the new law in 90 days without racial profiling and violating probable cause and racial discrimination guidelines.

Good luck with that, Guv. It's oxymoron legal gobbledegook.

Since I have followed Rep.Brian Bilbray (R-San Diego) since his days as a surfer, mayor of Imperial Beach and San Diego County Supervisor, it comes as no surprise to me how easy it is to identify an illegal immigrant along our southern border.

On a cable news show, Bilbray insisted you can identify an illegal immigrant as unkempt, the clothes and shoes he/she wears.

And then to prove his objectivity,  the geographically-challenged Bilbray acknowledged the secure border fence constructed between San Ysidro and Tijuana did push the illegal entry passages farther West into Arizona.

My reactions was sending them clear passage into the Pacific Ocean offers new meaning to the old term "wetback."

Here is where it is difficult for anyone outside of Arizona casting aspersions on those who blame the estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants as the root of crimes exhausting law enforcement resources, schools and public welfare services.

The cause celebre is rancher Richard Krentz found murdered on his property. It would be presumptuous on my  part to argue he was killed by human (coyote) smugglers or drug runners rather than migrants from the interior of Mexico looking for work.

I also find it curious that lacking in the argument in favor of the new law is the illegals are taking away jobs from U.S. citizens. Certainly, the good residents of Arizona are hiring the illegals either settling or in transit to other parts of the country looking for work. This is a two-edged sword, it seems to me.

The new law makes it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally. Immigrants unable to produce documents showing they are allowed to be in the U.S. could be arrested, jailed for up to six months and fined $2,500. It also toughens restrictions on hiring illegal immigrants for day labor and knowingly transporting them.

I will reprint a paragraph of an earlier column I wrote last week about the percentage of illegal immigrants arrested in the U.S.

An analysis by the nonpartisan Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University shows that the proportion of criminal immigrants in detention rose from 27% in 2009 to 43% in 2010. However, that statistic reflects only a "relatively small number" of people guilty of serious offenses like armed robbery, drug smuggling and human trafficking, the report said. Most are guilty of minor offenses such as traffic violations or disorderly conduct. Immigration violations such as illegal entry into the United States are also included.

Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer

Friday, April 23, 2010

Arizona Governor Signs Anti-Immigrant Law

 Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed the state's controversial anti-illegal immigrant bill into law today, claiming she will not tolerate racial discrimination or police profiling.

 Despite her protestations,  the law is directed at what Homeland Security estimates as 460,000 illegal immigrants in the state. The law authorizes police to ask people for their legal status without probable cause. She said the state had been "more than patient waiting for Washington to act."

Hours earlier, President Obama said the law is "misguided."

Obama warned that the law "threaten[s] to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe."
He said he's instructed the Justice Department to examine the Arizona bill to see if it's legal, and said the federal government must enact immigration reform at the national level — or leave the door open to "irresponsibility by others." 

The legislation makes it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally. It also requires local police officers to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are here illegally. It also makes it illegal to hire an illegal immigrant although there is sanctions in an existing law directed at those who employ day laborers.

The bill's Republican sponsor, state Rep. Russell Pearce of Mesa, said Obama and other critics of the bill were "against law enforcement, our citizens and the rule of law."
"Illegal is illegal," said Pearce. "We'll have less crime. We'll have lower taxes. We'll have safer neighborhoods. We'll have shorter lines in the emergency rooms. We'll have smaller classrooms."

Hundreds of Hispanics protested the legislation at the State Capitol complex on Thursday. 

Arizona Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva closed his Tucson and Yuma offices today in protest. On Tuesday he told Keith Olbermann on MSNBC's Countdown show he was organizing a national boycott against the state because of the new law he expected to be signed by the governor. A similar boycott convinced the state 10 years ago to honor Martin Luther King's birthday in accordance with the national law in order for the state to hold a Super Bowl game.

Arizona Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl, both Republicans, support the anti-immigrant legislation and have asked the Obama administration to send more troops to guard the porous border.

Former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat now head of Homeland Security, signed a 2007 law that imposes sanctions against employers knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. Other state laws make human smuggling a state crime and restricts illegal immigrants' eligibility for public services.

Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer 

When Good News Is Misleading As Hell

 The Commerce Department reported Friday that  new home sales increased 27% last month, the largest monthly increase in 47 years.

Before you get your hopes up that the housing market is rebounding from the crash in 2007, a closer look at the monthly report is somewhat of a downer.

The 441,000 homes were not sold and moved into, actually. They reflect signed contracts to purchase with many new prospective buyers hoping to beat the June 30 deadline to receive a one-time offer by the government for a $8,000 credit for first-time owners and $6,600 credit for current homeowners who plan to purchase and move into another property. The previous month sales in February was depressed because of bad weather conditions throughout most of the nation.

Since the government's tax credit incentive began last year, 1.8 million buyers have qualified at a cost of $12.6 billion to the nation's taxpayers, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

Median sales prices in March was $214,000, up 3% from the previous month. There still is a backlog of  228,000 unsold new homes for sale, the Commerce report said.

 Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer

'We're A National Joke' Laments Arizona Legislator

Remember the good old days when we all laughed at South Carolina politicians acting nuttier than a fruitcake with bizarre antics such as the governor leaving unannounced for a weekend trip to visit his mistress in Argentina?

Move over, residents of the Palmetto state, your 15 minutes of fame are over.. The new dessert du jour is pineapple upside down cake presented to our listening audience, courtesy of the Arizona state Legislature.

This week the governor signed a new law allowing concealed weapons carried without permits, the Legislature passed a bill requiring Mexicans to carry legal residency documents and the Legislature's House approved a bill requiring presidential candidates to present the state Secretary of State with a valid birth certificate. Republicans rule both houses and the governor's office.

"We're becoming a national joke," blushed Rep. Chad Campbell, a Phoenix Democrat.

The presidential birther measure passed the House by a 31-29 vote despite protests from opponents who fear the state is being cast in an ugly light.

The measure's sponsor, Republican Rep. Judy Burges of Skull Valley, said she isn't sure President Obama could prove his eligibility for the ballot in Arizona and wants to erase all doubts. "You have half the population who thinks everything is fine, and you have the other half of the population who has had doubts built up in their mind," Burges said.

Give birthers credit for not giving up in their efforts to defrock the president, son of a Kenyan father and white mother from Kansas, and born -- as legend has it -- in Hawaii.  Never mind:
  • The Hawaiian Secretary of State on numerous occasions produced certified copies of Obama's birth certificate of Aug. 4, 1961.
  • That several ultra rightwing websites -- and even Bill O'Reilly of Fox News who's never admitted he's wrong  -- vouch that two Honolulu newspapers printed his birth notice.
  • Countless lawsuits challenging Obama's natural born status have been rejected by the courts.
  • Other states questioning his legal status, including bills offered but killed or spurned in Oklahoma and Missouri, among others. Even a bill in the U.S. Congress is circulating but so far has only 12 signatures.
Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett opposes the bill, arguing it gives his office too much power, according to his spokesman Matthew Benson. Benson said Bennett, a Republican, has no doubts about Obama's citizenship, a U.S. constitutional requirement to hold the office.

Rep. Tom Chabin, D-Flagstaff, pleaded with his colleagues to oppose the birther bill. "When you undermine the sitting president of the United States, you undermine our nation, and it makes us look very ugly," Chabin said.

But some supporters insist the bill isn't aimed at Obama, it's just common sense.

"It's our ballot," said state Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, who believes Obama has proven his citizenship. "The parties need to prove that their nominee is eligible to hold the office of president to be on our ballot."



When the birther issue first came up during Obama's presidential candidacy beginning in 2007, I wrote at the time and still believe the natural born citizen qualification required by the constitution should be established at the time of filing with the Federal Elections Commission. That may be the case although I don't know. After all, if the feds require a birth certificate for federal programs such as Section 8 for housing assistance, Social Security and Medicare, among many, as well as Little League requiring your child to play ball, why not the president? The only other reason for continuing this flap is because some people refuse to accept a black man as the legitimate leader of a predominately white nation.

Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer