Posts tagged with Making A Difference

Paul Krugman: Get Serious

On Wednesday, 05/12, I disagreed with Paul Krugman, the 2008 Nobel Prize winner for economics who writes a blog and 2 columns a week for the New York Times. Surprisingly, of 19 comments, my comment received the second highest number of recommends—30 Times readers agreed with my analysis and endorsed my view!

In a short blog, entitled, “Unserious People,” summarized as “ faking it on spending cuts,” Dr. Krugman cites Eric Kantor's call to eliminate funds as “ludicrously trivial,” and Dr. Krugman argues that national Republicans “refuse to offer any serious proposals for spending cuts, pretending instead that there are large sums being wasted on things nobody wants.” Good point, but he begs the question of why and inadequately describes the root of the strategy, and inaccurately labels these efforts as “unserious.”

Here's my reply:

“As a good economist knows, many critical relationships are inverse and logarithmic, expanded in large ways by small changes. Republicans, are in fact, serious, very serious; consistently, steadfastly unwavering in the repetition of their mantra of small government. Yet their real relationship to government is an inverse one, one in which spending voted by them when they are in power is rapidly expanded as their mantra is chanted unchanged. Defense spending is the best example.

This over/under inverse relationship is a social construct that has great power; its small, simple examples resonate with the public who are distracted from seeing the complex, larger and more expensive picture. Republicans are “serious” about protecting this formula at all costs. Their commitment is not a disconnect or frivolous; it is inverse (some might think perverse!) and one that Republicans who lack any national agenda for growth or prosperity, are zealously serious about, as it allows for enriching the coffers of friends, at the expense of the economy, the national infrastructure, education, healthcare, or job growth. Its only benefit is to shift blame to others while aiding big market forces to grab larger share. At this, they are serious and committed at any costs to the country."

Thanks for reading. /wr. Stir the Perlo, leave a comment.

This is a map of the most popular religion in 48 states according to USA Today.

Catholic: Red Baptist: Blue No religion: Green Lutheran: Yellow Methodist: Black Mormon: Purple (Image used under fair use.)


Judging the Judgeship

(Perlo note: my 05/10 comment on Elena Kagan's nomination were highlighted in the online edition of the New York Times, which also reviewed it for publication in Tuesday's print edition. I re-print it here for Perlo's readers.

"Already, the blogsphere is weighing in: liberals are evaluating her potential record as a judge by looking at her administrative record, where rumor has it, she was "weak" in expanding African-American hiring; conservatives becry her protests of "don't ask, don't tell," and her almost certain support of a woman's right to choose. Her record is called “thin.” Her ideas are called both “radical” and “conservative,” while both sides agree she is “dangerous.”Both sides seem to have lost sight of the broader, and more substantive issues of the Constitution. It is a judge's responsibility to weigh carefully the meaning and interpretation of law for all Americans, evaluating precedents, sticking closely to historic paths, while ignoring completely popular sentiment. A seat on the Supreme Court is not bound by the latest call-in pole (deliberate pun!) on Fox or CNN, but instead requires a deep, thoughtful, deliberate immersion into the nuances and consequences of the law now and in the future. It is not a position to be filled by someone whose judgment will reflect personal beliefs; it is a position where beliefs often must be set aside to follow the course of law required by Constitution."

Thanks for reading/wr. Stir the Perlo, leave a comment. (Coming Saturday: China's Medical Reform.)


Boom and the Leak Stops: An Open Letter to the President

I don't know about you, but I'm ready for some real socialism. I don't mean the mamby kind that gathers citizens on town greens every week for the TV op, complete with homemade signs on tall poles that protesters wave to make sure we get the message at home. I don't mean the kind that is angry over taxes that have been cut, or health care that has been expanded, or exasperated over guns that are still allowed to be purchased and carried, or that sees cynical signs of cabals in every spin report gleamed from talk shows. I want real, European Lenin-style socialism. Socialism that takes control, breaks the rules, and uses the military to do its business. Lean and mean socialism. And I want Obama to bring now.

I want socialism because I like shrimp. I like oysters,too. And I hate what is about to happen to the Gulf.

The US is about to experience its greatest natural disaster in its history, losing its most important fishing bank in the Gulf that supplies 70% of America's shrimp and oysters and for generations has provided a living and a way of life for thousands on its shores. People and wildlife are sustained by its beaches and shores.

But it's not just jobs and fish for purchase that leave me disheartened, angry, outraged, and devastated. It is the loss, by human hands, of some more precious, almost unspeakable. Something we breathe in and cherish, something we believe in, that shapes life's course by grandly giving evidence of nature's indomitable cycle: birth, beauty, independent will, timeless strength and charm.

Soon this will be all gone. Because of our own worst practices.

BP, the corporate owners of the offshore well, did not see fit (and nor did the government require) to install a $500K acoustic shut-off switch—required in Europe—that automatically triggers the shut down of a blown well.

Right now, our only option is a drastic dose of socialism: use the military to blow the well and cap the flow. Surely, if we can drop laser-guided missile's on Saddam's palace, and use drones to blow terrorists out of Afghan caves, we can use the US Navy's Arleigh Burke class of Aegis destroyers to drop torpedoes or missiles with non-nuclear warheads on a dime, underwater, at a depth of 5,000 feet.

In two days, Navy experts can figure out how to set off an explosion that will close the well. In two days, all of the fears of a nation can be quelled.In two days, the coastlines of three states can be saved.

In two days, by overriding the posse comitas act of 1878, for which George W. Bush had already established the precedents for Presidential authority in times of eminent national danger, (as well as a Congressional 2007 act authorizing US military intervention in domestic affairs when “constituted authorities are incapable of maintaining public order”) our nation's worst disaster can be ended. Public order, which includes billion dollar industries and thousands of jobs, the protection of beaches, fish, and wildlife, the fragile ecosystem of the Gulf and its bays, can be restored.

With a strong dose of socialism, through the government's mace of power, the lambs and lions can sit together in peace on this one. Bill O'Reilly and Keith Oberman can smile as they throw barbs at each other.

Save the Gulf Coast. We have the means. “Socialism” gives us the moral authority and legal precedent. Boom and the leak stops. (Photos: Tampa,; google images, used under fair use; for educational purposes.)


A Perlo Exclusive: “Packaging Smoke,” Reconstructing Goldman’s Role

As a historian, I love first person sources; as a writer, I love close readings of a text to find meaning and the truth of experience; as a citizen I love progressive social action. So this week's Senate hearings, streamed on the internet by CBS and Bloomberg, caught my eye and I listened to the entire 11 hours. Than I went online and dove into the released e-mails related to the hearing, and found interesting bits of truth and meaning which I'll share.

It's telling that the Senate committee's staff at this week's Senate hearing had done more homework than the firm being questioned under its guns. The Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations rigorously examined the role of Goldman Sachs, Wall Street's most profitable firm, in the recent financial crisis that caused a collapse in the housing market that triggered a global recession--and a loss of 11 million US jobs.

The committee's staff examined more than a million emails and documents in the last 18 months.

Goldman's Chairman and CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, who this year received a $9 million bonus, seemed to be unfamiliar with many of the e-mails that outlined his firms frantic strategies and directives to trade billions of dollars daily, to protect Goldman's finances even as the firm used its knowledge and assessment of its clients needs and positions to gain market position for its own needs.

An e-mail from February 2007, affirms this, stating: “That is good for us [Goldman] position-wise, but bad for accounts who wrote that protection.” The accounts that wrote “that protection” included Harvard, a leading American university. The e-mail concluded that this might “hurt our CDO pipeline position as C Dos will be harder to do.”

On another day in February 2007, an e-mail directed, “we need to buy back $1 billion of the single names and $2 billion of the stuff below—today. You can do it, pay through the market, whatever, to get it done. Show the ability to listen and execute the firm's directives.” The e-mail added, “It's a great time to do it, bad news on HPA, originators pulling out, recent upticks in unemployment, originator pain.” (Emphasis mine.)

Unemployment, bad news, and the pain of market originators were simply positive or plus factors in Goldman's assessment of its own positions and needs. Their strategy is completely divorced from the meaning of the factors in the larger picture: that the signs that made the moment precipitous for Goldman were harbingers of a broader market collapse that even Goldman in its own perilous grasp would be unable to escape.

And when another February e-mail called for Goldman, “to focused on the credit of the originators we buy loans from and sell to,” the firm obviously ignored its own advice.

Characterized repeatedly as “sophisticated, the e-mails tell a very different story. One key employee readily admits in an intimate moment to being in the dark.

A Goldman employee wrote in an January 2007 e-mail to his girl friend, that he was “standing in the middle of levered, exotic trades without necessarily understanding all of the implications of monstruosities [sic] !!! not feeling to guilty about it, amazing how good I am in convincing myself.”

This same employee reports in another e-mail of being warned by a senior banker who wrote him to say he had never seen in the leveraged credit market “anything quite like what is currently going on. Market participants have loss all memory of what risk is and are behaving as if the so-called wall of liquidity will last indefinitely and that volatility is a thing of the past.”

The banker cited his own experience in offering this assessment: “I don't think there has ever been a time in history when such a large proportion of the riskiest credit assets have been owned by such financially weak institutions with very limited capacity to withstand adverse credit events and market downturns."

But as the Goldman employee remarked in his e-mail, most “players” hoped that “problems will not arise until after the next bonus round.”

In his 5 hour appearance before the Senate Banking Committee the Goldman Sachs Chairman described his investors and market makers as “sophisticated” but really, from their appearance and answers before the Senate Banking committee that were quite average people handling enormous amounts of money.

Goldman touts itself as a market maker, adding liquidity to markets though its transactions and reallocating risks, but really it is “packaging smoke” (Maureen Dowd's phrase), and rather than “sophisticated,” its traders were shamans whose ruse was to convince others that its trading tricks were real. The obvious logical fallacy is there is no reallocation of risk because there is nothing there, no underlying value or real assets, except risk.

Senator Carl Levin's questions, tough, aggressive, showed masterful preparation and the high skills of this one time prosecutor who continually pointed to Goldman's dismissal and disdain for the public's interest of ethical fair play when trading billions of dollars daily. The Senator revealed by citing large and small details, by quoting language and viewing financial charts the continued themes that Goldman ignored in their testimony--that Goldman ignored all but its own drive to greed and profit at any cost--no different than the behavior in crack dens of "sophisticated" users and addict.

Oh, what about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the 2 quasi-government mortgage underwriters whose policies many Republicans and conservatives love to cite as the cause of the US financial markets collapse? Both have real assessments backing their bundles of mortgages offered on the market. Default is secured by a real house. Derivatives were far removed from the type of mortgage bundles offered by F & F. CDO derivatives were not backed by any real or underlying assets. They were simply bets on risk rated by crooked ratings company.

To blame Fannie and Freddie for the implosion of the capital markets is like blaming rebate programs and zero financing at GM and Ford for New York car thefts.

Bottom line: Goldman's methodology was amoral and almost burned.

(Photo: Goldman headquarters, 30 Hudson St. Jersey City, NJ; the tallest building in New Jersey. Google images, used under fair use.)

Stir the Perlo, leave a comment!


Christ’s Resurrection and the Death Penalty

(wr note: today's post is a guest column that views the death penalty in America with an eye on Easter and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., both of which were celebrated and remembered this month.)

Easter Season, Capital Punishment, and the “Drum Major for Peace”

By Margaret Summers

During Easter season, Christians worldwide celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It occurs in the early spring, a season rife with anticipation and the promise of new beginnings; of the shoots of green plants pushing their way through soil warmed by the sun, thawed after a long and frozen winter; of new leaves opening on trees and bushes; of blossoming flowers upturned to the rays of a welcoming sun.

This year, in a tragic historic coincidence, Easter Sunday fell on the 42nd anniversary of the killing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., civil and human rights champion, a self-described “drum major for peace.” Dr. King was shot dead on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel with friends and fellow activists. They were in Memphis to support economic justice for striking sanitation workers, a majority of whom were African American.

Uprisings exploded in several urban U.S. cities in reaction to the murder – expressions of uncontrollable grief, rage, and hopelessness, now that the man who had led millions up figurative mountaintops where all could share in his vision of a promised land where races could live together in equality, respect and love, was so violently and brutally taken from them.

Undoubtedly, such anger and anguish back then prompted many to call for the execution of whoever was responsible for killing Dr. King. But neither Dr. King nor his immediate family had ever supported capital punishment. For Dr. King, a follower of the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, whose massive nonviolent demonstrations brought down British colonial rule in India – a tactic that Dr. King later used with great success in the sit-ins, pray-ins, and other anti-segregation protests in the Deep South – it was impossible to simultaneously believe in nonviolence as a way of life and also believe in the death penalty.

Dr. King felt the punishment effectively writes off human beings as forever irredeemable and unforgivable. “Make your way to death row and speak with the tragic victims of criminality,” he said. “As they prepare to make their pathetic walk to the electric chair, their hopeless cry is that society will not forgive. Capital punishment is society's final assertion that it will not forgive.”

“I do not think God approves the death penalty for any crime - rape and murder included,” Dr. King asserted. “Capital punishment is against the best judgment of modern criminology and, above all, against the highest expression of love in the nature of God.”

Dr. King’s family, suddenly left without a husband and father 42 years ago, nevertheless agreed with his views that the death penalty perpetuates violence.

“As one whose husband and mother-in-law have died the victims of murder assassination, I stand firmly and unequivocally opposed to the death penalty for those convicted of capital offenses,” his widow, Coretta Scott King, once said. “An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the taking of a human life. Morality is never upheld by a legalized murder.”

Such sentiments have been echoed by two of his children. “Having lost my father and grandmother to gun violence, I will understand the deep hurt and anger felt by the loved ones of those who have been murdered,” Reverend Bernice King, recently named President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which was once led by her father, had stated. “Yet I can't accept the judgement that their killers deserve to be executed. This merely perpetuates the tragic, unending cycle of violence that destroys our hope for a decent society.” His son, Martin Luther King, III, who was named for his father and grandfather, was quoted as saying, “I should be on the front line for those advocating the death penalty, [but] we have always been consistently against the death penalty.”

The King family’s beliefs are not unusual. They are shared by many murder victims’ families. Among the members of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty’s Board of Directors, three individuals – New Hampshire State Rep. Robert “Renny”Cushing, Bill Pelke and Bud Welch – lost family members to murder. Rep. Cushing’s father was killed by gunfire through the family home’s screen door. Pelke’s grandmother was killed in the course of a robbery of her home by four teenaged girls. Welch’s daughter was killed in the Oklahoma City federal building bombing. The three are active in organizations working to rid the United States and the world of capital punishment – Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation, Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights, and Journey of Hope. . . from Violence to Healing. Victims’ families and the death penalty abolition movement have long worked together to let the public know that the death penalty does not help, but harms such families. The expensive punishment drains needed resources from grief counseling, victims’ families’ compensation, and other services and programs that enable these families to heal. Together, the voices of abolitionists and such murder victims’ families’ organizations and victims’ family members are amplified, united, as they say, “Please – don’t kill in our names.”

It is my hope that during the remainder of this Easter season, as many celebrate the resurrection of He who also stood for nonviolence and peace, we remember the words of Dr. King and his family members who rejected a punishment system that in the end dehumanizes us all. “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy,” Dr. King said. “... In fact, violence merely increases hate. ... Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.”

Margaret Summers is the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty’s Director of Communications


Test Prep for Preschool? If the current national political litmus test is the healthcare vote, then the most important national social marker for the future success or failure of the emerging generation is the preschool application.

The current generation of five-year olds are not yet touched by daily macro-economic discussions about job numbers, stimulus spending, federal deficits, interest rates, economic growth, banking collapse, or mortgage refinancing. And they too young to run the gauntlet of emerging adolescent tragedies like teen bullying and gang beat-downs, rampaging flash mobs, or suicides and murders.

But many 4 year olds face the daunting task of scoring well on an hour-long $510 intelligent test, the Early Childhood Admissions Assessment (ECAA), in order to qualify for admission to a preschool or kindergarten of their parents choice. The test, and the entire admissions process, is a much bigger deal than knowing your colors and counting to twenty.

To cite one NYC admissions consultant, “For the 21st century parent, test prep for 4 year olds is rampant.” Many of the highly sought schools also require an admission essay—written by the parents!

The admission tests include matching shapes, numbers, visual analogies and concept groups. An example: zippers, eyes, locks—things that open and close. The Educational Research Bureau (ERB), an 80+ year old organization, dominates the world of preschool admission testing. ERB offers several instruments, including one computer-based assessment that changes the learning style and level of following questions based on the child's previous answer. While testing is secure, pirated copies of the WPPSI-III, a widely used test administered by ERB, are being sold on the internet for $3,000.

Bright Kids, a NYC based service, offers tutoring and test preparation to 4 year olds at $145 a session. They have a waiting list. One of the main skills taught? Listening skills. Young students must understand the question to answer accurately. They must listen attentive to strangers for the hour it takes to complete the individual tests. The stakes are high: as many as 70 preschoolers maybe vying for each admission slot at high demand pre schools. Nationwide, nearly 55% of 4 year olds are enrolled in preschools. Aristotle's Circle, founded by an MIT grad in 2008, has a comprehensive program of advisers, tutors, and a preparation book that parallels very closely the items on the actual testing instrument, developed in part by psychologists who had experience with the real thing.

A year's expense for a 3 year old may cost more then a year's tuition at an elite college. In NYC, tuition routinely runs $15 – 20,000 a year, with some schools topping out in the $28 – 35,000 range. (Tuition assistance is rarely available.) Even radical activist, Angela Davis' old pre school is charging $29,150 a year. And at Horace Mann, the former pre school of NY Governor Elliot Spitzer, the cost to follow his early foot steps is $34,050.

If parents change their minds after signing an attendance contract, in some cases, schools will hold them responsible for the entire year's tuition. One NYC couple forked over $20,000 to their initial choice private school after deciding to send their pre preschooler to a highly ranked public program after their child was accepted; the school held them to the conditions of their contract.

To navigate the admissions process, consultant firms like Manhattan Private School Advisors are signing up new parent clients at $18 – 24,000 a year. And if your child is lucky enough to complete preschool, don't forget the sterling silver preschool ring (which can be kept in the adult's jewelry box.)

Even the most careful parents are not immune from the horror stories. An annual favorite is school staff serving kids anti-freeze as Kool-aid as one Arkansas school did in 2009. And in Florida, a 4 year old pulled a baggie of pot out of his backpack, showing it to classmates as his brother's. The school immediately banned backpacks.

The remareable experience of the Perry School, a public inner city preschool established in the 1960s to raise the IQ scores of poverty based, inner city youth in a Michigan city, might prove instructive to parents feeling desperate about their preschoolers future. The study followed successive classes of Perry students for three decades, tracking them against a similar cohort of students from the same city with out preschool experience. At every point, by every measure, during elementary school, high school, adult life, and career matrices, the Perry students consistently and widely out performed their peers, from homework to home ownership.

Yet their preschool experiences never raised their IQ scores. Their gains showed up in their achievements, not in their test scores. It seems the experience of exposing young children to structure and learning in a peer community with good teachers and strong parent involvement and effective school leaders has as an greater effect on life achievement than testing and selecting for “innate” or developmental skills or school pedigree.

Another famous assessment study involved marshmallows. Young students were given the choice of having a single marshmallow right away or waiting for an unspecified period and having two. The children who were able to wait the 15 minutes years later scored an average 210 points higher on the old SAT.

A NYT article contained a prescient comment that goes to the heart of the pre school testing fury: “Modern parents are destroying their children.”

Thanks for reading. /wr

(All photos, fair use,)


The fight over the legal fight: GA Attorney General bows out The three-time elected, African-American Attorney General of Georgia is right. He turned down a request by the state's Governor to bring suit against the federal government over the new mandated requirement that uninsured individuals be required to buy health insurance or pay a penalty.

But plenty of people disagree with his decision. Writing in the Tallahasee Democrat, columnist Bill Cotterell said, “In a blatantly political use of his office, we saw an attorney general put ambition ahead of his job last week. President Obama had just signed a big health care bill that polls indicate the state's constituents don't want. As 13 attorneys general asked a federal court to nullify it, the state's [GA] top elected legal officer meekly ignored an enormous financial burden on his constituents and waived the state's sovereignty.”

The Georgia state legislature is so incensed and angered by the Attorney General's refusal, it has threatened to impreach him. Bloggers have accused him of being the Attorney General of Acorn, the controversial community action organization, now out of business. One comment called his position, an “absolute disgrace.”

Make no mistake, Cotterell is right when he says politics enters into the continuing debate over health care reform. A post on one website, TCUNation, lists the phone number for every state's attorney general's office, and sets a script for callers to ask and become inquistors about whether that state's attorney general plans to sue the feds. The post makes an urgent plea for others to re-post the list and script as widely and frequently as possible. (The Home of the Patriot Resistance) has issued an action alert established a discussion forum, in which one stream suggests that, under the 10th amendment, the health care reform act can be “nullified”--using a term with direct links and last heard in arguments that led to the South to secede and brought on the 1861 war.

For separate and multiple reasons, all of these actions are and were wrong headed and dead end. They inflame passions and abandon reason. In doing so, they really mask deeply rooted responses and challenges to Obama's Presidential authority. The shrill outrage outwardly expresses the pain of losing at what many most cherished, a deep legacy of power held by Christians and whites. The Constitutional contests, acts of defiance, and rhetoric of fire eaters are a grab for power to undercut the current administration and restore a deep abiding and statisfying status quo.

First, let's look at what Georgia Attorney General, Thurbert E. Baker, explained to the Governor; his response is posted on his official Georgia web site. None of those who disagree actually examine his words and logic, dispute his legal references, or question his conclusions. None offer links to his response to be read first hand. They conveniently jump over his carefully reasoned thoughts to build straw men from political foyer, or offer ad homenium arguments against Mr. Baker's tightly reasoned decision.

Here are the reasons Mr. Baker' expressed to the Governor, excerpted from the pdf:

While your [the governor's] letter does not suggest specific claims in the proposed litigation, I will address two that have been raised publicly regarding the law. Some believe that the law's requirement that all individuals purchase health insurance is unconstitutional. I believe such an argument is highly unlikely to succeed. In fact, earlier this month, an appellate court decision rejecting such arguments was issued in the only case I am aware of to be litigated on this topic to date.

As you may know, then-Governor Mitt Romney proposed and signed into law in2006 a bill that requires all Massachusetts residents to purchase health insurance. A suit was brought against the Commonwealth by a plaintiff who alleged that the requirement violated his rights under the Seventh and Eighth Amendments of the United States Constitution and various provisions of the Massachusetts Constitution. In Fountas v. Commissioner of the Depørtment of Revenue, 2010 Mass. App. Unpub. Lexis 223 (March 5, 2010), the Massachusetts Court of Appeals rejected all of those arguments.

I also understand that some believe that the Act's expansion of eligibility for Medicaid violates states'rights by requiring the state to spend additional money to insure more people. While there may be disagreement with that provision as a matter of budgetary priority and polic¡ I am sure you are also aware that Medicaid is a joint federal-state program in which Georgia's participation is voluntary and in which federal funding provides approximately 60% of our state Medicaid funds. The right of the United States govemment to require action by states as a condition of receiving federal funding has been litigated repeatedly, including in the United States Supreme Court, and is well established in our nation's constitutional law

Furthermore, assuming H.R. 4872, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, becomes law as expected, the federal government will provide I00Yo of all funds needed to insure additional Medicaid enrollees from 2014 (the first year the program will open) through 2016,95% in 2017,94% in 2018,93% in2019 and 9o% for 2020 and subsequent years. [Details are provided in a Kaiser Family Foundation Report at In no

case do I see such a funding ratio in a joint federal-state program Georgia voluntarily participates in as presenting a valid claim that Georgia's rights have been violated by the law's future changes to Medicaid eligibility.

Earlier in the letter, Mr. Baker expressed his conclusion: I do not believe that Georgia has a viable legal claim against the United States. Considering our state's current severe budgetary crisis, with vital services like education and law enforcement being cut deeply, I cannot justify a decision to initiate expensive and time-consuming litigation that I believe has no legal merit.

In short, this litigation is likely to fail and will consume significant amounts of taxpayers' hard-earned money in the process.

It certainly sounds like a strong case. The Attorney General (AG) is not a member of the governor's cabinet in Georgia. The AG is independently elected as a state Constitutional Officer, with the duty to manage and control the legal affairs of the citizens of the state, an statutory authority affirmed by a 2003 ruling of the GA Supreme Court against current Gov. Perdue.

A quick look at the AG's website where legal reviews are posted indicates under Mr. Baker, the office appears to be doing a competent and profession job. A long list of unofficial opionions cover everything from special elections to conflicts of interests in county government to hiring bonuses and promised compensation for medical professionals employed by GA hospitals to using inmate labor to remove graffitti on private property.

And who exactly is Thurbert E. Baker, whose refusal to sue over health care is a “disgrace.” Born in Rocky Mount, NC in 1952, he attended UNC (Chapel Hill) and then Emory University's School of Law, graduating in 1979. He was elected to the GA House in 1988, and re-elected 4 times. In only his second term, GA Governor Zell Miller appointed Baker Floor Leader of the House and Baker subsequently helped pass a bill that locked up repeat offenders without parole. He is a former President of the National Association of Attorney Generals (2006-07), and has won 3 statewide elections in GA for Attorney General. Mr. Baker is currently running for GA Governor.

Ahh, Cotterell's rub, which assumes, as they say on “Law and Order,” facts not in evidence. Cotterell's impassioned fallacies assumes his conclusion is true, prima facie, on its face, without an offer of proof. If Baker refuses to sue, it must be for its own political reasons and his column never cites or reviews the legal issues Baker meticulously raises.

The Acorn issue stands logic on its head. Acorn gave Baker an “A” rating, as it did several other state AG's. This is reverse engineered by the blogsphere to conclude that Baker supported Acorn in some nefarious way, for some dark, murky intent. Not so. This is no truth that Mr. Baker offered Acorn any legal comfort, in GA or elsewhere.

Atlanta Journal Constitution columnist Bob Barr concludes, “seeking to punish an attorney, especially a constitutional officer such as a state attorney general, simply because his professional judgment has led him to a contrary conclusion, is highly inappropriate and diminishes the credibility of those advocating such a measure . . .”

I agree. So do the AG's in 35 other states, all of whom have declined to bring suit. Gov. Perdue is going forward with his challenge to the bill in court by hiring special lawyers.

Again, the challenges have no merit and no chance. The same challenges were raised against ending slavery, in which the government manumitted the legal and capital property of private individuals under state law for slave states that remained in the Union (Delaware, Maryland, and Kentucky) and of those in rebellion who had joined the Confederacy, without any compensation of any kind.

It didn't fly then, it won't fly now.

Thanks for reading! /wr Stir the perlo; leave a commment. (All photos, fair use.)


How China auto maker Geely wowed Volvo from Ford In December 2008, Ford motors put the fabled Volvo brand up for sale. A Chinese auto producer, Geely Automobile Holdings, was eager from the beginning to buy the Volvo brand and its powerful cache.

But for many auto specialists, Geely and Volvo were an odd couple. A once proud European brand known for durability, rugged reliability, and safety, now losing money like a leaky transmission, joining the fold of an relatively unknown, financially small Chinese car manufacturer that formerly made refrigerators and motorcycles seemed like a mismatch.

Since Ford purchased Volvo in 1999, Volvo's sales have rapidly declined, and its profits disappeared. In 2009, the global sales for Volvo were only 335,000 units. At the same time, the luxurious car market in China was expanding by 46 percent annually. Mercedes-Benz sales increased by 77 percent! Yet in 2009 Volvo sales in China were up an incredible 80 percent annually, beating Mercedes-Benz, BMW (38%), and Audi (33.1%). The China market made the Chinese buyer Geely a wise choice. Geely will receive Volvo's physical and intellectual property, along with its marketing, supplier, and sales network.

Geely had demonstrated its respect for intellectual property, long a sore point for international businesses involved in China, and has highly developed manufacturing technology, yet several issues endangered the deal. Among them were deep concerns by the auto unions, Ford's concerns about common intellectual property with Volvo, and the special capital requirements Ford demanded at the last minute. Large concerns still remain as to whether Geely can leverage or raise the nearly 4 – 6 billion it may need before Volvo can generate self-sustaining cash flow and profits. Volvo’s pretax loss narrowed to $934 million last year from $1.7 billion in 2008, Ford said on Jan. 28. Volvo’s last annual pretax profit was $377 million in 2005. The average Chinese car cost $17,000 last year.

Despite the enormous financial perils, the deal has a dramatic and real upside. It gives Geely a highly sought brand in the fastest growth segment of China's auto market. China's car market grew in 2009 to 13.6 million vehicles—the world's largest--while U.S. auto sales slumped to 10.4 million.

Geely's ambition as the 10th largest domestic Chinese auto maker, the 2nd largest private enterprise auto company, is to do well at home. It currently has less than a 3% market share, and sold only 330,000 vehicles in 2009. Foreign brands account for two thirds of China's sales, with the six leading brands all international. GM China and Volkswagen remain China's largest auto companies.

Geely is also unrestricted by joint venture agreements with Western auto companies that prohibit and block import sales. Asian markets, and Mexico, Brazil offer potential opportunities.

Geely President Li Shufu's personal charisma was an important force in winning the deal. During talks with the union, Li was asked to describe Geely's competitive advantage--in only three words. Li answered "I love you." It broke everybody up and helped bring the unions on board. Volvo has about 20,000 employees worldwide, including nearly 14,000 in Sweden.

Volvo was Geely's third international auto manufacturing purchase, after the British Manganese Bronze Holdings in October 2006 and Australian DSI in March 2009. But still, it came as a surprise when a Chinese private enterprise became the preferred bidder and closed the Volvo deal in the end. Ford paid 6.4 billion for Volvo; Geely bought it for 1.8 billion and has announced plans to invest 900 million, and to build a manufacturing plant in China. The agreement calls for 1.6 billion to be paid to Ford in cash.

Volvo’s headquarters will remain in Gothenburg, Sweden, and Ford will continue to supply parts and other support from its Visteon China operation. Geely aims to complete the acquisition in the third quarter, Li, who once ran a photo shop, said earlier this week.

“The deal won’t work if Volvo continues to rely on blood transfusions,” Li said. “We will help it recover the ability to generate blood,” Li said.

All photos, fair use.

Thanks for reading! /wr Stir the perlo, leave a comment.


Political Contrasts: Jim Clyburn and Jim DeMint From Tarzan to Shakespeare to John F. Kennedy, contrasts, comparing opposites, have been an effective means of expressing ideas, motivating mass behavior and characterizing people and their positions.

“Let me compare thee to a summer's day,” the British bard wrote in his famous sonnet 18, speaking of his shy, mysterious love as more lovely and temperate. Tarzan was more direct, and quick to the point: “Me Tarzan, you Jane.” Kennedy was grand, sweeping, in defining the responsibilities of citizenship in his well remembered contrast: “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

Whether love, economics' “guns and butter,” Caesar's famous exchange (“the Ides of March have come,” “but not yet past”), or Lincoln's widely noted rejection of the status of slave or master, contrasts have been used by writers, speakers, and politicians to clarify points, influence behavior, and to affect and direct the vox populi (the opinions of the people).

The Contrast of American Politics

American politicians have long and often favored the rhetoric of opposites to set out differences of motives and define and interpret the actions and ideas of those they oppose. Echoing today's Tea Party credo, SC senator Robert Y. Hayne, who stood in the well in 1832 with MA's Daniel Webster in the US Senate's most famous debate, once divided the country into his brand of contending camps: “In every age and every country, there have existed two distinct orders of men—the lovers of freedom and the devoted advocates of power.”

Of course Hayne, a defender of Southern slavery, considered himself to have both feet in the camp of the “lovers of freedom”—as long as freedom squarely included the right to “own” men, women, and children as property without even basic rights. Strange fruit was often bore from the early Southern point of view.

Haynes' freedom embraced the customs of absolute tyranny with the fervor of the moral high ground.

Today, rather then the long javelin throw of rhetorical brilliance that hits the distant bull's eye, inhibiting and breaking the spirit of fellow competitors, the political rhetoric of opposites has lost its dramatic flair. Today's words are short, hard, elliptical, one sided, and often hollow of substance; they spoke the brute force of a commando's thrust rather than skillful jaunt of a rapier's sally: the public seems to have become freak geeks for this ultimate verbal bloodletting and ballyhooing.

Shouts and screams, distortions, name calling, ugly labels, epithets, even spitting, are increasing. Jests, word puns, gross inaccuracies, excuses, and anger roil the public air waves. At public assemblies, signs depict the President in a coffin; a website for California Republicans called for “waterboarding” President Obama. From the House floor, a defender of the right to life is called a “baby killer.” (An apology later revised and extended the remark.)

These centrally-covered incidents are said to caused by a fringe. As “things fall apart,” these displays multiply, but words that hint at or suggest violence are explained as inadvertent lapses in judgment, or a favorite old saw: emotional outbursts. Yet these images of non-ideas receive more time than the mainstream message. What was once minor is now major. The shock effect of images and words lead the culture of debate. Real ideas are imploded by the concession of their shock wave.

In contrast, a few national politicians still remember and preserve the old school.

Jim Clyburn and Jim DeMint: From Opposite Ends, the New South Takes the National Political Stage

In our modern media culture obsessed with winning and losing rather progress and service, South Carolina seems to have a foot in both camps. The old school traditions of ideas, civil discourse, artful contrasts, and offering a contrast of points based on a depth of ideas are celebrated by Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina's 6th District. The third ranking member of the US House of Representatives, the House's Majority Whip—the member of Congress responsible for securing the votes of majority party members to pass or defeat legislation before the House—Rep. Clyburn clings mightily to the rhetoric force of understatement. Think hard: recall one instance of harsh tone, empty chatter, nasty labels, excessive hyperbole, ad homenium attacks, or war whoops by the Majority Whip. It is simply not in his character and not apart of his style—he has no arsenal of harsh words.

Instead, his quiver is full of ideas (many in the country think his ideas are wrong but they are supported by the voters of his 15 county district covering vast rural areas, the state's two largest cities (Charleston and Columbia), abounding I-95 from NC nearly to Savannah. The district includes the former estates of SC rice planters who crafted and signed the US Constitution—and counted by northern compromise three-fifths of their enslaved communities in the political census. Freedom has strange bed fellows. (So does power.)

A former chair of the Black Congressional Caucus, Clyburn's House seat was once held by the fabled John C. Calhoun, a leader of nullification and Southern secession, a spokesman for state's rights who claimed slavery to be a “positive good.” Many thought Calhoun to be "the most elegant speaker that sits in the House... His gestures are easy and graceful, his manner forcible, and language elegant; but above all, he confines himself closely to the subject, which he always understands, and enlightens everyone within hearing . . .”

Calhoun, the old, wiry Irish planter and Yale graduate, and Clyburn, of African-American heritage, a former executive director of the SC Commission for Farm Workers, NAACP chapter youth president, civil rights activist and Charleston history teacher, share common values: both were strong organizers and determined defenders of causes in which they believed. Both engaged in well reasoned, close tracking arguments for their legislative convicts, supported by facts, citing benefits and the promise of broader progress.

In contrast to Rep. Clyburn, stands SC's junior US Senator, Jim DeMint, who in a recent posting on his Senate website announced he is traveling to South Carolina to discuss jobs. His state has 15 counties (some also represented by Clyburn) that have multi-generational poverty at or above 30% of their population. I'm sure his discussion in the state after Michigan with the nation's highest unemployment rate is widely anticipated.

But Senator DeMint's big news is his commitment his introduced bill to repeal the healthcare reform bill. While others in his party call for “repeal and replace,” Senator DeMint is concentrating solely on repeal. In his blog, the Senator says, “This trillion dollar bill is paid for [actually only 9 billion, ed. note] with a government takeover of the student loan industry. The government will shut down private lenders, sell expensive loans to 19 million college students and use the profits to finance “ObamaCare.”

But based on the idea of smaller, less intrusive government, why were tax payers shelling out and subsidizing banks to the tune of 9 billion to lend students tax payer money--reimbursed by the government if students defaulted? Exactly how is the end this line item earmark, a “shut down” of private lenders? Banks can still loan students their own money, at competitive rates; the new law doesn't prohibit their entry. They simply not longer collect a collective 9 billion for passing through paper work. What Sen. DeMint describes as a “takeover” sounds more the breakup of a sweetheart deal. It stops a "give away."

And since students defer their loan payments, which involve low interest rates, it is doubtful there will be “profits” (or even modest rates of return on capital) which will make even a tiny dent in the ratcheting costs of healthcare. Greedy banks are failing on their own, but Senator DeMint, in a legerdemain of words, shifts their failure to a “government shutdown.” He deems low interest loans “expensive.” He declares the government will “sell” "expensive" loans, but what is the Senator selling? Fear? Fudge? A political dodge? And how will he cover the 700,000 uninsured in SC?

While the senator is retreating from his failure to create Obama's Waterloo by preventing the passage of healthcare reform, its passage may actually give the Senator a victory from his utter defeat. The bill's passage may stir an outrage even greater than its defeat or repeal. The Senator might do well to leave the status quo alone, since his own bill is “sound and fury, signifying nothing,” is given no chance at passage, and would be immediately vetoed by the President. But Sen. DeMint's strategy is a three headed single-note mantra: distort, block, repeal.

Quietly unnoticed in the final weeks of the healthcare reform fight, introduced without the fanfare of Sen. DeMint's repeal effort, Rep. Clyburn put forth a bipartisan, bicameral (House and Senate) rural energy-efficiency savings bill that has the potential to reduce energy dependence and create 40,000 jobs. See the release below:

Creating Jobs, Saving Money, Reducing Pollution

On Wednesday March 10, 2010, a bipartisan coalition of Senate and House Members were joined by rural electric cooperatives and energy industry leaders to introduce legislation establishing a Rural Energy Savings Program (RESP) to create jobs, save American families and businesses money on their electric bills, and reduce air pollution. The legislation (H.R. 4785 in the House) is estimated to create 20,000 to 40,000 jobs a year.

The bill provides $4.9 billion in loan authority through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to electric cooperatives to offer low-interest micro-loans to residential and small business customers for energy-saving retrofit and structural improvements. The program will be a boon for the domestic manufacturing and construction industries, as energy-efficiency products are almost exclusively manufactured in the United States and installation jobs cannot be exported. [ed. emphasis] The program builds on the existing co-op infrastructure that has strong community ties and a demonstrated 75-year history of on-bill financing for consumer loans.

Rep.Clyburn's brief remarks about his bill contained no hint of hyperbole. And he never mentioned his bipartisan, bicameral legislative effort in several national media appearances in the following weeks. His posted remarks about the bill were brief and succinct: "This bill provides for energy conservation, job creation and cost-effective upgrades that will improve consumers' quality of life. There is such broad support for this initiative because it is a win-win-win proposition."

Lindsey Graham, SC's other Senator, a conservative Republican, co-sponsored the bill in the Senate. Sen. Graham also opposes the healthcare reform act, passed in the house, in large part, through Rep. Clyburn's efforts to corral and count votes as the Whip. In his public remarks about the rural energy bill, Sen. Graham had this to say: "I am proud to work with Congressman Clyburn [ed. emphasis] and others on what I believe will be a worthwhile idea. This plan will help consumers in rural areas become more energy efficient and lower their electricity costs. It is smart policy to take a small, limited amount of federal dollars and empower people to help themselves. By turning this idea into law, our nation will be more energy independent and less dependent on foreign sources of energy. I am proud to be part of this effort . . .”

A google search turned up no instances of co-sponsorship between Rep. Clyburn and Sen. DeMint for any legislative efforts to secure SC or the nation's security, social welfare, or economic growth. Rep. Clyburn has referred to the Senator's repeal bill as “stalling.” Focused on overturning Presidential initiatives, Sen. DeMint has no comment I could find on his state's leading and powerful member of the House. One bill he sponsored (with 21 Senate co-sponsors) was a 2008 resolution to honor the life of Charlton Heston.

Both Clyburn and DeMint have offered characterizations of the healthcare reform bill: Rep. Clyburn called the bill “the Civil Rights Act of the 21st Century;” Sen. DeMint labeled it “an insult to our democracy,” with the added claim it “threatens our nation’s prosperity and freedom.”

Sen. DeMint, who formerly owned a marketing firm, served in the US House with Rep. Clyburn from 1999 to 2004. In reviewing his public service, Sen. DeMint would surely find agreement with John C. Calhoun adage, “In looking back, I see nothing to regret and little to correct.”

In a recent article, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida's 20th House district, one of Clyburn's six senior deputy whips, says Clyburn is a good listener who “corral votes through cajoling and gentle persuasion.” [Former Republican whip]"Tom DeLay got votes through coercion," Wasserman said. "Jim Clyburn gets votes by consensus." Sen. Graham has described Rep. Clyburn as “talented, smart, and easy to get along with.” Yet, those who know him say he has a “feisty, street-fighter's stubbornness when pursuing important goals.”

Sen. DeMint has demonstrated an equal stubbornness.

Both men sit on opposite sides of a political chasm. They hold vastly different views and values, they support different political means and ends.

But how do they use words? Does one inform while the other incites? Is there a symbiotic cause and effect hidden within the differences of their positions and words? Should we as a nation recall Sen. Daniel Webster's adage; “keep cool, anger is not argument.”

Will Sen. DeMint's skills as a marketer and his hyperbole and uncanny sense of the disenchantment of the people result in a brilliant finish for the man who is a key leader of the “Stop Obama” forces?

Will Rep. Clyburn's sense of community and his carefully executed steps and measured speech continue his journey in the top ranks of House leadership, as he keeps his eye on a vast array of legislative prizes?

Perhaps Calhoun, a Webster colleague, brillant and blind in his logic and contradictions, can offer an insight that best explains the times, the differences in tone, and the cause of the opposite roles both men play on the national stage: "the interval between the decay of the old and the formation and establishment of the new constitutes a period of transition which must always necessarily be one of uncertainty, confusion, error, and wild and fierce fanaticism."

In the days ahead, after we have been incited and informed, what brillance and contradictions within healthcare reform will remain? Sen. DeMint endorsing Michael Williams for Texas US Senator (fair use). Thanks for reading! /wr


Broken Words

Healthcare reform has ignited an populist explosion: what the Dickens is happening to America? To cite Dickens--media talking heads, or the views of thousands of assembled citizens from Iowa to Washington-- “it's the best of times; it's the worse of times.”

Each of us seems to only hold fast to a single point of view and believe our view holds a monopoly on exclusive truth. Unequivocally. Without a doubt or second thought. Our single minded conclusions are unshakeable and unimpeachable. Hurling these "conclusions" is cited as “debate.” This verbal stick checking passes for political engagement and masks itself as news.

But everyone with single-minded passions can take a disparate look at the facts.

Fact: our words and images, our faith in each other, are as broken as the health care system, and equally ratcheting beyond control. Health costs rise, and so does popular rhetoric. On voice mails: profanity and name-calling, threats, denigration, condemnation; in windows: bricks, gun shots; apparently from “parties unknown” on both sides.

What is the connection of this violent and verbal fringe to the larger body of people rallied around their unassailable points of view? Are these few influenced by the words and directives of bloggers who call for throwing bricks and running away? Are their single-minded beliefs the root of their violence and verbal assaults, the source of their blinders about the gross inappropriateness of their nameless acts of cowardice? Or is their impetus deep within their own character, with the political climate serving as a ruse for their “wilding out?”

Are talk radio hosts inflaming these passions as they hide behind free speech? How is this embedded fringe connected to the broader social milieu?

Has the protection of liberty and freedom become a guise for mean-spiritedness as well as over-spending?

Who lays claim to the 1776 revolutionary legacy? To the powers of the Constitution? To America's place among modern, industrial democracies? (America now ranks 14th among nations with college graduates.)

Who recalls the words of Thomas Paine, written by the American patriot in his pamphlet, Common Sense: “a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom.”

Fact: American politics has never been about vandals, cowards, and robo-calls; opinion polls, talk show hosts, or real or imagined monsters of the left or the right.

As an American who voted for Bob Dole and Strom Thurmond (and may have even written Thurmond in on ballots after he died), I also remember my mother's maternal grandfather's freedom or health was neither written in or guaranteed by the Constitution and was proffered by a Presidential executive decree whose confirming legislative amendment was voted down in the US House before its passage. Now that same amendment is grotesquely distorted by the noble status of the American Double Standard. In its name, simple social requirements like community service are considered by those with a pretentious inability, as modern day slavery! ( See .)

My American life acknowledges complexity and contradictions. It is hard for me to see single-mindedness as a article of blind faith which holds forth the exclusive path of progress.

I hate the idea of mandated health care, but it was Mitt Romney's idea and without it, the system is easy to scam.

I hate the potentially expanded debt or the insurance company's potential windfall, but I support and am willing to pay for the right of all to live.

I hate the current vitriol, and remember being called the “N – word” and the lit cigarette butts hurled at my uniform collar as I marched in small town Christmas parades in an integrated SC high school band in desegregation's early years.

I remember Thomas Paine's words, in Common Sense: “Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world; here too is the design and end of government, viz., freedom and security. And however our eyes may be dazzled with snow, or our ears deceived by sound; however prejudice may warp our wills, or interest darken our understanding, the simple voice of nature and of reason will say, it is right.” Single-mindedly so, without exception. As it was during a time I remember decades ago, when a young student played Christmas carols and marches in front of floats and Santa Claus. (Photo: Cummings HS Band, Brownsville, TX; fair use.)

Walter Rhett recently underwent a successful chest operation to remove non-malignant growths.