Saturday, January 17, 2009

CBS Polling: George Bush's Final Approval Rating...

  and as is to be expected, it ain't good.


President Bush will leave office as one of the most unpopular departing presidents in history, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll showing Mr. Bush's final approval rating at 22 percent.
Seventy-three percent say they disapprove of the way Mr. Bush has handled his job as president over the last eight years.
Mr. Bush's final approval rating is the lowest final rating for an outgoing president since Gallup began asking about presidential approval more than 70 years ago.
The rating is far below the final ratings of recent two-term presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, who both ended their terms with a 68 percent approval rating, according to CBS News polling.

   I'll bet that his ratings go up on Tuesday after Barack Obama becomes President Obama as most of us will approve of Bush leaving town, quickly.

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CDC Salmonella Outbreak: The Latest

  I'm a little late with this because I got busy doing other things over the past 2 days.  But, surprisingly, not everyone has heard about this outbreak, so here's the latest from the CDC.

As of 9pm EDT, Thursday, January 15, 2009, 453 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 43 states.

The investigation is ongoing, and exposures to peanut butter and other peanut butter-containing products are being examined. Preliminary analysis of an epidemiologic study conducted by CDC and public health officials in multiple states comparing foods eaten by ill and well persons has suggested peanut butter as a likely source of the bacteria causing the infections. To date, no association has been found with common brand names of peanut butter sold in grocery stores.

An epidemiologic investigation by the Minnesota Department of Health suggested King Nut creamy peanut butter as a likely source of Salmonella infections among many ill persons in Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture Laboratory isolated the outbreak strains of Salmonella Typhimurium from an open 5-pound container of King Nut brand creamy peanut butter. The product is distributed in Minnesota to establishments such as long-term care facilities, hospitals, schools, universities, restaurants, delis, cafeterias, and bakeries. It is not sold directly to consumers and is not known to be distributed for retail sale in grocery stores.

Clusters of infections in several states have been reported in schools and other institutions, such as long-term care facilities and hospitals. King Nut is the only brand of peanut butter used in those facilities for which we have information.

On January 10, 2009, King Nut Companies, a distributor of peanut butter manufactured by Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), issued a voluntary recall of peanut butter distributed under the King Nut label. In addition, King Nut Companies issued a voluntary recall of Parnell’s Pride peanut butter, which they also distributed and which is produced by the same manufacturer. The recalled products have lot codes beginning with “8”. No other King Nut products are included in this voluntary recall. More information about this recall can be found on the FDA website.

On January 13, 2009, Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), the manufacturer of King Nut peanut butter, announced a voluntary recall of peanut butter produced in its Blakely, Georgia processing facility produced on or after July 1, 2008, that had specific lot numbers and descriptions. More information regarding the recall is available on the FDA website.  The peanut butter being recalled is sold in bulk and distributed to institutions, food service industries, and private label food companies, under the brand names Parnell’s Pride and King Nut. None of the peanut butter being recalled is sold directly to consumers through retail grocery stores.

On January 14, 2009, Kellogg Company announced it has taken the precautionary measure of putting a hold on a variety of Austin® and Keebler® branded toasted peanut butter sandwich crackers. Peanut Corporation of America, the manufacturer currently under investigation by FDA and other regulatory agencies, is a peanut paste supplier that the Kellogg Company uses in its Austin® and Keebler® branded peanut butter sandwich crackers.  More information can be found on the FDA website.

  Just from the business side of the equation, this could get very ugly.

Barack Obama's Weekly Radio Address

  Together, we know that this is a time of great challenge for the American people. Difficult days are upon us, and even more difficult days lie ahead. Our nation is at war. Our economy is in great turmoil. And there is so much work that must be done to restore peace and advance prosperity. But as we approach this time-honored American tradition, we are reminded that our challenges can be met if we summon the spirit that has sustained our democracy since George Washington took the first oath of office.

Polling: The TARP Vote

Back in October, just before Congress voted on the bailout plan, 45% of voters opposed it, while 30% were in favor. Another 25% were undecided at that point. At the same time, the plurality of voters (47%) said they were more worried the government would do too much to fix the economic crisis, while only 36% were more worried it would not do enough.

Now, 54% of voters believe a major government economic recovery plan is necessary to the restore the U.S. economy, while just a third (33%) think the economy can recover on its own. But 55% also say the plan must include tax cuts, which Obama has promised but Democratic congressional leaders are trying to downsize.    Rasmussen Reports

  Obama's stimulus plan is supported by 44% of the country, while 28% oppose it and

27% aren't sure. Also, many Americans ( 37% ) believe that our Congress-Critters have no idea about what they are doing when it comes to trying to fix the American economic troubles.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Keith Olbermann on George Bush Presidency: 8 Years in 8 Minutes...

  was a very good look at the Bush Crime Family and their inept, lie-filled 8 year reign of terror from the White House.  Watch THIS video!

Political Humor This Week...

  and boy is there much of it, what with Bush doing his farewell pity-party tour and such.

Jay Leno:

    "President Bush has asked all the major networks for 15 minutes of air time on Thursday to give his farewell speech to the nation. Well, the White House says he's going to use part of the time to list his accomplishments. No word yet what he's going to do with the other 14 minutes."

    "Barack Obama says one of the first things he'll do as president is sign an executive order closing down Guantanamo Bay, to which President Bush said, 'Hey, well that's nothing. I've closed down factories, car dealerships."

    "Barack Obama also says he wants to bring a sense of accountability to Washington. I've got a better idea. Why don't you bring some accountants to Washington, okay? Tell us where the hell our $750 billion went!"

    "President Bush, appearing on Fox News Sunday morning, confirmed that he is planning on writing a book. Bush admitted he'll use a ghost writer. Well, sure, if it's about his Presidency, it's going to be a horror story. He'll need a ghost writer."


David Letterman:

     "Cold, isn't it, ladies and gentlemen? It was so cold today people were throwing shoes at Al Gore."

    "One week, and Barack Obama will be the new President of the United States. I'm telling you, things are really starting to look bad for Hillary."

"President Bush is busy saying good-bye to everybody. Last night he was on Larry King, and I think tomorrow he's making a farewell lasagna with Rachel Ray.
Bush is getting nostalgic. He says he's not sure how he will feel on January 21st, but I think I kind of know how the rest of us will feel."

    "One week from today, Barack Obama becomes president, and the current president becomes George W. Bush, mall cop. Did you know that?"


Conan O'Brien:

    "President Bush has been giving Barack Obama a lot of advice. They've had a few meetings and he's giving Obama advice. Yeah. President Bush has told Barack Obama that his biggest challenge will be an enemy attack. Specifically, Bush told Obama to keep your eye on Hillary."

    "Today was President Bush's last Cabinet meeting. At one point, Bush got emotional and said, 'I never got to find out what HUD means.'"

Jimmy Kimmel:

"President Bush has declared an advanced state of emergency in DC from Saturday until Wednesday to allow for extra security for the inauguration. Apparently, the President obtained information from a very reliable source that on Tuesday an unidentified black man is plotting to break into and actually live in the White House for at least four years."

    "By the way, it seems fitting to me that President Bush would leave Washington, DC, in a state of emergency on the day he leaves office."

    "The President was on 'Larry King' last night for one last hard-hitting interview before he packs up and tries to find his way back home to Texas. King asked the President if he personally lost money in the stock market. Bush said he has no idea because all his money is in a blind trust managed by a Nigerian prince who's about to collect a huge inheritance."

It's Over! As Of 5 PM Eastern Time, Bush's Job Ended...

   and it is about fucking time that this asshole gets kicked out on his sorry, pathetic ass!

   Bush will still be President until Tuesday, but for most part, those White House Republicans were done at 5 today.

They’ll turn in their BlackBerrys, laptops, building passes and gym keys.
And by the time the weekend is out — before the new administration can reverse course on waterboarding or SCHIP or anything else — teams of painters and carpet cleaners will have wiped away any hint that they ever set foot in the White House.

After Barack Obama is sworn in, Bush will take the long scenic helicopter flight around Washington en route to Andrews Air Force base, where dozens of staffers will send him on his way back to Texas.

  Goodbye and good riddance George. See you in court somewhere in this world.

Maybe Obama should skip his oath of office

Daily Kos

by Compound F   Thu Jan 15, 2009

I think Obama should skip taking his oath of office, because taking the oath will commit him to an inexorable cascade of legal mandates that he’d probably rather avoid altogether.

But, oh, damn, damn, damn!   While he is not yet technically ensnared in this legal trap, he looks pretty boxed-in to tipping the first domino, because according to Article II, Section I of the US Constitution, he doesn’t have a choice about taking the oath of office.

Before he enter on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation:--"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."


Unless we can do a quickie-amendment to that section of the Constitution, this is terrible news for Obama’s partisan transcendence, because as hilzoy points out, knocking over that first domino sets up a chain reaction:

(1) According to Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, the President "shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed".

(2) According to Article VI of the Constitution, "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land".

(3) The United States is a party to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

(4) As Dahlia Lithwick reminds us, the Convention Against Torture not only prohibits torture, it imposes a set of affirmative obligations on its parties. Specifically, Article 6 states:

"Upon being satisfied, after an examination of information available to it, that the circumstances so warrant, any State Party in whose territory a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 [ed.: acts of torture] is present shall take him into custody or take other legal measures to ensure his presence. The custody and other legal measures shall be as provided in the law of that State but may be continued only for such time as is necessary to enable any criminal or extradition proceedings to be instituted.
   2. Such State shall immediately make a preliminary inquiry into the facts."

Article 7:

  1. The State Party in the territory under whose jurisdiction a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is found shall in the cases contemplated in article 5, if it does not extradite him, submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.

And Article 12:

"Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction."

(5) None of the Objections entered by the United States at the time of ratification seem to affect the affirmative obligation to investigate and prosecute cases in which there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed.

It seems to me that these facts imply that if Barack Obama, or his administration, believe that there are reasonable grounds to believe that members of the Bush administration have committed torture, then they are legally obligated to investigate; and that if that investigation shows that acts of torture were committed, to submit those cases for prosecution, if the officials who committed or sanctioned those acts are found on US territory. If they are on the territory of some other party to the Convention, then it has that obligation. Under the Convention, as I read it, this is not discretionary. And under the Constitution, obeying the laws, which include treaties, is not discretionary either.

Prosecuting torture is not discretionary?  Well, I for one will be darned interested to hear from Eric Holder what is his perfessional legal opinion on whether waterboarding rises to the level of torture.  Oh, wait: He already gave his opinion!

"Do you agree with me that waterboarding is torture and illegal?" [Senator Leahy] asks.

After tracing the history of the simulating drowning tactic to the Khmer Rouge and other troubling regimes, Holder responded, "I agree with you, Mr. Chairman, that waterboarding is torture."

Obviously, Eric Holder is a typical howling moonbat from the left-wing of the terrorist-loving Democratic party, as he deviates so objectionably from the views of his totally non-partisan predecessors, the absolutely soul-less Alberto Gonzales and Michael "Tyrant!  Tyrant!" Mukasey.  Holder’s views cannot possibly be in accord with the post-partisan President-elect’s views, except THEY ARE:

OBAMA: For example, Vice President Cheney I think continues to defend what he calls extraordinary measures or procedures when it comes to interrogations and from my view waterboarding is torture.

This whole "defining torture" game is beginning to stink of partisan hackery, inconsequential verbal jousting, "a false narrative unencumbered by the preponderance of the facts," without any legal ramifications, except IT’S NOT:

Bush, Cheney, and Hayden have all copped to the fact that Kahlid Sheik Mohammed was waterboarded with their blessing.  If Obama and Holder believe that rises to the threshold of torture, then they are obligated to investigate and prosecute. 

Worse yet, Bush’s own chief-honcho authority on military commissions refuses to prefer charges against Mohammed al-Qahtani because he was tortured:

The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a "life-threatening condition."

"We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani," said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. "His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.


[Crawford] said Bush was right to create a system to try unlawful enemy combatants captured in the war on terrorism. The implementation, however, was flawed, she said. "I think he hurt his own effort. . . . I think someone should acknowledge that mistakes were made and that they hurt the effort and take responsibility for it."

"We learn as children it's easier to ask for forgiveness than it is for permission," Crawford said. "I think the buck stops in the Oval Office."

As Dahlia Lithwick and Phillippe Sands note:

The former chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and general counsel for the Department of the Army has spoken. Her clear words have been picked up around the world. And that takes the prospects of accountability and criminal investigation onto another level. For the Obama administration, the door to the do-nothing option is now closed. That is why today may come to be seen as the turning point.

This is why Obama should refuse to take his oath, if he doesn’t want these dominoes to fall.  The door to the do-nothing option is now closed.

George Bush: The " 3 Stooges " Of Ex-Presidents ...

all rolled into one is what this man is. Dumb, stupid, and ignorant also come to mind. His farewell speech to America and the rest of the world on Thursday night showed us that  General Fuckup still has no clue. Nobody will miss this fool, with the exception of the late-night comedians and Wall Street along with maybe a few other low-life corporations and individuals. Real Americans most certainly will not.

Bye Bye Bush


With the stupidity of Mr. Bush in mind, I bring you some of his best quotes.

It would be a mistake for the United States Senate to allow any kind of human cloning to come out of that chamber.

For every fatal shooting, there were roughly three non-fatal shootings. And, folks, this is unacceptable in America. It's just unacceptable. And we're going to do something about it.

I have opinions of my own, strong opinions, but I don't always agree with them.

I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe - I believe what I believe is right.

I'm the master of low expectations.

Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?

We need an energy bill that encourages consumption.

Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people and neither do we.

It is clear our nation is reliant upon big foreign oil. More and more of our imports come from overseas.

Will the highways on the Internet become more few?

I think we agree, the past is over.

   I think we agree George, you are over!

       Find these and even more of this idiots quotes here.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bank of America Getting More TARP Funding...

   which comes as no surprise to anyone. The amazing thing about this is that BofA is requesting the extra money in order to finish buying up Merrill Lynch! BofA has already received some $25 billion from the government and they now say that they need the money now because Merrill Lynch's losses were greater than was expected in the last quarter of 2008. BofA is asking for $15 billion more from the Treasury Department.                   Source

"The government has got itself in a position where they have to do something, and they have to help close this deal, so they have to provide additional subsidy to Bank of America," said Simon Johnson, a former economist at the International Monetary Fund and a professor of entrepreneurship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management.

  I have a better idea. Let the merger go bust and then let BofA fail.  They can then go into bankruptcy and come out as a smaller entity which will not be to big to not let fail.

    BofA is due to release it's 4th quarter earnings on Tuesday, which will no doubt be in the near negative column. So the government gives them the extra money to buy Merrill with and we then have a bigger bank that'll certainly be asking for even more cash to stay afloat in the future? WTF?

From Bush To President Obama: The change Of Power

   So, what is the process when moving from one President to the next one? Actually, it's pretty damned interesting when you follow the goings-on and the steps involved.

   ABC News White House correspondent Ann Compton brings you up to date on what will be happening between now and " Obama Tuesday."

President and Mrs. Bush fly to Camp David Friday afternoon for a final weekend in the rustic seclusion of "the Camp." Over the next 36 hours, White House staffers will go through the behind-the-scenes business of turning in their hard passes, coded lapel pins, "flip-top" fancy White House IDs in leather folders, blackberries, cellphones, and security clearances.

At 9:00 p.m. Friday, the highest-level staffers will turn in their gear; and the West Wing will become a ghost town.

Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, Counselor Ed Gillespie, and Press Secy Dana Perino are the senior staffers who will remain here, on standby. Monday is a federal holiday so the White House would be closed anyway. On Tuesday, Special Agent Donald White of the U.S. Secret Service will shadow President Bush, sit in the customary front "shotgun" seat of the limousine, and guard the President until noon. At 12:01, Agent White steps over to a position behind Barack Obama.

President and Mrs. Bush will helicopter to Andrews Air Force Base after the swearing-in (they do not remain on Capitol Hill for the luncheon); the Cheneys drive to Andrews.  At 1:20 pm, the former President will speak (no cameras) to hundreds of loyal friends invited to come out to a hangar at Andrews for the send-off.  A handful of these friends have been invited to fly on what can can no longer be called Air Force One (it's only Air Force One when it ferries the President) to Midland, Texas.

Here at the White House, Laura Bush has already packed up her books and dispatched them to Texas.  An aide says the only personal piece of furniture departing is a chest of drawers belonging to President Bush's grandmother.

Around 10:30 am Tuesday, moving trucks will be waiting to enter the south drive of the White House, bringing the Obama family's belongings. And a new era.

  So will end the Bush Crime Family reign of terror, and thus will begin the Obama Presidency. Hopefully, the investigation's of the Bush Crime Family will follow shortly after.

Eric Holder Jr: " Waterboarding is Torture"

   From the Blog Of Legal Times comes this from the confirmation hearings going on concerning Eric Holder's nomination for Attorney. General..

Attorney General nominee Eric Holder Jr., in response to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy's first question, said unequivocally that waterboarding amounts to torture.

The question, which nearly sunk the nomination of Attorney General Michael Mukasey, means Holder will have to make a decision, if confirmed, whether to investigate Bush administration officials who condoned the use of the tactic on suspected terrorists.

"I agree with you chairman that waterboarding is torture," Holder said. He also said U.S. officials could be held accountable for transferring prisoners to the custody of foreign agents who use such tactics.

  It is Holder's comments such as these that will have Spector and the rest of the Republicans coming out swinging since they approved of Alberto Gonzales's views and walked in step with Bush.

Leahy, pushing further, asked whether the commander in chief could immunize officials who sanctioned the use of waterboarding against legal fallout. Many have speculated that President George W. Bush may preemptively pardon members of his administration who were involved in devising and carrying out a CIA detention and interrogation program that involved the use of waterboarding and other harsh methods on suspected terrorists.

"Mr. Chairman, no one is above the law," Holder said."The president acts most forcefully when he acts consistent with congressional intent."

    An Attorney General who knows the difference between right and wrong.

    Be Afraid Republicans. Be Very Afraid!

Serious Materials May Be Republic Windows Knight In Shining Armor

   UE Local 1110 

announced today that the leading company in the green window business -- Serious Materials, based in Sunnyvale, California -- is in the final stages of working out an agreement to purchase the assets of Republic Windows and Doors.  Members of UE Local 1110 staged a sit-in last month to win severance, health benefits and earned vacation pay, after the plant's previous owner shut down with only three days' notice to workers.

Though some details still need to be finalized, the union is told that the parties are very close to inking a deal.  "We are all hopeful about the possibility of Serious reopening our plant.  This would be a very happy ending to our struggle,"  said former Republic worker and Local 1110 Vice President Melvin Maclin.

Serious has said that it hopes, after a ramp-up period, to eventually hire all of the former Republic workforce.  For that to happen, however, the bankruptcy court must act quickly.  The local fears that if the court delays,  the business will evaporate and it will be difficult to re-hire anyone.  "We hope that the creditors, trustee and judge will allow Serious to purchase the assets soon, so I and my co-workers can start making windows again," said Robles.

   That would be Armando Robles, a one-time maintenance worker for Republic Windows and president of union local 1110.

      I wish all of the best for these men/women and their families. Things can be accomplished when you get together and organize instead of just bitching and moaning.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Conservative Healthcare Reform Myths

   The conservatives have been out in full force telling the American citizens, by way of the media, that healthcare reform is not possible because it would be to expensive to implement and that patients would not have choices in their medical care.  A few more myths ( lies ) from the conservative group.

  Center For American Progress      July 15, 2008

Myth: Health care reform is best left to individual states.

Truth: An effective and efficient U.S. health system cannot be constructed one state at a time. The sum of state reform does not equal reform on a national level

It is true that state-level health care reform can show the framework and feasibility of solutions and act as a testing ground for new approaches. But it is no substitute for sorely needed national reform. States alone cannot achieve comprehensive reform. Fiscal concerns, already seen in California to Massachusetts, will make state reform unworkable because of the lack of annual balanced budgets and a high price tag. Without federal support and redistribution, health care will become less equitable from state to state. What’s more, states with a higher percentage of their population living below the poverty line tend to have higher rates of uninsurance.

Without national will and leadership, state-level lessons tend to stay within the single state. Fifty separate reform efforts only complicate the health care system and inhibit attempts to simplify it.

Myth: The federal government should provide a flat tax credit for all Americans who buy insurance, with no qualifying restrictions.

Truth: A badly designed tax credit plan could actually cause costs to rise for most families and increase the number of uninsured by ignoring low-income and high-risk individuals.

The fixed-dollar flat tax credits that conservatives have proposed do not take into account cost variation between insurance plans. Flat credits are also not adjusted for a person’s level of need or income, and so low-income people and people with chronic health problems will end up spending a much higher percentage of their overall incomes on health insurance. Credits will cover the cost of insurance for the young and healthy, but they will not offset the high cost for the older and sicker.

Models and experience show that the effect of a credit on the uninsured is uncertain at best; one analysis suggested that voluntary enrollment in individual-market plans would not reduce the number of uninsured Americans due to a loss of employer coverage or a rise in employer premiums.

Tax credits can be used as part of a broader strategy to reduce the rate of uninsured, but used alone they will not drive down the price of health insurance. The purported benefits of competition among private insurance companies that credits encourage must be weighed against the higher administrative cost of individual-market insurance and a decline in employer involvement. Encouraging tax equity over these other important considerations will do little more than create a larger uninsured population.

Myth: Consumer-driven health plans will reduce costs by giving people more control over their health care choices and encouraging high quality and appropriate use of care.

Fact: Consumer-driver health plans will not control costs. In fact, they will expose people to high deductibles and cost-sharing payments and discourage consumers from seeking important services, like prevention.

Roughly 70 percent of health costs and deaths are attributable to smoking, obesity, and health problems that could be prevented. Conservatives hold up consumer-driven health plans as the answer to encouraging individuals to use preventive services.

Yet enrollees in these plans have inadequate information to make good decisions—and the plans provide no help. Consumers are unlikely to obtain adequate and reliable information on cost and quality and differentiate necessary from unnecessary care. Some studies show that consumers will even choose to underinvest in prevention as they try to be more “cost-conscious.”

The truth is that cost-sharing can discourage people from using preventive care. One study showed that $10 co-pays caused a significant reduction in the use of mammograms among seniors. Other studies suggest that cost sharing, especially for low-income families, people with chronic disease, or families with children with special needs, could deter patients from seeking preventive services.

Myth: Americans have adequate access to health care—everyone has access to emergency care.

Truth: Safety net providers, like emergency rooms, are not a substitute for comprehensive, coordinated, and timely health care services.

Coverage makes a difference. Research indicates that the uninsured population receives less care for necessary medical services compared to the insured population. Uninsured individuals experience delayed diagnoses, are less likely to receive recommended care for chronic conditions, and are less likely to be admitted to a hospital when they experience trauma. Plus, emergency care for the uninsured means longer wait times for everyone.

Other factors restrict and delay access to basic health care services. In rural areas, there are fewer health care professionals, specialists, and less high-tech equipment; in the inner cities, lack of safe transportation is a limiting factor. The socio-demographic studies show that there are growing inequities in life expectancy between the wealthy and the poor. Hispanics and African Americans get more medical services in emergency rooms and are less likely to have a regular primary care provider, further contributing to devastating health disparities.

Myth: Any health reform plan in which the government is involved is “socialized medicine,” which will result in bureaucratic, big-government programs that contradict the American ideals of free market and choice.

Truth: Affordable coverage for all does not equal “socialized medicine.” In fact, public-private hybrid health care plans can be used to achieve a higher degree of universal, high-quality health coverage.

Progressive plans vary in their degree of proposed health care reforms, and government-provided health care is merely one strategy to achieve coverage for everybody. Many health care systems around the world are hybrids that combine public and private insurance elements—and many proposals for health care reform in the United States build upon our current system of shared financing between public insurance programs and private plans.

Critics worry about long lines and “rationing,” but people are already dying and waiting in overcrowded emergency rooms. Americans even wait longer for same-day access to care than most nations with universal coverage. The United States has the highest rate of preventable deaths among 19 industrialized nations due to a lack of timely and effective care—evidence that we already ration care, partly on ability to pay.

“Socialized medicine” is a term that has been embraced, demonized, and misunderstood since the early 20th century in the United States. In fact, two models of government-funded health care in the United States—the Veterans Affairs Health Care system and the Medicare program—represent different and successful public insurance models within our own system.

Myth: Medical malpractice lawsuits are little more than predatory lawyers destroying honest doctors; caps should be set on the amount awarded to accusers.

Truth: Although the malpractice system is deeply flawed, setting caps deflects attention from patient safety and would likely not reduce frivolous lawsuits or costly premiums.

Medical malpractice liability is in need of reform, but claims of a nationwide crisis are overblown. Malpractice claims and insurance premiums vary by specialty and geographic area—doctors in obstetrics or surgery tend to pay higher premiums, for example. What increases occur in malpractice premiums can be linked primarily to a sluggish economy. In fact, malpractice costs represent less than 2 percent of total health care spending. There is little correlation between malpractice claim increases and premium increases.

Enacting caps on awards threatens individual rights to compensation for harm resulting from preventable medical error, mostly because so-called frivolous lawsuits represent only a small portion of claims and awards by juries. Focusing on tort reform deflects attention from patient safety in a system where victims are not fairly compensated and errors are not properly prevented. The solution to rising costs should instead consist of more emphasis on evidence-based medicine, independent screening, immediate disclosure of errors, and even a no-fault system of compensation.

                                             © Center for American Progress

More conservative myths can be found here.

News From the Automotive Industry...

   and I am making short notice of what has been coming out from the manufacturers today,

   First off, we start with Toyota, who is trying to encourage their managers to buy one of their cars as Toyota is facing their first operating loss in 70 years. This is also an attempt by the firm to boost morale.

    "This is not company policy and in no way mandatory, but more of a form of unofficial encouragement," Toyota spokeswoman Ririko Takeuchi told the Guardian.

  Next up, Chrysler, which Vice Chairman Tom LaSorda has said that the American manufacturer would not be selling off any of their individual brands but that they may be interested in... to sell off tooling for models going out of production, or even licensing production of current models.

        Meanwhile, some unhappy workers for the Big 3 where out protesting in the cold weather during the North American International Auto Show at Detroit's Cobo Center this past weekend.

So instead of cows, a couple hundred auto workers herded outside the Cobo Center in the frosty cold, protesting the concessions they'll likely be asked to make as Chrysler seeks more bailout money.

"My house is down by 37 percent. My 401(k) is down by 40 percent. Now they're telling me they're going to cut my wages by possibly 50 percent?" said Steve Waskul, 49 years old, who has worked in a Dodge truck plant for the past 12 years.

  A 50% wage cut? Do you know what the means to most of these workers in the process of paying on a mortgage or any other major bills? Bankruptcy !

   How does working for less when everything else is costing you and I more helping the economy?

The Economy: Tax Hikes Needed To Help Pay Bills

   I know that no one likes the idea of having their taxes go up. But, let's face it. All of the cash going into Obama's stimulus program will only do so much. Just where is the cash for the stimulus going to come from? China?

       Larry Beinhart argues that our economy has been at its strongest when our taxes have been at a high level and he also points out that his idea of higher taxes would be placed on the richest members of our society. Nothing wrong with that, is there?

Published on Monday, January 12, 2009 by

Time For Tax Hikes

by Larry Beinhart

US economic growth has been strongest when our taxes have been high. During World War II, then under Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy, our upper marginal tax rates were between 88-92%. Read those numbers again. They are astonishingly high. Those were our strongest growth years.

I never expected to say this. Pelosi's right, Obama's wrong.

Do keep in mind that we are talking about higher taxes on the richest members of society, the very richest. So, unless you're among that elite group, don't panic for personal reasons.

Keep in mind, also, that we are speaking only of income taxes.
You have certainly heard, several thousand times, that tax cuts lead to economic growth.

That's not true.

Moderate tax cuts lead to a flat economy. (The Johnson tax cuts, usually misnamed the Kennedy tax cuts, lead to 16 years of virtually no growth.)

Large tax cuts are followed by a boom in the financial sector, a bubble, and a crash. Then a recession or depression with massive bank failures. This has happened three times, in the 1920s, under Reagan, and under George W. Bush.

During a depression or recession, the point where taxes are increased marks the point when the economy begins its recovery: 1932 under Hoover, Roosevelt's second round of tax hikes in 1940, the first president Bush's tax hike, followed by the Clinton tax hike. (There's one exception. Roosevelt's tax hike of 1936, which was accompanied by cuts in government spending.)
US economic growth has been strongest when our taxes have been high. During World War II, then under Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy, our upper marginal tax rates were between 88-92%. Read those numbers again. They are astonishingly high. Those were our strongest growth years.
The next time we experienced strong growth - not just in the fiscal sector, across the entire economy - was after the Clinton tax hikes.

Why do tax hikes lead to strong economic growth?
Tax hikes usually correspond to higher government spending.
Government spends money on things that the private sector does not spend money on: physical infrastructure, social infrastructure, market infrastructure, and defense. These are the things that create a world in which doing business is possible. The worse those things are, the worse business is. The better they are, the better business is.
Rich people can't be trusted with too much money. If they have too much easy cash around, they get conned into Ponzi schemes, they go for quick money deals, they get suckered into bubbles, and then the whole economy crashes.

Can we have increased government spending without tax hikes? No.
We can spend more than the government takes in - if, and only if - the following is true.
If the government is spending more than it takes in order to create an environment where more productive business is possible, then, at some point, the investment will begin to pay off and revenues will rise. If, at the same time, government spending declines (as a percentage of GDP), increased revenue will catch up with spending and the debt will be paid off.

Or - since this is the real world, in which there are always new needs and new problems, and therefore new things to pay for - the old debts will be caught up with and paid down, while new ones are taken on, hopefully to build new things that will pay off in turn.

In order for that to work, the tax rate has to be high enough so that the first set of deficits could actually be paid off (if life, government and business suddenly stopped there). If the tax rate is not high enough to do that - even if only in theory - then debt piles upon debt and the country's currency becomes worthless.

Debts at some point must be paid. Even if new debts are being taken on. The fact that government goes on and on, and there are constant new debts, disguises that. It makes us think of the debt as a condition, something special to government, that is actually different from regular economics. But it's not.

So the set-up has to be like that of a real business. We take on debt to get things done. We need a revenue stream that will pay for that debt. In this case, it's called taxes. If the set-up is such that the revenue stream will never pay for that debt, we must go bankrupt. Or mortgage and then sell off our assets, and then go bankrupt. Which is what we tried under George Bush.

There is a theory that tax cuts - even without spending cuts - will pay for themselves out of increased revenues. This has the laughable name, The Laffer Curve. It apparently works very well in Republican minds but has never worked in reality. It produces huge deficits that eventually require tax hikes to pay down the debt.
We are now taking on two huge new sets of debts. The first is to pay for the Laffer Curve idiocy of the Bush years. The second is to rebuild the economy from the devastation of those policies and the ones like them in preceding administrations.

Somehow, those debts will have to be paid for. The question is how?
We know that even if the economy is relatively active, as it was during the fiscal bubble of the Bush years, that it cannot pay the cost of government with the tax rates that we currently have. There was lots of taxable money being generated, yet it never came close to catching up with spending. That's not even counting those costs - like the wars - that were kept off the books.
Even if we were not going to invest in rebuilding the economy, we would have to raise taxes just to get even. Then raise them again to pay down the debt. But unless we rebuild the economy it will not generate enough money to create the revenue stream (taxes) to pay the debts. So that has to be done too.
Why are we so resistant to raising taxes?
It's our nature. Nobody likes to give up their personal money for the common good.
People with a lot of money have, over the past fifty years, spent a fortune on exploiting that instinct and pandering to that feeling. Eventually, with nobody willing to say publicly that taxes are good, they took over the dialogue. It is now routine to hear tax cuts refereed to as "pro-growth" policies, even though, in fact, that's not true. It is routine to hear tax hikes called "anti-growth" policies, when that's not true.
The rich, the Republicans, and the Right, have lost this last election, but they still own the mythology.

High taxes make for a sound economy. High taxes make us all better off. High taxes will make you richer. Even after taxes.

Larry Beinhart is the author of Wag the Dog, The Librarian, and Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin. All available at

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

If Obama Takes The Oath, He Must Prosecute Bush

Original Article

If Obama Takes The Oath, He Must Prosecute Bush

by Lets Elect A Progressive President In 2012    Tue Jan 13, 2009

In one week, Barack Obama will take this oath:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

With the stunning admission George Bush made yesterday at his press conference that he knowingly approved of torture, and with Cheney’s arrogant come-and-get-me remarks on the same topic recently, Barack Obama is bound and compelled by the United States Constitution and the oath he has taken to open a full investigation and trial against George Bush and his administration.

If Barack Obama does not open an investigation and trial against George Bush, his oath will be a sham and he will have failed to comply with the very words he has taken as his oath on the very first day of his presidency.

He will have become complicit to the Bush crime.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Salmonella Tainted Peanut Butter Cause Of 3 Deaths?

  A few days ago, I reported on the Salmonella outbreak going on in 42 states.

  Now, I have an update on this.

     The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC ) said Monday that peanut butter is the likely culprit behind the salmonella outbreak. The infection has now struck 410 people in 43 states and may have caused 3 deaths.

  From the CDC:

Preliminary analysis of an epidemiologic study conducted by CDC and public health officials in multiple states comparing foods eaten by ill and well persons has suggested peanut butter as a likely source. To date, no association has been found with common brand names of peanut butter sold in grocery stores.

An epidemiologic investigation by the Minnesota Department of Health suggested King Nut creamy peanut butter as a likely source of Salmonella infections among many ill persons in Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture Laboratory isolated the outbreak strains of Salmonella Typhimurium from an open 5-pound container of King Nut brand creamy peanut butter. The product is distributed in Minnesota to establishments such as long-term care facilities, hospitals, schools, universities, restaurants, delis, cafeterias, and bakeries. It is not sold directly to consumers and is not known to be distributed for retail sale in grocery stores.

On January 10, 2009, King Nut Companies, a distributor of peanut butter manufactured by Peanut Corporation of America, issued a voluntary recall of peanut butter distributed under the King Nut label. In addition, King Nut Companies also issued a voluntary recall of Parnell’s Pride peanut butter distributed by King Nut, which is produced by the same manufacturer. The recalled products have lot codes beginning with “8”. No other King Nut products are included in this voluntary recall.

   Go to the CDC website for a look at which states are having the outbreak and how many in those states have been infected.

Polling: 73% Say Economy Getting Worse...

  and I would guess that the other 27% are either wealthy or in a coma.

   One week ago that figure  was at 61%. 10% of those polled think that the economy is getting better.

   According to polling firm Rasmussen,  53% of Americans believe that their own finances are getting worse.

  So, what about investors?

  Today, only 8% of Investors rate the economy as good or excellent, down from 31% a year ago. Sixty-four percent (64%) of Investors say the economy is in poor shape.

Looking to the future, 39% of Americans say that the economy will be stronger in a year while 31% believe it will be weaker. Longer-term, there is optimism—62% say the economy will be stronger in five years than it is today.

  The Obama administration can pump all of the money that they want to into fixes for our economy, but, unless NAFTA and the WTO is renegotiated or done away with, our economy will not get to much better. If those in Washington really want to help out the " average " American, they will change the tax code for business  to stop them from moving jobs and companies to foreign countries.  We are fucked if these things aren't changed no matter what kind of stimulus our politicians come up.

Microsoft Dumping 15,000 Employees...

   which is about 17% of the workforce.

   Microsoft employs about 90,000 people worldwide and the word is that 15,000 of those workers will be given their pink slips on January 15,2009, one week before Microsoft's Q2 earnings report comes out.

   The rumor is that MSN division will take the blunt of the layoffs and it is also being said that larger staff cuts are possible in Microsoft EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa).

The Channel Wire

    A Wednesday report on said the software company is more likely to reduce its employee rolls through attrition, hiring freezes and non-renewal of contract employees, even though the story cited a blog post last week that Microsoft was preparing to cut as many as 15,000 jobs.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Arizona Boy Not Competent For Trial...

  according to his lawyers.

     Attorney Benjamin Brewer says that an expert who evaluated the boy says that the boy couldn't be restored to competency in the time allotted by law.  This expert of one who was chosen by the defense. It'll be interesting to see if the expert on the prosecutions side came up with the same conclusion, if the results are ever released to the public before trial.

The boy's competency is at the core of the case.
The issue likely will be discussed at a hearing on a motion Brewer filed to suppress a police interview with the boy or during a competency hearing that could take place in January.
"That will be the biggest decision that will be made, for sure," he said.
If a judge finds the boy is incompetent and unable to be restored to competency within 240 days, the case could be dropped with prejudice, meaning it could not be refiled.
Prosecutors are worried the boy never will get the treatment he needs and the victims never will see justice if that determination is made.
If the boy is found fit to stand trial, Apache County Superior Court Judge Michael Roca will hear arguments in a bench trial that attorneys say could wrap up by midyear.

  Attorney Brewer doesn't believe that the prosecution has a strong case against the child. The defense is asking Judge Roca to suppress evidence found at the home including " weapon, spent cartridges, blood samples, photographs and forensic material."   That would pretty much kill the prosecutions case, don't you think?

  I would note that gunshot residue was found on the boys clothing when he was taken into custody on November 5th,08.

   Dallas News

Lead, barium and antimony, known to be associated with gunshot residue, were found on a pair of pants and a long-sleeved shirt taken by police after the Nov. 5 shootings, according to the report released by prosecutors Monday.

Whether the boy came into contact with a gun hasn't been a question in the case. The boy admitted to police that he fired at least two shots at each of the men, and defense attorneys say there's no question the boy was in the home with a recently fired weapon.

In an interview with police, the boy told investigators he could have walked into some "smoke" that was trapped in the hallway of the St. Johns home where the two men were shot and got some gunshot residue on his clothing as a result.

  I'm beginning to think that this boy is a liar, not incompetent. After all of the changes in his stories to the police, he has guilty written all over his face and he should be prosecuted for those 2 murders which he has committed.

Will Obama Open NAFTA Up For Renegotiation?

Published on Saturday, January 10, 2009 by Foreign Policy In Focus

Obama and NAFTA

by Laura Carlsen

Will he or won't he?

In the shadow of the economic crisis, a war of words rages over whether President-elect Barack Obama will hold to his campaign promise of opening up the North American Free Trade Agreement for renegotiation.

The debate isn't likely to stay in the shadows for long. Campaign attacks on NAFTA and candidate promises to renegotiate proved that demands for revision of the free-trade model have reached critical mass in U.S. politics. A post-election report from Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch heralded a net gain of 28 fair-trade members in the House and seven senators. Most of these politicians, it notes, didn't just happen to be critical of the free-trade model. They actively ran on a fair-trade platform and won partly on that stance.

The economic crisis only strengthens those demands. If international trade and investment policy is the pillar of the current economic model, its revision must be a foundation of global restructuring plans.

Why renegotiate NAFTA?

The mainstream press is wrong when it says the United States can't "unilaterally" call for renegotiation. Not only is renegotiation permitted legally - in fact, any country can unilaterally withdraw with six months notice - but there have been many calls for renegotiation in Canada and Mexico.

Canadians have built a strong grassroots movement to protect natural resources from predatory NAFTA clauses. Broad-based citizen groups like the Council of Canadians oppose NAFTA because of the energy proportionality clause that requires Canada to export oil to the United States even in times of scarcity, the investor-state clauses that give investors the right to sue governments contained in Chapter 11, and the clause that permits bulk-water exports. Polls in the general population show that 61% favor renegotiation.

In Mexico, 100,000 people marched in the streets on two separate occasions under the banner of renegotiation to revise NAFTA's agricultural provisions. They demanded protection of basic food production by removing corn and beans from the agreement. In 2003, former President Vicente Fox requested opening up the agreement only to be rebuffed by the U.S. government.

For the United States, the main issue is jobs. Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, cites a loss of 200,000 manufacturing jobs due to NAFTA for his state alone. The nation has lost 3.1 million manufacturing jobs since 1994, and its trade deficit with Mexico and Canada has risen to $138.5 billion in 2007 from $9.1 billion in 1993. The opposition to NAFTA within the United States goes well beyond organized labor. While job loss and insecurity under globalization were major constituency-builders in blue-collar states during the elections, polls taken before the election revealed that a national majority opposes free trade and particularly NAFTA, and that opinion increased during the campaign. A June 2008 Rasmussen nationwide poll showed 56% in favor of renegotiating NAFTA. Many people feel that NAFTA has given companies incentives to move production to where labor is cheaper, exporting jobs and eroding working conditions.

In general, U.S. opposition to the trade agreement is split between fair-trade groups that focus on jobs and the environment and a nationalist rightwing that believes NAFTA and its offspring, the Security and Prosperity Partnership, threaten U.S. sovereignty. Neither of these currents could properly be called "protectionist," and both call for more transparency in the process.

Among the differing priorities, citizen demands concur that the current agreement favors transnational companies and is unfair to citizens in all three nations.

Broadly shared priorities for renegotiation are:

  • Eliminate Chapter 11. Corporations shouldn't have the right to sue governments and supersede national laws. Trade tribunals lack adequate transparency and accountability, and consistently reflect a strong, pro-corporate bias.
  • End the energy proportionality clause between the United States and Canada, and exclude bulk water as a commodity. Canadian national and provincial governments should be able to fulfill their responsibilities in long-term energy planning without restrictions under NAFTA.
  • Get NAFTA out of food and agriculture. Countries should be able to develop national agendas to assure food quality, farm livelihoods, and consumer safety and then adapt the trade agreement to those objectives rather than the reverse. NAFTA favors corporate farms and bans certain policy tools to support small farmers and consumers, including special products protections. Renegotiating the agreement's agricultural provisions shouldn't involve surgical incisions of specific clauses, but a deep reform and reorientation toward food sovereignty.
  • End the Security and Prosperity Partnership. This 2005 NAFTA extension into further trade and investment liberalization and national security has no public mandate in any of the three countries. Further negotiations on expanding integration should be reviewed and, where approved, be channeled into open, representative talks. The U.S. military aid package it spawned, the Merida Initiative, should be converted into a development aid package for the 2010 appropriations.

Citizen movements also call for national governments to have more development and social policy tools, many of which are prohibited under the competition and privatization terms of NAFTA. Some of these groups together produced a document of 10 areas that should be reviewed: energy, agriculture, role of the state, financial services, foreign investment, employment, migrants, environment, intellectual property, and dispute settlement.

Will He or Won't He?

Obama's campaign promise was explicit: "NAFTA's shortcomings were evident when signed and we must now amend the agreement to fix them." The president-elect called for enforceable labor and environmental standards in the text, an end to the ability of corporations to sue governments, and emphasizing the needs of "Main Street" over "Wall Street."

But now some Obama-watchers claim he's waffling on his trade commitments. Although these contentions in the pro-free-trade press are mostly wishful thinking, experts and activists are following the appointments closely. So far it has been a mixed message. The initial nomination of Bill Richardson, point-person for the passage of NAFTA under the Clinton administration, didn't sit well with fair-trade groups and elicited a sigh of relief among free-trade promoters, who instantly chalked up the president-elect's anti-NAFTA statements to electoral propaganda. Obama's economic advisors, led by Larry Summers, and appointee for Treasury, Timothy Geithner, at face value would also indicate a commitment to the status quo on trade. And when Ron Kirk, a former mayor of Dallas who proclaimed his city the "capital of NAFTA," accepted the nomination for U.S. Trade Representative, it reversed satisfaction among fair-traders at the initial nomination of Xavier Becerra, who turned down the job.

Pending the new Commerce designate, that leaves Hilda Solis, Obama's nominee for Secretary of Labor, as the only real bright spot for fair-traders. A NAFTA critic, she would wield real clout since jobs will be the pivotal issue for the United States in renegotiation. As a Latina, she also has an acute understanding of the need to make NAFTA fair for all partners.

Pessimistically, it's possible to imagine that the Obama presidency could end up merely adopting the Democratic platform on trade, which would stick side agreements in the text, add International Labor Organization core labor standards, and create an expanded U.S. jobs displacement program. Obama voted for the U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement, which was modified along these lines. But the economic crisis has changed everything. Even as the Bush administration frantically - and incredibly - insists that free trade isn't the problem but the solution, most other countries are taking a second look at the model. As the crisis sets in, Europe wants more regulation and developing countries want more policy space. And Americans want more protection from the disaster that's currently befalling them.

With every appointment, Obama has insisted he'll be the one calling the shots. For the next few weeks, then, all we really have to go on for predicting trade policy is Washington's current favorite game - the psychic exploration of Obama's inner mind. A more productive activity for fair-traders is to pull out all the stops in the tri-national campaigns to renegotiate NAFTA and impose a moratorium on new free trade agreements. This is an historic opportunity to change course in crisis.

Citizens Organize for Renegotiation

Citizen organizations and legislators have called for renegotiation of NAFTA in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The collapse of the financial sector spells the need for a reconversion strategy for the "real economy;" that is, U.S. productive capacity in the United States. This strategy will require a careful and critical look at NAFTA, our blind reliance on market forces, and the promotion of outsourcing as a competition strategy.

The industrial policy that Obama outlined clashes ideologically and legally with NAFTA and other free trade agreements. It hasn't been lost on the rest of the world that the U.S. government is adopting measures such as massive subsidies and bailouts that it has sought to deny developing countries under free-trade rules. Robert Kuttner at The American Prospect refers to this as "the sin of committing industrial policy" and warns that it's only a matter of time before a trade partner registers a suit against Obama's anti-crisis measures. This would be an excellent opportunity to expose the hypocrisy of our trade policies and chart a new course.

The new fair-trade members of Congress and others outside the leadership clique will provide new allies and be far more willing to move beyond the stodgy party leadership's position on trade. Some already have. The TRADE Act, introduced into Congress in April 2008, calls for a NAFTA review and lays out fair-trade principles.

Meanwhile, poor countries need maximum room for maneuver to help those who are already living on the edge. Mexico is no exception. Although the current government isn't likely to willingly change neoliberal policies and accept NAFTA renegotiation, the citizenry opposes NAFTA two to one. Echoing the phrase that did in John McCain's candidacy, President Felipe Calderón continues to argue that the Mexican economy will be fine even as reports of job loss, wage declines, inflation, and capital flight pour in. In Mexico, as in the United States, only energetic measures can address the deepening crisis and growing social unrest.

Renegotiation can and should be good for citizens in all three countries. With such a high degree of integration, our futures are intertwined. A recent study calculated that when Mexican wages drop 10% relative to U.S. wages, attempts to cross the border illegally rise 6%. Real wages in Mexico fell 24% from December 2006 to August 2008 and are plummeting now with the crisis; renegotiation should include a view toward job generation and retention in Mexico, and a compensation fund similar to the European Union's transition funds for less-developed countries. The current security aid in the ill-conceived Merida Initiative should be converted to this end.

Review and Redo

The first step for renegotiation must be a broad, in-depth review of NAFTA, or rather three reviews, one per country. Review bodies must be independent, representing different orientations and expertise. These should carefully define the criteria of evaluation, including social, economic, political, and cultural indicators. The U.S. TRADE Act, which also calls for a review, lists some criteria for evaluation, but we need precision. Also necessary are public consultations and other mechanisms for incorporating civil society input into the process.

The review would achieve several important goals. First, it would open up a debate that in the United States had been practically dormant between NAFTA's passage and the recent presidential campaign. It also would provide valuable information on impacts. The apples-and-oranges debate on trade policy - one side argues that NAFTA increased international trade and the other argues that international trade isn't all it's cracked up to be - is sterile and abstract. We should be able to move beyond this debate with additional data and analysis.

To convince public opinion of the case for renegotiation, at this critical moment in a process of economic integration gone awry, will require thinking about international trade and investment in the context of new economic arrangements. To do this we need to build both arguments and alliances. Renegotiation demands must be woven into comprehensive proposals for reform that have a coherent logic and go beyond NAFTA articles. Related issues include enforcing antitrust legislation, ending commodity speculation, adopting supply management mechanisms, creating grain reserves, supporting domestic food production, and building local marketing systems.

Renegotiating NAFTA should no longer be a question of "will he or won't he." To confront the crisis and establish mutual well-being in the region, the debate must move quickly now to "how and when."

                                    © 2009 Foreign Policy In Focus

Laura Carlsen (lcarlsen(at) is director of the Americas Policy Program ( in Mexico City, where she has been an analyst and writer for two decades. She is also a Foreign Policy In Focus columnist.

Torture Prosecutor Tops 70,000 Questions for Obama on Change.Gov

Friday, January 9, 2009 by The Nation    by Ari Melber

A whopping 70,000 questions poured into over the past week, in response to the Obama transition team's call for citizen queries to the President-Elect. After votes from about 100,000 people, the top ranked question asks Obama whether he will appoint a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of torture and illegal surveillance by the U.S. government. I've been working with activist Bob Fertik to organize support for the question, and several progressive bloggers urged readers and Obama supporters to vote for it last week. Digby, who has written extensively about the Bush administration's abuse of the rule of law, recently reported on the progress:

I wrote a post about [an] initiative spearheaded by Ari Melber of The Nation and to ask President-elect Obama if he will appoint a special prosecutor to investigate war crimes in the Bush administration over at (In a previous round, it was the sixth most asked question...) This time, through their efforts, it's number one. This is particularly important, since the press has only asked Obama about this one time, last April. And a lot has happened since then, most obviously the fact that Vice President is all over television admitting to war crimes as if he's proud of it.

Then The New York Times picked up the news:

[T]he number one submission on the popular "Open for Questions" portion of the site might seem more than a little impolitic to [President Bush]: "Will you appoint a Special Prosecutor -- ideally Patrick Fitzgerald -- to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush Administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping," wrote Bob Fertik of New York, who runs the Web site,

Though the Obama team has promised to answer some of the top questions as early as this week, they have not said whether they will respond to Mr. Fertik's, which has received more than 22,000 votes since the second round of the question-and-answer feature began on Dec. 30. The site logged more than 1.5 million votes for 20,000-plus questions... The second highest-ranked submission, which is about oversight of the nation's banking industry, is several thousand of votes behind the query about a special prosecutor. Mr. Fertik's question has been pushed to the top, in part, by a coalition of liberal bloggers...

The national press corps has not raised this issue with Obama since his victory. (When it surfaced in April, Obama said he would order his attorney general to "immediately review" the potential crimes.) And while the leading question in the last forum was dispatched breezily -- Will you legalize marijuana? No. -- this one is far more challenging, both substantively and politically.

The Times notes that Obama's team has "not said" whether it will even answer Fertik's question, though ignoring the question that came in first out of 74,000 would turn this exercise into a farce. A terse, evasive answer would be similarly unacceptable. After all, there would be little point in this online dialogue if it reiterates things we already know, (Obama is not in N.O.R.M.L.), and refuses to provide new information.

That's why this may be the first big test for as a genuinely interactive dialogue.

Thousands of Americans are asking whether President Obama will order an independent investigation to ensure our laws are enforced -- in an era when powerful people in government have engaged in criminal conduct and relentlessly tried to make their behavior off limits for media and political discussion. We expect a "yes," "no" or detailed explanation of how and when Obama and his aides will make this decision. Time is running out, of course, because the question must be answered, for Congress and the public, before Eric Holder's confirmation hearing. He must explain how he will restore independence, professionalism and the rule of law to a Justice Department that politicized U.S. attorneys and covered up torture and warrantless surveillance.

Law professor Jonathan Turley, a nonpartisan legal analyst who testified before Congress in favor of President Clinton's impeachment, recently explained that Holder simply should not be confirmed if he is not prepared to enforce the laws banning torture. "Eric Holder should be asked the same question that Mukasey refused to answer in his confirmation hearing: is waterboarding a crime?" Professor Turley stated. "If he refuses to answer or denies that it is a crime, he should not be confirmed. If he admits that it is a crime, he should order a criminal investigation." According to, the crowds agree with the experts on this one.

                                        © 2009 The Nation

Ari Melber is The Nation's Net movement correspondent and a writer for the magazine's blog. ( amelber at