Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hope and Change?

[Not as sincere as we thought?]
First there was the reneging on repealing the 2003 Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. This was a central point in Obama's campaign. It was an issue of fairness and social justice. It came up in every candidate debate and Obama lambasted his opponent over it over and over.

He reneged on this central campaign plank on 22 November, 16 days after he was elected in part on account of it. The reason given, "the middle of a recession is no time to raise taxes", was a word for word quote of what John Freakin' McCain said during those same debates. It was a betrayal of those who supported Obama because he stood for social justice.

Which raises a large doubt about Mr. Obama's sincerity during the debates and during the campaign generally. And now.

Last year Mr. Obama got a huge boost toward the Democratic nomination by winning the South Carolina primary, largely on the strength of a huge turnout by Black voters, 96% of whom voted for Mr. Obama. When Bill Clinton pointed out that Jesse Jackson had won the South Carolina primary too, a huge stink was made about Clinton having said that. Clinton's point was that the Black voters of South Carolina would vote for a brown paper bag if it were running for president.

The Obama campaign then made a high-minded-sounding but hypocritical call for race to play no part in the election. No part except for millions of Blacks voting for Obama solely on the basis of race. It became the premise of the election that Blacks could vote on the basis of race but no one else could.

Still, no one could fault the premise that race should not enter into politics. It was to be a color-blind administration. Or so we were told. There were those of us who hoped that having a Black president would mark the beginning of the end for this fetish about skin color that has dogged America for centuries.

Martin Luther King looked forward to a time when Americans would judge one another "not by the color of their skin but by the content of their characters". In nominating Judge Sotomayor the Obama administration has betrayed not just the living who supported him but also the memory and legacy of Doctor King.

Judge Sotomayor has made it abundantly clear that she finds no fault with a racist society. She just wants people of her gender and color to get a bigger piece of the racist pie.
Now we find - again - that so far from wanting to abolish racism, the Obama administration thinks racism is just fine so long as it is to their political advantage. It is yet another betrayal of what the candidate stood for and what the President does not.

The war in Iraq, which Obama said he would end if elected, shows no sign of ending. Instead the bombings continue and American casualties and deaths continue to mount. Just as they did under Bush.

No troop withdrawals have been announced or even intimated. Obama promised radical changes from what he called the Bush administration's "mismanagement" of the conduct of the wars. Once elected he reversed himself . He kept in office Bush's Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates. The very Secretary of Defense whom he previously claimed had done the mismanaging.

We voted for an end to the war and what did we get? The same war run by the same people.
We voted for Obama and now not only is there is no Change, we no longer even have the Hope that the new administration will be any better.

Same tax policy as Bush, same war policy.

The President's Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, clearly after extensive consultations with the White House, recently announced that the problem in the Middle East is the expansion of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, the West Bank. Under the Obama Administration, no expansion will be permitted under any pretext whatever, she said.

This is exactly the policy Obama the candidate assured us Obama the President would not adopt. He told us he would stand by Israel. He cited the same reasons we do - a small beleaguered democracy with its civilians subject to constant attack has the right and duty to defend its citizens. Israel deserves, and will have, our full support he said. Many, including me, supported him on the basis of that assurance. The betrayal, the double cross, is explicit. And personal.

What the settlers are doing in the settlements is having children and building homes. The only thing anyone can find objectionable about that is that they are Jews. No one would object, no one does object, when Arabs have children and build homes in the West Bank. No one objects when Arabs have children and build homes in Israel either. The objection is only when Jews do the same things in the same places. This is the clearest litmus test for racism one can posit.

And the administration has made it clear which side it takes - the racist side. The administration has chosen to help enforce the "No Jews Allowed" sign the Arabs have posted on the West Bank.

The sole objection the world has to the settlements is that the Arabs don't want Jews living on what they claim is their land. All over the world, from Paris to Santiago and Sydney, natives and immigrants mix together, and those who become angry and violent about it are condemned as racists. Only when the victims of racism are Jews is a different standard applied.

But whose land is it? Isn't the problem that the Jews are raising their families on Arab land?

The case is similar to that of the riots accompanying the desegregation of Little Rock High School in Arkanas in 1957. The Whites pointed out with great vehemence that it was their school, and that the N____s had no business studying algebra and American history there. Half of which was true. The Whites of Little Rock had paid for and built the school and for decades only their children went there. It was their school.

But it was the rankest racism to say that their neighbors could not, must not, study there because they were of another people. The argument was made that the desegregation should be stopped because the Whites of Arkansas were so opposed and racist that there could never be peace if desegregation were imposed. That is, violent racists had to be accommodated precisely because they were violent.

The Arkansas Whites said, "It's our school. Blacks can't come here." The Palestinian Arabs say, "It's our land. Jews can't come here." See which side the Obama administration has chosen.

President Eisenhower was of a different mind. The Eisenhower administration made a principled decision and sent federal troops to Little Rock to enforce the desegregation orders of the federal court. Rather than accommodate violent racists, Eisenhower confronted them with troops and bayonets.

Principles being apparently irrelevant to their politics,
the Obama administration, now that the parties are Jews and Arabs instead of Blacks and Whites, has chosen to accommodate the violent racists, not the people wanting to study algebra and history and raise their children in peace.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Suddenly Relevant

With apparent intention to conceal it behind the publicity surrounding the Sotomayor nomination, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the obstacle to peace is Israeli settlements.

Not unabashed Hamas terrorism, not the Palestinian Covenant to destroy Israel that is the founding document of the "moderate" Palestinian Authority, not unending Palestinian media propaganda denying Israel's right to exist, not an educational curriculum that unwaveringly literally demonizes Jews as subhuman. Not forty years of Rejectionism. Certainly not the universal glorification of suicide bombers. Nor Iran's development of nuclear weapons which it openly avows it will use to destroy Israel.

No, none of these are the problem in the Middle East, none of these are the obstacle to peace. The Secretary of State, clearly on orders from the White House, announced that growth of settlements are the problem. It must stop she announced. No fudging, no obfuscation, no exceptions. Her statement sounds very much like it was written for her by the Palestinian Authority.

This amounts to a declaration of war against the Jews by the Obama administration. I am sorry to have to admit that my confidence in the administration was misplaced. I assumed the appointment of Rahm Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff precluded the sort of policy we have just seen announced. I was wrong.

This editorial is by a blogger calling himself Sultan Knish (

The Prostitution of Peace

If you believe the current regime of diplomats and pundits, peace is something that can be obtained for the right price. Where peace once meant the mutual cessation of war, peace has now become something that can now be bought and sold. Put the right amount on the table and peace can be yours, the pimps of peace cry on every corner. Behind them stand their gruesome wares, the terrorists and mass murderers who will have peace with you, perhaps for a night or two, if the right price is paid. The tricks may think that peace is a long term marriage, but they know it is only a one night stand. Hudna. Ceasefire. Time enough for them to rearm and kill again.

We live now in the era of the prostitution of peace. Love doesn't enter into it. Brotherhood doesn't enter into it. We no longer have peace because we are both tired of war and wish an end to it. No, peace has become something that the brute, the thug and the monster offers to the civilized world in exchange for weapons, power and international stature. And so we no longer have peace, instead the very idea of peace has become a lost hope, a compulsive gambler's winning streak, an alky's last beer, a forlorn cause in the darkened streets of civilization's modern diplomatic dystopia.

Peace once used to be an end to violence, but now peace has become a process, a long ritual of meetings and paper shufflings that never actually produces peace, but keeps the creaky wheels of diplomacy turning. And so the men in suits come and go and photographs are taken and signed and newspaper headlines cry, "Peace, peace," but there is no peace. The diplomats who prostitute peace from Oslo to Camp David, from Taba to Ankara, know full that what they are selling is a disease ridden lie. What they are truly selling is the illusion of a rational world to the last remnants of a dying civilization confronting the savagery of a Dar Al Harb that laughs at reason and glories in savagery.
The rain falls in the dark, the wind blows ragged newspapers down a deserted street. Munich. Camp David. Brussels. Oslo. It doesn't matter anymore, only the hotel rooms and the expensive booze at taxpayer expense poured into wineglasses. The pimps pander, the prostitutes pose with their weapons and bombs and the tricks put up everything they have certain that this time it will be different. A toast is made. "To peace!" Peace in our time. Peace in no one's time.

The prostitution of peace is a lurid cynical act, far more gruesome than the sort of crimes men and women are arrested for on civilization's streetcorners every night. For the prostitution of peace is not merely the false promise of love, it is the false promise of an end to the killing, only to enable and perpetuate it.

Leftist agitation and activism has turned peace into a meme, a lie everyone can have if they only sing loudly enough and demand it from their government. And so they die. And the leaders of their government go to the hotel rooms in distant cities and continents and buy it for them. The glasses clink, everyone cheers and in the morning there are more corpses to be swept from the streets.

The insincerity of peace is at the heart of the prostitution of peace. It is an act of irresponsibility on every side. The pimps of peace in the foreign ministries and state departments inflate their own prestige certain that the right transaction will finally win over the sheiks of the east. The prostitutes of peace grin cynically, knowing that they are not selling anything that they cannot take back tomorrow. The tricks come with a mix of corruption and despair driven by the self-destructive impulse of decay to buy something they cannot have at a price they cannot pay.

No one in this trinity of the damned wishes to hear about the moral bankruptcy of their profession or its devastating price. Again and again the price is paid and blood runs in the gutter and in the hotel rooms the glasses clink.

"To peace."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

In Memoriam

Miriam Rose Bernstein (1934-2009)

Died today at Saint Rose Hospital in Hayward. She is survived by her three children, Alex Bernstein of San Jose, Nina Ramos of Folsom, and Shelly Bernstein of Tsfat, Israel, and six grandchildren. She leaves behind her sisters, Gail Wilhelm of Novato, Naomi Adam of Palm Springs, her brother, Jack Kessler of El Cerrito, and her ex-husband, Jack Bernstein of San Mateo.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Sotomayor Nomination

[Sonya Sotomayor]
Judge Sonya Sotomayor has been nominated to the Supreme Court seat being vacated by the retiring Justice Souter. A confirmation fight on the nomination is expected in the Senate.

Let me be far from the first in saying that I have little patience with the identity politics the nominee evinced in her 2002 law school commencement address at my alma mater, Berkeley. Unless her politics and judicial philosophy have evolved considerably in the past seven years , which I doubt, her nomination ought to be rejected.

She said, in part
I accept the proposition that, as ... Professor Martha Minnow of Harvard Law School, states "there is no objective stance but only a series of perspectives - no neutrality, no escape from choice in judging," I further accept that our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions. The aspiration to impartiality is just that--it's an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others.

Not all women or people of color, in all or some circumstances or indeed in any particular case or circumstance but enough people of color in enough cases, will make a difference in the process of judging.

As recognized by legal scholars, whatever the reason, not one woman or person of color in any one position but as a group we will have an effect on the development of the law and on judging.
She denies even the possibility of objective justice. She sees our society as a collection of contending interest groups, and not as one people. She considers it her duty as judge to favor the groups she represents. She favors a social order where fairness and merit are supplanted by quotas and identity politics, a judicial system in which judgments depend on the identities of the parties. She denies even the possibility of there being a standard of truth and justice independent of color or gender.

We do not need Latinas or Latinos on the Court, neither do we need Blacks, nor Whites, nor women, nor men. What we do need is fair-minded judges. Sonya Sotomayor denies even the possibility of fair-mindedness.

Her cynicism is the mirror of right-wingers like Scalia and Thomas who have only to find out which party represents privilege and wealth to know for whom to vote.

A left-bigot on the Court is no improvement at all from the right-bigots who currently control it. I look to the Senate to send her home. And I look to the White House to send in her place a nominee for whom "Justice" is more than just a title.

Monday, May 25, 2009

How to See the Eclipse of 2017

The basic premise is that an eclipse is visible from a several miles wide strip along the surface of the earth. Here is a diagram from NASA of the path of the 2017 eclipse.

The first thing you want in picking a place to see an eclipse is a place where you can see it at all. It is not obvious to Californians but many places have lots of cloud cover which keep one from seeing the sun much. This means one wants if possible to find a part of the path that passes over sunny dry places which have little cloud cover.

Given a choice of sunny dry places to choose among, one ought to chose a beautiful uncrowded place, or a beautiful semi-crowded one if one is social and wants to share. I have had good experiences with both.

As is the custom with our country, we have an embarrassment of riches. As you can see from the map, the eclipse crosses the Coast Range shortly after reaching Oregon. From there to eastern Wyoming it is over the Great Basin, all of which is either arid or semi-arid and thus relatively cloudless.

So you are then down to deciding on beauty and crowdedness. Zooming in shows that the eclipse passes right over Grand Teton National Park. Much of that park is surpassingly beautiful.

A National Park will certainly give you the opportunity to choose any desired degree of crowdedness, from masses cheering (there will be cheering, there always is) near the visitor center to a remote mountainside shared only with a circling hawk or a marmot. It is easy to say, "Of course I will chose the remote mountainside", but don't be so quick.

Being part of a growing crowd frenzy in which nobody is angry and nobody gets lynched, has a lot to be said for it. It's fun. I've done both and both are great. If you have a tot, by 2017 that offsprung is going to be perilously close to teenagery. Teenagers, particularly girls, are intensely social little herd animals, so the teen-tot might get more out of the experience around at least some other people, particularly other young people. A middle place between mobs around the visitor center and solitude might be a campground with a vista.

If you choose summer camping in Grand Teton, you would have to reserve long in advance in any case, and doubly so for the eclipse. You might want to call them to find out how far in advance they take reservations.

I have focussed on Grand Teton only because it is an officially designated Beautiful Place. The eclipse path appears to be over a hundred miles wide and 2500-3000 miles long. All you have to do is get within that path under a clear sky and look up. The rest is details.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Obamas at Buckingham

[The President, the Queen, the First Lady, and Prince Philip]

The President and First Lady were in England and visited the Queen.

Usually the Queen meets people not important enough to meet the Prime Minister - typically the presidents of bankrupt former British colonies, usually Africans with names like Obongo or some such.

Wait, we ARE a bankrupt former British colony and our president IS an African named Obongo or some such.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Emerald Isle

from the Huffington Post Irish Reform Schools - Thousands of Children Beaten, Raped

Huffpost - Irish Reform Schools: Thousands Beaten, Ra

SHAWN POGATCHNIK | May 20, 2009 05:00 PM EST |

Buzz up!
Kevin Flannigan from the group 'Survivors of Child Abuse', protests at not being allowed into the launch of the long awaited Child Abuse Commission report at a hotel Dublin, Ireland Wednesday May 20, 2009. A fiercely debated, nine-year investigation into Ireland's Roman Catholic-run institutions says priests and nuns terrorized thousands of boys and girls in workhouse-style schools for decades _ and government inspectors failed to stop the chronic beatings, rapes and humiliation. High Court Justice Sean Ryan on Wednesday unveiled the 2,600-page final report of Ireland's Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse, which is based on testimony from thousands of former students and officials from more than 250 church-run institutions.
(AP Photo/Niall Carson/PA Wire)

DUBLIN — A fiercely debated, long-delayed investigation into Ireland's Roman Catholic-run institutions says priests and nuns terrorized thousands of boys and girls in workhouse-style schools for decades _ and government inspectors failed to stop the chronic beatings, rapes and humiliation.

Nine years in the making, Wednesday's 2,600-page report sides almost completely with the horrific reports of abuse from former students sent to more than 250 church-run, mostly residential institutions. But victims' leaders said it didn't go far enough _ particularly because none of their abusers were identified by name.

The report concluded that church officials always shielded their orders' pedophiles from arrest to protect their own reputations and, according to documents uncovered in the Vatican, knew that many pedophiles were serial attackers.

The investigators said overwhelming, consistent testimony from still-traumatized men and women, now in their 50s to 80s, had demonstrated beyond a doubt that the entire system treated children more like prison inmates and slaves than people with legal rights and human potential.

"A climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment, permeated most of the institutions and all those run for boys. Children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from," the final report of Ireland's Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse concluded.

The leader of Ireland's 4 million Catholics, Cardinal Sean Brady, and religious orders at the center of the scandal offered immediate apologies.

"I am profoundly sorry and deeply ashamed that children suffered in such awful ways in these institutions. Children deserved better and especially from those caring for them in the name of Jesus Christ," Brady said.

The Sisters of Mercy, which ran several refuges for girls where the report documented chronic brutality, said in a statement its nuns "accept that many who spent their childhoods in our orphanages or industrial schools were hurt and damaged while in our care."

Story continues below

The report, unveiled by High Court Justice Sean Ryan, found that molestation and rape were "endemic" in boys' facilities, chiefly run by the Christian Brothers, and supervisors pursued policies that increased the danger. Girls supervised by orders of nuns, chiefly the Sisters of Mercy, suffered much less sexual abuse but frequent assaults and humiliation designed to make them feel worthless.

"In some schools a high level of ritualized beating was routine. ... Girls were struck with implements designed to maximize pain and were struck on all parts of the body," the report said. "Personal and family denigration was widespread."

Victims of the system have long demanded that the truth of their experiences be documented and made public.

But several victims _ who were prevented from attending Wednesday's report launch and scuffled with police outside a central Dublin hotel _ said the report didn't go far enough and rejected the church leaders' apologies as insincere.

"Victims will feel a small degree of comfort that they've been vindicated. But the findings do not go far enough," said John Kelly, a former inmate of a Dublin industial school who fled to London and today leads a pressure group called Irish Survivors of Child Abuse.

Kelly said the report should have examined how children like himself were taken away from parents without just cause, and demanded more answers from Irish governments that ceded control over their lives to the church. He said any apologies offered now were "hollow, shallow and have no substance or merit at all. We feel betrayed and cheated today."

The report proposed 21 ways the government could recognize past wrongs, including building a permanent memorial, providing counseling and education to victims and improving Ireland's current child protection services.

But its findings will not be used for criminal prosecutions _ in part because the Christian Brothers successfully sued the commission in 2004 to keep the identities of all of its members, dead or alive, unnamed in the report. No real names, whether of victims or perpetrators, appear in the final document.

Irish church leaders and religious orders all declined to comment Wednesday, citing the need to read the massive document first. The Vatican also declined to comment.

The Irish government already has funded a parallel compensation system that has paid 12,000 abuse victims an average of euro65,000 ($90,000). About 2,000 claims remain outstanding.

Victims receive the payouts only if they waive their rights to sue the state and the church. Hundreds have rejected that condition and taken their abusers and those church employers to court.

Wednesday's report said children had no safe way to tell authorities about the assaults they were suffering, particularly the sexual aggression from church officials and older inmates in boys' institutions.

"The management did not listen to or believe children when they complained of the activities of some of the men who had responsibility for their care," the commission found. "At best, the abusers were moved, but nothing was done about the harm done to the child. At worst, the child was blamed and seen as corrupted by the sexual activity, and was punished severely."

The commission dismissed as implausible a central defense of the religious orders _ that, in bygone days, people did not recognize the sexual abuse of a child as a criminal offense, but rather as a sin that required repentance.

In their testimony, religious orders typically cited this as the principal reason why sex-predator priests and brothers were sheltered within the system and moved to new posts where they could still maintain daily contact with children.

But the commission said its fact-finding _ which included unearthing decades-old church files, chiefly stored in the Vatican, on scores of unreported abuse cases from Ireland's industrial schools _ demonstrated that officials understood exactly what was at stake: their own reputations.

It cited numerous examples where school managers told police about child abusers who were not church officials _ but never did when one of their own had committed the crime.

"Contrary to the congregations' claims that the recidivist nature of sexual offending was not understood, it is clear from the documented cases that they were aware of the propensity for abusers to re-abuse," it said.

What Did They Know and When Did They Know It?

[Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson]

[Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao]

[Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez]

[PBGC Director Charles E. F. Millard]

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporationis a federal agency which insures that companies can continue to pay pensions even if the companies go bankrupt. It is pension insurance.

From today's NY Times -

blah blah blah.....

Last year, the agency’s board — made up of the secretaries of the Labor, Treasury and Commerce Departments — voted to allow it to shift its investment strategy to put more money into stocks, private equity and real estate, in an effort to reduce the deficit.

If that shift had taken place, the losses would most likely have been larger. But a relatively small amount of the funds had already been shifted to stocks, so the losses on the investment portfolio were responsible for just $3 billion of the jump in the deficit in the last six months.

The agency’s more aggressive and risky investment strategy, the rising deficit and questions about possible improprieties by its former director, Charles E. F. Millard, will all be addressed at a Senate hearing scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Mr. Millard, who resigned in January, has been accused by the agency’s inspector general of having inappropriate contact with companies including BlackRock, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs as they competed last year for the right to manage $2.5 billion worth of the agency’s portfolio, contracts that may now be canceled.
So they were just about to switch the pension guarantee money from treasury bonds to the stock market? And there were "improper contacts" between the now-former director and the biggest investment banks on Wall Street? And the Secretaries of Treasury, Labor, and Commerce were in on it? Was Millard just the fall guy? How much of the money would have disappeared if the transfer to the stock market accounts had happened?

More and more, it appears that the "bad mortgages" cover story is just that - a cover story. A cover story for seemingly global criminality of the business class. As to the current generation, a great many of them should spend a lot of time in rooms with "Martha Stewart was here" carved in the wall above the bunk.

As to how it is to prevented in the future, the answer will have to come from Congress and the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court effectively quashed so-called "strike suits" where a shareholder sues management for mismanagement or improprieties. The Court's reasoning was that these suits were always a scam because management were never really guilty of anything. That is more or less what they actually said.

Thereupon, the foxes were guarding the henhouse. There was no one, no one, between corporate managements and the vast hoards of wealth they were managing, ostensibly on behalf of the shareholders to whom it belonged. Curiously, vast quantities of that wealth have turned up missing. None of this would have come to light but that the economic slide had the effect of turning over the rock and exposing the creepy-crawlies under it to the light of day.

When judges like Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito are said to be deeply conservative, that is what is meant -- willing to twist the law to defend corrupt businessmen. Notice that one doesn't have to be Karl Marx to favor fiduciaries not stealing from shareholders. In this case the money was the pension funds of the American working class.

I would point out that the paragraphs I have quoted from the Times above are from bottom of the article, that they don't expect many people to read. Most of the article was the "nobody is at fault, it is just a bad economy" paragraphs at the top. Which I have, rightly I think, condensed to "blah blah blah blah blah ...."

The California Fuel Cell Partnership


Fuel cell vehicles are electric vehicles that make electricity onboard from hydrogen and oxygen. Today, fuel cell vehicles are pre-commercial--they are not yet for sale. Hundreds of demonstration fuel cell vehicles are on the road in California, with real people driving and riding in them for work and pleasure.

Click the pictures below to learn more about the vehicles.

Chevy Equinox
Chevy Equinox
Daimler F-Cell
FCX Clarity
GM HydroGen3