Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times
Zev Yaroslavsky and the four other Los Angeles County supervisors sip from custom-labeled bottled water during their weekly meetings.
Los Angeles County officials say the cost of printing and affixing their own labels -- to avoid having the brand visible on TV broadcasts of their meetings -- is a drop in the bucket.
By Garrett Therolf March 31, 2009
Would water with any other label taste as sweet? Los Angeles County supervisors aren't saying.Every week, a college student who earns $9.92 an hour for a range of tasks peels the labels off water bottles, uses a computer to print out new ones emblazoned with the county seal and slaps them on. The customized bottles are waiting for the five supervisors as they take on the official business of the nation's most populous county.
No one remembers exactly when the county labels first appeared, but they were able to say why: to avoid giving free advertising to the original bottler on public-access television broadcasts. (Sources say the company is Arrowhead, but they declined to speak on the record). Admittedly, the perk -- which has been in place for years -- is minor compared with the supervisors' option to buy a luxury vehicle and hire an armed chauffeur, included in a benefits package that is one of the region's most generous.County officials say the cost is negligible and the labor takes just a minute.
The county isn't alone in its questionable water habits. An audit released this month by Los Angeles Controller Laura Chick found that city spending on bottled water had doubled, from $89,000 to $189,000, in the three years since Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told employees to buy their own.Despite months spent focusing on the county's darkening budget picture, the supervisors were not eager to discuss their water labels. They let aides do the talking. "Don did not want to comment," an aide to Supervisor Don Knabe wrote in an e-mail titled "Water Water everywhere.""Zev doesn't want to talk about it," said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's aide.There was no comment from the offices of Supervisors Gloria Molina or Mark Ridley-Thomas.Only the spokesman for Supervisor Mike Antonovich offered up a (somewhat) refreshing response. Said Tony Bell: "My boss prefers green tea."
The principle financier of the Democrats, the man whose early support catapulted Obama into the lead for the nomination, the man who made billions from the stock market crash that changed everything in the fall campaign (McCain was in the lead when the crisis hit), has been given a record fine by Hungarian financial authorities. AFP reports:
Hungary's financial supervisory watchdog announced Friday it had slapped a 1.6-million-euro fine on an investment fund founded by US billionaire George Soros, for manipulating the market.
The PSzAF said it had fined Soros Fund Management LLC for transactions on the Budapest stock exchange on October 9 that led to a "significant loss in value" of Hungarian OTP bank stocks, which fell in days from 4,000 forint (13.2 euros, 17.86 dollars) to 2,500 forint.
The PSzAF "is imposing a 489-million-forint fine on Soros Fund Management LLC... for violating the rules regarding the illegal manipulation of financial markets," the supervisory authority said in a statement on its Internet site.
This is not the first time Soros has been fined for illegal market manipulation. That he is the most significant financial backer of the American left should serve as a clarion call to Americans. Do not trust this man.
Hat tip: Bryan DemkoUpdate: Steve Gilbert looks at the timing:
October 9th, huh? Gee, the US money markets were having some trouble around that time as well.
Of course Mr. Soros would never pull any such financial shenanigans in this country.
Unless he knew that he would have nothing to fear and everything to gain with the next administration.
Of course this has been shouted from the rooftops by our media watchdogs.
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY
Energy Policy: The House approves a Senate-passed omnibus bill that puts 2 million more acres of energy-rich land off-limits. We need a government that leads us out of the energy wilderness and not into it.
Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed on a 285-148 vote the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (S.22), which confirms our theory that no good comes from legislation labeled "comprehensive" or "omnibus."
S.22 is a smorgasbord of 160 bills totaling more than 1,300 pages and, no, we're not sure how many who voted for it actually read it. A stimulus bill it is not, for it locks up an additional 2 million acres to the 107 million acres of federally owned wilderness areas. That total is more than the area of Montana and Wyoming combined.
Speaking of Wyoming, 1.1 million of these newly restricted acres are in that state. This bill, which also provides $1 billion for a water project designed to save 500 salmon in California, takes about 8.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 300 million barrels of oil out of production in that state, according to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The energy resources walled off by this bill would nearly match the annual production levels of our two natural gas production states — Texas and Alaska. As Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., points out: "We are not suffering from a lack of wilderness areas in the United States. According to the Census Bureau, we have 106 million acres of developed land and 107 million acres of (officially declared) wilderness land."
Earlier this year, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar canceled 77 Utah oil and gas leases that had gone through seven years of studies, negotiations and land-use planning. They were rejected because temporary drilling operations might be "visible" from several national parks more than a mile away. We are not making this up.
Some of these parcels are in or near the Green River Formation, an oil-rich region in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming that's been called the "Persia of the West."
This formation has the largest known oil shale deposits in the world, holding from 1.5 trillion to 1.8 trillion barrels of crude. The Energy Department's Argonne National Laboratory indicates 800 billion of these barrels are recoverable with current technology.
In comparison with Saudi Arabia's oil resources, America's recoverable oil shale resources are nearly three times as large, according to a 2008 report by the Utah Mining Association. As the report notes, the West's oil shale provides America with the "potential to be completely energy self-sufficient with no demands on external sources."
According to the BLM, 16% of the 607 million acres of land owned by the federal government is designated as wilderness in the form of 708 National Wilderness Areas located in the U.S. This bill adds over 80 new wilderness designations or additions to federal lands.
Paul Spitler of the Wilderness Society told CNSNews this is just dandy. "There are some landscapes that are simply more important for their scenic, natural, recreational and ecological values than they are for oil and gas development," he said.
We beg to differ. You can see the sun setting on America's energy and economic future over these landscapes.
Most of the locked-up lands are in Western states where there's enough oil shale to satisfy America's needs for the next 200 years. Modern technology can extract these vast resources from the earth with a minimal footprint.
Technology for shale-oil extraction is certainly further along than getting energy from switch grass or producing cellulosic ethanol. If we're going to stimulate anything, let's stimulate shale-oil production.
It took Moses 40 years to lead his people out of their wilderness to the Promised Land. The green lobby and its friends in Congress are leading the American people in the opposite direction.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Ethel C. Fenig
So President Barack Obama (D) and his Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton (D) still believe that Israelis and Arabs, Jews and Muslims can live peacefully side by side. The Jewish Israelis still maintain that hope but not the Muslim Arabs as this telling incident proves. When a small group of Arab teens entertained a small group of elderly Jews who survived the horrors of the Holocaust in Europe, Arab leaders complained.
Fatah-linked community leaders in the PA-controlled city of Jenin slammed the participation of 13 young local musicians aged 11 to 18 in a "Good Deeds Day," held at the Holocaust Survivor's Center in Holon. The PA politicians made a point of using the issue of the young musicians' performance as a platform upon which to launch a diatribe against participation in any integrative activity with Jewish Israelis. (snip)The conductor, 50-year-old Wafa Younis, was later attacked for her efforts towards co-existence, both verbally and in leaflets distributed throughout the area. Members of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's ruling Fatah faction also sealed her apartment and banned her from entering the city. (snip) More ominously, Abbas's loyalists also filed a complaint with the PA Police against the conductor, claiming she "misled" the young musicians in bringing them to perform at the Israeli concert.And in a few short years, when these teens become adults, what will be their attitudes towards peace with the Israelis? Will they follow their leaders or their orchestra conductor? Sadly, I think the former.
Hypocritical Animal Rights Group’s 2008 Disclosures Bring Pet Death Toll To 21,339
WASHINGTON DC – Today the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) published documents online showing that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) killed 95 percent of the adoptable pets in its care during 2008. Despite years of public outrage over its euthanasia program, the animal rights group kills an average of 5.8 pets every day at its Norfolk, VA headquarters.
According to public records from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, PETA killed 2,124 pets last year and placed only seven in adoptive homes. Since 1998, a total of 21,339 dogs and cats have died at the hands of PETA workers.
Despite having a $32 million budget, PETA does not operate an adoption shelter. PETA employees make no discernible effort to find homes for the thousands of pets they kill every year. Last year, the Center for Consumer Freedom petitioned Virginia’s State Veterinarian to reclassify PETA as a slaughterhouse.
CCF Research Director David Martosko said: “PETA hasn’t slowed down its hypocritical killing machine one bit, but it keeps browbeating the rest of society with a phony ‘animal rights’ message. What about the rights of the thousands of dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens that die in PETA’s headquarters building?”
Martosko added: “Since killing pets is A-OK with PETA, why should anyone listen to their demands about eating meat, using lab rats for medical research, or taking children to the circus?”
CCF obtained PETA’s “Animal Record” filings since 1998 from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Members of the public can see these documents at PetaKillsAnimals.com.
In addition to exposing PETA’s hypocritical record of killing defenseless animals, the Center for Consumer Freedom has publicized the animal rights group’s ties to violent activists, and shed light on its aggressive message-marketing to children.
The Center for Consumer Freedom is a nonprofit coalition supported by restaurants, food companies, and consumers, working together to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices.
Daniel Hannan's blistering indictment of Gordon Brown has already been discussed quite a bit around here. Vox Day interviewed the European Parliamentarian. The whole thing is interesting, but for reasons that should be obvious, I liked this bit:
VD:One thing that tends to confuse Americans is that the British National Party is not very popular despite holding what appear to be populist views on immigration and the European Union. Why do they enjoy so little support compared to the three major parties?DH:Because they are, contrary to the way they are described in the BBC, a party of the far left. They're in favor of nationalization, they're in favor of protectionism, they want workers' councils to run industry, they want a massive state program of rebuilding manufacture. Like Hayek said about the socialist roots of Nazism, they are a national socialist party and the socialist bit is very important to them. Plus, there is a line, a very important line in politics, between being anti-immigration and anti-immigrant. And they've crossed that line.VD: In a certain respect, they really are fascists, but in the Italian Fascist sense.DH: Yeah. I think most of these so-called “far right” parties are on the left by any normal definition. It's a brilliant media trick in Europe to always refer to them as “the far right”. The target of that is the mainstream right. Every time you read about the BNP in the press, it's always prefaced with “the far right BNP”, as though they were like us, but more so, which is the opposite of the case. When somebody reads that, it doesn't make them think any worse of the BNP, it makes them think worse of the right. Which, of course, is why they do it.
In my adult life I've become acquainted with thousands of men, from all walks of life and all the nations of the world. I've gotten to know perhaps a hundred of them very well. That's enough, I think, to form a sample of Mankind sufficiently representative for some tentative conclusions about human quality.
In brief, most people are fit to govern their own lives, if only barely, but nothing more. A few plainly aren't even up to that; if not looked after by wiser and more capable others, they'll kill themselves ignominiously and, quite likely, take a few innocent bystanders with them. But there are a very few whose wisdom, ability, and passion for justice are demonstrably great enough that others should take their advice, even if they find it humiliating to hear and painful to follow.
One of our fondest secret wishes is that a person of that kind should rise to the rule of our nation, free of encumbrance by legislatures, judiciaries, and regulatory bodies with contrary inclinations. The wish, though unarticulated, is so strong that we attribute monarchic powers to our presidents, permit them far more latitude than the Constitution grants them, and hold them accountable for every rise or fall in our national fortunes.
Though he'd never admit it, the typical American voter goes to the polls every four years to elect a king.
We wish for a king so powerfully because of the failure of the premier American political innovation: "a government of laws, not of men."
If that sounds bizarre coming from a self-described libertarian, please remember that the notion of "a government of laws, not of men" was a reaction to the hostility of European royal and noble houses to individual freedom and international peace. Though the record of the European monarchies is mixed, it is nevertheless a warning that to repose unchecked power in a man, or a small group of men, is to gamble everything valuable in life on the whims of the powerful. The Founders cemented the supremacy of the law over the ruler into our political system to forestall exactly that. They trusted in written law -- words of clear and specific meaning, pondered by men of acknowledged good judgment, and ratified by the majority thereof -- to restrain the whims and rapacity of rulers.
They overlooked a few things.
First among the under-considered aspects of the matter was this: Every string of words, no matter how carefully crafted, is subject to "interpretation." The appellate judiciary, which was entrusted with this power de facto, collaborated in the destruction of the postulate beneath "a government of laws:" that a law once written would be stable in meaning, and therefore in application. That's the true import of the hideous phrase "living Constitution."
Second was this: Men who seek power over others regard "a government of laws" as a challenge, not an insuperable obstacle. There have been very few persons who've sought public office, here or anywhere, whose ambitions have stopped short of absolute mastery of their nation. Given time to work, the availability of allies, and the dynamics of demagoguery, they'll undermine the knowability of the law, and the constraints the law imposes on them, as surely as the Sun will rise tomorrow.
Third was this: Once the law has been breached to make room for arbitrary power in the service of injustice, the great majority of those who respond will strive, not to restore the proper bounds on the power-wielders, but to gain control of the State and use it in their own interests. That readiness to subordinate freedom and justice to personal and provincial interests is the engine of special-interest politics. It raised its head with the first public-works projects, and it's only grown stronger over time.
John Randolph, one of the more pragmatic of our Founders, wrote that "You may cover whole skins of parchment with limitations, but power alone can limit power." Nor was he incorrect. The Second Amendment to the Constitution tacitly acknowledges that fact. So does the Sixth, which reserves to a jury of private citizens the ultimate power of the State: the power to punish. But note how badly power-wielders have abraded those guarantees. Today a man needs government permission to own or carry a firearm, and even then he's almost certain to be harassed by the gendarmes if he carries it openly. Today, government bodies staffed by hundreds of thousands of unelected functionaries impose fines and confiscations with neither legislative direction nor a jury's ratification. Two such, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Internal Revenue Service, are permitted to confiscate a man's whole property on their sole authority, and compel him to sue for its return.
Clearly, men who desire power are but poorly impeded by written law.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Brazil builds walls around Rio de Janeiro slums
Sat Mar 28, 2009 12:03pm EDTRIO DE JANEIRO, March 28 (Reuters) - The government of Rio de Janeiro is building concrete walls to prevent sprawling slums from spreading farther into the picturesque hills of this world-famous tourist destination, an official said on Saturday.Construction has begun in two favelas, or shantytowns, in the southern districts of Rio de Janeiro, a government spokeswoman told Reuters. One of the two is Morro Dona Marta, which police occupied in November to control crime and violence caused mostly by rival drug gangs.Officials say the wall is to protect the remaining native forest but critics fear the move could be seen as discriminatory and become a blemish symbolizing Brazil's deep divisions between rich and poor."There is no discrimination. On the contrary, we are building houses for them elsewhere and improving their lives," Tania Lazzoli, spokeswoman for the secretary of public works at the state government, told Reuters.By year-end the Rio de Janeiro state government wants to build almost 7 miles (11 km) of walls to contain 19 communities. It will spend 40 million reais ($17.6 million) and have to relocate 550 houses, Lazzoli said."The objective is to contain the spread of the communities and protect the forest," Lazzoli said. "There are many houses in high risk areas."During the rainy season many shacks and primitive houses built in ravines or on hills are washed away by flash floods or mudslides.Thousands of favelas sprung up throughout Rio de Janeiro and other major cities in recent decades, as millions of impoverished immigrants came from the countryside in search of jobs.On Saturday the front page of the leading daily O Globo featured a picture of a gray wall beside a forest in Morro Dona Marta. Construction workers in blue overalls were seen with shovels and push carts. Middle-class apartment buildings are seen in the background.Known for the stunning views of its rugged coastline, with golden beaches and lush mountains, Rio de Janeiro attracts millions of tourists each year -- many for its world-famed Carnival celebrations.Violence between gangs and with police periodically erupts beyond the favelas, forcing stores and roads in entire neighborhoods to shut down. Occasionally juvenile gangs ransack tourists on the beach in posh districts such as Ipanema or Leblon.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
By Humberto Fontova
A civil rights activist inspired by Nelson Mandela, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King has been on a hunger strike since Feb.17th near Guantanamo Cuba, protesting the incarceration and "abuse" of hundreds of what he labels "prisoners of conscience."
"The Armed Forces call these men "enemy agents" and "terrorists," he says. "But this is a grotesque lie, typical of these racist generals and their millionaire cronies from the Military/Industrial complex who pull all the strings in this country!"
U.S. officials have refused to comment on the matter.
OK, OK, I'll come clean. The hunger striker is actually in Placetas, Cuba, roughly 300 miles from Guantanamo so "near Guantanamo" is a relative term. And the hunger-striker is a black anti-Communist Cuban named Antunez.
He's protesting (in terms very similar to those I quoted above) against Stalinism in a nation 90 miles from U.S. shores. This explains why you've never heard of him in the MSM.
Now, if he'd been a black terrorist/socialist protesting segregation 8000 miles from U.S. shores (Nelson Mandela) the MSM would have been clobbering you over the head with his plight almost daily-as they did during the late 80's.
So please excuse my flim-flammery as an intro to this article. Had I spelt out clearly that Cuba's Stalinist regime ( rather than America's democratic government) was responsible for the racist tortures provoking the hunger-strike, no major media organ -- it goes without saying -- would deign to report the crime, as they've ignored Castroite crimes for half a century. My hope (clearly in vain) was that the MSM's 50 year-old tradition might suffer a brief hiccup. I should have known better.A Samizdat recent smuggled from Cuba quotes Antunez:
"none of the foreign press agencies accredited to work in Cuba have reported this...Now, if there was a march in front of my house in favor of the Castro Regime, you can bet the foreign press would be here in droves!''
So again, don't look for this on NPR, CNN or the History Channel, but if ever a racist Military/Industrial Complex controlled a nation, it's Castro's Cuba, which has more generals (all lily-white in a nation 65 % black) on it's Politburo than had Stalin's Russia-indeed more than reigned in any Iron-Curtain regime. These strutting, blustering and be-medaled (despite never having smelt burnt gunpowder except while murdering bound and gagged men and boys from firing squads) gentlemen own Cuba's tourist industry, the only commercial endeavor in Cuba properly describable as an industry.
These executives and standard-bearers of Cuba's "fervently nationalist" revolution are also very scrupulous about protecting their Canadian and European tourist/benefactors from contact with Cuba's grubby natives. The current issue of the Ottawa Citizen has a story mentioning how last week a guard at a ritzy Cuban hotel rudely shoved away a tourist from the hotel's door.
The befuddled tourist was Canadian -- but he was also black, you see. So please cut Raul Castro's hotel henchman some slack. The poor guy was only doing his job. He clearly mistook the Canadian black for a Cuban black. And-mindful of his professional duties regarding such an encounter -- performed very perfunctorily; "Outta here, ni*ger!" No explanation, no apologies, no nothing.
Imagine (!!!) the headlines had this happened in Birmingham, Charleston or Savannah! Instead this is standard-operating-procedure in the Mecca for the Congressional Black Caucus, Jesse Jackson and Jeremiah Wright-and which hosts press bureaus for CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Reuters, AP, Al Jazeera and countless other outfits, who all trip over themselves to report any hint of "racism" in such as Jena Louisiana.
"The Negro is indolent and spends his money on frivolities, whereas the European is forward-looking, organized and intelligent... We're going to do for blacks exactly what blacks did for the Cuban revolution. By which I mean: NOTHING!" (Ernesto "Che" Guevara.)
"Viva Che Guevara!" bellowed Jesse Jackson while visiting Havana in 1984. "Viva Fidel! Long live our cry of freedom!"
A few miles away from where the Rev. Jesse Jackson and his entourage of black American luminaries, (who included the Rev. Jeremiah Wright) showered his Stalinist hosts with accolades that day, the world's longest-suffering black political prisoner suffered his incarceration and tortures in stoic defiance. "N**ger!" taunted his Castroite jailers between tortures. "We pulled you down from the trees and cut off your tail!"
This political prisoner was a black Cuban named Eusebio Penalver and he was being tortured by Reverend Wright's gracious hosts. Mr Penalver's incarceration and tortures stretched to 29 years which makes him the longest-suffering black political prisoner in modern history, surpassing Nelson Mandela's record in time behind bars and probably doubling the horrors suffered by Mandela during this period.
Eusebio Penalver was bloodied in his fight with Castroism but unbowed for almost 30 years in its dungeons. He's what Castroites call a "plantado" -- a defiant one, an unbreakable one. "Stalin tortured," wrote Arthur Koestler, "not to force you to reveal a fact, but to force you to collude in a fiction."
"The worst part of Communism," wrote Solzhenitsyn, "is being forced to live a lie."
Eusebio Penalver refused to collude in this lie. He spit in the face of the liars. He scorned any "re-education" by his jailers. He knew it was THEY who desperately needed it. He refused to wear the uniform of a common criminal. He knew it was they who should don it. Charles Rangel, Jesse Jackson and Jeremiah Wright all toast his torturer. But through almost 30 years of those tortures Eusebio Penalver stood tall, proud and defiant.
Shortly before his death in 2006 , your humble servant here had the honor of interviewing Senor Penalver. "For months I was naked in a 6 x 4 foot cell," Eusebio recalled. "That's 4 feet high, so you couldn't stand. But I felt a great freedom inside myself. I refused to commit spiritual suicide." Sr Penalver served several months of this 30 year sentence naked in a "punishment cell" barely big enough to stand in, where he languished naked and in complete darkness.
"Castro's apologists, those who excuse or downplay his crimes -- these people be they ignorant, stupid, mendacious whatever--they are accomplices in the bloody tyrant's crimes, accomplices in the most brutal and murderous regime in the hemisphere."
But have you ever heard of Eusebio Penalver? He became a U.S. citizen and lived in Miami for almost 20 years and would have been a cinch for the media to track down. Ever see a CNN interview with him? Ever see him on "60 Minutes"? Ever read about him in The New York Times? The Washington post? The Boston Globe? Ever hear about him on NPR during Black History Month? Ever seen anything on him on the History Channel or A&E? Ever hear the NAACP or Congressional Black Caucus mention him?
Why do I bother asking?
The black Cuban doctor, Oscar Elias Biscet , presently suffers a sentence of 25 years in Castro's torture chambers essentially for saying things about Castro similar to what Nancy Pelosi and Bill Maher said about President Bush. Dr Biscet also denounced the Castro regime's policy of forced abortions. This latter "crime" goes a long way towards explaining why you've never heard of him (and wont) in the MSM, though President Bush awarded Dr Biscet the Congressional Medal of Freedom last year.
Alas, after almost half a century of MSM "reporting" on Castro's Cuba, all Cuba-watchers are well-accustomed to such "oversights" by those "dauntless crusaders for truth!" (as Columbia School of Journalism hails it's students.)
Humberto Fontova is the author of four books including Exposing the Real Che Guevara. Visit hfontova.com.
By Lisa M. Krieger
Posted: 03/27/2009 07:55:18 PM PDT
A new University of California admissions policy, adopted to increase campus diversity, could actually increase the number of white students on campuses while driving down the Asian population.
Now angry Asian-American community leaders and educators are attacking the policy as ill-conceived, poorly publicized and discriminatory.
"It's affirmative action for whites," said UC-Berkeley professor Ling-chi Wang. "I'm really outraged "... and profoundly disappointed with the institution."
At an Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education conference Friday in San Francisco, Asian activists also noted the policy will result in negligible increases in African-American students and only a modest climb in the number of Latinos. But it's the drop in the already significant Asian count that has many in that community so upset.
Although Asians account for only 12 percent of the state's population, they now represent 37 percent of UC admissions — the single largest ethnic group. At UC-Berkeley, 46 percent of the freshman class is Asian. There are dormitories with Asian themes and spicy bowls of pho are served up in the Bear's Lair cafeteria.
Under the new policy, according to UC's own estimate, the proportion of Asian admissions would drop as much as 7 percent, while admissions of whites could rise by up to 10 percent.
"The UCs are a means of upward mobility," said Anthony Lin, a San Jose resident who is a graduate student at
University of California-Los Angeles. "The University of California, because it is a research institution, is very prestigious."
Since its adoption by the UC Regents in February, the policy has triggered Asian suspicions of the UC entry system not felt since the mid-1980s, when a change in admissions policy caused a decline in Asian undergraduate enrollment. In 1989, then-UC-Berkeley Chancellor Ira Michael Heyman apologized for the policy.
"I fear a general sense that there are too many Asians in the UC system," said Patrick Hayashi, former UC associate president.
In this newest overhaul of eligibility requirements, UC has eliminated SAT subject tests — which Asians tend to do well on.
Those critical of the proposed plan vow to get it reversed by appealing to those who hold UC's purse strings: state legislators. On Tuesday, two panels of the California Legislature will jointly hold a hearing to review the policy.
Meanwhile, supporters of the change, which results from a faculty study and is backed by president Mark G. Yudof, see it as a way to ease the widening achievement gap on their campuses. The impact of the new policy, according to
UC's preliminary analysis, would be to simplify the application process and cast a wider net among promising low-income students.
It's a consequential shift for the UC system, reflecting its effort to make UC more accessible. The new policy applies to students entering college in fall 2012; they are now high school freshmen.
More than a decade after California passed Proposition 209, voting to eliminate racial preferences, university administrators have struggled to create a better balance on campus. The use of a strict meritocracy has been blamed on the rise of "the Asian campus." Some say it has come at the expense of historically underrepresented blacks and Hispanics — as well as whites.
"The president would not have supported the policy had he not felt it was fair and created opportunity," said Nina Robinson, UC's director of policy and external affairs for student affairs.
Many students — especially low-income and/or minority students — become ineligible to apply because they do not take the subject matter tests, she said.
But an analysis of the change predicts that the number of Asians admitted to UC could decrease because Asians tend to excel on the "subject tests," which are no longer part of the application.
The number of admitted whites could increase, because more weight will be given to the "reasoning SAT," which favors American natives.
African-Americans and Latinos could benefit slightly from the expanded class-ranking criteria because top students from troubled schools such as San Jose's Lick High School could be UC-eligible.
Critics say they are frustrated because UC has not made public the statistical analysis on which their decision was based.
But the report that created the data for that analysis, called the 2007 CPEC Eligibility Study, is deeply flawed, according to New York University education professor Robert Teranishi.
"It shows a wide margin of error for Asians. It is not a good predictive model, perhaps because the Asian population is very diverse. 'Asian' represents a lot of different demographic backgrounds," he said. "It should not be used to guide major policy decisions." Wang, who compared it to "peddling snake oil," complained that Asians had not been invited to participate in the process.
"The changes over the last two years took place inside the ivory tower and closed the door, without the public's knowledge," he said.
Added Hayashi: "A public university should be more responsive. Private schools can do anything they want. But public schools have a different set of objectives. "It will have a devastating impact on our community. It is a fatal mistake to think it will blow over."
The university has the power to set admissions criteria, said Steve Boilard of the California Legislative Analyst's Office. But the Legislature approves its $3 billion in funding every year.
"This is a dynamic where we need to work together to ensure its mission," he said.
Contact Lisa M. Krieger at email@example.com or (408) 920-5565.
Calif. Car Paint Proposal Parked For Now
California Wants To Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California has backed down from a proposal on new cars' paint coatings.
The state said it's looking for ways to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions by improving cars' efficiency.
One way to do that is by making cars more reflective so that their air-condition systems don't have to work as hard.
Cars that are light in color run cooler than dark-colored cars because of the way they reflect light.
The California Air Resources Board discussed a proposal this week that would have required new cars to get a new kind of paint to make them more reflective.
California said the procedure doesn't change the color of the car except for cars that are black.
Right now, it's too technically difficult to create new paint for the color black, the state said.
The California Air Resources Board decided to shelve the paint proposal until 2015.
There has been a lot of misinformation regarding the paint proposal, the state said, and owners of black cars have been leaving them angry calls and e-mails. Some thought that the state would ban cars that are black.
Meanwhile, the state said it's going ahead with a proposed rule that would make windows more reflective. That procedure wouldn't change the appearance of windows.
Once implemented, the windows proposal would save the state 70 million gallons of gas per year. The savings would amount to the same as taking 200,000 cars off of California's roads.
The state said consumers should be aware that when it comes to car colors, choosing the right color does make a difference. For example, buying a white car instead of a black car saves about 2 to 3 miles per gallon.
According to a report on Cars.com, white is the most popular car color, followed by black and silver.
Reported by: David Bienick
Copyright 2009 by KCRA.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
California To Ban TV: But Not For Good Reason (like there’s nothing decent to watch)
by Chuck DeVore
Why is it that many government agency names are oxymoronic? How much new water has the California Department of Water Resources delivered in the past couple of decades? How much energy has the federal Department of Energy or the California Energy Commission produced or encouraged?
It should come as no surprise that in 2009, an era when the L.A. Basin’s air quality bureaucracy, the SCAQMD, wants to ban dark cars because they need more air conditioning in the summer, that the California Energy Commissariate is drafting an order to outlaw TVs. (Perhaps if our TVs had one state-approved channel they would relent.)
Why is the California Energy Commission (CEC), a Gov. Jerry Brown creation, wanting to ban television sets? Well, it seems that a honking 48-inch plasma screen, that bright symbol of the bygone days of conspicuous consumption and purveyor of drooling vacuity, uses too much electricity, and electricity production makes too much greenhouse gas emissions (at least in America, where half of our electricity comes from coal - in France, a plasma screen would emit nary a CO2 molecule as the TVs there are nuclear powered).
The CEC plan, contained in a dry-sounding reported entitled, “December 2008 Draft Efficiency Standards for Televisions” proposes to ban about 200 television models. This regulatory diktat would conservatively result in 4,600 more lost jobs in the California retail industry as consumers switch to smuggling 50-inch plasmas into the state via the Internet, resulting in another $50 million in lost tax revenue (does anyone see the irony in Al Gore’s invention being used to pump up carbon emissions?).
Of course, television sets, just as with dishwashers and refrigerators, are getting more efficient all the time, a process that the free marker excels at on its own - at least it used to, before the age of AIG, bailouts, and executive compensation caps. TV manufacturers pour millions of dollars into innovation yearly and are making sets that automatically use less energy in a darkened room and switch off standby mode after a period of disuse.
But, rather than let nature and consumer choice take its course, the CEC must be seen as acting. For bureaucracies that don’t act are soon acted upon by politicians.
Greens grumble that old-TVs (many of which are still in service - when I was a kid, we had one black and white TV in the apartment - how quaint) only produce 220 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per year. Larger plasma screens produce 880 pounds though. Hence, they must be banned. Unsaid is the fact that, if anything decent were being produced for television, emissions would skyrocket. On this basis NBC should make out like a bandit with a carbon cap-and-trade program since their sole show in the prime-time top-20 Nielsen ratings is rated an energy-saving #20, translating weak viewership into an Earth-friendly virtue, and a few million tons of valuable carbon credits.
Another sure way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from plasma TVs is to reduce the electricity driving them from coal or natural gas, which powers 60 percent of California’s grid, and use instead, nuclear power, which has 55 times less emissions than coal and 30 times less than natural gas. Thus, a nuclear-powered plasma screen would emit an environmentally-conscious 18 pounds of CO2 per year - far less than a coal-fired black and white vacuum tube set.
Few Californians know that the Golden State is the most electrically efficient in America. The CEC would be proud to tell us that. What they don’t want us to know is that half of our per capita energy consumption savings over the past 30 years has come from the evisceration of California’s manufacturing base - it seems that not making stuff saves energy (ignoring the fact that we still consume stuff that we now just import from coal-fired China). No wonder California’s North Coast is now meeting the 30 percent greenhouse gas emission reduction target set by 2006’s landmark AB 32 - unemployed people don’t emit much CO2 (unless they’re at home watching a banned TV).
Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine) is a candidate for U.S. Senate in 2010 and a retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel.
I'll let the commenters to this cartoon speak...
Friday, March 27, 2009
Democrats complained endlessly about the supposed “politicization” of the Bush Justice Department. When asked about this at his confirmation hearing, Eric Holder piously pledged that his Justice Department would “serve justice” and “not the fleeting interests of any political party.” America, he intoned, was “in dire need of a less political and more independent Justice Department.”But an e-mail and flyer recently circulated to Justice Department employees indicate Attorney General Holder has an interesting definition of what it means to be “less political.” The flyer invites all employees to attend a speech in the main Justice building on Pennsylvania Avenue. In fact, it notes, all “[s]upervisors are encouraged to grant official time to employees to attend this event.”And what pillar of the legal profession will be lecturing Justice employees to help them “serve justice” in a “less political” way? Why, none other than Donna Brazile, whose own website biography describes her as a “[v]eteran Democratic political strategist” and a Vice Chairman at the Democratic National Committee.” Brazile is marketed by more than one speaker’s bureau at a cost ranging from $10,000 to $20,000. The flyer doesn't say how many taxpayer dollars are going to pay a Democratic political consultant to speak to career employees at the Justice Department (sounds like a good FOIA request). Good thing the Department is no longer politicized.
Here, from the Associated Press, is a partial account of DNI Dennis Blair’s first press conference today (emphasis mine):
During his news conference, Blair also said the Obama administration is still wrestling with what to do with the remaining 240 detainees at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, which the president has ordered closed.
Some of the detainees, deemed non-threatening, may be released into the United States as free men, Blair confirmed.
That would happen when they can't be returned to their home countries, because the governments either won't take them or the U.S. fears they will be abused or tortured. That is the case with 17 Uighurs (WEE'-gurz), Chinese Muslim separatists who were cleared for release from the jail long ago. The U.S. can't find a country willing to take them, and it will not turn them over to China.
Blair said the former prisoners would have [to] get some sort of assistance to start their new lives in the United States.
“We can't put them out on the street,” he said.
Four short questions/comments:
(1) Does this mean that the Obama administration is planning on giving some freed Guantanamo detainees a stipend? It sure appears that way. So, not only is the Obama administration planning on freeing some detainees on U.S. soil, it is also going to pay them to live here. Amazing. Who would have thought that we would see the day when detainees who were once labeled enemy combatants would be receiving welfare?
(2) The Uighur detainees are cited, over and over again, as the types of detainees who can be safely released into the U.S. This conclusion has been reached through a combination of specious reasoning and ignorance.
None of the 17 Uighurs are master terrorists on par with the likes of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. They were mostly new recruits at the time of their capture. However, as I have argued before, they are all affiliated with and/or members of a designated terrorist organization, received training at a training camp in the al Qaeda/Taliban stronghold of Tora Bora, and have admitted that they were trained by two known terrorists. And, on top of that, the group that trained them threatened to attack the Olympic Games in China last year.
Even if you don’t think that we should lock them up and throw away the key, do we really want to pay them to live on U.S. soil?
(3) The AP says the United States can’t find a country to take the Uighurs, other than China, which may treat them harshly. But that really remains to be seen. Ireland, for example, has apparently offered to take some Guantanamo detainees. Other European nations have been somewhat more reticent.
(4) Is the Obama administration considering paying other Guantanamo detainees to live in the U.S. as well?
Brazil’s leader blames white people for crisis
By Jonathan Wheatley in São Paulo and agencies
Published: March 27 2009 00:27 Last updated: March 27 2009 00:27
Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Thursday blamed the global economic crisis on “white people with blue eyes” and said it was wrong that black and indigenous people should pay for white people’s mistakes.
Speaking in Brasília at a joint press conference with Gordon Brown, the UK prime minister, Mr Lula da Silva told reporters: “This crisis was caused by the irrational behaviour of white people with blue eyes, who before the crisis appeared to know everything and now demonstrate that they know nothing.”
He added: “I do not know any black or indigenous bankers so I can only say [it is wrong] that this part of mankind which is victimised more than any other should pay for the crisis.”
Mr Brown appeared to distance himself from Mr Lula da Silva’s remarks. “I’m not going to attribute blame to any individuals,” he said.
Mr Brown was visiting Brazil as part of a five-day tour of Europe, the US and South America in preparation for the G20 summit to take place in London next Thursday. He made a joint appeal with Mr Lula da Silva for the world’s biggest economies to provide $100bn to boost global trade.
“I’m going to ask the G20 summit next week to support a global expansion of trade finance to reverse a slide in world trade,” Mr Brown said.
Mr Lula da Silva also spoke out strongly against raising trade barriers in response to the global crisis. “I compare protectionism to a drug,” he said. “Why do people use drugs? Because they are in crisis and they think the drug will help them. But its effects pass quickly.”
The two leaders’ remarks demonstrate the desire each will have to secure the other’s support during the G20 meeting.
Brazil – which has long campaigned unsuccessfully to be given a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council – will argue for a bigger voice for Brazil and other emerging nations in multilateral organisations such as the International Monetary Fund and the Financial Stability Forum, a group of central banks and national supervisory authorities established in 1999.
Brazil is one of many nations calling for increased regulation of global financial markets and greater powers for multilateral regulators.
It will also call for a resumption and conclusion of the Doha round of talks at the World Trade Organisation.
In return for supporting such initiatives, Mr Brown will expect Brazil to endorse calls for fiscal stimulus in a bid to mitigate the impact of the global crisis, such as the proposed $100bn in trade finance.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Dozens march for Mixon, against police
Charles Burress, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, March 26, 2009
(03-25) 20:36 PDT Oakland -- About 60 people marched and rallied in Oakland on Wednesday to condemn the police and honor Lovelle Mixon, who was killed by Oakland police after he fatally shot four officers Saturday.
"OPD you can't hide - we charge you with genocide," chanted the demonstrators as they marched along MacArthur Boulevard, near the intersection with 74th Avenue where Mixon, 26, a fugitive parolee, gunned down two motorcycle officers who had pulled him over in a traffic stop. He killed two more officers who tried to capture him where he was hiding in his sister's apartment nearby.
The protest was organized by the Oakland branch of the Uhuru Movement, whose flyers for the march declared, "Stop Police Terror." Many marchers wore T-shirts featuring Mixon's photo, including a woman identified by march organizers as Mixon's mother. The woman declined to comment and gave her name only as Athena.
Lolo Darnell, one of Mixon's cousins at the demonstration, said, "He needs sympathy too. If he's a criminal, everybody's a criminal."
Asked about police allegations that Mixon was suspected in several rapes, including that of a 12-year-old girl, marcher Mandingo Hayes said, "He wasn't a rapist. I don't believe that."
Bystanders had mixed reactions. Nicole Brown said that she can't condone murder but that police don't respect residents of the area. Daria Belt said she had no sympathy for the protesters but sympathized for Mixon's family.
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY Posted Wednesday, March 25, 2009 4:20 PM PT
Democracy: In a little-noted agency hearing, the CIA admitted that Venezuela's Hugo Chavez rigged his recall referendum in 2004. So why does he still merit global recognition as a democratically elected leader?
Anyone who steals an election has no claim to democracy. But somehow there's an exception for Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, who's still recognized as a "democratically elected" leader by the U.S. and others.
It now comes to light that the CIA cybersecurity experts know he fixed his 2004 recall referendum. Two weeks ago, at a field hearing before the U.S. Election Assistance Commission in Orlando, Fla., CIA's Steve Stigall cited Venezuela, along with Macedonia and Ukraine, as examples of the risks of electronic voting.
Chavez, he said, controlled most voting machines and may have provided the program used to "randomly" select them for audit during a recount, the Miami Herald reported.
The problem went beyond cheating. The referendum was then certified as free and fair by none other than ex-President Jimmy Carter and recognized by the hemisphere as democratic.
That extended Chavez's term in power at a time when the real sentiment of voters was to throw him out. That, in turn, undercut Venezuela's opposition parties as political forces, making it nearly impossible for them to gain ground.
It also made Chavez obnoxious in international forums, using his false democratic legitimacy to undermine the interests of democratic nations while no one said anything.
He's about to play this like a fiddle at the upcoming Summit of the Americas, promising to "get the artillery out" against U.S. President Barack Obama in reflexive anti-Americanism all about reinforcing his grip on power.
While Carter was declaring Venezuela a democracy, the scam was not entirely unnoted. Mathematicians at universities like Yale, Johns Hopkins, MIT, University of Santa Cruz and in Venezuela all found a "very subtle algorithm" in the voting software that adjusted the ballot count in Chavez's favor, the Herald noted.
Carter dismissed them arrogantly and a New York Times editorial abusively told the Venezuelan opposition to "grow up," and accept Chavez as president. They shouldn't. And neither should we.
That the U.S. now recognizes this vote was a fraud means we should fix our mistake. It's vital for democracy in this hemisphere.
Not only do the enablers owe Venezuela's democrats an apology, the U.S. and others need to decertify Chavez a democratic leader in all international forums.
Islamist Hate Exposed By Traditional Values Coalition
Traditional Values Coalition's executive director takes on an Islamist school in Fairfax County, Va.
The Islamic Saudi Academy (ISA) in Fairfax, Va. went before the local planning commission Wednesday night to seek an expansion of their controversial and secretive school funded and controlled by the Saudi government.
A large group of residents near the school asked the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) for help in organizing and strategizing against the expansion, which has seen raids by local police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and used anti-Christian, anti-Semitic and anti-American textbooks. The school is operated by the government of Saudi Arabia and there has been some confusion over whether federal or local officials should take jurisdiction over the extremist Wahhabi teaching and clandestine activities which have marked the ISA’s history.
Andrea Lafferty, TVC executive director was among those who testified at the raucous hearing--which lasted until after 2:30am-- had an overflow crowd and featured a large presence by supporters of the Islamic Saudi Academy. Residents near the ISA and members of local churches also attended the hearing in large numbers and voiced their opposition to the ISA.
Here are some highlights of what she told the Commissioners:
The campus of the Islamic Saudi Academy operates under the principles of Shariah law.
The principal who was arrested for not reporting the sexual abuse of the five year-old student was following Shariah law when he turned the child back to her abusive father and suggested he “get control” of her. Under brutal Shariah law, children do not have basic human rights and neither do women.
The ISA texts have included :
peaceful coexistence with so-called “infidels” is unattainable and that violence to spread Islam is not only permissible, but an obligation.
in order to safeguard their own religion, they must violently repress and even physically eliminate the other.
A narrative and drawing of the most efficient way to cut off the hand and foot of a thief. Is cutting off someone’s hands the sort of “free exercise of religious belief” which our fellow Virginian Thomas Jefferson envisioned in the First Amendment to our Constitution?
Apostates (those who convert from Islam), homosexuals, adulterers and people who murder Muslims can be permissibly killed.
The apes are Jews, the keepers of the Sabbath; while the swine are the Christian infidels of the communion of Jesus
Let’s be frank. Every time the Islamic Saudi Academy gets caught with hate filled textbooks they claim they have fixed the problem--- by crossing out a line with a sharpie pen, whiting out a section or simply tearing out a page and the ISA says is fixed. But you can’t fix what the Wahhabists teach.
Remember that 15 out of 19 of the 9-11 hijackers were Saudi nationals learning from these very textbooks.Since the Commission made it clear they did not want to hear any concerns except those they deemed related to “land use,” Andrea closed with this statement:
The narrow definition of land use made me wonder as I prepared my testimony: Was there a Planning Commission in Auschwitz?
Were they more concerned about the upkeep of the property and the loud clatter of trains going in and out all night or, perhaps, the smoke stacks which spoiled the sunset.
What if someone had gone beyond the form and dealt with the substance of how the land inside that institution was really being used?
Are we too avoiding mentioning the obvious in our discussion of land use at the Islamic Saudi Academy?
TVC witnesses were jeered and booed by some in the crowd – many of whom wore long gowns and head coverings or veils.
One member of the commission insisted that TVC Executive Director Andrea Lafferty say the names of the “cowardly politicians” cited in a TVC flyer distributed by local residents and church activists.
Before she could answer, many people in the audience responded “You” loudly and then shouted out names of local liberal politicians. The chairman had to gavel the hearing to order so that the audience would stop shouting the names of the liberal bosses.
We believe the ISA’s objective is to train young Muslims to become the next generation of homicide bombers and terrorists. They want to ensure that their kids grow-up to hate our kids and they work to guarantee that jihadist violence will continue for another generation.
Cowardly politicians of both political parties take money from Islamist Political Action Committees and do their bidding when it comes to official business like the planning commission.
Local residents were astonished at the treatment they received from the commissioners as compared to the deferential and preferred treatment given by Islamic Saudi Academy proponents.
Virginians who expect fair treatment from their government are being outbid by the Saudi extremists who pump money and illegal grassroots support into the campaigns of the liberal Congressman and Board of Supervisor candidates’ campaigns.
The local homeowners thanked TVC for the expertise and support it provided in their efforts to fight the well-financed ISA which brought a large entourage of lawyers and consultants to the hearing. Officials from the Council on Islamic Relations (CAIR) attended and monitored it from the back of the room.
Pamela Gellar of Atlas Shrugs has a humorous take on last night’s raucous hearing before the Fairfax County Planning Commission. Read her twitter.
Senate reviewing how college football picks No. 1
By FREDERIC J. FROMMER
WASHINGTON (AP) — Everyone from President Barack Obama on down to fans has criticized how college football determines its top team. Now senators are getting off the sidelines to examine antitrust issues involving the Bowl Champion Series.
The current system "leaves nearly half of all the teams in college football at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to qualifying for the millions of dollars paid out every year," the Senate Judiciary's subcommittee on antitrust, competition policy and consumer rights said in a statement Wednesday announcing the hearings.
Under the BCS, some conferences get automatic bids to participate in series, while others do not.
Obama and some members of Congress favor a playoff-type system to determine the national champion. The BCS features a championship game between the two top teams in the BCS standings, based on two polls and six computer ratings.
Behind the push for the hearings is the subcommittee's top Republican, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. People there were furious that Utah was bypassed for the national championship despite going undefeated in the regular season.
The title game pitted No. 1 Florida (12-1) against No. 2 Oklahoma (12-1); Florida won 24-14 and claimed the title.
The subcommittee's statement said Hatch would introduce legislation "to rectify this situation." No details were offered and Hatch's office declined to provide any.
Hatch said in a statement that the BCS system "has proven itself to be inadequate, not only for those of us who are fans of college football, but for anyone who believes that competition and fair play should have a role in collegiate sports."
In the House, Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, has sponsored legislation that would prevent the NCAA from calling a football game a "national championship" unless the game culminates from a playoff system.
Amid the flap over bonuses at American International Group Inc. two of the company's top managers in Paris have resigned. Their moves have left the giant insurer and officials scrambling to replace them to avoid an unlikely but expensive situation in which billions in AIG trading contracts could default.
Representatives of the Federal Reserve, AIG's lead U.S. overseer, are talking with French regulators and AIG officials to deal with the consequences of a complicated legal scenario in which the departures of the managers in Banque AIG, a subsidiary of AIG's Financial Products unit, could trigger defaults in $234 billion of derivative transactions, according to people familiar with the situation and a document AIG provided to the U.S. Treasury.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
The following is a letter sent on Tuesday by Jake DeSantis, an executive vice president of the American International Group’s financial products unit, to Edward M. Liddy, the chief executive of A.I.G.
DEAR Mr. Liddy,
It is with deep regret that I submit my notice of resignation from A.I.G. Financial Products. I hope you take the time to read this entire letter. Before describing the details of my decision, I want to offer some context:
I am proud of everything I have done for the commodity and equity divisions of A.I.G.-F.P. I was in no way involved in — or responsible for — the credit default swap transactions that have hamstrung A.I.G. Nor were more than a handful of the 400 current employees of A.I.G.-F.P. Most of those responsible have left the company and have conspicuously escaped the public outrage.
After 12 months of hard work dismantling the company — during which A.I.G. reassured us many times we would be rewarded in March 2009 — we in the financial products unit have been betrayed by A.I.G. and are being unfairly persecuted by elected officials. In response to this, I will now leave the company and donate my entire post-tax retention payment to those suffering from the global economic downturn. My intent is to keep none of the money myself.
I take this action after 11 years of dedicated, honorable service to A.I.G. I can no longer effectively perform my duties in this dysfunctional environment, nor am I being paid to do so. Like you, I was asked to work for an annual salary of $1, and I agreed out of a sense of duty to the company and to the public officials who have come to its aid. Having now been let down by both, I can no longer justify spending 10, 12, 14 hours a day away from my family for the benefit of those who have let me down.
You and I have never met or spoken to each other, so I’d like to tell you about myself. I was raised by schoolteachers working multiple jobs in a world of closing steel mills. My hard work earned me acceptance to M.I.T., and the institute’s generous financial aid enabled me to attend. I had fulfilled my American dream.
I started at this company in 1998 as an equity trader, became the head of equity and commodity trading and, a couple of years before A.I.G.’s meltdown last September, was named the head of business development for commodities. Over this period the equity and commodity units were consistently profitable — in most years generating net profits of well over $100 million. Most recently, during the dismantling of A.I.G.-F.P., I was an integral player in the pending sale of its well-regarded commodity index business to UBS. As you know, business unit sales like this are crucial to A.I.G.’s effort to repay the American taxpayer.
The profitability of the businesses with which I was associated clearly supported my compensation. I never received any pay resulting from the credit default swaps that are now losing so much money. I did, however, like many others here, lose a significant portion of my life savings in the form of deferred compensation invested in the capital of A.I.G.-F.P. because of those losses. In this way I have personally suffered from this controversial activity — directly as well as indirectly with the rest of the taxpayers.
I have the utmost respect for the civic duty that you are now performing at A.I.G. You are as blameless for these credit default swap losses as I am. You answered your country’s call and you are taking a tremendous beating for it.
But you also are aware that most of the employees of your financial products unit had nothing to do with the large losses. And I am disappointed and frustrated over your lack of support for us. I and many others in the unit feel betrayed that you failed to stand up for us in the face of untrue and unfair accusations from certain members of Congress last Wednesday and from the press over our retention payments, and that you didn’t defend us against the baseless and reckless comments made by the attorneys general of New York and Connecticut.
My guess is that in October, when you learned of these retention contracts, you realized that the employees of the financial products unit needed some incentive to stay and that the contracts, being both ethical and useful, should be left to stand. That’s probably why A.I.G. management assured us on three occasions during that month that the company would “live up to its commitment” to honor the contract guarantees.
That may be why you decided to accelerate by three months more than a quarter of the amounts due under the contracts. That action signified to us your support, and was hardly something that one would do if he truly found the contracts “distasteful.”
That may also be why you authorized the balance of the payments on March 13.
At no time during the past six months that you have been leading A.I.G. did you ask us to revise, renegotiate or break these contracts — until several hours before your appearance last week before Congress.
I think your initial decision to honor the contracts was both ethical and financially astute, but it seems to have been politically unwise. It’s now apparent that you either misunderstood the agreements that you had made — tacit or otherwise — with the Federal Reserve, the Treasury, various members of Congress and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo of New York, or were not strong enough to withstand the shifting political winds.
You’ve now asked the current employees of A.I.G.-F.P. to repay these earnings. As you can imagine, there has been a tremendous amount of serious thought and heated discussion about how we should respond to this breach of trust.
As most of us have done nothing wrong, guilt is not a motivation to surrender our earnings. We have worked 12 long months under these contracts and now deserve to be paid as promised. None of us should be cheated of our payments any more than a plumber should be cheated after he has fixed the pipes but a careless electrician causes a fire that burns down the house.
Many of the employees have, in the past six months, turned down job offers from more stable employers, based on A.I.G.’s assurances that the contracts would be honored. They are now angry about having been misled by A.I.G.’s promises and are not inclined to return the money as a favor to you.
The only real motivation that anyone at A.I.G.-F.P. now has is fear. Mr. Cuomo has threatened to “name and shame,” and his counterpart in Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, has made similar threats — even though attorneys general are supposed to stand for due process, to conduct trials in courts and not the press.
So what am I to do? There’s no easy answer. I know that because of hard work I have benefited more than most during the economic boom and have saved enough that my family is unlikely to suffer devastating losses during the current bust. Some might argue that members of my profession have been overpaid, and I wouldn’t disagree.
That is why I have decided to donate 100 percent of the effective after-tax proceeds of my retention payment directly to organizations that are helping people who are suffering from the global downturn. This is not a tax-deduction gimmick; I simply believe that I at least deserve to dictate how my earnings are spent, and do not want to see them disappear back into the obscurity of A.I.G.’s or the federal government’s budget. Our earnings have caused such a distraction for so many from the more pressing issues our country faces, and I would like to see my share of it benefit those truly in need.
On March 16 I received a payment from A.I.G. amounting to $742,006.40, after taxes. In light of the uncertainty over the ultimate taxation and legal status of this payment, the actual amount I donate may be less — in fact, it may end up being far less if the recent House bill raising the tax on the retention payments to 90 percent stands. Once all the money is donated, you will immediately receive a list of all recipients.
This choice is right for me. I wish others at A.I.G.-F.P. luck finding peace with their difficult decision, and only hope their judgment is not clouded by fear.
Mr. Liddy, I wish you success in your commitment to return the money extended by the American government, and luck with the continued unwinding of the company’s diverse businesses — especially those remaining credit default swaps. I’ll continue over the short term to help make sure no balls are dropped, but after what’s happened this past week I can’t remain much longer — there is too much bad blood. I’m not sure how you will greet my resignation, but at least Attorney General Blumenthal should be relieved that I’ll leave under my own power and will not need to be “shoved out the door.”
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Energy US oil and gas service provider Helmerich & Payne Inc. stopped operations in another drilling platform in Venezuela because of a payment-related dispute, thus taking the number this year to four, and is planning to close all of the 11 drills of its property, reported on Monday the corporate President and CEO. Hans Helmerich said last month that three drilling platforms had been closed in Venezuela. This time, he added that his company would continue with the shutdowns as far as near USD 100 million owed by state-run oil company Petróleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa) is in dispute, Reuters reported. Pdvsa accrued huge debts, and some sources said that it is cutting back on its payments to partners and service providers as a result of feeble oil prices and because the large public expenditure in social welfare programs has hit its finance. As for Helmerich & Payne, the CEO said that the amount of stopped constructions of drilling platforms had escalated to 31 from 28 at the end of February, because the clients found that they are unable to cover operational expenses in the face of weakened natural gas prices.
White House Interoffice Memo:
Posted By Ernie Mannix On March 24, 2009 @ 7:49 am In Political Humor
TO: All White House Staff, Ms. O.W., Rev. W., Mr. W.A.
CC: MSNBC, NBC, CNBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, NPR, COMEDY CENTRAL.
Beginning this Friday, we are eliminating all references to, either verbally or physically; the notion of ‘problems’ of any sort.
No admittance of, or complaint about, a ‘problem’ whether previous or present shall be verbalized, text-ed, emailed, noted, teleprompted, signed, mimed, smoke signaled, transferred, dreamt about, slept with, interpretively danced, pig called, semaphored, channeled, Morse coded or telepathed in any language known now or that may be discovered or created by men, aliens or Canadians in perpetuity forever and ever, amen.
A positive assessment of any situation however grave must be presented before the American public, and more importantly the greater world at large, on a continuing and ongoing basis. Failure to do this might hurt our chances for GREATER CHANGE AND MEGA HOPE 2012. (Logo to follow after Pepsi suit or royalty is settled.)
SHOULD IN THE EVENT A PROBLEM (see rule #1) gets through to the press, culpability of any said problem (see rule #1), is to be avoided at all costs. Any possible responsibility for any such problem (see rule #1) shall be immediately supplanted with blame placed on one or more of the following persons or entities:
1. George W. Bush
2. A Republican Cabal
3. Rush Limbaugh
4. Fox News/Sean Hannity
5. Numbers 1 through 4 together
7. Global Warming
8. Global Warming from manufacture of guns
9. Global Warming from Right Wing Cabal Blogs
10. Bad Vibes
12. Global Warming started by Walmart’s low low prices
13. Need for Fairness Doctrine
14. Lack of Fairness Doctrine / too many conservative talk radio stations, causing Global Warming
15. Big Oil
16. George Bush’s Big Oil
17. George Bush’s Big Oil causing Global Warming
18. Need for another Stimulus, and it being prevented by George Bush
19. Peanut Butter with Salmonella
20. Inheriting George Bush’s Peanut Butter Salmonella problem
22. Global Warming starting Katrina
23. George Bush rooting for Global Warming to start Katrina
24. Dick Cheney asking Satan to increase Global Warming
25. Lack of George Bush’s ability to reach out to despots
26. George Bush creating the despots
27. Lack of any real despots in the world
28. The “Snuggie”
29. “Snuggie” Company (allegedly) run by gun toting Jack Daniel’s drinking Republicans
30. Big Hollywood’s (alleged) drunken, JD drinking, gun toting, cabal of writers
31. Andrew Breitbart’s ‘Alexander Hamilton’ hairdo
Mannerisms, and reactions, as well as light hearted demeanor lend to the air of problem free (see Rule #1) governing.
POTUS, shall include one or more of the following:
1. Late Night talk show appearances.
2. Cracking wise on the Late Night shows with possible edgy material as to deflect from any possible (real) problems (see rule #1).
3. Dressing as casual as possible and bounding down the Air Force One stairs with an extra snappy salute.
4. POTUS clapping hands at himself after POTUS speaks.
Other WH staff may want to develop and practice these behaviors:
1. When asked about a problem (see Rule #1) by an unfriendly reporter, (cc’d parties excluded of course ), deflect away from the question by thanking at length everyone in the room.
2. Pat enemy reporter on the back and tell him or her that you haven’t heard of what they are talking about, but will surely look into it.
3. If enemy reporter is persistent, suggest they ask or look into any of the persons or entities listed above in Rule #2.
4. If still unsatisfied, suggest the reporter is part of the Republican cabal and may be drunk.
Thank you for your attention to this matter and remember 2012 GREATER CHANGE AND MEGA HOPE 2012 work starts now!
Special shout out to K.O. and C.M from MSNBC. (Authors of Rule #2) Excellent work guys.
Demonstrators demand ministerial committee recommendations for sanctions against Palestinians security prisoners be implemented to speed up release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. 'We are here to show Hamas we can also block visitation as long as no one allowed to see Shalit,' protester saysRoee Mandel
After a special ministerial committee proposed sanctions against security prisoners held in Israel, in hopes of advancing a deal for the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit, dozens of people protested outside the Sharon Prison Monday morning and blocked the entrance of visitors.
The protesters urged the implementation of the committee's recommendations. "The government talks and the citizens do – we will not allow prison visits", the demonstrators said.
Head of the Kibbutz Movement's special assignment division Yoel Marshak was also present at the demonstration, and told Ynet, "By the time the government implements its decisions, a year will have passed.
"This must be done today already. We are here to protest and arouse public opinion, and to show Hamas that we can also block visitation to their prisoners, as long as they are not allowing anyone to see Gilad Shalit."
The protest was initiated by the Im Tirtzu extra-parliamentary movement, that was joined by the World Likud, Beitar Movement and representatives of the Kibbutz Movement – all wishing to display a unified front in the demand to have the conditions of security prisoners changed to match those under which Shalit is held.
"We cannot wait for the government to approve making the conditions equal," said Marshak. "It has to be done now. We have to show Hamas that we, the citizens, have the power to stop the visits, as long as no one is allowed to visit Gilad Shalit.
"In principle, prisoner visitation is a humanitarian move that we agree to, but with Gilad Shalit held for 1,000 days now without anyone knowing where he is, we cannot have Palestinian prisoners enjoying visitation, watching television, and reading the newspapers."
World Likud Chairman MK Danny Danon said, "Our goal is to shed light on the foolishness of the government, that set up a committee to examine the matter only one week ago. We cannot have Palestinian prisoners receiving VIP treatment and regular visits from their families, while Shalit is still captive."
Gilad Shalit was kidnapped into the Gaza Strip 1,002 days ago.
Any sentient being dumb enough to fall for this AIG huffin’ an’ a-puffin’ from Barry, Barney, Doddy, and the gang is a fool who deserves the vaporization of his assets that the national political class is lining up for him. As Charles Krauthammer pointed out, the $165 million in bonuses is less than 1/18,500 of the $3.1 trillion budget. The massive expansion of government the president is planning is forever, and will ensure you that end your days in what Peggy Noonan calls “post-prosperity America.” More immediately, what message do you send to the world when legal contracts can be abrogated by retrospective confiscatory bills of attainder? You think that’s going to get anyone investing in America again?
The investor class invests in jurisdictions where the rules are clear and stable. Right now, Washington is telling the planet: In our America, there are no rules. Got a legally binding contract? We’ll tear it up. Refuse to surrender the dough? We’ll pass a law targeted at you, yes, you, Mr. Beau Nuss of 27 Plutocrat Gardens, Fatcatville. If you want a banana republic on steroids, this is great news. So cheer on thuggish grandstanding by incompetent legislators-for-life like Barney Frank if you wish. But, in any battle between the political class and the business class, you’re only fooling yourself if you think it’s in your interest for the latter to lose.
Monday, March 23, 2009
If you want to understand why AIG awarded derivative traders in its Financial Products Group $165 million in bonuses, don’t be distracted by the on-going morality play staged by politicians about the misuse of Federal funds, the blame-shifting game played by AIG executives, or even the disingenuous hand-wringing about the sanctity of contracts. The real decider here is money, specifically, $1.6 trillion worth of volatile derivative contracts. This portfolio, managed by 400 or so derivative traders that work for a London-based subsidiary , mainly consists of credit default swaps that has the potential of inflicting hundreds of billions of dollars of losses on AIG– and, its de facto partner, the US tax payer.
How did the world’s largest insurer become a hostage to its subsidiary? In 1998, this tiny group got into the newly-created credit default swap business when JP Morgan Chase came to it with a proposition to transform debt on its books into security packages that could be sold off its books. To make these bank debt packages salable to other institution, they needed credible insurance against default to get Triple-A rating. So the AIG financial product group, seeing no risk of default, sold it in the form of credit default swaps. Soon afterwards, with the support of Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers (now President’s Obama’s economic advisor), the Commodity Futures Modernization Act was passed, which excluded credit default swaps from being considered a "security" under the jurisdiction of the SEC or any other government agency. This act allowed these swaps to be deployed on a massive scale to convert all kinds of debt, including even subprime mortgages and car loans, into triple A securities and turned AIG’s arm, now headed by Joseph J. Cassano, an aggressive Brooklyn-born alumni of Drexel’s back office operations, into a multi-billion dollar profit center for the insurance behemoth. Even though the unit’s 400 or so traders constituted less than one-third of one percent of AIG’s loyal employees, it produced close to twenty percent of its total operating profits. While Cassano kept the list of his counter parties in the credit default swaps a closely held secret, he bragged at a conference in 2007 that they included a global swath of “investment banks, pension funds, endowments, foundations, insurance companies, hedge funds, money managers, high-net-worth individuals, municipalities and sovereigns and supranationals.” By 2006, his group was raking in nearly $4 billion in profits, and, as is the tradition in the derivative game, he and his traders got a rich cut of the loot, which on average amounted to roughly $1.1 million a trader.
With the collapse in 2008 of the debt AIG was insuring, came such massive losses that Cassano resigned, and AIG, unable to post collateral, faced bankruptcy. At this point in September 2008, the US government rescued AIG, pouring in $173 billion of tax payers’ money. Even so, there remained a $1.6 trillion in potential liabilities that could be triggered by thousands of the credit default swap contracts, many of which would not expire until 2012. To prevent hundreds of billions of losses, these custom-designed contracts had to be continually watched, and, if necessary hedged, by traders who understood each one’s particular vulnerability.
. To perform this critical task, the remaining 370 or so remaining traders in the group wanted the same sort of guaranteed compensation in the form of retention bonuses as had in their two year contracts. The situation for AIG, and the US government that now owned 80 percent of it, was not unlike the one in Mario Puzo’s Godfather in which an offer is made that cannot be refused. In this case, even without a bloody horse head under the blankets, AIG and its federal overseers could not risk falling into a $1.6 trillion black hole by turning down the demands of the traders in the financial product group. It was not that these traders had such unique skills in derivative contracts that they could not be replaced by other people since the managing of these contracts is not overly complex. It is that they knew a proprietary secret, to wit, AIG’s secret book, which included the identities of all the counterparties to the credit default swaps and the vulnerabilities of each swap. The implicit threat was that, if they were replaced, they could use the secrets to which they were privy to trade for others against AIG as it attempted to protect the positions in its $1.6 trillion dollar portfolio. Under these circumstances, rather than risking immense losses from having their secret book compromised, AIG paid to keep its traders from defecting. Their compensation, when approved by the Fed and Treasury, would amount to about $500,000 a trader a year ( less than half what they had been getting in 2008.) The staff at the NY Fed, while Timothy Geithner was still its head, in fact helped negotiate the terms for these retention bonuses. When Geithner moved on to become Treasury Secretary in January 2009, he presumably understood how financially dangerous it could be to do otherwise, since he intervened with the Senate Banking Committee Chairman in February to get a provision dropped from a bill that would have prevented AIG (and other recipients of federal money) from paying such huge bonuses. In fairness to Geithner, the alternative to making these pay-offs might have proven a thousand times more costly to AIG, and its defacto owner, the US Government. Washington, after all, is ruled by pragmatism, and what difference is there between AIG paying $165 million to the derivative traders who caused the havoc, and the Fed rewarding the rating services that made possible the proliferation of trillions of dollar of toxic debt with $1.2 billion in fees to rate the new debt under its TALP plan to restore the credit markets damaged by its old Triple A rated toxic debt?