Monday, January 5, 2009

They Are Back In Town And It Sounds A Lot Like Business As Usual! And Thus We Begin Anew.

They Are Back In Town And It Sounds A Lot Like Business As Usual! And Thus We Begin Anew.


"The action I am taking is no more than a radical measure to hasten the explosion of truth and justice. I have but one passion: to enlighten those who have been kept in the dark, in the name of humanity which has suffered so much and is entitled to happiness. My fiery protest is simply the cry of my very soul. Let them dare, then, to bring me before a court of law and let the enquiry take place in broad daylight!"

- Emile Zola, J'accuse! (1898) –



Thank You For Endorsing The January 10, 2009, National March In DC To Stop The U.S./Israeli War Against The Palestinian People. Please Check For Important Updates.

It is in Time of Crisis that One Discovers the Difference Between those Who Only Talk and Those Capable of Taking Action


Master Inaugural Events List


Obama, Pelosi: 'Hit ground running'
The Swamp - Tribune's Washington Bureau - Washington,DC,USA
And I can't think of a better partner in building what is necessary to get this economy back on track than Speaker Nancy Pelosi who has just been an ...See all stories on this topic


Protest Shuts Down Federal Building
... because they were not allowed into the building to talk to US Rep. Nancy Pelosi. Later, a small group of protesters did meet with Pelosi's staff inside. See all stories on this topic


Congress: Mr. Burris goes to Washington
15: Interior: Senator Ken Salazar (Energy and Natural Resources Committee) The New York Times has a fascinating profile of Nancy Pelosi as she prepares to ...
See all stories on this topic


Pelosi Reverses House Fairness Rules
Human Events - Washington,DC,USA
by Connie Hair House Speaker
 Nancy Pelosi plans to re-write House rules today to ensure that the Republican minority is unable to have any influence on ...See all stories on this topic


Michelle Malkin » Nancy Pelosi: Back to the good old days
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to re-write House rules today to ensure that the Republican minority is unable to have any influence on legislation. Pelosi’s proposals are so draconian, and will so polarize the Capitol, ...
Michelle Malkin -


Obama Launches Stimulus Campaign on Hill
Washington Post - United States
... in Hawaii and a final weekend in Chicago, headed to the Capitol this morning, first for an 11 am sitdown with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). ...


Dem aide: Obama supports $300M tax cut plan
The Associated Press
... today is because the people's business cannot wait," Obama said as he arrived on Capitol Hill in late morning for talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi...See all stories on this topic


Obama Says Nation Has ‘Extraordinary Challenge’ on Economy
Bloomberg - USA
“We have an extraordinary challenge ahead of us,” Obama said before meeting with House SpeakerNancy Pelosi at the Capitol. ...See all stories on this topic


Obama expects "sobering" unemployment figures
Reuters - USA
... here today is because the people's business can't wait," Obama told reporters at a photo opportunity with House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi...See all stories on this topic


Green: Pelosi & Friends put damper on 'happy' new year
The Aurora Sentinel - Aurora,CO,USA
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (just the name ruins any prospect of a happy new year) has presided over a schedule that calls for the first House hearing on a ...See all stories on this topic


Obama predicts quick approval of econ rescue plan
The Associated Press
Obama met earlier in the day with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as he set a tone of urgency for dealing with a financial situation that he described ...See all stories on this topic





Authorities are organizing what appears to be the largest security operation ever for an inauguration, bringing in thousands of extra cops, agents and troops to handle the record-breaking crowds expected for four days of events welcoming the Obama presidency, The Washington Post’s Mary Beth Sheridan surveys. Inauguration security is getting so tough that even lawmakers are being cautioned to get in place early for the Jan. 20 swearing-in and to schedule no meetings in their offices until after the new president departs for the parade viewing stand, U.S. News Paul Bedard adds. “A question everyone needs to ask is — do I have the ability to do this?” a Park Service officer counsels potential attendees via Gannett News Service’s John Yaukey.

Feds: DHS’s departing Michael Chertoff “is right when he says there has not been an attack on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001. That is meaningless for at least three reasons,” Chuck Woolery leads in The Washington Times. DHS has revoked disgraced Illinois Gov.Rod Blagojevich’s access to classified federal security information, The Chicago Sun-Times Frank Main mentions. Some welcome “with open arms” the military’s plans for a 20,000-strong domestic responder force, while others fear “mission creep because there just aren’t that many terrorist attacks and disasters to keep the military busy on a regular basis,” U.S. News Siobhan Morrisey surveys. Holdover Pentagon chief Robert Gates’ views on the terrorism threat offer an “interesting bridge” between President Bush and his successor, the Post’s Walter Pincus reports.

The Death of the "Virginia Democrat?"
Washington Post - United States
"The Mark Warner model is dead," one Richmond-based GOP strategist said. Democrats argue that it will no longer be a liability for them to be linked to the ...See all stories on this topic


McAuliffe Announces Staff
Washington Post Blogs - Washington,DC,USA
With over a decade of experience in national and Virginia politics, Mo Elleithee served as Press Secretary for Mark Warner's 2001 campaign for Governor and ...See all stories on this topic


How Many Bananas Does It Take To make A Banana Republic? (A Conservative Asks!)


Fighting Off Depression | By Paul Krugman | Published: January 4, 2009


“If we don’t act swiftly and boldly,” declared President-elect Barack Obama in his latest weekly address, “we could see a much deeper economic downturn that could lead to double-digit unemployment.” If you ask me, he was understating the case.

The fact is that recent economic numbers have been terrifying, not just in the United States but around the world. Manufacturing, in particular, is plunging everywhere. Banks aren’t lending; businesses and consumers aren’t spending. Let’s not mince words: This looks an awful lot like the beginning of a second Great Depression.

So will we “act swiftly and boldly” enough to stop that from happening? We’ll soon find out.

We weren’t supposed to find ourselves in this situation. For many years most economists believed that preventing another Great Depression would be easy. In 2003, Robert Lucas of the University of Chicago, in his presidential address to the American Economic Association, declared that the “central problem of depression-prevention has been solved, for all practical purposes, and has in fact been solved for many decades.”

Milton Friedman, in particular, persuaded many economists that the Federal Reserve could have stopped the Depression in its tracks simply by providing banks with more liquidity, which would have prevented a sharp fall in the money supply. Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, famously apologized to Friedman on his institution’s behalf: “You’re right. We did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.”

It turns out, however, that preventing depressions isn’t that easy after all. Under Mr. Bernanke’s leadership, the Fed has been supplying liquidity like an engine crew trying to put out a five-alarm fire, and the money supply has been rising rapidly. Yet credit remains scarce, and the economy is still in free fall.

Friedman’s claim that monetary policy could have prevented the Great Depression was an attempt to refute the analysis of John Maynard Keynes, who argued that monetary policy is ineffective under depression conditions and that fiscal policy — large-scale deficit spending by the government — is needed to fight mass unemployment. The failure of monetary policy in the current crisis shows that Keynes had it right the first time. And Keynesian thinking lies behind Mr. Obama’s plans to rescue the economy.

But these plans may turn out to be a hard sell.

News reports say that Democrats hope to pass an economic plan with broad bipartisan support. Good luck with that.

In reality, the political posturing has already started, with Republican leaders setting up roadblocks to stimulus legislation while posing as the champions of careful Congressional deliberation — which is pretty rich considering their party’s behavior over the past eight years.

More broadly, after decades of declaring that government is the problem, not the solution, not to mention reviling both Keynesian economics and the New Deal, most Republicans aren’t going to accept the need for a big-spending, F.D.R.-type solution to the economic crisis.

The biggest problem facing the Obama plan, however, is likely to be the demand of many politicians for proof that the benefits of the proposed public spending justify its costs — a burden of proof never imposed on proposals for tax cuts.

This is a problem with which Keynes was familiar: giving money away, he pointed out, tends to be met with fewer objections than plans for public investment “which, because they are not wholly wasteful, tend to be judged on strict ‘business’ principles.” What gets lost in such discussions is the key argument for economic stimulus — namely, that under current conditions, a surge in public spending would employ Americans who would otherwise be unemployed and money that would otherwise be sitting idle, and put both to work producing something useful.

All of this leaves me concerned about the prospects for the Obama plan. I’m sure that Congress will pass a stimulus plan, but I worry that the plan may be delayed and/or downsized. And Mr. Obama is right: We really do need swift, bold action.

Here’s my nightmare scenario: It takes Congress months to pass a stimulus plan, and the legislation that actually emerges is too cautious. As a result, the economy plunges for most of 2009, and when the plan finally starts to kick in, it’s only enough to slow the descent, not stop it. Meanwhile, deflation is setting in, while businesses and consumers start to base their spending plans on the expectation of a permanently depressed economy — well, you can see where this is going.

So this is our moment of truth. Will we in fact do what’s necessary to prevent Great Depression II?


Tomgram: Body Count Nation


Neil Young: Perfect Storm for Innovation Gathers in Washington




A Perfect storm for innovation is gathering in Washington. With the government's recent financial assistance to GM and Chrysler, the Big 3 now have until the end of March to make the case that shows how they will survive. Survival is not enough though.

America now has a chance to lead the world in power and fuel efficiency. The Big three will still be looking for help at the end of March. As the major shareholder, the US government would have an opportunity to DEMAND the type of cars that will lead the world toward saving the planet for future generations.

If the Big three cannot agree to make only cars that are fuel efficient enough to get at least 50 MPG by 2011, 75 MPG by 2013 and 100 MPG by 2015, then they should go into bankruptcy and fend for themselves like all the other businesses that are having trouble. The truth is this can be done and innovators know the way to do it.

Better Place is a new model for power distribution to replace the old model of gas stations that supported the evolution of the automobile to this point. Better Place is taking hold in countries around the world and in some areas of the US. Better Place's revolutionary concept for distribution of power to vehicles actually lowers the price of the vehicle by making the battery free to the consumer and automaker, while a subscription allows the user to only pay for miles traveled. There is a great opportunity for innovative solutions with Better Place.

The Automotive X Prize is a race of 100MPG vehicles across America in 2010 sponsored by the Progressive Insurance Company. There are many entries. These cars must be safe and have a business plan that allows for at least 10,000 units per year. Automotive X prize contenders need to share their knowledge with the Car Czar. How will they get their cars to the magic 100mpg? There are some good ways to do it. Now is the time to share.

Innovators should swarm like locusts on Washington in January, February and March to show the Car Czar how to make fuel-efficient cars.

A Car Czar who knows how it can be done, and a government in control of the automakers while they stabilize will be key to demanding all autos made in the USA have a minimum mileage rating of 50MPG. This includes cars, SUVs and pick-up trucks. Now it is time for America to take back the reins of innovation and show the true wave of the future. It is a window for a sea change and a new opportunity for America to lead the world.

Lincvolt, an X Prize contestant, is a 2.5 ton, 19.5 foot American classic now attaining 65 MPG utilizing electricity and domestic fuel. The converted 1959 Lincoln Continental MK IV demonstrates that today's big sedans SUVs and pick-up trucks can get at least 50 MPG if they are fuel-efficient and use electric power, making it obvious that smaller cars could do even better than that. Ultimately, the Lincvolt team aims to demonstrate a Lincvolt hydro bio-electric series hybrid that will attain 100MPG with domestic fuels and very low emissions.

In February, Lincvolt will begin an historic drive to Washington to showcase "the people's fuel," and show the President, the Car Czar, Congress and the Senate how innovation happening right now in America can be a beacon of change to the world.

The Lincvolt team invites the other contestants in the Automotive X Prize Race, Better Place, and innovators from around the world to join us in Washington during the first 100 days of the new administration.


Why Atheism May Be the Best Way to Understand God


Editor’s note: Religion is among the most volatile and divisive issues in the world today. Yet there’s little serious investigation into why people believe, or why some will kill and die for their faith. Larry Beinhart, in his new novel, Salvation Boulevard -- and this series of articles -- is hoping to start a conversation about these issues. This is the second in the series, the introduction can be read here.


Religion -- at least on the face of things -- is the primary source of violent conflict in the world today. It is also the point of division in much of the world's politics.

Obviously, there have been conflicts over ideology, class, race, between tribes and nations, for territory, property and plunder. However, at the moment, religion leads the pack. At least as a way to rally the troops.

It is, therefore, important to understand what religion is and why it is so vital.

As a rough, utilitarian generalization, there are four classes of religion: nontheistic, deism, polytheism and monotheism.

Nontheistic religions include some forms of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Shinto, animism, Wicca and the like.

They have ethical systems, support social and family networks, have spiritual practices, but do not claim, for the most part, divine revelations -- instructions from external entities who watch to see if they are carried out.

Classical deism believes in God, the Button Pusher, aka, the First Cause. He pushed the universe's "Go" button, then walked off, never to be heard from again.

Nowadays, it is common to hear things like "God is Energy," or the Universe, or Love, or That Which Quarks Come From (heard that one last night, with great conviction and certainty).

Such gods are essentially meaningless, at least in the moral and political sense. They do not, and in most cases cannot, dictate their memoirs, instructions and judgments to people. Whatever their concerns might be, they can go on their merry way without us.

Polytheism was the dominant religious form until the invention of monotheism with conversion, proselytizing and forced conversion. Although certain forms of nontheistic religions blend over into polytheism, and elements of polytheism can be found in some monotheistic sects, the last, remaining, significant polytheistic religion is Hinduism. Although it's different theologically, the political nature of Hinduism is similar to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the big three in monotheism.

The monotheistic religions claim there is one God. He has revealed himself to prophets, who spoke his words to various other people who wrote them down, perfectly, and that is the ultimate guide to how we should live our lives.

This a God who created us, cares about us, watches, communicates, interferes, cares, judges, rewards and punishes.

Therefore, to understand these religions, we have to ask about God.

Looking at God -- the Positions

We are speaking primarily of a meaningful, monotheistic, beneficent God. One who is aware of and cares about human beings, transmits messages to us, is capable of interfering with human existence and does so.

There are three basic positions from which to view God:

  • Belief (the Missionary Position)
  • Agnosticism (a No-Position Position)
  • Atheism (Downward-Facing Dog)

Each position forces certain questions and does not permit others.


If we start with belief, this is the root question: Why won't God make himself clear?

I'm a writer. If I had divine powers, believe me, I would get it right the first time and never need a rewrite. So why is there an Old Testament and then a New? Why is there the Quran, the Book of Mormon, the Vedas, Guru Granth Sahib, Zhuan Falun, the Avesta, the Tattvartha Sutra?

As a writer, I worship clarity. If I need someone else to explain what I've written, I consider that a failure of the first order. God should surely do better. So why do the sacred texts of all religions always require someone to explain what they mean?

It is possible -- indeed, quite logical -- to say: "God is perfect, God gets it right every time. But, after all, he's talking to people, and you know how they screw things up. How often have you ordered a double cheeseburger with onions rings and ended up with fries? Human error, pilot error, mistakes happen."

Actually, that's a pretty good solution. If everyone said, "Yeah, we know God did his best, but look at what he had to work with, so my bible is just sort of an approximation, and yours must be, too, so let's not fight over it," then this would be an academic discussion, not worth writing or reading.

But they don't. They all say, "This is it. The revealed truth. The one and only. You can kill me, and I won't give that up. If you want to fight about it, I'll kill you."

OK, not all of them. But enough to make this conversation a matter of life and death.

Is there a way to pick the right truth? To determine which truth is The Truth?

Each tradition has produced millions of words that prove that theirs is the one that came direct from God and got it right. Such arguments are very convincing to people who already believe what's being argued for.

But imagine a panel of judges, made up of a Protestant, a Catholic, a Mormon and a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Sikh and a Buddhist, too. Could anyone make a presentation of his or her Truth as the One and Only Truth that could convince them all? Or even get a majority of such a court?

Even within religions -- everyone swearing by the same text -- there are disagreements, divisions and schisms. These, too -- Protestant versus Catholic, Shiite versus Sunni -- are volatile enough to lead to violence.

Believers like to argue that the word of God is absolute and unchanging. But in practice, that's absolutely not true.

The rule for marriage in the Old Testament -- based on examples and God's occasional command -- seems to have been, "One man and however many women suit the situation." The New Testament did not explicitly change that. Both St. Augustine and Martin Luther said there was no scriptural prohibition on polygamy. Yet today things have somehow morphed so that the Catholic Church and most Protestants will insist that it is God's law that "marriage is a union between one man and one woman."

Similar changes have taken place over slavery, divorce and the death penalty for adultery. God's law, as expressed by religious leaders, evolves quite as much as man's law.

If we start from the Missionary Position -- the position of faith -- that God exists, these are the kinds of question we need to ask to go forward: 

  • Why doesn't God make himself clear?
  • Why does God give different rules to different people?
  • Why is it that the culture someone is born into is, far and away, the most important determinant of which revelation they believe in?
  • Is there a way to sort out The Truth?
  • If a new prophet arrives tomorrow -- and they do arrive with great regularity -- how can we say that the new revelation is not the true revelation? 


Here are the questions we have to ask from the atheist position. 

  • If God doesn't exist, why do so many people believe in him?
  • If God doesn't exist, why are spiritual practices and religion among the human universals, things that exist in all human societies? 

The exception is the Communist experiment, with state-ordered atheism. That can be regarded as an attempt to alter humanity's basic inclinations, like the various attempts to ban alcohol. It achieved some success, but at great expense. It required violence, a minority always resisted and the practice bounced back, in varying degrees, as soon as the ban was lifted.

Here's the great paradox, and the most interesting question: If God doesn't exist, belief is delusional. Delusion is, by definition, dysfunctional.

Clearsighted atheists should routinely be happier, healthier and wealthier than delusional believers. But they're not. According to most surveys, they don't even have a better sex life.

There have been atheist societies. During the second half of the 20th century, the Soviet Union, the countries of Eastern Europe, China and the Communist countries of Southeast Asia, almost a third of the world, were officially atheist. They did not generally out perform the United States, the countries of Western Europe, and many of the Asian countries allied with the West, all of which had freedom of religion, and some of which had state-supported churches as well.

If atheism is the The Truth, why isn't accepting the truth more helpful? If belief is a Lie, why isn't the lie more harmful?


Agnosticism sounds very reasonable, rational and even scientific.

The social sciences -- psychology, sociology, anthropology and the rest -- officially take the stance that the existence or nonexistence of God, the process of revelation, and what is known through revelation, are all outside the realm of science.

But how can you study the psychology of religious belief in a meaningful way unless you first determine if people are believing in something real or false? It's the difference between someone trying to climb a tree that's there and trying to climb one that's imaginary.

If the word of God is true, it makes a certain amount of sense that people will kill and die for it. Understanding that is pretty straightforward. But if people are killing and dying for a delusion, then there's some explaining to do.

That's actually an exciting question. Because it raises fundamental questions about human psychology.

Religion has an important place in all societies. Even in those where it is proscribed.

If the priests are, in fact, acting out the commands of God, they're like engineers or generals, trying to get certain things done, based on the data that's available to them.

If religions are made up, with most of their creators and practitioners sincerely unaware that they are creating institutions based on fictions, that's a very different type of phenomenon.

The economics of religion are quite mundane if God exists. It makes sense that billions of dollars are collected in his name. But if he is a widely held fantasy, then the resources devoted to the God business are a great and fascinating mystery.

If people are making up the God stories, it's not hard to figure out why they're different. But if God exists and they're actually coming from him, we have to wonder why he doesn't make himself clear. Or -- more likely -- assume that it's not his problem, since he's perfect. and then we would have to ask what's the matter with his prophets that they keep screwing it up during transmission, and figure out why that is. After that, we must wonder why people insist that the revealed word is accurate.

Agnosticism does not permit us to take either approach. Agnosticism can't ask the fundamental questions about God. Or man. It leads to triviality or incoherence.

The Way Forward

If we start as agnostics, we can't ask the fundamental questions.

We can look at what people do, but not understand why they do it. We can look at the forms that religion and spiritual practices take, but we can't understand why spiritual practices and religion exist, in all their various forms. We can find out a lot about the subject, but not really understand it or create a coherent theory that explains it.

If we start with belief, we're stuck.

We can't go up to God, drag him into the witness box, make him swear on himself, then cross examine him about what he's really like, what he really wants from us, and why he keeps sending different messages.

We can't get up close and examine him. We can't set up scientific tests to measure and evaluate him.

All we have are "revealed truths."

But we have too many. There's no way to sort out which is "truthier," short of killing each other in the hopes that only one side will be left standing. We've been doing that for over a thousand years, without making any progress.

We are at the same impasse today that we were at when Richard the Lionheart went off to Jerusalem to fight Saladin.

In the effort to understand religion and faith, belief -- even if it's correct -- is a dead end. If we start from there, we end there. There is no way forward.

If we start with atheism, we are asking questions about ourselves. That's something we can do.

We can examine ourselves, test ourselves, and see if our theories -- hypotheses -- about ourselves will stand up to examination. We can insist on consistency and coherence. If our ideas don't work, we can change them, and change them again, until they do.

We can even go in front of panel of judges of all the different faiths and say, "if you're willing to pretend for a moment that God doesn't exist, would this theory make sense?"

If we can't succeed, and there is no way to explain what's going on from a position of unbelief, then we have to eventually give it up and go at it from a different perspective.

Even if you, personally are a believer or an agnostic, and you are in search of some way to advance our understanding of faith and religion, to get past the impasse we've been at for millennia, there's only one way forward.

There are three doors. One leads us to confusion. One goes to a dead end.

Paradoxically, there's only one that offers the possibility of increasing our understanding of God, the one through unbelief.

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