Monday, March 31, 2008

Zbigniew Brzezinski: The Smart Way Out Of Iraq

There is a way out of Iraq, and it doesn't have to take a hundred years or benefit al-Qaeda, writes Zbigniew Brzezinski in today's Washington Post. He was once national security advisor for President Carter, and is still a leading American policy expert. He is also an Obama supporter.

"The contrast between the Democratic argument for ending the war and the Republican argument for continuing is sharp and dramatic. The case for terminating the war is based on its prohibitive and tangible costs, while the case for 'staying the course' draws heavily on shadowy fears of the unknown and relies on worst-case scenarios. President Bush's and Sen. John McCain's forecasts of regional catastrophe are quite reminiscent of the predictions of 'falling dominoes' that were used to justify continued U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Neither has provided any real evidence that ending the war would mean disaster, but their fear-mongering makes prolonging it easier.

Nonetheless, if the American people had been asked more than five years ago whether Bush's obsession with the removal of Saddam Hussein was worth 4,000 American lives, almost 30,000 wounded Americans and several trillion dollars -- not to mention the less precisely measurable damage to the United States' world-wide credibility, legitimacy and moral standing -- the answer almost certainly would have been an unequivocal 'no.'

Nor do the costs of this fiasco end there. The war has inflamed anti-American passions in the Middle East and South Asia while fragmenting Iraqi society and increasing the influence of Iran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent visit to Baghdad offers ample testimony that even the U.S.-installed government in Iraq is becoming susceptible to Iranian blandishments.

In brief, the war has become a national tragedy, an economic catastrophe, a regional disaster and a global boomerang for the United States. Ending it is thus in the highest national interest."

"We started this war rashly, but we must end our involvement responsibly. And end it we must. The alternative is a fear-driven policy paralysis that perpetuates the war -- to America's historic detriment," Brzezinski concludes.

Read the entire article here: 
The Smart Way Out of a Foolish War

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Vytorin Almost Killed My Feet

My cholesterol is a little bit too high, so I've used cholesterol lowering drugs, but even though they did lower my bad cholesterol and raised my good cholesterol a bit, they came with side effects.

Lipitor and Zocor threatened to damage my liver, so I stopped taking them, but when my physician suggested a new cholesterol drug - Vytorin - that was more powerful, and hence could be taken in smaller doses, I said OK. It did lower my total cholesterol from about 230 to 160, but after having taken it for a year I noticed pain in my joints and a tingling feeling in my feet.

When I woke up in the morning, it hurt when I placed my feet on the floor, so I thought there was something wrong with them and went to an orthopedist, who after a quick exam suggested that I buy expensive orthopedic inserts. Are they covered by my insurance I asked, and he promised to check for me. His assistant called back a couple of days later and told me that they were not covered, and that was the last I heard of his office. (His interest in me as a patient obviously dropped to zero once it was clear that I would not spend enough in his shop.)

When I went online to research the tingling feeling and pain in my feet, I soon found out that other people had had the problem too, and that it was related to using statins. Having read up on everything I could find online, I decided to stop taking Vytorin. All the symptoms stopped within a week. My doctor said that he recently had read a survey about cholesterol research, and he agreed with my decision to stop taking the drug and try again with diet and excersise.

Hans Sandberg

Doctor Jay S. Cohen writes about how many doctors react when patients complain about sideeffects of cholesterol lowering statins. Click here to read it!

Click here to read about a University of California at San Diego study of side effects of statins.

Vytorin and Zetia: Two Cholesterol Drugs Not To Take

I'm definitively a skeptic when it comes to cholesterol drugs. Half of all people who die of heart attack have good cholesterol values, and the research behind the massive marketing effort to sell these drugs to the masses is sometimes fishy. 

And now this in today's New York Times, who quotes the New England Journal of Medicine:

Journal Issues Warning on Two Cholesterol Drugs

Published: March 30, 2008
CHICAGO — Two widely prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs, Vytorin and Zetia, may not work and should be used only as a last resort, The New England Journal of Medicine said in an editorial published on Sunday.

The journal’s conclusion came as doctors at a major cardiology conference in Chicago saw for the first time the full results of a two-year clinical trial that showed that the drugs failed to slow, and might have even sped up, the growth of fatty plaques in the arteries. Growth of those plaques is closely correlated with heart attacks and strokes."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Robert Kuttner Lauds Obama's Cooper Union Speech And Blasts Paul Krugman For Becoming A Hillary Hack

Robert Kuttner, a progressive author and a co-founder of the American Prospect, blasts Paul Krugman, formerly a Princeton professor and now at UC at Berkeley, for sniping at Barack Obama in his New York Times columns.

"Barack Obama's speech on the financial crisis was a remarkable breakthrough," Kuttner writes in a March 28 column called Obama v. Krugman, adding that "I wish I had written the speech. It is this kind of leadership and truth-telling that is the predicate for the shift in public opinion required to produce legislative change. A radical, appropriately nuanced, and deeply public-minded description of what has occurred, the speech was Roosevelt quality: the president as teacher-in-chief."

He goes on to say that it "...also showed real understanding and subtlety in grasping how financial 'innovation' had outrun regulation, as well as a historical sense of the abuses of the 1920s repeating themselves. Obama is one of the few mainstream leaders -- Barney Frank is another -- calling for capital requirements to be extended to every category of financial institution that creates credit. This is exactly what's needed to prevent the next meltdown...."

He then takes on Paul Krugman, who is a fierce critique of the Bush administration's policies, and a leading progrssive economist.

"A real puzzle here is the repeated assertion by columnist Paul Krugman, in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary, that Clinton's views on economic policy are more progressive than Obama's. Indeed, Obama's stunning speech read as if it were informed by recent Krugman columns on the meltdown. Hillary has not said anything close to what Obama (or Krugman) has suggested.
But Krugman, ordinarily an ornament of fair-minded progressive economics commentary, writes almost as if he has become part of the Clinton campaign. His latest characterization of Obama's proposals in commenting on the New York speech -- 'cautious and relatively orthodox' -- was preposterous. Even if Krugman's sympathies are with Clinton, he owes it to his readers and to his own credibility to play it straight and credit Obama with a breakthrough when credit is due. This was surely one of those times."

Read Paul Krugman's column here.

Hans Sandberg

Friday, March 28, 2008

Obama's Foreign Policy Promise

Nothing could do more to change America's negative image in the world than electing Barack Obama as president of the United States. That would be the ultimate facelift, and the beginning of the end for Al-Qaida, which has florished thanks to George W. Bush.

Barack Obama in New York City on March 27.
                                                              Photo: Hans Sandberg

But Hillary then? Well, it is true that she would be the first woman, but her foreign policy track record is weak and as we all know, she voted to authorize Bush-Cheney's Iraq war, a major foreign policy as well as a defence policy blunder. Here as in many other places, Obama is the man with new ideas, and the man who promises change. Hillary promises to start a withdrawal from Iraq, but she has shown no inclination to new thinking, which is an absolute necessity for the U.S. to regain a positive role in the world.

For a very interesting article about Barack Obama's foreign policy thinking, read the new issue of the American Prospect!

The Obama Doctrine, by Spencer Ackerman (March 24, 2008)

And while you're at it, also read Daniel Levy's interesting discussion of the next president's options in the Middle East.

The Next President and the Middle East (March 24, 2008)

Hans Sandberg

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

It Takes A Village Fool to Believe in Hillary's Experience

It's just words, Hillary said about Obama's speeches, but words that speak the truth are not just words. Hillary's words however are often just empty verbal vessels that you can combine into any message that fits your purpuse in life, which as we all know, is to become the First Woman President of the U.S.A. But to mean something, words need to be truthful, otherwise they can come back to bite you, like in this CBS report.

We're now waiting for Saturday Night Live to do a skit about Hillary - the Female Rambo, dodging bullets in Bosnia.... or more likely, dodging questions at a press conference.

Hans Sandberg

PS. Five Interesting Blogs About Hillary & Obama

The Long Defeat – By David Brooks

With a Powerful Speech, Obama Offers a Challenge -- By Bob Herbert

Haunting Obama’s Dreams – By Maureen Dowd

Hillary or Nobody? – By Maureen Dowd

Update on March 31st:
Read Frank Rich's analysis of Hillarys trouble with truth:

Hillary’s St. Patrick’s Day Massacre

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Swedish Power CEO With a Dual Mission: Make Profit, and Save the Earth

Lars G. Josefsson in New York after his speech to the U.N.
in the spring of 2006.                         Photo: Hans Sandberg

Back in October 2005, Time Magazine dubbed Lars G. Josefsson a “European hero” for his “quest to make big business greener.” He has taken his message of climate action to big businesses, to the White House, and to the United Nations. Currents Editor spoke with Lars Josefsson.

Vattenfall AB (which literally means Waterfall, Inc.) is the fourth largest power company in Europe, with 32,300 employees serving 4.9 million customers in Denmark, Finland, Germany, Poland, and Sweden. It sold $22.8 billion in energy in 2006, reaping a profit of $4.2 billion.

As CEO of a huge energy company, Lars Josefsson often faces difficult questions about nuclear power and dirty coal energy. He is well aware of the problems of fossil fuels, but is determined to push his company and the rest of the world in a green direction. He is founder of the powerful global business lobby 3C (Combat Climate Change). In May of 2006, he addressed the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, stressing the need for a global tax on carbon-dioxide emissions. Without it, he says, there can be no global and efficient market for CO2 emissions. His presented a model for overcoming global warming that goes beyond the Kyoto Protocol and could take 100 years to achieve. This is not exactly the language Wall Street is used to hearing (not that they need to listen, as the Swedish government owns Vattenfall).

Read the entire interview in the Spring issue of Currents Magazine.

Hans Sandberg

This Battery Expert Is Fully Charged

Christina Lampe-Önnerud grew up in Sweden,
and lives in the U.S. She is one of the world's top
experts on battery technology. Photo: Hans Sandberg

Christina Lampe-Önnerud is one of the foremost battery technology experts in the world. And she is currently in the middle of launching Boston Power, which has developed a long-lasting laptop battery that’s safe and environmentally friendly. She recently joined an official U.S. Clean Energy Trade Mission to China.

Currents Editor met with Christina Lampe-Önnerud at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York a couple of hours before she addressed the Greener Gadgets Conference. We asked her to talk a little bit about her experiences from her January trip to China.
“Oh, it was really cool,” she burst out in her typical high-energy, youthful way. “I mean, how many chances in life do you have to represent the United States, ha, ha! I have war stories on intellectual property rights. Here was David Bohigian, the assistant secretary at the Department of Commerce, stating that ‘in the United States, we believe in IPR rights,’ and then calling out, ‘Christina, what do you have to say about that?’
“Later, I’m at the Economic Deputy Directory Forum, which is part of China’s inner club for decision making. ‘Well it’s hard for us to bring intellectual property here…bla bla bla,’” she says referring to the problem of protecting IP-rights in China.
“We also visited the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and we talked to the heads of economic development,” she says and adds that she met economic decision makers in Guangdong, where Boston Power has a Six-Sigma production line. “I was able to speak as somebody who has an interest in China, and has built something there. It’s very interesting. And we have a second factory coming up outside Taipei (Taiwan).”
“I sat in on the Clean Tech transfer meetings where the U.S. is basically offering to help China not to make the same mistakes as we did in the West. The negotiations were very straightforward,“ says adding that she thinks this style of straight talk helps making the U.S. a world business leader. “It’s cut in ten minutes. How about China? Well it’s two… months,” she says.

Christina loves the U.S. style, which suits her own direct and open style perfectly. She contrasts it to Germans (her father was a German engineer and scientist living in Sweden) would focus on the price only, and the Swedes who can be hard to read sometimes. “Are they really buying or are they just being nice to you…. Why are we having dinner, she says and laughs heartily.
“In the U.S. it’s good if you’re nice, but it’s really about the price and the quality and the performance. It’s culturally acceptable to just put it on the table. I thought it was really cool that the trade mission had that attitude, that they went to China and said, hey, here are the mistakes we’ve made. Don’t do that.  That would just be foolish. And by the way, we’ll fund some of these programs, because if you repeat our mistakes, our environment will suffer too. That is very generous of them, really good. I was so impressive with the style, and by David Bohigian “

Christina Lampe-Onnerud came to the U.S. in 1995 for post-doc studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, MA. She had become a doctor in inorganic chemistry in February the same year, and was split between a career as a singer (she is also a cellist and jazz dancer!) and her offer from MIT. She decided to try MIT for a year, and that was 13 years ago…. At MIT, she quickly became a star, and put on a fast track which included stints as research leader at Bellcore and AT&T Bell Labs, plus becoming one of the youngest partners ever at Arthur D. Little, heading up their new battery lab at the research group TIAX. Late 2004, she quit her high-profile job, and launched a company that would become Boston Power, which by the end of 2008 should be producing one million laptop batteries a month with HP as one of its customers. 

Hans Sandberg

Fighting Terrorism By Restoring the Golden Rule

Concucius formulated the Golden Rule. 
(Unknown photographer of ancient painting.)

Karen Armstrong spoke at the annual TED Conference on February, 2008 where she received the 2008 TED Prize.  

She is such a wonderful writer, and nobody speaks better about religion the she does. At the TED Conference she spoke about the common passion for compassion underlying all religions. But in today's world, religions have become a major source of hate and division.

"A lot of people rather be right than compassionate," she said, and sketched out a plan for how to make religion "a force for harmony in the world." She sees the key to do that in a restoration of the Golden Rule (which was first stated by Confucius, and later repeated by Jesus from Nazareth) as the central global religious doctrine.

Karen Armstrong was a nun for many years, but lost her faith and returned to the secular world. She later rediscovered her interest in religion, and has become one of the most popular writers about world religions, and religious history.

Click her to watch her speech at TED 2008.

Hans Sandberg

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

5 Years Later: The Shame of Bush and the Hope of Obama

It is a shame that George W. Bush will be able to serve his time to the end, because if any president deserved to be impeached, he is the one. 

At least in my mind, "high crimes and misdemeanors" will be his epitaph. 

"The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
                                           (The United States Constitution, Article II, Section 4)

Wikipedia explains:
"'High' in the legal parlance of the 18th century means 'against the State'. A high crime is one which seeks the overthrow of the country, which gives aid or comfort to its enemies, or which injures the country to the profit of an individual or group. In democracies and similar societies it also includes crimes which attempt to alter the outcome of elections."

If the shoe fits...

He spoke today, but who cares? He has no right to speak. If there was a God, and this God was good, he would let George W. Bush roast a year a year in Hell for every person he has killed, maimed or deprived of his or her human rights. Think of what Dante could have done with a person half as evil as this man. But there is no Hell, which is why he really should have been impeached. But you can't always get what you want. 

The magic of Barack Obama is that he manages to convert our fury into somethin positive, that he turnes our anger into hope. That is the magic. That is the beauty of this young man.
Yesterday he spoke about race, and people listened. He spoke like nobody else has spoken, brave, human and full of hope. 

And now he spoke again, and for a moment we can forget about President Bush for a little while, and listen to a real man, a man with dignity and moral, a man of character, in sharp contrast to the man in charge who has none. 

This is how he ended today's speech in Fayetteville, NC:

"We are at a defining moment in our history.

We can choose the path of unending war and unilateral action, and sap our strength and standing. We can choose the path of disengagement, and cede our leadership. Or, we can meet fear and danger head-on with hope and strength; with common purpose as a united America; and with common cause with old allies and new partners.

What we've seen these last few years is what happens when the rigid ideology and dysfunctional politics of Washington is projected abroad. An ideology that does not fit the shape of the times cannot shape events in foreign countries. A politics that is based on fear and division does not allow us to call on the world to hope, and keeps us from coming together as one people, as one nation, to write the next great chapter in the American story.

We also know that there is another face of America that we have seen these last five years. From down the road at Fort Bragg, our soldiers have gone abroad with a greater sense of common purpose than their leaders in Washington. They have learned the lessons of the 21st century's wars. And they have shown a sense of service and selflessness that represents the very best of the American character.

This must be the election when we stand up and say that we will serve them as well as they have served us. This must be the election when America comes together behind a common purpose on behalf of our security and our values. That is what we do as Americans. It's how we founded a republic based on freedom, and faced down fascism. It's how we defended democracy through a Cold War, and shined a light of hope bright enough to be seen in the darkest corners of the world.

When America leads with principle and pragmatism, hope can triumph over fear. It is time, once again, for America to lead."

Hans Sandberg

W On the Same Falling Trajectory As LBJ During the Vietnam War

Only 31 percent of the U.S. population agrees with how President George W. Bush is handling his job, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation-poll on the 5th anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. Two thirds of the people said that they disapprove of President Bush.
"Bush's approval rating five years ago, at the start of the Iraq war, was 71 percent, and that 40-point drop is almost identical to the drop President Lyndon Johnson faced during the Vietnam War," CNN polling director Keating Holland told CNN.

China's Wei Jingsheng Criticizes the IOC

Wei Jingsheng, China's most famous dissident criticizes the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in an Op-Ed piece for the Washington Post today.

"As what the Dalai Lama has called 'cultural genocide' goes on in Tibet, it is wholly unacceptable that Jacques Rogge, the head of the International Olympic Committee, refuses to take a stand against the Beijing government's current crackdown on Tibetan protesters. In fact, this is completely at odds with the 'spirit of the Olympics.'

Far more than Steven Spielberg, who quit his advisory role for the Summer Games because of China's unwillingness to pressure the Sudanese government on genocide in Darfur, the IOC has a special obligation to act. Since promised improvements in China's human rights were a quid pro quo for awarding the Games to Beijing, how can it proceed as if nothing happened when blood is flowing in the streets of Lhasa?"

"Jacques Rogge's unwillingness to pressure Beijing at this moment is so tragic because these Olympics are the turning point in modern Chinese history. Having invited the world to polite tea, the Communist Party rulers have turned their palace of power into a global glass house. They can no longer show both the smiling face of 'a peaceful rise' to the world and the stern face of brutal suppression at home."

It was Wei Jingsheng who in 1979 posted a paper on Beijing's "Democracy Wall" suggesting a "Fifth Modernization", i.e. a democratization of China's political life. In a way, he had taken the great reformer Deng Xiaoping on his own words (Deng had after all blessed the democracy movement when it helped his faction in the Communist Party's power struggle), but he was soon arrested and sentensed to 15 years in prison on bogus charges in a bogus trial. Wei Jingsheng was briefly released in 1993 in a ploy to convince the IOC to give China the Olympics in 2000, but was re-arrested in 1994 and imprisoned again until his final release in 1997. Today he lives in Washington, D.C.

Here is a link to the article:
China's True Face - The Host of the Olympics or the Thug of Tibet?

Hans Sandberg

Not Every Speculator Deserves A Bailout...

Here is a qoute from the Center for American Progress' article Selective Bailouts: Help for Wall Street, Not Your Street:
In the run up to the Federal Reserve Board’s decision Sunday to essentially finance the takeover of collapsing investment bank Bear Stearns Cos. by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., the president, Secretary Paulson, and other top Bush administration officials adamantly told us that aid to neighborhoods devastated by foreclosures would be an unacceptable bailout of lenders and would remove necessary market discipline from punishing the sins of “speculative” homeowners.

In fact, their comments suggested that the current free fall in home prices resulted mainly from excessive individual risk taking and bad bets by individuals—and that these speculators should suffer the consequences of their decisions. In Paulson's March 3 statement to the National Association of Business Economists, for example, he spoke dismissively of government intervention.

"We know that speculation increased in recent years; a resulting increase in foreclosures is to be expected and does not warrant any relief,” he said. “People who speculated and bought investment properties in hot markets should take their losses just like day traders who speculated and bought soaring tech stocks in 2000.”
Read the rest of David M. Abromowitz' sharp analysis of the Bush administration's double standard here.

Sorry, But There Are Only So Many Lifeboats On this Ship, Says Captain Bush

"As we take decisive action, we will keep this in mind: When you are steering a car in a rough patch, one of the worst things you can do is overcorrect," the president said in his weekly radio address (March 14, 2008) according to an AP report.

"That often results in losing control and can end up with the car in a ditch," Bush said. "Steering through a rough patch requires a steady hand on the wheel and your eyes up on the horizon. And that's exactly what we're going to do."

He also put a positive spin on the housing crisis and the falling house:

"Many young couples trying to buy their first home have been priced out of the market because of inflated prices," the president said. "The market now is in the process of correcting itself, and delaying that correction would only prolong the problem."

Wouldn't it be nice to see such an optimism in dealing with the financial markets? What if Bush instead of a multibillion dollar bailout of his wealthy Wall Street friends had stod by his principles and delivered the following message in his radio address?

"Many young investors trying to build a fortune have been priced out of the market because of inflated prices. The market now is in the process of correcting itself, and delaying that correction would only prolong the problem."

But of course, that would have been totally unrealistic. There are after all only a limited number of lifeboats on this ship. 

Hans Sandberg

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Clueless Bush: Working Hard, Coming In On Saturday...

"I want to thank you, Mr. Secretary, for working over the weekend," Bush said at a meeting with Henry M. Paulson and the president's economic advisors at the White House on Monday. "You've shown the country and the world that the United States is on top of the situation."

Do you remember the hapless candidate Bush who in the debates with the Democratic contender John Kerry talked about working hard, coming in on Saturday? He's a simple guy, this fella. Only problem is, that the Supreme Court put him in the White House despite his loss of the popular vote to Al Gore Jr., and while the Florida result was still unclear. He would be OK on the ranch, but he has no business being in the White House.

By talking about Paulson working over the weekend, which any responsible manager would do in a crisis, he showed how far removed he is from reality, and how little he understands. He clearly doesn't get it, which is one major reason why we have this crisis. There is no leadership, because the president still believes in the Republican mantra that all we need is tax cuts (and maybe a war or two on borrowed money). It's the magic potion that cures all ills.

"He has no idea what's going on. Even by his standards, he's wrong," Barney Frank told the Los Angeles Times. He is the democratic chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and he has been trying to get the president to pay more attention to the economy for more than a year.

"Bush's "working over the weekend" line also suggested a comparison to another disaster in which he was accused of acting too slowly: Hurricane Katrina. After the storm, the president was ridiculed for praising FEMA Director Michael D. Brown for doing "a heck of a job" -- even as thousands remained stranded in floodwaters in New Orleans," wrote Maura Reynolds and Janet Hook for the Los Angeles Times. (Our emphasis.)

Hans Sandberg

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Beautiful Mind From West Africa That Became A Star For Obama On Youtube

Young, smart and eloquent. Derrick Ashong is a musician and an immigrant from Ghana in West Africa, and he has suddenly become a Youtube phenomenon.

He was interviewed outside the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on January 31, and he blew the interviewer away with his sharp and detailed answers to the onslaught of tough questions. The interview became a much viewed item on Youtube, and was followed by several other of his performances and speeches. In one Youtube post (the second one below) he explains who he is and where he comes from, which is a fascinating story that explains some of his eloquence and broad perspective, plus the fact that he is a Harvard graduate. It is not a coincidence as he has lived in several countries and works as a professional speaker for the Lavin Agency

Watch him!

More videos with Derrick Ashong.

Why I Support Obama - The Emotional Response

ABC on the Sweet Mother Tour

Derrick Ashong Lecture

I would be surprised if the Obama camp doesn't recruit him. He is obasmic!

Hans Sandberg

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Obama's Economic Plan - An Excerpt

Barack Obama at the Houston Livestock and Rodeo show
on March 4. (Photo courtesy of the Obama Campaign.)

Barack Obama's economic program is hardly revolutionary, but it does address key issues, and targets its investments towards job creation, green technology and the next generation's infrastructure. Below is an excerpt from Obama's site:


Technology, Innovation and Creating Jobs

Obama will encourage the deployment of the most modern communications infrastructure to reduce the costs of health care, help solve our energy crisis, create new jobs, and fuel our economic growth.

  • Support Job Creation: Barack Obama believes we need to double federal funding for basic research and make the research and development tax credit permanent to help create high-paying, secure jobs. Obama will also make long-term investments in education, training, and workforce development so that Americans can leverage our strengths - our ingenuity and entrepreneurialism - to create new high-wage jobs and prosper in a world economy.
  • Invest in U.S. Manufacturing: The Obama comprehensive energy independence and climate change plan will invest in America's highly-skilled manufacturing workforce and manufacturing centers to ensure that American workers have the skills and tools they need to pioneer the first wave of green technologies that will be in high demand throughout the world. Obama will also provide assistance to the domestic auto industry to ensure that new fuel-efficient vehicles are built by American workers.
  • Create New Job Training Programs for Clean Technologies: The Obama plan will increase funding for federal workforce training programs and direct these programs to incorporate green technologies training, such as advanced manufacturing and weatherization training, into their efforts to help Americans find and retain stable, high-paying jobs. Obama will also create an energy-focused youth jobs program to invest in disconnected and disadvantaged youth.
  • Boost the Renewable Energy Sector and Create New Jobs: The Obama plan will create new federal policies, and expand existing ones, that have been proven to create new American jobs. Obama will create a federal Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that will require 25 percent of American electricity be derived from renewable sources by 2025, which has the potential to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs on its own. Obama will also extend the Production Tax Credit, a credit used successfully by American farmers and investors to increase renewable energy production and create new local jobs.
  • Deploy Next-Generation Broadband: Obama believes we can get broadband to every community in America through a combination of reform of the Universal Service Fund, better use of the nation's wireless spectrum, promotion of next-generation facilities, technologies and applications, and new tax and loan incentives.
  • Protect the Openness of the Internet: Obama supports the basic principle that network providers should not be allowed to charge fees to privilege the content or applications of some web sites and Internet applications over others. This principle will ensure that the new competitors, especially small or nonprofit speakers, have the same opportunity as big companies to innovate and reach large audiences.
  • Invest in Rural Areas: Obama will invest in rural small businesses and fight to expand high-speed Internet access. He will improve rural schools and attract more doctors to rural areas.

Larry David Doesn't Want Hillary To Take That Call

Larry David, the co-creator of Seinfeld and the man behind Curb Your Enthusiasm, has changed his mind about Hillary Clinton, and disses her in a post for The Huffington Post called On the Red Phone.

"Here's an idea for an Obama ad: a montage of Clinton's Sybillish personalities that have surfaced during the campaign with a solemn voiceover at the end saying, 'Does anyone want this nut answering the phone?'
A few weeks ago, I started to feel sorry for her. Oh Christ, let her win already...Who cares...It's not worth it. There's not that much difference between them. She can have it. Anything to avoid watching her descend into madness. So I switched. I started rooting for her. It wasn't that hard. Compromise comes easy to me. I was on board.
And then I saw the ad.
I watched, transfixed, as she took the 3 a.m. call...and I was afraid...very afraid. Suddenly, I realized the last thing this country needs is that woman anywhere near a phone. I don't care if it's 3 a.m. or 10 p.m. or any other time. I don't want her talking to Putin, I don't want her talking to Kim Jong Il, I don't want her talking to my nephew. She needs a long rest. She needs to put on a sarong and some sun block and get away from things for a while, a nice beach somewhere -- somewhere far away, where there phones."

Hans Sandberg

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

John McCain Economics, Limited Edition

I just watched John McCain on CNN talking at a fundraiser. He talked economics, sort of, and didn't seem overly worried about the economy. He suggested that we wait and see what effect the tax rebates ($1,200 for a couple, and $300 extra per child) will have. His logic was as plain as simplistic.

When the consumers get their checks they will spend the money, but when the government spend the money it’s bad, because it’s your money, he told the audience.

It just happened that his clip was followed by a piece about New Orleans, and all the poor people who still live in temporary trailers. If we are to believe McCain, there is nothing the government can do there, because the money belongs to the taxpayers, and their only wish is to get the money back.

My hunch is that the tax rebates are going to do nothing to bring us out of the recession. They are not going to restore confidence in an economy that has been pushed to the brink. People are scared, they worry about their future and they are afraid to spend. If anything, they may try to pay down their credit card debt a bit. In a situation like this, John Maynard Keynes told us a long time ago, that the government should step in and create new jobs, while at the same time investing in long term infrastructure projects, investments that will boost the economic competitiveness of the country. That’s what FDR did, and that’s how America got its huge interstate highway system. And that’s how the foundations for the Internet were laid.

When the government spends money on war – which is what Bush-Cheney did – jobs were created, and income generated, but as little new was produced that people could buy, the extra demand was shifted abroad to China, generating a huge trade deficit, and undermining the competitiveness of the American economy. It’s basically the old guns-or-butter story.

When the government spends money on the people, on building roads, schools, repairing bridges, investing in science and new environmentally friendly technologies, then jobs are created while the economy is becoming more efficient, turning out more and better goods and services.

I suspect that John McCain will never include that in his Economics 101. Better stick to that old harangue about the big bad gov coming to take your money away...

Hans Sandberg

Bush Guards His Right to Torture As He Sees Fit

Meanwhile, in the White House President Bush cements his legacy.

"Mr. Bush vetoed a bill that would have explicitly prohibited the agency from using interrogation methods like waterboarding, a technique in which restrained prisoners are threatened with drowning and that has been the subject of intense criticism at home and abroad. Many such techniques are prohibited by the military and law enforcement agencies."
(Veto of Bill on C.I.A. Tactics Affirms Bush’s Legacy,
New York Times, March 9, 2008) 

And Senator John McCain, who normally opposes the use of torture as immoral, ineffective, and a danger to American troops abroad, sided with Bush on this one: 
"In this case he supported the administration’s position, arguing as Mr. Bush did Saturday that the legislation would have limited the C.I.A.’s ability to gather intelligence." (NYT)

For a more intelligent and knowledgeable discussion about torture, watch Foreign Policy's interview with Jack Cloonan, who spent 25 years as an FBI special agent and interrogated members of al Qaeda during the late 1990s. Here are two excerpts from the interview:

FPTV: How to Break a Terrorist, Part 1.

FPTV: How to Break a Terrorist, Part 2.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Did Hillary "Help" Bring Peace to Belfast?

Hillary Clinton is dull and boring, especially compared to her charming seducer of a husband, which is why she has tried to spin that around into an image of an experienced and tough candidate. But the public opinion hasn't bought that, and neither has the democratic voters in the primaries. Besides, many wonders if her claim to experience is all that it is said to be.

Take her claim to have "helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland," something she told CNN about a week ago.

Hillary Clinton brought peace to Northern Ireland. But why did she not get the Noble Peace Prize then? Well, the guy who did get the price --Lord Trimble of Lisnagarvey-- tells London's Daily Telegraph that that is "wee bit silly".

"I don’t know there was much she did apart from accompanying Bill [Clinton] going around," he said. Her recent statements about being deeply involved were merely "the sort of thing people put in their canvassing leaflets" during elections. "She visited when things were happening, saw what was going on, she can certainly say it was part of her experience. I don’t want to rain on the thing for her but being a cheerleader for something is slightly different from being a principal player."

"..... negotiators from the parties that helped broker the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 told The Daily Telegraph that her role was peripheral and that she played no part in the gruelling political talks over the years."

"Lord Trimble shared the Nobel Peace Prize with John Hume, leader of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party, in 1998. Conall McDevitt, an SDLP negotiator and aide to Mr Hume during the talks, said: "There would have been no contact with her either in person or on the phone. I was with Hume regularly during calls in the months leading up to the Good Friday Agreement when he was taking calls from the White House and they were invariably coming from the president."

Hans Sandberg

Gary Hart Bashes Hillary, the Party Wrecker...

Hillary Clinton's latest strange and cynical attacks on Barack Obama has generated a healthy backlash, and not only from Obama's fans. Senator Gary Hart wrote a stinging critique of Hillary on Huffington Post (March 7, 2008) for breaking an essential rule in primary politics:

"Do not provide ammunition to the opposition party that can be used to destroy your party's nominee. This is a hyper-truth where the presidential contest is concerned."

She did this when she claimed that she and John McCain are ready to lead the country, but not Obama. By doing so, "Hillary Clinton has broken that rule, severely damaged the Democratic candidate who may well be the party's nominee, and, perhaps most ominously, revealed the unlimited lengths to which she will go to achieve power. She has essentially said that the Democratic party deserves to lose unless it nominates her."

Gary Hart writes that Hillary's attacks are not just a matter of toughness. She has gone beyound what's decent: "That is not politics. That is raw, unrestrained ambition for power that cannot accept the will of the voters."

"For her now to claim that Senator Obama is not qualified to answer the crisis phone is the height of irony if not chutzpah, and calls into question whether her primary loyalty is to the Democratic party and the nation or to her own ambition."

Hans Sandberg

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Hillary's Campaign Turned A Corner, But That's Not Necessarily Good News

“What’s important is that this campaign has turned a corner,” Hillary Clinton said after her triple victories on March 4, but maybe not in the way she wants us to believe. You could argue that she turned a corner by turning her campaign ugly, and by so doing turning off a lot of potential voters - democrats, republicans and independents - who otherwise might have voted for her in case she was nominated.

So what did she do that was so bad?

  • Well, she's been waffling when asked on CBS's "60 Minutes" if she thinks Obama is a Muslim (a preposterous question in itself, which she of course answered with a no, while at the same time slipping in a qualifier, "I take him on the basis of what he says...... There's nothing to base that on - as far as I know.") That not so subtle hedging was a wink to those who listen to Internet's rumor mills. And she knew exactly what she was doing. Shame on who? For the truth of the matter, see this AP story that USA Today ran today. Also check Snopes for more debunking of Obama rumors.

  • Then she ran the Red Scare-style Red Phone-ad: ”It's 3:00 AM and your children are asleep”, which was ridiculous, but not in its intent. Did she hire Karl Rove, or what?

  • And finally we have her statement that she and McCain are the experienced candidates. "I think that I have a lifetime of experience that I will bring to the White House. I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience to the White House. And Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002," she said right before the March 4 primaries.

Here is a story from Los Angeles Times about Hillary's hardening.

Going negative proved positive in Clinton's comeback

”In winning New Hampshire a few weeks ago, Hillary Rodham Clinton declared, "I found my own voice." But it was a much different voice in the closing days before Tuesday's voting that carried her to victory in Ohio and Texas -- and which now lets her make a strong case for extending the Democratic presidential race into the spring and possibly beyond.

Gone was the misty-eyed Clinton who scored points showing her human side. Gone was the gracious Clinton who, just two weeks ago, drew thunderous applause for expressing her pride in running against Barack Obama.

The new voice was angrier, sharper and far more negative......” Peter Wallsten wrote in Los Angeles Times (March 5, 2008).

But it’s not just that she is angry and negative that is striking, it’s the dishonesty.

Which could leave us with a choice (if she manage to capture the nomination) between a cool and dishonest progressive, and a warm and honest reactionary.

And guess who are the best ”realists” in this world? Yes, you got it, people who don’t want change. There are always good reasons for status quo, as any change involves taking chances and betting on something or somebody relatively new and unknown. If you can’t allow yourself to dream a bit, you will never take that leap.

Which brings us back to the fall line-up:

From the right:
A conservative "realist" with a long record, and who successfully projects honesty and decency.

From the left: A progressive "realist" with a long, but less impressive record, and a closet full of skeletons, and a history of bending the truth when expedient.

One significant fact about Obama's campaign is the fact that he has been able to capture so many republican and independents support. Chances are that McCain will capture a large part of these votes if the Democratic alternative is a return of the Clintons to the White House. 

Here is one of them in an online comment to the article in Los Angeles Times I quoted above:

I'm honestly one of those "less likely to embrace the other candidate" voters. Obama has my vote already, and will again if he wins the nomination ... and I'm a Republican! But Clinton has now convinced me that she is not competent to lead this nation. For almost eight years, our President has been a massively incompetent, fundamentally paranoid, and deeply cynical failure -- George Bush. The one thing we do not need to follow his abysmal record is an angry, negative, divisive, and embittered President with entitlement issues who thinks she has something to prove. If Clinton wins the Democratic nod, my vote and my money goes to McCain. (Submitted by: Eric Scott)

Hans Sandberg

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Why Did IPCC's Yuri Izrael Speak at the Anti-IPCC Conference In New York?

The Heartland Institute pulled off a PR coup when they signed up one of the leaders of the UN’s climate panel IPCC, Yuri A. Izrael, as a speaker at a conference that was heavily anti-IPCC, and anti-Al Gore. He was billed as “the most influential scientific advisor” for Vladimir Putin by the conservative think-tank, but this was false according to Mr. Izrael himself.

Yuri A. Izrael, vice-president of IPCC. Photo: Hans Sandberg

Yuri Izael opened his presentation by making to corrections: The first was the title to his speech, which was not the title given in the program - ”Future Climate Is No Reason For Alarm” – but the more cautious ”Optimal Way of Maintenance of Present Day Climate”. The second was his title. ”I’m not advisor to president Vladimir Putin. I gave him advise as a scientist when he asked me, but I have never been his official advisor.”

”I am director of the Research Institute of Global Climate and Ecology at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. We were organized twenty years ago,” he said.

Rather than blasting IPCC and denying the climate change, he reaffirmed them, although he does disagree with the majority when it comes to how much impact humans have had on the climate change.
”For the last decades, one of the most acute environmental problems is the problem of climate warming. Actually, for the last century the mean global temperature has risen by approximately 0.74 degrees Celsius.”

He also stated that the world community responded to this by signing the UN Framework Convention on the Climate Change in 1992 and the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, calling for stabilization and gradual reduction of the carbon dioxide emissions. 

President Putin and the Russian government signed the Kyoto Protocol in late 2004, despite advice to the contrary from the Russian Academy of Science.

Yuri Izrael said that he felt that the politicians rush ahead too fast, and should have waited for more conclusive scientific evidence. 

In his presentation, he discussed how large global warming we could accept, and actions necessary to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. Then he went on to a discussion of alternative methods for fighting global warming, including a Russian research project, which includes spraying sulfate aerosol in the stratosphere.

”Enhancement of natural sulfate aerosol layer in stratosphere could relatively quickly correct solar radiation,” he said referring to research done 35 years ago by a Russian scientist.
Professor Budyko then discovered a two-year reduction in solar radiation at the Earth’s surface following the 1912 eruption of the volcano Katmai in Alaska.
"This points to the possibility of scattering solar radiation by artificial means," Yuri Izrael said.

After the session, I had a chanced to ask Yuri Izrael about his participating in a heavily politicized conference that could be seen as an anti-Al Gore conference?
”This conference? I think that this is an interesting conference, and I’m glad to be here,” he answered.

Are you here to make a statement that you siding with skeptics in the debate?
”No, I don’t want to. I’m not critical of Albert Gore, because he received the Noble Prize, but I have a lot of questions about his text and his work. When it comes to the IPCC, they have done a lot of mistakes over twenty years, but on the balance, the IPCC, which included thousand people, is very good. They always want to find the balance between people on the left and the right,” he said.

But there is a political agenda behind this conference. Are you aware of that?

”What political agenda?” he answered seemingly confused.

There is a conservative political agenda, and there are a lot of right-wing groups at this conference.

”I don’t know. I always take a scientific position. You should always say the truth. Science is science and politics is politics,” he said.

Do you feel that we need to act to slow down climate change?

”We need to act, but we first need a good scientific basis.”

Which makes me wonder if professor Yuri Izrael had been misled by the conference’s official name:
”The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change,” when it’s real title should have been ”The 2008 International Conference on Why There Is No Climate Change, and Even If It Is, It doesn’t matter!”

Our green future according to the Heartland Institute.

Hans Sandberg