Sunday, August 08, 2010



Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:




A fundraiser for the ANSWER Coalition
at ATA, 992 Valencia St. at 21st St., San Francisco

$6 admission
Light refreshments. Wheelchair accessible.

Sun. August 8
Cuba: An African Odyssey
Documenting Cuba's role in the African Liberation struggles of the 60's & 70's.

5pm - Part 1: Congo and Guinea Bissau

7:30pm - Part 2: Angola

In this ambitious and revealing documentary, Egyptian-French filmmaker Jihan El-Tahri traces the history of Cuban solidarity with African liberation movements in the 1960s and 70s. It begins in 1965 when Che Guevara led a group of Cuban revolutionary fighters in an unsuccessful attempt to support the struggle for true independence in the Congo. It then moves to Cuban's role in the struggles against Portuguese/NATO colonialism in Guinea-Bissau and Angola.

Cuba: An African Odyssey combines remarkable archival footage-much of it never before seen in the U.S.-with an amazing cast of participants showing Cuba's pivotal role in the liberation movements in Africa. Over 300,000 Cubans fought alongside African revolutionaries, one of many examples of Cuba's true internationalism. Spanish and English with English subtitles, 2007, Part 1 - 130min., Part 2 - 60min.

If you cannot attend, but would like to make a much-needed donation to the ANSWER Coalition:

A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
Act Now to Stop War & End Racism
2489 Mission St. Rm. 24
San Francisco: 415-821-6545



Benton Harbor, Mich. - August 10, 2010



200 WALL ST.

Aug. 10, 10:30am

Questions: Contact Rev. Edward Pinkney, 269-925-0001

YOUR CITY COULD BE NEXT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


There are signs plastered all over the New York City subway system warning that, "Assaulting MTA New York City Transit subway personnel is a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison." What will Johannes Mehserle, an Oakland BART subway cop get for the murder of Oscar Grant? HE COULD EVEN GET PAROLLE! OR AS LITTLE AS FOUR YEARS! WE WANT THE MAXIMUM FOR MEHSERLE!

Longshore workers call for labor/community rally for:

Justice for Oscar Grant! Jail Killer Cops!

The next labor/community organizing meeting will be:

7 PM, Tuesday August 31, 2010
Longshore Hall - Henry Schmidt room
400 North Point St @ Mason
near Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco
Media/Publicity: Jack Heyman 510-531-4717,

You are urged to attend!

A broad group of labor and community organizers met Tuesday, July 27 to help organize a mass demonstration demanding Justice for Oscar Grant! Jail Killer Cops! to take place Saturday, October 23 in Oakland. Committees were set up and organizing has begun involving people from the Bay Area and coordinated nation-wide. Bay Area United Against War Newsletter encourages everyone to become involved in organizing and building this very urgent event. We can't allow the police to have a license to murder the innocent and unarmed with a slap on the wrist. We demand the maximum for Johannes Mehserle!

Oscar Grant was murdered in cold blood!


Media/Publicity: Jack Heyman 510-531-4717,

ILWU Local 10 Motion on the Verdict in the Oscar Grant Case
Whereas, Oscar Grant's killer, BART police officer Johannes Mehserle received a verdict of involuntary manslaughter on July 8, 2010; and

Whereas, video tapes show clearly that Oscar Grant was lying face down on the Fruitvale BART platform, waiting to be handcuffed with another cop's boot on his neck posing no threat when he was shot in the back and killed in cold blood by Mehserle; and
Whereas, this is just another example in a racist justice system where police officers go free for killing young black men; and

Whereas, the Contra Costa Times reports that police are holding a rally in Walnut Creek on July 19, 2010 to show support for the killer cop so his sentence will only be a slap on the wrist; and

Whereas; the ILWU has always stood for social justice;

Therefore be it resolved that the labor movement organize a mass protest rally October 23, 2010 with participation from community groups, civil rights organizations, civil liberties organizations and all who stand for social justice demand jail for killer cops.



Education 4 the People!
October 7 Day of Action in Defense of Public Education - California

MORE THAN 100 activists from across California gathered in Los Angeles April 24 to debate next steps for the fight against the devastating cutbacks facing public education.

The main achievements of the conference were to set a date and location for the next statewide mass action-October 7-and for the next anti-cuts conference, which will happen October 16 at San Francisco State University. The other key outcome was the first steps toward the formation of an ad hoc volunteer coordinating committee to plan for the fall conference.

These decisions were a crucial step toward deepening and broadening the movement. For example, the fall conference will be the key venue for uniting activists from all sectors of public education, and especially from those schools and campuses which saw action on March 4, but which have yet to plug into the broader movement.

This will be crucial for extending the scope and increasing the strength of our movement, as well as for helping us strategize and prepare for what is certain to be a tough year ahead. Similarly, the fall mass action will be crucial to re-igniting the movement following the summer months.

Organizing for the next Statewide Public Education Mobilization Conference at SFSU on OCT 16th
Posted on May 24, 2010 by ooofireballooo
Organizing for the next Statewide Public Education Mobilization Conference
@ San Francisco State University on October 16th

MORE THAN 100 activists from across California gathered in Los Angeles April 24 to debate next steps for the fight against the devastating cutbacks facing public education.

The main achievements of the conference were to set a date and location for the next statewide mass action-October 7-and for the next anti-cuts conference, which will happen October 16 at San Francisco State University. The other key outcome was the first steps toward the formation of an ad hoc volunteer coordinating committee to plan for the fall conference.

These decisions were a crucial step toward deepening and broadening the movement. For example, the fall conference will be the key venue for uniting activists from all sectors of public education, and especially from those schools and campuses which saw action on March 4, but which have yet to plug into the broader movement.

This will be crucial for extending the scope and increasing the strength of our movement, as well as for helping us strategize and prepare for what is certain to be a tough year ahead. Similarly, the fall mass action will be crucial to re-igniting the movement following the summer months.

Proposal: Form a conference organizing listserve immediately!

Please join the google group today.

* Group home page:


November 18-21, 2010: Close the SOA and take a stand for justice in the Americas.

The November Vigil to Close the School of the Americas at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia will be held from November 18-21, 2010. The annual vigil is always held close to the anniversary of the 1989 murders of Celina Ramos, her mother Elba and six Jesuit priests at a the University of Central America in El Salvador.


November 2010 will mark the 20th anniversary of the vigil that brings together religious communities, students, teachers, veterans, community organizers, musicians, puppetistas and many others. New layers of activists are joining the movement to close the SOA in large numbers, including numerous youth and students from multinational, working-class communities. The movement is strong thanks to the committed work of thousands of organizers and volunteers around the country. They raise funds, spread the word through posters and flyers, organize buses and other transportation to Georgia, and carry out all the work that is needed to make the November vigil a success. Together, we are strong!


There will be exciting additions to this year's vigil program. Besides the rally at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia with inspiring speakers and amazing musicians from across the Americas, the four day convergence will also include an educational teach-in at the Columbus Convention Center, several evening concerts, workshops and for the first time, the Latin America Solidarity Coalition will stage a one-day Anti-Militarization Organizers Conference on Thursday, November 18, 2010.


Our work has unfortunately not gotten any easier and U.S. militarization in Latin America is accelerating. The SOA graduate led military coup in Honduras, the continuing repression against the Honduran pro-democracy resistance and the expansion of U.S. military bases in Colombia and Panama are grim examples of the ongoing threats of a U.S. foreign policy that is relying on the military to exert control over the people and the resources in the Americas. Join the people who are struggling for justice in Honduras, Colombia and throughout the Americas as we organize to push back.

Spread the word - Tell a friend about the November Vigil:

For more information, visit:

See you at the gates of Fort Benning in November 2010




Video: George Carlin: “The American Dream”/”Workers Nightmare”
Because the Owners of This Country Own Everything — They Own You — They Don’t Want Critical Thinking — They Want Obedient Workers


Citizens of New Orleans Respond to the BP Oil Spill


Economic Hitmen: John Perkins on Economic Imperialism
[He's wrong, though, about there being a benign form of capitalism. There's only one kind of capitalism -- this kind of capitalism -- and it's all]


Narrated - Oil Leaking From BP Gulf Oil Spill Sea Floor Strata
[After the cement]


Lady Gaga Rallies Fans in Arizona: "If it wasn't for all you immigrants, this country wouldn't have s--t."
By Tanner Stransky

Lady Gaga is well known for stirring the pot while advocating for buzzy causes like gay rights, and now she's using her sizable cultural influence to stand up against SB 1070, the controversial Arizona immigration law. At her Monster Ball show in Phoenix on Saturday evening, the pop star encouraged her "little monsters" to not sit idle in regards to the law: "We have to be active. We have to actively protest," she told her audience. Since the news of SB 1070 came down, several heavyweights in the music biz have boycotted the state, but Gaga said she won't do the same.

"I will not cancel my show. I will hold you, and we will hold each other, and we will protest this state," Gaga told her audience. "I got a phone call from a couple really big rock-n-rollers, big pop stars, big rappers, and they said: 'We'd like you to boycott Arizona. We'd like you to boycott playing Arizona because of SB 1070.' And I said: 'You really think that us dumb f-ing pop stars are going to collapse the economy of Arizona?'" And that's when she urged fans to protest. "The nature of the Monster Ball is to actively protest prejudice and injustice and that bullshit that is put on our society!" See her whole impassioned speech here:


Missing Gulf Coast Oil Appears To Be Welling Up Under Barrier Island Beaches (VIDEO)

Last week, BP managed to finally cap the Deepwater Horizon oil volcano and the media suddenly found itself in the grips of a baffling problem with object permanence. Where did all the oil go, they wondered. Had it disappeared? Was it eaten by microbes? Did it get Raptured up to Oil Heaven? It was a mystery, wrapped in a miracle! At least it was until Mother Jones reporter Mac McClelland took about a minute to send some text messages to colleagues in the field, inquiring after the oil's whereabouts. They answered back: Where is the oil? How does all over the place grab you?

Over at The Upshot, Brett Michael Dykes highlights this report from WVUE in New Orleans, which confirms that the oil did not, in fact, fortuitously disappear into thin air:

According to WVUE correspondent John Snell, local officials dispatched a dive team to a barrier island off of southeastern Louisiana's Plaquemines parish to scan the sea floor for oil. The team, however, could barely see the sea floor, due to the current murky state of the area waters. But when the divers returned to shore, they made a rather remarkable discovery: tiny holes that burrowing Hermit crabs had dug into the ground effectively became oil-drilling holes. When the divers placed pressure on the ground near the holes, oil came oozing up.

So, basically, questioning where the oil has gone is the exact same thing as looking at the shoes attached to the ends of your legs and wondering if your feet have disappeared.


Video Shows Michigan Oil Spill
July 29, 2010, 1:57 pm

As my colleague Emma Graves Fitzsimmons reports from Michigan, the Environmental Protection Agency now estimates that more than one million gallons of oil may have spilled from a pipeline into the Kalamazoo River this week, which is far more than the pipeline's owner, Enbridge Energy Partners, initially estimated.

In a statement posted online, the E.P.A. explained that the government has taken charge of the clean-up effort and is working to keep the oil from reaching Lake Michigan.

On Monday, when a 30-inch pipeline burst in Marshall, Mich., releasing hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil into Talmadge Creek, a waterway that feeds the Kalamazoo River, local residents started posting video of the damage on YouTube. As the site's own CitizenTube blog noted, a user calling herself Picture Takin Diva posted these aerial images of the creek, with the comment, "It's not the Gulf, but it's pretty bad!"

Another user, Corrive 9, who uploaded the video at the top of this post on Tuesday, also conducted some interviews with people who live near the river. Looking at the oily water, this man said, "It smells like a mechanic's shop, for one thing, but it's just a shame because this river was just becoming cleaner and now this. We fish this, catch a lot of small-mouth bass out here, great big ones."

A third YouTube user, who goes by 420 Stardust Glitter, uploaded these silent images of the oil water with a note saying, "The oil is so thick it's starting to look gummy and the smell of the toxins are unbearable."


BP Oil Spill Grand Isle Town Hall Meeting Part 3


Sometimes there are things so beautiful it takes your breath away and confirms the best and most basic good in the nature of
Stand By Me | Playing For Change | Song Around the World


Pete Seeger Live - New Protest Song About BP Oil Spill in Gulf Coast on Banjo w James Maddock Guitar
Published on Friday, July 30, 2010 by YouTube

On July 23th 2010 Pete Seeger performed live at a Gulf Coast Oil Spill fundraiser at The City Winery in New York City. There, he unveiled to the public his new protest song about the BP oil spill entitled "God's Counting on Me, God's Counting on You." Backing up Pete's singing and banjo picking is the singer/songwriter James Maddock on acoustic guitar. All proceeds of this concert went to the Gulf Restoration Project. The show was produced and hosted by Richard Barone. The video was edited and mixed by Matthew Billy.


When we look and we can see things are not what they should be
God's counting on me, God's counting on you
When we look and see things that should not be
God's counting on me, God's counting on you
Hopin' we'll all pull through, Hoping we'll all pull through,
Hopin' we'll all pull through
Me and you.

It's time to turn things around, trickle up not trickle down
God's counting on me, God's counting on you
It's time to turn things around, trickle up not trickle down
God's counting on me, God's counting on you
Hopin' we'll all pull through, Hoping we'll all pull through,
Hopin' we'll all pull through
Me and you.

And when drill, baby, drill turns to spill, baby, spill
God's counting on me, God's counting on you
Yes when drill, baby, drill turns to spill, baby, spill
God's counting on me, God's counting on you
Hopin' we'll all pull through, Hoping we'll all pull through,
Hopin' we'll all pull through
Me and you.

Don't give up don't give in, workin' together we all can win
God's counting on me, God's counting on you
Don't give up don't give in, workin' together we all can win
God's counting on me, God's counting on you
Hopin' we'll all pull through, Hoping we'll all pull through,
Hopin' we'll all pull through
Me and you.

There's big problems to be solved, let's get everyone involved
God's counting on me, God's counting on you
There's big problems to be solved, let's get everyone involved
God's counting on me, God's counting on you
Hopin' we'll all pull through, Hoping we'll all pull through,
Hopin' we'll all pull through
Me and you.

When we sing with younger folks, we can never give up hope
God's counting on me, God's counting on you
When we sing with younger folks, we can never give up hope
God's counting on me, God's counting on you
Hopin' we'll all pull through, Hoping we'll all pull through,
Hopin' we'll all pull through
Me and you.


Underwater Lakes Of Oil From BP Spill Will Continue To Cover Gulf Beaches With Toxic Layer Of Invisible Oil For Months
Posted by Alexander Higgins - July 28, 2010 at 10:59 pm - Permalink


Feds think public can't HANDLE THE TRUTH about toxic dispersants says EPA Sr. Analyst
July 28, 2010


Breathing Toxic Oil Vapors??? video




Ohio may execute an innocent man unless you take action.

Kevin Keith is scheduled to be executed on September 15th, despite a wide range of new evidence that suggests he is innocent. Kevin, who has been on Ohio's death row for 16 years, was convicted on the basis of faulty eyewitness identification.

Thirteen years after he was convicted, Kevin discovered that one of the State's supposed "witnesses" -- a hospital nurse who was critical to corroborating the legitimacy of the surviving victim's eyewitness identification -- does not actually exist. He has an alibi affirmed by four people and new evidence has emerged implicating another suspect.

No court has heard the full array of new evidence pointing to Kevin's innocence. Take action today to stop Ohio from executing a man who very well may be innocent.


Stefanie Faucher
Associate Director


Please sign the petition to release Bradley Manning (Click to sign here)

To: US Department of Defense; US Department of Justice
We, the Undersigned, call for justice for US Army PFC Bradley Manning, incarcerated without charge (as of 18 June 2010) at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.

Media accounts state that Mr. Manning was arrested in late May for leaking the video of US Apache helicopter pilots killing innocent people and seriously wounding two children in Baghdad, including those who arrived to help the wounded, as well as potentially other material. The video was released by WikiLeaks under the name "Collateral Murder".

If these allegations are untrue, we call upon the US Department of Defense to release Mr. Manning immediately.

If these allegations ARE true, we ALSO call upon the US Department of Defense to release Mr. Manning immediately.

Simultaneously, we express our support for Mr. Manning in any case, and our admiration for his courage if he is, in fact, the person who disclosed the video. Like in the cases of Daniel Ellsberg, W. Mark Felt, Frank Serpico and countless other whistleblowers before, government demands for secrecy must yield to public knowledge and justice when government crime and corruption are being kept hidden.

Justice for Bradley Manning!


The Undersigned:

Zaineb Alani
"Yesterday I lost a country. / I was in a hurry, / and didn't notice when it fell from me / like a broken branch from a forgetful tree. / Please, if anyone passes by / and stumbles across it, / perhaps in a suitcase / open to the sky, / or engraved on a rock / like a gaping wound, / ... / If anyone stumbles across it, / return it to me please. / Please return it, sir. / Please return it, madam. / It is my country . . . / I was in a hurry / when I lost it yesterday." -Dunya Mikhail, Iraqi poet


Dear Gio,

Thanks again for supporting military war resisters. We do this work because it is a tangible contribution to a future without empire and war. With your help, we've won a number of victories recently--you might have read about "Hip Hop" stop-loss soldier Marc Hall, or single mom, and Afghanistan deployment resister, Alexis Hutchinson in the news.

Now, intel analyst Bradley Manning is in the headlines and facing decades in prison for leaking a video of a massacre in Baghdad. If Pfc. Manning is the source of the video, then he did what he had to do to expose a war crime. Regardless, he's wrongly imprisoned and we are doing everything we can to support him. Keep an eye out for action alerts in the coming days on how to support Bradley!

If you have not yet had a chance to make a donation recently, I'm asking that you please consider doing so now so that together we can step up to support Bradley Manning and all GI war objectors!

Jeff Paterson,
Project Director, Courage to Resist

p.s. Our new August print newsletter is now available:


Please forward widely...

Lynne Stewart Sentenced to Ten Years in Prison
By Jeff Mackler
(Jeff Mackler is the West Coast Director of the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee.)

The full force of the U.S. criminal "justice" system came down on innocent political prisoner, 30-year veteran human rights attorney and radical political activist Lynne Stewart today, July 15, 2010.

In an obviously pre-prepared one hour and twenty minute technical tour de force designed to give legitimacy to a reactionary ruling Federal District Court John Koeltl, who in 2005 sentenced Stewart to 28 months in prison following her frame-up trial and jury conviction on four counts of "conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism," re-sentenced Stewart to 120 months or ten years. Koeltl recommended that Stewart serve her sentence in Danbury, Connecticut's minimum security prison. A final decision will be made by the Bureau of Prisons.

Stewart will remain in Manhattan's Metropolitan Correctional Center for 60 days to prepare an appeal.

The jam-packed New York Federal District Court chamber observers where Koeltl held forth let our a gasp of pain and anguish as Lynne's family and friends were stunned - tears flowing down the stricken and somber faces of many. A magnificent Stewart, ever the political fighter and organizer was able to say to her supporters that she felt badly because she had "let them down," a reference to the massive outpouring of solidarity and defiance that was the prime characteristic of Lynne's long fight for freedom.

Judge Koeltl was ordered to revisit his relatively short sentence when it was overturned by a two-judge majority of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Judges Robert D. Sack and Guido Calabresi ruled that Koeltl's sentence was flawed because he had declined to determine whether Stewart committed perjury when she testified at her trial that she believed that she was effectively operating under a "bubble" protecting her from prosecution when she issued a press release on behalf of her also framed-up client, the blind Sheik Omar Abdel Rachman. Rachman was falsely charged with conspiracy to damage New York state buildings.

Dissenting Judge John M. Walker, who called Stewart's sentence, "breathtakingly low" in view of Stewart's "extraordinarily severe criminal conduct" deemed the Second Circuit's majority opinion "substantively unreasonable." Walker essentially sought to impose or demand a 30-year sentence.

The three-judge panel on Dec. 20, 2009 followed its initial ruling with even tougher language demanding that Koeltl revisit his treatment of the "terrorism enhancement" aspects of the law. A cowardly Koeltl, who didn't need this argument to dramatically increase Stewart's sentence, asserted that he had already taken it under consideration in his original deliberations.

Government prosecutors, who in 2005 sought a 30-year sentence, had submitted a 155-page memorandum arguing in support of a 15-30 year sentence. Their arguments demonstrated how twisted logic coupled with vindictive and lying government officials routinely turn the victim into the criminal.

Stewart's attorneys countered with a detailed brief recounting the facts of the case and demonstrating that Stewart's actions in defense of her client were well within the realm of past practice and accepted procedures. They argued that Koeltl properly exercised his discretion in determining that, while the terrorism enhancement provisions of the "law" had to be taken into consideration, the 30-year-prison term associated with it was "dramatically unreasonable," "overstated the seriousness" of Stewart's conduct" and had already been factored into Koeltl's decision.

Stewart's attorneys also argued convincingly in their brief that the Special Administrative Measure (SAM) that Stewart was convicted of violating by releasing a statement from her client to the media was well within the established practice of Stewart's experienced and mentoring co-counsels- former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and past American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee president Abdeen Jabarra. Both had issued similar statements to the media with no government reprisal. Clark was an observer in Koeltl's courtroom. When he testified in support of Lynne during her trial one overzealous prosecutor suggested that he too be subject to the conspiracy charges. The more discreet team of government lawyers quietly dropped the matter.

At worst, in such matters, government officials refuse defense attorneys client visiting rights until an agreement on a contested interpretation of a SAM is reached. This was the case with Stewart and her visiting rights were eventually restored with no punishment or further action. Indeed, when the matter was brought to then Attorney General Janet Reno, the government declined to prosecute or otherwise take any action against Stewart.

But Koeltl, who had essentially accepted this view in his original sentence, reversed himself entirely and proceeded in his erudite-sounding new rendition of the law to repeatedly charge Stewart with multiple acts of perjury regarding her statements on the SAM during her trial.

Koeltl took the occasion to lecture Stewart regarding the first words she uttered in front of a bevy of media outlets when she joyfully alighted from the courthouse following the judge's original 28-month sentence. Said Stewart at that time, "I can do 28 months standing on my head." A few moments earlier Stewart, with nothing but a plastic bag containing a toothbrush, toothpaste and her various medications, had stood before Koeltl, who had been asked by the government to sentence her to a 30-year term, effectively a death sentence for Lynne, aged 70, a diabetic and recovering breast cancer victim in less than excellent health.

Koeltl dutifully followed the lead of the Second Circuit judges, who feigned outrage that Stewart could possibly appear joyful that her life was spared despite 28 months in prison. Koeltl insisted that Stewart's remark was essentially contemptuous of his sentence and insufficient to convince Stewart of the seriousness of her "crime." Lynne's defense was that while she fully understood that 28 months behind bars, separating from her "family, friends and comrades," as she proudly stated, was a harsh penalty, she was nevertheless "relieved" that she would not die in prison. Koeltl needed a legal brick to throw at Lynne's head and ignored her humanity, honesty and deep feeling of relief when she expressed it to a crowd of two thousand friends, supporters and a good portion of the nation's media.

The same Judge Koeltl who stated in 2005, when he rendered the 28-month jail term, that Lynne was "a credit to her profession and to the nation," clearly heard the voice of institutionalized hate and cruelty and responded in according with its unstated code. "Show no mercy! Thou shall not dissent without grave punishment" in capitalist America.

Lynne was convicted in the post-911 generated climate of political hysteria. Bush appointee, Attorney General John Ashcroft, decided to make an example of her aimed at warning future attorneys that the mere act of defending anyone whom the government charged with "conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism," could trigger terrible consequences.

On July 15 Judge Koeltl made the decision of his career. Known for his meticulous preparation in such matters, and already having enraged the powers that be with his "light" sentence of Stewart, he bent full tilt to the reactionary political pressures exerted on him by the court hierarchy. He had the option to stand tall and reaffirm his original decision. The "law" allowed him to do so. He could have permitted Lynne to leave prison in less than two years, recover her health, and lead a productive life. His massively extended sentence, unless overturned, will likely lead to Lynne's demise behind bars - a brilliant and dedicated fighter sacrificed on the alter of an intolerant class-biased system of repression and war.

Courage is a rare quality in the capitalist judiciary. For every defiant decision made, usually driven by a change in the political climate and pressed forward by the rise of mass social protest movements, there are thousands and more of political appointees that affirm the status quo, including its punishment of all who struggle to challenge capitalist prerogatives and power.

Lynne Stewart stands tall among the latter. We can only hope that the winds of change that are stirring the consciousness of millions today in the context of an American capitalism in economic and moral crisis keeps the movement for her freedom alive and well. The fight is not over! What we do now remains critical. Lynne's expected appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court cannot be written off as absurd and hopeless. What we do collectively to free her and all political prisoners and to fight for freedom and justice on every front counts for everything!

Write to Lynne at:

Lynne Stewart 53504-054
150 Park Row
New York, NY 10007

For further information call Lynne's husband, Ralph Poynter, leader of the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee
718-789-0558 or 917-853-9759

Send contributions payable to:

Lynne Stewart Organization
1070 Dean Street
Brooklyn, New York, 11216


Listen to Lynne Stewart event, that took place July 8, 2010 at Judson Memorial Church
Excerpts include: Mumia Abu Jamal, Ralph Poynter, Ramsey Clark, Juanita
Young, Fred Hampton Jr., Raging Grannies, Ralph Schoenman

And check out this article (link) too!


Requesting Your Support
By Dahr Jamail
July 12th, 2010
Dear Readers:

This morning we hired a flight out to the well site where the Deepwater Horizon sank. This environmental crime scene is now littered with boats and relief wells flailing to stop the flow of oil that has been gushing into the Gulf of Mexico for almost 3 months. Tomorrow, we are hiring a boat to take us to some of the most devastated coastline, which is still smeared in oil, causing harm to uncountable ecosystems and wildlife.

I have been on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana for two weeks now, and together with my partner, Erika Blumenfeld, we have brought you stories and photographs that document and archive the human and environmental impact of the historic and horrific disaster that is the BP oil catastrophe.

In our story, Fending For Themselves, we wrote about the growing crisis of the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe being displaced by the encroaching oil, and showed you images of their dying marshlands.

We produced an original photo essay for Truthout, Mitigating Annihilation, which clearly depicts the futility of the booming efforts, and the resulting destruction of the local and migratory bird rookeries, along with South Louisiana's fragile and endangered coastline.

Our most recent post, Hell Has Come To South Louisiana, articulates the desperate situation of the shrimpers and fisher-folk whose livelihood that spans generations is threatened by extinction.

The complexity and breadth of this continued crisis is beyond what we could have imagined, and our questions have led us to dynamic and impassioned interviews with environmental philosophers, activists, scientists, sociologists, riverkeepers, bayoukeepers, indigenous tribes, and fisher people.

As a freelance team, we could not have produced this important work without your generous support. We are deeply grateful to those who were able to contribute to our efforts thus far.

Our work here is just beginning, and with so much of our investigation requiring that we be out in the field, I am humbly appealing for your continued support to help us extend our reporting, so that we may continue to bring you the unfolding events of this devastating issue that clearly effects us all.

Please support our work in the Gulf Coast by making a donation. There are several ways you can donate:

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation, International Media Project (IMP) is providing fiscal sponsorship to Dahr Jamail.

Checks for tax-deductible donations should be made out to "International Media Project." please write"Dahr Jamail" in the memo line and mail to:

International Media Project/Dahr Jamail
1714 Franklin St.
Oakland, CA 94612

Online, you can use Paypal to donate HERE.

Donations can also be mailed to:

Dahr Jamail
P.O. Box 970
Marfa, TX 79843

Direct links to our pieces produced thus far:

Living on a dying delta

Fending For Themselves

No Free Press for BP Oil Disaster

Mitigating Annihilation

Hell Has Come to South Louisiana



RIP Oscar!

Victory for movement, but justice still needs to be won

Calling on all supporters of justice for Oscar Grant and opponents of racist police brutality:

The jury verdict is not justice for Oscar Grant - it is up to the new movement to use its power to win real justice. THIS IS THE TIME TO ACT.


The maximum sentence for killer cop Johannes Mehserle.

Jail Officers Pirone and Domenici, the two police who were accomplices to murder.

Disarm and disband the BART Police.

Provide massive funding to Oakland for education and jobs for Oakland's black, Latina/o, Asian, and poor and working-class white youth.

Stop police/ICE racial profiling of Latina/o, black, Asian, and other minority youth with and without papers.

Furthermore, we call on Oakland Mayor Dellums and other governmental authorities in Oakland to declare that this verdict does not render justice to Oscar Grant and to act on the demands of the movement.

If you haven't already done so yet, join the JUSTICE FOR OSCAR GRANT ACTION PAGE on Facebook at:


Oscar Grant Verdict Is Victory for the Movement,
But Justice for Oscar Grant Still Needs to Be Won

Today's [THURSDAY, JULY 8, 2010] conviction of Johannes Mehserle is a victory for the movement. Despite all the foot-dragging and machinations of the police, the justice system, the government, and the politicians, the movement secured the first conviction of a California police officer for the killing of a black man. This victory is important and provides some greater protection for black and Latina/o youth. However, this verdict does NOT constitute justice for Oscar Grant.

Tens of millions of people around the world saw the videotape and know that Oscar Grant was murdered in cold blood by Johannes Mehserle. And yet, because of the failure of the prosecutor's office to fight the change in venue, and because of the pro-police bias of the judge, the jury was deprived of even being able to consider convicting Mehserle of first-degree murder. The Los Angeles county jury which heard that case did not include a single black juror.

BAMN salutes the new civil rights movement for this victory. However, achieving justice for Oscar Grant requires that the movement continue to build and grow in determination, drawing in millions more black, Latina/o and other youth.

BAMN also salutes Wanda Johnson, Oscar Grant's mother, for refusing to accept a civil settlement and for fighting to achieve justice for her son. We pledge to Wanda Johnson, Oscar's daughter Tatiana, her mother, and all family and friends that we will not rest until we achieve justice for Oscar.

We call on the movement to maintain the fight for justice for Oscar Grant by raising and fighting to win the following demands:

The maximum sentence for killer cop Johannes Mehserle.

Jail Officers Pirone and Domenici, the two police who were accomplices to murder.

Disarm and disband the BART Police.

Provide massive funding to Oakland for education and jobs for Oakland's black, Latina/o, Asian, and poor and working-class white youth.

Stop police/ICE racial profiling of Latina/o, black, Asian, and other minority youth with and without papers.

Furthermore, we call on Oakland Mayor Dellums and other governmental authorities in Oakland to declare that this verdict does not render justice to Oscar Grant and to act on the demands of the movement.

Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN)

(510) 502-9072 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (510) 502-9072 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Ronald Cruz
BAMN Organizer,
& Civil Rights Attorney



Georgia: Witnesses in Murder Case Recant
June 23, 2010

In an unusual hearing ordered by the Supreme Court that began in Savannah on Wednesday, several witnesses said they had concocted testimony that Troy Anthony Davis killed a police officer, Mark MacPhail, in 1989. Last August, the Supreme Court ordered a federal district court to determine if new evidence "clearly establishes" Mr. Davis's innocence, its first order in an "actual innocence" petition from a state prisoner in nearly 50 years, according to Justice Antonin Scalia, who dissented. Seven of the witnesses who testified against Mr. Davis at his trial have recanted, and some have implicated the chief informer in the case. Mr. Davis's execution has been stayed three times.

For more info: | | Savannah Branch NAACP: 912-233-4161


Mumia Abu-Jamal - Legal Update
June 9, 2010
Robert R. Bryan, Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123-4117

Dear All:

There are significant developments on various fronts in the coordinated legal campaign to save & free Mumia Abu-Jamal. The complex court proceedings are moving forward at a fast pace. Mumia's life is on the line.

Court Developments: We are engaged in pivotal litigation in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia. At stake is whether Mumia will be executed or granted a new jury trial on the question of the death penalty. Two years ago we won on that issue, with the federal court finding that the trial judge misled the jury thereby rendering the proceedings constitutionally unfair. Then in January 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court vacated that ruling based upon its decision in another case, & ordered that the case be again reviewed by the Court of Appeals.

The prosecution continues its obsession to kill my client, regardless of the truth as to what happened at the time of the 1981 police shooting. Its opening brief was filed April 26. Our initial brief will be submitted on July 28. At issue is the death penalty.

In separate litigation, we are awaiting a decision in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on prosecutorial abuses, having completed all briefing in April. The focus is on ballistics.

Petition for President Barack Obama: It is crucial for people to sign the petition for President Barack Obama, Mumia Abu-Jamal & the Global Abolition of the Death Penalty, which was initially in 10 languages (Swahili & Turkish have since been added). This is the only petition approved by Mumia & me, & is a vital part of the legal effort to save his life. Please sign the petition & circulate its link:

Nearly 22,000 people from around the globe have signed. These include: Bishop Desmond Tutu, South Africa (Nobel Peace Prize); Günter Grass, Germany (Nobel Prize in Literature); Danielle Mitterrand, Paris (former First Lady of France); Fatima Bhutto, Pakistan (writer); Colin Firth (Academy Award Best-Actor nominee), Noam Chomsky, MIT (philosopher & author); Ed Asner (actor); Mike Farrell (actor); & Michael Radford (director of the Oscar winning film Il Postino); Robert Meeropol (son of Julius & Ethel Rosenberg, executed in 1953); Fatima Bhutto, Pakistan (writer); Noam Chomsky, MIT (philosopher & author); Ed Asner (actor); Mike Farrell (actor); Michael Radford (director of the Oscar winning film Il Postino); members of the European Parliament; members of the German Bundestag; European Association of Lawyers for Democracy & World Human Rights; Reporters Without Borders, Paris.

European Parliament; Rosa Luxemburg Conference; World Congress Against the Death Penalty; Geneva Human Rights Film Festival: We began the year with a major address to the annual Rosa Luxemburg Conference in Berlin, Germany, sponsored by the newspaper junge Welt. The large auditorium was filled with a standing-room audience. Mumia joined me by telephone. We announced the launching of the online petition, Mumia Abu-Jamal & the Global Abolition of the Death Penalty.

A large audience on the concluding night of the World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Geneva, Switzerland, February 25, heard Mumia by telephone. He spoke as a symbolic representative of the over 20,000 men, women & children on death rows around the world. The call came as a surprise, since we thought it had been canceled. Mumia's comments from inside his death-row cell brought to reality the horror of daily life in which death is a common denominator. During an earlier panel discussion I spoke of racism in capital cases around the globe with the case of Mumia as a prime example. A day before the Congress on February 23, I talked at the Geneva Human Rights Film Festival on the power of films in fighting the death penalty & saving Mumia.

On March 2 in the European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium, members Søren Søndergaard (Denmark) & Sabine Lösing (Germany) announced the beginning of a campaign to save Mumia & end executions. They were joined by Sabine Kebir, the noted German author & PEN member, Nicole Bryan, & me. We discussed the online petition which helps not only Mumia, but all the condemned around the globe.

Donations for Mumia's Legal Defense & Online Petition: The complex litigation & investigation that is being pursued on behalf of Mumia is enormously expensive. We are in both the federal & state courts on the issue of the death penalty, prosecutorial wrongdoing, etc. Mumia's life is on the line.

How to Help: For information on how to help, both through donations & signing the Obama petition, please go to Mumia's legal defense website: .

Conclusion: Mumia remains on death row under a death judgment. He is in greater danger than at any time since his arrest 28 years ago. The prosecution is pursuing his execution. I win cases, & will not let them kill my client. He must be free.

Yours very truly,

Robert R. Bryan
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123-4117

Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal


Lynne Stewart and the Guantanamo Lawyers: Same Fact Patterns, Same Opponent, Different Endings?
Lynne Stewart will be re-sentenced sometime in July, in NYC.
By Ralph Poynter
(Ralph Poynter is the Life partner of Lynne Stewart. He is presently dedicated 24/7 to her defense, as well as other causes.)

In the Spring of 2002, Lynne Stewart was arrested by the FBI, at her home in Brooklyn, for materially aiding terrorism by virtue of making a public press release to Reuters on behalf of her client, Sheik Abdel Omar Rahman of Egypt. This was done after she had signed a Special Administrative Measure issued by the Bureau of Prisons not permitting her to communicate with the media, on his behalf.

In 2006, a number of attorneys appointed and working pro bono for detainees at Guantanamo were discovered to be acting in a manner that disobeyed a Federal Judge's protective court order. The adversary in both cases was the United States Department of Justice. The results in each case were very different.

In March of 2010, a right wing group "Keep America Safe" led by Lynne Cheney, hoping to dilute Guantanamo representation and impugn the reputations and careers of the volunteer lawyers, launched a campaign. Initially they attacked the right of the detainees to be represented at all. This was met with a massive denouncement by Press, other media, Civil rights organizations ,and rightly so, as being a threat to the Constitution and particularly the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

A second attack on the Gitmo lawyers was made in the Wall Street Journal of March 16. This has been totally ignored in the media and by civil and human rights groups. This latter revelation about the violations, by these lawyers, of the Judge's protective orders and was revealed via litigation and the Freedom of Information Act. These pro bono lawyers serving clients assigned to them at Gitmo used privileged attorney client mail to send banned materials. They carried in news report of US failures in Afghanistan and Iraq . One lawyer drew a map of the prison. Another delivered lists to his client of all the suspects held there. They placed on the internet a facsimile of the badges worn by the Guards. Some lawyers "provided news outlets with 'interviews' of their clients using questions provided in advance by the news organizations." When a partner at one of the large Wall Street law firms sent in multiple copies of an Amnesty International brochure, which her client was to distribute to other prisoners, she was relieved from her representation and barred by the Military Commander from visiting her client.

This case is significant to interpret not because of the right wing line to punish these lawyers and manipulate their corporate clients to stop patronizing such "wayward" firms. Instead it is significant because, Lynne Stewart, a left wing progressive lawyer who had dedicated her thirty year career to defending the poor, the despised, the political prisoner and those ensnared by reason of race, gender, ethnicity, religion , who was dealt with by the same Department of Justice, in such a draconian fashion, confirms our deepest suspicions that she was targeted for prosecution and punishment because of who she is and who she represented so ably and not because of any misdeed.

Let me be very clear, I am not saying that the Gitmo lawyers acted in any "criminal" manner. The great tradition of the defense bar is to be able to make crucial decisions for and with the client without interference by the adversary Government.

I believe that they were acting as zealous attorneys trying to establish rapport and trust with their clients. That said, the moment the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice tried to remove Julia Tarver Mason from her client, the playing field tilted. Ms Tarver Mason was not led out of her home in handcuffs to the full glare of publicity. There was no press conference. The Attorney General did not go on the David Letterman show to gloat about the latest strike in the War on Terror, the purge of the Gitmo lawyer...NO.

Instead an "armada" of corporate lawyers went to Court against the Government. They, in the terms of the litigation trade, papered the US District Courthouse in Washington D.C. They brought to bear the full force of their Money and Power-- derived from the corporate world--and in 2006 "settled" the case with the government, restoring their clients to Guantanamo without any punishment at all, not to say any Indictment. Lynne Stewart, without corporate connections and coming from a working class background, was tried and convicted for issuing, on behalf of her client, a public press release to Reuters. There was no injury, no harm, no attacks, no deaths.

Yet that same Department of Justice that dealt so favorably and capitulated to the Gitmo corporate lawyers, wants to sentence Lynne Stewart to thirty (30) YEARS in prison. It is the equivalent of asking for a death sentence since she is 70 years old.

This vast disparity in treatment between Lynne and the Gitmo lawyers reveals the deep contradictions of the system ---those who derive power from rich and potent corporations, those whose day to day work maintains and increases that power--are treated differently. Is it because the Corporate Power is intertwined with Government Power???

Lynne Stewart deserves Justice... equal justice under law. Her present sentence of 28 months incarceration (she is in Federal Prison) should at least be maintained, if not made equal to the punishment that was meted out to the Gitmo lawyers. The thirty year sentence, assiduously pursued by DOJ under both Bush and Obama, is an obscenity and an affront to fundamental fairness. They wanted to make her career and dedication to individual clients, a warning, to the defense bar that the Government can arrest any lawyer on any pretext. The sharp contrasts between the cases of Lynne and the Gitmo lawyers just confirm that she is getting a raw deal--one that should be protested actively, visibly and with the full force of our righteous resistance.

Write to Lynne:

Lynne Stewart 53504-054
150 Park Row
New York, New York 10007


Bernadette McAliskey Quote on Zionists:

"The root cause of conflict in the Middle East is the very nature of the state of Israel. It is a facist state. It is a international bully, which exists not to protect the rights of the Jewish people but to perpetuate a belief of Zionist supremacy. It debases the victims of the holocaust by its own strategy for extermination of Palestine and Palestinians and has become the image and likeness of its own worst enemy, the Third Reich.

"Anyone challenging their position, their crazed self-image is entitled, in the fascist construction of their thinking, to be wiped out. Every humanitarian becomes a terrorist? How long is the reality of the danger Israel poses to world peace going to be denied by the Western powers who created this monster?"



[ The poem does not mention that the popular herb cardamom is banned from importation into Gaza. Israel probably fears that cardamom can be used as a biological weapon. Rockets with cardamom filled projectiles landing in Israel could cause Israeli soldiers 'guarding' the border to succumb to pangs of hunger, leave their posts to go get something eat, and leave Israel defenseless. - Howard Keylor]

Richard Tillinghast is an American poet who lives in Co Tipperary. He is the author of eight books of poetry, the latest of which is Selected Poems (Dedalus Press, 2010 ), as well as several works of non-fiction


No tinned meat is allowed, no tomato paste,
no clothing, no shoes, no notebooks.
These will be stored in our warehouses at Kerem Shalom
until further notice.
Bananas, apples, and persimmons are allowed into Gaza,
peaches and dates, and now macaroni
(after the American Senator's visit).
These are vital for daily sustenance.

But no apricots, no plums, no grapes, no avocados, no jam.
These are luxuries and are not allowed.
Paper for textbooks is not allowed.
The terrorists could use it to print seditious material.
And why do you need textbooks
now that your schools are rubble?
No steel is allowed, no building supplies, no plastic pipe.
These the terrorists could use to launch rockets
against us.

Pumpkins and carrots you may have, but no delicacies,
no cherries, no pomegranates, no watermelon, no onions,
no chocolate.

We have a list of three dozen items that are allowed,
but we are not obliged to disclose its contents.
This is the decision arrived at
by Colonel Levi, Colonel Rosenzweig, and Colonel Segal.

Our motto:
'No prosperity, no development, no humanitarian crisis.'
You may fish in the Mediterranean,
but only as far as three km from shore.
Beyond that and we open fire.
It is a great pity the waters are polluted
twenty million gallons of raw sewage dumped into the sea every day
is the figure given.

Our rockets struck the sewage treatments plants,
and at this point spare parts to repair them are not allowed.
As long as Hamas threatens us,
no cement is allowed, no glass, no medical equipment.
We are watching you from our pilotless drones
as you cook your sparse meals over open fires
and bed down
in the ruins of houses destroyed by tank shells.

And if your children can't sleep,
missing the ones who were killed in our incursion,
or cry out in the night, or wet their beds
in your makeshift refugee tents,
or scream, feeling pain in their amputated limbs -
that's the price you pay for harbouring terrorists.

God gave us this land.
A land without a people for a people without a land.
Greta Berlin, Co-Founder
+357 99 18 72 75


Please sign the petition to stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal and
and forward it to all your lists.

"Mumia Abu-Jamal and The Global Abolition of the Death Penalty"

(A Life In the Balance - The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, at 34, Amnesty Int'l, 2000; www.

[Note: This petition is approved by Mumia Abu-Jamal and his lead attorney, Robert R. Bryan, San Francisco (E-mail:; Website:]

Committee To Save Mumia Abu-Jamal
P.O. Box 2012
New York, NY 10159-2012


Donations for Mumia's Legal Defense in the U.S. Our legal effort is the front line of the battle for Mumia's freedom and life. His legal defense needs help. The costs are substantial for our litigation in the U.S. Supreme Court and at the state level. To help, please make your checks payable to the National Lawyers Guild Foundation indicate "Mumia" on the bottom left). All donations are tax deductible under the Internal Revenue Code, section 501c)3), and should be mailed to:

It is outrageous and a violation of human rights that Mumia remains in prison and on death row. His life hangs in the balance. My career has been marked by successfully representing people facing death in murder cases. I will not rest until we win Mumia's case. Justice requires no less.

With best wishes,

Robert R. Bryan
Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal


Short Video About Al-Awda's Work
The following link is to a short video which provides an overview of Al-Awda's work since the founding of our organization in 2000. This video was first shown on Saturday May 23, 2009 at the fundraising banquet of the 7th Annual Int'l Al-Awda Convention in Anaheim California. It was produced from footage collected over the past nine years.
Support Al-Awda, a Great Organization and Cause!

Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, depends on your financial support to carry out its work.

To submit your tax-deductible donation to support our work, go to and follow the simple instructions.

Thank you for your generosity!


FLASHPOINTS Interview with Innocent San Quentin Death Row Inmate
Kevin Cooper -- Aired Monday, May 18,2009
To learn more about Kevin Cooper go to:
San Francisco Chronicle article on the recent ruling:
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling and dissent:


Support the troops who refuse to fight!




1) Medicare Stronger, Social Security Worse in Short Run, Report Finds
August 5, 2010

2) Senate Approves $600 Million Border Bill
By Jim Abrams
08/ 5/10 07:12 PM

3) Putting Our Brains on Hold
August 6, 2010

4) Fidel Castro Makes an Official Appearance
August 7, 2010

5) Coverage Turns, Cautiously, to Spill Impact
August 6, 2010

6) U.S. Lost 131,000 Jobs as Governments Cut Back
August 6, 2010

7) Minerals Service Had a Mandate to Produce Results
August 7, 2010

8) Jobless and Staying That Way
August 7, 2010

9) First Lady's Spain Vacation Draws Criticism
August 8, 2010

10) Afraid of Deflation? Try Some Medicine
August 7, 2010


1) Medicare Stronger, Social Security Worse in Short Run, Report Finds
August 5, 2010

WASHINGTON - Medicare will remain financially solvent for 12 additional years, until 2029, because of the cost-cutting measures in President Obama's recently enacted health care legislation, the program's trustees projected on Thursday.

The financial outlook for Social Security is "little changed from last year," the report said. In the short run, it added, the financial condition of the retirement program has worsened because of high unemployment, which has reduced payroll tax revenues. For the first time, money flowing out of the program this year exceeds money flowing in.

The trustees predicted that the Social Security trust fund would be exhausted in 2037, the same date as projected last year. The Social Security commissioner, Michael J. Astrue, said this was "not a cause for panic," because continuing tax revenue would still be sufficient to pay more than 75 percent of benefits even after exhaustion of the trust fund.

Both programs continue to face intense financial pressure in coming decades as the population ages and health care costs rise. Medicare, in particular, faces eventual insolvency if more is not done to balance its obligations to provide health care to older Americans with the tax revenues that pay for the program.

Because inflation remains low, the report said, Social Security beneficiaries will probably not receive a cost-of-living adjustment in 2011, just as they did not receive one this year.

The report comes at a time of growing political ferment over the future of the programs, which account for about one-third of all federal spending, and they provoked contradictory reactions.

Many advocates on the left seized on the updates to argue that no changes were needed, especially for Social Security, while some on the right said the report showed a need for cutbacks in future benefit promises or even for privatization.

Liberal groups have begun mobilizing this summer to oppose any cut in Social Security benefits or increase in the retirement age that might be recommended by a bipartisan fiscal commission. The panel, appointed by Mr. Obama, is to vote on its final report by Dec. 1.

Dozens of liberal organizations, including the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the N.A.A.C.P. and, formed the Strengthen Social Security coalition last week. On Tuesday, representatives of those groups and others, including AARP, met with two administration officials and "gave them an earful," in the words of one participant.

Nancy J. Altman, co-chairwoman of the coalition, said she feared that some people in Washington, including a few members of the president's fiscal commission, would use the trustees' report to "advance their agenda of cuts to Social Security benefits."

Many on the left are anxious because they believe that the administration, having won cost-saving changes in Medicare, is turning its sights to Social Security, in an effort to stabilize its long-term finances and reduce the nation's future debt load.

Bruce N. Reed, a former Clinton White House official who is executive director of the fiscal commission, said, "Some on the left are concerned that Social Security would be used for deficit reduction purposes, and that's not anybody's goal." But Mr. Reed added, "The trustees' report reaffirms the importance of taking action to strengthen Social Security's solvency over the long haul."

The trustees said the new health care law would contribute to an improvement in the finances of Social Security as well as Medicare. Starting in 2019, the law imposes a new tax on high-cost health insurance plans. The tax is expected to cause a shift in employee compensation from health insurance to wages, which are subject to Social Security payroll taxes.

In the short run, however, the outlook for Social Security continued to deteriorate. "Benefit payments are expected to exceed tax revenue for the first time this year, six years earlier than was projected last year," said Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner.

In their annual report, the trustees predicted that, under existing law, Medicare's hospital insurance trust fund would be exhausted in 2029, rather than in 2017, as projected in last year's report.

This is "a record increase from one report to the next," Mr. Geithner said.

The trustees, he said, assumed that the new health care law would produce "very substantial improvements in the rate of growth in health care costs" and fundamental changes in the way health care is delivered.

The new law squeezes nearly a half-trillion dollars from Medicare spending in the next 10 years. The savings are based on an assumption that hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers will become more efficient, increasing their productivity to match productivity gains in the overall economy.

If that does not happen, the trustees said, Medicare will pay many hospitals and doctors less than the cost of the goods and services they purchase, and providers may "eventually become unwilling or unable to treat Medicare beneficiaries."

The report also assumes that Medicare will cut payment rates for doctors' services by 23 percent on Dec. 1 and by a further 6.5 percent on Jan. 1, as required under existing law.

This assumption is unrealistic, the report said, because "Congress is virtually certain to override" the scheduled cuts, as it has done in recent years.

The report makes clear that Medicare still faces major financial problems. If, as expected, Congress overrides the cuts in doctors' fees, the cost of Part B of Medicare, which covers physician services, will grow about 8 percent a year in the coming decade, and Part D, which covers prescription drugs, will grow 9.4 percent a year - much faster than the economy, the trustees said.

About one-fourth of the people on Medicare, new beneficiaries and those with relatively high incomes, "will be subject to unusually large premium increases next year," the trustees said. But, they added, the other three-fourths of beneficiaries will not face a premium increase in 2011.


2) Target and LL Bean Butcher Progressive Musical Legacy
by Aaron Strong
08.06.10 - 9:55 AM

Video at the above link and at:


"The Big Rock Candy Mountain"
By Wobbly Harry "Haywire Mac" McClintock

One evening as the sun went down
And the jungle fire was burning,
Down the track came a hobo hikin',
And he said, "Boys, I'm not turning.
I'm headed for a land that's far away
Besides the crystal fountains.
So come with me, we'll go and see
The Big Rock Candy Mountains"

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains,
There's a land that's fair and bright,
Where the handouts grow on bushes
And you sleep out every night.
Where the boxcars all are empty
And the sun shines every day
On the birds and the bees
And the cigarette trees
The lemonade springs
Where the bluebird sings
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
All the cops have wooden legs
And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth
And the hens lay soft-boiled eggs
The farmers' trees are full of fruit
And the barns are full of hay
Oh I'm bound to go
Where there ain't no snow
Where the rain don't fall
The wind don't blow
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
You never change your socks
And the little streams of alcohol
Come a-trickling down the rocks
The brakemen have to tip their hats
And the railway bulls are blind
There's a lake of stew
And of whiskey too
You can paddle all around 'em
In a big canoe
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
The jails are made of tin.
And you can walk right out again
As soon as you are in.
There ain't no short-handled shovels,
No axes, saws or picks,
I'm a-goin' to stay
Where you sleep all day,
Where they hung the jerk
That invented work
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

I'll see you all this coming fall
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

We all remember Nike using The Beatles' Revolution in a commercial, or when Wrangler used Creedence Clearwater's Fortunate Son (to make it look like a patriotic song, not the antiwar ballad it is). Now Target and L.L. Bean have co-opted 2 more progressive classics.

Target has recently released a TV commercial for girl's back to school clothes using Marlo Thomas's Feminist Children's song Free to Be You and Me in the background. Many may remember this song from their childhoods (released in 1974); it was the title song from a record meant to teach children that they were not bound by traditional gender roles. The song sings of a time when people will not be judged by their race, sex, wealth, or personal differences. In the commercial, as the song plays, 3 girls wearing different colorful Target outfits show them off at school; each confident, because they are "free" to choose their own style.

Possibly worse is the new L.L. Bean TV Ad which plays a Smithsonian recording of Wobbly Haywire Mac McClintock singing his original version of The Big Rock Candy Mountain. A member of the radical Union The Industrial Workers of the World during it's height during the early 20th century. He was a contemporary of song writer and organizer Joe Hill, and among the first to publicly sing Hill's The Preacher and the Slave. The recording of McClintock Singing was taken from an interview with him at the end of his life. He talks of the Wobblies and that the original meaning of "The Big Rock Candy Mountain" (the more commercial version was rewritten by Burl Ives). It was a ballad of how older Hobos would trick younger ones to help them survive with stories of the Candy Mountain where there are cigarette trees and alcohol springs. These stories were based in part on springs with lemon flavored carbonated water in the Western United States. Haywire Mac is also known for Hallelujah I'm a Bum. These songs humanized the homeless, now The Big Rock Candy Mountain is being used to sell expensive, yuppie, camping equipment; in Haywire Mac's own voice. He must be rolling in his grave.


2) Senate Approves $600 Million Border Bill
By Jim Abrams
08/ 5/10 07:12 PM

WASHINGTON - The Senate agreed Thursday to add $600 million to the effort to stop the flow of illegal immigrants across the U.S. Mexican border.

The money would be used for such purposes as adding 1,500 new enforcement agents and deploying unmanned aerial drones to improve border surveillance.

The voice vote to pass the emergency spending came in the final hours before the Senate leaves for its monthlong summer break. Its sponsor, Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, said it would boost border spending 10 percent above 2010 levels.

President Barack Obama has urged Congress to come up with $600 million to reinforce border security, and, with Arizona's attempt to crack down on undocumented immigrants bringing national focus to the issue, both Republicans and Democrats have endorsed more robust border security spending.

The main stumbling block has been how to pay for the increased spending. Republicans sought to use unspent funds from the economic stimulus act, an idea rejected by Democrats.

The Democratic plan passed Thursday would boost fees assessed on foreign-based personnel companies that take advantage of U.S. visa programs, such as the H-1B visa program for temporary skilled workers, to bring foreign workers, mainly from India, into the United States.

The House last week passed similar legislation with $701 million in emergency money for border security. It could take up the Senate bill when it interrupts its August recess next Tuesday for a one-day session to approve a Senate-passed jobs bill.

Schumer, who announced his proposal earlier Thursday with Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., challenged Republicans to put aside differences and support the measure. "It's a test of people's seriousness when it comes to the border," he said.

Sen. John McCain, who last week joined fellow Arizona Republican Jon Kyl in introducing a $701 million bill, initially objected, saying it was insufficient.

He suggested, among other things, the addition of $200 million to support Operation Streamline, a program begun under the George W. Bush administration subjecting anyone who crosses the border illegally in areas where the program is in place to federal charges with prison terms of up to six months for the first illegal entry. Those who re-enter face prosecution for felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

When Schumer said he could not accept McCain's amendments, McCain agreed to back the bill. "I believe we have a lot more to do, but this will contribute to our effort to get our border secured," he said.

The legislation includes $176 million for 1,000 new border patrol agents to form a strike force to be deployed at critical areas, $89 million for another 500 customs and immigration personnel and $32 million to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles or drones.

It provides an additional $196 million for the Justice Department to bolster its forces of U.S. marshals, and FBI, DEA and ATF agents along the border.

"Now our attention must turn to comprehensive reform, which is the only way to fully address the problem of illegal immigration," Schumer said after the vote.


3) Putting Our Brains on Hold
August 6, 2010

The world leadership qualities of the United States, once so prevalent, are fading faster than the polar ice caps.

We once set the standard for industrial might, for the advanced state of our physical infrastructure, and for the quality of our citizens' lives. All are experiencing significant decline.

The latest dismal news on the leadership front comes from the College Board, which tells us that the U.S., once the world's leader in the percentage of young people with college degrees, has fallen to 12th among 36 developed nations.

At a time when a college education is needed more than ever to establish and maintain a middle-class standard of living, America's young people are moving in exactly the wrong direction. A well-educated population also is crucially important if the U.S. is to succeed in an increasingly competitive global environment.

But instead of exercising the appropriate mental muscles, we're allowing ourselves to become a nation of nitwits, obsessed with the comings and goings of Lindsay Lohan and increasingly oblivious to crucially important societal issues that are all but screaming for attention. What should we be doing about the legions of jobless Americans, the deteriorating public schools, the debilitating wars, the scandalous economic inequality, the corporate hold on governmental affairs, the commercialization of the arts, the deficits?

Why is there not serious and widespread public engagement with these issues - and many others that could easily come to mind? That kind of engagement would lead to creative new ideas and would serve to enrich the lives of individual Americans and the nation as a whole. But it would require a heavy social and intellectual lift.

According to a new report from the College Board, the U.S. is 12th among developed nations in the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees. The report said, "As America's aging and highly educated work force moves into retirement, the nation will rely on young Americans to increase our standing in the world."

The problem is that today's young Americans are not coming close to acquiring the education and training needed to carry out that mission. They're not even in the ballpark. In that key group, 25- to 34-year-olds with a college degree, the U.S. ranks behind Canada, South Korea, Russia, Japan, New Zealand, Ireland, Norway, Israel, France, Belgium and Australia. That is beyond pathetic.

"While the nation struggles to strengthen the economy," the report said, "the educational capacity of our country continues to decline."

Everybody is to blame - parents, students, the educational establishment, government leaders, the news media and on and on. A society that closes its eyes to the most important issues of the day, that often holds intellectual achievement in contempt, that is more interested in hip-hop and Lady Gaga than educating its young is all but guaranteed to spiral into a decline.

Speaking this week about the shortage of degrees in the 25- to 34-year-old demographic, Gaston Caperton, the president of the College Board and a former governor of West Virginia, said, "When I was in school, we were No. 1 in the world in college graduations. When I was governor, we were third, and I was surprised by that drop. Now we're 12th at a time when a good education is critically important to getting a decent job."

Among other things, he called on educators to develop curricula that are more "interesting and inspiring." And he said it is essential for students to work harder.

These are gloomy times in the United States. A child drops out of high school every 26 seconds. As incredible as it seems from the perspective of 2010, the report from the College Board tells us that "it is expected that the educational level of the younger generation of Americans will not approach their parents' level of education."

What is the matter with us? Have we been drinking? Whatever happened to that vaunted American dream? In Hawaii, the public schools were closed on 17 Fridays during the past school year for budget reasons.

When this is the educational environment, you can say goodbye to the kind of cultural, scientific and economic achievements that combine to make a great nation. We no longer know how to put our people to work. We read less and less and write like barbarians. We've increasingly turned our backs on the very idea of hard-won excellence while flinging open the doors to decadence and decline. No wonder Lady Gaga and Snooki from "Jersey Shore" are cultural heroes.

In their important book, "The Race Between Education and Technology," the Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz pointed out that educational attainment in the U.S. "was exceptionally rapid and continuous for the first three-quarters of the 20th century."

Then, foolishly, we applied the brakes. All that's at stake is our future.


4) Fidel Castro Makes an Official Appearance
August 7, 2010

Filed at 12:30 p.m. ET

HAVANA (AP) -- A lively and healthy-looking Fidel Castro appealed to President Barack Obama to prevent a global nuclear war in an emphatic speech Saturday that marked his first official government appearance since emergency surgery four years ago.

Castro's speech before the Cuban parliament, along with other numerous recent public appearances, raised questions about how much he will resume a leadership role.

Castro, who turns 84 in a week, arrived on the arm of a subordinate, waving and smiling as the crowd applauded loudly in unison.

''Fidel, Fidel, Fidel!'' the participants chanted. ''Long live Fidel!''

Dressed in olive-green fatigues without military insignias, he immediately took the podium and delivered a fiery 11-minute speech on his fears of an impending global nuclear war. He implored Obama and other wealthy nations to make sure such an event never happens.

Castro then took a seat next to Parliament leader Ricardo Alarcon -- instead of sitting in the chair that parliament members leave empty in his honor during his absence. Current President Raul Castro sat on the other side of the stage, where he listened intensely and took notes as his older brother spoke.

Lawmakers followed the speech with enthusiastic remarks to Fidel Castro about how fully recovered and healthy he appeared. They also commented on the topic at hand.

Asked by one parliamentarian if Obama would be capable of starting a nuclear war, Castro replied, ''No, not if we persuade him not to.''

He patted his hand on the desk for emphasis, then fell silent, seemingly surprising a crowd long accustomed to the hourslong speeches for which he was famous during his 49 years in power.

Castro's participation in Saturday's legislative session marks the bearded revolutionary's first official government act -- and his first joint appearance with Raul -- since his emergency intestinal surgery in 2006.

It was bound to raise questions about his future role in the government. Even before he confirmed his attendance at this weekend's gathering, top leaders and state media had begun calling him ''commander in chief,'' a title he had largely shunned since relinquishing power.

Fidel Castro was Cuba's unquestioned, unchallenged ''maximum leader'' for 49 years, starting after his band of rebels toppled Fulgencio Batista on New Year's Day 1959.

Following his surgery, he dropped from sight and ceded power to Raul, five years his junior. Rumors about his health swirled as he remained for years in near seclusion.

Recently, however, the former Cuban leader has been making near-daily appearances in and around Havana: He has addressed groups of Cuban intellectuals and Communist Youth meetings, and even made a trip to the Havana aquarium for a dolphin show.

Castro, who has written on the topic of nuclear war for months, maintains that the United States and Israel will attack Iran and that Washington could also target North Korea. He has suggested the conflict could have Armageddon-like consequences for the whole world, even predicting in several opinion columns that fighting was to already have begun by now.


5) Coverage Turns, Cautiously, to Spill Impact
August 6, 2010

And on the 106th day - after all the top kills and top hats and junk shots - the runaway oil well in the Gulf of Mexico finally seemed close to being tamed. Or was it?

It could be "the beginning of the end," Katie Couric told viewers Tuesday on the "CBS Evening News." The same phrase, with an extra "perhaps" attached to it, was used over on "NBC Nightly News." But Diane Sawyer did away with the caveats on ABC.

"Final fix," she declared Tuesday on "World News Tonight." "Tonight the permanent seal of the oil spill is under way."

Newsrooms are grappling with the same questions that the rest of the country is, after spending months watching oil gush into the water: Is the oil spill really over? And how damaging will it ultimately be to the gulf's environment and economy?

The conundrum for television, print and online journalists alike has been that no one wanted to declare "Mission Accomplished" on the gushing oil portion of the calamity prematurely. But no one wanted to be the last to report that the leak had been plugged.

Assuming the current cement plug holds, any number of dates could qualify as the end of the spill. No significant oil has leaked since the well was tightly capped in mid-July, officials said - an event "NBC Nightly News" also said "could be the beginning of the end."

This week's "static kill," an effort to plug the well with mud and then cement, seems to have worked. But the final stake through the heart - the relief well being drilled to make sure the well is dead - is not expected until later this month.

Then there is the once-bitten, twice-shy phenomenon, some news executives said, citing all the false starts and overly optimistic predictions of the past three months - the initial claim that there did not appear to be a significant oil leak, the vastly underestimated early guesses of how much oil was pouring into the gulf, the overly rosy assessments of past efforts to stanch the flow.

But by Friday, the seal seemed to be holding. Even The Times-Picayune - which has defended local interests in New Orleans and the region by casting a skeptical eye on any premature efforts to declare the crisis over - ran an upbeat headline on Friday's front page: "End in Sight as Cement Pumped into Rogue Well."

Now the coverage will shift from engineering to the environment and the economy.

"It's clear that one part of this story is over, and I think that's all fine and good, and it took a very long time," said Jon Banner, the executive producer of "World News." "I think it's also clear that another part of this story is far from over."

With the oil contained, possibly for good, another front has opened in the coverage: questions of how much oil is left in the water, and how damaging it will prove.

Time magazine ran a story questioning if the environmental damage of the spill had been overstated. When The New York Times reported that a federal study had found that nearly three-quarters of the spill had been collected, skimmed, burned or dispersed, some critics complained that it should have been more skeptical. Anderson Cooper, the CNN reporter who became one of the most visible faces of the spill, with weeks of coverage from the gulf, asked on his show last week, "Has the BP oil spill been overblown by politicians and scientists and media, including me?"

Recent reports that much of the oil seemed to have disappeared from the surface of the gulf prompted fierce reactions in the region.

"Some paint a rosy picture of crisis's end, but experts say looks can be deceiving," ran a front-page headline in The Times-Picayune. And a blog post on the Web site of The Gambitative weekly paper, suggested that the "most elemental concept of object permanence seemed to elude the national media."

"Kinda like when you're playing peekaboo with a baby, you know?" wrote Kevin Allman. "'Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it's gone away."

Andrew Tyndall, who tracks the evening newscasts, said that the Exxon Valdez oil spill got 203 minutes of coverage on them in 1989, the year of the spill. The BP oil spill, which sent far more oil into the water, also got far more coverage, he found: 1,100 minutes on the three nightly newscasts in just the first three months. In a provocative post last month, he argued that the coverage was excessive, compared with other disasters and major news stories, and suggested less national coverage. "Enough already!" he wrote.

News executives said that they had no intention of heeding that advice, and that they were committed to covering the lingering impacts of the spill.

"The story goes on," said Bob Epstein, the executive producer of "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams," who has crews living on house boats in the region. "Yeah, the Coast Guard and BP have certainly been successful at cementing the well, and the final kill, or whatever they are calling it, happens in a week or so, but we have not scaled back our commitment to the story."

And there is no guarantee that the "killed" well would not be revived some day.

A BP official left open the possibility that the company could drill again someday in the same area, a mile beneath the surface.

"There's lots of oil and gas here," the company's chief operating officer, Doug Suttles, said, according to The Associated Press. "We're going to have to think about what to do with that at some point."

BP later clarified, saying that the future use of the reservoir was not currently under consideration.


6) U.S. Lost 131,000 Jobs as Governments Cut Back
August 6, 2010

With the departure of thousands of temporary Census workers and thousands more let go by state and local governments, businesses could not rescue the American labor market in July.

Over all, the nation lost 131,000 jobs last month, according to the Department of Labor, which also said that June was far weaker than previously indicated.

Private employers added 71,000 jobs last month, but those figures were overtaken by the 143,000 cut as the Census wound down. It is also about half the number that economists say is needed to simply accommodate population growth, so the tepid job increases cannot begin to plug the hole created by the loss of more than eight million jobs during the recession. The unemployment rate, in fact, remained stuck at 9.5 percent in July.

"The private sector is still hobbled," said Robert A. Dye, senior economist at PNC Financial Services Group in Pittsburgh, "and certainly is not nearly strong enough to overcome the drain on the government side."

Government figures released last week confirmed that the American economy slowed in the spring, and the latest jobs numbers suggested that the weakness continued into the early summer. With economists and politicians fervently arguing over whether the economy is poised for liftoff or stalled on the runway, Friday's jobs report did little to end the debate.

Some economists are talking about the risk of a "double dip" recession, and the political stakes for the Obama administration are rising as the midterm elections tick closer.

In remarks made while visiting Gelberg Signs, a small business in Washington, President Obama acknowledged the uneven pace of the economic revival.

"The road to recovery doesn't follow a straight line," he said. "Some sectors bounce back faster than others. So what we need to do is push forward. We can't go backwards."

Investors greeted Friday's lackluster report by buying Treasuries, a haven in uncertain times, and driving the yield on the two-year note to a record low. Investors appear to expect the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates low, perhaps for years, as unemployment remains stubbornly high. Stocks sold off in the morning, but rallied a bit in the afternoon, with the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index down about 0.4 percent for the day.

Many economists were surprised by the scale of layoffs by state and local governments, which cut 48,000 jobs in July. In the last three months, they have shed 102,000 jobs. The Senate voted earlier this week to approve a $26 billion package of aid to states and school districts, and the House is expected to vote on the measure on Tuesday. Economists pointed out that even if the bill passed, it would only stem additional layoffs, not induce hiring.

Government jobs are usually viewed as more stable than those in business, but severe budget shortfalls have hobbled state and local agencies.

"It just seems really drastic to me," said Michael Hidalgo, 33, who was let go at the end of July from the San Jose Fire Department. "Even though I knew there was a possibility, I didn't know that all the cuts would go through."

Although the nation's unemployment rate did not worsen, that was in part because people continued to leave the labor force, which means they simply stopped looking for work during the month.

The Labor Department greatly revised its headline number for June, widening the job loss figure for that month to 221,000 jobs, from 125,000. Private sector hiring in June, originally reported at 83,000, was lowered to 31,000.

Friday's jobs report renewed pressure on lawmakers to consider the next steps they might take to bolster the economy. Along with the consideration of aid to states, a fierce discussion is still to come about whether to let the tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush expire at the end of the year.

Recent indicators focusing on consumer confidence, retail sales and housing appear to put the economy in a holding pattern.

Earlier this week, a crucial index of manufacturing showed that growth had slippedslightly in July and chain stores reported anemic increases in sales. On the more positive side, auto sales increased 5.1 percent in July compared with a year earlier.

With corporate earnings rising partly on the back of cost cutting, employers are reluctant to give up profits. "So while corporate earnings were spectacular," said Allen Sinai, chief global economist at Decision Economics, "the job market just stinks."

July's labor report did admit a few shafts of light. The average number of hours worked in private sector jobs ticked up to 33.5 a week from 33.4 in June, suggesting that employers were squeezing more from employees. That usually presages hiring.

And average hourly earnings by workers on private payrolls edged up slightly to $22.59 in July, reflecting a 1.8 percent increase for the previous 12 months.

Manufacturing, which has been a relative bright spot in hiring the last few months, added 36,000 jobs in July. Automakers helped by keeping plants open that usually close during the month.

The number of people out of work for 27 weeks or more dipped slightly to 6.6 million, from 6.8 million, while the median duration of unemployment eased to 22.2 weeks in July, from 25.5 weeks in June.

The government's broadest definition of the unemployment rate, incorporating people who want jobs but did not search during the month, was unchanged at 16.5 percent.

Some economists say a slow recovery is inevitable, given the damage done by the financial crisis. Consumers, who account for about two-thirds of economic activity, have been reluctant to spend while still paying off debts racked up during the boom. Consumer credit shrank in June, the government reported on Friday, as it has for nearly two years.

"We forget that when you go from trying to move a rock with a lever and trying to move it with your bare hands, you might eventually be able to move it with your bare hands, but you're going to move it a lot more slowly and a shorter distance," said Jerry Webman, chief economist at Oppenheimer Funds. "That's the position we are in the American economy: our lever broke."

Even optimists were discouraged by Friday's report. "No question about it, the three-month average of adding 50,000 jobs is disappointing versus almost anybody's expectations," said Robert J. Barbera, chief economist of Mount Lucas Management, who has said that the economy is on track for sustained recovery. "And certainly it's less than half of what you need to keep things stable."

A prominent pessimist, Jan Hatzius, chief United States economist for Goldman Sachs, lowered his forecast of economic growth for 2011 to 1.9 percent, from 2.5 percent.

"This economy is absolutely appalling," said Mary Moore, 39, who has been applying for jobs as an administrative assistant in Norfolk, Va., since she lost her job at a publishing company in May 2009. Ms. Moore, who can collect unemployment benefits for a few more months, is struggling to pay her $525-a-month rent and health care insurance, which recently nearly tripled to $379 a month.

"As an American I did not believe we would see times such as this," she said.

Peter Baker contributed reporting.


7) Minerals Service Had a Mandate to Produce Results
August 7, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - On March 5, 1997, an obscure federal official with a puckish grin entered a hotel ballroom here and greeted 1,000 jittery oilmen on what would prove a landmark day.

For years, fading interest in the Gulf of Mexico had punished the local economy and left Louisiana to mourn its "Dead Sea." Now, rising oil prices and new technology were setting off the deep-water version of a gold rush. Interest in drilling ran so high that the official, Chris Oynes, was heading into the annual lease auction with a record number of sealed bids.

In giddier times before the bust, his predecessor presided over the auction in a jaunty red blazer, but Mr. Oynes was far too conservative for that. Or so everyone thought - until he opened his briefcase and brought down the house with a size 46 scarlet jacket, an omen of the coming deep-water boom.

"They knew symbolically what this meant," Mr. Oynes said in a recent interview. "In Louisiana terms: 'Let the good times roll.'"

Now the gulf is reeling from the worst oil spill in United States history, after five million barrels of sludge escaped from a defiant mile-deep hole that BP finally cemented last week. Deep-water drilling has been temporarily banned. And the Minerals Management Service, the agency that led the way into the deep-water age, has been abolished, ridiculed as a pawn of the oil industry it was meant to oversee. The gulf office that Mr. Oynes ran for many years has drawn particular scorn.

The causes of the spill remain unclear, but a number of the agency's actions have drawn fire: it shortened safety and environmental reviews; overlooked flaws in the spill response plan; and ignored warnings that crucial pieces of emergency equipment, blowout preventers, were prone to fail.

The story has gained a bacchanal gloss because agency employees in Louisiana and Colorado took meals, gifts and sporting trips paid for by the industry, and several Colorado officials had sex and used drugs with industry employees. But the agency's culture was shaped by forces much bigger than small-time corruption.

For decades, Washington and Louisiana were joined in the quest for red-jacket days, and the minerals agency was expected to provide them. Washington got oil and royalty fees; Louisiana got jobs; and the agency got frequent reminders of the need to keep both happy.

Seldom do regulators work in a place so dependent on the industry they oversee. From the top of Louisiana's tallest building (One Shell Square) to the bottom of its largest aquarium (with a sunken rig), oil saturated the state's culture long before it covered its marshes. It is prized as a source of jobs and as a source of tax revenue.

While Floridians stage protests to prevent drilling, Louisianians stage a Shrimp and Petroleum Festival to "prove that oil and water really do mix." When Mr. Oynes's wife, Rena, won a teaching award, it was sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute. Across South Louisiana, regulators have grown up hunting and fishing - and working on oil rigs - with the people they oversee.

Few people have mattered more in that world than Mr. Oynes, 63, who held top jobs in the gulf office for 21 years and outlasted 11 agency directors before resigning abruptly in May. Many branches of government have parallel figures, little-known civil servants whose knowledge and staying power lend them great sway.

Cobbled together three decades ago from rival corners of the Interior Department, the minerals service had a three-part charge: issuing leases, collecting royalties, and overseeing the dangerous work at sea. His superiors in Washington set broad policy, but Mr. Oynes, a heavyset conduit of high energy, dominated the gulf with 12-hour days and a zeal for detail. His decisions guided which drilling plans would be approved, what safety checks would be required and how the platforms would be inspected.

Raised in conservative Orange County, Calif., he shared nothing of the Mardi Gras spirit for which Louisiana was known - only its belief in the importance of oil and its respect for the people who mined it. For years, he told associates that modern engineering made spills all but impossible and harmless if they did occur.

Since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, Mr. Oynes has made no public comments. But angry at what he called lampooning depictions of the agency, he recently broke his silence, offering his account of what happened on his watch. He aired many problems, but few regrets.

"I thought we had done a pretty good job of addressing the challenges that come with deep water," he said in an interview. "My opinion has not changed."

Mr. Oynes acknowledged that he had known nothing about a group of studies, some nearly a decade old, that cast doubt on the reliability of blowout preventers - the fail-safe equipment that failed in the BP spill. He could not explain why the studies, commissioned in Washington, had not reached him.

But he bridled at what has become the dominant story line: that a heedless group of derelict bureaucrats abetted catastrophe. In Mr. Oynes's counternarrative, a dedicated staff did all it could to safely coax oil from watery depths, mindful that it creates jobs, bolsters national defense and helps keep the lights on.

"That is a very noble mission," he said, while emphasizing that the gulf is a special prize.

"When people came down, new directors, whatever, I would try not to insult their intelligence," he added. "But I tried to make sure they understood we had a national asset they were managing."

"I can't tell you how many times we had that conversation inside M.M.S.: doesn't the public understand energy doesn't come from a light switch?" he said. "It has to come from somewhere before it gets to the light switch."

A Special Bond

If modern Louisiana history could be squeezed on a bumper sticker, this is what it would say: Louisiana _ Petroleum.

Or that was the message conveyed last year when Mr. Oynes joined other Interior Department officials at a hearing in New Orleans on offshore drilling. At hearings elsewhere, industry critics largely set the tone. But in New Orleans, a grandmother waited for hours to say, "Drill, and drill vigorously."

A school principal said the majority of his students' parents worked for the oil industry. A drilling engineer lauded the industry's safety record. "The incident rate for a real estate agent is higher than someone working on the rigs," he said.

As things go in Louisiana, the engineer happened to be Mr. Oynes's best friend.

Five states border the Gulf of Mexico, but Louisiana's bond with subsea petroleum is unique. Marshes blur distinctions between drilling on land and at sea. The continental shelf slopes gently. There are no white sand beaches to protect, only river mud.

In some states, drilling has been seen as a threat to native cultures. In Cajun country, it opened a door to the middle class - even as a typical offshore schedule (two weeks on, two weeks off) let workers still fish, hunt and farm.

"The industry didn't destroy the old culture - it saved it," said Diane Austin, an anthropologist at the University of Arizona.

What it did largely destroy, through cash and cunning, was significant political opposition. Local groups have typically been weak and small - no match for an industry that Mr. Oynes calls the "900-pound gorilla."

"We would issue standard notices to environmental groups, and they would never even come to a meeting," he said. "Arguing against oil and gas isn't going to get them anywhere."

As Congress debated the landmark 1978 law that governs offshore activity, Louisiana officials argued for a light federal touch.

"We have 20,000 oil wells off the coast of Louisiana, and we have been drilling out there for a quarter of a century," Senator J. Bennett Johnston, a Democrat, said on the Senate floor. "The so-called danger from oil spills has simply not been proved. Not only has it not been proved, it has been disproved, and we need to get on with that drilling."

Elsewhere in the country, the law requires companies to submit detailed proposals for offshore activities, called Drilling and Production Plans. In the gulf, it specifically forbids them. Though the minerals agency invented an alternative (a Development Operations Coordination Document), it provides for lesser levels of review.

Born of competing national concerns, the law outlines competing goals. One passage calls for the "expeditious and orderly development" of offshore gas and oil. The next adds a codicil: "subject to environmental safeguards."

While Mr. Oynes said he gave the mandates equal weight, many subordinates thought that he - like his adoptive state - favored one word.

"Expedite," he would say.

Technology Outpaces Rules

When Mr. Oynes arrived in New Orleans in 1986, Louisiana was in crisis. Oil prices had fallen by more than 60 percent in a single year, and discoveries in the gulf were dwindling. With unemployment in some parishes above 25 percent, sardonic bumper stickers entered state lore: "Last one out, turn off the lights."

The crash lives on in communal memory like a bout with a life-threatening disease - a reminder of how many organs fail when the offshore heart stops pumping.

After 11 years in the Interior Department's leasing program, Mr. Oynes knew the importance of offshore oil but was still surprised at how deeply it had seeped into Louisiana society. "It's subtle, but it's everywhere," he said.

His main interests outside work were church and his sons' swim meets, and both brought friendships with people in the industry. "Maybe 20 percent of the guys in the church worked in the oil patch," he said. Among the other swim team parents was his friend the drilling engineer.

Economic rejuvenation came slowly but accelerated in 1994 with the launching of Shell's Auger platform, a $1.2 billion marvel capable of mining oil through 2,800 feet of water and 19,000 feet of subsea sand and rock. It came amid a series of head-turning technological advances that, along with rising oil prices and lowered federal royalty fees, suddenly made deep-water drilling lucrative. The gold rush was on.

In 1997, Mr. Oynes's red-jacket auction brought the federal government $824 million and leased a record 1,032 tracts - numbers he can still recite as readily as his phone number. In 1998 he won a presidential award for distinguished government service.

Mr. Oynes was a lawyer, not an engineer, but he understood that the regulations lagged the technology. When Congress started its debate in the 1970s, the deepest well was less than 700 feet beneath the gulf's surface. By 2003, rigs were drilling nearly two miles down. The achievements inspired awe - even allusions to space exploration - but posed new safety and environmental risks that the agency had to address.

One internal problem it faced was a feeling among many staff members that swift action was impossible. One regulation had famously taken nine years to get through Washington. "It created a tone of 'Why should we try to have an aggressive program of regs?' " Mr. Oynes said. "I had to become a cheerleader: 'Now guys, don't give up.' "

Rather than issue formal regulations, the office often relied on weaker "Notices to Lessees and Operators," which were supposed to explain existing rules, not announce new ones. Mr. Oynes said the office got "very inventive" in stretching the reach of the notices but knew the industry "could file a lawsuit and we were vulnerable."

That frustration was compounded by a feeling that the agency's Washington bosses cared more about leasing - where to do it and how much money it would bring? - than they did about the challenges of getting the oil from the sea. That was true, Mr. Oynes said, under Republican and Democratic administrations.

"It's almost a given with a director that they don't know anything about drilling," Mr. Oynes said. "We would turn to each other and say, 'Headquarters isn't paying attention.' "

Despite the impediments - tight budgets were another - Mr. Oynes won what felt to him like significant victories. He got money to create a fifth field office, in Lake Charles, La. He hired a dozen or more new inspectors. (After the BP spill, the Obama administration is now talking of adding hundreds.) He won small amounts of money for new training and created retention bonuses to keep staff members in the 550-person office from decamping to the oil industry, where they could sometimes double their salaries.

Many accounts of the agency's culture have cited the "revolving door," suggesting that regulators pulled their punches in the hopes of landing industry jobs. A number of Mr. Oynes's senior lieutenants went to work for the industry, including his deputy, his chief of staff and heads of two of the four divisions. Two former agency directors went on to lead the industry's Washington lobbying group.

Mr. Oynes calls the criticism "totally off base," saying the role-swapping was limited and played no role in the agency's culture. But he added: "I find it pretty hard to imagine I would ever go to work for an oil company. I'm just not comfortable with that."

He considered himself a tough cop. When he learned that Shell was burning huge volumes of natural gas it considered too costly to bring to shore - cheating the government of royalties and wasting energy - Mr. Oynes called federal prosecutors, who won $49 million in royalties and fines.

Chevron howled in 2003 after the agency rejected a hefty bid for a deep-water tract. But Mr. Oynes backed the staff geologists, and the tract fetched more than five times as much the following year.

"We stuck to our guns," he said.

One agency practice now called into question is the use of a process called categorical exclusion to excuse individual drilling plans from intensive environmental reviews. Critics say the exclusions are meant for activities with no potential for environmental harm, not drilling in the ocean floor. BP got two categorical exclusions for its ill-fated well, one for exploration and one for drilling.

"What's missing when you do a categorical exclusion is the chance to consider alternative techniques," said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, which is one of several groups suing the agency over the practice. "You say there is only one option - the preferred option of the oil industry."

Agency officials say the sheer volume of gulf activity left them little choice: they issued up to 1,000 drilling permits each year, and environmental impact statements can take up to two years. Instead, they examined the safety and environmental issue posed by the drilling in wholesale fashion, before conducting the annual lease sales.

Decades had passed since the last big spill. Mr. Oynes saw no reason to change.

Tension Between Factions

As the gulf office adapted to the deep-water age, it was riven by a tribal split: engineers versus environmental scientists.

The engineers were action-oriented and confident; they trusted machines. The scientists were deliberative and academic; they worried about what they might not know. Engineers typically had local roots. Scientists often came from out of state. The engineers called their rivals the "free thinkers down on the third floor."

"We had huge conflicts," said Hammond Eve, who ran the environmental division for eight years before retiring in 2004.

Both sides knew which division held the power. The law gave the head of field operations - the lead engineer - the authority to approve exploration and drilling plans. To win changes, the environmental scientists had to work through him.

When tensions arose between the factions, Mr. Oynes cast himself as the neutral broker, but subordinates sensed where his instincts lay. "From my perspective, we can't sit here and talk about it forever," he said. "We have to get on with things." The result was a culture that favored trust over doubt, saying yes over saying no.

One day in a staff meeting Mr. Eve raised a question: with wells being sunk at ever-greater depths, what are the chances of a blowout, a catastrophic eruption?

Mr. Oynes said the answer would come from the head of field operations. "And later on the answer came back that it was impossible," Mr. Eve said. "They said the blowout preventer will take care of it." (That head of field operations, Donald C. Howard, was fired in 2007 for accepting gifts from a drilling company, and pleaded guilty to lying on his ethics form.)

Mr. Oynes expressed a similarly confident view in a 2003 interview with Tyler Priest, an oral historian at the University of Houston. Referring to a giant spill in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1969, Mr. Oynes said, "You could almost say it is impossible for that to happen again." Given modern cleanup technology, he added, "Even if you had a spill, how much harm is it going to do?"

Mr. Eve calls the comment "absurd."

"Chris shaped the program around that premise," he said. "The premise was wrong, and therefore the program was wrong."

He said Mr. Oynes, seeking to increase production, had fostered an office culture that was "pro-industry to the point of being blind."

Others saw his doggedness in a fight over seismic testing. The industry uses the tests to locate oil, but the high-decibel blasts can harm marine mammals. To authorize them, the minerals agency needed permission from the National Marine Fisheries Service.

When the fisheries agency declined to give it, the minerals group proceeded anyway - temporarily, minerals officials said, while the agencies continued negotiations. The fisheries service wanted the gulf office to require independent spotters aboard the seismic testing boats, with the authority to shut them down. Mr. Oynes grew livid, calling the idea costly and impractical and saying the boat crews could be trained as scouts instead.

"He was screaming at the top of his lungs," said a former agency scientist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he fears government reprisals. "He said, "N.M.F.S. is trying to shut down oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico!' "

The standoff with the fisheries service has now lasted eight years. Four environmental groups filed a suit against the minerals service in June, saying the seismic testing violates the law.

The clash between the agency's environmentalists and engineers dominated a project meant to guide the agency into the deep-water age, a two-year study of new risks called an environmental assessment. Published in 2000, it framed the agency's approach for the next decade. It reads like a document at war with itself.

It counted 151 well blowouts in the previous 25 years, about one every two months. It said a quarter had led to spills. It questioned the effectiveness of chemical dispersants and cited the difficulties of drilling relief wells. In noting that a deep-water blowout could take up to four months to control, it all but forecast the BP disaster: "Of particular concern is the ability to stop a blowout once it has begun."

Then it quickly silenced its own alarm bells, casting spills as a "very low probability event" and noting that companies had "speculated" that deep-water blowouts might cap themselves (because of loose sediment on the ocean floor). It saw no need for new safeguards or an environmental impact statement, a more rigorous review that would have included public debate.

Why not do one, just to be safe?

"I'm sure industry would have been very nervous," Mr. Oynes said, explaining that it took "some hand-holding" just to do the assessment. "If you start talking about an E.I.S., their alarm bells start going off a bit stronger: 'Oh my God, what is going on here?' "

Still, he said, had the study been necessary, the agency would have done it.

A Bureaucratic Bungle

For most of his career, Mr. Oynes, like his agency, flew beneath the public radar. But in 2006 he was dragged before Congress for his role in a costly mistake. For him, and for the minerals service, it forecast troubles to come.

To encourage production, Congress had passed a law in 1995 suspending royalties on deep-water tracts unless oil prices exceeded a certain threshold. But the minerals agency somehow dropped the threshold provision from two years of contracts. When prices unexpectedly rose, the companies pocketed billions of dollars.

The inspector general called the episode a "jaw-dropping example of bureaucratic bungling." While he placed much of the fault on the Washington staff, two industry representatives recalled telling Mr. Oynes about the omission. Mr. Oynes testified that he did not recall the exchange.

The incident has trailed Mr. Oynes ever since, but most accounts omit the coda. Congress drafted the law so poorly that the federal courts invalidated the thresholds for the entire five-year program, at a cost of up to $60 billion. Congress had derided Mr. Oynes while committing the greater mistake.

For Mr. Oynes and members of his inner circle, the episode only fed a notion they had of themselves as stoic sentinels on the petroleum frontier - forced to take flak unfairly, but there to get things done.

A year after his Congressional thrashing, Mr. Oynes was promoted in 2007 to a top Washington job. He felt like he was capping a storybook career. The Dead Sea had come to life, technology had made quantum leaps and there had not been a single major spill.

"It felt very good," he said.

Last year the Offshore Energy Center, a nonprofit group in Galveston supported by the oil and gas industry, inducted the minerals agency into its Hall of Fame for raising safety and environmental standards "in cooperation with the petroleum industry." The minerals service gave out safety awards, too. Last year one went to BP.

On the morning of April 21, Mr. Oynes got an e-mail saying that 11 people were dead. The news got worse from there. Nothing would stop the toxic geyser about a mile below the sea. The blowout preventer had failed.

Soon, news accounts focused on a trail of studies, a decade long, that had questioned the reliability of the devices. One, commissioned by the Washington office of the minerals agency, reported a "grim snapshot" that "illustrates the lack of preparedness." Mr. Oynes is still trying to understand why he knew nothing about them.

Time magazine placed him on its "dirty dozen" list of people most responsible for the spill. In New Orleans, The Times-Picayune reprised his role in the blown royalties affair. A congressman hailed his planned departure as a "an opportunity to begin anew."

Soon the inspector general's office released a report, long in the making, about the agency's Lake Charles office. It depicted an ethics-free zone, where inspectors routinely took industry gifts and did favors for industry friends.

They went hunting and fishing on the companies' tab, accepted company meals, went skeet shooting at the companies' expense, and in one case flew on a private plane to watch Louisiana State University in the Peach Bowl. (One employee said he knew it was wrong, but did it because he was a "big L.S.U. fan.") One inspector negotiated a job with a company while inspecting its platforms.

"Obviously we're all oil industry," said Larry Williamson, the district manager. "We're all from the same part of the country. Almost all our inspectors have worked for oil companies out on these same platforms. They grew up in the same towns."

On May 12, the administration announced that the minerals service was being abolished. It would be split into three agencies: one to issue leases, one to collect royalties and one to supervise offshore operations.

After decades of quiescence, Louisianians are suddenly appearing at oil and gas protests. But what they object to is the federal government's six-month ban on deep-water drilling. About 10,000 people gathered last month in the Cajundome in Lafayette as Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, urged them to "defend our way of life."

Two federal courts in Louisiana invalidated the ban (though the administration created a new one). While the accident "is an unprecedented, sad, ugly and inhuman disaster," wrote Judge Martin Feldman of Federal District Court, "oil and gas production is quite simply elemental to gulf communities." He said halting would have "immeasurable effects" on the economy.

At the Aquarium of the Americas, a beckoning riverfront attraction beside the French Quarter, curious crowds file through the Gulf of Mexico exhibit. The first thing they see is a sunken oil platform, with fish swarming about its barnacled legs. Dreamy music completes the message: symbiosis and serenity.

The Audubon Institute, which runs the aquarium, is the city's most prominent nature group, but the exhibit talks about oil as much as it talks about fish. It cites the taxes the industry pays, the number of jobs it creates and the utility of "a special fluid called drilling mud."

No one could accuse the group of distancing itself from its sponsors. A large sign credits six major oil companies for sponsoring the exhibit, led by BP.

Jack Begg and Kitty Bennett contributed research.


8) Jobless and Staying That Way
August 7, 2010

Americans have almost always taken growth for granted. Recessions kick in, financial crises erupt, yet these events have generally been thought of as the exception, a temporary departure from an otherwise steady upward progression.

But as expectations for the recovery diminish daily and joblessness shows no sign of easing - as the jobs report on Friday showed - a different view is taking hold. And with it, comes implications for policymaking.

The "new normal," as it has come to be called on Wall Street, academia and CNBC, envisions an economy in which growth is too slow to bring down the unemployment rate, while the government is forced to intervene ever more forcefully in a struggling private sector. Stocks and bonds yield paltry returns, with better opportunities available for investors overseas.

If that sounds like the last three years, it should. Bill Gross and Mohamed El-Erian, who run the world's largest bond fund, Pimco, and coined the phrase in this context, think the new normal has already begun and will last at least another three to five years.

The new normal challenges the optimism that's been at the root of American success for decades, if not centuries. And if it is here, the new normal could force Democrats and Republicans to rethink their traditional approach to unemployment and other social problems.

Some unusual suspects, like Glenn Hubbard, dean of the Columbia Graduate School of Business and an economic adviser to George W. Bush, are talking about a new, expanded role for the government in addressing the problem. In particular, Mr. Hubbard favors investing more in education to retrain workers whose jobs are never coming back. "If there is a new normal, it's more about the labor market than G.D.P.," he said. "We have to help people face a new world."

For his part, Mr. Gross, also a free-market advocate, believes that it's time for the government to spend tens of billions on new infrastructure projects to put people to work and stimulate demand.

After the recession and the financial crisis, Mr. Gross came around to the view that something structural in the economy had been altered and that the debt-fueled boom led by consumers over the past two decades was over.

Last week only provided more ammunition for his argument. On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner warned that unemployment could go up before it goes down, and on Friday, the jobs report showed that the economy lost 131,000 jobs last month.

Nearly half the 14.6 million unemployed have been out of work for more than six months, a level not seen since the Depression. That's especially worrisome because the longer unemployment persists, the more skills erode and the harder it becomes to find work.

White House officials, like Christina Romer, a top economic adviser to President Obama, have been busy speaking out against the idea of a new normal. "The fundamental problem we are still facing is the old cyclical, not the new normal," she said. "What you need to do to get back to normal is to find more ways to get demand up."

But the new-normal concept is gaining ground. "There is no way to know for sure, but there are broad reasons to think the new normal is possible," said Greg Mankiw, an economist who advised President George W. Bush and now teaches at Harvard. "We've had a deep recession that's lingering for quite a while, and the question is: Will it leave persistent scars?"

Laura Tyson, chief economic adviser to President Clinton, counts herself firmly in the new-normal camp: "I think we're going to have slower growth, a higher household savings rate and an elevated unemployment rate for several years."

Of course, one month's data is hardly conclusive. And highs and lows in the economy have always been punctuated by the observation that this time is different. But more evidence is emerging that the old normal of unemployment at about 5 percent during buoyant economic growth is over.

Not only are more people out of work longer, but their options are narrowing. Roughly 1.4 million people have been jobless for more than 99 weeks, the point at which unemployment benefits run out. "The situation is devastating," said Robert Gordon, an economics professor at Northwestern and an expert on the labor market. "We are legitimately beginning to draw analogies to the Great Depression, in the sense that there is a growing hopelessness among job seekers."

Professor Gordon doesn't foresee a quick turnaround. But the Obama administration predicts that unemployment will drop to 8.7 percent by the end of next year, and eventually sink to 6.8 percent by the end of 2013.

To reach that level, the economy would have to add nearly 300,000 workers a month over the next three years, according to Peter Morici, a business professor at the University of Maryland. Even in the first half of the year, when the economy grew at a healthy 3 percent, it added fewer than 100,000 jobs a month.

The problem is that the American safety net, which has been looser than those in Europe, was built on the assumption that unemployment would be short term. As a result, a rethinking is in order, said Mr. Hubbard, whose new book, "Seeds of Destruction: Why the Path to Economic Ruin Runs Through Washington, and How to Reclaim American Prosperity," is coming out this month.

The current approach, with its focus on payments over a relatively short period of time, he said, "came out of the world where unemployment was relatively temporary and then you went back to a similar position."

"That isn't what's happening today."

While he doesn't favor extending benefits, Mr. Hubbard supports more government spending on job training as well as help for community colleges to reverse the erosion of jobs skills among the long-term unemployed.

Mr. Gross is more expansive. "We think the coma will last for years unless government policy changes to restimulate the private sector and bring unemployment down," he said. He wants Washington to invest billions on infrastructure improvements and clean energy, along with the expanded job training favored by Mr. Hubbard.

Despite his long-held belief in free markets, smaller government and lower taxes, Mr. Gross said politicians must recognize that this time, "government is part of the solution." He added, "In the new-normal world, there are structural problems, which require structural solutions."


9) First Lady's Spain Vacation Draws Criticism
August 8, 2010

WASHINGTON - There is nothing like a little Mediterranean beach vacation to unwind. Unless you happen to travel with dozens of Secret Service agents, trailed by photographers and dogged by controversy.

Michelle Obama hoped to enjoy a quiet summer break in southern Spain with her younger daughter and a few friends. But the Andalusian getaway has gotten away from her as the European media document her every flamenco dance step and critics back home question the wisdom of such a lavish vacation, which involves at least some taxpayer money, in a time of austerity.

As Mrs. Obama and her entourage toured the picturesque southern city of Ronda on Saturday, the blogosphere has been filled with commentary about what many saw as a tone-deaf trip in the same week the United States reported the loss of 131,000 more jobs. "A modern-day Marie Antoinette," scolded a New York Daily News columnist.

The White House was reluctant to discuss Mrs. Obama's trip. The only official comment came from Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, at a briefing last week when he said that Mrs. Obama "is a private citizen and is the mother of a daughter on a private trip. And I think I'd leave it at that."

Privately, officials note that the first lady is paying for her own room, food and transportation, and the friends she brought will pay for theirs as well. The government pays for security, and the Secret Service, not the first lady, determines what is needed.

Officials said some reports of the trip had been exaggerated. Mrs. Obama is not traveling with 40 friends, one official said, but with two friends and four of their daughters, as well as a couple of aides and a couple of advance staff members. The staff is with her because she will pay a courtesy call on King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía on the island of Majorca on Sunday before flying home to Washington.

Every first lady in modern times has flown on government planes with a sizable security detail, and it is hard to pinpoint the cost to taxpayers. The Air Force jet she flew costs $11,351 per hour to operate, according to several reports, meaning a 14-hour round trip would cost nearly $160,000. The first lady would reimburse only the equivalent of first-class commercial tickets for herself and her daughter Sasha, the rest of the seats being occupied mainly by Secret Service. Officials said their friends flew on separate commercial flights.

Laura Bush took vacations without her husband each year of George W. Bush's presidency, traveling with her Secret Service detail on a government plane to meet friends for camping in national parks. But that never generated as much furor, in part because vacationing in the United States is not as politically delicate for American leaders and their families as doing so in foreign countries.

The Obama family traveled to Acadia National Park in Maine in July and plans to spend time in the Gulf of Mexico and on Martha's Vineyard this month.

"It's always very difficult to lead a private life when you're a public person," said Anita McBride, who was Mrs. Bush's chief of staff. "No one would deny any of our hard-working public officials an opportunity for a vacation. Everybody needs that. But I think the more expensive or lavish a trip might be perceived, the more criticism you invite."

While some Americans frown, the Spanish eagerly welcomed the Obama group, seeing it as a boost for a tourism sector severely hit by the country's economic downturn. Since her landing at Málaga's airport on Wednesday, Spanish media have covered the first lady's trip almost minute by minute, from a tour of the Alhambra palace to a stop at an ice cream shop.

Their Andalusian stay was to end Saturday night with a charity dinner organized and attended by celebrities like Eva Longoria Parker and Antonio Banderas.

Mrs. Obama and friends have been staying at the five-star Hotel Villa Padierna near Marbella, where at least 30 rooms were reserved for the entourage, including those for security. The hotel is one of Spain's more luxurious establishments, with rooms ranging from $500-a-night to a $6,600 suite with 24-hour butler service.

The Spanish excitement grew so much that the media reported one study claiming the publicity from her visit would be worth $1 billion for a country. The attention has gotten so intense that the Spanish newspaper El País chastised local authorities for showing a "puerile enthusiasm" for the visit.

Peter Baker reported from Washington, and Raphael Minder from Madrid.


10) Afraid of Deflation? Try Some Medicine
August 7, 2010

AS chatter has grown about the possibility of a double-dip recession, so, too, have fears about another "D" word: deflation.

Late last month, Jeremy Grantham, the chief investment strategist at GMO, an investment firm based in Boston, issued a warning about deflation after worrying for months that inflationary pressures were brewing. Mr. Grantham told GMO clients recently that as the recovery has slowed, "downward pressure on prices from weak wages and weak demand seems to me now to be much the larger factor."

In doing so, he joined a growing list of prominent analysts - including William H. Gross, the co-chief investment officer of Pimco - who've raised concerns that consumption may be postponed and growth thwarted if price declines occur throughout the economy.

Long periods of deflation are quite rare. In fact, before Japan's on-again, off-again experience with deflation starting in the 1990s, you have to go all the way back to the Great Depression to find another sustained bout of this trend in the developed world.

As a result, if deflation were actually to strike in the United States - and that is a big "if" - investors might not be able to draw from their own experience to determine how best to position their portfolios.

So what are investors to do?

One textbook strategy is to buy long-term Treasury bonds, which many people already appear to be doing as a hedge against general economic troubles. Yields on 10-year Treasury securities have plunged to 2.8 percent from about 3.8 percent in late April.

In the 1930s, this strategy proved successful in combating deflation, as long-term government bonds generated nominal total returns of nearly 5 percent a year, versus annualized losses of 0.1 percent for equities during that decade, according to Ibbotson Associates.

Strategists who've expressed concerns about deflation aren't necessarily predicting a return to protracted, Depression-era downward price spirals. "We're certainly not positioning for a Japan-like scenario," said Ben Inker, a colleague of Mr. Grantham's who is GMO's head of asset allocation.

Robert D. Arnott, chairman of the asset management firm Research Affiliates in Newport Beach, Calif., said that while a brief bout of modest deflation was a threat in the short run, inflation - or rising prices that eat away at consumers' purchasing power - remained the bigger long-term menace.

He said that growing fears over deflation made it more likely that policy makers would overreact in their attempts to stimulate growth in the economy. And that, in turn, means that "inflation is still what you have to worry about down the road," he said.

As a result, Mr. Arnott isn't focusing entirely on near-term deflation. Rather than buying long-term Treasuries, he suggests an investment in Treasury inflation-protected securities, or TIPS.

Mr. Arnott argues that if inflation begins to become a threat two or three years down the road, having the inflationary hedge of a TIPS bond will protect an investor against rising prices - which is something that a regular Treasury bond won't do.

In the meantime, individual TIPS are still government bonds backed by the full faith and credit of Uncle Sam. And even if Mr. Arnott is wrong and deflation persists for years, investors who buy individual TIPS will at least have the security of being able to recoup the face value of their bond at maturity, while still earning a yield of around 1.2 percent a year.

Now that's 1.6 percentage points less than what regular Treasuries of equivalent maturities are paying. But, Mr. Arnott asks, "What are the chances of inflation being less" than that for a decade?

If you truly fear deflation, fixed-income securities - because of their relative safety and the income they throw off - will most likely be better than equities, money managers say. But they note that investors need to be choosy about the types of bonds they buy.

Among corporate securities, investors should pay attention to companies' balance sheets. "You want to avoid highly leveraged companies," said Carl P. Kaufman, manager of the Osterweis Strategic Income fund. In a deflationary environment, a debt-ridden company would have to pay back obligations with increasingly valuable dollars. "In inflation, you're cheapening the value of dollars over time," Mr. Kaufman said. "In deflation, it's the opposite: dollars become dearer over time."

Fixed-income investors may want to focus on high-quality companies that routinely generate tons of cash. The same argument goes for equity investors as well.

Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at Standard & Poor's, says that in deflationary times, some stocks could actually post gains. Throughout the 1990s, when the Japanese stock market began to crater under the weight of deflationary forces, technology, telecommunications and health care shares rose on local markets.

INVESTORS who want to maintain their stock weightings should consider "high-quality, large, blue-chip companies that have balance-sheet strength," said Brian McMahon, chief investment officer at Thornburg Investment Management in Santa Fe, N.M. He said companies like Google and Microsoft often have an added advantage: dominance over their industries, enabling them to maintain their prices even if others in the industry start to lower theirs.

Stocks that pay dividends would also make sense, because the cash thrown off by these shares would be quite valuable in a deflationary environment.

In fact, said Mr. Inker of GMO, if investors really fear deflation, they might consider increasing the cash in their portfolios. "There's a strong case for building up dry powder," he said. "If something bad happens economically - whether it's deflation or inflation - that's generally provides a good buying opportunity for investors who have some cash to put to work."

Paul J. Lim is a senior editor at Money magazine. E-mail:



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