Category Archives: Uncategorized

Fitting end to semester

Hey all This is Nathan. I was the guy who sat by the door and was late to class way to often and also joined the conversation maybe more than my fair share. I am letting every one know that I convinced my boss to do an end of semester special for this class and their friends who are students. MUST BE 21!!! Sorry but the state of Colorado is real strict.

So bring your student I.D. and if you have anyone you want to come with you bring them also. I will be bartending and anyone with their ID will get buy one get one free from 9pm – 1am on Saturday the 13th of December.

The  bar is the REX Lounge. Below is a map and the X is us. If you need more directions or info call me at 720-225-7323

Tony, even though you don’t have a student I.D. you and your friends count also.

Hope to see you all there!

map-51

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Stop piling up on Obama

By Leonid Balaban

I made a comment yesterday in class and I wanted to reiterate this point in the blog: Lay off Obama – HE IS NOT THE PRESIDENT YET!!!

Only a month ago, Obama was elected to be the next President of the U.S. and there are still more than two months before he gets officially gets sworn in. Yet, there are pundits and ideologues from the Left and the Right who are already complaining about Obama, in terms of his government appointees and overall handling of the transition.

Here’s an article on the Huffington Post, in which the editorial writer wonders whether Obama has already broken his first campaign promise.

The Obama team’s decision to drop the idea of forcing oil and natural gas companies to pay a tax on their windfall profits has caused a firestorm among liberals and small business coalitions.

As first reported in the Houston Chronicle, Obama’s reference to a windfall profits tax, which he articulated during the campaign at a time of skyrocketing gas prices, had been removed from the transition team’s Website, change.gov

Jim Kuhnhen, an AP staff reporter, writes how some some Democrats are growing inpatient with Obama and his transition approach:

Democrats are growing impatient with President-elect Barack Obama’s refusal to inject himself in the major economic crises confronting the country. Obama has sidestepped some policy questions by saying there is only one president at a time. But the dodge is wearing thin. “He’s going to have to be more assertive than he’s been,” House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., told consumer advocates Thursday.

Kuhnhen continues that two Democratic senators who are desperately trying to salvage the domestic auto companies have said Obama could help move the process along and should become more engaged.

“The Obama team has to step up,” Sen. Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and one of the lead negotiators, said Nov. 21 in Hartford, Conn. “In the minds of the people, this is the Obama administration. I don’t think we can wait until January 20.”

David Sirota, a columnist for the Denver Post and other progressive/liberal sites, also complained about this apparent campaign broken promise

Between this move and the move to wait to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, it seems like the Obama team is buying into the right-wing frame that raising any taxes – even those on the richest citizens and wealthiest corporations – is bad for the economy. Of course, that frame is debunked by history. And while sure, it’s OK to rack up deficits so as to spend our way out of the economic crisis, it’s sorta silly to ignore the tax moves that could be implemented to limit those deficits where possible.

Matthew Rothschild, of Progressive.com, asks when is Obama going to appoint people who reflects progressive ideas and progressive base that overwhelmingly voted for him?

He won the crucial Iowa caucuses on the strength of his anti-Iraq War stance, and many progressive peace and justice activists worked hard for him against John McCain.

So why in the world is he choosing Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State when she was one of the loudest hawks on Iraq and threatened to obliterate 75 million Iranians?

And it’s not just Hillary.

Obama’s OMB pick, Peter Orzag, is a Clintonite disciple of Robert Rubin.

Obama’s AG pick, Eric Holder, is a Clintonite who represented Chiquita Bananas.

And Larry Summers’s name is still being bandied about for Treasury, even though Summers, while Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, forced the deregulation of our financial markets and imposed disaster capitalism on Russia.

I think the Left is going way overboard on this. Obama, in one of his press conferences, said that the change will come from him, he is the man in charge.

So before everybody jumps on his picks, I believe people should give him time to fail. And if he does, than there’s nothing wrong with criticizing him and asking for his head. But, jumping the gun and attacking the person who is not even on the job yet, is utterly unfair.

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Its not about the Jets

By: Brian Bohnert

After double checking to make sure the cameras were turned on and the hearing was being broadcast to a nationwide audience, the members of the House financial services committee proceeded to engage in a timeless congressional tradition: grandstanding.  “How many of you took private jets here?” one asked, “how many of you are thinking about putting them on Ebay?” quipped another, “couldn’t you all have downgraded to first class or jet pooled or something to get here?” smirked a third.  As other members gleefully piled on, the CEOs of the three major automakers sat sullen, like petulant children who had gotten caught being naughty.  Relive your childhood “I’m really disappointed in you, son” lecture here:

Like the obnoxious guy at the party that tells the same stupid joke because he knows it always gets a good laugh, each and every member had some comment about the private jets throughout the hearing.  Predictably, the evening news and late night talk shows picked up the easy sound bites and the “cooler talk” the next day centered around the general douchebaggery of the rich CEOs and then moved on to the more pressing news that Brittany Spears was making a comeback appearance at the AMAs.  While Congress certainly did a good job in pointing out the symbolic mistake, they missed a golden oppotunity to address the real problem with American automakers: their cars.  

While some have blamed the unions and others have blamed the fiancial meltdown, analysts need to look no further than the 8 mile/gallon mobile overcompensation machine known as the Hummer.  While the rest of the world was making the shift to more fuel efficient cars, American manufacturers stubbornly continued to stamp out the gas guzzlers that would lead to their eventual demise.  After visiting Germany in the summer of 2006, I was struck at how small the cars on the streets were and how few SUVs clogged the highways.  Even the trucks that were used for delivery or construction were much smaller then Ford’s Excursion or Chevy’s enormous pickups.  The tiny Smart Car was a regular occurrence and people did not endure the juvenile ridicule of poltical rivals if they drove a hybrid.  

When I came back state side, I was keenly aware of how large the vehicles around me were – and how many of these vehicles carried around one person at a time.  When I turned on the TV, Jeep was advertising the new Cherokee SR8, the least fuel efficient jeep ever produced (but hey it had a Hemi and makes alot of noise guys…SWEET!), while Toyota was rolling the Prius off the assembly line.  GM’s solution to the highest gas prices in a decade?  “We’ll buy your gas for a year!!!”  American consumers were never asked to change their behavior and the automakers fought congressional efforts to make fuel standards stricter.  

Furthermore,  the old men at Ford continue to scratch their balding heads and wonder why young people don’t buy their cars.  Market research makes it pretty clear that young people are more image conscience than most yet Ford has the same logo that they had WHEN THE MODEL T CAME OUT!!!  Toyota?  they invent an entirely new brand (Scion) to market exclussivly to the young, hip, loud music set with great success.  While a logo does not make or break a car, its a symbol of the lack of innovative thought that American companies need to stay compettive.  Couple that with the fact that American cars are less reliable and have more recalls than foreign cars and you get 3 CEOs begging for cash to bail them out.

So what now?  When he is not pandering for votes in Michigan, Mitt Romney tells Detroit to take a hike while other Republicans refuse to support a detroit bail out.  The results of this would be catastrophic according to some analysts who predict the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs by the time you factor in part suppliers and retailers.  Obama is a bit more pragmatic at this point and has sent a message to Detroit that they need to make changes that should have been made years ago.  So this week, the CEOs stocked up on beef jerkey, made a sweet mix tape and roadtripped back to DC – this time trading in the private jets and rolling into town driving Hybrids.

While there is still hope for American autos (at least according to this guy)  there needs to be fundamental changes in the way we look at driving and the type of fuel standards that we demand from the cars we buy.  American car companies need to ditch the SUV or make them more fuel efficient.  They need to innovate and stay current with style trends to attract new buyers.  They need to hire the best and the brightest to live in a green economy and yes, they may even have to get rid of the private jets and lavish salaries for their CEOs.  That being said, I’m still going to buy a Subaru.

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More Prop 8… in theatrical form!

by Shawn Scanlon

Prop 8 continues to be a hot issue, well after the election, with a recent poll showing that religion and class played a larger role than race did in how voters decided on Prop 8.  Food for thought, anyway.

Also, I found this to be an entertaining video, and I’m hoping that you do as well!

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the headline on January 19, 2009?

~Kelly Karpenske

“Will that be the headline on January 19th, 2009? Before he leaves office, will President Bush use his pardoning power to save the members of his administration from legal action?”

Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution gives the president “Power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.” A pardon removes both punishment and guilt.

The president’s power to grant amnesty and pardons is unlimited. Congress or the courts cannot block any individual reprieves or pardons. The Framers of the Constitution created the pardon power as having a narrow purpose in times of war and rebellion. Alexander Hamilton argued in the Federalist Papers No. 74, “In seasons of insurrection or rebellion, there are often critical moments, when a well-timed offer of pardon to the insurgents or rebels may restore the tranquility of the common wealth; and which, if suffered to pass unimproved, it may never be possible afterwards to recall.”

The pardon power has been used as the Framers reasoned them for; George Washington pardoned leaders of the Whiskey Rebellion, and Andrew Johnson pardoned Confederate soldiers following the Civil War.  In 20th century, Jimmy Carter pardoned those who had evaded service in the Vietnam War; however, it has also been used, as they did not foresee. A long succession of presidents has used the pardon power much more broadly.  Bill Clinton is only the most recent president to use the pardon power to forgive a wide range of criminal offenses. Many more pardons have been controversial. Gerald Ford preemptively pardoned Richard Nixon for his actions in the Watergate Affair in 1974 for any crime he “may have committed.”  George Bush’s 1992 pardons of six Reagan administration officials involved in the Iran-Contra Affair, including Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. Bill Clinton granted 395 pardons during his presidency, comparable in number to other recent presidents. However, of that total 140 were issued on his final day in office.

President Bush stands out in contrast to his predecessors. He has already denied more pardon and clemency petitions than any post-World War II president. In his first seven years in office, he rejected 5,966 requests, almost twice as many as Bill Clinton did in eight years, five times more than his father did in four years, and almost five times as many as Ronald Reagan did in eight years.

President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney stand accused of 39 grave and impeachable offenses, including war crimes, torture, warrant less wiretapping, and outing a covert CIA operative.

Most of these offenses are felonies for which Bush and Cheney can be criminally prosecuted after they leave office. But prosecutions will be impossible if Bush issues blanket pre-emptive pardons for Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, other senior officials.

Senior intelligence officers are lobbying President Bush to issue pre-emptive pardons for intelligence officers who followed his orders in the torture of terrorism suspects, according to a former CIA officer. “He gave them the green light to fight tough,” the officer said. “The view of many in the intelligence community is that he should not leave them vulnerable to legal censure when he leaves.”

In addition to CIA and military officers, others could include David Addington and William Haynes.

Such a pardon would decrease the risk that any future administration might take on a criminal investigation of operatives or policy makers involved in programs that administration lawyers have said were legal but that critics say violated a multitude of laws.

There is growing conjecture that Bush will issue pardons for the unlawful domestic surveillance program and torture program in his waning days in office. This pardon would be welcomed not only by his allies but some Democrats who have previously blocked any serious investigation into alleged crimes by the Administration. The pressures for pardons may be increasing with some Democrats publicly talking about serious investigations.

A “blanket pardon” would raise serious constitutional and criminal questions, though there was some model in the Kennedy and Carter administrations. One possibility being discussed is the use of a blanket pardon that would not individually name people but cover anyone associated with the unlawful programs.

Some legal analysts said Bush might be hesitant to issue such pardons because they could be seen as an unspoken admission of guilt.

“Before leaving office it is suspected that George W. Bush will issue a mass pardon, the largest collection of presidential pardons in American history. Bush will pardon Vice President Cheney, and a long list of officials involved in torture, eavesdropping, destruction of evidence, the CIA leak case and a range of potential crimes. On the destruction of evidence, disappearing e-mails, claims of executive privilege that most likely will be denied by the Supreme Court, false testimony to Congress the list goes on and on.”

There is an important point to this, often not recognized in official Washington during the Bush years, where the unthinkable becomes a way of life, and acts have been done that have never been done by an American president or administration.

He will want to protect all those in his administration. For eight years his administration has sought to work in secrecy, using executive privilege as a claim to prevent Congress and the Justice Department from investigating the members of his administration.

The presidents ratings are already low enough that he wont care who he angers before he leaves office.

Presidential pardon power is nearly unlimited under the Constitution. The Founding Fathers clearly anticipated a corrupt President might pardon his co-conspirators, and specified impeachment as the remedy.

James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution, claimed “if the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds to believe he will shelter [pardon] him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty.”

A post-inaugural impeachment would prohibit those impeached from ever holding federal office, either elected or appointed. Arguably, impeachment would also nullify pre-impeachment pardons and permit prosecutions. Finally, impeachment would tell future Presidents they cannot abuse their pardon power to put themselves above the law.

Meanwhile, Democrats are proposing yet another commission to investigate the program.

“However, even with a blanket pardon there is still risk of consequences for the Administration. Torture violates international law, domestic law, statutory law, customary law, American law, European law — the list goes on. Eavesdropping without court order violates a statute, FISA, that includes severe criminal penalties. If the courts ultimately conclude that these laws were broken, considering the number of individual violations, and the penalties for each violation, the potential sentencing liability for anyone convicted would be huge.”

There will be a huge legal debate about the ability of a president to issue pardons so sweeping in their language that they cover all these potential areas of legal liability, and very possibly, it cannot be done.

But will Bush attempt it? Here is a list of some possibilities:

Donald Rumsfeld, Scooter Libby, Alberto Gonzales, Karl Rove, John Yoo, and Dick Cheney

Conrad Black (fraud and obstruction of justice)
– Jose Compean (illegal arrest of an alien)
– Gilmer Hernandez (civil rights violation).
– Michael Milken (securities and reporting violations) Application in.
– Julius Nasso (conspiracy, extortion)
– Tom Noe (illegal campaign contributions)
– O.Henry (embezzling bank funds)
– Leonard Pielter (double murder of FBI agents)
– George Ryan (corruption)
– David Safavian (lying to investigators)
– Richard Scrushy (corruption)
– Don Siegelman (corruption)
– Jeffrey Skilling (fraud, conspiracy, insider trading)
– Ted Stevens (violation of ethics laws)

If you think the president should be held accountable for his actions and that there is possibility that congress should impeach him, write your congress man, you have more influence than you might think.

http://www.propublica.org/article/i-beg-your-pardon-1120/

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Civil Unions < Marriage

Due to the recent passage of Proposition 8, the class (and nation) has had a lot of discussion of the issue of Gay Marriage.  We haven’t really focused on what rights Gay Couples are not permitted to have.  This is a quite brief rundown on why Civil Unions are lacking as an answer to one of the Civil Rights issues in our time.

 

Civil Unions do not (and are unable to) confer federal rights.

 

With regard to taxes, couples in a civil union can file a joint tax return, but they can’t do so for federal taxes.  It is oftentimes advantageous for couples to be able to file jointly; gifts to a partner or other transfer of assets can be taxed in a civil union.

 

When one’s partner dies, it is procedural for the survivor’s social security benefits to increase to a level commensurate with the couple’s earnings, rather than just the survivor’s earnings.  From a personal standpoint, I have seen the positive impact of such a program: my Grandmother has been on survivor’s benefits (as well as SSI) for years.  Those couples in a civil union can’t collect survivor’s benefits.

 

Health insurance issues are another example of missing rights.  (Deep breath)  Ok, here we go.  This one’s a bit of a doozy, as this is the most complex of the issues surrounding the inadequacy of civil unions.  Here are a couple of concerns regarding civil unions and health insurance:

  • Employers can choose whether or not they would like to provide health insurance benefits to spouses in a civil union if their private health plans are not subject to state law.
  • Even if subject to state law, most states do not compel employers to cover spouses in civil unions.

Additionally, in places like Vermont, children born to couples in a civil union are presumed to be the child of both members in the civil union.  This presumption is not present in other states; the couple would likely have to go through the adoption process.  This seems complex, but let me give an example:

  • Kristin (a woman) has a child while in a civil union with another woman, Jamie.
  • They decide together to name their baby girl Madison.
  • If the couple separates, and Kristin moves to Pennsylvania with Madison, then Jamie will not be presumed as a parent to the child.
  • This means that although the child was born while the parents were in a civil union, Kristin would have the ability to deny Jamie the right to visit, even if Jamie was willing to move to Pennsylvania to remain close to little Madison.

I believe that we all want to find love someday.  If I find that, my friends, family, and society should be happy, regardless of who it is.

 

Shawn Scanlon

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Poison

By: Joe Oglesby

The bubble has burst and now the giant ball of yarn is unraveling. The latest victim is the auto industry. Not the auto industry as a whole, however. The companies that are at capitol hill begging for a bailout of their own are what will be referred to for the remainder of this blog as the big three; Chrysler, Ford, and GM.

This past week the big three have been asking for a twenty five billion dollar lifeline that would be appropriated from the seven hundred billion dollar bailout afforded to Wall Street to aid in the credit crisis. But why is it only these three companies who are out being vocal, where are Toyota, Hyundai, and Nissan? The latter three companies do not have the financial burden that the big three do. The financial burden is coming from within a single source, the United Auto Workers union (UAW).

The UAW and the big three have a contract over a half century old that is suffocating and stunting the growth of these companies in the states. The blame is not a blanket on the whole union, but rather on one aspect; legacy costs. Legacy costs are the retirement plans and benefits defined under the current contract. Mike Rosen of 850 KOA spoke about this in the first hour on his morning radio program on Thursday the 13th of November. He cited two people Greg Lewis and Mark Perry during the segment.

Greg Lewis of the Washington Times wrote “The financial burden thus incurred weighs down their balance sheets to such a degree that, even if the industry in which they compete were thriving, it would be extremely difficult to maintain long-term profitability.” Greg continues on the article about compensation. GM currently has around 450,000 retirees; this is three times the amount of current employees. GM must provide pension plans and medical care for all of these retirees. It is estimated that the total cost comes out to around eighty billion dollars per year. Toyota, on the other hand, currently has approximately one thousand retirees and as the number of retirees grows the cost of pension plans from Toyota will be zero. The reason for this is that the employee is responsible for their retirement account and not the employer.

Mark Perry is professor of economics and finance at the School of Management at the University of Michigan. He brings up that the average labor cost of the big three is around $145,000 per year while the average labor cost at Nissan per year is only $96,000. Mark also discusses the average pay relative to other careers. The average UAW employee with a high school diploma makes 57.6 percent more compensation than the average university professor with a PhD and 52.6 percent more than average worker at Toyota, Honda, or Nissan.

Mike Rosen also briefly cites Steve Miller. Steve Miller is a turnaround specialist and was in charge of the restructuring of Del Phi after it severed from GM. Steve said “we can not continue to pay sixty five dollars an hour for someone to cut the grass and have the company remain competitive.” What Steve is referring to is that under the current contract the UAW employees that mow the grass and clean the toilets receive the same compensation, both in pay and pension, as a worker on the assembly line.

Throwing more money at the auto companies only puts the companies on life support as long as they have to throw away eighty billion dollars a year on retirees; a number that will continually grow exponentially if left unchecked. By having the companies file bankruptcy the company can be restructured to emulate the new state of the art factories that are not currently possible because of the unions. The underlying problem must be addressed in order for the companies to not only survive but prosper. The poison that is the United Auto Workers union must be flushed out of the system.

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