The U.S. securities industry will suffer a 23% decline in earnings next year, as a slowdown in corporate profits and overall economic growth combine to curb Wall Street activity, according to a new report.
SanJoseLady over at dKos is sick and angry after compiling a very short list of representative Iraq coverage on just one week's events in Mess-o'-potamia. I think her anger is evidence of commonsense. (SanJoseLady's diary was part of the 9/29 "diary rescue" on dKos.)
Sam Harris' provocative commentary, "Head-in-the-sand Liberals," in the Los Angeles Times is a must-read. I applaud his publication of a simple truth: many American liberals who understand the threat posed from within the republic by the Religious Right are comparatively slow to acknowledge the threat posed from outside of the republic by Islamists.
I abhor violence, and I abhor religion-based law-making and public policy. Rather belatedly, most liberals in America now understand that a disconcerting number of their fellow citizens--that is, many (most?) evangelical Christians, Fundamentalists, and Pentecostals (collectively they might be referred to as the Christian Right or Religious Right)--distrust or dislike the legacy of much of the Enlightenment and the Western tradition of empiricism, and would gladly impose their religious-based views on the rest of America through law. (Kudos for groups like PFAW and people like Frederick Clarkson, founder of Talk To Action, and Joan Bokaer of Theocracy Watch for focusing on the rise of Religious Right many years ago when most liberals as well as the mainstream media remained seemingly willfully clueless.)
Many liberals now also understand just how much the Religious Right has influenced over the course of the last 30 years the Republican Party, and to a far lesser extent the Democratic Party, reaching new heights of influence during the Bush Administration. Some liberals also understand the fact that a relative fringe sometimes referred to as Christian Nationalists--a term Michelle Goldberg is helping popularize--are effectively theocratic, and that within that fringe a minority actually advocate violence. (See this chart of the sectors of the American rightwing.)
The term "Islamofascism" and similar terms, like "Islamic fascism," are somewhat in vogue. Some liberals lash out at the use of the term, others object to it as simply inaccurate. Some conservatives seem to revel in it. It's a term that's problematic at best (see a helpful consideration of the issue on the Political Research Associates' website). But the spirit of the term is correct: Islamists do promote violence and totalitarian states--in this case states based on literalistic interpretations of Islamic law.
But why are so many American liberals who understand the threat posed from within the republic by the Religious Right comparatively slow to acknowledge the threat posed from outside of the republic by Islamists, by reactionary conservative Islamic extremists? These Islamists hate liberalism probably more than almost any conservative evangelical. They want to see America's cities in flames. They hate. A lot.
This isn't a blindness limited to liberals in the US. Judging by what I hear on BBC Radio 4, which I listen to frequently, it's perhaps more widespread in the UK, where--thanks to George Bush's policies and the vast majority of the UK population's justified embarrassment at the style of Tony Blair's subservience to Bush--the real possibility exists of a generation coming of age having never encountered a positive view of the United States. Shouts of "We're all Hezbollah now!" was a leftwing reaction in the UK to Israel's brutal invasion of Lebanon. I believe that Israel's campaign was illegal from the standpoint of international law as well as unwise from the standpoint of Israel's own self-interest, but it was pathetic and despicable how the UK left rallied around a radical, anti-rationalistic, grotesquely misogynistic, terrorist organization that promotes suicide mass murder, fosters such murderers, and would just as soon see Britain sink into the ocean.
I leave you will Harris' words, excerpted from his commentary. I encourage you to read it in full (link above).
[W]e are absolutely at war with those who believe that death in defense of the faith is the highest possible good, that cartoonists should be killed for caricaturing the prophet and that any Muslim who loses his faith should be butchered for apostasy.
Unfortunately, such religious extremism is not as fringe a phenomenon as we might hope. Numerous studies have found that the most radicalized Muslims tend to have better-than-average educations and economic opportunities.
Given the degree to which religious ideas are still sheltered from criticism in every society, it is actually possible for a person to have the economic and intellectual resources to build a nuclear bomb — and to believe that he will get 72 virgins in paradise. And yet, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, liberals continue to imagine that Muslim terrorism springs from economic despair, lack of education and American militarism.
I would like to gloss MikeBaseball's diary over on dKos with a "call to action"-related link. I urge readers to contact American Airlines and its spokesperson Tim Wagner to express concern over what the apparently bigoted attitude of member of an American Airlines crew towards two passengers who happened to 1) be of the same sex and 2) show affection.
The threat from the crew to land the plane--citing security concerns--if the two men didn't stop "arguing" with a flight attendant seems highly exploitive and abusive, as well as condescendingly expressed, provided that events were accurately reported in this week's The New Yorker. At the very least, Mr. Wagner's insinuation that the two men were making passengers uncomfortable demands a clarification of American Airlines' relevant policies.
American Airlines overall has had a good record relative to corporate responsibility towards gay employees, and American is a visible sponsor of the Pride celebration in San Francisco. They had a large section in the NYC Heritage of Pride March in 2005, complete with a nearly Macy's Parade-quality balloon shaped like a plane. However, that positive record of the airline is all the more reason to contact American, which must be encouraged to continue to be a leader in treating gay employees and customers as equal in humanity and rights with heterosexual employees and customers. The following are only excerpts from the article mentioned. I encourage readers to click-through to the article on The New Yorker site and examine the article in full.
"On August 22nd...Ralph Jackson ([seat]21A) and David Leisner (21B) were returning from two weeks in France, while Huffa Frobes-Cross (21F) had stopped over in Paris on his way back from South Africa. Assigned to seats 20A and 20B were George Tsikhiseli, a television journalist, and his writer boyfriend, Stephan Varnier. ..... Shortly after takeoff, Varnier nodded off, leaning his head on Tsikhiseli. A stewardess came over to their row. “The purser wants you to stop that,” she said. “I opened my eyes and was, like, ‘Stop what?’ ” Varnier recalled the other day. “The touching and the kissing,” the stewardess said, before walking away. Tsikhiseli and Varnier were taken aback. ..... In the row behind them were Leisner and Jackson. ..... Leisner and Jackson, who were “astounded,” leaned forward to ask if they’d heard correctly. ..... Tim Wagner, a spokesman for American, said that the stewardess’s injunction to the men was reasonable, and would have been made whether the couple was gay or straight. “Our passengers need to recognize that they are in an environment with all ages, backgrounds, creeds, and races. We have an obligation to make as many of them feel as comfortable as possible,” he said.
On September 20, the House passed a bill (H.R. 4844) that would require people to show photo ID to vote in 2008. The bill isn't necessary, since voter fraud is not common. (The fraud is more likely to be committed by those counting votes or determining voter eligibility.)
I call this the PHOTO TAX, because it will require the poorest Americans, those most likely to not have photo ID, to purchase one. The purpose of the PHOTO TAX is to hurt the Democratic Party's chances in elections, since the rich are more likely to vote Republican, and the rest of us to vote Democratic.
This situation is well summarized by The New York Times' editorial board (see below). Oregon Congressman David Wu also summarizes the situation well. The situation from a legal standpoint is complicated by the fact that the right to vote is more implicit than explicit in the US Constitution. It tends to be more explicit in some state constitutions. Salon.com summarized:
Last week, a Missouri judge reminded the state Legislature that citizens of the state have a right to vote. And because it is a right, not a privilege granted by the powerful, Missourians can cast their ballots this November without having to meet identification requirements that seemed designed to make it harder for certain people -- the poor, the elderly, minorities and women -- to exercise that right.
That's the good news. The bad news is that this right comes from the Missouri state Constitution. The U.S. Constitution does not explicitly guarantee a right to vote, and our federal courts currently read the document not to include it. ..... Many middle-class whites don't realize that for the poor and minorities, voting can be a difficult and even scary proposition. I first learned this as a poll-watcher in 1976, when I saw a white registrar in Virginia solicitously asking a black voter whether he was sure his registration form had been properly filled out. "You know fraudulent voting is a federal crime, don't you?" she purred, smiling sweetly. Southern Republicans often blanket poor black neighborhoods warning would-be voters that they might be arrested at the polls if they have unpaid traffic tickets.
It is time to stop this horrible House bill, which is now on its way to the US Senate. Please contact your Senators and urge them to vote against the PHOTO TAX. A photo ID should not be a requirement to vote unless the US Government is first providing all eligible voters with a National Voter or Identity ID card bearing the holder's photo. To say to a poor American that he or she can't vote unless he or she has purchased a photo ID or can drive and has a license is WRONG.
The NY Times editorial against the Photo Tax:
One of the cornerstones of the Republican Party’s strategy for winning elections these days is voter suppression, intentionally putting up barriers between eligible voters and the ballot box. The House of Representatives took a shameful step in this direction yesterday, voting largely along party lines for onerous new voter ID requirements. Laws of this kind are unconstitutional, as an array of courts have already held, and profoundly undemocratic. The Senate should not go along with this cynical, un-American electoral strategy.
The bill the House passed yesterday would require people to show photo ID to vote in 2008. Starting in 2010, that photo ID would have to be something like a passport, or an enhanced kind of driver’s license or non-driver’s identification, containing proof of citizenship. This is a level of identification that many Americans simply do not have.
The bill was sold as a means of deterring vote fraud, but that is a phony argument. There is no evidence that a significant number of people are showing up at the polls pretending to be other people, or that a significant number of noncitizens are voting.
Noncitizens, particularly undocumented ones, are so wary of getting into trouble with the law that it is hard to imagine them showing up in any numbers and trying to vote. The real threat of voter fraud on a large scale lies with electronic voting, a threat Congress has refused to do anything about.
The actual reason for this bill is the political calculus that certain kinds of people — the poor, minorities, disabled people and the elderly — are less likely to have valid ID. They are less likely to have cars, and therefore to have drivers’ licenses. There are ways for nondrivers to get special ID cards, but the bill’s supporters know that many people will not go to the effort if they don’t need them to drive.
If this bill passed the Senate and became law, the electorate would likely become more middle-aged, whiter and richer — and, its sponsors are anticipating, more Republican.
Court after court has held that voter ID laws of this kind are unconstitutional. This week, yet another judge in Georgia struck down that state’s voter ID law.
Last week, a judge in Missouri held its voter ID law to be unconstitutional. Supporters of the House bill are no doubt hoping that they may get lucky, and that the current conservative Supreme Court might uphold their plan.
America has a proud tradition of opening up the franchise to new groups, notably women and blacks, who were once denied it. It is disgraceful that, for partisan political reasons, some people are trying to reverse the tide, and standing in the way of people who have every right to vote.
KEVIN JENNINGS: [2006's] senior class was in first grade when Ellen [DeGeneres] came out.... Any [closeted] teacher who thinks that the kids haven't figured them out is in complete denial. ..... [T]he young [straight] man who was co-chairman of [GLSEN's] National Advisory Council was knocked unconscious in his high school because he started a Gay-Straight Alliance and was speaking up on these issues.
INTERVIEWER (Priya Jain): Before you left your last teaching job, in the early '90s, you gave a speech in which you said, "We must ignore the voices that say we should be grateful for how far we have come, because they are the same voices that, a few years ago, wanted us to be silent altogether." It seems there's still a gay-rights backlash going on; how do you respond to it?
KEVIN JENNINGS: The more visible we are, the more we'll be attacked. And the more we are attacked, the more it will encourage people to organize and fight back and eventually win. So the kind of backlash we're seeing right now in gay rights, and that we've seen in other issues in the past, is an inevitable part of the process, and that is a sign that you're winning.
I always remind myself that Americans have all been raised to pledge allegiance to the ideal of liberty and justice for all. And eventually the disconnect between how we treat some people and those ideals becomes so overwhelming that the majority of Americans will say, "Enough, this has to stop." That's what led to the end of slavery, that's what led to suffrage, that's what led to the civil rights movement -- it's when people have the disconnect between the American reality and American ideals shoved in their face to the point they can no longer take it. That'll happen on this issue too, no doubt in my mind.
Kevin Jennings founded GLSEN; his autobiographical book has been published recently.
[T]he traditional realists in the State Dept., Pentagon, and CIA got it right and the neocon academics got it wrong. For example, Scott Ritter, the American Marine major who led the U.N. inspection team, said over and over there were no WMD. He was ridiculed by Wolfowitz, but the guy that got his hands dirty was right, and the clever academic was "dead wrong".
The final report on WMD requested by the President compares the Pre-War and Post-War conclusions of the CIA and Pentagon and finds the pre-war conclusions were "dead wrong." It agrees with the report of the 1400-member Iraq Survey Group report from the CIA/Pentagon, and explains the mistakes. Findings:
• Biological weapons destroyed in 1991. No bio-weapon program since. • No nuclear weapons programs. Capability to re-start degraded since 1991. • Undeclared chemical weapons destroyed in 1991. None manufactured later. • No intent to use unmanned aerial vehicles to deliver WMD.
The findings prove the U.N. sanctions and inspections worked almost perfectly.