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Jan 29: Egypt(!) and How to solve the foreclosure crisis
Jan 29th, 2011 by Sam

2011-01-29-samantha-clemens.Mp3

Guest:  David E. Kapell, founder of Kapell Real Estate & Antiques and former mayor of Greenport

Dave Kapell wrote this about the foreclosure crisis:

“THERE are many factors behind the mortgage crisis, but there is only one simple explanation for why we have failed to solve it. Any effort to help homeowners by forgiving some of their loans is said to create a moral hazard, rendering it politically toxic. But without help, homeowners continue to struggle, foreclosures continue to mount and the housing industry continues to drag down the economy.”  From Struggling Owners to Stable Renters, New York Times, January 19, 2011

So, what do we do?? We’ll talk with Dave about his modest proposal…

AND EGYPT! We’ll check in to see what we know tomorrow morning.

♦♦♦♦

To read more about Dave:

Success Is in the Grapes; From a Scruffy Past, a Winemaking Capital Emerges

Greenport Mayor Kapell learns on the job

East End mayor rehanging his shingle as broker

Aug 28: Pakistan flooding – is the world coming to the US? again?
Aug 27th, 2010 by Sam

2010-08-28-samantha-clemens.Mp3

The floods have been described as epic – more vast than Haiti, Katrina, and the tsunami…

Mercy Corps is an international aid organization based in Portland, Oregon and is right in the thick of things.

Joy Portella is director of communications and leads a team of professionals dedicated to documenting and reporting Mercy Corps’ work in 40 countries.  She has traveled to global hotspots including North Korea, the Gaza Strip and Haiti.

She joins us to talk about it all:

  • Describe the flood in US terms – if it happened here, what would it look like?
  • What are aid agencies doing – how does it work?
  • We hear conservatives complaining that everyone comes to the US for everything…What have other governments committed?  Are there aid agencies from other countries that are as involved as American agencies?
  • What is it like working with Pakistan?  Given the political tensions that exist right now, does that affect your work?
  • Is there ‘donor fatigue’ for this crisis, given how many other things are in the news – the Gulf of Mexico, etc.?
Don Leka: Our Independent Judiciary and Other Myths
Jul 5th, 2010 by Sam

Presented on July 3, 2010…

Let’s picture a country that touts the independence of its judges.  But whenever a citizen sues the government, say for breach of contract, and the government worries that embarrasing facts may come out during the litigation, then a standard ritual takes place.  A government official certifies that the case must be dismissed because State Secrets might be revealed in the course of the litigation.  So the judge dutifully accepts the certificate at face value and dismisses the case.  Now the question is:  what country are we talking about?

You might say it could be Russia, and this is a practice left over from the Soviet system.  Or you might say it shows that China still controls the judiciary as tightly as it controls internet access.  Or maybe the Ayatollahs in Iran are at it again.  But nay, I speak of The United States, the land of three co-equal branches of government as we all learned in school.  Except our judiciary has abandoned its independence when it comes to holding the government to the same conduct as all other defendants.  And the scary part is the judges do it consistently, enthusiastically, and with full patriotic fervor.

The State Secrets doctrine grew out of the case of McReynolds versus United States, decided by the Supreme Court in 1953.  Chief Justice Vinson wrote the opinion, holding that when a trial court receives a statement from a responsible government official informing him that the case before him would likely lead to disclosure of state secrets or information jeopardizing national security, the judge should give serious consideration – in other words, defer – to the request from that government official.  The McReynolds case was wrongly decided, a product of cold war hysteria.  But the thing about the law is, when a legal doctrine veers in the wrong direction it often fails to correct itself – the erroneous thinking just expands organically.  And so the State Secrets Doctrine has extended its reach over the years.  For example, the government doesn’t have to be a party to the case – it can intervene in a private suit between two private companies and get the complaint dismissed.  And the claim for privilege (and therefore dismissal) doesn’t have to involve classified information.  The government has successfully argued that the pattern of public information as disclosed during the litigation may reveal something to foreign spies.  And even if the plaintiff claims that it does not need and will not disclose any sensitive information for its case, the government simply says it can’t defend itself without revealing such information, regardless of what the plaintiff says.  Case dismissed.

So you can look at this doctrine two ways.  First, this certificate claiming a State Secrets Privilege is given by a responsible government official, and we know the offical would not falsify a claim because that would be irresponsible.  Nowadays in the Obama administration, a really, really responsible official – Attorney General Eric Holder – signs the certificate so we really, really know we can rely on it.  The other view says that our government is predicated on separation of powers – each branch is subject to checks and balances against the other branches.  This principle holds that the executive branch should not be the final judge of its own claim of privilege.

I suppose we could call this topic the ultimate moot point, since by definition no one gives independent scrutiny to the government’s claim – not even a judge, much less the media or the public.  So the claim can never be disproven.

But wait.  There was one instance where the information became available to the public, 40 years later.  And it happened in McReynolds vs. United States itself, the case that started the whole doctrine.  The case arose from the crash of an Army Air Foce B-27 in 1948, carrying several civilian engineers.  The engineers were testing out a guidance system for missiles – the system was not guiding the airplane, it was measuring accuracy along ground monitoring stations.  Widows of three engineers aboard the plane brought a wrongful death suit against the government for negligence.  The plaintiffs asked for a copy of the accident report – the report of the investigation conducted by the Inspector General after every airplane accident.  Lawyers for the Army Air Force refused to provide it, saying the engineers were on a secret mission (that much was true) and the accident report would reveal highly important military secrets.  They argued the material was so sensitive they were not allowed to share it even with lawyers for the Department of Justice who would be trying the case.

The trial judge used standard procedure when a party refuses to turn over relevant documents, even to the judge for independent scrutiny.  He defaulted the Government and went on to assess damages.  The government appealed, and the circuit court, again using standard precedents, confirmed the dismissal.  It was the Supreme Court, led by Truman’s poker buddy Fred Vinson, who reversed the judgment and sent it back to the trial court.

But in the interim the Records Department had declassified the accident report, using standard procedures, even while the case was going through appeals.  No one realized this, and the document sat in storage until President Clinton, in 1993, made most government records available to the public if they were older than 40 years.  And when the original plaintiffs (or their offspring) finally were able to read the report – guess what?  It contained not one word about the secret mission.  It was a damning catalogue of negligence and inattention, ignored safety upgrades, and sloppy maintenance and operating procedures that led the plane inevitably to fail while in flight.  The record makes it obvious that the Secretary of the Army Air Force perjured himself in his sworn declarations and government lawyers participated in defrauding the Supreme Court.  When the plaintiffs tried to point this out, in the late 1990’s, no court wanted to be bothered with this sort of challenge to our patriotic State Secrets Doctrine.  The denial of justice to the families of those engineers was a dead issue.

So, even though the state secrets doctrine was founded on a fraud, it continues to survive.  It was Coleridge who once said patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.  We now know that the scoundrel’s first refuge is claiming the privilege of secrecy.

This is Don Leka from the Cause and Effect World.

May 8: The border and the stock exchange!!
May 7th, 2010 by Sam

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Topic #1: Immigration!!!

Okay, okay, okay – the white folks in AZ are scared of the drug cartels. I GET IT!!!

So why do they think that pissing off the entire Latino population is going to help? The police don’t want it either.

Why don’t they LEGALIZE and regulate the drug industry and put the cartels out of business!!!! And, for those concerned about illegal immigrants from Mexico… don’t you think these people would STAY HOME if things were better? So, why aren’t they better?

Topic #2 Stock market plummets, then shoots up again!!! What the heck happened? What does it mean? What does this mean for my retirement? The global economy? Tom Shafer is a former specialist (trader) on the New York Stock Exchange who was involved with automating the exchange. He’ll explain what happened, how it affects us, talk about the battle over regulation, and what we should expect going forward (do you like roller coasters?).

He just might share his opinions on the border issue too (if we twist his arm).

Apr 17: Obama’s new policy on nukes – long overdue or threat?
Apr 16th, 2010 by Sam

John Loretz: Nukes

Russia and nukes – is the new policy a security threat or do you feel safer than we’re talking with our former enemies?  Can we team up with Russia and China to counter other powers we worry about…Pakistan, Iran, North Korea?  What about India, South Africa, Israel?

Does a country need nuclear weapons to be taken seriously?  If so, why wouldn’t Iran want them?

John Loretz, Program Director, IPPNW, will join us to discuss all this and more.  From his recent post :

The long-awaited Nuclear Posture Review released yesterday by President Obama is the most important and thorough re-evaluation of US nuclear policy since the Cold War. While it is not a blueprint for rapid nuclear disarmament, it marks the first time the US has made the elimination of nuclear weapons a guiding principle, focusing more on reducing the dangers of nuclear weapons than on finding roles and rationales for them. This is a very welcome and long overdue course correction.

Like the New START agreement with Russia, the NPR begins to anticipate a world in which nuclear weapons no longer exist. Nevertheless, the pace for disarmament set by this review, which is intended to establish the framework for US nuclear policy for 10 years or more, is still too slow.

and here:

All of the nuclear weapon states are modernizing their forces, sending a contradictory and provocative message to the rest of the world. Russia uses modernization for political leverage; China is reportedly engaged in a significant upgrade of its heavily veiled arsenal; the UK is still stubbornly (I’ve heard the word “stupidly” used) pressing ahead with Trident replacement despite the compelling arguments against doing so; and France, which has always marched to the beat of its own drum, is adding new nuclear capabilities across the board. India and Pakistan, if not exactly in an arms race, are busily adding to their own nuclear capabilities.

And check out this new briefing paper on the global climate and health effects of nuclear war…  Zero Is The Only Option.

John Loretz
Program Director

John’s career working on behalf of peace, disarmament, and environment organizations spans more than two decades. As IPPNW’s Program Director he is responsible for shaping and coordinating the federation’s nuclear weapons abolition campaigns, providing issue analysis, policy guidance, and advocacy support to affiliate groups and activists. He has joined physician delegations in London, Paris, and Moscow as an adviser on nuclear weapons and disarmament, and has written and spoken extensively on the issues. He is the Executive Editor of IPPNW’s journal, Medicine & Global Survival, and helped edit the book Humanitarian Crises: The Medical and Public Health Response, published in 1999 by Harvard University Press. A graduate of Boston College with an MA from the University of Virginia, John was Communications Director for Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament (WAND) in the early 1980s and at IPPNW’s US affiliate, Physicians for Social Responsibility, in Washington, DC, from 1986-1990.

Mar 27: Richard Wrangham: What makes us Human?
Mar 25th, 2010 by Sam

Audio

Guest:

We’ll celebrate healthcare for everybody and talk a little about the tea party-animals, which will fit right in with our guest…

What makes us human? Was it walking? Making and using tools? Planning for the hunt? Or, was it…..drum roll… cooking??

Yes, cooking – heating and cooking food – gave us a better diet, created social bonding, all sorts of things.

In Catching Fire, a reviewer writes:

“Wrangham says the adoption of cooking had profound impacts on human families and relationships, making hearth and home central to humanity and driving humans into paired mating and perhaps even traditional male-female household roles.
He writes that the advent of cooking permitted a new distribution of labor between men and women: Men entered into relationships to have someone to cook for them, freeing them up for socializing and other pursuits and bolstering their social standing. Women benefited from men’s protection, safeguarding their food from thieves. Homo sapiens remains the only species in which theft of food is uncommon even when it would be easy.”

He also wrote “Demonic Males.” Check this out:

“Whatever their virtues, men are more violent than women. Why do men kill, rape, and wage war, and what can we do about it? Drawing on the latest discoveries about human evolution and about our closest living relatives, the great apes, Demonic Males offers some startling new answers. Dramatic, vivid, and firmly grounded in meticulous research, this book will change the way you see the world. As the San Francisco Chronicle said, it “dares to dig for the roots of a contentious and complicated subject that makes up much of our daily news.”"

Maybe HE can explain the tea party-animals….

 

Mar 6: Guns and Burkas
Mar 5th, 2010 by Sam

What’s on my mind…

  • Guns – Is there a mandate in the Constitution for proper training on how to use guns safely?  Will the NRA be offering this free of charge to all citizens?  Who owns the bullets after they leave the gun?  (the shooter obviously, but…)
  • Banning the burka – should people be legally required to show their faces?  Any other body parts?  Where do you draw the line?

What’s on your mind?

Audio

Do we need affirmative action for guys?
Feb 16th, 2010 by Sam

“…in The Atlantic, Don Peck reports that last November nearly a fifth of all men between 25 and 54 did not have jobs, the highest figure since the labor bureau began counting in 1948. We are either at or about to reach a historical marker: for the first time there will be more women in the work force than men.”  David Brooks, New York Times, February 15, 2010

Unhappy, angsty guys… Funny… I bet a lot of them are conservatives, so following their logic, my response should be “Not MY problem!!!”

Except, it is. And will be. Angsty guys cause problems. The only positive… China has more of them and there aren’t enough women around, so their problem is worse.

Nov 7: Fort Hood massacre; “Good To Be God”, by Tibor Fischer
Nov 7th, 2009 by Sam

Segment 1

Fort Hood massacre. Florida massacre. The Dr. Tiller killing. Terrorism? Alienation? Religious? Hopelessness? What do they have in common? What is different? With unemployment is such bad shape, will there be more of these?

Segment 2

What does it mean to be good? And, should it be encouraged? Or, does that make it a career move, something you do like file your taxes or wash your hands in a public restroom? British novelist Tibor Fischer talks about his new novel “Good to Be God.” Yup, it’s about a guy pretending to be God, a British guy no less, in Miami. Who is trying very hard to be good. From a review in the Guardian:  ”When was the last time you saw hardened drinkers pass around a novel that asks some big philosophical questions?”

Podcast

Jul 11: 20th Anniversary of fall of communism
Jul 11th, 2009 by Sam

  • Hungarian-British novelist Tibor Fischer on the 20th anniversary on events in Hungary leading to fall of  Communism

About his novel:

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Under the Frog follows the adventures of two young Hungarian basketball players through the turbulent years between the end of World War II and the anti-Soviet uprising of 1956. In this spirited indictment of totalitarianism, the two improbable heroes, Pataki and Gyuri, travel the length and breadth of Hungary in an epic quest for food, lodging, and female companionship.

Reviews:

“Ferociously funny, bitterly sad, and perfectly paced.” —A.S. Byatt

“A delicate, seriocomic treasure.”—Salman Rushdie

“An audacious act of creativity….Of all the young novelists working today, Tibor Fischer may be the most adept at taking chances in his work.” —The Nation

and

  • Sam on global business
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