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To: Jerome who wrote (773)7/8/2002 12:07:14 AM
From: BWAC
   of 786
Prune the Shrub.

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To: BWAC who wrote (774)7/10/2002 4:24:26 PM
From: Jerome
   of 786
The Final Downgrade...Bush and Cheney Downgraded
(Compliments of Raymond Duray of the DYN thread)

Lou Dobbs downgrades President Bush
And so do I.

Editor's note: This week, Salon is proud to present the debut of Joe Conason's daily Web journal. Salon's longtime political columnist will bring his gloves-off approach to the news -- and to the Bush administration -- every day, updating it as events demand. One day a week, it will be available exclusively to Salon Premium subscribers.

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By Joe Conason

July 9, 2002 | I'm with Lou
If Lou Dobbs found the President's speech hollow and unimpressive, who am I to argue? The venerable CNN business anchor and commentator is a no-nonsense, flag-in-the-lapel kind of guy who doggedly defended Arthur Andersen against the "excesses" of the Justice Department. He's no left-winger. His instant reaction when Bush finished was that this represented yet another rhetorical exercise ("no capitalism without conscience") instead of a new reformist departure. He noted disapprovingly that the President had failed to mention the need to treat executive stock options as corporate expenses. I thought that amid all those sonorous fortune-cookie phrases ("no wealth without character") he offered a few decent proposals but I just don't find him credible on this topic. When George W. Bush talks about the importance of honest business practices and corporate integrity, it's like listening to Bill Clinton lecture about chastity. (Which Clinton would, thankfully, never do.)

"Can you ever give Bush the benefit of the doubt?" asked someone whose first impression of today's speech was better than mine (or Lou's). I suppose I could, except for one problem that gnaws. Until Bush resolves the questions about his role at Harken Energy and the subsequent SEC probe, he will have little moral authority to urge reform on corporate leaders -- or send any of them to prison. He was not exonerated by the SEC, but he might be able to exonerate himself by disclosing the case file. He didn't help himself by dodging that question yesterday.

Meanwhile his administration remains a haven for dubious corporate figures, from Army Secretary Thomas White to Vice President Dick Cheney, now under investigation himself by the SEC for his strange stewardship of Halliburton. Equally dim is the Bush record on "transparency," which in government means freedom of information and full disclosure of special interest influence. The attorney general issues new directives every month to shut off information from the public and the press. The vice president still resists the release of his Energy Task Force records, replete with visits from the minions of Enron and kindred companies. This is the opposite of transparency.
[Posted: 4:30 p.m. PST, July 9, 2002]

The President's ever-changing Harken story
What a time it is -- in this new dawn of "corporate responsibility" -- to be writing a daily journal online. My first deadline became easier to contemplate as I watched the president dodge his way through the Monday post-holiday White House press conference that punctuated his journey from the Kennebunkport golf course to Wall Street. George W. Bush, the ultimate American insider, has no desire to discuss the ways he made his millions. And his impatience with such impertinence is beginning to show.

Reading from an aggressive text prepared by Karl Rove, Bush tried to strike a tone of command within moments of stepping to the podium. Rather than badger him about ethical problems from his business career, he suggested, those Senate Democrats ought to get back to the nation's real business. They are playing politics, he suggested, while our troops languish without critical funding in a time of war. They should be passing his trade legislation, his energy bill, his pension protections and his defense appropriations, rather than asking questions about him.

But the ordinarily docile White House press corps, while chuckling appreciatively at the president's wisecracks, wasn't entirely buying that line. "This is recycled ... stuff," he said in response to the first question about his 1990 sale of Harken Energy stock, and the reporters laughed. The questions continued, however, and the answers weren't impressive.

George W. Bush has offered varying accounts over the past decade of his dealings as a Harken director. Back when he was running for Texas governor in 1994, he blamed the Securities and Exchange Commission for misplacing the disclosure forms he was supposed to file about his insider sale of 212,000 shares of Harken stock. At another point, he blamed the Harken lawyers, even though the filing wasn't their responsibility at all. Lately, his spokesman has tried to blame his own attorney (who now serves as the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia). "I still haven't figured it out completely," Bush shrugged on Monday afternoon.

In other words, everybody was responsible for his failure to observe the securities laws except him. It sounded a bit tinny when he reminded those listening to his press conference that his very favorite theme is "a renewed sense of [personal] responsibility."

As we all know by now, Bush's corporate maneuvering has been "fully vetted." He expanded that line of defense when he claimed that the SEC examined all the aspects of his conduct at Harken "in a very thorough way." Exactly how thorough we may never know, since he declined to answer whether he would allow the SEC to release the entire file of its investigation into his controversial Harken trades. "This is old politics," he replied, complaining that the issue comes up every time he runs for office.

It keeps coming up, of course, because his story is so implausible. On Monday he tried to argue that he had actually lost a windfall by selling when he did, because 14 months later the stock had risen to twice the amount he realized from the June 1990 sale. That left out the most relevant financial history -- notably, that within two months after he sold his shares, Harken reported a devastating second-quarter loss of more than $20 million, and moreover that by December 1990 those same shares were trading at $1.25, or less than a third of the $4 price he had gotten when he got out.

Someone did have the temerity to inquire whether Bush had played any role in Harken's dubious "sale" of an entity called Aloha Petroleum (as in "aloha, suckers") to its own officers, a sham transaction that put lipstick on Harken to attract gullible investors. The president couldn't remember what he thought about the Aloha deal, saying he would have to consult the directors' minutes. Anyway, he added, that incident "and all matters relating to Harken were fully looked into by the SEC." And besides, the company had restated its phony earnings when ordered to by the SEC some time later. So what was the problem?

What the president didn't mention -- perhaps because nobody asked -- was that his father's appointees and his own personal attorney were running the SEC when he was investigated. The agency's chairman was an ardent loyalist named Richard Breeden, who had served as a top domestic policy aide to George Herbert Walker Bush. (He is now the court-appointed overseer of WorldCom.) Its general counsel was James Doty, the lawyer who had handled the sale of the Texas Rangers baseball team to Dubya's syndicate only two years earlier.

A few years ago, such obviously compromised presidential relationships would have provoked exclamations of outrage on the editorial pages of the nation's great newspapers, culminating in demands for a congressional investigation and even an independent counsel. Reporters would have camped out at the SEC to ambush the chairman with arms outstretched, harassing him to deliver those files about the president. The laughter in the press room and the newsrooms and the TV studios would have been anything but friendly, and the chatter would soon have turned to dark musings about the character of the man inhabiting the Oval Office. But that was when the president's name was Clinton, not Bush.
[Posted: 8:30 p.m. PST, July 8, 2002]

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About the writer
Joe Conason writes a daily journal for Salon. He also writes a weekly column for the New York Observer.

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Illustration by Zach Trenholm

Salon Politics: Unflinching daily political news, analysis and commentary.

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To: FiloF who started this subject7/21/2003 5:01:08 PM
From: Math Junkie
   of 786
This is a reply to a message that Brian Kerecz wrote on the No-Politics Thread:

Brian, you wrote, "Question regarding the new felony law which the RIAA is attempting to get passed. Isn't the way in which it is written Unconstitutional? It makes the distribution a felony because it assumes that once someone places a piece of material on the internet that at least 10 people will download a copy. This is only an assumption however; in reality, what if nobody downloads the material? The fact is, that these people do not care what the facts are- they are now making assumptions about what may or may not be being done over the internet. Isn't our justice system supposed to be based on FACTS and not assumptions? I think it is very dangerous for all of our liberties if these people(for lack of a better term) get their way.

The Conyers-Berman bill would operate under the assumption that each copyrighted work made available through a computer network was copied by others at least 10 times for a total retail value of $2,500. That would bump the activity from a misdemeanor to a felony, carrying a sentence of up to five years in jail.

My answer is that if you check Article I of the U.S. Constitution, there doesn't seem to be anything preventing Congress from classifying violations of Federal laws as felonies or misdemeanors for any reason they see fit, including assumptions that you deem questionable. However I suppose there could be a potential due process issue, depending on what legal precedents exist.

Bear in mind here that the crime they are trying to address, IMO, is the offering of copyrighted material for download, irrespective of whether anyone actually downloads it. Estimating the number of people who download it seems to be entering into it only for the purpose of determining the seriousness of it.

Of course, the wisdom of what they are trying to do may be another matter entirely. I've always thought that the idea of depriving convicted felons of the right to vote was a completely wrong-headed idea, and the notion that this can be done over a mere $2,500 even more so.

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To: Math Junkie who wrote (776)7/21/2003 5:12:55 PM
From: Proud_Infidel
   of 786

However I suppose there could be a potential due process issue, depending on what legal precedents exist.

You suppose there could be a due process issue from charging people with felonies based on assumptions?

What if after a murder, they rounded up all those who owned guns in the area and charged each gun owner because he or she was the possible murderer? I think it is quite clear to any sane individual that this is not what the founding fathers had in mind!


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To: Proud_Infidel who wrote (777)7/21/2003 5:52:39 PM
From: Math Junkie
   of 786
Yes, I suppose. I don't know why you think it is so obvious. It's equally obvious to me that Congress has the constitutional authority to decide which crimes will be classed as felonies and which as misdemeanors. But since I am not a lawyer, I am willing to entertain the possibility that there could be some case law that I might not know about.

"What if after a murder, they rounded up all those who owned guns in the area and charged each gun owner because he or she was the possible murderer? I think it is quite clear to any sane individual that this is not what the founding fathers had in mind!"

Well, right now, there is no law to support doing that. The issue is whether Congress ought to pass this law, is it not? If it weren't for the second amendment, Congress would be completely within its rights to pass legislation outlawing gun ownership based on such reasoning. Unfortunately I know of no constitutional provision that requires acts of Congress to be well thought-out.

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To: Math Junkie who wrote (778)7/21/2003 6:24:41 PM
From: Proud_Infidel
   of 786
Yes, but the issue is also whether due process makes room for broad assumptions the way that this law does. I find it appalling that it is even being considered since in no way can prosecution using these assumptions be termed due process. In my mind, that is exceedingly obvious.


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To: Proud_Infidel who wrote (779)7/21/2003 7:39:31 PM
From: Math Junkie
   of 786
If the law is written this way I don't see where the prosecution would have to make any assumptions, since Congress will have taken care of that.

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To: Math Junkie who wrote (780)7/22/2003 10:07:23 AM
From: runes
   of 786
The issue is actual the presumption of innocence (innocent until proven guilty) -

...which is a longstanding legal principle that has been re-iterated by the Supreme Court -

The law is worded to presume that the offender is guilty of a greater crime (grand theft) rather than simple petty theft. (It used to be that the dividing line was $1000. I'm guessing that that limit has been inflated to $2000+ now).

BTW - why doesn't Congress tackle the problem head on rather than going through this presumptive route?

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To: runes who wrote (781)7/22/2003 3:44:53 PM
From: Math Junkie
   of 786
Hmmm...That link doesn't seem to really fit this situation. The issue is not whether people are presumed innocent, it's whether there is any constitutional limitation on how Congress defines the seriousness of a crime.

"BTW - why doesn't Congress tackle the problem head on rather than going through this presumptive route?"

You mean by requiring the prosecution to prove the economic value of the crime before the court decides whether the defendant is guilty of a felony or a misdemeanor? Sounds like a good idea to me. I happen to think that classifying it as a felony is going too far, except in those cases where the prosecution can prove there is a major impact.

BTW, one thing that puzzles me is the quoted figure of ten downloads equaling $2500. CDs haven't gone up to $250 each, have they?

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From: Nad Mikron6/13/2005 3:31:30 PM
   of 786
OT. The real point here is house prices. The price of houses is high. There is downward pressure, strong downward pressure, on wages in the manufacturing sector in the developed nations. Yes, jobs are disappearing altogether too.

The question of education is poppycock, in Britain anyway, we have about 3 million middle aged people on supposed sick benefit, but who would like to work. There is a huge supply of graduate students looking for real jobs for years, but can only find menial work. There isn't jobs for them in the UK. (yes I know what that implies) The government has created about a 100,000 jobs of low paid civil service jobs. The guys working in those jobs are not going to be pushing up the price of houses any further I assure you.

So the question is "Will house prices continue to rise?". My answer is no for the stated reason. Real unemployment. Loss of technical jobs lowering the real average wages in the developed countries.

Wages going down, house prices going up. What happens next?

/edit: remember to check the table towards the bottom on the link page. It gives the predictions by various economists. My current favored prediction is currently by Roger Bootle. His prediction is -20% over the next two years.

/edit edit. Average house prices are only about four times average wage though. I understand that ratio on USA West Coast is higher though?

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