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[Business Week]: United Airlines gained a significant financial victory with court
approval to dump its four pension plans but faces a tough challenge to
win back the support of angry employees.

Oh, we do so like to carry on
about the ‘rule of law’ and the ‘sanctity of contracts’ and the
‘importance of trust’ and ‘a man’s word is his bond.’ But sometimes it
can all be so inconveeeeeeenient…

PS: ‘Taxpayers had better buckle up because we will be in for a bumpy ride
of bailout after bailout, as more and more corporations dump their
pension plan obligations on the PBGC,’ said U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky,
D-Ill., referring to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. that already is
operating at a more than $23 billion deficit.

At least the PBGC will get a bit of equity — better than the total giveway that so many government subsidies turn out to be.

[Social Design Notes]: Despite increasing consolidated and homogenous media and increasingly pervasive Internet access, ideology exists spatially.

Six links in that posting. Click ’em all.
You’ll see a fascinating range of cartographic interpretations on the
Bush-Kerry election, which offer some very different perspectives on what the election actually disclosed about the mind of the country —
and which suggest very different political strategies for the
Democrats. Consider the difference (these maps courtesy of

Michael Gastner, Cosma Shalizi, and Mark Newman, University of Michigan
) between this:

and this:

and this:

In
this map, it appears that only a rather small area is taken up by
true red counties, the rest being mostly shades of purple with patches
of blue in the urban areas.

ACLU Pizza and Defanging ‘the Matrix’


Coming to a homeland near you, unless…

Corporate Welfare Runs Amok. Reforms to the corporate tax system must be debated on their merits, not under cover of some phony label like ‘job creation.’ [NYT > Opinion]

Congress’s ostensible purpose for allowing the holiday is to unleash
a flood of money for job creation…. But few
of the approved uses for the repatriated funds – such as debt
redemption, advertising and a catchall category of ‘financial
stabilization’ – will lead directly, if at all, to more jobs. One
approved use – the ability to spend the money to buy other companies –
would be more likely to create layoffs, as corporate acquisitions
usually do.

Many of the early entrants in this opportunity — Johnson &
Johnson, Schering-Plough, Eli Lilly — and others that are considering
this tax-free ‘repatriation’ of profits — Pfizer, Hewlett Packard,
Intel — are leaders in ‘corporate social responsibility’. Repatriation
is legal, of course. But is it responsible?

[John Robb]WSJ. 
The US trade deficit rose to $60.3 billion in November (is there a link
to the elections?).  A new record.  Despite a sinking dollar,
the sale of US goods abroad dropped (down 2.3%).  This is terrible
news.  The relative performance of the US vs. all other nations is
on a slippery downward slope.  While we focus on military power,
the rest of the world is focused on economic power.

Deficits we run with major trading partners.  Here’s the major problem areas (per month!):
    Ý      China.  $16.63 billion.  Down slightly.
    Ý      Japan. $7.29 billion.  Up big.
    Ý      EU.  $7.72 billion.  Up big.
    Ý      Canada.  $7.3 billion.  Up big.
    Ý      Mexico.  $3.89 billion.  Down.

Seems this should concern us — and the President — much more than the Social Security ‘crisis’

Two very interesting, and very different, big picture views of our
current world and current situation have come across my view recently.
Both are worth your attention.

Meta-historian William Irwin Thompson, writes, with his typical grand sweep, of Al Qaeda, the Neocons, and the Transition from Nation-State to Noetic Polity in Ocean Arks International‘s Annals of Earth (but available on line here, about 2/3 down the page):

This new historical situation is one in which
we are shifting from the era of a global industrial economy of
territorial nation-states to a planetary cultural-ecology of noetic
polities (a noetic polity is one based on consciousness and not
territorial identify). The war against Islamicist terrorism is not a
war against a territorial nation-state; it is a conflict against a
noetic polity that seeks to destroy the secular modernism of the
industrial nation-state to replace it with regional Caliphates in a
single global Islamic civilization. In a medieval Caliphate, the leader
rules for life, so it is not surprising that modern-day Caliphs like
Gaddafi in Libya, Mubarak in Egypt, and Hassad in Syria, rule for
decades and are not subject to the Western politics of election and
re-election.

Paradoxically, enemies tend to become like one another through conflict. “We become what we hate….” The American soldiers that died in Iraq did not
die “defending their country”; they died defending Cheney and Bush’s
interests in Halliburton and the Carlyle Group. These neocon corporate
managers, very much like the privateers and pirates that helped Queen
Elizabeth create a postbaronial world of naval power, are offshore
pirates that care as little for the entire nation, as Texan Enron cared
for the state of California it plundered. Historically, these neocon
managers have moved beyond national patriotism, and only have need of
patriotic propaganda and national armies to provide them with the
soldiers they need to advance their mafia Don aims. So when Saddam
Hussein was not co-operating with Cheney and Rumsfeld, it was decided
by the Defense Policy Board of Pearle, Woolsley, and Wolfowitz to take
him out but call this mafia hit “the installation of democracy in
Iraq” — this even before Bush Jr. was chosen by the party to be its
publicist.

From another coast (or another planet) Victor Davis Hanson offers Into the Tar Pits: Dinosaurs either evolve or die in National Review Online.

What has happened? Sometime around the 1980s, the Right saw the demise of the Soviet Union as an opportunity to evolve beyond realpolitik
to promote not just anti-Communism but grassroots democracy, coupled
with free-market globalism from Eastern Europe to Latin America and
Asia. In contrast, the hard Left stayed in its knee-jerk suspicion of
the West and continued to give a pass to authoritarians from Cuba to
Iran who professed socialism, thinking that the world was a static
zero-sum game in which somebody’s gain spelled another’s loss —
oblivious that real wealth could be created by a change of mentality
and technology and not mere exploitation….

Action and results, not rhetoric and intentions, are what matter. Cease
blaming others for declining popularity. There is neither a Karl Rove
conspiracy nor an envisioned red-state theocracy. No, the problem with
our Left is what killed the dinosaurs: a desire to plod on to oblivion
in a rapidly evolving world.

I’ve been keeeping the politic rhetoric limited on this blog, and the
focus more professional, for a variety of reasons. But I’m expecting
that both these pieces will intrigue you and both will piss you off.
And maybe generate some new and uncomfortable thoughts, which is good
medicine in this day and age.

So have at ’em.

[Krugman/NY Times]: Buying Into Failure


In Chile’s system, management fees are around 20 times as high. And that’s a typical number for privatized systems.

Read your prospectus before voting, folks.

What’s New in the Legal World? A Growing Campaign to Undo the New Deal. States’ rights conservatives are making progress in their drive to restore the narrow view of federal power that predated the New Deal. By By ADAM COHEN. [NYT > Opinion]
In pre-1937 America, workers were exploited, factories were free to pollute, and old people were generally poor when they retired. This is not an agenda the public would be likely to sign onto today if it were debated in an election. But conservatives, who like to complain about activist liberal judges, could achieve their anti-New Deal agenda through judicial activism on the right. Judges could use the so-called Constitution-in-Exile to declare laws on workplace safety, environmental protection and civil rights unconstitutional.
Another step in a deep and extensive campaign to fundamentally deligitimize government, and the very notion that people can join together collectively — which is what government is — to protect their interests. (‘We the people of the United States… in order to protect the general welfare…’ – remember?)
The odd thing about this story: the progressive side of the medical marijuana dispute could be feeding the states’ rights conservatives a useful legal precedent.

There are also important cases (not just high profile murder cases) at the San Mateo County courthouse — ones that might even affect you. John Perry Barlow
and the 4th Amendment — you know, the one about unreasonable search
and seizure — take on the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security.

On December 15, at 2:00 pm, I will pay yet another visit to the North
San Mateo County Courthouse in South San Francisco. This time I expect
I will actually get a chance to plead my case. (Any interested Bay Area
BarlowFriendz are invited to attend. It should be pretty decent
theater.)

 Click for www.electoral-vote.comCourtesy of electoral-vote.com, a very interesting site full o’ stuff.