Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bill Clinton on the Economic Meltdown

For what it's worth, here's part of Bill Clinton response to accusations that he played a significant role in the economic meltdown:

Now, there basically have been three charges,... one, because I enforced the Community Reinvestment Act for the first time and over 90 percent of all lending done under that law was done when I was president, $300 billion, that part of that was a lot of little banks made loans to people they had no business making loans to to buy houses so they could check the box for the Community Reinvestment Act. That’s the right-wing argument.

Then there’s the argument from the left that I shouldn’t have signed the bill that got rid of the Glass-Steagall law because that enabled banks and investment banks in effect to merge their functions.

And then there’s the argument that I make, which is that I should have raised more hell about derivatives being unregulated. I believe the last one is by far the most valid … although I don’t think that the Congress would have permitted anything to be done because Alan Greenspan was against it.

Republicans right-wingers, including many former Bush Administration figures, being the aggressive authoritarian figures that they are, have been incapable of admitting the blunders the have made for thirty years. Although Greenspan has been a believer in the Milton Friedman school of economic nonsense (it is nonsense since any objective measure shows that implementing draconian Friedman solutions to troubled economies usually aggravates the problems), he at least had the honesty to admit at long last that he's wrong.

Part of the right-wing spiel is that Bill Clinton 'caused' the meltdown some ten years ago. Well, Clinton actually was a major force in growing the economy during the 1990s and did much to create real jobs, particularly in the technology sector. Did Clinton make mistakes? Yes, of course. Every time Clinton behaved like a Republican and kowtowed to Gingrich and the more conservative members of his own administration he indeed made a small contribution to the current meltdown. Poppa Bush made his contribution when he allowed some regulations that made the Enron fiasco more likely. Reagan made his contribution through excessive deregulation (no one should forget the S & L crisis as one example or Bush 41's dismal handling of the economy).

But the person at the helm was George W. Bush. The blunders began with two wars with no end in sight. The blunders continued with the lack of a real energy policy despite the growing crisis of the last six years. A major and arrogant move on Bush's part was touting the business ethics reform package of 2002 and immediately watering down the bill after it was passed with his famous executive signing statements. Another major move was the gutting of the SEC. A Republican Congress eager to cash in on all the goodies was a factor (how many of those Republican clowns wound up working on K Street? (I know, even a few Democrats like Daschle lost their heads)).

Personally, I think there was also a political factor: I believe George W. Bush was hoping he could dump the economic mess on the next president, except the crisis came to a head sooner than he expected. Did Clinton play a role? Sure he did. Whenever he behaved like a Republican. And that's the real point. The conservative economic philosophy of the last 30 years is bankrupt. That bankruptcy began the moment Reagan took the solar panels off the roof of the White House and effectively said let the good times roll. For the wealthy and the well-connected, the last thirty years were good times, but not for the overwhelming majority of Americans. Except briefly, to some extent, during the Clinton years.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

News on the Battery Front

A few months back, I was browsing through a book on solar energy and the first thing the authors started talking about were batteries. Makes sense. It's nice to have lights on at night.

Obviously, if we have electric cars, it would be good if the batteries in them are charged by such things as solar energy or wind energy or other alternative, non-CO2 energy sources. Otherwise it misses the whole point and we'll have oil depletion all the faster and the ocean lapping at our doors a little sooner. So I occasionally take a look around to see what's happening in technology. Having read such magazines as Popular Science since the 1960s and noticing over the years the stories that never seem to go anywhere, dreamosol not being an effective power source, I try to be skeptical. And yet, I notice the second battery in my iBook, the one I bought over three years ago, has lasted substantially longer than the original battery and still holds a longer charge. There is measurable progress (one wonders what that progress would have been since 1981 if Ronald Reagan had not pulled the plug on alternative energy research).

One problem with batteries, though, is the time it takes to charge them. Now I come across stories on batteries that can be charged rapidly but it may be a while before they get here. In the meantime, here's one development maybe worth considering: battery swap stations. Here's the story from Wired:
Better Place unveiled its battery swap system today and said the $500,000 gadget can replace a dead battery and get you back on the road in less time than it takes to fill your gas tank.

The prototype revealed in Japan is the first of what the Silicon Valley startup promises will be countless automated battery exchange stations that will one day dot our cities. The technology will make it possible to travel long distances in an EV without the hassle of stopping to recharge your battery, company founder and CEO Shai Agassi said.

I happen to like this idea—mainly because I thought of it ten years ago—but I wonder how necessary it is at this point in our technology? Electric vehicles seem perfect for city traffic and short trips. Isn't that something we learn from hybrids—that they're much more efficient in stop and go traffic than they are on the open highway? So if you happen to buy an electric car for local use and next summer you want to take a long trip, it probably makes more sense to rent a conventional vehicle that has good open road mileage. Maybe the key to moving forward is flexibility. It will help the spread of electric cars—and their range—if companies, for example, put in charging posts for their employees, either as a perk or for a fee. Maybe cities could install charging posts which would collect more money than parking meters (there are parking meters that now take ATM cards; they might be easy to convert).

One possible example of flexibility (maybe I need to think about this one a little more) is an energy solution that Fairbanks Alaska has come up with: the world's largest battery:
The world's biggest battery was plugged in yesterday to provide emergency power to one of the United States' most isolated cities.

The rechargable battery, which at 2,000 square metres is bigger than a football pitch and weighs 1,300 tonnes, was manufactured by power components specialist ABB to provide electricity to Fairbanks, Alaska's second-largest city, in the event of a blackout.

The battery is not exactly a breakthrough and is really a collection of batteries. It's only supposed to last seven minutes: just enough time to get generators going and hopefully keep pipes from freezing on winter nights. Actually, I think someone in Australia has invented and is manufacturing specialized rechargeable batteries of a large size, though not yet a battery big enough to power a city of 12,000. But I suspect for a number of applications in the future, particularly for problematic sources such as solar and wind, we're going to need large-scale batteries of some type (actually, if we change the framing, large water projects and reservoirs are already giant energy storage systems—even to the point of reclaiming water after peak hours so the water can once again go through the same turbines).

But efficient, long-lasting light-weight batteries are important too. In recent days, there have been several articles on lithium-sulfur batteries. In the past these batteries have been problematic but Technology Review reports that apparently there has been a breakthrough:
Lithium-sulfur batteries, which can potentially store several times more energy than lithium-ion batteries, have historically been too costly, unsafe, and unreliable to make commercially. But they're getting a fresh look now, due to some recent advances. Improvements to the design of these batteries have led the chemical giant BASF of Ludwigshafen, Germany, to team up with Sion Power, a company in Tucson, AZ, that has already developed prototype lithium-sulfur battery cells.

"Compared to existing technologies used in electric vehicles, the plan is to increase driving distance at least 5 to 10 times...

Five to ten times...! Okay, maybe that's not sulfur I'm smelling, maybe that's a potent dose of dreamosol. Still, it could be worth keeping an eye on. But I like better the other lithium battery that has popped up in the news—the lithium oxygen battery:
...researchers at the University of St Andrews, with associates at Strathclyde and Newcastle, have developed a new type of air-fueled battery that could provide up to 10 times the energy storage of existing designs, paving the way for a new generation of electric cars and portable devices.

Dubbed the STAIR (St Andrews Air), the new battery improves capacity by adding a carbon component. Oxygen drawn in through a surface of the battery exposed to air reacts within the pores of the carbon to discharge the battery. The discovery that the carbon component’s interaction with air can be repeated, creating a cycle of charge and discharge, led to the development of the new battery.

(There's a good illustration here.) One immediate advantage of this battery over the one above is that there's no need to dig up millions of tons of sulfur. I know, I know, every new technology seems to have downsides. But I can't help liking the idea of a lightweight battery where one of the key components is in the air, not burned, and is renewable. Hopefully. Forget the pie-in-the-sky 10-fold energy storage for the moment. A two or three-fold increase would be great. What I like is the elegance of the concept. Is it possible to have elegant solutions to our energy solutions? I don't know. But when I dig through a number of articles on new materials and inventions, I notice lately that surprising things are happening even if these surprising things are still at the experimental level. We're discovering that we don't have all the answers yet at the physical and chemical level. In that, more than anything, I find hope.

Now if we can just get more research dollars and more commitment from the American government and keep big biz from slowing things down. It's small research teams, and small to medium companies that have the creativity these days. Hey, it's also small to medium companies that are best at creating American jobs.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pakistan and India Sharing Intelligence

It would be a step forward if Pakistan and India start sharing intelligence on violent militant groups. But I'm puzzled by this story which doesn't seem to have reached the main news outlets. I'm not a fan of The Wall Street Journal but here's the story:
Pakistan and India have begun sharing intelligence on Islamic extremists, with the prodding of the U.S., in an arrangement that represents unprecedented cooperation between the two nuclear-armed South Asian nations.

Washington hopes the cooperation will get a lift from last week's Indian elections, in which the incumbent Congress Party won by a wide margin over a Hindu nationalist party traditionally more hostile to Pakistan.
The story has been picked up by several sites interested in international news and national security. Potentially, it is good news. But why release the story to The Wall Street Journal? Fence mending, perhaps, by the Obama Administration?

I'm not going to draw too much from the story, except to keep watching developments in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. But here's something to keep in mind: an all-out war between India and Pakistan would not only be devastating for both countries but would probably send the worldwide economic situation into a deeper tailspin. By the way, the first quarter of 2009 was worse than many people thought. The U.S. economy shrank by 6.3% but that's not the worst economic news. Via Kevin Drum, here's another story from The Wall Street Journal (at least this is more up their alley):
On Wednesday, Mexico became the latest country to report a plunge in output. The country's gross domestic product fell at an annualized rate of 21.5% in the first quarter, the worst performance since the 1995 peso crisis led to an International Monetary Fund and U.S. Treasury financial rescue. This time, Mexico has insulated itself somewhat by arranging a $47 billion IMF credit line in advance.

Mexico's decline followed by a day Japan's report that its economy contracted in the first quarter at a 15.2% clip, its worst performance since 1955. Last week, Germany said its first quarter decline in GDP, an annualized 14.4%, was the worst since 1970.

None of this is good for the U.S. economy or for the world economy. Dick Cheney, who talks too much, dragged us into a war in Iraq. This led to putting Afghanistan, Pakistan and India on the backburner. The damage that Cheney and George W. Bush did to America simply keeps mounting.

I worry sometimes that Obama isn't thinking big enough in terms of facing our problems. On the other hand, given the problems out there, it may be a smart thing to isolate Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich, and Rush Limbaugh while building a little broader consensus to deal with our problems. But doing things the way we have been doing them for thirty years and expecting results simply by building more consensus and being more efficient is not the answer.

Obama and his advisers are going to need big ideas to deal with big problems.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

India and Pakistan

India is about one third the size of the United States and Pakistan is about the size of Texas and Louisiana combined. India is a rapidly emerging economic power and Pakistan is a country with potential but it is having trouble transitioning to the 21st century. Both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers and for a number of reasons they are also enemies of one another.

Eriposte of The Left Coaster has been doing posts on Pakistan. Today he has a post on the elections in India:
The Indian National Congress (INC), the incumbent ruling party, turned in a strong performance this time despite having severed relationships with some allied parties that helped them form the government in 2004. The INC is now in a much better position to form the new national government with fewer allies, implying that it is likely to be a more sturdy government - which might partly explain the history-making surge of India's stock market in the aftermath of the election results. In my view, this election is significant because this is the first election indicating that the INC has significantly recovered from a historic low in its political fortunes and turned around a long-term secular decline in its performance at the ballot box.

Again, India, despite many significant problems, sounds like a nation moving forward. In an earlier era, India, or any other nation, might have used a terrorist attack, like the one that occurred this winter in Mumbai, as a rationale for launching a war, in this case against Pakistan. That war appears to have been averted and economic progress in India continues.

Not including its troubles with India, Pakistan has been hampered by a number of problems. The long war in Afghanistan during the 1980s put the Soviet on the border with Pakistan. Some millions of refugees escaped into Pakistan into the border areas. Now the United States is in Afghanistan. In a sense, Pakistan has had to deal with the Russians, Americans, Afghans, Indians and others in the last sixty years, not to mention many armed and militant political groups inside the country. Pakistan's border region with Afghanistan is more a loosely controlled territory than a fully integrated part of Pakistan. In a way, the people of the territorial areas have easier access to the modern areas of Pakistan than the people of the modern areas do in the other direction. A curious thing has happened in recent weeks and I honestly don't know what to make of it. The people who rule Pakistan in a strange coalition of elected officials and a quasi-independent military have decided to set aside their quarrels with India (for the moment) to deal with increasing unrest in the territories that is impacting other areas of Pakistan.

In the meantime, other issues about Pakistan can hardly be ignored. The New York Times has this article today:
Members of Congress have been told in confidential briefings that Pakistan is rapidly adding to its nuclear arsenal even while racked by insurgency, raising questions on Capitol Hill about whether billions of dollars in proposed military aid might be diverted to Pakistan’s nuclear program.

Sooner or later, the international community is going to have to do a more effective job of dealing with the increasing complexity of nuclear weapons issues. Cowboy diplomacy, of which George W. Bush was such a famous and dismal practitioner, may, in my opinion, have played a role in Pakistan's rapidly increasing arsenal (caveat: I'm assuming that Congress has been accurately informed). After 9/11, Bush made it clear to other nations that they were either with us or against us. That kind of language was brought strongly to bear on Pakistan. To deal with Afghanistan, we needed Pakistan's cooperation. President Musharraf of Pakistan appears to have had some ultimatum laid down to him to encourage his cooperation. The details are fuzzy but a high stakes bluff seems to have been played. Later Bush made some unfortunate comments to the effect that we would have swept in and taken Pakistan's nuclear weapons if Mushrraf had declined to cooperate with the U.S. I say unfortunate because it was unlikely that such a sweep of Pakistan's nuclear weapons was possible. But if we assume that Pakistan was concerned that such an operation was possible (either by us or by India), the building of more nuclear weapons (and dispersing them) obviously renders what were dismal odds in 2001 to odds that are now nil. Even if I'm reading this wrong, we can be certain of this: Bush's many blunders are still playing out months after his departure and will continue to play out for some years to come.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Cheney and Other Republican Liars and Hypocrites

Since 2002, no government official lied about the war in Iraq more than Dick Cheney. In a different era, the vice president would have been impeached and sent packing. Cheney's outing of a CIA officer whose husband's factual report on Niger yellowcake disagreed with Cheney's self-serving fantasies should have been enough to send the vice president to jail. Dick Cheney's authoritarian and anti-social character has been on display repeatedly but in no case was it more obvious than when he shot a friend of his in the face with a shotgun and it was the friend who was obliged to apologize. Strange man, Dick Cheney.

I am proud to be yet another blog linking to Larry Wilkerson's article in The Washington Note:
...when Cheney claims that if President Obama stops "the Cheney method of interrogation and torture", the nation will be in danger, he is perverting the facts once again. But in a very ironic way.

My investigations have revealed to me--vividly and clearly--that once the Abu Ghraib photographs were made public in the Spring of 2004, the CIA, its contractors, and everyone else involved in administering "the Cheney methods of interrogation", simply shut down. Nada. Nothing. No torture or harsh techniques were employed by any U.S. interrogator. Period. People were too frightened by what might happen to them if they continued.

What I am saying is that no torture or harsh interrogation techniques were employed by any U.S. interrogator for the entire second term of Cheney-Bush, 2005-2009.


Likewise, what I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002--well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion--its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa'ida.


There in fact were no such contacts.

It's a national disgrace that right-wing Republicans continue to coddle such liars as Dick Cheney. But Cheney wasn't the only liar. We have to include such 'stalwart' Republicans as Donald Rumseld, Scooter Libby, Alberto Gonzalez, Douglas Feith, and yes, George W. Bush. There were plenty of others. The fact remains that the Bush Administration felt comfortable lying to Congress for eight years. But they didn't stop there. They lied to the American people.

Now Nancy Pelosi is accused of lying about what she was told by an administration that had little credibility. Our country needs a reliable non-political CIA but Bush and Cheney were doing everything they could to politicize parts of the government that had always been nonpolitical and bipartisan. As an example, the Bush Administration promoted people like Dusty Foggo to the number three spot at the CIA:
Foggo is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria after pleading guilty to a single count of fraud as part of a plea bargain. He is the highest ranking CIA officer ever to be convicted of a federal felony.

The fraud was part of a bribery ring that included Foggo's old friend, contractor Brent Wilkes, and former [Republican] Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, both of whom have been sentenced to years in prison.

Court papers filed this week offer the most detailed glimpse yet of Foggo's misconduct, which included getting his mistress hired to a $100,000 a year job at the CIA and steering millions of dollars in CIA contracts to Wilkes.

Even in the CIA there were people under Bush who were feeding at the public trough.

Again, most people in the intelligence community are competent professionals. But Bush and Cheney were not shy about bending the rules and finding people who would do the same. Here's another example of life under Bush by way of Talking Points Memo:
Adm. Mike McConnell came in as the Director of National Intelligence with a rep for being professional and non-partisan, a calling card the Bush Administration has put to its own uses.


In his first months as DNI, McConnell did plenty to undermine that rep. He told Congress that three German terrorism suspects had been arrested due to intercepts made possible by the then-new Protect America Act when in fact they were obtained under the old FISA law. Soon after, McConnell offered a especially misleading account to Congress of a supposed FISA Court ruling that had delayed the U.S. from spying on the kidnappers of U.S. troops in Iraq. And throughout congressional debate on a surveillance law he claimed that the debate itself endangered American lives.

Then earlier this year, he suggested that a questioner at a public event at Johns Hopkins was "disappointed" that the U.S. hadn't suffered additional terrorist attacks. And now McConnell has really let lose, framing the Senate debate on the surveillance bill as being between those who think "we shouldn't have an Intelligence Community" and those who do. That has prompted a letter from Sen. Russ Feingold demanding an apology for those false characterizations of the debate.

There were other people besides McConnell who served at Bush's pleasure and thought nothing of lying to Congress. We know Cheney and others were liars. We know they lied to people like Pelosi. Until proven otherwise, I think we already know who the liars are. In the current political climate, Dick Cheney will never be prosecuted and sent to jail for his crimes. At the very least, he should go home and the news media should stop paying attention to a man who lied his way into a war our nation did not need.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Solar Energy and the Technology Disintermediation Step

I'm no fan of jargon but I couldn't resist putting "Technology Disintermediation Step" in the title. Before we go further, here's the Reuter's article where it appeared:
BP (BP.L) CEO Tony Hayward said on Wednesday solar power technology was unlikely to ever be competitive with more conventional energy sources.

That much of the article is clear, even if it's probably wrong. If the reader would like to see where "technology disintermediation step" is used, feel free to follow the link. It's techno-babble, of course, and even in context it still doesn't make much sense. Translated, I suppose it means, "Solar power is too hard, the technology is slippery, we don't like putting research dollars into it. Besides, we're lazy and would rather stick with oil. Anyway, it's more profitable in the short term. We think." That may not give the entire picture but it's clearer than "technology disintermediation step."

The problem with conventional energy sources is that they're in danger of requiring increasing amount of unconventional behavior to get them. Here's a Moscow Times article that reminds us how expensive 'conventional' oil can get:
Russia's security is threatened by economic instability, potential wars over energy resources and foreign spies, the Kremlin said in a key policy paper released Wednesday.


"With the ongoing competition for resources, attempts to use military force to solve emerging problems cannot be excluded — and this might destroy the balance of forces on Russia's and its allies' borders," the paper states.

Forget for a moment Russian paranoia about spies. The point is that Russia is yet another country that believes that diminishing oil reserves may lead to wars. In a sense, the war in Iraq is an oil war and an expensive at that. The plain truth is that the war in Iraq is a contributing factor in last year's economic meltdown.

So, according to CEO Tony Hayward, oil will be competitive with solar energy (I assume he means photovoltaic or various hybrid systems that use photovoltaic). Perhaps he's right, if BP can somehow detach itself from its responsibilities and from society at large. That's not a bad strategy since it's a strategy that has been used successfully by major corporations with increasing frequency over the last thirty years. But that model is dying. The simple fact is that the world cannot afford such self-absorbed corporate thinking. We have already paid dearly for such thinking. Now here's the check in BP's long-term thinking, if such thinking can be said to exist: the world may indeed fight over oil. But it will not fight over the sun (okay, we may fight over rare elements necessary for cheap and efficient photovoltaic cells, but the sun will still be there until we figure out better systems). Simply put, war is a drag on the world's economy and well-being. Somehow we need to get companies like BP to plug such facts into their bottom line.

At the moment, things like windmills are far more efficient than solar energy based on photovoltaic cells. It's possible that will always be the case but there are many places where windmills are not practical or where solar cells offer advantages. I'm not an expert on research in solar energy but I have watched the field since the 1970s. I have never felt research money has been available for solar energy at a level consistent with its potential. The most annoying thing about solar energy research is the short-sightedness of the American government since the departure of Jimmy Carter. In many areas of alternative energy, it's continental Europeans who are now the leaders, not Americans (and not even the British). Could that be changing? Maybe. There's much talk in Washington about energy research but it's hard to know what the actual facts are yet. But here's an encouraging sign:
A new class of ultra-light, high-efficiency solar cells developed by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory has won a national prize for the commercialization of federally funded research.

The Inverted Metamorphic Multijunction, IMM, Solar Cell was named a winner of the 2009 Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer by the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer. These multijunction cells consist of multiple thin films in layers that allow the cell to capture more of the solar spectrum and convert it into electricity.

As just one example, I can visualize the upper three feet of street lamps being coated with such materials with one of the new efficient batteries inside powering a low energy light. That would be a vast improvement over turning off the streetlights which is now happening in my own city and in many cities around the country.


Monday, May 11, 2009

The Mail on My Father's Desk

Donkey Path has been on hiatus since the last week of March. My father was sick and I made two trips down to Southern California. He was unable to fight off pneumonia and died at the end of April at the age of 88. We all miss him but he had a good long life and was facing physical problems that were likely to get worse. His death was hard on my mother after nearly 67 years of marriage. But she's a strong woman and will get through it.

Last week I went through my father's papers. Like a lot of elderly people, he was a bit of a pack rat. I managed to toss some twenty bags of papers, some of which went back to the 1940s. His office was a bit like a time capsule.

Something that bothered me though were letters and offers he had received in the last year that he set aside in a pile to deal with later. Although he was beginning to slip, my father was still a sharp man and it's clear that he avoided the usual scams one gets in the mail. But he was elderly and it seems a number of major companies target the elderly with mildly deceptive ads. It's annoying, disappointing and a sign of how much things have slipped in the last thirty years. I disliked, in particular, some companies who send membership cards as if they were asked for. As one example, I felt the AARP has gotten way too aggressive.

My mother is also still reasonably sharp but she has a literal mind and remembers the companies and organizations who have been respected for decades. Some of the letters on my father's desk gave the impression that my father had done business with them. If a widow or her family are not careful, they can be fooled into thinking they have a bill that needs paying. We got through those letters reasonably well. I was just surprised that my father got so many of them. One thing is clear: during the George W. Bush years, con artists and frauds were having a field day and many of them are still walking the streets.

Today, I notice that Senator Schumer has suddenly discovered the expired auto warranty scam that operates by robocall. Uh, that scam has been around for at least three years and probably four or five years that I know of. Newsday has the story:
Sunday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced his effort to get the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on the companies that make haranguing phone calls for bogus auto warranties - after he himself received one of the pestering calls on his own cell phone as he sat in session last week.

The solicitation calls on cell phones can eat up expensive airtime minutes, and less savvy people can be caught up by the scary-sounding pitches, he said.

There's also a similar credit card scam where you're supposed to call to clear up a problem and give the scammers your credit card number. Schumer is just beginning to discover these problems? Well, at least it's a vast improvement over the Republicans who have tended to look the other way when a scammer shows up in a suit and tie. But Schumer is a New York Democrat who has looked too much the other way as the scammers of Wall Street drove our economy into the ditch.

I'm proud that a lot of new progressive Democrats get it. But there are a number of Democrats and far too many Republicans who are kidding themselves if they think we can afford to go back to business as usual. The economic crisis we're in was brought about largely by right wing ideology. But the crisis was also brought about by a crisis in ethics that is exemplified not just by Republicans but by a number of Democrats as well. Without reform, we will continue to face trouble.