Saturday, March 14, 2009

Outsourcing Broadway (and English)

For a Revival of ‘Dreamgirls,’ Pacific Overtures -

Several months ago, when John F. Breglio told fellow New York producers that he was not only remaking “Dreamgirls,” the 1981 Broadway hit musical based loosely on the career of the Supremes, but that he was also going to South Korea to do it, they were puzzled, to say the least.

“Then they really laugh,” he said, when he told them “that it’s in Korean with Korean actors.”

The financial incentives for Mr. Breglio to go to South Korea were significant, coming as many Broadway producers are struggling to cover production costs. The fact that the set was made and financed here, and will be transferred to the United States for the run there, is a big savings for the American producers.

Hillary's First Success?

Just asking....

Dissident Reflects After 8 Years in Chinese Prison -

Obama, Justice Deptarment: Still Denying Geneva Conventions...More Orwellian Than Bush?

A long one-pager in the Times today on Obama's elimination of the term "Enemy Combatant" while continuing to support the practice the term describes.

Note the following:

But in a much anticipated court filing, the Justice Department argued that the president has the authority to detain terrorism suspects there without criminal charges, much as the Bush administration had asserted. It provided a broad definition of those who can be held, which was not significantly different from the one used by the Bush administration.


"But the Department of Justice filing portrayed the adjustment of the government’s position in expansive terms. In a public statement accompanying its filing, the department said the government’s position had been devised to adhere closely to the requirements of the international law of war, longstanding principles that permit enemy fighters to be held until the completion of hostilities."

The administration continues to claim the President has the right to hold people without any criminal charges (although it no longer has a pet term for those people) and it continues to deny the rights accorded under the Geneva Convention to those people.

There is however a possibly significant change here. Justice now attempts to ground this Bush/Obama policy not in the claim of Presidential power to name a person as an enemy combatant, but instead on upon language in the 2001 AUMF. This leaves challengers open to question the Constitutionality of recent Congressional language (the AUMF). Previous challenges had to be founded on the Constitutional question of the President's ability to name a person an "enemy combatant", an act that has much longer historical prescident. Its possible that this change has accidentally increased the chances for those we once called detainees to sucessfully challenge thier detention.

For a lot more on this manuever check out Marcy at Emptywheel.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Citibank: Just a Quick Post for Historical Recall a Few Months From Now

Anybody think this bank will exist a year from now?

(Reuters) - Citigroup Inc Chairman Richard Parsons said Thursday that the bank does not need any more capital injections from the government and expressed confidence that Citi would remain in private hands.

Asked in an interview with Reuters whether Citigroup needed additional government capital injections, Parsons said: 'No, I think actually, particularly with the latest conversion ... Citi is actually one of the better capitalized banks in the world.'"

China Pressures US: Take Your Pick --- Depression or Hyperinflation

China’s Wen ‘Worried’ on Safety of Treasuries, Seeks Assurances -

Click through and read the short article, but be sure you're sitting down first.

“China is worried that the U.S. may solve its problems by printing money, which will stoke inflation,” said Zhao Qingming, a Beijing-based analyst at China Construction Bank Corp., the country’s second-biggest lender. “If the U.S. can make sure this won’t happen, then China will continue to invest.”

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Papal Infallibility Bites the Dust?

Pope 'admits Holocaust row error':

"Pope Benedict XVI has admitted to mistakes in lifting the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying bishop, according to reports."

AIPAC Notches Gun Belt: Freeman out at NIC, shot down by Alledged Spy Steven Rosen, past director of American Israel Political Affairs Committee

Foreign Policy has posted Charles Freeman's withdrawal statement quoted in full at the end of this post.

Freeman, Obama's pick to chair the National Security Council, would have brought an independent perspective on foreign policy in general and the Mid East especially. As such his views could not be tolerated by the powerful Israeli right-wing lobbying group AIPAC.

For a brief rundown on the dust-up see this fine post from Freeman's son (and oft time political opponent.)

For a great deal more detail via Max Bleumenthal go here.

Wikipedia offers the following brief about Rosen, AIPAC, and espionage.

In April 2005, AIPAC policy director Steven Rosen and AIPAC senior Iran analyst Keith Weissman were fired by AIPAC amid an FBI investigation into whether they passed classified U.S. information received from Franklin on to the government of Israel. They were later indicted for illegally conspiring to gather and disclose classified national security information to Israel. [21][22]

In May 2005, the Justice Department announced that Lawrence Anthony Franklin, a U.S. Air Force Reserves colonel working as a Department of Defense analyst at the Pentagon in the office of Douglas Feith, had been arrested and charged by the FBI with providing classified national defense information to Israel. The six-count criminal complaint did not identify AIPAC by name, but described a luncheon meeting in which, allegedly, Franklin disclosed top-secret information to two AIPAC officials.

Here's Freeman's statement on withdrawing.

You will by now have seen the statement by Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair reporting that I have withdrawn my previous acceptance of his invitation to chair the National Intelligence Council.

I have concluded that the barrage of libelous distortions of my record would not cease upon my entry into office. The effort to smear me and to destroy my credibility would instead continue. I do not believe the National Intelligence Council could function effectively while its chair was under constant attack by unscrupulous people with a passionate attachment to the views of a political faction in a foreign country. I agreed to chair the NIC to strengthen it and protect it against politicization, not to introduce it to efforts by a special interest group to assert control over it through a protracted political campaign.

As those who know me are well aware, I have greatly enjoyed life since retiring from government. Nothing was further from my mind than a return to public service. When Admiral Blair asked me to chair the NIC I responded that I understood he was “asking me to give my freedom of speech, my leisure, the greater part of my income, subject myself to the mental colonoscopy of a polygraph, and resume a daily commute to a job with long working hours and a daily ration of political abuse.” I added that I wondered “whether there wasn’t some sort of downside to this offer.” I was mindful that no one is indispensable; I am not an exception. It took weeks of reflection for me to conclude that, given the unprecedentedly challenging circumstances in which our country now finds itself abroad and at home, I had no choice but accept the call to return to public service. I thereupon resigned from all positions that I had held and all activities in which I was engaged. I now look forward to returning to private life, freed of all previous obligations.

I am not so immodest as to believe that this controversy was about me rather than issues of public policy. These issues had little to do with the NIC and were not at the heart of what I hoped to contribute to the quality of analysis available to President Obama and his administration. Still, I am saddened by what the controversy and the manner in which the public vitriol of those who devoted themselves to sustaining it have revealed about the state of our civil society. It is apparent that we Americans cannot any longer conduct a serious public discussion or exercise independent judgment about matters of great importance to our country as well as to our allies and friends.

The libels on me and their easily traceable email trails show conclusively that there is a powerful lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired, still less to factor in American understanding of trends and events in the Middle East. The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth. The aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views, the substitution of political correctness for analysis, and the exclusion of any and all options for decision by Americans and our government other than those that it favors.

There is a special irony in having been accused of improper regard for the opinions of foreign governments and societies by a group so clearly intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government – in this case, the government of Israel. I believe that the inability of the American public to discuss, or the government to consider, any option for US policies in the Middle East opposed by the ruling faction in Israeli politics has allowed that faction to adopt and sustain policies that ultimately threaten the existence of the state of Israel. It is not permitted for anyone in the United States to say so. This is not just a tragedy for Israelis and their neighbors in the Middle East; it is doing widening damage to the national security of the United States.

The outrageous agitation that followed the leak of my pending appointment will be seen by many to raise serious questions about whether the Obama administration will be able to make its own decisions about the Middle East and related issues. I regret that my willingness to serve the new administration has ended by casting doubt on its ability to consider, let alone decide what policies might best serve the interests of the United States rather than those of a Lobby intent on enforcing the will and interests of a foreign government.

In the court of public opinion, unlike a court of law, one is guilty until proven innocent. The speeches from which quotations have been lifted from their context are available for anyone interested in the truth to read. The injustice of the accusations made against me has been obvious to those with open minds. Those who have sought to impugn my character are uninterested in any rebuttal that I or anyone else might make.

Still, for the record: I have never sought to be paid or accepted payment from any foreign government, including Saudi Arabia or China, for any service, nor have I ever spoken on behalf of a foreign government, its interests, or its policies. I have never lobbied any branch of our government for any cause, foreign or domestic. I am my own man, no one else’s, and with my return to private life, I will once again – to my pleasure – serve no master other than myself. I will continue to speak out as I choose on issues of concern to me and other Americans.

I retain my respect and confidence in President Obama and DNI Blair. Our country now faces terrible challenges abroad as well as at home. Like all patriotic Americans, I continue to pray that our president can successfully lead us in surmounting them.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Welcome to the Death Spiral

Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly: posts the following graph (Via Jaun Cole)

Says Benen, "See that column on the far-right edge? That's where Obama proposes the marginal top-rate should be. It's also the rate conservatives believe is so outrageous, that they're accusing the president of 'socialism' and talking openly about the 'Going Galt' scenario in which wealthy and industrious Americans would deliberately make less money to spite their country. It's all quite silly, but the graph adds some helpful context to drive the point home. Obama is proposing a top rate lower than Reagan's first term, lower than Nixon's, lower than Eisenhower's, and lower than FDR's when he pulled us out of the Great Depression."

Couldn't Agree More!

Meanwhile in my little town some Board of Finance members are trying to force the Board of Eduation to reduce their proposed budget by an estimated amount of Federal Stimulus. Such an action would, of course, reduce the current balance of the Federal Stimulus package (60% stimulus and 40% tax cuts) as it plays out in our education budget to 100% tax cuts and 0% stimulus.

One resident, an annual opponent of any spending, accidentally realized the problem when he said that "We will be in a recession as long as GDP continues to shrink and it won't end until people start spending again." Then, in his very next sentence, he advocated shrinking our local spending! This is the common wisdom and I am sure our town is not the only one that faces this shortsightedness. Welcome to the Death Spiral!