June 27, 2009

Matt Taiibi & the trompe l'oeil of American politics

I just finished reading Matt Taiibi's latest "screed" on America's economic meltdown (his brilliant writing is always called a "screed" by writers with fewer guts than Matt has) in the latest issue of Rolling Stone. RS doesn't like giving away its magazine on the Internet, but I tracked Matt's piece down through a pdf uploaded by Barry Ritholtz on his Big Picture blog. Barry's obviously another fan. No one writes like Matt, not even Hunter S. Thompson, said by some to be Matt's inspiration. I think Hunter was too booze-and drug-addled to handle the depth of Taiibi's analyses, for while Taiibi's writing is hilariously profane and vicious (he uses the term "asshole" to describe people who are obviously greedy, lying assholes, for example), it strikes me as extremely well-informed and meticulous.

"The Great American Bubble Machine" is about the specific role of Goldman Sachs in a series of Wall Street scams dating back to the Depression, although the focus is on more recent times: the dot.com bust and the subprime mortgage crisis, which has finally blown the American economy to smithereens. Because of the focus on Goldman Sachs, some readers of this piece have derided it as "anti-Semitic," but that's way, way too easy. That's not what it's about at all--it's not an attack on the "money lenders" or the "Elders of Zion." It's about the systemic rot at the base of the American economic and political worlds, about the absolutely corrupting influence of the huge concentration of wealth in a few hands and how the holders of this wealth have managed to rig the political and economic system so it does what they want, which is to keep funneling all the money to them. Or as Taiibi puts it, if the American economy is circling the drain, Goldman Sachs is that drain. I thnk the tight focus on one investment bank (the most powerful in the world) makes for a good narrative line, but in reality the corruption extends far outward into all the major financial players who gleefully pocketed bilions while pension funds, old folks and all the little American people watched ther life savings go up in smoke. Or down the Drain.

Goldman Sachs bundled together crappy mortgages, paid Moody's and Standard & Poor big fees to imprint them with their Triple A gold seal, and then made money by simultaneously taking short positions by means of huge credit default swap positions with AIG, Insurer-Croupier to the World of High Finance. When it all went bust-o, Hank Paulson, former Chairman of Goldman Sachs, arranged to bail out GS and all the other major players (except major competitor Lehman Brothers) and also pulled off the neat trick of bailing out AIG, so that Goldman's CDS bets could be made good. That's a pretty neat double play, and all with your money! How can there be any risk when GS sells shit at the price of gold and is reimbursed by the Fed for its systemic fraud (how can you, while being honest, sell a bundle of mortgages where the borrowers are meth-addicted ex-cons in Riverside County with no jobs, no income and a sub-zero FICO score to a Norwegian teachers fund, representing that the investment is rock solid, and then at the same time brag, as GS did, that their REAL money was being made on the short side of the same investment?). And then Paulson & Bernanke make sure that the insurer, AIG, has the wherewithal to pay off your CDS bets just to make it all a very good year.

So how do Goldman and the rest of the thieves on Wall Street get away with this grand larceny in broad daylight? Easy. Regulatory capture. They own the agencies in the federal govenment which are supposed to be keeping an eye on them. Most of the regulators, in the recent past, just walk in and out of their jobs with Goldman Sachs, like Paulson and Robert Rubin, Clinton's Secretary of the Treasury, who was instrumental in getting the Commodities Futures Modernization Act passed, that is, in getting rid of any oversight whatsoever over CDS bets. Goldman was the single largest contributor to Obama's campaign, and they spend a lot of money on key Senate members. So if you're wondering how all the Wall Street firms could blow a $13 triilion dollar hole in the American economy and nary a perp faces any kind of legal jeopardy (can you imagine how grateful they all are to Bernie Madoff for drawing the public's fire?), that's why. "It's all in the past," as Barack would say, which, oddly enough, is where most criminal acts happened. But there will be no enforcement whatsoever for criminal securities fraud which occurred on a truly massive scale, because that's not how the Mafiosi punish each other. They get together, they talk, they divide up the territory, maybe somebody (Lehman) has to get rubbed out.

Like the famous ambiguous drawing above, at a certain point the picture snaps into place and you can see the vase as clearly as the faces. It's right there in front of you. The high finance crooks of Wall Street are gangsters who have managed to infiltrate law "enforcement" to such a degree that they can operate with impunity. The only check on their ability to make money is the gullibility of the investors - nothing else. And they are "too big to fail," so that there is no chance of real loss - if they overextend themselves, the very people they defrauded will be forced to pay to bail them out, because they're so "essential" to the economy. Neat, huh?

So as to Obama - what am I saying? That he's the Capo di Tutti Capi, the Chicago Gangster now in charge of the whole racket? That cap-and-trade sets up a Climate Exchange in Chicago where carbon credits can be traded because a "private" solution allows the hucksters on Wall Street to game that system too? That Obama's a fake who himself fleeced the general public into millions of private donations (mine included), enough to get himself elected the first time, and will fill his war chest with the usual Gangster Tributes for the second run since the ordinary citizens will realize in 2012 they've been conned? That people will start looking at the stuff about Tony Rezko in Chicago with a slightly more, shall we say, suspicious attitude?

I'm not sure. That's the problem with this creepy kind of conspiracy thinking, of the sort that Taiibi induces with his brilliantly incisive writing. Because he's not really wrong when he says we have a gangster economy and a ganster political system, just as Russia did between the fall of Communism and the collapse of its economy in the late Nineties, during the era of the Oligarchs.

Yeah, partly it's that Gulfstream jet ride to New York. His wishy-washy approach to health care reform. His preventive detention bullshit. Now his "signing statement" crap. His hands-off approach to the corruption and crimes of the Bush Administration. Who is this guy, and how does this whole system work now?

June 26, 2009

Maybe Barack hired the wrong brother

There was a pretty good line in Paul Krugman's column today about Barack's audacity deficiency, to the effect that Obama seems to spend a lot of time "negotiating with himself." Images of public figures slowly crystallize, and the one that appears to be taking shape around Prez O is that he tends to pull his punches before he needs to. Krugman was writing specifically about the public option in the health care legislation currently Topic A in Congress, and Obama's tendency to waffle about whether he will or will not approve of a bill that does not have such a central feature. I think most people probably realize that without a public option, the "reform" legislation is simply more deck chair arranging with no purpose other than to convince the substantial majority of Americans who want universal coverage (about 75%) that something was done even though it wasn't.

Anyway, Krugman's line is apt. In the law game, it's known as "bidding against yourself;" if you've staked out a reasonable position, as Obama has with the public plan option, you do not back off that position until you absolutely must (if then), and you certainly do not signal that your position is in some sense negotiable even before the other side responds. They already know it's negotiable; telling them they can have what they want simply by asking for it telegraphs to your opposition that you don't really believe in your position. Thus, the Republican and Democratic employees of the health insurance industry (which is to say, all Republican and "moderate" Democrats in the Senate) already assume they have won that fight, and the only question is how much more can they eviscerate health care reform before Obama just flicks the whole thing in and says, "Well, I tried."

Well, no you didn't, and that's the whole problem. Unless Obama also wants to engage in a Kabuki exercise in which he pretends to go to bat for the millions and millions of Americans who are getting hammered by high insurance premiums, insane deductibles, spotty coverage, retroactive disqualification for preexisting conditions and the rest of it, he needs to draw that famous line in the sand. No public option, no health care reform, and then paint a huge red target around the Senators who blocked the advance of the bill, particularly those who are up for reelection in 2010.

What I mean by the title of this note is that Obama's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, is supposed to be "The Hammer." How could Obama possibly negotiate in such a weak and ineffective style if this guy's in his office every day pumping him up for battle? I can't imagine that Ari Emanuel (pictured above), said to be the model for super-agent Ari Gold in "Entourage," would ever play the game this way. He would assess his bargaining points in terms of the leverage he has for every one of them. Such as, Obama's got three-fourths of the American people behind him. You can do an awful lot of damage to your political opponents in the electoral process by playing that card.

If he proceeds the way Ari would play it, I don't see how Obama can lose. If he gets a public option, he's a hero. If he draws a line in the sand and is stymied by a lot of corrupt Senators, he's still a hero and he can get rid of a few more Republicans next year. The only way he can actually lose is if he plays this wussy "bipartisan" game where the Senate rolls him and then reaches the conclusion that in all future battles, all they have to do is wait for Obama to cave. And then in 2012, Barack will have his own date with destiny.

June 25, 2009

Mark Sanford for President

Look, he was 49. Hemmed in by family and a job he found suffocating. Was his response simply to play the stoic, stifle his feelings of frustration, the sense that life was passing, or had already passed, him by? No, he found a girlfriend in Argentina named Maria. A woman who moved him to write like this:

"Two, mutual feelings . . . You have a particular grace and calm that I adore. You have a level of sophistication that so fitting with your beauty. I could digress and say that you have the ability to give magnificent gentle kisses, or that I love your tan lines or that I love the curve of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself (or two magnificent parts of yourself) in the faded glow of the night’s light - but hey, that would be going into sexual details ..."

Good stuff.

The liberal pundits are looking for ways to talk about this so it sounds like a serious matter, instead of an excuse to talk about a married American man with a hot Argentine girlfriend, because if they don't dress it up, it will be too obvious they're just jealous. Keith Olbermann last night was particularly disgusting. A simpering, puerile narrative interwoven with Governor Sanford's press conference confession, as if there were some sort of "drama" in a guy coming clean about su novia. Did Sanford go to Buenos Aires to say "goodbye," to end it all, to clear the decks for a fresh start? No, he went to Argentina because he was hot to see Maria and her magnificent parts.

Ed Schultz, roughly the size, shape and timbre of a beer barrel, used his TV time to discuss the serious disservice Sanford has done to the noble citizens of South Carolina. He called South Carolinians "stupid" if they allow a guy to stay on the payroll who left the state without telling anyone where he was. What if something had happened to South Carolina? Well, in the first place, Mark Sanford would have known about it. Heard of the Internet? Cell phones? Plus, Sanford's wife knew where he was. So if Kim Jong-Il's army had come ashore in Charleston, Mark could have torn himself away from one of those magnificent gentle kisses, or averted his gaze from Maria's tan lines long enough to tell his Lt. Governor to call Washington. Unless Barack was on a Gulfstream jet on date night, I'm sure he would have handled it. That's what a "team" is for.

Freud explained all this a long time ago with his "projection/introjection" analysis. Naturally, we attack the perceived "weaknesses" in others that we feel most strongly in ourselves, and if you're normal, sex is a vulnerability. Anyway, it should be. So what if Sanford attacked Clinton for Monica's under-the-desk visits in the Oval Office? Maybe he disapproved of the way Slick Willie trashed Monica with his "that woman" stuff, where Bill did his best impersonation of an honest guy. Note that the Governor did not have a bad word to say about Maria -- indeed, he felt for her. That's class. Take note Keith and Ed, in case you guys each lose two hundred pounds and find yourselves in the same predicament.

No doubt Mark would like to feel for Maria again, preferably in the faded glow of the night's light. As the stars dance in the dark flowing water of the Rio de la Plata, with a warm brisa blowing in from the Pampas, as Maria turns from the balcony rail and walks toward you, the outline of her broad hips caught for a moment in the phosphorescence of reflection...

Go ahead and use it, Mark. You're doing great so far.

June 23, 2009

Needle Hits "E"

Seriously, it is often hard to find anything new to say. This is bound to happen from time to time. Frequently, the most fun is just thinking up titles. E.g., I see where John Yoo was named as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by Jose Padilla (and his mother) arising from his torture and incarceration without due process, on the basis of Yoo's role in providing legal cover for violations of the Bill of Rights (I mean, what's a law professor for if not that?), and it survived a motion to dismiss under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. By an opinion written by a conservative federal judge in San Francisco (not an oxymoron - I'm familiar with the jurist in question). So I thought of a blog title: "Fairy Tales Can Come True, It Can Happen to Yoo," and then I went blank. I mean, what's the point? So a private litigant can bring one lawsuit against one minor player in the Bush War Crime Spree while the entire Justice Department sits with its collective thumb up its collective ass - is this actually a victory or a measure of how rotten things are?

Congress can't write a meaningful health care reform bill; can't regulate systemic fraud; can't deal with global warming; can't get out of Afghanistan and will take forever to get out of Iraq; can't ensure healthy food; can't do squat except give money it doesn't have to Wall Street. The government's bankrupt. California is bankrupt. The world's fisheries are 90% dead. Species are dropping like flies, except flies are thriving because species are dropping like....even your logic gets circular after a while.

Obama's a major disappointment. I'm tired of his war of adjectives against the Iranian government already. I know he's outraged, aghast, shocked, dismayed, incensed, concerned, heartbroken, bummed out and nonplussed by the violence in the streets. I know he's watching along with the world. I know we're bearing witness. We'll probably bear witness to Kim Jong-Il's missile attack on Kauai too, and be outraged, aghast, shocked, dismayed, incensed, concerned and probably irradiated.

I feel like Paul Simon must have felt when he wrote his Simple Desultory Philippic:
I been Norman Mailered,
Maxwell Taylored.
I been John O'Hara'd,
I been Rolling Stoned and
Beatled till I'm blind.
I been Ayn Randed,
nearly branded Communist,
'cause I'm left-handed.
That's the hand I use, well,
never mind.

The best writer I know on the general subject of systemic breakdown in Washington is Glenn Greenwald, who writes a blog for Salon (it's linked to the right). To summarize his central thesis, the "elites" of the Beltway (which the blogger Digby calls The Village - a nice touch, reminiscent of the old Patrick McGoohan surreality) operate within a reality bubble (as in The Village of "The Prisoner"). The Bubble Elites conform their opinions and behavior to certain conventional views shared among themselves. The Elites include not only Congress members but also the Mainstream Media - the writers for the Washington Post and New York Times (George Will, Krauthammer, David Broder, Tom Friedman, David Brooks et alia) and the cable and network newsies - Blitzer, Matthews, and the rest. Obama has obviously been sucked into that vortex, and he now talks and acts like one of them.

The Elites maintain "access" to each other (Biden on Matthews' "Hardball," Newt Gingrich on everyone's show, even though, as far as I can tell, he doesn't actually hold office), they return each other's phone calls, and they all make a very nice living with all their worldly cares taken care of and with immense power at their disposal. As C. Wright Mills taught us in The Power Elite, it is the natural inclination of those with power to take those actions which perpetuate their power. In The Village, this takes the form of "go along to get along." Thus, the Washington Post will not use the word "torture" to describe the Bush Administration's program of torture; it is always "enhanced interrogation techniques." Calling something "torture" in The Village is rude and unseemly; Obama, a quick learner, picked up on this point and decided that no one in the Bush Administration would ever pay a price for torturing human beings, because the maintenance of a prim, polite veneer of "bipartisanship" was more important to the general conspiracy against the American People which is our representative government. Patrick Buchanan, clearly an anti-Semite and a racist, is permitted easy access to all the big talk shows, as is Ann Coulter, whose stock in trade is a kind of depraved cruelty and adolescent name-calling. Such people have "visibility," and thus are Certified Villagers. Respect must be paid, because mutual regard keeps the game going, and why would someone allow ethics or humanity to interfere with such a profitable enterprise?

Glenn points out that national polls demonstrate over and over again that the American people are considerably more progressive than their elected representatives. In general, about 60% of the American populace is ready for all kinds of salutary changes which their elected "representatives" will not permit. A reduction in military spending in favor of domestic needs; reduction of the huge deficits; a move toward renewable energy; single payer health care; the legalization of gay marriage; legalization of marijuana and a cessation of the war on drugs; ending the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan. These are facts, or at least as factual as rigorously designed opinion polls can prove. Thus, when Mitch McConnell stands up in the Old White Men's Club (the Senate) and drones on about what "the American people want," his mental referent is a whites-only country club in suburban Kentucky circa 1955, with 95% Protestants, three Catholics and no Jews. He is not actually talking about "America."

When speaking to each other, the Village Elites reassure themselves that the American People want us to remain for years and years in Iraq & Afghanistan, to "support the troops," so that when Nancy Pelosi (recruiting remote skull muscularity to overcome chemically-induced facial paralysis) tells us the American People expect "us" (Villagers) to "support the troops" by voting another hundred bil to last through September, she is really saying that the Democrats are in charge now, the wars belong to them, and the Dems need the money. On virtually every issue the Village Elites talk the same way: things cannot be done because the American People won't stand for it, etc., even though this is blatantly, demonstrably false.

Glenn makes these points cogently and, I think, irrefutably. The question is: how could things have come to such a pass? This is more complicated, and is the result of a bias in favor of the status quo resulting from (a) the sheer cost of unseating an existing Villager in Congress, (b) in the McLuhanesque Age, the enormous advantages one's simple celebrity and familiarity convey, and (c) the complexity of the issues involved, which makes it difficult for a member of the American populace to follow the bouncing ball and determine, on a precise issue, whether their elected solon is actually representing his/her interests. These three factors make longevity in Congress a pretty simple matter: don't screw up, don't draw negative attention to yourself, vote like everybody else (unless your shtick is being a Certified Maverick: Ron Paul, e.g.). The fact that you're there practically guarantees that you'll stay there because people see you, hear about you, and when they go in the voting booth they see your name and punch the ballot next to it. To overcome this huge advantage of incumbency, a challenger has to go broke to raise his visibility to that of a Villager. And the Villager can match whatever sums the challenger can put up by the Villager's built-in advantage: he's in Congress and is already on the take from his true constituency: Big Business.

Thus, Joe Biden is celebrated as a champion of the little guy, even though he was a champion of one of the most oppressively anti-little-guy pieces of legislation in recent years, the bankruptcy reform bill, which was written by credit card companies (many based in Biden's home state of Delaware, the low-tax "Reno" for corporations), who contribute a lot of money to Biden's war chest. Or did, until this faux "populist" became the VP of the faux-populist Obama. Chuck Schumer does not want to disturb the absurd loophole in the tax code which allows hedge fund managers to pay capital gains rates on their billions in income, instead of ordinary income rates the way their secretaries must. As long as Schumer plays ball with the New York-based hedge funds, his coffers will always be full. This loophole costs the federal government enormous sums of money every year. But Chuckie's "fun" and "liberal," so no problem.

On and on. Defense contracting. Big Pharma. They've all got their designated Errand Boys & Girls in Congress. Do these people want campaign finance reform? Hell, no. They're there, and they intend to stay forever. Arlen Specter switched parties to ensure his reelection, brazenly admitting that was the only reason. The Democrats (particularly Obama) welcomed him with open arms. And really, what the hell is the difference? Wasn't Obama saying to Specter, "We know your 'positions' were just stuff you had to say to get elected as a Republican from Pennsylvania, but that state is so much in the crapper now there are a lot of Democrats so you'll say stuff now to get elected as a Democrat. Hey - it's all good."

How did the Obama - Clinton two-person race happen in the first place? The Big Media selected them. They were the best story line. I didn't want either one of them at the outset. Obama plainly lacked sufficient experience; Hillary was a quintessential Triangulating Villager. But at the "debates," Barack and Hillary got 15 questions each, to one for each of the others (who were also far from exhilarating, truth be told). The visibility of the two media-selected candidates rose to the point that the selection of one of them was inevitable. The Republicans decided to let McCain run once in a year they knew they were going to lose, and that was it. "The Electoral Process in America." But let's lecture Iran on how it's done, or send our own Ayatollah, Justice Antonin Scalia, to Tehran to act as an observer for the recount.

Can the inertia of such a decadent system be overcome by the populace? No. There is no way. In 6 years, using the 535 Plan for Complete Congressional Replacement, we could break the bonds between every legislator, lobbyist and media pundit. But we're not going to do that; it violates the rules of the McLuhanesque Trance. That flow of history called Reality, however, will bring about its own changes, and those will be profound. Vandals & Visigoths for one empire, bankruptcy for another.

I've been Ann Coultered, cold shouldered
John Boltoned, it's revoltin
George Bushed, Cheneyed too
Condoleezaed, Moon Face Yoo,
Mississippied, Alabamaed
Orange Boehnered, Barack Obamaed,
Mumbles Reided, Max Baucased
Republican National Party caucused,
Sean Hannityed, lost my sanity,
Druggie Limbaugh high on vanity,
George Willed, Brooks the shill,
Lindsey Graham take a pill.
Arlen Spectered, resurrected,
As a Dem and who expected
Any difference?

June 22, 2009

Why not criminalize AGW Denial?

Anyone who reads the report from the Copenhagen conference on global warming, which concluded a few months ago, and is not absolutely terrified by the impending disaster of global warming - is (a) not paying attention or (b) has a death wish. It can be linked to the right through RealClimate.org. 2500 of the best climate scientists (and other academics and researchers working on the problem) from Berkeley, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge, Beijing and Japan, to name a few, met to review the current state of climate science. 1400 papers were presented and a synthesis report was issued. The bottom line can be stated thusly: things are considerably worse than they looked two years ago when the IPCC report was issued, and if we are not to slip irreversibly over the 2 degree Centigrade "guardrail" (beyond which serious questions arise as to human viability on Planet Earth), then immediate and drastic reductions in CO2 emissions must begin.

I've been following RealClimate for several years now and I have detected a change in tone. In the early days, under assault from Right Wing blowhards such as James Inhofe in the Senate and Joe Barton in Congress, and amid the general indifference of the Bush Administration, scientists at RealClimate and elsewhere (such as the U.S.-China conference I visited at Berkeley a few years ago) were shrill and frustrated in their attempts to "defend" their "case," trying mightily to get people to take the problem seriously. The case has now been made so thoroughly, so irrefutably, that a different problem has arisen: how to avoid the complete demoralization of the public concerning remedial action. That is, there is no guarantee at this point, no matter what we do including the immediate cessation of all CO2 emissions (which is not likely - I just saw a car drive by my office window - oops, there's another one), that the threshold will not be crossed.

Still, if we're going to try to deal with any problem in our society and in our world, we should try to do this - deal with the catastrophe of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). It is more important than health care, more important than Nutcase Kim in N. Korea, more important than Iran, more important than the Saudi terrorist cells plotting to blow up another American building. Yet dealing with it seems to run up against an innate human resistance to confronting any problem which does not present tangible and immediate problems for daily life. In evolutionary terms, we're just not wired to react to "theoretical" dangers that gradually overtake us.

In my own small way, I was trying to think of something that would give this issue greater visibility, and I think I may have hit on something. It arises from my adversarial training and experience, you could say; I'm not really much into "bipartisanship" like Barack. I don't think you can necessarily cajole and sweet talk cretins like James Inhofe and Joe Barton into seeing things reasonably. I watch George Stephanopoulos some Sunday mornings, and there's George Will, given a national forum on "This Week." He's an AGW Denier. Maybe he writes belletristically, maybe he enunciates his opaque sentences with gravitas, but let me ask a question: if George Will appeared on "This Week" one Sunday and told us he had devised a cure for late stage lung cancer in his kitchen over the weekend, the viewers would regard him as a lunatic. Yet when he weighs in on a scientific subject more complicated than cancer research, he is treated seriously.

AGW is about as "controversial" a theory among actual scientists at this point as evolution and the Copernican solar system. Given its multifactorial, positive feedback loop nature, it is extraordinarily complicated. But the general trend is becoming clearer and clearer. The air and seas are getting hotter, the oceans are acidifying and dying, and we're in for a world of hurt. If we carry on as we have since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, we will endure a kind of self-inflicted genocide. So it occurred to me: why not follow the lead of those European civil law countries which have criminalized denial of the Holocaust? For example,

§ 3h. As an amendment to § 3 g., whoever denies, grossly plays down, approves or tries to excuse the National Socialist genocide or other National Socialist crimes against humanity in a print publication, in broadcast or other media.[11]

is an operative and relevant part of Austria's Anti-Denier statute. Germany, France, Belgium, the Czech Republic and numerous other countries have similar laws. It is true that these "civil law" countries have never regarded free speech with quite the same reverence that we say we do in common law countries such as Great Britain and the USA, although I have noticed in the last few years that the Bill of Rights is increasingly regarded as optional by our political class. But even in days of yore, when we believed in civil liberties, one could not yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater without violating the criminal law. And we've always had laws against defamation, which restrict free speech as well.

You can do as much as a ten-year stretch in Austria for the violation described above. Penalties and fines vary from country to country, but the offense is taken seriously wherever it's on the books. So if Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma wants to announce to the world that global warming is the greatest hoax in the history of mankind, and does so on the Senate floor while the C-Span cameras are rolling, charge him with AGW Denial. He can defend himself - all he has to do is to convince the jury that he's right. Same for George Will - let's see what that opinion is made of, George! Lay it all out for us, because surely you're not contributing to the likelihood of human extinction on the basis of your Right Wing, pro-business attitudes, right? And thinking of Patrick Buchanan, who on MSNBC from time to time "grossly plays down" global warming and also has a disturbing tendency to lionize the Third Reich, and gave us the benefit of his opinion in a 1990 piece that it would have been impossible for Jews to die in the gas chambers of Treblinka - maybe we could get a twofer: try him here for AGW Denial and then extradite him to Austria, where, after doing his stretch, he could make daily pilgrimages to Der Fuhrer's Geburtshaus.