HAMMERNEWS- Michael Hammerschlag

Current Political Commentary by journalist Michael Hammerschlag; Thoughts on foreign policy, Republican outrages, liberal strategies, science by 8 year correspondent in Russia/Ukraine over 22 years and longtime commentator; Website: http://HAMMERNEWS.com

Monday, December 29, 2008


Kiev: The MN recount (latest Franken website) first showed no sign of ending as the Supreme Court refused to invalidate ballots Coleman the Stove says were counted twice, but the Election Board now says Monday they will certify Franken THE WINNER BY 225 votes. There were 1600 maybe improperly rejected ballots counted- so Coleman, of course, vowed to file a lawsuit, then came up with 654 more ballots to be analyzed- standard Repub wrench-throwing to delay the results. He has promised a challenge to the vote, and TX cracker Sen. John Cornyn promised a filibuster if the Senate tries to seat Franken Teus, Jan 6th. Fine- let the games begin- if the Dems can't crush a filibuster with 59 Senators (where virtually every Republican would have to be continuously present- quick vote during bathroom breaks!), they don't deserve their majority. The MN Court may have been swayed by the fact that most of Colemans challenges were bogus, while Franken's were mostly honest. This probably won’t be resolved by Jan 6, when the US Senate can simply rule on the winner (cool rule)- since it is essentially a tie, they are Dems, so we pick, oh I don’t know, maybe THE DEM!!!!!!! Insanely the MN Supremes allowed both candidates to have a say in which of these disputed ballots are rejected: Coleman was challenging 40% of them. I don’t like ol Norm- he reminds me of a grumpy Midas Man, and not sure he should have been elevated much above that, and even the Repubs are probably looking forward to Franken high jinks in the Senate (showing up with a satellite dish on his head). Besides, if Al Gore could win the popular vote by 540,000 and FL by 20-40,000; and the FL legislature still vowed to send a Bush slate of electors if Gore had won… we can do what is best for the country. See my scoop on the worst election scandal in 2000 FL (9%-27,000 votes rejected in Jacksonville), which didn’t get picked up by AP cause Dave ran my rare straight news story as a commentary. http://hammernews.com/duval.jpg SAMPLE BALLOT DECEPTIVE, DIFFERENT - Dems denied hand count in Duval Co. - Nat. scoop Capital Times - Nov 25, 2000


ST. PAUL, Minn. – Minnesota's highest court on Wednesday ruled against Republican Sen. Norm Coleman's attempt to keep dozens of possible double votes from Democratic-heavy precincts out of the long-running U.S. Senate recount, but left the door open for a lawsuit.

The state Supreme Court unanimously denied Coleman's request for a temporary restraining order to block the votes, which the Coleman campaign contended were duplicates that mostly favored Democratic rival Al Franken. The court upheld the state Canvassing Board's ruling on the matter. The court's decision leaves Coleman with fewer ways to make up ground in the recount, where he now trails Franken by 47 votes.

Coleman's attorneys, who said the campaign was "deeply disappointed" by the decision, added that it virtually guaranteed the recount would end in litigation and delay the seating of a Minnesota senator past Jan. 6, when the next Congress convenes.

The recount, after slogging through useless swamps of clear ballots, found a motherload of unjustifiably challenged Franken votes. Here is the constantly updated total from Mpls Star-Tribune- http://www.startribune.com/politics/national/senate/36382129.html . I lived there once- a fun place of solid decent Scandinavians with the worst winters in the world (still has record for my coldest place after 4 winters in Russia and one in Jackson Hole), and yes, I often drove over that bridge that collapsed. God, does the senate need a Barney Frank to puncture the self-serving lies of the rejectionist Right. Too bad they didn’t kill the filibuster a couple of years ago- gee, where did the Repubs generational majority go? Oh, that’s right, they gave it to US! Now I wish I’d called Al, when I had his NYC number from a Mpls college bud and was lobbying to work on SNL.


How about the Baghdad shoe-throwing reporter- he might have a future hurling for the Red Sox once his 20 year solitary torture sentence is over. Or maybe after the Great Pretender has flown off they give him a medal and many prostitutes. (Yeah they are dancing in the streets in support of this guy- looks like he might not even get hard time, though he has a broken hand, ribs, and eye injuries and is in the hospital.) He was right on target- what a pity Bush was looking and still has his cheerleading reflexes- the twit actually looked like he was having fun. This disgrace is trying to rehabilitate his image - ohh, it's too bad the intelligence was wrong. Only the intelligence of our legacy President and neocon radical Veep + Cabinet- everyone else in the world knew it was lies. The only person who should interview him is Keith Olbermann- I’m sure he would have some real questions.

Shoe man- Muntadar al-Zaidi, a Shiite TV reporter, was enraged about American destruction, but also, Iranian influence, which American actions h

ave ensconced in the top leadership, and this is the first glimmer of a actual pan-religious Iraqi nationalism that is a good sign- that even the Shiites are alarmed at the power of Iran's proxy's. Insane, that even as US blusters and threatens Iran (with good justification), they've made them a regional superpower in overthrowing the Baathists (cleanliness is next to.. well,

you know) and allowing democracy to elect their agents in Iraq. A Saudi businessman has bid $10 million for one of the W shoes.


Obama’s science picks are really great, but I would like to see almost his entire stimulus go to alternative energy. We don’t need to spend a fortune renovating our roads and bridges- “upgrades” of roadwork can cost more than building new ones, and so what if a bridge collapses every 2 years or so. Alternative energy and electric car development will determine if we freeze in the dark in 10-20 years or have to reinvade the Middle East and steal their oil. And GW will kill millions within tens of years- hundreds of millions if collapsing Antarctic and Arctic Ice Cap worldwide tsunamis occur. On my last GW article 10 years ago, got nice letter from Al Gore and the second piece I ever wrote was on energy crisis an indeterminate period ago.


best idea I heard is creating a US Motors out of them and mandate them to start banging out electric cars and the best hybrids- the Volt can only go 40 miles, about half of what is necessary for a real all-electric vehicle. The Chinese just unveiled theirs, the romantically named F3DM, which can go 100km and plug into home outlets, was backed by Warren Buffet. I understand all the arguments against the big 3- frankly all the top management should be canned, stripped of 5 years of bonuses, tarred and feathered, and then jailed for destroying the EV1, which they had 12 years ago. The whole world would be buying American now- $1 to charge up rather than burning $50-150 of precious hydrocarbons (which are raw materials for plastics, drugs, chemicals, fertilizer, etc). I suspect nothing will change in 2-3 months when the latest infusion of money- $13 billion runs out.

But seeing Bush as the savior of anything, while his Southern fried scumbag Senators scheme to crush their (American) competition in service of their foreign employers, is enough to make one’s brains explode. “Do you finally have, at long last, some decency, sir?”

Will people be buying Detroit in 3 months- no, and not in 12 months either, nobody will be buying new cars for quite a while. Without that, no bailout can work, and the welcome and unfortunate collapse of oil prices means the panic buying of electric vehicles won’t occur. I begged my Senator to do a 20% windfall profits tax on the Oilcos ($25-30 bill then) and have a contest for a functional electric car and funnel the money straight to the winner (with some to subsidize the cost) partly because the auto industry was on a fast track to oblivion. The Repubs crushed a windfall profits tax bil
l last year that got barely a peep of publicity.

OBAMA’s STMULUS PROGRAM is going to be a trillion spread over 2 years, but still, one has to

wonder, will China, Japan, England, OPEC, etc. keep buying the US bonds that keep us afloat with these monstrous deficits- more to the point- can they? 0% prime means absolute peanuts interest for our bonds- why should anyone buy them? And if they can’t or don’t because of their own problems, what then?


It is all very nice and egalitarian to decry the apparent imperial privilege Caroline Kennedy has in lobbying for HC’s Senate seat without the dirty work of campaigning.. but sorry- appointments are just that, and often are payoffs to pals, contributors, etc. As for paying her dues, go back and see the pictures of 6 year old Caroline after her father’s brains were splattered over television by a still undetermined conspiracy (JFK- LINGERING SHADOWS this is probably best thing I’ve written). I think, maybe…. she’s paid her dues. Her heart is in the right place, she has 4 years to find her place, and we gotta have a Kennedy somewhere- unlike the Bushies- their dynasty has stood for social justice, hard work, and real service. Remember girlfriend gushing over seeing JFK Jn. at the RISD Tap Room, but then he was in his sleazo Italian playboy mode and I never hunted him down- how was I to know he would run a nat. vanity political mag. After he w ent to Brown, the obscure Ivy became the most selective school in the country.

On the other hand, she has appeared woefully unprepared as she repeated “you know” a few hundred times in a fatal interview- it seems her bid is dead.... so sometimes.... I can be wrong.


In more bad news, Putin is ramming through a law to make treason far more inclusive of say, things like complaining. And those pesky juries weren’t coming to the right verdicts- they let some people go, so they fixed it by making them all judge trials. Medvedev, bullied to do Vlad’s bidding, has been looking more stressed as he sells Russia’s hard line – the pressure of waiting for the moment when Putin says “GET OUT”, like Arnie does in Terminator 2 to the pilot of the helicopter (note- 100 ft up, ha ha), which I saw in the new Tretiakovskaya Museum with artist sweetheart Olga on a print with peoples heads on the bottom before it was even released, for 8 cents. The phrase became a running joke between us. When I left a year ago, I thought, with infinite sadness, that Russia is lost to the world.


Russian treason bill could target Kremlin critics

--------MOSCOW – Under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, people who fraternized with foreigners or criticized the Kremlin were "enemies of the people" and sent to the gulag. Now there's new legislation backed by Vladimir Putin's government that human rights activists say could throw Russia back to the days of the Great Terror. The legislation, outspoken government critic and rights activist charged Wednesday, creates "a base for a totalitarian state. Some of Russia's most prominent right activists, including Moscow Helsinki Group head Lyudmila Alexeyeva and Civic Assistance director Svetlana Gannushkina, said the b ill in fact gives authorities the power to prosecute anyone deemed to have "harmed the security of the Russian Federation."

It is "legislation in the spirit of Stalin and Hitler," the activists said in a joint
statement — legislation that "returns the
Russian justice to the times of 1920-1950s."----

Shutting down the Great Terror remembrance group Memorial is the ugly logical step in the whitewashing of Russian history. If Stalin wasn’t so bad, how bad can Putin be. Uncle Joe was just rated number 3 in the endless massive poll for Great Russians.

And desperate to ratify my “growing threat to the world” prognostication, Russia has:

“thrown down a new gauntlet to Barack Obama with an announcement that it will sharply increase production of strategic nuclear missiles.
In the latest of a series of combative moves by the Kremlin, a senior government official in Moscow said the Russian military would commission 70 strategic missiles over the next three years, as part of a massive rearmament program which will also include short-range missiles, 300 tanks, 14 warships and 50 planes.” This has the potential to restart Cold War lunacy again.

LASTLY, Vlad has cut off the flow of natural gas to Ukraine Jan 1, though the stove is still cranking in Kiev with more pressure than before (good cause its 16F, -9C), courtesy of the 110 days of reserves Ukraine salted away for future shutoffs, which they claim they are tapping now, but I think they've tapped the European gas because feeding it into the network is harder than taking it out. Russia really wants control of their pipelines and is trying to barter 1-2 years prepayment of the vastly below-market transit fees they pay for shipment across Ukraine to
supply 25% of Europe's demand. The $179/1000 cu M they pay is significantly below world prices, but those are crashing too, because they are tied to oil. Both sides have been back + forth 10 times now, with Russia demanding $250/1000cum, Ukraine finally offering 201, then 235.... now Russia says $438- the old price before the oil price crashed.

The Slavic tendency to renegotiate everything (as in reneg) coupled with Russian bullying for political purposes combine to ensure that any agreement will be written in sand. Meanwhile Pres. Yushchenko's and PM Tymoshenko's bitter personal feud mean they are more interested in gathering ammunition against the other than saving their people or solving the problems- both are close to treason in their heedless scorched earth tactics.

Germany of all people, is threatening Ukraine to "not steal their gas", a notable departure from their sympathy the last time this came up- when Russia was the meanie. This is the new hard-knuckle energy politics where all they care about is GIVE ME MY OIL+GAS! Don't give me excuses, which will lead to various wars within 10-20 years. It is an extraordinarily dangerous situation- if Ukraine diverts European gas, Russia, hammered by the oil price collapse and increasingly isolated and paranoid, is capable of any hostility.


Dec 18, 8pm Dollar broke 9hr today, with the daily rises that are like Moscow in the early 90’s- exhilarating if you have dollar- a 12% rise in a day… but so far it has lost me my aptmt, and new mag that wants my stuff pays quite well… in hryvnas, won’t be much. That means dollar has doubled from 4.6 in Sept- boo ya, after a steady 2 years of collapse, and it’s only because we have destroyed the economy of the world with our junk “investment vehicles”. The irony. After reaching 9.7 hryvnas to the dollar Wed, the dioxin damaged Ukrainian government decided the problem was all the obmens changing money and decided to shut them down, and injected hundreds of millions of dollars into circulation. Voila, the dollar dropped to only 6hr/$ (to sell, 8 to buy) at the obmens at the same time that the central bank still had it pegged at 7.97- if you see something wrong with this, you haven’t mastered Soviet accounting. Spreads between obmens and banks were so wide that one could make 11% changing things back and forth, but dollars had become almost unfindable.

Spoke too soon- dollar dropped to 7.5 just before had to pay rent in hryvnas, but my prediction Sept 3 to editors that the Euro (then $1.26) would rise was quickly born out- now at $1.40


$5 trillion of outlays, guarantees, loans, giveaways.. and they’ve not stopped the financial hemorrhage, only fed money in as fast as it flows out. There are $30-40 trillion more of bad paper, bonds, instruments, and its way too much for any or all governments to pay off… so this economic collapse is just getting started- think 2-4 years. And that’s if they do everything right. Rubin’s firm- Citibank got 80 or $120 billion- the numbers keep growing.. in the corrupt sweetheart deals that Paulson, Kashkari, and co. are making.


The urbane, eccentric, blueblood liberal 36 yr Senator from our little RI just died at 90, Claiborne
Pell, whose college grants sent over 60 million kids to college and who created the Nat. Endowment for the Arts + Humanities . He was an unfailing decent and polite man who retained untouchable political power in the rough and tumble blue-collar state. I dealt with him a few times, in Moscow on a visit, and when he was retiring and I lobbied for help in a foreign policy slot (when of course he would be looking after his staffers); though my father, City Planning Dep. Director of Providence, knew him quite well. He was a class act and will be missed, and in the swath of wreckage the Bushies left, the Pell Grants were cut to the bone- only $4700 max/yr, when good state schools now run $20K, and private ones start at 40K/year.


Thatis supposed to be if a “if tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it” takeoff, since here, it doesn’t fall. Oh, the Slavs celebrate Christmas, but according to the Gregorian or Druid calendar, on January 7, so Christmas is a normal workday with all the stores open- nice to avoid those end of the world and nowhere to go blues. Time to get that last last minute shopping done- ooh too late, guess I just have to keep it for myself. Their Santa is Ded Moroz, and dresses in green (no,no- the trees are green). Speak of, did you hear of the Bad Santa that walked into a Christmas party in LA and started shooting- 9 dead, including kids. I blundered unawares into the superb but devastating schoolyard shooting movie The Life Before Her Eyes- with the magnificent beauty/actress/star Evan Rachel Wood a couple of days ago. Review here: http://imdb.com/user/ur0741615/comments

Friend got an Acer Aspire One 110 new microcomputer- 9”screen, 2 lbs, WiFi, 3 hr battery, cardreaders, Office equivalents, IM clients. No hard drive (8 gig flashcard memory w expandable linked SD- got fast 8gig), modem (LAN and WiFi), or CD/DVD (jump drives); or Windows (Linpus Linux, which has most equivalents)… but it weighed in at <$200- absolutely amazing considering 2 years ago would have to pay $1600 for an rough equivalent Sony (or get a 6 year old NEC MobilePro 900, if you could). Better AAO versions have 120-160gig HD and XP and cost $300-400. Asus and MSI make something equivalent.