Friday, January 21, 2011


January 20, 2011

A Most Valuable Democrat

In the spring of 2008, John McCain asked Joe Lieberman to speak on his behalf at the Republican National Convention. “If I look back, I wonder about it,” Lieberman now says. But it seemed the natural way to help the man he deemed most qualified to be president.
After Barack Obama won the election, the hammer came down. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, told Lieberman that some Democrats wanted to strip him of his chairmanship of the homeland security committee. Lieberman, an independent, said if that happened then he might not be able to vote with the Democratic caucus.
The decisive meeting occurred during the transition period. President Obama opposed punishing Lieberman, as did Senators Reid, Schumer, Durbin, Dodd and Salazar. The entire caucus held a debate about Lieberman’s future with Lieberman right there in the room. “It wasn’t ad hominem,” Lieberman recalled. “Some people said, ‘We like you Joe. We just can’t accept this behavior.’ ”
In the end, it wasn’t even close. Forty-two Democratic senators voted to let Lieberman keep his chairmanship. Thirteen voted against.
As Ezra Klein of The Washington Post noted recently, this turned out to be one of the most consequential decisions Obama and Reid made. If Lieberman had not been welcomed back by the Democrats, there might not have been a 60th vote for health care reform, and it would have failed.
There certainly would have been no victory for “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal without Lieberman’s tireless work and hawkish credentials. The Kerry-Lieberman climate bill came closer to passage than any other energy bill. Lieberman also provided crucial support or a swing vote for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the stimulus bill, the banking bill, the unemployment extension and several other measures.
So while Lieberman is loathed by many liberal activists, he has always had much better relations with Democratic practitioners. Vice President Biden sent me a heartfelt e-mail on Thursday that ended: “The Senate will not be the same without Joe’s leadership and powerful intellect. But it is his civility that will be missed the most.”
“He was an integral part of the Democratic caucus,” Reid also wrote in an e-mail, “and his dedication to public service, ability to work across the aisle and broad range of experience will be missed.”
“Joe has been a terrific senator,” John Kerry said. “He’s defined himself by his conscience and beliefs.” Kerry acknowledged that he has often been exasperated by Lieberman, but working relationships are more meaningful, Kerry continued, because of, not despite, fierce disagreements on other issues.
These policy makers are judging Lieberman by the criteria Max Weber called the “ethic of responsibility” — who will produce the best consequences. Some of the activists are judging him by what Weber called an “ethic of intention” — who has the purest and most uncompromising heart.
There’s a theory going around that Lieberman was embittered by the trauma of 2006 when Democratic primary voters in Connecticut defeated him because of his support for the Iraq war. There’s little evidence to validate this. Lieberman has always sat crossways between the two parties and has often served as a convenient bridge, infuriating Democrats, but then serving the party’s interests at important moments.
Lieberman votes with the Democrats 90 percent of the time, but he has always been a Scoop Jackson Democrat who early on broke with his party on defense issues. In the 1990s, he challenged party orthodoxy on school choice, entitlement reform and the place of religion in public life.
But precisely because of these independent or hawkish credentials, he’s been able to leap in at critical moments and deliver for the party in a way no other senator could. Long before there was an Obamacare debate or the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal, Lieberman played an important role in saving Bill Clinton from impeachment. As momentum for impeachment was growing, Lieberman gave a crucial speech on the Senate floor that scolded Clinton for his behavior but resolutely opposed removing him from office.
As several senior people in the Clinton White House understood immediately, Lieberman’s speech popped the boil — giving people a way to register anger, without calling for Clinton’s removal.
The question is whether politicians with Lieberman’s moderate and independent profile can survive in the current political climate. “I have more warm relationships with Democrats in Washington than in Connecticut,” Lieberman acknowledges.
It would be nice if voters made room for a few independents like this. There have been times, like during the health care debate, when I found Lieberman’s independence befuddling and detached from any evident intellectual moorings. But, in general, he has shown a courageous independence of mind.
There are plenty of team players in government who do whatever the leader says. There are too few difficult members, who have complicated minds, unusual perspectives, the toughness to withstand the party-line barrages and a practical interest in producing results.
January 20, 2011

China Goes to Nixon

With Hu Jintao, China’s president, currently visiting the United States, stories about growing Chinese economic might are everywhere. And those stories are entirely true: although China is still a poor country, it’s growing fast, and given its sheer size it’s well on the way to matching America as an economic superpower.

What’s also true, however, is that China has stumbled into a monetary muddle that’s getting worse with each passing month. Furthermore, the Chinese government’s response to the problem — with policy seemingly paralyzed by deference to special interests, lack of intellectual clarity and a resort to blame games — belies any notion that China’s leaders can be counted on to act decisively and effectively. In fact, the Chinese come off looking like, well, us.

How bad will it get? Warnings from some analysts that China could trigger a global crisis seem overblown. But the fact that people are saying such things is an indication of how out of control the situation looks right now.
The root cause of China’s muddle is its weak-currency policy, which is feeding an artificially large trade surplus. As I’ve emphasized in the past, this policy hurts the rest of the world, increasing unemployment in many other countries, America included.

But a policy can be bad for us without being good for China. In fact, Chinese currency policy is a lose-lose proposition, simultaneously depressing employment here and producing an overheated, inflation-prone economy in China itself.

One way to think about what’s happening is that inflation is the market’s way of undoing currency manipulation. China has been using a weak currency to keep its wages and prices low in dollar terms; market forces have responded by pushing those wages and prices up, eroding that artificial competitive advantage. Some estimates I’ve heard suggest that at current rates of inflation, Chinese undervaluation could be gone in two or three years — not soon enough, but sooner than many expected.
China’s leaders are, however, trying to prevent this outcome, not just to protect exporters’ interest, but because inflation is even more unpopular in China than it is elsewhere. One big reason is that China already in effect exploits its citizens through financial repression (other kinds, too, but that’s not relevant here). Interest rates on bank deposits are limited to just 2.75 percent, which is below the official inflation rate — and it’s widely believed that China’s true inflation rate is substantially higher than its government admits.
Rapidly rising prices, even if matched by wage increases, will make this exploitation much worse. It’s no wonder that the Chinese public is angry about inflation, and that China’s leaders want to stop it.

But for whatever reason — the power of export interests, refusal to do anything that looks like giving in to U.S. demands or sheer inability to think clearly — they’re not willing to deal with the root cause and let their currency rise. Instead, they are trying to control inflation by raising interest rates and restricting credit.

This is destructive from a global point of view: with much of the world economy still depressed, the last thing we need is major players pursuing tight-money policies. More to the point from China’s perspective, however, is that it’s not working. Credit limits are proving hard to enforce and are being further undermined by inflows of hot money from abroad.
With efforts to cool the economy falling short, China has been trying to limit inflation with price controls — a policy that rarely works. In particular, it’s a policy that failed dismally the last time it was tried here, during the Nixon administration. (And, yes, this means that right now China is going to Nixon.)

So what’s left? Well, China has turned to the blame game, accusing the Federal Reserve (wrongly) of creating the problem by printing too much money. But while blaming the Fed may make Chinese leaders feel better, it won’t change U.S. monetary policy, nor will it do anything to tame China’s inflation monster.

Could all of this really turn into a full-fledged crisis? If I didn’t know my economic history, I’d find the idea implausible. After all, the solution to China’s monetary muddle is both simple and obvious: just let the currency rise, already.

But I do know my economic history, which means that I know how often governments refuse, sometimes for many years, to do the obviously right thing — and especially when currency values are concerned. Usually they try to keep their currencies artificially strong rather than artificially weak; but it can be a big mess either way.
So our newest economic superpower may indeed be on its way to some kind of economic crisis, with collateral damage to the world as a whole. Did we need this?


Best Companies to Work For, 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011
More at


See the Complete 2011 List of Best Companies to Work For
SAS takes the prize again! When it comes to workplaces, few companies offer the kinds of perks the privately held software giant does: Employees at its Cary, N.C., campus can help themselves to everything from a tailor, a manicurist, and a hair salon, to summer camp programs for kids, to car detailing — all of which helped land the company at the top of our list of the 100 best workplaces last year. This year the feedback from employees — the core of our survey — was even stronger than last year, and SAS's scores increased significantly. "They were head and shoulders above anybody else," says Milton Moskowitz, the co-author of the list.
Landing the top spot twice in a row is a feat on the Best Companies to Work For list, where on-site gyms and 401(k) matches are de rigueur. (Free cafeterias, tanning beds, and an on-site life coach? Now we have a conversation.) The top five this year reflect some names familiar to readers of our list: Boston Consulting Group at No. 2, Wegmans Food Markets in third place, Google once again in the No. 4 slot, and data-storage company NetApp (No. 1 in 2009) is fifth. This year we welcome 10 newcomers to the list, including Hasbro, Morningstar, Stryker, and Darden Restaurants. We also welcome back many stalwarts: 13 companies have earned a spot on our list each of its 14 years, among them Cisco, Wegmans Food Markets, Microsoft, and — yes — Goldman Sachs.
Related Video

Aaron Task talks with Leigh Gallagher of Fortune Magazine about the Best Companies to Work For on Tech Ticker.
How do we put the list together? Simply stated, we ask the employees themselves. We partner with the Great Place to Work Institute to conduct an extensive survey of hundreds of employees at each company. Two-thirds of a company's score is based on employees' answers to questions about such factors as job satisfaction, management credibility, and camaraderie. (The other third is based on the companies' responses to detailed questions about pay, benefit programs, hiring practices, recognition programs, diversity efforts, and more.)
So who are this year's Best Companies and what's so great about them? Read on.
 Leigh Gallagher, Fortune Magazine

Top 15 Best Companies to Work For, 2011

1. SAS
Courtesy of SAS
Rank: 1 (Previous rank: 1)
What makes it so great?
A 14-year veteran of this list, the software firm takes the top spot for the second year running.
Its perks are epic: on-site healthcare, high quality childcare at $410 per month, summer camp for kids, car cleaning, a beauty salon, and more — it's all enough to make a state-of-the-art, 66,000-square-foot gym seem like nothing special by comparison.
This year, strong employee feedback sent its numbers even higher. Says one manager: "People stay at SAS in large part because they are happy, but to dig a little deeper, I would argue that people don't leave SAS because they feel regarded — seen, attended to and cared for. I have stayed for that reason, and love what I do for that reason."
2009 revenue ($ millions): 2,310

2. Boston Consulting Group
Courtesy of Boston Consulting Group
Rank: 2 (Previous rank: 8)
What makes it so great?
The consulting giant not only avoided layoffs in the downturn, but hired its largest class of recruits ever in 2010.
They're drawn by the firm's generous pay and a commitment to social work: Its Social Impact Practice Network (SIPN) offers a chance to work with the U.N. World Food Program and Save the Children, while BCG pulled its consultants off client projects to provide on-the-ground support in Haiti following the earthquake.
The company jumps up from no. 8 last year.
2009 revenue ($ millions): 2,750

3. Wegmans Food Markets
Courtesy of Wegmans Food Markets
Rank: 3 (Previous rank: 3)
What makes it so great?
This customer-friendly supermarket chain cares about the well-being of its workers, too. This year, 11,000 employees took part in a challenge to eat five cups of fruit and vegetables a day and walk up to 10,000 steps a day for eight weeks.
Another 8,000 took advantage of health screenings that included a flu shot and H1N1 vaccine — all covered by Wegmans.
2009 revenue ($ millions): 5,193

4. Google
Courtesy of Google
Rank: 4 (Previous rank: 4)
What makes it so great?
The search giant is famous for its laundry list of perks including free food at any of its cafeterias, a climbing wall, and, well, free laundry.
Last year, with revenue up more than 20%, Google sweetened this already rich pot of perks by giving every employee a 10% pay hike. Googlers can also award one another $175 peer spot bonuses — last year more than two-thirds of them did so.
2009 revenue ($ millions): 23,651

5. NetApp
Courtesy of NetApp
Rank: 5 (Previous rank: 7)
What makes it so great?
More at


See the Complete 2011 List of Best Companies to Work For
It was a rebound year for the data-storage firm (no. 1 in 2009), as revenues jumped 33% and it hired hundreds of new employees.
Hourly executive assistants make $76,450 a year here, supplemented by a bonus of $21,917.
Employees also enjoy perks like free fruit on Tuesdays, free bagels and cream cheese on Fridays, and free espresso all the time.
2009 revenue ($ millions): 3,931

Courtesy of
Rank: 6 (Previous rank: 15)
What makes it so great?
The online shoe retailer makes a big leap from no. 15 to no. 6 this year.
Now part of the family, the company's quirky, happy culture remains: Employees enjoy free lunches, no-charge vending machines, a full-time life coach on hand, and "create fun and a little weirdness" as one of the company's guiding tenets.
2009 revenue ($ millions): 1,190

7. Camden Property Trust
Courtesy of Camden Property Trust
Rank: 7 (Previous rank: 10)
What makes it so great?
The Houston-based apartment management firm weathered the recession as employees pitched in to trim $6 million in costs, largely by renegotiating contracts and reducing pay.
One team sent a scrapbook to the CEO to show how much they love the company, while another planned and organized a "flash mob" dance routine for leaders' benefit.
One popular perk: Staffers can rent furnished apartments for $20 a night in locations like Orlando, San Diego, Denver and Austin for use on personal vacations.
2009 revenue ($ millions): 624

8. Nugget Market
Courtesy of Nugget Market
Rank: 8 (Previous rank: 5)
What makes it so great?
Rallies are an everyday event at this nine-store Northern California supermarket chain, where management uses a big flat screen computer monitor in each store to deliver important information about products, messages from the leadership team, employee awards, and pump up the troops.
Employees who watch diligently can be rewarded with bonuses that range from $20 to $1,500. Universal perk: everyone receives a 10% discount on store purchases.
2009 revenue ($ millions): 288

9. Recreational Equipment (REI)
Courtesy of Recreational Equipment
Rank: 9 (Previous rank: 14)
What makes it so great?
After 15 years of service, employees at this adventure gear retailer are entitled to a four-week paid sabbatical; after that, they can take one every five years.
More at


See the Complete 2011 List of Best Companies to Work For
Employees also receive 50%-75% discounts on full-price REI branded apparel and equipment, free rental of equipment like skis and kayaks, and an annual gift of REI gear.
A separate Challenge Grant program provides up to $300 worth of gear to employees that participate in a challenging outdoor adventure (one cycled 500 miles across Iowa).
2009 revenue ($ millions): 1,455

10. DreamWorks Animation SKG
Courtesy of DreamWorks Animation SKG
Rank: 10 (Previous rank: 6)
What makes it so great?
The creators of "Shrek" and "Kung Fu Panda" are lavished with free breakfast and lunch, movie screenings, afternoon yoga, on-campus art classes and monthly parties.
CEO Jefferey Katzenberg still takes time to call job candidates to encourage them to join.
Any DreamWorker can pitch a movie idea to company executives — and can take the company-sponsored "Life's A Pitch" workshop to learn how best to do it.
2009 revenue ($ millions): 725

11. Edward Jones
Courtesy of Edward Jones
Rank: 11 (Previous rank: 2)
What makes it so great?
The investment adviser has made diversity a priority with new recruitment programs to bring people of color into a workforce that is 93% white. As the company itself says, it "does not aspire to be a firm of middle-aged white men."
2009 revenue ($ millions): 3,548

12. Scottrade
Courtesy of Scottrade
Rank: 12 (Previous rank: 27)
What makes it so great?
Discount stockbroker thrives by going against the grain: Its brokers offer no advice to customers and do not work on commission. Its workplace bucks trends too — no one has ever been laid off, and no office has ever been closed.
2009 revenue ($ millions): 863

13. Alston & Bird
Courtesy of Alston & Bird
Rank: 13 (Previous rank: 30)
What makes it so great?
For a decade the law firm has had its own child-care campus a block away from its offices. The facility was expanded this year and now provides day care to 110 children, with subsidized rates for parents in lower-salaried ranks.
2009 revenue ($ millions): 551

14. Robert W. Baird
Courtesy of Robert W. Baird & Co.
Rank: 14 (Previous rank: 11)
What makes it so great?
Employees of the investment adviser praise the integrity that prevails here. "I have worked with a number of firms," says one manager, "and Baird [has] the most hard-working, honest, ethical people in our business."
2009 revenue ($ millions): 718

15. Mercedes-Benz USA
Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz USA
Rank: 15 (Previous rank: 49)
What makes it so great?
The sales and marketing arm of the German car maker offers flexible work schedules, compressed workweeks, and a generous telecommuting policy, as well as a gym with two personal trainers and an on-site car wash, of course.
2009 revenue ($ millions): 9,000

Continue to see the complete 2011 list of Best Companies to Work For


 (to be paid for in the future)
7 January 2011 - by Fabius Maximus

Summary:    The US economy continues its slow “recovery.”  It’s not an organic recovery, as it results from three years of massive fiscal and monetary stimulus — powerful medicine, with serious side-effects (to be felt in the future).  Lost in our delusions, we confuse this with actual health.  Richard Koo, who predicted this, remains unknown (at the end are links to his work).
  1. The Recovery!
  2. The Current Numbers: December 2010
  3. For more information
(1)  The Recovery!
(a)  Wall Street and the media obsess over tiny changes in the monthly employment reports, which are often statistically insignificant.  Like the December gains.  These surveys are not that accurate, and changes of a few thousand mean nothing among 300 million Americans.  Instead we should watch the levels and trends.  What improvement in jobs has this recovery brought us since it started in June 2009?  Here are the results for the past 12 months (December 2009 – December 2010, seasonally adjusted, in thousands), from today’s Employment Report.
  • Civilian non-institutional population 16 or older:  +0.8%
  • Civilian labor force:  +0.3%
  • Employed:     +0.9%
  • Unemployed:  down 4.8%  (mostly though people dropping out of the labor force)
  • Not in the labor force (neither working nor looking):  +1.7%
A few trillion dollars in government stimulus doesn’t buy as much recovery as it used to.
(b)  What about unemployment?

The Census provides six measures of unemployment, depending on definitions of the labor force and unemployed.  The four most widely used (U-3 to U-6. None are easily comparable to those of the great depression (the government began measuring unemployment in the 1940′s; earlier numbers are rough estimates).
HOUSEHOLD DATA — Table A-15. Alternative measures of labor underutilization [in Percent]
Measure of Unemployment Seasonally adjusted
Apr 2010 Jul 2010 Aug 2010 Oct
U-3:  Total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force.  The official unemployment rate. 09.9 09.9 09.5 09.6 09.7 09.8 09.4
U-4:  U-3 plus discouraged workers, as a percent of the civilian labor force 10.5 10.6 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.2
U-5:  U-4 plus other persons marginally attached to the labor force, as a percent of the civilian labor force 11.4 11.3 11.0 11.0 11.5 11.2 10.9
U-6:  U-5 plus total employed part time for economic reasons,
as a percent of the civilian labor force
17.2 17.1 16.5 16.7 17.0 17.0 16.7
Persons marginally attached to the labor force are those who currently are neither working nor looking for work but indicate that they want and are available for a job and have looked for work sometime in the past 12 months.
Discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached, have given a job-market related reason for not currently looking for work.
Persons employed part time for economic reasons are those who want and are available for full-time work but have had to settle for a part-time schedule.
(c)  Check your work!
As my teachers said, always check one’s conclusions with different methods.  First, look at the Social Security employment taxes in November:  down 0.9% year-over-year.  This is a reliable measure of American wage income (i.e., jobs and pay).
Second, look at new claims for unemployment:  the 4 week average is 410 thousand new claims per week, down from the average this year of roughly 463 thousand/week.  That’s accurate real-time data, and indications of a slow recovery.
The birth/death model, their guessing at small business activity, was small in December:  only 24 jobs added to the non-seasonally adjusted loss of 357 thousand jobs (the loss is typical for December).
(d)  Conclusion
Do we have a recovery?  Yes, but very slow in terms of jobs and wages.  A wide range of economic data still suggests that the recovery stalled in Spring 2010 as the stimulus faded and resumed in late Fall — on the announcement of new stimulus programs.
(2)  The Current Numbers:  December 2010
Some aspects of employment are leading indicators, some are lagging indicators.  Broadly speaking, employment is one of the major metric’s of the nation’s health, both economic and social.
These are the numbers from the Census’ Household Population survey (tables A and A-1) for December, released 7 January 2011.  IMO the household survey gives a more reliable real-time picture than the establishment survey (CES).  After the benchmark revisions, 6-plus months later, the CES provides the definitive historical record.  Unfortunately, the initial results bear only a slight resemblance to the final results.  They’re largely modeled from a few early responders.  And the early responses do not include small businesses, the center of the current downturn. 
Here’s the story for November.  All rounded to the nearest million.  It’s almost identical to the numbers for the past few months.
  • 239 million – the civilian non-institutional population, adults 16+ years old (17 million are 16-19 years old).
  • 154 million of these are in the labor force (6 million are ages 16-19). 
  • 139 million have jobs (4 million are ages 16-19)
  • 27 million of those jobs are part-time jobs; 9 million of those with part-time jobs would prefer full-time jobs.
  • 14 million of the labor force are unemployed:  1 million  quit, 9 million were fired, 5 million entered or re-entered the labor force.
  • 1 million have become discouraged and stopped looking.
The median duration of unemployment is 22.4 weeks (up from 20.4 in December 2009; the mean is 34 weeks (up from 29 weeks; table A-12).  The mean is large due to the six million workers who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more.  The level of long-term unemployment during this downturn is a post-Depression high .
Much has been made of the declining ratio of workers to population.  For example, the fraction of men over 16 who have jobs is a post-Depression low.  Get used to it.  This ratio can only fall further as the boomers age.
(3)  For more information
Predictions of Richard Koo:
Other posts about employment:
  1. America passes a milestone!, 20 January 2010 — More jobs in government than manufacturing
  2. Yes, it is a “mancession”, with men losing more jobs than women. Just like all recessions., 5 October 2009
  3. Update on the “mancession”, 2 December 2009
  4. A look at the engines of American job creation, 12 January 2010
  5. An ominous trend: number of Americans working for the government vs. those making things, 5 March 2010 — Update to the Oct 2009 post.
  6. The coming big increase in structural unemployment, 7 August 2010
  7. The coming Robotic Nation, 28 August 2010
  8. The coming of the robots, reshaping our society in ways difficult to foresee, 22 September 2010
  9. Economists grapple with the first stage of the robot revolution, 23 September 2010
  10. Arithmetic of decline: America’s lost decade for jobs, 27 November 2010

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Thursday, January 13 2011 10:00:00 AM
Helen Thomas Called 'Marvel of a Journalist'
I was pleased and proud, as a Falls Church resident, that the News-Press is welcoming Helen Thomas back as a weekly columnist.

I recall that, at the time of her seemingly poorly phrased comments about Israel, much of the media and politicians seemed far more willing to jump all over these impromptu remarks than to examine the far more significant act of Israel's having just killed nine humanitarian aid/human rights advocates, including an American citizen, on a boat attempting to bring aid to Gaza. When Ms. Thomas retired last June,I was saddened and felt it a loss for all who appreciated her insightful questions and writings. This 90-year-old marvel of a journalist has been a treasure of press coverage in Washington for decades and seems as sharp as ever in her column this week. Thank you for giving your readers the opportunity to benefit from her thoughtful columns yet again.
Sarah F. Eggleston
Falls Church

Helen Thomas 'Convicted by Kangaroo Court'

Editor, I had the pleasure of entertaining Helen for a weekend once in New Orleans back in the mid 80s. I was a young buck with UPI and Helen was there to address UPI Louisiana editors. I had a ball. I had never met such a fireball.

What happened to Helen was wrong.

She was convicted by a kangaroo court of her peers.
I think everybody out there knows what Helen meant but are afraid to speak up for fear of being labeled the same as Helen; or worse yet -- were fanning the flames of dissent with the hopes of converting some of Helen's fans to their own.
Politics aside, I want to commend you for being a stand-up guy. Everybody deserves a second chance.
Dan Dalton
Via the Internet

Happy Helen Thomas Back With Column
Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for bringing back journalist Helen Thomas. Many of us having been following Ms. Thomas's work for years. And it has been for years that Washington's insiders having been angling to push Ms Thomas out. The politicians don't like hard direct questions and the other reporters, year after year, simply won't ask those questions. Most of the members of the mainstream press would rather be loved, and highly paid, than act like real reporters and ask the questions America needs answered.

Helen Thomas has been unique among reporters in her unrelenting efforts to do her job on our behalf.
Thanks again to you, and thank God for Helen Thomas.

Michael Scott Shepard
Dallas, TX

Helen Thomas Fearlessly Speaks Truth to Power
I support your wisdom, courage and journalistic integrity for hiring Helen Thomas.

She is one of the very few journalists in the world who fearlessly speaks truth to power.

With her many decades of experience in reporting and her many contacts with world leaders, she is one of the preeminent journalists in the world today.

You couldn't have made a better choice.
David Anderson
Albuquerque, NM

Hails Hiring of Helen Thomas by FCNP
Great job on hiring Helen Thomas. Her only crimes were asking hard questions and speaking the truth. It's a shame there are no longer any reporters like her for her working for the major media outlets. PS.I am Jewish.
Joe Stein
Fresh Meadows, NY

Wants to Know More About Thomas' Views
This week we are reminded again of the power and importance of words, and the responsibility of those who own the means of distributing them. Helen Thomas is a great reporter and has every right to express her thoughts as she sees fit, and you have every right to welcome her to your paper. The people of the community you serve though, as much as we believe wholeheartedly in diversity and the free exchange of ideas, would reserve judgment and make a modest but firm request: please Ms. Thomas, give us more of your thoughts and opinions on this very sensitive and important issue, and let us use this situation as an example of how to use the energy of human discourse to shed light rather than heat. Ms. Thomas' recent comments are not the rantings of an immature mind, but rather the highly considered thoughts of a wise and learned lady, and I hope that you will accept the responsibility to facilitate an open exchange of opinions and information about the relationship between the U.S. and the Middle East, Arabs and Jews, etc., otherwise a very rare opportunity will be wasted.
I wanted to offer a poem modeled on the famous words by Christopher Marlowe, where Dr. Faust speaks to the devil about Helen of Troy ("The Face that Launched a Thousand Ships") but in light of my admonition above, after reflecting on my words and the context of this famous scene, I have thought better of it.
Dan Maller
Falls Church

Disappointed By Helen Thomas' Coming Back
I was extremely disappointed that you hired Helen Thomas to write for the FCNP. Her bigoted views are long-standing and well-known. I also find it an anathema to your position on civil rights for other groups. There is no doubt in my mind that you would never hire a reporter who openly stated that all African-Americans should go back to Africa. And that would be the right decision. And there is no doubt in my mind that you would not hire a reporter who openly stated that gay and lesbians should get out of the military and go back in the closet. And that, too, would be the right decision.

Accordingly, I wonder why you would hire someone who said the Jews should get out of "Palestine" and go back to Germany and Poland, where millions of Jews met their deaths? Why are Jews treated differently?
Beth Helemen
Falls Church

(Ed. Note---I think it is unjustifiable to presume an addition to Ms. Thomas remarks the phrase, "Where million of Jews met their deaths." Ms. Thomas' intent was to say that in those and other countries, and she included the U.S. in her remarks, Jewish people no longer need fear persecution.)
Assails Helen Thomas' Bigotry-Fueled Opinions

Bully for you for hiring Helen Thomas to spread her ignorant and narrow-minded bigotry-fueled opinions in your pages!
I, too, have any number of uninformed defamatory generalizations about various ethnic, religious, and cultural groups, and I would LOVE to have a forum to spread them more widely.

When can I, too, look forward to being given a platform to spread divisive ignorance in your publication?
J.S. Cole

Yet Another Pizza Place Coming to F.C.?
Just what we need, another place (Paisano's, News-Press Jan. 6-12, 2011) in Falls Church where we can purchase pizza. At my last count that now totals 14 places in Falls Church (2.2 squares miles no less)where I can purchase pizza. The selections are endless.
Wouldn't it be nice if we had that many clothing boutiques, shoe stores, craft stores, accessory boutiques, consignment shops,bed and bath shops, home decor boutiques and more where I could spend my money other than wasting it on pizza? A Golden Corral sure would be nice with their large selection of healthy foods and reasonable prices for the elderly. But we never really take the elderly into consideration around here do we?
I hope the "planning" committee hurries up and approves that new gym because with all these pizza places popping up the "Little City" is going to be quickly known as the "Big Fat Unhealthy City" or "Little Italy" take your pick!
Linda Hart
Falls Church


Wednesday, January 19, 2011
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Protests continue as Tunisia's new government meets

Top story: Tunisians took to the streets again for a day of mostly peaceful protests against the country's new unity government, which held its first cabinet meeting today. Four ministers have already resigned from the cabinet to protest the continued presence of members of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's party. In an effort to defuse the situation, Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi and caretaker President Fouad Mebazza have both resigned from the party.
The fragile government faces pressure from both the protesters on the streets, who are demanding a clean sweep of Ben Ali loyalists, and the country's security forces, who are still seen as supporting the former president.
The military has mostly played an apolitical calming role in the crisis so far and is supported by many of the demonstrators. Nonetheless, there are fears that another government collapse could lead to a military takeover. The future role of Tunisia's currently banned Islamist Party is another major question mark.


Thursday, January 20, 2011
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Obama administration to move forward with military tribunals at Gitmo

Top story: The Obama administration is planning to lift the ban on new military tribunal cases against detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The order amounts to an implicit admission that Congress has stalled its attempts to try detainees in the federal court system.
The White House is currently preparing new regulations for conducting the tribunals, as well as creating a new board that would determine if the nearly 50 detainees held without trial could be paroled.
The resumption of military tribunals would clear the way for three detainees to be prosecuted within weeks. The most controversial of those three is Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who allegedly planned the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen in 2007, which killed 17 Americans. Nashiri was held at a secret CIA prison, where interrogators used methods that exceeded even the George W. Bush administration's approved "enhanced interrogation techniques." Nashiri's lawyer contends that the reason he hasn't been charged in a civilian court is due to the government's fear that its evidence would be dismissed because it would obtained through torture.
The military commissions will also be called on to determine when a state of war first existed between the United States and al Qaeda. Since the U.S.S. Cole bombing occurred in 2000, before the 9/11 attacks, the question remains whether the tribunal has jurisdiction over the crime.
Obama and Hu confer on human rights: During Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit to Washington, President Obama noted that differences over human rights were an "occasional source of tension" between the two countries. Hu admitted that "a lot still needs to be done in China in terms of human rights," but insisted that the United States refrain from interfering in China's internal affairs.


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