July 2008 Archives

Mercenaries don't deserve immunity

|

What a total load of crap it is that the mercenary companies in Iraq should be operating there without being subject to not just Iraqi law, but to anyone's law. These people have been operating under a complete immunity even from US law. What kind of reality is that?
They have literally been getting away with murder and now are whining that losing immunity would put them in too much danger. Giving the heavily armed security companies immunity in the first place was an incredibly stupid idea. Can you imagine if the cops on the streets here had zero oversight and were immune from prosecution? Think about it.

Contractor: Losing immunity would hurt Iraq mission

An American contractor said Thursday that the U.S. mission in Iraq will be undermined if the Iraqi government succeeds in revoking blanket legal immunity for American security contractors.

Carter Andress reacted to a Wednesday government report that said the removal of legal immunity for American private security contractors could set off an "exodus" from war-ravaged Iraq and "impose significant limitations" on American reconstruction efforts.

The scenario is outlined in the quarterly report issued to Congress by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

Andress, whose firm builds bases for the Iraqi army and police and supplies those places with water, food, fuel and maintenance services, said that about 40 percent of his staff is involved in security.

"We would undermine the U.S. mission here because they are so reliant on contractors," said Andress, co-founder of the American-Iraqi Solutions Group. "For better or for worse, that's reality."

Even though 90 percent of his employees are Iraqis, he fears that new laws could force him to shut down.

But the "exodus" comment in the report also prompted skepticism from a scholar who studies the subject. Peter Singer, a Brookings Institution scholar who is an authority on private security firms, said, "I don't think we should worry about a market collapse, so to speak. There's simply too much money to be made."

The Iraqi government has criticized the blanket immunity because of the actions of security contractors, such as the September shootings in Baghdad of Iraqi citizens that involved Blackwater contractors. Seventeen people died in that incident.

Those Mild-Mannered Canadians

|

from the WTF and Un-Effing Believable dept:

Bus passenger beheaded seat mate

As horrified travelers watched, a Greyhound Canada bus passenger repeatedly stabbed and then decapitated a young man who was sitting and sleeping beside him, a witness said Thursday.

"There was a bloodcurdling scream. I was just reading my book, and all of a sudden, I heard it," Garnet Caton, who was sitting in front of the two men, said of the Wednesday night incident west of Portage la Prairie in Manitoba.

"It was like something between a dog howling and a baby crying, I guess you could say," Caton said. "I don't think it will leave me for a while."

Passengers exited the bus, and a trucker who stopped provided wrenches and crowbars to several of them so they could keep the suspect on the bus until police came, witnesses told Canadian TV.

The suspect was seized with the help of negotiators, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sgt. Steve Colwell said.


Update: Bus beheading suspect ate victim's body



This should be a national ad

|

Caution: Strong Expletives and RAP (really annoying person) ahead...


Book 'em, Danno

|

Go get 'em, boys. Hog tie 'em and bring 'em in fer justice sake.

I'll believe it when I see it. Somebody will get paid off or squeezed before these jerks pay their dues, that's for sure. Still, its a sweet daydream, isn't it.


Judge Rules White House Aides Can Be Subpoenaed

President Bush's top advisers are not immune from congressional subpoenas, a federal judge ruled Thursday in an unprecedented dispute between the two political branches.

House Democrats called the ruling a ringing endorsement of the principle that nobody is above the law. They swiftly announced that the Bush officials who have defied their subpoenas, including Bush's former top adviser Karl Rove, must appear as part of a probe of whether the White House directed the firings of nine federal prosecutors. Democrats announced plans to open hearings at the height of election season.

The Bush administration was expected to appeal.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge John Bates said there's no legal basis for Bush's argument and that his former legal counsel, Harriet Miers, must appear before Congress. If she wants to refuse to testify, he said, she must do so in person. The committee also has sought to force testimony from White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten.

''Harriet Miers is not immune from compelled congressional process; she is legally required to testify pursuant to a duly issued congressional subpoena,'' Bates wrote. He said that both Bolten and Miers must give Congress all nonprivileged documents related to the firings.

The ruling is a blow to the Bush administration's efforts to bolster the power of the executive branch at the expense of the legislative branch. Disputes over congressional subpoenas are normally resolved through political compromise, not through the court system. Had Bush prevailed, it would have dramatically weakened congressional authority in oversight investigations.

After Taste

|

db004.jpg

Ecuador boots DEA

|

Good.

Now shut down the other two bases and dismantle the entire War on Drugs apparatus and eliminate the illegal drug industry profits by decriminalizing drug use
1/10 of the money spent on the War on Drugs (and the prison industry it serves) into fact-based drug educational and clinics and within 5 years Americas drug problems will nearly disappear.

Ecuador to shut down U.S. anti-drug operation

Mike Mount

The United States is losing access to one of its three counternarcotics bases in Latin America, U.S. military officials said Wednesday.

The Ecuadorian government has told the Bush administration it will not renew a 10-year agreement letting U.S. troops conduct anti-drug operations from Manta Air Base, an Ecuadorian Air Force installation, military officials said.

The United States has used Manta Air Base since 1999 to run aerial surveillance of the eastern Pacific Ocean, looking for drug runners on the high seas as well as illicit flights.

Ecuador notified the U.S. Embassy on Tuesday that it will not renew the agreement after it expires in November 2009, the U.S. military officials said.

"The Ecuadorian people do not want foreign troops on our soil, and the government has to follow the mandate of its people," Luis Gallegos, Ecuador's ambassador to the United States, said Wednesday.

I You Love

| | Comments (6)

In French, Je t'aime -- Je is I, te is you and aime is love... (the apostrophe is used when ever two consecutive words end and start with a vowel respectively).

That's the Subject / Object / Verb grammatical structure (SOV) used by many world languages. In English of course we would use the grammatical I Love You which is Subject / Verb / Object (SVO).

But studies show that even English speakers use the French grammar form of SOV when asked to communicate a phrase without using speech, either by gestures or by drawings.


To test whether the language we speak influences our behavior even when we are not speaking, we asked speakers of four languages differing in their predominant word orders (English, Turkish, Spanish, and Chinese) to perform two nonverbal tasks: a communicative task (describing an event by using gesture without speech) and a noncommunicative task (reconstructing an event with pictures). We found that the word orders speakers used in their everyday speech did not influence their nonverbal behavior. Surprisingly, speakers of all four languages used the same order and on both nonverbal tasks. This order, actor-patient-act, is analogous to the subject-object-verb pattern found in many languages of the world and, importantly, in newly developing gestural languages. The findings provide evidence for a natural order that we impose on events when describing and reconstructing them nonverbally and exploit when constructing language anew.

Odd, is it not?

But that leads to another oddity.

A study that demonstrates that language has an evolutionary property of its own and that we are the carriers of its gene expression. As well, the study also show that language evolution can also take place sans biological agents like ourselves.

Researchers Synthesize Evolution of Language

[snip]

In a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, linguists observed an artificial language evolve from random to ordered, naturally adapting in ways that assured its reproduction

The findings duplicated a phenomena they'd already simulated on a computer, and hint at the earliest evolutionary origins of language -- that cultural version of the opposable thumb, and the basis of humanity's civilizational complexity.

Even more tantalizingly, by showing that cultural evolution can be examined in a controlled setting, the study lays a framework for studying evolution outside its standard biological habitat.

"From Darwin onwards, there's been a mechanism for nature producing a design without there being a designer," said study co-author Simon Kirby, an evolutionary linguist at the University of Edinburgh. "We're used to that in biology. People have claimed that the same might happen in culture, and here we've shown a mechanism for language."

What Privacy?

|

This is absolutely insane. How is it even remotely legal for personal medical information to be stored in a commercially available database? Heads ought to roll over this one.

They Know What's in Your Medicine Cabinet

How insurance companies dig up applicants' prescriptions--and use them to deny coverage - not mention to charge higher premiums

by Chad Terhune

That prescription you just picked up at the drugstore could hurt your chances of getting health insurance.

An untold number of people have been rejected for medical coverage for a reason they never could have guessed: Insurance companies are using huge, commercially available prescription databases to screen out applicants based on their drug purchases.

Privacy and consumer advocates warn that the information can easily be misinterpreted or knowingly misused. At a minimum, the practice is adding another layer of anxiety to a marketplace that many consumers already find baffling. "It's making it harder to find insurance for people," says Jay Horowitz, an independent insurance agent in Overland Park, Kan.

The obstacle primarily confronts people seeking individual health insurance, not those covered under an employer's plan. Walter and Paula Shelton of Gilbert, La., applied to Humana (HUM) in February. They were rejected by the large Louisville insurer after a company representative pulled their drug profiles and questioned them over the telephone about prescriptions from Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) and Randalls, part of the Safeway grocery chain, for blood-pressure and anti-depressant medications.


The Antikythera Mechanism

|

I wrote about this really cool find on the old blog a few years ago. Its interesting that some of its purpose has finally been discovered. But what I find especially interesting is the inter-cultural connections it presents such as "the influence of Babylonian astronomy on the Greeks." Its amazing what large historical constructs can be discerned by the tiniest pieces of evidence.

Workings of Ancient 'Computer' Deciphered

by John Noble Wilford

After a closer examination of the Antikythera Mechanism, a surviving marvel of ancient Greek technology, scientists have found that the device not only predicted solar eclipses but also organized the calendar in the four-year cycles of the Olympiad, forerunner of the modern Olympic Games.

The new findings, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, also suggested that the mechanism's concept originated in the colonies of Corinth, possibly Syracuse, in Sicily. The scientists said this implied a likely connection with the great Archimedes.

Archimedes, who lived in Syracuse and died in 212 B.C., invented a planetarium calculating motions of the Moon and the known planets and wrote a lost manuscript on astronomical mechanisms. Some evidence had previously linked the complex device of gears and dials to the island of Rhodes and the astronomer Hipparchos, who had made a study of irregularities in the Moon's orbital course.

ancient_computer.jpgThe Antikythera Mechanism, sometimes called the first analog computer, was recovered more than a century ago in the wreckage of a ship that sank off the tiny island of Antikythera, north of Crete. Earlier research showed that the device was probably built between 140 and 100 B.C.
Only now, applying high-resolution imaging systems and three-dimensional X-ray tomography, have experts been able to decipher inscriptions and reconstruct functions of the bronze gears on the mechanism




Step by Excruciating Step

|

This is a huge step forward.

pot.jpgLegislators aim to snuff out penalties for pot use

The U.S. should stop arresting responsible marijuana users, Rep. Barney Frank said Wednesday, announcing a proposal to end federal penalties for Americans carrying fewer than 100 grams, almost a quarter-pound, of the substance. "The vast amount of human activity ought to be none of the government's business," Frank said.

full story

Over the Hope Rainbow

|

Now that its more than likely that our next President will be Obama, its important to know who he will have as his foreign policy advisers and what will be the thrust of the advise he gets. I have a sense that Obama's foreign policy will be heavy on the diplomacy and light on the military intervention, but without knowing the mindset of his cabinet contingent, the picture is vague. Are there hawks riding the currents over Obama's rainbow and if so, who are they and what do they want?

Hawks Behind the Dove: Who Makes Obama's Foreign Policy?

By Tim Shorrock

[snip]

Obama's most important foreign policy adviser is Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was the national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981. In that role, he backed Carter's aid to the brutal Indonesian government in East Timor, and he infamously pushed for funding the jihadist rebels in Afghanistan against the Soviets. But his hawkish views have mellowed over time. Last August, Brzezinski endorsed Obama and blasted Clinton's foreign policy approach as "very conventional." In contrast to Clinton's advisers, who speak wistfully about Iraq as a policy gone wrong, Brzezinski denounces the war in unequivocal terms. Writing in The Washington Post in March 2008, he called the war a "national tragedy, an economic catastrophe, a regional disaster and a global boomerang for the United States," and argued that it was "started deliberately, justified demagogically, and waged badly."

Obama also relies for advice on Tony Lake, who was Bill Clinton's national security adviser, and Susan Rice, a former assistant secretary of state for African affairs (she's been busy lately moderating Obama's stance on Cuba). Obama also listens to Richard Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism czar, and Ivo Daalder, a former official in Bill Clinton's NSC, who heads up Obama's nonproliferation policies.

Leading Obama's military advisers is retired Air Force General Tony McPeak, who backed George Bush in 2000 but began working with Obama after meeting him last year. McPeak says he was attracted by Obama's strong opposition to the war in Iraq and his emphasis on diplomacy. Speaking last January during a West Coast campaign swing, McPeak said Obama would seek to negotiate with Iran, pointing out that, after the September 11 attacks, Tehran cooperated with Washington in tracking Al Qaeda suspects and donated more than $300 million to post-Taliban Afghanistan. The Bush Administration, he said, should have used that "constructive back-channel" to open discussions on other issues--implying that Obama would seize on such opportunities. Obama, he believes, will usher in a new era of foreign policy after the disasters of the Bush-Cheney era. "Our country's international standing has been frittered away by people who don't have the foggiest understanding of how the hell the world works," McPeak told Rolling Stone last March. But McPeak has a hard edge. According to the journalist Allan Nairn, he oversaw the delivery of advanced fighter jets to Suharto in 1991, just after Suharto's forces had carried out a deliberate massacre of anti-Jakarta demonstrators in Dili, East Timor.

One of the key planks of Obama's foreign policies is his commitment to "soft power," such as foreign economic aid, to expand American influence. Last year, he pledged to double U.S. foreign aid by 2012 and increase "both the numbers and capabilities of our diplomats, development experts, and other civilians who can work alongside our military." Advising him on these issues is John Brennan, a thirty-year veteran of the CIA who once ran the National Counterterrorism Center. Brennan, like many of his former colleagues in the CIA, believes that military power must be augmented by intelligence, diplomacy, and foreign aid, and in a recent interview with a Washington newsletter argued that "there needs to be much more attention paid to those upstream factors and conditions that spawn terrorists" (Brennan is now the CEO of the Analysis Corporation, the same company that, ironically, employed the contract employee who illegally accessed Obama's passport data at the State Department earlier this year).
In some areas, Obama's national security policies might be closer to McCain's. He has said he would act unilaterally to take out "high-value terrorist targets" in Pakistan if Pervez Musharraf failed to take action himself. Like McCain, he has also criticized Jimmy Carter for meeting with Hamas.



Get to Know Your Obama

|

This is the best background article I have come across yet.

As a Professor, Obama Enthralled Students and Puzzled Faculty

By Jodi Kantor

The young law professor stood apart in too many ways to count. At a school where economic analysis was all the rage, he taught rights, race and gender. Other junior faculty dreamed of tenured positions; he turned them down. While most colleagues published by the pound, he never completed a single work of legal scholarship.

At a formal institution, Barack Obama was a loose presence, joking with students about their romantic prospects, using first names, referring to case law one moment and "The Godfather" the next. He was also an enigmatic one, often leaving fellow faculty members guessing about his precise views.

o_teachinglaw.jpgMr. Obama, now the junior senator from Illinois and the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, spent 12 years at the University of Chicago Law School. Most aspiring politicians do not dwell in the halls of academia, and few promising young legal thinkers toil in state legislatures. Mr. Obama planted a foot in each, splitting his weeks between one of the country's most elite law schools and the far less rarefied atmosphere of the Illinois State Senate.

Before he pushed campaign finance legislation there, or outraised every other presidential primary candidate in American history, Mr. Obama marched students through the thickets of campaign finance law. Before he helped redraw the map of his own state Senate district, making it whiter and wealthier, he taught districting as a racially fraught study in how power is secured. And before he posed what may be the ultimate test of racial equality -- whether Americans will elect a black president -- he led students through African-Americans' long fight for equal status.

Standing in his favorite classroom in the law school's austere main building, sharp-witted students looming above him, Mr. Obama refined his public speaking style, his debating abilities, his beliefs.




Related

Following are Barack Obama's old class materials: the syllabus and assignments for his "Racism and the Law" seminar, as well as a set of his constitutional law exams and a partial set of memos he wrote about the answers.

Comment The Caucus: Discuss Obama's Course Materials With Law Professors

Syllabus: Curent Issues in Racism and the Law

2003 Final Exam | Answer Memo

2002 Final Exam | Answer Memos: 1 | 2 | 3

2001 Final Exam | Answer Memo

2000 Final Exam

1999 Final Exam

1998 Exam

1997 Final Exam | Answer Memo | Answer Memo




A very good thing

|

This is great, but the reparations need to be made. The 120,000 Japanese Americans were awarded $20,000 each for their WWII detention in camps, there's every reason to award slave descendants still affected to this day by slavery and Jim Crow their due.

House poised to apologize for slavery, Jim Crow

The House of Representatives was poised Tuesday to pass a resolution apologizing to African-Americans for slavery and the era of Jim Crow.

The nonbinding resolution, which is expected to pass, was introduced by Rep. Steve Cohen, a white lawmaker who represents a majority black district in Memphis, Tennessee.

While many states have apologized for slavery, it will be first time a branch of the federal government will apologize for slavery if the resolution passes, an aide to Cohen said.

By passing the resolution, the House would also acknowledge the "injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow."

"Jim Crow," or Jim Crow laws, were state and local laws enacted mostly in the Southern and border states of the United States between the 1870s and 1965, when African-Americans were denied the right to vote and other civil liberties and were legally segregated from whites.

The name "Jim Crow" came from a character played by T.D. "Daddy" Rice who portrayed a slave while in blackface during the mid-1800s.

The resolution states that "the vestiges of Jim Crow continue to this day."

"African-Americans continue to suffer from the consequences of slavery and Jim Crow -- long after both systems were formally abolished -- through enormous damage and loss, both tangible and intangible, including the loss of human dignity and liberty, the frustration of careers and professional lives, and the long-term loss of income and opportunity," the resolution states.

When conscience acts wrongly

|

The Health and Human Services Department is presently floating a rule proposal that would adversely affect women seeking birth control before or after the onset of pregnancy. The rule presently in draft form would widen the definition of abortion so that presently common forms of birth control would become subject to penalties.

Marie Cocco states in her article on the subject:

This parting gift to the religious right comes in a proposed rule by the Health and Human Services Department, which says it is merely revising existing federal rules that allow health care personnel to opt out of performing an abortion if they have a moral or religious objection to the procedure. From that minimalist and unobjectionable clause, a monster grows.


The draft regulation would redefine abortion to include "any of the various procedures--including the prescription, dispensing and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action--that results in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation."

Its the religious conservatives parting shot as it were to try to have some - any - effect on women's choice regarding abortion. In my opinion, this proposal needs to be maximally resisted.

The whole concept of allowing the "conscience" of a medical professional to act as a rationale for denying services or dispensing medications is patently absurd. Its like an EMS person who was also a Jehovah's Witness choosing not to give blood transfusions because they were following their conscience.

There is no way that one person's religious convictions should override another person's right to perfectly legal medical treatment.

But this proposal goes beyond just the individual encounters it intends to affect health institutions and insurance plans by forcing "conscience" based opt-outs by individuals in their employ.

Quoting the same article:

The draft rule, in fact, singles out New York, California, Colorado, Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey and Massachusetts for actions they took to ensure that women, especially rape victims, would have access to birth control.

It estimates that about 504,000 recipients of federal funds--including any hospital or doctor who participates in Medicare and Medicaid--would have to allow its staff to exercise its individual birth-control conscience. It defines a health care "entity" to include health maintenance organizations and other insurance plans--language indicating that federal employees who receive insurance through the government also could be affected.

Since this "conscience" against abortion or birth control is only "rational" by way of religious precept, enforcing such a rule would amount to a breach of the constitutionally guaranteed separation of church and state and should not be allowed on those grounds alone.


Take a break from fear

|

Why not, the fear sources will all be there when you get back. A funny article but its the pic I like...Victor Koen is rapidly becoming one of my favorite artists.


Love

|

and other sensory addictions:

So how can anyone really say they're in love with a specific person? For example, they're only in love with the anticipation of the emotions they're addicted to...because the next week the same person they're in love with could fall out of favor by not complying.

My goodness, doesn't that change the landscape of our emotional outlook on personal needs and identities?

No one has ever come along and given you sufficient, intelligent knowledge about your beautiful self - how you work from the inside out...why you have addictions because you have nothing better...because you have never dreamt of anything better... because no one has ever taught you to dream better.

Do I think you're bad? I don't think you're bad. Do I think you're good? I don't think you're good either...I think you're God.

Are these my words? Are these my thoughts? No, they're ours.

Let me explain

I fail to understand how the government can seize someone's money based on mere speculation that it is a product of drugs sales when there is not even the slightest evidence that such is true.

Why should someone have to prove to the government where they got the money they are bringing into the country. I figure its none of the government's business.


Man deposits millions, one tattered bill at a time

The businessman arrived at the Treasury Department carrying a suitcase stuffed with about $5.2 million in petrified, nearly unrecognizable bills. He asked to swap it for a cashier's check.
damaged_money.jpgMoney like this normally arrives after a bank burns or a vault floods. It doesn't just show up at the visitor's entrance on a Tuesday morning. But Franz Felhaber's banking habits had stopped making sense to the government long ago.> For years, authorities say, he and his family have popped in and out of U.S. banks, looking to change about $20 million in decaying $100 bills for clean cash, offering ever-changing stories:

• It was an inheritance.
• Somebody dug up a tree and there it was.
• It was found in a suitcase buried in an alfalfa field
• A relative found a treasure map.

That buried treasure stands to make someone rich. It could also send someone to jail.

Felhaber's is a customs broker. His company, F.C. Felhaber & Co., navigates the customs bureaucracy in El Paso, Texas, where tens of billions of dollars in Mexican goods enter each year.

Taser Tragedy

|

This is a follow up to a story I posted about earlier here.

The update:

Grand jury to get case of man Tasered 9 times


pikes.jpgA Louisiana grand jury will decide whether a fired police officer should face criminal charges in the death of a man who was Tasered nine times while handcuffed, the parish's district attorney announced Monday. Baron "Scooter" Pikes, a 21-year-old sawmill worker, had tried to run from police when they tried to arrest him on an outstanding warrant for cocaine possession.

full story

Whatcha worried about, Mr C?

|

Is nice guy Dick Cheney scared somebody might want to take him out or something?

Injured vets pull Cheney invitation over security demands

By James Gordon Meek
Daily News Washington Bureau

cheney_grimace.jpgVice President Cheney's invitation to address wounded combat veterans next month has been yanked because the group felt his security demands were Draconian and unreasonable.

The veep had planned to speak to the Disabled American Veterans at 8:30 a.m. at its August convention in Las Vegas.

His staff insisted the sick vets be sequestered for two hours before Cheney's arrival and couldn't leave until he'd finished talking, officials confirmed.

"Word got back to us ... that this would be a prerequisite," said the veterans executive director, David Gorman, who noted the meeting hall doesn't have any rest rooms. "We told them it just wasn't acceptable."

When Cheney spoke to the group in 2004, his handlers imposed the same stringent security lockdown, upsetting members, officials said. Many of the vets are elderly and left pieces of themselves on foreign battlefields since World War II, and others were crippled by recent service in Iraq and Afghanistan. For health reasons, many can't be stuck in a room for hours.

"It was a huge imposition on our delegates," added David Autry, another Disabled American Veterans official.

Autry said vets would've had to get up "at Oh-dark-30 and try to get breakfast and showered and get their prosthetics on."

Once inside, they "could not leave the meeting room, and the bathrooms are outside," he said.

Cheney's office acknowledged the security requests, but insisted he is sensitive to combat veterans' needs.

So, so sensitive.

If you live in Florida's 8th District

|

Watch this:

That explains everything

|


Robert Novak Brain Tumor Diagnosed

and here I thought he was just an a-hole conservative of the first order.
I hope it hurts a lot, Bob.

Bitter can be so sweet

|

the bitter comes out better on a stolen guitar - (Ziggy Stardust)

snippet:

Watching these once-united wings of the Republican juggernaut devolve into frank mutual suspicion and distaste along the runway to almost certain electoral disaster is, of course, a delicious development. The Moral Majority Christians and the supply-side neocons always represented two of the worst and most vile impulses in the American character -- mass, willful ignorance and total, shameless greed. In one wing of the ruling-party mansion they housed preachers who transformed the religion of "turn the other cheek" and "go, give away all your possessions to the poor" into a "Christianity" that celebrated shock-and-awe bombing and assault-rifle ownership and decried the progressive income tax as unfair to the propertied class. In the other wing they housed "conservatives" who turned the party of limited government into a giant snooping apparatus, one that borrowed trillions against the future earnings of ordinary taxpayers and sacrificed thousands of lives to snatch a few Middle Eastern oil wells for companies that were rich as hell to begin with.


McCain Doesn't Have a Prayer

by Matt Taibbi, RollingStone.com

John McCain can't stand sucking up to the Christian right.
Is this the end of the GOP's unholy alliance?

Phoenix, July 13th, Sunday morning. Thank God John McCain has declared that he wants to wallpaper the continent with new nuke plants, because now the chances are better that this wretched slab of hot, birdshit-covered asphalt they call a state will be blown to hell in an accident someday. I hate this place. Once the sun comes up on an Arizona weekend, nothing moves except the occasional elderly-piloted Buick floating boatlike in the direction of some hideous megachurch.

This morning I've come to one of those monstrosities, North Phoenix Baptist Church, to witness John McCain's halfhearted offensive in his battle to win over the Christian right. On the stump, McCain talks about God less than any Republican politician in recent memory -- certainly less than any Republican I've ever seen. The guy pitches a tent visible from a mile off whenever anyone so much as mentions the military; you can almost hear the dopamine surging into his bloodstream every time someone stands up in a town hall and begins a question by saying, "Hello, Senator, my husband was a Navy pilot. . . ." And he seems positively tumescent when talking about such horrors as Al Qaeda or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But his basic stump speech doesn't contain a single line about God or religion. McCain is probably the first Republican in modern history to talk more about "green technology" than about his personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

While Barack Obama gives regular addresses at churches, where he comes off very like a preacher (right down to his natty blue suits and his lilting oratory), McCain's chosen stump locations are invariably VFW halls or factory sites -- where he tries to win over working-class crowds by telling them that their jobs aren't coming back. As the nominee of a party that has swept two straight elections by hawking cheap pieties and ramming one preposterous lie after another down the public's throat, McCain's agnostically bummerific public-speaking strategy is a curiosity, to say the least.

Here's the thing about John McCain, and it's never easy to tell whether this is a good quality or a bad one. He's a shitty liar. He may be willing to change his position on anything from immigration to torture to campaign finance at the drop of a hat to win votes, and he may have no problem aiming below the belt -- below the knees even -- to impugn an opponent's patriotism. But this is not a guy who can get up in front of a churchgoing crowd in Asscrack, Arkansas, and start weeping to Jesus. In fact, he appears to deeply resent the implication that he needs to genuflect to the baby savior at all. As in, "Hell, I already lived through five years of torture! You want me to do more?"

Whose is art?

|

The problem with the 34% and 39% groups is that they fail to understand that the decision as to whether something is art, belongs to the artist, not the viewer.

dancingartpoll.jpg

Judge weighs whether stripping is an art


From the "There is no God" dept

| | Comments (2)

giantleech.jpgMeet the Amazon leech

How many of these on you at once would be lethal?

McCain Petty Angry Frustrated

|

mccain.obama.jpgOk, McCain is a war hero, but he's still acting like a rube and his truculence is sadly transparent. His campaign is coming across as being run by desperate buffoons who can't come up with anything substantial to criticize Obama on and so has been grasping at whatever little piece of news cycle detritus and failing blow it up into an valid issue. Whatever endearing qualities McCain had to offer at the beginning of his campaign has been trashed by the crassness of his effete handlers who have not served the man well at all. He's beginning to look and sound like a crash test dummy in direct portion to Obama's transformation into a presidential figure.

How Obama Became Acting President

By Frank Rich

It almost seems like a gag worthy of "Borat": A smooth-talking rookie senator with an exotic name passes himself off as the incumbent American president to credulous foreigners. But to dismiss Barack Obama's magical mystery tour through old Europe and two war zones as a media-made fairy tale would be to underestimate the ingenious politics of the moment. History was on the march well before Mr. Obama boarded his plane, and his trip was perfectly timed to reap the whirlwind.

He never would have been treated as a president-in-waiting by heads of state or network talking heads if all he offered were charisma, slick rhetoric and stunning visuals. What drew them instead was the raw power Mr. Obama has amassed: the power to start shaping events and the power to move markets, including TV ratings. (Even "Access Hollywood" mustered a 20 percent audience jump by hosting the Obama family.) Power begets more power, absolutely.

The growing Obama clout derives not from national polls, where his lead is modest. Nor is it a gift from the press, which still gives free passes to its old bus mate John McCain. It was laughable to watch journalists stamp their feet last week to try to push Mr. Obama into saying he was "wrong" about the surge. More than five years and 4,100 American fatalities later, they're still not demanding that Mr. McCain admit he was wrong when he assured us that our adventure in Iraq would be fast, produce little American "bloodletting" and "be paid for by the Iraqis."

Never mind. This election remains about the present and the future, where Iraq's $10 billion a month drain on American pocketbooks and military readiness is just one moving part in a matrix of national crises stretching from the gas pump to Pakistan. That's the high-rolling political casino where Mr. Obama amassed the chips he cashed in last week. The "change" that he can at times wield like a glib marketing gimmick is increasingly becoming a substantive reality -- sometimes through Mr. Obama's instigation, sometimes by luck. Obama-branded change is snowballing, whether it's change you happen to believe in or not.

Quote of the day

|


State lawmakers are planning a series of hearings in the fall on the secret surveillance. However, as reported by David Collins, state police indicated they believe laws limiting their power are not necessary.



Damned Nannie State

|

From the you know you've thought about it dept:

Man shoots his lawn mower


MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin (AP) -- A 56-year-old Milwaukee man is accused of shooting his lawn mower because it wouldn't start. Keith Walendowski told police he felt he had a right to shoot his mower.

mowerguy.jpgKeith Walendowski has been charged with felony possession of a short-barreled shotgun or rifle and misdemeanor disorderly conduct while armed.

According to the criminal complaint, Walendowski says he was angry because his Lawn Boy wouldn't start Wednesday morning.

He told police: "I can do that, it's my lawn mower and my yard so I can shoot it if I want."

A woman who lives at Walendowski's house reported the incident. She says he was intoxicated.Walendowski could face up to an $11,000 fine and six years and three months in prison if convicted.


What do you think? Should you be able to discipline your own mower in your own yard?

The Handlers

|


doonesbury002.jpg

Hearings on Limits of Executive Power

|

An intense and worthwhile set of discussions about abuse of executive power and impeachment as a remedy.


Steve King
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eZxCloEbQk

Jerrold Nadler
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hL7259BAP9s

Dennis Kucinich
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRAcenaTVkQ

Bruce Fein
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80IphtHrFzg

Vincent Bugliosi
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDAFozFn4kU

Bruce Fein
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXyDK2-p4fU

Vincent Buliosi
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q53p34yzZac

Vincent Bugliosi
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7abu9a0xtNI


Only in South Africa you say?

|

Is this the future? Too weird...but somehow really funny.

Masturbating boys cause a stir


Tzaneen, S.A. - Sexily-dressed women in a small Limpopo town have fallen prey to a group of teenage street kids that masturbate in public whenever they see them. One woman, 24-year-old Gloria Shingange, had an embarrassing moment on Thursday when the boys drooled over her at the Tzaneen Mall because she was wearing a mini-skirt.

"They followed me around the mall with their hands inside their trousers. I walked out of the mall and when I stopped at the robot next to the Tzaneen police station they shouted saying I was attractive," Shingage said.

She said the boys took out their penises and started masturbating in full view of everyone while groaning in ecstasy.

McCain's Momentum

|

mccainmomentum.jpg

Obama's Berlin Speech

|

Meh

Homophobia is all rep

| | Comments (2)
Congress is investigating the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy for the first time in the rule's 15-year life. Critics of the famously troubled compromise would like to take advantage of a troop-starved military to scrap the policy, but the opposition argues that openly gay soldiers would frighten away new recruits.

Then they're a bunch of cowards to begin with. And given the hate rate of acceptance by today's youth for homosexuality according to recent polls. To wit:

bushdadt.jpgSome of the more widely repeated findings of the poll are, according to the Zogby release, that 73 percent of respondents "say they are personally comfortable in the presence of gays and lesbians," and only 27 percent of service members who said they knew for sure a homosexual was a member of their unit "said it has a negative impact on the morale of their unit." From these two pieces of information it appears that a significant majority of service members are comfortable with homosexuals and that a small percentage says it would be a problem.



Besides can you imagine being confronted by an army of these:

dragqueen.jpg
Just kidding... Outside of the obvious and paramount civil rights issues involved in denying gays the right to serve in the military, there's the problem of general immature myths of American culture on sexual matters.

Look, homophobia is primarily a group-think phenomenon. Being anti-gay is almost always a peer group thing, a matter of maintaining male peer or general societal reputation, it rarely has anything to do with how an individual reacts in a private situation. That's what "down-low" is all about. Its all cool unless its made public. The politics of "outing" is the antithesis of that.

My experience is that on an individual basis people either don't care or are somewhat open to homosexuality but in social settings defer to the group attitude. Its all rep.

The real fear of those opposed to gays in the military is that homosexuality would spread through the ranks if gays were openly accepted into the service. Its based on the concept that homosexuality is communicable and a learned lifestyle rather than an innate predisposition. While its true that the human psyche is very plastic and can accommodate a wide range of mindsets, the idea that homosexuality is an irresistible contagion is just stupid.

The likelihood that an acceptance of homosexuality in the military in general would cause an increase in homosexual acts among service populations in various privations such as long term isolation on ships, subs, remote outposts and so-on, is probably true -
but so what? It happens anyway, why should that be a punishable offense as long as its consensual and doesn't interfere with duties? Does intimacy between two soldiers automatically hamper their military effectiveness? Spartans didn't seem to find any difficulty there.

And what about bisexuals? Where do they fit into the "don't ask, don't tell" scheme?

Really the whole question of allowing gays in the military is an adult choice and attitude embraced around the world and throughout history. The American military resistance is a reflection of the general puritanical and childish hysteria American culture has regarding anything sexual. Its time to grow up and put away these childish things.

Related DADT info:

GAYS IN THE MILITARY: House Armed Services Hearing (Full 2:03:40)


'Don't ask, don't tell' policy is reexamined




The BybeeTorture Memo

|

One has to ask why a justice department clarification on the definition of torture was classified in the first place unless someone was worried that the nature of the clarification would be seen as damaging. What has been made public claims that an interrogator must have "have the specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering" in order to be considered a torturer. What, like the severe pain and suffering inflicted was going to occur without intent...by accident. Oops.

Previously secret torture memo released


bybee.jpgThe Bush administration told the CIA in 2002 that its interrogators working abroad would not violate U.S. prohibitions against torture unless they "have the specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering," according to a previously secret Justice Department memo released Thursday.

"Because specific intent is an element of the offense, the absence of specific intent negates the charge of torture," Jay Bybee, then the assistant attorney general, wrote in the memo. Bybee shown at left has since been appointed as judge for the 9th Circuit Court.

The 18-page memo is heavily redacted, with 10 of its 18 pages completely blacked out and only a few paragraphs legible on the others. It was made public by the American Civil Liberties Union, which obtained it and two other CIA-related documents under Freedom of Information Act requests.

"These documents supply further evidence, if any were needed, that the Justice Department authorized the CIA to torture prisoners in its custody," said Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU National Security Project.

Read the Justice Department documents (PDF)

Related:

Why The Bybee Memo Reads Like a One-Sided Brief: It Was (for the CIA)

Cast Out the Big Fat Liars

|

Meet the Chicago School of Economics alumni. I wonder how many of them are actually fat? They're all liars, that's for sure. Their economic ruse of sanctifying markets completely controlled by and for the wealthy with the word "free" has brought us to near economic ruin over the last four decades. If there is any hope of actually living in a world of relative peace, justice and plenty, there are three major groups of "priests" within our societies that we must find a way to be rid of; the "snake-bite-evangelists", the "white-washing-chicken-hawks" and the "idolaters-of-greed". The ones we need to focus on immediately are those who are members of all three groups. They represent about 1/10 of 1% (.001) of the population and we need to eliminate their hold on society anyway we can.

Dog Eat Dog
On prime time crime the victim begs
Money is the road to justice
and power walks it on crooked legs
Prime Time Crime
Holy hope in the hands of
Snakebite evangelists and racketeers
and big wig financiers

Where the wealth's displayed
Thieves and sycophants parade
And where it's made
the slaves will be taken
Some are treated well
In these games of buy and sell
And some like poor beasts
Are burdened down to breaking

- joni mitchell



The U.S. Economy Is Socialism for the Rich


by Michael Leon Guerrero, Movement Vision Lab

Free market capitalism in the United States is by no means "free." It's time we recognize this and move past the destructive neoliberal agenda.

In the United States, far-Right Republicans and Democratic liberals alike have sold many people on the notion that the market should be the main force to drive the economy and define social relationships. They maintain that government should stay off people's backs and out of our wallets. They promote rugged individualism and consumerism couched in terms like "personal responsibility," "freedom" and "independence." "Greed is good!" was the mantra of Michael Douglas' character, Gordon Gecko, in the 1980s movie "Wall Street," and those became the words to live by in the '80s and '90s. The philosophy and value of greed was taken to heart by many a corporate CEO, and, over the past three decades, this twisted logic -- underlined by the values of individualism and the culture of consumerism -- has turned back the clock on human development with devastating consequences.

The Chicago Boys' Disaster

Naomi Klein's landmark work The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism summarizes the last 30 years of the neoliberal (aka neoconservative) project. These policies have had a stranglehold on the global economy for decades. But Klein argues persuasively that it is primarily in moments of societal or natural upheaval that capitalist extremists, trained by gurus like Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago, have been most able to impose their political and economic agenda. Even if a natural disaster didn't present itself, Friedman's disciples, like Kissinger, Nixon, Reagan, Bush and Clinton, had no problem wreaking their own violent havoc on vulnerable countries.

By now, the mantra of the "Chicago Boys" has become all too familiar: Eliminate regulations, cut taxes, slash public spending, privatize public services, etc. Their policies dominated the global political landscape, unraveling the gains of centuries of social movements, while a new global elite has been enriched beyond imagination. A handful of people have become super-wealthy, and megacorporations have become even bigger and more powerful.

Commercial Interruption:



Amazing Free Program

| | Comments (4)

Every once in a while you run into a spectacular program that is small, fast, thorough, bugless, useful and FREE.

Here's one, get it now.

revo.jpg








I'm a tidy guy when it comes to keeping useless crap off my hard drive. But there's often a lot of useless files that are generally invisible to the user that get left hanging around when programs are installed and uninstalled or when you do various clean up and searching tasks. I just removed 2 GB of such garbage in about 2 minutes using this sweet little program. Its feature rich and can perform all sorts of other things as well. Check it out by clicking their logo above...what it can do is fully documented on their site.

Related article: Exorcise the Demons That Come Preinstalled

Can You Imagine?

|


How do you respond to "I don't want to get blacker, Daddy!"

Bishop T.D. Jakes
Senior Pastor, The Potter's House
jakes2.jpg

I am delighted to see a continued rational discussion about race relations in this country. I know many find it painful and some would rather not discuss it at all. But like a good marriage, sometimes communication is the only way to create unification. Therefore, I applaud CNN for having the foresight to lead a discussion that hopefully will produce more love and a shared concern for people you see every day but might not know what they see when they live in the same world and breathe the same air that you do.

Often I pen words as a pastor, sometimes as an entrepreneur, and occasionally as a citizen with an opinion. But today, I have been asked to share a story as a father, and a person of color, who knows firsthand the challenges of raising children of color. I love this country and I am very proud to be an American. In spite of its many challenges and disappointments, I fervently believe that the benefits of living in the United States ultimately outweigh the liabilities.. But in the interest of sharing a "what is it like to be you" story, I will add this one to the discussion. To be sure, we are not all monolithic. Many, many, blacks have raised their children surrounded by masses of blacks and have faced a different challenge than mine.

I have twin boys who are almost 30 years old now. But when they were very young, I was sitting with both of them in the predominantly white environment of my home in West Virginia talking about things fathers discuss with their sons. I shared with one of my sons, that when I was his age my skin tone was very much like his, very light. In a matter of fact way, I mentioned that as I got older, my skin darkened and changed to become much more like his brother's skin, which was darker.

My son, whose skin tone was lighter, began to cry profusely. I was befuddled by his reaction, but when your 7-year-old is crying without a reason and you love him, you investigate it immediately! So I asked him why he was crying. He blurted out, "I don't want to get blacker, Daddy!" He looked at me in total anguish and said something that left me astounded. He said, "Because if you are black they hate you more." He cried so hard that I took him in my arms so that he couldn't see that I too was shedding a tear or two, myself. I was hurt for both of my sons, and I was hurt with them.

Home Grown Guantanamos

|

Abu Ghraib and Gitmo abuses and torture are nothing new to the American social fabric. Prisons in the US and the police forces who pack them are every bit as bad. American s want their prisons to be places of harsh punishment and their criminals to endure as much social revenge as possible. Its just part of the American puritanical schizophrenic mindset that we perceive ourselves as generous, kind and compassionate and yet desire rending of the flesh and stupifing of the mind over measured retribution and rehabilitation for those who break the law. (Unless of course, the criminals are wealthy at which point they are sent to "tennis club" facilities to serve their generally brief sentences).

If the well known harsh prison conditions are to be rationalized as a deterrent to would be criminals, then the rationale is easily proved false by the reality that the Land of the Free imprisons more of its citizens than anywhere else in the world.

No, its more that American culture celebrates violence and revenge and sees them as effective problem solving methods. They are not of course, both serve to amplify the problems they are meant to solve. Violence begets violence and revenge leads to the Hatfields and McCoys.

Below is an article from Alternet showing our modern outrage that the incidents of abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo have somehow suddenly changed the notion of who we are as Americans is misplaced. We've always been like this.

How Scores of Black Men Were Tortured Into Giving False Confessions by Chicago Police

More than 20 years after being tortured into giving confessions by Chicago police officers, dozens of black men remain behind bars.

Michael Tillman was 20, with a 3-year-old daughter and an infant son, when he was brought into the Area 2 police station on Chicago's South Side for questioning. His mother, Jean Tillman, says that although he had gotten into some trouble with the law as a youngster, he had been on the straight-and-narrow, working as a janitor and paying his bills, since he and his girlfriend had their first child. That was July 22, 1986.

He hasn't been home since.

Tillman is one of at least 24 African-American men that the People's Law Office in Chicago claims are still serving sentences for crimes they say they confessed to only after enduring hours of torture at the hands of Chicago police officers under Commander Jon Burge between 1972 and 1992. Although 10 of Burge's victims have been pardoned or given new trials after their illegally obtained confessions were exposed, the vast majority of the 100-plus cases have yet to be reviewed by the state of Illinois. Those men have either served out their sentences, died in custody or, like Tillman, continue to live their lives behind bars, hoping that one day they will have a fair trial.

According to Tillman's 1986 trial testimony, when he arrived at the Area 2 police station in the predawn hours of July 21, 1986, Detectives Ronald Boffo and Peter Dignan took him to a second-floor interrogation room and pressed him for information about the murder of 42-year-old Betty Howard, whose body was found the day prior in the apartment building Tillman oversaw. When he told the detectives that he knew nothing about the murder, he says that Boffo and Dignan, along with three other officers, became abusive. Without ever reading him his Miranda rights, he says they handcuffed him to the wall, hit him in the face and punched him in the stomach until he vomited blood. During the course of what appeared to be three days, rotating pairs of officers brought him to the railroad tracks behind the station and held a gun to his head, suffocated him repeatedly with thick plastic bags, poured soda up his nose and forced him into Dumpsters outside of the apartment building, ordering him to search through the rubbish for a murder weapon until, according to Detective John Yucaitis, Tillman confessed to the crime.

According to Tillman's mother, she, her husband and an attorney they called for counsel were all denied access to her son during his three days of interrogation.

Picture Perfect

| | Comments (2)

A 21 yr old black man died in police custody after being tased (while handcuffed) 9 times ( 50,000 volts x 9 = 450,000 volts in less than 15 minutes). Wanna try it?.

While tragic, I don't find that surprising. Less surprising is that it happened in Louisiana.

The story from CNN linked to a video of the local coroner describing how the man was likely already dead before the final couple of shots. There's a disturbing irony in the screen capture on the video page below which I've pointed out with the green arrows.

The on-screen text is from the ad that runs just before the story. Combined with with the promo for a series CNN is running called Black in America, this image probably closer to the truth than whatever CNN will run as a portrait of what it means to be Black in America.


taserdeath.jpg

Related:

Dead Black Man Was Tasered Nine Times by White Cop

by Steven D., Booman Tribune

A 21 year old black man in Winnfield, Louisiana, named Baron "Scooter" Pikes, was tasered 9 times in 14 minutes by a white police officer in January after he was arrested and handcuffed. He died. Seems a tad excessive to me. However, here's the story of his arrest and subsequent death according to the police report by the arresting officers:

nugent2.jpg
[Police Officer] Nugent spotted Pikes walking along the street and attempted to arrest him on an outstanding warrant for drug possession, according to Police Chief Johnny Ray Carpenter. Pikes took off running, but another officer cornered him outside a nearby grocery store. Pikes resisted arrest and Nugent subdued him with a shock from a Taser.

Then on the way to the police station, Carpenter told the newspaper, Pikes fell ill and told the officers he suffered from asthma and was high on crack cocaine and PCP.

The officers called for an ambulance, but Pikes later died at the hospital.

So Mr. Pikes was high on PCP, crack cocaine and had a serious asthma condition? That poor man was seriously messed up if he smoked crack and took PCP with an existing asthma condition. The again, perhaps we should take a look at what the subsequent autopsy report by the Parish Coroner found:


Most people can understand that it essential to the integrity of the US constitution that equality under the law be maintained at all costs. That concept is core to the nature of the sort of Republic in which we claim to live.

If we allow the flagrant abuse and contempt of constitutional law as demonstrated over and over again by the Bush administration to stand without challenge, without pursuing and demanding accountability for administrative crimes, we will have accepted ruination of the country as fact.

This subject was taken up by Olbermann in a Countdown segment.

NY Times Does McCain a Favor

|

...by not publishing his first submission of an essay he submitted to the paper.

I would have sent it back for a rewrite too. It rambles and is not much more than a bunch of whining about Obama in a not very coherent way. It probaby would have been an embarrassment to the McCain campaign if the NY Times had published it.

New York Times rejects McCain essay

(CNN) -- The New York Times has rejected an essay that Sen. John McCain wrote defending his Iraq war policy.

The piece was in response to an op-ed from Sen. Barack Obama that was published in the paper last week.

In an e-mail to the McCain campaign, Opinion Page Editor David Shipley said he could not accept the piece as written, but would be "pleased, though, to look at another draft."

"Let me suggest an approach," he wrote Friday. "The Obama piece worked for me because it offered new information (it appeared before his speech); while Senator Obama discussed Senator McCain, he also went into detail about his own plans. It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama's piece."

In a statement released Monday, The New York Times said it is "standard procedure on our Op-Ed page, and that of other newspapers, to go back and forth with an author on his or her submission."

"We look forward to publishing Senator McCain's views in our paper just as we have in the past. We have published at least seven Op-Ed pieces by Senator McCain since 1996. The New York Times endorsed Senator McCain as the Republican candidate in the presidential primaries. We take his views very seriously," the statement said.

McCain's rejected op-ed was a lengthy critique of Obama's positions on Iraq policy, particularly his view of the surge.

Here is the op-ed piece written by Sen. John McCain that the New York Times declined to run. The piece was released to CNN by the McCain campaign:

In January 2007, when General David Petraeus took command in Iraq, he called the situation "hard" but not "hopeless." Today, 18 months later, violence has fallen by up to 80% to the lowest levels in four years, and Sunni and Shiite terrorists are reeling from a string of defeats. The situation now is full of hope, but considerable hard work remains to consolidate our fragile gains.

Progress has been due primarily to an increase in the number of troops and a change in their strategy. I was an early advocate of the surge at a time when it had few supporters in Washington. Senator Barack Obama was an equally vocal opponent. "I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there," he said on January 10, 2007. "In fact, I think it will do the reverse."

Now Senator Obama has been forced to acknowledge that "our troops have performed brilliantly in lowering the level of violence." But he still denies that any political progress has resulted.

Perhaps he is unaware that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has recently certified that, as one news article put it, "Iraq has met all but three of 18 original benchmarks set by Congress last year to measure security, political and economic progress." Even more heartening has been progress that's not measured by the benchmarks. More than 90,000 Iraqis, many of them Sunnis who once fought against the government, have signed up as Sons of Iraq to fight against the terrorists. Nor do they measure Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's new-found willingness to crack down on Shiite extremists in Basra and Sadr City?actions that have done much to dispel suspicions of sectarianism.

.

Addington is the real sicko

|

What drives men to dismiss any concern for other men? How is it possible for a professionally trained adult to have the emotional capacity of an infant, who cannot fathom the harm they do nor recognize their own complicity in creating evil?


Madness and Shame

By Bob Herbert

You want a scary thought? Imagine a fanatic in the mold of Dick Cheney but without the vice president's sense of humor.

In her important new book, "The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals," Jane Mayer of The New Yorker devotes a great deal of space to David Addington, Dick Cheney's main man and the lead architect of the Bush administration's legal strategy for the so-called war on terror.

She quotes a colleague as saying of Mr. Addington: "No one stood to his right." Colin Powell, a veteran of many bruising battles with Mr. Cheney, was reported to have summed up Mr. Addington as follows: "He doesn't believe in the Constitution."

Very few voters are aware of Mr. Addington's existence, much less what he stands for. But he was the legal linchpin of the administration's Marquis de Sade approach to battling terrorism. In the view of Mr. Addington and his acolytes, anything and everything that the president authorized in the fight against terror -- regardless of what the Constitution or Congress or the Geneva Conventions might say -- was all right. That included torture, rendition, warrantless wiretapping, the suspension of habeas corpus, you name it.

This is the mind-set that gave us Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo and the C.I.A.'s secret prisons, known as "black sites."

Ms. Mayer wrote: "The legal doctrine that Addington espoused -- that the president, as commander in chief, had the authority to disregard virtually all previously known legal boundaries if national security demanded it -- rested on a reading of the Constitution that few legal scholars shared."

When the constraints of the law are unlocked by the men and women in suits at the pinnacle of power, terrible things happen in the real world. You end up with detainees being physically and psychologically tormented day after day, month after month, until they beg to be allowed to commit suicide. You have prisoners beaten until they are on the verge of death, or hooked to overhead manacles like something out of the Inquisition, or forced to defecate on themselves, or sexually humiliated, or driven crazy by days on end of sleep deprivation and blinding lights and blaring noises, or water-boarded.

Therein lies madness

|

There are no words to convey the level of disgust and revulsion that this man is still breathing.

Bosnian Serb Under Arrest in War Crimes

By Dan Bilefsky and Marlise Simons

karadzic.jpgPARIS -- Radovan Karadzic, one of the world's most wanted war criminals for his part in the massacre of nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995, was arrested Monday in a raid in Serbia that ended a 13-year hunt.

Serge Brammertz, the prosecutor of the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague, hailed the arrest as an important step in bringing to justice one of the architects of Europe's worst massacre since World War II. He said Mr. Karadzic, 63, the Bosnian Serb president during the war there between 1992 and 1995, would be transferred to The Hague in "due course."


Obama Jokes

| | Comments (2)

Ow ow ow stop yer killing me...

5 Approved Obama Jokes

By Andy Borowitz

Saying he is "sympathetic to late night comedians' struggle to find jokes to make about me," Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) today issued a list of official campaign-approved Barack Obama jokes.

The five jokes, which Sen. Obama said he is making available to all comedians free of charge, are as follows:

Barack Obama and a kangaroo pull up to a gas station. The gas station attendant takes one look at the kangaroo and says, "You know, we don't get many kangaroos here." Barack Obama replies, "At these prices, I'm not surprised. That's why we need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

A traveling salesman knocks on the door of a farmhouse, and much to his surprise, Barack Obama answers the door. The salesman says, "I was expecting the farmer's daughter." Barack Obama replies, "She's not here. The farm was foreclosed on because of subprime loans that are making a mockery of the American dream."

A horse walks into a bar. The bartender says, "Why the long face?" Barack Obama replies, "His jockey just lost his health insurance, which should be the right of all Americans."

Q: What's black and white and red all over?
A: The Barack Obama issue of New Yorker magazine, which should be embarrassed after publishing such a tasteless and offensive cover, which I reject and denounce.

A Christian, a Jew and Barack Obama are in a rowboat in the middle of the ocean. Barack Obama says, "This joke isn't going to work because there's no Muslim in this boat."

I read this Op-Ed in the NY Times early this morning which galled me.
The Risk of Too Much Oversight.

The opinion piece was by one Stephen R. Heifetz, who is the deputy assistant secretary for policy development at the Department of Homeland Security. In it he basically asserted that Homeland Security is being prevented from doing its job efficiently because of the various congressional oversight committees which have conflicting goals and turf interests that can create a "tangle obstruct[ing] our ability to prioritize risks at the Department of Homeland Security".

He called for removal of these committee obstacles so that he and his DHS colleagues can do their job better.

No doubt. As though after what we have witnessed over the last 8 years (think Katrina, for one) gives us such confidence that DHS needs less oversight.

I wrote the following brief comment on the piece which eventually became the top editor's pick and reader's recommended comment.

This tells me that many people are of a similar attitude about the idea of having a Homeland Security department with little or no oversight.

Editors' Selections

NYTimes.com editors aim to highlight the most interesting and thoughtful comments that represent a range of views.

July 21st, 2008 8:00 am

Because I think the entire Homeland Security apparatus is a dangerous invention based on a false national paranoia, I think its to the benefit of the American people that there is as much oversight and interference as there is. Nothing is quite so frightening as a well-oiled police state.

There are so many avenues for potential terrorist acts that the whole idea that they can be prevented is absurd. Better and far less expensive both in terms of money spent and individual rights forfeited, is a well-oiled front end foreign policy that addresses the reasons that terrorists would want to attack us in the first place.

-- Cul Winter Haven, Fla. Recommended by 110 Readers

The other Editor picks follow.

Usury: The state we all live in

| | Comments (5)

The latest financial dilemma is not new. At its core is a concept not much referred to in the public debate over who or what is to blame for the recent mess. Its called usury.

u·su·ry (yoo'zhe-ree) n.pl. u·su·ries

1. The practice of lending money and charging the borrower interest, especially at an exorbitant or illegally high rate. 2. An excessive or illegally high rate of interest charged on borrowed money. 3. Archaic. Interest charged or paid on a loan.

Usury has a history which goes back to Biblical days and was a serious enough problem even at that time to warrant edicts against it.

The Prophet Ezekiel includes usury in a list of abominable things, along with rape, murder, robbery and idolatry. Ezekiel 18:19-13. Jews are forbidden to lend at interest to one another. Exodus 22:25; Deuteronomy 23:19-20, Leviticus 25:35-37

All of the major religions have such prohibitions against usury because it is recognized as a destructive practice that is untenable to a functioning society. Basically, it amounts to owners of wealth being able to take advantage of and control the fates of the not so wealthy and outright poor by creating a situation in which a debt on money borrowed can likely never be repaid. The mechanism is a familiar tune - "owing your soul to the company store."

Here's a historical list garnered from the Americans for Fairness in Lending site:

1750 B.C. The Code of Hammurabi regulates the interest that can be charged on a loan. Historical records indicate that many loans were made below the legal limit.


800-600 B.C. Both Plato and Aristotle believed usury was immoral and unjust. The Greeks at first regulate interest, and then deregulate it. After deregulation, there was so much unregulated debt that Athenians were sold into slavery and threatened revolt.

443 B.C.  The Romans adopt the "Twelve Tables" and cap interest at 8 1/3%.

88 B.C. The Roman usury rate is raised to 12%.

533 A.D. The Roman "Code of Justinian" sets a graduated maximum interest rate that did not go over 8 1/3 % for loans to ordinary citizens. This law lasts until 1543 A.D.

7th century  

 The Quran 2:275-276 states:  "...those you take usury will arise on the Day of Resurrection like someone tormented by Satan's touch. That is because they say 'Trade and usury are the same,' But God has allowed trade and forbidden usury. Whoever, on receiving God's warning, stops taking usury make keep his past gains -- God will be his judge -- but whoever goes back to usury will be an inhabitant of the Fire, therein to remain."


800 A.D.  Charlemagne outlaws interest throughout his empire.

11th century In England, the taking of any interest at all is punishable by taking the usurer's land and chattels.

Medieval Canon Law Usury is punishable by ex-communication.

Medieval Roman Law  Usurer's are fined 4X the amount taken, while robbery is penalized at twice the amount taken.

1306-1321 Dante pens "The Inferno," in which he places usurers at the lowest ledge in the seventh circle of hell - lower than murderers.

1553-1558 During the reign of Queen Mary, English Parliament again disallows the collection of interest.

1570 During the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, interest rates in England are limited to under 10%. This law lasts until 1854.

1713 Adoption in England of the "Statue of Anne," an Act to reduce interest rates.

Early 18th Century American colonies adopt usury laws, setting the interest cap at 8%.

After 1776  All of the States in the Union adopt a general usury. Most states set the interest limit at 6%.

Now that's what I'm talking about

|

I believe in a mixed economy; which is to say that I think people should be rewarded for extra effort by way of increased income and I also believe that certain parts of the social fabric should be cost free. The cost free elements should be public transportation, medical, basic housing and most of all, free education to anyone who desires it.


With No Frills or Tuition, a College Draws Notice

by Tamar Lewin

BEREA, Ky. -- Berea College, founded 150 years ago to educate freed slaves and "poor white mountaineers," accepts only applicants from low-income families, and it charges no tuition.

"You can literally come to Berea with nothing but what you can carry, and graduate debt free," said Joseph P. Bagnoli Jr., the associate provost for enrollment management. "We call it the best education money can't buy."

Actually, what buys that education is Berea's $1.1 billion endowment, which puts the college among the nation's wealthiest. But unlike most well-endowed colleges, Berea has no football team, coed dorms, hot tubs or climbing walls. Instead, it has a no-frills budget, with food from the college farm, handmade furniture from the college crafts workshops, and 10-hour-a-week campus jobs for every student.

Berea's approach provides an unusual perspective on the growing debate over whether the wealthiest universities are doing enough for the public good to warrant their tax exemption, or simply hoarding money to serve an elite few. As many elite universities scramble to recruit more low-income students, Berea's no-tuition model has attracted increasing attention.

They Carry Nukes Don't They?

|

What else are they used for?

B-52 bomber crashes near Guam

A U.S. Air Force B-52 with six crew members on board crashed off the island of Guam on Monday, an Air Force spokesman said.

b52.jpgRescuers with the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy were searching a point in the Pacific Ocean about 30 miles northwest of Guam, a U.S. territory, where the plane is believed to have crashed, said Capt. Joel Stark, spokesman for Andersen Air Force Base.

He had no information on whether anyone survived.

The B-52H Stratofortress was based at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, and was in Guam as part of a four-month rotation, Stark said.

It went down about 9:45 a.m. local time (7:45 p.m. ET Sunday).

Lieberman the Putz

| | Comments (2)

Or in English, the goof.

His latest comments about Obama' s visit to and stance on Iraq per his blather on Fox News shows how far he will lean backwards to make a smearing fool of himself.


Lieberman: Obama choosing to lose Iraq war

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama is choosing to lose the Iraq war by planning to withdraw American combat troops, a high-profile supporter of Republican candidate Sen. John McCain said Sunday.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Democrat-turned-independent from Connecticut, said McCain's support for bolstering U.S. forces in Iraq last year to subdue insurgents has made Obama's expected visit to Iraq this week possible.

"John McCain had the guts to argue against public opinion, to put his whole campaign on the line, because, as he says, he'd rather lose an election than lose in a war that he thinks is this important to the United States," Lieberman said on "Fox News Sunday."

"If Barack Obama's policy in Iraq had been implemented, he couldn't be in Iraq today," Lieberman said, adding that Obama "was prepared to accept retreat and defeat."

Obama's expected arrival in Baghdad is part of a multi-country trip that included a Saturday stop in Afghanistan, where the Illinois senator says he would send more U.S. troops to bolster the fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda.

The remarks by Lieberman -- who ran for vice president as a Democrat in 2000 -- drew a sharp response from Sen. Evan Bayh, an Obama supporter who appeared with Lieberman on the show.

Obama's initial opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq "was right from the beginning," said Bayh, D-Indiana.

Fox Transcript

The surprise visit created a lot of excitement and gave the convention of progressive bloggers an added sense of purpose.

Gore Wows the Netroots Crowd

By Katharine Q. Seelye NYTimes

gore_netroots.jpgAUSTIN -- Former Vice President Al Gore surprised a convention of bloggers here, appearing on stage after Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, held a question-and-answer session that included tough questions on the wiretapping bill.

In response to a question about climate change, Mrs. Pelosi glanced at her Blackberry and said she had an e-mail from a friend on the subject. Mr. Gore's voice then came over the public address system, producing quizzical looks in the audience of nearly 3,000 people and then gasps, cheers and a standing ovation as he strode on stage from the wings.

Mr. Gore's arrival was the first electric moment at the conference, the Netroots Nation, a group of progressive bloggers whose major interests -- stopping the war in Iraq, saving the planet from global warming and pushing the edge of the envelope of technology -- mesh well with Mr. Gore's current pursuits.

If ya can't take the heat

|

get out yo ass outta the kitchen...we're on a mission - Coolio Fantastic Voyage

Great tune and lyrics





lyrics follow

Poll results like the following, underscore the inevitability of wide spread acceptance of gays in general and the ultimate futility of the California plan to re-challenge the gay marriage issue there.

Acceptance of Gay People in Military Grows Dramatically

By Kyle Dropp and Jon Cohen WAPO

Public attitudes about gays in the military have shifted dramatically since President Bill Clinton unveiled what became his administration's "don't ask, don't tell" policy 15 years ago today.

Seventy-five percent of Americans in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll said gay people who are open about their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, up from 62 percent in early 2001 and 44 percent in 1993.

Majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents alike now believe it is acceptable for openly gay people to serve in the U.S. armed forces. Shortly after he took office in 1993, Clinton faced strong resistance to his campaign pledge to lift the military's ban on allowing gay people to enlist. At that time, 67 percent of Republicans and 75 percent of conservatives opposed the idea. A majority of independents, 56 percent, and 45 percent of Democrats also opposed changing the policy.

Today, Americans have become more supportive of allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the armed forces. Support from Republicans has doubled over the past 15 years, from 32 to 64 percent. More than eight in 10 Democrats and more than three-quarters of independents now support the idea, as did nearly two-thirds of self-described conservatives.

gaymilitarypoll.jpg

Rich gets down and bitchy

|

Meow.

But as always Rich is right on target.

Before reading the article, here's a telling comment on it from the heartland :

I am an 81 yr old ww2 vet from Mississippi with an 8th grade ed an I only hope the American people are not stupid eneugh to make the same mistake again by voting for another George Bush.
Thank You
-- jw tuten, jwtuten@wildblue.net
Recommended by 298 Readers


It's the Economic Stupidity, Stupid

by Frank Rich

The best thing to happen to John McCain was for the three network anchors to leave him in the dust this week while they chase Barack Obama on his global Lollapalooza tour. Were voters forced to actually focus on Mr. McCain's response to our spiraling economic crisis at home, the prospect of his ascension to the Oval Office could set off a panic that would make the IndyMac Bank bust in Pasadena look as merry as the Rose Bowl.

"In a time of war," Mr. McCain said last week, "the commander in chief doesn't get a learning curve." Fair enough, but he imparted this wisdom in a speech that was almost a year behind Mr. Obama in recognizing Afghanistan as the central front in the war against Al Qaeda. Given that it took the deadliest Taliban suicide bombing in Kabul since 9/11 to get Mr. McCain's attention, you have to wonder if even General Custer's learning curve was faster than his.

Mr. McCain still doesn't understand that we can't send troops to Afghanistan unless they're shifted from Iraq. But simple math, to put it charitably, has never been his forte. When it comes to the central front of American anxiety -- the economy -- his learning curve has flat-lined.

In 2000, he told an interviewer that he would make up for his lack of attention to "those issues." As he entered the 2008 campaign, Mr. McCain was still saying the same, vowing to read "Greenspan's book" as a tutorial. Last weekend, the resolutely analog candidate told The New York Times he is at last starting to learn how "to get online myself." Perhaps he'll retire his abacus by Election Day.

I have a dream

|


arrestedbushjl3.jpg

Chavez not so evil now

| | Comments (2)

Another example of how the strains of economy are going to change people's allegiances away from strict capitalist market toward socialist contracts. Socialism always looks a lot better when you discover only one chicken in the pot.


New Hampshire Takes Chavez Up on Free Oil Offer

By Norma Love

chavez_oil.jpgCONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Two years ago, New Hampshire refused to accept heating oil from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the pro-Castro U.S. critic who once called President Bush "the devil." But with fuel prices rising, well, free oil is free oil.

With the state's blessing, New Hampshire residents will be receiving some of the fuel this winter. New Hampshire becomes the last state in the Northeast to embrace the offer.

"A lot of people have said, `We need help and we value any help we can get,'" said Amy Ignatius, director of New Hampshire's office of energy and planning.

The oil giveaway will be managed by Citizens Energy, a nonprofit organization set up by former Massachusetts Rep. Joseph Kennedy to help the poor stay warm. But the state energy office plans to help Citizens publicize the aid and sign up fuel-oil dealers.

It is just the latest example of how rising oil prices have brought about an attitude adjustment in the U.S. Over the past few weeks, pressure has been growing in Washington and around the country to lift the federal ban on offshore drilling.

Bob Barr ≈ Ralph Nader

|

...at least as far as acting as a spoiler for the Republicans and the McCain campaign.

And as far I I'm concerned that's just deserts.

Court Orders Ohio to Include Libertarian Party on Ballot

by Bob Driehaus

CINCINNATI -- Ohio must include the Libertarian Party's nominees on its ballot in November, a court has ruled, complicating Senator John McCain's effort to win conservative votes in a hotly contested state rich in electoral votes.

The Libertarian candidate, Bob Barr, formerly a Republican congressman from Georgia, will lead his party's ticket, which includes the vice-presidential candidate, Wayne Allyn Root, and candidates for governor and several Congressional seats.

"Ballot restrictions are all designed to prevent competition for the Democrats and Republicans," said Russell Verney, Mr. Barr's campaign manager, who said inclusion on the ballot with a party banner should help attract more votes than if Mr. Barr were on the ballot as an independent candidate.

The court order, issued Thursday, directs the Ohio secretary of state, Jennifer L. Brunner, to disregard her office's current guidelines for ballot inclusion, which require eligible parties to gather valid signatures equal to one-half of 1 percent of the total vote in 2006 or to have garnered at least 5 percent of the last election's votes. The Libertarians submitted 6,545 signatures in March, far below the approximately 20,000 needed. Ms. Brunner's office has not decided whether to appeal the ruling.

The Libertarians' gain may be Mr. McCain's loss, said Paul Allen Beck, an Ohio State University elections expert.

"With Barr on the ballot, it could siphon off some conservative votes that might have gone to McCain," Republican of Arizona, Mr. Beck said.

Mr. Barr's campaign rejects criticism from Republicans who say his candidacy hurts the conservative cause.

Yeah? Tell that to Al Gore.

Whiners Unite

|

As usual, the wealthy will walk away with their spoils and the rest of us will be soaked for it. Today's financial crises are a replay of the Silverado Savings and Loan failure of the 80/90s (another financial debacle involving another Bush son; Neil) and its likely get much much worse.

In my opinion we have to do two major things, we have to use a claw-back tax to strip spoils of the capitalist renegades responsible to for the deregulation failures and we have to nationalize the major financial institutions. If the public is going to have to pay for them, then the public ought to own them. Are we on the way to a more socialist approach to economy? Of course, and its become a necessity primarily because of the unfettered and insatiable avarice of the cowboy capitalists whose gaming of the system has brought it to ruin.

We may not know all the details of the nature of the deregulatory scamming that has brought to the precipice, but we know who to blame for it and should turn our energies from whining to active anger. Then, perhaps, to oiling up that old guillotine out back.

The Financial Crisis Could Shake the Foundations of American Politics

By William Greider, TheNation.com

We are witnessing a momentous event -- the great deflation of Wall Street -- and it is far from over.

Phil Gramm, the senator-banker who until recently advised John McCain's campaign, did get it right about a "nation of whiners," but he misidentified the faint-hearted. It's not the people or even the politicians. It is Wall Street -- the financial titans and big-money bankers, the most important investors and worldwide creditors who are scared witless by events. These folks are in full-flight panic and screaming for mercy from Washington, Their cries were answered by the massive federal bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, the endangered mortgage companies.

When the monied interests whined, they made themselves heard by dumping the stocks of these two quasi-public private corporations, threatening to collapse the two financial firms like the investor "run" that wiped out Bear Stearns in March. The real distress of the banks and brokerages and major investors is that they cannot unload the rotten mortgage securities packaged by Fannie Mae and banks sold worldwide. Wall Street's preferred solution: dump the bad paper on the rest of us, the unwitting American taxpayers.

The Bush crowd, always so reluctant to support federal aid for mere people, stepped up to the challenge and did as it was told. Treasury Secretary Paulson (ex-Goldman Sachs) and his sidekick, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, announced their bailout plan on Sunday to prevent another disastrous sell-off on Monday when markets opened. Like the first-stage rescue of Wall Street's largest investment firms in March, this bold stroke was said to benefit all of us. The whole kingdom of American high finance would tumble down if government failed to act or made the financial guys pay for their own reckless delusions. Instead, dump the losses on the people.

I don't get it

| | Comments (4)

oafcats.jpg


Do you?

Gulf Coast Civic Works Project

| | Comments (2)

A practical and sensible public works project that would go a long way to reducing the tragic effects of Hurricane Katrina. Read the message and visit the site to sign the petition.

The Gulf Coast Civic Works Project was proposed a few months ago by Prof. Scott Myers-Lipton, a Professor at San Jose State University, in California. His proposal captures, in simple language, a common-sense approach for rebuilding the Gulf, providing economic opportunity for Katrina survivors, as well as "restoring faith in the government's social compact with its citizens."

This is a plan that should be embraced by every member of Congress and every American. It's a big, comprehensive initiative, but it's not a bloated program. It speaks to core American values of community and individual responsibility and equality of opportunity, while recognizing the importance of culture and history. And fundamentally, it makes sound economic sense.

There is no other plan that takes advantage of the economies of scale and available labor pool represented by the city's former residents for rebuilding. And it fits perfectly with the stated desires of officials at every level, who say they want to preserve the character of New Orleans and to make it possible for New Orleanians to return.

Here's the proposal as laid out by Prof. Myers-Lipton:

The Proposal:

The GC Civic Works Project will hire 100,000 Gulf Coast residents to rebuild New Orleans and the surrounding region. The residents, who will be given subsidized tickets back to their neighborhoods, will build and repair houses, schools, parks, and other civic buildings and spaces.

The Gulf Coast Civic Works Project accomplishes 4 things:


  1. provide our citizens with living wage jobs,
  2. make housing available for themselves and their communities,
  3. restore a sense of personal empowerment and hope, something which has been stolen from our people, and
  4. restore faith among our citizenry of the government's ability to respond to the needs of its people through a public-private partnership.

Projected Cost:


Based on a ratio of labor to materials of 80-20, and a wage rate of $12 per hour, the total cost of the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project is $3.125 billion. The projected cost of wages is $2.5 billion, while the cost of materials is $625 million.

Note that $3 billion is roughly 1/2 to 1/3 the cost of the war each month in Iraq according to the Congressional Budget Office. And while the Iraq War has been plagued with graft and corruption, similar large-scale civic projects have operated in the United States with little to no corruption.

Historical Precedent

This is not the first time that the United States has faced massive social suffering. Our senior citizens, as well as our history books, have passed on to the current generation, the pain and suffering that so many people experienced during the Great Depression.

When Americans were faced with this crisis, the people realized that self-help initiatives alone would not solve the people's problems, and they turned to solutions that got things done. During the Depression, people didn't want a handout, but a hand up.

The U.S. Government developed the Civil Works Administration (CWA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CWA employed 4 million workers immediately in construction work (i.e., school repair, sanitation work, road building, etc.). Within 2 weeks of starting the project, 814,511 were on the payroll; within 2 months, 4.2 million were working.

The Works Project Administration (WPA) replaced the CWA. In its 7-year history, the WPA employed a total of 8 million people and its accomplishments were many: the WPA built or improved 5,900 schools, 2,500 hospitals, and 13,000 playgrounds.

The CCC provided the opportunity for 500,000 young men (ages 18 to 25) to work on environmental conservation projects at 2,600 camps each year. The goal was to employ restless and discouraged young men, many of whom had previously roamed the nation looking for work. In addition to their salary, the youth provided educational assistance.

Rationally Jumping Ship

| | Comments (2)

As incredible as it might seem, a die-hard major Republican player, Larry Hunter, has publicly explained why he will be voting for Obama. What I find interesting about it is Hunter's claim that many of his Republican friends are thinking the along the same lines, but are loathe to confess it publicly.

Included below is his public declaration of his intentions in a NY Daily News Op-Ed piece and a Keith Olbermann interview clip with Mr Hunter on the subject.


I'm a lifelong conservative activist and I'm backing Barack Obama

by Larry Hunter

I'm a lifelong Republican - a supply-side conservative. I worked in the Reagan White House. I was the chief economist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for five years. In 1994, I helped write the Republican Contract with America. I served on Bob Dole's presidential campaign team and was chief economist for Jack Kemp's Empower America.

This November, I'm voting for Barack Obama.

When I first made this decision, many colleagues were shocked. How could I support a candidate with a domestic policy platform that's antithetical to almost everything I believe in?

The answer is simple: Unjustified war and unconstitutional abridgment of individual rights vs. ill-conceived tax and economic policies - this is the difference between venial and mortal sins.

Taxes, economic policy and health care reform matter, of course. But how we extract ourselves from the bloody boondoggle in Iraq, how we avoid getting into a war with Iran and how we preserve our individual rights while dealing with real foreign threats - these are of greater importance.

Jail Rove

| | Comments (2)

and save America.


jailrove.jpg






Pot and Kettle

|

Given Pelosi's adamant refusal to persue impeachment proceedings against a president that could easily be convicted of war crimes she has no right to call Bush a failure.


Pelosi: Bush 'a total failure'

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called President Bush "a total failure" on Thursday, among the California Democrat's harshest assessments to date of the president.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says "I disapprove of Congress' performance in terms of ending the war."

"God bless him, bless his heart, president of the United States -- a total failure, losing all credibility with the American people on the economy, on the war, on energy, you name the subject," Pelosi told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in an exclusive interview.

The comments came two days after the president sharply criticized Congress over what he described as relative inaction over the course of the legislative term.

Sharks Just Wanna Have Fun

|

Photographer Ken McNair snapped this picture of surfers and a shark jumping behind them. Surfing in FL has its moments.

shark2.jpg


And is this really necessary? I'm not a PETA extremist or something, but this exercise strikes me as being a hairs breadth from murdering one entity to benefit another. Are civilian surgeons trained this way? After all they're probably going to have to treat "street combat" gun shot wounds and worse.

Army will shoot live pigs for medical training


bloodsnow.jpg(AP) -- The Army says it's critical to saving the lives of wounded soldiers. Animal-rights activists call the training cruel and outdated. Despite opposition by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Army is moving forward with its plan to shoot live pigs and treat their gunshot wounds in a medical trauma exercise Friday at Schofield Barracks for soldiers headed to Iraq.

Maj. Derrick Cheng, spokesman for the 25th Infantry Division, said the training is being conducted under a U.S. Department of Agriculture license and the careful supervision of veterinarians and a military Animal Care and Use Committee.

"It's to teach Army personnel how to manage critically injured patients within the first few hours of their injury," Cheng said.

The soldiers are learning emergency lifesaving skills needed on the battlefield when there are no medics, doctors or facility nearby, he said.

PETA, however, said there are more advanced and humane options available, including high-tech human simulators. In a letter, PETA urged the Army to end all use of animals, "as the overwhelming majority of North American medical schools have already done."

"Shooting and maiming pigs is outdated as Civil War rifles," said Kathy Guillermo, director of PETA's Laboratory Investigations Department.

Check out Susannity's post on this subject:

Army Shooting Live Pigs for Medical Training

excerpt:

I was a medic in the Air Force and also trained as a civilian paramedic at the Oregon Health Sciences University. While at OHSU, we did do one procedure on a live pig that was sedated. There is a procedure called a cut down that is used when one is absolutely unable to get an IV started because the patient is hypovolemic. You cut into the flesh to actually get to a vein and start an IV. Our pig was not euthanized as this procedure is not that invasive, but I remember being traumatized that we were practicing on a live animal. I guess one could argue if it is better to practice on a live patient, but I guess I might argue yes. If you are attempting that procedure, it is because that person needs it. The first live patient intubations I performed were on folks undergoing surgery. But the first time I intubated someone in the field under an emergency situation, it still felt different and scary. (Luckily, I had no problems - phew!) Anyway, if we had sedated someone or some animal for the sole purpose of intubation, I think I would have had issue. Sedation has its issues and intubation is an irritant. Taking that many steps forward to shooting an animal seems wrong.

The Basis of Executive Privilege

|

Everyone has heard the claim of "executive privilege" being used at every turn by the Bush administration as a way of denying information to the public and congress. But where does the President get authority from to do that?

I couldn't find anything in the Constitution which explicitly mentions the idea of executive privilege and so I turned to our modern oracle The Google and came up with this interesting article by a historian David Kaiser which points out that there really is no legal basis for it.


A couple of excerpts from the article follow:

"Executive Privilege"


David Kaiser

...In Impeachment, Berger drew on English precedents and constitutional debates to show that to them, that clause included not only criminal acts, but acts tending to corrupt the body politic (Madison, in this connection, even referred to abuse of the pardon power as an impeachable offense), or even, critically, the pursuit of disastrous policies--a frequent grounds for impeachment in early modern Britain. And as Berger argued, and as Parliamentary history showed, the power of inquiry--to compel testimony and documents from ministers about their conduct--was, obviously, an essential concomitant of the power to impeach, since the Congress could hardly try to punish behavior that it could not find out about.

Now conflicts over the power of inquiry began during the Washington Administration, but they entered a completely new phase after the Second World War. That was not accidental. The Executive Branch has consistently maintained at least since the Second World War that it cannot exercise the functions of a permanent world power without resorting to secrecy, not only from its enemies but from Congress and the American people.

He points out that there has been an acceleration of the use of the concept of executive privilege which has its roots in a memo from 1957:

....the key episode in this controversy, upon which Berger spent most of his book, was the "Rogers Memorandum," written by Deputy Attorney General William Rogers in 1957, which first stated the case for executive privilege. The memo claimed an unlimited executive right to withhold information from Congress, pleading, among other things, the excuse that the President needed "unfettered advice" from his subordinates. (Why it should be expected that subordinates would naturally be embarrassed by the advice they had given has, frankly, always escaped me.) Rogers cited historical "precedents" going back to the beginning of the Republic, and as Berger showed, the executive branch (including Rogers himself as Secretary of State under Nixon, and Deputy Attorney General William Rehnquist) had been referring to those many decades of "precedents" ever since. The problem, as Berger spent many details pointing out, was that the memo was legally almost worthless: "a farrago of internal contradictions, patently slipshod analysis, and untenable inferences." The cases he cited, without exception, did not support his claims at all.

So this memo of legal invention becomes the "precedent" by which executive privilege is asserted today. Because law is primarily based on precedent, the longer a legal concept is allowed to stand without challenge, the more weight something like that inventive memo will carry.

The article summarizes our problem with executive privilege today:

"Executive privilege," a recent creation without real legal foundation, is rapidly becoming customary law. Once again, as Madison and Jefferson foresaw, we are faced with a struggle to confirm the liberties they secured for us.

I will allow that there are times when secrecy is a necessary function of a government; withholding information from the public for instance to prevent panic. But the idea of total secrecy where one branch of elected representatives can deny information to another branch of representatives preventing them from carrying out the duties of their office is absolutely wrong. It destroys the entire notion of separation of powers across the three branches of government. And that is what is vital about the need to revoke the assumed imperialistic claims of the Bush administration.

>-- 0 --<


Last quote from a different source:

We aren't talking about a conflict between the Executive and another party that is taking place in court, where the issue of "legal" will be decided and determined. You are talking about a conflict between the legislative and executive branches where it doesn't matter "legally" what is true (look at the discussions of who defines 'high crimes and misdemeanors' and you'll find that it is not the courts but Congress - because it is a political, not legal, decision with respect to the conflict between the legislative and executive branches - an impeached president can't appeal to the Supreme Court to find that he did not "legally" commit high crimes and misdemeanors")

Maybe the courts will intervene on this one, but they have PLENTY of cover to sit it out and Congress can't always play the role of the chained heroine, about to be eaten by the Presidential dragon, and just waiting for their Sword of Justice hero, the Courts, to intervene and make it all right. That's not what the Constitution contemplated. Everyone has their own sword, their own shield and their own dragon. Use em or lose em.




A free movie for your edification

|

that ties together some things I've thought about for a long while.

And no, it is not what it appears to be...it is labeled "The Celestine Prophecy", but it is not. It is something else altogether much more profound.


hermopolitan_mystery.jpg







Unbelievable. The only thing I figure about this is that he knows he will likely be tried for war crimes so making this appearance allows him eventually seek an insanity defense. And who knows? Maybe he's right to seek it.


Ashcroft defends waterboarding before House panel


ashcroft.jpg(CNN) -- The controversial interrogation technique of waterboarding has served a "valuable" purpose and does not constitute torture, former Attorney General John Ashcroft told a House committee Thursday.

Testifying on the Bush administration's interrogation rules before the House Judiciary Committee, Ashcroft defended the technique while answering a question from Rep. Howard Coble, R-North Carolina.

"Waterboarding, as we all know, is a controversial issue. Do you think it served a beneficial purpose?" the congressman asked.

"The reports that I have heard, and I have no reason to disbelieve them, indicate that they were very valuable," Ashcroft said, adding that CIA Director George Tenet indicated the "value of the information received from the use of enhanced interrogation techniques -- I don't know whether he was saying waterboarding or not, but assume that he was for a moment -- the value of that information exceeded the value of information that was received from all other sources."

Waterboarding is a technique designed to simulate drowning. The agency has acknowledged using it on terror suspects. Some critics regard it as torture; others say it is a harsh interrogation technique, and proponents say it is a useful tool in the war on terror.

Ashcroft, who stated his opposition to torture, said the Justice Department has determined that waterboarding -- as defined and described by the CIA -- doesn't constitute torture.

Not Quite Children of the Corn

| | Comments (3)

but almost. Read the entire article and tell me you don't intuit a creepiness about this town. Is that banjo music I hear? Maybe its dueling sitars.

It sounds to me that although the town is described as being populated by liberal hippies, that it is also highly xenophobic. I found a good number of the back-to-the-earth hippies I met back in the day to be extremely conservative and reactionary rather than liberal types.

They may have been into communal ideas and peace-niks and so-on, but they were quite rigid in their sense of what ought to be and were distrustful of people who didn't exactly fit their social moral codes.

Vicious assault on homeless man shakes up hippie haven


bolinas.jpgBOLINAS, California (AP) -- Ricky Green wandered into this town some months ago, a stranger just a bit stranger than most.

He had shed his middle-class respectability -- a job as a graphic artist in the 'burbs -- strapped a guitar over his shoulder and landed here on what he told people was "a spiritual journey."

Bolinas seemed like a good fit.

The unincorporated town of 1,600 on the Pacific coast is Marin County's most blatant throwback to the Summer of Love, a hippie haven that is bent on stopping tourists from spoiling its laid-back groove.

The 33-year-old Green, prone to age of Aquarius-speak about the moon and the stars, already looked sort of like a local.

As one resident, Bill Boman, put it, "He had this Jimi Hendrix vibe."

But Green never quite meshed with the Bolinas social fabric. The night of June 23 proved how much he remained an outsider, in a liberal enclave stubbornly averse to strangers.

Six young people -- including two juveniles -- allegedly attacked and stabbed Green with a viciousness that is forcing Bolinas to search its soul for meaning.

Babies no longer useless

| | Comments (4)

babymop.jpgWith global financial markets in turmoil parents looking in to firing their cleaners and using their babies as human mops.
Parents fed up of the take, take, take attitude of babies are turning them into human mops so they can learn a 'healthy work ethic' early by cleaning the floor as they crawl around.

The device is essentially a baby-grow with fluffy mop ends attached to clean up grime as a baby crawls around wooden or tiled floors. In its sales pitch the advert reads:

'After the birth of a child there's always the temptation to say 'Yes, it's cute, but what can it do?'

'Until recently the answer was simply 'lie there and cry' but now babies can be put on the payroll, so to speak, almost as soon as they're born.

'Just dress your young one in Baby Mops and set him or her down on any hard wood or tile floor that needs cleaning. You may at first need to get things started by calling to the infant from across the room, but pretty soon they'll be doing it by themselves.'


...nevermind that if the kid wets itself there'll be a nice wet mopping effect added and of course if it pukes it can spread the love as it goes.

Speaking of Stupid

|

What was he thinking?

dumbdad.jpg

Here's what's really stupid

|

California is going to have another vote on whether to ban gay marriage by constitutional amendment in order to forestall what any thinking person realizes is an inevitability.

Here's some quotes from a NYTimes article called
Donation to Same-Sex Marriage Foes Brings Boycott Calls

A hotel owner's $125,000 donation to support a ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage in the state has become a flashpoint, with opponents calling for a boycott of two of his hotels and supporters highlighting the donation in a fund-raising letter.

The hotelier, Doug Manchester, donated the money to support the collection of signatures to qualify the initiative, which would amend the state's Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage, for the November ballot.

The quotes:

Mr. Manchester said Wednesday: "This really is a free-speech, First Amendment issue. While I respect everyone's choice of partner, my Catholic faith and longtime affiliation with the Catholic Church leads me to believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman."

He has a perfect right to express his beliefs. He is using his economic position to prosyletize that belief. What's stupid is his not realizing that there is no basis, outside of his self-admitted lifelong indoctrination by a specific religious group, for his belief to be public enforced on others who do not share that belief. Truth or fact is not based on a democratic majority. Its quite possible for a majority to be errant. The whole point in constitutional rights is protect minorities from such things. So if he is going to use economic power to supplant others beliefs, then he must accept the boycott measure as a reasonable response.

On Tuesday, Brian S. Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage California, a group supporting Proposition 8, sent out an e-mail message warning of the boycott, calling it a "bullying" tactic.

Who are the bullies in the first place? Anti-gay marriage people are assuming they the authority to tell other people what is or is not moral and to deny other people the same rights they have granted themselves or to deny use of specific words to describe the nature of their bondings. In a constitutional democracy, mere majority consensus does not automatically create authority.

What is stupid about it is that they can't see that all their commotion is pointless and will fail when their children simply accept as familiar and boring what they are trying desperately to prevent out of their fear of the unknown.

Satire?

|

Its really all about whether you endorse political correctness or not. Its not like every jester survived the wrath of their king. As its said, discretion is the better part of valor.

People who deal with high pressure ugliness in their jobs for instance, say emergency room workers, often make fun of the patient's situation in sardonic ways that, if taken out of context, such as being heard by a family member, would be seen as rude, cruel and thoughtless.

In other contexts that same sense of humor provides scripts like that found on "House" or "Scrubs".

Meet the Bloggers

| | Comments (2)

Could be fun.

meetbloggers.jpg


Live premiere this Friday, July 18th 1pm ET / 10am PT

Don't miss this Friday's premiere of Meet the Bloggers. Arianna Huffington will be our guest, and then we'll be discussing whether Karl Rove should be sent to jail for failing to comply with the House Judiciary Committee's subpoena with Marcy Wheeler, Baratunde Thurston, and Liliana Segura. Suggest some questions for Arianna on the site, or send in your articles, info, and your own perspective on Karl Rove's refusal to testify as we prep for the show.

In her third article in a series celebrating Charles Darwin, Olivia Judson calls for the dismissal of the terms "Darwinism", "Darwinist" and "Darwinian" when talking about evolution because although Darwin can rightly be acknowledged as the founder of the modern evolutionary biological science, in part, the terms cause a narrowing bias and incorrect framing of what Darwin knew or meant by his contributions and have also led to misperceptions of what evolutionary science is.


Let's Get Rid of Darwinism

by Olivia Judson

excerpt:

darwin190.jpgI'd like to abolish the insidious terms Darwinism, Darwinist and Darwinian. They suggest a false narrowness to the field of modern evolutionary biology, as though it was the brainchild of a single person 150 years ago, rather than a vast, complex and evolving subject to which many other great figures have contributed. (The science would be in a sorry state if one man 150 years ago had, in fact, discovered everything there was to say.)

Obsessively focusing on Darwin, perpetually asking whether he was right about this or that, implies that the discovery of something he didn't think of or know about somehow undermines or threatens the whole enterprise of evolutionary biology today.

It does not. In the years ahead, I predict we will continue to refine our understanding of natural selection, and continue to discover new ways in which it can shape genes and genomes. Indeed, as genetic data continues to flood into the databanks, we will be able to ask questions about the detailed workings of evolution that it has not been possible to ask before.

Yet all too often, evolution -- insofar as it is taught in biology classes at all -- is taught as the story of Charles Darwin. Then the pages are turned, and everyone settles down to learn how the heart works, or how plants make energy from sunshine, or some other detail. The evolutionary concepts that unify biology, that allow us to frame questions and investigate the glorious diversity of life -- these are ignored.

Darwin was an amazing man, and the principal founder of evolutionary biology. But his was the first major statement on the subject, not the last. Calling evolutionary biology "Darwinism," and evolution by natural selection "Darwinian" evolution, is like calling aeronautical engineering "Wrightism," and fixed-wing aircraft "Wrightian" planes, after those pioneers of fixed-wing flight, the Wright brothers. The best tribute we could give Darwin is to call him the founder -- and leave it at that. Plenty of people in history have had an -ism named after them. Only a handful can claim truly to have given birth to an entire field of modern science.

Its amazing how just five guys can cause so much garbage

David Bossie, who runs Citizens United, has paired with Floyd Brown for years. Bossie and Brown harassed the Clintons throughout Bill Clinton's administration, with even George H.W. Bush calling his behavior in the 1992 presidential election (which included harassing the family of a recent suicide victim) "filthy campaign tactics." After writing a 2000 book about Al Gore that went little-noticed, in 2004, Brown and Floyd Bossie, working as the group Citizens United, made a movie called Celsius 41.11 and ran television ads attacking John Kerry. In 1998, Bossie was fired from his job with the House Committee investigating Bill Clinton. When Bossie selectively released tapes, removing information that exonerated the Clintons, and improperly obtained phone records, even Newt Gingrich said he was "embarrassed for the conference at the circus that went on."

Then-President George Bush: "We will do whatever we can to stop any filthy campaign tactics." [Press Conference, 7/15/92]

Current President George W. Bush sent a letter to 85,697 major donors urging them not to contribute to the Bossie/Brown groups in 1992. [Washington Post, 7/15/92]

George H.W. Bush's campaign, referred to Bossie, Floyd Brown, and their associates as "the lowest forms of life." [Hunting of the President]

Newt Gingrich: "I'm embarrassed for myself, and I'm embarrassed for the conference at the circus that went on" under Bossie in the House investigation of Clinton-Gore campaign finances. [Washington Post, 5/7/98]

Dan Burton, Bossie's Boss in the House: "He released information on Mr. Huang's telephone records without my knowledge or approval. I have told him in no uncertain terms that I do not allow my staff to release any information, including documents, without my approval, and that I do not expect this to happen again." [Roll Call, 11/25/96]


An Historical Speech

|

A substantial offering from a brilliant politician and the man who ought to be president.

Senator Barack Obama's New Strategy for a New World

As Prepared For Delivery
Washington, D.C.
July 15, 2008

Sixty-one years ago, George Marshall announced the plan that would come to bear his name. Much of Europe lay in ruins. The United States faced a powerful and ideological enemy intent on world domination. This menace was magnified by the recently discovered capability to destroy life on an unimaginable scale. The Soviet Union didn't yet have an atomic bomb, but before long it would.

The challenge facing the greatest generation of Americans - the generation that had vanquished fascism on the battlefield - was how to contain this threat while extending freedom's frontiers. Leaders like Truman and Acheson, Kennan and Marshall, knew that there was no single decisive blow that could be struck for freedom. We needed a new overarching strategy to meet the challenges of a new and dangerous world.

Such a strategy would join overwhelming military strength with sound judgment. It would shape events not just through military force, but through the force of our ideas; through economic power, intelligence and diplomacy. It would support strong allies that freely shared our ideals of liberty and democracy; open markets and the rule of law. It would foster new international institutions like the United Nations, NATO, and the World Bank, and focus on every corner of the globe. It was a strategy that saw clearly the world's dangers, while seizing its promise.

As a general, Marshall had spent years helping FDR wage war. But the Marshall Plan - which was just one part of this strategy - helped rebuild not just allies, but also the nation that Marshall had plotted to defeat. In the speech announcing his plan, he concluded not with tough talk or definitive declarations - but rather with questions and a call for perspective. "The whole world of the future," Marshall said, "hangs on a proper judgment." To make that judgment, he asked the American people to examine distant events that directly affected their security and prosperity. He closed by asking: "What is needed? What can best be done? What must be done?"

What is needed? What can best be done? What must be done?

Today's dangers are different, though no less grave. The power to destroy life on a catastrophic scale now risks falling into the hands of terrorists. The future of our security - and our planet - is held hostage to our dependence on foreign oil and gas. From the cave-spotted mountains of northwest Pakistan, to the centrifuges spinning beneath Iranian soil, we know that the American people cannot be protected by oceans or the sheer might of our military alone.

The attacks of September 11 brought this new reality into a terrible and ominous focus. On that bright and beautiful day, the world of peace and prosperity that was the legacy of our Cold War victory seemed to suddenly vanish under rubble, and twisted steel, and clouds of smoke.

But the depth of this tragedy also drew out the decency and determination of our nation. At blood banks and vigils; in schools and in the United States Congress, Americans were united - more united, even, than we were at the dawn of the Cold War. The world, too, was united against the perpetrators of this evil act, as old allies, new friends, and even long-time adversaries stood by our side. It was time - once again - for America's might and moral suasion to be harnessed; it was time to once again shape a new security strategy for an ever-changing world.

Imagine, for a moment, what we could have done in those days, and months, and years after 9/11.

We could have deployed the full force of American power to hunt down and destroy Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, the Taliban, and all of the terrorists responsible for 9/11, while supporting real security in Afghanistan.

We could have secured loose nuclear materials around the world, and updated a 20th century non-proliferation framework to meet the challenges of the 21st.

We could have invested hundreds of billions of dollars in alternative sources of energy to grow our economy, save our planet, and end the tyranny of oil.

We could have strengthened old alliances, formed new partnerships, and renewed international institutions to advance peace and prosperity.

We could have called on a new generation to step into the strong currents of history, and to serve their country as troops and teachers, Peace Corps volunteers and police officers.

We could have secured our homeland--investing in sophisticated new protection for our ports, our trains and our power plants.

We could have rebuilt our roads and bridges, laid down new rail and broadband and electricity systems, and made college affordable for every American to strengthen our ability to compete.

We could have done that.

Instead, we have lost thousands of American lives, spent nearly a trillion dollars, alienated allies and neglected emerging threats - all in the cause of fighting a war for well over five years in a country that had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

Gay Money Lube

|


Massachusetts has suddenly seen the economic benefits of repealing a 1913 law prohibiting the recognition of out-of-state gay marriages. Its just amazing how people's moral codes become so less stringent and strident when an otherwise intolerable issue position is lubed up with cash incentives. When the prophet sees profit sins will be indulged.

A NYTimes piece called "A 1913 Law Dies to Better Serve Gay Marriages" describes it:

gaymoney.jpgState officials said they expected a multimillion-dollar benefit in weddings and tourism, especially from people who live in New York. A just-released study commissioned by the State of Massachusetts concludes that in the next three years about 32,200 couples would travel here to get married, creating 330 permanent jobs and adding $111 million to the economy, not including spending by wedding guests and tourist activities the weddings might generate.

"We now have this added pressure, given what's happened in California, that we really think that it is a good thing that we be prepared to receive the economic benefit," State Senator Dianne Wilkerson, a Democrat who sponsored the repeal bill, said Tuesday after the vote.

Ms. Wilkerson added, "For me it wasn't the most important basis of the argument, but it certainly is a perk."

Legislators and same-sex marriage advocates said their primary motivation for the repeal was to allow all same-sex couples an opportunity to marry and to revoke a law that many saw as discriminatory. The law, believed to have been designed to uphold other states' bans on interracial marriage, was invoked in 2004 by Gov. Mitt Romney, a same-sex marriage opponent who said he did not want to make Massachusetts "the Las Vegas of same-sex marriage."

Tally Ho

|

votingmachines.jpgWhat kills me about the whole electronic voting machine unreliability fiasco is that all this money spent on secret, proprietary software is that voting machines are basically small ATM or cash register level devices required to perform the most basic computer task of all: tallying.

Sure there's the touch screen and graphics elements, but those have been around for years and proven reliable enough for your neighborhood banks and casinos. So the whole secretive complexity and unreliability of the machines is nonsense.

Plus, why are they not standardized and produced by a single public agency (as driver licenses are) rather than privately owned corporations? We don't let private companies print currency, so why should we let them print votes?

A more general question is why do we need them at all?

The Handoff

|

relay.jpg


"It is extremely difficult for anyone outside the government, even the most avid students of public policy, to fully understand the challenges being faced inside government every day and what is being done to respond to them. The transmission of that information to a new administration is vital.

Current officials should share not just what is happening today but why they made the decisions they made. And during the transition they should share their thoughts on current decisions with those who will soon have to make them." - NYTimes

Shudda wudda cudda.

Obama reacts to cartoon

|

And its pretty much how I figured he would take it...with aplomb and a fairly nonchalant manner.

But in an interview with CNN's Larry King, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee downplayed the impact of the illustration, which depicts him in Muslim attire in the Oval Office, with his wife, Michelle, carrying a machine gun.

"It's a cartoon ... and that's why we've got the First Amendment," Obama said. "And I think the American people are probably spending a little more time worrying about what's happening with the banking system and the housing market and what's happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, than a cartoon. So I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about it.

"I've seen and heard worse," he said. "I do think that, you know, in attempting to satirize something, they probably fueled some misconceptions about me instead. But, you know, that was their editorial judgment."

I'm already bored with summer

|

schoolmarm2008.jpg


I'm already bored with the summer break. Maybe if I was still into riding my bike, playing ball or just hanging out at night on corners with the neighborhood guys it would be different. as it is though, I'm more than ready to get back to school and devour the networking information I'm trying to consume en route to certification. I'm trying to A+ and Net+

I know its pretty late to be trying to acquire these things at my age, but then I have to be prepared for the possibility that I might live to be 160 or something considering the advancements in medical science and the ever increasing possibility of socialized medicine on the horizon.

Of course its equally possible what with the likelyhood of general global economic collapse and the acceleration of gas prices that I might be further ahead to regain my bike and hanging out on the street skills. Who knows? So many choices. What to do?

Obama 'til you drop

| | Comments (1)

Because he's just that good...some highlights from the CNN interview:

Fareed Zakaria interviews Sen. Barack Obama


ZAKARIA: Tell me, what is your first memory of a foreign policy event that shaped you, shaped your life?

OBAMA: A first memory. Well, you know, it wasn't so much an event.

I mean, my first memory was my mother coming to me and saying, "I've remarried this man from Indonesia, and we're moving to Jakarta on the other side of the world." Video Watch part of Obama's discussion on foreign policy »

And that's, I think, my first memory of understanding how big the world was. And then, flying there and landing. This was only maybe a year, or even less than a year, after an enormous coup, the military coup in which we learned later that over half-a-million people had probably died.

But it was for me, as a young boy, a magical place. And I think that probably is when it first enters into my consciousness that this is a big world. There are a lot of countries, a lot of cultures. It's a complicated place.

ZAKARIA: But you were an American in Indonesia. How did that make you feel?

OBAMA: Well, you know, it made me realize what an enormous privilege it is to be an American. I mean, it certainly was at that time, even more so, because the gap in the wealth of the West at the time compared to the East was much wider.

But it wasn't simply the fact that my mother was being paid in dollars by the U.S. Embassy, and so, that gave us some additional comfort.

It was also becoming aware that, for example, the generals in Indonesia or members of Suharto's family were living in lavish mansions, and the sense that government wasn't always working for the people, but was working for insiders -- not that that didn't happen in the United States, but at least the sense that there was a civil society and rules of law that had to be abided by.

My stepfather was essentially dragged out of the university he'd been studying in in Hawaii, and was conscripted and sent to New Guinea. And when he was first conscripted, he didn't know whether he was going to be jailed, killed -- that sense of arbitrariness of government power.

Those were the things that you felt you were protected from as an American, and made me, as I got older, appreciate America that much more.

ZAKARIA: Why did you major in international affairs?

OBAMA: Well, obviously, having lived overseas and having lived in Hawaii, having a mother who was a specialist in international development, who worked -- was one of the early practitioners of microfinancing, and would go to villages in South Asia and Africa and Southeast Asia, helping women buy a loom or a sewing machine or a milk cow, to be able to enter into the economy -- it was natural for me, I think, to be interested in international affairs.

The Vietnam War had drawn to a close when I was fairly young. And so, that wasn't formative for me in the way it was, I think, for an earlier generation.

The Cold War, though, still loomed large. And I thought that both my interest in what was then called the Third World and development there, as well as my interest in issues like nuclear proliferation and policy, that I thought that I might end up going into some sort of international work at some point in my life.

ZAKARIA: Do you believe, when looking at the world today, that Islamic extremism is the transcendent challenge of the 21st century?

OBAMA: I think the problems of terrorism and groups that are resisting modernity, whether because of their ethnic identities or religious identities, and the fact that they can be driven into extremist ideologies, is one of the severe threats that we face.

I don't think it's the only threat that we face.

The Politics of Fear

|

newyorkercover.jpgPoor Barry Blitt.

His cover for the latest issue of The New Yorker which he calls "The Politics of Fear" is meant to be a satire of the ridiculous right wing rumor mill on Obama. Or as the NY-er puts it "[The cover] satirizes the use of scare tactics and misinformation in the Presidential election to derail Barack Obama's campaign."

Personally I think its funny. On the other hand, I can also see it as perfect fodder for the same abusive groups it is supposed to satirize. Its not like the Obama critics are discrete or tasteful about their bashings and this drawing could easily serve their ends. After all, it contains a graphic symbol of nearly every rumor about Obama they have so far put forward.

Yet it would be stupid to let the politics of fear have an influence on the "The Politics of Fear" wouldn't it?

Its also possible that the controversial uproar over the whole thing will serve as a focal point for dismissing once and for all the false information of the rumors.

The left is all in a tizzy about the whole thing:

The Bad Frame: Why Are the New Yorker, Salon and Other Liberal Media Doing the Right's Dirty Work?

Me thinks the lady doth protest too much.

The comments over there on this cover are just over the top in terms of being politically correct and evangelical in their tenor. Its like there's no sense of humor at all, just dour overly-sensitive and defensive rantings. There were a few rational comments such as the one below which I found particularly cogent:

Lament the left's lack of a sense of humor...

Posted by: Pirate1 on Jul 14, 2008 10:27 AM

This is so obviously depicting the absurdity of the right's daily depiction of the Obamas... to imbue it with all this power to undo the candidacy of Obama is absurd and imfantile. It simply gives image to what these radio hate peddlers and mind muckers and crackers already believe, it's not giving them ideas.

I will vote for the man because he's not McCain or another Bush, not because I agree with much of his stated views of late. (I was for Kucinich) There is just a feeling, likely wishful on my part I'll admit, that somehow Obama would be more likely to listen to the people than McCain. His apparent notion that Afganistan is somehow the "good" war, that we should get out of Iraq and focus there is as mad an idea as any that has come down the pike from either party.

If the average American had any understanding of what a terrorist cell is and how they operate, then attacking any country to "end terrorism" would be seen as the tragically absurd notion that it is. All this does is drive fear in the home population so the corporate/government powers that be can have free reign to use military force to change regimes they don't like in the name of fighting terror. A couple of decades ago the term was communism or as Cap Weinberger would say fifty times in each press conference, the "Soviet Threat".

Power structures like our military have evolved in preparation for nation against nation warfare.
They go in and smash nations that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks because that's all that they know how to do, all the tools they have are for doing that. The notion of terrorist cells is totally misunderstood. They render massive militaries like our own obsolete. There is no top down command center involved to defeat, no leader you can kill and "win". No infrastructure to destroy to cripple their production. These are people who have lost everything through corporate and military brutality who collectively vow to deliver some kind of payback. Most never get the chance but occasionally one succeeds and in this case, buildings symbolic to millions worldwide of capitalist oppression and disregard of local custom and religion fell down... with tragic loss of lives. All the people in that cell are now dead. We don't realize in our busy day to day lives how many more people in far away countries die every week from the excesses of corporate greed and that American sense of entitlement to whatever it might need.

But it's far easier to follow the leader or let the pundits be substitute for any real thought on our part. Our spectator sport mentality kicks in and we're out there to WIN! b'gawd... We need to learn to respect people, treat them fairly, not pay their government leaders and provide them the maens to oppress their populations so they do work US workers would get $30 and hour for 1 or 2 dollars a day. No, that would involve a bit toomuch self examination. Having to say we fucked up and are sorry. It's more important to be top dog. Number one. Until that changes, there will always be people from somewhere looking for payback.

Are apes people?

| | Comments (2)

Spain recently passed legislation granting legal rights to apes which raises the central philosophical question of "personhood".

Spanish parliament approves 'human rights' for apes

Great apes should have the right to life and freedom, according to a resolution passed in the Spanish parliament, in what could become landmark legislation to enshrine human rights for chimpanzees, gorillas, orang-utans and bonobos.

The environmental committee in the Spanish parliament has approved resolutions urging the country to comply with the Great Apes Project, founded in 1993, which argues that "non-human hominids" should enjoy the right to life, freedom and not to be tortured.

The project was started by the philosophers Peter Singer and Paola Cavalieri, who argued that the ape is the closest genetic relative to humans - that it displays emotions such as love, fear, anxiety and jealousy - and should be protected by similar laws.

The resolutions have cross-party support and it is thought they will become law, meaning that potential experiments on apes in Spain will be banned within a year, according to a Reuters report.

"This is a historic day in the struggle for animal rights and in defence of our evolutionary comrades which will doubtless go down in the history of humanity," Pedro Pozas, the Spanish director of the Great Apes Project, said.

Many people oppose the idea on the grounds that it somehow diminishes humans. I think that if anything it elevates us. Opponents use the hackneyed and arrogant Biblical excuse as their argument:

"The anti-animal rights camp, however, does not come off much better. Many base their opposition on the Bible -- specifically, the verse in Genesis granting man "dominion" over "every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." It's hard to see why that should be interpreted as divine endorsement for using chimps in crash tests, or why, even if it were, it should guide secular law."

Almost 69% of The Guardian readers agree with the position that apes should be granted "human rights". I find it heartening that a majority of people seem to refuse the notions of "human exceptionalism", that humans have special status in nature. I see human exceptionalist thought as mere arrogance.

But really the whole question is still "What is a person?"

Irrespective of the legal declarations I do not consider an unconscious, non-sentient, abstract entity like a corporation to be a "person". Whereas I do consider a being suffering coma or other serious mental debilitation to be people.

Can animals be "people" ? Should a "synthetic" or intelligence created as an artifact (artifical intelligence) which cannot be through any blind objective test be perceived as non-human possibly be granted personhood? (See: Turing Test). Why not?

Convincing arguments for such grants of personhood can be found regarding HAL of 2001 or Data of Star Trek fame. In fact, an entire episode of StarTrek Next Generation was dedicated to the premise that synthetically produced Data character was indeed a person and arguments for and against were put forward by way of a trial.

My main basis for determining personhood is self-awareness and the ability to steer attention and action purposively, If an ape has the capacity to see the banana and reach for it because the ape desires it, then the ape is a person. Is it wrong then to use such "people" for crash tests and other harmful experiments? Absolutely.

apetouch.jpg

Happy Human Thoughts

|

Lest we forget our humanity and why we are here.

We all come and go alone
Flesh and bone
Keeping us apart
Between the forceps and the stone
We are shown
All that matters is the heart
- culheath (Flesh and Bone)


'World's oldest blogger' dies at 108


oliveriley.jpgAn Australian woman often described as the world's oldest blogger has died at the age of 108 after posting a final message about her ailing health but how she sang "a happy song, as I do every day."

Olive Riley died Saturday at a nursing home in New South Wales.

Riley posted more than 70 entries on her blog -- or "blob" as she jokingly called it -- since February 2007. On the site, The Life of Riley, and in a series of videos post on YouTube, Riley mused on her day-to-day life. She also recounted living through two world wars and raising three children on her own while working as a cook and a bar maid.

"She had a wonderful memory, and an amazing zest for life," said her friend Eric Shackle, who met Riley at a nursing home while visiting his wife, who has since passed. "Just two weeks ago, she recalled the words of a song that was popular before World War II, and sang the chorus with me."

In a post titled "Washing Day," Riley wrote: "You 21st Century people live a different life than the one I lived as a youngster in the early 1900s. Take washing day, for instance. These days you just toss your dirty clothes into a washing machine, press a few switches, and it's done."

She then described how she helped do laundry as a youngster, starting with finding "a few pieces of wood to fire the copper for Mum. When the water in the copper began to boil, Mum would add a cupful of soap chips, and throw in a cube of Reckitt's Blue wrapped in a muslin bag to whiten the clothes," she wrote. "Then she put in all the dirty clothes, first rubbing out the stains with a bar of Sunlight soap. ... that was jolly hard work."

Riley was born in 1899 and would have turned 109 on October 20. She took up blogging at the suggestion of Mike Rubbo, who filmed a documentary on her life four years ago.

"First of all, I had to explain to her what a blog was and that took some doing," Rubbo said. "Then I got across the idea it was sort of a diary that she would share with the world. "The reason for its popularity is that she was such a standout talent -- just so touching and funny and such a great story teller."

Various others have at times been labeled the world's oldest blogger, including Spain's Maria Amelia who was born in 1911 and given a blog by "my grandson, who is very stingy."

Riley was 12 years older than Amelia. In her final post, dated June 26, Riley wrote how she felt weak "and can't shake off that bad cough."

She wrote of singing a "happy song, as I do every day," with a visitor to the nursing home, "and before long we were joined by several nurses, who sang along too. It was quite a concert!"

Said Shackle: "The thousands of loving messages she received from fellow bloggers in such places as Iceland, India, Iran, North and South America and Australia helped keep her alive in her final year.

"Her only regret was that she couldn't reply to them."

The best comment

|

...I've seen yet on Obama's Iraq withdrawl plan as published in the NY Times:

July 14th, 2008 2:17 am

What Barack Obama says here is exactly what he has been saying for a long time. There is nothing really new. What surprises me is how poorly both pundits and the public have actually been listening to what he says. For example, when he said recently that he might "refine" his plans based on consultations with officers in Iraq, everyone seemed to think he was changing his position. He's specifically said similar things in the past. And the Washington Post editorial page has said he has been too rigid about his timeline: again, he has said for a while that there would be some flexibility.

In fact, most of his supposed "tack to center" recently is just a slight shift in emphasis. His support for faith-based programs and tough-love for black fathers have a long history.

It is striking that everyone in the media seizes on particular statements about issues, as if these things were important and could be understood out of context. Frankly, all Obama's statements on these issues flow from a single coherent worldview which is apparent in everything he says. For example, the call to national service, support for faith-based programs, grassroots political organization: all these stem from a belief in the power of individuals contributing to society, and of society as a communal undertaking of individuals, with government as means to facilitate these links, not an end in itself. He is neither a traditional liberal nor a traditional conservative. Perhaps too many pundits and writers from older generations simply cannot fathom this worldview, and thus continue to get it wrong in the media coverage?

-- Alan, Baltimore, MD

Obama Gears Up

|

You can't get any more rational or straight forward than this. Can you imagine it...a thoughtful president with a clear plan and the ability to verbalize it?

My Plan for Iraq

by Barack Obama

The call by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki for a timetable for the removal of American troops from Iraq presents an enormous opportunity. We should seize this moment to begin the phased redeployment of combat troops that I have long advocated, and that is needed for long-term success in Iraq and the security interests of the United States.

The differences on Iraq in this campaign are deep. Unlike Senator John McCain, I opposed the war in Iraq before it began, and would end it as president. I believed it was a grave mistake to allow ourselves to be distracted from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban by invading a country that posed no imminent threat and had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Since then, more than 4,000 Americans have died and we have spent nearly $1 trillion. Our military is overstretched. Nearly every threat we face -- from Afghanistan to Al Qaeda to Iran -- has grown.

In the 18 months since President Bush announced the surge, our troops have performed heroically in bringing down the level of violence. New tactics have protected the Iraqi population, and the Sunni tribes have rejected Al Qaeda -- greatly weakening its effectiveness.

But the same factors that led me to oppose the surge still hold true. The strain on our military has grown, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated and we've spent nearly $200 billion more in Iraq than we had budgeted. Iraq's leaders have failed to invest tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues in rebuilding their own country, and they have not reached the political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge.

The good news is that Iraq's leaders want to take responsibility for their country by negotiating a timetable for the removal of American troops. Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. James Dubik, the American officer in charge of training Iraq's security forces, estimates that the Iraqi Army and police will be ready to assume responsibility for security in 2009.

Only by redeploying our troops can we press the Iraqis to reach comprehensive political accommodation and achieve a successful transition to Iraqis' taking responsibility for the security and stability of their country. Instead of seizing the moment and encouraging Iraqis to step up, the Bush administration and Senator McCain are refusing to embrace this transition -- despite their previous commitments to respect the will of Iraq's sovereign government. They call any timetable for the removal of American troops "surrender," even though we would be turning Iraq over to a sovereign Iraqi government.

But this is not a strategy for success -- it is a strategy for staying that runs contrary to the will of the Iraqi people, the American people and the security interests of the United States. That is why, on my first day in office, I would give the military a new mission: ending this war.

Krugman is of the opinion that even given the Fannie/Freddie debacle the economy will not collapse. He's the economist of course, but I still not convinced. It seems to me that tart Socialism is going to start to look real attractive now that its near closing time and captain Capitalism is obnoxiously staggering around from his all night binge making big messes everywhere.

fannie.jpgEven given the announcement by Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. of a plan Sunday to help shore up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, there's an incredible momenta at play in other market arenas outside of housing that could add chaos to the fix.

Much more of this and the citadel of free-enterprise may be soon be visited by those lovely villagers bearing torches.


Fannie, Freddie and You

By Paul Krugman

And now we've reached the next stage of our seemingly never-ending financial crisis. This time Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are in the headlines, with dire warnings of imminent collapse. How worried should we be?

Well, I'm going to take a contrarian position: the storm over these particular lenders is overblown. Fannie and Freddie probably will need a government rescue. But since it's already clear that that rescue will take place, their problems won't take down the economy.

Furthermore, while Fannie and Freddie are problematic institutions, they aren't responsible for the mess we're in.

Here's the background: Fannie Mae -- the Federal National Mortgage Association -- was created in the 1930s to facilitate homeownership by buying mortgages from banks, freeing up cash that could be used to make new loans. Fannie and Freddie Mac, which does pretty much the same thing, now finance most of the home loans being made in America.

The case against Fannie and Freddie begins with their peculiar status: although they're private companies with stockholders and profits, they're "government-sponsored enterprises" established by federal law, which means that they receive special privileges.

The most important of these privileges is implicit: it's the belief of investors that if Fannie and Freddie are threatened with failure, the federal government will come to their rescue.

This implicit guarantee means that profits are privatized but losses are socialized. If Fannie and Freddie do well, their stockholders reap the benefits, but if things go badly, Washington picks up the tab. Heads they win, tails we lose.

cul: Is anyone else seeing all this as particularly absurd? Am I imagining it or is my butt really sore? With a rule like that, its no wonder the capitalists consider the market free; they're certainly not paying for it. One thing for certain, its incredibly instructive to be able to see the degree of screwage when the wallboard has to come off because of major plumbing leakage.

But back to Mr K:

A Wave Uncrested

|

fan-mac.jpgWith the latest news of impending implosion of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac the stalwart free-market priests are predictably turning all socialist and expecting public largesse to save their asses. We're starting to talk real money here folks... like the 100s of billions these people expect us cough up to save their sorry gambler butts and preserve the huckster game rules on which they've built their house of cards economy. And it all begins to crumble because the rats have lost their religion.

In her article titled "The Bank of America Housing Bailout Bill" Elizabeth MacDonald points out that the rescue housing bill being fast tracked through congress is an almost verbatim adoption of - "two "discussion documents" about a potential housing bailout bill, both of which are stamped "confidential and proprietary" that Bank of America authored and circulated among Congress, shows that the legislation now making its way through the corridors of Washington, DC is almost word for word what Bank of America wanted."

She adds, "In a revealing disclosure, the Bank of America documents state that 'we believe that any intervention by the federal government will be acceptable only if it is not perceived as a bail-out of the bond market.'"

Yep, it sucks big time and the wave hasn't even crested yet. This could get really really really bad.

If the economy survives this pathetic fiasco at all, the first thing that should be done to these greed freaks is to tax back all the money they've absconded with over the years while sermonizing about their holy grail of deregulation. The top 1% have got to have a few trillion lying around they can drop in the can to save their own system. I say we grab anyone who looks richer than us and shake them upside down vigorously to see what spills out the pavement and then buy pizza for the neighborhood with the spoils.

Related: Rescuing Fannie and Freddie: Let's Draw Blood

"W"

| | Comments (4)

Oliver Stone is making a movie called "W" about you know who which is supposed to be released sometime in October 2008, or about a month before the general election. I'm hoping the portrait its not too sympathetic. The last thing we need before the election is an exculpatory take on the most monstrous president in US history.

brolinstone.jpg"He won a huge amount of people to his side after making a huge amount of blunders and really lying to people," the director said. What further fascinates Stone is Bush's religious and personal conversion: a hard-drinking C student who was able to become not only Texas governor but also the leader of the Free World.


"We are trying to walk in the footsteps of W and try to feel like he does, to try to get inside his head. But it's never meant to demean him," Stone said.

Stone has also said of the movie during an LA Times interview, "[It] isn't an overly serious movie, but it is a serious subject. It's a Shakespearean story. . . . I see it as the strange unfolding of American democracy as I have lived it."

OK. I think it would be interesting to watch Stone's fictionalized evolution of a man who went from being an alcoholic and cocaine snorting wealthy bum to world class tyrant. But the whole idea of making me sympathetic to Bush's "daddy problems" as a source of why millions of Americans and Iraqis are either dead or physically maimed and a constitutional democracy has been nearly ruined, is just not going to cut it.

I not only want the man out of office, I want him off the out of our lives and off the planet.

Full circle jerks

|

Frank Rich outlines below how the BushCo White House corruption and ineptitudes of the last 8 years exceeds that of the Nixon administration and has by way of the use of torture and other war crimes brought us full circle back to the same level of dangerous threat from terrorism just prior to 9/11.

The Real-Life '24' of Summer 2008

by Frank Rich

We know what a criminal White House looks like from "The Final Days," Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's classic account of Richard Nixon's unraveling. The cauldron of lies, paranoia and illegal surveillance boiled over, until it was finally every man for himself as desperate courtiers scrambled to save their reputations and, in a few patriotic instances, their country.

"The Final Days" was published in 1976, two years after Nixon abdicated in disgrace. With the Bush presidency, no journalist (or turncoat White House memoirist) is waiting for the corpse to be carted away. The latest and perhaps most chilling example arrives this week from Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, long a relentless journalist on the war-on-terror torture beat. Her book "The Dark Side" connects the dots of her own past reporting and that of her top-tier colleagues (including James Risen and Scott Shane of The New York Times) to portray a White House that, like its prototype, savaged its enemies within almost as ferociously as it did the Constitution.

Some of "The Dark Side" seems right out of "The Final Days," minus Nixon's operatic boozing and weeping. We learn, for instance, that in 2004 two conservative Republican Justice Department officials had become "so paranoid" that "they actually thought they might be in physical danger." The fear of being wiretapped by their own peers drove them to speak in code.

The men were John Ashcroft's deputy attorney general, James Comey, and an assistant attorney general, Jack Goldsmith. Their sin was to challenge the White House's don, Dick Cheney, and his consigliere, his chief of staff David Addington, when they circumvented the Geneva Conventions to make torture the covert law of the land. Mr. Comey and Mr. Goldsmith failed to stop the "torture memos" and are long gone from the White House. But Vice President Cheney and Mr. Addington remain enabled by a president, attorney general (Michael Mukasey) and C.I.A. director (Michael Hayden) who won't shut the door firmly on torture even now.

Nixon parallels take us only so far, however. "The Dark Side" is scarier than "The Final Days" because these final days aren't over yet and because the stakes are much higher. Watergate was all about a paranoid president's narcissistic determination to cling to power at any cost. In Ms. Mayer's portrayal of the Bush White House, the president is a secondary, even passive, figure, and the motives invoked by Mr. Cheney to restore Nixon-style executive powers are theoretically selfless. Possessed by the ticking-bomb scenarios of television's "24," all they want to do is protect America from further terrorist strikes.

So what if they cut corners, the administration's last defenders argue. While prissy lawyers insist on habeas corpus and court-issued wiretap warrants, the rest of us are being kept safe by the Cheney posse.

But are we safe?

What's happened to the conservative movement in America? On Bill Moyers Journal Conservatives Mickey Edwards and Ross Douthat discuss why they believe their movement has gone off track during the last eight years and what it means for the Republican Party.

Edwards and Douthat and American conservatism


My favorite statement from the conversation :

MICKEY EDWARDS: Well, first of all, you know, I don't think the rationale of the conservatism is small government. It's limited government, but that doesn't necessarily mean small. It means that there are areas that you cannot take government into. There are there are areas where the rights of the people are paramount. So, you know, in the old system, you know, before America, you had rulers and their subjects, right?

And the rulers told their subjects what to do. And our idea was, you know, we're going to be citizens, not subjects. And we're going to tell the government what to do. And there are areas where the government's not permitted to go. But within those areas the government can act. Nothing that says it has to be a tiny government if the people themselves are willing to pay the taxes and to support certain activities for the government and it's within the Constitution, that's fine.

Of course it had to happen under the relative rarity in Canada of a Conservative government that US citizens seeking asylum from their own military service would find the welcome mat withdrawn.

My 30 year sojourn in Canada showed me that it is for the most part a socially liberal country with a generous immigration policy. Post 9/11, the American hysteria over terrorism demanded some tightening up on immigration, but Canadians are not particularly given to hysteria so the changes were measured rather than broad.

Still this new policy surprises me. I highly doubt that it has the support of the general Canadian public and is more likely simply a sign of Ottawa kowtowing to BushCo. A signature feature of all the conservative governments I experienced while a resident there was a deep-seated desire to play tennis with the big boys to the south.

U.S. Soldiers Lose Haven in Canada

(NYT) - James Corey Glass, apprentice mortician and United States Army deserter, was keeping an unusually close eye on the text messages coming into his cellphone. He was hoping to hear that a court had blocked the Canadian government's attempt to send him back to the United States.

jcglass.jpgOn Wednesday afternoon, the message came: Mr. Glass, 25, could remain in Canada while he appealed his removal order by the country's Immigration Department. It was a welcome reprieve, he said, but well short of a guarantee that he and other deserters could make Canada their new home.

The Canadian government's effort to remove Mr. Glass contrasts with the warm reception given to deserters and draft avoiders from the United States during the war in Vietnam. And although the war in Iraq has very little support among Canadians, the situation of Mr. Glass and others who abandoned their military positions provokes a wide range of responses. For American soldiers seeking an escape, Canada is no longer a guaranteed haven.

A Salute to Snow

|

Tony Snow was the only guy in the Bush coterie that was palatable even while I completely disagreed with his positions. He struck me as a decent human being and in the end that's really all that should matter.

Former White House spokesman Tony Snow dies


tonysnow.jpgFormer White House press secretary Tony Snow -- who once told reporters "I'm a very lucky guy" -- died at the age of 53 early Saturday after a second battle with cancer.

Robert Anthony Snow was born June 1, 1955, in Berea, Kentucky, and was raised in Cincinnati. When he was 17, his mother died of colon cancer at age 38.

After receiving a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Davidson College near Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1977, Snow pursued graduate work in philosophy and economics at the University of Chicago. He worked as an editorial writer and editor at several newspapers, including The Washington Times and the Detroit News. He wrote a column in Detroit, and later wrote a syndicated column.

Snow joined the administration of Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, in 1991, first as chief speech writer and later as deputy assistant to the president for media affairs.

Snow became a television personality when he launched his news shows on Fox in 1993.

When he returned to work at the White House on April 30, 2007, after the second cancer diagnosis, a usually articulate and loquacious Snow stumbled to find words.

"You never anticipate this stuff," he said. "It just happens." "I want to thank you all. It really meant the world to me. Anybody who does not not believe that thoughts and prayers make a difference, they're just wrong." He then prefaced a discussion of his health by saying, "I'm a very lucky guy."

Outside of work, Snow played the guitar, saxophone and flute, and was in a band called Beats Workin' with other Washington professionals.

The War Bucks Daddies

|

The Center for Public Integrity has some good projects going on well worth perusing. One is involved in following the tortuous money trail of the War on Iraq.

Baghdad Bonanza


The Center for Public Integrity reveals that military
contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan grew from $11 billion in 2004 to more
than $25 billion in 2006 -- and that billions have gone to unidentified
foreign companies.

Key Findings:

  • The former Halliburton subsidiary, KBR, Inc., won more than $16 billion in U.S. government contracts for reconstruction work in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2004 to 2006 -- far more than any other company, according to analysis by the Center for Public Integrity. Over the three years studied, more than $20 billion in contracts went to foreign companies whose identities -- at least so far -- are impossible to determine.
  • The Center identified the top 100 postwar contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2004 to 2006, accompanied by full-text access to some 360 documents including reports, audits, testimony, project site inspections, and government correspondence.

The entire enchilada

A Reasonable Solution

|

I am so tired of medieval thought forms from fundamentalist groups and the havoc they continue to wreak on the human species.

The Taliban's Rising Tide

hellboy.jpgThe obvious and rational solution to the Taliban presence in Northern Pakistan is to nuke them and get over with...no, seriously. It would create a lot of world peace instantly. It has nothing to do with being anti-Islamic -- I'm not -- it has everything to do with the Taliban being a psychotic group of mad dogs who should be expunged. But before we do it we should drop that Fred Phelps (God Hates Fags) dude and his family in the target mountain area over there.


I'll gladly provide the countdown.
And lack of 'chutes for the Phelps family of course.

Priceless

|


"What is the appropriate cost/benefit analysis -- financial, medical, and emotional -- to apply to the ebb tide of life?"

There isn't one.

There is no intrinsic value to life or to a life. A cost/benefit analysis is a comparative valuation which cannot be applied to a transcendent context such as life or lives.

"It is true that we spend most of our health care dollars in the last 6 months of life, but who or what is to tell a relatively intact, feisty, willing-to-fight, rich person that he is supposed to simply go into hospice in a free capitalist country like ours."

All of that is based on a failure to integrate death as part of life itself. Rich or poor, the fear of and inability to embrace death and hang on no matter what is simply a cultural affectation based on an unconscious and genetically encoded survival impetus. If the rich person wants to go through the life extension dance, no matter how gruesome, that's their call.

The poor person will be subject to the generosity or lack of it in their culture. But there is no correct solution to a question based on a false premise. Life has no price.

The question should be: "What is the appropriate cost/benefit analysis -- financial, medical, and emotional -- to apply to the fear of death?"

This is so incredibly stupid and such a waste of resources that every person involved in this case needs to be fired on the spot. This is exactly the sort of thing that government is NOT supposed to do. There's not even any point to the 13 year long process being invoked by these mindless bureaucrats.

Given the huge backlog of more pressing immigration cases the fact that this adoption is being questioned and consuming department resources after 13 years is just unfathomable. Is there some pill bureaucrats take to make them this effete and idiotic?

Teen fears disputed adoption could lead to deportation

Allie Mulvihill may seem like your typical American teenager, but she has something weighing on her mind that most 15-year-olds do not: deportation.

mulvihills.jpgAllie may be forced to leave the country because U.S. immigration officials are questioning the legitimacy of the Guatemala native's adoption by her parents, Lori and Scott Mulvihill, in 1994.

When the Mulvihills brought their then 2-year-old daughter to their home in Allentown, Pennsylvania, they believed she would be granted citizenship.

But U.S. immigration officials questioned whether the woman who gave Allie up for adoption in Guatemala was really her biological mother. Allie's birth certificate was issued 10 months after she was born, which raised suspicions in U.S. officials' minds that she was made available for adoption due to a baby trafficking scheme.

The Mulvihills, however, say that it is not uncommon for birth certificates to be issued for children months after they are born in Guatemala, especially for children born to poor families, because families must pay for the certificates.

The Mulvihills also say U.S. embassy officials in Guatemala interviewed the woman claiming to be her biological mother at the time of the adoption and did not raise any concerns. The embassy officials, however, did not conduct a blood test of the woman that would have definitely proven that the woman had given birth to Allie.

The Guatemalan government also never challenged the adoption, the Mulvihills said.

But U.S. immigration officials still aren't satisfied, and the dispute over her adoption has become a roadblock on Allie's path to citizenship. Neither Allie nor her parents have a way to track down her biological mother and the adoption agency used by the Mulvihills used to adopt their daughter has gone under.

The fact that she can not get her immigration status resolved means the fear of deportation continues to loom.

Do you trust Obama or not?

| | Comments (1)

Its getting to the point where people are starting to rebel against the Obama campaign because they think he is being a traitor to their image of who they thought he was. Aside from the fact that Obama today is exactly the person who has always said he was, the problem is that some Obama evangelists are freaking out that he is not the saint and savior they would have him be. Tough, grow up.

What these folks have to realize is that being a very smart politician, Obama is not about to make stupid moves or vote in stupid ways on issues that would provide the swiftboaters out there with any substantial ammo. He is doing what he must given the inherent dangers of being a liberal black man running for president in a ruthless, bigoted and mostly uniformed cultural climate. He's dealing with the same population that elected Dubya...twice.

Personally, as a progressive, I find many of Obama's stances on issues fairly conservative and at odds with my world view, but I also find him extremely thoughtful, a good listener, capable of reassessing his positions according to new data and not an ideologue. He is, in my estimate precisely what this country needs to counteract the ideological nightmare that is BushCo.

I also believe that he will become far more progressive in action after he has become president. I've decided to trust him -- others are worried about that and apparently do not.

Obama's surveillance vote spurs blogging backlash


by Scott J. Anderson (CNN)

Sen. Barack Obama's vote for a federal surveillance law that he had previously opposed has sparked a backlash from his online advocates, who had energized his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

In October, Obama had vowed to help filibuster an update of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that gave telecommunication companies that had cooperated with President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program immunity from lawsuits.

After 9/11, Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop, without the mandated warrant from a federal court, on electronic communication involving terrorist suspects.

Critics said Bush's Terrorist Surveillance Program was a violation of civil liberties.

The Senate voted Wednesday on the bill updating FISA -- which had a provision to shield telecommunications companies that had cooperated in the surveillance. Obama joined the 68 other senators who voted to send the bill to the president's desk.

Obama did vote for an amendment offered before the final vote by Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Connecticut, that would have stripped the immunity provisions from the bill, but the amendment failed.

Bush signed the bill into law on Thursday, saying the bill "will help help us meet our most solemn responsibility: to stop another attack."

The bill does not grant the telecommunication companies direct immunity, but it does contain a provision that allows a federal judge to dismiss the suits if the companies can present a letter from the government stating that the program was legal.

Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, testified before Congress that all the companies received such letters.

Nujood Ali

|

Hero in a small package.

nujoodali.jpgIn Yemen, as in most middle east countries, culture of tribal customs makes forced marriage of prepubescent children to older men commonplace, frequently giving rise to situations of culturally sanctioned pedophilia. Escape from this climate of child abuse is nearly impossible because of tribal honor codes which place huge social penalties on the girl and her family if she leaves the marriage.

Nujood Ali, at age 10, was married off by her family to a 30 yr old man, who according to the father, promised he would not touch her until she was 20...(and the check is in the mail, right?) Nevertheless, she was humiliated, beaten and forced to have sex.
Normally, that would be the end of the all too common sad story. But she escaped one day and made her way across town to the local court house where she sat on a bench and demanded that a judge hear her case.

When she finally told the judge her story, he was fortunately sympathetic. He placed her in the custody of female human rights lawyer who advocates in such matters and had the husband and Ali's father jailed while divorce proceedings went forward. The result is that the girl is now divorced and back with her family.

Partially because of the rarity of the case, it was spread to news outlets around the world and the celebrity has so far prevented whatever regular repercussions of the honor code would have been visited on the family. Since there is no law against child marriage in Yemen, the husband and father were released without charge. Its a relatively happy ending for a little girl who undertook a huge risk.

This is what year again?

|

Its just astounding that this sort of thing still exists. I can only wonder at how many more of this lost in time pockets of racial discrimination are hidden in seldom traveled places around the country. Will the old guard never die?

Black community denied water for decades

(ehpee) - Residents of a mostly black neighborhood in rural Ohio were awarded nearly $11 million Thursday by a federal jury that found local authorities denied them public water service for decades out of racial discrimination.

Each of the 67 plaintiffs was awarded $15,000 to $300,000, depending on how long they had lived in the neighborhood, about 5 miles east of Zanesville in Muskingum County in east-central Ohio.

coalrun02.jpg

The money covers both monetary losses and the residents' pain and suffering between 1956, when water lines were first laid in the area, and 2003, when Coal Run got public water.

The lawsuit was filed in 2003 after the Ohio Civil Rights Commission concluded the residents were victims of discrimination. The city, county and East Muskingum Water Authority all denied it and noted that many residents in the lightly populated county don't have public water.

Coal Run residents either paid to have wells dug, hauled water for cisterns or collected rain water so they could drink, cook and bathe.

"As a child, I thought it was normal because everyone done it in my neighborhood," said one of the plaintiffs, Cynthia Hale Hairston, 47. "But I realized as an adult it was wrong."

Expanding on the Bitch Slap Candidates

|
bullygramm.jpg


Is it possible to be more of a charlatan than Mr. Enron Loophole?

Or more stupid..listen: "We're the only nation in the world," Mr. Gramm once said, "where all our poor people are fat."
lovefood.jpgWe all waste food. Generally, 1/3 of the groceries we buy goes to waste and the energy involved in that waste amounts to the CO2 production of 1 car in 5, not to mention the money to buy it in the first place.

Ft. McMoney Canada

| | Comments (1)
the money
Is booming in the old home town
It's putting up sleek concrete
Tearing the old landmarks down
Paving over brave little parks
Ripping off Indian land again
How long, how long
Short sighted business men?
Ah, nothing lasts for long...
 
(Chinese Cafe - joni mitchell)

Awash in oil money, and problems


tarsands.jpg"You can say all the bad things you want about this town," challenged Jesse Brether, a Ft. McMurray Oil Sands worker. "You know what? For fifty dollars an hour, I'll deal with it... I'm making over a hundred thousand dollars a year, and I'm 22!"

Native groups who once thrived on the area's abundant natural resources are worried. While jobs have been created, and contracts have been awarded to native small businesses, the gains are overshadowed by reports of deformed fish and discolored meat in the wildlife. A local health board study found unusually high rates of cancers and other illness, although both the Alberta government and the oil companies dispute those claims.

But it's hard to dispute the area's vast deforestation as the Oil Sands have become the largest construction zone on earth. The huge swath of boreal - or coniferous - forest that has been removed is clearly visible from space, and locals worry about the long term ecological effect of the clear-cutting.

Better than all 5 feet

|
I've been following this story for some weeks now and its just too damn freaky. I know the area well and picturing these feet washing up on shore there gives me the willies.

Two of five feet found at shore are from same man, DNA shows


Two of five feet that have washed up on the shores of British Columbia are from the same person, but authorities said Tuesday they are a long way from solving the mystery of where they came from.

 The British Columbia Coroners Service said Thursday that DNA tests indicate a right foot found on February 8 and a left foot found on June 16 were from the same male. The office also determined that a right foot found on May 22 belongs to a female.

But authorities still don't know whom they belong to or how they have come to wash up on shores near Vancouver, British Columbia, in the past 12 months.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokeswoman Constable Annie Linteau said forensic examinations suggested the feet were not severed or "mechanically removed" from the bodies.

"The evidence shows that the feet were separated from their bodies by a natural process of decomposition," Linteau said in a press conference Thursday.

Investigators have eliminated 130 people from a list of 243 missing persons, while authorities continue to examine multiple possibilities for the origin of the feet, including foul play and the chance they belonged to victims of a plane crash.

Yeah right...a plane crash that removed everyone's feet.



Smearing Michelle

|
What we need is a National Bitch Slap Committee that has the power to haul up people like the idiots at Faux News and nationally televise them being tied to a chair and bitch slapped by the people they otherwise falsely smear without  remorse or worry of reprisal. It could be pay-per-view...think it would fly?

Sorry FOX, We Won't Let You Trash Michelle Obama
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave ...my ass.
Happy birthday, Osama.

Senate Approves Bill to Broaden Wiretap Powers

by Eric Lichtblau  NYTimes

The Senate gave final approval on Wednesday to a major expansion of the government's surveillance powers, handing President Bush one more victory in a series of hard-fought clashes with Democrats over national security issues.

The measure, approved by a vote of 69 to 28, is the biggest revamping of federal surveillance law in 30 years. It includes a divisive element that Mr. Bush had deemed essential: legal immunity for the phone companies that cooperated in the National Security Agency wiretapping program he approved after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The vote came two and a half years after public disclosure of the wiretapping program set off a fierce national debate over the balance between protecting the country from another terrorist strike and ensuring civil liberties. The final outcome in Congress, which opponents of the surveillance measure had conceded for weeks, seemed almost anticlimactic in contrast.

Careful with that cloning tool, Eugenie

|
Man, this ranks right up there technique-wise with Nigerian email spam. The least thing the photo manipulator guy should have done was smudge the smoke. And another thing, what's with all the pollution - don't they have missiles with catalytic converters?

misselclone.jpg

In a photo released by Iran and used by several news sites and papers, the second missile from the right (circled in red) appears to replicate another (circled in orange).

Ruining a Relatively Good Thing

|
From the Just-when-I-got-it-figured-out-they-went-and-changed-it Dept.

Technocrats are really good at it.

This new version of the Movable Type is a perfect example of how efficiency can override and mutilate efficacy. What once was a fairly straight forward way of editing and managing the various templates that run the MT blog model, has been chopped up into scores (if not hundreds) of sub-modules linked together by some obscure  background map that only a techie could relish navigating.

Where once I could edit the appearance and structure of my old blog with a couple of templates, I now have to navigate through a dozen templates to accomplish the same thing. From what I read, the reasoning behind these changes was to simplify the process. What a joke. What they've done is to create the same annoyance as those endless sub-menu choices that one gets on the phone when trying to get a simple answer like "What time do you close?" from a business. You know you're in for a ride as soon as you hear "Please listen closely as our menu has changed"...and you can bet your life that means the choices have multiplied -- along with the possibility of error.

While its true that 'one man's poisson is another man's poison' (gb shaw) and via la différence has always been a credo dear to me, it is possible to ruin a painting by not knowing when to stop.

What I have in general found to be the case with 'advancement for advancement's sake' is that the inherent ideal is to try to automate processes, which removes control of a process from its user. Anyone who has used MS Word knows how absolutely infuriating the auto-programming for spelling and grammar or bullets can be - and trying to discover how to turn them off even more so.

Similarly, MS Vista is a nightmare of annoyances that can consume hours of trying to undo embedded features that deny the user from accessing his or her own files on their own machine. Such "advancements", supposedly to increase security, make Vista equivalent to Millennium - or better - 8 tracks cassette players.

Maybe I'm being somewhat of a Luddite about MT4, but I doubt it. It smells like geek spirit.
You know something is amiss when there are hundreds of pages dedicated to the instruction set and a need for flash demos to do simple stuff.

The bastards killed ratboy!  

Speaking of Obama

|

"You've changed!" they accuse.

You've changed
The sparkle in your eyes is gone
Your smile is just a careless yawn
You're breaking my heart
You've changed

You've changed
Your kisses now are so blasé
You're bored with me in every way
I can't understand
You've changed

You've forgotten the words I love you
And the memories that we've shared
You've ignored all the stars up above you
I can't realize that you ever cared
You've changed

You're not the angel I once knew
No need to tell me, I know we're through
It's all over now
You've changed

"You've Changed" - Bill Carey and Carl Fisher

Not really. I think people just weren't really listening.
People's need to see a "bringer of light" (ironically, a "Lucifer") to the dark American nightmare of the Bush years kept them relatively deaf to what the man was actually saying. They pulled a "life of Brian" on the man and made themselves tingle with delight at his "Saviorship". Self deluding I'd say.

Where many people were describing him as this out and out liberal who was born to change the world, I saw a relatively measured liberal who really meant it when he outlined all of his centrist ideas about inclusion and working with the "other side". That's his new politics for ya.

Now that his foot is in the door he is continuing the message of "being in the middle" which many now feel as "being in the muddle". But they are wrong. He is simply living up to what he has asserted all along. Go back and watch the speeches, remarkably, there's almost no variation.

He's a highly intelligent and pragmatic realist with a heart. Personally, I find that enough right there to get my vote compared to what else is being offered.

Day 21624

| | Comments (3)

633441256200000000.jpgThis life continues its never-ending rewrite.

I have no idea what will happen in this new plunge into MT updated. The attempt to change hosts was as daunting an experience as I ever hope to encounter. I eventually gave up trying to port over the old blog format and had to resort to attempting a new form.

I suppose I will learn to manipulate the beast over time, but for now I feel like a complete newbie.

Here goes...


About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from July 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

August 2008 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.