After its severe strike on Gaza, Israel would do well to stop, turn to Hamas' leaders and say: Until Saturday Israel held its fire in the face of thousands of Qassams from the Gaza Strip. Now you know how harsh its response can be. So as not to add to the death and destruction we will now hold our fire unilaterally and completely for the next 48 hours. Even if you fire at Israel, we will not respond with renewed fighting. We will grit our teeth, as we did all through the recent period, and we will not be dragged into replying with force.
Moreover, we invite interested countries, neighbors near and far, to mediate between us and you to bring back the cease-fire. If you hold your fire, we will not renew ours. If you continue firing while we are practicing restraint, we will respond at the end of this 48 hours, but even then we will keep the door open to negotiations to renew the cease-fire, and even on a general and expanded agreement.
That is what Israel should do now. Is it possible, or are we too imprisoned in the familiar ceremony of war?
Until Saturday, Israel under Ehud Barak's military leadership showed remarkable cool. It should not lose its cool in the heat of battle. We should not forget even for a moment that the people of the Gaza Strip will remain our close neighbors and that sooner or later we will want to achieve good neighborly relations with them.
We should in no way strike them so violently, even if Hamas, for years, has made life intolerably miserable for the people of southern Israel, and even if their leaders have refused every Israeli and Egyptian attempt to reach a compromise to prevent this lastest flare-up.
The line of self-control and the awareness of the obligation to protect the lives of the innocent in Gaza must be toed even now, precisely because Israel's strength is almost limitless. Israel must constantly check to see when its force has crossed the line of legitimate and effective response, whose goal is deterrence and a restoration of the cease-fire, and from what point it is once again trapped in the usual spiral of violence.
I am constantly amazed by the goings-on here. There seems to be more whackos per square foot than anywhere else I've lived.
Some examples for 2008:
Obama's wife, Michelle, unknowingly set off a six-hour standoff when a Pasco County man angered by her convention speech ran out of his RV and began yelling and firing a gun. A SWAT team was brought in, and the man was eventually captured and taken for a psychological evaluation.
There were plenty of others who went to extremes to avoid arrest last year, including a man who stole a hearse parked outside a Broward County church during a funeral. A police chase ensued and officers shot the man in the leg before he eventually returned the hearse to the church.
A high-speed chase in the Florida Keys ended more peacefully. Deputies say the driver stopped the pickup truck they were pursuing and ran around and jumped in the passenger door. He then re-emerged sleepily and explained he wasn't the driver. He said he was a sleeping passenger and the actual driver ran away.
Another driver arrested in the Florida Keys was going at a much slower speed - while her 3-year-old granddaughter sat on the car's roof. Grandma told deputies that the ride around the supermarket parking lot was just for fun. And besides, she explained, she was holding the girl's leg and driving at a "snail-pace."
Speaking of grandkids and joyrides, a 7-year-old was arrested in Palm Beach County after taking his grandmother's Dodge Durango. The boy hit mailboxes, parked cars and a signposts and only stopped when a wheel fell off.
Three teenagers tried breaking into a car in Tampa, apparently not realizing it was an undercover police car. Oh, and that an officer was inside.
A 13-year-old was charged with disrupting a school function after repeatedly passing gas at a Stuart school.
Bodily functions also played a role in the suspension of an Orange County sixth-grade teacher. A student hid behind a bookcase and urinated in a lunch box during class. His parents claimed the teacher wouldn't let the boy go to the bathroom.
Alachua County deputies arrested a man for stealing his own urine after he took a probation office's samples fridge after he tested positive for cocaine.
Among other bizarre thefts, a man stole deodorant from a Dania Beach supermarket and, when confronted, pulled out a BB pistol to make his getaway. The store manager thought it was a handgun and called authorities, who brought dogs to the scene to sniff out the suspect.
A man stole a pair of earrings from a Naples mall and then swallowed them. Police charged him after an x-ray turned up the evidence. A man was arrested for taking 42 cents from a Collier County mall's fountain.
Hillsborough County deputies say two men pulled a knife and gun on a Plant City man and stole his eggbeater.
In another low-speed getaway, a man in a motorized wheelchair robbed a Merritt Island bank. Deputies caught up with him about 500 feet away, finding the money hidden in his prosthetic leg.
A Manatee County bank robber couldn't get over his guilty conscience. As a teller began giving him money, he stopped her from getting more, explaining he wasn't greedy. He then apologized to bank employees before leaving. The next day, he called the sheriff's office, apologized again and waited to be picked up.
An Ocala man who's apparently a strong advocate of safe sex repeatedly rammed his SUV into a closed convenience store before jumping out, grabbing two packs of condoms and fleeing.
Five Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University students were charged with felonies after police said they tried to steal a baby alligator from a Daytona Beach miniature golf course.
A 69-year-old Oldsmar woman walked into her kitchen and found an 8-foot alligator had let itself in through a screen door. A 10-foot, 7-inch crocodile was captured in Coral Gables and relocated after it ate three dogs.
An Ocala man trying to get butter from a church buffet pulled a knife on congregation members, then rode away on a bicycle before police caught him.
Hillsborough County deputies say two men pulled a knife and gun on a Plant City man and stole his eggbeater.
Three young Americans traveled to Africa in search of such as story. What they found was a tragedy that disgusted and inspired them. A story where children are weapons and children are the victims. The "Invisible Children": rough cut film exposes the effects of a 20 year-long war on the children of Northern Uganda. These children live in fear of abduction by rebel soldiers, and are being forced to fight as a part of violent army.
What is most disturbing about the film is is how it presents us with our own ignorance and the failure of our media to inform us of the situation. Yes, we have all heard of the child soldiers and the horrors visited upon them, but is still nothing being done?
The film was made 5 years ago. The makers have since accomplished this.
Yet the horrors are still happening even at the time of this post. Can we not send a group to kill this man? I will volunteer. Below is a video showing what he looks like.
KINSHASA (AFP) -- Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army rebels have killed almost 200 people in northeast Congo, a UN agency said in a report released Monday, although rebels issued a swift denial.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its report that the rebels had killed 189 people and torched 120 houses during the bloody campaign in Democratic Republic of Congo.
However, LRA deputy peace delegation chairman Justin Labeja told AFP by telephone that "the accusations that LRA has killed 200 people in DRC are totally untrue. LRA has not killed anybody."
Labeja, a long-time confidant of LRA leader Joseph Kony, said the group "is still committed to negotiating with the Ugandan government as long as there are guarantees and the International Criminal Court warrants are suspended."
Troops from DR Congo, Uganda and southern Sudan have been working together since mid-December to find Kony, who is wanted by The Hague-based tribunal for war crimes.
The vice-governor of Orientale province, Joseph Bangakya Angaze, told AFP by telephone that local authorities would ask the Congolese government Tuesday to include the Central Africal Republic in the joint mission.
Ongoing military operations and the LRA's continued presence in northeast DR Congo have made security conditions in the region "extremely volatile" and much of the region inaccessible to aid workers, OCHA said.
In a development which only added to the region's volatile state, another UN agency operating in DR Congo, the mission in the country known as MONUC, said Monday that a Ugandan soldier had been shot dead after a UN peacekeeper accidentally fired his machine gun.
The Ugandan solider died from his injuries and his body has been immediately flown home, MONUC said in a statement, adding that a full inquiry would be carried out into the accident.
Ugandan army spokesman Captain Chris Magezi had earlier told AFP in a telephone interview that his forces would hunt down LRA members while protecting civilians.
"We have developed a two-pronged approach to stop these senseless killings: We guard civilian settlements while another force pursues the rebels," Magezi said.
"We are deploying enough forces to increase pressure on the rebels," he added.
Kony's rebels are accused of having raped and mutilated civilians, forcibly enlisting child soldiers and having massacred thousands during two decades of conflict.
The Ugandan army have also accused the rebels of hacking to death 45 people in a church in the northeast on Friday.
"Our pledge to those who have been killed is to hunt for the killers and put them out of action so that they do not kill more people," Magezi said, adding local civilians should report to them on rebel movements.
LRA spokesman David Nyekorach Matsanga on Sunday dismissed the allegations relating to the church killings as a "propaganda campaign by the Uganda army."
Uganda and the LRA have been engaged in peace talks led by the government of south Sudan for more than two years.
Kony, a semi-literate former altar boy, took charge in 1988 of a regional rebellion among northern Uganda's ethnic Acholi minority.
He has repeatedly refused to sign a peace deal with Kampala because of the International Criminal Court arrest warrants against him and his lieutenants, despite Uganda inking the final peace agreement concluded in April.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and nearly two million displaced in two decades of fighting between the Ugandan government and the LRA, which is notorious for abducting children as soldiers and sex slaves.
And here you thought that the letters GWB had found their lowest meaning representing a ersatz president. Now you can apply them to the following business model being touted by Microsoft. Now Microsoft not only wants you to license and never really own its operating system, but also the very computer you run it on. It uses the same rip-off idea as printers, "sell 'em dirt cheap upfront and then charge a fortune for the ink".
This idea is nothing more than a money grab for the corporations and does little to nothing for the consumer. As far as I'm concerned this is one baby that needs to be stabbed in the heart and smothered in the crib.
Microsoft has applied for a patent on metered, pay-as-you-go computing.
Under a Microsoft proposal, consumers would receive heavily discounted PCs, then pay fees for usage.
Under a Microsoft proposal, consumers would receive heavily discounted PCs, then pay fees for usage.
U.S. patent application number 20080319910, published on Christmas Day, details Microsoft's vision of a situation where a "standard model" of PC is given away or heavily subsidized by someone in the supply chain. The end user then pays to use the computer, with charges based on both the length of usage time and the performance levels utilized, along with a "one-time charge."
Microsoft notes in the application that the end user could end up paying more for the computer, compared with the one-off cost entailed in the existing PC business model, but argues the user would benefit by having a PC with an extended "useful life."
"A computer with scalable performance level components and selectable software and service options has a user interface that allows individual performance levels to be selected," reads the patent application's abstract. The patent application was filed June 21, 2007.
"The scalable performance level components may include a processor, memory, graphics controller, etc. Software and services may include word processing, email, browsing, database access, etc. To support a pay-per-use business model, each selectable item may have a cost associated with it, allowing a user to pay for the services actually selected and that presumably correspond to the task or tasks being performed," the abstract continues.
Integral to Microsoft's vision is a security module, embedded in the PC, that would effectively lock the PC to a certain supplier.
"The metering agents and specific elements of the security module...allow an underwriter in the supply chain to confidently supply a computer at little or no upfront cost to a user or business, aware that their investment is protected and that the scalable performance capabilities generate revenue commensurate with actual performance level settings and usage," the application reads.
According to the application, the issue with the existing PC business model is that it "requires more or less a one chance at the consumer kind of mentality, where elasticity curves are based on the pressure to maximize profits on a one-time-sale, one-shot-at-the-consumer mentality."
The corporate forces that are looting the Treasury and have plunged us into a depression will not be contained by the two main political parties. The Democratic and Republican parties have become little more than squalid clubs of privilege and wealth, whores to money and corporate interests, hostage to a massive arms industry, and so adept at deception and self-delusion they no longer know truth from lies. We will either find our way out of this mess by embracing an uncompromising democratic socialism--one that will insist on massive government relief and work programs, the nationalization of electricity and gas companies, a universal, not-for-profit government health care program, the outlawing of hedge funds, a radical reduction of our bloated military budget and an end to imperial wars--or we will continue to be fleeced and impoverished by our bankrupt elite and shackled and chained by our surveillance state.
The free market and globalization, promised as the route to worldwide prosperity, have been exposed as a con game. But this does not mean our corporate masters will disappear. Totalitarianism, as George Orwell pointed out, is not so much an age of faith as an age of schizophrenia. "A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial," Orwell wrote, "that is when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud." Force and fraud are all they have left. They will use both.
There is a political shift in Europe toward an open confrontation with the corporate state. Germany has seen a surge of support for Die Linke (The Left), a political grouping formed 18 months ago. It is co-led by the veteran socialist "Red" Oskar Lafontaine, who has built his career on attacking big business. Two-thirds of Germans in public opinion polls say they agree with all or some of Die Linke's platform. The Socialist Party of the Netherlands is on the verge of overtaking the Labor Party as the main opposition party on the left. Greece, beset with street protests and violence by disaffected youths, has seen the rapid rise of the Coalition of the Radical Left. In Spain and Norway socialists are in power. Resurgence is not universal, especially in France and Britain, but the shifts toward socialism are significant.
Posted by Jesse G////formerlyRadicalInsurgency on December 27
religion is to overtalked in our society, i think. i think it is a relevant issue, but it's all too commonly seen as an issue.
there are many issues that we don't notice, that we don't discuss, that we don't criticize; furthermore, many people who criticize religion and call them 'slaves' are slaves in much the same way, namely to consumer culture. it's easy to point out theologists as being slaves, but what about society in general who adhere to popular trends and the like? they're equally as pathetic, but fewer people say things about them. Expect more from me on this issue.
me: There is no greater waste of human energy than that spent on rationalizing religion as beneficial to human progress. Religion is the most toxic human thought form ever and its central goal is subjugation of the human spirit.
Jesse G: as are consumer culture, among other things.
do you people not see the point of this blog at all? or are just clinging to 'religion is bad, let's feel like we're above everyone and aren't brainwashed by anything at all because we talk shit about religion.
Picidae Yaekwata:Slamb. Well said totally.
I will add that while I see religion as the base problem that is driving much of our governmental control problems for "we the people" the power base of religion and politics are together what is driving so much waste amoung the people in the masses that are fast asleep or diverted into just enlightening people to the evils of religion and to enlightening people into the evils of governing powers. One must wake up to both at the large level but fight it at the small level from door knocking sects of all faiths and those at the fairs, etc, etc, to the political BS on the local level and their influence into our daily life of price controls and regulations that benefit only the rich to get richer. Both of these issues (religion and politics) are what our parents told us "nice" people do not talk about in public as it is too enflaming for most to handle. This is evident at IPower in the past as we cannot talk about these two topic without people getting emotionall unbalance and void of facts and true thought to consider with open minds to learn from actively thinking. And thus, no new vision to go forward with will ever come as we only can handle the milk of IPower Principles and are far from the meat (so to speak).
The masses as so caught up in trends of gagets of the day that the powers of us just laugh as they take our money knowing that we are blissful and ingorant and even if we start to awake they know the rest of the worms in the can will pull us back into the fold.
I am out of the can through hard work and study of all sorts of things to open up my mind and it all starts with receiving from all sources and pondering on what comes my way considering what I have accepted into my life from previous times of receiving and pondering...and from each new thing I work my vision going forward. But long long ago the need to learn these skills have passed. I always look for others who are beyond the mild and beyond the emotional needs to feed their own ego. IMO Jesse is one of those who has the potential to lead our future within humanity.....as are a few I have met at IPower over my short time here. Some here are trying and that is really cool.
me: I see no difference at all between market driven thought and religious thought; both are a means of subjugation to external authority.
Jesse G:Exactly, Slamb. That is why we should focus on them both, and not just one, and not hypocritically speak down on the adherents of one when we are in fact slaves to the other. :)
Rich: But people learn about market driven thought through religion. You're subjected to religion through family/sunday school way before your subjected to the rest of the world. Cut off the snakes head, so to speak.
Jesse G:that. has to be one of the least-sense making posts i've ever, no offense.
churches don't talk about markets or consumerism, these things are given to kids through their entertainments, which they get since birth. it happens simultaneously, really. and either way, why would you not question the other brainwashing things?
me:I agree with Rich though.
Religion is the source for all the market thinking that follows religion's foundational mapping of subjugation to external authoritarianism. Because religions market themselves as beyond the reach rational/critical thought, they lay the groundwork for all the patriarchal and secular non-thinking that follows.
Daddy knows best...whether Daddy is up in the sky controlling lives or Daddy has control of all the toys in the mall.
I consider the initial framework of unassailable control as being provided by religion rather marketing itself being concomitant. In order to get people to stop acquiescing to the authoritarianism of market and government, we must first get people to stop their magical thinking which is at root is a habit of religious training.
I am no more subject to consumer authoritarianism than I am to religious dogmas. Therefore I feel free to equally disparage behaviors by both groups because they are really a synchronized product.
Blowing up your tv is a good start, but first you should turn your back on your preacher or priest.
1) Jesse Helms, 86 He served five terms in the Senate, and he never shied from a Southern-fried filibuster to get what he wanted. Or, more precisely, to stop what he didn't want. "Senator No" was against most everything--food stamps, foreign aid, the King holiday, gay rights, modern art and countless judicial nominees--other than tobacco. Even Ronald Reagan called him a "thorn in my side."
2) Paul Weyrich, 66 Weyrich coined the phrase "moral majority" and helped found the Heritage Foundation, the country's most influential conservative think tank, and the Christian Coalition.
I hate people who talk during movies and have loudly told them in no uncertain terms to shut the F up several times which 2 out of 3 times has garnered applause...but shoot them? No...although I've suffered "movie rage" and had the fantasy. I'll tell you one thing, I bet that's the quietest family at the movies in the future.
(CNN) -- A man angry that a family was talking during a movie threw popcorn at the son and then shot the father in the arm, according to police in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
James Joseph Cialella was charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and weapons charges.
James Joseph Cialella, 29, was charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and weapons violations, a police report said.
Cialella told the family sitting in front of him in the theater on Christmas Day to be quiet, police said. An argument ensued while others at the Riverview Movie Theatre watched "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Cialella then approached the family from the left side of the aisle and shot the father, who was not identified, as he was standing between Cialella and his family, according to the police report.
The victim was taken to Jefferson Hospital with a gunshot wound to his left arm, police said.
Cialella was carrying a Kel-Tec .380-caliber handgun clipped inside his sweatpants, police said. He was arrested and taken into custody.
Class is a dirty word in that it gets close to the truth about who governs and for whose benefit.- Michael Parenti
Michael Parenti is an internationally known award-winning author and lecturer. He is one of the nation's leading progressive political analysts. His highly informative and entertaining books and talks have reached a wide range of audiences in North America and abroad.
In the land of those who think they're free and the home of savage capitalism, class is indeed a dirty word. Remember, we're a nation of Joe the Plumbers. If we just work hard enough and fend off those socialist vampires who want to suck us dry by redistributing our hard-earned wealth, we can all be financial successes. And if you're a faux-progressive presidential candidate--like Obama, you're doomed to political perdition unless you sign a blood oath disavowing your ties to socialism.
Yet there are a few political analysts and academics who dare to blaspheme against capitalism, which is the "God" this benighted land truly worships--despite the disgustingly hypocritical veneer of faux Christianity. Remember that Michael Parenti has one of the filthiest mouths you'll ever hear. He dares to repeatedly spew profane diatribes against capitalism, the sacrosanct basis for our precious American Way of Life. Parenti has the chutzpah to derisively attack our system, which we all know is the best that's ever been (or will be), by asserting that there are divisions amongst US Americans based on socioeconomic standing. And worst of all? He uses the "C" word! Somebody needs to give his mouth a good cleansing with a bar of Dial!
Parenti recently answered a few questions Jason Miller threw his way. Let's see how much further he traveled on the road to perdition...
Outside the Beltway, a movement to hold Bush administration officials accountable for torture and other war crimes after they leave office is gradually emerging. It received a boost when over a hundred lawyers and activists met in Andover, Massachusetts on September 20 at a conference entitled "Planning for the Prosecution of High Level American War Criminals." The conference created an ongoing committee to coordinate accountability efforts. At the close, conference convener Dean Lawrence Velvel of the Massachusetts School of Law noted more than twenty strategies and specific actions that had been proposed, ranging from the state felony prosecutions proposed by former district attroney Vincent Bugliosi to the international prosecutions pioneered by the Center for Constitutional Rights' Rumsfeld cases; and from impeaching Bush appointees like Federal Judge Jay Bybee to public shaming of torture-tainted former officials like ohn Yew, now a professor at the University of California Law School.
One of proposals discussed at the Andover conference was the creation of a citizens' War Crimes Documentation Center, modeled on the special office set up by the Allied governments before the end of World War II to investigate and document Nazi war crimes. Such a center could be the nexus for research, education and coordination of a wide range of civil society forces in the US and abroad that are demanding accountability. It could bring together the extensive but scattered evidence already available, to compile a narrative of what actually happened in the Bush administration. It could help or pressure Congress to conduct investigations to fill in the blanks. It could pull together high-profile coalitions to campaign around the issue of accountability for specific crimes like torture. If Obama does initiate some kind of investigating commission, such a center could provide it with information and help hold it accountable.
A Moral Education
There are a myriad of reasons for urgently holding the Bush regime to account, ranging from preventing unchallenged executive action from setting new legal precedent to providing a compelling rationale for the immediate cessation of bombing civilians in the escalating Afghan war.
But the issue raised by Bush administration war crimes is even larger than any person's individual crimes. As Thomas Paine wrote in Common Sense, "A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right." The long history of aggressive war, illegal occupation, and torture, from the Philippines to Iraq, have given the American people a moral education that encourages us to countenance war crimes. If we allow those who initiated and justified the illegal conquest and occupation of Iraq and the use of torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo to go unsanctioned, we teach the world--and ourselves--a lesson about what's OK and legal.
As countries like Chile, Turkey and Argentina can attest, restoration of democracy, civic morality and the rule of law is often a slow but necessary process, requiring far more than simply voting a new party into office. It requires a wholesale rejection of impunity for the criminal acts of government officials. As Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) put it, "We owe it to the American people and history to pursue the wrongdoing of this administration whether or not it helps us politically.... Our actions will properly define the Bush Administration in the eyes of history."
Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss.
They were young and beautiful and kissing, two brown-skinned girls on a red leather banquette; kissing as people do when they are hungry and soaring and, usually, alone. They weren't alone, wedged there between the thick seats and small tables at the Lenox Lounge in Harlem.
Nobody barked, "Get a room!" Life swirled easily about them, dollar bills passing from hand to hand across the crowd to the fellow behind the bar; beers all around or cocktails and high-pitched chatter, as if it were the most natural thing in the world for two girls on a banquette to be drinking each other in, one long gulp, then another; a taste, a tease, a head thrown back in laughter and an arm bent high to catch her stiff-brimmed hat before it fell.
That was election day, an age ago, it seems. Like the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square on V-J Day in Eisenstaedt's storied photograph, like the boy gripping his girlfriend's bottom as she leaps to embrace him in a shadowed hall on the day Stalin died in Komar and Melamid's luscious painting Thirty Years Ago 1953, those amorous girls in an Art Deco bar were the iconic image of social happiness, November 4, 2008.
For a moment, a few hours, the world, or at least Harlem, was passionate and in love. Not with Barack Obama, with itself--each one with the friend or stranger by his side and beyond to the next one, and the next after that, a common love expressed commonly, in hands squeezed or swinging hugs or deep, public kisses. "Love is in the air, people," a drummer on the uptown 1 train had announced earlier in the day, and later it was in the streets. A million glances were exchanged that electric night; a million fingers brushed lightly against each other. Zing! Who knows how many awoke the next morning in the arms of someone no longer a stranger? If there were none, it wouldn't matter; that it was possible was the thing. People were alive and in love with possibility.
In an instant it was over, as it had to be. Elections are not revolutions. Nor are residents even particularly sturdy progressives. By definition they crook the knee to capital, and concede, simply by running for the job at the top of the nuclear heap, a willingness to commit mass murder. Obama couldn't be "one of us" any more than his predecessors could. And yet, on the cusp of the inaugural, some leftists are disappointed, angry, glumly awaiting the inevitable celebrations like party kisses on New Year's Eve, surface exuberance masking the essential emptiness of the ritual.
Some who were once full of hope now grouse about the dreadful cabinet picks or strain for positive explanations as the bigot Rick Warren prepares his inaugural blessing. Those who were always cynical regard the popular effusions over the first black president as simple-minded, hysterical, swoony.
But the job of the left is not to be hopeful in or even angry at presidents, and it is not to scold the people. An insidious aspect of the recent period, and particularly the past eight years, has been the gross personalization of politics, the obsession with venal or greedy
or supposedly stupid leaders, with the lies and corruptions of persons rather than the crushing nature of class relations and corrupt systems. So Bush is an idiot. Clinton was a dog. Obama is a hero or a fraud. "The left"? What is it? A term so hazy in concept that
right-wing radio applies it to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid without being laughed off the air, and the only live demand that almost anyone else associated with it in November was marriage.
Clearly, the radical imagination needs an airing. So let us pause, amid the muddle of the moment, in this season of renewal and fresh starts, to consider fundamental things. Let us pause to reflect on the iconography of that kiss, so thick with refusals and affirmations.
Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez, has halted the construction of a shopping mall in the capital and announced that the prime block of urban real estate should be expropriated after being shocked at the "monster" development.
In his Sunday address Chávez said he was heading through downtown Caracas when he was shocked by the sight of a huge, nearly-finished mall amid the high-rise offices and apartments. "They had already built a monster there," Chávez said. "I passed by there just recently and said, 'What is this? My God!' "
He ordered the local mayor to halt construction, and suggested the sprawling six-storey building might be put to better use as a hospital or university. The new Sambil mall was scheduled to open in the La Candelaria district early next year, packed with 273 shops, cinemas and offices. Chávez complained that it would add more traffic to an area that was already so crowded "not a soul fits".
"I don't carry myself as a black person but as a woman that belongs to everybody. After all, it's the general public that made (me) -- not any one particular group. So I don't think of myself as belonging to any particular group and never have."
Eartha Kitt 1927 - 2008
Once described by Orson Welles as the most exciting woman in the world, Kitt's smouldering, feline drawl in memorable hits, such as Santa Baby, Old Fashioned Millionaire and I Wanna Be Evil conveyed a wealth of innuendo.
Ostracized at an early age for her mixed race heritage, international star Eartha Kitt defied criticism of her illegitimate past and conquered the entertainment world with finesse.
Born in 1927, she endured a tough childhood. Kitt's mother, who worked on a cotton plantation, was just 14 when she gave birth, the white father thought to have been the son of the plantation owner.
Kitt's features, neither black nor white, led to her being accepted by neither community. She was given away by her mother at the age of eight to live with an aunt in Harlem, New York City. Little did she know that this would be the start of a long showbiz career.
With a flair for the dramatic, Kitt, aged 15, auditioned for the famed Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe and won a spot as a featured dancer.
The work took her worldwide, and her unique style was enhanced as she became fluent in French during the European tour. It was during a performance in Paris that she caught a certain director's eye, and was cast as Helen of Troy in Orson Welles' production of Dr Faust.
It would great to be able to program virus-like agents that could could act to repair damaged genes using a template like the one described in the article below. I will bet you that in maybe 20 or 30 years we will see such a thing produced.
A striking feature of many cancer cells is that the DNA in their chromosomes is all jumbled up. Chunks of DNA containing one or more genes have been ripped out of their chromosome and reinserted in a different place. Other lengths of DNA have been transferred to a different chromosome altogether.
These rearrangements may degrade the cell's regulatory systems, especially when a rearrangement cuts a gene in half, or separates it from the regions of DNA that control its activity.
Researchers led by Oliver A. Hampton and Aleksandar Milosavljevic at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston have now compared the genome of a type of breast cancer cell with that of normal cells. They find 157 rearrangements, they report in the current issue of Genome Research.
The graphic summarizes their results. Round the outer ring are shown the 23 chromosomes of the human genome. The lines in blue, in the third ring, show internal rearrangements, in which a stretch of DNA has been moved from one site to another within the same chromosome. The red lines, in the bull's eye, designate switches of DNA from one chromosome to another.
One of the rearrangements disrupts a gene called RAD51C which is involved in mending serious chromosome breaks, those in which both strands in the DNA are disrupted. The impairment of double strand break repair could be a major cause of all the other rearrangements, the researchers suggest.
Europeans are in the process of discussing the ins and outs of how to possibly become recipients of released prisoners of Gitmo. They are seeing this as a demonstration of their sincere desire to offer significant help to the Obama administration on the issue. Its an excellent idea.
European nations have begun intensive discussions both within and among their governments on whether to resettle detainees from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as a significant overture to the incoming Obama administration, according to senior European officials and U.S. diplomats.
The willingness to consider accepting prisoners who cannot be returned to their home countries, because of fears they may be tortured there, represents a major change in attitude on the part of European governments. Repeated requests from the Bush administration that European allies accept some Guantanamo Bay detainees received only refusals.
The Bush administration "produced the problem," Karsten Voigt, coordinator of German-American cooperation at the German Foreign Ministry, said in a telephone interview. "With Obama, the difference is that he tries to solve it."
Amy Goodman: A top Republican internet strategist who was set to testify in a case alleging election tampering in 2004 in Ohio has died in a plane crash. Mike Connell was the chief IT consultant to Karl Rove and created websites for the Bush and McCain electoral campaigns. He also set up the official Ohio state election website reporting the 2004 presidential election returns.
Connell was reportedly an experienced pilot. He died instantly Friday night when his private plane crashed in a residential neighborhood near Akron, Ohio.
Michael Connell was deposed one day before the election this year by attorneys Cliff Arnebeck and Bob Fitrakis about his actions during the 2004 vote count and his access to Karl Rove's e-mail files and how they went missing.
Velvet Revolution, a non-profit investigating Connell's activities, revealed this weekend that Connell had recently said he was afraid George Bush and Dick Cheney would "throw [him] under the bus." Cliff Arnebeck had also previously alerted Attorney General Michael Mukasey to alleged threats from Karl Rove to Connell if he refused to "take the fall."
Well, Mark Crispin Miller joins us now, a professor of media culture and communication at New York University, the author of several books, including Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008 and Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They'll Steal the Next One Too. Mark Crispin Miller us now in our firehouse studio.
Welcome to Democracy Now!
Mark Crispin Miller: It's good to be here, Amy. Thank you.
AG: Alright, well, we had you on right before the election, because that's when Mike Connell was being deposed. This news that came out of his death in a plane crash on Friday night, talk about what you understand has happened.
MCM: Well, I cannot assert with perfect confidence that this was no accident, but I will say that the circumstances are so suspicious and so convenient for Rove and the White House that I think we're obliged to investigate this thing very, very thoroughly. And that means, first of all, taking a close look at some of the stories that were immediately circulated to account for what happened, that it was bad weather. That was the line they used when Wellstone's plane went down. There had been bad weather, but it had passed two hours before. And this comes from a woman at the airport information desk in Akron. We're told that his plane was running out of gas, which is a little bit odd for a highly experienced pilot like Connell, but apparently, when the plane went down, there was an explosion, a fireball that actually charred and pocked some of the house fronts in the neighborhood. People can go online and see the footage that news crews took. But beyond the, you know, dubiousness of the official story, we have to take a close look at -- and a serious look at all the charges that Connell was set to make.
Unless you're a quantum particle theorist this is going to hurt your brain a lot. Doesn't that sound incredibly exciting? It does to me.
Working from principles of differential geometry, physicist and surfer Garrett Lisi is developing a new unified theory that purports to explain all the elementary particles, and gravity, in one elegant model. His theory is based on a mathematical shape called E8. With 248 symmetries, E8 is large, complex and beautiful -- and Lisi believes the relationships of its symmetries correspond to known particles and forces, including gravity.
Why don't we get the best out of people? Sir Ken Robinson argues that it's because we've been educated to become good workers, rather than creative thinkers. Students with restless minds and bodies -- far from being cultivated for their energy and curiosity -- are ignored or even stigmatized, with terrible consequences. "We are educating people out of their creativity," Robinson says
I know how much you like a good story and this one is out of the blue and on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from the phony ripoffs you rightly call to order. I bet there is a line around the block of people who would pay to have ten minutes in a locked room with Madofcourse or anyone of his ilk.
This story describes the death of a fine being of great courage and honor. He is laying on the frozen ground in a lower field of our ranch during a fierce snow blizzard waiting for first light when I'll go out and bury him. God rest his soul, he is a victim of the economic times. The untimely death of Clickity Clark, World Champion cutting horse and a good friend of mine and the true love of my wife won't mean much to most people.
This afternoon as I tried to comfort my crying, darling wife, the best I could do is compare our grief to that of the homeless couple who woke up in their car this last week to discover that their two month child had died overnight of hypothermia.
Heartbreak can take you from a bunch of different angles and it doesn't have to play fair so I guess it has a lot in common with the liars we have for leaders and the wicked people they have helped to destroy our way of life.
The horse, whose barn name was Clicky, was wise and honorable and so we kept him with the younger geldings to help teach them good and fair. You cannot allow a thousand pound animal to practice ill against you just like you cannot allow bad government to act against your community.
The end is always bad and obvious from the beginning. Those who say or accept others who say "who could have known" are fools of the highest order and so for humans just like for horses, the only thing you can have is good and responsible, or as real cowboys have said forever, the first thing is a good mind.
Clicky had a good mind and a good heart. He died before his time on a ranch starved by this economy and the environmental disaster that drove hay prices to hell, fuel prices to the moon, and stock prices into the toilet while robbers lounge in their condos awaiting their pardon.
Well pardon me and if not me well then how about my horse and if not him then how about the sons and daughters dead from Iraq. You filthy monsters.
Don't go talking to no brush choppers, claiming to be from Texas wandered out of Connecticut. The real horse people and ranches in this country Bozeman to Red Bluff have been squeezed and wrecked by them to where they better not show up around here. They are not welcome. They want to have a beer with somebody, they better drink alone.
John Walsh is a professor at U Mass. He is not an a practitioner of the Dismal Science, and he frankly doubts that "economics" as taught in the universities now, as distinguished from political economy, is a valid discipline.
He has some knowledge of the physicists and mathematicians who put together the Wall Street "instruments" that have triggered the present crisis.
Many of these people knew that they were simply providing their bosses with simulations that proved what the bosses wanted proven. And many of these former academics openly referred to themselves as "whores." It may be dangerous to let too many physicists go unemployed.
"Why have you raised the wages of your workers, Mr. Ford"?
"So that someone can buy my cars."
Why is the crash and depression of 2008 shrouded in mystery? Why is it not possible to explain the crisis in simple terms that do not involve financial instruments which no one understands - not even their creators? Why have the pundits and economists resorted to little more than a primitive analogy to temperature, that is, the credit market has "frozen up." Or a psychological one - that this is simply a crisis of confidence. The banks will not lend even though they are being provided heaps of cash by their government; but still there is no lending and no one can or will say why. Is there a real reason why credit is not available and why banks will not lend? Either no one knows, or the answer is unthinkable for the elite and unspeakable for the Commentariat.
There are major factors at work in the economy for decades, which are evident to even the most casual observer; and these, it would appear, are now coming home to roost. Since the 1970s the real wages of American workers have been falling - a decline now lasting over 30 years. Similarly, membership in unions has plummeted as the government has made it harder to organize and employers have become ever more adept at shutting unions out. At the same time, the Democratic Party supposedly the representative of the working class has sold out its base at every turn. Today the wealthiest 400 Americans sit atop a mountain of wealth equal to the wealth of the bottom half of the population, about 150 million Americans. And of course many jobs have been lost to overseas factories, many of them funded by American capital. All of this is a boon to those at the top. And all this means that the purchasing power of the average American has fallen.
At the same time, Americans have systematically been deprived of other means of making purchases. Defined benefit pension plans have all but disappeared, and there are calls for the remaining ones to be dismantled. Social security is not an adequate retirement program, leaving ever more people in poverty or close to it, or working until their dying day. And education is more and more beyond the reach of those who want to "purchase" it, a real mystery, since faculty salary and benefits are in sharp decline. (University CEO's however are paid ever more handsomely.) Medicare, as a way for seniors to "purchase" health care, is still not comprehensive , and health insurance for all others is non-existent or prohibitively expensive ever less adequate even for those who have it. In previous downturns health care was "counter cyclical" but not this time according to The Wall Street Journal.
So what has been the solution to keep the economy going in this situation? The answer is easy - credit. Since the 1970's the credit card has emerged as part of our life. Credit has been extended to anyone and everyone. And plastic credit has gradually become an ever more burdensome form of usury, with stinging and often disabling penalties, much to the delight of the creditors who simply find ways to extend more credit and extract more money. Credit has also been extended for mortgages which the creditors, banks and others, are only too happy to lend on the assumption, which no one dared question, that home prices always rise and the borrower can always be made to pay more. An army of real estate agents serves as enforcers for endless property inflation.
Its a bad pick by Obama as far as I'm concerned. This is more symbolic than political and symbols always trump politics. Inclusiveness is important and I understand the premise being offered by Obama's camp in that regard - but there's a limit. Warren's divisive comparatives of gays to pedophilia, polygamy and incest should bar him from invocating much of anything under the umbrella of inclusiveness.
First of all: the creepiest thing of all about this man is his horrifying declaration of Rwanda as the world's first "Purpose Driven Nation." This is simply unhinged messianism, run amok. It offends me. President Obama, why doesn't it offend you?
But you know what really offends me?
Atrios has been pointing to this quote from Rick Warren on the family-destroying California initiative Proposition 8 because if it didn't pass,
any pastor could be considered doing hate speech if he shared his views that he didn't think homosexuality was the most natural way for relationships.
Now that this lie has been picked up by Ann Curry of NBC it's a perfect time to recall the point I made the week before the 2004 election about the worse thing conservative rule has done to us: "they have turned us into a nation of liars." The fact is, Ann Curry is not wrong to wish to believe that a prominent pastor can be taken at his word. The tragedy is that blackguards like Rick Warren know that, know their lies will be repeated, an make them anyway, precisely to trade off the trust they appear to have earned as spiritual leaders.
In fact, the lie Rick Warren trades off here--that gays are implicated in a plot to persecute Christians--is a venerable smear on the Christian right. Warren is supposed to be above this sort of thing--certified by the endorsement of Barack Obama as Christian who pays attention to the poor and the stewardship of creation. Well, first off, the idea that a Christian pastor should be considered something special because he pays attention to the poor and the stewardship of creation just shows how corrupt the Evangelical firmament has become.
Krugman hands us the magic glasses that reveal the sordid reality; all this time we have been living under an economy overrun by ravenous and greedy alien trolls who appear as normal, even admirable humans without the use of the glasses. The recent economic turmoils are not in fact an aberration of an otherwise finely tuned economic machine, but rather an accidental exposure of a ruthless ponzi game that's been feeding the gluttonous trolls for a long while now.
The revelation that Bernard Madoff -- brilliant investor (or so almost everyone thought), philanthropist, pillar of the community -- was a phony has shocked the world, and understandably so. The scale of his alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme is hard to comprehend.
Yet surely I'm not the only person to ask the obvious question: How different, really, is Mr. Madoff's tale from the story of the investment industry as a whole?
The financial services industry has claimed an ever-growing share of the nation's income over the past generation, making the people who run the industry incredibly rich. Yet, at this point, it looks as if much of the industry has been destroying value, not creating it. And it's not just a matter of money: the vast riches achieved by those who managed other people's money have had a corrupting effect on our society as a whole.
Let's start with those paychecks. Last year, the average salary of employees in "securities, commodity contracts, and investments" was more than four times the average salary in the rest of the economy. Earning a million dollars was nothing special, and even incomes of $20 million or more were fairly common. The incomes of the richest Americans have exploded over the past generation, even as wages of ordinary workers have stagnated; high pay on Wall Street was a major cause of that divergence.
But surely those financial superstars must have been earning their millions, right? No, not necessarily. The pay system on Wall Street lavishly rewards the appearance of profit, even if that appearance later turns out to have been an illusion.
Consider the hypothetical example of a money manager who leverages up his clients' money with lots of debt, then invests the bulked-up total in high-yielding but risky assets, such as dubious mortgage-backed securities. For a while -- say, as long as a housing bubble continues to inflate -- he (it's almost always a he) will make big profits and receive big bonuses. Then, when the bubble bursts and his investments turn into toxic waste, his investors will lose big -- but he'll keep those bonuses.
O.K., maybe my example wasn't hypothetical after all.
I've always found it strange how as a society we become enraged at the idea of the 4000 deaths and 25,000 injuries incurred during a conflict like the Iraq war, yet accept without a murmur the same levels of carnage produced on our highways annually.
More people die each month on American roads than were killed in the September 11 attacks, but where is the war on cars?
by Jon Garvie
Traffic has a bad reputation, much of it fictional. London's choked suburbs provoked J. G. Ballard's vision of fetishized pile-ups in Crash. Gridlock on the freeway propels Michael Douglas into sociopathic free fall in the film Falling Down. The opening voiceover in Paul Haggis's recent Oscar-winning film Crash suggests that alienated Los Angelinos crash into each other "just so we can feel something". For commuters, traffic is an enemy to be beaten or beaten by. For commentators, it is an easy scapegoat, synonymous with social breakdown, urban decay and imminent environmental collapse. All this, suggests Tom Vanderbilt in Traffic: Why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us), is surprising, given that "traffic" once meant the mutually enriching exchange of goods and culture.
A basic paradox governs humanity's relationship with roads. We like them wide, clear and quick, but such circumstances often kill us. Traffic, by contrast, improves health prospects. A line of vehicles crawling along congested roads at 20 miles per hour imitates nature. That speed is the maximum at which even Olympians can run. It is also the limit beyond which humans cannot maintain eye contact and other, vital, non-verbal forms of communication. If cars collide at 20 miles per hour or less, it is unlikely that anyone will die. When humans exceed such limits en masse, the ability to self-organize recedes and death often ensues.
The facts about driving are stark but wilfully ignored. Road fatalities will be the third largest global cause of death by 2020 and more people die each month on American roads than were killed in the September 11 attacks, but where is the war on cars? The majority of deaths spring from egregious human error, yet we persist in labelling them "accidents". Such events are normal, not deviations from an otherwise safe activity. But to recognize this means accepting an unwelcome truth: over millennia, evolution has equipped us to deal with the demands of horses and carts, not horsepower. Driving kills because it is too complicated for our poor brains. The army of evolutionary biologists, molecular physicists and social psychologists whom Vanderbilt interviews have not, between them, produced a robot capable of negotiating a roundabout safely.
In order to sustain global auto-mania, we require overwhelming self-delusion. Every study on the subject has found that most people think that they are "above average" drivers. Hubris rules the roads. We pay attention fitfully and mistake luck for skill. We treat each disaster averted as a triumph of proficiency. We magnify our losses (the traffic was terrible) and forget our gains (arriving unharmed at our destination). In order to absorb the gulf between the risk of death and the reward of a trip to the supermarket, we require elaborate coping strategies. Economists have suggested that a dagger attached to the steering wheel and pointed at the driver's chest would represent an automobile's "negative externalities" accurately. Instead, we have tended to buy SUVs (more likely to crash than smaller cars), with airbags and computerized gizmos which provide illusions of control. Often, while driving, we eat, text, talk, or drink as if to quell the panic which similarly dangerous situations produce.
A 16 part vid set covering the War criminals conference held during September, 2008, outlining the complexities and impediments as well as possible avenues of approach to the prosecution of top officials of the BushCo regime for war crimes.
The next frumpy or suit slick pyschofant that mewls to me about free market worship still being the way God planned it or even ever wanted it to be, is gonna find his head jammed into my microwave until their eyeballs be poppin' and brain a boiled.
I could start with those Southern Republican Senators who shot down the GM bailout based on the premise that the UAW is the problem and their members ought to willing to reduce their wages and benefits to the same level as auto workers in southern "right to work" states where unions are all but illegal in order to desperately prevent the last thread in the whole cloth of slavery-as-a-way-of-life from leaking through their pudgy sweaty hands.
But Humpty's busted on the ground and all the King's horses and men ain't gonna make the ugly lies of free marketism purdy agin. Its just like we progressives have been screaming for years..."If life hands you self-serving greedy pricks, then it must be omelet time" - and of course, it is.
Please, forgive me for saying it. I know it's a tad annoying, but it has to be said to America's ruling class in this humble column. Because if it's not said here you can bet it won't be said anywhere else in the media, and it needs to be said somewhere on behalf of the millions of citizens who were right.
We told you so.
In the slow-motion train wreck that became the current economic meltdown, our bipartisan political establishment and the sycophantic punditburo have been wrong over and over and over again. They told us that eviscerating consumer protections would unleash the market's benevolent power and boost the economy. They told us that a trillion-dollar Wall Street bailout would solve a credit crisis. They told us that bailout would be subjected to intense oversight and scrutiny.
Wrong, wrong and wrong--and when critics predicted just that, sneering commentators and congressional leaders berated us as know-nothing Luddites, conspiracy theorists, or both.
But with the release of three new reports, there's no debate anymore about who was correct and who wasn't. The studies prove that the critics were right and the ideologues of Washington were wrong.
When in 2005 Congress overwhelmingly passed a credit card industry-written bill gutting bankruptcy laws, progressives were right to try to stop it--and not just because it was an immoral move to legalize usury. We were right because as the New York Federal Reserve Bank reports, the bill played an integral role in the recent foreclosure surge that crushed the economy.
In the past, bankruptcy laws made sure debtors first and foremost continued paying their mortgages so they could stay in their homes. But the 2005 legislation effectively compels debtors to first pay off their credit cards, meaning many then have no money left to pay their mortgage. The Fed's report estimates that the bankruptcy bill is causing 32,000 more foreclosures per quarter than the economy would have already generated.
A bipartisan Senate report released today says that former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other top Bush administration officials are directly responsible for abuses of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and charges that decisions by those officials led to serious offenses against prisoners in Iraq and elsewhere.
The Senate Armed Services Committee report accuses Rumsfeld and his deputies of being the principal architects of the plan to use harsh interrogation techniques on captured fighters and terrorism suspects, rejecting the Bush administration's contention that the policies originated lower down the command chain.
"The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of 'a few bad apples' acting on their own," the panel concludes. "The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees."
The report, released by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and John McCain (R-Arizona) and based on a nearly two-year investigation, said that both the policies and resulting controversies tarnished the reputation of the United States and undermined national security. "Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority," it said.
There is no real name for the movement that took over America six years ago and continues run it. That's part of the reason for its success. Its very vagueness makes it hard to attack. In actuality, it is not a single entity. It is made up of three main parts.
Corporatism, which is based on the belief that whatever makes money is good -- and should not be restrained.
Neo-con megalomania, which is the belief that American power is absolute, irresistible, and always good, and should therefore be used -- without restraint.And right-wing religion, which is the certainty that this movement's form of Christianity is God-commanded; therefore it should rule America and, through America, the world -- and any restraint against it is opposition to God.
To add to the confusion, this movement did not stand out on its own. Its proponents entered into the existing Republican Party and the old Goldwater-Reagan conservative movement. They brought those people along with them (roughly half the voting population) and ran for office under the guise of being Republicans and conservatives. Most of what they said they stood for was in the mainstream.
Capitalism is good. Being strong is good. Education, financial security, and trade are good. America is a good, idealistic country. It's good that America defeated its enemies in the past, like the Nazis and the Soviets, and it's a good idea that we remain capable of doing it in the future. Faith and belief in a higher power is good. We should be careful about foreign military adventures, though once we are attacked we have to be vigorous in our response and fight them over there before we have to fight them over here.
All that sounds reasonable, appealing, and familiar. What distinguishes Bushism from old-line Republicanism and reasonable conservatism is not the names on their beliefs, it's the quality of their beliefs. The beliefs of Bushism are theological. Theological thinking creates powerful and convincing rhetoric. There are two reasons for this. People with theological beliefs don't mind lying. It's for the greater good.
This has been combined with the corporate attitude toward truth: "Coke adds life!" It doesn't matter if it's true or false, or absolutely meaningless. If it moves the product, that's what you say. The result is spinning, which is more effective than straight-out lying. For years, Bush was a master of spin. If you analyze his speeches, it is exceedingly rare to find an outright lie that you can nail to the table. Yet he was able to lead his listeners to conclusions that were absolutely false.
Scott Ritter offers here a pop quiz (which I failed out of hand) about the history and social components of the Muslim world which has caused the occupation of Iraq to be a disaster even beyond the extreme political and militaristic ineptitudes of an uninformed American foreign policy. Its lengthy, but if you get through the entire article, you will have a much better understanding of why we should not be there now, nor should have been there in the first place.
The ongoing hand-wringing in Congress by the newly empowered Democrats over what to do about the war in Iraq speaks volumes about the level of concern (or lack thereof) these "representatives of the people" have toward the men and women who honor us all by serving in the armed forces of the United States of America. The inability to reach consensus concerning the level of funding required or how to exercise effective oversight of the war, both constitutionally mandated responsibilities, is more a reflection of congressional cowardice and impotence than a byproduct of any heartfelt introspection over troop welfare and national security.
The issues that prompt the congressional collective to behave in such an egregious manner have more to do with a reflexive tendency to avoid any controversy that might disrupt the status quo ante regarding representative-constituent relations (i.e., re-election) than with any intellectual debate about doing the right thing. This sickening trend is bipartisan in nature, but of particular shame to the Democrats, who obtained their majority from an electorate that expressed dissatisfaction with the progress of the war in Iraq through their votes, demanding that something be done.
Sadly, Congress' smoke-and-mirrors approach to the Iraq war creates the impression of much activity while generating no result. Even more sadly, the majority of Americans are falling for the act, either by continuing their past trend of political disengagement or by thinking that the gesticulation and pontification taking place in Washington, D.C., actually translate into useful work. The fact is, most Americans are ill-placed intellectually, either through genuine ignorance, a lack of curiosity or a combination of both, to judge for themselves the efficacy of congressional behavior when it comes to Iraq. Congress claims to be searching for a solution to Iraq, and many Americans simply accept that this is this case.
The fact is one cannot begin to search for a solution to a problem that has yet to be accurately defined. We speak of "surges," "stability" and "funding" as if these terms come close to addressing the real problems faced in Iraq. There is widespread recognition among members of Congress and the American people that there is civil unrest in Iraq today, with Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence tearing that country apart, but the depth of analysis rarely goes beyond that obvious statement of fact. Americans might be able to nod their heads knowingly if one utters the words Sunni, Shiite and Kurd, but very few could take the conversation much further down the path of genuine comprehension regarding the interrelationships among these three groups. And yet we, the people, are expected to be able to hold to account those whom we elected to represent us in higher office, those making the decisions regarding the war in Iraq. How can the ignorant accomplish this task? And ignorance is not something uniquely attached to the American public. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, the newly appointed chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, infamously failed a pop quiz in which journalist Jeff Stein asked him to differentiate between Sunni and Shiite. Reyes has become the poster boy for congressional stupidity, but in truth he is not alone. Very few of his colleagues could pass the test, truth be told.
The task of holding Congress to account is a daunting one, and can be accomplished only if the citizenry that forms the respective constituencies of our ignorant congressional representatives are themselves able to operate at an intellectual capacity above that of those they are holding to account. So rather than issue "pop quizzes" to our elected representatives, I've designed one for us, the people. If the reader can fully answer the question raised, then he or she qualifies as one capable of pointing an accusatory finger at Congress as its members dither over what to do in Iraq. If the reader fails the quiz, then there should be an honest appraisal of the reality that we are in way over our heads regarding this war, and that it is irresponsible for anyone to make sweeping judgments about the ramifications of policy courses of action yet to be agreed upon. Claiming to be able to divine a solution to a problem improperly defined is not only ignorant but dangerously delusional.
So here is the quiz: Explain the relationship between the Iraqi cities of Karbala and Baghdad as they impact the coexistence of Iraq's Shiite and Sunni populations.
Most respondents who have a basic understanding of Iraq will answer that Karbala is a city of significance to Iraq's Shiite population. Baghdad is Iraq's capital, with a mixed Sunni and Shiite population. If that is your answer, you fail.
Take Back The Land is a great idea and group based out of Liberty, City Florida and run by social activist Max Rameau which matches up vacant, fore-closed homes and homeless people. We need a lot more social activism like this.
Max Rameau delivers his sales pitch like a pro. "All tile floor!" he says during a recent showing. "And the living room, wow! It has great blinds."
But in nearly every other respect, he is unlike any real estate agent you've ever met. He is unshaven, drives a beat-up car and wears grungy cut-off sweat pants. He also breaks into the homes he shows. And his clients don't have a dime for a down payment.
Rameau is an activist who has been executing a bailout plan of his own around Miami's empty streets: He is helping homeless people illegally move into foreclosed homes.
"We're matching homeless people with people-less homes," he said with a grin.
Rameau and a group of like-minded advocates formed Take Back the Land, which also helps the new "tenants" with secondhand furniture, cleaning supplies and yard upkeep. So far, he has moved six families into foreclosed homes and has nine on a waiting list.
"I think everyone deserves a home," said Rameau, who said he takes no money from his work with the homeless. "Homeless people across the country are squatting in empty homes. The question is: Is this going to be done out of desperation or with direction?"
With the housing market collapsing, squatting in foreclosed homes is believed to be on the rise around the country. But squatters usually move in on their own, at night, when no one is watching. Rarely is the phenomenon as organized as Rameau's effort to "liberate" foreclosed homes.
Florida -- especially the Miami area, with its once-booming condo market -- is one of the hardest-hit states in the housing crisis, largely because of overbuilding and speculation. In September, Florida had the nation's second-highest foreclosure rate, with one out of every 178 homes in default, according to Realty Trac, an online marketer of foreclosed properties. Only Nevada's rate was higher.
Like other cities, Miami is trying to ease the problem. Officials launched a foreclosure-prevention program to help homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgage, with loans of up to $7,500 per household.
The city also recently passed an ordinance requiring owners of abandoned homes -- whether an individual or bank -- to register those properties with the city so police can better monitor them.
Elsewhere around the country, advocates in Cleveland are working with the city to allow homeless people to legally move into and repair empty, dilapidated houses. In Atlanta, some property owners pay homeless people to live in abandoned homes as a security measure.
In early November, Rameau drove a woman and her 18-month old daughter to a ranch home on a quiet street lined with swaying tropical foliage. Marie Nadine Pierre, 39, has been sleeping at a shelter with her toddler. She said she had been homeless off and on for a year, after losing various jobs and getting evicted from several apartments.
"My heart is heavy. I've lived in a lot of different shelters, a lot of bad situations," Pierre said. "In my own home, I'm free. I'm a human being now."
Rameau chose the house for Pierre, in part, because he knew its history. A man had bought the home in the city's predominantly Haitian neighborhood in 2006 for $430,000, then rented it to Rameau's friends. Those friends were evicted in October because the homeowner had stopped paying his mortgage and the property went into foreclosure.
Rameau, who makes his living as a computer consultant, said he is doing the owner a favor. Before Pierre moved in, someone stole the air conditioning unit from the backyard, and it was only a matter of time before thieves took the copper pipes and wiring, he said.
"Within a couple of months, this place would be stripped and drug dealers would be living here," he said, carrying a giant plastic garbage bag filled with Pierre's clothes into the home.
He said he is not scared of getting arrested.
"There's a real need here, and there's a disconnect between the need and the law," he said. "Being arrested is just one of the potential factors in doing this."
Miami spokeswoman Kelly Penton said city officials did not know Rameau was moving homeless into empty buildings -- but they are also not stopping him.
"There are no actions on the city's part to stop this," she said in an e-mail. "It is important to note that if people trespass into private property, it is up to the property owner to take action to remove those individuals."
Pierre herself could be charged with trespassing, vandalism or breaking and entering. Rameau assured her he has lawyers who will represent her free.
Two weeks after Pierre moved in, she came home to find the locks had been changed, probably by the property's manager. Everything inside -- her food, clothes and family photos -- was gone.
But late last month, with Rameau's help, she got back inside and has put Christmas decorations on the front door.
Seriously, that's exactly what should be happening right now in America. This whole bailout thing has proved to be an indicator of the degree to which there is an active class war going on in America and the sooner workers wake up to it the more chance they have of getting a fair shake.
AP - Workers who got three days' notice that their factory was shutting its doors have occupied the building and say they won't go home without assurances they'll get severance and vacation pay.
About 250 union workers occupied the Republic Windows and Doors plant in shifts Saturday while union leaders outside criticized a Wall Street bailout they say is leaving laborers behind.
Leah Fried, an organizer with the United Electrical Workers, said the Chicago-based vinyl window manufacturer failed to give 60 days' notice required by law before shutting down.
During the two-day peaceful takeover, workers have been shoveling snow and cleaning the building, Fried said.
"We're doing something we haven't done since the 1930s, so we're trying to make it work," she said, referring to a tactic most famously used in 1936-37 by General Motors factory workers in Flint, Mich., to help unionize the U.S. auto industry.
Fried said the company can't pay its 300 employees because its creditor, Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America, won't let them. Crain's Chicago Business reported that Republic Windows' monthly sales had fallen to $2.9 million from $4 million during the past month. In a memo to the union, obtained by the business journal, Republic CEO Rich Gillman said the company had "no choice but to shut our doors."
Bank of America received $25 billion from the government's financial bailout package. The company said in a statement Saturday that it isn't responsible for Republic's financial obligations to its employees.
"Across cultures, religions, union and nonunion, we all say this bailout was a shame," said Richard Berg, president of Teamsters Local 743. "If this bailout should go to anything, it should go to the workers of this country."
Mistaken-identity victim forced to pay $12,000 to someone else's daughter
HARRISBURG, Pa. - A Philadelphia man was forced to pay more than $12,000 in child support for another man's daughter and spent two years in jail for falling behind on payments.
Dauphin County prosecutor Edward M. Marsico Jr. told The Patriot-News of Harrisburg that he is examining the case of Walter Andre Sharpe Jr., who has been unable to recover the money even after establishing that he isn't the girl's father.
The investigation has no specific targets, Marsico said.
Sharpe's troubles began in 2001, when he signed for a certified letter addressed to Andre Sharpe, the girl's father. The letter ordered Andre Sharpe to attend a child support conference in Dauphin County, where the girl's mother lived at the time.
Walter Sharpe, who was already supporting four children from a previous marriage, ignored the letter, and a judge ruled he was the father after neither man showed up. The county family welfare agency then began garnishing Walter Sharpe's wages from his job at a trash-hauling company.
He served four six-month jail terms for not keeping up with support payments between 2001 and 2005, then lost his job. Petitions he filed for DNA testing were opposed by the court's domestic relations officials and denied by the judge.
I can think of 5 things right off the bat that can act as some solution to the ever growing problem of computer malware.
1) Force Internet providers to disconnect from any countries which do not prosecute known spammers and malware producers.
2) Force users to submit their machines to a weekly online scan before they can connect to the general internet.
3) Make punishments for those caught producing spam and malware truly severe, say 20 years without parole.
4) Seize all equipment of companies that allow spammers to operated on their servers.
5) Make all computers traceable with zero anonymity.
Internet security is broken, and nobody seems to know quite how to fix it.
Despite the efforts of the computer security industry and a half-decade struggle by Microsoft to protect its Windows operating system, malicious software is spreading faster than ever. The so-called malware surreptitiously takes over a PC and then uses that computer to spread more malware to other machines exponentially. Computer scientists and security researchers acknowledge they cannot get ahead of the onslaught.
As more business and social life has moved onto the Web, criminals thriving on an underground economy of credit card thefts, bank fraud and other scams rob computer users of an estimated $100 billion a year, according to a conservative estimate by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. A Russian company that sells fake antivirus software that actually takes over a computer pays its illicit distributors as much as $5 million a year.
With vast resources from stolen credit card and other financial information, the cyberattackers are handily winning a technology arms race.
"Right now the bad guys are improving more quickly than the good guys," said Patrick Lincoln, director of the computer science laboratory at SRI International, a science and technology research group.
A well-financed computer underground has built an advantage by working in countries that have global Internet connections but authorities with little appetite for prosecuting offenders who are bringing in significant amounts of foreign currency. That was driven home in late October when RSA FraudAction Research Lab, a security consulting group based in Bedford, Mass., discovered a cache of half a million credit card numbers and bank account log-ins that had been stolen by a network of so-called zombie computers remotely controlled by an online gang.
Jimmy Carter is by far the best ex-president the United States has ever had, and he underscored that again this morning by announcing that Guinea Worm cases have reached an all-time low. For those of you who have never heard of it, Guinea Worm is one of the worst parasites you can get. The worms burrow inside of you, grow to almost three feet long, are incredibly painful, and finally pop out of the skin and have to be reeled out, inch by inch, over many days. They are an ancient affliction in tropical countries, but Carter has led an effort to eradicate them.
Last year, I caught up with Carter in rural Ethiopia and wrote about his efforts to fight river blindness and Guinea Worm, and ran a video of it as well. Today he announces that Guinea Worm is down to 5,000 cases worldwide -- mostly in Sudan, Mali and Ghana -- and tantalizingly close to eradication. If it is eradicated, it will be only the second ailment, after smallpox, that we've been able to eliminate form Earth.
Carter sees this as a race between him and the worm: will he be able to eliminate Guinea Worm while he's still on Earth? I hope he wins the race, and it looks as if eradication may be achievable in the next few years. Worldwide cases have already been reduced by 99.7 percent, and Carter's work has truly transformed those villages where the worm used to be endemic. He shows that these are battles we can win.
Let's hope that President Bush, in figuring out what to do in his post-presidency, borrows a page from Jimmy Carter. There are lots of diseases waiting for a wealthy, well-connected Texan to lead the fight against.
Security workers indicted in 2007 shooting that left 17 Iraqis dead
Five Blackwater Worldwide security guards have been indicted and a sixth was negotiating a plea with prosecutors for a 2007 shooting that left 17 Iraqis dead and became an anti-American rallying cry for insurgents, people close to the case said Friday.
Prosecutors obtained the indictment late Thursday and had it put under seal until it is made public, perhaps as early as Monday. All who discussed the case did so on condition of anonymity because the matters remain sealed.
Six guards have been under investigation since a convoy of heavily armed Blackwater contractors opened fire in a crowded Baghdad intersection on Sept. 16, 2007. Witnesses say the shooting was unprovoked but Blackwater, hired by the State Department to guard U.S. diplomats, says its guards were ambushed by insurgents while responding to a car bombing.
Conservatism has become obsolete. Social progress and the practicalities of governance have revealed the fundamental and fatal flaws of conservative thought. Conservatives today are like followers of a religious cult milling about confused the day after their leader's prediction of Armageddon failed to materialize. The immediacy of the problem is clear as normal life goes on. The failure reveals a fundamental flaw in the sect's belief system, but the failure simply cannot be denied in the light of the new day's dawn.
Republicans face a similar dilemma trying to justify the abject failure of their founding ideals in the face of a confounding reality -- the success of liberalism. Like cult members who sold all worldly possessions in anticipation of the Rapture, Republicans stand naked in the cold wind of change, grasping for a way to explain away their failed vision for the future. A clear sign of decay is their desperate appeal to twisted and contorted logic to shore up the movement's crumbling foundation. This becomes starkly evident in the Wall Street bailout through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), an effort inspired and implemented by a Republican administration and supported by a critical mass of conservative allies on the Hill.
Before we can understand how TARP reveals conservatism's soft white underbelly, though, we need to go back to a more fundamental problem. The United States was founded on revolution, a violent break from tradition through radical and sudden change. Conservatism is the disposition to preserve what is already established. If conservatism had prevailed in the 1770s, we would all be British subjects now, answering to the Queen. We are Americans precisely because radical liberalism won the day. Commentator George Will, in a fit of dyspeptic rationalization, tried to suture this fatal gaping wound in the flesh of conservatism with the oxymoronic and absurd notion of a "conservative revolution." Will's formulation is a futile attempt to merge two incompatible concepts to save the founding ideals of his philosophy from the ash heap of history. We might accept some inherent contradictions like "jumbo shrimp" or "found missing," but no revolution is ever conservative.
Fast forward to the year 2008, where we find conservatives floundering on the shores of the Bailout Sea. In deepest and most troubled waters is the drowning ideology of Republican icon Ronald Reagan, who famously said that government was the problem, not the solution. Yet his disciples turned immediately to government when Wall Street imploded. They act like an adolescent boy strutting his independence who runs back to daddy at the first sign of trouble. The Republican bailout constitutes failure at two levels. First, the crisis itself is a consequence of conservative prayer at the altar of deregulation, which allowed subprime lending and nearly $1 trillion of hidden credit default swaps to corrupt our economy. Second, these failures, caused by a fundamental flaw embedded in conservative ideology, are solved by taking actions anathema to conservatism: government intervention.
And now we come full circle. In the face of this obvious failure of conservatism in an economic meltdown caused by conservatism, Republicans find themselves trying to justify their continued existence with a fresh appeal to the same logic that led to the ridiculous notion of a "conservative revolution." For symmetry, we can again look to George Will for conceptual contortions that would do a gymnast proud.
Will claims in a recent editorial that while a Republican administration began the bailouts, conservatives only supported the effort "grudgingly...and with uneasy consciences." He then conjectures that it is "probable" that "some" Democrats "relish this eruption of government into finance and industry." Based on this unsubstantiated conjecture, he concludes that the Republican bailout "serves the left's agenda of expanding the scope of politics by multiplying the forms of dependency on government."
I get the same reaction from watching this alarmist video warning about an invasion of gay agenda pushers spreading out across America's small towns as when I first saw Reefer Madness back in the 60's; a tragi-comedy of delusional proportions.
A partial cure for what ails in this regard can be seen below