Monday, July 31, 2006

Editorial: Slam-dunk / A judge upholds women's sports at Slippery Rock

Post-Gazette: "It seems like a case of numbers, numbers everywhere but not a one makes sense. U.S. District Chief Judge Donetta Ambrose decided it was unfair for Slippery Rock University to eliminate three women's and five men's sports. Then the judge ordered the school to reinstate all of the women's teams, but none of the men's.
It's not senseless, though, and here's why.
Slippery Rock had never complied with the federal law, called Title IX, requiring equal athletic opportunities for women. When the president of Slippery Rock, Robert Smith, was trying to figure out which sports to cut to wipe out a $2 million shortfall in university funding, he ignored warnings that the school was already out of compliance with federal regulations.
On top of that, Mr. Smith employed a blatantly discriminatory standard in deciding which teams to drop. One of the factors he chose was team members' grade point average. He made this criterion for women's teams higher than for men's because female students perform better academically. In other words, he decided to make it more difficult for women to retain their teams because women are better students than men.
Sex discrimination lives. Mr. Smith's actions are proof.
In 1972, when Congress adopted Title IX, opponents argued that it was a stupid requirement because women weren't interested in playing, and that was the reason only 30,000 'coeds,' as women college students were then called, participated.
Now, with the additional opportunities under Title IX, about 163,000 women participate. And more would, if given the chance, but most Pennsylvania colleges don't comply with the law, according to a study released last year by the Women's Law Project.
Early opponents also said that mandating equal opportunity was unfair because more men than women attended college. Congress responded by requiring that participation show parity with enrollment. That enabled men to continue having more teams when women accounted for only about 43 percent of student bodies.
But now 53 percent of college students are women. That means they should have more sports opportunities than men.
They don't. In Pennsylvania, the Women's Law Project found, they have 43 percent.
Now, some men, including New York Times syndicated columnist John Tierney, argue that colleges should be able to offer more men's sports to lure male students back and get their representation on campus closer to 50 percent.
So when there were more men on campus, they deserved more teams, and now when there are fewer men they still deserve more teams. Sex discrimination lives."

Study: Surroundings Play Key Role in Diet

"NEW YORK -- How many M&MS are enough? It depends on how big the candy scoop is. At least that's a key factor, says a study that offers new evidence that people take cues from their surroundings in deciding how much to eat.It explains why, for example, people who used to be satisfied by a 12-ounce can of soda may now feel that a 20-ounce bottle is just right.
Wendy's International founder Dave Thomas, is shown in this 1994 photo holding a tray carrying a sandwich, a large-sized drink and a copy of his autobiography. A study offers new evidence that people take cues from their surroundings in deciding how much to eat. It explains why, for example, people who used to be satisfied by a 12-ounce can of soda may now feel that a 20-ounce bottle is just right. (AP Photo/Chris Kasson) (Chris Kasson - AP)

It's 'unit bias,' the tendency to think that a single unit of food _ a bottle, a can, a plateful, or some more subtle measure _ is the right amount to eat or drink, researchers propose.'Whatever size a banana is, that's what you eat, a small banana or a big banana,' says Andrew Geier of the University of Pennsylvania. And 'whatever's served on your plate, it just seems locked in our heads: that's a meal.'"

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Disowning Conservative Politics Is Costly for Pastor



"MAPLEWOOD, Minn. (July 30) -- Like most pastors who lead thriving evangelical megachurches, the Rev. Gregory A. Boyd was asked frequently to give his blessing -- and the church's -- to conservative political candidates and causes."

The requests came from church members and visitors alike: Would he please announce a rally against gay marriage during services? Would he introduce a politician from the pulpit? Could members set up a table in the lobby promoting their anti-abortion work? Would the church distribute “voters’ guides” that all but endorsed Republican candidates? And with the country at war, please couldn’t the church hang an American flag in the sanctuary?

After refusing each time, Mr. Boyd finally became fed up, he said. Before the last presidential election, he preached six sermons called “The Cross and the Sword” in which he said the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a “Christian nation” and stop glorifying American military campaigns.

“When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses,” Mr. Boyd preached. “When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.”

Mr. Boyd says he is no liberal. He is opposed to abortion and thinks homosexuality is not God’s ideal. The response from his congregation at Woodland Hills Church here in suburban St. Paul -- packed mostly with politically and theologically conservative, middle-class evangelicals -- was passionate. Some members walked out of a sermon and never returned. By the time the dust had settled, Woodland Hills, which Mr. Boyd founded in 1992, had lost about 1,000 of its 5,000 members.

But there were also congregants who thanked Mr. Boyd, telling him they were moved to tears to hear him voice concerns they had been too afraid to share.

Disowning Conservative Politics Is Costly for Pastor



"MAPLEWOOD, Minn. (July 30) -- Like most pastors who lead thriving evangelical megachurches, the Rev. Gregory A. Boyd was asked frequently to give his blessing -- and the church's -- to conservative political candidates and causes."

The requests came from church members and visitors alike: Would he please announce a rally against gay marriage during services? Would he introduce a politician from the pulpit? Could members set up a table in the lobby promoting their anti-abortion work? Would the church distribute “voters’ guides” that all but endorsed Republican candidates? And with the country at war, please couldn’t the church hang an American flag in the sanctuary?

After refusing each time, Mr. Boyd finally became fed up, he said. Before the last presidential election, he preached six sermons called “The Cross and the Sword” in which he said the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a “Christian nation” and stop glorifying American military campaigns.

“When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses,” Mr. Boyd preached. “When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.”

Mr. Boyd says he is no liberal. He is opposed to abortion and thinks homosexuality is not God’s ideal. The response from his congregation at Woodland Hills Church here in suburban St. Paul -- packed mostly with politically and theologically conservative, middle-class evangelicals -- was passionate. Some members walked out of a sermon and never returned. By the time the dust had settled, Woodland Hills, which Mr. Boyd founded in 1992, had lost about 1,000 of its 5,000 members.

But there were also congregants who thanked Mr. Boyd, telling him they were moved to tears to hear him voice concerns they had been too afraid to share.

So Big and Healthy Grandpa Wouldn%u2019t Even Know You - New York Times

So Big and Healthy Grandpa Wouldn%u2019t Even Know You - New York Times

Valentin Keller enlisted in an all-German unit of the Union Army in Hamilton, Ohio, in 1862. He was 26, a small, slender man, 5 feet 4 inches tall, who had just become a naturalized citizen. He listed his occupation as tailor.

A year later, Keller was honorably discharged, sick and broken. He had a lung ailment and was so crippled from arthritis in his hips that he could barely walk.

His pension record tells of his suffering. “His rheumatism is so that he is unable to walk without the aid of crutches and then only with great pain,” it says. His lungs and his joints never got better, and Keller never worked again.

He died at age 41 of “dropsy,” which probably meant that he had congestive heart failure, a condition not associated with his time in the Army. His 39-year-old wife, Otilia, died a month before him of what her death certificate said was “exhaustion.”

People of Valentin Keller’s era, like those before and after them, expected to develop chronic diseases by their 40’s or 50’s. Keller’s descendants had lung problems, they had heart problems, they had liver problems. They died in their 50’s or 60’s.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

My Way News - Owen Wilson Says 'Dupree' Is No Rip-Off

Owen Wilson has denied any connection between his new movie, 'You, Me and Dupree,' and '70s supergroup Steely Dan, a spokesman for the actor said Friday.
The band recently posted a letter on their Web site claiming that Wilson's Dupree character was based on their Grammy-winning song, 'Cousin Dupree,' about a couch-hopping houseguest.
In a statement released by his spokeswoman, Ina Treciokas, Wilson said: 'I have never heard the song 'Cousin Dupree' and I don't even know who this gentleman, Mr. Steely Dan, is. I hope this helps to clear things up and I can get back to concentrating on my new movie, 'HEY 19.''
Larry Solters, a spokesman for the band's management company, did not immediately return a call for comment.
Steely Dan released a string of hits in the '70s, including 'Hey Nineteen,''Reeling in the Years' and 'Rikki Don't Lose That Number.'
'There are some pretty heavy people who are upset about this whole thing and we can't guarantee what kind of heat little Owen may be bringing down on himself,' band leaders Walter Becker and Donald Fagen wrote in the letter.
The band asked Wilson, 37, to appear at a concert to apologize to their fans.
'You, Me and Dupree' co-stars Kate Hudson and Matt Dillon as a newlywed couple annoyed by Dupree, a friend who crashes on their couch.
In 2001, 'Cousin Dupree' won a Grammy for best pop performance by a duo or group from Steely Dan's album 'Two Against Nature,' which snagged album of the year."

White House admits that our troops in Iraq aren't really dying for the war on terror anymore

I'm sure the remaining few Americans who still support this fiasco are going to love this. As Dan Froomkin at the WashingtonPost.com put it: President Bush and national security adviser Stephen Hadley yesterday for the first time publicly acknowledged the momentous shift in the role for U.S. troops in Iraq, from fighting terrorists to trying to suppress religious violence. This sea change was described in such understated terms that it was eclipsed by news about the crisis in Lebanon. Bush described a change in tactics; Hadley called it a repositioning.But it's a historic admission: That job one for many American troops in Iraq is no longer fighting al-Qaeda terrorists, or even insurgents. Rather, it is trying to quell an incipient -- if not already raging -- sectarian civil war, with Baghdad as ground zero.Arguably, that's been the case for quite a while. But having the White House own up to it is a very big deal.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Fetch, Heel, Stall

New York Times: "Oops, they did it again. That pesky microphone problem that plagued George W. Bush and Tony Blair in St. Petersburg struck again at their White House news conference yesterday. The president told technicians to make sure his real thoughts would not be overheard this time, but somehow someone forgot to turn off the feed to my office. As a public service, I’d like to reprint the candid under-their-breath mutterings they exchanged in between their public utterances.
THE PRESIDENT: “The prime minister and I have committed our governments to a plan to make every effort to achieve a lasting peace out of this crisis.”
“Actually, we talked about our plan to keep using fancy phrases like ‘lasting peace’ and ‘sustainable cease-fire,’ so we don’t actually have to cease the fire. Condi had a great one! Didya hear it, Tony? She said, ‘The fields of the Middle East are littered with broken cease-fires.’ Man, can she talk, and she plays piano, too!”
THE PRIME MINISTER: “The question is now how to get it stopped and get it stopped with the urgency that the situation demands. ... I welcome very much the fact that Secretary Rice will go back to the region tomorrow. She will have with her the package of proposals in order to get agreement both from the government of Israel and the government of Lebanon on what is necessary to happen in order for this crisis to stop.”
“I thought it was quite clever, George, to stall by sending Condi to Kuala Lumpur for that imminently skippable meeting of marginal Asian powers. And her decision to tickle the ivories while Beirut burns was inspired. The Asians love a good Brahms sonata. And she called it a ‘prayer for peace’! Just brilliant. But her idea of a series of Rachmaninoff concerts at every layover on the way to the Middle East could look too conspicuously like dawdling.”"

Chicago Orders 'Big Box' Stores to Raise Wage

New York Times: "After months of fevered lobbying and bitter debate, the Chicago City Council passed a groundbreaking ordinance yesterday requiring “big box” stores, like Wal-Mart and Home Depot, to pay a minimum wage of $10 an hour by 2010, along with at least $3 an hour worth of benefits.
The ordinance, imposing the requirement on stores that occupy more than 90,000 square feet and are part of companies grossing more than $1 billion annually, would be the first in the country to single out large retailers for wage rules.
A gallery packed with supporters of the bill broke into cheers as the measure passed, by a vote of 35 to 14, after four hours of intense speeches and debate.
“This is a great day for the working men and women of Chicago,” said Alderman Joseph A. Moore, the measure’s chief sponsor. Mr. Moore said he had had inquiries about the ordinance from officials in several other cities.
An Illinois retailers’ group said it would challenge the measure in court, and Mayor Richard M. Daley, who opposed the measure, has not said whether he will veto it.
Wal-Mart’s response to the Council’s action was swift and blunt.
“It’s sad — this puts politics ahead of working men and women,” John Simley, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said in a telephone interview. “It means that Chicago is closed to business.”
Wal-Mart will still open its nearly completed branch on Chicago’s West Side in September — the company’s first store in the city — but any future plans “will likely change,” Mr. Simley said.
In arguing that Wal-Mart and other companies can easily afford to meet the new standards, proponents of the measure pointed to Costco, which says it already pays at least $10 an hour plus benefits to starting workers around the country."

Bush Gives the 'Idol' Finalists a Tour.. On Day 17 Of Middle East Crisis



BREITBART.COM - Bush Gives the 'Idol' Finalists a Tour

It's not clear if President Bush has ever actually watched "American Idol," but the TV show's finalists got to hang out with him Friday at the White House.

They got a group photo and a tour from the president. He got a harmonica engraved with "American Idol 2006."

The 10 finalists dropped into the Oval Office to see Bush in between his meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and another photo session with top high school students.

Happiest place in the world? Must be ... - Wonderful World


New report says Danes have the happiest country; Burundi at bottom of list LONDON - If youre looking for happiness, go and live in Denmark.It is the happiest country in the world while Burundi in Africa is the most unhappy, according to a report by a British scientist released on Friday.Adrian White, an analytical social psychologist at the University of Leicester in central England, based his study on data from 178 countries and 100 global studies from the likes of the United Nations and the World Health Organization.Were looking much more at whether you are satisfied with your life in general, White told Reuters. Whether you are satisfied with your situation and environment. The main factors that affected happiness were health provision, wealth and education, according to White who said his research had produced the first world map of happiness. Following behind Denmark came Switzerland, Austria, Iceland and the Bahamas.At the bottom came the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and Burundi. The United States came in at 23rd, Britain was in 41st place, Germany 35th and France 62nd.

Ancient human footprints found in Australia - LiveScience - MSNBC.com


About 20,000 years ago, humans trekked along the margins of a shallow lake in Australia, leaving behind records of their passage in the soft, wet sand.In 2003, an aboriginal woman who is likely a descendant of those early Australians stumbled across dozens of timeworn footprints in the same area. Excavations of the site have since uncovered hundreds more.The discovery, detailed in a recent issue of the Journal of Human Evolution, represents the largest collection of Pleistocene human footprints in the world, and the only footprints from that era ever found in Australia. In total, 457 footprints have now been uncovered.The preservation is just remarkable,' said study team member Matthew Cupper of the University of Melbourne in Australia. 'You can see quite clearly how mud oozes between the toes.'The Pleistocene stretched from about 2 million to 12,000 years ago. Highlights from the era:A series of climatic upheavals, the worldwide spread of human-like primates, or hominids; The extinction of Neanderthals and large land mammals including mammoths, giant sloth and saber toothed cats; The rise of modern humans. Ancient errandsThe footprints were found in southeastern Australia, along the shore of one of 19 dried-up lakes that comprise the Willandra Lakes system."

Reign of Error - New York Times

Amid everything else thats going wrong in the world, heres one more piece of depressing news: a few days ago the Harris Poll reported that 50 percent of Americans now believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when we invaded, up from 36 percent in February 2005. Meanwhile, 64 percent still believe that Saddam had strong links with Al Qaeda.
At one level, this shouldnt be all that surprising. The people now running America never accept inconvenient truths. Long after facts they dont like have been established, whether its the absence of any wrongdoing by the Clintons in the Whitewater affair or the absence of W.M.D. in Iraq, the propaganda machine that supports the current administration is still at work, seeking to flush those facts down the memory hole.
But its dismaying to realize that the machine remains so effective.
Heres how the process works.
First, if the facts fail to support the administration position on an issue stem cells, global warming, tax cuts, income inequality, Iraq officials refuse to acknowledge the facts.
Sometimes the officials simply lie. The tax cuts have made the tax code more progressive and reduced income inequality, Edward Lazear, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, declared a couple of months ago. More often, however, they bob and weave.
Consider, for example, Condoleezza Rice’s response a few months ago, when pressed to explain why the administration always links the Iraq war to 9/11. She admitted that Saddam, “as far as we know, did not order Sept. 11, may not have even known of Sept. 11.” (Notice how her statement, while literally true, nonetheless seems to imply both that it’s still possible that Saddam ordered 9/11, and that he probably did know about it.) “But,” she went on, “that’s a very narrow definition of what caused Sept. 11.”

Meanwhile, apparatchiks in the media spread disinformation. It’s hard to imagine what the world looks like to the large number of Americans who get their news by watching Fox and listening to Rush Limbaugh, but I get a pretty good sense from my mailbag.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Steely Dan demands apology from Owen Wilson - Celebrity News - MSNBC.com

LOS ANGELES - Paging Owen Wilson. Steely Dan wants an apology.The veteran group behind such jazz-rock hits as Rikki Dont Lose that Number says Wilson ripped off its Grammy-winning tune Cousin Dupree for his title role as a slacker in the new comedy You, Me and Dupree. In a 10-paragraph letter posted July 17 on Steely Dans Web site, and addressed to Wilsons brother Luke, band leaders Walter Becker and Donald Fagen asked Owen Wilson to appear at a show in Irvine, Calif., to apologize to the bands fans."

Specter to Sue Bush?

I'll believe it when I see it:
'We will submit legislation to the United States Senate which will authorize the Congress to undertake judicial review of those signing statements with the view to having the presidents acts declared unconstitutional,' Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said on the Senate floor. Specters announcement came the same day that an American Bar Association task force concluded that by attaching conditions to legislation, the president has sidestepped his constitutional duty to either sign a bill, veto it, or take no action."

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Say It Ain't So Joe

Irving Stolberg, his old pal, as quoted in the Hartford Courant:
I have supported him in every election he has had - until now. This year I am supporting Ned Lamont to unseat Joe. Almost four decades of friendship with Joe has made this a wrenching decision for me. . .
His blind support of the Iraq war, begun illegally and a continuing catastrophe, is monstrous. And his defense of an incompetent president, a vice president who fits the dictionary definition of fascism and an extremist administration that has perpetrated torture, illegal eavesdropping and a general shredding of the Constitution is insulting to the people who elected him in the first place.
Joe%u2019s constituency is not Bush and Cheney; it is the progressives and moderates, the blacks and Hispanics who gave him his start in politics. We feel he has betrayed us by becoming 'Bushs favorite Democrat.'"

Summer's Heat Fills the Calendar With Fry Days - Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times: "The cool ocean breezes and clouds that meteorologists call Southern California's natural air conditioner broke down this year, creating record heat that is expected to continue through October. First, May gray the marine layer that usually blankets parts of the Southland at the end of spring pulled a vanishing act. Then, June gloom failed to materialize with any regularity most everywhere but on the coast.
As a result, the Los Angeles region endured a blistering June the second-hottest on record after 1981 and the rest of the summer looks to be a scorcher, including this weekend.'The bottom line is that we skipped spring,' said William Patzert, a meteorologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge. 'And July is headed for a record-breaker too if something doesn't change in the second half of the month.'Southern California relies on the sea breezes and cloud cover from the ocean to cool the climate during the late spring and early summer. But this year, hot air from northern Mexico's deserts and moisture from the Gulf of California have moved in, keeping out the cool air and heating things up. The hot spring and summer are a continuation of about eight years of warming conditions in the west, Patzert said, adding that the last time the Southland saw such a sustained heat trend was in the 1950s and '60s."

Go Speed Racer! - New York Times

Virtue alone will not break the grip that petroleum holds on the automobile market. Thats why the introduction of a sleek, high-performance roadster that happens to be electric rather than gasoline-fueled is worth noting.

Tesla Motors, a Silicon Valley start-up, has developed a two-seater that goes from zero to 60 miles an hour in four seconds, leaving the days of electric cars as glorified golf carts in the dust. The company seems to understands what it means to love cars as well as the environment. (On its Web site, Tesla revels in the power of the cars acceleration pinning passengers to their seats.) With a range of about 250 miles, the Tesla Roadster can go much farther on a single charge than earlier electric cars. And 150 of those miles cost about the same as one gallon of gas. But the car itself will not be cheap, running from $85,000 to $100,000. Rather than a stumbling block in this case, its actually a selling point. Martin Eberhard, the companys chief executive, recognizes that new technologies usually start out as high-end products. He and his team are making their car the newest hot gadget, a status symbol. If rappers and football stars buy them, maybe the company can make a dent in the market. Tesla already has plans for a mainstream vehicle down the road if it can expand its business. Perhaps this is one area where trickle-down theories could really work."

Saturday, July 22, 2006

NASA Goals Delete Mention of Home Planet

By ANDREW C. REVKIN
Published: July 22, 2006
From 2002 until this year, NASA’s mission statement, prominently featured in its budget and planning documents, read: “To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers ... as only NASA can.”

In early February, the statement was quietly altered, with the phrase “to understand and protect our home planet” deleted. In this year’s budget and planning documents, the agency’s mission is “to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.”

David E. Steitz, a spokesman for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said the aim was to square the statement with President Bush’s goal of pursuing human spaceflight to the Moon and Mars. (Over 98 percent of all species ever to exist, have gone extinct, thank you Mr. President for steering us towards that fate.)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Coulter Jokes to Reporter About Mailing White Powder to 'NY Times'

According to a published report, Ann Coulter has (in jest, we assume) claimed to have sent that mysterious white powder to The New York Times.
Reporter Jacob Bernstein, in a 'Memo Pad' item in today's Women's Wear Daily, wrote that he received a message from a New York Times source saying that Friday's powder mailing -- which included an Xed-out Times editorial and what ended up being corn starch -- 'makes all of Ann Coulter's comments a little less funny. I wonder if she considers herself at all responsible when lunatics read her columns and she says that we should be killed.'
Coulter, whose column is distributed by Universal Press Syndicate, has 'joked' that maybe terrorist Timothy McVeigh should have blown up the Times building and that maybe Times Executive Editor Bill Keller should be executed.
'Memo Pad' sent an e-mail to Coulter's AOL account and according to Bernstein, received a reply claiming that she was the sender of the mysterious powder.
''So glad to hear that The New York Times got my letter and that your friend at the Times thinks I'm funny,' she wrote back. 'Good luck in journalism and please send me your home address so we can stay in touch, too.
'P.S. If we get hit again, don't forget to ask the NYT if they consider themselves responsible since they have repeatedly exposed classified government programs designed to prevent another terrorist attack.''
Bernstein concluded: ''Memo Pad' declined to send Coulter its home address.' "

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Who's Blogging Now...


A new survey of the online blogosphere, as it's come to be known, reveals that fully 8% of Internet users now keep a blog of some description, and that bloggers in general are 'a mostly young, racially diverse group of people who have never been published anywhere else and who most often use cyberspace to talk about their personal lives...

Firedoglake - Firedoglake weblog � Afternoon Delights


Firedoglake - Firedoglake weblog � Afternoon Delights

Writing Letters

The New York Sun: "By MURRAY WAAS
July 19, 2006

The Justice Department's own ethics officer commences an investigation as to whether the attorney general and his top aides acted within the law in approving a covert domestic wiretapping program authorized by the president. But the inquiry is shut down before the first witness in interviewed. The attorney who is to lead the inquiry, a 20- year veteran of the Justice Department, is simply informed by his superiors that he and his staff have been denied security clearances necessary to do their work. The government has in effect curtailed an investigation of itself.
Even though the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility was told that it could not investigate whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, his predecessor, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, and other government attorneys acted properly in 'authorizing, approving, and auditing' the Bush administration's and National Security Administration's domestic eavesdropping program, hardly anyone has noticed. It has not caused much interest in Congress, or on the nation's editorial pages, or the even in the blogosphere, which takes pride in causing a stir about things that should but nobody else has yet taken notice. The issue finally attracted some attention yesterday with Mr. Gonzalez's testimony before Congress."

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

She sure doesn’t seem to happy about it to me


Mash: At the G-8 summit, President Bush grabs German Chancellor Angela Merkel from behind and gives her a quick massage before rushing off. Chancellor Merkel is not amused.
Video-WMP Video-QT later
This has been an awful trip for Bush to say the least on so many levels. Please list all the problems he has had in the comment section.
Taylor Marsh: This is why Iraq and the Middle East are in flames, and we have no credibility around the world. We have a prepubescent president in charge. It is an outrage.
Lindsay: Every woman will recognize the guy who sidles up and starts 'casually' giving you a backrub without even looking at you, because he wants to preserve deniability in case you freak out. Like any practiced groper, Bush stares right past Merkel as she recoils from his touch."

Monday, July 17, 2006

Want a Brilliant One-Sided Solution? Ask George Bush.

(VIDEO)

BLAIR: Well…it’s only if I mean… you know. If she’s got a…, or if she needs the ground prepared as it were… Because obviously if she goes out, she’s got to succeed, if it were, whereas I can go out and just talk
BUSH: You see, the … thing is what they need to do is to get Syria, to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s over

Sunday, July 16, 2006

AZ ballot could be ticket for $1M prize

www.azstarnet.com : "PHOENIX %u2014 There's going to be a new reason for Arizonans to go to the polls this year: They could win $1 million.
The Secretary of State's Office certified Thursday that backers of the voter lottery plan had submitted more than enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot.
But the measure is worded in a way to actually encourage people to vote both in the primary this September as well as two months later when the actual initiative will be on the ballot. If it is approved in November, it will be retroactive: One lucky person who voted in this year's primary and another who cast a ballot in the general election each will get $1 million.
In fact, it's even set up so that there could be multiple winners. Mark Osterloh, who came up with the plan, said businesses are free to make donations of cash, or maybe even a new car, to encourage turnout.
Osterloh said he believes that providing a carrot for would-be voters would increase participation in the democratic process. The Tucson physician dismissed concerns that the kind of people who would vote solely for a chance to win the lottery are likely to be ill-informed about the candidates and the issues.
'Once they decide they're going to vote, they will study the issues and candidates,' he said. 'And they will vote in their own enlightened self-interest.'
Not everyone is convinced that will occur."

Internet floats Lay conspiracy theories - Yahoo! News

HOUSTON - Ken Lay has taken his place alongside Elvis Presley in the pantheon of people whose deaths have not been fully believed. In Internet sites and blogs, conspiracy theorists and jokesters have floated the idea that the Enron founder's powerful friends helped him fake his death to escape sentencing in one of the biggest corporate frauds in U.S. history.
Some disbelievers are serious. Others are clearly having fun, such as the creator of a Web site that shows Lay's face inserted Where's Waldo-style into pictures from around the world at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the running of the bulls in Spain and as E.T. on a bike about to fly away from bad guys.
Others are trying to make a buck, such as the person selling T-shirts emblazoned with Lay's photo and the words, 'Ken Lay lives,' for $14.99 apiece online.
Lay's lawyer, Michael Ramsey, irritably dismissed all the Web talk after Lay's memorial service in Houston on Wednesday:
'When I read the garbage that's on the Internet, I'm reminded of the parable of the jackass kicking the dead lion. I think that's enough said.'
Lay, 64, died of a heart attack July 5 while vacationing with his wife, Linda, in Aspen, Colo., more than four months before he was to be sentenced for fraud and conspiracy. A jury convicted Lay and former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling on May 25 for lying to investors and employees about the financial health of the energy company before it collapsed in 2001.
At least two Web sites merrily eschew all evidence that Lay indeed died of heart disease %u2014 including a statement from the Colorado coroner who performed an autopsy. Helping to fuel the conspiracy theories was the Lay family's decision to cremate the body.
One conspiracy theory finds it a little too convenient that former Secretary of State Colin Powell was treated for altitude sickness at the same Aspen hospital where Lay was pronounced dead the day before. Powell was in the resort town to participate in a panel discussion, but the theory purports that he was actually there to bring Lay passports, other ID and an escape plan.

Lay joins a line of figures, from Adolf Hitler to Jim Morrison to Tupac Shakur, whose deaths some people had trouble accepting.

Steve Jones, head of the communications department at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said larger-than-life celebrities and even notorious felons can become larger still in the afterlife.

"Once they're gone, they're no longer in control of the stories we tell about them. Their telling of their own story stops, so we get to make things up. Sometimes it's downright fun to do that, and other times we're simply in disbelief," Jones said.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Israel gives Syria ultimatum - News from Israel, Ynetnews

Times magazine has made journalistic errors in the past; you may remember woman of the year, Ann Coulter. Recently the magazine declared cowboy diplomacy was a thing of the past. Clearly they've fucked up again.
As things begin to boil in the mideast, the same old style of rhetoric can be heard echoing through D.C. from the pentagon to the president, agreed upon and echoed back. As Israel puts an ultimatum on the table for yet another nation, our elected officials support their foreign version of cowboy diplomacy. Blame Hizbullah, make a connection with Syria, Lebanon, and then contrive a conspiracy that involves Iran, their missiles, and their fear of sanctions. Put it all together and "Hizbullah made the same mistake as Hamas when it did not predict the ramifications of its actions and ignored the regional and international changes since the fall of Saddam Hussein." Meanwhile Israel uses bombs to cut off Lebanon's contact with the outside world, taking their campaign deeper and deeper into the nations core, and president Bush will come out and blame the escalation on Syria. Don't you get it, you're either with us or against us. And if you still don't get it, Iraq made 5 course dinners for the heads of Al-Qaeda. For God's sake, we're going to war, get your flags ready, and start waving, there will be no questions.

Israel gives Syria ultimatum - News from Israel, Ynetnews

Times magazine has made journalistic errors in the past; you may remember woman of the year, Ann Coulter. Recently the magazine declared cowboy diplomacy was a thing of the past. Clearly they've fucked up again.
As things begin to boil in the mideast, the same old style of rhetoric can be heard echoing through D.C. from the pentagon to the president, agreed upon and echoed back. As Israel puts an ultimatum on the table for yet another nation, our elected officials support their foreign version of cowboy diplomacy. Blame Hizbullah, make a connection with Syria, Lebanon, and then contrive a conspiracy that involves Iran, their missiles, and their fear of sanctions. Put it all together and "Hizbullah made the same mistake as Hamas when it did not predict the ramifications of its actions and ignored the regional and international changes since the fall of Saddam Hussein." Meanwhile Israel uses bombs to cut off Lebanon's contact with the outside world, taking their campaign deeper and deeper into the nations core, and president Bush will come out and blame the escalation on Syria. Don't you get it, you're either with us or against us. And if you still don't get it, Iraq made 5 course dinners for the heads of Al-Qaeda. For God's sake, we're going to war, get your flags ready, and start waving, there will be no questions.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Byron Williams: Let's Play: "Am I Really a Conservative?" | The Huffington Post

Welcome to 'Am I really a Conservative?' the game show where we find out if one is truly committed to American ideals or the divisive ideology emanating from a portion of the Republican Party.

Our first contestant is I.M. Wright. Mr. Wright, tell us how long have you been a conservative?

'Oh, for awhile. I used to be a Democrat, but ever since the Democrats screwed things up, I've been a conservative. I like the way the Republicans stand up for American ideals.'

Ready to play 'Am I really a Conservative?'

Mr. Wright, we know that the Republican gods won't allow this to happen, but imagine for a moment that the cyclical nature of American politics continued as it has since its inception and the Democrats controlled the White House, both branches of Congress, and made significant appointments to the federal courts, including three to the Supreme Court.

Can someone revive Mr. Wright; I am not finished with my question? Mr. Wright, are you okay? I assume you got the gist of where I was going before you passed out? Good!
Suppose a Democratic president went to war by making the case that the country in question had some connection to a recent terrorist attack, aided the people who committed the terrorist attack and had weapons of mass destruction to either use against us directly or sell to the highest bidder only to find out three years later, stuck in an ongoing battle, that none of it were true, would you: (pick any that apply)

A) Want Congress to investigate how we got into the war and who should be held accountable so that we can make the tough decisions going forward.

B) Be content to stay-the-course at 1 billion dollars per month along with the potential of unnecessary loss of life because it would make us look bad internationally to pullout.

C) Institute a draft so that we can have enough troops to indefinitely occupy the country.

Next question. If the Democratic president's secretary of defense were Ted Kennedy and our military committed Abu Ghraib-like torture, would you:

A) Be content with a "few bad apples" alibi

B) Allow the Pentagon to investigate itself (six times)

C) Demand a bipartisan Blue Ribbon Commission to go wherever the truth leads them and insist that Congress be prepared to take constitutional action, if necessary, based on those findings.


Next question. If the New York Times sat for over a year on a story revealing that the Democratic administration had sanctioned a program of secret, illegal spying on US citizens by the National Security Agency, knowing that they had the information during a presidential election that could have made a difference to your candidate winning instead of losing a close election, would you:

A) Demand they receive a Pulitzer Prize for excellent journalism

B) Consider the Times to be the standard bearer for patriotism

C) Demand they be brought up on espionage charges

Final question. If the Supreme Court found that the Democratic administration violated both U.S. military law and the Geneva Convention, would you:

A) Come to the defense of those who counseled the president justifying said acts.

B) Believe that the president, along with high-ranking officials were potentially guilty and subject to prosecution under the federal War Crimes Act.

C) Stand on the principle: "It is better to fight them over there so that we don't have to fight them here!"


Mr. Wright, if your answers remained consistent whether it was the current administration of the mythical Democratic one, congratulations you are, at least, maintaining a consistent understanding of American ideals. If, however, your answers varied based on who occupied the White House then your core beliefs are based on a right-wing "if you're not for us you're against us" ideology.

If the thought of the hypothetical Democratic administration was too much to bear I suggest that you rethink your current positions. Ultimately, all you are doing is providing cover for the next administration to simply say: "Well, the Bush administration did it--why can't I?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Redefining American Beauty, by the Yard


"WHEN Cecilia Foti, a seventh grader at the Bancroft Middle School here, was asked to write a “persuasive” essay for her English class in the spring semester, she did not choose a topic deeply in tune with her peers — the pros and cons of school uniforms, say, or the district’s retro policy on chewing gum and cellphones.
Instead, she addressed the neighborhood’s latest controversy: her family’s front yard. “The American lawn needs to be eradicated from our society and fast!” she wrote, explaining that her family had replaced its own with a fruit and vegetable garden. She argued for the importance of water conservation, the dangers of pesticides and the dietary benefits and visual appeal of an edible yard. “Was the Garden of Eden grass?” she reasoned. “No.”
In this quintessential 1950’s tract community about 25 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles, the transformation of the Foti family’s front yard from one of grass to one dense with pattypan squash plants, cornstalks, millionaire eggplants, crimson sweet watermelons, dwarf curry trees and about 195 other edible varieties has been startling.
“The empty front lawn requiring mowing, watering and weeding previously on this location has been removed,” reads a placard set amid veggies in oval planting beds fronting the street.
The sign is a not-so-subtle bit of propaganda proclaiming the second and most recent installment of Edible Estates, an experimental project by Fritz Haeg, a 37-year-old Los Angeles architect and ersatz Frederick Law Olmsted. The project, which he inaugurated on the Fourth of July weekend in 2005 in a front yard in Salina, Kan., is part of a nascent “delawning” movement concerned with replacing lawns around the country with native plants, from prairie grasses in suburban Chicago to cactus gardens in Tucson."

Opa!


Chicago Tribune
: "It has the ring of an urban legend: A cell phone blows up and sets fire to a house.
But to Pablo Ortega, it's no myth.
A mobile phone exploded in his living room last year, causing up to $100,000 in damages. Ortega and his family had to live in a trailer for a few months while their house in California was fixed.
Fire and insurance investigators concluded the phone's lithium-ion battery failed and then ignited.
Ortega's case is one of 339 battery-related overheating incidents tracked by the Consumer Product Safety Commission since 2003. Most involve lithium-ion batteries, which have become the dominant power source for all sorts of portable electronic gadgets.
Aviation regulators are taking notice too. The National Transportation Safety Board held a hearing Wednesday in Washington, D.C., to explore whether lithium-ion batteries stowed in a cargo jet caused a midair fire last winter on its approach to Philadelphia.
A lithium-ion battery is able to store a tremendous amount of energy in a small space. But if it short circuits or otherwise fails, all that energy can cause a violent explosion.
Such explosions and fires are rare considering the hundreds of millions of cell phones, laptops, digital cameras and other devices that are powered by lithium-ion batteries."

White House paying $100,000 salary to "Director of Lessons Learned

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) offers a few more lessons learned:Mr. Speaker, yesterday the President said we continue to be wise about how we spend the people's money. 'Then why are we paying over $100,000 for a 'White House Director of Lessons Learned'? 'Maybe I can save the taxpayers $100,000 by running through a few of the lessons this White House should have learned by now. 'Lesson 1: When the Army Chief of Staff and the Secretary of State say you are going to war without enough troops, you're going to war without enough troops. 'Lesson 2: When 8.8 billion dollars of reconstruction funding disappears from Iraq, and 2 billion dollars disappears from Katrina relief, it's time to demand a little accountability. 'Lesson 3: When you've 'turned the corner' in Iraq more times than Danica Patrick at the Indy 500, it means you are going in circles. 'Lesson 4: When the national weather service tells you a category 5 hurricane is heading for New Orleans, a category 5 hurricane is heading to New Orleans. 'I would also ask the President why we're paying for two 'Ethics Advisors' and a 'Director of Fact Checking.' 'They must be the only people in Washington who get more vacation time than the President. 'Maybe the White House could consolidate these positions into a Director of Irony.'"

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Child Brides in Afghanistan



A photo essay featuring Afghan men and their young brides will appear in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine. Photographer Stephanie Sinclair, who captured the stunning images of the men with brides as young as 11 years old, talks with Alex Chadwick talks about the global issue of child brides.

Numbers are hard to verify, but one estimate by the Population Council, an international research group, is that about 1 in every 7 girls in the developing world (excluding China) gets married before her 15th birthday.

In Afghanistan, it is not uncommon for parents to give their daughters over to marriage to settle debts or resolve family or clan disputes. In hard times, it can save the girl from a life of poverty and hunger. But as Sinclair found in her travels through the countryside, the practice is also deeply entrenched in Afghan culture.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Happy 79th Birthday 7-Eleven! Store Serves up Free Slurpees

Happy 79th Birthday 7-Eleven! No. 1 Convenience Store Serves up Free Slurpee(R) Drinks: Financial News - Yahoo!
Finance
: "Happy 79th Birthday 7-Eleven! No. 1 Convenience Store Serves up Free Slurpee(R) DrinksSunday July 9, 1:00 am ET

DALLAS, July 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Every year, July 11 marks the day that the
world's No. 1 convenience retailer observes its birthday. This year is
7-Eleven's 79th year in business, longer than any other convenience retailer
in the world. To celebrate, participating 7-Eleven� stores across America
will serve up 3 million free 7.11-ounce Slurpee� drinks in special 'Happy
Birthday!' cups to customers as long as the cups last."

Blogger proves one red paper clip can indeed buy a house

(AP) -- Taking a paper clip and turning it into a house sounds like a cheesy magic trick or a phony instance of resourcefulness on the 1980s TV show "MacGyver."

Kyle MacDonald, however, has pulled it off.

One year ago, the 26-year-old blogger from Montreal set out to barter one red paper clip for something and that thing for something else, over and over again until he had a house. (Watch how a snow globe and Corbin Bernsen led to house -- 1:49)

On Wednesday the quest is ending as envisioned: MacDonald is due to become the proud owner of a three-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot home provided by the town of Kipling, Saskatchewan. MacDonald and his girlfriend, Dominique Dupuis, expect to move there in early September.

"This is such a cool community project. It feels right," MacDonald said. "And now that I think about it, I can't believe that another small town didn't think of it. It will literally put them on the map."

What's in it for the town? The answer requires a quick MacDonald recap, featuring a menagerie of friendly folks, radio talk show hosts and aging celebrities, all bound together by the Internet.

It began when MacDonald, an aspiring writer, doer of odd jobs and apartment dweller, advertised in the barter section of the Craigslist Web site that he wanted something bigger or better for one red paper clip. He traded it for a fish-shaped pen, and posted on Craigslist again and again.

MSNBC's Star Carves Anti-Fox Niche

New York Times: "He is either the leading man of MSNBC or its leading agent provocateur, but Keith Olbermann has no problem embracing either role.
“You can’t spell momentum without Olbermann — or something like that,” he said in a telephone interview, with a typical sprinkle of wry in his voice.
The momentum reference related to MSNBC’s recent aggressive positioning of the program “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” as the centerpiece of this all-news cable network’s latest effort to become more competitive with Fox News Channel and CNN.
MSNBC revamped its prime-time schedule two weeks ago, shelving many of its prime-time hosts in favor of documentary-style programs but retaining “Countdown,” a program the network cites as its great growth story.
That growth, while coming from a base that Fox News would find disastrously puny, is demonstrable, especially among the group that is chiefly sold to news advertisers: people between the ages of 25 and 54. For the last quarter, Mr. Olbermann, who is 47, has seen his ratings in that group grow by more than 30 percent.
The growth has not been unfailingly steady, as competitors at Fox and CNN pointed out. They noted that Mr. Olbermann did better in February and March than he has since. Still, for the year, Mr. Olbermann has managed to climb past CNN into second place in the news channel competition at 8 p.m. among that 25-to-54 group. That qualifies as a feat for MSNBC, though Mr. Olbermann’s show remains little more than a dot in the rearview mirror of Fox News."

Save Patrick Fitzgerald

RealClearPolitics: "President Bush faces a major test of his integrity when, or if, he ever gets around to reappointing Patrick Fitzgerald as U.S. Attorney in Chicago.
The nation needs to know that Bush's failure to back Fitzgerald will betray a gapping hole in the conscience of the president. While most of America may think of Fitzgerald as the aggressive prosecutor in the Valerie Plame affair and the bombing of the World Trade Center, those of us in Chicago have a closer view of the man.
He is one of the few government officials left in Chicago and Illinois that loathes corruption, and who is in a position to do something about as the U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois.
In that role, he has put away former Illinois Gov. George Ryan and a host of other grafters. He is scrutinizing current Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration for its hiring practices. And he is hot on the trail of the corruption that pervades Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's City Hall. Score another for Fitzgerald as a federal jury this week convicted Daley's patronage chief and three other men on charges that they engaged in an elaborate and long-running scheme to reward the mayor's campaign workers with choice jobs.
New York Times columnist David Brooks, among others, labors under the impression that this part of the city's Democratic 'machine' was dead, but the scheme, which violated a federal court order, long has provided Daley and his allies with an army of faithful doorbell ringers on election day. Patronage is very much alive and is every bit an essential part of the Chicago machine as the more lucrative awarding of rich consulting, construction and franchise contracts to favored relatives and friends. In Chicago, many folks consider this 'soft graft,' which makes the 'city that works' work."

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall

(July 10, 2006 -- 02:49 PM EST // link)
I'd been waiting for the day when Tony Snow would slip into full wing-nut claptrap overdrive. And today I think we've got it.

Here's what Snow said today when he got backed into a corner about the dismal failure of the administration's Korea policy ...

I understand what the Clinton administration wanted to do. They wanted to talk reason to the government of Pyongyang, and they engaged in bilateral conversations. And Bill Richardson went with flowers and chocolates, and he went with light water nuclear reactors, and he went with promises of heavy oil and a basketball signed by Michael Jordan, and many other inducements for the dear leader to try to agree not to develop nuclear weapons, and it failed.

You know Snow felt deeply under the gun here, because this claptrap comes from deep in the 'winger brain stem.

Let's review a few salient, uncontested facts.

Back in 1994, the US came close to war over its nuclear activities and particularly the reactor complex at Yongbyon. War was averted with the so-called 'Agreed Framework' in which North Korea suspended its production of plutonium (and put the facility under international inspections) in exchange for assistance building light water nuclear reactors (the kind that don't help you make bombs) and fuel oil for energy generation.

There are all sorts of details to what was going to be in exchange for what, who exactly would be doing the giving, and lots of other details you can see here. But that is the essence of it. And it shut down the North Koreans' plutonium reprocessing activities for close to a decade.
The agreement began to come apart in 1998 when the North Koreans did an unnannounced test firing of one of their missiles, which went over Japan and crashed into the Pacific. There was also, by the end of the Clinton administration, evidence that the North Koreans were attempting to enrich uranium, something not explicitly covered in the Agreed Framework, but certainly a violation of the spirit of the agreement.

There's a fairly detailed explanation of the US reaction and the efforts to arrive at a new agreement during the late Clinton administration. It's a Times , oped written by two of the policy makers at the time, Bill Perry and Ashton Carter.

The Bush administration came to office convinced that this entire process was one of appeasement and set in motion a series of events that led to a complete breakdown of the initial agreement. In response, the North Koreans started reprocessing plutonium again.

Now, most agree, the North Koreans probably have enough for several nuclear warheads.

Now, the premise of the Bush administration's North Korea policy was that North Korea was a bad acting state that had to be dealt with through force, not negotiation. That didn't necessarily mean going to war. The goal was to intimidate the North Koreans into better behavior if possible and resort to force if necessary.

Yet, when the North Koreans called the White House's bluff and starting reprocessing plutonium, the White House's response was ... well, nothing.

That was three years ago.

Rather than talk softly and carry a big stick it was a policy of talk tough and do nothing.

The bomb making plutonium keeps coming off the conveyor belt. And the White House policy is to say they won't negotiate and also ask the Chinese to get the North Koreans to behave.

The remaining conceit of the Bush administration is that the Clintonites met with the North Koreans in bilateral talks while they insist on multilateral talks.

That's the policy, which is to say, they have no policy. The salient fact is that under Clinton plutonium reprocessing stopped and under Bush it restarted. The Bushies angle was that you don't coddle bad actors like the North Koreans. You deal with them in the language they understand: force. But the NKs called their bluff, they weren't prepared to use force. So they decided to forget about the whole thing.

That's the record. That's the policy. A total failure.

Tony Snow knows it. That's why he went into overdrive. The truth hurts.

On Dayside, Stossel repeated global warming falsehoods

On Dayside, Stossel repeated global warming falsehoods
Summary: Promoting his new book on Fox News' Dayside, John Stossel claimed that global warming is '[p]robably not' a 'big problem' and attacked Al Gore's movie on the issue, An Inconvenient Truth, saying, 'Many scientists do not agree,' that global warming is a 'big problem,' 'despite what you hear in the Al Gore movie.'
Appearing on the July 10 edition of Fox News' Dayside, ABC News 20/20 co-anchor John Stossel claimed that
global warming is '[p]robably not' a 'big problem,'
and, in an attack on former Vice President Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient
Truth (Paramount Classics, May 2006), repeated the false
claim that there is no scientific consensus on the causes of global warming.
Stossel stated: 'Many scientists do not agree, despite what you hear in
the Al Gore movie.' In fact, the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has documented the potential
threats to human ecosystems posed by global warming, and a recent National
Academy of Sciences (NAS) report confirmed the scientific consensus that 'human activities are
responsible for much of the recent warming' of the planet.
Stossel was on Dayside
promoting his new book, Myths,
Lies and Downright Stupidity: Get out the Shovel -- Why Everything You Know is
Wrong (Hyperion, May 2006).
From the July 10 edition of Dayside:

STEVE DOOCY (guest host): All right. John, we're in the lightning round. We've got a list of a number of things. We're going to try to see how many we can get through. Global warming, we hear, is a big problem, and we're causing it.

STOSSEL: Global warming is happening. Is it a big problem? Probably not. Many scientists do not agree, despite what you hear in the Al Gore movie. And Kyoto wouldn't make any difference even if we did sign and if the countries that did obeyed, which they're not.

Stossel's denials of the threats posed by global warming and of the consensus within the scientific community are nothing new. As Media Matters for America noted the last time Stossel downplayed the global warming threat, the IPCC concluded in a 2001 report that "[r]ecent regional changes in climate, particularly increases in temperature, have already affected hydrological systems and terrestrial and marine ecosystems in many parts of the world." The IPCC also noted that if global warming trends persist as predicted over the next century, the impact on human systems could be catastrophic.

Stossel's implication that there is no scientific consensus on the causes of global warming is false. Notwithstanding the very small minority of scientists who discount human causes of global warming (many of whom have connections to the petroleum industry), a June 22 NAS report affirmed the "scientific consensus regarding human-induced global warming," based on multiple "lines of evidence" supporting "the conclusion that human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming" of the Earth.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Bush's Baghdad Palace

"Among the many secrets the American government cannot keep, one of its
biggest (104 acres) and most expensive ($592 million) is the American
Embassy being built in Baghdad. Surrounded by fifteen-foot-thick walls,
almost as large as the Vatican on a scale comparable to the Mall of America,
to which it seems to have a certain spiritual affinity, this is no simple object to hide.
So you think the Bush Administration is planning on leaving Iraq? Read on.
The Chicago Tribune reports, 'Trucks shuttle building
materials to and fro. Cranes, at least a dozen of them, punch toward
the sky. Concrete structures are beginning to take form. At a time when
most Iraqis are enduring blackouts of up to 22 hours a day, the site is
floodlighted by night so work can continue around the clock.'"

Frank Dwyer: The Resistible Rise of George W. Bush | The Huffington Post

So now we know, more or less, what some of us thought we knew already (because that's the kind of people we are), and some of us will continue to deny as long as there's ice in Greenland (because that's the kind of people they are): when George W. Bush's administration was being charged with misrepresenting intelligence and manipulating the nation into war, Bush directed his vice-president to release classified information not only to defend them all against that charge, but also to discredit Joe Wilson, the man most effectively making it.

So. Bush directed Cheney to defend and discredit, but he did not (he says) tell Cheney to reveal that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a covert CIA agent...and Cheney didn't reveal that fact (he says), though he did have a special dispensation from his pope to reveal some classified information (what, exactly?)...and Cheney's minion, Libby, did in fact blow Plame's cover (take that, Joe Wilson and the CIA!), but Libby certainly did not do such a thing at the direction of either Bush or Cheney (he says), he just...well, um...he did it on his own. It just happened. And Novak and Woodward already knew anyway, from some other administration source, who either did or did not have a special dispensation to leak classified information for political advantage. Are you clear about all this now? We're getting there, aren't we?
No. It's important to remember that nothing is proved, or ever will be.

Poor America. What fatal combination of fear, ignorance, collusion, and corruption has paralyzed the Congress, the Supreme Court, the Opposition Party, the Press, and the voters--all the decent, hard-working, good-hearted, idealistic, brave, once-proud American people? Why haven't any of our institutions--why haven't we?--interfered in any meaningful way with the rise of a comically inept, foolish, almost pitiable leader who has failed howlingly in every aspect of foreign and domestic policy while presiding over the transformation of this nation from a widely admired and beloved friend and benefactor of the world to an almost universally feared and despised international rogue and outlaw. (Before the vigilantes of the great party of Lincoln and Coulter counterattack, let them remember that "outlaw," alas, is, more or less, this nefarious administration's own proud, sneering, smirking boast.)

Why have we been such poor stewards of our democracy, and our planet? Why did we accept a tax cut during a war when our government couldn't (or wouldn't) pay for our soldiers' armor? What rich man's topping up is worth a single American arm or leg? Why, if we were sending troops for whatever reason, didn't we send enough of them to protect the country we were so determined to liberate? Why did we allow New Orleans to be so devastated a second time, after nature's devastation, by cronyism and incompetence, and why did we demand no accounting? What's wrong with us? Why don't we demand that the people who have made such disastrous mistakes, over and over again, be fired in disgrace instead of rewarded with promotions and medals? Are we so afraid of terrorists that we will never again demand an accounting for anything?

In "The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui" (1941), a play that ought to be revived tomorrow in every American city, Bertolt Brecht chronicled the easy stages by which a nondescript, graceless, charmless, talentless, ill-bred, dimwitted mob boss takes over the Chicago vegetable market. Why were the American people so ready to facilitate and accept the ascendancy of such a leader? So ready to be manipulated, pampered, deceived, and diminished? Greed? Were we bought by the silly fake tax cut? Fear? Did 9/11 do this, make us such cowards? Why do we allow ourselves to be spied on, and bullied by, and all the while condescended to, by a rogue's gallery of disgraced hypocrites? Why did we allow our hard-won, precious Constitution, with its dear little system of checks and balances, to be discarded with a smirk and a sneer and a signing ceremony, or a new program of secret surveillance, or a loud bullying charge of treason leveled against us, barked out ad nauseam by men and women who are surely manifest traitors themselves to everything we believe in, every value we thought we shared? How has this happened to us? Why?

Bush directed Cheney, but Cheney didn't tell Libby, but Libby did tell Judy Miller, but definitely not because Bush or Cheney told him to, although they could legally have told him to, because they did have a dispensation from the law, but they didn't, exactly, and...but...well...so...

Please. What happened to Valerie Plame? Patrick Fitzgerald, your nation needs you.

Right. When all our institutions have failed and we the people have also failed so dismally, disgracing ourselves (isn't that Chuck Schumer clambering up on Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman's rickety little bandwagon, and Hillary Clinton knitting her brow more over a potential burned--symbolic--flag than over an actual trashed--real--Constitution), why in the world would we expect a lowly prosecutor to throw his body in front of the juggernaut? Brecht made it clear that in the modern world a leader like Arturo Ui can only come to power with the lazy, selfish collusion of his citizen-accomplices at every step of the way. Archibald MacLeish had already warned us about the same thing (fascism) in his thrilling 1937 radio play, "The Fall of the City." The "masterless men" of the city willingly "take a master" but are surprised when the Conqueror removes his helmet and there's no one there. It was Casey Stengel, however, who most succinctly articulated the essential nature of our shared responsibility. It was after his team won the 1958 World Series. "I couldn't have done it," he said, "without my players."

We're George W. Bush's players, his accomplices. We're the masterless men who have taken a master. By the time a prosperous, well-fed, comfortable, self-indulgent nation notices even a ridiculously resistible rise to power like Arturo Ui's, like George W. Bush's ("Flip-flop!" "Cut and run!" "Saddam Hussein! 9/11!" "Flip-flop!" "Cut and run!" "Saddam Hussein, 9/11!"), it is sometimes too late to stop it.

How did this happen? What can we do? Oh, for one real hero, circa 1776 (revolution?), or, better, 1787 (nation of laws?). John Adams. Benjamin Franklin. Alexander Hamilton. John Marshall... Maybe if Patrick Fitzgerald just...? Or Barack. Or Russ. Or Al. Al. Or somebody else. Some 21st-Century Lincoln, Churchill, Truman. Just one, one authentic American hero. (Did somebody just rev up the good old Swift Boat machine?)

Just one.

Come on somebody, anybody.

Maybe Arlen Specter could threaten to hold a really big hearing.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Frank Rich: Gore Should Run in 2008

NEW YORK In is Sunday column for The New York Times, Frank Rich joined the chorus of those urging that former Vice President Al Gore run for president. Rich does not endorse him, but does suggest he is preferable to Hillary Clinton as a Democratic candidate.
The main reason: Unlike Hillary ('a weak candidate') he has shown leadership and not been afraid to stand out front on an issue. Where once Hillary 'inspired passions pro and con, now she often induces apathy,' Rich writes. 'Her most excited constituency seems to be the right-wing pundits who still hope to make a killing with books excoriating her.'
But Rich does not point to the global warming issue to hail Gore's toughness -- in fact, he finds the new Gore movie about that subject a little too much of a campaign ad. What he really finds most positive about Gore is that he raised an alarm about an Iraq invasion six months before it took place -- and then was early to criticize the White House's handling of the war later. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has acted paralyzed.
Rich recalls: 'An anti-Hussein hawk who was among the rare Senate Democrats to vote for the first gulf war, Mr. Gore forecast the disasters lying in wait for the second when he spoke out at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on Sept. 23, 2002. He saw that the administration was jumping 'from one unfinished task to another' and risked letting Afghanistan destabilize and Osama bin Laden flee. ... "
"Most important, he noticed then that the administration had not said much of anything about 'what would follow regime change.' He imagined how 'chaos in the aftermath of a military victory in Iraq could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam.'"

At the time, Democratic leaders in Congress "blew off Mr. Gore for fear that talk of Iraq might distract the electorate from all those compelling domestic issues that would guarantee victory in the midterms. (That brilliant strategy cost Democrats the Senate.) On CNN, a representative from The New Republic, a frequent Gore cheerleader, reported that 'the vast majority of the staff' condemned his speech as 'the bitter rantings of a guy who is being politically motivated and disingenuous in his arguments.'

"But in truth, as with global warming, Mr. Gore's stands on Iraq (both in 1991 and 2002) were manifestations of leadership -- the single attribute most missing from the current Democrats with presidential ambitions. "

After citing some of Gore's flaws exhibited in the past, and in the new film, Rich concludes, "let's hope Mr. Gore runs. He may not be able to pull off the Nixon-style comeback of some bloggers' fantasies, but by pounding away on his best issues, he could at the very least play the role of an Adlai Stevenson or Wendell Willkie, patriotically goading the national debate onto higher ground."

Friday, July 07, 2006

Shell says biofuels from food crops "morally inappropriate" - Yahoo! News

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell, the world's top
marketer of biofuels, considers using food crops to make
biofuels 'morally inappropriate' as long as there are people in
the world who are starving, an executive said on Thursday.
Eric G Holthusen, Fuels Technology Manager Asia/Pacific,
said the company's research unit, Shell Global Solutions, has
developed alternative fuels from renewable resources that use
wood chips and plant waste rather than food crops that are
typically used to make the fuels.
Holthusen said his company's participation in marketing
biofuels extracted from food was driven by economics or
legislation.
'If we have the choice today, then we will not use this
route,' Malaysia-based Holthusen said at a seminar in
Singapore.
'We think morally it is inappropriate because what we are
doing here is using food and turning it into fuel. If you look
at Africa, there are still countries that have a lack of food,
people are starving, and because we are more wealthy we use
food and turn it into fuel. This is not what we would like to
see. But sometimes economics force you to do it.'
The world's top commercially produced biofuels are ethanol
and biodiesel.
Ethanol, mostly used in the United States and Brazil, is
produced from sugar cane and beets and can also be derived from
grains such as corn and wheat. Biodiesel, used in Europe, is
extracted from the continent's predominant oil crop, rapeseed,
and can also be produced from palm and coconut.
Holthusen said Shell has been working on biofuels that can
be extracted from plant waste and wood chips, but he did not
say when the alternative biofuel might be commercially
available."

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

But I thought we were told al-Qaida was the source of all problems in Iraq

Doesn't the Iraqi government know that it's all about al-Qaida? Someone needs to check that new list of most wanted in Iraq.The list, released last weekend, includes at least 21 former regime figures, among them Saddam's chief lieutenant, his wife, eldest daughter, two nephews and a cousin allegedly financiers of the insurgency. Only five of the 41 names are clearly identified as members of al-Qaida's local branch. That reinforces the impression shared by a number of analysts that ex-Baath party members and former regime figures still play a key role in the insurgency. 'I believe that former regime members form 40 to 50 percent of the insurgency,' said Diaa Rashwan, an Egyptian expert on militant groups. 'Operations by al-Qaida and the Mujahedeen Shura Council make between five to 10 percent only, a maximum of 10 percent.'

Monday, July 03, 2006

Good-bye Old Films

Bradford Plumer: "Is the demise of an entire generation of American film at hand? That sounds overly dramatic, but it's true. I meant to write about this bit from Larry Lessig's Free Culture last week, but forgot. In 1998 Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which extended the terms of existing copyrights for another twenty years. So now, any films, books, or works of art produced after 1923 won't begin entering the public domain until 2019 at the earliest%u2014provided, of course, that Congress doesn't extend copyrights again before then, which it probably will at the behest of Disney and friends.So here's the problem. The vast majority of films produced after 1923 have no continuing commercial value. They're just sitting in vaults gathering dust. There's obviously no need to extend their copyrights; if no one's currently making any money off these films, they might as well enter the public domain. But thanks to the CTEA, they can't. (A more sensible copyright law would have extended copyrights only for those owners who actually wanted to extend them; but that's not the law Congress passed%u2014all copyrights are affected.)Now, these days, it's cheap and easy to restore old films with digital technology%u2014it can cost as little as $100 to digitize an hour of 8 mm film. Many of these films could, in theory, be easily restored, and released, or put in an archive, for people to watch. But thanks to the CTEA, it's not cheap and easy. Anyone who wanted to restore one of these films would have to track down the owners of the copyright%u2014no small task%u2014and then hire a lawyer, lest they commit a felony. That's way too much effort and expense just to restore some arcane old movie that only a few people might enjoy. So no one does it. And the worst part is that by the time the copyright for a lot of these obscure films expires, in 2019 and beyond, the film for these movies%u2014which were produced on nitrate-based stock%u2014will have completely dissolved. They'll just be canisters filled with dust. An entire generation of movies really will have vanished, never to be watched again. I guess it's hardly the most important problem on the face of the earth, but culturally, it's a tragedy, and a rather striking example of the insanity of copyright law."

Bush Directed Cheney To Counter War Critic

NATIONAL JOURNAL: "By Murray Waas, National Journal
National Journal Group Inc.
Monday, July 3, 2006
President Bush told the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case that he directed Vice President Dick Cheney to personally lead an effort to counter allegations made by former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV that his administration had misrepresented intelligence information to make the case to go to war with Iraq, according to people familiar with the president's statement.
Bush told prosecutors he directed Cheney to disclose classified information that would not only defend his administration but also discredit Wilson.
Bush also told federal prosecutors during his June 24, 2004, interview in the Oval Office that he had directed Cheney, as part of that broader effort, to disclose highly classified intelligence information that would not only defend his administration but also discredit Wilson, the sources said.
But Bush told investigators that he was unaware that Cheney had directed I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, to covertly leak the classified information to the media instead of releasing it to the public after undergoing the formal governmental declassification processes.
Bush also said during his interview with prosecutors that he had never directed anyone to disclose the identity of then-covert CIA officer Valerie Plame, Wilson's wife. Bush said he had no information that Cheney had disclosed Plame's identity or directed anyone else to do so."

U.S. pins wiener-eating hopes on Chestnut

Yahoo! News: "NEW YORK - The biggest challenge of his life awaits Joey Chestnut on the Fourth of July %u2014 and he doesn't want to choke. It's a legitimate worry. Chestnut aims to inhale more than four dozen frankfurters in 12 minutes at the annual Coney Island hot dog eating competition. And there's the pressure of going jaw-to-jaw with the world's foremost competitive eater, five-time defending champion Takeru Kobayashi of Japan.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Chestnut is warming up for his East Coast showdown by downing 40 hot dogs or more in a single sitting, twice a week.
'If I'm not eating hot dogs, I'm not eating much,' said Chestnut, whose U.S. record of 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes earned him a mention in May in Sports Illustrated. 'Everything is going pretty good.'
Chestnut, of San Jose, Calif., is the great American hope at reclaiming the mustard yellow belt symbolic of gastronomic greatness (or sheer gluttony). Since July 4, 2001, the belt %u2014 presented annually at the original Nathan's hot dog stand %u2014 has remained wrapped around Kobayashi's incredibly thin waist"