Monday, April 30, 2007

Venezuela 'to withdraw from IMF'

BBC NEWS:' "Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says he wants to pull his country out of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
In a speech to mark 1 May, Mr Chavez said he wanted the move to take effect as soon as possible.
As the country has settled its IMF debt, the withdrawal is largely a symbolic gesture, correspondents say.
President Chavez also announced an almost 20% increase in the minimum monthly wage.
"We don't need to be going up to Washington... we are going to get out," Mr Chavez said.
"We are going to withdraw before they go and rob us," he went on.
The president said he had ordered Finance Minister Rodrigo Cabezas to begin formal proceedings to withdraw from the two international bodies.
Mr Chavez said Venezuela would seek repayment of money owed to it by the IMF and World Bank - presumably a reference, correspondents say, to contributions which member countries pay.
"We still have a few bucks there," he said.
President Chavez has spoken of his ambition to set up what he calls a Bank of the South, back by Venezuelan oil revenues, which would finance projects in South America.
Ecuador, led by another left-wing president, Rafael Correa, has also spoken of leaving the IMF, and recently expelled World Bank representatives from the country. "

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Regrets Only

The Nation: "So now you know. It really does matter who's President and which party controls Congress. A Democratic-controlled Congress would never have passed the Partial-Birth Abortion Act, which banned intact dilation and extraction abortions and, in flagrant violation of Roe v. Wade, lacked an exception to preserve the health of the woman. A Democratic President would never have signed such a bill. Nor would he have nominated the extremely conservative antichoicers John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, which on April 18 upheld, in Gonzales v. Carhart by a 5-to-4 vote (Roberts, Alito, Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas--all GOP nominees), a ban essentially identical to one rejected 5 to 4 in Stenberg v. Carhart seven years ago, when Sandra Day O'Connor was on the bench.
So, NARAL Pro-Choice America--or whatever your latest bland, pandering brand name is--maybe, much too late, you'll rethink your policy of supporting prochoice Republicans, who made the majorities that set the agenda that led us to this very bad place. And maybe, Tom Frank and assorted liberal know-it-alls of the op-ed page and blogosphere who've been telling us to calm down because Republicans are all bark and no bite on abortion, you'll take a look at the real world. Sometimes politicians deliver on their promises. As for all you prochoicers with qualms out there--who think abortion is icky and "late term" abortion especially so, although you couldn't say exactly when that even is, and who wonder why women are so careless and shouldn't emergency contraception have taken care of this already?--maybe it's time to start defending the right you say you believe in, instead of cutting the ground out from under it.
Sorry. I'm upset. For the first time, the Supreme Court has ruled that the health of an actually existing human woman doesn't matter, never mind Roe. Nor does a doctor's judgment. "

'The Commander-in-Chief seems to have gone AWOL'

COMMENTARY | April 28, 2007
Retired Gen. William Odom, who ran the National Security Agency under President Reagan, was an unusual choice to deliver the weekly Democratic radio adddress on April 28. But Odom was also one of the earliest advocates of an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Odom has been a frequent contributor to NiemanWatchdog.org. Click here for his biography and contributions. The following is the transcript of his address.

By William E. Odom
diane@hudson.org

Good morning, this is Lieutenant General William E. Odom, U.S. Army, retired.

I am not now nor have I ever been a Democrat or a Republican. Thus, I do not speak for the Democratic Party. I speak for myself, as a non-partisan retired military officer who is a former Director of the National Security Agency. I do so because Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, asked me.

In principle, I do not favor Congressional involvement in the execution of U.S. foreign and military policy. I have seen its perverse effects in many cases. The conflict in Iraq is different. Over the past couple of years, the President has let it proceed on automatic pilot, making no corrections in the face of accumulating evidence that his strategy is failing and cannot be rescued.

Thus, he lets the United States fly further and further into trouble, squandering its influence, money, and blood, facilitating the gains of our enemies. The Congress is the only mechanism we have to fill this vacuum in command judgment.

To put this in a simple army metaphor, the Commander-in-Chief seems to have gone AWOL, that is 'absent without leave.' He neither acts nor talks as though he is in charge. Rather, he engages in tit-for-tat games.

Some in Congress on both sides of the aisle have responded with their own tits-for-tats. These kinds of games, however, are no longer helpful, much less amusing. They merely reflect the absence of effective leadership in a crisis. And we are in a crisis.

Most Americans suspect that something is fundamentally wrong with the President's management of the conflict in Iraq. And they are right.

The challenge we face today is not how to win in Iraq; it is how to recover from a strategic mistake: invading Iraq in the first place. The war could never have served American interests.

But it has served Iran's interest by revenging Saddam Hussein's invasion of Iran in the 1980s and enhancing Iran's influence within Iraq. It has also served al Qaeda's interests, providing a much better training ground than did Afghanistan, allowing it to build its ranks far above the levels and competence that otherwise would have been possible.

We cannot 'win' a war that serves our enemies interests and not our own. Thus continuing to pursue the illusion of victory in Iraq makes no sense. We can now see that it never did.

A wise commander in this situation normally revises his objectives and changes his strategy, not just marginally, but radically. Nothing less today will limit the death and destruction that the invasion of Iraq has unleashed.

No effective new strategy can be devised for the United States until it begins withdrawing its forces from Iraq. Only that step will break the paralysis that now confronts us. Withdrawal is the pre-condition for winning support from countries in Europe that have stood aside and other major powers including India, China, Japan, Russia.

It will also shock and change attitudes in Iran, Syria, and other countries on Iraq's borders, making them far more likely to take seriously new U.S. approaches, not just to Iraq, but to restoring regional stability and heading off the spreading chaos that our war has caused.

The bill that Congress approved this week, with bipartisan support, setting schedules for withdrawal, provides the President an opportunity to begin this kind of strategic shift, one that defines regional stability as the measure of victory, not some impossible outcome.

I hope the President seizes this moment for a basic change in course and signs the bill the Congress has sent him. I will respect him greatly for such a rare act of courage, and so too, I suspect, will most Americans.

This is retired General Odom. Thank you for listening.
Lieutenant General William E. Odom, U.S. Army (Ret.), is a Senior Fellow with Hudson Institute and a professor at Yale University. He was Director of the National Security Agency from 1985 to 1988. From 1981 to 1985, he served as Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, the Army's senior intelligence officer. From 1977 to 1981, he was Military Assistant to the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs, Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Hotel hot tub deaths ruled suicides

The deaths of two Riverside women found dead in a Holiday Inn hot tub in west suburban Countryside have been ruled suicides by drowning, authorities said this morning.

The women, ages 68 and 63, were found floating in a hot tub Thursday afternoon at the La Grange Countryside Holiday Inn at 6201 Joliet Rd.

They were pronounced dead about 3:15 p.m. at Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.

Countryside Police Deputy Chief Scott Novak said this morning that both women were severely ill. He said he had been notified by the medical examiner's office that both deaths were ruled suicides.

Calls to the hotel were not returned. Further details were not being released by police, Novak said.

Utah only state to allow guns at college

Some students legally pack concealed weapons, others question value
SALT LAKE CITY - Brent Tenney says he feels pretty safe when he goes to class at the University of Utah, but he takes no chances. He brings a loaded 9 mm semiautomatic with him every day.
"It's not that I run around scared all day long, but if something happens to me, I do want to be prepared," said the 24-year-old business major, who has a concealed-weapons permit and takes the handgun everywhere but church.
After the massacre at Virginia Tech that left 33 dead, some have suggested that the carnage might have been lower if a student or professor with a gun had stepped in.
As states and colleges across the country review their gun policies in light of the tragedy, many in Utah are proud to have the nation's only state law that expressly allows the carrying of concealed weapons at public colleges.
"If government can't protect you, you should have the right to protect yourself," said Republican state Sen. Michael Waddoups.
Utah legislators and law enforcement authorities said they knew of no modern-day shootings at the university. But one lawmaker cited a shooting rampage in Mississippi in 1997 as an example of how allowing others on campus to arm themselves can improve safety: After a teenager shot two students to death at Pearl High School, an assistant principal chased the gunman down outside and held him at bay with a .45-caliber pistol he kept in his truck.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Defeating Breast Cancer

Two couples whose families have been ravaged by breast cancer are to become the first to screen embryos to prevent them having children at risk of the disease, The Times has learnt.

Tests will allow the couples to take the unprecedented step of selecting embryos free from a gene that carries a heightened risk of the cancer but does not always cause it. The move will reignite controversy over the ethics of embryo screening.

An application to test for the BRCA1 gene was submitted yesterday by Paul Serhal, of University College Hospital, London. It is expected to be approved within months as the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has already agreed in principle.

Opponents say that the test is unethical because it involves destroying some embryos that would never contract these conditions if allowed to develop into children. Even those that did become ill could expect many years of healthy life first.

Buying the War

Recommended viewing tonight:
Four years ago on May 1, President Bush landed on the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln wearing a flight suit and delivered a speech in front of a giant "Mission Accomplished" banner. He was hailed by media stars as a "breathtaking" example of presidential leadership in toppling Saddam Hussein. Despite profound questions over the failure to locate weapons of mass destruction and the increasing violence in Baghdad, many in the press confirmed the White House's claim that the war was won. MSNBC's Chris Matthews declared, "We're all neo-cons now;" NPR's Bob Edwards said, "The war in Iraq is essentially over;" and Fortune magazine's Jeff Birnbaum said, "It is amazing how thorough the victory in Iraq really was in the broadest context."
How did the mainstream press get it so wrong? How did the evidence disputing the existence of weapons of mass destruction and the link between Saddam Hussein to 9-11 continue to go largely unreported? "What the conservative media did was easy to fathom; they had been cheerleaders for the White House from the beginning and were simply continuing to rally the public behind the President — no questions asked. How mainstream journalists suspended skepticism and scrutiny remains an issue of significance that the media has not satisfactorily explored," says Moyers. "How the administration marketed the war to the American people has been well covered, but critical questions remain: How and why did the press buy it, and what does it say about the role of journalists in helping the public sort out fact from propaganda?"
On Wednesday, April 25 at 9 p.m. on PBS, a new PBS series BILL MOYERS JOURNAL premieres at a special time with "Buying the War," a 90-minute documentary that explores the role of the press in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. Two days later on April 27, BILL MOYERS JOURNAL airs in its regular timeslot on Fridays at 9 p.m. with interviews and news analysis on a wide range of subjects, including politics, arts and culture, the media, the economy, and issues facing democracy. "Buying the War" includes interviews with Dan Rather, formerly of CBS; Tim Russert of MEET THE PRESS; Bob Simon of 60 MINUTES; Walter Isaacson, former president of CNN; and John Walcott, Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel of Knight Ridder newspapers, which was acquired by The McClatchy Company in 2006.

Potentially habitable planet found!


Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON - For the first time astronomers have discovered a planet outside our solar system that is potentially habitable, with Earth-like temperatures, a find researchers described Tuesday as a big step in the search for "life in the universe."
The planet is just the right size, might have water in liquid form, and in galactic terms is relatively nearby at 120 trillion miles away. But the star it closely orbits, known as a "red dwarf," is much smaller, dimmer and cooler than our sun.
There's still a lot that is unknown about the new planet, which could be deemed inhospitable to life once more is known about it. And it's worth noting that scientists' requirements for habitability count Mars in that category: a size relatively similar to Earth's with temperatures that would permit liquid water. However, this is the first outside our solar system that meets those standards.
"It's a significant step on the way to finding possible life in the universe," said University of Geneva astronomer Michel Mayor, one of 11 European scientists on the team that found the planet. "It's a nice discovery. We still have a lot of questions.""

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

DUELING WARRIORS






President Bush, standing firmly against a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, said Tuesday that he will veto the latest war spending bill approved by Congress.

"I'm disappointed that the Democratic leadership has chosen this course," Bush said.

"They chose to make a political statement," he said. "That's their right but it is wrong for our troops and it's wrong for our country. To accept the bill proposed by the Democratic leadership would be to accept a policy that directly contradicts the judgment of our military commanders."

Bush's statement came after Democratic leaders agreed Monday on legislation that requires the first U.S. combat troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by October 1 with a goal of a complete pullout six months later. The decision assured a historic veto showdown.

"No more will Congress turn a blind eye to the Bush administration's incompetence and dishonesty," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a speech in which he accused the president of living in a state of denial about events in Iraq more than four years after the U.S.-led invasion.

[...]

Radio ads expected to air Tuesday will attack Reid as treating troops like a "political football," GOP officials said. According to a transcript, an Iraq veteran identified as Capt. Trip Bellard says, "Senator Reid's remarks undercut the morale of our soldiers and undermine our troops on the ground."
Let's get another opinion

"You know, this war is so fucking illegal." - Pat Tillman:
Baer, who served with Tillman for more than a year in Iraq and Afghanistan, told one anecdote that took place during the March 2003 invasion as the Rangers moved up through southern Iraq.

“I can see it like a movie screen,” Baer said. “We were outside of (a city in southern Iraq) watching as bombs were dropping on the town. We were at an old air base, me, Kevin and Pat, we weren’t in the fight right then. We were talking. And Pat said, ‘You know, this war is so f— illegal.’ And we all said, ‘Yeah.’ That’s who he was. He totally was against Bush.”

Another soldier in the platoon, who asked not to be identified, said Pat urged him to vote for Bush’s Democratic opponent in the 2004 election, Sen. John Kerry.
Not that this stopped them from using Tillman to promote their war.

FINALLY!! Low-key office launches high-profile inquiry


WASHINGTON — Most of the time, an obscure federal investigative unit known as the Office of Special Counsel confines itself to monitoring the activities of relatively low-level government employees, stepping in with reprimands and other routine administrative actions for such offenses as discriminating against military personnel or engaging in prohibited political activities.

But the Office of Special Counsel is preparing to jump into one of the most sensitive and potentially explosive issues in Washington, launching a broad investigation into key elements of the White House political operations that for more than six years have been headed by chief strategist Karl Rove.

The new investigation, which will examine the firing of at least one U.S. attorney, missing White House e-mails, and White House efforts to keep presidential appointees attuned to Republican political priorities, could create a substantial new problem for the Bush White House.

Bill O'Reilly is Right!!

Thank you, Bill, for working tirelessly to expose the nefarious machinations of George Soros and his ilk! (More on the shocking story here!)

I myself tried to raise the alarm about this secretive puppetmaster a few weeks ago...

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Tale of Two

House 1:

The four-bedroom home was planned so that "every
room has a relationship with something in the
landscape that's different from the room next door.
Each of the rooms feels like a slightly different
place." The resulting single-story house is a
paragon of environmental planning.

The passive-solar house is built of honey-colored
native limestone and positioned to absorb winter
sunlight, warming the interior walkways and walls of
the 4,000-square-foot residence. Geothermal heat
pumps circulate water through pipes buried 300 feet
deep in the ground. These waters pass through a heat
exchange system that keeps the home warm in winter
and cool in summer. A 25,000-gallon underground
cistern collects rainwater gathered from roof urns;
wastewater from sinks, toilets, and showers cascades
into underground purifying tanks and is also
funneled into the cistern. The water from the
cistern is then used to irrigate the landscaping
around the four-bedroom home,
(which) uses indigenous grasses, shrubs, and
flowers to complete the exterior treatment of the
home. In addition to its minimal environmental
impact, the look and layout of the house reflect one
of the paramount priorities: relaxation. A spacious
10-foot porch wraps completely around the residence
and beckons the family outdoors. With few hallways
to speak of, family and guests make their way from
room to room either directly or by way of the porch.
"The house doesn't hold you in. Where the porch ends
there is grass. There is no step-up at all." This
house consumes 25% of the energy of an average
American home. (Source: Cowboys and Indians
Magazine, Oct. 2002 and Chicago Tribune April 2001.)

House 2:

This 20-room, 8-bathroom house consumes more
electricity every month than the average American
household uses in an entire year. The average
household in America consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours
(kWh) per year, according to the Department of
Energy. In 2006, this house devoured nearly 221,000
kWh, more than 20 times the national average. Last
August alone, the house burned through 22,619 kWh,
guzzling more than twice the electricity in one
month than an average American family uses in an
entire year. As a result of this energy consumption,
the average monthly electric bill topped $1,359.
Also, natural gas bills for this house and guest
house averaged $1,080 per month last year. In total,
this house had nearly $30,000 in combined
electricity and natural gas bills for 2006. (Source:
just about anywhere in the news last month online
and on talk radio, but barely on TV.)

House 1 belongs to George and Laura Bush, and is
in Crawford, Texas.

House 2 belongs to Al and Tipper Gore, and is in
Nashville, Tennessee.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Why we need to start a subsistence farm

Canada Free Press: ChemNutra sliding off radar screen?

"Even with no conclusive answers from the Food and Drug Association (FDA) on which particular poison is sickening what respectable veterinarian associations claim could be "thousands" of pets, ChemNutra, the U.S. company that imported the tainted wheat gluten from China seems to have disappeared off the radar screen.
All questions to ChemNutra are now being fielded by Stern and Company, a Las Vegas-based public relations firm.
Pet owners emailing Canada Free Press (CFP) complain that their questions are met with the same response: "What is the purpose of this query?"
PR flaks are paid to protect clients but the silence from ChemNutra CEO Stephen S. Miller and his wife Sally Qing Miller is deafening.
...
Why haven’t the Millers been called to testify at Senator Dick Durbin’s Subcommittee on Agriculture, World Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies in Washington, D.C.?
Stephen Miller includes E.F. Hutton & Company and Smith Barney as former employers on the ChemNutra website.
Once the respected second largest brokerage firm in the United States, E.F. Hutton & Co. went down in flames.
...
"It was not until the president of the brokerage firm, Scott Pierce (the brother of Barbara Bush, wife of then-vice-president of the U.S.) entered his corporation’s guilty plea to 2000 criminal counts of federal mail and wire fraud in 1985, that the Hutton conglomerate fell apart."
Could it be that former Hutton vice president, ChemNutra’s Stephen S. Miller has FDA protection that originates from the highest office of the land?"

I picked up the Chicago Sun times a couple of months ago and read an article about cronyism and the Roti family in Chicago, with a detailed family tree and a list of city jobs and salaries that had been given to family members. I wonder if anyone's done anything this detailed with the Bush family's cronies, except instead of getting jobs as street pavers they're running government departments or getting sweet deals at the corporations they run.

Update:
WaPo: FDA Was Aware of Dangers To Food
"The Food and Drug Administration has known for years about contamination problems at a Georgia peanut butter plant and on California spinach farms that led to disease outbreaks that killed three people, sickened hundreds, and forced one of the biggest product recalls in U.S. history, documents and interviews show.
Overwhelmed by huge growth in the number of food processors and imports, however, the agency took only limited steps to address the problems and relied on producers to police themselves, according to agency documents.
Congressional critics and consumer advocates said both episodes show that the agency is incapable of adequately protecting the safety of the food supply.
FDA officials conceded that the agency's system needs to be overhauled to meet today's demands, but contended that the agency could not have done anything to prevent either contamination episode"

So the FDA doesn't want to regulate our food, the EPA doesn't want to regulate our air, who else isn't doing their job?

It's Like This

Hi guys,
Check out what I made today. It's basically a tool to help me surf the internet at work. I've collected articles and links to all my favorite weekly/monthly columinists on one page. If you have a favorite I haven't added, let me know.

Thanks,

Saturday, April 21, 2007

50% Good News Is the Bad News in Russian Radio - New York Times

Uh-oh!



MOSCOW, April 21 — At their first meeting with journalists since taking over Russia’s largest independent radio news network, the managers had startling news of their own: from now on, they said, at least 50 percent of the reports about Russia must be “positive.”

In addition, opposition leaders could not be mentioned on the air and the United States was to be portrayed as an enemy, journalists employed by the network, Russian News Service, say they were told by the new managers, who are allies of the Kremlin.

How would they know what constituted positive news?

“When we talk of death, violence or poverty, for example, this is not positive,” said one editor at the station who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution. “If the stock market is up, that is positive. The weather can also be positive.”

In a darkening media landscape, radio news had been a rare bright spot. Now, the implementation of the “50 percent positive” rule at the Russian News Service leaves an increasingly small number of news outlets that are not managed by the Kremlin, directly or through the state national gas company, Gazprom, a major owner of media assets.

The three national television networks are already state controlled, though small-circulation newspapers generally remain independent.

This month alone, a bank loyal to President Vladimir V. Putin tightened its control of an independent television station, Parliament passed a measure banning “extremism” in politics and prosecutors have gone after individuals who post critical comments on Web chat rooms.

Parliament is also considering extending state control to Internet sites that report news, reflecting the growing importance of Web news as the country becomes more affluent and growing numbers of middle-class Russians acquire computers.

On Tuesday, the police raided the Educated Media Foundation, a nongovernmental group sponsored by United States and European donors that helps foster an independent news media. The police carried away documents and computers that were used as servers for the Web sites of similar groups. That brought down a Web site run by the Glasnost Defense Foundation, a media rights group, which published bulletins on violations of press freedoms.

“Russia is dropping off the list of countries that respect press freedoms,” said Boris Timoshenko, a spokesman for the foundation. “We have propaganda, not information.”,................

Centerpiece of New American Strategy: "It Was Awful in Berlin, It's Been Awful in Israel, Let's Try it in Iraq"

Sunnis Complain About Baghdad Barrier | The Huffington Post

BAGHDAD — A wall U.S. troops are building around a Sunni enclave in Baghdad came under increasing criticism on Saturday, with residents calling it "collective punishment" and a local leader saying construction began without the neighborhood council's approval.

The U.S. military says the wall in Baghdad is meant to secure the minority Sunni community of Azamiyah, which "has been trapped in a spiral of sectarian violence and retaliation." The area, located on the eastern side of the Tigris River, would be completely gated, with entrances and exits manned by Iraqi soldiers, the U.S. military said earlier this week

..........

A doctor in Adhamiya, Abu Hassan, said the wall would transform the residents into caged animals.

“It’s unbelievable that they treat us in such an inhumane manner,” he said in a telephone interview. “They’re trying to isolate us from other parts of Baghdad. The hatred will be much greater between the two sects.”

“The Native Americans were treated better than us,” he added.

The American military said in a written statement that “the wall is one of the centerpieces of a new strategy by coalition and Iraqi forces to break the cycle of sectarian violence.”

Friday, April 20, 2007

Terminating Women's Rights

HuffPo: "For today, the women of this Nation still retain the liberty to control their destinies. But the signs are evident and very ominous, and a chill wind blows.

Justice Harry Blackmun penned those words in the 1989 abortion-rights case Webster v. Reproductive Health Services. Yesterday, his trepidations were validated. For American women, that chill wind has turned into a storm.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of the United States narrowly upheld the Federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act in a decision that has been hailed as giving anti-choice activists "the long-awaited victory they expected from a more conservative bench." While this is certainly an anti-choice victory, it isn't a victory for "life," for families, or for women.
What most anti-choice organizations won't tell you is that the court's upholding of the ban will probably not protect even one fetus. It will, however, give pregnant women fewer options, and potentially complicate their health (the ban does not include a health exemption). It interferes with the ability of doctors to choose the best treatment for their patients, and turns them into potential criminals. It limits the grieving options of women whose wanted pregnancies went wrong. And because it does not use medical terminology, opting instead to rely on anti-choice propaganda language coined in the mid-90s, it gives doctors limited information about what is actually outlawed.
What most anti-choice organizations also won't tell you is that so-called "partial birth abortions" are often performed on women whose wanted pregnancies went tragically wrong. The image of the selfish woman, too lazy or irresponsible to end her pregnancy sooner, is what anti-choice activists would prefer we believed the women who have "partial-birth abortions" look like. In fact, the face of the outlawed procedure is more like this. And this. These are women with wanted pregnancies -- women who may have bought a bassinet, picked out a name, decorated a nursery -- when they receive the tragic news that they are carrying a fetus with abnormalities incompatible with life, or a fetus that is already dead or dying. These are also women who face serious health complications like preeclampsia, and women whose bodies and organs will be significantly weakened by birth, but won't be killed -- like the Polish woman who is nearly blind because she was refused access to abortion. Doctors -- and indeed, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists -- say that the banned procedure is often the best choice for preserving the health of the pregnant woman. The court apparently disagrees, and thinks that Congress knows better than the doctors who actually treat pregnant patients.
Of course, Congress has already proven that it doesn't know much, since many of the Act's proclamations are factually incorrect, and, as Justice Ginsburg quoted in her dissent, "all of the government's own witnesses disagreed with many of the specific congressional findings." Even more telling is the fact that "partial-birth abortion" is not a medical term. It was coined by the anti-choice movement (literally by three anti-choice activists sitting in a room together and making up a term), and the procedure described in the Act most closely resembles what medical professionals call "dilation and extraction (D&X)" or "intact dilation and evacuation (intact D&E)," wherein a pregnant woman's cervix is dilated, the fetus's skull is collapsed, and the fetus is removed. Like most surgical procedures, the description is not pretty. But the key difference between the banned procedure and a similar, still legal procedure -- dilation and extraction -- is that D&X allows the fetus to be removed in one piece, allowing grieving women to hold it and to say goodbye in their own way."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Move From Hell

In the past four years, the Pentagon has sent 9 million tons of gear to Iraq. Getting it all back will take time.


April 23, 2007 issue - Most everyone agrees that a precipitous American withdrawal from Iraq would be disastrous. Fewer people realize it may be impossible. In the past four years, the U.S. military has shipped to the region more than 9 million tons of equipment—from tanks and bulldozers to toilets and silverware. If you were to load all that gear on tractor-trailers and line them up end to end, the convoy would extend from San Francisco to Miami.

"It's mind-boggling, the size of all this," says Maj. Gen. Charles W. Fletcher Jr., who is director of operations at the U.S. Transportation Command and was in charge of logistics at the start of the war. Fletcher knows something about pullouts. After the 1991 war in Iraq, he commanded a battalion in Saudi Arabia that "cleared out the theater" of all remaining U.S. matériel. "We let all the soldiers fly home minus myself and a couple of thousand others," he says. "It took us about eight months to get all the equipment back."

And that was under optimal conditions

The End of a 1,400-Year-Old Business

The world's oldest continuously operating family business ended its impressive run last year. Japanese temple builder Kongo Gumi, in operation under the founders' descendants since 578, succumbed to excess debt and an unfavorable business climate in 2006.

How do you make a family business last for 14 centuries? Kongo Gumi's case suggests that it's a good idea to operate in a stable industry. Few industries could be less flighty than Buddhist temple construction. The belief system has survived for thousands of years and has many millions of adherents. With this firm foundation, Kongo had survived some tumultuous times, notably the 19th century Meiji restoration when it lost government subsidies and began building commercial buildings for the first time. But temple construction had until recently been a reliable mainstay, contributing 80% of Kongo Gumi's $67.6 million in 2004 revenues.

EU aims to criminalise Holocaust denial

Laws that make denying or trivialising the Holocaust a criminal offence punishable by jail sentences will be introduced across the European Union, according to a proposal expecting to win backing from ministers Thursday.

Offenders will face up to three years in jail under the proposed legislation, which will also apply to inciting violence against ethnic, religious or national groups.

Diplomats in Brussels voiced confidence on Tuesday that the controversial plan, which has been the subject of heated debate for six years, will be endorsed by member states. However, the Baltic countries and Poland are still holding out for an inclusion of “Stalinist crimes” alongside the Holocaust in the text – a move that is being resisted by the majority of other EU countries.

The latest draft, seen by the Financial Times, will make it mandatory for all Union member states to punish public incitement “to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin”.

They will also have to criminalise “publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivialising crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes” when such statements incite hatred or violence against minorities.


I'd be interested in getting opinions on this. My first reaction is to say this is another infringement on individual freedom, but its tricky because of the way they word this - like outlawing yelling "fire" in a movie theatre. But, you know, first they take away small things no one is worried about, but it makes it that much easier to pass the next law.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Black Day in the Blue Ridge

New York Times
Written by a VA Tech faculty member

"A FEW months ago, when I returned from a trip to Sierra Leone, a country I lived in for years and one still reeling from the effects of a brutal civil war, I was filled with relief to be returning to a crime-free place like Blacksburg. As usual, I was welcomed by the Blue Ridge Mountains, and by the friends I’ve grown to love during my 22 years on the faculty at Virginia Tech.
It’s a quiet place. The town is full of turkeys — statues of our mascot, the Hokie Bird, painted in garish colors — as if being a Hokie were not a sports metaphor but a way of life. There’s a 5-foot-tall turkey just outside the bank; one near the police station; another in the parking lot of a Cleaner World, where I take my clothes. We have a sense of humor in Blacksburg — it’s part of our charm.
Blacksburg is a misnomer, of course. It’s the whitest town I’ve ever lived in. And although I’m not white, I’ve grown used to the fact that we can, for the most part, live in relative harmony — black and white, town and gown, young and old together. It’s a place that lulls you into believing you can predict what will happen next.
Apart from the gusty, frigid weather, the campus was enjoying another typical spring. Classes were winding down — graduation was fast closing in. Then, this month, we had two bomb threats on the campus. Still, people took it in stride: when classes in Torgersen Hall were canceled, the faculty grumbled and the students rejoiced. A $5,000 reward was offered if we could find the culprit. Back then, in the era before the slaughter, this seemed significant.
Monday morning, I was preparing for class at home; my husband, Larry, a computer engineer in the chemistry department, was at work on campus. I’d woken up with a sense of dread. I put it down to the visions I was having of the massacres in Sierra Leone, where I’d left behind people I cared about. Nervously, I kept flicking the TV on and off for news. In spite of my agitation, when I saw a map of Virginia on CNN with the name “Blacksburg” highlighted, I didn’t initially associate it with my Blacksburg.
The statistics that ran along the bottom of the CNN ticker were, at first, merciful: one death. My friends and I called each other and said reassuring, clichéd things. We knew how to handle this.
We’d had a similar scare at the beginning of the academic year when an escaped prisoner had been on the loose, armed. There were two fatalities in that event — a police officer and a security guard — twice what they were reporting today. Once again, we’d need to pull together as a community and grieve, but it seemed manageable.
When a local TV news reporter first uttered the phrase “more than 20,” I knew she had made an obscene error. This was Blacksburg, not Freetown. When the CNN ticker turned brutal, and the numbers tore across the bottom of the screen like bullets, faculty and staff called one another in disbelief. “Oh my God!” we said, struggling to find words that would guide us back to a recognizable place."

Are the White House Emails Really Lost?



April 13, 2007 - The White House had bad news this week for Democrats seeking official government e-mails that may include information about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. Such messages, including missives from senior adviser Karl Rove, may have been lost, the Bush administration claimed, because they were sent through private accounts rather than the official government e-mail system. A White House spokesman says that the aides used private accounts to avoid violating a law barring government officials from doing political business using government resources; congressional Democrats charge that the staffers may have deliberately used Republican National Committee accounts to avoid normal review.

The e-mail furor deepened Thursday when the independent watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington reported that the White House itself may also have lost more than 5 million e-mails between 2003 and 2005—a claim the White House did not immediately refute.

Is it possible to “lose” an e-mail? Well, sort of. Hard drives fail all the time, often taking valuable data with them. But when you erase an e-mail, “you’re basically just erasing the index to the document—the document is still there,” explains Scott Gaidano, CEO of the data-recovery service DriveSavers. So it might be lost to you, but that doesn't mean it's not hiding out somewhere on your drive.

Threats Over Don Imus' Firing Lead Al Sharpton To Increase Security

File under: psychotic nut jobs

The Rev. Al Sharpton has increased security at his office after receiving threats in response to his campaign to have Don Imus fired.
"We have received several threats that we consider serious," Sharpton told the Daily News in Sunday's edition. "I have been stabbed once, so we don't take anything too lightly."
Sharpton was stabbed in the chest in 1991 during a protest in Brooklyn.
Charlie King, acting executive director of Sharpton's National Action Network, said a caller telephoned the civil rights leader's radio show on Saturday and threatened to "hunt him down and shoot him like an animal."
Police confirmed they have an increased presence near Sharpton's church in Harlem and his staff.
Sharpton became one of Imus' most vocal critics after the shock jock used a racial slur while referring to the Rutgers women's basketball team. Imus was fired from his radio show after calling the team "nappy-headed hos."

Britain stops using 'war on terror' phrase

LONDON - The British government has stopped using the phrase “war on terror” to refer to the struggle against political and religious violence, according to a Cabinet minister’s prepared remarks for a Monday speech.

“We do not use the phrase 'war on terror' because we can’t win by military means alone, and because this isn’t us against one organized enemy with a clear identity and a coherent set of objectives,” Benn said.

“It is the vast majority of the people in the world — of all nationalities and faiths — against a small number of loose, shifting and disparate groups who have relatively little in common apart from their identification with others who share their distorted view of the world and their idea of being part of something bigger.”

10 bucks say they haven't even seen it

Parents who claim that an award-winning film on climate change is inaccurate and politically motivated are threatening a legal challenge over the Government's decision to send it to every secondary school.

The film by Al Gore, the former US vice-president, won an Oscar for the best documentary this year and Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, says he wants teachers to use it to stimulate children into discussing climate change and global warming.

But a group of parents in the New Forest say the circulation of the film by the Government amounts to political indoctrination and is in breach of the Education Act 2002. Derek Tipp, their spokesman, has urged Mr Johnson to stop the film being sent out.

He said: "The film goes well beyond the consensus view and is not therefore suitable material to present to children who need to be given clear and balanced, factually accurate information."

Monday, April 16, 2007

This Man Should Not be President

American radio icon Don Imus disgraced, fired after threat to reveal 9/11 secrets


According to European reports of the events surrounding Don Imus that have gripped the United States this past week, it was during an interview with another American media personality, Tim Russert, who is the host of a television programme frequently used by US War Leaders, wherein while decrying the state of care being given to American War wounded stated, "So those bastards want to keep these boys [in reference to US Soldiers] secret? Let's see how they like it if I start talking about their [in reference to US War Leaders] secrets, starting with 9/11."
secretzzzzzz

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sea lion attacks teen surfer girl


PERTH, Australia (AP) -- A sea lion leaped out of the sea and attacked a 13-year-old girl as she surfed behind a speedboat off Australia's west coast, a newspaper reported Sunday.

A marine scientist said the attack by the sea lion, which can grow to more than 880 pounds in weight but usually stay away from humans, was bizarre and that the sea lion may have been trying to play with the girl.

Ella Murphy had her jaw broken and lost three teeth after the sea lion attacked her on Friday as she was being towed on a surfboard behind a speedboat at Lancelin, a town 80 miles north of the Western Australia state capital of Perth, The Sunday Times newspaper reported.

"This thing just exploded in a full-on, frontal attack," family friend Chris Thomas told the newspaper. "It jumped out of the water at her and hit her head on."

Sydney Aquarium marine scientist Grant Willis said he had never heard of such an attack before.

"To be out in the water and be attacked like this is just bizarre," he said.

Sea lions can be very territorial, but usually only attack humans when provoked.

"It might have been like a rag doll toy ... it could have been ... play for them, just wanting to shake it around," Willis said of the attack.

Murphy was in a stable condition in hospital after having surgery, the newspaper reported.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Crooks and Liars � Maher Blasts Regent Law School%u2019s Transformation of the DoJ



On "Real Time" last night, Bill Maher laced into Monica Goodling and the Bush administration for appointing more than 150 graduates of a tier 4 law school to prominent position in the US government.

Click the link to watch the video

Are mobile phones wiping out our bees?

Independent"It seems like the plot of a particularly far-fetched horror film. But some scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could cause massive food shortages, as the world's harvests fail.
They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world - the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops. Late last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon - which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe - was beginning to hit Britain as well.
The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees' navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up.
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when a hive's inhabitants suddenly disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers, like so many apian Mary Celestes. The vanished bees are never found, but thought to die singly far from home. The parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives.
The alarm was first sounded last autumn, but has now hit half of all American states. The West Coast is thought to have lost 60 per cent of its commercial bee population, with 70 per cent missing on the East Coast.
CCD has since spread to Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. And last week John Chapple, one of London's biggest bee-keepers, announced that 23 of his 40 hives have been abruptly abandoned.
Other apiarists have recorded losses in Scotland, Wales and north-west England, but the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs insisted: "There is absolutely no evidence of CCD in the UK."
The implications of the spread are alarming. Most of the world's crops depend on pollination by bees. Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared, "man would have only four years of life left"."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut Is Dead at 84; Caught Imagination of His Age




Kurt Vonnegut was our great ally. An ally in the battle for common sense and humor, a war that is fought in both big and small ways every single day. If you do not know what I’m talking about, then perhaps you are on the wrong side.

I read my first Kurt Vonnegut book my junior year of college. A boy gave me a copy of “Saturns of Titan,” with a note inscribed in the front cover. What a great gift. And now, this is my inscription to the bloggers of the world: read this book. I guarantee you will be entertained and introduced to an author that defied genres.

I read “Cat’s Cradle” in an airport in London. He talked about connections with other people, both meaningless (“granfallons”) and of great importance (“karass”). Some, he said, are trivial associations, like being a “Hoosier.” He compared labels like that to the thin layer of plastic trapping air inside a balloon. Other connections reveal our purposes in life. I think he said we’re on teams, but we don’t necessarily know who’s on them. The team could be 50 people, or it could be just 2 people, but their bond is their common goal.

And then he mentioned my relative, James Whitcomb Riley, who was an obscure poet (and a Hoosier), and it really made me wonder – was this a sign of my karass, or just another serendipitous granfallon? It made me look at the people around me at the airport a little differently, as I sat by myself, waiting to board a small plane from London to Munich.

I carried the book with me until I got to Barcelona. At the hostel we were staying at, a kid sleeping in the bunk next to me was also reading it. Another grand coincidence, I wondered... I ended up leaving my copy on the book shelf in the lounge area, letting it meet with next fortunate person.

Kurt Vonnegut was a good person and a great writer who had insightful things to say, which he did in such a refreshingly light-hearted and humorous way. I’d say Rest In Peace, but that would only be as a joke. He was a Humanist…
-------- K. Riley Barron


From NY Times: "Kurt Vonnegut, whose dark comic talent and urgent moral vision in novels like “Slaughterhouse-Five,” “Cat’s Cradle” and “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” caught the temper of his times and the imagination of a generation, died last night in Manhattan. He was 84 and had homes in Manhattan and in Sagaponack on Long Island.
His death was reported by the publisher Morgan Entrekin, a longtime family friend, who said Mr. Vonnegut suffered brain injuries as a result of a fall several weeks ago.
Mr. Vonnegut wrote plays, essays and short fiction. But it was his novels that became classics of the American counterculture, making him a literary idol, particularly to students in the 1960s and ’70s. Dog-eared paperback copies of his books could be found in the back pockets of blue jeans and in dorm rooms on campuses throughout the United States.
Like Mark Twain, Mr. Vonnegut used humor to tackle the basic questions of human existence: Why are we in this world? Is there a presiding figure to make sense of all this, a god who in the end, despite making people suffer, wishes them well?"

Halliburton Closes Up Shop in Iran



As political tensions mount around Iran and rumors of war with the United States become more insistent, Halliburton announced Monday evening that it would stop providing services to oil production in Iran. The company announced in January 2005 that it would not sign any new contracts in that country but would continue to work under existing contracts.
The company noted at the time that its business in Iran did not violate U.S. legislation prohibiting U.S. companies from operating in Iran because it was working through a Dubai representative. The U.S. Justice Department has been investigating Halliburton since the autumn of 2004.

Halliburton says that it has completed all its contracts in Iran and will discontinue all business there. Observers say that Halliburton was operating in Iran only due to a loophole in American legislation and that it has been forced out of that country under pressure from politicians. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), a long-time critic of Halliburton, stated that the company “had to be dragged kicking and screaming out of Iran.''

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Former Home of Johnny Cash Burns



April 11, 2007 — The Tennessean reports that the historic home Johnny Cash and wife June Carter Cash lived in until their deaths burned Tuesday afternoon.

The home on Caudill Drive in Hendersonville was in the final stages of renovation by its new owner, singer-songwriter Barry Gibb. Gibb purchased the home in January 2006 and, according to singer T.G. Sheppard, planned to move in around July 4 of this year.
"We just called Barry on the phone and told him the house was burning," T.G. said. "He didn't know. He is at his home in Miami."

"I just can't talk right now," said Tommy Cash, brother of Johnny, as he watched the lakeside house burn.
The paper reports that spectators lined the roadway as they watched a part of the city and the music industry's history burn.

"I've been in this house many times with Johnny and June. This is just devastating," said Oak Ridge Boys member William Lee Golden, who, along with his wife Brenda, stood on the hillside across the street from the Cash home.
Fire officials have not determined a cause for the blaze. The house was built in 1968 and was the home for the country music couple for 35 years.

Joanne Cash, Johnny's sister, said, "Of course we are all in a state of shock. I feel that an era has passed. Just today in prayer, I had decided to move on, even discarding old newspaper clippings not realizing that this terrible thing would happen. My prayers are with the Cash family and especially the Gibb family during this time."

Trash Talk Radio

By GWEN IFILL
Published: April 10, 2007
Washington

LET’S say a word about the girls. The young women with the musical names. Kia and Epiphanny and Matee and Essence. Katie and Dee Dee and Rashidat and Myia and Brittany and Heather.

The Scarlet Knights of Rutgers University had an improbable season, dropping four of their first seven games, yet ending up in the N.C.A.A. women’s basketball championship game. None of them were seniors. Five were freshmen.

In the end, they were stopped only by Tennessee’s Lady Vols, who clinched their seventh national championship by ending Rutgers’ Cinderella run last week, 59-46. That’s the kind of story we love, right? A bunch of teenagers from Newark, Cincinnati, Brooklyn and, yes, Ogden, Utah, defying expectations. It’s what explodes so many March Madness office pools.

But not, apparently, for the girls. For all their grit, hard work and courage, the Rutgers girls got branded “nappy-headed ho’s” — a shockingly concise sexual and racial insult, tossed out in a volley of male camaraderie by a group of amused, middle-aged white men. The “joke” — as delivered and later recanted — by the radio and television personality Don Imus failed one big test: it was not funny.

The serial apologies of Mr. Imus, who was suspended yesterday by both NBC News and CBS Radio for his remarks, have failed another test. The sincerity seems forced and suspect because he’s done some version of this several times before.

I know, because he apparently did it to me.

I was covering the White House for this newspaper in 1993, when Mr. Imus’s producer began calling to invite me on his radio program. I didn’t return his calls. I had my hands plenty full covering Bill Clinton.

Soon enough, the phone calls stopped. Then quizzical colleagues began asking me why Don Imus seemed to have a problem with me. I had no idea what they were talking about because I never listened to the program.

It was not until five years later, when Mr. Imus and I were both working under the NBC News umbrella — his show was being simulcast on MSNBC; I was a Capitol Hill correspondent for the network — that I discovered why people were asking those questions. It took Lars-Erik Nelson, a columnist for The New York Daily News, to finally explain what no one else had wanted to repeat.

“Isn’t The Times wonderful,” Mr. Nelson quoted Mr. Imus as saying on the radio. “It lets the cleaning lady cover the White House.”

I was taken aback but not outraged. I’d certainly been called worse and indeed jumped at the chance to use the old insult to explain to my NBC bosses why I did not want to appear on the Imus show.

I haven’t talked about this much. I’m a big girl. I have a platform. I have a voice. I’ve been working in journalism long enough that there is little danger that a radio D.J.’s juvenile slap will define or scar me. Yesterday, he began telling people he never actually called me a cleaning lady. Whatever. This is not about me.

It is about the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. That game had to be the biggest moment of their lives, and the outcome the biggest disappointment. They are not old enough, or established enough, to have built up the sort of carapace many women I know — black women in particular — develop to guard themselves against casual insult.

Why do my journalistic colleagues appear on Mr. Imus’s program? That’s for them to defend, and others to argue about. I certainly don’t know any black journalists who will. To his credit, Mr. Imus told the Rev. Al Sharpton yesterday he realizes that, this time, he went way too far.

Yes, he did. Every time a young black girl shyly approaches me for an autograph or writes or calls or stops me on the street to ask how she can become a journalist, I feel an enormous responsibility. It’s more than simply being a role model. I know I have to be a voice for them as well.

So here’s what this voice has to say for people who cannot grasp the notion of picking on people their own size: This country will only flourish once we consistently learn to applaud and encourage the young people who have to work harder just to achieve balance on the unequal playing field.

Let’s see if we can manage to build them up and reward them, rather than opting for the cheapest, easiest, most despicable shots.

Gwen Ifill is a senior correspondent for “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” and the moderator of “Washington Week.”

ROKER SAYS TIME FOR IMUS TO GO

(From Al Roker)

I cannot tell you how many people have asked me about my thoughts on Don Imus. As a student of broadcasting, I know Don Imus was one of the original “shock jocks.” I listened to him growing up in New York City in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

He is a radio icon.

That said, it is time for him to go.

I, for one, am really tired of the diatribes, the “humor” at others’ expense, the cruelty that passes for “funny”. Don Imus isn’t the only one doing this, but today he’s the one in the hot seat.

What he said was vile and disgusting. It denigrated an entire team and by extension, a community and its pride in a group that had excelled.

This controversy started and grew during the week. At first under the radar, we even had Don’s wife, Deidre, on the program, talking about “green” cleaning. I thought she was so good I wanted to talk to her about a television program for my production company.

Don and his wife have done a lot of good things—raising money for charity, including a ranch for children suffering from cancer and blood disorders.

Yet, Don Imus needs to be fired for what he said. And while we’re at it, his producer, Bernard McGurk, needs to be canned as well. McGurk is just as guilty, often egging Imus on.

The “I’m a good person who said a bad thing” apology doesn’t cut it. At least he didn’t try to weasel out of this by hiding behind alcohol or drug abuse. Still, he said it and a two-week suspension doesn’t cut it. It is, at best, a slap on the wrist. A vacation. Nothing.

The general manager of Cartoon Network resigned after a publicity stunt went wrong and caused a panic in Boston. He did the right thing. Don Imus should do the right thing and resign. Not talk about taking a two-week suspension with dignity. I don’t think Don Imus gets it.

After watching and listening to him this morning during an interview with Matt Lauer, Don Imus doesn’t get it. Maybe it’s being stuck in a studio for 35 years or being stuck in the 1980’s. Either way, it’s obvious that he needs to move on. Citing “context within a comedy show” is not an excuse.

He has to take his punishment and start over. Guess what? He’ll get re-hired and we’ll go on like nothing happened. CBS Radio and NBC News needs to remove Don Imus from the airwaves. That is what needs to happen. Otherwise, it just looks like profits and ratings rule over decency and justice.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

An Administration's Epic Collapse

Thursday, Apr. 05, 2007 By JOE KLEIN
The first three months of the new Democratic Congress have been neither terrible nor transcendent. A Pew poll had it about right: a substantial majority of the public remains happy the Democrats won in 2006, but neither Nancy Pelosi nor Harry Reid has dominated the public consciousness as Newt Gingrich did when the Republicans came to power in 1995. There is a reason for that. A much bigger story is unfolding: the epic collapse of the Bush Administration.
The three big Bush stories of 2007--the decision to "surge" in Iraq, the scandalous treatment of wounded veterans at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys for tawdry political reasons--precisely illuminate the three qualities that make this Administration one of the worst in American history: arrogance (the surge), incompetence (Walter Reed) and cynicism (the U.S. Attorneys).
Iraq comes first, as always. From the start, it has been obvious that personal motives have skewed the President's judgment about the war. Saddam tried to kill his dad; his dad didn't try hard enough to kill Saddam. There was payback to be had. But never was Bush's adolescent petulance more obvious than in his decision to ignore the Baker-Hamilton report and move in the exact opposite direction: adding troops and employing counterinsurgency tactics inappropriate to the situation on the ground. "There was no way he was going to accept [its findings] once the press began to portray the report as Daddy's friends coming to the rescue," a member of the Baker-Hamilton commission told me. As with Bush's invasion of Iraq, the decision to surge was made unilaterally, without adequate respect for history or military doctrine. Iraq was invaded with insufficient troops and planning; the surge was attempted with too few troops (especially non-Kurdish, Arabic-speaking Iraqis), a purposely misleading time line ("progress" by September) and, most important, the absence of a reliable Iraqi government.
General David Petraeus has repeatedly said, "A military solution to Iraq is not possible." Translation: This thing fails unless there is a political deal among the Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds. There is no such deal on the horizon, largely because of the President's aversion to talking to people he doesn't like. And while some Baghdad neighborhoods may be more peaceful--temporarily--as a result of the increased U.S. military presence, the story two years from now is likely to resemble the recent headlines from Tall 'Afar: dueling Sunni and Shi'ite massacres have destroyed order in a city famously pacified by counterinsurgency tactics in 2005. Bush's indifference to reality in Iraq is not an isolated case. It is the modus operandi of his Administration. The indifference of his Environmental Protection Agency to the dangers of carbon dioxide emissions was rejected by the Supreme Court on April 2.
On April 3, the President again accused Democrats of being "more interested in fighting political battles in Washington than providing our troops what they need." Such demagoguery is particularly outrageous given the Administration's inability to provide our troops "what they need" at the nation's premier hospital for veterans. The mold and decrepitude at Walter Reed are likely to be only the beginning of the tragedy, the latest example of incompetence in this Administration. "This is yet another aspect of war planning that wasn't done properly," says Paul Rieckhoff of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "The entire VA hospital system is unprepared for the casualties of Iraq, especially the psychiatric casualties. A lot of vets are saying, 'This is our Katrina moment.' And they're right: this Administration governs badly because it doesn't care very much about governing."
Compared with Iraq and Walter Reed, the firing of the U.S. Attorneys is a relatively minor matter. It is true that U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President, but they are political appointees of a special sort. They are partisans, obviously, but must appear to be above politics--not working to influence elections, for example--if public faith in the impartiality of the justice system is to be maintained. Once again Karl Rove's operation has corrupted a policy area--like national security--that should be off-limits to political operators.
When Bush came to office--installed by the Supreme Court after receiving fewer votes than Al Gore--I speculated that the new President would have to govern in a bipartisan manner to be successful. He chose the opposite path, and his hyper-partisanship has proved to be a travesty of governance and a comprehensive failure. I've tried to be respectful of the man and the office, but the three defining sins of the Bush Administration--arrogance, incompetence, cynicism--are congenital: they're part of his personality. They're not likely to change. And it is increasingly difficult to imagine yet another two years of slow bleed with a leader so clearly unfit to lead.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Convention Cleanup Includes Pigeon Poop

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Pigeon poop has long sullied downtown St. Paul sidewalks, but the slippery, smelly mess is gaining urgency with the Republican National Convention coming to town next year.
Sticky foam, hawk balloons and nets haven't gotten rid of the birds, so officials have a new plan: stealing pigeon eggs.

After pigeons lay their eggs on rooftop nesting grounds, maintenance workers plan to sneak up through trap doors and grab the next generation before it hatches.

"We'll build them little condos. We'll keep taking the eggs, and they won't have little ones," said Bill Stephenson, the city's animal control supervisor. "Slowly they'll die off."

The scheme has the blessing of the St. Paul Audubon Society. Member Val Cunningham said pigeons aren't native, and their eggs aren't protected. If the plan works, "it would be sweet for the city," Cunningham said.

City officials also considered feeding contraceptives to the pigeons but rejected that idea on fears of also inadvertently sterilizing eagles or hawks.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

MacDailyNews | 4,000 flash mob dancers whip out Apple iPods, startle commuters at Victoria station

There were knowing looks and giggles among the casually dressed crowd that gathered from 6.30pm, wearing earphones.
A deafening 10-second countdown startled station staff and commuters before the concourse erupted in whoops and cheers. MP3 players and iPods emerged and the crowd danced wildly to their soundtracks in silence - for two hours.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

It Didn't End Well Last Time

New York Times: "Not since the Roaring Twenties have the rich been so much richer than everyone else. In 2005, the latest year for which figures are available, the top 1 percent of Americans — whose average income was $1.1 million a year — received 21.8 percent of the nation’s income, their largest share since 1929.
Over all, the top 10 percent of Americans — those making more than about $100,000 a year — collected 48.5 percent, also a share last seen before the Great Depression.
Those findings are no fluke. They follow a disturbing rise in income concentration in 2003, and a sharp increase in 2004. And the trend almost certainly continues, spurred now as then by the largess of top-tier compensation, and investment gains that also flow mainly to the top. For the bottom 90 percent of Americans who are left with half the pie, average income actually dipped in 2005. The group’s wages picked up in 2006, but not enough to make up for the lean years of this decade.
Sensing a political problem, administration officials from President Bush on down have begun acknowledging income inequality. But in their remarks, they invariably say it has been around for decades and is largely driven by technological change. Translation: “We didn’t cause it, and trying to do something about it would be silly.”"

Hang Up on War

By Amy Goodman

If you are upset that Congress won’t defund the war in Iraq, there’s something you can do: Stop paying a tax. Legally.

The Internal Revenue Service is giving a rebate this year on a telephone war tax. This is one of those line items at the bottom of your phone bill. The tax was instituted in 1898 to help the United States pay for the Spanish-American War. Individuals and businesses have one chance to obtain a refund on this telephone war tax, by asking for it in their 2006 income tax returns.

Remarkably, the Internal Revenue Service has made it easy to request the refund, yet IRS Commissioner Mark Everson says that many taxpayers are overlooking it. Obtaining the refund is easy. But first, a little history.

The Spanish-American War lasted from April to August of 1898 and was predicated on a U.S. government demand that Spain abandon its colony in Cuba, which the U.S. subsequently occupied. By the end of 1898, the United States had also taken over the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico.

The war was also used as an official pretext to take over Hawaii. The Senate debated over the annexation in secret, some arguing for total annexation, others for just Pearl Harbor. Sen. Richard Pettigrew of South Dakota derided the annexation plan as money “thrown away in the interest of a few sugar planters and adventurers in Hawaii.” Military bases and raw materials—sound familiar?

The telephone tax was instituted as part of the War Revenue Bill, which expanded the government’s ability to collect taxes, ostensibly to pay for the war. As with the myriad controversial “pork” items added to the recent Iraq war funding authorization, the 1898 bill was the subject of scores of amendments that benefited big business. These included tax breaks for powerful industries like the insurance companies and tobacco dealers.

The telephone tax of 1 cent per call targeted the wealthy, who were generally the only ones who had telephone access in 1898. After the war, the tax was eventually raised to 3 percent. Since the Vietnam War, it has been the target of war tax resisters, people who refuse to pay taxes because they do not want to fund war.

Tax resistance has a long history. Henry David Thoreau promoted it in his essay “Civil Disobedience” to fight slavery: “If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood.” The IRS has vigorously targeted full-fledged tax resisters—ranging from those refusing to pay the Pentagon’s percentage of their taxes, to those who outright refuse to pay anything to the government—making an example of them by garnishing wages, sending them to prison for tax evasion and confiscating their homes.

Tax resisters figured out that they could protest the telephone tax simply by writing their checks to the phone company, withholding the amount of the tax. The IRS deemed the collection of the tax too expensive, relative to the small amount of the tax itself. According to the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, early collection efforts by the IRS included the auctioning of Jim Glock’s bicycle for $22 in 1973 and of George and Lillian Willoughby’s VW Bug in 1971 for $123 (in 2004, Lillian, at 89, with the support of her husband, George, 94, was jailed for protesting the Iraq war).

Court losses convinced the IRS to dump the telephone war tax in 2006 and to offer the retroactive rebate for phone taxes paid between March 1, 2003, and July 31, 2006. Typical refunds will be between $30 and $60. Ironically, while the IRS has dropped the tax on long-distance and “bundled” services, like high-speed Internet, the tax remains for older, standard local phone services and rental of equipment that enables the disabled to use phones. Thus, this tax on the rich is now a tax on the poor. Congressman John Lewis, D-Ga., has submitted a bill to permanently wipe this remnant clean. Two-thirds of the bill’s co-sponsors are anti-tax Republicans, so Democrats might be leery about passing it.

The website, www.refundsforgood.org, lists step-by-step instructions on how to recoup the telephone tax rebate, and recommends donating it to charity.

While Congress and President Bush trade barbs over war funding, with a simple check mark on your tax return you can help to defund the war. Claim your telephone tax rebate. Let the Pentagon hold a bake sale.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 500 stations in North America.

Monday, April 02, 2007

EMI, Apple partner on DRM-free premium music


update EMI Group will soon sell digital music with better sound quality and no digital rights management restrictions through Apple's iTunes Store.

EMI's entire digital music catalog will be available in premium DRM-free form via iTunes in May, the music label said Monday at a press conference in London. Beatles tunes under EMI's control, however, are not part of the plan.

Higher-quality music files, which will play on any computer and any digital-audio player, will not replace the copy-protected EMI music currently sold through iTunes. Rather, they will complement the standard 99-cent iTunes downloads and will be sold at a premium: $1.29 per song.

What's new:
Major music label EMI Group plans to sell a premium level of digital downloads through Apple's iTunes Store. For $1.29 per song, consumers will be able to buy higher-quality digital music lacking digital rights management.

Bottom line:
While Apple CEO Steve Jobs expresses confidence that the EMI deal will pave the way for widespread sales of DRM-free music, at least one analyst thinks that other record companies will "wait and see the proof that it worked."