Monday, July 31, 2006

Living Wage Mandate -- What Do You Think? (Satire - Duh!)

The Chicago City Council passed an ordinance last week declaring that "big box" stores like Target and Best Buy had to pay a living wage of $10 per hour. What do you think?

Dan Klessig, Systems Analyst

"Where does it end, Chicago? Huh?! A decent education? A protected citizenry? Health care? Where does it end, you mad city?!"

Rebecca Sanders, Physical Therapist
"I'm all for people making a living wage, but if I end up having to pay more than $1.99 for a gallon of mayonnaise, I'm going to be pissed."

Terry Hegel, Hardware Store Owner
"I’m just relieved that, as a small-business owner, I am still within the law to treat my workers like shit."

Sunday, July 30, 2006

How Much Longer?

by Eduardo Galeano; July 28, 2006

One country bombed two countries. Such impunity might astound were it not business as usual. In response to the few timid protests from the international community, Israel said mistakes were made.

How much longer will horrors be called mistakes?

This slaughter of civilians began with the kidnapping of a soldier.

How much longer will the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier be allowed to justify the kidnapping of Palestinian sovereignty?

How much longer will the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers be allowed to justify the kidnapping of the entire nation of Lebanon?

For centuries the slaughter of Jews was the favorite sport of Europeans. Auschwitz was the natural culmination of an ancient river of terror, which had flowed across all of Europe.

How much longer will Palestinians and other Arabs be made to pay for crimes they didn’t commit?

Hezbollah didn’t exist when Israel razed Lebanon in earlier invasions.

How much longer will we continue to believe the story of this attacked attacker, which practices terrorism because it has the right to defend itself from terrorism?

Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Lebanon: How much longer will Israel and the United States be allowed to exterminate countries with impunity?

The tortures of Abu Ghraib, which triggered a certain universal sickness, are nothing new to us in Latin America. Our militaries learned their interrogation techniques from the School of the Americas, which may no longer exist in name but lives on in effect.

How much longer will we continue to accept that torture can be legitimized?

Israel has ignored forty-six resolutions of the General Assembly and other U.N. bodies.

How much longer will Israel enjoy the privilege of selective deafness?

The United Nations makes recommendations but never decisions. When it does decide, the United States makes sure the decision is blocked. In the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. has vetoed forty resolutions condemning actions of Israel.

How much longer will the United Nations act as if it were just another name for the United States?

Since the Palestinians had their homes confiscated and their land taken from them, much blood has flowed.

How much longer will blood flow so that force can justify what law denies?

History is repeated day after day, year after year, and ten Arabs die for every one Israeli. How much longer will an Israeli life be measured as worth ten Arab lives?

In proportion to the overall population, the 50,000 civilians killed in Iraq—the majority of them women and children—are the equivalent of 800,000 Americans.

How much longer will we continue to accept, as if customary, the killing of Iraqis in a blind war that has forgotten all of its justifications?

Iran is developing nuclear energy, but the so-called international community is not concerned in the least by the fact that Israel already has 250 atomic bombs, despite the fact that the country lives permanently on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Who calibrates the universal dangerometer? Was Iran the country that dropped atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima?

In the age of globalization, the right to express is less powerful than the right to apply pressure. To justify the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, war is called peace. The Israelis are patriots, and the Palestinians are terrorists, and terrorists sow universal alarm.

How much longer will the media broadcast fear instead of news?

The slaughter happening today, which is not the first and I fear will not be the last, is happening in silence. Has the world gone deaf?

How much longer will the outcry of the outraged be sounded on a bell of straw?

The bombing is killing children, more than a third of the victims.

Those who dare denounce this murder are called anti-Semites.

How much longer will the critics of state terrorism be considered anti-Semites?

How much longer will we accept this grotesque form of extortion?

Are the Jews who are horrified by what is being done in their name anti-Semites? Are there not Arab voices that defend a Palestinian homeland but condemn fundamentalist insanity?

Terrorists resemble one another: state terrorists, respectable members of government, and private terrorists, madmen acting alone or in those organized in groups hard at work since the Cold War battling communist totalitarianism. All act in the name of various gods, whether God, Allah, or Jehovah.

How much longer will we ignore that fact that all terrorists scorn human life and feed off of one another?

Isn’t it clear that in the war between Israel and Hezbollah, it is the civilians, Lebanese, Palestinian, and Israeli, who are dying?

And isn’t it clear that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the invasion of Gaza and Lebanon are the incubators of hatred, producing fanatic after fanatic after fanatic?

We are the only species of animal that specializes in mutual extermination.

We devote $2.5 billion per day to military spending. Misery and war are children of the same father.

How much longer will we accept that this world so in love with death is the only world possible? U

Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer and journalist, is author of “Open Veins of Latin America” and “Memory of Fire.”

The Us Empire Makes Its Move To Take Over The Middle East

John Pilger, ZNet and The Guardian

The National Museum of American History is part of the celebrated Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Surrounded by mock Graeco-Roman edifices with their soaring Corinthian columns, rampant eagles and chiselled profundities, it is at the centre of Empire, though the word itself is engraved nowhere. This is understandable, as the likes of Hitler and Mussolini were proud imperialists, too: on a "great mission to rid the world of evil", to borrow from President Bush.

One of the museum's exhibitions is called "The Price of Freedom: Americans at war". In the spirit of Santa's Magic Grotto, this travesty of revisionism helps us understand how silence and omission are so successfully deployed in free, media-saturated societies. The shuffling lines of ordinary people, many of them children, are dispensed the vainglorious message that America has always "built freedom and democracy" - notably at Hiroshima and Nagasaki where the atomic bombing saved "a million lives", and in Vietnam where America's crusaders were "determined to stop communist expansion", and in Iraq where the same true hearts "employed air strikes of unprecedented precision".

The words "invasion" and "controversial" make only fleeting appearances; there is no hint that the "great mission" has overseen, since 1945, the attempted overthrow of 50 governments, many of them democracies, along with the crushing of popular movements struggling against tyranny and the bombing of 30 countries, causing the loss of countless lives. In central America, in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan's arming and training of gangster-armies saw off 300,000 people; in Guatemala, this was described by the UN as genocide. No word of this is uttered in the Grotto. Indeed, thanks to such displays, Americans can venerate war, comforted by the crimes of others and knowing nothing about their own.

In Santa's Grotto, there is no place for Howard Zinn's honest People's History of the United States, or I F Stone's revelation of the truth of what the museum calls "the forgotten war" in Korea, or Mark Twain's definition of patriotism as the need to keep "multitudinous uniformed assassins on hand at heavy expense to grab slices of other people's countries". Moreover, at the Price of Freedom Shop, you can buy US Army Monopoly, and a "grateful nation blanket" for just $200. The exhibition's corporate sponsors include Sears, Roebuck, the mammoth retailer. The point is taken.

To understand the power of indoctrination in free societies is also to understand the subversive power of the truth it suppresses. During the Blair era in Britain, precocious revisionists of Empire have been embraced by the pro-war media. Inspired by America's Messianic claims of "victory" in the cold war, their pseudo-histories have sought not only to hose down the blood slick of slavery, plunder, famine and genocide that was British imperialism ("the Empire was an exemplary force for good": Andrew Roberts) but also to rehabilitate Gladstonian convictions of superiority and promote "the imposition of western values", as Niall Ferguson puts it.

Ferguson relishes "values", an unctuous concept that covers both the barbarism of the imperial past and today's ruthless, rigged "free" market. The new code for race and class is "culture". Thus, the enduring, piratical campaign by the rich and powerful against the poor and weak, especially those with natural resources, has become a "clash of civilisations". Since Francis Fukuyama wrote his drivel about "the end of history" (since recanted), the task of the revisionists and mainstream journalism has been to popularise the "new" imperialism, as in Ferguson's War of the World series for Channel 4 and his frequent soundbites

on the BBC. In this way, the public is "softened up" for the rapacious invasion of countries on false pretences, including a not unlikely nuclear attack on Iran, and the ascent in Washington of an executive dictatorship, as called for by Vice-President Cheney. So imminent is the latter that a supine Congress will almost certainly reverse the Supreme Court's recent decision to outlaw the Guantanamo kangaroo courts. The judge who wrote the majority opinion - in a high court Bush himself stacked - sounded his alarm through this seminal quotation of James Madison: "The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

The catastrophe in the Middle East is a product of such an imperial tyranny. It is clear that the long-planned assault on Gaza and now the destruction of Lebanon are Washington-ordained and pretexts for a wider campaign with the goal of installing American puppets in Lebanon, Syria and eventually Iran. "The pay-off time has come," wrote the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe; "now the proxy should salvage the entangled Empire."

The attendant propaganda - the abuse of language and eternal hypocrisy - has reached its nadir in recent weeks. An Israeli soldier belonging to an invasion force was captured and held, legitimately, as a prisoner of war. Reported as a "kidnapping", this set off yet more slaughter of Palestinian civilians. The seizure of two Palestinian civilians two days before the capture of the soldier was of no interest. Neither was the incarceration of thousands of Palestinian hostages in Israeli prisons, and the torture of many of them, as documented by Amnesty. The kidnapped soldier story cancelled any serious inquiry into Israel's plans to reinvade Gaza, from which it had staged a phoney withdrawal.
The fact and meaning of Hamas's self-imposed 16-month ceasefire were lost in inanities about "recognising Israel", along with Israel's state of terror in Gaza - the dropping of a 500lb bomb on a residential block, the firing of as many as 9,000 heavy artillery shells into one of the most densely populated places on earth and the nightly terrorising with sonic booms.

"I want nobody to sleep at night in Gaza," declared the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, as children went out of their minds. In their defence, the Palestinians fired a cluster of Qassam missiles and killed eight Israelis: enough to ensure Israel's victimhood on the BBC; even Jeremy Bowen struck a shameful "balance", referring to "two narratives". The historical equivalent is not far from that of the Nazi bombardment and starvation of the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto. Try to imagine that described as "two narratives".

Watching this unfold in Washington - I am staying in a hotel taken over by evangelical "Christians for Israel" apparently seeking rapture - I have heard only the crudest colonial refrain and no truth. Hezbollah, drone America's journalistic caricatures, is "armed and funded by Syria and Iran", and so they beckon an attack on those countries, while remaining silent about America's $3bn-a-day gift of planes and small arms and bombs to a state whose international lawlessness is a registered world record.

There is never mention that, just as the rise of Hamas was a response to the atrocities and humiliations the Palestinians have suffered for half a century, so Hezbollah was formed only as a defence against Ariel Sharon's murderous invasion of Lebanon in 1982 which left 22,000 people dead.

There is never mention that Israel intervenes at will, illegally and brutally, in the remaining 22 per cent of historic Palestine, having demolished 11,000 homes and walled off people from their farmlands, and families, and hospitals, and schools. There is never mention that the threat to Israel's existence is a canard, and the true enemy of its people is not the Arabs, but Zionism and an imperial America that guarantees the Jewish state as the antithesis of humane Judaism.

The epic injustice done to the Palestinians is the heart of the matter. While European governments (with the honourable exception of the Swiss) have remained craven, it is only Hezbollah that has come to the Palestinians' aid. How truly shaming. There is no media "narrative" of the Palestinians' heroic stand during two uprisings, and with slingshots and stones most of the time. Israel's murders of Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall have left them utterly alone. Neither is the silence of governments all that is shocking. On a major BBC programme, Maureen Lipman, a Jew and promoter of selective good causes, is allowed to say, without serious challenge, that "human life is not cheap to the Israelis, and human life on the other side is quite cheap actually . . ."

Let Lipman see the children of Gaza laid out after an Israeli bombing run, their parents petrified with grief. Let her watch as a young Palestinian woman - and there have been many of them - screams in pain as she gives birth in the back seat of a car at night at an Israeli roadblock, having been wilfully refused right of passage to a hospital. Then let Lipman watch the child's father carry his newborn across freezing fields until it turns blue and dies.

I think Orwell got it right in this passage from Nineteen Eighty-Four, a tale of the ultimate empire:

"And in the general hardening of outlook that set in . . . practices which had been long abandoned - imprisonment without trial, the use of war prisoners as slaves, public executions, torture to extract confessions . . . and the deportation of whole populations - not only became common again, but were tolerated and even defended by people who considered themselves enlightened and progressive."

John Pilger's new book, "Freedom Next Time", is published by Bantam Press

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Judge Rules Against Constitution, Says Fourth Amendment Doesn't Apply To AT&T

ASSOCIATED PRESS - Citing national security, a federal judge Tuesday threw out a lawsuit aimed at blocking AT&T Inc. from giving telephone records to the government for use in the war on terror. "The court is persuaded that requiring AT&T to confirm or deny whether it has disclosed large quantities of telephone records to the federal government could give adversaries of this country valuable insight into the government's intelligence activities," U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly said. . . Kennelly's ruling was in sharp contrast to last week's decision from U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of San Francisco, who said media reports of the program were so widespread there was no danger of spilling secrets.

Monday, July 24, 2006


JUAN COLE, INDYBAY - Matthew Kalman reveals that Israel's wide ranging assault on Lebanon has been planned in a general way for years, and a specific plan has been in the works for over a year. The "Three Week War" was shown to Washington think tanks and officials last year on power point by a senior Israeli army officer: "More than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving Power Point presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to U.S. and other diplomats, journalists and think tanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail." The Israelis tend to launch their wars of choice in the summer, in part because they know that European and American universities will be the primary nodes of popular opposition, and the universities are out in the summer. This war has nothing to do with captured Israeli soldiers. It is a long-planned war to increase Israel's ascendancy over Hizbullah and its patrons. . .

Israel is a regional superpower, the only nuclear power in the Middle East proper, and possessing the most technologically advanced military capability and the most professional military. Since Egypt opted out of the military struggle for economic reasons and since the US invasion broke Iraq's legs, there is no conventional military threat to Israel. Israel seeks complete military superiority, for several reasons. One impetus is defensive, on the theory that it has to win every contest and can never afford to lose even one, given its lack of strategic depth (it is a geographically small country with a small population, caught between the Mediterranean and potentially hostile neighboring populations). But the defensive reasons are only one dimension.

There are also offensive considerations. The right in Israel is determined to permanently subjugate the Palestinians and forestall the emergence of a Palestinian state. This course of action requires the constant exercise of main force against the Palestinians, who resist it, as well as threats against Arab or Muslim neighbors who might be tempted to help the Palestinians. Thus, Iraq and Iran both had to be punished and weakened. Likewise, the Israeli right has never given up an expansionist ideology. For instance, the Israelis have a big interest in the Litani River in south Lebanon. If and when the Israeli military and political elite felt they needed to add territory by taking it from neighbors, they wished to retain that capability. . .

MATTHEW KALMAN, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE - More than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving PowerPoint presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to U.S. and other diplomats, journalists and think tanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail. Under the ground rules of the briefings, the officer could not be identified.

In his talks, the officer described a three-week campaign: The first week concentrated on destroying Hezbollah's heavier long-range missiles, bombing its command-and-control centers, and disrupting transportation and communication arteries. In the second week, the focus shifted to attacks on individual sites of rocket launchers or weapons stores. In the third week, ground forces in large numbers would be introduced, but only in order to knock out targets discovered during reconnaissance missions as the campaign unfolded. There was no plan, according to this scenario, to reoccupy southern Lebanon on a long-term basis.

SFGate Article

Saturday, July 22, 2006

FEMA a Disaster for Freedom of the Press

Katrina victims “not allowed” to talk to media, reporter told


The Federal Emergency Management Agency prohibits journalists from having unsupervised interviews with Hurricane Katrina victims who have been relocated to FEMA trailer parks, according to a report in the Baton Rouge Advocate (7/15/06).

“If a resident invites the media to the trailer, they have to be escorted by a FEMA representative who sits in on the interview,” FEMA spokesperson Rachel Rodi is quoted in the article. “That’s just a policy.”

The Advocate report, by reporter Sandy Dennis, describes two separate attempts to talk to people displaced by Katrina that were halted by the intervention of a FEMA security guard. In the first incident, in a Morgan City, Louisiana camp, an interview was interrupted by a guard who claimed that residents of the camp are “not allowed” to talk to the media.

Dekotha Devall, whose New Orleans home was destroyed by the storm, was in her FEMA-provided trailer telling the Advocate reporter of the hardships of life in the camp when a security guard knocked on the door.

“You are not allowed to be here,” the guard is quoted as telling the reporter. “Get out right now.” The guard reportedly called police to force the journalist to leave the camp, and even prevented the reporter from giving the interview subject a business card. “You will not give her a business card,” the guard said. “She’s not allowed to have that.”

Later, at another FEMA camp in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, the reporter attempted to talk to camp resident Pansy Ardeneaux through a chain link fence when the same guard halted the interview. “You are not allowed to talk to these people,” the guard told Ardeneaux. “Return to your trailer now.” The reporter said she and an accompanying photographer were “ordered...not to talk to anyone or take pictures.”

Earlier, an interview with displaced Katrina victims by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! (4/24/06) was halted by FEMA security guards. Tape-recording the accounts of residents of the FEMA-run Renaissance Village camp outside Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Goodman was approached by FEMA-hired security guards from Corporate Security Solutions who told her to “turn it off.” When Goodman explained that the resident had asked to be interviewed, she was told, “He can't. That’s not his privilege.”

At first, the resident talking to Goodman was told by the guard, “You can go get interviewed as long as it’s off post.” But when the resident offered to continue the interview outside the camp, the guard said, “Yes, you can be interviewed... if they had a FEMA representative with them, but since they don’t and do not have an appointment....” Interviews are allowed to proceed, the guard noted, when “they have the FEMA public relations officer with them.”

In concluding the segment on her visit to the camp, Goodman reported, “As we drove off of Renaissance Village, we were chased by the guards in golf carts, who said they would be taking down our license plate and that we couldn't return.”

Restrictions on the right of citizens to speak freely to the press without government supervision are a clear violation of the 1st Amendment. “They cannot deny media access,” Gregg Leslie, the legal defense director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told the Advocate, saying that FEMA’s restrictions were “clearly unconstitutional … and definitely not legal.” Referring to the requirement that interview subjects have a FEMA escort, Leslie said, “That’s a standard for a prison, not a relief park and a temporary shelter.”

Timothy Matte, the mayor of Morgan City, expressed surprise that FEMA was enforcing limits on the free speech of disaster victims. “You would think the people would have the same freedom there as everyone else has,” he said.

ACTION: FEMA’s website urges citizens to report “allegations of civil liberties or civil rights abuses” to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, who is Richard L. Skinner.

Inspector General Richard L. Skinner
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

See Baton Rouge Advocate: “Hundreds of FEMA Trailers Stand Empty” (7/15/06) by Sandy Dennis

See Democracy Now!: “FEMA's Dirty Little Secret: A Rare Look Inside the Renaissance Village Trailer Park, Home to Over 2,000 Hurricane Katrina Evacuees” (4/24/06) by Amy Goodman

Thursday, July 20, 2006

1.5 million protest vote fraud in Mexico capital

By John Parker
Mexico City
Published Jul 19, 2006

Sunday, July 16, was not a day of rest in Mexico City. On the contrary, it was a day of mass action reflecting the determination of the Mexican people to demand a basic democratic right: to have their votes for a president counted honestly.

Some 1.5 million people marched and rallied in the large Zócalo square in the city’s downtown in support of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, candidate of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), and protested what they call fraudulent presidential elections held on July 2.

The mobilization was so large that more than 10 video screens were placed along the wide Avenida Reforma, one of the most important of Mexico City, so that those unable to reach the Zócalo could see the event and hear Obrador, who announced that he would put together a citizens’ committee to define the actions to be organized. One measure proposed by the politician was to reinforce the citizens’ camps outside the country’s 300 electoral districts, where the ballots are being safeguarded.

Four days after the election, the candidate of the ruling National Action Party (PAN), Felipe Calderón, had been declared the winner by a margin of less than 1 percent. It was a statistical miracle. Earlier, when over 70 percent of the vote had been counted, López Obrador had led with 36.86 percent against Calderón’s 34.37 percent.

However, miraculously for Calderón, the 70 percent already counted somehow did not represent an established statistical trend. Another trend then began. What makes this new trend even odder is the fact that each percentage increase of votes for Calderón mirrored a percentage decrease in votes for López Obrador, making this a unique and impossible statistical feat.

A representative of the PRD explained, “The vote was recalculated by the whole federal government—a technically assis ted state election. That means the executive branch took control of the democratic process using all the resources, all the power, all the relationships and all the fear they inject to the people. They said that if they don’t continue [to head] the government, everything will be lost for the people. You’ll lose everything if you vote for López Obrador.”

In addition to the electoral abnormalities, many López Obrador supporters also point to the amount of foreign corporate aid, particularly from the U.S., that Calderón received—which is a violation of Mexican law regarding election financing. Some of that aid came through support by multi-national corporations established with the pro-business, pro-rich media.

“About 80 percent of the media was for Calderón,” said the PRD spokesperson.

An active campaign of mudslinging found fertile ground with some of these media outlets. To highlight this, some march participants carried mock televisions with a devil coming out of them. Flyers were also prevalent at the march announcing a recently begun international boycott. The boycott targets corporate sponsors of the television networks most biased against López Obrador. Brands included in the boycott are Dell, Coca-Cola, Nescafé and Colgate.

The struggle to keep the Mexican people from being disenfranchised has received support in the U.S. A delegation that included members of the March 25th Coalition, including the International Action Center, traveled here for the march and rally.

At a press conference on July 18, delegation member Javier Rodríguez, one of the initiators of the May 1st boycott in Los Angeles that brought out 1 million people, said:

“I’m here because this is my country. I was born here and, although as a child I emigrated to the U.S., I was old enough to have formed my nationality. It is also a principle of international solidarity to give support to people fighting injustice. ...

“When we have a candidate, a Mexican leader, who speaks for justice for the majority and for the poor and whose landmark theme is ‘The poor will be first,’ the Mexican bourgeoisie, the ruling class in alliance with international capital, will not want to give up their privileges and the continued savage exploitation of the Mexican people, whose numbers living in poverty have reached an estimated 70 million.”

In this regard, the movement for justice in Mexico, in anticipation of further attacks by the ruling class, is forming a national committee to resist if the votes are not recounted on a vote-for-vote basis. The committee is being coordinated by the PRD. The marches and rallies will also continue.

With an understanding that the mobilization of working and poor people is primary in this democratic struggle, López Obrador at Sunday’s event announced another rally and march for July 30.

The Federal Electoral Tribunal, the highest electoral court in Mexico, has until September 6 to announce how it intends to respond to the fraud.

The U.S. corporate media has expressed the alarm the U.S. ruling class feels over López Obrador’s growing movement. “There are growing fears among conservative commentators that López Obrador’s mass rallies and claims of voter fraud will lead to violence,” wrote the Washington Post July 17.

The reality, however, is that the Mexican masses have carried out many forms of protest over the decades. Fewer and fewer alternatives to struggle remain in a country where imperialism does not even allow the basic democratic right to a fair election.

It remains to be seen how far this current phase in the struggle for change in Mexico will go. Should the electoral court rule in September or even earlier that Calderón won the election, will the movement subside or continue? Will a general strike be called shutting the country down? This would take the call for “a day without a Mexican” to a new level.

The countless U.S. corporations that operate and dominate in Mexico today would be dealt a tremendous blow if that happened.

The Washington Post also wrote that, “Juana Jiménez Torre, 63, who said she walked more than 80 miles over six days to attend the rally, thrust her arms in the air as López Obrador spoke. The mother of 11 said she makes less than $4 a day in the bean fields outside her hometown of San Pablo Citaltepec, southeast of Mexico City. “We can’t take this,” she said before the rally began. “We have to fight.”

Teresa Gutierrez, national co-director of the International Action Center told Workers World that the IAC “will launch a major campaign to demand that the people’s will be respected in Mexico and that the U.S. should get out of Mexico.” She invited readers to visit for more information.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Voting Count Update

BRAD BLOG - The first of several federal whistleblower qui tam (fraud) suits have now been filed against one of America's major electronic voting machine companies. . . Florida attorney Mike Papantonio who, along with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. hosts Ring of Fire weekends on Air America Radio, was a guest on Mike Malloy's radio program last night (complete audio linked at the URL below.) He discussed the upcoming whistleblower suits that he and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. are filing against several of the voting machine companies. . . Pap reported last night that the "dream team of lawyers" they've assembled . . . includes a bunch of those who took on the tobacco companies in a successful quarter billion dollar suit - so they're not likely easily intimidated . . .

AP - "The designers of video games have built far more sophisticated security into their systems than have the manufacturers of voting machines," said Lowell Finley, co-director of Voter Action, a non-profit and non-partisan group based in Berkeley, Calif. "The biggest problem is security against tampering."

About 80% of American voters will use some form of electronic voting in the November election, where every seat in the House of Representatives is up for re-election, as are 33 Senate offices and 36 governorships.

New York University's Brennan Center for Justice released a one-year study last month that determined that the three most popular types of U.S. voting machines "pose a real danger" to election integrity. . . More than 120 security threats were identified, including wireless machines that could be hacked "by virtually any member of the public with some (computer) knowledge" and a PC card; the failure of most states to install software that could detect outside attacks; and the failure of many states to audit their electronic systems.

USA Today Article...

GREG PALAST - Right now in Mexico's capitol, nearly a million ballots sit in tied bundles uncounted. That's four times the "official" margin of victory of the ruling party over Lopez Obrador. Supposedly, they're "votos nulos" -- null votes, unreadable. But, not surprisingly, when a few packets were opened, the majority of these supposedly unreadable votes were Lopez Obrador's.

If you think that's a Mexican game, think again. Because that's exactly what happened in Florida and Ohio. In Florida, 179,855 ballots supposedly showed no vote for President. A closer look by the US Civil Rights Commission statisticians showed that 54% of those Florida "votos nulos" were cast by African-Americans. Did black folk forget to vote for President, couldn't make up their minds or, as one TV network implied, were too dumb to figure out the ballot? Not at all. Machines can't count some ballots. But people can. For example, several voters wrote in, "Al Gore," which the machines rejected as his name was already printed on the ballot. The write-in could fool a machine but a human has no problem figuring out that voter's intent.

The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago reviewed all 179,855 "uncountable" votes and found the majority attempted to choose Gore. And they would have been counted -- but Florida's Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, ordered a halt.

So Bush was elected not by counting the votes but by preventing their count. And he was reelected the same way in 2004 when a quarter million votes were nullified in Ohio.

But why fixate on Florida and Ohio? Here's a nasty little fact about voting in the Land of the Free not reported in your newspapers: 3,600,380 ballots were cast in the November 2004 presidential election that were never counted. In 2000, the uncounted ballots totaled just under two million. . .

Lopez Obrador put political force behind his legal demands by calling on voters from every state in Mexico to march to the capital. Two million are expected to arrive this Sunday. The result: the word among the political classes is that the election may be annulled. Even the conservative Financial Times has warned Mexico's elite not to "fool itself" by ignoring the demand for a full vote count.

North-of-the-Border Democrats just don't get it. The Republican Party is pushing "provisional" ballots, pushing voter ID requirements, compiling secret challenge lists, scrubbing voter registries and selling us vote-nullifying ballot boxes: they get it completely. The GOP knows the key to their electoral domination is not in winning over their opponents' votes, but in not counting them.

Arlen Specter Plans Bill To Speed Dictatorship

ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION - Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said today that he has negotiated a proposed bill with the White House regarding the NSA's illegal spying program. While the final bill is not public, a draft of the bill obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation is a sham compromise that would cut off meaningful legal review -- sweeping current legal challenges out of the traditional court system and failing to require court review or congressional oversight of any future surveillance programs.

"This so-called compromise bill is not a concession from the White House -- it's a rubber stamp for any future spying program dreamed up by the executive," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "In essence, this bill threatens to make court oversight of electronic surveillance voluntary rather than mandatory."

Although the bill creates a process for the executive branch to seek court review of its secret surveillance programs, it doesn't actually require the government to do so. The bill would, however, require that any lawsuit challenging the legality of any classified surveillance program -- including EFF's class-action suit against AT&T -- be transferred, at the government's request, to the FISA Court of Review, a secret court with no procedures for hearing argument from anyone but the government. The bill would further allow the government to prevent the court from disclosing any information about the government's surveillance programs to opposing counsel, regardless of the court's strict security procedures. "When the privacy of millions of Americans is at stake, we deserve more than a closed hearing by a secret court," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien.

FREE PRESS - The legislation wouldn't actually require the president to submit the National Security Agency's electronic surveillance of phone calls to court review. Instead, Bush agreed to submit the program one time for court review if Congress enacts the bill as it is. There would be no ongoing oversight, Specter said, and future presidents wouldn't have to submit any future program for review.

The court wouldn't have to make its findings public. If the government kept tabs on people it shouldn't have been monitoring, that could stay secret.

The bill also would give the administration more surveillance tools, including expanding the amount of time the government can conduct wiretaps without a warrant from three days to seven days. It would further authorize roving wiretaps that follow individuals from device to device, Specter said.

In addition, the Associated Press reported that an administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the bill would give the attorney general power to consolidate 100 lawsuits filed against the surveillance operations into one case before the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.


Saturday, July 15, 2006


REUTERS - Israeli aircraft attacked Beirut airport and killed 22 civilians in strikes on south Lebanon on Thursday, dramatically widening its reprisals after Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight.

Hizbollah retaliated for "Israeli massacres" by firing 60 rockets at Nahariya. The Israeli army said Katyusha rockets had hit the northern Israeli city and that one civilian was killed. The violence was the worst between Israel and Lebanon since 1996 when Israeli troops still occupied part of the south. It coincided with an major Israeli offensive into the Gaza Strip to retrieve a captured soldier and halt Palestinian rocket fire.

Article Here...

Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory

KANSAS CITY, KS—As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held "theory of gravity" is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

"Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down," said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University.

Burdett added: "Gravity—which is taught to our children as a law—is founded on great gaps in understanding. The laws predict the mutual force between all bodies of mass, but they cannot explain that force. Isaac Newton himself said, 'I suspect that my theories may all depend upon a force for which philosophers have searched all of nature in vain.' Of course, he is alluding to a higher power."

Founded in 1987, the ECFR is the world's leading institution of evangelical physics, a branch of physics based on literal interpretation of the Bible.

According to the ECFR paper published simultaneously this week in the International Journal Of Science and the adolescent magazine God's Word For Teens!, there are many phenomena that cannot be explained by secular gravity alone, including such mysteries as how angels fly, how Jesus ascended into Heaven, and how Satan fell when cast out of Paradise.

The ECFR, in conjunction with the Christian Coalition and other Christian conservative action groups, is calling for public-school curriculums to give equal time to the Intelligent Falling theory. They insist they are not asking that the theory of gravity be banned from schools, but only that students be offered both sides of the issue "so they can make an informed decision."

"We just want the best possible education for Kansas' kids," Burdett said.

Proponents of Intelligent Falling assert that the different theories used by secular physicists to explain gravity are not internally consistent. Even critics of Intelligent Falling admit that Einstein's ideas about gravity are mathematically irreconcilable with quantum mechanics. This fact, Intelligent Falling proponents say, proves that gravity is a theory in crisis.

"Let's take a look at the evidence," said ECFR senior fellow Gregory Lunsden."In Matthew 15:14, Jesus says, 'And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.' He says nothing about some gravity making them fall—just that they will fall. Then, in Job 5:7, we read, 'But mankind is born to trouble, as surely as sparks fly upwards.' If gravity is pulling everything down, why do the sparks fly upwards with great surety? This clearly indicates that a conscious intelligence governs all falling."

Critics of Intelligent Falling point out that gravity is a provable law based on empirical observations of natural phenomena. Evangelical physicists, however, insist that there is no conflict between Newton's mathematics and Holy Scripture.

"Closed-minded gravitists cannot find a way to make Einstein's general relativity match up with the subatomic quantum world," said Dr. Ellen Carson, a leading Intelligent Falling expert known for her work with the Kansan Youth Ministry. "They've been trying to do it for the better part of a century now, and despite all their empirical observation and carefully compiled data, they still don't know how."

"Traditional scientists admit that they cannot explain how gravitation is supposed to work," Carson said. "What the gravity-agenda scientists need to realize is that 'gravity waves' and 'gravitons' are just secular words for 'God can do whatever He wants.'"

Some evangelical physicists propose that Intelligent Falling provides an elegant solution to the central problem of modern physics.

"Anti-falling physicists have been theorizing for decades about the 'electromagnetic force,' the 'weak nuclear force,' the 'strong nuclear force,' and so-called 'force of gravity,'" Burdett said. "And they tilt their findings toward trying to unite them into one force. But readers of the Bible have already known for millennia what this one, unified force is: His name is Jesus."

© Copyright 2006, Onion, Inc. All rights reserved.

Humor In Uniform' Submissions At All-Time Low

PLEASANTVILLE, NY—Reader's Digest editors reported Monday that submissions to their "Humor In Uniform" feature have fallen off sharply since 2001.

"The submissions that are trickling in are just not making me laugh," said Jackie Leo, an editor at the magazine. "I'm looking for amusing send-ups of peeling potatoes on KP duty, not another vignette about a soldier waking up screaming because he accidentally shot a pregnant Iraqi woman."

Leo said she almost published one soldier's story about being financially devastated by shrinking veteran benefits "just to help him out with the $300 publication fee, but it just wasn't funny enough."

© Copyright 2006, Onion, Inc. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Magic mushrooms could help depression, say scientists

Scientists are to investigate a hallucinogenic chemical in "magic mushrooms" as a possible new treatment for depression, anxiety and drug dependence.
The move follows an unusual study which showed that the compound, psilocybin, can prompt long lasting positive changes in mood and behaviour.
Researchers also found that people who took the chemical experienced genuine mystical experiences, as defined by psychologists.
A third of the 36 study participants described their psilocybin experience as the "most spiritually significant" of their lives.
Some likened it to the importance of the birth of their first child or the death of a parent.
Magic mushrooms, or "shrooms", come in several varieties, all of which contain psilocybin. Until last year a loophole in the law meant they were not illegal in their natural state in the UK.
Under the Drugs Act 2005 they are now classified as a Class A drug, like heroin or cocaine.
Possession may be punishable by several years in jail, while supplying the mushrooms could result in a life sentence.
Professor Roland Griffiths, from Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, led the study, the first rigorous investigation of the effects of "tripping" on a drug for decades.
The volunteers were all healthy, well-educated, mostly middle-aged and with no family history of psychotic illness.
Each attended two separate eight hour drug sessions at two month intervals. On one occasion they received psilocybin, on the other the drug Ritalin which was used as a placebo.
Medical professionals were on hand to act as "monitors" and observe what happened. Neither the participants nor the monitors knew when the test drug was being taken.
The trials took place in a room fitted out as a comfortable lounge, with soft music and indirect lighting.
Heart rate and blood pressure were measured, and questionnaires used to assess volunteers' experiences.
During the study, more than 60 per cent of those taking part described the effects of psilocybin in ways that met the recognised criteria of a "full mystical experience".
Two months later, 79 per cent reported moderately or greatly increased well being or levels of life-satisfaction.
Most said their mood, attitudes and behaviour had changed for the better. This was confirmed by interviews with family members, friends and work colleagues.
The findings were published today in the journal Psychopharmacology.
Prof Griffiths said: "Under very defined conditions, with careful preparation, you can safely and fairly reliably occasion what's called a primary mystical experience that may lead to positive changes in a person. It's an early step in what we hope will be a large body of scientific work that will ultimately help people."
The scientists said scrupulous care was taken to minimise adverse side effects and warned of the dangers of taking psilocybin unsupervised.


Even under the controlled conditions of the study, a third of participants reported significant fear, and some experienced temporary feelings of paranoia.
"Under unmonitored conditions, it's not hard to imagine those emotions escalating to panic and dangerous behaviour," said Prof Griffiths.
His team now intends to look into the therapeutic potential of the magic mushroom chemical.
Trials are planned involving patients suffering from cancer-related depression or anxiety. Other studies will test a role for psilocybin in the treatment of drug dependence.
Prof Griffiths said human research into the potential positive effects of hallucinogen drugs had been "frozen in time" for 40 years due to the excesses of the 1960s.
A number of promising leads were left "dangling" as a result.
"Our study is among the first to re-open this field," said Prof Griffiths.
Another expert commentating on the work in the same journal said he did not think the research would spark off a wave of experimentation with magic mushrooms.
Dr Herbert Kleber, Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University in New York wrote: "The positive findings of the study cannot help but raise concern in some that it will lead to increased experimenting with these substances by youth in the kind of uncontrolled and unmonitored fashion that produced casualties over the past three decades.
"Any study reporting a positive or useful effect of a drug of abuse raises these same concerns. In this internet age, however, where youth are deluged with glowing personal reports in chat rooms and web sites as well as detailed information about the various agents and how to use them, it is less likely that a scientific study would move the needle much."
Magic mushrooms produce "trips" lasting between four and eight hours.
Users see hallucinogenic visions, lose track of time, and may experience laughing fits. Colours and lights are intensified.
Among the known adverse effects are vomiting, anxiety and paranoia. "Shrooms" are especially risky for anyone with mental problems.
The fungi have a long history in human culture, and have been taken for their drug effects for several thousand years.
Magic mushrooms are linked to ancient religious ceremonies, such as those practised by the Aztecs, who called them "Teonanacati", or "God's flesh".
In European folklore, tales of flying witches and fairy rings, and depictions of elves sitting on toadstools, have all been ascribed to magic mushroom "trips".
The first documented magic mushroom experience in Britain occurred in London's Green Park in 1799. A man who had been picking mushrooms for breakfast accidentally sent his whole family on a trip.
The doctor who treated them described in the Medical and Physical Journal how the youngest child was "attacked with fits of immoderate laughter".
It has been suggested that magic mushrooms influenced Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland. A hookah-smoking caterpillar urges Alice to eat pieces of mushroom which has the effect of making her grow and shrink.

Find this story here...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Calling All Suckers

July 10, 2006
Stephen P. Pizzo

To proceed from one truth to another, and connect distant propositions by regular consequences, is the great prerogative of man.
— Samuel Johnson: Rambler #158

Oh man, am I going to get in trouble for this post. But, damn it, someone needs come right out and just say it. So here goes.

We liberals are often accused of being elitists, that we look down on fellow Americans, those red-state folk who consider Wal-Mart the best thing to happen to America since Hostess Cup Cakes.

Well, it's time to come clean. We do. We've tried not to, but they make it really hard. So it's time to come out of the closet. We do look down on them. But not for the reasons they think we look down on them. It's not because they prefer a night with Jerry Springer than live theater or because they can't tell the difference between Ripple and a good California Merlot or prefer a Big Mac with fries to a healthy salad.

No. The reason we look down on them has nothing to do with any of that kind of trivial stuff. We look down on them because they are natural born suckers. And, as such have aided and abetted in the the closest thing that we've seen to a constitutional coup in American history. Oh, and because they don't seem to care, in fact, like it.

We look down on them because, as a group, they know more about current NASCAR standings than they know -- or care to know -- about what's afoot within the top ranks of their own government. And, as we've learned at each election since 1994 – they vote.

These Wal-Mart-ers prefer their information on the light side, hold the nuance. As they flip their TV remotes through a couple hundred channels of brain Novocaine, they occasionally cross paths with the news. And the news wants those glazed eyeballs. FOX and CNN now compete for the Wal-Mart-er demographic. Both networks know that Wal-Mart-ers suffer from notoriously short attention spans and that they hate stories that take more than 30 seconds to explain. But that they are particularly partial to animal stories and any footage showing some poor guy getting slammed in the crotch by an object moving at high speed.

CNN knows that if it's going reel in these mouth-breathers they must do so quickly, before they can relocate their remotes. Which explains why that, at a time when the seeds of civil war first sprouted in Iraq, and Iran began building nukes, and North Korea built more nukes, and 45 million American's, including many of these very viewers, could not afford health insurance, and the polar ice caps began to shrink, and genocide raged in Sudan, CNN served up near-nonstop coverage of ---- “BREAKING NEWS: The Run-a-Way Bride.”

In a recent editorial, scholar Robert Rapaport put it this way:

“Should we call it "The Cracker Factor?" Unless explained by CNN's presence in Atlanta, or the ghost of Scarlett O'Hara rampant, how do we account for this previous year's crop of overheated, overexposed, over-the-top stories about life-supported-spouses, kidnapped children, missing high-schoolers, run-amok lacrosse teams, and run-away brides, emanating from the American South? ... “ Wallowing in the coverage of this Confederate cornpone-ucopia has been enough of a slog. Worse, are the scoldings we Yankee/liberals seem destined to endure about our social, political, and moral shortcomings from such Southern scions as Senators Bill Frist and Saxby Chambliss, the Revs. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, and former House Republican generalissimo's, Tom Delay and Newt Gingrich. It is enough to make an ex-New Englander conjure up the satanic despoiler himself; General William Tecumseh Sherman, for a second tromp through Georgia. (Full)

Rapaport gets it just right. Look no further than CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who named his daily news show, “The Situation Room.” When you name a daily show, “The Situation Room,” there damn well better be a friggin “situation” every day. Lacking stories any real news person would consider a “situation,” CNN pumps up whatever is happening at the moment, no matter how trivial, declaring it “situation” de jur.

All of which is perfectly fine as far as our Wal-Mart-er viewers are concerned. They prefer a trivial “situation,” to a news story that forces them to balance opposing views or challenges their low-brow opinion on how things oughta be. So it came to pass that a story about a goofy looking woman who deserted her boyfriend at the alter, became a ratings winner -- the nacho chip version of news. No upsetting pictures of starving childrent or global warming hand wringing. And definitely no booooooooorrrring footage of some Democrat alleging the President of the United States may be breaking the law or aiding and abetting in war crimes. (“In the old days, dang it, we knew what it meant for a President to break the law, like when Clinton lied about sex. Now that was something! Grunt, grunt.” )

Yes, we liberals look down on them, the Wal-Mart-ers, those zombie suckers. Because they not only don't know much, but don't care to. They are the great un-curious mass that elected one of their own kind to run our country. They are universally un-curious. Science and supertition homogenize in their brains. Most march dutifully off to church each Sunday's clutching a King James version of the Bible, yet show no curiosity why the God they claim is Perfection, required a royal editor. Or that since their bible is a “version,” -- says so right inside the cover -- a version of what? If there are other versions, what's that all about? Never mind. These folks like their religion the same way they like their politics – straight up, unmixed, uncomplicated, like beer. Anything that challenges their religious or social beliefs are, at best, just noise, unworthy of consideration and, at worst, seditious.

These people brush aside evidence that the neo-conservatives they elected to high office are less like their father's Republicans and a lot more a pack of neo-fascists. (And they definitely don't want to hear a history lecture on how ordinary Germans, working stiffs just like them, were suckered by Nazi Party seventy years ago. Because, the Wal-Mart-ers grunt, whatever the superficial similarities, it's not fascism when we do it.)

The Wal-Mart-ers have been quiet since they returned George W. Bush, et al to office in 2004. But the neo-cons have begun stirring up their sucker-brigades in preparation for the November mid-term election. I know because I've begun getting hate-emails from these knuckle-draggers:

Mr. Pizzo:
Did you know the Swift Boat people are genuine heroes, not phonies like Kerry and Murtha. But then real heroes make Liberals feel guilty about enjoying the protection of real men. I do know you Liberals NEVER WANT TO TO READ THE OPPOSITE POINT ..... You're so full of shit. You should be considered anti-American. You, like Murtha are quick to present the negative and now you, your kind, including Murtha are shown to be liers and full of shit.

(Most Wal-Mart-ers seem to suffer from a sticky ALL CAPS key. It's their way of grunting, virtually.)

Anyway they are baaaacckkkk -- the Wal-Mart-er voters. They've put down their remotes, rallied by the call of the wild neo-con. Called back into action for November. From radio talk shows, to the floor of Congress, to the White House, the sucker bait has been put out:

* “The liberals are burning your flag! Are you gonna let them get away with it?”
* “Boys are marrying other boys! Girls are marrying other girls. Is your child next?”
* “Your President took the guy the runs Japan to Graceland today! Whata guy -- A real guy... not like those two fairies in that gay cowboy movie!”
* “Fur-in-ers – maybe carrying dirty bombs! -- are flooding across our borders and the liberals want to take your gun away.”
* “The liberal media is undermining the war and aiding the terrorists.”

Sucker bait. And it's strong stuff apparently. Because it's able to make the Wal-Mart-ers vote against their own interests -- not once, but over and over again.

From: K. Rove

Subject: Calling all suckers.

We need you real Americans once again. Pay no attention to the fact that, since you put us in power, we've gutted the US industrial base, supplanted good paying skilled jobs with low-paying service jobs. Or that you, and everyone you know, are drowning in debt or that you may not be able to afford health insurance. Oh, and pay no mind to the pile of federal IOU's that has soared to stars over the past six years, it's not a problem. It's just paper. And even as record hurricanes, tornadoes and forest fires devastate whole regions, don't listen to those liberal global warming alarmists. They just want to raise your taxes.

Pay no attention to any of that stuff. Because none of that is more important than making sure the godless liberals do not gain control of Congress this November. So drop that remote. Cancel that trip to Wal-Mart. America (and God!) needs you to vote Republican this Fall. It's us against the tax raising, flag-burning, gay-marriage loving, god-hating liberals -- and their friends in the terrorist-loving media.

We know we can count on you.


Yeah, I know it's silly crap. But have no doubt about it -- it works -- every time. These suckers have the flattest learning curve in the history of mankind. If they were chickens they'd accept a dinner invitation from Col. Sanders.

So there. I got it off my chest. Call me culture snob if you must. But that's how I feel. I am sick and tired of trying to pretend that those folks... the Wal-Mart-ers.. actually have something valuable to teach us. Or, that while I may disagree with them on some things, the ideas that motivate them hold any moral equivalence with the actual challenges facing America and the world. Because they don't. Not even close. The issues that motivate the Wal-Mart-ers are simplistic, divisive sucker bait, set out for suckers who, time and time again, gobble it all down, even though there own lives get worse each time. Only a moron would fall the same scam so many times. There's simply no other way to interpret such behavior.

Still, as I said, there's a helluva lot of them out there, and Democrats have learned that these folks cannot be ignored. The GOP has perfected the care and feeding of this army of zombie suckers into an fine art. When summoned they march, stiff-legged, to Karl Rove's violin - every time.

So, it's time to start dealing with them. But how?

As I see it there's only two ways to deal with them this group. One way is to engage them, try to win them over to our side. That's what Hillary Clinton is trying to do with her silly-ass flag burning amendment. Instead of fighting the “vast rightwing conspiracy,” Hillary court it. Which is okay I guess if all you care about is getting caried into high office on the backs of morons.

The other way – the better way -- is for liberials to free themselves from the lodestone of political correctness -- to stop pretending the Wal-Mart-er demographic is worthy of an iota of respect. Instead of trying to humor them, confront their lazy ignorance and their knee-jerk jingoism. Question their own patriotism when they try to insert religious dogma into the secular political process, or make excuses for unconstitutional misbehavior by the executive branch. Six years ago excuses could be made for them. But now the damage those they put into power is so evident no future excuses can be made for them. They're like parents who continued to send their kids to slumber parties with Michael Jackson.

I'm tellin' ya, the time has come to crack heads, figuratively speaking, with these low-brow, ill-informed voters. Because democracy is not a state of nature but a state of mind. And as such, it requires just that – a mind – to be effective. It needs minds that think, question, examine and votes based on facts rather than mindless nonsense.

It's time liberals get past their reluctance to call a spade a spade when it comes to the GOP's army of ignoramus suckers. Because, as the last six years have shown with brutal clarity, these sucker voters, even more so than terrorists -- represent nothing less than a clear and present danger to our own democracy.

Come One, Come All, Join the Terror Target List

July 12, 2006
By ERIC LIPTON, New York Times

WASHINGTON, July 11 — It reads like a tally of terrorist targets that a child might have written: Old MacDonald’s Petting Zoo, the Amish Country Popcorn factory, the Mule Day Parade, the Sweetwater Flea Market and an unspecified “Beach at End of a Street.”

But the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, in a report released Tuesday, found that the list was not child’s play: all these “unusual or out-of-place” sites “whose criticality is not readily apparent” are inexplicably included in the federal antiterrorism database.

The National Asset Database, as it is known, is so flawed, the inspector general found, that as of January, Indiana, with 8,591 potential terrorist targets, had 50 percent more listed sites than New York (5,687) and more than twice as many as California (3,212), ranking the state the most target-rich place in the nation.

The database is used by the Homeland Security Department to help divvy up the hundreds of millions of dollars in antiterrorism grants each year, including the program announced in May that cut money to New York City and Washington by 40 percent, while significantly increasing spending for cities including Louisville, Ky., and Omaha.

“We don’t find it embarrassing,” said the department’s deputy press secretary, Jarrod Agen. “The list is a valuable tool.”

But the audit says that lower-level department officials agreed that some older information in the inventory “was of low quality and that they had little faith in it.”

“The presence of large numbers of out-of-place assets taints the credibility of the data,” the report says.

In addition to the petting zoo, in Woodville, Ala., and the Mule Day Parade in Columbia, Tenn., the auditors questioned many entries, including “Nix’s Check Cashing,” “Mall at Sears,” “Ice Cream Parlor,” “Tackle Shop,” “Donut Shop,” “Anti-Cruelty Society” and “Bean Fest.”

Even people connected to some of those businesses or events are baffled at their inclusion as possible terrorist targets.

“Seems like someone has gone overboard,” said Larry Buss, who helps organize the Apple and Pork Festival in Clinton, Ill. “Their time could be spent better doing other things, like providing security for the country.”

Angela McNabb, manager of the Sweetwater Flea Market, which is 50 miles from Knoxville, Tenn., said: “I don’t know where they get their information. We are talking about a flea market here.”

New York City officials, who have questioned the rationale for the reduction in this year’s antiterrorism grants, were similarly blunt.

“Now we know why the Homeland Security grant formula came out as wacky as it was,” Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said Tuesday. “This report is the smoking gun that thoroughly indicts the system.”

NYT Article...

Monday, July 10, 2006

Christians Who Want Democracy Must Stop Bowing to a Dictator Christ

By Rev. Jim Rigby

Whereas American theology was born out of a hope for democracy, much of it is wedded to a picture of Christ as a benevolent dictator. Should we be surprised that a hierarchical cosmology would produce hierarchical churches and nations? Should we be surprised that religious nations that picture Christ as a loving dictator have produced conquistadors, inquisitors and crusaders?

What else could they produce? As the tree is, so shall be the fruit. The word "Lord" was not in the original Bible. It is an English word from feudal times. Whereas the Greek word "kurios" had a range of meanings, from a title of respect, to a title of leadership, to a name for the sacred, the English translation "Lord" refers specifically to a male European land baron. Many people have softened that interpretation in their own minds, but in times of great stress, such nuance falls away and many Christians seek a white male king. He may be called "Pope", he may be called "the decider President," he may be called "televangelist," but the title only masks what he is, a benevolent (or not so benevolent) dictator.

Neither Calvin nor Luther spoke English, but they helped the Popes lay the groundwork for the view of God as a cosmic dictator. From Popes, Luther and Calvin we have some of the ugliest slurs ever recorded against women, intellectuals, and those who refused the church's message. How did Christians hold slaves, oppress women and slaughter nonbelievers? Perhaps they could not see Christ in non-male, non-European, and non-Christian people because they were limited by their theology. Their "Christ" was merely a glorification of the most powerful member of their own culture.

To picture God in terms of power is also one of the great bait and switch gimmicks of all time. People within the power hierarchy proclaim that God is the ultimate authority, and then appoint themselves as God's interpreters and enforcers. They are God's humble bullies. It has been one of the most successful con games of all time.

The real Jesus was born illegitimately. He called himself "the human one." Just like Buddha, his authority came from truth, not power. He taught whoever has love has God. He said those who work for the common good are his church.

The real Jesus was an anarchist. He spent his life refusing to claim power over anyone. He said that God is understood in terms of love not power. We add nothing to the majesty of "the human one" by adding a throne or a crown. If he did not want to rule over others in life, why should he want it in death? That is why Jesus is called "lamb of God," he spoke not as the king of the universe, but from its heart.

If you want to know why Americans are so frightened and why we are attacking anything that would challenge our dominance over others, read the Bible. Like Cain we have murdered members of our human family. Even when we silence our victims, the ground beneath our feet cries out against us.

Today's church lifts its arms to praise Christ wearing liturgical garments woven in sweatshops. So called "Christian America" is still a nation built on the work of slaves. We do not see them because they toil invisibly in other countries. Today's church doles out bits of charity from booty stolen from God's powerless people the world over. Anyone who claims to believe in a just God, or even in justice itself, has to know at some level that the prayers for liberation coming from third world countries will be heard and answered. At some level, people of faith have to know that unless America repents of the sin of empire we are a doomed nation.

Whatever prophetic voices survive in the church must take a message to the mainstream denominations. "We are guilty of our leaders' crimes. Just because we are silent and passive does not mean that we are innocent. If we have any status in the power hierarchy, we are partially responsible for its misdeeds."

I realize that most of the church consists of wonderful and compassionate people, but that does not matter if we turn over our power to those less charitable. The moderate mainstream church is helpless against fundamentalism because it is built on a nuanced version of the same cracked foundation of a theology of power.

Whether or not we can change America in time to avoid a political and ecological apocalypse, it is never too late to do the right thing. All of us can begin to plant seeds of a better future for our children's children. For Christians today, that means suffering the consequences of refusing to bow to the dictator Christ of this culture.

The Rev. Jim Rigby is pastor of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Austin, TX, and a longtime activist in movements concerned with gender, racial, and economic justice. This summer he is finishing a book on principles for a New Reformation. Rigby can be reached at

Sunday, July 09, 2006

One Of The Best Commencement Speeches Ever Cut Short... the very forces of official censorship alluded to in the speech

Article Here...

Actual Speech

Four years ago, we gathered here for an education. Today marks a milestone in that pursuit, a culmination of four years of learning, growth and shared memories. At such times, it is appropriate to reflect on years past, to examine what we have done and what we have learned. Today I am charged with that difficult task, and I would like to thank the school for the opportunity to stand before my peers and reflect on our time together.
Education can be defined a number of different ways. For me, it is the product of human curiosity. Intellectual thought, as far as I can tell, is nothing but the asking and answering of questions. In my reflection, however, and I have reflected on this a great deal, I found that many of life’s most important questions are ignored here. What is the right way to live? What is the ideal society? What principles should guide my behavior? What is success, what is failure? Is there a creator, and if so, should we look to it for guidance? These are often dismissed as questions of religion, but religion is not something opposed to rationality, it simply seeks to answer such questions through faith. The separation of church and state is, of course, important, but it should never be a reason for intellectual submission or suppression of any kind. Ethics — it is what defines us — as individuals, as a society — and yet it is never discussed, never explained, never justified. Rousseau, Descartes, Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Aquinas, nearly every major writer I’ve encountered devotes time to the subject. And it’s not as if these questions are without practical concern, that they are less immediately relevant than science for instance. Our laws, our institutions and all our actions are a reflection of our ethics. Our own society owes itself to the writers of the enlightenment, but we never probe their work — we fail to espouse the movement’s central principle, doubt — doubt everything. We study what is, never why, never what should be. For that reason, the education we have received here is not only incomplete, it is entirely hollow.
What’s more, this same lack of focus can be found in many of the subjects we do study. We approach history as though it were a story, endlessly cataloging every major character or event. But the details of that story are insignificant — what is significant is the progression of ideas. A study of history should get some sense of how the society he sees around him developed from those built thousands of years ago, what ideas changed and what changed them. When humanist scholars looked into ancient Rome during the Renaissance, they searched for moral examples, for ideas. They didn’t mull on every single daily event. They were inspired, and they transformed society. History is not an end in itself; it should act as a tool for greater thought.
But it’s not only history. I’ve taken a literature class nearly every year of my life, but never has a question so basic as “What is good writing?” come up. Literary technique, what should be the focus of the class, is never discussed. How does an author develop plot? How can an author control mood or tone in his writing? What is the advantage of one author’s methods over another’s? Such matters are never discussed. We read for the sake of reading, to talk about our interpretations in class as though we were in a book club. But no attention is paid to why we read the books we do, what makes them so special. And this pattern, grade for the sake of a grade, work for the sake of work, can be found everywhere. Ladies and gentlemen, the spirit of intellectual thought is lost. I speak today not to rant, complain or cause trouble, and certainly not to draw attention to myself. I have accomplished nothing and I am nothing. I know that. Rather, I was moved by the countless hours wasted in those halls. Today, you should focus on your child or loved one. This is meant to be a day of celebration, and if I’ve taken away from that, I’m sorry. But I know how highly this community values learning, and I urge you all to re-evaluate what it means to be educated. I care deeply about everyone here, and it is only our fulfillment I desire. I will leave now so that the ceremony can go on. Again, my deepest apologies, God help me.

Tax dollars to fund study on restricting public data

Updated 7/5/2006 11:27 PM ET
By Richard Willing, USA TODAY
The federal government will pay a Texas law school $1 million to do research aimed at rolling back the amount of sensitive data available to the press and public through freedom-of-information requests.

Beginning this month, St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio will analyze recent state laws that place previously available information, such as site plans of power plants, beyond the reach of public inquiries.

Jeffrey Addicott, a professor at the law school, said he will use that research to produce a national "model statute" that state legislatures and Congress could adopt to ensure that potentially dangerous information "stays out of the hands of the bad guys."

"There's the public's right to know, but how much?" said Addicott, a former legal adviser in the Army's Special Forces.

"There's a strong feeling that the law needs to balance that with the need to protect the well-being of the nation. ... There's too much stuff that's easy to get that shouldn't be," he said.

The federal Freedom of Information Act, which became law 40 years ago this week, has long been a source of tension between the government and the public and news media.

Critics say the research plan overstates the need for secrecy and is likely to give state and federal governments too much discretion to withhold material. "Restricting information (for) security and efficiency and comfort level, that's the good story," says Paul McMasters, a specialist in public information law at the First Amendment Center in Arlington, Va. "The bad story is that it can also be a great instrument of control. ... To automatically believe that the less known the better is really not rational."

Congress added the grant to this year's Defense Department budget. It is being administered through the Air Force Research Laboratory, Addicott said. The laboratory in Rome, N.Y., specializes in information technology, according to its website.

The Freedom of Information Act was signed July 4, 1966. All 50 states and the federal government have "sunshine laws" that allow reporters and citizens access to many government meetings and to government records through freedom-of-information requests.

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT:Signed documents by President Johnson (.pdf files)

In the past four years, Congress, the District of Columbia and 41 of the 50 states have moved to close some meetings and restrict records for fear of making information available to terrorists, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Arlington, Va.

Under a 2002 law, for instance, information submitted to the federal government by private industry that concerns "critical infrastructure programs" is exempt from Freedom of Information Act requests or use in lawsuits.

Since 2004, Virginia has withheld terrorism response plans, as well as engineering and architectural drawings of government buildings that are deemed to be possible terrorist targets. Since 2004, Ohio has required formal requests and fees to access formerly open birth and death records.

Addicott says the various state plans should "take a more uniform approach" so that neighboring states and the federal government are "on the same page."

In 2003, he said, a simulated cyberattack on San Antonio's water and government information systems showed that computer security data that was protected under federal law could have been accessed by terrorists under Texas legislation.

Lucy Dalglish, director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, says the research program is in keeping with a recent federal trend to use "homeland security" as an excuse to restrict unrelated material.

"Decisions (on requests for public information) are being handled in progressively less friendly ways," she said.

Addicott said he knows of no cases in this country in which public records or a public meeting were used for a terrorist act. In 2002, a hacker in Australia breached the data control system of a water treatment plant and caused 260,000 gallons of sewage to be discharged.

"We're leaning forward in the saddle (and) thinking about this before it happens," he said.

Article Here...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Veteran Arrested At V.A. Hospital For Wearing A Peace T-Shirt.


Yesterday afternoon, drinking a cup of coffee while sitting in the Jesse Brown V.A. Medical Center on Chicago's south side, a Veterans Administration cop walked up to me and said, "OK, you've had your 15 minutes, it's time to go."

"Huh?", I asked intelligently, not quite sure what he was talking about.

"You can't be in here protesting," Officer Adkins said, pointing to my Veterans For Peace shirt.

"Well, I'm not protesting, I'm having a cup of coffee," I returned, thinking that logic would convince Adkins to go back to his earlier duties of guarding against serious terrorists.

Flipping his badge open, he said, "No, not with that shirt. You're protesting and you have to go."

Beginning to get his drift, I said firmly, "Not before I finish my coffee."

He insisted that I leave, but still not quite believing my ears, I tried one more approach to reason.

"Hey, listen. I'm a veteran. This is a V.A. facility. I'm sitting here not talking to anybody, having a cup of coffee. I'm not protesting and you can't kick me out."

"You'll either go or we'll arrest you," Adkins threatened.

"Well, you'll just have to arrest me," I said, wondering what strange land I was now living in.

You know the rest. Handcuffed, led away to the facility's security office past people with surprised looks on their faces, read my rights, searched, and written up. . .

Monday, July 03, 2006

Jamie's Crying (satire for 70's rock aficionados)

LOS ANGELES—According to local authorities, Jamie, 17, is crying, reportedly over a post-coital rejection by rock star David Lee Roth. "Although Jamie would feel better if she wrote David a letter, she is crying," said former Van Halen manager Eddie Arnesen. Though sources say Jamie has been in love before, and that she knows what love is for, in this case it was a mere one-night stand, and love should be more than that. Arnesen added that despite the fact that when Roth and Jamie parted, the long-haired, vinyl-clad rocker said, "Gimme a call some time," Jamie knows what that will get her.


CORPORATE CRIME REPORTER - Most people who shop at Whole Foods are liberal yuppies. . . They believe that shopping for groceries at Whole Foods instead of Safeway or Food Lion or Giant or Wal-Mart is the politically correct thing to do. They probably believe that the President and CEO of Whole Foods is a liberal like themselves. . .

John Mackey is instead a libertarian with right-wing tendencies. Mackey says that Milton Friedman is his hero. He's a devotee of Ayn Rand. He's opposed to national health insurance. He's a union buster. And he has recently endorsed a book published by the libertarian Cato Institute whose author concludes that no corporation should ever be prosecuted for crimes – no matter the corporation, no matter the crime


MICHAEL WEISMAN, SEATTLE TIMES - Living in the Silicon Forest, we've come to take certain things for granted. Our tech startups and venture-capital firms have learned to assume that Internet and telecom networks will be a platform for innovation open to anyone who can pay the freight for success. Workers have come to rely on fast and plentiful Internet access open to any type of device or application. Major retailers like Amazon, REI, Powell's Books and PC Connections have come to rely on the Internet as a route into the living rooms of customers all over the world.

Under Stevens' bill, all that will change. The telecoms will be able to split Internet access into premium lanes, segregating access to customers based on the content, origin and purpose of the data or bits. Amazon will have to pay the network operator for access to customers, finally legitimating the dream of telecom executives to tax the eyeblinks of every user. Apple will have to pay the networks to allow its customers to download iTunes music and video. If it chooses, the network can simply block iTunes music or Amazon book purchases, redirecting customers to another service the network operator prefers. In fact, there is no guarantee that Internet access, as we know it today, will continue to exist at all.

The thousands of startup visionaries living in the Northwest might want to find their passports, because creating new business models in the U.S. will become much more complicated, and expensive. In the rest of the developed world, it won't be a problem, because every developed country has a strong network-neutrality law in place, extending not just to the Internet, but also to mobile networks, cable TV and television. Stevens' bill puts the U.S. out of step with the rest of world, a world that is fast passing us in productivity, the knowledge economy and broadband connectivity. . .

The telecom and cable duopoly will find its respective monopolies enshrined in the law, with no obligation to play fairly with new entrants to the market (there can't be any under Stevens' bill), no requirement to carry traffic for "freeloaders" like YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, Real Networks or MSN, and no fear of future entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos, Sergey Brin or Craig McCaw horning in on the action. . .

Every other major developed country has strong network-neutrality laws in place, far stronger than anything the Congress is considering in any of the many amendments to Stevens' bill.