Best Viewed with IE or Opera. Sorry, Firefox works, but loses some sidebar layout,
'my profile' and other stuff... Anybody with a fix, please leave a comment. Many thanks in advance.

That said, if you must use Firefox (and I don't blame you, it's become my browser of choice, too)
...get the "IE Tab" extension. This allows you to view problem pages with the IE rendering engine. Very cool!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Disgruntled Chemist: I've been such a fool!

I don't know how I ever doubted that intelligent design was correct! After watching a video involving Kirk Cameron, I now see the error of my ways, and will be tithing 50% of my income to the church every month out of contrition.
 
What's that you ask? You want to know the mighty argument that changed my views, and my life, forever? OK.
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Manly Men Answer Call of the Wild - By ALEXANDRA WOLFE

We've just been overrun!" Reggie Bennett, a burly 41-year-old in full-body camouflage, shouted to the four young men behind him on a sunny day in the middle of March. "Our plane is down. We're going to our hole-up site!" One by one they followed his signal to move forward, crouching behind trees, carefully navigating through the brush, quickening their pace as they heard threats screamed behind them: "I see you, G.I.! You think you crafty, G.I., but I gonna put you in a cage so you can't get out!" They paused in a dried-up creek bed, Mr. Bennett bringing up the rear. "Keep quiet. There are land mines, B-52's and burnt craters all around us," he warned. "This is what a war zone looks ? "
 
He was interrupted by a ringing cellphone. "You're going to my voice mail," he said, as he checked the incoming number. "I'm evading now!" But Mr. Bennett wasn't getting cellphone reception midbattle in Falluja. He was teaching his signature Hidden Pursuit escape and evasion class to college seniors who had forgone the wet T-shirt contests and beer bongs of Canc�n, Mexico, and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for the chance to dodge simulated gunshots and cannon explosions at Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School in Amherst, Va.
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all good Yellow Elephants, I'm sure. --pseudolus

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Pink lays it on the line to our Preznit...


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Friday, April 21, 2006


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In the Silence, War Continues - by Larry Beinhart

During the first half of the 20th Century the United States spearheaded the movement to make war illegal.
 
Based on the standards that were set then, based on international and American law, and based on the facts, a clear-cut and convincing case can be made that the invasion of Iraq was a crime.
 
It is impossible to imagine that George Bush and Dick Cheney and the rest of their group will actually be brought into court and charged, and perhaps that is the reason that the response has been silence. We do not even discuss what makes a war legal or illegal. It has not and will not be debated on the floor of the US Senate. It won?t be the subject of an investigation in the Washington Post or the New York Times. It won?t be a segment on 60 Minutes or an item the NBC Nightly News. Anyone who says that the invasion of Iraq was a war crime will probably be dismissed as a member of the loony left.
 
Nonetheless, it is worthwhile to know where the moral high ground used to be.
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While Washington Slept: How Did the Virtual Certainty of Global Warming Get Labeled a "Liberal Hoax"?

Ten months before Hurricane Katrina left much of New Orleans underwater, Queen Elizabeth II had a private conversation with Prime Minister Tony Blair about George W. Bush. The Queen's tradition of meeting once a week with Britain's elected head of government to discuss matters of state?usually on Tuesday evenings in Buckingham Palace and always alone, to ensure maximum confidentiality?goes back to 1952, the year she ascended the throne. In all that time, the contents of those chats rarely if ever leaked.
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Blood is Thicker than Blackwater - by Jeremy Scahill

It is one of the most infamous incidents of the war in Iraq: On March 31, 2004, four private American security contractors get lost and end up driving through the center of Falluja, a hotbed of Sunni resistance to the US occupation. Shortly after entering the city, they get stuck in traffic, and their small convoy is ambushed. Several armed men approach the two vehicles and open fire from behind, repeatedly shooting the men at point-blank range. Within moments, their bodies are dragged from the vehicles and a crowd descends on them, tearing them to pieces. Eventually, their corpses are chopped and burned. The remains of two of the men are strung up on a bridge over the Euphrates River and left to dangle. The gruesome image is soon beamed across the globe.
 
In the Oval Office the killings were taken as "a challenge to America's resolve," according to the Los Angeles Times. President Bush issued a statement through his spokesperson. "We will not be intimidated," he said. "We will finish the job." Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt vowed, "We will be back in Falluja.... We will hunt down the criminals.... It's going to be deliberate. It will be precise, and it will be overwhelming." Within days of the ambush, US forces laid siege to Falluja, beginning what would be one of the most brutal and sustained US operations of the occupation.
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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Life, the Universe, and Everything

Quantum mechanic Seth Lloyd says we really are controlled by a computer.
 
Seth Lloyd is the kind of guy you'd like to have a beer with. Between gulps, the MIT prof will impart the details of how the universe really works. And if you order another, he'll give you a summary of one of the most mind-boggling ideas emerging in science today. His new book, Programming the Universe, is a plainspoken tale of how the universe is - tell me if you've heard this before - one very large quantum computer. - Kevin Kelly

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Bush's Nutty Nuclear Braggadocio - by Robert Scheer

There is one clear standard by which President Bush has asked, over and over, to be judged: his ability to keep us safe from rogue nations or terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction. Unfortunately, by any rational definition of that standard, his 5-year administration has been an abysmal failure.
 
The quandary in which Bush finds himself regarding Iran?s apparent quest for nuclear weapons is only the latest example in an astonishing series of national security blunders.
 
First, he vacationed while a crescendo of intelligence warnings of imminent terrorist attack blossomed into the spectacle of Sept. 11, 2001. Then, he allowed the mastermind of those attacks, Osama bin Laden, to escape while diverting U.S. resources into Iraq to save the world from Saddam Hussein?s nonexistent WMDs. Now, tied down in Iraq?s civil strife, Bush holds no high cards in a dangerous poker match with Iran.
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Iran: The Day After - by Phyllis Bennis

The airwaves and the headlines are full of talk of a U.S. military strike against Iran. That is as it should be - the danger of such a reckless move is real, and rising, and we should be talking about it. The Bush administration claims that negotiations are their first choice. But they have gone to war based on lies before, and there is no reason to believe that they are telling the truth this time.
 
They have put the military - and even, horrifyingly, the nuclear - option at the center of the table. Don?t worry, they say, even if a preventive military strike is needed, we're only talking about ?surgical? attacks on Iran's nuclear facilities - no one, they say, is talking about invasion. It can?t happen, some say. The military brass knows their troops are bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, they appear to be strongly opposed to a strike on Iran.
 
And we know that any military strike on Iran - ANY strike - would be a violation of international law prohibiting preventive war. And George Bush now admits that "preventive war" - not his earlier claim of pre-emptive war - is indeed his strategic doctrine.
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It's Called Mad For A Reason, You Fool! - by Joyce Marcel

He slices, he dices, he juliennes! Just look at that tomato! Now how much would you pay for such a president? But wait, there's more!
 
Bush came into office ready to attack Iraq. He lied through his teeth about his reasons - who is sure, even today, what his deepest ones might be? He turned the national tragedy of 9/11 into a false raison d'�tre, threw the Middle East into turmoil, made Iraq a training ground for terrorists, corrupted the soul of our nation with lies and torture, and began to squander its wealth.
 
But wait, there's more! Now he wants to nuke Iran.
 
Given the growing awareness that Bush and his cronies are really crazy enough to try it, retired top U.S. military officials are developing consciences. They are speaking out against the war in Iraq using words like "unnecessary" and "the worse strategic mistake in American history." They are calling the Bush administration's behavior "self-deluding, derelict in its duty, negligent and irresponsible." Even former Secretary of State Colin Powell told journalist Robert Scheer that he never believed Iraq posed an imminent nuclear threat. "Now he tells us," Scheer sneered.
 
But wait, there's more!
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Global Warming? Not in My Backyard - by Bob Burnett

Despite mounting scientific evidence, the prospect of global climate change is not a big concern for many Americans. the April 7th Gallup Poll indicated that while 62 percent worry about global warming, only 36 percent think it will be a big deal during their lifetimes. What explains this? Why do so many Americans remain sanguine?
 
The Gallup poll provides some insight. First, it notes that whether or not you are concerned about global warming depends upon your Party affiliation. The pollsters found that 77 percent of Democrats worried about global warming versus 45 percent of Republicans. In an increasingly polarized society, Democrats and Republicans see things quite differently. This is true on most issues: Iraq, where 72 percent of Republicans think the US "will win" versus 29 percent of Dems, and the economy, where 60 percent of Republicans think economic conditions are "good or excellent" versus 20 percent of Dems. The mood of GOP adherents is remarkably different from that of those who support the minority Party. Sixty percent of Republicans are satisfied with the direction of the country versus just nine percent of Democrats.
 
This polarization may not make sense, but it does follow a certain logic: If you trust George W. Bush, then you accept his view of things. The President doesn't think that global warming is a big deal. Therefore, his supporters-about one-third of the electorate if you believe the latest polls-go along with his perspective. "George is our shepherd, I shall not worry."
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The Worst President in History? - by Sean Wilentz

One of America's leading historians assesses George W. Bush
 
George W. Bush's presidency appears headed for colossal historical disgrace. Barring a cataclysmic event on the order of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, after which the public might rally around the White House once again, there seems to be little the administration can do to avoid being ranked on the lowest tier of U.S. presidents. And that may be the best-case scenario. Many historians are now wondering whether Bush, in fact, will be remembered as the very worst president in all of American history.
 
From time to time, after hours, I kick back with my colleagues at Princeton to argue idly about which president really was the worst of them all. For years, these perennial debates have largely focused on the same handful of chief executives whom national polls of historians, from across the ideological and political spectrum, routinely cite as the bottom of the presidential barrel. Was the lousiest James Buchanan, who, confronted with Southern secession in 1860, dithered to a degree that, as his most recent biographer has said, probably amounted to disloyalty -- and who handed to his successor, Abraham Lincoln, a nation already torn asunder? Was it Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson, who actively sided with former Confederates and undermined Reconstruction? What about the amiably incompetent Warren G. Harding, whose administration was fabulously corrupt? Or, though he has his defenders, Herbert Hoover, who tried some reforms but remained imprisoned in his own outmoded individualist ethic and collapsed under the weight of the stock-market crash of 1929 and the Depression's onset? The younger historians always put in a word for Richard M. Nixon, the only American president forced to resign from office.
 
Now, though, George W. Bush is in serious contention for the title of worst ever. In early 2004, an informal survey of 415 historians conducted by the nonpartisan History News Network found that eighty-one percent considered the Bush administration a "failure." Among those who called Bush a success, many gave the president high marks only for his ability to mobilize public support and get Congress to go along with what one historian called the administration's "pursuit of disastrous policies." In fact, roughly one in ten of those who called Bush a success was being facetious, rating him only as the best president since Bill Clinton -- a category in which Bush is the only contestant.
 
The lopsided decision of historians should give everyone pause. Contrary to popular stereotypes, historians are generally a cautious bunch. We assess the past from widely divergent points of view and are deeply concerned about being viewed as fair and accurate by our colleagues. When we make historical judgments, we are acting not as voters or even pundits, but as scholars who must evaluate all the evidence, good, bad or indifferent. Separate surveys, conducted by those perceived as conservatives as well as liberals, show remarkable unanimity about who the best and worst presidents have been.
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Study: Health Insurers Are Near-Monopolies

Consolidation among health insurers is creating near-monopolies in virtually all reaches of the United States, according to a study released Monday.
 
Data from the American Medical Association show that in each of 43 states, a handful of top insurers have gained such a stronghold that their markets are considered "highly concentrated" under U.S. Department of Justice guidelines, often far exceeding the thresholds that trigger antitrust concerns.
 
The study also shows that in 166 of 294 metropolitan areas, or 56 percent, a single insurer controls more than half the business in health maintenance organization and preferred provider networks underwriting.
 
"This problem is widespread across the country, and it needs to be looked at," said Jim Rohack, an AMA trustee and physician in Temple, Texas. "The choices that patients have now are more difficult."
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Rumsfeld Linked to Guantanamo Torture - by Haider Rizvi

NEW YORK - A leading international human rights group is calling for the Bush administration to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the alleged involvement of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior Pentagon officials in the torture of a prisoner at Guanatanamo Bay some three years ago.
 
Also See:
Documents Link Rumsfeld to Prisoner's Interrogation
 
Rumsfeld could be criminally liable under federal or military law for the abuse and torture of detainee Mohammad al-Qahtani in late 2002 and early 2003, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said this week as some Democratic lawmakers demanded that Rumsfeld step down as Pentagon chief.
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U.S. Contractor Admits Bribery For Jobs in Iraq - By Griff Witte

An American businessman who is at the heart of one of the biggest corruption cases to emerge from the reconstruction of Iraq has pleaded guilty to conspiracy, bribery and money-laundering charges, according to documents unsealed yesterday in federal court in Washington.
 
As part of the plea, Philip H. Bloom admitted his part in a scheme to give more than $2 million in cash and gifts to U.S. officials in exchange for their help in getting reconstruction contracts for his companies. Bloom's firms won $8.6 million in reconstruction deals, with an average profit margin of more than 25 percent.
 
Yesterday's filings included e-mails that provide insight into the fraud. In one, an Army Reserve officer who allegedly helped Bloom secure his contracts expresses gratitude for Bloom's largesse.
 
"The truck is Great!!! I needed a new truck . . . People I work with cannot stop commenting on how much they love it," the officer wrote in a Sept. 2, 2004, message to Bloom. The officer then added a bit of reassurance: "If there were any smoking guns, they would have been found months ago."
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Dinosaur Comics...


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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Neil Young urges Bush impeachment on protest album - By Steve Gorman

 ANGELES (Reuters) - Veteran rocker Neil Young has recorded a protest album featuring an anti-Iraq war track with "a holy vow to never kill again" and a song titled "Let's Impeach the President," the singer said on Monday.
 
The 10-track set, called "Living with War," was recorded this month by a "power trio" -- electric guitar, bass and drums -- plus trumpet and a 100-member choir, the 60-year-old Canadian-born musician announced on his Web site.
 
Young's longtime manager, Elliot Roberts, told Reuters the album, which has been the subject of Internet buzz for several days, will be played for executives at his label, Warner Music Group's Reprise Records, on Tuesday.
 
Reprise spokesman Bill Bentley said Young's latest effort, which he spent about three days recording, came as a surprise. "We didn't know he was making a record," Bentley said.
 
Young is the latest in a string of recording stars to take musical aim at U.S. President George W. Bush and his conduct of the war in the Iraq. Others have included Steve Earle, Willie Nelson and the Rolling Stones.
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50,000 Volt Tesla Coil Experiments

 The guys over at GadgetMadness show us how not to use a 50,000 volt capacity Tesla coil. Video clip on 'CLICK' below.

We could have told you more about how it works and discussed the brilliant scientist who invented it, but noooooo instead we use it to set things on fire, create sparks and illuminate lightbulbs wirelessly. (Don�t try this at home.)
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How The Octopus Forms An Elbow

 
Rehovot, Israel (SPX) Apr 19, 2006
The octopus arm is extremely flexible. Thanks to this flexibility--the arm is said to possess a virtually infinite number of "degrees of freedom"--the octopus is able to generate a vast repertoire of movements that is unmatched by the human arm.

Nonetheless, despite the huge evolutionary gap and morphological differences between the octopus and vertebrates, the octopus arm acts much like a three-jointed vertebrate limb when the octopus performs precise point-to-point movements. Researchers have now illuminated how octopus arms are able to form joint-like structures, and how the movements of these joints are controlled.
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Global Warming Sparks a Scramble for Black Gold Under Retreating Ice - by David Adam

A Look at The "Positive Side" of Global Warming --pseudolus
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Unlike the Antarctic continent spread around the south pole, the Arctic has no formal international treaty to regulate activities. And while howling winds, drifting icebergs and months of freezing darkness kept prospecters at bay, there was little activity to regulate.
 
But as global warming thaws the ocean's icy layer, oil giants, shipping companies and even the odd enterprising tourist operator are casting their eyes towards the high north.
 
Last August a Russian vessel, the Akademik Fyodorov, became the first to reach the north pole without an icebreaker - one of seven ships to make it to the top of the world last year. This summer, Russian icebreakers aim to go one better and take paying guests, for �17,000 each. If the ice continues to thin and shrink as expected, then within a few decades cruise liners, container ships and tankers could all head over the pole, shaving thousands of miles off their voyages across the globe.
 
The biggest boom could be oil and gas. The US Geological Survey surprised some experts when it declared that a quarter of the world's undiscovered reserves lay under the Arctic Ocean. As the ice retreats, oil companies are scrambling to open a new frontier.
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A Subversive Plot - by Roger Doiron

  Posted by Picasa
Welcome to my neighborhood and my not-so-private fantasy.
 
The green rectangle represents current kitchen gardens (i.e. mine), the red rectangles future ones (i.e. my neighbors'). I'm going to have to ask for your utmost discretion because my neighbors don't know yet that they will be planting these food gardens.
 
My subversive plot to win them over is to use my subversive plot, all 1000 square feet of it. Fear not: it will be a peaceful neighborhood revolution based on what I call "Sun Gold Diplomacy". My thinking is that once they get a taste of my candy-sweet ?Sun Gold? cherry tomatoes and see me harvesting fresh organic greens (the same ones they're paying $5-$7 a pound for at the store), they'll start looking at their yards in a fresh way.
 
<snip>
 
If you take into account the historically low level of home food production and historically long distance the average mouthful of food travels from field to fork in the US (i.e. 1500-2000 miles), I think it is accurate to say that Americans have never been farther removed from the origins of their food than we are today. It has reached a point where most eaters don?t have a clue about where food comes from, who produces it, how and when. Watermelon in January? Yes, please! Strawberries in the early spring? Why not?
 
Well here?s one reason why not: it takes 400 calories of fossil fuels to transport a single 5 calorie strawberry from California to East Coast supermarkets. With cheap oil running out and global temperatures reaching historic highs, we can?t afford our long-distance love affair with food much longer, at least not without serious consequences. Never mind that our -395 calorie strawberry is most likely a water-gorged, flavorless specimen that was produced with methyl bromide (an ozone-depleting pesticide) and picked by people who are not paid a living wage.
 
 
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Rumsfeld Shouldn't be Fired, He Should be Indicted - by Matthew Rothschild

It?s not Donald Rumsfeld?s colossal arrogance or his glaring misjudgments we should be focusing on. It?s his potential crimes.
 
The mainstream media in the U.S. is giving enormous attention to the retired generals who are demanding Donald Rumsfeld?s resignation because of his autocratic style and his bungling in Iraq.
 
But the mainstream media is barely discussing Rumsfeld?s alleged culpability in the abusive treatment of detainees, up to and including torture.
 
?The question at this point is not whether Secretary Rumsfeld should resign, it?s whether he should be indicted,? says Joanne Mariner of Human Rights Watch, who directs its terrorism and counterterrorism program
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Robbery Nor Reconstruction in Iraq - by Derrick Z. Jackson

The great liberator of Iraq was actually the hyena that cleaned out the nation.
 
Piece by piece, Halliburton over here, a corrupt company over there, we have heard various individual cases of overcharging and fraud by American firms in the reconstruction of Iraq. Last weekend, a Globe story connected some of the dots of corruption. Of $20.7 billion in Iraqi bank accounts and oil revenues seized by the Coalition Provisional Authority in the US-led invasion of Iraq, $14 billion was given out for reconstruction but tens of millions of dollars were unaccounted for. A year ago, an audit by the inspector general found no evidence of work done or goods delivered on 154 of 198 contracts. Sixty cases of potential swindles are under investigation.
 
Halliburton and its hundreds of millions of dollars of overcharges or baseless costs are well known. But millions more were taken by companies that promised to build or restore libraries or police facilities, or deliver trucks and construction equipment. Money was given to the puppet government with no follow-up. US government investigators can account for only a third of the $1.5 billion given by the CPA to the interim government and it appears that a substantial portion of the $8 billion given to Iraqi ministries went to ''ghost employees.''
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Tuesday, April 18, 2006


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A Small-Time Crime With Hints of Big-Time Connections Lights Up the Net - By ADAM COHEN

The Internet is a great breeding ground for political conspiracies, and there is a new one lighting up computer monitors across the country. Bloggers are fascinated by what they see as eerie parallels between Watergate and a phone-jamming scandal in New Hampshire. It has low-level Republican operatives involved in dirty campaign tricks. It has checks from donors with murky backgrounds. It has telephone calls to the White House. What is unclear is whether it is the work of a few rogue actors, or something larger.
 
In 2002, there was a hard-fought Senate race between Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, the Democrat, and John Sununu, the Republican. On Election Day, Democratic workers arrived at five get-out-the-vote offices to find their phone lines jammed. It turned out that the jamming was being done by an Idaho telemarketing firm that was being paid by a Virginia consulting group. The fee for the jamming, reportedly $15,600, was paid by New Hampshire Republicans.
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Senate Hearings on Bush, Now - By CARL BERNSTEIN

In this VF.com exclusive, a Watergate veteran and Vanity Fair contributor calls for bipartisan hearings investigating the Bush presidency. Should Republicans on the Hill take the high road and save themselves come November?
 
Worse than Watergate? High crimes and misdemeanors justifying the impeachment of George W. Bush, as increasing numbers of Democrats in Washington hope, and, sotto voce, increasing numbers of Republicans?including some of the president's top lieutenants?now fear? Leaders of both parties are acutely aware of the vehemence of anti-Bush sentiment in the country, expressed especially in the increasing number of Americans?nearing fifty percent in some polls?who say they would favor impeachment if the president were proved to have deliberately lied to justify going to war in Iraq.
 
John Dean, the Watergate conspirator who ultimately shattered the Watergate conspiracy, rendered his precipitous (or perhaps prescient) impeachment verdict on Bush two years ago in the affirmative, without so much as a question mark in choosing the title of his book Worse than Watergate. On March 31, some three decades after he testified at the seminal hearings of the Senate Watergate Committee, Dean reiterated his dark view of Bush's presidency in a congressional hearing that shed more noise than light, and more partisan rancor than genuine inquiry. The ostensible subject: whether Bush should be censured for unconstitutional conduct in ordering electronic surveillance of Americans without a warrant.
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Permission to Speak Freely, Sir

I am sorry that high school and college kids no longer have to face a couple of years of mandatory military service. That may be a strange thing to say for a guy who protested the draft back in the '60s. Maybe it's the inevitable aging process. Or maybe it's the perspective you get from the higher altitude of experience.
 
What got me thinking about this were the extraordinary statements being made by recently retired U.S. generals. Those who have never served in the military don't understand how extraordinary it is for career military officers to say the things these guys are saying about their former civilian superiors.
 
I hit Marine Corps bootcamp on July 7, 1965, a wimpy kid from suburbia. The first thing we were told was that we were the lowest forms of life on earth -- and that meant lower than civilians. I was to learn as time went on that this was not just drill instructor blather. It was a genuine, deeply ingrained belief that permeated the highest ranks of the military for civilian control. We were repeatedly told that the lowest civilian we met on the street outranked the highest grade military officer. And that was not show. They believed it, not just as a principle, but a sacred trust.
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Warning: Tax Cuts for Rich Harm Nation's Health - by Holly Sklar

Did you get a $1 million dollar cut in your taxes?
 
Taxpayers with incomes above $10 million saved $1 million on average on their 2003 taxes, according to the latest available IRS data, thanks to tax changes under President Bush. Tax breaks will be bigger this year.
 
It would take about 29 years for a full-time worker to make a million bucks at today's average hourly wage, which is falling behind inflation.
 
Taxpayers with incomes above $10 million "paid about the same share of their income in income taxes as those making $200,000 to $500,000 because of the lowered rates on investment income," reports tax expert David Cay Johnston. At the state and local level, low-income taxpayers pay a greater share of their income in taxes than wealthy taxpayers.
 
Taxpayers with incomes less than $50,000 -- the great majority of taxpayers -- saved an average $435 in 2003. It would take 2,300 years to match a million-dollar tax cut.
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Taxes Flatten but Deep Pockets Still Bulge - by Joel Havemann

WASHINGTON ? A decade ago, when publishing magnate Steve Forbes ran for president, he vowed to deliver a new era of prosperity with a simple change in the federal income tax: Instead of people with more money paying higher rates, all would pay the same "flat" tax rate ? unleashing "the fantastic growth waiting to burst forth in our economy."

Forbes' flat-tax plan was dismissed as simplistic by many mainstream economists and viewed with horror by the legions of special interests that benefit from the deductions and loopholes that flat-tax advocates would eliminate.
 
But as millions of Americans face the deadline for filing their federal tax returns, they are operating in something very close to the world Forbes and other flat-tax visionaries proposed. Without any fanfare or philosophical debate, millionaires and middle-class Americans now pay taxes at almost the same rates.
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Science-for-Hire Hazardous to Health - by David Michaels

WASHINGTON - Thank You for Smoking, which has opened in movie theaters across the nation, reminds us of the tobacco industry's diabolical realization that it could delay public health protection by manufacturing uncertainty about the risks of smoking. For 50 years, tobacco companies employed a stable of scientists to challenge the evidence that cigarettes caused lung cancer.
 
Scientists paid to create doubt dissected every study and highlighted flaws and inconsistencies in order to convince public health officials not that cigarettes were safe, but that there was not yet sufficient evidence of their danger to justify limiting places where tobacco could be smoked.
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Monday, April 17, 2006

Outsourcing saves less than claimed


click picture above to enlarge........outsourcing
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Outsourcing of information technology and business services delivers average cost savings of 15 percent, a survey found on Thursday, disproving market claims that outsourcing can reduce costs by over 60 percent.
 
After professional fees, severance pay and governance costs, savings range between 10 percent and 39 percent, with the average level at 15 percent when contracts are first let, according to outsourcing advisory firm TPI.
 
"This research proves that the promise of massive operational savings is unrealistic when you take into account the costs of procurement and ongoing contract management," Duncan Aitchison, TPI's managing director, said in a statement.
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Optical Illusions and Visual Phenomena - by Michael Bach


These pages demonstrate visual phenomena and �optical illusions� or �visual illusions�. The latter is more appropriate, because most effects have their basis in the visual pathway, not in the optics of the eye. I selected these based on relative novelty and interactivity. When I find the time I will expand the explanations , to the degree that these phenomena are really understood; any nice and thoughtful comment welcome.
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Big Rewards for Defense Firms - By Charles R. Babcock

In late February 2004, the Army announced that it was canceling plans to build a radar-evading helicopter called the Comanche, a project that was nearly three years behind schedule and more than $3.5 billion over budget. Those problems, however, didn't stop an Army panel a few weeks later from granting the Boeing Co.-Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. partnership running the program a $33.9 million "award fee" for their work on the helicopter, part of more than $200 million in such fees paid to the partnership over four years.
 
Award fees are meant in theory to motivate defense contractors with extra money for performance. But a recent Government Accountability Office study found that the fees are often paid regardless of whether a project is on schedule and within its budget.
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US Plots 'New Liberation of Baghdad' - by Sarah Baxter in Washington

THE American military is planning a ?second liberation of Baghdad? to be carried out with the Iraqi army when a new government is installed.
 
Pacifying the lawless capital is regarded as essential to establishing the authority of the incoming government and preparing for a significant withdrawal of American troops.
 
Strategic and tactical plans are being laid by US commanders in Iraq and at the US army base in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, under Lieutenant- General David Petraeus. He is regarded as an innovative officer and was formerly responsible for training Iraqi troops.
 
The battle for Baghdad is expected to entail a ?carrot-and-stick? approach, offering the beleaguered population protection from sectarian violence in exchange for rooting out insurgent groups and Al-Qaeda.
 
Sources close to the Pentagon said Iraqi forces would take the lead, supported by American air power, special operations, intelligence, embedded officers and back-up troops.
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John Edwards and the Politics of Poverty - by John Atlas and Peter Dreier

In a walnut paneled conference room, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with Georgian chandeliers, Remington-style bronze reproductions, 17th century Flemish art and Persian carpets, including one woven by servants of the Shah of Iran, John Edwards sat in the same chair at a small round table for two days taking copious notes, as panels of policy wonks expounded on new approaches to fight poverty.
 
In the age of George W., Wal-mart, and free market ideology, few public officials or candidates for office have much to say about the persistence of poverty in the world's wealthiest nation. Yet here was Edwards, calculating whether and how to run for president, at a two-day seminar on poverty that, while attracting 200 people, really had only one student.
 
The March conference was sponsored by the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina, a research institute Edwards founded last year after his defeat as the Democratic vice presidential candidate in November 2004.
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Pentagon Papers Figure Bids for Presidency - by John Nichols

In the tradition of the late Paul Tsongas, the former Massachusetts senator who in 1991 launched a decidedly uphill run for the Democratic presidential nomination and succeeded in making his concerns about deficit spending central to the national discourse, another former U.S. senator will launch a presidential campaign Monday that seeks to highlight big ideas -- in this case about the Constitution and direct democracy.
 
Mike Gravel, who represented Alaska as a maverick Democratic Senate from 1969 to 1981, will announce his candidacy for the Democratic nomination with a press conference at the National Press Club.
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Washington Wire � Thumbs Down on Snow


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The latest WSJ.com survey of economists asked: 'Has John Snow been an effective Treasury secretary?' Fourteen economists said, 'Yes,' and 25 said, 'No.'
 
Washington is abuzz with rumors that Snow is on the way out, but it?s not yet clear when or who President Bush will pick to take his place. Asked for brief comments on Snow?s tenure, very few had anything nice to say about the former railroad executive who succeeed Paul O'Neill in January 2003. Here?s a sampling.
 
The nasty ones:
 
No progress on fiscal priorities
He has been a non-entity
No attention to tax reform
We need a Bob Rubin
Obviously (good) for Bush, less so for financial markets
No meaningful legacy
Too much of a voice box for admin, not enough of a policy maker.
 
The nicer ones:
 
Thankless job
Wasn?t allowed to be (effective)
OK, not great
Much better than O?Neill
Couldn?t be (effective) in this Administration
 
The survey also asked economists to weigh in on the impact of illegal-immigrant labor of lower-income Americans. See article. ?David Wessel
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Sunday, April 16, 2006


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Dishing Out Real Power


Costs are down, interest is up, and the Stirling solar system is ready to flick the switch
 
By Joshua Tompkins | November 2005
 
The way Robert Liden sees it, his company is simply building an odd-looking car. It?s made mostly of steel and glass, after all, and it has an engine with a radiator and a water pump. It just doesn?t have wheels, seats or a Blaupunkt.
 
What it does have is a generator that can power up to eight homes. No, the device isn?t a car; it?s a Stirling solar dish, and Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has recently completed a mini power plant composed of six of Liden?s dishes.
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Eyewitness Muse -Stand up for Liberty: Piss in Your Yard

The Muse lamented the loss of liberty in the U.S.A. in last week's "Oodles of Googles." Little did I know that our Internet search habits were but the nub of the Administration's interest in our private and lawful activities.

This morning, I thought April Fools Day had come early when I was greeted by news that the G-men have sought and received permission from Washington, D.C.-area public service districts to test raw sewage for cocaine. I'm not making this up.

According to the Washington Post, Fairfax County, Va. has "agreed to participate in a White House pilot program to analyze wastewater from communities throughout the Potomac River Basin for the urinary byproducts of cocaine."
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