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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Philosophers' Playground: Sins of the Right: The Moral Poverty of Libertarianism

Conservative talk about ethics tends to fall into one of two camps: Divine Command Theory which asserts God's Will as the source of moral rightness and wrongness and Libertariansim which sets maximizing personal freedom as the single goal of an ethical system. Divine Command Theory was discussed here not long ago in the post 'Is Domenech a hypocrite for being a plagiarist and a fundamentalist ? No, but...' Here we will look at Libertarianism.

Libertarianism begins from the notion of rights which may possibly be the most influential moral notion in history. Women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights, human rights; all have been the rallying points from which to try to overturn injustice. Exclusion from full humanity and citizenship is the hallmark of an unjust social structure and the most powerful moral weapon in dismantling of barriers put up by the haves to keep the have-nots out has been the notion of rights.One of the reason this tool has been so effective in correcting injustices done to the have-nots is that the notion of rights is also crucial to the haves.

The place where the concept of rights begins is with property rights, with the erection of social protection structures for the stuff of the rich and the ability to enforce contracts so that the rich have a stable business environment. What property rights do is guarantee that nobody can mess with my stuff and that I’ll get paid if I sell it. The powerful are almost always also the rich and in order to keep what they have in terms of both wealth and power, they rely on the inviolability of a structure based on rights.It was then a very small step to extend the notion of rights from keeping my things safe to keeping my body safe, and then we were off and running declaring moral rights to protect our privacy, access to healthcare, and countless other needs. More and more got packed in until we started seeing rights-based language applied to driving an SUV, regardless of how it impacts the environment or other cars in collisions.

But the problem is that we now throw around the term “rights” without having any real sense of what it means. To fix this, we need to keep legal and moral notions distinct because we both use rights-talk in both cases. If a buddy confided in me that he got herpes from his roommate’s girlfriend and I promised to keep it secret, and then I immediately IM it to a mutual friend, I cannot cite the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States in my defense. Breaking confidence while gossiping is not a federal crime, but it does make you a slime bag. Your legal right to free speech means that you cannot be arrested for saying most things, it doesn’t mean that there are no moral responsibilities to watch what you say. Just as in the case of cultural relativism, we had to be careful not to confuse legal with moral, we need to keep legal rights – which again are decided by the whims of a legislative body – distinct in our minds from moral rights.The key to rights-based ethics; in general rights give rise to purely negative duties. Rights don't tell me what I have to do for you, they say what you can’t do to me. For all of the historical heavy-lifting they have done over the last couple of centuries, the moral concept of a right is an extremely weak notion. You can act in a way that doesn’t violate anyone’s rights and still be a complete prick.
read the rest......
Moral Poverty

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Pharyngula: I think I despise anti-environmentalists as much as I do anti-evolutionists

Ah, the libertarian extremists have found my site and are making comments. It's a peculiar pathology that thinks environmentalism is an evil plot, that planning is communism/socialism, and that Jesus was a good capitalist. It is particularly irksome to try and deal with people who are so far gone that they deny science warning them of environmental dangers and impending problems.

How irksome? Imagine that a scientist and one of these deranged libertarian right-wing anti-environmentalist science deniers go out for a drive one day...

LIB: Isn't this wonderful? I have a desire to drive, and sufficient surplus income to purchase a vehicle, and the market and technology provide me with one. Praise Jesus! Praise Adam Smith!

SCI: Uh, yeah, OK...but you know, the way you're driving is neither safe nor economical. Could you maybe slow down a little?

LIB: I decide what is economical; I can afford the gas. As for safety, I have insurance, and the little whatchamacallit meter in front of me goes all the way up to 140. I haven't exceeded the limit yet.

SCI: What you can do and what is safe and reasonable to do are two different things. If you want to experience natural selection first hand, that would be OK with me, except for the fact that we're both in the same car.
By the way, that's a lake a couple of miles ahead, and you're headed straight for it.

LIB: Lake? We haven't encountered any lakes in our travels so far. We don't have to worry about lakes. History is our guide, and it clearly says, 'no lakes'.

SCI: Well, yes, there's a lake right there in front of us. You can see it as well as I can, I hope. It's even marked right here on our map. I suggest you turn left just a little bit and steer clear of it.

LIB: Oh, you pessimistic doomsayers. You're always gloomily predicting our demise, and you're always wrong. We hit a mud puddle a few miles back, and see? No problems."
read the rest......
I think I despise anti-environmentalists as much as I do anti-evolutionists

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Capitol Hill Blue: Interior wins right to hide records

The Interior Department won a victory Friday, persuading a federal appeals court to suppress three reports that had presented evidence of Interior officials failing to report problems and destroying records used in managing American Indian money.

The documents pertain to a massive class-action lawsuit Native Americans filed against the department a decade ago, saying the government owed them an accounting because it mismanaged a trust in their names for 120 years. The Indian plaintiffs say they are owed tens of billions of dollars.

The author of the reports, Alan Balaran, was appointed by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth as a 'special master' in 1999. Balaran supervised the exchange of information between parties in the lawsuit and investigated document destruction.

Balaran's reports to the judge, including observations from personal visits, found the department had destroyed Indian records, sometimes purposefully, at federal depositories and Indian reservations in the West.

Keith Harper, a lawyer for the Indian plaintiffs suing the department, said Friday, 'Most of the facts in those reports have been conceded as true' by the Interior Department.

Interior officials nonetheless asked a federal appeals court to strike Balaran's reports from the record, saying he had improperly hired as an expert witness a former Interior contractor who had accused the department of fraud.

The former contractor was allowed to draft or edit portions of Balaran's findings about whether Interior was adequately securing Indians' trust fund data, the department said."
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Indian Trust Fund Thefts to be covered up...

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Ann Coulter's Godless: An Analysis and Book Review: Take the Ann Coulter/Zacarias Moussaoui Quiz

Ann Coulter's Godless: An Analysis and Book Review: Take the Ann Coulter/Zacarias Moussaoui Quiz: "If you're reading this, you probably already know about author Ann Coulter's recent statements about the 9/11 widows. So let's make this a water cooler quiz. Go to work and find someone who hasn't been following the news and give him/her the following short quiz. The answer for each of the questions is either 1) a brutal terrorist sentenced for the 9/11 attacks; or 2) an author respected in conservative and Republican circles:
1. Who said that statements from bereaved family members of 9/11 were 'disgusting'?
2. Who, referring to bereaved 9/11 widows, said, 'I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much'?
3. Who said, 'These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzis'?
4. Who referred to 9/11 widows who lived in East Brunswick, New Jersey as 'the witches of East Brunswick'?

Let me know in the comments how you or others did on the quiz.

Answer key: 1. Zacarias Moussaoui 2. Ann Coulter 3. Ann Coulter 4. Ann Coulter

Even though Coulter's statements in the book should have made her a national pariah, the right's media network is doing a competent (but soulless) effort to partially shield Coulter from all the condemnation she deserves (click here and here)."

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Godless Ann Coulter

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ScienCentral Video News: Good Nicotine

"We all know nicotine as the addictive substance that gets people hooked on cigarettes, which can kill you. But as this ScienCentral News video explains, now nicotine could also be a tool in defeating one of the leading causes of death in the developed world.

Putting Out the Fire

The nicotine that gets people hooked on cigarettes can be implicated in hundreds of thousands of deaths in the U.S. each year. But immunologist Luis Ulloa has found that it can also reverse the condition called sepsis, which kills some 250,000 Americans a year.

Typically, when your body responds to an infection, immune cells send out chemical messengers called cytokines. Some of these cytokines force your blood to clot, which ensures that the threatening material doesn't spread throughout the body.

Usually sparked by trauma or a bacterial infection, sepsis is when this immune response goes into overdrive. Ulloa explains, 'Your immune system becomes very strong, [and it] wants to protect your body at any cost.'

Ulloa Lab
People in the early stages of sepsis may feel confused, have a fever and rapid heart rate, and develop a rash. Sepsis is often confused with other conditions, Ulloa says, and treating the underlying infection with antibiotics misses the root of the problem. 'It's your own immune response who is killing you,' he explains. 'So your own immune response becomes so strong that it's attacking the cardiovascular system and it's able to cause multiple organ failure.'

Previous studies showed that smokers are less prone to another disease of the immune system, ulcerative colitis. This inflammatory disease attacks the digestive system, but was found to affect a disproportionate number of non-smokers.

This led Ulloa and his team at North Shore University Hospital in Long Island to study nicotine as an anti-inflammatory for sepsis. He discovered that nicotine grabs immune cells and prevents them from spewing inflammatory cytokines throughout the body.

In laboratory tests it was able to reverse sepsis in mice. After inducing sepsis, researchers waited until the mice became sick to inject the nicotine. It worked: many of the mice, Ulloa says, got better within 24 hours. He says that this experiment closely replicates how sepsis could be treated in the real world, 'because for patients, you can't predict when someone will go into sepsis. So you have to develop different experimental strategies to be able to rescue the patient.'"

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ScienCentral Video News: Super Battery

Ever wish you could charge your cellphone or laptop in a few seconds rather than hours? As this ScienCentral News video explains, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing a battery that could do just that, and also might never need to be replaced.

The Past is Future

As our portable devices get more high-tech, the batteries that power them can seem to lag behind. But Joel Schindall and his team at M.I.T. plan to make long charge times and expensive replacements a thing of the past--by improving on technology from the past.

They turned to the capacitor, which was invented nearly 300 years ago. Schindall explains, 'We made the connection that perhaps we could take an old product, a capacitor, and use a new technology, nanotechnology, to make that old product in a new way.'

Rechargable and disposable batteries use a chemical reaction to produce energy. 'That's an effective way to store a large amount of energy,' he says, 'but the problem is that after many charges and discharges ... the battery loses capacity to the point where the user has to discard it.'

Schindall Battery Researcher
But capacitors contain energy as an electric field of charged particles created by two metal electrodes. Capacitors charge faster and last longer than normal batteries. The problem is that storage capacity is proportional to the surface area of the battery's electrodes, so even today's most powerful capacitors hold 25 times less energy than similarly sized standard chemical batteries.

The researchers solved this by covering the electrodes with millions of tiny filaments called nanotubes. Each nanotube is 30,000 times thinner than a human hair. Similar to how a thick, fuzzy bath towel soaks up more water than a thin, flat bed sheet, the nanotube filaments on increase the surface area of the electrodes and allow the capacitor to store more energy. Schindall says this combines the strength of today's batteries with the longevity and speed of capacitors.

'It could be recharged many, many times perhaps hundreds of thousands of times, and ... it could be recharged very quickly, just in a matter of seconds rather than a matter of hours,' he says."

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NATIONAL JOURNAL: What Ashcroft Was Told (06/08/06)

"By Murray Waas, National Journal
© National Journal Group Inc.
Thursday, June 8, 2006

Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft continued to oversee the Valerie Plame-CIA leak probe for more than two months in late 2003 after he learned in extensive briefings that FBI agents suspected White House aides Karl Rove and I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby of trying to mislead the FBI to conceal their roles in the leak, according to government records and interviews. Despite these briefings, which took place between October and December 2003, and despite the fact that senior White House aides might become central to the leak case, Ashcroft did not recuse himself from the matter until December 30, when he allowed the appointment of a special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, to take over the investigation.

According to people with firsthand knowledge of the briefings, senior Justice Department officials told Ashcroft that the FBI had uncovered evidence that Libby, then chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, had misled the bureau about his role in the leaking of Plame's identity to the press.

By November, investigators had obtained personal notes of Libby's that indicated he had first learned from Cheney that Plame was a CIA officer. But Libby was insisting in FBI interviews that he had learned Plame's name and identity from journalists. Libby was also telling investigators that when he told reporters that Plame worked for the CIA, he was only passing along an unsubstantiated rumor.

Officials also told Ashcroft that investigators did not believe Libby's account, according to sources knowledgeable about the briefings, and that Libby might have lied to the FBI to defend other -- more senior -- administration officials.

Ashcroft was told no later than November 2003 that investigators also doubted the accounts that Rove, President George W. Bush's chief political adviser, had given the FBI as to how he, too, learned that Plame was a CIA officer and how he came to disclose that information to columnist Robert Novak."

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Friday, June 09, 2006

With Ineptitude on Full Display, the Party's Over for Republicans - by Garrison Keillor

People who live in mud huts should not throw mud, especially if it comes from their own roofs. As Scripture says, don't point to the speck in your neighbor's eye when you have a piece of kindling in your own.
I see by the papers that the Republicans want to make an issue of Nancy Pelosi in the congressional races this fall: Would you want a San Francisco woman to be speaker of the House?
Will the podium be repainted in lavender stripes with a disco ball overhead? Will she be borne into the chamber by male dancers with glistening torsos and wearing pink tutus? After all, in the unique worldview of old elephants, "San Francisco" is a code word for "g-a-y," and after assembling a record of government lies, incompetence and disaster, the party in power hopes that the fear of g-a-y-s will pull it through in November.
Running against Ms. Pelosi, a woman who comes from a district where there are known gay persons, is a nice trick, but it does draw attention to the large shambling galoot who is speaker now, Tom DeLay's enabler for years, a man who, judging by his public mutterances, is about as smart as most high school wrestling coaches.
For the past year, Dennis Hastert has been two heartbeats from the presidency. He is a man who seems content just to have a car and driver and three square meals a day. He has no apparent vision beyond the urge to hang onto power. He has succeeded in turning Congress into a branch of the executive branch. If Mr. Hastert becomes the poster boy for the Republican Party, this does not speak well for them as the Party of Ideas.
People who want to take a swing at San Francisco should think twice. Yes, the Irish coffee at Fisherman's Wharf is overpriced, and the bus tour of Haight-Ashbury is disappointing (where are the hippies?), but the Bay Area is the cradle of the computer and software industry, which continues to create jobs for our children.
The iPod was not developed by Baptists in Waco. There may be a reason for this. Creative people thrive in a climate of openness and tolerance, since some great ideas start out sounding ridiculous.
Creativity is a key to economic progress. Authoritarianism is stifling. I don't believe that Mr. Hewlett and Mr. Packard were gay, but what's important is: In San Francisco, it doesn't matter so much. When the cultural Sturmbannfuhrers try to marshal everyone into straight lines, it has consequences for the economic future of this country.

Meanwhile, the Current Occupant goes on impersonating a president. Somewhere in the quiet leafy recesses of the Bush family, somebody is thinking, "Wrong son. Should've tried the smart one."

This one's eyes don't quite focus. Five years in office and he doesn't have a grip on it yet. You stand him up next to Tony Blair at a press conference and the comparison is not kind to Our Guy. Historians are starting to place him at or near the bottom of the list. And one of the basic assumptions of American culture is falling apart: the competence of Republicans.

You might not have always liked Republicans, but you could count on them to manage the bank. They might be lousy tippers, act snooty, talk through their noses, wear spats and splash mud on you as they race their Pierce-Arrows through the village, but you knew they could do the math.

To see them produce a ninny and then follow him loyally into the swamp for five years is disconcerting, like seeing the Rolling Stones take up lite jazz. So here we are at an uneasy point in our history, mired in a costly war and getting nowhere, a supine Congress granting absolute power to a president who seems to get smaller and dimmer, and the best the GOP can offer is San Franciscophobia? This is beyond pitiful. This is violently stupid.

t is painful to look at your father and realize the old man should not be allowed to manage his own money anymore. This is the discovery the country has made about the party in power. They are inept. The checkbook needs to be taken away. They will rant, they will screech, they will wave their canes at you and call you all sorts of names, but you have to do what you have to do.

Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" can be heard Saturday nights on public radio stations across the country.

© 2006 The Baltimore Sun

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The YOYO Handcuffs - by Jared Bernstein

Here's a test: name one economic policy, other than tax cuts, associated with outgoing Treasury Secretary John Snow.
Give up?
Now think about this: what is the economic policy of the Bush administration? What about the Congress? What about the Democrats?
If all you could come up is that the first two aforementioned groups want to cut rich people's taxes, I'm with you. Beyond that, none of the above has offered a coherent strategy for meeting America's economic challenges.
And these problems are prodigious: global economic competition; 46 million people lacking health insurance; the seemingly inexorable climb of inequality; obscene CEO compensation packages totally unrelated to performance; an economy that's doing fine, until you consider the people in it.
Each of these problems needs concerted thought and action. But while the administration's new nominee for Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, is certainly an able economist, he will likely be as ineffectual as was Secretary Snow.
There's a reason why the nation's economic policymakers are suffering from a deficit of ideas: It's YOYO economics.
YOYO is an acronym for "You're on your own," and it is the guiding light of economic policy as practiced today. The idea is that no matter what the problem is, the solution is less government and more markets. You've seen many examples of YOYOism in action, but here's a primer:
Problem: The looming health care crisis.
YOYO solution: individualized Health Savings Accounts, designed to create better "health care shoppers."
Problem: The economic insecurity associated with globalization.
YOYO solution: more education. If you're not smart enough to compete with cheaper, skilled workers abroad, well, "you're on your own."
Problem: Solvency in your old age.
YOYO solution: Try your hand in the stock market with a private account.
And underlying all of this is the biggest YOYO tactic of all: cut taxes to the point where government is forced to contract so there's no question of an activist agenda. If you can enrich your donors along the way...well, then it's a "twofer."
The problem is, as is becoming undeniably clear, YOYOism doesn't work. It failed lethally in New Orleans. It's done nothing to stop the growth of the uninsured, the rise in poverty, the decline in median earnings (i.e., the real earnings of the typical worker, down 2% over the recovery, while productivity is up 15%), nor the rise in the profit share of national income, now at a 39-year high. The public rejected it with the failure of the Bush-push to privatize Social Security, and now the polls show deep dissatisfaction with the president's management of the economy.
There's a countervailing message rising out of the anxiety generated by the new economy:
"Policy makers, work with us. We're in this together. Rebuild a government that we can believe in, and we will do so. Conceive and articulate an agenda that harnesses the tremendous capacity, skill, and flexibility of our economy to meet the challenges. Instead of creating 300 million individual risk-bearing silos, let's pool risk though universal health insurance coverage and a strengthened pension system. Let's build an ambitious public/private partnership with the goal of energy independence to replace the jobs and wages lost to globalization."
You have to strain to hear this message, but it's there. It is, however, in desperate need of amplification. The new treasury secretary can't help--his hands are tied by YOYO ideology. So the question is: who will step up and amplify this liberating message?
Jared Bernstein is a senior economist and director of the Living Standards Program at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, DC. He is the coauthor of the last seven editions of The State of Working America as well as The Benefits of Full Employment: When Markets Work for People. Web site:

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NASA Shelves Climate Satellites - by Beth Daley

NASA is canceling or delaying a number of satellites designed to give scientists critical information on the earth's changing climate and environment.
The space agency has shelved a $200 million satellite mission headed by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor that was designed to measure soil moisture -- a key factor in helping scientists understand the impact of global warming and predict droughts and floods. The Deep Space Climate Observatory, intended to observe climate factors such as solar radiation, ozone, clouds, and water vapor more comprehensively than existing satellites, also has been canceled.
And in its 2007 budget, NASA proposes significant delays in a global precipitation measuring mission to help with weather predictions, as well as the launch of a satellite designed to increase the timeliness and accuracy of severe weather forecasts and improve climate models.
The changes come as NASA prioritizes its budget to pay for completion of the International Space Station and the return of astronauts to the moon by 2020 -- a goal set by President Bush that promises a more distant and arguably less practical scientific payoff. Ultimately, scientists say, the delays and cancellations could make hurricane predictions less accurate, create gaps in long-term monitoring of weather, and result in less clarity about the earth's hydrological systems, which play an integral part in climate change.
``Today, when the need for information about the planet is more important than ever, this process of building understanding through increasingly powerful observations . . . is at risk of collapse," said Berrien Moore III, director of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space at the University of New Hampshire.
Moore is cochairman of a National Research Council committee that will recommend NASA's future earth science agenda later this year. It is unclear, however, whether NASA will follow those recommendations.
``NASA has canceled, scaled back, or delayed all of the planned earth observing missions," he said.

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High Cost of Prisons Not Paying Off, Report Finds - by Jenifer Warren

SACRAMENTO — Americans spend $60 billion a year to imprison 2.2 million people — exceeding any other nation — but receive a dismal return on the investment, according to a report to be released today by a commission urging greater public scrutiny of what goes on behind bars.
The report, "Confronting Confinement," by the National Prison Commission, says legislators have passed get-tough laws that have packed the nation's jails and prisons to overflowing with convicts, most of them poor and uneducated. However, politicians have done little to help inmates emerge as better citizens upon release.
The consequences of that failure include financial strain on states, public health threats from parolees with communicable diseases, and a cycle of crime and victimization driven by a recidivism rate of more than 60%, the report says.
"If these were public schools or publicly traded corporations, we'd shut them down," said Alexander Busansky, executive director of the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons, established by a private think tank in New York. Rather, the commission said, Americans view prisons with detachment or futility, growing interested when a riot makes the news and then looking away, "hoping the troubles inside the walls will not affect us."
With 20 members representing diverse perspectives, the bipartisan panel urges Americans to ignore the costs of incarceration no longer. Launched in early 2005 amid what panelists called "accumulating doubts about the effectiveness and morality of our country's approach to confinement," the commission will deliver its findings to a Senate subcommittee in Washington today.
Among the highlights in the 126-page report:

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A new low -- the Senate seeks to "pardon" the President for past lawbreaking

by Glenn Greenwald

Observing and commenting on the behavior of Arlen Specter is one of the most
unpleasant obligations a person can have, but for anyone following the
NSA eavesdropping scandal specifically, and the Bush administration's
abuses of executive power generally, it is a necessary evil. The
principal reason that the Bush administration has been able to impose
its radical theories of lawbreaking on the country is because Congress,
with an unseemly eagerness, has permitted itself to be humiliated over
and over by an administration which does not hide its contempt for the
notion that Congress has any role to play in limiting and checking the
executive branch. And few people have more vividly illustrated that
institutional debasement than Arlen Specter, who, along with Pat
Roberts, has done more than anyone else to ensure that Congress
completely relinquishes its constitutional powers to the President.

abdication is so uniquely damaging because the Founders assumed that
Congress would naturally and instinctively resist encroachments by the
executive, and the resulting institutional tension -- the inevitable
struggle for power between the branches -- is what would preserve
governmental balance and prevent true abuses of power. But for the last
five years, Congress has done the opposite of what the Founders
envisioned. They have meekly submitted to the almost total elimination
of their role in our Government and have quietly accepted consolidation
of their powers in the President.

If the Congress is unmoved by
their constitutional responsibilities, then at least basic human
dignity ought to compel them to object to the administration's contempt
for the laws they pass. After all, the laws which the administration
claims it can ignore and has been breaking are their laws. The Senate passed FISA by a vote of 95-1, and the McCain torture ban by a vote of 90-9, and it is those laws
which the President is proclaiming he will simply ignore. And yet not
only have they not objected, they have endorsed and even celebrated the
President's claimed power to ignore the laws passed by Congress. And
that failure, more than anything else, is what has brought us to the
real constitutional crisis we face as a result of having a President
who claims the power to operate outside of, and above, the law.

bill proposed yesterday by Arlen Specter to resolve the NSA scandal --
literally his fifth or sixth proposed bill on this subject in the last
few months -- would drag the Congress to a new low of debasement. According to The Washington Post, Specter has introduced a bill "that would give President Bush the option
of seeking a warrant from a special court for an electronic
surveillance program such as the one being conducted by the National
Security Agency." This proposal is the very opposite of everything
Specter has saying for the last several months:

approach modifies his earlier position that the NSA eavesdropping
program, which targets international telephone calls and e-mails in
which one party is suspected of links to terrorists, must be subject to supervision by the secret court set up under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

law which makes it "an option" -- rather than a requirement -- for the
Government to obtain a warrant before eavesdropping is about as
meaningless of a law as can be imagined.

But that complete
change of heart by Specter is not even nearly the most corrupt part of
his proposed bill. For pure corruption and constitutional abdication,
nothing could match this:

Another part of the Specter bill would grant blanket amnesty
to anyone who authorized warrantless surveillance under presidential
authority, a provision that seems to ensure that no one would be held
criminally liable if the current program is found illegal under present

read the rest......
Pre-Pardon the preznit???

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Drug Warriors Push Eye-Eating Fungus

Why are members of Congress advocating the use of a dangerous crop-killer in Columbia?

By Jeremy Bigwood

An infection caused by Fusarium fungus destroys a human cornea.

On April 16, the New York Times
ran a full-page ad from contact lens producer Bausch and Lomb,
announcing the recall of its “ReNu with MoistureLoc”
rewetting solution, and warning the 30 million American wearers of soft
contact lenses about Fusarium keratitis. This infection, first detected
in Asia, has rapidly spread across the United States. It is caused by a
mold-like fungus that can penetrate the cornea of soft contact lens
wearers, causing redness and pain that can lead to
blindness—requiring a corneal replacement.

That same week, the House of Representatives passed a provision to a
bill requiring that the very same fungus be sprayed in “a major
drug-producing country,” such as Colombia. The bill’s
sponsor was Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) and its most vocal supporter was
his colleague Dan Burton (R-Ind.), who has been promoting the fungus
for almost a decade as key to winning the drug war.


read the rest......Drug War

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Wired 14.06: Don't Try This at Home - By Steve Silberman

The first startling thing Joy White saw out of her bedroom window was a man running toward her door with an M16. White’s husband, a physicist named Bob Lazar, was already outside, awakened by their barking dogs. Suddenly police officers and men in camouflage swarmed up the path, hoisting a battering ram. “Come out with your hands up immediately, Miss White!” one of them yelled through a megaphone, while another handcuffed the physicist in his underwear. Recalling that June morning in 2003, Lazar says, “If they were expecting to find Osama bin Laden, they brought along enough guys.”
The target of this operation, which involved more than two dozen police officers and federal agents, was not an international terrorist ring but the couple’s home business, United Nuclear Scientific Supplies, a mail-order outfit that serves amateur scientists, students, teachers, and law enforcement professionals. From the outside, company headquarters – at the end of a dirt road high in the Sandia Mountains east of Albuquerque – looks like any other ranch house in New Mexico, with three dogs, a barbecue, and an SUV in the driveway. But not every suburban household boasts its own particle accelerator. A stroll through the backyard reveals what looks like a giant Van de Graaff generator with a pipe spiraling out of it, marked with CAUTION: RADIATION signs. A sticker on the SUV reads POWERED BY HYDROGEN, while another sign by the front gate warns, TRESPASSERS WILL BE USED FOR SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS.
Science experiments are United Nuclear’s business. The chemicals available on the company’s Web site range from ammonium dichromate (the main ingredient in the classic science-fair volcano) to zinc oxide powder (which absorbs UV light). Lazar and White also sell elements like sodium and mercury, radioactive minerals, and geeky curiosities like aerogel, an ultralightweight foam developed by NASA to capture comet dust. The Department of Homeland Security buys the company’s powerful infrared flashlights by the case; the Mythbusters guys on the Discovery Channel recently picked up 10 superstrong neodymium magnets. (These come with the sobering caveat: “Beware – you must think ahead when moving these magnets … Loose metallic objects and other magnets may become airborne and fly considerable distances.”) Fire departments in Nevada and California send for United Nuclear’s Geiger counters and uranium ore to train hazmat crews.
A former employee of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the 47-year-old Lazar radiates a boyish enthusiasm for science and gadgets. White, 50, is a trim licensed aesthetician who does herbal facials for local housewives while helping her husband run the company. When the officers determined that Lazar and White posed no physical threat, they freed the couple from their handcuffs and produced a search warrant. United Nuclear’s computers and business records were carted off in a van.
The search was initiated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a federal agency best known for instigating recalls of faulty cribs and fire-prone space heaters. The CPSC’s concern with United Nuclear was not the uranium, the magnets, or the backyard accelerator. It was the chemicals – specifically sulfur, potassium perchlorate, and powdered aluminum, all of which can be used to make illegal fireworks. The agency suspected that Lazar and White were selling what amounted to kits for making M-80s, cherry bombs, and other prohibited items; such kits are banned by the CPSC under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act.

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Flying the Corporate Skies - by Ari Berman

A top official in the Bush Administration, David Safavian, is on trial right now for lying about a golfing trip to Scotland taken by a lawmaker, Rep. Bob Ney, and funded by a lobbyist, Jack Abramoff.
What's unusual about this story is the fact that a White House official tried to cover it up. Lobbyist-funded travel is standard operating procedure for lawmakers in Washington. In fact, a new study released today found that lawmakers and their aides, Republicans and Democrats alike, spent $50 million on privately funded travel between 2000-2005.
That amounts to 23,000 trips and 81,000 days (or 222 years) of travel, to such popular locales as Paris, Italy and Hawaii. The top offenders, whose offices accepted more than $350,000 in travel costs, include powerhouse Republicans like Tom DeLay, Joe Barton and Roy Blunt, and sleazy Dems such as DLC-favorite Greg Meeks.
"Some trips seem to have been little more than pricey vacations," writes the Center for Public Integrity, the study's lead author. "In many instances, trip sponsors appear to be buying access to elected officials or their advisers."
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert proposed a ban on such travel after Abramoff pled guilty in January. But incoming Majority Leader John Boehner, another frequent flier, quickly nixed the idea. Under the new lobbying "reform" bill passed by the House, these trips must be cleared by the dormant House Ethics Committee--until December that is, when the provision conveniently expires after the midterm elections.
The abuse is bipartisan. "Of the two dozen congressional offices on which trip sponsors spent the most money, 15 were occupied by Republicans," the study found. "Of the 25 individual lawmakers who each accepted more than $120,000 worth of travel for themselves, 17 were Democrats."
This system, not surprisingly, breeds special favors, also known as corruption. One small San Diego-based defense contractor, General Dynamics, spent more than $660,000 on 86 trips for Capitol Hill legislators and aides. General Dynamics enjoyed close ties to indicted Rep. Duke Cunningham and House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis, whose lobbying firm of choice, Copeland Lowery, is also under investigation by the FBI.
Countless similar tales, no doubt, are waiting to be told.
Ari Berman, based in Washington, DC, is a contributing writer for The Nation, a contributor to The Notion and a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute.
© 2006 The Nation

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America's Fading Glow - John Brown

June 05, 2006
John Brown, a former Foreign Service officer who practiced public diplomacy for over twenty years, now compiles the "Public Diplomacy Press Review," which can be obtained free by e-mail here.
“Power,” Harvard Professor Joseph Nye, Jr. tells us “is the ability to alter the behavior of others to get what you want. There are basically three ways to do that: coercion (sticks), payments (carrots), and attraction (soft power).” Today’s American soft power—our ability to influence others overseas through who we are and what we do—is shrinking, as poll after poll shows. This loss of soft power reduces America's ability to shape global developments in ways favorable to the national interest. What can be done about this?
There are several reasons for the decline of America’s soft power. The most immediate is President George W. Bush’s aggressive foreign policy. Since our internationally condemned attack on Iraq, our country is seen as the illegitimate sheriff that shoots first and asks questions later. Contrast this to the worldwide sympathy for the U.S. immediately after 9/11, when we were considered the attacked, not the attacker. Due to our unilateralism, we have lost the respect—to be sure, never universal—that we earned as a world leader resisting the totalitarianisms of the twentieth century.
Second to the aggression is the hypocrisy of Bush's rhetoric. The president proclaims the pursuit of human freedom as his foremost goal while we are becoming a parody of the Statue of Liberty, covered in prison torture garb from Abu Ghraib, obsessed with our own security but with nothing liberating (or even stabilizing) to offer to the rest of the world. Forget the “democratization” programs (also called “transformational” ) hyped by Condoleezza Rice’s State Department. For much of the world, the reality is that we prop up dictators in Libya and Kazakhstan so long as they give us what we want. And, while claiming that America cares about humanity, Bush disregards transnational issues such as the global environment and supports visa regulations that offend foreigners who wish to visit or study in the United States.
A third reason for our loss of soft power is that, with over six years of Bush’s “we’re just plain folks” rule, our cultural exports increasingly fail to seduce overseas. To be sure, the best purveyors of American consciousness abroad don't necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. government. Yet, judging by the barometer of pop culture, American style is no longer as "cool" as it was, despite the international success of some Hollywood blockbusters. Culturally, we are more and more perceived as the old New World. “[T]he American brand isn't at its shiniest,” U-2’s Bono  recently stated. “The neon is crackling."

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Defining America Down

Many years from now, when historians look back on this period in our history, I fear that they will describe it as the moment when the idea of America lost its resonance in the world, when America became just another country.
I've traveled enough to know that America has long occupied a unique place in the collective consciousness of people across the globe. The idea of America has long encompassed a number of adjectives: some complimentary, some derogatory, but all distinctive and uniquely American. America is viewed as a nation of unparalleled decadence, of conspicuous and unapologetic consumption. But it is also viewed as the land of opportunity, a place where innovation and industriousness are rewarded like nowhere else. People around the world have long complained of American arrogance and self-importance, but on some level, they understand why Americans are proud of their country. They grudgingly admit that America has, for most of its history, been a powerful force for good in the world.
Americans' sincere and earnest belief in their founding principles, in freedom of speech and religion, the rule of law and constitutional democracy, have popularized those concepts throughout the world. America's continued success and vitality have proven not only that a government based on such principles can survive, but that it can flourish. The power of the American dream is ultimately what doomed communism.
America has long been a country dedicated to leading by example. It has been a country that tries to hold itself to its own high standards, regardless of how its enemies behave. That's why there have been countless documented examples over the years of enemy soldiers seeking out American troops in order to surrender, knowing that Americans would not mistreat them. That's the idea of America boiled down to its essence. It's a belief that America, for all its arrogance and annoying self-righteousness, is a country that stands for something important. It's a country that very much believes in its own principles and endeavors heroically to live up to them. That kind of reputation did not develop overnight; it was earned, slowly and painstakingly, by the deeds and actions of countless Americans over many decades.
And it's exactly that reputation that the Bush administration has carelessly pissed away over the last four years. Confronted by a particularly brutal and unprincipled enemy, our leaders decided that our principles were the problem. They were just too confining. So almost immediately, the Administration began defining American down. Torture was essentially defined out of existence. Novel legal theories were introduced justifying the circumvention of long-standing prohibitions. International treaty obligations and rules of war were disregarded. The rule of law itself was up-ended--in secret, by executive decree. Many of the most celebrated American principles were hastily cast aside. Just yesterday, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Pentagon has decided to omit the prohibition on "humiliating and degrading treatment" from the Army Field Manual on interrogation. Just add it to the list.

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Study Shows Our Ancestors Survived Snowball Earth

Seattle WA (SPX) Jun 07, 2006
It has been 2.3 billion years since Earth's atmosphere became infused with enough oxygen to support life as we know it. About the same time, the planet became encased in ice that some scientists speculate was more than a half-mile deep.
That raises questions about whether complex life could have existed before "Snowball Earth" and survived, or if it first evolved when the snowball began to melt.
New research shows organisms called eukaryotes -- organisms of one or more complex cells that engage in sexual reproduction and are ancestors of the animal and plant species present today -- existed 50 million to 100 million years before that ice age and somehow did survive. The work also shows that the cyanobacteria, or blue-green bacteria, that put the oxygen in the atmosphere in the first place, apparently were pumping out oxygen for millions of years before that, and also survived Earth's glaciation.
The findings call into question the direst models of just how deep the deep freeze was, said University of Washington astrobiologist Roger Buick, a professor of Earth and space sciences. While the ice likely was widespread, it probably was not consistently as thick as a half-mile, he said.
"That kind of ice coverage chokes off photosynthesis, so there's no food for anything, particularly eukaryotes. They just couldn't survive," he said. "But this research shows they did survive."

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IPac - Blog - The worst bill you've never heard of

This will be a busy week in the House -- Congress goes into summer recess Friday, but not before considering the Section 115 Reform Act of 2006 (SIRA). Never heard of SIRA? That’s the way Big Copyright and their lackey’s want it, and it's bad news for you.
Simply put, SIRA fundamentally redefines copyright and fair use in the digital world. It would require all incidental copies of music to be licensed separately from the originating copy. Even copies of songs that are cached in your computer's memory or buffered over a network would need yet another license. Once again, Big Copyright is looking for a way to double-dip into your wallet, extracting payment for the same content at multiple levels.
Today, so-called "incidental" copies don't need to be licensed; they're made in the process of doing *other* things, like listening to your MP3 library or plugging into a Net radio station. If you paid for the MP3 and the radio station is up-to-date with its bookkeeping, nobody should have to pay again, right? Not if SIRA becomes law. Out of the blue, copyright holders would have created an entire new market to charge for -- and sue over. Good for them. Bad for us.
Don't let Big Copyright legalize double dipping. Fight SIRA today.
The House is going into recess for the summer at the end of this week, so you have a unique opportunity to kill this legislation. EDIT: I got my calendars confused, the House is not going into recess until July, but it's still important to stall this legislation now. If we can stall SIRA now it would effectively kill it for the reminder of the year, giving us more time to prepare an offensive.
Please call the Members of the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property and voice your opposition to this legislation.

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Citizens 1, Corporations 0 - by John Nichols

In states across the country Tuesday, primary elections named candidates for Congress, governorships and other important offices. But the most interesting, and perhaps significant, election did not involve an individual. Rather, it was about an idea.
In Northern California's Humboldt County, voters decided by a 55-45 margin that corporations do not have the same rights -- based on the supposed "personhood" of the combines -- as citizens when it comes to participating in local political campaigns.
Until Tuesday in Humboldt County, corporations were able to claim citizenship rights, as they do elsewhere in the United States. In the context of electoral politics, corporations that were not headquartered in the county took advantage of the same rules that allowed individuals who are not residents to make campaign contributions in order to influence local campaigns.
But, with the passage of Measure T, an initiative referendum that was placed on the ballot by Humboldt County residents, voters have signaled that they want out-of-town corporations barred from meddling in local elections.
Measure T was backed by the county's Green and Democratic parties, as well as labor unions and many elected officials in a region where politics are so progressive that the Greens -- whose 2004 presidential candidate, David Cobb, is a resident of the county and a active promotor of the challenges to corporate power mounted by Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County and the national Liberty Tree Foundation -- are a major force in local politics.
The "Yes on T" campaign was rooted in regard for the American experiment, from its slogan "Vote Yes for Local Control of Our Democracy," to the references to Tuesday's election as a modern-day "Boston Tea Party," to the quote from Thomas Jefferson that was highlighted in election materials: "I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
Just as Jefferson and his contemporaries were angered by dominance of the affairs of the American colonies by King George III and the British business combines that exploited the natural and human resources of what would become the United States, so Humboldt County residents were angered by the attempts of outside corporate interests to dominate local politics.
Wal-Mart spent $250,000 on a 1999 attempt to change the city of Eureka's zoning laws in order to clear the way for one of the retail giant's big-box stores. Five years later, MAXXAM Inc., a forest products company, got upset with the efforts of local District Attorney Paul Gallegos to enforce regulations on its operations in the county and spent $300,000 on a faked-up campaign to recall him from office. The same year saw outside corporations that were interested in exploiting the county's abundant natural resources meddling in its local election campaigns.
That was the last straw for a lot of Humboldt County residents. They organized to put Measure T on the ballot, declaring, "Our Founding Fathers never intended corporations to have this kind of power."
"Every person has the right to sign petition recalls and to contribute money to political campaigns. Measure T will not affect these individual rights," explained Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, a resident of Eureka who was one of the leaders of the Yes on T campaign. "But individuals hold these political rights by virtue of their status as humans in a democracy and, simply put, a corporation is not a person."
Despite the logic of that assessment, the electoral battle in Humboldt County was a heated one, and Measure T's passage will not end it. Now, the corporate campaign will move to the courts. So this is only a start. But what a monumental start it is!
Sopoci-Belknap was absolutely right when she portrayed Tuesday's vote as nothing less than the beginning of "the process of reclaiming our county" from the "tyranny" of concentrated economic and political power.
Surely Tom Paine would have agreed. It was Paine who suggested to the revolutionaries of 1776, as they dared challenge the most powerful empire on the planet, that: "We have it in our power to begin the world over again. A situation similar to the present hath not happened since the days of Noah until now. The birthday of the new world is at hand, and a race of men, perhaps as numerous as all Europe contains, are to receive their portion of freedom from the events of a few months."
It is time to renew the American experiment, to rebuild its battered institutions on the solid foundation of empowered citizens and regulated corporations. Let us hope that the spirit of '76 prevailed Tuesday in Humboldt County will spread until that day when American democracy is guided by the will of the people rather than the campaign contribution checks of the corporations that are the rampaging "empires" of our age.
John Nichols, The Nation's Washington correspondent, has covered progressive politics and activism in the United States and abroad for more than a decade. He is currently the editor of the editorial page of Madison, Wisconsin's Capital Times. Nichols is the author of two books: It's the Media, Stupid and Jews for Buchanan.  
© 2006 The Nation

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Post-9/11 America is Less a Land of the Free - by Reva Rasmussen

In 1998 I was sick and tired of America so I ran away to China. I was tired of all the shootings in schools and neighborhoods and shopping centers by private citizens. I was sick and tired of being afraid of my neighbors, so I went to China. It was far enough away.
I walked about the cities of China with a freedom I didn't have in America; I had no fear of being a victim of a violent crime. I worried about pickpockets and, indeed, my billfold was stolen twice without me knowing it, but I never needed to worry about a gun, or even a club, being used on me.
However, I was not able to access the New York Times or the BBC on the Internet. I tried again and again, but those websites were blocked. My university students explained to me with heated sincerity that censorship was good for Chinese people; it was necessary for national security.
I was impressed with how the Chinese government used fear to convince the people that what it did was for their own good.
"Oh, Miss Reva," said one of my friends, a government employee, over dinner in a restaurant, "you don't know how important to Chinese people is stability."
His voice was shaking. He said it because my companion at the table with us, a Chinese citizen who was a minority person and not of the Chinese race, had refused to show him her identity card.
He told her, "You people don't think like Chinese people! Your minds are different!" He wanted her card so he could help the government keep track of her.
I missed American multiculturalism. On my first trip home, when I arrived at the airport in Los Angeles, I got lost between terminals. I asked a security officer for directions. He had such a strong Spanish accent, I couldn't follow all he said. Yup, I was back in America. Good ol' America, land of many races, land of many languages. I went as far as I could based on what I'd understood, then asked another man with a Spanish accent. He took me to my gate.

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Pro-War Pols Don't Deserve a Political Future - by Ted Rall

DENVER--The congressmen and senators who lined up to cast their yeas and nays on October 11, 2002 knew that they were casting one of the most, if not the most, important votes of their political careers. Public Law 107-243, 116 Stat. 1497-1502, the result of the vote to authorize the Bush Administration to attack Iraq, would have incalculable moral, economic and geopolitical implications for the long-term future of the United States. But not every congressman put the interests of his country ahead of his career prospects. With George W. Bush still riding high in the polls less than a year after 9/11, it took courage and foresight--the ability to see a future in which the public would sour on Bush and his wars--to defy him.
As is often the case during times of crisis, when history tests the mettle of men and women, courage and foresight were in short supply. Fewer than a third--156 out of 529--dared to vote no.
Four years later, the Iraq war resolution reads like a classic of embarrassingly brazen propaganda. It says that Iraq posed a "threat to the national security of the United States," something that anyone with access to a map knew couldn't possibly be true. (Iraq's longest-range missiles had a maximum range of 500 miles.) It includes the debunked statements that Iraq had "a significant chemical and biological weapons capability" and was "actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability" [presumably a reference to Bush's phony Niger yellowcake uranium claim].
It's obvious to the 59 percent of Americans who think the war was a mistake that the 296 representatives and 77 senators who voted for this ridiculous tripe showed a spectacular lack of good judgment. As a result, nearly 2500 American troops are dead. So are 200,000 Iraqis. Between 18,000 and 48,000 U.S. troops have been wounded. We have no idea how many Iraqis have been crippled--perhaps over one million. Nearly $300 billion--more than 100 times the total amount spent to protect American cities from another 9/11--has been wasted.

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Big Business, Not Religion, is the Real Power in the White House - by Jonathan Freedland

Bush is again pandering to the Christian right over gay rights. But Democrats should not be distracted from the main enemy
Well, it gave George Bush the presidency once before, so why not use it again? Our old friend gay marriage is back, evoked anew by the man in the White House to scare "values voters", most of them Christian conservatives, into voting Republican one more time. It did the business in 2004, when Bush's efforts to turn the election into a referendum on same-sex unions may well have tipped the pivotal state of Ohio, chiefly by persuading social conservatives to get out and vote.
So it's no surprise to see a beleaguered Bush, facing second-term poll numbers in the Nixon depths, reaching for the same stick now. The Republicans could get whipped in November's midterm elections, unless they can persuade God-fearing values voters to turn out to halt the devil of gay marriage all over again.
Bush wants to amend the constitution so that that precious charter of rights and liberties will include a new sentence defining marriage exclusively as an arrangement between a man and a woman. Such an exclusion clause would demean the document, like graffiti scrawled across a sacred text. The constitution has been altered before - but usually to expand rights, not to restrict them. (Examples in the opposite direction, such as the 18th amendment, which launched the prohibition of alcohol, have not been a great success.)
The president and his allies wrap this up in the usual preachy language, of course - stand by for the radio pastors intoning that "It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" - but there is nothing holy about this mission. It's brazen politics, an obvious lob of red meat to the hungry of the Christian right. If they gobble it up they will show just how easily they are bought.
Abroad it will confirm an impression many have had of the United States for a while: that the country is on its way to becoming a theocracy, with the evangelical right organising methodically, and over decades, to take over the commanding heights of the country. On Monday Channel 4 screened God's Next Army, a documentary about Patrick Henry College, an Ivy League-style training ground explicitly grooming young, clean-cut Christian activists to enter and dominate politics.

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Populist John Tester Scores Huge Win Against D.C. Dems and For the Rest of Us - by David Sirota

The winds of change - they are a-blowin' hard out here in the heartland, no matter how much Washington, D.C. pretends they aren't. As the Billings Gazette reported here in Montana just minutes ago, populist Democrat Jon Tester crushed his primary opponents in a major upset, becoming the Democratic nominee against vulnerable incumbent Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT). Tester, a farmer from Big Sandy, ran against the Washington Establishment, ignoring those who said he couldn't beat the State Auditor John Morrison - the candidate that Democratic Party powerbrokers in Washington tried to anoint.
In fairness, I think both Tester and Morrison are good Democrats. But, as I saw when I was at Tester's announcement speech last year, and I learned in talking with Tester during the campaign, this is a guy who clearly and unabashedly represents the populist wing of his party (I publicly stayed out of the primary out of deference to the state party that didn't want to further enflame the already divisive primary battle). His victory will likely send yet more shockwaves through Washington's increasingly insulated Democratic Establishment in Washington.
That Establishment has either refused to take basic, concrete positions on the key issues of the day like Iraq, or worse, has high-profile factions publicly insulting middle-class voters, such as when former Clintonites on Wall Street insulted those Democrats who are trying to reform America's sellout trade policy.
But as I have written before, Tester - and other successful Democrats running this year - are doing exactly the opposite. Back in November, I noted how Tester rejected Washington's advice, and took a strong position on the Iraq War. A few weeks back, I also noted how on critical economic issues like trade. These are positions that put him squarely at odds with the national Democratic Party and the Big Money interests that control Washington, but that put him in sync with voters in Montana and throughout the heartland. Put another way, he made the fight against Big Money's hostile takeover of our government a central theme in his legislative career and in his primary campaign - and he was, to the great shock of Washington insiders, handsomely rewarded by voters.

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Media Failed Its Duty in Lee Case - by Robert Scheer

Five media giants joined the U.S. government last week in paying maligned Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee $1.6 million while once again denying any serious culpability in his totally unjustified and extremely harsh incarceration. Hiding behind their “bond” with government sources, the media companies continue to protect officials who broke the law in leaking highly classified information to defame an individual, as they have more recently in the Valerie Plame case.
In the now infamous racial profiling of Lee, the media was in cahoots with government leakers, who were bizarrely determined to prove that Lee was a dangerous spy whose freedom would profoundly jeopardize national security. Amid this manufactured hysteria, a frail, middle-aged Lee was forced to spend nine months in solitary confinement—chained even in meetings with his attorneys, and under 24-hour video surveillance, during his every private moment --because the government claimed that if he were released on bond the lives of “hundreds of millions of Americans” would be endangered.
That lurid claim was made possible by a public atmosphere poisoned by shoddy reporting — particularly that of The New York Times, which splashed this headline across its front page: “Breach at Los Alamos: A special report; China Stole Nuclear Secrets for Bombs, U.S. Aides Say.” The story claimed that “Working with nuclear secrets stolen from an American government laboratory, China has made a leap in the development of nuclear weapons: the miniaturization of its bombs, according to administration officials.”
Those officials were lying to the Times then as they were days later when Lee was named as the culprit in the case. Lee was never charged with spying for China or any other government, and 58 of the 59 charges against him were dropped when the Clinton Justice Department eventually settled for time served on one minor charge of improperly handling classified information. While the Times and the other news organizations that uncritically conveyed the “administration officials” falsehoods failed to apologize to Lee, the Reagan-appointed judge who heard the government’s pathetic case had the decency to do just that.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Media's Bloody Footprints - By Mike Whitney

“It was premeditated slaughter in every sense of the word. The Marines came in and they killed everyone inside.” Khalid Ahmed Rsayef; Haditha eyewitness
Western media is the bullhorn for the political establishment. Its message is crafted to reflect the objectives of elites and defend the interests of ownership. The recent coverage of the massacre in Haditha hasn’t changed the media’s essential purpose at all. It’s still a fully-vested partner in the corporate-state power structure.
The reporting on Haditha has been surprisingly thorough. The major American newspapers have run several articles covering the incident in great detail. The mainstream media still attracts some of the brightest, most talented writers in the country. What a pity their talent is wasted promoting an immoral and tragic war which has led us to the brink of disaster.
We don’t know why the media giants have veered from their traditional cheerleading and focused on the atrocities at Haditha. There have been scores of similar incidents reported on the internet over the past 3 years. What makes Haditha so special? .
It’s doubtful that the media executives are suddenly bothered by “pangs of remorse” about the suffering they have helped to create. More likely, the unexpected attention to Haditha indicates the growing divisions among American elites about Bush’s alarming mismanagement of the war. If the occupation had gone smoothly, there’d be no recriminations or talk of massacres. Americans like a winner, and are prepared to overlook the criminal indiscretions of their leaders if they’re victorious.

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How Long Will America Lead the World? - By Fareed Zakaria

The United States is still the dominant force in technology, innovation, productivity and profits. But Americans don't quite realize how fast the rest of the world is catching up.
June 12, 2006 issue - Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, held in London on June 22, 1897, was one of the grandest fetes the world has ever seen: 46,000 troops and 11 colonial prime ministers arrived from the four corners of the earth to pay homage to their sovereign. The event was as much a celebration of Victoria's 60 years on the throne as it was of Britain's superpower status. In 1897, Queen Victoria ruled over a quarter of the world's population and a fifth of its territory, all connected by the latest marvel of British technology, the telegraph, and patrolled by the Royal Navy, which was larger than the next two navies put together. "The world took note," says the historian Karl Meyer. The New York Times gushed: "We are a part ... of the Greater Britain which seems so plainly destined to dominate this planet'."
An 8-year-old boy, Arnold Toynbee, who became a great historian, watched the parade while sitting on his uncle's shoulders. "I remember the atmosphere," he later wrote. "It was: well, here we are on the top of the world, and we have arrived at this peak to stay there—forever! There is, of course, a thing called history, but history is something unpleasant that happens to other people."
Well, Americans have replaced Britons atop the world, and we are now worried that history is happening to us. History has arrived in the form of "Three Billion New Capitalists," as Clyde Prestowitz's recent book puts it, people from countries like China, India and the former Soviet Union, which all once scorned the global market economy but are now enthusiastic and increasingly sophisticated participants in it. They are poorer, hungrier and in some cases well trained, and will inevitably compete with Americans and America for a slice of the pie. A Goldman Sachs study concludes that by 2045, China will be the largest economy in the world, replacing the United States.

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C.I.A. Knew Where Eichmann Was Hiding, Documents Show

WASHINGTON, June 6 — The Central Intelligence Agency
took no action after learning the pseudonym and whereabouts of the
fugitive Holocaust administrator Adolf Eichmann in 1958, according to
C.I.A. documents released Tuesday that shed new light on the spy
agency's use of former Nazis as informants after World War II.

David Rubinger/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

The C.I.A. found out in 1958 that Adolf Eichmann was living in Argentina, but took no action.

The C.I.A. was told by West
German intelligence that Eichmann was living in Argentina under the
name Clemens — a slight variation on his actual alias, Ricardo
Klement — but did not share the information with Israel, which
had been hunting for him for years, according to Timothy Naftali, a
historian who examined the documents. Two years later, Israeli agents
abducted Eichmann in Argentina and flew him to Israel, where he was
tried and executed in 1962.

The Eichmann papers are among 27,000
newly declassified pages released by the C.I.A. to the National
Archives under Congressional pressure to make public files about former
officials of Hitler's
regime later used as American agents. The material reinforces the view
that most former Nazis gave American intelligence little of value and
in some cases proved to be damaging double agents for the Soviet
K.G.B., according to historians and members of the government panel
that has worked to open the long-secret files.

Holtzman, a former congresswoman from New York and member of the panel,
the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records
Interagency Working Group, said the documents showed that the C.I.A
"failed to lift a finger" to hunt Eichmann and "force us to confront
not only the moral harm but the practical harm" of relying on
intelligence from ex-Nazis.


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Advice is not well taken -By Bob Cusack

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and a top Bush administration official urged Republican investigators on Capitol Hill to change how they conduct probes of the executive branch in a private meeting earlier this spring.
The unusual request infuriated some of the GOP aides, who countered that the administration has repeatedly failed to cooperate with their requests for information. The staffers expressed outrage that the meeting was even taking place, calling it inappropriate for a White House policymaker to tell investigators how to scrutinize the Bush administration.
“The meeting did not go well,” a GOP source said.
Others thought the forum was somewhat productive, but acknowledged it was bizarre.
While Republican aides expressed different reactions, the pleas by Gingrich and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) representative Clay Johnson have raised new separation-of-powers questions as lawmakers and White House officials iron out their differences over the FBI raid of Rep. William Jefferson’s (D-La.) office last month.
Democrats are seizing on the meeting as proof of the cozy relationship between the GOP-led Congress and the administration.

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AlterNet: Why White People Are Afraid - By Robert Jensen, AlterNet

Posted on June 7, 2006, Printed on June 8, 2006
It may seem self-indulgent to talk about the fears of white people in a white-supremacist society. After all, what do white people really have to be afraid of in a world structured on white privilege? It may be self-indulgent, but it's critical to understand because these fears are part of what keeps many white people from confronting ourselves and the system.
The first, and perhaps most crucial, fear is that of facing the fact that some of what we white people have is unearned. It's a truism that we don't really make it on our own; we all have plenty of help to achieve whatever we achieve. That means that some of what we have is the product of the work of others, distributed unevenly across society, over which we may have little or no control individually. No matter how hard we work or how smart we are, we all know -- when we are honest with ourselves -- that we did not get where we are by merit alone. And many white people are afraid of that fact.
A second fear is crasser: White people's fear of losing what we have -- literally the fear of losing things we own if at some point the economic, political, and social systems in which we live become more just and equitable. That fear is not completely irrational; if white privilege -- along with the other kinds of privilege many of us have living in the middle class and above in an imperialist country that dominates much of the rest of the world -- were to evaporate, the distribution of resources in the United States and in the world would change, and that would be a good thing. We would have less. That redistribution of wealth would be fairer and more just. But in a world in which people have become used to affluence and material comfort, that possibility can be scary.
A third fear involves a slightly different scenario -- a world in which non-white people might someday gain the kind of power over whites that whites have long monopolized. One hears this constantly in the conversation about immigration, the lingering fear that somehow "they" (meaning not just Mexican-Americans and Latinos more generally, but any non-white immigrants) are going to keep moving to this country and at some point become the majority demographically.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Wealthy Should Pay Their Fair Share - by Joan Claybrook and Dave Eiffert

As the Senate considers repealing the federal estate tax, Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray face an onslaught of attack ads about an issue that's critical to our economic health but has been twisted and warped like few others. Their choice will be to continue to stand with most Washingtonians on values and priorities or to fall prey to the spin and deception coming out of D.C.
Lobbyists, unregulated conservative groups and The Seattle Times publisher hope to sway our senators with an expensive fear-mongering campaign telling voters that the estate tax will affect almost all of them. They will tell the public about hard-working families having to sell their parents' farms or small businesses being wiped out in order to pay estate tax bills, arguments seen in the "Vultures" TV ad that has been playing around the state.
Those emotion-laden anecdotes would be more persuasive if they were true. In reality, only the wealthiest one-fourth of 1 percent of all people who die in the United States in 2006 will pay any estate taxes. That leaves the other 99.7 percent of the public free to pass on 100 percent of their assets untaxed.
And the American Farm Bureau, a member of the anti-estate tax coalition, has been unable to cite a single instance where a family was forced to sell its farm because of estate tax liability. The same goes for small businesses, which have rarely faced taxation as the exemption rate on the tax has been increased.
If you have not heard those statistics before, it is no accident. A recent report published by Public Citizen and United for a Fair Economy shows how a handful of superwealthy families quietly have helped finance and coordinate a massive campaign to fool the American public and repeal the estate tax. Those 18 families, worth a total of $185.5 billion, have worked mostly in the shadows but they have names you've heard before: Walton, Gallo, Mars and, closer to home, Nordstrom and Frank Blethen (publisher of The Seattle Times). Collectively, those families stand to save a total of more than $70 billion if the estate tax is repealed.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Chevrolet Corvette Z06 LPE

3 June 2006

By Sajeev Mehta


Horsepower Disorder is a terrible thing. A sufferer can own a 505hp
Corvette Z06 and still feel a nagging urge for more. Luckily, there are
plenty of tuners ready to relieve ‘Vette owners of their money--
I mean symptoms. Despite their noble intentions, few garages can be
trusted to monkey around with the complex workings of the Z06's
heavily-breathed-upon small-block V8. Lingenfelter Performance
Engineering (LPE) is one. For over two decades, the Indiana-based
Corvette concern has been transforming America's Sports Car into
American psychos. Their new engine package is gloriously, predictably,
wonderfully nuts.

Our Z06 LPE test car was prepared by Twenty
First Century Muscle Cars of Dallas, Texas. It's a monotone monster:
black paint, black wheels, presidential window-tint and blacked-out
hoops. In case you missed the point (Lord Vader), the new tires add an
extra 20mm of rubber up front and back, intensifying the Z06' already
aggressive stance. And that’s it-- aside from fender-mounted
Lingenfelter badges. Even pistonheads unfamiliar with the Lingenfelter
name instinctively appreciate the transformation: from middle-aged
crisis-mobile to the automotive equivalent of a Halliburton Zero packed
with unmarked bills.


tester's thrones are the only interior indication that the LPE
isn’t stock. Their blend of rocket ship sheik, race car purpose
and aromatic sybaritism are a welcome change from the Z06s’ cheap
chairs. The OEM-style embroidery and five-point racing harnesses almost
make the ‘Vette’s pedestrian interior as wicked bad as the
exterior. But not quite. The LPE’s chairs straddle an
unconvincing hunk of fake aluminum on the console; the purity of form
is far from the magic number of Porsche’s 911. Anyway, obviously,
touchy-feely tomfoolery is not LPE’s main concern…


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Chevrolet Corvette Z06 LPE

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Fleeting Glory - TTAC

4 June 2006

y Andrew Dederer


The New York Times recently labelled GM a crack dealer for using $1000 gas cards to “addict” Californian drivers to its gas-guzzling SUV’s. There are several important differences between selling a
Schedule II substance to low-income drug addicts and marketing a legal
product to responsible consumers in a free market. Suffice it to say,
the Gray Lady's got it backwards: GM is the addict. The General is
hopelessly addicted to fleet sales. Although GM has publicly announced
its intention to reduce their reliance on this part of their business,
it’s nothing more than a junkie’s promise to reform. In fact, none of the Big Three are ready, willing or able to leave their dependency behind.

There are two kinds of fleet sales: organizational and rental. In both cases, profit margins are minuscule. Manufacturers aren't overly concerned. They rely on the huge orders to
increase production levels; which keep factories open, sudsidize union
salaries and reduce a given model’s cost-per-unit (CPU). A low
enough CPU creates higher profit margins on the model’s “regular” (i.e. retail) sales. The enormous volumes also facilitate all-important "top sales" bragging rights and protect the manufacturer’s Holy Grail: market share.

Selling cars to government agencies, schools, taxi firms and private companies is a
slam dunk. Few local politicians or business owners want to risk
ticking-off powerful [union] constituencies by buying foreign-- unless
the local car plant is foreign-owned. (And maybe not even then.) But
the rental market is the big score: hundreds of thousands of vehicles
per year. What's more, rental “sales” are actually
short-term leases (usually six months). The numbers can be massaged to
look even better if, say, you own the rental car company. When Ford
owned Hertz, they offered themselves some mighty impressive deals; like
four-month leases. That sort of turnover has an extremely salutary
effect on a manufacturer's production figures.

On a balance
sheet, there’s nothing wrong with selling cars to yourself. From
a long-term perspective, the damage is both massive and relentless. For
one thing, rental cars don’t disappear when their owners are
finished. When “lightly used” rental cars flood the market,
the vast supply of relatively low-mileage, good quality vehicles crater
the model’s resale value. The resulting depreciation hits retail
customers hard-- especially brand or model loyal buyers that trade-in
their vehicle every three to five years. The chronic over-supply also
reduces the possibility and profitability of competitive leasing.

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Fleeting Glory

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