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, August 26, 2006

Dennis Leary and Lenny Clarke in the booth at the Red Sox game

Peter, Sean this one's for you...

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What? Me, worry? on picture to "embiggen" view.

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Learn 'em on picture to "embiggen" view.

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Always good for a belly-laugh

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Elite leeches bleeding us on picture to "embiggen" view.

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Imagining the Tenth Dimension - A Book by Rob Bryanton

A slick little introduction to the higher dimensions of our universe. You will need the latest Flash plug-in for your browser and you will need to enable scripts in your browser for the website. --pseudolus
Imagining the Tenth Dimension - A Book by Rob Bryanton

>>> Print Article(always)...Read More(sometimes) - The 21st century Lucky Strike - David Benjamin

Mobile-phone owners mark their turf with talk, much as smokers used to do with cigarettes--but not in Japan

When I observe standard mobile-phone behavior among the natives of most Western nations--from France to Italy to the U.S.A.--I can't help but think of arctic wolves prowling the tundra, peeing on shrubs. On the other hand, in Japan, the creatures that come to mind are prairie dogs ducking into burrows and tabby cats lurking behind the La-Z-Boy.

Typical of Western cell phone anthropology was a recent scene in San Francisco. I was queuing up in a cafe when the man in front of me answered his Motorola. As his conversation heated up and the man sank into the argot of corporate-speak ("the contingencies we have to impact . . . enlarging our footprint vis-à-vis the target demographic . . ."), he flexed his knees and opened his stance. He tossed his hair. With his free hand, he described expressive parabolas, virtually carving out space in the air. His voice rose in volume and force, defining him as an alpha presence among the meek, mute java seekers like me, who backed off warily to cower in the penumbra of his dialogue. "Read More" click link below


Here in Paris, I exercise similar caution when approaching mobile users on the street. Whether facing them or coming up from behind, I allow two feet of passing margin, because these people--without warning--tend to lurch, wobble, veer, drift drunkenly and even strike out in sudden seizures of verbal animation.

While driving, mobile talkers normally require two full lanes and a half-dozen car-lengths--front and back--to accommodate their car, their phone, their life-or-death discussion, their career, their personal importance, their bustling, affluent lifestyle and their total obliviousness to the traffic that careens around them at 75 mph.

Public transportation is safer. But traveling talkers, especially on airplanes, tend to channel Spider John Koerner's immortal rent-party sentry, Loud Lyle. They talk with a lot of VOLUME as they hammer down the details of the Big Contract, order underlings to reschedule the Big Meeting or jolly fellow executives about the hot time they're going to have when they hit the old town tonight. Ideally, mobile talkers on a plane have to be coerced by flight attendants, in the last seconds before takeoff, to hang up. And then, of course, the first blowhard to place a call after landing is acknowledged as the fastest draw in Dodge--which, in a perfect world, would win him a gold-plated handset and a thousand free minutes.

Having read my Robert Ardrey (The Territorial Imperative), I can't help but see all this mobile phonemanship as a form of turf marking. Mobile talkers in the West have a sort of Discovery Channel familiarity. They act out the same territorial impulses common among howler monkeys, polecats, birds of paradise and the meat eaters of the north woods. Talking on the phone has become a way for human beings to vicariously pace the wilderness and mark it out as theirs.

But not everywhere. On a visit to Japan this summer, the politeness seemed shocking--especially considering that Japan has unquestionably the most advanced and pervasive mobile-phone culture in the world. Japanese mobiles are loaded with intricate features that everyone seems to understand. Every phone is busy constantly, their owners thumbing furiously away at tiny keyboards. But in Japan, wherever you go, silence reigns. Years ago, fearing the uproar that might result from 30 million train-riding teenage girls squeaking and giggling simultaneously into phones every day, Japan's railroads quietly conspired to ban cell talk on public transit.

The effect was powerful, extending beyond teenagers and beyond the train, into every phase of public life. On the street, one sees mobile talkers--but they're not mobile, staggering blindly with the rhythm of their conversation. Instead, when Japanese pedestrians get a call, they pull off into a doorway. If they're in a bar or restaurant, they step meekly outside--like smokers in California. On the subway, half the passengers are hunkered over their phones, tapping out text messages. But nobody's talking. Since the advent of the mobile phone, Japan's trains are quieter than they ever were during the entire 20th century. It's a little spooky.

Perhaps the smoking analogy is most relevant to this contrast between the West and Japan. Today, second-hand smoke is recognized as a threat to everyone's health and a form of rudeness. Not long ago, however, smokers dominated every public place. They used cigarettes to mark their territory, through complicated rituals of lighting, puffing, flourishing and posing. Bystanders invariably backed off, deferring to an individual who had contrived to turn a smoldering tube of weeds into a desperate cry for attention in a vast and uncaring world.

So it is with mobile phones, the Lucky Strike of the 21st century. If it's a jungle out there, then my little Nokia is a razor-edged machete. If it's a dog-eat-dog world, my Sony-Ericsson is a smelly wet spot on a tree stump that tells all the other dogs to tuck tail and skedaddle. If society is a melting pot, well then, my Samsung clamshell is the raft that lets me float, unsullied, atop the scum of the earth.

The question is: Will the rest of the world go the way of Japan, expecting people to respect their own privacy and keep their ragged egos out of other people's lives? The odds, I fear, are not good. Now that most people have experienced the visceral, anthropological thrill of screaming from the treetops at the other monkeys, they're not likely to regress to the tedium of common courtesy and quiet dignity.

Unless we can somehow convince them that mobile phones cause lung cancer.

By David Benjamin, a journalist and novelist who lives in Paris and writes occasionally on technology topics for EE Times, usually from the Luddite point of view

All material on this site Copyright © 2006 CMP Media LLC. All rights reserved.
SOURCE: - The 21st century Lucky Strike

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YouTube - 10,000 Maniacs and Natalie Merchant

Sure could use another uplifting song like this these days. --pseudolus

YouTube - 10,000 Maniacs and Natalie Merchant

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Video: Shocking election-theft testimony

Computer programmer Clinton Eugene Curtis testifies under oath before the U.S. House Judiciary Members in Ohio (back in 2004) -- video to the right (partial transcript below). Stephen Pizzo writes:

If you can watch this entire video, and still use an electronic voting machine, you deserve the government you get. If your state or district has decided to use electronic voting machines this November demand an absentee ballot today. Watch this video. Then join those of us who have decided that since paper was good enough for our constitution, it's good enough for our vote too.

Oh, and when you're done watching the whole video... pass it along. November is only a a few weeks off and the last thing Republicans want to see is either house returned to Democrat control. Because if that happens, hearings happen. And if hearings happen... well, who knows - someone(s) could go to jail. So, demand a paper ballot or an absentee ballot in Nov. and leave the cheaters with a pocket full of worthless Diebold electrons.

A partial transcript: go to link below to watch video and read partial transcript
AlterNet: Blogs: Video: Shocking election-theft testimony

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Video: Shocking election-theft testimony

Computer programmer Clinton Eugene Curtis testifies under oath before the U.S. House Judiciary Members in Ohio (back in 2004) -- video to the right (partial transcript below). Stephen Pizzo writes:

If you can watch this entire video, and still use an electronic voting machine, you deserve the government you get. If your state or district has decided to use electronic voting machines this November demand an absentee ballot today. Watch this video. Then join those of us who have decided that since paper was good enough for our constitution, it's good enough for our vote too.

Oh, and when you're done watching the whole video... pass it along. November is only a a few weeks off and the last thing Republicans want to see is either house returned to Democrat control. Because if that happens, hearings happen. And if hearings happen... well, who knows - someone(s) could go to jail. So, demand a paper ballot or an absentee ballot in Nov. and leave the cheaters with a pocket full of worthless Diebold electrons.

A partial transcript: go to link below to watch video and read partial transcript
AlterNet: Blogs: Video: Shocking election-theft testimony

>>> Print Article(always)...Read More(sometimes)

Video: Shocking election-theft testimony

Computer programmer Clinton Eugene Curtis testifies under oath before the U.S. House Judiciary Members in Ohio (back in 2004) -- video to the right (partial transcript below). Stephen Pizzo writes:

If you can watch this entire video, and still use an electronic voting machine, you deserve the government you get. If your state or district has decided to use electronic voting machines this November demand an absentee ballot today. Watch this video. Then join those of us who have decided that since paper was good enough for our constitution, it's good enough for our vote too.

Oh, and when you're done watching the whole video... pass it along. November is only a a few weeks off and the last thing Republicans want to see is either house returned to Democrat control. Because if that happens, hearings happen. And if hearings happen... well, who knows - someone(s) could go to jail. So, demand a paper ballot or an absentee ballot in Nov. and leave the cheaters with a pocket full of worthless Diebold electrons.

A partial transcript: go to link below to watch video and read partial transcript
AlterNet: Blogs: Video: Shocking election-theft testimony

>>> Print Article(always)...Read More(sometimes)

Video: Shocking election-theft testimony

Computer programmer Clinton Eugene Curtis testifies under oath before the U.S. House Judiciary Members in Ohio (back in 2004) -- video to the right (partial transcript below). Stephen Pizzo writes:

If you can watch this entire video, and still use an electronic voting machine, you deserve the government you get. If your state or district has decided to use electronic voting machines this November demand an absentee ballot today. Watch this video. Then join those of us who have decided that since paper was good enough for our constitution, it's good enough for our vote too.

Oh, and when you're done watching the whole video... pass it along. November is only a a few weeks off and the last thing Republicans want to see is either house returned to Democrat control. Because if that happens, hearings happen. And if hearings happen... well, who knows - someone(s) could go to jail. So, demand a paper ballot or an absentee ballot in Nov. and leave the cheaters with a pocket full of worthless Diebold electrons.

A partial transcript: go to link below to watch video and read partial transcript
AlterNet: Blogs: Video: Shocking election-theft testimony

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Jon Swift: Science Is Dead

Swift takes a poke at Peggy Noonan's crotch fruit who claims "Science is dead!" [oyg! what a tunkelhead...] --pseudolus

Jon Swift: Science Is Dead

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Friday, August 25, 2006

The Google Bomb Project: Brent Bozell edition

No Escaping Sexualization of Young Girls

With JonBenet back in the headlines, it's hard for a parent to avoid paranoia.
by Rosa Brooks

It's been a good week for the media, and a bad week for parents.

The arrest of former schoolteacher John Mark Karr in the slaying of child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey launched a flurry of excited stories about pedophiles, child abduction and murder. The cable news stations could hardly hide their glee, and even the New York Times joined in. "Read More" click link below


In a two-part series on pedophilia, the newspaper reported that many pedophiles now use Internet support groups to swap how-to tips on getting jobs as camp counselors and teachers. Increasingly, the Times said, "pedophiles view themselves as the vanguard of a nascent movement seeking legalization of child pornography and the loosening of age-of-consent laws. They portray themselves as battling for children's rights to engage in sex with adults…."

Great. For anxious parents, it was a week of being paranoid and creeped out — a week to double-check the window locks, run a background check on the preschool music teacher and remind the kids not to enter beauty pageants, talk to strangers, go online or leave the house until their 40th birthday.

True, the statistics suggest that an American child is about as likely to share JonBenet's fate as she is to be killed by lightning. The abduction and murder of children by people outside their families is exceedingly rare.

But as the mother of preschool girls, I know how easy it is to succumb to irrational panic in the face of this week's 24/7 media obsession with pedophilia.

All summer I'd absent-mindedly allowed my little barbarians to streak through the house naked, bodies festooned with grape jelly and Crayola Washable Markers. Now, with pedophiles apparently lurking everywhere, demanding civil rights and social acceptance, I was suddenly insisting that the girls put their clothes back on, right this minute, please.

I eyed my neighbors with newfound suspicion. That guy mowing the lawn down the street — why was he smiling at us?

It was only when I hauled the girls off to the local shopping mall that my paranoid fears were replaced by all-too-rational anxieties. First, we darted into Abercrombie & Fitch, joining a gaggle of preteens checking out the T-shirts. Perhaps a slinky pink number that coyly declared "The Rumors Are True"? Or maybe the masculine gray one emblazoned with "Something About You Attracts Me — I Wish I Could Put My Finger On It"?

Well, no thanks. We headed toward Limited Too, where we found thong-like underwear sized for 7-year-old girls. My 4-year-old was entranced: "Mommy, those underpants have no walls!"

We soldiered on, through Old Navy (where the toddler section carries clothes that make 2-year-olds look like Britney Spears), through Toys R Us (where ads for the scantily clad Bratz Babyz dolls, with their bottles and their painted toenails, boast that these "Babyz already know how to flaunt it, and they're keepin' it real in the crib!"), and past the Disney Store (where little girls can covet seashell bikinis like those worn by the Little Mermaid and glittery halter tops like those worn by Princess Jasmine in the surprisingly broad-minded sultanate of Agrabah).

By the time we made it to CVS Pharmacy, I thought we were out of the woods. Wrong. Those bare-midriffed Disney princesses are everywhere — even, it turns out, on diapers sized for people weighing 18 to 34 pounds.

In our hyper-commercialized consumerist society, there's virtually no escaping the relentless sexualization of younger and younger children. My 26-month-old daughter didn't emerge from the womb clamoring for a seashell bikini like Princess Ariel's — but now that she's savvy enough to notice who's prancing around on her pull-ups, she wants in on the bikini thing. And my 4-year-old wasn't born demanding lip gloss and nail polish, but when a little girl at nursery school showed up with her Hello Kitty makeup kit, she was hooked.

In a culture in which the sexualization of childhood is big business — mainstream mega-corporations such as Disney earn billions by marketing sexy products to children too young to understand their significance — is it any wonder that pedophiles feel emboldened to claim that they shouldn't be ostracized for wanting sex with children? On an Internet bulletin board, one self-avowed "girl lover" offered a critique of this week's New York Times series on pedophilia: "They fail, of course, to mention the hypocrisy of Hollywood selling little girls to millions of people in a highly sexualized way." I hate to say it, but the pedophiles have a point here.

There are plenty of good reasons to worry about children and sex. But if we want to get to the heart of the problem, we should obsess a little less about whether the neighbor down the block is a dangerous pedophile — and we should worry a whole lot more about good old-fashioned American capitalism, which is busy serving our children up to pedophiles on a corporate platter.

Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times
No Escaping Sexualization of Young Girls

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Misunderstanding is the root of all on picture to "embiggen" view.

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"Hey, Mr Pawnbroker ,what do those 3 balls mean on your wall?"..."It's 2-to-1 buddy, you'll never get your shit out of here at all."--Dave Bromberg

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There will be NO on picture to "embiggen" view.

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[Maine] War Widow To Bush: "You're Here To Serve The People. And The People Are Not Being Served With This War." | TPMCafe

By Greg Sargent
I just got off the phone with Hildi Halley, a woman from Maine whose husband is a fallen soldier. Yesterday President Bush met with her privately, and news of their meeting was reported in a local Maine paper, the Kennebec Journal. The paper shared few details of the meeting, saying simply that Halley objected to Bush's policies and that she said Bush responded that there was no point in them having a "philosophical discussion about the pros and cons of the war."

But Halley has just given me a much more detailed account of her meeting with Bush. She told me that she went much farther in her criticism of the President, telling him directly that he was "responsible" for the deaths of American soldiers and that as a "Christian man," he should recognize that he's "made a mistake" and that it was his "responsibility to end this." She recounted to me that she was "very direct," telling Bush: "As President, you're here to serve the people. And the people are not being served with this war." "Read More" click link below


I reached Halley at her home in Falmouth, Maine. She told me that her husband, Patrick Damon, who's long been active in Democratic politics, had been in Afghanistan as an engineer building roads when he died in June. She said she was first told that it was of a heart attack, but that subsequently she was told there was no sign that a heart attack had killed him. An invesigation into his death is continuing.

Halley, who's also been politically active for Democrats, said she told GOP Senator Olympia Snowe that she'd like a phone call from Bush. Subsequently Halley got a call from White House staffers looking to set up a private meeting. Bush came yesterday.

Halley tells me that she told the President that she's been opposed since "day one" to both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I talked to him about how important this person was to me," Halley recounted, speaking of her husband. "It's not just a soldier who died. Lives are changed forever...I said, `This doesn't make sense to me.'"

"He said, `Terrorists killed three thousand people, we had to go to war.'" Halley continued to me. "I said, `Well, who put the Taliban into power? The United States did.' He said, `I'm not going to have a philosphical debate over politics.' The whole conversation was very gentle."

Halley says that while Bush was personable and receptive to her, she was very direct and critical of Bush's policies and insisted that the right thing to do was to end the war.

"We literally sat knee to knee...I looked deep into his eyes and talked to him about love and losing people and that he was responsible for this. I said, `I didn't vote for you, but you are my President. And you're not serving me.'"

"I said I believed it was time to put an end to this. His job is to find solutions. I said, `You yourself have said you had erroneous information going into this.'"

She continued: "I said, `As a Christian man, you realize that when you've made a mistake it's your responsiblity to end this. And it's time to end the bleeding and it's time to end the war.'"

"I said, `what would truly bring healing is to start working on changing your policy towards the Middle President, you're here to serve the people. And the people are not being served with this war.'"

She added: "I told him, `It's time as a Christian to put our pride behind us."

Halley said that the President appeared moved by what she'd said, but that she doubted it would bring about any real change. "He cried with me," she recounted. "I feel he responded to me emotionally. I don't know if that's going to change policy. It probably won't. But I hope it makes him think a little bit further."
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Aug 25, 2006 -- 11:53:25 AM EST |
War Widow To Bush: "You're Here To Serve The People. And The People Are Not Being Served With This War." | TPMCafe

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When a Hummer won't do

In the past, politicians and rock stars fed the urban armoured car business.
But with security fears on the rise, so is demand
Aug. 25, 2006. 07:00 AM

It can stop a bullet from an AK-47, shrug off a roadside bomb, and it makes a Hummer look like a chick car.

The $200,000 (U.S.) Gurkha is coming to a road near you — thanks to a King City-based company that is finding itself in demand because of the global war on terror.

"They are pretty awesome machines," says William Whyte, owner of Armet Armored Vehicles Inc., the company that builds the Gurkha. "We've been stopped on roads with people taking pictures and wanting to know what they are."

The Gurkha can go more than 150 kilometres per hour — plenty fast for a military vehicle — and is the highest level of protection you can get next to sitting in a tank, Whyte says. It certainly looks fierce enough. link below >>>


The squat 8,620 kilogram vehicle looks every bit the ticked-off hedgehog, bristling with testosterone and armour plating.

Whyte says the first 40 have been built this year for delivery to the Canadian and the American military in the Middle East. The first civilian delivery is for a "well-known personality" in California that will take place next month, Whyte says. The customer, who is a friend of California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, intends to use it as daily transport, Whyte says. "It's a very California mentality to have the biggest and the best."

It's also in the spirit of one-upmanship. Schwarzenegger was the first civilian to take ownership of a Hummer military vehicle — which most famously kick-started sales of the armoured car.

Whyte is likely hoping for a similar halo effect, especially since the Gurkha is also slated to star in a Discovery Channel Europe documentary to be released later this year.

The privately owned company, the largest armoured car manufacturer in Canada, will not give out sales figures, but says over the last three years it has opened three more offices including the Middle East, England and Malta to deal with demand.

And they've got company — the armoured business has seen renewed interest with every potential terrorist threat. Calgary-based Ceramic Protection Corp.'s shares jumped 8 per cent in one day last week when it reported their biggest gain in three months due to the soaring demand for ceramic vehicle and body armour.

And the calls have been coming, most recently after the arrest of 24 young men by British police in an alleged conspiracy to hijack planes headed to the United States, which has snarled air traffic worldwide. In June, Canadians were shocked at the arrests of 17 men and youths in Toronto who are accused of planning a terrorist attack in southern Ontario. Police allege the Toronto Stock Exchange was a target of one of the attacks.

"It's not just heads of state or politicians who are asking for security — it could be anyone today," says Chris Pecalevski, of Armet competitor Inkas armoured vehicle manufacturing in Toronto.

In addition to military vehicles, a whole new market is emerging in acquiring armoured cars that look like everyday cars for business executives who care about security, Pecalevski says.

"A few years back, the only people really buying personal armoured cars were rock stars, rap stars, or divorce lawyers," Whyte says. "But that's been changing since 9/11 and the latest problems we've been having."

Unlike the over-the-top Gurkha, likely to find a niche among celebrities who crave a bling factor, most clients want discreet armour so as not to tip off potential assailants, Pecalevski says.

In one corner of the Inkas factory in an industrial unit in West Toronto, two men are applying steel plating to the bottom of a black Chevrolet Suburban. The van has been stripped clean. Kevlar will be added to the sides and bulletproof glass and run flat tires will be added later.

The Suburban, which is for a client in Los Angeles that shuttles celebrities to events, will take three weeks to build and cost more than $85,000 (U.S.), at least $50,000 more than a standard van.

Adding options, of course, can add substantially to the cost, with everything from gun ports for $500 each to a bigger engine and suspension.

Whyte, who has a contract to armour-plate Russian government vehicles in embassies around the world, including Canada, says 99 per cent of his business is done abroad. But non-traditional customers are also paying attention to the need for more security, he says.

"The next stage in terrorism is to determine whether there is global risk for executives of large corporations who may be targets of terror and how to protect them," says Whyte, a former Metro Toronto Police officer who served on the Emergency Task Force. The company also works on armoured vehicles for Metro and Peel Police forces.

Still, both Whyte and Pecalevski say that, while they are getting more inquiries from Canadians, the majority of their customers are overseas.

"If you're a big celebrity in Canada, your biggest problem might be signing autographs," Pecalevski says.

The company's Canadian customers are typically executives who have to travel abroad. One Toronto-based customer who does business in Latin America uses an Inkas armour plated sedan while on business for fear of kidnapping. The company can armour-plate virtually any car. Big Mercedes S class sedans are a favourite with CEOs, though Chrysler's 300C sedan is becoming popular.

"It's the cost of doing business in some countries," Pecalevski says. In some parts of the Middle East, having armoured protection is not an option.

In Iraq, for example, there is a large demand from firms that provide security and transportation for civilian contractors who are rebuilding the country's infrastructure.

What has kept the armoured companies in business is that insurgents have targeted and developed ways to defeat traditional armoured cars.

When they first arrived in Iraq, most contractors used SUVs such as Chevrolet Suburbans or Ford Excursions that were armour plated to transport passengers, Whyte says.

"But then they became a target — they stuck out like a sore thumb especially since they were American made and were usually in white."

Many contractors are now using used cars that are armour plated in an effort to be low-key, he said.

"Contractors are seen as an easy target, so they go after them quite aggressively," Whyte says.

Another problem that soon became evident in vehicles bound for Iraq was that some of the armoured cars were good for ballistic protection such as bullets, but were useless for blast protection such as roadside bombs.

Insurgents in Iraq are now using a new roadside projectile bomb called an "explosively formed projectile" or EFP that can penetrate four inches of armour from a distance of 300 feet. The device can be triggered by an infra-red remote similar to a garage door opener.

"The stakes keep getting higher, so you have to keep one step ahead," says Whyte, who concedes there is some irony that one of the world's biggest armoured car manufacturers is in Canada — known as a country of peacemakers.

While he says a skilled labour force and competitive dollar haven't hurt his growth, a soaring loonie has put a crimp in the bottom line for many exporters.

It helps the Gurkha can also be shipped overseas as a "build anywhere" kit since it uses existing chassis and engines from other manufacturers and can be assembled using local labour.

Still, there is so much demand for protection overseas, most reputable companies are at full capacity. Whyte doesn't give out numbers, but Pecalevski says his company armours four to six vehicles per month.

But it's not just the after-market that has been trying to profit from the lucrative niche market.

Mercedes Benz sedans, which seem to be a favourite with clients ranging from Fortune 500 CEOs to foreign dictators, offer a bullet-proof version. However, that option box won't be able to be ticked off in Canada since the car isn't imported here, according to a spokesperson for Mercedes Canada.

In 2004, Ford Motor Co. introduced a armoured version of its Lincoln Town Car that was also available in Canada but only by special order.

"Obviously a lot of politicians and dignitaries use the Town Car, so that's why it was offered on the market," said Christine Hollander, national product manager for Ford Canada.

The car did not look any different than a traditional Town Car but it was equipped with high-impact ceramics and glass, aramid fibre and a modified fuel tank. Hollander says she is unsure if any sold in Canada. The product was discontinued in 2005.

One reason could be because the car sold for $140,000 (U.S.), or a staggering $100,000 more than a standard U.S.-built Town Car. Having a Lincoln that looked virtually identical to an airport taxi, but costing $100,000 extra may not have sat well with some customers.

The 2007 Town Car is still available in Canada with a limousine package and even a hearse package, but not with the bullet proof option, Hollander says. "I guess it was not something that was in great demand here."

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Blackwater Shot Down in Federal Court - by Jeremy Scahill

In a major blow to one of the most infamous war profiteers operating in Iraq, Afghanistan and New Orleans, a federal appeals court has ruled that a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the mercenary firm Blackwater USA can proceed in North Carolina's state courts. The suit was brought by the families of the four Blackwater contractors ambushed and killed in Falluja, Iraq on March 31, 2004. Blackwater had tried to have the same case dismissed or moved to federal court. "Read More" click link below


"I've been bawling ever since I've heard the decision," says Katy Helvenston, whose son Scott was killed in Falluja, his charred body hung from a bridge. "It's been overwhelming. I am so glad that they ruled this way. Blackwater has stalled and stalled. Look at the hundreds of millions of dollars in profits in Iraq and New Orleans they've made since my son was killed. It's time to go to trial and let the chips fall where they may."

The lawsuit, filed in January 2005, alleges that Blackwater cut corners in the interest of profits, leading to the brutal deaths of the four men: Scott Helvenston, Jerko "Jerry" Zovko, Mike Teague and Wes Batalona. "It has now been more than a year and a half since the lawsuit was filed, and Blackwater has managed to stall and frustrate the litigation," Marc Miles, an attorney for the families, told me. "I anticipate that this matter will now be on a fast track to trial, and believe that a jury will ultimately find Blackwater liable for its wrongful conduct in causing the deaths of these four Americans."

In its motion to dismiss the case in federal court, Blackwater argued that the families of the four men are entitled only to government insurance payments under the federal Defense Base Act. Many firms specializing in contractor law advertise the DBA as the best way for corporations servicing the war to avoid being sued. "What Blackwater is trying to do is to sweep all of their wrongful conduct into the Defense Base Act," says Miles. Blackwater spokesperson Chris Taylor told the Associated Press, "We are reviewing the decision."

Blackwater argued in its appeal that the four men "were performing a classic military function...with authorization from the Office of the Secretary of Defense that classified their missions as 'official duties' in support of the Coalition Provisional Authority" and therefore any court, federal or state, "may not impose liability for casualties sustained in the battlefield in the performance of these duties." In other words, because Blackwater was supporting the occupation with its forces, the company is immune from damages or lawsuits. The court said this argument "proves too much" to permit, saying Blackwater's "constitutional interpretations" were "too extravagantly recursive for us to accept."

The ruling Thursday by the three-judge panel of the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals gives "the green light" to a trial that the families believe will show that Blackwater was ultimately responsible for the deaths of their loved ones, says attorney Miles. The incident sparked the first US siege of Falluja, in April 2004, resulting in the deaths of more than 600 Iraqis.

"The message that this ruling sends to Blackwater is that it must now face the evidence in this case, including answering tough questions and producing critical documents, which it has refused to do for more than a year and a half," says Miles. "Blackwater cannot be allowed to get away with murder and that's what they're trying to do," adds Helvenston. "There's got to be accountability."

Jeremy Scahill, an independent journalist who reports frequently for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now!, has spent extensive time reporting from Iraq and Yugoslavia. He is currently a Puffin Foundation writing fellow at The Nation Institute. He can be reached at

© Copyright 2006 The Nation
Blackwater Shot Down in Federal Court

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Conservatives Love Government - by Dean Baker

The Bush administration has repeatedly demonstrated extraordinary incompetence in a wide range of areas. The response to Hurricane Katrina, the coordination of “homeland security”, and the implementation of the Medicare drug benefit top a long list of disasters. These failures have led many to say that the incompetence is attributable to the fact that Bush and other conservatives dislike government, and therefore can’t run it well. Nothing could be further from the truth.

President Bush and other conservatives like government every bit as much as any big-spending liberal. The difference is on what the conservatives want the government to do. Liberals and progressives think that government should be acting to ensure the population a decent standard of living and provide it with essential services like health care and education. "Read More" click link below


Conservatives want the government to redistribute income upward. This is done through a variety of mechanisms, the most obvious of which are their tax policies, which favor upper income people. But conservatives want the government to intervene in the market in a wide variety of ways that have the effect of redistributing income from those at the middle and the bottom to those at the top.

Conservatives promote a long list of government policies that shift pre-tax income upward. The most obvious is trade policy. The conservative trade agenda is to put less educated workers (the 70 percent of the work force that lacks a college degree) in direct competition with workers in developing countries like Mexico and China. This competition lowers the wages of workers in manufacturing, construction, and many other sectors. Pushing down the wages of these workers benefits the wealthy both by increasing corporate profits and by making it cheaper for them to get a wide range of services, like having their house painted or buying restaurant meals.

A more progressive trade policy would focus on subjecting the most highly paid workers to international competition: doctors, lawyers, accountants. This would lead to huge economic benefits in the form of lower medical costs, as well as lower prices for a wide range of goods and services, as wages for the most highly paid workers declined under the pressure of international competition. But conservatives count on the government to protect the six figure salaries of highly educated professionals.

Conservatives also count on the government to protect the patent monopolies that allow Pfizer, Merck, and other big drug companies to earn billions of dollars in profits each year. Conservatives also count on the government to protect Microsoft’s copyrights on Windows, allowing it to become one of the world’s most profitable companies. The same is the case with entertainment industry giants, like Disney and Time-Warner. The big hand of government chases into college dorm rooms and the bedrooms of high school kids in search of unauthorized downloads of their copyrighted material.

With the new bankruptcy law, conservatives enlisted the government’s help in debt collection. As a result of this law, the government will follow debtors for decades in order to provide a helping hand to credit card companies that made bad loans. In a free market, lenders who are bad judges of credit risk lose money, but when conservatives control the government, the banks just run to the government for help.

There are many other areas of policy where conservatives have run to the government in order to get a helping hand for businesses or those already rich. It is ridiculous to say that conservatives don’t like government. They rely on the government to stay rich and get richer, as I point out in my book, The Conservative Nanny State [].

It is true that conservatives don’t like government programs that benefit broad segments of the middle class and poor. This is why they want to privatize Social Security, mismanaged the Medicare drug benefit, and completely failed in their response to Hurricane Katrina.

But no one should confuse their disdain for government social programs with a dislike of government. In areas that matter to conservatives, the government under President Bush is doing just fine. Pfizer and Merck are having their patent monopolies protected quite well by the government. In the same vein Microsoft and Disney can count on effective copyright protection. Highly paid cardiologists don’t have to worry about having their salaries lowered by an influx of qualified foreign doctors. And the credit card companies are getting the government’s help in shaking down debtors.

When Halliburton stops getting its checks for military contracts, then government will have failed conservatives. Until that day, the Bush administration is doing just fine managing government in the way that conservatives want it to be managed. Conservatives would like us to believe that they are free market individualists. In reality, they are dependents of the nanny state.

Dr. Dean Baker is a macroeconomist and Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He previously worked as a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and an assistant professor at Bucknell University. He received his Ph.D in economics from the University of Michigan.
Conservatives Love Government

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Warrantless Wiretap Program in Doubt - by Helen Thomas

WASHINGTON - "There are no hereditary kings in America and no powers not created in the Constitution."

That eloquent putdown of an imperial presidency was the essence of a ruling by U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, who declared President Bush's warrantless wiretap program was unconstitutional.

Bush secretly authorized the intercepts after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, with the stated goal of eavesdropping on international calls and e-mails by potential al-Qaida terrorists. Existence of the program was revealed by The New York Times on Dec. 16.

After Taylor's decision, Bush immediately announced he would appeal. On Monday, he told reporters, "It was a terrible opinion. ... " "Read More" click link below


The ruling was made in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU and others representing scholars and journalists.

Taylor said the government surveillance program run by the National Security Agency violates privacy and free speech rights under the Bill of Rights. She also found the telephone taps violate the 1978 Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires court approval before the government can wiretap within the U.S.

"It was never the intent of the framers (of the U.S. Constitution) to give the president such unfettered control, particularly when such actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights," Taylor said.

The administration argued the 2001 congressional resolution authorizing the use of force -- passed after the terrorist attacks -- gave Bush the right to create the program. But Taylor noted the congressional resolution "says nothing whatsoever of intelligence or surveillance."

Both sides agreed to a temporary stay of her order halting government wiretapping until a Sept. 7 hearing.

It is odd that the administration finds the FISA law so burdensome, since obtaining a warrant should be no problem even in an emergency. The record shows the special court created by FISA almost always approves requests for electronic eavesdropping. The law also allows for retroactive approval in emergencies.

The alleged plot foiled in Britain to bomb airliners bound for the U.S. undoubtedly bolsters the administration's warnings about terrorism but still does not explain why the Bush administration balks at getting a warrant to spy legally.

Taylor's arguments have been trashed by some law school professors. Even some who agreed with her bottom-line ruling took issue with her reasoning and rhetoric.

But to an average American, the ruling's beauty rests in its simplicity and the inspiration that the Constitution still prevails.

Anthony Romero, the ACLU executive director, said the ruling vindicates the notion there are limits on the scope of executive authority.

"Ultimately," Romero added, "any doubts about the decision will be taken on appeal by sitting federal judges rather than pundits or commentators."

Last February, the American Bar Association adopted a resolution calling on the president "to abide by the limitations which the Constitution imposes on a president under our system of checks and balances and respect the essential roles of the Congress and the judicial branch in ensuring that our national security is protected in a manner consistent with constitutional guarantees."

The ABA urged the president to seek appropriate legislation, rather than act outside the law, if he feels the existing legal framework is somehow lacking.

The ABA also noted that the Watergate scandal in the Nixon administration revealed abuses of government wiretapping. This led a Senate committee to recommend legislation to provide the government with needed authority to conduct surveillance to protect national security but also to protect against abuses of that authority.

The result was the 1978 law creating the FISA court.

The Taylor decision is expected to face tough going before the conservative U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Let's hope the higher courts do not allow the president to break the law.

Helen Thomas is a columnist for Hearst Newspapers.

© 1998-2006 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Warrantless Wiretap Program in Doubt

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A Right to Food? - by Frances Moore Lappé

"If someone can't afford to buy food, they're still a citizen and we're still responsible to them," city official Adriana Aranha in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, told me in 2000. What a concept--and one that had helped her to lift her Workers' Party to victory in municipal elections seven years earlier.

Declaring healthy food a right of citizenship in Brazil's fourth-largest city, the new administration drew together voices from labor, the church and citizen groups. Their innovations, coordinated by a new city office of food security, range from twenty-five fair-price produce stands supplied by local farmers to open-air restaurants serving 12,000 subsidized meals daily to city-sponsored radio broadcasts leading shoppers to the lowest-priced essentials. "Read More" click link below


These and many more city-led initiatives to end hunger consume only 1 percent of Belo's budget, but they're working. Hard evidence is the city's infant death rate, a widely accepted measure of hunger, which fell an astonishing 56 percent over the first decade of these efforts. Belo's approach has inspired multiple right-to-food initiatives nationwide as part of President Lula's Zero Hunger Program.

Food was first declared a right in the UN's 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in 1993 at the Vienna Conference on Human Rights, citizen organizations, especially the FoodFirst Information and Action Network, began demanding specific standards for the right to food. By 2004 the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization Council had adopted "voluntary guidelines for the progressive realization of the right to adequate food," with 187 governments signing on. Today, twenty-two countries have enshrined the right to food in their constitutions, either for all citizens or specifically for children.

Nonetheless, after a period of decline, the number of hungry people in the Global South rose from the mid-1990s over the following half-decade by almost 4 million a year.

It's easy to understand why legally establishing the right to food is an appealing strategy. Since most would agree we have a right to live, a right to food--essential to life--doesn't seem like a stretch. Maybe our evolutionary experience sets us up to agree. Except for the last few thousand of our roughly 200,000 years evolving, Homo sapiens lived in hunter-gatherer societies; and studying those remaining today, anthropologists find humans unique in our "pervasive sharing" of food, "especially among unrelated individuals," writes Michael Gurven, a leading authority on hunter-gatherer food transfers. Except in times of extreme privation, when some eat, all eat. And the most productive hunters share the most. This relational ethic may have been carried even into feudal times, as suggested by the root meaning of "lord"--keeper of the loaf, connoting responsibility to the whole.

Another strength of a "rights" frame is that it carries the presumption of an eventual mechanism for enforcement. In Brazil the country's National Rapporteur on the Human Rights to Food, Water and Rural Land, Flavio Valente, is already investigating what he calls "violations of the right to food."

Yet making a "right to eat" our essential frame for fighting hunger has pitfalls, too.

For one, rights and power are too easily uncoupled. Prisoners have a right to food, for instance...but their power? Even a totalitarian state can guarantee the right to food.

Also, hearing "rights," one can quickly slide into passive mode--to assumed provision by somebody else, as in the right to an education or to a jury trial, where it makes perfect sense. The frame doesn't necessarily spur people to envision and build their own power. It can also lead one to imagine an end-point state of being--something settled--not necessarily an unending process of citizen co-creation.

So might there be a more basic frame for addressing hunger? Yes, I think so. And it starts with power.

The need for power can run even deeper in human beings than our need to eat. Think of hunger strikes, where refusing to eat becomes a means to power. Philosopher Erich Fromm believed our need for efficacy to be so basic that he turned Descartes around: "I am, because I effect," he wrote.

Seeing the end of hunger from a "power frame" ignites a dynamic and energizing set of connections and actions. These are on most vivid display today in Latin America.

Beyond Belo's leadership, the Americas' largest social movement is Brazil's Landless Workers' Movement (MST), which didn't start with a focus on the legal right to food. It organized among the landless and taught democratic concepts and skills, including group decision-making, civil disobedience and, more recently, gender equity. The result is MST's bottom-up power, with which a third of a million families have created 2,000 settlements with new farms and businesses, as well as 1,800 new schools. It's lifted family wages and cut the infant death rate.

Bolivia's experience teaches similar lessons. There, a 1952 revolution produced a law intended to grant land titles to the country's majority landless. But with little ongoing mobilization by the country's indigenous people--60 percent of the population--a few thousand large-estate owners became the real winners. A 1990s re-reform brought similarly disappointing results.

Then, in 2000, beginning in the southern department of Tarija, where 80 percent of the peasants have no land at all, the landless took a page from their Brazilian brethren's action strategy. It goes like this: Identify unused arable land--Bolivian law and Brazil's Constitution require arable land to serve a social function--then petition the government for title to it. If ignored, occupy and start farming. Despite deadly attacks by landowners, the approach has already given rise to more than a hundred MST settlements, many now granted legal title, across Bolivia.

This broad-based landless movement also helped generate the majority that elected Evo Morales president last December. This past June Morales traveled to the fertile eastern lowlands to award peasants title to government land, the first phase of a plan to transfer to the landless over the next five years 77,000 square miles of public land--an area twice the size of Portugal.

Citizens' power is trickier to measure than reducing hunger, but it may well be even more important. When you "forget how to say 'yes, sir' and learn to say 'I think that'"--that is when a "citizen is born," Brazilian MST leader João Pedro Stédile stressed to me; and, "like riding a bike," you don't forget.

The right to eat is a beautiful and simple concept touching our most natural instinct for life in community. But its realization flows from perhaps an even more foundational right--the right to power--which in turn demands a reframing of democracy itself. Much more than a legal structure, democracy vital enough to end hunger is the living practice of citizen power creating strong communities. And it is happening.

Frances Moore Lappé is the author of fifteen books, including, most recently, Democracy's Edge: Choosing to Save Our Country by Bringing Our Democracy to Life (Wiley). See

© Copyright 2006 The Nation
A Right to Food?

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Up next: 'Survivor: Race War' - by Tony Norman

Bored with scenic settings and alarmed by dwindling ratings, the producers of "Survivor" have taken their once successful reality show back to its roots in Jim Crow era television.

"Survivor: Cook Islands" promises to be the kind of "must-see TV" that would have provided plenty of cover for a lynch mob in Mississippi a generation or so ago.

Since most sentient beings had already bailed by the time "Survivor: McKeesport" rolled around a few years ago, series creator Mark Burnett has grown increasingly desperate in his attempts to lure eyeballs back to what was once the sleaziest showcase of Social Darwinism on television. "Read More" click link below


After Donald Trump failed to follow through on his threat to divide the contestants on "The Apprentice" along racial lines to get his own show's ratings up, Mr. Burnett appropriated the idea for his flagship reality series.

When the morally obtuse Jeff Probst reconvenes the show's tribal council in the South Pacific in a few weeks, 20 contestants will be divided into four competing racial groups: black, white, Hispanic and Asian.

The four groups will battle each other for petty and illusory advantage based solely on the discredited idea that racial identity is static and biologically determined.

The Phrenology Society has already promised to underwrite the entire season if the level of pseudoscience and racial superstition can be maintained in a thoughtful and dignified manner. Thickness of lips, coarseness of hair and skin pigment has been carefully measured to insure the racial integrity of the contestants. Once again, the "one drop" rule developed by the best minds of the 19th-century was ruthlessly enforced.

The producers of "Survivor" obviously couldn't risk a contestant trying to "pass" for a member of the opposing race and sabotage its efforts. After all, that's how American society got so messed up in the first place.

"I think at first glance when you just hear the idea, it could sound like a stunt. That's not what we're doing here," Mr. Probst told horrified CBS colleague Harry Smith on "The Early Show" when he explained the new season's premise.

Dissembling with a smile that won't be visible under the white hood he'll wear this season, Mr. Probst continued: "The idea came from the criticism that 'Survivor' was not ethnically diverse enough."

With that disingenuous nod to racial inclusion, David Duke, "Survivor's" new executive producer, stood off camera giving Probst two energetic thumbs up.

Could the moral be any clearer? Because of calls for more racial diversity in prime-time, we've got a race war on our hands. With luck, the ratings will reflect the show's triviality and lack of seriousness.

"You know I'm going to watch it," a black colleague told me. He's already betting that the black and white tribes make it to the finals, adding that he'd be "highly shocked" if he was proved wrong.

"When you talk about the achievement gap, you're already talking blacks and whites," he said with an ironic laugh.

Asked if the prospect of a resurgent war of the races on television made him uncomfortable, my buddy laughed. "Hey, man," he said with his southern drawl, "I'll be quietly cheering for the [home] team."

The black tribe consists of a jazz musician (the gangsta rapper was voted off the island long before the cameras began rolling), a salesman, an actress, a nursing student and a makeup artist.

The white tribe fields a crew that includes a copier salesman, a waitress who boxes, a roller girl, a writer and a pre-med student. It's interesting that in their own minds, they're already the front-runners.

The Hispanic tribe has the most interesting lineup, by far: a heavy metal guitarist, a cop, a technology risk consultant, a waiter and a volleyball player. Rush Limbaugh predicts that they'll win because "they'll do things other people won't do" and because "blacks can't swim."

Of course, if they do win, it will freak out America and lead to calls for even stricter immigration controls at the border.

The Asian tribe is represented by a management consultant, a nail salon manager, a real estate agent, a fashion director and a lawyer who graduated from Pitt law school. Are they capable of doing the ruthless things necessary to win "Survivor" even though such tactics would embarrass their families forever? We'll see.

It's always dangerous to criticize a program sight unseen, but its hard to imagine how a show that has as its motto "May the best race win" contributing anything positive to the already strained conversation wafting across America's racial divide.

Copyright © PG Publishing Co., Inc.
Up next: 'Survivor: Race War'

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Things You Never Knew Your Cell Phone Could Do

There are a few things that can be done in times of grave emergencies. Your mobile phone can actually be a lifesaver or an emergency tool for survival. Check out the things that you can do with it:

1. The emergency number worldwide for mobile networks is 112.

If you find yourself out of coverage area of your mobile network and there is an emergency, dial 112 and the mobile will search any existing network to establish the emergency number for you, and this number 112 can be dialed even if the keypad is locked. "Read More" click link below


2. Have you locked your keys in the car? Does your car have remote keys? This may come in handy some day, and it's a good reason to own a cell phone:

If you lock your keys in the car and the spare keys are at home, call someone at home on their cell phone from your cell phone. Hold your cell phone about a foot from your car door and have the person at your home press the unlock button, holding it near the mobile phone on their end. Your car will unlock. Saves someone from having to drive your keys to you. Distance is no object. You could be hundreds of miles away,and if you can reach someone who has the other "remote" for your car, you can unlock the doors (or the trunk). Note: It works fine! I've tried it and it unlocked my car over a cell phone!

3. Hidden battery power

Imagine your cell battery is very low, you are expecting an important call, and you don't have a charger. Nokia phones come with a reserve battery. To activate, press the keys *3370#. Your cell will restart with this reserve and the phone will show a 50% increase in battery. This reserve will get charged when you charge your cell next time.

4. How to disable a STOLEN mobile phone?

To check your mobile phone's serial number, key in the following digits on your phone: *#06#. A 15-digit code will appear on the screen. Please take note that this procedure works so far only with Nokia phones. But all mobile phones have an International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) which is a number unique to every GSM and UMTS mobile phone. It is usually found printed on or underneath the phone's battery.

This number is unique to your handset. Write it down and keep it somewhere safe. If your phone is stolen, you can phone your service provider and give them this code. They will then be able to block your handset so even if the thief changes the SIM card, your phone will be totally useless. You probably won't get your phone back, but at least you know that whoever stole it can't use/sell it either. If everybody did this, there would be no point in people stealing mobile phones.
SOURCE: Things You Never Knew Your Cell Phone Could Do

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John Prine - Some Humans Ain't Human

This one's for my buddy Scott D., a big Prine fan... watch it to the end. --pseudolus

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It's Not Bush's Fault!

It's so wrong of nasty libs to blame every social ill on Dubya. After all, he means well. Right?

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
I get this a lot, from the distraught and Bush-embarrassed right, whenever I happily cough up Dubya's name in a column that would seem to have nothing whatsoever to do with our bumbling, neck-groping disaster of a whimpering leader:

Hey (I'm paraphrasing here) you gay-loving yoga pervert communist! What the gosh-golly hell does George W. Bush possibly have to do with (fill in the blank) cancer rates/MS Windows/electric sports cars/Christina Aguilera? Why do you insist on sneaking in little slaps and stabs at the beleaguered monkeyman even when writing about problems and issues that (seemingly) have nothing to do with him -- like, say, iTunes or vibrators or global warming? Why, in other words, do you blame every social ill on Dubya? It's so not fair! link below >>>


It has become the default wail, the last remaining lament available to a frazzled and bitch-slapped GOP, a group now completely unable to dredge up a single defensible position for Bush in the wake of so much scandal and abuse and wiretap, failed war and environmental devastation and global meltdown:

It's not all Bush's fault! He cannot be blamed for, say, teen sex and bad sitcoms and Mel Gibson! As for national policy, well, Bush inherited years of complicated problems which clearly overwhelmed his unsophisticated brain and attacked him like a swarm of angry multifaceted mosquitoes which he could only flail and swat at like a terrified child! In other words, Bush is merely one little man swimming in a massive swirling tide of corruption and misprision and difficult-to-pronounce countries. Leave him alone!

It's all so true, isn't it? Bush is innocent as a lamb. Just look at, say, global warming. Libs love to point the finger at Bush's astonishing environmental policy for the hastening of Earth's meltdown, but the truth is, the planet's been heating up for decades, with little concern from any politician except that silly little Al Gore.

Oh sure, Bush has ignored, denied, accelerated, worsened it all to a degree no one thought possible, from rejecting Kyoto to discrediting mountains of scientific proof to racking up the most shockingly destructive environmental policy in American history. But it's not all his fault!

How about violent unrest in the Middle East? Certainly not the fault of simple Dubya, who couldn't even point to Iraq on a map before Dick Cheney showed him which country we should destroy in the wake of Sept. 11. Yes, Bush's Vietnam 2.0 has made Osama happier 'n Ronald McDonald at a fat farm for how Bush's righteous warmongering has served as so much free publicity for recruiting fresh terrorists. But Bush didn't cause Middle Eastern unrest. He just lobbed $300 billion worth of firecrackers into that seething hornet's nest.

What of our deeply divided and exhausted populace, hot with infighting and red state/blue state hatreds and sticky religious self-righteousness? Come now. Bush is merely an innocent bystander, waving a patriotic little flag. Yes, he and his cabal of Rove-licked imps happily leveraged Sept. 11 as an ideological nuclear warhead against their own nation, kowtowed to Jerry Falwell's hate-filled religious right and inflamed all sorts of bogus fears (gays! anthrax! Terri Schiavo!) as they set forth one of the most divisive and spiritually poisonous domestic agendas in your lifetime. But it's not his fault!

You may now name your issue: Racism? Sexism? Homophobia? Education? Denunciation of science? Inequality among the tax brackets? Ignorance of sex? Fear of the female nipple? Not Bush's fault! Oh sure, he might have exacerbated, inflamed, heightened each and every issue for political gain and corporate crony/evangelical Christian delight. He might have exploited every loophole and restricted the sexual freedoms of every woman and authorized the illegal torture of every captured foreigner and ignored virtually every new piece of legislation he himself signed into law. But it's not his fault! Is it?

Let us seek a clearer answer. Let us look through a slightly different lens.

I was recently on vacation in a small rural town in northern Idaho, all calm lakes and pine trees and summer butterflies. It was idyllic. It was restorative and healing and you'd think it would be easy, in such an environment, to clear out all BushCo toxins from the system and reconnect with the natural world and see that all is, in fact, not lost. And to a large degree, this was absolutely the case.

But in fact, Bush was there, too, like a rancid smell in the air, a metallic taste in the water supply, a pile of rotting trash by the side of the forest.

For example: Bush was in the controversy surrounding the proposed demolition of four regional dams to restore endangered wild salmon in the Snake River, a controversy bred from a grossly anti-environment, pro-dam Department of the Interior, whose current secretary is former Idaho Governor and all-around environmental disaster Dirk Kempthorne. Bush was there in the federal legislation favoring the over-eager timber industry and the fertilizer factory, by way of lax federal regulation governing industrial pollutants and chemical testing and air quality standards.

Bush was in the giant strip malls and in the local economy-gouging Wal-Mart and in all the rampant corporate development taking place at the expense of environmental and communal well-being. Ah, the GOP worldview. It's what's for dinner.

He was there in the surrounding farmland, as his administration, perhaps more than any other, has worked to subsidize and pander to a deeply abusive and bloated industrial farming and food-production machine run by a powerful cadre of giant Bush-loving corporations, as our national health deteriorates by the month.

Oh, and of course, Bush was very present in the surrounding high schools and community colleges, like a smirking specter of death, as I read about local Idaho kids (like those from every other small town in America), some still in their teens, being sent off to Iraq to fight and die in a brutal and disastrous war we have, by every estimate, already lost. It's the kind of awareness that tends to add a slightly bitter taint your everyday stroll down Main Street, USA.

Here, then, is my answer to the cute claims of rampant, unfair Bush-bashing: Indeed, Dubya may not be in the lousy cup of coffee I recently had at a downtown cafe. He might not be in the crappy sitcoms or in the price of designer jeans or in the sad fact that Led Zeppelin has yet to join iTunes.

But you know what? He might as well be. Because this is the feeling. It is a general sickness, a vague nausea, a sense that, in fact, far beyond just miserable foreign policy and tax breaks for the rich and a single nasty, botched war, the whole system, all aspects of culture and American life have somehow been tainted, darkened, poisoned.

George W. Bush may have attained the ignoble status as one of the least popular presidents in American history, but the fact is, he's accomplished something far more impressive: He's proven himself to be one of the most systematically, comprehensively toxic. And really, whose fault is that?


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Lateline - 23/08/2005: Respect Australian values or leave: Costello

This interview with Australia's Treasurer has been circulating around the net. At the risk of being burned at the stake by the PC crowd, I will say he makes a lot of sense to me. America, too, was founded as a secular democratic republic. Anyone who wants to live here and ignore that fact needs to realign their thinking to accept it. That includes homegrown theocratic wannabes like Katherine Harris and her kind. --pseudolus
Reporter: Tony Jones


TONY JONES: Now, over the past 24 hours you've been repeating the notion that migrants, evidently Islamic migrants, who don't like Australia, or Australian values, should think of packing up and moving to another country. Is that a fair assessment?

PETER COSTELLO: What I've said is that this is a country, which is founded on a democracy. According to our Constitution, we have a secular state. Our laws are made by the Australian Parliament. If those are not your values, if you want a country which has Sharia law or a theocratic state, then Australia is not for you. This is not the kind of country where you would feel comfortable if you were opposed to democracy, parliamentary law, independent courts and so I would say to people who don't feel comfortable with those values there might be other countries where they'd feel more comfortable with their own values or beliefs. "Read More" click link below


TONY JONES: It sounds like you're inviting Muslims who don't want to integrate to go to another country. Is it as simple as that?

PETER COSTELLO: No. I'm saying if you are thinking of coming to Australia, you ought to know what Australian values are.

TONY JONES: But what about if you're already here and you don't want to integrate?

PETER COSTELLO: Well, I'll come to that in a moment. But there are some clerics who have been quoted as saying they recognise two laws. They recognise Australian law and Sharia law. There's only one law in Australia, it's the Australian law. For those coming to Australia, I think we ought to be very clear about that. We expect them to recognise only one law and to observe it.

Now, for those who are born in Australia, I'd make the same point. This is a country which has a Constitution. Under its Constitution, the state is secular. Under its constitution, the law is made by the parliament. Under its Constitution, it's enforced by the judiciary. These are Australian values and they're not going to change and we would expect people, when they come to Australia or if they are born in Australia, to respect those values.

TONY JONES: I take it that if you're a dual citizen and you have the opportunity to leave and you don't like Australian values, you're encouraging them to go away; is that right?

PETER COSTELLO: Well, if you can't agree with parliamentary law, independent courts, democracy and would prefer Sharia law and have the opportunity to go to another country which practises it, perhaps then that's a better option.

TONY JONES: But isn't this the sort of thing you hear in pubs, the meaningless populism you hear on talkback radio? Essentially, the argument is if you don't like it here, you should go back home.

PETER COSTELLO: No. Essentially, the argument is Australia expects its citizens to abide by core beliefs - democracy, the rule of law, the independent judiciary, independent liberty. You see, Tony, when you come to Australia and you go to take out Australian citizenship you either swear on oath or make an affirmation that you respect Australia's democracy and its values. That's what we ask of people that come to Australia and if they don't, then it's very clear that this is not the country - if they can't live with them - whose values they can't share. Well, there might be another country where their values can be shared.

TONY JONES: Who exactly are you aiming this at? Are you aiming it at young Muslims who don't want to integrate or are you aiming it at clerics like Sheikh Omran or Abu Bakr both from Melbourne?

PETER COSTELLO: I'd be saying to clerics who are teaching that there are two laws governing people in Australia, one the Australian law and another the Islamic law, that that is false. It's not the situation in Australia. It's not the situation under our Constitution. There's only one law in Australia. It's the law that's made by the Parliament of Australia and enforced by our courts. There's no second law. There's only one law that applies in Australia and Australia expects its citizens to observe it.

TONY JONES: But you're not moving to the next stage, as they have in Britain, of actively seeking out clerics who teach what they regard as dangerous philosophy to young Muslims and forcing them to leave the country?

PETER COSTELLO: The only thing I would say - and let me say it again - is we can't be ambivalent about this point. Australia has one law, Australia has a secular state and anybody who teaches to the contrary doesn't know Australia and anybody who can't accept that, can't accept something that is fundamental to the nature of our society.

TONY JONES: All right. But the situation now, as far as you're concerned, if they are to leave, it should be completely voluntary.

PETER COSTELLO: Well, I'm just saying if they object to a secular state with parliamentary law, there might be other countries where the system of law is more acceptable to them.

TONY JONES: Alright. Could that situation change? I mean, the voluntary nature of it at least, could you compel people to leave, including radical preachers, if there were a terrorist attack in Australia, as there was in London not so long ago?

PETER COSTELLO: Well, where a person has dual citizenship, Tony, it might be possible to ask them to exercise that other citizenship where they could just as easily exercise a citizenship of another country. That might be a live possibility.

TONY JONES: You mean to force them to leave?

PETER COSTELLO: Well, you could ask them to exercise another citizenship.

TONY JONES: But you would only do that if there were a terrorist attack in the aftermath of it. You wouldn't do it, for example, if there were a thwarted terrorist attack as ASIO has told us there has been in this country?

PETER COSTELLO: Well, I am not going into individual circumstances. I just make the point that where people have dual citizenship and they're not comfortable with the way Australia is structured, it may be possible to ask them to exercise their other citizenship.

TONY JONES: Forcibly?

PETER COSTELLO: Well, as I said, it may be possible to ask them to exercise their other citizenship.
read the rest at link below
Lateline - 23/08/2005: Respect Australian values or leave: Costello

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

We were here on picture to "embiggen" view.

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Job opening real on picture to "embiggen" view.

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The New Activist Judges - by Molly Ivins

AUSTIN, Texas—Another bee-you-ti-ful example of the right-wing media getting it all wrong. Here they are having the nerve to mutter in public about “activist judges” because Judge Anna Diggs Taylor has pointed out that spying without a warrant is illegal in this country—so warrantless telephone tapping is illegal in this country.

Improbably enough, the first complaint of many of these soi-disant legal scholars is that Taylor’s decision is not well written. No judicial masterpiece, they sneer. Nevertheless, warrantless spying is illegal. Did it ever occur to these literary critics that Taylor has a lay-down hand? The National Security Agency program is flat unconstitutional, and for those who insist this means Osama bin Laden wins, it’s also ridiculously easy to fix so that it is constitutional. "Read More" click link below


Conservatives in this country have been yipping in chorus for years about “activist judges,” and frankly, like fools, many of you bought into the phony political rhetoric about those terrible jurists.

Somehow, activist judges are held responsible for gay marriage, Roe v. Wade and everything else Americans disagree about, as though Americans would never disagree without their encouragement. Conservatives have been mad at the Supreme Court since it decided to desegregate the schools in 1954 and seen fit to blame the federal bench for everything that has happened since then that they don’t like.

As any liberal could have told you, the conservatives didn’t want a right-wing shift on the nation’s courts because of “social issues”—that’s just a handy political ploy. Honestly, people, haven’t you figured out what this is all about yet? Money. The conservatives are in a snit about “liberal courts” because of money.

Corporations being prosecuted for breaking the law! Tobacco companies forced to pay huge fines! Oil and chemical companies made to pay for cleanup at Superfund sites! Oh, the horror, the horror. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page couldn’t stop shivering over it for years.

“This is the richest business term in recent memory,” Mark Levy, a Supreme Court litigator, told The Wall Street Journal, which has stopped quivering at last. Moving right along in the long-drawn-out battle to deny ordinary citizens access to their own courts, the justices closed down the right to allow class-action securities cases in state courts. The court also kept out of a lower-court decision preventing taxpayers from suing to stop tax breaks that states and municipalities use to lure big business, a notorious example of raging bad policy.

Meanwhile, what a nice gift from the federal bench to the insurance companies when a federal judge in Mississippi decided that hurricane insurance policies excluding water damage are “valid and enforceable.” As many of our fellow citizens had an opportunity to learn during Katrina, it’s a challenge to sit around in a class IV hurricane, trying to figure out which is wind and which is water damage. “Ooops, there goes the roof, probably wind, followed by a huge run of waves rolling over the house, could be water.”

Insurance company stocks went up across the board after the decision, while the industry kindly advised its clients to “keep your eyes wide open when buying new homeowners’ insurance.”

Congratulations to the Katrina survivors who were hanging on by their fingernails.

Money, money, money is the motif of the “New Activist” federal judges, but they have also been busy, busy limiting congressional authority and individual rights. As People for the American Way notes, federal appellate courts—effectively the court of last resort for most Americans—are working on: questioning the constitutionality of the Endangered Species Act, overturning the National Labor Relations Board rulings against anti-union discrimination and other unfair labor practices by employers, allowing the Bush administration to keep secret the records of the Cheney energy task force, and rewriting by court order a state law on First Amendment activity.

Other Bush appellate judges have ruled to deny protection to workers who file claims of race and disability discrimination, made it harder to protect the environment, and issued other decisions that will affect our lives and liberties for decades.

Activist judges, indeed.

© Copyright 2006 Truthdig
The New Activist Judges

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Privacy: A Right to Defend

by Rev. Robert F. Drinan

Sometimes, as in the case of the current domestic surveillance controversy, it's important to take the long view.

It was in 1978 that President Carter persuaded Congress to create a special secret court that would authorize wiretaps or secret surveillance on people suspected of espionage. I was one of the few members of Congress to vote against the measure.

Although little is known about the court that monitors the resulting Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, analysts generally assume that it has achieved its objectives while complying with the Fourth Amendment's requirement that a warrant be issued by a judge before every search and seizure. "Read More" click link below


After the 9/11 attacks on America in 2001, however, President Bush decided to finesse FISA and collect information from countless people suspected by the spy agencies of being involved in terrorist activities. Three years after this clandestine program was started, the press revealed its existence. Late last week, a federal judge in Detroit, Anna Diggs Taylor, said that the president's move to bypass FISA was unconstitutional. Still, the president remains adamant that the plan is essential and that it is justified by his broad inherent powers as commander in chief.

One of the central arguments that Taylor employed concerned the legislative history of how and why Congress authorized FISA. Congress at the time was responding to an urgent request from Carter and the intelligence agencies arguing that they needed new powers to safeguard the nation, and that even with them they would make every attempt to get information in ways consistent with the new law.

When the press finally revealed that the Bush administration had created a vast network to collect information on alleged terrorist organizations, the White House had to admit openly that -- contrary to the clear intent of the Congress -- it had defied the carefully constructed FISA machinery.

More than 200 years ago, the authors of the Bill of Rights, backed by the original 13 states, decided that the government must refrain from any search or seizures of letters or other personal material unless a judge grants a warrant. This safeguard, also secured in the Massachusetts Constitution, was designed to prevent the kind of searches that were carried out by the English crown on its political opponents.

Underlying the Fourth Amendment was the concept that citizens had a right not to have their mail opened and read. Even more now than in 1791, there is a deep feeling in America that some areas of life are beyond the purview of the government. The word privacy was hardly known in the 1700s, but after the experience of the Star Chamber in England the citizens of the colonies made it clear that the government could intrude into their lives only if a judge approves the action by issuing a warrant. A quarter century ago, Congress reaffirmed these concepts during the FISA debate.

What is known about the secret court created by FISA is that it has granted virtually every request of every president and the CIA to intercept electronic communications to citizens in America. FISA's judges are appointed by the chief justice with no hearing or vote.

The uncontradicted assumption since 1978 has been that FISA is a necessary evil to find out what terrorists and other enemies of the United States are saying and doing. The revelations that the Bush administration is defying FISA's strictures have shocked analysts who believe that the Fourth Amendment's protections are indispensable to human dignity.

The Bush administration fears that the threat of terrorism is so enormous that the government should be able to open and read our letters and e-mail traffic, and monitor our phone conversations, without the limited protections of the 1978 law.

Privacy is precious, and a longstanding concern. The right to be free from compulsory incrimination is contained in the works of St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century. The right to confidentiality is clear in Catholic teaching about secrecy in confession. (There are severe penalties for any priest who violates those guarantees.)

The Bush administration's Justice Department has already filed an appeal of Taylor's ruling. But it is in America's best interest that her decision prevail.

The Rev. Robert F. Drinan is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and was a US congressman from Massachusetts from 1971 to 1981.

© Copyright 2006 Boston Globe

Privacy: A Right to Defend

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Wal-Mart May Be Just Too American to Succeed Globally - by Richard Adams

Outside its homeland, the company formula mirrors that of US foreign policy: brash, bold and increasingly unpopular

When Thomas Friedman - the American journalist who has become globalisation's loudest cheerleader - wanted to illustrate the powerful forces at work in the world economy, he got on a flight for Bentonville, Arkansas, headquarters of the glory that is Wal-Mart.

In his hagiographic bestseller, The World Is Flat, Friedman records his awe while standing in the middle of Wal-Mart's operation centre in Bentonville, watching the movement of goods to and fro at the heart of the world's largest retailer - a company that last year recorded more than $300bn in sales from 6,600 stores in 15 countries, including the Asda chain in Britain.

"Call it 'the Wal-Mart Symphony' in multiple movements - with no finale," Friedman wrote in his trademark breathless prose. "It just plays over and over 24/7/365: delivery, sorting, packing distribution, buying, manufacturing, reordering, delivery, sorting, packing ..."

Friedman was so impressed that he named Wal-Mart as one of the biggest forces driving globalisation, saying: "It's role as one of the 10 forces that flattened the world is undeniable." "Read More" click link below


As it happens, recent history has not been kind to Thomas Friedman. As the leading foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times, he was an influential voice in the ear of east-coast liberals, supporting the neoconservative arguments in favour of the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussain.

Recently, as Iraq's descent into bloody civil war has made a mockery of cruise-missile liberals, he has had the sense to recant. But Friedman's pin-ups for globalisation haven't fared so well either. The computer manufacturer Del, lauded to the skies in The World Is Flat, found that its laptops included a built-in cigarette-lighter feature, when their batteries began bursting into flames.

Now it is Wal-Mart's turn to suffer the curse of Friedman. Since his book was published it seems that little has gone right for the champion of globalisation with the motto "Always low prices".

In recent months the giant retailer - at the start of this year the world's second largest corporation by revenue after oil baron Exxon Mobil - has suffered a string of defeats. Some have been self-inflicted, but others are a sign that Wal-Mart's attempts to export its formula of massive purchasing power and cheap imports from China, combined with stringent cost-cutting and aggressive anti-unionism, are beginning to fail.

The first sign that Friedman's steamroller of globalisation was stalling came in May, when the company announced it was pulling out of South Korea. South Korea was one of the first countries Wal-Mart moved into outside North America. But its all-American model of piling very high and selling very cheap never appealed to consumers there. "It failed to read what South Korean housewives want when they go shopping," a local analyst told the New York Times.

Last month, the company announced it was also withdrawing from Germany and selling its 85 stores there, despite pouring in hundreds of millions of dollars over the years to compete with local chains such as Aldi. German customers were turned off by the enforced friendliness of its employees, while the employees objected to US imports such as chanting at morning staff meetings: "Who's number one? The customer."

In the UK, Wal-Mart has also run into trouble with its Asda subsidiary, which it bought in 1999 and now has more than 300 stores and 160,000 employees. Last month the threat of a strike by the GMB union led the company to make unusually significant concessions, agreeing to allow the union access to Asda depots and to participate in a process leading to collective bargaining. Not long afterwards it was revealed by the All-China Federation of Trade Unions that Wal-Mart had allowed 19 unions to be set up in its stores there.

The Asda and China results mark a clear victory for organised labour against the giant of globalisation. Previously Wal-Mart's determination to run union-free shops was such that when workers at a branch in the Canadian city of Jonquière - a bastion of the fierce Quebec labour movement - took measures to unionise, the company permanently closed the store. Wal-Mart claims it shut because of poor turnover, but the closure sent a clear message that Wal-Mart could press the nuclear button.

The softening line comes as Wal-Mart's bottom line has suffered. Last week the company announced its first decline in net profits for 10 years, thanks to weak sales in the US and UK and the cost of cutting its losses in Germany. The faltering sales in the US come as shoppers, hit by higher petrol prices, appear less willing to drive long distances to one of Wal-Mart's monster outlets.

Opponents are showing their displeasure by other means than voting with their feet. A movie-length documentary, Wal-Mart: the High Cost of Low Price, highlighted the company's less savoury practices. Now a Democratic party senator, Byron Dorgan - who would be a contender for the presidential nomination if he were from a larger state than North Dakota - has taken aim at Wal-Mart and its allies in a new book, Take This Job And Ship It, arguing that its mega-stores destroy communities. Earlier this month the former Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry pointed out that five of the 10 richest people in America were from the family of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, yet the company still fails to provide proper healthcare for its workers.

Faced with attacks from moderate politicians such as Dorgan and Kerry, and state and city-level attempts to force the likes of Wal-Mart to adhere to basic levels of pay and health insurance, as well as local hostility to new stores opening, the company's share price continues to suffer. Naturally, the company has been fighting back, from a war-room in its Bentonville headquarters that Friedman certainly never visited.

The fightback includes the establishment of a lobbying group called Working Families for Wal-Mart, spending millions of dollars in donations to politicians, and sending "voter guides" to its staff.

Despite its recent setbacks, Wal-Mart is not about to give up. Its international expansion will continue - at the end of last year it invested in Brazil, Japan and central America. And it remains hugely powerful in the US, where polls show that of those who shop at least once a week in the company's outlets, 78% voted for George Bush in 2004. But outside America, Wal-Mart's formula may be mirroring US foreign policy: brash, bold and unpopular. Unfortunately for Thomas Friedman, the rest of the world may not want to be flattened.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

Wal-Mart May Be Just Too American to Succeed Globally

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