Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Resistance to Missile Testing, Space-based Weapons, and the U.S. War Machine
Another planned Minuteman III ICBM launch is scheduled for August 23rd, along with two vigils on the day before the launch in protest against the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). The demonstration at Vandenberg will begin 11:45 pm, Saturday, August 22. The protest will be held at the front gate of Vandenberg Space Command - at the intersection of Highway One and California Blvd (Six miles north of Lompoc on Highway 1 in Santa Barbara County, CA., 93437) For anyone interested, there is a Motel 6 in Lompoc, and some locals with home stay offers.
For further info contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 831-206-5043
There will also be a vigil In Southern California on Saturday, August 22, from 1 pm to 3 pm at the Los Angeles Air Force Base, located at 262 Douglas Street, El Segundo, 90245. The Los Angeles Air Force Base aka Space and Missile Systems Station, is involved in tracking and fine tuning the ICBM launch.
For further info contact Eli Monroe at email@example.com or call 323-969-9307
Sponsors: Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space; Women's International League for Peace and Freedom; Nuclear Age Peace Foundation; and War Resisters League, among others.
Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd received a better mortgage deal from subprime lender Countrywide, simply because Dodd was a United States Senator. Today, the United States Senate cleared Dodd of wrongdoing.
In the end, it takes a lot for the country's most elite club to turn on one of its own. Senators Christopher Dodd and Kent Conrad have been cleared of any ethics violations for accepting sweetheart, "Friends of Angelo" mortgages from Countrywide.
by Bill Maher
New Rule: Just because a country elects a smart president doesn't make it a smart country. A few weeks ago I was asked by Wolf Blitzer if I thought Sarah Palin could get elected president, and I said I hope not, but I wouldn't put anything past this stupid country. It was amazing - in the minute or so between my calling America stupid and the end of the Cialis commercial, CNN was flooded with furious emails and the twits hit the fan. And you could tell that these people were really mad because they wrote entirely in CAPITAL LETTERS!!! It's how they get the blood circulating when the Cialis wears off. Worst of all, Bill O'Reilly refuted my contention that this is a stupid country by calling me a pinhead, which A) proves my point, and B) is really funny coming from a doody-face like him.
Now, the hate mail all seemed to have a running theme: that I may live in a stupid country, but they lived in the greatest country on earth, and that perhaps I should move to another country, like Somalia. Well, the joke's on them because I happen to have a summer home in Somalia... and no I can't show you an original copy of my birth certificate because Woody Harrelson spilled bong water on it.
And before I go about demonstrating how, sadly, easy it is to prove the dumbness dragging down our country, let me just say that ignorance has life and death consequences. On the eve of the Iraq War, 69% of Americans thought Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9/11. Four years later, 34% still did. Or take the health care debate we're presently having: members of Congress have recessed now so they can go home and "listen to their constituents." An urge they should resist because their constituents don't know anything. At a recent town-hall meeting in South Carolina, a man stood up and told his Congressman to "keep your government hands off my Medicare," which is kind of like driving cross country to protest highways.
I'm the bad guy for saying it's a stupid country, yet polls show that a majority of Americans cannot name a single branch of government, or explain what the Bill of Rights is. 24% could not name the country America fought in the Revolutionary War. More than two-thirds of Americans don't know what's in Roe v. Wade. Two-thirds don't know what the Food and Drug Administration does. Some of this stuff you should be able to pick up simply by being alive. You know, like the way the Slumdog kid knew about cricket.
Not here. Nearly half of Americans don't know that states have two senators and more than half can't name their congressman. And among Republican governors, only 30% got their wife's name right on the first try.
Sarah Palin says she would never apologize for America. Even though a Gallup poll says 18% of Americans think the sun revolves around the earth. No, they're not stupid. They're interplanetary mavericks. A third of Republicans believe Obama is not a citizen, and a third of Democrats believe that George Bush had prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks, which is an absurd sentence because it contains the words "Bush" and "knowledge."
People bitch and moan about taxes and spending, but they have no idea what their government spends money on. The average voter thinks foreign aid consumes 24% of our federal budget. It's actually less than 1%. And don't even ask about cabinet members: seven in ten think Napolitano is a kind of three-flavored ice cream. And last election, a full one-third of voters forgot why they were in the booth, handed out their pants, and asked, "Do you have these in a relaxed-fit?"
And I haven't even brought up America's religious beliefs. But here's one fun fact you can take away: did you know only about half of Americans are aware that Judaism is an older religion than Christianity? That's right, half of America looks at books called the Old Testament and the New Testament and cannot figure out which one came first.
(last half of chapter four pg. 86-97)
- by giving it to people who have never had it before;
- by giving people very high doses that they are not used to
(or giving it orally to people used to smoking it); and
- by giving people very hard things to do, especially things that they have never had a chance to practice while under the influence of the drug.
Under any of these three conditions, pharmacologists can demonstrate that marijuana impairs performance. And if we look at the work being done by NIMH-funded researchers, all of it fulfills one or more of these conditions. In addition, the tests being used by these scientists are designed to look for impairments of functions that have nothing to do with why marijuana users put themselves in an altered state of consciousness. People who get high on marijuana do not spontaneously try to do arithmetic problems or test their fine coordination.
What pharmacologists cannot make sense of is that people who are high on marijuana cannot be shown, in objective terms, to be different from people who are not high. That is, if a marijuana user is allowed to smoke his usual doses and then to do things he has had a chance to practice while high, he does not appear to perform any differently from someone who is not high. Now, this pattern of users performing better than nonusers is a general phenomenon associated with all psychoactive drugs. For example, an alcoholic will vastly outperform a nondrinker on any test if the two are equally intoxicated; he has learned to compensate for the effects of the drug on his nervous system. But compensation can proceed only so far until it runs up against a ceiling imposed by the pharmacological action of the drug on lower brain centers. Again, since marijuana has no clinically significant action on lower brain centers, compensation can reach 100 percent with practice.
These considerations mean that there are no answers to questions like, What does marijuana do to driving ability? The only possible answer is, It depends. It depends on the person – whether he is a marijuana user, whether he has practiced driving while under the influence of marijuana. In speaking to legislative and medical groups, I have stated a personal reaction to this question in the form of the decision I would make if I were given the choice of riding with one of the following four drivers:
- a person who had never smoked marijuana before and just had;
- a marijuana smoker who had never driven while high and was just about to;
- a high marijuana smoker who had practiced driving while high; and
- a person with any amount of alcohol in him.
I would unhesitatingly take driver number three as the best possible risk.
Manson was on Death Row -- before capital punishment was repealed (and later reinstated, but not retroactively) in California -- so I was unable to meet with him. Reporters had to settle for an interview with any prisoner awaiting the gas chamber, and it was unlikely that Charlie would be selected at random for me.
In the course of our correspondence, there was a letter from Manson consisting of a few pages of gibberish about Christ and the Devil, but at one point, right in the middle, he wrote in tiny letters, "Call Squeaky," with her phone number. I called, and we arranged to meet at her apartment in Los Angeles. On an impulse, I brought several tabs of acid with me on the plane.
Squeaky resembled a typical redheaded, freckle-faced waitress who sneaks a few tokes of pot in the lavatory, a regular girl-next-door except perhaps for the unusually challenging nature of her personality, plus the scar of an X that she had gouged and burned into her forehead as a visual reminder of her commitment to Charlie. That same symbol also covered the third eyes of her roommates, Manson family members Sandra Good and Brenda McCann.
"We've crossed ourselves out of this entire system," Squeaky explained.
They all had short hairstyles growing in now, after having completely shaved their heads. They continued to sit on the sidewalk near the Hall of Justice every day, like a coven of faithful nuns bearing witness to Manson's martyrdom.
Sandy Good had seen me perform at The Committee Theater in San Francisco a few years previously. Now she told me that when she first met Charlie and people asked her what he was like, she had compared him to Lenny Bruce and me. It was the weirdest compliment I ever got, but I began to understand Manson's peculiar charisma.
With his sardonic rap, mixed with psychedelic drugs and real-life theater games such as "creepy-crawling" and stealing, he had deprogrammed his family from the values of mainstream society, but reprogrammed them with his own perverted philosophy, a cosmic version of the racism perpetuated by the prison system that had served as his family.
Manson had stepped on Sandy's eyeglasses, thrown away her birth control pills, and inculcated her with racist insensibility. Although she had once been a civil rights activist, she was now asking me to tell John Lennon that he should get rid of Yoko Ono and stay with "his own kind."
"But," I said, "they really love each other."
"If Yoko really loved the Japanese people," Sandy replied, "she would not want to mix their blood."
The four of us ingested those little white tablets containing 300 micrograms of LSD, then took a walk to the office of Laurence Merrick, who had been associated with schlock biker exploitation movies as the prerequisite to directing a sensationalist documentary, Manson.
Squeaky's basic vulnerability emerged as she kept pacing around and telling Merrick that she was afraid of him. He didn't know we were tripping, but he must have sensed the vibes. He may even have gotten a touch of contact high. I engaged him in conversation about movies. We discussed the fascistic implications of The French Connection.
He said, "You're pretty articulate--"
"For a bum," I finished his sentence, and we laughed.
Soldiers at IDF's Prison Four say 15 sick inmates held in isolation, army fails to provide proper treatment. IDF denied claims by Daniel Edelson
by Daniel Edelson
In recent days Ynet has received dozens of reports from soldiers and their parents about a swine flu outbreak in the IDF's Confinement Base 394, more commonly know as Prison Four.
According to the reports, 15 of the soldiers held at the prison have been isolated from the rest of the inmates due to suspicion they have contracted the H1N1 virus.
A phone conversation with one of the inmates revealed a grim picture. "What goes on here is a catastrophe," he said. "People are vomiting, are suffering from diarrhea, can't sleep, can barely walk, and the prison guards just tell them to take a rest."
The soldier said that "at least one soldier on average falls ill every day. They put you through hell before they let you see a doctor. We just want to be tested."
Another inmate said he has been at the prison for 47 days and have yet to undergo a medical examination.
Unbelievably, Congress and the Obama administration are currently trying to resurrect the failed REAL ID Act, more accurately named "Dangerous ID."
Dangerous ID, which passed in 2005, establishes a de facto National Identification System, and opens the doors for Federal biometric tracking of every American citizen.
Fortunately, no state currently complies with the burdensome mandates of the 2005 bill, and twenty-three have passed legislation refusing compliance.
So what does the Obama Administration want to do?
You guessed it: "Fix it," and ram it down states' throats.
Well, I say "Repeal it." What do you say?
You see, as Obama Administration Surveillance Czar Janet Napolitano pushes for a revamp of the system to get the invasive federal program up and running, there has never been a better time to for us to push back, and fight for an outright repeal of the original legislation.
And although Dangerous ID is a clear attempt to establish a National ID System, the reality might be much worse -- an INTERNATIONAL Identification System. That's why it is so critical we get that law off the books.
You see, Dangerous ID actually requires that driver's license photographs meet United Nation's biometric format standards. At this level of sophistication, government software can analyze facial characteristics and generate a unique identification number.
Think about that for a moment -- your identity will be reduced to a single number in an international database that can be tracked globally by one-world government surveillance cameras and facial recognition software.
Last month, Senator Daniel Akaka introduced The PASS ID Act to tweak the 2005 Dangerous ID legislation and ram this program into action over state opposition.
Supporters claim this REAL ID Redux bill softens requirements on states, supposedly making the breach of federalism a little more palatable. But it is merely a transparent attempt to get the Dangerous ID system implemented in any form, only to be augmented later to meet government's needs.
In fact, there is evidence that this reincarnated Dangerous ID bill could wind up being worse than the original.
Chief among the bill's supporters is Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, who stands to wield expansive and virtually unchecked power to set standards.
Under Dangerous ID, Napolitano can unilaterally expand required information on driver's licenses, potentially to include biometric information such as retinal scans, fingerprints, DNA information, and even Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) radio tracking technology.
If international databases, RFID and biometric identification cards, and constant government surveillance are as alarming to you as they are to me, I hope you'll click here to sign Campaign for Liberty's petition to stop REAL ID Redux and repeal Dangerous ID.
John F. Tate
By Chris Adams
WASHINGTON — Although hundreds of well-trained eyes are watching over the $700 billion that Congress last year decided to spend bailing out the nation's financial sector, it's still difficult to answer some of the most basic questions about where the money went.
Despite a new oversight panel, a new special inspector general, the existing Government Accountability Office and eight other inspectors general, those charged with minding the store say they don't have all the weapons they need. Ten months into the Troubled Asset Relief Program, some members of Congress say that some oversight of bailout dollars has been so lacking that it's essentially worthless.
"TARP has become a program in which taxpayers are not being told what most of the TARP recipients are doing with their money, have still not been told how much their substantial investments are worth, and will not be told the full details of how their money is being invested," a special inspector general over the program reported last month. The "very credibility" of the program is at stake, it said.
That's half of the $2.2 trillion the United States spends on health care each year, according to the most recent data from accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers' Health Research Institute.
What counts as waste? The report identified 16 different areas in which health care dollars are squandered. But in talking to doctors, nurses, hospital groups and patient advocacy groups, six areas totaling nearly $500 billion stood out as issues to be dealt with in the health care reform debate.
Doctors ordering tests or procedures not based on need but concern over liability or increasing their income is the biggest waste of health care dollars, costing the system at least $210 billion a year, according to the report. The problem is called "defensive medicine."
"Sometimes the motivation is to avoid malpractice suits, or to make more money because they are compensated more for doing more," said Dr. Arthur Garson, provost of the University of Virginia and former dean of its medical school. "Many are also convinced that doing more tests is the right thing to do."
"But any money that is spent on a patient that doesn't improve the outcome is a waste," said Garson.
Some conservatives have suggested that capping malpractice awards would help solve the problem.
President Obama doesn't agree; instead, his reform proposal encourages doctors to practice "evidence-based" guidelines as a way to scale back on unnecessary tests.
Inefficient claims processing is the second-biggest area of wasteful expenditure, costing as much as $210 billion annually, the PricewaterhouseCoopers report said.
"We spend a lot of time and money trying to get paid by insurers," said Dr. Terry McGenney, a Kansas City, Mo.-based family physician.
"Every insurance company has its own forms," McGenney said. "Some practices spend 40% of their revenue filling out paperwork that has nothing to do with patient care. So much of this could be automated."
Dr. Jason Dees, a family doctor in a private practice based in New Albany, Miss., said his office often resubmits claims that have been "magically denied."
"That adds to our administrative fees, extends the payment cycle and hurts our cash flow," he said.
Dees also spends a lot of time getting "pre-certification" from insurers to approve higher-priced procedures such as MRIs. "We're already operating on paper-thin margins and this takes times away from our patients," he said.
Susan Pisano, spokeswoman for America's Health Insurance Plans, said "hundreds of billions" of dollars can be saved by standardizing procedures and using technology -- something the White House has mentioned as a key to health care reform.
I'm worried -- and if I'm worried, you should be, too.
The reason I'm worried is that the wrong diagnosis is being made.
As any doctor can tell you, the most crucial step toward healing is having the right diagnosis. If the disease is precisely identified, a good resolution is far more likely. Conversely, a bad diagnosis usually means a bad outcome, no matter how skilled the physician.
And, what's true in personal health care is just as true in national health care reform: Healing begins with the correct diagnosis of the problem.
Washington is working on reform initiatives that focus on one problem: the fact that the system is too expensive (and consequently too exclusive.) Reform proposals, such as the "public option" for government insurance or calls for drug makers to drop prices, are aimed mostly at boosting affordability and access. Make it cheap enough, the thinking goes, and the 46 million Americans who can't afford coverage will finally get their fair share.
But what's missing, tragically, is a diagnosis of the real, far more fundamental problem, which is that what's even worse than its stratospheric cost is the fact that American health care doesn't fulfill its prime directive -- it does not help people become or stay healthy. It's not a health care system at all; it's a disease management system, and making the current system cheaper and more accessible will just spread the dysfunction more broadly.
It's impossible to make our drug-intensive, technology-centric, and corrupt system affordable. Consider that Americans spent $8.4 billion on medicine in 1950, vs. an astonishing 2.3 trillion in 2007. That's $30,000 annually for a family of four. The bloated structure of endless, marginal-return tests; patent-protected drugs and "heroic" surgical interventions for virtually every health problem simply can't be made much cheaper due to its very nature. Costs can only be shifted in various unpalatable ways.
So, a far more salient question that must be addressed is: Are we getting good health for our trillions? Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding, "No." The U.S. ranked near the very bottom of the top 40 nations -- below Columbia, Chile, Costa Rica and Dominica -- in a rating of health systems by the World Health Organization in 2000. In short, we pay about twice as much per capita for our health care as does the rest of the developed world, and we have almost nothing to show for it.
I'm not against high-tech medicine. It has a secure place in the diagnosis and treatment of serious disease. But our health care professionals are currently using it for everything, and the cost is going to break us.
In the future, this kind of medicine must be limited to those cases in which it is clearly indicated: trauma, acute and critical conditions, disease involving vital organs, etc. It should be viewed as a specialized form of medicine, perhaps offered only in major centers serving large populations.