Friday, August 22, 2008

I married a dead man

Did McCain Just Lose Colorado?


McCain might have just lost Colorado after saying he wanted to renegotiate a 1922 water deal and take water from Colorado and New Mexico.

What epic gaffe could unite Colorado's Democratic Senator Ken Salazar -- "over my dead body" -- and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer - "Over my cold, dead, political carcass"?

That would be Arizona Senator John McCain telling The Pueblo Chieftan on Thursady that he wants to renegotiate the famous 1922 Colorado River compact to take water from the so-called upper basin states, including CO and NM, where the river originates and give it to lower basin states like his home state of AZ:

"I don't think there's any doubt the major, major issue is water and can be as important as oil. So the compact that is in effect, obviously, needs to be renegotiated over time amongst the interested parties. I think that there's a movement amongst the governors to try, if not, quote, renegotiate, certainly adjust to the new realities of high growth, of greater demands on a scarcer resource'.
In short, the fact that lots and lots of people keep moving into the desert means Colorado should give up more of its water.

[Note to McCain -- Given your recent history of misinformation and disinformation on the subject (see "Will McCain's cynical lies destroy the chance for serious energy and climate policy?"), I'd skip the analogy to oil.]

Them's fighting words -- literally! The word rival, after all, comes from "people who share the same river." In the West they say, "Whiskey's for drinking, water's for fighting." See also "Warming Will Worsen Water Wars."

Needless to say, Coloradans do not see things the way that the senator from Arizona does.

Gingrich Claims Tire Inflation Lines Big Oil’s Pockets

By Ben Armbruster

Last night on Fox News, host Sean Hannity and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) returned (as they often do) to Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) recent suggestion that Americans inflate their tires properly in order to save energy costs.

Seeming to outdo his previous false attacks on this issue, Gingrich claimed that Obama's idea is actually encouraging Americans to "enrich Big Oil" because selling air has "a higher profit margin than selling gasoline":

GINGRICH: Well, I got a very funny e-mail from a retired military officer in Tampa who pointed out that most tire inflation is done at service stations and you pay for it. And it's actually a higher profit margin than selling gasoline. So Sen. Obama was urging you to go out and enrich Big Oil by inflating your tires instead of buying gas.

Watch it:

This claim is absurd for a number of reasons. First, gas station owners, not Big Oil, receive the profits from selling air — if they sell air at all (presumably from mechanized air machines). Second, air is free. So of course the profit margin for selling air is going be higher than a gallon of gas. By contrast, the cost of oil accounts for a significant portion of the price of gasoline. So any profits from gasoline sales (which are actually quite small) also go to the gas station owners, after Big Oil has already been paid.

But beyond Gingrich's ridiculous assertion, the Auto Alliance has noted that maintaining proper tire pressure is "more important than you may think" because it saves fuel and reduces costs and greenhouse gases.

The Real Cause of the Financial Crisis

Much has been written and said about our current financial crisis but there has been little discussion of the real cause of the crisis, which is our massive debt. The sub-prime mortgage mess was merely the straw that broke the camel's back. There are three broad aspects to our debt crisis.

First, in the current fiscal year, we are spending massive amounts of money on "defense" projects that bear no relationship to the national security of the United States. It is virtually impossible to overstate the profligacy of what our government spends on the military. The Department of Defense's expenditures for 2008 are larger than all the other nations' military budgets combined. Our military spending for fiscal 2008 will exceed $1 trillion for the first time in history. Such expenditures are not only morally obscene, they are fiscally unsustainable. We are financing these huge military expenditures through massive borrowing from China and other nations. If you begin in 1789, at the moment the Constitution became the supreme law of the land, the debt accumulated by the federal government did not top $1 trillion until 1981. When George Bush became president in January 2001, it stood at $5.7 trillion. Since then, it has doubled to over $11 trillion!

Second, we continue to believe that we can compensate for the accelerating erosion of our manufacturing base and our loss of jobs to foreign countries through massive military spending. This is based on the mistaken belief that public policies focused on frequent wars, huge expenditures on weapons and munitions, and large standing armies can indefinitely sustain a wealthy capitalist economy. The opposite is actually true. It is often believed that wars and military spending increases are good for the economy. In fact, most economic models show that military spending diverts resources from productive uses, such as consumption and investment, and ultimately slows economic growth and reduces employment. Military spending is, in fact, a wasteful economic activity. America can no longer afford to operate on the flawed economic assumption that we can maintain a permanent war economy and treat military output as an ordinary economic product, even though it makes no contribution to either production or consumption.

Third, in our devotion to militarism (despite our limited resources), we are failing to invest in our social infrastructure and other requirements for the long-term health of our country. These are what economists call "opportunity costs," things not done because we spent our money on something else. Our public education system is falling apart. We have failed to provide health care to all our citizens and neglected our aging infrastructure, which is rapidly deteriorating. Most important, we have lost our competitiveness as a manufacturer of civilian goods – an infinitely more efficient use of scarce resources than arms manufacturing.

Stephanie Tubbs Jones: Champion of Electoral Justice

by John Nichols

Stephanie Tubbs Jones came on my radar in 1990 when, as a relatively young and little-known Cuyahoga County Judge, she mounted a progressive challenge to a conservative Republican justice on the Ohio Supreme Court.

It was an uphill race, and a thankless one at a time when the Ohio Democratic Party was stumbling into a period of deep decline.

But Jones kept the contest close, and she made an impression.

As an editor on an Ohio newspaper during that campaign, I got to know this remarkable woman as a rare political player: someone who was smart and connected but also fearless.

I did not always see eye-to-eye with Tubbs Jones, who has died unexpectedly at age 58 from a brain hemorrhage. We disagreed at times on issues, and on endorsements that she made. But we usually agreed, especially when she cast a series of brave -- and lonely -- anti-war votes around the time that George Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq.

Stephanie Tubbs Jones frequently displayed the sort of political courage that put her at odds not just with her president and his party but, at times, even with her own party.

That courage was most evident when, after the disputed 2004 presidential vote in her home state, Tubbs Jones led the House floor fight against certification of President Bush's re-election.

John McCain now agrees with re-enacting the draft!

by: Ironside

John McCain claims he's willing to follow Osama bin Laden "to the gates of Hell" but he's not even willing to follow him into Pakistan even if he knew bin Laden was there. Imagine that! It doesn't seem he's actually willing to follow him anywhere. It appears he's more likely to invoke the draft and force our young brave soldiers to do the following for him. Well this may be one sure way to end the wars. The young Americans have been relatively quite about the wars in the Middle East. Just wait until the draft is implemented and witness the outrage that's sure to follow. Do you remember the 1960s like I do? I had recently predicted McCain would call for a draft in order to accomplish all the military action he's pledged to use. There's his wanting to stay in Iraq for 100 years, wanting to bomb, bomb, bomb..... (bomb, bomb Iran), he's now following Barack Obama's lead in Afghanistan, the only valid war, and who knows he'll probably invade Moscow for their attack on Georgia. Now how to pay for these wars. He pledges to keep Bush's tax cuts intact as if owing China $1.8 trillion is nothing! McCain has made it clear he's not one for negotiations. He clearly prefers military action.


John McCain agrees with re-enacting the draft!

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Senator McCain I truly hope you get the opportunity to chase Bin Laden right to the gates of hell and push him in as you stated on your forum. I do have a question though. Disabled veterans, especially in this state, have horrible conditions [...] My son is an officer in the Air Force, and I am a vet and I was raised in a military family. I think it is a sad state of affairs when we have illegal aliens having a Medicaid card that can access specialist top physicians, the best of medical and our vets can't even get to a doctor. These are the people that we tied yellow ribbons for and Bush patted on the back. If we don't reenact the draft I don't think we will have anyone to chase Bin Laden to the gates of hell.

JOHN MCCAIN: Ma'am let me say that I don't disagree with anything you said and thank you and I am grateful for your support of all of our veterans.

How to Burn the Speculators

NEWS: Why is the price of oil so high? Because the Bush administration did to the commodities market what it did to housing.

Whenever economies sour, politicians blame speculators. But on occasion, they are right to do so. Speculators did wreak havoc in 1630s Holland, 1720s France, and in the American stock market in 1929. That crash led to the Great Depression and 60 years of tight controls on speculation. Now, thanks to our 30-year infatuation with free markets, the controls are off, and the mad gamblers are at it again. Yesterday's burst bubble was housing; today's expanding ones are energy and food. True, we have major long-term energy problems that cannot be laid at the feet of speculators. To avoid catastrophic global warming, we will be obliged to reengineer the country, from housing to transport to forests, and How to Burn the Speculatorsalso to develop and export the technologies required for the rest of the world to do likewise. Eight years of George W. Bush's policies have made this much harder, and during that time the world may have passed "peak oil"—that moment when half the recoverable reserves of conventional oil have been drained and burned—so that from now on short supplies will be endemic. Meanwhile, demand grows, notably from China and India, which account for nearly 40 percent of the world's population.

But do supply and demand explain oil prices at $140 per barrel, with voices from Goldman Sachs projecting $200 for next year (a figure that would push gas prices above $5 per gallon) and Russia's Gazprom saying $250, despite a likely US recession? Do they explain the historic price hikes in rice, corn, and wheat, leading to hunger in the developing world? Do they explain the absolutely stratospheric price of copper? No they do not.

Yes, Virginia, speculators can affect the price—if they are large and relentless enough to dominate a market, and especially if they can store the commodity and keep it off the market as the price rises.

Fakery in Games makes plain China's contempt for reality

by Glenn Garvin

Time to clear the air: That's not smog hovering over Beijing, swallowing entire office buildings like a mighty python. It's just "a funny mist," says the city's environmental chief, who insists that the Chinese government has eliminated air pollution in the capital. And he's right: By moving its monitoring stations as far as 40 miles from the city center, Beijing's air-quality reports read like Irving Berlin lyrics: Blue skies, smilin' at me. Nothin' but blue skies do I see ...

If Berlin ought to be the official balladeer of the Beijing Olympics, the official currency should be the $3 bill. That's as in the phrase "phony as ..." From Spielbergian digitized fireworks to Milli Vanilli-esque lip syncing to let's-pretend newscasts, these Olympics have been the biggest public exercise in media-inspired fakery since Orson Welles' Martians terrorized New Jersey.

That cute-as-a-button little girl who sang during the Opening Ceremony? Actually, the voice belonged to another kid, whose big nose and crooked teeth were deemed unsuitable for the TV cameras. Those crowds of noisy fans in yellow T-shirts, banging inflatable batons? Government shills, "cheer squads" recruited to fill all the empty seats left by no-show tourists.

And the stunning display of opening-night fireworks that seemed to show a series of Godzilla-size footprints approaching Beijing? Computerized special effects inserted into the television broadcast. A reporter for The Oregonian in Portland, watching with a crowd in Tiananmen Square when the real fireworks went off, wrote that they saw only "two tiny flare-like blasts pop in the sky, followed by a lot of nothing."

Literally nothing at the Olympics is too important or too trivial for the Chinese to counterfeit. On the high end is free speech. China's totalitarian government swore it would permit protests and demonstrations during the Games, albeit only at three designated parks distant from Olympic venues. But apparently there's been a sudden burst of public contentment just in time for the Olympics; the parks are deserted, and Chinese authorities can't remember if they've issued any permits for demonstrations.

The Plot Against Liberal America

by Thomas Frank

The most cherished dream of conservative Washington is that liberalism can somehow be defeated, finally and irreversibly, in the way that armies are beaten and pests are exterminated. Electoral victories by Republicans are just part of the story. The larger vision is of a future in which liberalism is physically barred from the control room - of an "end of history" in which taxes and onerous regulation will never be allowed to threaten the fortunes private individuals make for themselves. This is the longing behind the former White House aide Karl Rove's talk of "permanent majority" and, 20 years previously, disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff's declaration to the Republican convention that it's "the job of all revolutions to make permanent their gains".

When I first moved to contemplate this peculiar utopian vision, I was struck by its apparent futility. What I did not understand was that beating liberal ideas was not the goal. The Washington conservatives aim to make liberalism irrelevant not by debating, but by erasing it. Building a majority coalition has always been a part of the programme, and conservatives have enjoyed remarkable success at it for more than 30 years. But winning elections was not a bid for permanence by itself. It was only a means.

The end was capturing the state, and using it to destroy liberalism as a practical alternative. The pattern was set by Margaret Thatcher, who used state power of the heaviest-handed sort to implant permanently the anti-state ideology.

"Economics are the method; the object is to change the soul," she said, echoing Stalin. In the 34 years before she became prime minister, Britain rode a see-saw of nationalisation, privatisation and renationalisation; Thatcher set out to end the game for good. Her plan for privatising council housing was designed not only to enthrone the market, but to encourage an ownership mentality and "change the soul" of an entire class of voters. When she sold off nationally owned industries, she took steps to ensure that workers received shares at below-market rates, leading hopefully to the same soul transformation. Her brutal suppression of the miners' strike in 1984 showed what now awaited those who resisted the new order. As a Business Week reporter summarised it in 1987: "She sees her mission as nothing less than eradicating Labour Party socialism as a political alternative."

Don't help them spread propaganda

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Books! The liberals #1 weapon

Injured? Horsing Around With Stem Cells May Get You Back in the Saddle

By Marty Graham 
Rocky Tuan, chief of the Cartilage Biology and Orthopaedics Branch, holds a vial containing native knee cartilage that was recovered from total knee replacement. Adult stem cells harvested from the cartilage will be seeded in biological scaffolding and will grow into similar cartilage tissue.
Courtesy NIAMS

Doctors might soon be able to regrow injured muscles, tendons and bones without invasive surgery, simply by injecting a person's own stem cells into the site of an injury. Veterinarians are already doing it with injured horses, and research into human applications is well under way.

The National Institutes for Health seem to think regenerating human muscle and bone using a person's own adult stem cells is nearly ready for prime time. Last week, the NIH announced to its staff that it's creating a bone marrow-stem cell transplant center within the NIH Clinical Research Center.

Researchers at the NIH labs in Bethesda, Maryland, are already growing human muscle, cartilage and spinal disks in vitro. The tissue isn't mechanically sound yet, says lead researcher Rocky Tuan, but that will come with further work.

"I have a piece of tissue that looks like a spinal disc, a sand bag, tough as nails on the outside and like sand on the inside," says Tuan, a Ph.D. and the senior investigator in the Cartilage and Orthopedics branch of the NIAMS. "The mechanical properties are lousy, but it's a beginning."

While the use of stem cells harvested from human embryos has been getting the most media attention, scientists and doctors have also been working with adult stem cells that also have the ability to become one with their environment and to replicate as cells of their adopted tissue. Using adult stem cells -- grown inside the body or in the lab -- has become accepted in the veterinary community, and horses have benefited greatly. Researchers are working to bring those same benefits to humans, but there are still hurdles left to clear.

McCain To Deliver Keynote Speech For Creationists

mccainToday is Darwin Day, commemorating the anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth and of the publishing of On the Origin of Species. The National Academy of Sciences, "the nation's most prestigious scientific organization," declares evolution "one of the strongest and most useful scientific theories we have." President Bush's science adviser John Marburger calls it "the cornerstone of modern biology."

Yet, on February 23, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will be the keynote speaker for the most prominent creationism advocacy group in the country. The Discovery Institute, a religious right think-tank, is well-known for its strong opposition to evolutionary biology and its advocacy for "intelligent design." The institute's main financial backer, savings and loan heir Howard Ahmanson, spent 20 years on the board of the Chalcedon Foundation, "a theocratic outfit that advocates the replacement of American civil law with biblical law."

McCain has an ambiguous record on whether he supports intelligent design in the science curriculum. In 2005, he said it should be taught:

Daily Star: Should intelligent design be taught in schools?

McCain: I think that there has to be all points of view presented. But they've got to be thoroughly presented. So to say that you can only teach one line of thinking I don't think is - or one belief on how people and the world was created - I think there's nothing wrong with teaching different schools of thought.

Daily Star: Does it belong in science?

McCain: There's enough scientists that believe it does. I'm not a scientist. This is something that I think all points of view should be presented.

But last year, he said the intelligent design theory should not be taught in the science classroom:

"I think Americans should be exposed to every point of view," he said. "I happen to believe in evolution…I respect those who think the world was created in seven days. Should it be taught as a science class? Probably not."

As McCain continues his lurch to the right, where will he come down on intelligent design in the science classroom? We'll be watching.

Bad News: Senate Votes Down Fisheries Rescue

photoAB 1806 would have stopped future fishery disasters like last year's Prospect Island fish kill from taking place by mandating the state and federal governments develop fish rescue plans. (Photo: Dan Bacher)

    Yesterday the California Senate failed to pass AB 1806, the landmark bill by Assemblywoman Lois Wolk (D-Davis) that would have required the state and federal Delta export pumping operations to fully mitigate for the damage they have caused to fisheries.

    The bill would have required fish rescue contingency plans in the event of future fishery disasters like the one that took place at Prospect Island in the northern Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in November 2007. During last year's fish kill, thousands of striped bass, Sacramento blackfish, Sacramento splittail, black bass, bluegill, catfish, threadfin shad and other species perished after the Bureau of Reclamation drained the island during a levee repair operation.

    "Unfortunately, they just lifted the call and AB 1806 failed passage on a vote of 18-21," said Diane Colborn, staff director for the Water Parks and Wildlife Committee. "Reconsideration was granted, but it does not look like we will be able to get the votes to get the bill off the Senate floor."

Cindy fabricates Mother Theresa story

Christian Science Monitor: The latest embellishments come from the McCain camp. Cindy McCain has repeatedly referred to herself as an “only child.” This week came news that she actually has two half sisters, although apparently she had very little contact with them.
The McCain campaign had also put out the story that Mother Teresa “convinced” Cindy to bring home two orphans from Bangladesh in 1991.

Mrs. McCain, it turns out, never met Mother Teresa on that trip. (Once contacted by the Monitor, the campaign revised the story on its website.)

I wonder if Cindy got her cookie recipes from Mother Theresa, too. It speaks volumes about the woman who hopes to be the First Lady of our country.

U.S. Watched as a Squabble Turned Into a Showdown

Five months ago, President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, long a darling of this city's diplomatic dinner party circuit, came to town to push for America to muscle his tiny country of four million into NATO.

On Capitol Hill, at the State Department and at the Pentagon, Mr. Saakashvili, brash and hyperkinetic, urged the West not to appease Russia by rejecting his country's NATO ambitions.

At the White House, President Bush bantered with the Georgian president about his prowess as a dancer. Laura Bush, the first lady, took Mr. Saakashvili's wife to lunch. Mr. Bush promised him to push hard for Georgia's acceptance into NATO. After the meeting, Mr. Saakashvili pronounced his visit "one of the most successful visits during my presidency," and said he did not know of any other leader of a small country with the access to the administration that he had.

Three weeks later, Mr. Bush went to the Black Sea resort of Sochi, at the invitation of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. There, he received a message from the Russian: the push to offer Ukraine and Georgia NATO membership was crossing Russia's "red lines," according to an administration official close to the talks.

Afterward, Mr. Bush said of Mr. Putin, "He's been very truthful and to me, that's the only way you can find common ground." It was one of many moments when the United States seemed to have missed — or gambled it could manage — the depth of Russia's anger and the resolve of the Georgian president to provoke the Russians.

The story of how a 16-year, low-grade conflict over who should rule two small, mountainous regions in the Caucasus erupted into the most serious post-cold-war showdown between the United States and Russia is one of miscalculation, missed signals and overreaching, according to interviews with diplomats and senior officials in the United States, the European Union, Russia and Georgia. In many cases, the officials would speak only on the condition of anonymity.

The American school where teachers carry a pen, a ruler and ... a gun

· Teachers in Texan town allowed to carry pistols
· Remote location could make it a target, say locals

When teachers return for a new school term in the tiny Texas farming town of Harrold, they can bring a extra tool of the trade alongside books, pens and worksheets. To defend pupils from any gun-toting maniacs, they can carry loaded pistols into the classroom.

With barely 300 residents, the remote rural community in the state's northern dustbowl has appalled gun control advocates by becoming the first in the US to allow its teachers to bear concealed firearms.

Harrold's school board maintains that the move is necessary because the town is 25 miles from the nearest sheriff's office, making it hard to get swift help in an emergency. Its location just yards from a major highway, America's north-south interstate 287, makes it a potential "target" for armed maniacs.

"We are 30 minutes from law enforcement," Harrold's school superintendent, David Thweatt, told the Guardian. "How long do you think it would take to kill all 150 of us? It would be a bloodbath."

Carefully selected teachers are to be trained in crisis management including handling hostage situations. Thweatt said: "When you have good guys with guns, the bad guys do less damage."

Extreme Heat A Threat To World's Poor

Audio  Slideshow: Drought Ends Nomadic Life Of Tuaregs

All Things Considered · Extreme temperatures around the world are likely to rise dramatically as a result of global warming, a new study finds. Some heavily populated parts of the world — including the American Midwest — could face heat waves in which the temperature soars above 120 degrees by the end of this century.

These extreme heat waves are likely to kill people and crops alike.

The study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that extreme temperatures will rise two or three times faster than average temperatures. So in Europe, peak highs could go from a sweltering 100 degrees up to 110 or 115 degrees. There's even a chance the mercury could hit Sahara-style highs of 120 degrees.

Temperatures in the 120s could also strike Australia and the American Midwest, according to the study, which used climate-change models developed for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The Future: A Retrospective

by Leonard Richardson

In May 2007 I found a book in a used bookstore called Future Stuff, by Malcolm Abrams and Harriet Bernstein. It was published in 1989, and it described about 275 consumer products that:

...should be in your supermarket, hardware store, pharmacy, department store, or otherwise available by the year 2000.

It was based on interviews with the people who were working on these products. It made concrete predictions, with dates and estimated prices. The predictions were more or less wrong.

This is what happens when you predict the future. What I didn't expect was the sheer variety of ways in which the predictions were wrong. Most books of predictions I've seen come from the 1960s or earlier, and their predictions have no relationship to today's reality. But when I started looking up the technologies described in Future Stuff, I found that almost all of them do exist in some form or another.

Some of them exist more or less as described ("Flat TV"). Some exist more or less as described but nobody buys them ("Vending Machine French Fries"). Some are too expensive to be practical ("Privacy Windows"). Some were big hits in totally different fields than the ones they were marketed to ("Binocular Glasses", "Self-Stirring Saucepan"). Many exist in greatly improved form thanks to mobile phones ("Watch Pager") and the Internet ("Weather Cube", "The Guerilla Information Network")—two technologies that existed when Future Stuff was published, yet which don't seem to be mentioned at all.

Some achieved success by abandoning the high-tech trappings with which Future Stuff burdens them ("Telephone Smart Cards", "Solar-Powered Cooker"). Some made a fortune ("Impotency Pills") for someone other than the person mentioned in Future Stuff. Some failed because of tragic flaws ("Frozen Beverage Mug", "Non-Fattening Fat"), others for contingent reasons of history ("Digital Tape Measure", "Self-Weeding Lawn"). Some remain pipe dreams today ("The Flying Car"). And some ("Mood Suit") were just ridiculous.

This website is an audit of 1989's future. It ran from June 10, 2007 to March 11, 2008, presenting one Future Stuff entry per day. I found out what happened to the predicted products, and to the people and companies who were going to bring them to you. I dug up the appropriate patents and old articles about the products.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Nations don't invade other nations

Is Jon Stewart the Most Trusted Man in America?



IT'S been more than eight years since "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" made its first foray into presidential politics with the presciently named Indecision 2000, and the difference in the show's approach to its coverage then and now provides a tongue-in-cheek measure of the show's striking evolution.

Jon Stewart describes the morning meeting as "a gathering of curmudgeons expressing frustration and upset."

In 1999, the "Daily Show" correspondent Steve Carell struggled to talk his way off Senator John McCain's overflow press bus — "a repository for outcasts, misfits and journalistic bottom-feeders" — and onto the actual Straight Talk Express, while at the 2000 Republican Convention Mr. Stewart self-deprecatingly promised exclusive coverage of "all the day's events — at least the ones we're allowed into." In this year's promotional spot for "The Daily Show's" convention coverage, the news newbies have been transformed into a swaggering A Team — "the best campaign team in the universe ever," working out of " 'The Daily Show' news-scraper: 117 stories, 73 situation rooms, 26 news tickers," and promising to bring "you all the news stories — first ... before it's even true."

Though this spot is the program's mocking sendup of itself and the news media's mania for self-promotion, it inadvertently gets at one very real truth: the emergence of "The Daily Show" as a genuine cultural and political force. When Americans were asked in a 2007 poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press to name the journalist they most admired, Mr. Stewart, the fake news anchor, came in at No. 4, tied with the real news anchors Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw of NBC, Dan Rather of CBS and Anderson Cooper of CNN. And a study this year from the center's Project for Excellence in Journalism concluded that " 'The Daily Show' is clearly impacting American dialogue" and "getting people to think critically about the public square."

The Anger, the Longing, the Hope

Uri Avnery's Column 
ONE OF the wisest pronouncements I have heard in my life was that of an Egyptian general, a few days after Anwar Sadat's historic visit to Jerusalem.

We were the first Israelis to come to Cairo, and one of the things we were very curious about was: how did you manage to surprise us at the beginning of the October 1973 war?

The general answered: "Instead of reading the intelligence reports, you should have read our poets."

I reflected on these words last Wednesday, at the funeral of Mahmoud Darwish.

DURING THE funeral ceremony in Ramallah he was referred to again and again as "the Palestinian National Poet".

But he was much more than that. He was the embodiment of the Palestinian destiny. His personal fate coincided with the fate of his people.

He was born in al-Birwa, a village on the Acre-Safad road. As early as 900 years ago, a Persian traveler reported that he had visited this village and prostrated himself on the graves of "Esau and Simeon, may they rest in peace". In 1931, ten years before the birth of Mahmoud, the population of the village numbered 996, of whom 92 were Christians and the rest Sunni Muslims.

On June 11, 1948, the village was captured by the Jewish forces. Its 224 houses were eradicated soon after the war, together with those of 650 other Palestinian villages. Only some cactus plants and a few ruins still testify to their past existence. The Darwish family fled just before the arrival of the troops, taking 7-year old Mahmoud with them.

Justice Dept. Moves Toward Charges Against Contractors in Iraq Shooting

An Iraqi policeman inspects a car that was destroyed when Blackwater security guards opened fire in Baghdad, killing 17 civilians.
An Iraqi policeman inspects a car that was destroyed when Blackwater security guards opened fire in Baghdad, killing 17 civilians. (By Khalid Mohammed -- Associated Press)

Federal prosecutors have sent target letters to six Blackwater Worldwide security guards involved in a September shooting that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead, indicating a high likelihood the Justice Department will seek to indict at least some of the men, according to three sources close to the case.

The guards, all former U.S. military personnel, were working as security contractors for the State Department, assigned to protect U.S. diplomats and other non-military officials in Iraq. The shooting occurred when their convoy arrived at a busy square in central Baghdad and guards tried to stop traffic.

An Iraqi government investigation concluded that the security contractors fired without provocation. Blackwater has said its personnel acted in self-defense.

The sources said that any charges against the guards would likely be brought under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, which has previously been used to prosecute only the cases referred to the Justice Department by the Defense Department for crimes committed by military personnel and contractors overseas. Legal experts have questioned whether contractors working for the State Department can be prosecuted under its provisions.


Ukraine offers satellite defence co-operation with Europe and US

Ukraine inflamed mounting East-West tensions yesterday by offering up a Soviet-built satellite facility as part of the European missile defence system.
Russian troops to withdraw from Georgia at noon today, according to the country's president. ;

The proposal, made amid growing outrage among Russia's neighbours over its military campaign in Georgia, could see Ukraine added to Moscow's nuclear hitlist. A Russian general declared Poland a target for its arsenal after Warsaw signed a deal with Washington to host interceptor missiles for America's anti-nuclear shield.

The move came as the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, signed a cease-fire deal that sets the stage for a Russian troop withdrawal after more than a week of warfare with its neighbour Georgia.

The deal calls for both Russian and Georgian forces to pull back to positions they held before fighting erupted on August 8. As of last night, though, there was little apparent evidence of a Russian pull-out from the Georgian town of Gori, which Russian tanks and troops took last weekend. Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, insisted a broader withdrawal would be contingent on further security measures.

Just hours before Mr Medvedev put his signature to the ceasefire deal, Russian forces blew up a Georgian railway bridge on the main line west of the capital, Tbilisi, an act that critics interpreted as a malicious attempt to cripple the country's infrastructure. Moscow at first issued a denial, but television footage shot by the Reuters news agency clearly showed the bridge's twisted remains.

Hillary's The One!

Nearing the end of a week's vacation, Barack Obama now faces the toughest decision of his life. He has to come back from Hawaii ready to announce his running mate. And for me it's a no-brainer.

Forget Tim Kaine. He's an impressive young governor of a key swing state, but he has even less foreign policy or national security experience than Obama. Forget Evan Bayh. Again, a popular former governor, now senator, of a key Rust Belt state, but a big, early supporter of the war in Iraq and not exactly a firecracker on the stump. By the same measure, and for similar reasons, forget Bill Richardson, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd.

They are all good people. Each of them would make an outstanding member of Obama's Cabinet. But there's only one person with the firepower needed in a vice-presidential candidate. If Barack Obama really wants to blow John McCain out of the water, the best candidate by far is . . . Sen. Hillary Clinton.

It's all about winning in November. So think about the math. She got 18 million votes in the primaries; he got 18 million votes. She won the women and working-class vote; he won the African-American and white-collar vote. Put the two of them together and you have an unbeatable ticket: experience and promise, inspiration
and perspiration, change squared. It's the one sure way to unite and excite the party.

Conservative Party linked to pro-U.S. annexation cabal

Conservatives Put Canada's Most Vulnerable on Chopping Block

Compiled by John Stokes

  Stephen Harper Militarism

Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The Liberal Opposition chastises the Conservative government for cutting $1 billion in funding that targets the most vulnerable Canadians, despite at the same time reporting a near-record surplus of $13.2 billion for 2005-06.

"The vindictive, mean-spirited cuts targeted at the weak, the needy, the vulnerable and the marginalized in Canada, could only have been dreamt up by the insider group of Conservative Mike Harris hold-over ministers in this government," said Liberal Leader Bill Graham. "Conservatives have continued their "them versus us" mentality. People without money or clout get clobbered by them. In a country as blessed as ours, how does the Prime Minister justify cuts to funding for immigrant youth, aboriginal women, adults with literacy problems, housing for the disabled and vulnerable workers?

"When the Liberal Party inherited the Government of Canada, we had a $42 billion deficit, and we managed it for the people of this country" Mr. Graham continued. "The Conservatives got a $13 billion surplus that they're squandering and they won't give a cent to poor people.

A New Low

A place for a tired old woman to try to figure things out so that the world makes a bit of sense.
On August 5, US newspapers carried the story of the capture of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman who was trained in neuroscience here in the United States. Typical of the stories was this one in the NY Times. The report was fairly neutral, but there were some gaps in the coverage which seemed a little puzzling. Dr. Siddiqui was brought back to the US and charged in a New York federal district court for the crime of shooting at FBI agents. There was no other terrorism related charge, yet she was identified as someone who worked closely with Al Qaeda. Rather curious, don't you think?

Yesterday, during my usual visit to Watching America, I came across this opinion column written by Aijaz Zaka Syed for the United Arab Emirates' Khaleej Times Online. It raises similar questions and suggests some possible answers.

JUST when you think Uncle Sam's war has no more surprises to spring on an unsuspecting world, he comes up with yet another gem.

Take the case of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who grew up in the US and went to top universities including the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The woman who had been a star student and a topper throughout a remarkable career had to leave the US when the authorities began harassing her and her husband for their charity activities in the wake of September 11 upheavals.

The family settled down in Karachi and was never involved in any illegal activities. One day in March 2003, this talented young woman went missing with her three children when she was on her way to Karachi airport.

Dr Siddiqui resurfaced this week after five years in a New York court as a 'top Al Qaeda terrorist'. She was barely able to walk and speak, which was not surprising given the fact she had been recently involved in a "gun fight with FBI agents" in Afghanistan. The US authorities claim Dr Siddiqui was captured near the governor's offices in Ghazni, Afghanistan last month with a bag full of "suspicious liquids in tubes."

If you think this is an incredible yarn, here's some more food for thought. We are told Siddiqui assaulted a team of US troops and FBI officials with a highly sophisticated weapon when they went to quiz her in Afghanistan. ...

There are some basic questions that an ordinary mind like mine just can't seem to figure out.

First, where was Aafia Siddiqui hiding or hidden all these years - since she went missing in Karachi in March 2003? How did she turn up in the remote Ghazni province in Afghanistan, of all the God-forsaken places? And what happened to her three children?

Separated at birth?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Real McCains

The Candidate We Still Don’t Know


AS I went on vacation at the end of July, Barack Obama was leading John McCain by three to four percentage points in national polls. When I returned last week he still was. But lo and behold, a whole new plot twist had rolled off the bloviation assembly line in those intervening two weeks: Obama had lost the election!

The poor guy should be winning in a landslide against the despised party of Bush-Cheney, and he's not. He should be passing the 50 percent mark in polls, and he's not. He's been done in by that ad with Britney and Paris and by a new international crisis that allows McCain to again flex his Manchurian Candidate military cred. Let the neocons identify a new battleground for igniting World War III, whether Baghdad or Tehran or Moscow, and McCain gets with the program as if Angela Lansbury has just dealt him the Queen of Hearts.

Obama has also been defeated by racism (again). He can't connect and "close the deal" with ordinary Americans too doltish to comprehend a multicultural biography that includes what Cokie Roberts of ABC News has damned as the "foreign, exotic place" of Hawaii. As The Economist sums up the received wisdom, "lunch-pail Ohio Democrats" find Obama's ideas of change "airy-fairy" and are all asking, "Who on earth is this guy?"

Did McCain Plagiarize His Speech on the Georgia Crisis?

A Wikipedia editor emailed Political Wire to point out some similarities between Sen. John McCain's speech today on the crisis in Georgia and the Wikipedia article on the country Georgia. Given the closeness of the words and sentence structure, most would consider parts of McCain's speech to be derived directly from Wikipedia.

First instance:

one of the first countries in the world to adopt Christianity as an official religion (Wikipedia)


one of the world's first nations to adopt Christianity as an official religion (McCain)

Second instance:

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Georgia had a brief period of independence as a Democratic Republic (1918-1921), which was terminated by the Red Army invasion of Georgia. Georgia became part of the Soviet Union in 1922 and regained its independence in 1991. Early post-Soviet years was marked by a civil unrest and economic crisis. (Wikipedia)


After a brief period of independence following the Russian revolution, the Red Army forced Georgia to join the Soviet Union in 1922. As the Soviet Union crumbled at the end of the Cold War, Georgia regained its independence in 1991, but its early years were marked by instability, corruption, and economic crises. (McCain)

Third instance:

In 2003, Shevardnadze (who won reelection in 2000) was deposed by the Rose Revolution, after Georgian opposition and international monitors asserted that the 2 November parliamentary elections were marred by fraud. The revolution was led by Mikheil Saakashvili, Zurab Zhvania and Nino Burjanadze, former members and leaders of Shavarnadze's ruling party. Mikheil Saakashvili was elected as President of Georgia in 2004. Following the Rose Revolution, a series of reforms was launched to strengthen the country's military and economic capabilities. (Wikipedia)


Following fraudulent parliamentary elections in 2003, a peaceful, democratic revolution took place, led by the U.S.-educated lawyer Mikheil Saakashvili. The Rose Revolution changed things dramatically and, following his election, President Saakashvili embarked on a series of wide-ranging and successful reforms. (McCain)

Granted the third instance isn't as close as the first two, which seem quite obviously taken from Wikipedia.

It should be noted that Wikipedia material can be freely used but always requires attribution under its terms of use. Whether a presidential candidate should base policy speeches on material from Wikipedia is another question entirely.


A Cut-and-Paste Foreign Policy

by Joe Conason

The discovery that John McCain's remarks on Georgia were derived from Wikipedia, to put it politely, is disturbing and even depressing — but not surprising. Under the tutelage of the neoconservatives, who revealed their superficial understanding of Iraq both before and after the invasion, he favors bellicose grandstanding over strategic thinking. So why delve deeper than a quick Google search?

Worse still, neither he nor his advisers yet grasp how our misadventure in Mesopotamia has diminished American power and prestige. In fact, the Wikipedia episode — an awful embarrassment that would have devastated the presidential campaign of Barack Obama or any other Democrat — revealed an underlying weakness in Sen. McCain's vaunted grasp of foreign policy.

Still enthralled by an exhausted ideology, he seems unable to analyze how we can avoid manipulation by allies or adversaries while advancing our own real interests. Those interests include the cultivation of democracy but also the promotion of regional stability and international security. Pretending to confront Russia from a position of weakness doesn't help.

Frankly, the Arizona Republican's latest foray onto the world stage suggested that he is not quite ready for the responsibilities of the presidency. When he emphasized that Georgia was "one of the world's first nations to adopt Christianity as an official religion," he sounded like a politician who will gladly damage our global influence merely for the sake of pandering to his partisan base.

The Hillary conundrum

Peak Oil, Missing Oil Meters and an Inactive Pipeline:

by Paul Chefurka 


In this article I will present research that supports a rather startling hypothesis: that the USA invaded Iraq primarily to enable the secret diversion of a portion of Iraq's oil production to Saudi Arabia. This was done in order to disguise the fact that Saudi Arabia's oil output has peaked, and may be in permanent decline.  The evidence for this conclusion is circumstantial, but it does knit up many of the loose threads in the mystery of the American administration's motivation for invasion.

To lay the groundwork we need to set out a couple of assumptions.

The primary assumption is that the world's oil production has been on a plateau for the last two years, and in fact we may be teetering on the brink of the production decline predicted by the Peak Oil theory. Such a decline could be dangerous to the world economy, both directly through the loss of economic capacity and indirectly (and perhaps more importantly) through the loss of investor confidence in the global economic structure.

The second assumption is that the oil production of Saudi Arabia is key to maintaining the global oil supply.  Saudi Arabia supplies over 10% of the world's crude oil, with over half of that coming from one enormous field named Ghawar.  There is a large and well-informed body of opinion that believes that if Saudi oil production goes into decline the world will follow because there is not the spare capacity anywhere else to make up for such a decline.  Saudi Arabia is notoriously tight-lipped about the state of their oil fields, and in fact oil production information is considered to be a state secret. The only trustworthy information the world really has about Saudi Arabia's oil are their aggregated production figures.

The conclusion that can be drawn from these two assumptions is that if Saudi Arabia's production began to decline and the world found out about it, there would be a significant risk of a world-wide economic panic that would destabilize markets and throw nations like the USA into a recession or depression that would be worse than the actual damage done by the loss of the oil.  We can assume that the prevention or postponement of such a crisis would be an extremely high priority for the administrations of both the USA and Saudi Arabia.

Paul Krugman: Accentuate the Negative

by Paul Krugman

So the Obama campaign has turned to the politics of personal destruction, attempting to make a campaign issue out of John McCain's inability to remember how many houses he has. And the turn comes not a moment too soon.

Over the past month or so many Democrats have had the sick feeling that once again their candidate brought a knife to a gunfight. Barack Obama's campaign, inexplicably, was unprepared for the inevitable Republican attack on the candidate's character. By the middle of last week, Mr. Obama's once formidable lead, both in national polls and in electoral college projections based on state-level polls, had virtually evaporated.

Mr. Obama's waning advantage brought back bad memories of the 2004 campaign, whose key lesson was that there are no limits to the form G.O.P. character attacks can take.

Why Joe Biden?

Posted by royters

Sen. Barack Obama is on the defensive, already being forced to explain why he chose Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware to be his running mate.  Critics of the decision point out the following:

1) Biden voted in favor of the Iraq War, which contradicts Obama's central message of judgment;

2) Biden has been a Senator for almost 40 years, which contradicts Obama's message of change,

3) Biden is from a small Mid Atlantic state, this makes Obama's 50-state strategy look like a PR campaign only,


4) Biden's age makes it unlikely that he will be able to run for office following a potential Obama administration.

Obama forcefully defended his pick.  "Joe brings a lot of foreign policy experience to the ticket," said Senator Obama while measuring the White House for curtains, "And you need to have someone with such experience in your Administration.  It's not like there's a cabinet position that deals with foreign-policy every single day.  Had there been a cabinet spot whose job description involved meeting with world leaders daily and troubleshooting international crises, I certainly would have put Biden in that slot.  But since such a position doesn't exist, I had no choice but to make Biden my VP."

Political commentators have learned that Obama tried to select the Feres twins, but that the two failed to meet the constitutional requirements forcing him two go with Biden instead.

Recession? Not yet.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Russian Bear

What Obama must do to win

"I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation [n ] or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office." —John F. Kennedy, 1960 Any Democrat who imagines that Barack Obama's got the presidential election locked up needs to watch the so-called Saddleback forum featuring him and John McCain online at cnn. com. Broadcast live on Aug. 16, it was hosted by Rick Warren, the California televangelist and author of "The Purpose Driven Life," a spiritual self-help manual for people who think God drives an SUV and a Christian's highest calling is monitoring others' sexual behavior. The calculatedly casual Warren—he preaches to congregations of upwards of 17, 000 wearing blue jeans and an untucked, open-collared shirt—definitely marks an evolutionary step up from the Virginia divines Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell. During the two hours, there were no melodramatic Armageddon predictions, no accusations that Democrats are in league with Satan, nothing about flinging virgins into volcanoes to appease a wrathful God.

OK, maybe even Falwell never said that. Warren's more like a TV game-show host, a description he embraces, than a fire-and-brimstone shouter. He urges his followers not to hate people they disagree with.

Even so, it's possible to feel disquiet about presidential candidates submitting themselves to spiritual inquisition by any preacher. Will they next undergo questioning by a Catholic cardinal ? A rabbi ? Orthodox or Reformed ? A Muslim imam ? By Christopher Hitchens, bestselling scourge of God ? I know a female Methodist preacher I'd enjoy watching give McCain the third degree.

That's the Ticket!

Why loquacious Delaware senator Joe Biden is a terrific vice-presidential pick for Barack Obama.

Senator Joe Biden, Barack Obama's vice-presidential selectionIt's a great pick! He connects with blue-collar voters and reassures voters worried about Barack Obama's foreign policy inexperience.
It's a lousy pick! He's prone to gaffes and, as a senior member of the Senate, steps on the message of change.

In the next few days, pundits will be obsessing over the political impact of putting Joe Biden on the Democratic ticket. But the more important questions are the more tangible ones. Is Biden qualified to serve as an advisor to the president and, in an emergency, his stand-in? What does this selection tells us about the way Obama makes decisions?

The answer to the first question is unambiguously "yes."