Monday, April 21, 2008

Daily Freep - Monday, April 21, 2008

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858 (Slight Return)
by publius

Presidential candidates Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas held this debate on April 16, 1858 at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


MR. GIBSON: So we're going to begin with opening statements, and we had a flip of the coin, and the brief opening statement first from Mr. Lincoln.

LINCOLN: Thank you very much, Charlie and George, and thanks to all in the audience and who are out there. I appear before you today for the purpose of discussing the leading political topics which now agitate the public mind.

We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm sorry to interrupt, but do you think Mr. Douglas loves America as much you do?

LINCOLN: Sure I do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But who loves America more?

LINCOLN: I'd prefer to get on with my opening statement George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: If your love for America were eight apples, how many apples would Senator Douglas's love be?



LINCOLN: In my opinion, slavery will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. "A house divided against itself cannot stand." I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Excuse me, did an Elijah H. Johnson attend your church?

LINCOLN: When I was a boy in Illinois forty years ago, yes. I think he was a deacon.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you aware that he regularly called Kentucky "a land of swine and whores"?

LINCOLN: Sounds right -- his ex-wife was from Kentucky.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Why did you remain in the church after hearing those statements?

LINCOLN: I was eight.

DOUGLAS: This is an important question George -- it's an issue that certainly will be raised in the fall.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you denounce him?

LINCOLN: I'd like to get back to the divided house if I may.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you denounce and reject him?

LINCOLN: If it will make you shut up, yes, I denounce and reject him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you denounce and reject him with sugar on top?


STEPHANOPOULOS: No takesies-backsies?


STEPHANOPOULOS: Whoa, so you would consider a takesie-backsie?

LINCOLN: That's not what I meant…

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Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
by Susan Estrich

It was in the 90s and sunny all weekend here in Southern California. With the start of the workweek, it's cooled down a bit, to the comfortable 60s and 70s. Still sunny. No rain.

And, oh, yes, there's a 99 percent chance of a major earthquake in the next 30 years. Just that.

I hear Pompeii had good weather, too.

On Monday, a team of seismologists issued the first statewide report on the probability of future earthquakes, and the news, for those who chose to pay attention to it, was pretty terrifying. The chance of a 6.7 magnitude quake striking one of the many active faults in California within the next 30 years is now more than 99 percent.

Which is to say it's a virtual certainty.

And that's not all. There is also at least a 46 percent chance of a much more damaging quake of a magnitude of 7.5 or more, and that would probably be in the southern part of the state, which is, of course, where I happen to live.

It's not that these numbers are particularly new. But it's the first time federal and state scientists have gotten together to do a statewide report, and the calculations for Southern California are more detailed than in prior reports, which makes them slightly more difficult to forget immediately upon reading.

According to David Schwartz, a member of the team that put together the new estimates and an earthquake geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, denial seems to be what we Californians do best. "In our two major metropolitan areas where odds are high that a large quake is coming, people think a lot about quakes whenever even a smaller one shakes ... but 10 days later most folks forget them, and they shouldn't."

But what can you do, other than forget?

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It's not just a job, it's a career
by Richard Roeper

From Boynton Beach, Fla., comes the story of three men dressed in black who marched into a strip club and peppered the dancers with paintballs.
The suspects allegedly paintballed the club on behalf of a dancer who had a monetary dispute with the manager.

From the Palm Beach Post: "Officers rushed in to discover three dancers, ages 28, 44 and 51, peppered with pink paintballs and covered in circular bruises . . ."

To review: What's the most astonishing element of this story?

That's right -- it's the fact that the average age of the three stripper-victims is 41.

The idea of a 51-year-old stripper is either very sad, or proof that 50 really is the new 40. Or 30. Or something.

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The Consensus on Global Warming: From Science to Industry & Religion
By Logical Science

Climate change critics like Richard Lindzen try to say "There's no consensus on global warming." in the Wall Street Journal, in front of Congress, and many other places. This argument has also been made repeatedly on Fox News. Other researchers like Dean Dr. Mark H. Thiemens say this "has nothing to do with reality". The following is a list of quotes from scientific organizations, academies, scientists, industry spokesmen, etc supporting the existence of man made climate change and the need to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Many of these quotes reference the IPCC or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which is widely regarded by mainstream scientists as either the "most reliable" or one of the most reliable sources for accurate information on climate change. As you will notice, the evidence against the consensus critics like Lindzen and pundits on Fox News is overwhelming. If you are confused as to whose opinion matters, just pay attention to the peer review science journals and the National Academy of Sciences. For those that don't know, the National Academies are like the Supreme Court of science. The number of climate scientists in the US can be found by examining the members of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). As of November 10, 2006 we know that there is a minimum (no official count of foreign climatologists is available) of 20,000 working climatologists worldwide. An important fact to remember is that many high profile critics you see in the news do not qualify as climate scientists when these standards are applied. Keep both of these concepts in mind the next time you see a handful of self proclaiming "climate scientists" with dissenting opinions. It is also important to note that Exxon Mobil is funding a $10,000 bounty for climate denialists and skeptics. If only 2% of the 20,000 climatologists were bought out then we'd have 400 deniers (skeptics are convinced by science not money). If you have suggestions for the addition of other quotes please post them at our blog.

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Papal Pomp, Millions Misery

Global homeless cannot afford opiate: religion
By Carolyn Bennett

Human beings are not naturally predisposed to opiate: religion. They are pushed. The masses of human beings hunt for distraction because they have been made to believe that, as human beings, they are worthless, hopeless, helpless vessels in need of messiahs crafted in a variety of shapes, shades and shams by self-righteous men.

Distraction surrounds us. Information and image producers, television propagandists, popes and priests and their pomp, mind-altering agents and agencies: warmongers and suicide bomber coaches, pharmaceutical companies and physician carriers, liquor makers and merchants, dope dealers and street hustlers, they're all the same. They exist to distract and destroy, whichever comes first, human mind/spirit and its potential.

We know this because we the masses would rather bend the knee than stretch the mind (Someone smarter than I originated that line). We don't solve problems; we pray or cross our fingers-methods equally ineffective in solving problems. We seem to have been proselytized that way.

If popes and priests and rabbis and imams had ever been seriously interested in ending global misery of the masses, ending war and violence, they would have done so long ago. Lord knows they are big enough and powerful enough and peopled enough, and they have siphoned off enough money from people of all economic strata and circumstances to have created world prosperity. But instead they have existed on creating misery. They are the leeches on world societies. They write the books, religious texts etched in stone, blessing the poor while fleecing them into wandering destabilized upheavaled desperate homelessness.

The spectacle of a government leader this week kissing the ring of a religious man was disgusting (there ought to be a law against it) and a glaring image and illustration of WHY women remain among the oppressed in a misery sanctioned and sanctified for an eternity. Who bought that robe and ring and shining chariot of distraction? The masses.

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The Four Horsemen
Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens have a little chat.

Media Shit Storms and Heartland Reality
By Joe Bageant

There seems to be no end to the media mediocrity we must suffer in this country. Now we have the Obama Guns, God and Bitterness shit storm, with the shit pouring forth from the same media scuppers (scuppers are outlet sewage blowholes on the sides of ships) as usual: The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post,, the Associated Press, Fox News, Reuters, Politico, the Lou Dobbs Show, Hardball, Olbermann's Countdown, The, The DailyKos, TalkingPointsMemo.

And all because Obama mentioned something we've known for at least a couple of decades now: That the government has been fucking over the nation's heartland towns and the "little guy" Americans inhabiting them.

To quote Obama:

"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. ... And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not."

So what the hell else is new?

Then Obama adds: "And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

While not precisely correct, it's a good enough generalization for an American audience not really listening anyway. Obama's remarks were not in the least controversial and just plain boring in terms of content. Certainly not newsworthy.

Yet he had no sooner closed his mouth than this media manufactured hell broke loose. "Oh my gawd," they screamed. This guy has the unmitigated gall to suggest that their might be some bitterness out here in the lily white realms of Grant Wood, grange halls and Methodist church suppers! Right here in River City!" -- where the combination of God rhetoric and Chamber of Commerce boosterism have managed to ban the word from public discourse. Even the mention of it can be explosive, simply because there is so much of it stuffed inside working folks, inside the lockbox of denial that comes with being the citizen of a culture in collapse.

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McCain releases his tax returns - not hers
The disclosures from 2006 and 2007 indicate that he spent most of his own income, suggesting that Cindy McCain funds their lifestyle. The campaign cites privacy concerns in not releasing her data.
By Ralph Vartabedian and Maeve Reston

Sen. John McCain reported income of $405,409 last year, but the money he spent on charitable contributions, wages to household staff, alimony and taxes ate up most of that -- showing how his wife, Cindy, helped support a wealthy lifestyle.

McCain on Friday released his 2007 and 2006 tax returns, but not those of his wife, whose income from ownership of a beer distributor far exceeds $1 million, according to financial disclosure statements filed previously in the Senate.

McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has never before released his tax returns. Outside groups estimate the McCains' combined wealth to be between $28 million and $100 million.

Democratic presidential contenders Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama filed joint returns with their spouses, providing a clearer picture of their finances. Those returns, dating to 2000, were recently released.

"John McCain's lack of transparency is troubling and raises questions about what he's hiding," Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said in a statement Friday.

John and Cindy McCain,married since 1980, file separate tax returns and hold a wide range of assets separately. The McCain campaign said Cindy McCain would not release her tax returns in "the interest of protecting the privacy of her children."

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Fascism Anyone?
Laurence W. Britt

Free Inquiry readers may pause to read the Affirmations of Humanism: A Statement of Principles on the inside cover of the magazine. To a secular humanist, these principles seem so logical, so right, so crucial. Yet, there is one archetypal political philosophy that is anathema to almost all of these principles. It is fascism. And fascisms principles are wafting in the air today, surreptitiously masquerading as something else, challenging everything we stand for. The cliché that people and nations learn from history is not only overused, but also overestimated; often we fail to learn from history, or draw the wrong conclusions. Sadly, historical amnesia is the norm.

We are two-and-a-half generations removed from the horrors of Nazi Germany, although constant reminders jog the consciousness. German and Italian fascism form the historical models that define this twisted political worldview. Although they no longer exist, this worldview and the characteristics of these models have been imitated by protofascist regimes at various times in the twentieth century. Both the original German and Italian models and the later protofascist regimes show remarkably similar characteristics. Although many scholars question any direct connection among these regimes, few can dispute their visual similarities.

Beyond the visual, even a cursory study of these fascist and protofascist regimes reveals the absolutely striking convergence of their modus operandi. This, of course, is not a revelation to the informed political observer, but it is sometimes useful in the interests of perspective to restate obvious facts and in so doing shed needed light on current circumstances.

For the purpose of this perspective, I will consider the following regimes: Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco's Spain, Salazar's Portugal, Papadopoulos's Greece, Pinochet's Chile, and Suharto's Indonesia. To be sure, they constitute a mixed bag of national identities, cultures, developmental levels, and history. But they all followed the fascist or protofascist model in obtaining, expanding, and maintaining power. Further, all these regimes have been overthrown, so a more or less complete picture of their basic characteristics and abuses is possible.

Analysis of these seven regimes reveals fourteen common threads that link them in recognizable patterns of national behavior and abuse of power. These basic characteristics are more prevalent and intense in some regimes than in others, but they all share at least some level of similarity.

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Oil multinationals of old admit powerless to influence prices
by AFP

Oil-consuming countries and international oil producers acknowledged Sunday they can no longer influence oil prices, as a global gathering of the energy elite got underway in Rome.

"In the 1970s, international oil companies (IOCs) controlled nearly 75 percent of global oil reserves and 80 percent of oil production," said Paolo Scaroni, head of Italian petroleum group Eni.

"Now, IOCs control only six percent of oil and 20 percent of gas reserves, and 24 percent of oil and 35 percent of gas production. The rest is in the hands of national oil companies."

With crude futures crossing 117 dollars per barrel in New York on Friday, producer countries such as Venezuela or Russia have less and less need of the old "majors" to help them develop their untapped reserves.

"This doesn't mean IOCs have completely lost their role and are set to disappear," added Scaroni, whose apology for pulling out of Qatar in 2002 offered the perfect symbol of a profound shift in the balance of oil power.

"But it does mean that they need to profoundly rethink their business model in order to survive and prosper in the new oil and gas landscape."

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Russert suggested GOP would run ads against Obama featuring "Pledge of Allegiance" charge without noting it's false
by Media Matters for America
Summary: On Meet the Press, Tim Russert asserted that "many Democrats fear Republicans in the fall will string together an ad which shows," among other things, "[Sen.] Barack Obama with his hands clasped in front of him rather than holding his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance." However, the photo to which Russert was apparently referring appeared in Time magazine with a caption indicating it was taken during the national anthem, not the Pledge of Allegiance.
On the April 20 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, host Tim Russert asserted that "many Democrats fear Republicans in the fall will string together an ad which shows," among other things, "[Sen.] Barack Obama with his hands clasped in front of him rather than holding his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance." Russert then asked David Axelrod, chief strategist for Obama's presidential campaign, "Are you concerned that all those kinds of issues could be strung together to create an impression of Obama that would make him almost unelectable to a lot of swing voters?" However, as Media Matters for America has noted, the photo to which Russert was apparently referring -- which is being spread in a chain email -- appeared in Time magazine with a caption indicating it was taken during the national anthem, not the Pledge of Allegiance.

Washington Post "fact checker" Michael Dobbs noted in a November 2, 2007, item about the email: "Contrary to the e-mails attacking Obama for disrespecting the flag, the candidates were not reciting the pledge of allegiance. They were standing for the national anthem." Dobbs also wrote: "Asked whether Obama normally puts his hand over his heart while listening to the national anthem, Obama spokesman Bill Burton replied by e-mail: 'Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn't. In no way was he making any sort of statement, and any suggestion to the contrary is ridiculous.' " Indeed, other photos show Obama with his hand over his heart during the national anthem.

TPM Media editor and publisher Josh Marshall also noted that Russert failed to mention that the charge against Obama was false in an April 20 post titled "Russert Dumpster Diving."

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Message of the Week: During Passover, take a step toward your personal Exodus
Seek freedom from self-imposed limitations
By Rabbi Yitzchok Tiechtel

Are you free?

You drive the car of your choice, you live in the home of your dreams, you are constantly praised by those around you, and you work when you want to but are you really free?

This week, beginning today, Jewish people all over the world will be celebrating Passover. This Passover will mark 3,320 years since the liberation of the Hebrews from our bondage in Egypt. The essence of this holiday is a celebration of freedom.

At first glance, it seems kind of strange to be celebrating this event over 3,000 years after its occurrence, especially since the trials and tribulations of freedom vs. bondage have been an ongoing struggle ever since. Yet, this story happens to be the one that is highlighted in the Ten Commandments, and arguably the most important event in biblical history.

The Kabbalah and the esoteric teachings of Chassidus reveal that the story of the Exodus from Egypt reaches far deeper than what first meets the eye.

The Hebrew word for Egypt, "Mitzrayim," is rooted in the word "meitzar," which means boundaries, limits or restrictions. "Egypt," in this context, represents all forms of constraints and confinements: psychological, emotional and spiritual. Any trap, any enemy from within or from without that inhibits our free expression is a form of slavery.

The Exodus from this 'Egypt' our personal limitations defines our life: the ability to free ourselves from our confines and traps. The need to do so always exists, but the necessity is even greater in these fear-ridden, uncertain days.

Our material state and monetary worth proves not our freedom. One can have everything, yet be enslaved at the same time.

Freedom is achieved by first recognizing the places in our lives where we are slaves, and then working to free ourselves from our bondage. Are we a slave to our ego? Are our jobs taking priority over our family lives?

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