The Jerusalem Post broke the news this morning: George Bush intends to attack Iran in his final months in office.
"The official claimed that a senior member of the president's entourage, which concluded a trip to Israel last week, said during a closed meeting that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were of the opinion that military action was called for."1Congress has the power to stop him. There is a resolution already in the Senate called S. Res. 356. It's a straightforward and simple resolution that says, "A resolution affirming that any offensive military action taken against Iran must be explicitly approved by Congress before such action may be initiated."
Tell your Senator to support and fight for S. Res 356:
Today's story is just the latest to discuss the increasingly belligerent rhetoric of the Bush administration towards Iran. Just last week, President Bush compared anyone who seeks to negotiate with Iran to those who appeased the Nazis prior to World War II.
Send a message to your Senator right now:
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Tuesday, May 20, 2008
by Ian Black
The US agreed yesterday to help Saudi Arabia protect its oil industry from terrorist attack, while offering to back conservative Arab countries resisting Iranian influence spreading across the Middle East.
The White House announced new agreements with the kingdom as President George Bush flew to Riyadh for private talks with King Abdullah at his ranch outside the capital. But the king was not persuaded to boost Saudi oil production to ease the effect of the $127-a-barrel price on the US economy.
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A vote for John McCain is a vote to continue the Bush Cheney nightmare, pure and simple.
Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker, May 26, 2008
Successful politicians know how to attract attention, and how to avoid it, so it's worth noting that John McCain chose to give his speech about the future of the judiciary on May 6th, a day when the political world was preoccupied with the Democratic primaries in Indiana and North Carolina. It is significant, too, that Senator McCain spoke mainly in generalities, rather than about such specific issues as abortion, affirmative action, and the death penalty. But even if he hoped to sneak the speech past a distracted public, and have its coded references deciphered only by the activists who were its primary target, its message should not be lost on anyone. McCain plans to continue, and perhaps even accelerate, George W. Bush's conservative counter-revolution at the Supreme Court.
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By Carey Gillam
ROCK PORT, Missouri (Reuters) - At 265 feet tall, four gleaming white wind turbines tower over the tiny farm town of Rock Port, Missouri, like a landing of alien intruders.
But despite their imposing presence and the stark contrast with the rolling pastures and corn fields, the turbines have received a warm welcome here.
As Eric Chamberlain, who manages the wind farm for Wind Capital Group, eats lunch in a local restaurant, local people greet him with a "Hey Windy!" and many say they are happy to be using clean electricity.
"It doesn't pollute the environment, it provides tax revenue, creates jobs. I don't see a downside," said Chamberlain, who is something of a celebrity in this town of 1,400 people.
While growth in ethanol use as an alternative fuel has had a big impact on rural America, wind power has also been growing steadily for the past three years, with wind farms like this one springing up all over the windy expanse of the Great Plains and beyond.
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"The political cartoon is not a news story and not an oil portrait. It's essentially a means for poking fun, for puncturing pomposity."
—Herbert Block, 1977
The political cartoons of Herbert Block (1909–2001) appeared in American newspapers for more than seven decades under the pen name Herblock. This exhibition contains Block's original drawings of presidential cartoons from Franklin Roosevelt through Bill Clinton.
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by David Edwards and Muriel Kane
When NBC's Richard Engel interviewed President George W. Bush in Egypt during his largely unproductive Mid-East tour, Bush for the most part confined his remarks to repeating well-established positions on Iran and the Middle East.
However, Bush did respond with one interesting new metaphor when Engel suggested, "Many people say that [the war on terror] has not made the world safer, that it has created more radicals, that there are more people in this part of the world who want to attack the United States."
"This is the beehive theory," Bush replied. "You should have just let the beehive sit there and hope the bees don't come out of the hive."
"Haven't you just smashed the bees' hive and let them spread?" Engel asked.
"To suggest that bees would stay in their hive is naive," Bush replied. "They didn't stay in the hive when they came and killed 3000 of our citizens."
In an item headed, "Bush the bee killer," the conservative Washington Times called this an "odd exchange" and suggested that "apparently Bin Laden is the queen bee," implying that Bush's bee-killing has been ineffective.
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By Yalman Onaran
May 19 (Bloomberg) -- Banks and securities firms, reeling from record losses resulting from the collapse of the mortgage securities market, are failing to acknowledge in their income statements at least $35 billion of additional writedowns included in their balance sheets, regulatory filings show.
Citigroup Inc. subtracted $2 billion from equity for the declining value of home-loan bonds in its quarterly report to the Securities and Exchange Commission on May 2 without mentioning the deduction in the earnings statement or conference call with investors that followed. ING Groep NV placed 3.6 billion euros ($5.6 billion) of negative valuations in its capital account, while disclosing only an 80 million-euro depletion to income.
The balance-sheet adjustments are in addition to $344 billion of writedowns and credit losses already reported on the income statements of more than 100 banks. These companies have raised $263 billion from sovereign wealth funds, their own governments and public investors to shore up capital. The balance-sheet writedowns also reduce equity, which needs to be replenished. Adding the $35 billion leaves the banks with a $116 billion mountain of losses to climb.
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by Mustang Bobby
William Kristol began his illustrious tenure at the New York Times last winter by getting his facts wrong in his very first column when he cited the wrong source for a quote. Since then he has managed to demonstrate his flair for the error in both perception and fact, and today is another case in point.
In trying to make the case that John McCain is the exception to the rule that the current crop of GOP candidates running in special elections in previously safe Republican strongholds stink on ice (0-3), he cites a number of factors that bode well for Mr. McCain, including the ruling last Thursday by the California State Supreme Court overturning the ban on same-sex marriage.
On Thursday, the California Supreme Court did precisely what much of the American public doesn't want judges doing: it made social policy from the bench. With a 4-to-3 majority, the judges chose not to defer to a ballot initiative approved by 61 percent of California voters eight years ago, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. In 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court redefined marriage in that state, helping to highlight the issues of same-sex marriage and judicial activism for the 2004 presidential campaign. Now the California court has conveniently stepped up to the plate.
Obama's campaign issued a statement that its candidate "respects the decision of the California Supreme Court." The McCain campaign, by contrast, said it recognized "the right of the people of California to recognize marriage as a unique institution ... John McCain doesn't believe judges should be making these decisions." Since the next president will almost certainly have one Supreme Court appointment, and could have two or three, this difference on judicial philosophy could well matter to voters — and in a way that should help McCain.
Furthermore, the action of the California court will remind voters of the Defense of Marriage Act, which says a state is not required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states and which was passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed by Bill Clinton in 1996. McCain voted for and supports it. Obama opposes it.
If Mr. Kristol had bothered to read the history of the case or the ruling itself rather than launch his typical right-wing volley of "activist judges" missiles, he would have known that the court ruling was not making social policy from the bench at all, but doing exactly what the court was created to do in the first place: interpret the laws and the constitution of the state. The California Assembly had twice tried to pass laws legalizing same-sex marriage, only to have them vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who wanted the State Supreme Court to first decide whether or not such laws would pass constitutional muster. The court so ruled on Thursday, citing only the state constitution and pointedly avoiding the social policy aspect of the case.
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By Karey Wutkowski
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday charged eight former executives of AOL Time Warner, now known as Time Warner Inc, in a fraudulent scheme that overstated company advertising revenue by more than $1 billion.
Four of the defendants settled with the SEC and the other four are facing fraud-related charges in federal court in New York.
The former executives participated in a scheme from mid-2000 to mid-2002 to artificially inflate the company's reported online advertising revenue, the SEC said in a statement. Online advertising revenue was a key measure analysts and investors used to evaluate the company.
The scheme involved fraudulent transactions in which AOL Time Warner effectively funded its own advertising revenue by giving purchasers the money to buy online advertising that they did not want or need, the SEC said.
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People stand around a large plate of hummus in Jerusalem May 5, 2008. In an attempt to break the Guinness Book of world records for the largest plate of hummus, the plate of hummus measuring about 4 metres (13 feet) in diameter was displayed on Monday at a fruit and vegetable market in Jerusalem.
Photo by Ronen Zvulun
Mon May 19, 2008 at 12:25:16 PM PDT
There are barely words for this:
Georgia Republican Party chairwoman Sue Everhart said Saturday that the party's presumed presidential nominee has a lot in common with Jesus Christ.
"John McCain is kind of like Jesus Christ on the cross," Everhart said as she began the second day of the state GOP convention. "He never denounced God, either."
Yes folks, John McCain was shot down and held captive for your sins. Deification. All the rage in Republican circles.
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If Borah, an isolationist Republican from Idaho, sounded naïve saying "Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided," then what should be said about Bush's grandfather and other members of his family providing banking and industrial assistance to the Nazis as they built their war machine in the 1930s?
The archival evidence is now clear that Prescott Bush, the president's grandfather, was a director and shareholder of companies that profited from and collaborated with key financial backers of Nazi Germany.
That business relationship continued after Hitler invaded Poland in 1939 and even after Germany declared war on the United States following Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941. It stopped only when the U.S. government seized assets of Bush-connected companies in late 1942 under the "Trading with the Enemy Act."
So, perhaps instead of holding up Sen. Borah to ridicule, Bush might have acknowledged in his May 15 speech that his forebears also were blind to the dangers of Hitler.
Bush might have noted that his family's wealth, which fueled his own political rise, was partly derived from Nazi collaboration and possibly from slave labor provided by Auschwitz and other concentration camps.
A more honest speech before the Knesset – on the 60th anniversary of Israel's founding – might have contained an apology to the Jewish people from a leading son of the Bush family for letting its greed contribute to Nazi power and to the horrors of the Holocaust. Instead, there was just the jab at Sen. Borah, who died in 1940.
President Bush apparently saw no reason to remind the world of a dark chapter from the family history. After all, those ugly facts mostly disappeared from public consciousness soon after World War II.
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By PAUL KRUGMAN
I have seen the future, and it works.
O.K., I know that these days you're supposed to see the future in China or India, not in the heart of "old Europe."
But we're living in a world in which oil prices keep setting records, in which the idea that global oil production will soon peak is rapidly moving from fringe belief to mainstream assumption. And Europeans who have achieved a high standard of living in spite of very high energy prices — gas in Germany costs more than $8 a gallon — have a lot to teach us about how to deal with that world.
If Europe's example is any guide, here are the two secrets of coping with expensive oil: own fuel-efficient cars, and don't drive them too much.
Notice that I said that cars should be fuel-efficient — not that people should do without cars altogether. In Germany, as in the United States, the vast majority of families own cars (although German households are less likely than their U.S. counterparts to be multiple-car owners).
But the average German car uses about a quarter less gas per mile than the average American car.
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by Nick Langewis and David Edwards
Some politicians have no qualms about using other people's military service for their own benefit, but appear to be reluctant to extend a benefit with historical precedent to those who have served, said Senator Jim Webb during an interview with NBC's Tim Russert this morning.
"The Republican Party...continually seeks to politicize military service for its own ends even as it uses their sacrifices as a political shield against criticism for its failed policies," Webb wrote in his book, A Time to Fight. "And in that sense, it is now the Republican Party that most glaringly does not understand the true nature of military service."
The Senator opined that Republicans have benefited from a climate of anti-war and perhaps anti-military sentiment stemming from the Vietnam era, resulting in well-meaning but misguided activism among Democratic-leaning people, and Republicans have won the image of being more positive towards the military and military service by default.
Webb's pending GI bill would offer tuition and living stipends to veterans similar to the benefits enjoyed by those returning from Japan and Germany in the 1940s.
"I introduced this GI bill my first day in office," Webb said. "The idea was to give the people who'd been serving since 9/11 the same educational benefits--the same right to a first class future--as those who served in World War II."
"No president in history has vetoed as benefits bill for those who've served," he continued. "[President Bush is] fine with sending these people over and over again where they're spending more time in Iraq than they are at home.
"He's fine with the notion of 'stop-loss,' where we can...make people stay in even after enlistments are done. And then we say, 'Give them the same benefit that the people in World War II have,' and they say it's too expensive. So I think the Republican Party is...on the block here to clearly demonstrate that they value military service, or suffer the consequences of losing the support of people who've served."
A full transcript is available here.
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Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Paid Death Notices
Published in the New York Times on 5/18/2008.
American writer Susan Sontag was terrified of death. She beat cancer in the 1970s, and again in the 1990s, but third time around she wasn't so lucky. In a tender account of her final illness, her son David Rieff recalls how he colluded with his mother's fantasy that she wasn't dying - and what this ultimately cost him after she had gone
America, 1967: David Rieff and mother Susan Sontag. Photograph: Everett Collection/Rex Features
When my mother Susan Sontag was diagnosed in 2004 with myelodysplastic syndrome, a precursor to a rapidly progressive leukaemia, she had already survived stage IV breast cancer in 1975 that had spread into the lymph system, despite her doctors having held out little hope of her doing so, and a uterine sarcoma in 1998. 'There are some survivors, even in the worst cancers,' she would often say during the nearly two years she received what even for the time was an extremely harsh regime of chemotherapy for the breast cancer. 'Why shouldn't I be one of them?'
After that first cancer, mutilated but alive (the operation she underwent not only removed one of her breasts but the muscles of the chest wall and part of an armpit), she wrote her defiant book Illness as Metaphor. Part literary study, part polemic, it was a fervent plea to treat illness as illness, the luck of the genetic draw, and not the result of sexual inhibition, the repression of feeling, and the rest - that torrid brew of low-rent Wilhelm Reich and that mix of masochism and hubris that says that somehow people who got ill had brought it on themselves.
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by Trish Bendix
If you haven't experienced the magic that is Flight of the Conchords, I suggest you utilize a search engine pronto. This New Zealand-based duo (Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement) are hilarious and catchy with their comedy/music styling, which has garnered them their own television series on HBO as well as two albums on Sub Pop Records.
While their self-titled show is about them trying to become famous, in reality they are finally becoming a hit in the States. They recently released a video for their '70s-inspired single, "Ladies of the World," which is a song dedicated to every single one of us out there, whether we are "ugly, skanky or small."
I like their advocation of soldiers putting down their weapons and instead picking up a woman, and "brunettes not fighter jets." While you probably won't want to take them up on their offer of making love to you ("it's the least we can do"), you'll appreciate that some dudes want to "show you some gratitude."
Check out their song on Myspace. After the realizations we had on the blog yesterday about women being left out of the Time magazine list of influential people and this summer's movie line-up, let's start Friday off with a tribute to us.
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Evicted or with no medical insurance, musicians playing their last chorus are saved by the Jazz Foundation
by Nat Hentoff
Years ago, without a steady gig or paycheck and a first child on the way, I was anxiously freelancing and began to empathize with the common lot of many musicians who existed from gig to gig with no medical insurance. I asked a former sideman who had played with several renowned jazz leaders, but was then scuffling: "How do you make a living?"
He shrugged: "I wait for the phone to ring."
I became aware that there were jazz players—some internationally known and most in jazz discographies—who had been evicted for nonpayment of rent at times, and others—too sick to work and without medical care—winding up in emergency rooms. A one-time piano phenomenon whom I'd interviewed, Phineas Newborn, ended up in a pauper's grave.
But at last, in 1989, a group of musicians—among them trumpeter Jimmy Owens and bassist Jamil Nasser, along with the late Herb Storfer, former jazz archivist at the Schomburg Library—started the Jazz Foundation of America in New York.
They began to bring new life and even gigs to forlorn survivors. As one example, the Jazz Foundation now says: "Not one musician in eight years has ever gone homeless who came to us before being evicted."
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