Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Sale

Tributes to Fallen Soldiers In Iraq and Afghanistan


Some Exciting News About the Keiffe & Sons Ford Ad

Well, a reader of this blog has generously sent me an audio clip of the obnoxious radio ad by Keiffe & Sons in Mojave, CA. Karen Peralta graciously sent me a copy of the advertisement. Thank you, Karen. WooHoo. The first couple of lines are missing from the recording, but we both have a pretty similar memory of what he said.

Get the audio for the ad.

Here is a transcript of the ad, with the missing part in blocks. Karen has more recently heard the ad, so I'm putting in what she remembers.

["Did you know that there are people in this country who want prayer out of schools, "Under God" out of the Pledge, and "In God We Trust" to be taken off our money?"]

"But did you know that 86% of Americans say they believe in God? Since we all know that 86 out of every 100 of us are Christians, who believe in God, we at Keiffe & Sons Ford wonder why we don't tell the other 14% to sit down and shut up. I guess I just offended 14% of the people who are listening to this message. Well, if that is the case then I say that's tough, this is America folks, it's called free speech. None of us at Keiffe & Sons Ford is afraid to speak out. Keiffe & Sons Ford on Sierra Highway in Mojave and Rosamond, if we don't see you today, by the grace of God, we'll be here tomorrow."

Well, Mr. Keiffe, you won't be seeing me either today or tomorrow. And you certainly won't be seeing my money. What an asshole. It seems that he is for free speech for himself and his majority, but the rest of us 14% are second class citizens who need to "sit down and shut up." Also, his percentages are wrong. According to the Pew Poll, 10.6% say they don't believe in God, and 73% identify as Christian.

What about a new version of the ad? After all "it's called free speech."

"Did you know that there are people in this country who are assholes that want to shove their religion in everyone's faces? But did you know that 14% of Americans say they don't believe in God? Since we all know that 14 out of every 100 of us are not Christians, who don't believe in God, we at Keiffe & Sons Ford wonder why we don't tell the other 86% to sit down and shut up. I guess I just offended 86% of the people who are listening to this message. Well, if that is the case then I say that's tough, this is America folks, it's called free speech. None of us at Keiffe & Sons Ford is afraid to speak out. Keiffe & Sons Ford on Sierra Highway in Mojave and Rosamond, if we don't see you today, we'll be here tomorrow."

Now if an ad aired like this there would be massive protests of Christians everywhere. What if the ad targeted Jews or African Americans? Would any radio air the ad?

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Sweet Victory: Coalition for Immokalee Workers Wins

by Katrina Vanden Heuvel

In March 2005, I started a weekly feature called "Sweet Victories." The idea was to chronicle progressive victories –electoral wins, protests and boycotts, the launching of new ideas, fresh organizations and initiatives, and successful organizing efforts. I hoped that these stories would serve not only as a source of information, but inspiration. The victories might be small, but they were always sweet.

On May 23, we celebrate a sweet victory for social justice. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT.) will join representatives of the Coalition for Immokalee Workers (CIW) and the Burger King Corporation at a press conference in the U.S. Capitol to announce that the corporation has agreed to work with CIW to improve wages and working conditions for the farm workers who harvest tomatoes for Burger King.

This victory is testament to the tenacity and discipline of the Coalition,a community-based worker organization, which has exposed a half-dozen slavery cases that helped trigger the freeing of more than 1000 workers. It has also advocated for better wages, living conditions, respect from the industry, and an end to indentured servitude. In this last year, CIW scored victories in negotiating a penny-per-pound surcharge–so workers would receive about 77 cents per 32-pound bucket–with McDonald's and Yum! Brands (owner of Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, KFC). (The corporations also agreed to work with the Coalition to eliminate slavery from the fields.) And the corporations –not the tomato growers–agreed to pay the 40 percent salary increase. Astonishingly, Burger King, until today, refused to go along with a deal that will cost them less than $300,000 annually; last year, the corporation raked in $2.23 billion in revenues.

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Fuel costs kill off a US airline every week

by James Doran

Airlines in America are closing down or going bankrupt at a rate of one a week as the rocketing price of oil forces the industry to its knees and calls into question the very viability of commercial air travel.

In Britain, analysts say low-cost carriers such as EasyJet and Ryanair could be hammered. Andrew Fitchie, analyst at Collins Stewart, said: 'The no-frills airlines are in the eye of the storm. They will have to slash capacity, stay on the tarmac or look at merging. There will be casualties.'

According to the US Air Transport Association (ATA) six airlines have been forced to close down since the beginning of April, while another has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

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The Fall of Conservatism

Have the Republicans run out of ideas?

by George Packer

McCain must negotiate the legacies of (from top left) Goldwater, Nixon, Gingrich, Reagan, and Buckley.

The era of American politics that has been dying before our eyes was born in 1966. That January, a twenty-seven-year-old editorial writer for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat named Patrick Buchanan went to work for Richard Nixon, who was just beginning the most improbable political comeback in American history. Having served as Vice-President in the Eisenhower Administration, Nixon had lost the Presidency by a whisker to John F. Kennedy, in 1960, and had been humiliated in a 1962 bid for the California governorship. But he saw that he could propel himself back to power on the strength of a new feeling among Americans who, appalled by the chaos of the cities, the moral heedlessness of the young, and the insults to national pride in Vietnam, were ready to blame it all on the liberalism of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Right-wing populism was bubbling up from below; it needed to be guided by a leader who understood its resentments because he felt them, too.

"From Day One, Nixon and I talked about creating a new majority," Buchanan told me recently, sitting in the library of his Greek-revival house in McLean, Virginia, on a secluded lane bordering the fenced grounds of the Central Intelligence Agency. "What we talked about, basically, was shearing off huge segments of F.D.R.'s New Deal coalition, which L.B.J. had held together: Northern Catholic ethnics and Southern Protestant conservatives—what we called the Daley-Rizzo Democrats in the North and, frankly, the Wallace Democrats in the South." Buchanan grew up in Washington, D.C., among the first group—men like his father, an accountant and a father of nine, who had supported Roosevelt but also revered Joseph McCarthy. The Southerners were the kind of men whom Nixon whipped into a frenzy one night in the fall of 1966, at the Wade Hampton Hotel, in Columbia, South Carolina. Nixon, who was then a partner in a New York law firm, had traveled there with Buchanan on behalf of Republican congressional candidates. Buchanan recalls that the room was full of sweat, cigar smoke, and rage; the rhetoric, which was about patriotism and law and order, "burned the paint off the walls." As they left the hotel, Nixon said, "This is the future of this Party, right here in the South."

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Here're the savings from Arctic drilling — 75 cents a barrel

By Erika Bolstad

WASHINGTON — If Congress were to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, crude oil prices would probably drop by an average of only 75 cents a barrel, according to Department of Energy projections issued Thursday.

The report, which was requested in December by Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, found that oil production in the refuge "is not projected to have a large impact on world oil prices."

But the report also finds that opening ANWR could have other benefits, particularly in Alaska, where tapping the resources in the Arctic refuge could extend the lifespan of the trans-Alaska pipeline. It estimates that if Congress agreed to open ANWR this year, Alaskan oil could hit the market in about 10 years.

"I'm coming away from it saying that this is yet another an indicator that opening ANWR is important to this country and to our energy future," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

The report was unveiled Thursday by the Department of Energy's research arm, the Energy Information Administration and came a day after the Department of Interior said that 60 percent of federal lands that hold potential sources of natural gas and oil are closed to leasing.

It also comes in the midst of a renewed push by Alaska's congressional delegation to persuade their congressional colleagues to open a portion of ANWR to oil exploration. Opening the wildlife refuge is the centerpiece of recently unveiled House and Senate Republican energy plans, which focus on increasing domestic oil production in the face of record oil prices that, this week, exceeded $135 a barrel.

Stevens had no comment about the report, but did speak on the floor of the Senate Thursday in support of opening ANWR to drilling.

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The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks

San-Zhr Pod Village

by Craig Ferguson


San-Zhr Pod Village, by photographer Craig Ferguson, is a project that features images of an abandoned hotel/housing pod development in the small town of San-zhr (三芝) on the north coast of Taiwan. These images have a post-apocalyptic flavor that seem like they are right out of a dystopian novel, and as Craig explains, the truth is no less bizarre:

Just before arriving in Sanzhi, there's an interesting site hugging the shoreline - an abandoned hotel/apartment complex that looks like somewhere ET might call home. I first heard about this a couple of years ago, but it was only recently that I was able to get out there.

Accounts vary on the origins of this complex, and indeed, as to whether it was meant to be a hotel development or a housing development. Apparently, it was constructed in the 1960s and included/was to include a dam to protect it against sea surges, floors and stairs made of marble and a small amusement park. The site was commissioned by the government and local firms and there is no named architect. Local papers at the time reported that there were numerous accidents during construction which caused the death of some workers. As news of these accidents spread, no one wanted to go there, even to visit, and the project was subsequently abandoned. The ghosts of those who died in vain are said to still linger there, unremembered and unable to pass on. The complex was left in its unfinished state because no amount of redevelopment will bring people to the area due to superstitions about ghosts, and it can't be demolished because destroying the homes of spirits and lost souls is taboo in Asian culture.

When I was there, I met four young university students who were passing by and stopped for a look. They didn't want to get too close to the buildings for fear that the ghosts would take them. They told me there was "heavy evil" in the buildings.

We are glad that Craig braved the ominous warnings to produce these incredible images, and we think you will agree.

Enter Gallery

BIODIVERSITY: Privatisation Making Seeds Themselves Infertile

By Julio Godoy

BONN, May 22 (IPS) - Seeds were once for ever. After harvest, a few from the crop would be planted for the following year, and so it went on.

Now, biochemical industry giants are making seeds themselves infertile. You sow them this year, and that's it. For next year's crop, you need brand new seeds -- you would have to buy them, of course.

Twenty-five years ago, there were at least 7,000 seed growers worldwide, and none of them controlled more than one percent of the global market. Today, after a takeover spree, 10 major biochemical multinationals, including Monsanto, DuPont-Pioneer, Syngenta, Bayer Cropsciencie, BASF, and Dow Agrosciences, control more than 50 percent of the seeds market.

"The goal of these companies is, of course, to make profits," Benedict Haerling, researcher at the German non-governmental organisation Future of Agriculture, told IPS. "In order to improve their profits, they all apply one strategy to increase their control of the market: they impose upon farmers worldwide the so-called vertical integration of inputs, from seeds to fertilisers to pesticides, all from one brand." Compulsory customer loyalty, you might call it.

And through biochemical manipulation, including genetic modifications, many companies have made sure the harvest you obtain cannot be sown again.

Such "vertical integration of agricultural inputs" has transformed agriculture in developing countries into a two-class business, Angelika Hillbeck, researcher on bio-safety and agriculture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich told IPS.

"In the developing countries there is a class of farmers with large plantations and enough money who can afford to buy all inputs from the major biochemical companies, from seeds and fertilisers to pesticides and conservatives." But there are small farmers for whom the biochemical markets are out of reach.

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Indy Left Me Short, Round, and Alone


Summer blockbusters don't always have happy endings.  Just ask the once-sidekicking, Short Round of "Temple of Doom" fame what his opinion on the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones quadrology is.  He provided a copy of this letter sent previously to his former colleague, and we're happy to share it with you.    

Dear Dr. Jones,

I may be short, but my memory is that of an elephant (like the ones that frequent the small village I saved with your help), and I shan't forgive your insult as long as I shall live. What the Nazis and Russians say indeed is true; you are as hollow as a bamboo shoot, as tired as the wilted Lotus Blossom and as unrealistic as the dreams of an Asian child actor with a lovable accent turning into a grown-up Hollywood icon.

Oh how I remember those days of frolicking in airplanes and mine carts without a care in the world. Together we were the stuff of legends, the idols of millions, on top of the world which we criss-crossed as if it were but a small map. But where are we now? Well you… YOU… You are again in the spotlight, another of your quests is memorialized in film, and I am nowhere to be seen.

What happened to us?  

I thought you would be honorable; that you would stay in touch or simply "throw me a bone" as the masses may say. But no, of course not, you have no time for the child who saved your ass from a pit of fire and being on the wrong end of a one-directional heart transplant.

How dare you leave me on the sidelines as you continue your adventures? I made you, Indy. You think you're one of a kind?!?!?!

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Poor ticket sales, expected protests scuttle Bush-McCain fundraiser at Phoenix Convention Center

by Mike Sunnucks


A Tuesday fundraiser headlined by President Bush for U.S. Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign is being moved out of the Phoenix Convention Center.

Sources familiar with the situation said the Bush-McCain event was not selling enough tickets to fill the Convention Center space, and that there were concerns about more anti-war protesters showing up outside the venue than attending the fundraiser inside.

Another source said there were concerns about the media covering the event.

Bush's Arizona fundraising effort for McCain is being moved to private residences in the Phoenix area.

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High definition

Credit where it's due

by Janet Albrechtsen

THERE is a certain familiarity to the concomitant series of actions and reactions when disaster strikes in the world. The US stands ready, willing and able to offer assistance. It is often the first country to send in millions of dollars, navy strike groups loaded with food and medical supplies, and transport planes, helicopters and floating hospitals to help those devastated by natural disaster.

Then, just as swift and with equal predictability, those wedded to the Great Satan view of the US begin to carp, drawing on a potent mixture of cynicism and conspiracy theories to criticise the last remaining superpower. When the US keeps doing so much of the heavy lifting to alleviate suffering, you'd figure that the anti-Americans might eventually revise their view of the US. But they never do. And coming under constant attack even when helping others, you'd figure that Americans would eventually draw the curtains on world crises. But they haven't. At least not yet.

So it was last week. The US stood ready to help the cyclone-ravaged Burmese people. It did not matter that Burma's ruling junta was no friend of the Americans. With more than 100,000 people feared dead and many more hundreds of thousands left destitute, US Air Force cargo planes loaded with supplies and personnel started arriving in nearby Thailand to begin humanitarian operations in Burma.

A US Navy strike group in the Gulf of Thailand sent helicopters ashore, ready to arrive in Burma within hours. Alas, Burma's military leaders left their people to die for 10 days before finally accepting help from the evil empire. Even if the Yanks are allowed to boost their assistance to Burma, they can expect a groundswell of criticism.

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Dwell Daily

Winner: Small Project Awards 2008
This week, the American Institute of Architects announced the recipients of its Small Project Awards 2008. Winners include Abod, envisioned as a low-cost, prefabricated solution to South Africa's housing shortage by BSB Designs.

Each home packs flat and can be assembled by four people with a screwdriver and awl (both tools are shipped with the structure). Buyers can add multiple features on to the original 10x12 foot structure, including a kitchen, bathroom, window-walls, and closets.  The lightweight steel framework and corrugated walls can be easily disassembled and transported.

Though the prototype's components are currently made in the U.S., BSC Designs is negotiating local production with South African manufacturers. The projected cost is $1500 a piece.

Posted by: Audrey Tempelsman on May 21, 08 at 08:56 PM PDT


by Andrew Tobias

I pay for CreditSecure from American Express, and it mails me a quarterly review that includes, among other things, my credit score from one of the three rating agencies. 

 The report could have just as easily shown all three scores, but instead it gives instructions for getting the other two at no extra charge, "instantly," on line. 

 I go to that URL and am instantly asked to sign up for on-line access.  In the fine print, I see something that seems to suggest that if I take the time to sign up, I would no longer get the mailed reports.  It's not completely clear (one might almost say hidden), so I called to check and – sure enough.

 So basically this is a ploy by Amex to get me to lower their printing and mailing costs, hoping I won't notice or mind.

 At least for me, a straightforward message would have been honest and more effective.

 Dear Customer:  We'd like you to consider switching to our on-line service.  The advantage to you: you can access your credit situation 24/7 at no extra cost and have the satisfaction of knowing you did something good for the environment.  The advantage to us: we lower our costs and have the satisfaction of knowing we did something good for the environment.  If you consider this a 'win-win,' please go on-line and sign up!

 Instead, they tried to trick me into it. 

 Or how about this: those web sites, like DirecTV, that ask whether you want to receive occasional marketing offers – with the default box checked ("yes, I do") – so you uncheck it . . . but then when it turns out you used hyphens in your phone  number (or some other glitch that forces you to go back and redo an error) they've quietly rechecked the marketing boxes in the hope you'll make whatever little correction was needed without noticing that – while everything else remained the same – the empty check boxes had reverted to being checked.  And now they have your permission to send you marketing offers and sell your email to others.

These are tiny manipulations that amount to little more than over-eager salesmanship, with perhaps a pinch of duplicity – and a dollop of cynicism – thrown in.  But they bug me.

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The Arrow of Time


America's Disappearing 'Upper Class'

Apparently, in the United States, we don't have an upper class; we have elites -- a complimentary term that obscures true differences in opportunity.

by Zephyr Teachout

John Edwards, it is hoped, will bring the "working-class" vote to Barack Obama. In alternative descriptions, he will help with the "middle-class" vote, or what a very tired Hillary Clinton might call the "white-middle white-class, white-working, white vote." This (disappearing) working-class population fills the pages of analysis and news. In the New York Times, for example, there have been 324 references to "middle class" and 220 references to "working class" in the past three months.

At the same time, "upper class" is vanishing from our language. In the 18 references in the New York Times in the last three months, none are in the context of elections. "Upper class" appears most often in quotes, literature review and history, or as a referent to people on the other side of the puddle, as they say: the "upper-class British" way of life appears, as does the "upper-class European," and the upper-class voice of a deceased BBC announcer.

In America, we don't have the upper class, apparently. We have, according to many news reports, "elites." There are thousands of references to elites: In the context of politics, a search for "Clinton" and "elite" in the last three months finds 40 results, while the blogs are full of concern about various candidates' tendencies to attract elite voters. It sounds like an epithet, when thrown at campaign managers ("you are just getting the elite vote"), but it's a compliment to the people described therein.

"Elites only, folks, elites only for early boarding," cries the Continental Airlines steward, and the rich people line up, complimented and convenienced at the same time. The best football players are elite, and the best colleges are elite -- the word comes not with the stink of privilege but with the flattering sound of being something deserved, worked for even. Elites may be "out of touch," but they are "out of touch" with a French-derived word meaning to choose -- the same root as the word "election," as it turns out. The elite are the chosen, the secular "good men and women," ones we ought to make way for as they pass.

You might think I'm being unfair here -- sometimes elite means a particular group of people, not all rich -- but what I think is disturbing (and imprecise) is how we use words from different categories blended together, as if we had three classes, "the elite," "the working class" and "people living under the poverty level," instead of the categories as they were initially introduced, "the upper class, the middle class and the poor," or "the elite, the mediocre and the incompetent," or "the ruling class, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat."

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Pastor John Hagee's Endorsement of McCain

Voice of the people

Gore Vidal: 'This country is finished. But, with a new republic like this, if you missed being here at the beginning, the next best thing is to be here at the end'. Interview by James Campbell

Gore Vidal
'The honest savage' ... Gore Vidal. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe

Gore Vidal's collected essays, United States, a hefty volume incorporating the work of four decades in the form in which he is a modern master, won the US National Book Award for 1993. "It is the ugliest prize ever given to me," says the author, gesturing with a brandy snifter towards the room in which the unloved object stands. "It's two bronze cubes, my name is not on it, there's no identification of what it is. It's just like the country that gave it to me. Blank."

Conversation at Vidal's table has a tendency to flow towards the state of the union, no matter what the source. In America, he is admired - and more highly valued than he likes to admit - for an unorthodox liberalism that puts individual preference at the heart of everything, from sex to tax. For 60 years, through novels, plays and miscellaneous non-fiction, Vidal has preached the message that government is not only pervasive but corrupt; that while there are may be two political brands, Democrat and Republican, there is only one party: business.

At the start of the Democratic presidential nomination, Vidal had favoured Hillary Clinton (a photo in his 1995 memoir, Palimpsest, shows Mrs. Clinton visiting him at home in Italy), but recently he switched to "the other side". Not John McCain, of course. "McCain is the village idiot. He is very, very stupid, even by American standards." Barack Obama has begun to impress him - "but only to a point. He doesn't have much to say. I'd rather see a woman as president, if we're going to go in for minorities, but Hillary lost her nerve."

He believes that Obama will be the next US president. "He'll be shot, though, that's his problem. If Jack [Kennedy] knew he was going to be shot, a black boy must know it too." Invited to suggest a motive for Obama's persistence, Vidal offers "Curiosity. Even - dare I use a word never used in American political life any more? - honour. Mine was the last generation to have believed in such a concept." The brandy glass completes its voyage to the mouth, permitting a whispered exclamation of disgust. "I cannot believe the trashiness of this country."

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Raising oil

WTF, That's Gross: Bread Head Bakery


Kittiwat Unarrom got a master's degree in fine arts and now makes lifelike body parts out of bread at a bakery in Thailand. All the disturbing yeast sculptures are made out of dough, raisins, cashews and chocolate. He'll also paint the outside with some sort of edible paint to give it an even more gruesome appearance. When asked why he does it, Kittiwat replied, "I'm a wackjob and I like making people sick".* And what does The Geekologie Writer think of these bready body parts? We may never know -- he's too busy puking up the Spaghetti O's sandwich he had for lunch.

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Brilliant Disguise: Bush Torture, Obama and The Boss

by Chris Floyd

I. We offer now a telling juxtaposition of stories. First is the Guardian's new excerpt of Phillipe Sands' new book, Torture Team: Deception, Cruelty, and the Compromise of Law. (Another extract was published earlier in Vanity Fair, which we examined here.) Sands' book lays out in great detail the process by which the highest officials of the American government – including the President, Vice President and the Secretary of Defense – with great deliberation and malice aforethought constructed a regimen of systematic torture which they knew, to a certainty, violated existing American and international law.

The earlier Vanity Fair extract depicted how the "Principals" of the National Security State developed the specific tortures to be used on uncharged captives held indefinitely in concentration camps, secret prisons, and foreign torture chambers. The new Guardian extract show how the White House torture system was then put into practice and refined in the field.

These decisions and actions were flagrant and obvious violations of United States law. Sands quotes the ruling of the Republican-dominated Supreme Court ruled in 2006:

In June 2006, the Supreme Court overturned President Bush's decision on Geneva, ruling it to be unlawful. The court confirmed that Common Article 3 applied to all Guantánamo detainees. It was as simple as that. Whether they were Taliban or al-Qaida, every one of the detainees had rights under Common Article 3 - and that included Mohammed al-Qahtani.  

The majority opinion, reaffirming the "minimal protection" offered by Common Article 3, was written by Justice John Paul Stevens. One of the Justices went even further: Common Article 3 was part of the law of war and of a treaty that the US had ratified. "By Act of Congress," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote pointedly, "violations of Common Article 3 are considered 'war crimes', punishable as federal offences, when committed by or against United States nationals and military personnel."

First read the Guardian extract, and see how what happened in Abu Ghraib (and elsewhere) flowed directly – directly, and in detail – from Donald Rumsfeld's pen, with the approval and at the direction of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Then go to this video clip offered by the Philadelphia Daily News, and watch Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama field a direct question about how he will deal with these flagrant crimes (and others committed by the Bush White House) if he becomes president. Would he, Obama was asked, order his Justice Department "to aggressively investigate if crimes were committed?"

It goes without saying that Obama does not give a straightforward answer to the question. He does not simply say: "Yes. I will aggressively investigate all criminal activity by the Bush Administration and bring the perpetrators to justice." Instead, he twice offers a rather odd locution: he will, he says, order his attorney general to "review the information already there" and find out if there are inquiries that "need to be pursued." Obama's emphasis on basing his actions on "what we know right now" seems puzzling, until you tie it to a later passage in his reply, when he speaks of his attitude toward impeachment.

Obama says that any decision to pursue "investigation" of "possibilities" of "genuine crimes" would be "an area where I would exercise judgment." He stressed the need to draw a distinction between "really dumb policies and policies that rise to the level of criminal activity." He said he would not want "my first term to be consumed by what would be perceived by Republicans as a partisan witch hunt."

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Indiana Jones makes Russian communists see red

By Denis Pinchuk

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Russian Communist Party members condemned the new "Indiana Jones" film on Friday as crude, anti-Soviet propaganda that distorts history and called for it to be banned from Russian screens.

"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" stars Harrison Ford as an archeologist in 1957 competing with an evil KGB agent, played by Cate Blanchett, to find a skull endowed with mystic powers.

"What galls is how together with America we defeated Hitler, and how we sympathized when Bin Laden hit them. But they go ahead and scare kids with Communists. These people have no shame," said Viktor Perov, a Communist Party member in Russia's second city of St. Petersburg.

The comments were made at a local Communist party meeting and posted on its Internet site

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George W. Bush Lawn Inflatable

June 1st: Bon Voyage for Junk!

Yesterday, we returned from our test run with Junk, halfway to Catalina and back. The picture below says it all.

©Peter Bennett/Ambient Images

Not only did Junk float, she performed beautifully - a solid, sturdy, and most unusual looking craft. Many passing boaters did a double take, jaws dropping when they heard Junk was destined for Hawaii.....

Now, the final push to get her provisioned, solar panels installed, and final touches added before our JUNE 1ST Bon Voyage.

Join us to wave Junk farewellfrom 2:00-3:00 at the Long Beach Aquarium.

About JUNK

The Symbols on My Flag (And What They Mean)

by Jack Handey

The bra and panties stand for women's rights.

Davy Crockett shaking hands with Daniel Boone symbolizes how we need to put aside our differences.

The skull and crossbones, in the lower right corner, stands for pirates, and all that they have given us.

The angel holding the sword represents how guns are nice but swords are more of a "heavenly" thing.

The plow with the four-leaf clover symbolizes the luck of the farmer.

The quicksand represents the travails of life. The hand sticking out of it is so you know it's quicksand and not just a dirty spot on the flag.

The bat stands for eternal life, through our lord Dracula.

The sheaf of wheat symbolizes the bounty of the land, and the hope that soon more things will come in sheaves.

The parrot represents the need to communicate, even if it's only squawks.

The tin of paprika stands for paprika, a spice I hope to learn more about.

The triskelion indicates that I know what a triskelion is.

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Burma: $2 million raised for monks

  Dear friends,

After Burma's tragic cyclone, a massive earthquake has struck China, killing over 50,000. Click below to send a message of support to China, and light a candle online for the earthquake victims:
Light a candle!
In the days since a catastrophic cyclone struck Burma and killed over 100,000 people, Avaaz members have donated $2 million (almost 1.3 million Euros) to the aid effort. Our community has given more than many governments, and our aid hasn't been stopped at the border like theirs -- we've supported Burmese monks and other aid groups who have worked without their brutal government's permission. You can read a brief report below, or click this link to read the report on our website, see pictures, and donate or comment:


Burma Cyclone Aid Report

Avaaz Members from 124 Countries Donate $2,000,000 to the Burmese People

The Cyclone

Burma is devastated by the largest cyclone in its history

On May 2nd, a massive cyclone struck the coast of Burma. The impoverished and vulnerable Burmese people were not warned by their military rulers. As a wall of water swept the lowlands of the country, as many as 100,000 were killed and 2 million more lost their homes. The survivors continue to face hunger, lack of medical care, and the threat of epidemic and deadly disease.

Burmese Military Junta Stops Aid

As military rulers stop aid at the borders, monks come to the rescue

The world rushed to deliver aid -- but Burma's rulers stopped relief workers at the border. Incompetent and suspicious, the ruling junta feared that a foreign presence could undermine their power by bringing greater awareness of their brutal rule. Three weeks later, a donors' summit has been scheduled that may reach a compromise on some aid being brought in, but the needless delay heaped daily suffering on Burma's people.

Our Response -- Go Around the Junta

The General Secretary of the International Burmese Monks Organization makes a video appeal for help from Avaaz members

Since last year, Avaaz has built a strong relationship with Burmese monks and civil society groups, building political pressure and raising funds during and after the democracy protests. After the cyclone, we worked with these groups -- the most respected and trusted institutions in Burmese society -- to do what their government would not: bring the people aid. Unlike governments, we didn't wait for the Burmese government's permission to send help. Avaaz members in 124 countries stood with the people of Burma, donating almost $2 million (1.3 million Euros) in a matter of days.

Getting the Money In

The map above shows locations where our aid has been received and deployed

It's been a challenge to the get such a lot of money in. Most Burmese groups can safely move only a limited amount of money each day through informal networks. So far, we know that $550,000 has arrived in Burma and been spent, and an additional $1,000,000 is en route and may have arrived. We are currently working with the International Burmese Monk Organization and 7 other Burmese organizations, including monk groups, educational groups, and medical clinics, who have asked not to be named for their own security.

The way the money moves is through informal transfers between bank accounts and by hand. Sometimes it is as simple as a deposit in one country that is then withdrawn inside Burma by the account holder and then carried to a monastery or aid group. Because many merchants do this, the Burmese government cannot tell the difference between commercial funds and aid money.

How the Money is Spent

Emergency aid supplies bought with Avaaz donations are distributed to a village

Once the money arrives and is distributed to aid groups and monasteries, it is used to purchase rice, medicine, fuel and other supplies required to rescue, house and feed the survivors of the cyclone. Even in many of the hardest-hit areas, local markets are still working, with merchants bringing goods from other regions. In other areas the monks and other groups are able to drive supplies in, or move them by foot. The map at left shows some key locations where our aid has reached survivors.

This work carries some dangers; Burmese junta has harassed and, in one case, attacked the groups we are working with. But in the vast majority of cases, soldiers simply arrive, warn our partners that their work must be authorized by the government, and leave. Once they are out of sight, the aid work continues.

It is a challenge in such circumstances to exercise complete oversight over how the money is used -- most of the work is in secret. But we have chosen to work only with the most universally respected institutions, and we have asked them to provide detailed lists of monasteries and groups who receive it. These details allow us to verify receipt of the funds.

Another Chapter in the People Power Story

An Avaaz partner distributes aid in the hard hit Delta area

Yesterday, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown predicted that global people power, organized through the internet, would be a major driver of change in Burma. Avaaz has shown many times how a global voice can impact the world, but with this campaign we put our money where our voice was -- we didn't just call on governments to act, we stood with the people of Burma and took direct action.

Our ability to rapidly pool the small amounts of money each of us can give into a large combined amount is a powerful way to make a difference in the world. If you are one of the 25,062 Avaaz members who donated, please know that we have heard many words of gratitude for your help from our Burmese partners. They still need our help -- click through to the site if you would like to donate now. Here's the link:

With much admiration for your generosity,

Ricken, Veronique, Ben, Graziela, Pascal, Paul, Galit, Iain and the whole Avaaz team.

PS – Here's a link to other Avaaz campaigns:

And some links to more information on the situation in Burma:

A Burmese website reports on the aid efforts of the monks:

UK Prime Minister says internet and people power will change Burma:

One government estimate suggests a staggering 300,000 Burmese may have died:


ABOUT AVAAZ is an independent, not-for-profit global campaigning organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world's people inform global decision-making. (Avaaz means "voice" in many languages.) Avaaz receives no money from governments or corporations, and is staffed by a global team based in London, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Paris, Washington DC, and Geneva.

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Woman comes back to life after rigor mortis sets in


A West Virginia woman's heart stopped three times and she was brain dead for 17 hours at a hospital. Rigor mortis had set in and the family was discussing donating her organs when she suddenly woke up. She now appears to be in good heath.
[Val] Thomas suffered two heart attacks and had no brain waves for more than 17 hours. At about 1:30 a.m. Saturday, her heart stopped and she had no pulse. A respiratory machine kept her breathing and rigor mortis had set in, doctors said.

"Her skin had already started to harden and her fingers curled. Death had set in," said son Jim Thomas.

They rushed her to a West Virginia hospital. Doctors put Thomas on a special machine which induces hypothermia. The treatment involves lowering the body temperature for up to 24 hours before warming a patient up.

After that procedure, her heart stopped again.

"She had no neurological function," said Dr. Kevin Eggleston.

Her family said goodbye and doctors removed all the tubes.

However, Thomas was kept on a ventilator a little while longer as an organ donor issue was discussed.

Ten minutes later the woman woke up and started talking.

Link (via Arbroath)