Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Decider

McCain Campaign Accuses Obama Camp Of Coordinating With Webb To Attack McCain

Talking Points Memo

Now the McCain campaign is accusing the Obama campaign of coordinating with Jim Webb to "attack" McCain's war service.

On MSNBC last night, Webb told McCain that he should "calm down" with the use of his military service in the campaign, adding that it was time to "get the politics out of the military."

Now the McCain campaign is responding to Webb, arguing that Webb's comments prove that Obama "can't control his surrogate operation." McCain spokesperson Brian Rogers sends us this:

If you didn't think this was a coordinated attack on John McCain's credentials before, it's clear now that it is. Barack Obama's surrogates are telling the McCain campaign to "calm down" about attacks on his military record? Seriously? Now somehow Wes Clark's attacks are John McCain's fault? It's absurd. If Barack Obama can't control his own surrogate operation, how can he be trusted to run the country?

The truth is that there's zero evidence that there's any coordination going on or that the Obama campaign wants this conversation to be taking place. Not that this matters: The McCain campaign is very determinedly pointing to anything it can -- Webb's comments included -- to drive the message that Obama is demeaning McCain's military service.


Quote of the day

"The Supreme Court overturned Washington, DC's ban on handguns! Writing for the majority, Scalia said, 'It is not the role of this court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.' He is right. Killing the Constitution is the president's job. The court's job is to overturn elections."

- Stephen Colbert -

Study finds long benefit in illegal mushroom drug


NEW YORK - In 2002, at a Johns Hopkins University laboratory, a business consultant named Dede Osborn took a psychedelic drug as part of a research project.

She felt like she was taking off. She saw colors. Then it felt like her heart was ripping open.

But she called the experience joyful as well as painful, and says that it has helped her to this day.

"I feel more centered in who I am and what I'm doing," said Osborn, now 66, of Providence, R.I. "I don't seem to have those self-doubts like I used to have. I feel much more grounded (and feel that) we are all connected."

Scientists reported Tuesday that when they surveyed volunteers 14 months after they took the drug, most said they were still feeling and behaving better because of the experience.

Two-thirds of them also said the drug had produced one of the five most spiritually significant experiences they'd ever had.;_ylt=Avl1Swhy0wTriY6WHusQ4B.s0NUE

Theorizing Deliverance from the Labor- and Commodity-Centered Society

by: André Gorz, Mouvements

Born Gerhard Hirsch in Vienna to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, French philosopher André Gorz, also known as Gérard Horst and Michel Bosquet, was a cofounder of "Le Nouvel Observateur," journalist and theorist who above and before all else was a committed humanist.
(Photo: Sydney Morning Herald)

Editor's note: After spending a literal month of Sundays with this text by André Gorz, I have been haunted by his prescience, inhabited by his ideas and charmed by his engaged humanism. Those unfamiliar with the life and thinking of this committed journalist and philosopher will find an excellent précis of his life and work in Chris Turner's obituary for The Guardian and excerpts from the deeply moving "Letter to D. A Love Story" he wrote to his wife Dorine before their joint suicide in 2007 at the "TimesonLine." ljt.

IDEA FACTORY - Philosopher André Gorz returns, in one of the last texts to appear before his death, to the dynamic of financial capitalism and the reasons why we may see guaranteed social income as an opportunity to exit capitalism.     Is the universal allocation of a guaranteed social income (RSG [in French]) compatible with capitalism? If so, is the RSG objective to consolidate capitalist society, even save it? If not, can it undermine the bases of this society or smooth the transition from an economic system based on commercial value towards a fundamentally different system? I continue to encounter these questions since the end of the 1970s. I was convinced from the outset that the global system based on commodity production could not perpetuate itself indefinitely. Since the end of Fordism and the beginning of the information revolution, the system has been working with growing effectiveness towards the destruction of the foundations of its survival. "Les Chemins du Paradis" ["The Roads to Paradise," a 1983 work by Gorz] - a paradise in which, according to Leontief's prediction, people were going to die of hunger because commodity production will employ hardly any workers and will distribute hardly any more capital - was already subtitled, "The Agony of Capital"

U.S. leads world in substance abuse, WHO finds


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States leads the world in rates of experimenting with marijuana and cocaine despite strict drug laws, World Health Organization researchers said on Tuesday.

Countries with looser drug laws have lower rates of abuse, the researchers report in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Medicine.

The survey of 54,000 people in 17 countries found that 16 percent of people in the United States had used cocaine in their lifetimes -- far higher than the next highest rate, found in New Zealand, where 4.3 percent of people reported having used cocaine.

More than 42 percent of Americans admitted to having tried cannabis, closely followed by 41 percent in New Zealand, Dr. Louisa Degenhardt of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia and an international team of colleagues found.

Americans were also the most likely to have smoked, with 74 percent saying they used tobacco at some time in their lives, although current smoking rates are far lower at 21 percent.


Former Hooters Waitress Settles Toy Yoda Lawsuit

Posted by jpthomas

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) - A former waitress has settled a lawsuit against Hooters, which she said promised to award her a new Toyota but instead gave her a toy Yoda.

An attorney for Jodee Berry said Wednesday that he could not immediately disclose the settlement's details.

"She's satisfied with it," said the attorney, David Noll. He did say that Berry can now go to a local car dealership and "pick out whatever type of Toyota she wants."

Berry, 27, won a beer sales contest in last May at the Panama City Beach Hooters. She believed she had won a new Toyota car.

She was blindfolded and led to the restaurant parking lot, but when the blindfold was removed, she found she was the winner of a toy Yoda Star Wars doll.

Berry quit the restaurant a week later and filed a lawsuit in August against Gulf Coast Wings, Inc., the corporate owner of the local Hooters, alleging breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation.

The restaurant's manager, Jared Blair, has said the whole contest was an April Fools' joke.

Midwest floods spotlight decrepit infrastructure


By Andrew Stern

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The latest U.S. natural disaster is triggering fresh rounds of concern and debate about how to repair America's aging infrastructure.

The worst Midwest flooding since 1993 has generated images of swamped towns, cracked roads, washed-out bridges, overwhelmed dams, failed levees, broken sewage systems, stunted crops and water-logged refugees.

The losses are in the billions of dollars and still mounting, as the costs of crop losses alone send shocks through the inflation-wracked world food system and threaten insurers.

The disaster has reminded policymakers of the decrepit state of U.S. infrastructure, stirring concerns similar to those following the deadly Minneapolis bridge collapse in 2007 and the flooding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Even before the latest flooding, a group representing engineers said the United States needed to spend about $1 trillion more than it does now to bring infrastructure up to par with modern needs and standards.

Mandela taken off US terror list

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela was South Africa's first post-apartheid-era president

US President George W Bush has signed a bill removing Nelson Mandela and South African leaders from the US terror watch list, officials say.

Mr Mandela and ANC party members will now be able to visit the US without a waiver from the secretary of state.

The African National Congress (ANC) was designated as a terrorist organisation by South Africa's old apartheid regime.

A US senator said the new legislation was a step towards removing the "shame of dishonouring this great leader".

'Rather embarrassing'

Under the legislation, members of the ANC could travel to the United Nations headquarters in New York but not to Washington DC or other parts of the United States.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had called the restrictions a "rather embarrassing matter that I still have to waive in my own counterpart, the foreign minister of South Africa, not to mention the great leader Nelson Mandela."

Critics rip elections supervisor after miscount in West Palm Beach race

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

707 more votes found after recheck in West Palm race

Palm Beach County elections officials said Friday they are investigating why they failed to quickly count more than 700 votes in a special election that marked the county's first experience with optical scanners.

A 707-vote disparity between an unofficial vote tally Tuesday and a final count two days later in a West Palm Beach City Commission race has spawned another wave of criticism and questions about Supervisor of Elections Arthur Anderson's ability to run an error-free election.

Unofficial results reported a few hours after the election showed 4,085 votes cast. The next day, a computerized audit signaled a problem — three vote-counting machines apparently had collected votes that weren't counted.

On Wednesday, officials rechecked the three machines and re-ran their vote-counting "cartridges" through vote tabulating equipment. The recheck found the 707 additional votes, or 14 percent of the total cast, that had not been counted on election night.,0,3240328.story

Would Bill Gates be No. 2?

By Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
Now that Bill Gates no longer has to worry about running Microsoft, why not help run the country?

The Microsoft Corp. co-founder is mentioned by some in political circles as the "dream running mate" for Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, according to

The site asked 14 consultants, staffers, fundraisers and historians to name "their most unconventional -- but reasonably viable" vice presidential choices for McCain and Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee. Also making the list of eight long shots was Meg Whitman, the former chief executive of EBay Inc. and a McCain fundraiser.

Former Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO Carly Fiorina also has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential choice. But Gates hasn't gotten much love as a potential veep. Talk about campaign finance reform: The world's third-richest man could help the McCain ticket obliterate Obama's Internet-fueled fundraising advantage.,0,1264693.story

Have you seen this man?


Oliver Stone and 'W.,' a story of President Bush

On the set, Josh Brolin, Oliver Stone

ON THE SET: Brolin with director Stone, right. "W" takes an interest in Bush's hard-living youth as well as his presidency.

The openly political director goes where some fear to tread.
By John Horn, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
SHREVEPORT, LA. -- IT'S A conversation any father and son might have -- a quick chat about baseball, families and world affairs. But when the speakers are President George H. W. Bush and his son George W. Bush, even a seemingly innocuous conversation can suddenly carry great weight, especially when Oliver Stone is at the controls.

With sweat cascading down his face on a steamy June night in Louisiana, the Oscar-winning director was directing James Cromwell (playing the elder Bush) and Josh Brolin (starring as President Bush) through a critical moment in "W.," Stone's forthcoming -- and potentially divisive -- drama about the personal, political and psychological evolution of the current president. Although the father-son patter was ostensibly friendly, the subtext was anything but, hinting at the intricate parent-child relationship that Stone believes helps to explain George W. Bush's ascension.

While the Bushes in this scene from 1990 were talking about the Texas Rangers (of whom George W. once owned a share) and Saddam Hus- sein (against whom George H. W. was about to go to war in Kuwait), there was much more at stake, as Stone and screenwriter Stanley Weiser saw the fictional conversation unfolding.,0,4135766.story

Our Kind of Indiana Jones

 Lesbian Magazine

Written by: Colleen M. Lee

We girls have always wanted a female Indiana Jones. Now we have one in Dr. Kara Cooney—and she's hotter than Indy. Dr. Cooney is an Egyptologist, the author of The Cost of Death: The Social and Economic Value of Ancient Egyptian Funerary Art in the Ramesside Period, a Digging for the Truth team archaeology expert on the History Channel and host of the documentary Secrets of Egypt's Lost Queen on the Discovery Channel. The documentary searches for the lost tomb of Hatshepsut, one of Egypt's most powerful pharaohs. The surprising element is that Hapshetsut is a woman who posed as a man to rule over the beginning of Egypt's golden age—and the riches that King Tut would inherit.

Why is Hatshepsut so important?
She's important, right, because it was a major discovery that identified her mummy and her mummy had never been identified before. Her images had been erased. Some people had assumed that her mummy had been burned or destroyed, they'd tried to erase her from the very afterlife existence that she may have wanted. So finding her mummy and making that link was a big deal for a lot of people and especially for the public. I think it really fired up the public imagination in a new way. Everybody loves Egypt. Everybody knows about King Tut and Cleopatra, to add another image or face to that story, I think, just fired up the imagination even more. Especially a female face.

Hemp For Vermont Bill Is Law!

About Vote Hemp

Vermont Residents - Your calls to Governor Douglas worked. He allows H.267 to become law without his signature and the Attorney General's office agrees! Secretary of State Markowitz accepts bill and makes it Act No. 212.

MONTPELIER, Vermont (July 1, 2008) — Vote Hemp, a grassroots advocacy organization working to give farmers the right to grow non-drug industrial hemp, is extremely pleased that the Vermont Secretary of State's office accepted Formal Opinion #2008-1 from the Office of the Attorney General and gave H.267, the Hemp for Vermont bill, the designation of Act No. 212 last Friday. There had been a constitutional controversy as Governor Jim Douglas forwarded H.267 to the Secretary of State intending it to become law without his signature. The bill had overwhelmingly passed both the House (127 to 9) and the Senate (25 to 1). The new law sets up a state-regulated program for farmers to grow non-drug industrial hemp which is used in a wide variety of products, including nutritious foods, cosmetics, body care, clothing, tree-free paper, auto parts, building materials and much more. Learn more about industrial hemp at the Vote Hemp Web site.

Smart and effective grassroots organizing by Vote Hemp and the Vermont-based advocacy group Rural Vermont mobilized farmers and local businesses, many of which pledged to buy their hemp raw materials in-state if they have the opportunity. Rural Vermont's Director Amy Shollenberger says that "the Hemp for Vermont bill is another step toward legalizing this important crop for farmers. The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn't allow this crop to be grown. Looking at the Canadian experience, hemp provides a good return for the farmer. It's a high-yield crop and a great crop to mix in with corn."

Vermont grows an average of 90,000 acres of corn per year, a small amount compared to Midwest states; however, the need for a good rotation crop exists nationwide. From candle makers to dairymen to retailers, Vermont voters strongly support hemp farming. Admittedly a niche market now, hemp is becoming more common in stores and products across the country every day. Over the past ten years, farmers in Canada have grown an average of 16,500 acres of hemp per year, primarily for use in food products. In Vermont, the interest in hemp includes for use in food products, as well as in quality and affordable animal bedding for the state's estimated 140,000 cows.

Please see our Vermont State Page for a full update and make a donation to support our further work.

Also, please click here to write to your Representative in Congress and ask them to cosponsor HR 1009, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007, today!

Vote Hemp is a national, single-issue, non-profit advocacy group founded in 2000 by members of the hemp industry to remove barriers to industrial hemp farming in the U.S. through education, legislation and advocacy. We work to build grassroots support for hemp through voter education, registration and mobilization, as well as defend against any new laws, regulations or policies that would prohibit or restrict hemp trade.

Industrial hemp is the non-psychoactive, low-THC varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant. Hemp has absolutely no use as a recreational drug. Please click here to learn more about the farmers' case in North Dakota.

Also, please check out this Vote Hemp video
The Market for Hemp Products

For more information please see our FAQ:
How much is the hemp foods market worth in the United States?

Wise Up



By David Bruce

Artist Beauford Delaney taught author James Baldwin how to see. They were standing together on a corner in Greenwich Village, and Mr. Delaney pointed down and told Mr. Baldwin, "Look." Mr. Baldwin looked and saw nothing but a puddle of water, so Mr. Delaney told him, "Look again."

This time Mr. Baldwin really saw what was there: Floating on the water was some oil, and reflected in the oil was the city. Mr. Baldwin says, "It was a great revelation to me. I can't explain it. He taught me how to see, and how to trust what I saw. Painters have often taught writers how to see. And once you've had that experience, you see differently."


House of Cards

You thought the housing crisis was bad? You ain't seen nothing yet.

By Danny Schechter


House of Cards

The Mess

Nationwide, two million homes sit vacant. Home sales are at a nine-year low. Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers says that housing finance has not been this bad since the Depression. We still don't know the full extent of the colossal subprime rip-off, but a recent Bank of America study did some guesstimating on the scale of the consequences of the "credit crisis." The meltdown in the U.S. subprime real estate market, the bank said, had led to a global loss of $7.7 trillion dollars in stock market value since October.

While many eyes are focusing on the housing meltdown and its hugely negative effect on an economy clearly moving into recession, few are paying attention to the next bubble expected to burst: credit cards. Combined with the subprime losses, such a credit card nightmare has the potential, experts say, of bringing down the entire financial system and global economy. You and your credit card have become key players in the highly unstable financial crunch. Mortgage lender cupidity and bank credit card greed wedded to financial institution deregulation supported by both political parties, have been made manifestly worse by Bush administration support-the-rich policies. It has brought us to a brink not seen since just before the Great Depression.

While campaigning in Edinburg, Texas, in February, Barack Obama met with students at the University of Texas-Pan American. "Just be careful about those credit cards, all right? Don't eat out as much," he said. After the foreclosure crisis, he warned, "the credit cards are next in line."

The coupling of home equity debt and credit card debt has gone hand in glove for years. The homeowners at risk can no longer use their homes as ATM machines, thanks to their prior re-financings and equity loans, often used in the past to pay off their credit cards. Indeed, homeowners cashed out $1.2 trillion from their home equity from 2002 to 2007 to pay down credit card debts and to cover other costs of living, according to the public policy research organization Demos.

To compound the problem, fewer people are paying their credit card bills on time. And, to flip the old paradigm, more are using high-interest credit card cash to pay at least part of their mortgages instead of the other way around.

Music Row faces new realities

By all standards, 18-year-old country star Taylor Swift has made it in the music industry.

When her debut single, "Tim McGraw," hit in 2006, it simultaneously landed on Billboard's top country, pop and digital charts, while also securing a spot on Apple iTunes' weekly top 10 downloads list.

Since then, Swift has won several major music awards, even receiving a Grammy nomination for best new artist. Her debut album has sold more than 3 million copies, and in a genre-bending feat earlier this month she took a spin as co-host of MTV's popular Total Request Live show.

But to the nearly 20,000 mostly unseen people working in Nashville's music industry, Swift represents far more than the latest young artist to hit it big on the country music scene.

She illustrates the industry's new benchmarks of success in an era dominated by the easy availability of digital music, an explosion of new media platforms and a decline in album sales, in a business that has seen a third of its $14.6 billion retail market evaporate since 2000.

Call it the music industry's new normal. Or call it the result of a business thrown into chaos by 10 years of corporate consolidation and rampant piracy brought on by the rise of Internet technology.

In either case, life has changed — and is changing — for just about everyone on Music Row, from the songwriters and musicians to the publishers and record labels that make up the heart and soul of this city's most famous product.

The Complete Carlin

What you can learn from watching 800 minutes of George Carlin.

George Carlin

The future scholar of comedy who sets out to publish The Complete Works of George Carlin had better be prepared for a multimedia endeavor. A truly comprehensive collection of the comedian's work would have to include his Grammy Award-winning albums, his best-selling books, and a transcript of his argument before the Supreme Court in defense of his immortal "Seven Words" routine. In the meantime, mourners of Carlin, who died of heart failure earlier this week, can make do with the recently released George Carlin: All My Stuff. The retrospective box set, weighing in at more than 800 minutes of material, is comprised of 12 HBO specials, beginning with a 1977 performance at USC and ending with 2005's Life Is Worth Losing. Carlin's assiduous touring schedule (he was sometimes on the road for nearly three-quarters of the calendar year) gave him a staging ground where he could hone his material. But it was the HBO specials that gave him a truly national audience and a chance to showcase his best stuff.

Carlin's career spanned more than 40 years, remarkable longevity for a stand-up artist, and All My Stuff offers a window on how his routine adapted across the decades. Though the infamy of "Seven Words" may doom Carlin to be remembered as a blue comic, early in his career he pioneered a form of observational humor now often classified as Seinfeldian. At the USC show, he describes his vocation as sharing "little ideas that occur to me." ("Why aren't there any Chinese guys named Rusty?" he asks at one point in the performance.) In 1982's At Carnegie Hall, Carlin discusses his craft in more philosophical terms—his expertise, he says, lies in "reminding you of things you already know but forgot to laugh at the first time they happened." The bulk of the material in his early shows was concerned with such pedestrian acts as grocery shopping and, yes, walking. In one early performance, he constructs a bit around the phantom stair phenomenon, when we accidentally trick our legs into thinking a staircase has one more step than it actually does.

The stair bit works on an observational level because we have all experienced it. But Carlin also makes it work on a physical level, embellishing the joke through his wild gesticulations. Unlike Seinfeld, Carlin was also a gifted physical comic, and in his early performances, the influence of Carlin's idols—Buster Keaton, Danny Kaye, the Marx Brothers—is particularly evident. He contorts his face into wrinkly malformations. He squats slightly and mimes masturbatory motions. He freezes onstage in strange postures, an American ambassador to Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks.

The Robot Hut

 The Robot Hut Museum  

 Picture by Bob Jenson

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