Monday, August 4, 2008


by Bruce Yurgil

More than 1 percent of US adults are in jail or prison

...for the first time ever in our nation's history. That most interesting fact, cited in the lasest issue of an American prison industry trade magazine. Snip:


Quoting the recent report by the Pew Center on the States' Public Safety Performance Project, Lamkey noted that for the first time in history more than 1 percent of adults in the United States - one in 99.1 persons is held in jail or prison.
Ned Sublette, on whose email list I found the item, says:
That is a good thing, if you sell things like Aedec's Pro-Straint prisoner restraint chair. [ * ] Another article at this journal's website discusses the problem of increasing numbers of alzheimer's cases in today's aging prison population.
More from the trade zine:
As reported in the May/June issue of Correctional News, the United States leads the world in the number of inmates per capita, with 750 inmates per 100,000 residents, according to the Pew report. During 2007, the U.S. prison population increased by more than 25,000 inmates to almost 1.6 million inmates, and local jails throughout the United States held 723,131 inmates at the end of 2007.
There are other interesting things in here, including tips on reducing carbon footprint of jail facilities, and stuff about colors and how they affect the imprisoned population.

In the Trenches: AJA Seminar Highlights(Correctional News, thanks Ned Sublette)


[ * ] Here's more on the design and use of "restraint chair" devices: The Devil's Chair (Progressive magazine)

BuzzFlash Reviews Manufactured Landscapes 
Manufactured Landscapes: A Portrait of Our March Toward Ecological Disaster (DVD)
A Film by Jennifer Baichwal

An exquisitely photographed documentary on the stunning photographic legacy of Edward Burtynsky, who specializes in large format vividly colored photos of the artificial landscape of industrialization and its toxic byproducts.

Watching "Manufacutured Landscapes" is a bit like attending an art exhibition. You may want to view it in 2 or 3 sittings. Burtynsky offers occasional narration and insight into his growth as an artist and how he came to focus on the ability of our species to create "manufactured landscapes" of industrial byproducts, many of them toxic.

At first, it may seem a little slow. There is no dramatic narrative here. But the power of the images and the interspersed narration, along with the actual documentary footage starts to swell up into a tidal wave of recognition: men and women have created an artificial construct in which to live, alienated from nature, with results that will come back to haunt us.

Burtynsky's brilliance -- and irony -- is that he can make an endless mountain of discarded tires both ominous and beautiful. There's something breathtaking about massive ships that are "discarded" on the sands of the Southeast, and then dismantled by local cottage industries of poor residents, with the parts and the scrap metal sold or bartered.

Al Gore personally awarded the film the first prize in the documentary category at the Nashville Film Festival, and his presentation is included in the extras.

Who Is This So-Called ‘John McCain?’

By the Comics Curmudgeon

Like everyone in the liberal media, your Wonkette has been following every minute detail of the ascension of our next president, Barry Jesus Obama. But did you know that there needs to be an "election" before Obama can become president, and that there is another person also seeking this high office? His name is "John McCain," and it seems that he was in a war [Korea? Philippine Insurrection? Research! --Eds] and maybe also in Congress. In our attempt to bring you complete coverage of Obama's election, we are presenting all the information currently available on this elusive McCain individual. There are no known photographs of McCain, possibly because his primitive cultural beliefs forbid them, but we at least have these crude depictions from America's political cartoonists.

John McCain is a tiny, dwarfish man, though whether a result of the primitive understanding of nutrition in the distant time of his rearing or of some genetic abnormality we cannot say. The disproportional hugeness of a his bald, jowly skull points towards the latter explanation, however. What is known is that his staff enjoys building whimsical little replicas of the sorts of things that normal humans use, such as the "McCain-sized" lectern, complete with microphone, that you can see here.

McCain is so short, in fact, that he can easily be picked up and toted about without mechanical assistance of any sort. His staffers use this feature as a selling point, noting that his "pleasing portability" will make it cheaper to transport him overseas for diplomatic trips. However, as you can see here, those who do hoist the diminutive candidate soon find themselves becoming quite angry, presumably because he's irritating in some way when encountered at close quarters.

Like lovable Yoda from the Star Wars films, John McCain is not only tiny but unfathomably old. Unlike Yoda, though, McCain is not a CGI construct, but is rather made of wrinkly, liver-spotted flesh. Like many old people, McCain frequently puts on clothes that are far too large and/or situationally inappropriate and wanders around aimlessly, demanding attention.

What are McCain's mating habits like? While the sex life of this shy, retiring creature has never been captured on film, here we see an artist's depiction of what most biologists believe to be McCain's primary mating behavior: hot, hot phone sex with Mitt Romney. If actual Mitt Romney is not available, McCain must sometimes resort to the Romney impersonators at 1-900-SEX-MITT.

Media Matters

by Jamison Foser

The media debunk McCain smears, then promote them

One of the dominant themes in media coverage of the 2000 presidential campaign was that Al Gore was a liar. That theme was itself a lie; media outlets invented quotes Gore never said in order to accuse him of dishonesty, all while virtually ignoring actual lies from George W. Bush. Inaccurate and imbalanced as that media coverage was, it reflected at least one assumption that seems inarguably true: It is significant, and newsworthy, when a presidential candidate and his campaign repeatedly make false claims.

But it seems reporters throw that assumption out the window when the presidential candidate making the false claims is one the media have long praised for his "straight talk" and his opponent is one the media have begun accusing of being "arrogant" or "presumptuous."

Over the past few weeks, and especially the past week, numerous news organizations and other neutral observers have debunked a series of false claims made by John McCain and his campaign., for example, has called one McCain attack ad "false," said another contains a "false" insinuation, described another as misleading, called another "ridiculous" and added, "That's absurd, and McCain knows it." FactCheck said the attacks in yet another McCain ad are "oversimplified to the point of being seriously misleading," noting that by the standards of evidence the McCain campaign used in the ad, the Arizona senator himself could be criticized precisely the same way. FactCheck called criticisms McCain has leveled against Obama's tax plans "bunk," adding, "He's wrong," and stating that McCain is using a "false and preposterously inflated figure" to attack Obama. They called another McCain attack "simply wrong" and "not true." They said yet another McCain ad "gets nearly all its facts wrong. ... [E]very number in the ad is wrong, except one. ... And even that number is rounded upward so generously as to flunk third-grade arithmetic." And FactCheck called yet another McCain attack "trickery" based on an "inflated and misleading" number that was the result of "Double, Triple and Quadruple Counting."

And that's just in the past month.

Michael Moore: I’ve got my Madonna shorts on today


Michael Moore talks during a panel discussion "Saturday All Star Comedy Panel" at the City Opera House during the Traverse City Film Festival on Saturday, August 2, 2008 in Traverse City, MI.

By JULIE HINDS • Free Press Pop Culture Writer

Michael Moore brought the funny to the Traverse City Film Festival this morning, hosting a panel discussion on comedy at the City Opera House.

"I've got my Madonna shorts on today," said the festival's founder, who paired them with a black T-shirt.

Tonight, Madonna is coming here to introduce her very serious, often moving documentary, "I Am Because We Are."

But the mood was mostly irreverent at the comedy panel, with some thoughtful discussion on the making of controversial comedies.

Stanley Donen and Elaine May didn't make it to the panel, but Larry Charles, director of "Borat," was there to talk about "Religulous," his new film that follows comedian Bill Maher on a look at religions across the world. Talk about a touchy subject.

27 million slaves

Call + Response
watch the trailer

executive bonuses


Wal-Mart Warns of Democratic Win

The Wall Street Journal Home Page
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is mobilizing its store managers and department supervisors around the country to warn that if Democrats win power in November, they'll likely change federal law to make it easier for workers to unionize companies -- including Wal-Mart.

In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if stores were to be unionized.

According to about a dozen Wal-Mart employees who attended such meetings in seven states, Wal-Mart executives claim that employees at unionized stores would have to pay hefty union dues while getting nothing in return, and may have to go on strike without compensation. Also, unionization could mean fewer jobs as labor costs rise.


The actions by Wal-Mart -- the nation's largest private employer -- reflect a growing concern among big business that a reinvigorated labor movement could reverse years of declining union membership. That could lead to higher payroll and health costs for companies already being hurt by rising fuel and commodities costs and the tough economic climate.

The New Normal: McCain's Desperate Ad Hours

Posted by: David Kiley

Please see this blog entry ["No Conversations": McCain Troops Ad] to go with this post.

The McCain campaign had adopted an ad strategy that has been dubbed "desperate" by Time Magazine political columnist Joe Klein. Klein was writing in response to this latest ad from McCain's new ad/communications honcho Steve Schmidt.

Klein writes that a candidate airs tis ad only if: "1. You're desperate.
2. Your Middle East policy has been superseded by events and abandoned by your allies. 3. You apparently have nothing substantive to say about America's future role in the region and the world."

"If you watched both Obama and McCain on the morning shows today, you saw one candidate who was at ease, confident but not flawless (Obama's answer on the Surge still seems too grudging), and another who was tense and almost entirely negative. There used to be another John McCain—charming, open, unpredictable. I wonder where he went; the McCain who appeared on the air today seemed too much a scold, too little a statesman."

Obama's cancellation of a visit in Germany to visit wounded U.S. troops has been adequately explained: that his campaign was advised by the Pentagon that since Obama was on a campaign trip and spending campaign resources, it would be viewed as using the wounded as props whether cameras were allowed in the hospital or not.

This ad asserts a McCain campaign talking-point that Obama wouldn't make time for wounded troops unless cameras were allowed to follow him, but did make time to work out at a gym. This, of course, is a lie. It's a blatant lie. Steve Schmidt, a disciple of Karl Rove's who worked on George W. Bush's 2004 ad/communications effort, though, is playing the Rovian playbook that says that it doesn't matter if it's true as long as your target audience (non-college educated white working class voters) won't bother to find out the actual truth, and believe that it "sounds like it might be a true."

The Bush Monument


McCain’s Oil Drilling Hoax

LOGO: Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines. A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion. Editor, Robert Scheer. Publisher, Zuade Kaufman.

By Joe Conason

Forced to cancel a visit to an oil platform off the Mississippi coast last week because of inclement weather—and the untimely leaking of hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil from a damaged barge in the area—John McCain finally got his photo op at a California derrick on July 28. Speaking at the Bakersfield site, the Arizona senator delivered extraordinarily good news to the beleaguered gasoline-consuming public as he explained why we must drill offshore.

McCain, basing his remarks on briefings he received from "the oil producers," said: "There are some instances [that] within a matter of months they could be getting additional oil. In some cases, it would be a matter of a year. In some cases it could take longer than that, depending on the location and whether you use existing rigs or you have to install new rigs, but there's abundant resources in the view of the people who are in the business that could be exploited within a period of months."

The prospect of significant new petroleum resources that could be available so soon would be excellent news—aside from the obvious impact of burning still more oil—if only what the senator said was true. But what he said actually made no sense whatsoever, as a statement about the future development of domestic oil, the alleged need to increase drilling off our coasts or the resources that such drilling might produce. So let's unpack that McCain statement (which was overshadowed by the news that his dermatologist had just removed a small lesion from the 71-year-old melanoma survivor's right cheek).

It may be true that "existing rigs" could produce additional barrels of domestic oil immediately, whether on land or in the ocean, as McCain suggests. If so, he might want to ask his friends in the oil business why those rigs aren't producing more oil now, at prices above $120 a barrel. An existing rig by definition is a rig that is operating legally on property already leased for exploration—and can produce oil unencumbered by any environmental constraints on drilling. In case the senator doesn't understand, an existing rig is where someone has already drilled a well.

Shear madness


Pelosi Claims Republicans Want Impeachment

By David Swanson

Almost every time House Speaker Nancy Pelosi explains why she won't impeach Bush or Cheney she says that the Republicans want impeachment and that therefore she must oppose it.

She originally took impeachment "off the table" in response to a May 2006 Republican National Committee announcement that (contrary to all existing evidence) talk of impeachment would benefit Republicans in the November 2006 elections. (In fact polls showed a majority believing that electing Democrats would mean impeachment, and we elected 30 new Democrats and not a single new Republican.)

Pelosi made the same claim in this week's Time Magazine:

"I think the Republicans would like nothing better than for us to focus on impeachment and take our eye off the ball of a progressive economic agenda."

She also made the same claim in this week's Nation Magazine:

"You know who wanted us to impeach the was the Republicans."

Over and over again she argues that the Republicans want impeachment.

Turns out the speaker hasn't checked her facts. I just phoned the RNC to ask whether they support impeachment, and they told me they definitely do not. Here's the audio. Do you suppose that if Pelosi finds out about this she'll put impeachment back in our Constitution?

Dead Army vaccine scientist eyed in anthrax problem

Federal prosecutors investigating the 2001 anthrax attacks were planning to indict and seek the death penalty against a top Army microbiologist in connection with anthrax mailings that killed five people. The scientist, who was developing a vaccine against the deadly toxin, committed suicide this week.

The scientist, Bruce E. Ivins, worked for the past 18 years at the government's biodefense labs at Fort Detrick, Md. For more than a decade, he worked to develop an anthrax vaccine that was effective even in cases where different strains of anthrax were mixed, which made vaccines ineffective, according to federal documents reviewed by the AP.

U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of ongoing grand jury proceedings, said prosecutors were closing in on Ivins, 62. They were planning an indictment that would have sought the death penalty for the attacks, which killed five people, crippled the postal system and traumatized a nation still reeling from the Sept. 11 attacks.

Officials said that Ivins, who shared in the 2003 Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service, was under investigation to determine whether he released the anthrax as a way to test his vaccine. The decoration is the highest honor given to civilian Pentagon employees.

The Justice Department has not yet decided whether to close the investigation, officials said, meaning it's still not certain whether Ivins acted alone or had help. One official close to the case said that decision was expected within days. If the case is closed soon, one official said, that will indicate that Ivins was the lone suspect.

Ivins' attorney said the scientist had cooperated with investigators for more than a year.

"We are saddened by his death, and disappointed that we will not have the opportunity to defend his good name and reputation in a court of law," attorney Paul F. Kemp said. "We assert his innocence in these killings, and would have established that at trial."

Kemp said that Ivins' death was the result of the government's "relentless pressure of accusation and innuendo"


FCC slaps Comcast’s wrist over network neutrality; Sets precedent

The Federal Communications Commission on Friday ruled 3-2 that Comcast overstepped its network management authority by blocking BitTorrent peer to peer traffic, but stopped short of fining the cable company. The move clarifies the boundaries a bit for other carriers and sends the message that the FCC enforces network neutrality principles.

The order against Comcast is notable because it's the first official one making network throttling blocking officially illegal. The order, which was expected, also sets the template for future actions, which may turn up against other providers. In a nutshell, the FCC issued a cease and desist order to Comcast that forces the cable giant to disclose to customers how it manages its network. One thing is certain: This network neutrality issue will continue to reappear. Indeed the Electronic Frontier Foundation created a software tool to gauge your ISP's neutrality.


FCC Chairman Kevin Martin likened Comcast's behavior–and the Net neutrality issue in general–to the post office. Would it be ok if the post office decided what parcel it moved faster? "Comcast was blocking downloads and doing it 24/7," said Martin. "Today the commission tells Comcast to stop and allow everyone to have unfettered access to the Internet."