Friday, October 30, 2009

Haunted Houses


by Ted Rall after 9/11, George W. Bush secretly signed two executive orders. Both violated basic constitutional protections as well as U.S. obligations under international treaties, yet both carried the force of law.

They still do.

The first order grants the president (and other officials, including the secretary of defense, the secretary of homeland security and presumably certain postal clerks) the right to declare anyone--including an American citizen--an "unlawful enemy combatant." A person so declared has no redress, no way to appeal, no ability to challenge that designation. Once a person has been named an enemy combatant, according to the Bush Administration--and now to the Obama Administration--he has no rights. He can be held without charges forever, tortured, you name it--well, actually, the president or the secretary of defense names it.

In the second covert executive order, Bush authorized the CIA to target and assassinate said "enemy combatants"--again, including American citizens.

These two documents first came into play on November 3, 2002, when a CIA-operated Predator drone plane violating Yemeni airspace fired a Hellfire missile at a car containing Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, supposedly Al Qaeda's #1 man in Yemen at the time.

U.S. officials didn't know that an American citizen, Kamal Derwish, was riding along. (You know what they say about hitchhiking.) "The Bush administration said the killing of an American in this fashion was legal...this is legal because the president and his lawyers say so--it's not much more complicated than that," CBS News reported at the time. "I can assure you that no constitutional questions are raised here," said Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, after the CIA assassinations. "He's well within the balance of accepted practice and the letter of his constitutional authority."

It's right there in the Constitution between the right to tax and the repeal of Prohibition.

Anyway, Congress tried to clarify matters in the Military Commissions Act of 2006, part of which--the section that eliminated the writ of habeas corpus--got struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court last year. But the rest of the MCA remains in force, including a passage that defines an enemy combatant as anyone who provides "material support" to the "enemy." And who is the enemy? The enemy is anyone the president says it/he/she/they is.

Again, there is no distinction between foreigners and U.S. citizens.

Jose Padilla, the so-called would-be "dirty bomber" held in a Navy brig since 2002, was tried and convicted of such "material support" charges in 2007. (The government couldn't prosecute Padilla for their original dirty bomb charges because they had tortured him so severely that he had been reduced to mental mush.)

Now that times have supposedly changed, it's time to ask: why hasn't President Obama abrogated Bush's controversial executive orders? If Obama truly seeks a break with the lawlessness of the prior administration, what better way to enact it?

Simply put, no one man--not even a nice, articulate, charismatic one--ought to claim the right to suspend a person's constitutional rights. Not in America. Certainly no one man--not even a young, handsome, likeable one--should be able to have anyone he wants whacked. Even in dictatorships, the right of life and death is reserved for judges and juries operating under a system purportedly designed to support impartiality and a search for the truth.

But that's not the case here in the United States. In 2002 Scott Silliman, director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University asked: "Could you put a Hellfire missile into a car in Washington, D.C., under [the Bush] theory? The answer is yes, you could."

Have you seen these smug bastards?

Jack Herer Kidnapped?!
Jack had a heart attack in Portland, Oregon on September 12. I was in California waiting for him to come home. I flew to Portland, went to the hospital and was told that a woman named Joy Graves had come to the hospital with a Medical Power of Attorney that Jack had allegedly signed, naming her and Chuck Jacobs as the people in charge of Jack's medical care. It wasn't complete and looks like someone forged his signature. The hospital's legal team determined it was no good.

Jack is now in a skilled nursing facility in Eugene. Joy Graves has taken the paper to them and they have accepted it until their legal team decides what to do. In the meantime, I am not allowed to see Jack or even get news about his condition over the phone. Jack has already been neglected in the nursing home. He fell out of bed there and hit his head shortly after being admitted. He had lumps on his head from it and bruises on his upper eyelids.

I've had to hire an attorney to deal with this. I don't have much money but I'll do what I can. I love Jack very much and can't believe this is happening to him now, when he needs me the most.

Jeannie Herer

Even Lieberman’s Ancestors Betrayed the Public Option

The Satirical Political Report

By Don Davis


Halloween Meat Hand

not martha 

I made something gruesome and delicious.

No, really, it was good.

This is meatloaf.

Meatloaf with cheese on top.

And some ketchup.

The nails are made of onion.

When the tough should really get going

by Garrison Keillor
Garrison KeillorThe former Marine officer Matthew Hoh, who resigned his Foreign Service post in Afghanistan because he feels the war is pointless and not worth dying for, deserves all the attention he's gotten and more. The Obama administration faces hard decisions there, and the man made a good case against deeper American involvement. He says that our presence among the Pashtun people, the rural, religious people, is only aggravating a civil war between them and the urban, secular (and, it seems, fraudulent) government of Kabul, and the role of the Taliban and al-Qaida is not central -- the real issues are tribal and cultural.

American families, he said, "must be reassured their dead have sacrificed for a purpose worthy of futures lost, love vanished, and promised dreams unkept. I have lost confidence such assurances can be made any more."

It is rare that a high-level official -- he was the senior State Department guy in Zabul province -- resigns in protest, and in all the to-do about his four-page resignation letter, nobody had a single bad thing to say about Matthew Hoh.

Americans tend not to admire quitters, which is maybe why protest resignations are so rare. You can get up on your high horse and talk about your principles, but we suspect you're just another slacker looking for an easy way out. Your old football coach told you that when the going gets tough, the tough get going, and by "get going" he didn't mean "write a four-page letter about your disillusionment with his coaching and the split-T offense in general" -- he meant, Toughen Up, Assume the Three-Point Stance, Hit 'Em Hard, Eat Some Turf, Get Up and Hit 'Em Again.

On the other hand, you don't want to be the last man to believe in the mission after everyone else has seen the light and gone home. Sunday in San Francisco, they set out to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Woodstock by gathering 3,000 guitarists in Golden Gate Park to play Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze," and 50 showed up and some of them were playing ukuleles. The '60s are over. Time to move on.

Glenn Greenwald: Lieberman and Bayh Enriching Themselves and Their Spouses with Opposition to Health Reform


Rachel Maddow talks to Glenn Greenwald about Joe Lieberman's threat to filibuster the health care bill if it contains a public option, Evan Bayh quickly following suit and the financial gain being made by both men and their spouses for doing so.

Maddow: Sen. Lieberman has made it very clear that he plans to oppose health reform that includes a public option. He'll filibuster it in fact which would be historic. What do you think is motivating him?

Greenwald: Well I think you have to look first of all at a Research 2000 Daily KOS poll that was taken last month that shows that a margin of 68 to 21% of Connecticut voters, the people who he's essentially representing, favor a public option. That's a 47 point margin which is almost impossible to find on almost any other issue. So when you ask why he's doing this, it's clearly not because the people he's supposed to be representing favor it.

I think clearly what it's about is primarily that fact that the industry that he's serving by doing this—by preventing competition with the public option—is an industry from which he receives very substantial benefits. He's drowning in campaign contributions from the insurance industry, the health care industry, the pharmaceutical industry—more than $2.5 million.

In early 2005 his wife was hired by a large P.R. firm, Hill & Knowlton, in the pharmaceutical division, which at the time was representing the health care giant Glaxo in major legislation before the Senate. And several months later Joe Lieberman was on the floor of the Senate offering legislation that would directly steer huge amounts of incentives to that company in order to develop vaccines.

So I think what you're seeing here is the kind of legalized corruption, legalized bribery that runs the United States Senate; only in this case it's particularly sleazy and transparent because Lieberman is ready to gut the major initiative of the Democratic Party.

Maddow: In doing so, using a procedural tactic that he's in part made his name by opposing is the thing that's so dramatic. Sen. Lieberman of course—he made this big announcement yesterday—today Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana followed suit saying that he reserves the right now not only to filibuster the final vote, but even to filibuster earlier than that any debate on a bill that he's not happy with. Sen. Bayh—we had thought that other conservative Democrats might follow Lieberman's lead here, he sort of threw the door open and now presumably Bayh and maybe even others will follow. Can you say anything about what may be motivating Bayh.

Greenwald: Well, let's look at Sen. Bayh. His wife sits on the Board of Directors of WellPoint, one of the largest health insurance companies in the nation. They own by their own disclosures between $500,000 and a million dollars just of WellPoint stock alone. And as I think you reported yesterday when Sen. Lieberman threatened to filibuster to the public option as one would expect the value of the stock of the health care industries and the health care companies skyrocketed—which directly benefited, personally benefited the finances of the Bayh family.

Let me just quickly reference this column two weeks ago by Dan Carpenter, a columnist for the Indianapolis Sun, who knows Sen. Bayh the best. He talks about how his wife is benefiting directly from the very actions Sen. Bayh is taking in the Senate to block health care reform—financially benefiting his family. And he wrote "after it became clear he was going to be a Senator, Susan Bayh started stacking up memberships on the board of health care corporations. Susan Bayh got paid a little over $2 million for her service between 2006 and 2008. Her husband had a good 2008 also, collecting more than $500,000 in campaign donations from the health care industry.

And now these very same people who receive enormous amounts of benefits, in Lieberman's case from camp contributions and through his wife and also in Bayh's case are not ignoring their constituents and the interest of their country to serve the very industries that enrich them. It's really clear corruption.

They went on to discuss the promises made by Joe Lieberman when he was allowed to keep his chairmanship and the way these corporate Democrats have been allowed to do anything they want while liberal Democrats have been threatened with loss of support unless they voted for the war supplemental bill.

Daily Show under fire for covering Israeli-Palestinian conflict
stewart bw7 Daily Show under fire for covering Israeli Palestinian conflictJon Stewart's comedy news show The Daily Show is reportedly under fire from pro-Israeli groups for giving airtime to two pro-Palestinian figures on Wednesday night.
Stewart hosted Palestinian democracy activist Mustafa Barghouti and human rights activist Anna Baltzer, author of A Witness in Palestine, who explained the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the perspective of the Palestinian side.

According to a letter reportedly written by Baltzer and circulated by blogger Eric Johnson, the show "was overwhelmed with angry emails and phone calls prior to the appearance, and up until the last minute it seemed like they might cancel."

"During the taping the show had its only heckler in 11 years," Baltzer wrote. "The entire staff were very nervous and may come to regret the monumental decision (and not make it again) as they will surely be inundated now that the show has aired."

At one point during the interview, Barghouti asserted: "We [Palestinians] are struggling for liberty, we are struggling for justice. It's Palestinians who have been subjected to the longest occupation in history and a system of segregation that is totally unjust."

At that point, a voice in the audience could be heard shouting: "Liar!"

"Apparently we have Joe Wilson with us tonight," Stewart quipped, referring the US House representative who yelled "You lie!" during President Obama's address to Congress last month.

The segment drew criticisms from a number of pro-Israeli activists and commenters.

"Jon Stewart [had] a couple of disgraceful guests on his show on Wednesday night for a night of Israel bashing," wrote blogger Israel Matzav. "No, there's no pro-Israel counterpoint (perhaps he will try to convince us that ISM activist Baltzer - who is Jewish - is meant to provide balance). And I thought Stewart's was a comedy show. What if no one watched him?"

Not all pro-Israeli voices were as critical.

"It doesn't actually seem that groundbreaking," wrote Rafi G. "He has a Palestinian talking about Palestinian rights and he has an Jewish leftist talking about Palestinian rights. They are advocating a non-violent approach, both from a Palestinian point of view."

But the blogger noted that "nobody said a word about Palestinian terror or their not accepting peace deals that were offered."

Baltzer is now urging Daily Show viewers to send letters of support to the show, in an effort to keep the show from being dissuaded from covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the future.

And some commentators are praising Stewart for taking on the issue. TalkingPointsMemo blogger M.J. Rosenberg credits Stewart with starting a "sea change" in American media's coverage of the Middle Eastern conflict.

Rosenberg wrote:

Not long ago, no mainstream media personality would ever allow himself to be associated with anyone who suggests that diplomacy, not war, is the way to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Being thought of as not 100% down with the government of Israel was a career killer. And, if it wasn't, media and show business figures believed it was and that was the same thing.

That era ended with the rise of Jon Stewart, the most trusted television personality in America (and the only one the kids pay attention to). Stewart is the antithesis of the scared Jew.

The following video was broadcast on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, October 28, 2009.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Anna Baltzer & Mustafa Barghouti Extended Interview Pt. 1
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Anna Baltzer & Mustafa Barghouti Extended Interview Pt. 2
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

US Chamber Shuts off and Websites of Hundreds of Other Activist Groups

Free Speech, Free Commerce Threatened by "Free Trade" Champion

Hundreds of activist organizations had their internet service turned off last night after the US Chamber of Commerce strong-armed an upstream provider, Hurricane Electric, to pull the plug on The Yes Men and May First / People Link, a 400-member-strong organization with a strong commitment to protecting free speech.

"This is a blow against free speech, and it demostrates in gory detail the full hypocrisy of the Chamber," said Andy Bichlbaum of The Yes Men. "The only freedom they care about is the economic freedom of large corporations to operate free of the hassles of science, reality, and democracy."

After suffering embarrassment at the hands of the Yes Men on Monday, the Chamber immediately threatened legal action, then followed through Thursday by sending a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice to Hurricane Electric Internet Services. In the DMCA notice, the Chamber claimed that the parody Chamber website operated by The Yes Men constituted copyright infringement, and demanded that the site be shut down immediately and that the creator's service be canceled.

But the Yes Men are not served directly by Hurricane Electric, but by May First / People Link. And when Hurricane Electric shut down the fake Chamber of Commerce site (now relocated), they also took down the websites of 400 other organizations.

May First / People Link fought back. They immediately "mirrored" the site, and then quickly negotiated with Hurricane Electric to restore service to their other members.

"The DMCA attacks the critically important right we have to effectively comment and criticize institutions and companies," said May First/People Link Co-Director Alfredo Lopez. "It's an undemocratic, backwards law, a perfect example of how the government shouldn't intrude on our lives. But the Chamber was perfectly happy to use it to stomp on the Yes Men's rights to free spech, and the rights of hundreds of other organizations to operate on the web."

The 400 May First / People Link members weren't the only victims of the Chamber's action on Thursday. Today is the start of the national release of the Yes Men's new film, The Yes Men Fix the World. The film is being released in a number of independent theaters - who, not being part of a chain, are heavily dependent on the Yes Men website for selling tickets to the film. The Chamber's actions thus impinge on the ability of these small businesses to turn a profit.

Iowa Republicans wince at Palin fee

by Jonathan Martin
A conservative Iowa group's effort to lure Sarah Palin to its banquet next month has had an unintended effect: Rather than exciting conservatives about the prospect of a visit from the former Alaska governor, the group's plan to raise a six-figure sum to bring her to the state has GOP activists recoiling at the thought of paying to land a politician's speaking appearance.

The Iowa Family Policy Center's effort to cobble together $100,000 for Palin would represent a striking departure from customary practice in the first-in-the-nation state, these Republicans say, noting that a generation of White House hopefuls has paid their own way to boost their party and presidential ambitions.

Were Palin to appear in Iowa on November 21st, it would mark her first trip back to the state since she spoke to a handful of rallies there last fall as the GOP's vice-presidential nominee. She would offer powerful counter-programming to another major political event that night: The Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner with Vice-President Joe Biden as the headliner.

But representatives from other Iowa-based political advocacy groups said they would never consider shelling out money for what many politicians see as a privilege: the opportunity to speak to a room full of sure-fire caucus-goers who often serve as precinct captains and can be instrumental to a presidential candidate's success.

"If somebody tells me they want me to pay an appearance fee, it tells me they're not very serious about running for president," said Ed Failor, Jr., president of Iowans for Tax Relief and an influential GOP insider.

"I found it really, really odd," Failor said.

FOX News Isn't News. It's a Political Operation.

Curry spice 'kills cancer cells'

British Broadcasting Corporation

The yellow spice gives curries their bright colour

An extract found in the bright yellow curry spice turmeric can kill off cancer cells, scientists have shown.

The chemical - curcumin - has long been thought to have healing powers and is already being tested as a treatment for arthritis and even dementia.

Now tests by a team at the Cork Cancer Research Centre show it can destroy gullet cancer cells in the lab.

Cancer experts said the findings in the British Journal of Cancer could help doctors find new treatments.

Dr Sharon McKenna and her team found that curcumin started to kill cancer cells within 24 hours.

'Natural' remedy

The cells also began to digest themselves, after the curcumin triggered lethal cell death signals.

7.3 Billion Years Later, Einstein’s Theory Prevails

Astronomers said Wednesday that a race halfway across the universe had ended in a virtual tie. And so the champion is still Albert Einstein — for now.

A Sprint Across Bumpy Space-TimeThe race was between gamma rays of differing energies and wavelengths spit in a burst from an exploding star when the universe was half its present age. After a journey of 7.3 billion light-years, they all arrived within nine-tenths of a second of one another in a detector on NASA's Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope, at 8:22 p.m., Eastern time, on May 9.

Astronomers said the gamma-ray race was one of the most stringent tests yet of a bedrock principle of modern physics: Einstein's proclamation in his 1905 theory of relativity that the speed of light is constant and independent of its color, or energy; its direction; or how you yourself are moving.

"I take it as a confirmation that Einstein is still right," Peter F. Michelson of Stanford, principal investigator for Fermi's Large Area Telescope and one of 206 authors of a paper published online Wednesday in the journal Nature, said in an interview.

There is no evidence so far that the energy or wavelength of light affects its speed through space. That is important because of what it could say about the structure of space-time. Some theorists have suggested that space on very small scales has a granular structure that would speed some light waves faster than others — in short, that relativity could break down on the smallest scales.

Dr. Michelson and others emphasize that while the new Fermi results do not yet eliminate the prospect, further observations with more gamma-ray bursts could eventually verify or refute the hypothesis. That would have a major effect on physicists' efforts to unify the Einsteinian gravity that governs outer space with the weird quantum laws that govern the inner space of the atom.

Mario Livio, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, called the Fermi results an interesting effect but not revolutionary by any stretch. "The beauty of the experiment is not as much in what it achieves," Dr. Livio said, "as in the fact that you can use astronomical observations to place some interesting limits on very fundamental physics."

Quantum theory, as Einstein discovered to his chagrin, reduces life on subatomic scales to a game of chance in which elementary particles can be here or there but not in between. One consequence is that space-time itself should become discontinuous and chaotic when viewed at very close distances, the way an ocean that looks smooth from an airplane appears choppy and foamy up close.

This, the story goes, could have an effect on the propagation of light — or photons, as they are called in quantum-speak — slowing light with short wavelengths relative to light with longer wavelengths. The higher the energy of a photon, the shorter is its wavelength. One way to think about it is to envision the photons as boats on this choppy sea. The small ones, like tugboats, have to climb up and down the waves to get anywhere, while the bigger ones can slice through the waves and bumps like ocean liners, and thus go a little faster.

Until now such quantum gravity theories have been untestable. Ordinarily you would have to see details as small as 10-33 centimeters — the so-called Planck length, which is vastly smaller than an atom — to test these theories in order to discern the bumpiness of space. Getting that kind of information is far beyond the wildest imaginations of the builders of even the most modern particle accelerators, and that has left quantum gravity theorists with little empirical guidance.

"What's really lacking," Dr. Michelson explained, "is a laboratory experiment that tells us anything. So we have to use cosmology: we use the universe as the lab."


Ted Williams

Thursday, October 29, 2009

In the center ring

Schwarzenegger apparently tells legislator, ‘fuck you’

 By Raw Story

A Democratic lawmaker who heckled the governor with a "you lie" outburst during an unscripted appearance at a Democratic fundraiser received the following statement from California's colorful Republican governor Tuesday.

 Schwarzenegger apparently tells legislator, fuck you

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger typically attaches a message to bills he signs or vetoes telling lawmakers why he took the action.

A Democratic assemblyman who heckled the governor during a recent event in San Francisco actually received two messages: the veto letter itself and a not-so-subtle rebuke creatively hidden within it.

Like a find-the-word puzzle, the second message was visible by stringing together the first letter of each line down the left-hand margin. It consisted of a common four-letter vulgarity followed by the letters "y-o-u."

"My goodness. What a coincidence," said Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear. "I suppose when you do so many vetoes, something like this is bound to happen."

Mattel Has Lost Their Minds


Yesterday I bitched about the continually baffling assortment of characters in Mattel's DC Universe Classics line. I thought their insanity was limited to just that line, but now I think that someone high up at Mattel has lost all his fucking marbles. Because you see that Ken doll above? That Ken doll is PALM BEACH SUGAR DADDY KEN.

Never mind his silly clothes or enragingly tiny dog. He is called PALM BEACH SUGAR DADDY KEN. BY MATTEL. THIS IS HIS OFFICIAL NAME. Seriously, look at his Entertainment Earth page. This is like one of those joke Barbies art students do in college to criticize gender roles forced on children by their toys, like Hobo Barbie and Pregnant Trailer Trash Barbie. Except this time Mattel made it. It's official. My world is rocked. (Via Geek Girl Diva)

10 amazing truths you already suspected

Go ahead, pretend you didn't know. Pretend it wasn't obvious. (Volume II!)

As with Volume I, we shall start easy.

We'll begin with a truth so forehead-smackingly obvious you might worry that its very presence will cause you some sort of concussion o' blatancy. Which is, ironically, just about right ...

1) Your semi-rhetorical question du jour: What do basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey, lumberjacking and "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" all have in common? That's right, none of them causes nearly as much brain damage as America's most beloved sport-of-thugs: football. It is, without doubt, the most violent and sadistic gladiator game we have ever invented for giant, vaguely homoerotic males who weigh more than 250 pounds. Except for boxing.

Witness Malcolm Gladwell's half-stunning, half-obvious piece in a recent New Yorker, summed up thusly: nearly every football player in America, from high school on up through the NFL -- especially there -- will suffer some level of brain damage and head trauma, from moderate to severe to early-onset dementia, even after just a year or two of play, even if he never turns pro at all. Turns out the human skull simply cannot endure that many blows and concussions and not have the brain ripped, torn, bounced, pounded into a damaged lump of spasm and drooling and memory loss. The game is just that brutal.

2) Gladwell goes on to talk about Michael Vick, and suggests football has a direct parallel with the morally nauseating "sport" of dogfighting. It's a tenuous analogy, I thought, until the end when he talks about the scene at your average dogfight: the bloodthirsty crowd, the intense passion of the dog owners, the wholehearted willingness of the dogs themselves to fight to the death for your entertainment. Good luck making a distinction.

3) Are you aware that many desperate media honchos think the savior of fast-dying newspapers, magazines, even book publishing might just lie in the next must-have gizmo, like the Kindle? Well they do. Then again, until about 2005, most of them thought the Internet was run by tiny astronauts and magic rubber bands. But never mind that now.

Here stumbles Barnes & Noble, not exactly a bastion of tech innovation or cultural relevance, actually releasing a decent eBook device of its very own, called the Nook, to compete directly with Amazon's clunky, hideously ugly Kindle. The amazing thing: They improved upon it. Not difficult, I realize. But still. Barnes & Noble?

Translation: If even B&N can make a decent slab, the bar is set very low indeed. Somewhere, Steve Jobs is smiling. Again.

4) Here's an astonishing fact: China just surpassed the United States as the world's largest automobile market. Are you surprised? What's more, they will easily outsell the U.S. this year in sheer units moved, upwards of 13 million cars (the U.S. will move about 11 million).

But that's not the amazing part. It's this: They say that in a mere five or six years that number will almost double, to about 20 million cars per year, a simply staggering amount the wimpy little U.S., once the car capital of the world, has never, ever matched, and never will. And the Earth went, groan.

5) Wait, it gets better -- and scarier. Behold, the single most stunning China-related stat I've read in ages: "China is expected to build more square feet of real estate in the next 15 years than the United States has built in its entire history, and it has no green building codes or green building experience," says everbleak Foreign Policy mag. Yes, everything we have built in more than 200 years, surpassed by China by the time your newborn hits high school. Amazing. Disorienting. Oddly disturbing.

Health Care Hypocrites

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) has threatened to make health care
reform "Obama's Waterloo." (Photo: gte333f / flickr)

How do you spell "hypocrisy"?

Try this: "H-Y-P-O-C-O-N-G-R-E-S-S." The hypocongress consists of those Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats who have risen up on their hind legs in recent weeks to snarl and howl at any mention of a government role in meeting America's health care needs. "Socialism," they bark -- we won't allow Barack Obama and the liberals to create a Washington-run, big-government intrusion into the hallowed private market. Sen. Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican, even pledged to fight so ferociously that the health care battle would be Obama's "Waterloo."

What a stand-up guy for free enterprise! What an ideologically correct appeal to laissez-faire principle! And, let me add, what a crock!

What these bellicose market-purists hope you don't discover is that they are closet socialists. As members of the congressional elite, they and their families are governmentally blessed with their very own gold-plated, taxpayer-financed, Washington-run health care system. And, they loooove it.

Theirs is such an effective system that not a single member of the hypocongress has been willing to give it up -- even though they surely realize the political peril of being exposed as rank hypocrites for enjoying the very program they so adamantly reject for you.

Actually, they happily take a double dip in the soothing waters of public health care. First, they enroll their entire families in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program -- and you probably would, too, if it were available to you, for it's the Rolls Royce of health plans.

For example, while even the best employer-provided health policies offer only one or two types of coverage, FEHBP is a Chinese menu, offering dozens of coverage choices that allow its lucky members to assemble a plan that meets their unique needs. Members also need not worry about being denied coverage because of some pre-existing condition -- once sworn into office, lawmakers and their families are immediately and fully insured, with total access to a national network of doctors and hospitals.

But here's the sweetest part of their Rolls Royce ride: up to 75 percent of the premiums are paid for by taxpayers, many of whom are lucky if they can afford to buy an old Yugo-level of health coverage in the vaunted private market.

Well, snaps the hypocongress crowd, even if FEHBP is essentially government-paid insurance, at least it's not socialized medicine, with doctors working for the government -- so, technically, we're still pure.

Domestic violence

Maddow: Opt-out is Achilles’ heel of public option


healthcareprotest Maddow: Opt out is Achilles heel of public optionOpt-out clause creates 'incentive' for conservative states to harm public health care, Maddow argues

The opt-out clause now included in the Senate's version of health care reform could cause the entire public option to fail, because it would reduce its ability to keep costs down, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow told viewers Monday night.

Because the version of public health care currently being proposed would cover only the uninsured, and only in places where state legislatures don't opt out of it, the public health insurance plan may not have enough participants to successfully reduce health care costs, Maddow explained.

As Maddow's guest, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, explained, the public option as it is currently proposed would not cover more than 90 percent of Americans. And that fact, Maddow argued, could cause the public system to fail.

"One of the main arguments for the public option is that it would be big, and it would not only have the potential to give people another option at the consumer level, another choice of whom you get your insurance from, it would also -- because it would be big -- have the potential to save the country a lot of money on health care," Maddow said.

"Part of the reason it would save money is that, if it's big enough, it can spread the insurance risk among that many more people. It also needs to be a big enough player in the marketplace to be able to bargain effectively to keep costs down. If they only take up a really small part of the market, they're not going to have much bargaining power with the people who control how high health costs are.

"The smaller the number of people that are allowed to participate in the public option, the more you restrict who can get it based on things like where people live or whether or not they already have insurance, the less effective it's going to be. The bigger it is, the more effective it's going to be at keeping costs down."

"So, politically, what has been created is an incentive in which conservative politicians can say, at the state level, 'The public option won't work.' And if enough of those conservative politicians can persuade their states to opt out of it, then that prediction it won't work could become a self-fulfilling prophecy," Maddow concluded.

Lieberman Shills for the Healthcare Industry

By Scott Horton

When he was seeking reelection in 2006, Joe Lieberman campaigned as a supporter of healthcare reform and expressed his support for "universal healthcare." When the rubber hit the road, however, Lieberman emerged as a frontline warrior for the healthcare industry in its efforts to block reform. Yesterday, he not only noted his opposition to the very modest public option contained in the legislation that Majority Leader Harry Reid put forward, he also stated that he would cross the aisles to support a Republican filibuster. Should we be surprised? No. Lieberman has long been one of the industry's favorite players on the hill, accepting more than $1 million in campaign contributions from the insurance industry and more than $600,000 from pharmaceuticals and related healthcare-products companies. But his ties run deeper than that. His wife Hadassah previously worked for two lobbying firms, Hill & Knowlton and APCO, handling matters for their healthcare and pharmaceuticals clients. Throughout the 2006 campaign, Lieberman pointedly refused to discuss the scope of his wife's engagement for the healthcare industry or even the specific clients for whom she was working. But there seems to have been plenty of opportunity for synergy with Lieberman's work in Congress. Joe Conason noted:

Among Hill & Knowlton's clients when Mrs. Lieberman signed on with the firm last year was GlaxoSmithKline, the huge British-based drug company that makes vaccines along with many other drugs. As I noted in July, Sen. Lieberman introduced a bill in April 2005 (the month after his wife joined Hill & Knowlton) that would award billions of dollars in new "incentives" to companies like GlaxoSmithKline to persuade them to make more new vaccines. Under the legislation, known as Bioshield II, the cost to consumers and governments would be astronomical, but for Lieberman and his Republican cosponsors, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., the results would be worth every penny. Using the war on terror as their ideological backdrop, the pharma-friendly senators sought to win patent extensions on products that have nothing to do with preparations against terrorist attack or natural disaster.

The Amazing Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge Nears Completion

As this immense project nears its completion, take a look at some wonderful photos taken both onsite, around, above and below the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge. It cannot be said that the golden age of engineering is over when we can still produce projects like this.

Image Credit

It was a few months ago that Scienceray took a preliminary look at the momentous construction project going on near the Hoover Dam – you can see it here.  Then we saw how the project began in 2005 and we left it in June of 2009.  At that point the arch was more than fifty percent complete and it was hoped that the two sides would meet in the fall.  That is in the here and now, so let's take a look at how the project has progressed since then.  Have the hopes of the bridge builders come to fruition?

Image Credit

All attention since June has been focused on the arch that will underpin the road that will connect the States of Arizona and Nevada.  Certainly, it seems to be painstaking work and the work literally seems to inch towards completion.  Not to worry, though.  The folks of the two neighboring States are patient people – after all the Dam itself is close to celebrating its seventy fifth birthday.  Those who remember its grand opening back in the Great Depression are now octogenarians.  Still, the near completion of the arch is cause enough to fly the flags, even though there is a painstaking six feet still to go. Look at this great shot from the completion day in August, however.

Image Credit

If you look to the right of the flags – about ten meters or so, you will see a tiny figure with a safety hat and orange coat.  That's one of the construction workers and gives an idea of the sheer scale of the project.  There is no doubt that those working on the project must not be afflicted by bouts of vertigo – however occasional.  Would you want to be up that high?  Just to put it in to context, it is over two hundred and fifty meters down from this height.  As Shaggy might say, yikes.

What's So Scary About Michael Pollan? Why Corporate Agriculture Tried to Censor His University Speech

Health & Wellness

By Martha Rosenberg

Agribusiness is trying to combat Pollan's message of sustainable, healthy eating.

Even if agribusiness could shut Michael Pollan up, the outspoken author of Omnivore's Dilemma and a journalism professor at University of California, Berkeley, it still has the Los Angeles Times to contend with.

Last week, the Times blasted California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo for downgrading a scheduled Pollan lecture because it received pressure from David E. Wood, a university donor who happens to be chairman of the Harris Ranch Beef Co.

"Agribusiness gets plenty of opportunities to preach its point of view at agriculture schools such as Cal Poly, where the likes of Monsanto and Cargill fund research," the Times wrote, calling the 800-acre Harris Ranch, near Coalinga, whose "smell assaults passersby long before the panorama of thousands of cattle packed atop layers of their own manure,"--"Cowschwitz." Ouch.

And agribusiness has the University of Wisconsin-Madison to deal with.

The land grant, ag-based university, in the middle of dairyland, clearly doesn't remember its roots. It gave Pollan's In Defense of Food, another anti-agbiz screed according to industry, free to all incoming freshmen as part of its common book read program where everyone reads the same book, Go Big Read, in August.

"I have not seen the students this excited about something in years," Irwin Goodman, horticulture professor and vice dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences told the Associated Press as the James Beard Award-winning book was discussed in French and political science classes and included in an exhibit on the history of food.

Protesting farmers who came to hear Pollan speak at the university's 17,000-seat Kohl Center in September wearing matching green T-shirts which said "In Defense of Farming: Eat Food. Be Healthy. Thank Farmers" were clearly outnumbered. So were bumper stickers reading No Food; No Farms and Don't Criticize Farmers With Your Mouth Full in the parking lot.

Students get all their facts from writers like Pollan, the farmers, who were bussed in by Madison-based feed company Vita Plus, told the Capital Times. They have never visited a farm for first-hand knowledge of food production and don't know what they're talking about.

But efforts to open farms to the public are not always successful.

This month United Egg Producers' "Opening the Barn Doors" media tour at Morning Fresh Farms in northern Colorado, for example, only confirmed the size of today's egg farm that make humane conditions impossible (36 barns; 23,000 birds each, 23 million dozen eggs a year) and raised further questions about environmental blight by showing the press wearing white HazMat suits to enter the barns. (See: You want us to eat WHAT?)

Last month the American Egg Board rolled out a kid-focused "The Good Egg" campaign which includes sponsorship of Sesame Street, a Cookie Monster product placement and a feel good virtual tour to soften public opinion about egg farms. But nowhere does the campaign address the daily grinding up of newborn males even as they hatch at the hatcheries which supply egg farms to provide the industry with only females--a practice that United Egg Producers confirms is routine. Does the Cookie Monster know about that?

Horrible Headlines and How You can Help

Reefer Madness In these troubled times, what worries you worst? Sends chills climbing your spine?
    With our attention to drug policy, it has to be the headlines here:
  • "Reappointed Attorney General John Ashcroft instructs DEA to shut down all California dispensaries"

  • "Marc Emery to be extradited to Singapore to face death penalty for selling seeds"

  • "Rockefeller drug laws expanded: prison population to increase 10 fold"

  • "Congress funds ONDCP media campaign: $10 billion budgeted for anti-drug ads"

  • "Recession impairs non-profits: reform groups fold"
Jack O Lantern Fortunately, these horrific headlines are just frightening fiction meant to make a poignant point. As eerie, erratic, and irksome as the economy is, we can't let real reform bend backwards. We need your help NOW!

What truly troubles us is what reform risks if non-profits like DrugSense disappear. Who will track DEA destruction in California with archived articles? Who will excoriate Emery's extradition with Focus Alerts? Who will pepper the press with Rockefeller Law LTEs? Who will compete with anti-drug campaigns on a budget of beans? ALL, with splendid success!!
That's why these horrible headlines are fiction, not fact.
Donate Now!
    We hope for your help in two worthy ways.
  1. DONATE. It's quick, easy, and secure. Just visit

  2. VOLUNTEER. It's quick, easy, and fun. Just e-mail Jo-D Harrison,
Turn anti-drug fright into drug policy might. Donate today!
Mark (Gruesome) Greer Executive Director
P.S. Happy Halloween!

Don't forget! You can spread your donation over the course of a year by automatically repeating it every month, quarter, or half year as noted on our donate page at

Checks can also be made payable to DrugSense and mailed to:
DrugSense 14252 Culver Dr #328 Irvine, CA 92604-0326
Or you can donate toll free by calling 1-800-266-5759.

Get involvedWriteJoinDonate.