Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wasilla Hillbilly Comics

Now Can We Investigate?

photo    President Obama is in the process of losing what may be the most important argument of his young administration. The argument is not about health care, bank bailouts, the economy, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, the environment or the auto industry, though arguments on these issues are indeed ongoing and hanging in the balance.

    No, the Obama administration is losing the argument about the past being less important than the future. They would like his government, Congress and the American people to look forward, and to leave behind as much of the past as possible. The past, in this case, is the battery of crimes, cover-ups and tyrannies unleashed by their predecessors in the Bush administration.

    The Obama administration's argument in favor of leaving the myriad abuses of the Bush administration to the dustbin of history is understandable, though hardly valid at this point. Obama and his team have a thousand and one problems to deal with in the here and now, and according to them, any attempt to quest into the past will derail all the work they have to do. They are also justifiably concerned that Republicans in Congress will try to burn down the Capitol building if Democrats even twitch in the direction of digging up the past.

    Understandable? Sure. Valid? Not by a long chalk.

    Half a dozen times since his inauguration, President Obama has seen his agenda depth-charged by a report on some nefarious activity by the previous administration. Not only have his plans and intentions been derailed by these reports - whether they be about torture, government secrecy, indefinite detention, or whatever else - he has himself become culpable for the damage done by either trying to ignore these transgressions or by adopting them himself.

    It happened again this weekend. The Obama administration has been trying to gear up for a millennial debate over health care reform, but Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have once again gotten in the way, not once but twice.


HAARM.org - Message Strategy Session

CIA’s Lies About Secret Program Should Have Congress In Open Revolt

If this were the democracy that the Founding Fathers thought they were creating, word from CIA Director Leon Panetta that his agency had lied to Congress and specifically that it had lied repeatedly from 9-11-2001 through the end of 2008 concerning an as-yet undisclosed secret program, would have virtually every member of Congress in a state of rebellion, demanding answers.

After all, the CIA is required by law to report to at least the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and to the majority and minority leaders of both houses of Congress about such things.

But not only did the spy agency not report on what it was up to; it lied about what it was up to.

Now, given what we do know about the Bush/Cheney administration—that it initiated a massive campaign of spying on Americans by the Defense Department, the FBI, and the National Security Agency, as well as other intelligence agencies, that it initiated a campaign of torture of captives, including American citizens, while asserting that the President didn't even need to notify the courts or the public about the arrest, detention, torture or even execution of an American citizen if he, acting on his own, deemed that person to be an "enemy combatant," and given that we also know that Bush and Cheney lied repeatedly about the justification for their invasion of Iraq, and refused to be put under oath in their "interviews" by the 9-11 Commission, you would think the members of Congress, which was railroaded into supporting everything from the USA PATRIOT Act to the Iraq War invasion based on all these lies and deceptions, would be demanding answers regarding this mysterious program.

Instead, we get vague expressions of concern, and promises of reform by congressional leaders like Rep. Steny Hoyer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and by CIA Director Panetta.

And no explanation of the program in question, even though Panetta claims it was never actually implemented.

Why, we should be asking, would the CIA have lied for eight long years about the existence of a program that it never implemented?

Anyone who believes that nonsense should be a prime target of one of those Nigerian internet scammers. There's a lot of money to be made from such suckers.


I Can't Come Back

'Hebraizing' Israeli-Arabs

"This is a blatant attempt at harming the Arabic language and everything it represents," Tibi said. (Google)

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — The Israeli government is planning to remove Arabic and English names of cities and towns on road signs, keeping only their Hebrew versions.

"(Transportation) Minister Yisrael Katz took this decision that will be progressively applied," a ministry spokeswoman told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Monday, July 13.

Under the new plan, only Hebrew names of cities, towns and villages will remain on road signs.

Currently, Israeli road signs are written in Hebrew, Arabic and English, with the city names in each language.

So Jerusalem is identified as Yerushalaim in Hebrew, Jerusalem in English and Al-Quds in Arabic (along with Yerushalaim written in Arabic script).

But now, the holy city will only be identified as Yerushalaim in all three languages. Nazareth (Al-Nasra in Arabic) will be identified as Natzrat and Jaffa (Jaffa in Arabic) will only be written as Yafo.

"The names on the signs should reflect the reality of the local population, which is exactly why Israeli signs must have Hebrew transliteration," Katz told Yediot Aharonot daily.

He claimed that the move was prompted by the Palestinian insistence to use Arabic names for Israeli towns.

"Some Palestinian maps still refer to the Israeli cities by their pre-1948 names, since they see them as settlements," said Katz.

"I will not allow that on our signs. This government, and certainly this minister, will not allow anyone to turn Jewish Jerusalem to Palestinian al-Quds."


60 Minutes on the swine flu in 1976

CBS " 60 MINUTES" documentary on the swine flu epidemics of 1976 in the U.S. It went on air only once and was never shown again. Please look at this, it talks by itself.

The Yes Men and the B’eau-Pal Water Action

"B'eau-Pal Water Action to Mark Bhopal Catastrophe 25th Anniversary
Plans to contribute to climate action in lead-up to Copenhagen begin to take shape

3-425London – A new, beautifully-designed line of bottled water – this time not from the melting Alps, nor from faraway, clean-water-deprived Fiji, but rather from the contaminated ground near the site of the 1984 Bhopal catastrophe… is the center post of a new action to help mark the upcoming 25th anniversary of the Bhopal catastrophe, and coincides with the release of an official report by the Sambhavna Trust showing that local groundwater, vegetables, and breast milk are contaminated by toxic quantities of nickel, chromium, mercury, lead, and volatile organic compounds. The report describes how a majority of children in one nearby community are born with serious medical problems traceable to the contamination.

The effort to confront Dow Executives with this reality is supported by Bhopal Medical Appeal and The Yes Men with pro-bono help from top London creative design firm Kennedy Monk. It highlights Dow's continued refusal to take responsibility for the disaster.

Read the full press release here, and check out this video on the creative development behind the water bottle:


Art Forms of Nature - the Ernst Haeckel Collection

by R J Evans
Ernst Haeckel - philosopher, professor, physician, naturalist, biologist and artist. The pinnacle of his work - Art Forms of Nature - began publication in 1899 and is still an astonishing record of life on earth. When art and science combine, something sublime can come to pass.

Haeckel produced illustrations that people could take in and understand, images that glowed with color and brought the exotic and remote in to the libraries of the world.  Really, there had not been anything like these extraordinary prints before.  They were the culmination of decades of works for Haeckel, a contemporary of Darwin and he did much to popularize the work of the English naturalist although their ideas did diverge at several important points, as we shall later discover.  The above is the 89th plate from Art Forms of Nature and shows a variety of turtle species.  From the Leatherback at the top left to the Common Snapping Turtle (bottom right), Haeckel captures them marvelously.  This was no attempt at photorealism, however.  Note how sea and land (seamlessly) merge in the picture.  His images, did, however, encapsulate his sense of order.


They still look like something out of a science fiction novel, so imagine how they must have seemed to their late Victorian audience.  The central medusa is Desmonema annasethe which was first categorized by the man himself.  It was named after his wife, Anna Sethe, who had died the previous year.  A mistake commonly held is that Darwin's tome, The Origin of the Species was massively illustrated. In fact it was not a work of popular science, it was a technical book.  Although the sales belied the fact, many if not most people would have been immediately confused by much of Darwin's language.  In fact he was the Steven Hawking of his day.  Many people bought The Origin of the Species, much as a century later they would buy A Brief History of Time.  Few would get to the end of either. 


Wells Fargo Bank Sues Itself

by Al Lewis

You can't expect a bank that is dumb enough to sue itself to know why it is suing itself.

Yet I could not resist asking Wells Fargo Bank NA why it filed a civil complaint against itself in a mortgage foreclosure case in Hillsborough County, Fla.

"Due to state foreclosure laws, lenders are obligated to name and notify subordinate lien holders," said Wells Fargo spokesman Kevin Waetke.

Being a taxpayer-subsidized, too-big-to-fail institution, it's possible that one of the few ways for Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) to know what it is doing is to notify itself with a court filing.

In this particular case, Wells Fargo holds the first and second mortgages on a condominium, according to Sarasota, Fla., attorney Dan McKillop, who represents the condo owner.

As holder of the first, Wells Fargo is suing all other lien holders, including the holder of the second, which is itself.

"The primary reason is to clear title and ownership interest in a property to prepare it for sale," Waetke said in an email exchange. "So it really is not Wells Fargo vs. Wells Fargo."

Yet court documents clearly label "Wells Fargo Bank NA" as the plaintiff and "Wells Fargo Bank NA" as a defendant.

Wells Fargo hired Florida Default Law Group., P.L., of Tampa, Fla., to file the lawsuit against itself.

And then Wells Fargo hired another Tampa law firm -- Kass, Shuler, Solomon, Spector, Foyle & Singer P.A. -- to defend itself against its own lawsuit, according to court documents.

Wells Fargo's defense lawyers even filed an answer to their client's own complaint.


Bob Marley's "One Love" sung around the world

W. Va. soldiers sue firm for chemical exposure in Iraq

Seven soldiers from a W.Va. unit are suing a U.S. contractor for chemical exposure in Iraq
Former West Virginia National Guardsman Russell Powell holds a photo of him on patrol near a water treatment plant in Basrah, Iraq, in 2003. where he was likely exposed to hexavalent chromium, a toxic chemical.

MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. -- Russell Powell wondered for years after he returned from Iraq why he couldn't run even short distances without wheezing.

Following his yearlong tour of duty that ended in 2004, he coached his son's Little League team, but had to stop because it exhausted him.

The 34-year-old, who was able to run two miles in 9:44 before he went to Iraq in 2003, said now he is lucky to finish in 20 minutes.

He was discharged from the West Virginia Army National Guard for medical reasons at the end of 2008 because he was unable to meet physical requirements. Since he started his new job as a corrections officer for a West Virginia prison earlier this year, he's had to use several sick days and vacation days to visit doctors.

In February, Mr. Powell, who was a sergeant in the 1092d Engineer Battalion, received a letter from the state surgeon of the West Virginia Army National Guard. He thinks it explains why he's been out of breath and nauseous, suffering from rashes and sick to his stomach for the last five years. And he thinks it explains why, for three months in Iraq, he constantly coughed up blood, had frequent bloody noses and, at one point, passed out, waking up in a hospital with blackened lips and a blistered face.

The letter said Mr. Powell and other soldiers in his unit may have been exposed to sodium dichromate, an industrial chemical used to prevent the corrosion of pipes at a water treatment facility near Basrah, Iraq.

The chemical contains hexavalent chromium, which can cause sores inside the nose and on the skin, general skin irritation, nose bleeding, wheezing, coughing and pain in the chest when breathing, fever, nausea and upset stomach. It also has been linked to cancer.

Hexavalent chromium was the subject of the 2000 film "Erin Brockovich," which followed the true story of people in a California town who developed health problems following exposure to the chemical. They sued Pacific Gas and Electric Co., settling in 1996 for $333 million.

Mr. Powell said that before he received the letter, he had not known he might have been exposed to the chemical during the three months he worked at the plant.

"Maybe this is the reason why I'm sick," he thought. Doctors who were shown the letter tested Mr. Powell for cancer but have found none.

On June 25, Mr. Powell and six other members of his company in the 1092d, sued KBR, the firm in charge of rebuilding the water treatment facility.

The lawsuit alleges that KBR managers knew about the site contamination and the threat it posed, and "disregarded and downplayed the extreme danger" to West Virginia National Guardsmen. It argues that the guardsmen are entitled to payment or reimbursement for all medical expenses resulting from sodium dichromate exposure.

Authoritarian Man

Cops Steal Vet's Flag ... Call Protected Speech "Illegal"

Troubling when those tasked with enforcing the law don't understand it.
by Joshua Holland

Every freshman who's ever taken a class in civics and government knows that there's no point in having free speech if it only protects popular expression. Apparently, those tasked with enforcing the law in one Wisconsin town aren't aware of that rather simple axiom.

An American flag flown upside down as a protest in a northern Wisconsin village was seized by police before a Fourth of July parade and the businessman who flew it - an Iraq war veteran - claims the officers trespassed and stole his property.

A day after the parade, police returned the flag and the man's protest - over a liquor license - continued.

In mid-June, Congine, 46, began flying the flag upside down - an accepted way to signal distress - outside the restaurant he wants to open in Crivitz, a village of about 1,000 people some 65 miles north of Green Bay.


Neighbor Steven Klein watched in disbelief.

"I said, 'What are you doing?' Klein said. "They said, 'It is none of your business.'"

The next day, police returned the flag.


Marinette County Sheriff Jim Kanikula said it was not illegal to fly the flag upside down but people were upset and it was the Fourth of July.


"It is illegal to cause a disruption," he said.

Hours before a Fourth of July parade, four police officers went to Congine's property and removed the flag under the advice of Marinette County District Attorney Allen Brey.

And then this jaw-droppingly un-American statement:

Village President John Deschane, 60, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, said many people in town believe it's disrespectful to fly the flag upside down.

"If he wants to protest, let him protest but find a different way to do it," Deschane said.

Yes, because we're free to protest as long as we do it in such a way that's approved by the "village president."