Monday, October 5, 2009

Why am I so rogue?


If the Russians Did This to Us, We’d Kill ‘Em

by David Michael Green

What if the Russians invaded?

It's not so far-fetched an idea, you know. We spent half a century and trillions of dollars to make sure that it would never happen, so it's really not such a strange notion.

So what if the Russians invaded?

What if they came and stole all of our money?

What if the Russians invaded and enslaved our children as cheap worker bee drones locked in dismal dead-end jobs?

What if the Russians invaded and excavated all of our natural resources, leaving only mountains of toxic debris in their wake?

What if the Russians invaded and they ruined our infrastructure, thrashed our educational institutions, and stuck us with a grossly inadequate healthcare system?

What if the Russians invaded and incarcerated a huge percentage of our people in for-profit jails? What if they ruined our military by sending it off on big-money colonial expeditions? What if they cut the legs out from under the middle class?

What if the Russians invaded and turned us against each other, tricking this tribe of Americans into hating that tribe, in order to keep any of us from realizing that they were looting our country?

If the Russians did any of these things, we'd kill 'em. Dead.

If the Russians invaded, we'd send our army to crush them in defense of our country (or, at least, we hire somebody to do it).

If the Russians invaded, we'd be furious and raging and hateful and destructive -- for good reason, too -- and we would bring to them the full measure of American organized violence in order to take back our country from their plundering rampages.

Of course, the Russians haven't invaded. But what's astonishing about the moment we live in is that America has in fact been subjected to all these travails.

For Those of You on Your Way to Church This Morning ...a note from Michael Moore


I'd like to have a word with those of you who call yourselves Christians (Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Bill Maherists, etc. can read along, too, as much of what I have to say, I'm sure, can be applied to your own spiritual/ethical values).

In my new film I speak for the first time in one of my movies about my own spiritual beliefs. I have always believed that one's religious leanings are deeply personal and should be kept private. After all, we've heard enough yammerin' in the past three decades about how one should "behave," and I have to say I'm pretty burned out on pieties and platitudes considering we are a violent nation who invades other countries and punishes our own for having the audacity to fall on hard times.

I'm also against any proselytizing; I certainly don't want you to join anything I belong to. Also, as a Catholic, I have much to say about the Church as an institution, but I'll leave that for another day (or movie).

Amidst all the Wall Street bad guys and corrupt members of Congress exposed in "Capitalism: A Love Story," I pose a simple question in the movie: "Is capitalism a sin?" I go on to ask, "Would Jesus be a capitalist?" Would he belong to a hedge fund? Would he sell short? Would he approve of a system that has allowed the richest 1% to have more financial wealth than the 95% under them combined?

I have come to believe that there is no getting around the fact that capitalism is opposite everything that Jesus (and Moses and Mohammed and Buddha) taught. All the great religions are clear about one thing: It is evil to take the majority of the pie and leave what's left for everyone to fight over. Jesus said that the rich man would have a very hard time getting into heaven. He told us that we had to be our brother's and sister's keepers and that the riches that did exist were to be divided fairly. He said that if you failed to house the homeless and feed the hungry, you'd have a hard time finding the pin code to the pearly gates.

ACORN videographer has been pimping race issues for years

By Kathleen Miller

Major news outlets have retracted parts of stories suggesting that ACORN 'pimp' film-maker James O'Keefe was racially motivated in his pursuit of the nonprofit group that focuses on helping minorities, but a Raw Story review of O'Keefe's earlier efforts shows the conservative operative has never been afraid to provoke racial discussions.

The ACORN films created by O'Keefe and his partner Hannah Giles, who played the role of a prostitute, appeared to show ACORN employees in five cities providing guidance on how to avoid detection from tax authorities and law enforcement on income from prostitution. After the release of the videos last month, the U.S. Census cut all ties to ACORN, the House of Representatives voted 345-75 to deny all federal funds to the group and the Senate voted to eliminate ACORN's access to housing and community grant funding.

Since then, O'Keefe has conducted few interviews, leaving many curious about what led him to target ACORN for investigation. While some of those who know O'Keefe say he enjoys exposing illegal activity in leftist organizations, ACORN officials and others have wondered if race was a motivating factor since the group largely serves minority communities.

O'Keefe himself told The Washington Post the day he agreed to work with Giles on the undercover project he was "upset" after watching online videos of ACORN employees busting through locks on foreclosed homes.

Morton Blackwell, the president of the conservative Leadership Institute in Northern Virginia that once employed O'Keefe, told The Star-Ledger that the Rutgers grad "wanted to go out and catch leftists breaking the law."

"His opinion was -- and it's certainly been borne out -- that there is an enormous amount of scandalous and illegal things going on that they were getting away with," Blackwell told the paper.

But ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis, who authorized the firings of several employees implicated in O'Keefe's videos, brought race into the debate over the videos during an interview with C-SPAN.

"I do think it is disturbing, however, that if you want to go undercover, to come into an organization that 99 percent is black and brown people that you would think to dress up as a pimp and a prostitute and sort of bully your way into these offices," Lewis said. "I think that says a little bit about what Mr. O'Keefe thinks that a black and brown organization would go for."

A Raw Story review of O'Keefe's earlier work suggests he certainly doesn't shy away from race issues: A younger O'Keefe once held an "affirmative action bake sale" where he and other organizers sold baked goods for different prices based on the purchaser's race. In other satirical stunts, he held meetings with Rutgers University officials asking them to ban Lucky Charms because he felt their symbols discriminated against Irish-Americans and made phone calls to Planned Parenthood asking them if he could donate money as long as it only went to abort black babies. After the conservative newspaper he founded at Rutgers University fired its faculty adviser, O'Keefe wrote in The Centurion that the former adviser had accused the publication of promoting "white hysteria."

CBO Estimates for the Gazillionth Time that Public Option Saves Money

Universal Health Care

by Tim Foley

OK, this is just getting plum silly.

You don't hear as much these days about how giving people the choice of enrolling in a government-administered insurance plan based on Medicare as one of many options in the Exchange marketplace will cause the end of private insurance as we know it (the Congressional Budget Office score predicting only 10-15 million people would enroll in a public option certainly put the damper on that myth). But you do hear all the time from Republicans and so-called moderate Democrats that "we can't afford a public option." They're playing on the confusion that "the public option" is the entirety of health reform, which it certainly is not. In fact, the public option is a net cost-saver.  The Congressional Budget Office confirmed for the umpteenth time today that having it as part of health reform saves money for all of us.

To review, the CBO scored the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee bill twice -- once with an employer mandate and public option and once without. They found that a health care package with employers sharing responsibility and including a public option cost $400 billion less one that didn't have those items. Then they scored just the public option in the initial draft of the House bill and found that having it saved money -- $150 billion less -- vs. not having it.

The Unearthly Beauty of Antelope Canyon

by R J Evans

The Navajo call it 'the place where water runs through rocks' and that is literally true. One of the most unearthly places on the planet, take a look at the astounding Antelope Canyon.

The peculiar formation of a slot canyon can make for an eerie experience and certainly the Antelope Canyon, on the lands of the LeChee people of the Navajo Nation is one of the stranger places you might choose to visit if your budget doesn't quite run to a space shuttle.  The shuttle, though, never lands on alien planets – you can get the experience for very little here on the third rock from the sun. And it is the sun that makes this canyon extra special.

Image Credit

One almost expects to turn a corner and run in to a group of Vulcans performing one of their weirder ceremonies.  Pointed ears aside, however, this place is very much down to earth and is one of the most visited slot canyons in the world.  It is easy to see why.  Its out of this world beauty is capable of transforming the visitor, as it were, to another planet.  Split in two parts, the Upper and Lower canyons have their origins in pre-history.  It is little wonder that the Navajo revere them so greatly.

Image Credit

Light somehow manages to find a way through the walls of the canyon, despite its narrowness.  The color of the rock is a giveaway to those in the know – the walls of the canyon is made of sandstone.  One thing that sandstone is susceptible to is water.  The medieval cathedrals of Europe will slowly weather away under the aqueous precipitation of the millennia.  So it is with the Antelope Canyon – in fact it owes its existence, in one of the driest places on earth, to the erosive qualities of life sustaining H20.

Image Credit

With a leap of the imagination, this gorgeous view upwards of twin light tubes allows us to believe we are privy to the blueprints that Mother Nature surreptitiously provides for the continuous evolution of the canyons.  The spirals show us where the water has slowly but persistently eroded the sandstone through the ages.  Can any man-made structure match the sheer grace of this canyon below the ground?

Image Credit

China weather "magic" conjures blue sky for parade


BEIJING (Reuters) - China's air force deployed a "magic-like" range of chemicals and technology to clear Beijing's smoggy air for a grand parade marking the 60th anniversary of Communist China, state media said on Thursday.

Chemists and officials worked for weeks on the country's most ambitious ever attempt at weather modification, with air force technicians fanning out across the region to help teams operate complex equipment, the official Xinhua agency said.

The evening before the parade chemicals were fired into the hazy skies, and a light rain washed the city clean.

Surrounding provinces had already been loading clouds with silver iodide and dry ice, to try and force rain to fall before it reached Beijing, the report added.

"Only a handful of countries in the world could organise such large-scale, magic-like weather modification," said Cui Lianqing, a senior air force meteorologist who said the parade operation was the largest in China's history.

Contingency plans allowed for the teams to use one kind of chemicals to bring down rain in the parade area, and another to hold it off, he told Xinhua.

The lying game: how we are prepared for another war of aggression The films and journalism of John Pilger 'It is not enough for journalists to see themselves as mere messengers without understanding the hidden agendas of the message and myths that surround it' - John Pilger
In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger compares the current drum-beating for war against Iran, based on a fake "nuclear threat", with the manufacture of a sense of false crisis that led to invasion of Iraq and the deaths of 1.3 million people.

In 2001, the Observer in London published a series of reports that claimed an Iraqi connection to al-Qaeda, even describing the base in Iraq where the training of terrorists took place and a facility where anthrax was being manufactured as a weapon of mass destruction. It was all false. Supplied by US intelligence and Iraqi exiles, planted stories in the British and US media helped George Bush and Tony Blair to launch an illegal invasion which caused, according to the most recent study, 1.3 million deaths.
Something similar is happening over Iran: the same syncopation of government and media revelations, the same manufacture of a sense of crisis. Showdown looms with Iran over secret nuclear plant, declared the Guardian on 26 September. Showdown is the theme. High noon. The clock ticking. Good versus evil. Add a smooth new US president who has put paid to the Bush years. An immediate echo is the notorious Guardian front page of 22 May 2007: Irans secret plan for summer offensive to force US out of Iraq. Based on unsubstantiated claims by the Pentagon, the writer Simon Tisdall presented as fact an Iranian plan to wage war on, and defeat, US forces in Iraq by September of that year a demonstrable falsehood for which there has been no retraction.
The official jargon for this kind of propaganda is psy-ops, the military term for psychological operations. In the Pentagon and Whitehall, it has become a critical component of a diplomatic and military campaign to blockade, isolate and weaken Iran by hyping its nuclear threat: a phrase now used incessantly by Barack Obama and Gordon Brown, and parroted by the BBC and other broadcasters as objective news. And it is fake.
On 16 September, Newsweek disclosed that the major US intelligence agencies had reported to the White House that Irans nuclear status had not changed since the National Intelligence Estimate of November 2007, which stated with high confidence that Iran had halted in 2003 the programme it was alleged to have developed. The International Atomic Energy Agency has backed this, time and again.
The current propaganda-as-news derives from Obamas announcement that the US is scrapping missiles stationed on Russias border. This serves to cover the fact that the number of US missile sites is actually expanding in Europe and the redundant missiles are being redeployed on ships. The game is to mollify Russia into joining, or not obstructing, the US campaign against Iran. President Bush was right, said Obama, that Irans ballistic missile programme poses a significant threat [to Europe and the US]. That Iran would contemplate a suicidal attack on the US is preposterous. The threat, as ever, is one-way, with the worlds superpower virtually ensconced on Irans borders.
Irans crime is its independence. Having thrown out Americas favourite tyrant, Shah Reza Pahlavi, Iran remains the only resource-rich Muslim state beyond US control. As only Israel has a right to existin the Middle East, the US goal is to cripple the Islamic Republic. This will allow Israel to divide and dominate the region on Washingtons behalf, undeterred by a confident neighbour. If any country in the world has been handed urgent cause to develop a nuclear deterrence, it is Iran.

Sunflower Power? An Entrepreneur's First Steps

Sunflower grower Grant Allen in a field he planted.

by Adam Burke

When farmers in the town of Dove Creek, Colo., started planting sunflowers a few years ago, many of them were motivated by the promise of a decent income — not energy independence. But an activist-turned-entrepreneur named Jeff Berman had floated a proposal with a green hook: He told farmers if they grew sunflowers, he'd give them a renewable fuel source.

"Well, when we first came in we were going to produce biodiesel, from local, sustainably grown oil seeds, and allow the farmers to use that fuel, to grow the wheat and the beans that they also grow here," says Berman, chief executive officer of San Juan Bioenergy.

His part of the bargain was to build a facility in Dove Creek that could turn sunflower seeds into biodiesel. To do that, farmers would have to start producing sunflowers. Lots of them.

"It was very attractive to think that we could raise our tractor fuel, sure," says Dan Warren, a third-generation farmer in Dove Creek, who remembers those early meetings with Jeff Berman. "With pencil and paper you could see that there was more money involved, per acre, in the sunflowers than there was in the beans and the wheat on a normal year."

Texas governor accused of covering up innocent man’s execution


By Daniel Tencer

The head of a Texas anti-death penalty group has accused that state's governor of scuttling an investigation into a possible wrongful execution for political reasons.

"[Texas Governor Rick] Perry saw the writing on the wall," Scott Cobb, president of the Texas Moratorium Network, told CNN. "He moved to cover that up."

The "writing on the wall" Cobb was referring to was the investigation by the Texas Forensic Science Commission into the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was put to death in 2004 for the 1991 arson deaths of his three daughters.

Forensic investigations done since Willingham's conviction have found no evidence of arson. Nonetheless, Perry refused to grant Willingham a stay of execution in 2004, even though credible questions had already been raised about Willingham's guilt.

On Wednesday, Gov. Perry ordered the removal of three members of the forensics commission, and instituted a "political ally," as CNN described him, to head the committee. That ally is reported to have ordered the investigation into Willingham's execution delayed indefinitely, saying he "couldn't begin to guess" when the commission would reconvene.

People who live in glass houses, shouldn’t throw Acorns

Senator David Vitter (R-LA) claims on his website that he "has been the Senate's most outspoken critic of ACORN". In the wake of tapes that show ACORN employees offering tax advice to two conservative operators posing as a prostitute and a pimp, Vitter has "offered multiple amendments to bar them from receiving federal funding."

What makes this hypocritical is that you might recall that Vitter was exposed as a client of the DC Madam, and another Madam in New Orleans said that Vitter was a client of her prostitutes. Vitter confessed "a very serious sin" for which he was "completely responsible".

Perhaps Vitter just doesn't want his prostitutes getting tax advice.

Chicago’s Loss: Is Passport Control to Blame?

Did Chicago lose the chance to host the 2016 Olympics because of airport security issues?

Among the toughest questions posed to the Chicago bid team this week in Copenhagen was one that raised the issue of what kind of welcome foreigners would get from airport officials when they arrived in this country to attend the Games. Syed Shahid Ali, an I.O.C. member from Pakistan, in the question-and-answer session following Chicago's official presentation, pointed out that entering the United States can be "a rather harrowing experience."

President Obama, who was there as part of the 10-person team, assured Mr. Ali that all visitors would be made to feel welcome. "One of the legacies I want to see is a reminder that America at its best is open to the world," he said."

But Mr. Obama's assurances may have not been enough to assuage critics like Mr. Ali. A few hours later the Games went to Rio de Janeiro.

The exchange underscores what tourism officials here have been saying for years about the sometimes rigorous entry process for foreigners, which they see as a deterrent to tourism. Once the news came out that Chicago lost its Olympic bid, the U.S. Travel Association didn't miss an opportunity to point that out, sending out a critical press release within hours.

"It's clear the United States still has a lot of work to do to restore its place as a premier travel destination," Roger Dow, U.S. Travel's president, said in the statement released today. "When IOC members are commenting to our President that foreign visitors find traveling to the United States a 'pretty harrowing experience,' we need to take seriously the challenge of reforming our entry process to ensure there is a welcome mat to our friends around the world, even as we ensure a secure system."

100 Greatest Internet Videos In 3 Minutes

The 2009 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

The 2009 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded on Thursday night, October 1, at the 19th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, at Harvard's Sanders Theatre.

VETERINARY MEDICINE PRIZE: Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK, for showing that cows who have names give more milk than cows that are nameless.
REFERENCE: "Exploring Stock Managers' Perceptions of the Human-Animal Relationship on Dairy Farms and an Association with Milk Production," Catherine Bertenshaw [Douglas] and Peter Rowlinson, Anthrozoos, vol. 22, no. 1, March 2009, pp. 59-69. DOI: 10.2752/175303708X390473.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Peter Rowlinson. Catherine Douglas was unable to travel because she recently gave birth; she sent a photo of herself, her new daughter dressed in a cow suit, and a cow.

PEACE PRIZE: Stephan Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael Thali and Beat Kneubuehl of the University of Bern, Switzerland, for determining — by experiment — whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full bottle of beer or with an empty bottle.
REFERENCE: "Are Full or Empty Beer Bottles Sturdier and Does Their Fracture-Threshold Suffice to Break the Human Skull?" Stephan A. Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael J. Thali and Beat P. Kneubuehl, Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, vol. 16, no. 3, April 2009, pp. 138-42. DOI:10.1016/j.jflm.2008.07.013.

ECONOMICS PRIZE: The directors, executives, and auditors of four Icelandic banks — Kaupthing Bank, Landsbanki, Glitnir Bank, and Central Bank of Iceland — for demonstrating that tiny banks can be rapidly transformed into huge banks, and vice versa — and for demonstrating that similar things can be done to an entire national economy.

CHEMISTRY PRIZE: Javier Morales, Miguel Apátiga, and Victor M. Castaño of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, for creating diamonds from liquid — specifically from tequila.
REFERENCE: "Growth of Diamond Films from Tequila," Javier Morales, Miguel Apatiga and Victor M. Castano, 2008, arXiv:0806.1485.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Javier Morales and Miguel Apátiga

MEDICINE PRIZE: Donald L. Unger, of Thousand Oaks, California, USA, for investigating a possible cause of arthritis of the fingers, by diligently cracking the knuckles of his left hand — but never cracking the knuckles of his right hand — every day for more than sixty (60) years.
REFERENCE: "Does Knuckle Cracking Lead to Arthritis of the Fingers?", Donald L. Unger, Arthritis and Rheumatism, vol. 41, no. 5, 1998, pp. 949-50.

PHYSICS PRIZE: Katherine K. Whitcome of the University of Cincinnati, USA, Daniel E. Lieberman of Harvard University, USA, and Liza J. Shapiro of the University of Texas, USA, for analytically determining why pregnant women don't tip over.
REFERENCE: "Fetal Load and the Evolution of Lumbar Lordosis in Bipedal Hominins," Katherine K. Whitcome, Liza J. Shapiro & Daniel E. Lieberman, Nature, vol. 450, 1075-1078 (December 13, 2007). DOI:10.1038/nature06342.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Katherine Whitcome and Daniel Lieberman

LITERATURE PRIZE: Ireland's police service (An Garda Siochana), for writing and presenting more than fifty traffic tickets to the most frequent driving offender in the country — Prawo Jazdy — whose name in Polish means "Driving License".
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: [Karolina Lewestam, a Polish citizen and holder of a Polish driver's license, speaking on behalf of all her fellow Polish licensed drivers, expressed her good wishes to the Irish police service.]

PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE: Elena N. Bodnar, Raphael C. Lee, and Sandra Marijan of Chicago, Illinois, USA, for inventing a brassiere that, in an emergency, can be quickly converted into a pair of face masks, one for the brassiere wearer and one to be given to some needy bystander.
REFERENCE: U.S. patent # 7255627, granted August 14, 2007 for a "Garment Device Convertible to One or More Facemasks."

MATHEMATICS PRIZE: Gideon Gono, governor of Zimbabwe's Reserve Bank, for giving people a simple, everyday way to cope with a wide range of numbers — from very small to very big — by having his bank print bank notes with denominations ranging from one cent ($.01) to one hundred trillion dollars ($100,000,000,000,000).
REFERENCE: Zimbabwe's Casino Economy — Extraordinary Measures for Extraordinary Challenges, Gideon Gono, ZPH Publishers, Harare, 2008, ISBN 978-079-743-679-4.

BIOLOGY PRIZE: Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu, and Zhang Guanglei of Kitasato University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Sagamihara, Japan, for demonstrating that kitchen refuse can be reduced more than 90% in mass by using bacteria extracted from the feces of giant pandas.
REFERENCE: "Microbial Treatment of Kitchen Refuse With Enzyme-Producing Thermophilic Bacteria From Giant Panda Feces," Fumiaki Taguchia, Song Guofua, and Zhang Guanglei, Seibutsu-kogaku Kaishi, vol. 79, no 12, 2001, pp. 463-9. [and abstracted in Journal of Bioscience and Bioengineering, vol. 92, no. 6, 2001, p. 602.]
REFERENCE: "Microbial Treatment of Food-Production Waste with Thermopile Enzyme-Producing Bacterial Flora from a Giant Panda" [in Japanese], Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu, Yasunori Sugai, Hiroyasu Kudo and Akira Koikeda, Journal of the Japan Society of Waste Management Experts, vol. 14, no. 2, 2003, pp. , 76-82.

Assault on the public option