Thursday, June 10, 2010

USA to relinquish vast territories


I’m Under Arrest for What? Fifty Bizarre U.S. Laws

I'm Under Arrest for What? Fifty Bizarre U.S. LawsI've never claimed to have extensive knowledge of U.S. legislation throughout history, but it's safe to say that I and most people I associate with are law-abiding citizens … or not. As it turns out, every state in this country has at least one wacky legal stipulation that could land residents in hot water if they don't comply. Don't say I didn't warn you.

It's illegal to wear a fake mustache that causes laughter in church.

Whispering in someone's ear while he's moose hunting is prohibited.

Cutting down a cactus may earn you a twenty-five-year prison term.

It's illegal to mispronounce the name of the state of Arkansas.

You may not eat an orange in your bathtub.

It's unlawful to lend your vacuum cleaner to your next-door neighbor (Denver).

A pickle cannot actually be a pickle unless it bounces.

It's illegal to get married on a dare.

Washington, D.C.
It's against the law to post a public notice calling someone a coward for refusing to accept a challenge to duel.

If you tie an elephant to a parking meter, you must pay the same parking fee as you would for a vehicle.

Why does Ken Salazar still have a job?

By Michael Collins

That one is easy to answer. Because President Obama hasn't fired him and Salazar refuses to resign in shame. (Image)

The real question is what is so wrong with President Obama that he keeps Ken Salazar on as Secretary of the Interior?

Salazar should have given Obama a strong heads up about the major risks of offshore drilling before any policy change was made. He should have done a thorough review of the Department of the Interior with some serious attention to the problem agency key to exploration and drilling permits. The department's Minerals Management Service (MMS) has a long rap sheet as a problem agency. Salazar knew this.

So why is this guy still around?

Keeping Politics Safe for the Rich

In a burst of judicial activism, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upended the gubernatorial race in Arizona, cutting off matching funds to candidates participating in the state's public campaign finance system. Suddenly, three candidates, including Gov. Jan Brewer, can no longer receive public funds they had counted on to run against a free-spending wealthy opponent.

The court's reckless order muscling into the race was terse and did not say whether there were any dissents, though it is hard to imagine there were not. An opinion explaining its reasoning will have to wait until the next term, assuming it takes the case, but by that time the state's general election will be over and its model campaign finance system substantially demolished.

It seems likely that the Roberts court will use this case to continue its destruction of the laws and systems set up in recent decades to reduce the influence of big money in politics. By the time it is finished, millionaires and corporations will have regained an enormous voice in American politics, at the expense of candidates who have to raise money the old-fashioned way and, ultimately, at the expense of voters.

Arizona's clean elections program was established by the state's voters in 1998 after a series of scandals provided clear illustrations of money's corrupting influence. In particular, the program was prompted by the AzScam scandal of 1991, in which many state legislators were recorded accepting contributions and bribes in exchange for approval of gambling legislation.

The system gives qualifying candidates a lump-sum grant for their primary or general election races in exchange for which the candidates agree not to raise large private contributions. If an opposing candidate is not participating in the system and spends more than the lump-sum grant, the participating candidate qualifies for additional matching funds.

It was those matching funds that produced a challenge from well-financed candidates, backed by the Goldwater Institute and other conservative interests. The candidates argued that the matching funds "chilled" their freedom of speech because they were afraid to spend more than the limit that triggered the funds.

Why did nearly all life on Earth die 250 million years ago?

Why did nearly all life on Earth die 250 million years ago?
Among paleontologists, it's sometimes called the "Great Dying." Roughly a quarter of a billion years ago, 90-95 percent of all life on Earth died out. It took 30 million years for the planet to recover. What happened?
Most people are familiar with the extinction event 65 million years ago that wiped out the dinosaurs. But the Great Dying was much more devastating. It left almost nothing alive.
Welcome to the Permian
Let's start with the lay of the land. The era before the Great Dying - also known as the Permo-Triassic Extinction - is called the Permian, and it was a time of rapid animal evolution, including mammal-reptile hybrids called synapsids that looked sort of like giant lizards - some even had big sails on their backs. These early mammals roamed a massive landmass called Pangaea, while the one, giant ocean called Panthalassa teemed with sea creatures, from tiny single-celled organisms to trilobytes and large fish. On land, vast forests of giant ferns were giving way to trees similar to the ones we have on Earth today, dropping seeds in order to reproduce.
Why did nearly all life on Earth die 250 million years ago?
Basically there was an entire ecosystem of plants and animals on sea and land that you would hardly recognize as earthly - it was as if our planet wasn't really our planet at all. And then a series of catastrophic events managed to destroy most of the life that existed.
The extinction event
Looking at the fossil record, it's clear that there was an abrupt, massive decline in animal diversity.
Why did nearly all life on Earth die 250 million years ago?
In this chart, you can see that there were actually three die-offs during the Permian, but the one at the end of the Permian and the beginning of the Triassic, 250 million years ago, was extreme. Writing in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Earth scientists Sarda Sahney and Michael J Benton call it "the most devastating ecological event of all time." They explain the chart above, which looks at die-offs of tetrapods (four-legged creatures):
Global diversity (dashed line) and mean alpha diversity (solid line) of Permo-Triassic tetrapod families. Extinctions are labelled as 1, Olson's extinction; 2, end-Guadalupian extinction; and 3, end-Permian extinction.
The seas were hit as hard as the land. Sahney and Benton continue:
The impact of the end-Permian event was devastating. In the sea, the level of species loss was 80–96%, and blastoid echinoderms, tabulate and rugose corals, graptolites, trilobites, eurypterids, acanthodians and placoderms disappeared entirely. On land, the dominant Glossopteris flora was replaced, eight orders of insects became extinct and two-thirds of tetrapod families were lost. The only tetrapod lineages to survive were procolophonoids, dicynodonts, and presumably therocephalians, cynodonts, and archosauromorphs, and their Triassic recovery was slow.
Put another way: It's likely that 9 out of 10 marine species and 7 out of 10 land species went extinct. Moreover, this was the only extinction event on Earth that destroyed many species of insects as well as animals.
When you look at the geologic record, there is simply nothing there at the hinge between Permian and Triassic.

Rafah border indefinitely open: Cairo

Egypt says it will indefinitely keep open its long-closed border crossing with the Gaza Strip, distancing itself from the Israeli siege of the impoverished enclave.

The populated coastal sliver, home to some 1.5 million Palestinians, remains under a crippling blockade tightened since 2007 with Israel sealing all its border terminals.

The Rafah border crossing in the south of the territory — the only one not in the hands of Israel — has been closed by Egyptian authorities, making the Cairo government Tel Aviv's siege partner.

But Egyptian officials opened the crossing immediately after Israel's May 31 attack on an aid convoy that killed 20 international activists onboard the six-ship fleet.

Egyptian foreign ministry on Monday said the border with Gaza would remain open "until further notice," dismissing Israeli claims that it was Cairo that encouraged Tel Aviv to step up the blockade to press the Gaza-based Hamas government.

"Egypt is the one that broke the blockade," Associated Press on Tuesday quoted the ministry's spokesman Hossam Zaki as saying. "We are not going to let the occupying power escape from its responsibilities," he stressed.

Ideas for ‘reverse flotillas’ gain steam

What if Helen Thomas had said...

The Real Threat Aboard the Freedom Flotilla

The Freedom Flotilla defied Israel's policy of blocking solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict based on international decisions, and so it had to be crushed.
Israel's violent attack on the Freedom Flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza shocked the world.

Hijacking boats in international waters and killing passengers is, of course, a serious crime.

But the crime is nothing new. For decades, Israel has been hijacking boats between Cyprus and Lebanon and killing or kidnapping passengers, sometimes holding them hostage in Israeli prisons.

Israel assumes that it can commit such crimes with impunity because the United States tolerates them and Europe generally follows the U.S.'s lead.

As the editors of The Guardian rightly observed on June 1, "If an armed group of Somali pirates had yesterday boarded six vessels on the high seas, killing at least 10 passengers and injuring many more, a NATO task force would today be heading for the Somali coast." In this case, the NATO treaty obligates its members to come to the aid of a fellow NATO country—Turkey—attacked on the high seas.

Israel's pretext for the attack was that the Freedom Flotilla was bringing materials that Hamas could use for bunkers to fire rockets into Israel.

The pretext isn't credible. Israel can easily end the threat of rockets by peaceful means.

The background is important. Hamas was designated a major terrorist threat when it won a free election in January 2006. The U.S. and Israel sharply escalated their punishment of Palestinians, now for the crime of voting the wrong way.

The siege of Gaza, including a naval blockade, was a result. The siege intensified sharply in June 2007 after a civil war left Hamas in control of the territory.

What is commonly described as a Hamas military coup was in fact incited by the U.S. and Israel, in a crude attempt to overturn the elections that had brought Hamas to power.

That has been public knowledge at least since April 2008, when David Rose reported in Vanity Fair that George W. Bush, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and her deputy, Elliott Abrams, "backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever."

Hamas terror included launching rockets into nearby Israeli towns—criminal, without a doubt, though only a minute fraction of routine U.S.-Israeli crimes in Gaza.

We’re Nuanced Here in the States

Well, it took about an hour and a half, but one of the back benchers in the WH Press Corpse finally asked Gibbs if it mattered to the WH that an American was among one of the flotilla dead. The previous hour and a half was dedicated to questions from the beltway pretty boys dealing with perceptions of whether the President is engaged enough in the oil spill and tough enough on BP, whether or not Gibbs had watched Jon Stewart last night, and the usual important stuff. The response from Gibbs when finally asked was so evasive and noncommittal that I can't remember anything other than his mentioning that Obama had a good talk with Erdogan two days ago.

It must be really odd to be a foreigner watching the reaction of the American government. You look at Turkey, and they seem to be just furious that Israeli soldiers stormed onto a non-Military vessel on the high seas and shot up some of their citizens, but the United States seems to be wholly indifferent. What people don't realize is just how nuanced America has become about citizenship.

When we decide if someone is a real American, worthy of all aspects of citizenship and defense by the government, we look at the totality of the situation. We look at what kind of citizen you are, what you believed in, what you were doing at the time you were shot four times in the head at close range by a foreign army as they stormed a ship in international waters, and a variety of other factors. For example, as the Powerline points out, this guy wasn't a "real American" anyway:

The facts are not entirely clear, but it appears that Dogan was born in the United States to Turkish parents who returned to Turkey not long thereafter. (The ABC story says he was two years old.) Apparently Dogan had lived in Turkey with his family since that time. He apparently was, in other words, a "birthright citizen," solely by virtue of the fact that his parents were residing in the U.S. when he was born.

If that is the case—and, again, the facts are not yet entirely clear—it is silly to call him an "American of Turkish descent." He, like the other members of his family, was a Turk. The idea that his presence among the dead raises a special diplomatic problem is absurd; if it does, it shouldn't.

Not only was he not an American, but we should tinker with the Constitution so this never happens again. Now had his parents emigrated to a more American country when he was two, like, for example, Israel, then this story would be a lot different. But as it was, it is clear that he was not sufficiently American for our government to get upset about his death.

Jews fleeing Israel for Poland, Germany.

Nearly eighty years after displacement from their historic early 20th century homeland, Israelites are returning to Europe. From the air, impossibly long lines of Priuses, motorbikes, and tour-buses can be seen carrying the Jews through the desert into Syria. From there, they travel up through Turkey, across the Dardenelles into Greece, Bulgaria, Rumania, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, and finally into Poland and Germany. There, they trade their heirlooms for Euros and try to settle into newly rented and remodeled condos and apartments.

It is not easy for the Europeans. Few of them are eager to step aside and allow the Jews into their boating clubs, hunting lodges, and even their town squares. But as always, in the hands of this clever race of people, the Euros work their magic.