Monday, July 5, 2010

Whatever it costs, it's worth it! Independence Day poster, 1942

From the The U.S. National Archives' photostream: Independence D

Why Did It Take a Rock Magazine to Report the Military's Total Disaster in Afghanistan?

Anyone in the Pentagon press corps could have written the story that took down McChrystal. So why did it appear in Rolling Stone?
The controversial Rolling Stone profile of General Stanley McChrystal didn't just expose poor judgment on the part of the U.S. military's key leader in Afghanistan. It also illustrates one of the most persistent shortcomings of American corporate journalism.

It's no surprise that a protracted and fruitless military conflict has produced backbiting at the highest levels. That's the expected result of a flawed policy. But it is -- or should be -- curious that Michael Hastings's piece appeared in a rock magazine whose cover photograph features a G-strung Lady Gaga with automatic rifles jutting out of her brassiere.

Anyone in the Pentagon press corps could have written Hastings' story. So why did it appear in Rolling Stone?

First, let's give Rolling Stone its due; it's not an ordinary music magazine. Before launching it in 1967, Jann Wenner and Ralph Gleason worked at Ramparts magazine, the legendary San Francisco muckraker that ran high-impact investigative stories on Vietnam and the CIA. Despite its healthy circulation, Ramparts lost money and closed its doors for good in 1975. Then as now, no "business model" (i.e., reliable advertising base) existed for political magazines, left or right.

Wenner focused instead on music and the counterculture, but he also hired Hunter S. Thompson as his national affairs correspondent. One result was Thompson's Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72, praised as the least factual and most accurate account of that year's presidential race.

In 2009, Rolling Stone revived the Gonzo tradition by running Matt Taibbi's critical profile of Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street firm with close ties to the Treasury Department. This was another example of an RS irregular scooping beat writers on a huge story. Taibbi's piece drew heat, but most of his critics begrudgingly conceded that his main point was correct.

Hastings has likewise taken criticism from the Pentagon press corps. Lara Logan, CBS's chief foreign affairs correspondent, appeared on CNN's Reliable Sources this weekend to cast aspersions on his methods, to defend the Pentagon beat writers, and to lament the article's effect on General McChrystal's career. "Michael Hastings has never served his country the way McChrystal has," she claimed (as if critical reporting isn't exactly the service journalists are supposed to provide). Responding to Hastings' point that beat writers wrote glowingly about McChrystal to ensure future access to him, Logan labeled that view "insulting and arrogant."

Arizona governor says immigration leads to beheadings

By John Byrne

jan brewer Arizona governor says immigration leads to beheadings

"Our law enforcement agencies have found bodies in the desert, either buried or just lying out there, that have been beheaded," she says

Arizona's Republican governor is trumpeting her anti-immigration credentials as part of her re-election campaign --and her latest remarks about decapitation are sure to cause a firestorm.

Gov. Jan Brewer recently signed a new law that allows Arizona police officers to demand immigrants to produce documentation proving their legality.

In an interview with Fox News, Brewer said, "We cannot afford all this illegal immigration and everything that comes with it, everything from the crime and to the drugs and the kidnappings and the extortion and the beheadings."

"Our law enforcement agencies have found bodies in the desert, either buried or just lying out there, that have been beheaded," she added.

The Arizona Guardian followed up on Brewer's remarks, finding them completely false.

Pelosi Funded the War Escalation Thursday Night

How it worked: Democrats Forced to Cheat to Fund War.

What it looked like: Live Blog of the Vote.

How they voted on the Rule that allowed the war escalation funding to move forward.

How they voted on disaster relief, teacher funding.

How they voted on ending war funding.

How they voted on limiting war funding to withdrawal.

How they voted on an amendment to require the president to present Congress with a National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan and a withdrawal plan and completion date, and to require that Congress vote by July 201 1 "if it wants to allow the obligation and expenditure of funds for Afghanistan in a manner that is not consistent with the president's announced policy of December 2009 to begin to drawdown troops by July 2011."


Peace of the Action
Washington, D.C., July 4-17

Brown Bag Lunch Vigils
Everywhere, third Wednesday of every month

National Conference to Bring the Troops Home Now
Albany, July 23-25

PDA Grassroots Leadership Conference
Cleveland, July 23-25

Hemp Phytoremediation Program Can Help With Gulf Oilspill Crisis

Wisdom dictates that especially when in a crisis, use effective solutions applied at the level of cause. Since our environmental problem is too much pollution, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes, from Maine to Hawaii, the solution is to use strategies that effectively remove the pollution.
We all know that hemp was helpful in cleaning up the toxins around Chernobyl, and with a bit of planning by a mastermind alliance, can be used to clean up the environmental mess again.  
An immediate end to hemp prohibition will allow us to use this biomass champion in a hemp phytoremediation program.   "Phytoremediation can be defined as the decontamination of soil, sediment or water using plant growth. Industrial hemp, Cannabis sativa L., is renowned for its ability to grow rapdily. In one growing season, fibre hemp can yield 250 to 400 plants per square metre, with each plant reaching up to 5 metres in height. As a result, hemp has been identified as a plant with the potential to serve as a phytoremediator."
The same way hemp was used to clean up the toxins around Chernobyl, we should be using hemp to clean up the toxins from the Gulf of Mexico "oil spill" (more like a volcano) and other environmental crisis situations.
The McGraw-Hill Companies reported in 2000 "Overall, phytoremediation has great potential for cleaning up toxic metals, pesticides, solvents, gasoline, and explosives."  
February, 2000: Chernobyl (Ukraine)  - Using Plants To Clean Soil

"Phytoremediation is a process that takes advantage of the fact that green plants can extract and concentrate certain elements within their ecosystem. For example, some plants can grow in metal-laden soils, extract certain metals through their root systems, and accumulate them in their tissues without being damaged. In this way, pollutants are either removed from the soil and groundwater or rendered harmless."
"In 1998, Phytotech, along with Consolidated Growers and Processors (CGP) and the Ukraine's Institute of Bast Crops, planted industrial hemp, Cannabis sp., for the purpose of removing contaminants near the Chernobyl site. Cannabis is in the Cannabidaceae family and is valuable for its fiber, which is used in ropes and other products...
Overall, phytoremediation has great potential for cleaning up toxic metals, pesticides, solvents, gasoline, and explosives. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that more than 30,000 sites in the United States alone require hazardous waste treatment. Restoring these areas and their soil, as well as disposing of the wastes, are costly projects, but the costs are expected to be reduced drastically if plants provide the phytoremediation results everyone is hoping for."
To understand how to use hemp to solve our environmental problems, read the book HEMP FOR VICTORY: A GLOBAL WARMING SOLUTION by Richard M. Davis, founder and curator of the USA Hemp Museum

So let's end hemp prohibition now and form a mastermind alliance to use hemp to help us solve our problems now.  HEMP FOR VICTORY!

$800 billion wasn't put to work

"We opened the window behind me and threw eight hundred billion dollars out of it."

That was how an aide to a local congressman described to me the economic-stimulus act when it passed in the winter of 2009.

The aide didn't mean it would all be a waste. Or would fail to boost a cratering economy.

He meant that what was unusual about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, other than its staggering cost, was that it was a smorgasbord. A huge experiment in infusing borrowed cash into a gazillion pre-existing channels, from government social programs to grants for road construction to walking-around money in worker paychecks.

It was an emergency. Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott described it as "Congress flying blind."

So here we are a year and a half later. It seems obvious the experiment helped stop a free fall. You can see that in areas where the stimulus has ended. The housing market, for instance, propped up for months by stimulus tax credits, has dropped sharply since that program expired.

But you don't have to be an economist to see that Congress swung and missed on the issue of jobs.

All that spending hasn't gotten many back to work. Take the freshest data for Seattle and King County. In the first three months of 2010, the act is credited with paying for 2,712 jobs here. That's in a county with a labor force of 1.1 million and 90,000 more currently jobless.

A few thousand jobs in three months is better than nothing. But it's also not much. It shifts King County's unemployment rate by only two-tenths of a percentage point.

A True Independence Day

How to overthrow the government: tips from 10 scifi revolutionaries

How to overthrow the government: tips from 10 scifi revolutionaries

It's the July 4 weekend, so naturally our thoughts turn to independence, and bloody, lovely revolution. Unfortunately, overturning your colonial rulers is hard work. So we've collected tips from the ten greatest science fiction revolutionaries, to help you prevail.

Luke Skywalker (Star Wars)

How to overthrow the government: tips from 10 scifi revolutionariesThe lesson: Invalidate the governing ideology.

At the end of Return Of The Jedi, Luke doesn't just defeat Darth Vader in combat — he also proves that the Empire's main ideology is wrong. The Dark Side of the Force is not stronger than the Light Side. This is as powerful a blow against the Empire as launching a million X-wing fighters, because it undermines the Emperor's whole reason for being in charge. Instead of Vader converting Luke to the Dark Side, Luke brings Vader back to the light.

The Doctor (Doctor Who)

How to overthrow the government: tips from 10 scifi revolutionariesThe lesson: Declare victory early.

The Doctor has overthrown more oppressive planetary governments than almost anyone. For a while there, he was toppling two or three a year.
His greatest revolutions, arguably, happen in "The Happiness Patrol," "The Sunmakers," and "The Long Game." And in all three cases, he's very interested in controlling the state's propaganda apparatus. This is especially true in "The Sunmakers," where he takes over the government's broadcasting center and announces that the revolution has been a success — before it's even started. Why wait until you've actually won to declare victory? Life is short, even for a Time Lord. (Go to about 3:40 in the video below.)


Flynn and Tron (Tron)

How to overthrow the government: tips from 10 scifi revolutionariesThe lesson: Force your enemies to put all their strength into their offensive

When Tron and Flynn lead the attack against the Master Control Program, they're outgunned, even though Flynn has amazing user powers. But when Tron attacks the Master Control Program's main enforcer, the program Sark, the MCP starts to panic. And the MCP makes a crucial mistake, putting all of its functions into Sark. This causes Sark to become giant and super-powerful, but it also creates a giant target — and leaves the MCP itself unprotected. Boo yah!

Paul Muad'Dib (Dune)

How to overthrow the government: tips from 10 scifi revolutionariesThe lesson: Control access to a key resource

In the first Dune book, Paul proves he's the Kwisatz Haderach, and then launches an assault on the Padishah Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV with the help of his Fremen allies. They win partly by riding on the enormous sandworms that are native to the planet Arrakis, aka Dune. But also, when Paul wins an audience with Shaddam, he threatens to destroy the spice, melange, that allows navigators to see and travel between worlds, unless Shaddam steps down as Emperor in favor of Paul. Faced with the loss of the all-important spice, the Spacer's Guild urges Shaddam to fold.

Captain Kirk (Star Trek)

How to overthrow the government: tips from 10 scifi revolutionariesThe lesson: Blow up the computer.

I don't think Captain Kirk ever overthrew a repressive regime without first causing its computer systems to explode. It's just the way you do things, in James Tiberius' playbook: Step one, detonate the mainframe, and the system will collapse like a house of cards. Step two usually involves giving an impassioned speech with your shirt ripped in strategic places. But really, Kirk knows that most evil regimes are either run by a computer, or utterly dependent on a computer for their surveillance and social control infrastructure. And most computers can be talked into self-destructing. Oh, and if someone accuses you of being Archons, just run with it — especially if it freaks them out.

Copyright scholars talk Copyright Termination

Dwiff sez, "Three copyright scholars - including David Nimmer [ed: legendary copyright expert] - discuss copyright termination and the pivotal role played in case law by Superman, Captain America, Fantastic Four, Lassie and Winnie-the-Pooh. Starts slow, but well worth the listen."

Copyright law has long recognized in authors an unwaivable right to terminate certain contracts and licensing agreements. A handful of high-profile cases have already called substantial attention to this termination provision, with disputes touching such iconic characters as Superman, Captain America, the Fantastic Four, Lassie, and Winnie the Pooh. In this edition of the IP Colloquium, copyright guru David Nimmer joins UC Berkeley Professor Peter Menell and UCLA Professor Doug Lichtman in an informal conversation about the termination right, its controversies, and the implications for modern copyright practice.
Intellectual Property Colloquium - Copyright Termination

Wind’s Latest Problem: It Makes Power Too Cheap

wind costs too littleUtilities don't like wind not because it's not competitive, but because it brings prices down for their existing assets, thus lowering their revenues and their profits. Thus the permanent propaganda campaign against wind.  The reality is that wind power brings prices down for consumers.

Bloomberg has a somewhat confusing article about the newest complaint about wind power, but the gist of it is that wind power is an issue for the industry because it brings their revenues down:
operators in Europe may have become their own worst enemy, reducing the total price paid for electricity in Germany, Europe's biggest power market, by as much as 5 billion euros some years
Implicit in the article, and the headline (which focuses on lower revenues for RWE, a big German utility) is the worry that wind power will bring down the stock market value of the big utilities – which is what the readers of Bloomberg et al. care about.
But despite the generally negative tone of the article, it's actually a useful one, because it brings out in the open a key bit of information: wind power actually brings electricity prices down!
windmills (…) operators in Europe may have become their own worst enemy, reducing the total price paid for electricity in Germany, Europe's biggest power market, by as much as 5 billion euros some years
The wind-energy boom in Europe and parts of Texas has begun to reduce bills for consumers.
Spanish power prices fell an annual 26 percent in the first quarter because of the surge in supplies from wind and hydroelectric production.
This tidbit of information, which will hopefully begin to contradict the usual lies about the need for hefty subsidies for the wind sector, has been publicised by EWEA, the European Wind Energy Association in a report on the merit order effect (PDF). This is the name for what happens when you inject a lot of  capital-intensive, low-marginal-cost supply into a marginalist price-setting market mechanism with low short term demand elasticity – or, in simpler words: when you have more wind, there is less need to pay to burn more gas to provide the requisite additional power at a given moment.

One day late but irrelevant nevertheless

An Independence Day Carol
by Michael Dare
After a long day of oppressing the masses, George W. Bush is visited by the ghost of Ken Lay on the 4th of July. Lay's leg is chained to bags of pennies equal to the amount of money he stole in his lifetime. Lay tells Bush that his chain is even longer, pointing outside to thousands of ghosts of dead crooks flying by, moaning and groaning while firmly attached to endless chains of their booty. Bush notices the ghost of Richard Nixon chained to the tombstones of every soldier killed in Vietnam during his term, and an iPod strapped to his head playing his 18,000 hours of White House tapes over and over. Bush asks Lay if there's any way he can avoid this fate, and Lay tells him to dismantle his taping system, and late that night, he will be visited by three spirits.
After destroying all the recording devices he can find, Bush falls asleep at his desk in the oval office. He's rudely awoken by the rattling chains of the Ghost of Independence Days Past, who gives him a brief history of the founding fathers and their battle against the tyranny of King George, reading to him the declaration of independence and making him understand the significance of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Tiny Tim hobbles along on his crutches. Bush awakens to find himself alone. He falls back asleep.
He's then startled awake by the Ghost of Independence Days Present, who shows him the current spirit of the declaration of independence in the world, the struggling poor vs. the ruthless masters. He sees the poverty and suffering of the oppressed and the direct link to his policies gone awry. Tiny Tim is about to die. Bush wakens again to find himself alone in the Oval Office.
Finally, he's visited by the Ghost of Independence Days Future, where gangs of fiery rebels fight off the clones and robots of the massive armies of the New World Order in a devastated post-apocalyptic world where everything is radioactive, there is no God, and any adherents to any religious faith, whether Christian, Muslim, or Jew, are hunted down and slaughtered for causing all this mess. Tiny Tim is dead at the feet of a mammoth statue of Bush, pushed over and beheaded.
The next morning, Bush wakes up with a smile on his face and a vow to do better. He is a changed man. He buys Tiny Tim a brand new motorized wheelchair and massively funds stem cell research. He pardons all prisoners of political or victimless crimes, withdraws all American troops from everywhere, reinstitutes taxes on the rich, doubles the death tax, disbands the DEA and CIA, gives all American car manufacturers one year to switch from the internal combustion engine to ones that work on water or air, recalls all voting machines and goes back to paper ballots, backs a bill making all campaign contributions of any size illegal, signs the Kyoto Protocols and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, cancels the Patriot Act, cuts all funding to Israel until they adopt a mandatory "Adopt a Palestinian" Day, cuts the defense budget in half, spends the difference on universal health and car insurance for all Americans, and marries Dick Cheney in the world's biggest gay wedding watched by 99% of all TV viewers around the world.
After leaving office, he devotes the rest of his life to Greenpeace, the ACLU, and the dismantling of all nukes, aircraft carriers, and tanks. In his later years, he and Dick are often seen walking hand in hand daintily removing all remaining land mines on earth with Tiny Tim's discarded crutch.

Bush had no further intercourse with Spirits. He sidetracked a massive portion of defense spending into the creation of bigger and better fireworks displayed across America on the 4th of July, letting the people see their taxes go up in smoke right in front of their eyes instead of in a foreign land. It was always said of him that he knew how to keep Independence Day well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One! Now get out of my way!

The End