American Samizdat

Saturday, April 30, 2005. *
Bet on Iraq
BetOnIraq.com - 'Genuine, New Iraqui Currency Delivered Right To Your Door.' If I understand this correctly, the idea is to buy Iraqui currency now while it is inexpensive and then sell it if it becomes more valuable later. That the US and not the government of Iraq is responsible for their being such a thing as new Iraqui currency makes this seem rather unsavory.
posted by Trevor Blake at 10:41 PM
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A state grounded in racism is wrong, obviously. Using religion as the intellectual basis for racism is absurd. Yet while decrying the spectre of Islamic democracies the American religious right is stealthily working to realize it's vision of our nation as a Christian state. This same dangerous faction, known as Dominionists/Christian Reconstructionists supports the state of Israel, an state which supports discrimination based on religion.

Finding the actions of a state repellent and criminal is different from painting individuals with a wide brush, typing them in one way or another. When the subject of Israel comes up it is a common technique for the nation's proponents to claim anti-semitism; thereby shifting the debate from the state's historical record of actions which is roundly indefensible to charges of racism against Jewish people, an easy technique to change the tack of a conversation. "Anti-Semitism vs. Anti-Zionism - A Practical Manual" by Uri Avnery offers some perspective on this. As will "No, anti-Zionism is not anti-semitism" by Brian Klug.

I came across the following about Orthodox Jews protesting the very state of Israel:

If you happened to be passing by the Israeli Consulate yesterday afternoon you most surely would have been shocked by the unusual sight that greeted your eyes: a group of over 10,000 Orthodox Jews who were protesting against the actual existence of the state of Israel. Behind them hung large posters showing the beating of Orthodox Jews by Israeli police while they were protesting the desecration of antiquated Jewish cemeteries which are in the path of a planned highway expansion.

The shocking sight didn't stop there. When you studied their signs and looked at the picture posters a shocking new world was revealed. Tens of thousands of religious Jews are protesting in the streets of Jerusalem against the state of Israel stating that the state of Israel, according to the Torah (that is the Jewish teachings) is illegitimate. They state that since the time that God sent the Jews into exile with the destruction of the temple two thousand years ago the Jews were forbidden to have their own state and that the whole concept of Zionism and the creation of the state of Israel was formed by irreligious Jews contrary to the Torah and the opinion of almost all of the Rabbinical leaders of Judaism worldwide.

Read more...

More Information:
True Torah Jews Against Zionism
Jews not Zionism
Neturei Karta- Orthodox Jews against Zionism

An Islamic state marginalizing and occupying a non-Muslim people would be vilified. A Christain state that seeks to convert or marginalize non-Christians is a frightening prospect. But the state of Israel can marginalize non-Jews within it's borders while occupying the West Bank and Gaza with impunity, defying the UN for 38 years. And it is OK.

Food for thought...
posted by m at 4:35 PM
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SAUDI ARABIA: KING CLINICALLY DEAD?
Riyadh, 29 April (AKI) - Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah's visit to the United States this week to discuss oil matters with President George W. Bush, took place amid growing speculation back home that the bed-ridden King Fahd's condition has worsened with the monarch slipping out of conciousness. Speculation is rife among Riyadh's ruling elite of Fahd's clinical death - but even if this were true, any official announcement would delayed until a final decision on Fahd's successor has been taken.
Sources close to the Saudi royal family told Adnkronos International about the "suspicious" disappearance of King Fahd from public scene in the last ten days. At the same time, the sources have noted frantic activity involving the Seven Sudaris - the seven sons of King Abdul Aziz's wife, who hailed from Saudi Arabia's Sudari tribe, around whom the succession question revolves - King Fahd and Defence Minister Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz are two of the most powerful Sudari sevens.

Crown Prince Abdullah - who is Fahd's half brother - has long been touted to ascend the throne, but well placed sources maintain that there is resistance from other Sudari sevens members who favour closer ties with the West, something which Abdullah, who is very popular among Saudi religious circles, seems reluctant to cultivate. However, past efforts to promote the more Western-friendly defence minister Prince Sultan as Crown Prince instead of Abdullah failed because of division among the Sudaris.

More...
posted by m at 6:28 AM
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Friday, April 29, 2005. *
posted by Dr. Menlo at 7:00 PM
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"The world is getting warmer -- and US scientists now know precisely how much warmer."
Global warming rate discovered
By Tim Radford
The Guardian


"They calculated the radiation from the sun, the heat reflected back into space, and the rising temperature of the seas, and say the extra warmth is equivalent to a 1 watt lightbulb shining constantly over an area of 1 sq metre everywhere on the planet.

"That would raise average temperatures by 0.6C before the end of the century, they report in Science today. Warming at that level, maintained over 10,000 years, would melt enough ice to raise sea levels by a kilometre.

"'This energy imbalance is the smoking gun that we have been looking for,' said James Hansen, director of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. 'It shows that our estimates of the human-made and natural, climate-forcing agents are about right, and they are driving the Earth to a warmer climate.'

"Most of the world -- with the exception of the US and Australia -- has signed up to the Kyoto protocol to limit greenhouse gas emissions and [increased] global warming. The US government has repeatedly argued that scientific opinion about global warming is divided. With this new research, US government-funded scientists have once again told the US administration that they believe global warming is real, and inexorable."
posted by mr damon at 9:58 AM
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According to a 2004 article from The New York Times, "The United States has started to lose its worldwide dominance in critical areas of science and innovation." Our Republican-dominated government hasn't exactly leapt into action. Although, to be fair, the issue of science has never been a high priority for them. They're kept pretty busy running up record deficits, undermining church/state separation, engaging in pre-emptive wars and enriching the wealthy at the expense of the poor. The title of a February 2004 CNN article, "Scientists feel stifled by Bush administration," nicely captures President Bush's feelings for science.

Numerous factors contribute to our slipping science and technology leadership. Most would undoubtedly agree that a robust science education is crucially important for our children to be internationally competitive. Such an education, despite the protestations of theocrats, requires comprehensive instruction in the central, unifying concept of modern biology: evolution. As the eminent geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky observed, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." The gradual and insidious imposition of religious beliefs (creationism) in public science classes represents more than a violation of church/state separation; it's a waste of valuable time. As the National Academy of Sciences bluntly put it: "Creationism, intelligent design and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science."
posted by Trevor Blake at 7:53 AM
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Religious intolerance is systemic and pervasive at the U.S. Air Force Academy and, if nothing changes, it could result in "prolonged and costly" litigation, according to a report issued Thursday by a group [Americans United] advocating strict separation of church and state. The 14-page report listed incidents of mandatory prayers, proselytizing by teachers, insensitivity to religious minorities and allegations that evangelical Christianity is the preferred faith at the institution.
posted by Trevor Blake at 7:44 AM
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The self-anointed Benedictus XVI is a kind of Teutonic John Ashcroft who promulgates edicts barring mariachis and indigenous dancers from performing during Mass (an instruction widely disregarded in Mexico.) Ratzinger's persecution of Don Samuel who he accused of preaching a Marxist version of the Gospel, led him to attack the indigenous church that Tatik nurtured during 40 years as head of the San Cristobal diocese as "a stalking horse for Marxism-Leninism." In his eagerness to nail Samuel to the cross, he even sent his inquisitors deep into the Lacandon jungle to gather evidence that the Bishop was ordaining women deacons.
posted by Trevor Blake at 7:42 AM
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Excerpts of stories about female soldiers who lost limbs in Iraq
A Star Athlete, a Soldier, and a Challenge
By Ira Berkow
The New York Times
June 3, 2004


danielle green"It was intensely hot when [Spec. Danielle Green] went up on the roof of the Sadoon Police Station the afternoon of May 25 in Baghdad, she recalled Wednesday from her hospital bed on the fifth floor of Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Her left arm, which now ends just below the elbow, was swathed in bandages from surgery the day before for the insertion of a plate. It was her sixth operation, she estimated, since being wounded.

"She had a more vivid memory of the attack: 'I didn't like being alone, but I thought I'd let some of the others cool down below, and then they'd relieve me. It was like I was a sitting duck. But that's the way it is a lot of the time over there. You want to trust the Iraqis — some are such nice people — but you know you'd better not, even the children. You just never know. And they just don't want us there.'

"'We have so much time in which we do nothing,' Specialist Green said, 'and you stand outside, or, for me, sometimes sitting in the turret of a tank with your head exposed, and you're just waiting for something bad to happen.'

"Then she heard a burst of fire. Then there was a second blast, and a rocket from a homemade missile launcher in an apartment building next to the police station hit a water tank on the roof where she was standing guard. The explosion ripped into her.

"She screamed in pain. Her left arm had been hit and shrapnel tore at her left leg and her face.

"Within minutes, soldiers from her unit were up on the roof and covering her. She was quickly taken down to the Humvee. She never lost consciousness.

"'This is all part of war,' she said, 'and you have to be brave. Good people get hurt. I was one of those people. I knew I was taking a risk in joining the Army. I felt certain I'd be sent to Iraq. It's hard to imagine it's going to be you.'

"When she got to the hospital, Specialist Green said, she asked her sergeant, 'Is my hand gone?'

"'Yes,' said the sergeant, whose last name, Harrelson, was all she could recall.

"'And then I broke down,' she said. 'And I didn't cry again until yesterday, when Sergeant Pearce called and asked how I was doing. He was one of those who got me off the roof and onto the vehicle.'

"She thinks it was Sergeant Pearce who had recovered her wedding ring, which had been found on her left hand on the roof. Specialist Green, who was left-handed, was flown first to a hospital in Germany, then to Walter Reed on Saturday. Her husband was flown by the military from Chicago to Washington to be with her.

"Specialist Green seemed stoic, if not even accepting, of her disability. The scars on her left cheek will diminish, she said, and her leg wounds are healing..."


Two Women Bound by Sports, War and Injuries
By Juliet Macur
The New York Times
April 10, 2005


"For 25 days at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Specialist Danielle Green wondered if anyone could ever understand. But on the 26th day, a nurse told her: 'A new female patient came in today. You have a lot in common.'

"'Really?' Specialist Green said, and the nurse nodded.



"Like Specialist Green, the new patient was a 20-something firecracker, a 5-foot-8 former college basketball player, an Army soldier in the military police serving in Iraq. Like Specialist Green, [this soldier] also knew how it felt to have a rocket-propelled grenade shoot through her arm. Specialist Green's left hand had been torn off.

"In the intensive care unit one floor below, First Lt. Dawn Halfaker lay in a coma, battered and swollen after surviving an ambush. Her right arm was attached to her body by sinews...

Lieutenant Halfaker said she saw a flash and heard Staff Sgt. Norberto Lara scream in the front passenger seat, then slump. A rocket-propelled grenade had pierced the engine and entered the cab, slicing off his right arm and flinging it onto the driver.

The grenade exploded next to Lieutenant Halfaker's right shoulder. "I'm hit!" she yelled. The blast temporarily blinded her right eye and deafened her right ear.

dawn halfaker"She lifted her right hand with her left, then watched it drop in her lap. The grenade had burst through her upper arm, shattered her shoulder blade and broken five ribs that bruised her lung. She recalled herself saying, 'I am not going to die.'

"Lieutenant Halfaker, who is from Ramona, Calif., never even contemplated war while attending West Point during the later years of the Clinton administration, a time she characterized as happy-go-lucky.

"But after graduating in 2001, she joined the military police, the branch of the Army that would bring her close to ground combat, and jumped at the chance to test her leadership when the war began. Lieutenant Halfaker said she had 'kicked and screamed' to be stationed at Fort Stewart, Ga., where the 293rd Military Police Company was about to deploy.

"In Iraq, her platoon was in charge of the Diyala Province police station, where she and her soldiers lived amid constant mortar fire, trained Iraqi policemen and guarded a prison, squeezing in time to play basketball in the courtyard, where they gingerly avoided the barbed wire. In what she calls her worst moments, she had to kill insurgents.

"Now it was June 18, and her Humvee was barreling back to the station. Medics kept her alive until she was transported to a nearby base. There, she ordered the doctors, 'You bastards better not cut my arm off.' Then she passed out.

"Lieutenant Halfaker has no memories of what came next: a helicopter trip to Balad Air Base, 50 miles north of Baghdad, several operations at a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, and at Walter Reed, where she was in an induced coma.

"On June 30, the unfamiliar voice of a nurse urging her to open her eyes lifted the veil of fog. Lieutenant Halfaker woke up, thrashing, thinking she was lying next to the Humvee. Three nurses subdued her to remove her breathing tube. Her father came into view.

"'Is my arm going to be O.K.?' she remembered asking him.

"'Honey, they already took your arm,' Stephen Halfaker said.

"Doctors at Walter Reed had amputated it at the shoulder to save her..."

Refer to article for more about Halfaker and women in combat.
posted by mr damon at 2:50 AM
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Thursday, April 28, 2005. *
"Windows has just experienced a fatal error. Would you like to report it, and everything else you were doing at the time, to Microsoft?"
"In a move that could rankle privacy advocates, Microsoft said Monday that it is adding the PC equivalent of a flight data recorder to the next version of Windows, in an effort to better understand and prevent computer crashes. [Build better software? --Ed.]

"The tool will build on the existing Watson error-reporting tool in Windows, but will provide Microsoft with much deeper information, including what programs were running at the time of the error and even the contents of documents that were being created. Businesses will also choose whether they want their own technology managers to receive such data when an employee's machine crashes.

"'Think of it as a flight data recorder, so that any time there's a problem, that "black box" is there helping us work together and diagnose what's going on,' Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said during a speech at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in Seattle...

"Industry analyst Richard Doherty said he doubted Microsoft got enough feedback on how users might feel about such a feature. Even airplane pilots, Doherty said, have been able to keep from having their routine in-flight dialogue preserved. Microsoft's version of the black box, Doherty said 'is begging for more real-world testing.'"
posted by mr damon at 11:16 AM
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Wednesday, April 27, 2005. *
Evidence that the U.S. May Be Losing the Global War on Terror
"Independent Institute" - - The Bush administration is attempting to suppress key data showing that its Global War on Terrorism (or GWOT as government bureaucrats have dubbed it) likely has been counterproductive. According to Larry Johnson, a former CIA analyst and State Department terrorism expert who still has many sources within the intelligence community, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s office is suppressing data showing that the number of major terrorist attacks worldwide exploded from 175 in 2003 to 625 in 2004, the highest number since the Cold War began to wane in 1985.
U.S. officials said that when analysts at the National Counterterrorism Center declined the office of the secretary’s invitation to use a methodology that would reduce the number of terrorist attacks, her office terminated publication of the State Department’s annual “Patterns of Global Terrorism” report.


Ms. Rice utilizing the sin of ommission for the good of the Bush regime? To the detriment of popular democracy?
Thats right:
"I don't think anybody could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile," said national security adviser Condoleeza Rice on May 16, 2002.


This report was news the next day, May 17, 2002:
Exactly two years before the Sept. 11 attacks, a federal report warned the executive branch that Osama bin Laden's terrorists might hijack an airliner and dive bomb it into the Pentagon or other government building.

"Suicide bomber(s) belonging to al Qaeda's Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives (C-4 and semtex) into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), or the White House," the September 1999 report said



February 10 2005 we learn:

This morning's New York Times reported that in "the months before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal aviation officials reviewed dozens of intelligence reports that warned about Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, some of which specifically discussed airline hijackings and suicide operations." [1] The article explained that the Federal Aviation Administration "received 52 intelligence reports" that mentioned Osama bin Laden or Al Qaeda prior to September 11, 2001, and that the FAA warned airports that if "the intent of the hijacker is not to exchange hostages for prisoners, but to commit suicide in a spectacular explosion, a domestic hijacking would probably be preferable."

This information was included in a staff report by the 9/11 Commission dated August 26, 2004. The 9/11 Commission report found that there was "intelligence that indicated a real and growing threat leading up to 9/11," but that this intelligence "did not stimulate significant increases in security procedures." Although the report did not find that the government had advance information about the specific September 11, 2001, attacks, it reported that the FAA took various measures to warn airport security officials about "the possibility of a suicide hijacking."


One shameless Secretary of State, that one...
posted by m at 7:36 PM
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You Know You Wanna Touch It
{from Scrutiny Hooligans }

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Part of an exchange during George W. Bush's trip to Galveston, Texas yesterday:

"MRS. NOVELLI: Plus nobody can touch it.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. You just said something else that was profound. What was it?

MRS. NOVELLI: Nobody can touch it but you.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, not me, but you.

MRS. NOVELLI: No, I know. I know. But me. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, nobody can touch it but you. (Laughter.)

MRS. NOVELLI: Right, this you."

This kind of sexy banter might have been all the rage when Ken Starr was fixating on The Big Dog's Slick Willy, but to hear it from our Chief Pious Exemplar Bush is too disturbing, especially on the heels of his opening remarks,

"Do you still have Splash Day?" (Laughter.) You have to be a baby boomer to know what I'm talking about. (Laughter.) I'm not saying whether I came or not on Splash Day, I'm just saying, do you have Splash Day. (Laughter.)"

WaPo: "President Bush drew laughs from his audience Tuesday when he asked whether the Galveston area still hosts "Splash Day."

The annual beach party that dates to the 1950s does live on - but now as an unofficial gay and lesbian event."

OutSmart: "In the 1950s, gay men and women would go to Sunday tea dances at the black clubs on the island, according to Hank Hinkle, a friend of mine who used to travel to Galveston from Houston to attend the dances. At the gatherings, there was both same-sex and interracial dancing—which was pretty unheard of back then in pre-Civil Rights south. Another friend Gigi Desoto, who grew up in Galveston and graduated from Ball High, told me that Splash Day in the ’50s and ’60s was so popular with the gay community, who would pour over from Houston for a day in the sun to be themselves, that one year state police and the Texas Rangers closed the causeway, saying the island couldn’t hold any more people."

I'm not saying whether George W. Bush attended Splash Day, but it's probably worth asking some of the older celebrants if they ever noticed a certain intoxicated, unibrowed, prep school boy with oodles of bon vivant traipsing among the queens and the debauched.
posted by Gordon Smith at 6:24 PM
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Getting Brighter?
Gallup: 50% of Americans Now Say Bush Deliberately Misled Them on WMDs

NEW YORK Half of all Americans, exactly 50%, now say the Bush administration deliberately misled Americans about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, the Gallup Organization reported this morning.

"This is the highest percentage that Gallup has found on this measure since the question was first asked in late May 2003," the pollsters observed. "At that time, 31% said the administration deliberately misled Americans. This sentiment has gradually increased over time, to 39% in July 2003, 43% in January/February 2004, and 47% in October 2004."


Let's get the truth to the other 50 percent.
posted by m at 1:30 PM
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In a move that could rankle privacy advocates, Microsoft said Monday that it is adding the PC equivalent of a flight data recorder to the next version of Windows, in an effort to better understand and prevent computer crashes.

The tool will build on the existing Watson error-reporting tool in Windows but will provide Microsoft with much deeper information, including what programs were running at the time of the error and even the contents of documents that were being created. Businesses will also choose whether they want their own technology managers to receive such data when an employee's machine crashes.


More

Land of the free...
posted by m at 1:24 PM
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Speaking as a former employee of ACORN, I can tell you that there are many reasons ACORN doesnt work. ACORN has set itself up as the savior of the inner-city. They claim that they can organize the vote and get it out better than anyone else in America. They have virtually declared themselves to be the ghetto messiah. However, is this true?

Let us examine the facts. ACORN is headed by white leftists and until only a few years ago there where hardly any blacks at the helm, to take care of this PR problem ACORN put Maude Herd in as president. However, the presence of a black face at the top means very little. The driving agenda of ACORN comes from these white liberals and the formulation of their solutions to the problems of American cities comes from books and the classrooms, not personal experience.

Now, the white left certainly has its place in these matters, however what we see with ACORN are people, despite being with the organization for a long time, having very little familiarity with the culture and happenings of the ghetto. Therefore, if you don't know the community ( knowledge doesn't mean you have read a lot of studies), how can you possibly claim to have the solutions.

Furthermore, ACORN pays its workers a very low age. In some states it is right at the minimum wage, despite ACORN being the big campaigners for Living Wage ordinances. With low wages like these ACORN can only attract a select group of individuals. Those who really don't need the money, because they come from affluent backgrounds and those who don't have children. If ACORN truly wants to represent the communities it works in then it must employ people from those communities.

ACORN has also, because of its unfamiliarity with the ghetto, been continuously duped by slick ghetto politicians who everyone, except ACORN , have known to be corrupt. ACORN has made very little effort to reach out to many leaders in the black community, namely the 2.5 million member Muslim community. A fundamental change if ACORN is to succeed in the future.

...More at "Why ACORN Doesn't Work"


So, for you young people out there, you probably don't know the dos and don'ts of the good and/or bad interview. I've had my share of both during my plus two score span.

Here's a hint when the interview for the canvass director position turns bad: You end up telling Pittsburgh ACORN head Maryellen Hayden to, and I quote: "Get the fuck out of my face". I had worked several months before for ACORN back in 1997 and I was sort of disappointed by the experience--getting paid late and not seeing actual benefits for working poor people kind of does that to you.

This is after she told me, and this is from memory, that I was doing it just to get a "job", as if Maryellen's skills of making fun of my pronunciation were in high demand. That simply hasn't been the way that I've lived. I have spent a total of five years of my life knocking on doors for political causes, and I'm not counting the last six months that I worked for ACT. I worked my way through college canvassing. I worked for Citizen Action (pretty much like the army for progressives) (and note the racial diversity of management from that picture) which had a brutal $120 a night quota, for about a year in a half. And my field manager was intentionally trying to get me fired. (I was good.) I then ran a field canvass for three years in Evansville, Indiana, where we canvassed against NAFTA and high cable bills. I don't think I ever did it for the "Big Money", although the 15,000 a year I sniffed at is more than what the average, highly exploited ACORN worker makes.

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, if you didn't know, kids, is kind of a fucked up place to work. Oh, they have wonderful goals and aspirations, just not for their workers. Let's put it this way: they were paying my rent in Washington DC and I was still starving from my $150 a week salary--which they would pay me late. Thanks fellas. But that's just personal negative experience.

Overall, ACORN makes a claim to be fighting the fight for poor people. But in the past, ACORN has refused to negotiate with unions, hired scabs to replace their striking workers, opposed a minimum wage hike for their own workers (used by right wing publications all the time to show the hypocrisy of the left...thanks fellas, again), will never give you a full weekend--gawd I used to hate that, and has earned its own Page of Contempt over at the IWW Website.

Curiously enough, Ms. Hayden inquired, in her particular parlance: "Whydja come down here if you thought it was a bad place to work?" probably scratching her noggin cartoon like and yearning to catch a fuckin' clue. Honestly, if I could run the canvass my way and pay the workers a decent wage, then why not give it a shot? Perhaps ACORN had gotten better. I was wrong.

(Aside: Funny story. Maryellen was telling me the story of how the last canvass failed and she asserted that the last canvass manager was kind of a heroin addict and that's why it failed, as opposed to the 54 hour weeks, the shortened lunch breaks and late paychecks. Yeah, heroin. Hokay. Of course, she still has her job because when you manage like that you keep your job at ACORN. Laffs were had by all. Still in the jesting mood hours later, I did ask what that guy's name was. She wrote back:

Date: Tue, 26 Apr 2005 19:04:25 -0400
From: "Maryellen Hayden" Add to Address BookAdd to Address Book
Subject: Re: Who was that heroin addict
To: "Philip Shropshire"
I have no idea what you are talking about.
I guess you have some kind of problem.
sorry

Now, Maryellen, you public figure you, I remember the details. Just happened a day ago. Remember when you told me he was a great guy and then he didn't come in and then he didn't answer his cell anymore...you don't remember that? Because if you don't you're either a blatant liar or a deeply stupid woman. Alex, I'm going to go with "What is both?")

Actually, her plan sounds familiar. Sounds like the same very bad ACORN plan that I've seen before. Here's how one disgruntled former ACORN staffer described it:

A main difference between Marx's argument and the relations of ACORN is that bourgeois society exploits workers in order to increase the capital profit of the ruling class. But ACORN organizers are laboring to increase a profit which supposedly does not come in the form of capital in the hands of the rich, but social change in the hands of the poor. Does this mean that we are not being exploited?

The fact is that we are exploited for a different reason. We are being exploited in the name of the movement, and most likely for the accumulation of capital. [
Note: I was paid up to $8 an hour which amounted to $32 per night to knock on doors. I was expected to collect $120 per night. If I didn't I was considered to be doing poorly at my job. Few workers seldom ever raised $120 per night yet that was ACORN's unrealistic expectation of us as their workers.] A contradiction occurs in the organization in that it is fighting the wage and class gap by using the same motives and manipulations that corporations have been using for well over a hundred years. ACORN is an organization trying to change the plight of the poor in a capitalist society at the same time it contributes to the problem. The organization is tripping over itself as it perpetuates the injustices of the capitalist system.

By the way, Citizen Action, no angels them, pays about 52 percent up to quota, which I think is up to $130 night. Maryellen wanted to pay the workers a very not generous 40 percent. That's a wage that's guaranteed to keep you poor and probably lower than what the other two summer canvasses will pay (Sierra Club and Clean Water Action Project). How would you compete with those canvasses? You wouldn't. In fact, you would get the worst workers. In other words, if you don't know anything about canvassing then you would probably canvass for ACORN and take one of the worst deals ever...

Just for the record, and I tried to explain this to Maryellen, slowly, despite her bouts of traumatic memory loss regarding her former heroin addict employees, is that the field canvass simply sets the plate for a much more lucrative phone canvass. The Clean Water Action Project doesn't need the hassle of a field canvass anymore because the phone canvass is much more lucrative. But you have to pay the field canvassers a decent wage (at least 50 percent) and not work them six days a week. You might even consider giving them a four day week. Heroin...right.

So, in summation, if you're a plucky young progressive who wants to change the world one knock at a time, I would strongly recommend working for Clean Water, the Sierra Club or even the DAM phone canvass before you worked for ACORN--unless you want your disenchantment with the American Left to start early...and no I didn't get the position. Darn the luck. Or give me an email and I'll tell how to start your own canvass. It'll be tough, grueling work. But you'll give yourself a better deal than ACORN.

posted by Philip Shropshire at 6:49 AM
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Tuesday, April 26, 2005. *
How would you like the U.S. government to send you a check that would pay for five years' worth of gasoline?

Well, it can be arranged.

Not everyone is eligible, of course. But if you use a vehicle 100% for business and purchase it, new or used, from a select list of big-time gas-guzzlers, Uncle Sam is ready to help you out.

Yes, I'm talking about the well-publicized special tax break for vehicles with a gross weight of at least 6,000 pounds. Gross weight is the weight of the vehicle including fuel, passengers and payload. Because of this, gross weight can be a good deal more than the empty weight of the vehicle.

Forty-one domestic and 15 foreign SUVs qualify for this tax break
. The Porsche Cayenne, a notably business-like vehicle, is among them. As a consequence, while the depreciation write-off for any passenger car used for business is limited to only $2,960 in 2005, down from $10,610 in 2004, those claiming 100% business use of these SUVs could deduct 100% of the $89,665 price of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo during 2003 and until late October 2004. For those who bought in time, the write-off represented an immediate income tax savings of $31,383, provided the buyer was in the 35% tax bracket. Think of it as a bagatelle for the non-indigent from the Jobs and Growth Act of 2003.

Read More...

On the other hand, sales of hybrid vehicles are up 960 percent. No information about gas subsidies for them though...
posted by m at 7:57 PM
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Priceless to the elite, but it is costing every American in every way. It is costing the world. Our media fostered stupidity, morphing into complicity.
Last week, the House voted to repeal all inheritance taxes after 2010. Currently, estates worth $1.5 million for individuals and $3 million are taxed, affecting only a few thousand families. The repeal is going to cost the government up to $740 billion in the decade after 2010—a debt that the rest of the 295 million Americans minus a few thousand will have to carry.

Did I mention the article's title? Read the next quote and then guess.

And yet, as the Republicans rightly point out, polls show that most Americans—up to 80 percent—support the total repeal of the inheritance tax. It gets funnier: According to a poll last year by McLaughlin & Associates, 85 percent of those who earn under $40,000 found such a tax on "large estates" to be "unfair," whereas only 78 percent of wealthy people earning over $100 found the tax "unfair."


Imbeciles at Home
is the title. Hearkens back to The 'S' Factor piece a year ago January.

And some folks are proud of our C student President:
"This is one of the most intellectually gifted presidents we've had." - Karl Rove, "Hardball," MSNBC, Jan. 19, 2005

the above is a useful link

He is proud of his mediocrity (video link).

Be countercultural. Think. For yourself.
posted by m at 4:32 PM
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Middle Class 2004: How Congress Voted issues each member of Congress, as well as the House and Senate as a whole, a letter grade based on their 2004 votes on selected pieces of legislation affecting the middle class. We chose bills that, if passed, would have an impact on the squeezed middle class, as well as the aspirations of low-income Americans who want to work their way into the middle class.

Middle Class 2004 concludes that Congress did not rise to the occasion when presented with the opportunity to support policies strengthening and expanding the middle class.

MAIN FINDINGS:

• Neither chamber of Congress did an adequate job of supporting the middle class. In both the House and the Senate, about half the members passed, half failed and less than a quarter received As.
• Despite a more lenient grading system than last year’s report, Congress did significantly worse overall in 2004.
• While the vast majority—90 percent—of Senate Republicans received
an F, nearly half of Senate Democrats received an A for their support
of the middle class.
• The same partisan pattern is observable in the House, where 99 percent of Republicans failed to support the middle class and slightly fewer than half of Democrats received an A.
• Democratic support for the middle class dropped off most drastically when it came to the American Jobs Creation Act (HR 4520) and the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention Act (S 1920). In both bills corporate special interests lobbied heavily against the interests of the middle class.
• The Republicans showed the most support for the middle class on the
Pension Funding Equity Act (HR 3108), which was also championed
by large companies with pension plans.
• Out of the 14 votes considered, the middle-class position won out six times. However, even this feeble 43 percent success rate masks an even worse outcome, since bills like the Overtime Compensation Amendment —supported by the middle class— won votes in the House and Senate but never became law.
posted by m at 4:18 PM
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A witness, Mujibur Rahman, told Reuters that Amina was dragged out of her parent's house by local officials and her husband who stoned her to death while the man was flogged, whipped 100 times and then freed.


also see: BoingBoing and Amnesty International

How do we as humans weigh the evils of actions like this against the evils of pro-actively changing governments that allow this? How do we live-and-let-live when this is what it comes to? I've read many times on here about how evil the Iraq war is, about how the American Empire is evil. I believe our intentions might not be up to snuff but I'm not sure the results of our actions are always worse than having done nothing at all (there are, of course, a lot of exceptions to this). Anyway - I wrote more about this here... would be interested in hearing how AmSam readers reconcile things like this.
posted by ben at 10:40 AM
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James Guckert, a.k.a. Jeff Gannon, was at the White House even when there were no press briefings.

From the Raw Story article via BoingBoing
Guckert made more than two dozen excursions to the White House when there were no scheduled briefings. On many of these days, the Press Office held press gaggles aboard Air Force One—which raises questions about what Guckert was doing at the White House. On other days, the president held photo opportunities.

On at least fourteen occasions, Secret Service records show either the entry or exit time missing. Generally, the existing entry or exit times correlate with press conferences; on most of these days, the records show that Guckert checked in but was never processed out.


This might seem kind of petty as in "so what - he didn't sign in" but, given the Secret Service has over the top procedures for virtually everything involving the Prez this seems intentionally lax. What I want to know is why is the White House being this stupid? I was under the impression that the White House Press Corp was put through above average background checks. So - they must have known about Guckert/Gannon. Given that I find this kind of thing almost deliberately lazy - as in - what message are they trying to send? You'd think this administration would be scared to death of anything gay and male and hanging out at the White House for no reason.
posted by ben at 6:41 AM
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Monday, April 25, 2005. *

"Like extension cords for your mind."

posted by Dr. Menlo at 3:04 PM
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I have covered the fact that the Bush administration caters to terrorists if they are Anti-Castro Cubans, citing the case of convicted murderer Orlando Bosch as well as highlighting longstanding Republican links from Iran/Contra that include terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, who is in the news of late.

Over at Consortium News this Republican Terrorist nexus is brought up to date. Politics as usual with a conservative GOP flavor. "Taint" is probably a better word...

The reason is that this terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles, was a CIA-trained Cuban whose long personal war against Fidel Castro’s government is viewed sympathetically by the two Bush brothers and their father. When it comes to the Bush family, Posada is the epitome of the old saying that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”

The Bush administration – which has imprisoned Jose Padilla and other alleged Muslim “enemy combatants” without trial – has taken a far more lenient approach toward the 77-year-old Posada, who is still wanted in Venezuela for the bombing of a Cubana Airlines plane in 1976 that killed 73 people. Posada also has admitted involvement in a deadly hotel bombing campaign in Cuba in 1997.

further on
Two months before Election 2004, three of Posada’s co-conspirators – Guillermo Novo Sampol, Pedro Remon and Gaspar Jimenez – arrived in Miami to a hero’s welcome, flashing victory signs at their supporters. While the terrorists celebrated, U.S. authorities watched the men – also implicated in bombings in New York, New Jersey and Florida – alight on U.S. soil.

Read the full article by Robert Parry and Jerry Meldon to get the scoop on acceptable terrorists, embarrassing Bush family connections, "intelligence" bereft of justice -Business as usual for the Bush clan.
posted by m at 9:36 AM
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I read the "news" and try to read deeply, in the sense of drawing connections. The connection I sense between the character of the ambassadors wife and the IDF soldiers makes me uncomfortable; granted there is no comparable instance of behavior here- berating and denigrating ones employees from a sense of entitlement is a far cry from shooting an unarmed journalist that you had talked about music with hours before. But a sickness of the spirit seems readily revealed in both these cases; in the micro interpersonal level in one case, growing from that malignantly to the macro institutional level in the other.

As above, so below...

The wife of Danny Ayalon, Israeli Ambassador to the US seems to see what it is to be American in a repellant light, as well as offering the world a neat portrait of "The Ugly American". Here is the headline and lead-in to an article on the "leadership style" Anne Ayalon utilizes to keep her house "in order":


Her Royal Highness


Wife of Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. says she lives according to "American standards," allowing her to insult embassy employees and make unreasonable demands


The "American standards" are manifest by Ms Alayon's comfort with yelling at her subordinates, calling them names and requiring that they bow to her. Honest. You'd think I'm making this up, but look:

"She yelled 'Who put that picture there! I had taken it down," former butler Aharon Cohen recalled. "So Virginia told her 'I put (the picture) there, but I am very sorry.'"

In response Ayalon said to her, "No, no, you will bow before me and say you're sorry."

According to Cohen, "she repeated it maybe three times – 'bow again,' she said to her. Podilla then packed up her belongings, threw away her key and said 'I am not coming here anymore


Ms Alayon hails from a small town outside Cleveland, Ohio.

When asked whether she had ever referred to her employees as 'stupid', Ayalon answered, "You have just heard me call the butler a retard; and everyone will tell you he is retarded. So yes, I do use the word 'stupid.'"

Rude and unrepentant, this dual Israeli/United States citizen is a living breathing answer to the question "Why do they hate us?"

"Israelis are the most moral people on earth," said Ayalon, who holds an MBA from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. "We are constantly checking our morality...and caring for human lives." The IDF imbeds photographers within its units so that there is physical evidence of what actually has taken place, rather than relying on others' accounts.


Just as I hope others will not judge me as a US citizen by the actions of folks like Mr Delay, I am not offering Ms Alayon as an exemplar of typical Israeli/U.S citizens. Obviously she checks her morality all right, from the article it looks as though she checks it at the door. Although her comments about the IDF in the above quote is not germane to the highlighted article it is a great lead-in to an important piece I'd like to touch on. The death of journalist James Miller.

Here's what happened as Mr Miller was filming house demolitions for a film to be shown on HBO:
"At approximately 23:30, we decided to leave the house and the area, but we realized that we were blocked inside the house and Israeli tanks were very close. We decided to get out of the house and introduce ourselves to Israeli soldiers, tell them about our work and let them know that we would like to leave the area, to avoid being fired at by Israeli soldiers if we did not tell them.

Three of us got out; I was carrying a white flag, James was holding a lamp directed at the flag and Sierra was raising her hands. We were all wearing helmets and bullet proof suits, on which "TV" was written. We walked about 20m towards the tanks. We called on Israeli soldiers, saying that we were British journalists who wanted to leave the area, but they did not reply.

Suddenly, they fired at us, wounding James. James cried and we shouted at the Israeli soldiers to stop shooting and told them that one of us was wounded. We asked them for help as James was bleeding profusely. I went back to the house and told the others that James was wounded and asked them to call an ambulance. Then, I ran towards the tanks to ask Israeli soldiers for help, but they did not reply..."


Israeli army 'lied' about Miller death

I stole the headline from the Guardian newspaper account of the handling of James Miller's death by IDF officials. The International Federation of Journalists fleshes out what the Guardian article just touches on. Ballistics tests show that the killing round was from an Israeli weapon at close range. Mr Miller was shot from the front, not from the back as the IDF claimed. The guns of the possible IDF shooters were not collected for a month after the killing; the Lieutenant whom the IDF found to have fired in breach of regulations will not be charged in the death because:
... the report alleges the barrel of the rifle understood to have been used in the shooting two years ago was changed. Rifles submitted as part of the investigation could not have been those used in the shooting because it was 'impossible' that bullets found at the scene in Rafah belonged to the weapons surrendered, adds the report.

'It is important to point out that during the investigation a concern was raised, based on intelligence information, that some of the soldiers later changed the barrel they used during the event with a different barrel,' it continues.


Coincidently in this case where the suspect changed his story six times, where the soldiers under him lied, Ms Alayon would be shocked, I'm sure, to learn that the photographic evidence she spoke of, in this case videotaped evidence somehow came up lost. Go figure...

"There were nine soldiers in two vehicles," says Sophy. "They knew James's crew were filming and had offered them tea and spoken about music with them earlier that day – you can hear this in some of the footage James took. The soldiers have even referred to the house as 'the house of the journalists'. James knew the procedure when leaving the house – that's why he was holding a white flag. The veranda was fully lit, and these soldiers were equipped with US-made light-amplification devices, the latest in night-vision technology. There was no threat whatsoever to these soldiers."


Sophy is the widow of James Miller, she is caring for their two young children. The link offered above gives a detailed look into her and her families quest for the truth- and justice.

It seems like abuse of power is the sickness of our times.
posted by m at 7:09 AM
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Highest rate of incarceration on the planet. 12.6% of African American males in the US in their 20s are in prison.
posted by Trevor Blake at 6:07 AM
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Sunday, April 24, 2005. *
Christian Underground Wants You
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Dr. Beau D. Bagg has been assaulted with increasingly shrill emails from the armies of the Christian Underground. Evidently, they feel that George W. Bush's narrow victory in the general election should have afforded them a lot more pull. They lost the Schiavo incident, and it looks like they'll lose the 'activist judges'/'nuclear option' power grab in D.C. Their scare tactics on the gay marriage issue are more effective due to the general public's discomfort with sexuality in any form. Or maybe all those exclamation points they've been using are finally paying off!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What's clear is that this frothy slice of American Christianity has no plans to go away quietly. From an article entitled "It Is Time To Face Goliath and Win the Culture War":

"The Culture War is going full strength. The Church is losing the battle. And like Goliath taunting the Israelites, Hollywood is daring the Church to send out it's best to fight.
[...]
"If you join those right-wing conservatives, you'll look stupid." Well maybe it's time we did look a little different than the rest of the world.

"If you step out and take a stand, you'll lose a lot of your constituents." If we lose our followers and the income they might provide for our work, so be it. God promised that we would get back – in this life – 100-times whatever we give up for His Kingdom (Mark 10:29-30).

"If you fight, your sins will be exposed and everyone will know you're just a hypocrite." Well, confess your sins and forget your past."


While the CU would prefer to compare itself to a victorious David, it's clear they're more akin to the proverbial one-legged man in a butt kicking contest. It's hard to take too seriously any group that encourages its troops to look stupid and have the courage to stand up for intolerance, bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and willful ignorance. Not too threatening... unless they somehow defy all conventional wisdom and become trendy. In efforts to widen their appeal, the field commanders are calling on the faithful to spread the word:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us"Please help us get the word out about the Christian Underground. For the CU to be more effective, we need to have a broader reach.

We are asking all existing members, like yourself, to invite three friends today. Every few weeks we will ask you to invite another three friends.

Our fellow Christians need to be informed about the trials we as Christians are facing in the culture war that is raging."


Raging? The war is raging? It looks to me like the war is a euphemism and that the Christian Underground is raging/enraged. Here are some samples from CU's latest emailing:

"Stalin Would Be Proud of Them - "What do most members of the Democratic National Committee, the American Bar Association and the American Civil Liberties Union have in common? They hate the Constitution of the United States of America."

"Creationist: Montana T-Rex Bone Supports Biblical Story, Not Darwins - "The president of the creationist Christian apologetics ministry called Answers in Genesis (AiG) says evolutionists are trying to spin the latest archeological discovery to line up with their erroneous theories of the Earth's history."

"Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Bushs Pro-Life Court Nominees - "The Senate Judiciary Committee approved two pro-life nominees selected by President George W. Bush for federal appeals courts. The votes move the nominees to the Senate floor, where pro-abortion Democrats are expected to filibuster them."

"Why the World Hates Christians - "Jesus said that if any church is moving in the power of the Holy Ghost and fulfilling its mission as he commanded, that the church is going to be hated and persecuted by the world. The church will be hated by ungodly politicians and ungodly leaders of society. It will also be despised by homosexuals, pornographers and, most of all, by backslidden, religious leaders who are spiritually dead."

The core features of Christian Underground's anti-science theopolitical world view are anger, righteous indignation, paranoia, power hunger, and piety. None of these except piety are particularly attractive features, and even the piety is splashed with so much judgmental hogwash that it wouldn't be suitable to wear to church on Sunday. Why the Republican party is tying its future to a segment of the population that flaunts hypocrisy, ignorance, and intolerance is beyond this novice political strategist's ken. Sure, I can understand that G.W. BushCo. would want to woo these folks, but to continue down their road of perpetual culture war is to invite political disaster.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWere the Generals in the army of the Christian Underground to declare victory, what sort of world would have supplanted this one? Zero abortions. Zero homosexuality. Zero pre-marital sexual activity. Subjugation of women. Zero tolerance of non-Christian religious beliefs. Fundamentalist Christians on every judicial bench. Widened use of the death penalty. Fundamentalist Christians in every seat in Congress. A Fundamentalist Christian in the Oval Office. Bible-centered government.

They elect a President who tells everybody he's born-again, and they figure the rest of the vision is on its way to becoming reality. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Christian Underground takes its spiritual warrior status seriously. Like the Taliban, they would have all citizens bow down to a narrow interpretation of a book.

It's not going to happen. When I read the plaintive cries of the oppressed soldiers in the army of the Christian Underground, I take comfort in their self-defeating principles and poignant ineptitude.
posted by Gordon Smith at 3:38 PM
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Saturday, April 23, 2005. *

Disgraced yet gifted cartoonist Micah Wright has some new stuff up.


For someone not disgraced, try these new parodies over at 2 Political Junkies. I think they're the most interesting political blog in Pittsburgh.


Note to self: Add Naomi Klein to the list of people (like Juan Cole) I never want to get into a debate with. First, she goes into detail about her recent piece in the Nation about "Disaster Capitalism" in Iraq. A snippet:

"If the reconstruction industry is stunningly inept at rebuilding, that may be because rebuilding is not its primary purpose," writes Naomi Klein in the cover story of this week's Nation. "If anything, the stories of corruption and incompetence serve to mask this deeper scandal: the rise of a predatory form of disaster capitalism that uses the desperation and fear created by catastrophe to engage in radical social and economic engineering."

Then she takes on some guy in a debate between leftist activists about the early American pullout from Iraq. She slices and dices him. I've seen her do that before. A snippet:

Those forces are already controlling Iraq. The resistance largely controls Baghdad at this point, a situation where there are between 50 and 60 attacks a day. The militias that Eric is warning about already control large sectors of Iraq, because providing security for the people of Iraq has never, from day one, been a priority of this occupation. We saw the abandonment immediately by allowing the looting to take place and only guarding the Ministry of Oil, and it’s only gotten worse. You know, when I was in Iraq a year ago, this was the most persistent complaint -- was spiraling crime. And that's actually how the militias were created. They were created as a response to the fact that US Occupation never, ever prioritized giving security to Iraqis. The other issue is this idea that somehow US forces are helping to train Iraqi police, and that it's just a problem of training. What's actually happening is that there is -- is that the greatest liability for Iraqis to gain control over their own country security-wise, is the fact that the security forces have been embedded in the occupation itself and are seen as an extension of the hated and loathed occupation. So they get attacked as collaborators and slaughtered. They're not provided with any protection, and so on. So the best way for them to build up their own force and their own credibility, which is really what's needed, is a clear break with the occupation, which means immediately announcing a withdrawal of troops and setting up a transition plan. The first step has to be the announcement of troop withdrawal.

Amy is also doing her share of writing where she critiques the media monopoly here and here.

And the Free Press Editor is mad and I mean Howard Beale Network mad in this video clip. He still thinks Ohio was stolen and he might get his chance to prove it in a court of law.


posted by Philip Shropshire at 12:44 PM
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Earth Shakers: The Counter-Enviro Power List
With "the death of environmentalism" being debated across the land—and with the mainstream movement under siege from without and within—it's time to meet the winning side in America's new green wars. Here they come, ready or not: the 20 most powerful voices leading the environmental counterrevolution.

Appearing soon in a mainstream media outlet near you! Sadly enough.
posted by m at 11:09 AM
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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) - The Navajo Nation has outlawed uranium mining and processing on its reservation, which sprawls across parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah and contains one of the world's largest deposits of uranium ore.

Tribal President Joe Shirley Jr. must give the bill final approval. His spokesman said Thursday that Shirley ``strongly'' supports it.

Mining companies began blasting holes on the reservation, which covers 27,000 square miles, in the 1940s and continued for nearly 40 years until decreased demand closed the operations.

By then, the Navajos were left with radiation sickness, contaminated tailings and abandoned mines. To avoid repeating the past, Navajo leaders and grassroots organizations have been working for years to keep mining from starting again.


The Dine People are familiar with the historic toxic effects of uranium mining. This move to forbid uranium processing on their territory will also protect their aquifer from in situ leach mining, a process described in the May 2003 New York Times article about the health effects of uranium mining on the people of this area.

Hydro Resources Inc., a subsidiary of Uranium Resources Inc. of Dallas, wants to begin a new mining effort in Crownpoint and nearby Church Rock using a process called in situ leach mining. In the process, a mixture of water, dissolved oxygen and sodium bicarbonate is pumped deep into underground uranium beds. The mixture dissolves uranium, and when the liquid is pumped back to the surface, the uranium can be removed, dried and processed.

Uranium in solution as safe? In the ground? Yeah, right...


Nuclearfiles.org is a comprehensive resource for informing yourself
about nuclear energy, weapons, waste- ethics and history, in a human context.
posted by m at 9:54 AM
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Friday, April 22, 2005. *
The bill, introduced last week by Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., would prohibit federal meteorologists from competing with companies such as AccuWeather and The Weather Channel, which offer their own forecasts through paid services and free ad-supported Web sites.

It's no wonder his name is synonymous with
The frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex.

Which, by the way, is the first hit you get on Google when searching for his name
posted by ben at 2:26 PM
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Live Coverage of Bush's Earth Day Event in the Great Smoky Mountains
{From Scrutiny Hooligans}

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This is Screwy Hoolie, live from Cade's Cove, North Carolina, a gem in the Appalachian crown. Congressman John J. Duncan (R-TN), Senator Bill Frist (R-TN), and President George W. Bush descended on this hallowed ground to further acknowledge the remarkable leadership shown by the President as he boldly protects the environment against those who would value junk science over jobs.

[Actually...I'm not live from Cade's Cove at all. I heard about the event two days ago and quickly began making plans to attend. I then learned that it was a ticketed event only. In conversations with the offices of Rep. Duncan, Sen. Frist, my own Representative Charles Taylor, and Senator Liddy Dole, no amount of shameless lying could get me a golden ticket. I told them I'd volunteered for Bush in last year's campaign. I told them my sister is a volunteer in the program Bush would be touting. I told them I was a writer for a reputable online journal. No dice. So I'm sitting in my kitchen in my underwear rather than asking pointed questions to the Commander in Chief.]

President Bush gathered an unusually diverse group for the event, inviting a cub scout troop, nearly a hundred old, white Republican party donors, and, in what marks a first for the President, several hundred protestors were invited to share their views.

Touting a the volunteer program that has saved the National Park Service almost 2 million dollars, President Bush asserted that, "Gettin' folks to work for free is cheaper than paying them." Once the cub scouts were cleared from the area, the President took questions from the assembled protestors. In a remarkably fact-filled jamboree of awkward, hostile questions, George W. Bush was asked to respond to the following "facts":

"Acid deposition: The Smokies suffer from some of the worst acid-deposition problems in North America. Clouds blanketing the sensitive spruce-fir forests found on Clingmans Dome, the highest peak in the Smokies, are often as acidic as vinegar. On average, rainfall in the park is five to ten times more acidic than normal rainwater.

Degraded scenic vistas: The spectacular overlooks for which this park is known are severely impaired by human-generated polluted haze. Under natural conditions, views extended for more than 100 miles. Because of air pollution, however, park visitors can expect to see only 25 miles on average.

Ozone pollution: Great Smoky has the highest ozone exposure at levels harmful to plants of any national park in America. Thirty plant species in the park show signs of damage from ozone pollution, including black cherry and yellow poplar. In addition, on more than 175 days since 1998 ozone levels at the park were hazardous to human health.

Mercury pollution: Scientists are concerned about possible levels of mercury deposition, and recently began monitoring this toxic pollutant in Great Smoky Mountains National Park." - [LINK]

The President, chuckling softly, raised his eyebrows, "There's lots of opinions out there, lots of scientists, scientific theories out there. It's like polls really, you can find some special interest scientist to say what you want to try to scare the people into thinking anything." Shaking off his handlers, the President continued, "But I'm not worried 'bout all that. Lookit. See how green everything is? Does that look like bad stewardship to you? The volunteers that keep it green, you think they're doing a bad job? Well, I don't. I honor their initiative, keeps America great."

The next question came from a retired Park Service employee, "Mr. President, under your administration, "budgets were down at eight of the 12 parks; employee levels were reduced at all of the parks; six of the 12 parks already have or will cut visitor center hours; all six of the surveyed historic parks will allow key facilities to further deteriorate without needed maintenance; nine of the 12 parks have made cuts that will result in a reduced experience for visitors; and, most surprisingly, some parks are even cutting vital law enforcement positions needed to protect visitors and natural resources." - [LINK] How do you account for this?"

The President, being forcibly carted into the First Chopper, shouted to the questioner, "What?" and then ascended into the heavens to do the people's business.

Screwy Hoolie, live, at Cade's Cove, North Carolina.

[the event was actully rained out...you can read about it HERE]
posted by Gordon Smith at 1:08 PM
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Cardinal Ratzinger handed Bush the presidency by tipping the Catholic vote. Can American democracy survive their shared medieval vision?
The new pope's burning passion is to resurrect medieval authority. He equates the Western liberal tradition, that is, the Enlightenment, with Nazism, and denigrates it as "moral relativism." He suppresses all dissent, discussion and debate within the church and concentrates power within the Vatican bureaucracy. His abhorrence of change runs past 1968 (an abhorrence he shares with George W. Bush) to the revolutions of 1848, the "springtime of nations," and 1789, the French Revolution. But, even more momentously, the alignment of the pope's Kulturkampf with the U.S. president's culture war has also set up a conflict with the American Revolution.

For the first time, an American president is politically allied with the Vatican in its doctrinal mission (except, of course, on capital punishment). In the messages and papers of the presidents from George Washington until well into those of the 20th century, there was not a single mention of the pope, except in one minor footnote. Bush's lobbying trip last year to the Vatican reflects an utterly novel turn, and Ratzinger's direct political intervention in American electoral politics ratified it.


Read the article by Sidney Blumenthal. Share what you learn.
posted by m at 9:25 AM
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Thursday, April 21, 2005. *
Protecting Usama's Privacy
Is Osama bin Ladin a "U.S. Person"?

(Washington, DC) Judicial Watch, the public interest group that fights government corruption, announced today that it has obtained documents through the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) in which the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) has invoked privacy right protections on behalf of al Qaeda terror leader Osama bin Laden. In a September 24, 2003 declassified “Secret” FBI report obtained by Judicial Watch, the FBI invoked Exemption 6 under FOIA law on behalf of bin Laden, which permits the government to withhold all information about U.S. persons in “personnel and medical files and similar files” when the disclosure of such information “would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” (5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6) (2000))


Remember, he really spells his name Usama.
posted by m at 9:24 AM
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Wednesday, April 20, 2005. *
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI
First, a little background information. Today is April 20th, 2005. On this day in 1233, Pope Gregory IX placed the Inquisition under the authority of the Dominican Order. In 1962 (not on April 20th), Pope John XXIII established the Crimine Solicitaciones. The Crimine Solicitaciones was sent to "all patriarchs, archbishops, bishops and other diocesan ordinaries" and is the official policy of the Roman Catholic Church. The Crimine Solicitaciones orders victims of clergy sex abuse to remain silent and for the offending clergy to be moved to a new parish.

Okay, now that the background information is out of the way, what does that have to do with today? Surely there is no more Inquisition. But in fact there is, under the name The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Inquisition changed its name in 1908, having failed to execute anyone for all of eighty two years (the last recorded execution occured in 1826). The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was until recently led by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who made a point of casting out Liberation Theologists and other reformers. Well, surely the Crimine Solicitaciones isn't still in effect. But in fact it is, according to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Okay, so Ratzinger led the modern Inquisition and enabled decades of child abusers (by the Catholic's own estimate, ten thousand children abused by four thousand clergy). But what has he done lately? He ordered Bishop Robert Vasa to deny Communion to Senator John Kerry because Sen. Kerry is pro-choice. And one other thing... what was it... oh yes, Ratzinger recently became Pope Benedict XVI, leader of one of the world's most powerful religions (the only religion with a seat in the United Nations). No worries.
posted by Trevor Blake at 8:30 PM
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Tuesday, April 19, 2005. *
"Every roof under the Sun
should be covered with trees."
That was a quote from a book about Friedensreich Hundertwasser.

I've had that on the mental backburner since Saturday, and I just came upon a related eco-brief at Gapers Block. So let's consider how Hundertwasser's directive is being realized in Chicago... and what can be done in other major cities.

city hall rooftop greenery, chicago
Chicago: The Green City
[as featured in Metropolis]


"Majora Carter writes a piece for New York Newsday, citing Chicago as the leader in the 'green city' movement." An excerpt from Carter's article follows:

"'Behind environmental innovation, there must be policy innovation; and behind policy innovation, there must be a strong mayor. Mayor Daley ensured that the dream of a greener Chicago became a reality because he charged his administration to come up with policies that actually have teeth.'

majora carter"Carter is the director of Sustainable South Bronx, which seeks a bicycle/pedestrian greenway along the South Bronx waterfront to provide open space, waterfront access, and opportunities for mixed-use economic development." Again, Carter wrote:

"Chicago has shown that the [environmental sustainability] debate isn't theoretical. Whether or not one believes that global warming is a serious threat, or that new landfill sites and fossil-fuel sources always will be available, those of us in communities like the South Bronx, southeast Queens and Greenpoint have to deal with these issues now. That's why grassroots activists have taken into our own hands the modeling of environmentally sound policy.

"We are advocating for green and cool roofs on top of our buildings; alternative transportation systems, such as greenways, that promote healthy lifestyles without polluting the air; and recycling industrial parks, in which one business' waste is another's raw material. These projects would save energy -- reducing the need for more and bigger power plants -- and prevent pollution and reduce waste."


See The Greening of The Windy City [PDF] for more about Chicago's environmental plan.
posted by mr damon at 1:28 PM
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While right-wing bloggers foam at the mouth over the Iraqi Oil-For-Food scandal, which was no doubt terrible, you'll hear nary a peep about what Transparancy International calls perhaps "the biggest corruption scandal in history."

US audits of its own spending have found repeated shortcomings, including a lack of competitive bidding for contracts worth billions of dollars, payment of contracts without adequate certification that work had been done, and in some cases, outright theft.

And earlier this week, it emerged that the Pentagon's auditing agency found that Halliburton, the Houston oil services giant formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney, overcharged by more than $108 million on a contract.
posted by A.Q. at 10:09 AM
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Monday, April 18, 2005. *
Super-volcano, robotic rebellion or terrorism?

How will it all end?

...what are the greatest threats to humans and can we do anything about them?

10 scientists talk about their greatest fears and explain how society could be affected. (via posthuman blues)
posted by Mike at 6:51 PM
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What would Bill Hicks say about the second George Bush, the second war in Iraq, American Idol, or erectile dysfunction? In 250 words (or one picture) or less, writers, comedians, musicians, cartoonists, and entrants from Austin’s annual Bill Hicks Tribute Rant-Off fulminate about the current political and cultural scene in Hicksian rants. Contributors include cartoonists Jeff Danziger and Martyn Turner; writers Neal Pollack, Robert Newman, and A.L. Kennedy; and Thom Yorke of Radiohead.

Just emerging from underground cult status when he died in 1994, Hicks redefined the boundaries of comedy in the 1980s. His biting social satire about everything from the first President Bush to rock stars who shill for diet Coke made audiences roar and censors cringe. Hicks believed that while ideas evolve, principles remain constant, and that the venues for expressing them change over time. Hicks said he was planting seeds. By providing a forum for those touched by Hicks's ideas to speak out on his behalf, this book waters those seeds. More than just a tribute to Hicks's legend, What Would Bill Hicks Say? is a thought-provoking reflection of the present moment. Amazon.com: Books: What Would Bill Hicks Say?
posted by Joseph Matheny at 2:40 PM
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Workplace Religious Freedom Act (S. 893)
The Workplace Religious Freedom Act amends title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to establish provisions with respect to religious accommodation in employment, and for other purposes.

The ACLU says: "Over the past 25 years, employees have brought an array of claims for employers to accommodate religious practices that would have resulted in harm to critical personal or civil rights. If WRFA had been law, the following rejected religious accommodation claims could have been decided differently: police officer's request to refuse to protect an abortion clinic; another police officer’s request to abstain from arresting protestors blocking a clinic entrance; social worker’s decision to use Bible readings, prayer, and the 'casting out of demons' with inmates in a county prison, instead of providing the county's required secular mental health counseling [...]."

The American Humanist Association says: "The bill also seriously jeopardizes the wellbeing of American citizens. The broad language of the bill compromises health and safety by allowing healthcare workers to refuse to provide information and services related to family planning and HIV/AIDS treatment. Under the bill, police officers could also refuse to protect buildings if they had a moral objection to the tenant's activities - putting people like abortion clinic workers at risk."

Trevor Blake says: If this bill becomes law, then religious employees will have rights and privilages that no atheist employee can have. Want to get off work for Special Super Magic Ghost Day? Go for it! Want to get off work for Robert Ingersoll's birthday? Too bad, infidel.
posted by Trevor Blake at 11:33 AM
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This legislation will eliminate the role of Federal Courts in cases involving the First Amendment’s religious establishment clause. The U.S. Supreme Court and lower Federal Courts would be prohibited from considering the current Ten Commandments Cases if this legislation was now in force. It would allow all types of proslytizing on municipal, county, state and federal agencies such as schools, the legislatures and courts.

By eliminating the role of Federal Courts in cases involving public officials acknowledgement of god(s), school boards could return to the practice of required daily state mandated prayers for all children.
posted by Trevor Blake at 11:29 AM
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I guess it should come as no suprise that the government is incompitent in virtually everything it does.

If these post-mortem concentrations reflect levels during execution, the authors say, 43 of the 49 inmates studied were probably sentient, and 21 may have been “fully aware”. Because a muscle relaxant was used to paralyse them, however, inmates would have been unable to indicate any pain.

Ironically, US veterinarians are advised not to use neuromuscular blocking agents while euthanising animals precisely so they can recognise when the anaesthesia is not working.

People in the US assume that lethal injection is highly medicalised, and therefore humane, says Koniaris. “But when you look at it critically, it’s anything but medical,” he says. “It’s a perverted medical practice.”


from New Scientist

Emergency medical technicians who administered the drugs had no training in anaesthesia and there were no reviews after the executions.


from The Sydney Morning Herald
posted by ben at 6:30 AM
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Saturday, April 16, 2005. *
The State Department decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered."


If you can't beat 'em...quit.

via Fark
posted by platts42 at 3:50 PM
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"A federal appeals court yesterday upheld the way Chesterfield County conducts the invocation at its Board of Supervisors meetings, dismissing a lawsuit filed by a local Wiccan priestess who said she was excluded from leading the brief prayer. County officials had told Cynthia Simpson that she could not be on the list of religious leaders allowed to deliver the invocation because it was limited to members of "Judeo-Christian" religions. Backed by civil liberties groups, she filed a federal lawsuit in 2002 alleging that the policy amounted to religious discrimination.
[...]
"A federal judge in Richmond backed Simpson, ruling in 2003 that the Chesterfield board was discriminating against minority religions and violating the constitutional mandate for separation of church and state. The judge ordered the county to change the policy to include all faiths or to stop using it altogether. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit reversed that decision yesterday, ruling that Chesterfield's policy complies with Supreme Court requirements for legislative prayer because it does not advance or disparage any particular religious faith. The decision by a three-judge panel, written by Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, says Chesterfield, a suburban county south of Richmond, has allowed a diverse group of religious leaders to conduct the prayer, including a Muslim imam who was involved in giving an invocation at a board meeting shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks."

[I guess the lesson here is that the invisible monster that lives in the sky is better than the invisible monster that lives in the woods. Because the lesson surely cannot be that the United States Constitution forbids the establishment of religion by the government.]
posted by Trevor Blake at 8:01 AM
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Current TV, Big Brother and YOU
(re-blogged from Ollapodrida)

I'm sure many of you know already about Al Gore's up-and-coming "indy" media network (formerly INdTV) Current TV. If you don't now, you will soon. It'll be lurching onto your cable channels and seeping its way around the 'net in a matter of months (it's actually already begun).

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain...

Couldn't help it, we had to look.

For starters:
Mr. Gore's Neighborhood

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE ONCE CLAIMED
absurdly, that he invented the Internet.

On April 4 the defeated 2000 Democratic presidential candidate announced that he is re-inventing television with "Current TV," a new youth-oriented satellite channel scheduled to commence full operation on August 1st.

"We have no intention of being a Democratic channel, a liberal channel, or a TV version of Air America [Radio]," said Gore, 57, last Monday, referring to the pseudo-liberal Democratic Party propaganda network. "It is not in any way an ideological, much less partisan point of view in any respect. It will have the point of view of the young generation."

But when we look behind the screen at Mr. Gore’s partners and moneymen in this video venture, it’s easy to see why skeptics have already labeled the emerging channel "DNC TV."
Ok, keep reading this until you get to this part about Richard Blum:
INdTV Holding has taken major funding from two equity investment firms. One is venture capital company Blum Capital Partners in San Francisco chaired by Richard Blum, husband of California Democratic U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Now, go look up Richard Blum.

Now look up URS.

We ain't fallin' for this fake revolution shit.
posted by ninah pixie at 2:10 AM
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