More Insight

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sign the Letter

An Open Letter to Barack Obama


Dear Senator Obama,

We write to congratulate you on the tremendous achievements of your campaign for the presidency of the United States.

Your candidacy has inspired a wave of political enthusiasm like nothing seen in this country for decades. In your speeches, you have sketched out a vision of a better future--in which the United States sheds its warlike stance around the globe and focuses on diplomacy abroad and greater equality and freedom for its citizens at home--that has thrilled voters across the political spectrum. Hundreds of thousands of young people have entered the political process for the first time, African-American voters have rallied behind you, and many of those alienated from politics-as-usual have been re-engaged.

You stand today at the head of a movement that believes deeply in the change you have claimed as the mantle of your campaign. The millions who attend your rallies, donate to your campaign and visit your website are a powerful testament to this new movement's energy and passion.

This movement is vital for two reasons: First, it will help assure your victory against John McCain in November. The long night of greed and military adventurism under the Bush Administration, which a McCain administration would continue, cannot be brought to an end a day too soon. An enthusiastic corps of volunteers and organizers will ensure that voters turn out to close the book on the Bush era on election day. Second, having helped bring you the White House, the support of this movement will make possible the changes that have been the platform of your campaign. Only a grassroots base as broad and as energized as the one that is behind you can counteract the forces of money and established power that are a dead weight on those seeking real change in American politics.

We urge you, then, to listen to the voices of the people who can lift you to the presidency and beyond.

Since your historic victory in the primary, there have been troubling signs that you are moving away from the core commitments shared by many who have supported your campaign, toward a more cautious and centrist stance--including, most notably, your vote for the FISA legislation granting telecom companies immunity from prosecution for illegal wiretapping, which angered and dismayed so many of your supporters.

We recognize that compromise is necessary in any democracy. We understand that the pressures brought to bear on those seeking the highest office are intense. But retreating from the stands that have been the signature of your campaign will weaken the movement whose vigorous backing you need in order to win and then deliver the change you have promised.

Here are key positions you have embraced that we believe are essential to sustaining this movement:

§ Withdrawal from Iraq on a fixed timetable.

§ A response to the current economic crisis that reduces the gap between the rich and the rest of us through a more progressive financial and welfare system; public investment to create jobs and repair the country's collapsing infrastructure; fair trade policies; restoration of the freedom to organize unions; and meaningful government enforcement of labor laws and regulation of industry.

§ Universal healthcare.

§ An environmental policy that transforms the economy by shifting billions of dollars from the consumption of fossil fuels to alternative energy sources, creating millions of green jobs.

§ An end to the regime of torture, abuse of civil liberties and unchecked executive power that has flourished in the Bush era.

§ A commitment to the rights of women, including the right to choose abortion and improved access to abortion and reproductive health services.

§ A commitment to improving conditions in urban communities and ending racial inequality, including disparities in education through reform of the No Child Left Behind Act and other measures.

§ An immigration system that treats humanely those attempting to enter the country and provides a path to citizenship for those already here.

§ Reform of the drug laws that incarcerate hundreds of thousands who need help, not jail.

§ Reform of the political process that reduces the influence of money and corporate lobbyists and amplifies the voices of ordinary people.

These are the changes we can believe in. In other areas--such as the use of residual forces and mercenary troops in Iraq, the escalation of the US military presence in Afghanistan, the resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the death penalty--your stated positions have consistently varied from the positions held by many of us, the "friends on the left" you addressed in recent remarks. If you win in November, we will work to support your stands when we agree with you and to challenge them when we don't. We look forward to an ongoing and constructive dialogue with you when you are elected President.

Stand firm on the principles you have so compellingly articulated, and you may succeed in bringing this country the change you've encouraged us to believe is possible.


Sign your name


[3183 July 30, 2008 Joshua Lennon]

Contempt!



House Panel Votes to Hold Karl Rove in Contempt

Friday, July 25, 2008

Constitutional Limits

And Constitutional obligations
[Article I, Section 2; Article I, Section 3; Article II, Section 2; Article II, Section 4]



"Impeachment comprises both the act of formulating the accusation and the resulting trial of the charges"

It is not the removal from office or a guilty charge, but merely allegations - allowing for the pursuit of justice, setting the stage to take further action:
"A typical misconception is to confuse it with involuntary removal from office; in fact, it is only a legal statement of charges, paralleling an indictment in criminal law. An official who is impeached faces a second legislative vote (whether by the same body or another), which determines conviction, or failure to convict, on the charges embodied by the impeachment."

A great review of today's hearing on Executive Power and Constitutional Limits by The Nation's John Nichols:

• We have seen this Administration fabricate the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and allege, despite all evidence to the contrary, a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. These lies dragged our country into a preemptive and unjustified war that has taken the lives of more than 4,000 U.S. troops, injured 30,000 more, and will cost our nation more than a trillion dollars.
• We watched as this Administration again undermined national security by manipulating and exaggerating evidence of Iran's nuclear weapons capabilities and openly threatened aggression against Iran, despite no evidence that Iran has the intention or capability of attacking the U.S.
• We have looked on in horror as the Administration suspended habeas corpus by claiming the power to declare any person an "enemy combatant" – ignoring the Geneva Convention protections that the U.S. helped create.
• We have seen torture and rendition of prisoners in violation of international law and stated American policy and values, and destruction of the videotaped evidence of such torture, under the tenure of this Administration.
• We have seen this Administration spy on Americans without a court order or oversight in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
• We watched as U.S. Attorneys pursued politically-motivated prosecutions in violation of the law and perhaps at the direction of this White House.
• We watched as Administration officials outed Valerie Plame Wilson as a covert agent of the CIA and then intentionally obstructed justice by disseminating false information through the White House press office.
As we know, the framers of our Constitution called for impeachment only in the case of high crimes and misdemeanors. The standard is purposely set high because we should not impeach for personal or political gain – only to uphold and safeguard our democracy. Sadly, in my judgment, at least two high ranking administration officials have met that standard. Although the call to impeach is one I take neither easily nor lightly, I now firmly believe that impeachment hearings are the appropriate and necessary next step.


Part I (begins 19:00 in)


The text of Kucinich's statement:

Our country has been at war in Iraq, and has occupied the streets and villages of Iraq for five years, four months, and 6 days. The war has caused the deaths of 4,127 American soldiers and the deaths of as many as one million innocent Iraqis. The war will cost the American people upwards of $3 trillion and is the main contributing factor to the destruction of our domestic economy.

Mr. Chairman, I would ask unanimous consent to enter S.J. Res. 45 into the record. The primary justifications for going to war, outlined in the legislation which the White House sent to Congress in October of 2002, have been determined conclusively to be untrue:

• Iraq was not “continuing to threaten the national security interests of the United States”
• Iraq was not “continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability. . .”
• Iraq was not “actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability”
• Iraq did not have the “willingness to attack, the United States”
• Members of Al Qaeda were not “known to be in Iraq”
• Iraq had not “demonstrated capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction. . .”
• Iraq could not “launch a surprise attack against the United States or its Armed Forces”
• Therefore there was not an “extreme magnitude of harm that would result to the United States and its citizens from such an attack”
• The aforementioned did not “justify the use of force by the United States to defend itself”
• Iraq had no connection with the attacks of 9/11 or with al Qaeda's role in 9/11
• Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction to transfer to anyone
• Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and therefore had no capability of launching a surprise attack against the United States or its Armed Forces and no capability to provide them to international terrorists who would do so

However, many Members of Congress relied on these representations from the White House to inform their decision to support the legislation that authorized the use of force against Iraq. We all know present and former colleagues who have said that if they knew then what they know now, they would not have voted to permit an attack upon Iraq.

The war was totally unnecessary, unprovoked and unjustified. The question for Congress is this: what responsibility do the President and members of his Administration have for that unnecessary, unprovoked and unjustified war? The rules of the House prevent me or any witness from utilizing familiar terms. But we can put two and two together in our minds. We can draw inferences about culpability.

Mr. Chairman, I would ask unanimous consent to enter H. Res. 333, H. Res. 1258, and H. Res. 1345 into the record. I request that each Member read the three bills I have authored, bills which are now awaiting consideration by the Judiciary Committee. I am confident the reader will reach the same conclusions that I have about culpability.

What, then, should we do about it?

The decision before us is whether to honor our oath as Members of Congress to support and defend the Constitution that has been trampled time and again over the last seven years.

The decision before us is whether to stand up for the checks and balances designed by our founding fathers to prevent excessive power grabs by either the judicial, legislative or executive branch of government.

The decision before us is whether to restore faith in government, in justice, and in the rule of law.

The decision before us is whether Congress will endorse with its silence the methods used to take us into the Iraq war.

The decision before us is whether to demand accountability for one of the gravest injustices imaginable.

The decision before us is whether Congress will stand up to tell future Presidents that America has seen the last of these injustices, not the first.

I believe the choice is clear.

I ask this committee to think, and then to act, in order to enable this Congress to right a very great wrong and to hold accountable those who have misled this Nation.

Much more to follow...


UPDATE:

Part 2: the Testimonies



Part 3:



Part 4:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Extreme Makeover: Anti-Christ Edition



Jews Don't Support Anti-Semite

Future Health

[stolen directly from Smirking Chimp]

By RJ Eskow

This country is in a healthcare crisis today -- but we're not thinking enough about tomorrow either. Here are seven trends to watch, starting with the short-term and ending with what may seem more like science-fiction.

The seven trends are: Doctors leaving the public system, a shortfall in primary care, underutilization of medical treatment, "superbugs," virtual health care, climate change, and radical self-redesign and enhancement.

1. Doctors Leaving the Public System: Medicare dodged a bullet when Congress stopped a substantial pay cut for physicians this month. But doctors continue to leave the Medicare system -- in Texas, in Washington State, in Tennessee, and elsewhere. And many doctors already limit the number of Medicaid patients they accept. Shortages will become more acute as SCHIP and other reforms (hopefully) increase the number of Medicare and Medicaid recipients, and they'll hit lower-income and minority communities first and hardest.

2. Unavailability of Primary Care Doctors: Primary physicians (internists, family practitioners, gerontologists, etc. ) aren't paid enough. It's part of a general tendency to under-compensate for "cognitive services" -- thinking, talking, and diagnosis. Doctors are economic actors like the rest of us. So the result of this payment bias is a critical lack of "cognitive" physicians who should be the drivers of the medical process. Instead, young doctors are being lured into high-cost specialties. This increases the use of costly (and sometimes unnecessary procedures), according to studies conducted at Dartmouth and elsewhere.

This shortage is already crippling health reform in Massachusetts. The idea of increasing compensation for primary care keeps circling around in health circles, as it is now -- along with the concept of a "medical home," which is a re-articulation of health reform ideas that appear at regular intervals like comets. The thinking is probably correct, but the problem will persist -- until there is fundamental reform in the way doctors are educated, compensated, and rewarded with social status. And meaningful reform will be difficult without adequate primary care.

3. Underutilization: Medical policy types are well-versed in the cost problems and health complications that stem from over-utilization of health services. Over-utilization is a central tenet of the McCain health proposals. But, while it occurs -- especially in certain specialties -- the reverse problem of under-utilization is prevalent and growing.

As insurers and employers shift more and more costs to individuals' pockets people are seeking less and less treatment, as this California survey (warning: pdf file) demonstrates. 38% of respondents said they avoided seeking medical care -- either preventive or curative -- because of health costs. That's up from 34% three years ago, and it's a problem. Failure to seek needed care increases health costs, adds to individual suffering, and can allow untreated contagious conditions to spread. Which gets us to...

4. Superbugs: A study of MRSA "superbug" infections published last year found a dramatic increase in occurrence among Chicago's urban poor. Crowded living conditions in jails and public housing could be a factor, according to the study's authors, and illegal tattoos may also be contributing to their spread. Now British hospitals are facing a new superbug called "Steno" that is at least as hard to treat as MRSA.

As new viruses mutate and spread, ready access to preventive and curative medicine becomes more critical. Superbugs would be a concern even if we had a fully functional health system. With the system we've got, the impact of new mutated pathogens could be serious -- and potentially catastrophic.

5. Virtual Health Care: Online healthcare holds great promise for the future - both as a way for people to manage their own health, and as a tool that links doctors and patients in a unified network. But even now, before "Health 2.0" is a reality, we're seeing a wave of health data losses and thefts. (They've become so common that I have a whole blog section devoted to privacy issues.)

The combination of electronic medical records, electronic prescriptions, and other online tools could result in new forms of crime -- with scary enough potential results that I'd rather not describe them in public. (Why serve as a think tank for the bad guys?) Virtual health could also cause substantial shifts in the kind of medical care people demand. While that might actually be a good thing, failure to plan for it could result in some temporary inconveniences.

6. Climate Change: Global warming could change the way we use medical care - and how much we need. As an Australian study found (and we summarized here), overall hospital admissions went up by 7% during heat waves, while mental health admissions went up by the same percentage -- and kidney-related admissions increased 17%. That adds up to a snapshot of medical conditions on a globally-warmed planet. Other changes, like a dramatic increase in the occurrence of mosquito-borne diseases, could also take place.

7. Radical self-redesign: 'Transhumanism' -- the movement to re-engineer the human body -- isn't a well-known term today. But the process is already underway, and it will gain momentum in the coming decades. Choosing our children's genetic characteristics, building computer technologies into our bodies, extending our lifespans, all of these will come into being in the coming years. This will raise a series of questions in fields like medical ethics and health financing, as we've discussed before.

What should we be allowed to do to ourselves and our children? Which changes should be paid for as a social right, and which are a personal choice? Will we create a 'two-tiered' race of human beings? These science-fiction questions will become increasingly concrete as we consider the health care reform issues of the coming century.

Socialism for the Rich

"In a new sign of increasing inequality in the U.S., the richest 1% of Americans in 2006 garnered the highest share of the nation's adjusted gross income for two decades, and possibly the highest since 1929, according to Internal Revenue Service data.

"Meanwhile, the average tax rate of the wealthiest 1% fell to its lowest level in at least 18 years. The group's share of the tax burden has risen, though not as quickly as its share of income."


The richest 1% reported 22% of the nation's income, the highest share since the Great Depression.

The tax rate for the richest 1% is at a low of 22.8% and declining. (The tax rate for the middle class is around 28%).

Bush's tax cuts effectively "boost the income of millionaires by 10.1 percent."

video

Unfortunately, the middle class isn't making out as well:

  • Unemployment is at a 3-year high
  • [M]edian household income, adjusted for inflation, dropped by $1,175 between 2000 and 2007.
  • At the same time, the average family is spending $4,655 more on basic expenses, such as gas, housing, food and health insurance.
  • Gas alone costs $2,195 more for a family making the same commute in May 2008 as it did eight years earlier.



Much of the widening gap can be attributed to run-away "free market" capitalism, a.k.a., Socialism for the Rich:
'"Free trade" policies and the loan sharks that have run the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have destroyed national economies. Millions of people have been forced into poverty, and entire communities have been displaced from the countryside. Multinationals and northern industrial nations siphon wealth from the developing countries. Those that migrate from their homelands to make a living in the north are greeted with walls, bullets and racism. In the United States, millions are homeless, unemployed, in prison, or one paycheck away from bankruptcy. The social wage has been beaten down to unsustainable levels -- real wages are lower now than they were 30 years ago. Yet the costs of fuel and raw materials have skyrocketed, causing worldwide food shortages. We have wiped out public budgets by eliminating taxes on those who profit most. Vital public infrastructure and services cannot meet basic needs like maintaining the levees in New Orleans and reconstructing the Gulf Coast, or controlling the devastating blazes in Southern California. Yet the majority of our federal budget sponsors the wars and occupation in the Middle East, the warehousing of generations of the poor and people of color, the witch hunt of immigrant refugees of U.S. foreign and trade policy, and the growing national debt.

'And while we're at it, let's just be clear that the free market capitalism we have seen in the United States is by no means "free." In reality, the U.S. economy functions as a form of socialism for the rich. Taxpayers have bailed out the savings and loan industry, banks and airlines. We finance at least two federal social security programs: the one to which most of us contribute through each paycheck, and the one for United Airlines employees (since that company no longer pays its pension obligations). We give huge government contracts to the prison and military industrial complexes, and increasingly to private education and health care companies.'


And these radical changes in America's economic landscape are not without their victims. Americans are seeing unprecedented rates of foreclosures as a quarter of a million families lose their homes.

One family in Taunton, MA, lost more than their house on Tuesday in the collapse of the middle class.
"That's the real sad part: This is a middle-class family, a husband working, the son is working," O'Berg said. But the housing crunch, he said, "is inflicting real pain on middle-class Americans.
Fifty-three year old wife and mother, Carlene Balderrama, fatally shot herself with a high-powered rifle an hour and a half before her home was to be auctioned off. Just before taking her own life, she sent a fax to her mortgage company reading, "By the time you foreclose on my house I'll be dead."
As Congress rushed yesterday to help 400,000 strapped homeowners avoid foreclosure and prevent Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from collapsing, the suicide underscored the potentially devastating toll of the housing crunch...

"What gets us so angry is that people blame themselves," Marks said. "They can't see past their sense of responsibility to see the responsibility and the predatory nature of these lenders. The fact of the matter is, unless something dramatic happens, there's going to be more and more people like her taking their lives."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Make the Case

Sign the Petition



It's all going down on Friday...



[The Case So Far]

Age of Incarceration

Mother Jones is running a special on our incarceration nation:

SLAMMED
Inside America's Broken—and Broke—Prison System



Slammed: The Coming Prison Meltdown


Slammed: Welcome to the Age of Incarceration
By Jennifer Gonnerman
The number first appeared in headlines earlier this year: Nearly one in four of all prisoners worldwide is incarcerated in America. It was just the latest such statistic. Today, one in nine African American men between the ages of 20 and 34 is locked up. In 1970, our prisons held fewer than 200,000 people; now that number exceeds 1.5 million, and when you add in local jails, it's 2.3 million—1 in 100 American adults. Since the 1980s, we've sat by as the numbers inched higher and our prison system ballooned, swallowing up an ever-larger portion of the citizenry.

When Prison Guards Go Soft
By Sasha Abramsky
"We plan to fail," he says of current correctional policies. "You can put all the police officers you want on the street, but if we don't give those kids hope of a future, of a life, of an ability to make something of themselves, they don't care about life. Nobody's willing to forgive anymore. And we are willing to lock people up for unreasonable periods of time."

Why Texas Still Holds 'Em
By Stephanie Mencimer
Historically, Mexicans caught illegally entering the country have been dumped back across the border, while immigrants and asylum seekers from other countries were processed and released to await their court dates. (Only those with criminal records were detained.) Most of those released, though, failed to appear for court hearings and removal proceedings, and the government didn't have the resources to go looking for them. So in 2006, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency ended its traditional "catch and release" policy and instead started incarcerating non-Mexican immigrants—anyone from a Salvadoran migrant to an Iraqi family seeking political asylum—pending their deportation or asylum hearings. Over the two years since, the agency has increased its use of detention facilities by more than half; it now holds some 30,000 people on any given day.

Why Prisons Banned This Magazine
Banned: Mother Jones, Sept/Oct 2007 (nude child ...in a story on mining dangers)

Approved: Letters to Penthouse XXVIII

How to Get a Conjugal Visit
Disease rates in US prisons compared to general population:

HIV: 490% higher

AIDS
: 500% higher

TUBERCULOSIS
: 400% higher

HEPATITIS C
: 2,000% higher

US prisons and jails house 3 times as many people with serious mental illness as US mental hospitals do.

Where Does $49,000 for Each Inmate Go?
Security: $20,429

Administration: $2,871

Vocational education: $289

Library: $23

The Shawnee Redemption
By Justine Sharrock
In 2006, two-thirds of the offenders entering Kansas prisons were guilty of parole violations—90 percent of them technicalities, like missing meetings with counselors. A third of all parole violations were because of substance abuse, yet fewer than half of the offenders were getting substance abuse treatment in prison. Only 18 percent had completed job training. Meanwhile, the state's corrections spending increased fourfold between 1985 and 2005; by 2016, the state forecasts, it will rise to $500 million. And the consequences fell disproportionately on the poorest parts of the state: According to the New York-based Justice Mapping Center, the state spent $11.4 million in 2004 incarcerating people from just one part of Wichita—the same area that had to absorb many of those offenders when they were released.

8 Tips for an Easier Prison Stay
By Peter Laufer
Leggo your ego: Be humble. New prisoners will "lock eyes with the wrong person and have problems," says Steven Oberfest, an ex-bouncer and personal trainer who won't say what he did time for. "This is not Fifth Avenue and their penthouse anymore. They're just a number."

Which Works Better Behind Bars, Scuba or Buddha?
Underwater welding (Chino state prison, California)
Every year, 100 inmates enroll in this yearlong career-training program taught in a special diving tank.

Why it works
: The program's grads have a very low (6 to 12 percent) recidivism rate. And no wonder: After release, they can earn $100,000 a year in the construction and oil industries.

Meditation (Donaldson Correctional Facility, Alabama)
At this notoriously violent maximum-security prison, 75 men participate in a Buddhist meditation program that includes daily meetings and a 10-day silent retreat.

Why it works
: Prison officials say the meditators better control their anger and have fewer disciplinary problems.

Hard Time Out
By David Goodman
One reason why students are increasingly ending up in jail is that police now patrol the halls in many schools. In New York, the police department took control of school safety in 1998 under the Giuliani administration; by the 2005-06 school year, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, the city employed 4,625 school safety agents and at least 200 armed officers, making the NYPD School Safety Division the 10th-biggest police force in the country—larger than those of Washington, DC, Detroit, Boston, or Las Vegas. "We are treating the kids like potential criminals," says Donna Lieberman of the NYCLU. In January, a five-year-old named Denis Rivera was handcuffed behind his back by an NYPD school safety officer for throwing a tantrum in his kindergarten class in Queens.

What Do Prisoners Make for Victoria's Secret?
A stitch in time: California inmates sew their own garb. In the 1990s, subcontractor Third Generation hired 35 female South Carolina inmates to sew lingerie and leisure wear for Victoria's Secret and JCPenney. In 1997, a California prison put two men in solitary for telling journalists they were ordered to replace "Made in Honduras" labels on garments with "Made in the USA."

What Is Nutraloaf, Anyway?
By Justin Elliott
According to a Prison Legal News investigation, overcrowding has caused sewage spills in more than 30 prisons in 17 states, causing wastewater contamination, disease outbreaks, and inmates' deaths.

Probation Profiteers
By Celia Perry
Middle Georgia, along with the rest of the state's private probation industry, owes much of its business to Bobby Whitworth, who was Georgia's commissioner of corrections until 1993, when a sex-abuse scandal involving female inmates forced him out. Gov. Zell Miller promptly reassigned him to the Board of Pardons and Paroles, which positioned him nicely for a side job consulting with a private probation company called Detention Management Services. Three years later, in December 2003, a jury found Whitworth guilty of public corruption for accepting $75,000 from the company to draft and lobby for legislation that dramatically expanded the role of private probation companies. Whitworth was sent to prison for six months, but the law remains on the books, and the private probation industry—led by Georgia's two most powerful Republican lobbyists—has lobbied to be given felony cases as well. That plan has run into opposition from law enforcement: One sheriff told lawmakers last year that among his peers, private probation was seen mostly "as a moneymaking fee-collection service." Another said there is generally "not a lot of emphasis on supervision as much as there is on collection."

Timeline: A Crackdown Chronology
1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act makes mandatory minimum federal sentences for selling or possessing crack 100 times stricter than for cocaine. Total prison population doubles in the following 10 years.

1988 Omnibus Anti-Drug Abuse Act establishes a mandatory 5-year sentence for anyone (girlfriends, roommates) even tangentially linked to the sale or possession of 5 or more grams of crack. Number of drug offenders in federal prisons quadruples in 6 years.

1994 Federal law mandates life without parole for anyone whose 3rd offense is a federal crime.

1999 Car-wash operator Euka Wadlington is sentenced to 2 concurrent federal life sentences for dealing, based on the testimony of drug offenders seeking reduced sentences.

2002
In a survey, 74% of district court judges and 83% of circuit court judges say that mandatory drug sentences are too harsh.

2003 PROTECT Act limits judges' ability to stray from sentencing guidelines. House Republicans form task force to look for "judicial abuse."

The Psychology of Happiness

Courtesy of Martin Seligman
(and TED)

Distributed Intelligence

A traffic god among ants



Like the Borg

Unemployment Sucks



The US labor department reported Wednesday that consumer prices rose 1.1 percent in June, the highest one month rise in 26 years, and the 12 month inflation rate at 5.0% the highest since may 1991. Testifying before Congress, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke suggested that inflation would go higher.The Fed last month broke a string of reductions by leaving interest rates unchanged, a recognition that lower rates had weighed on the US dollar and led to increases in commodities such as oil and food. The so called downturn is also being fueled by the turmoil and bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the collapse of IndyMac. The troubled economy is having direct effects on people’s everyday lives. US home prices have fallen 17 percent over the past year, foreclosure filings surged 53 percent in June with 252,363 homes receiving at least one foreclosure-related notice and More than 71,000 properties were repossessed by lenders nationwide in June. In addition, access to health care is increasingly out of reach, In 2007, more than 75 million or 42% of all working age Americans either had no health insurance during the year or were under insured, up from 35% in 2003 and almost 16 percent of Americans or 47 million people have no health insurance at all. The jobless rate stayed at 5.5% percent in June after soaring in May to the highest rate in 20 years, and is expected to reach 6% next year. Meanwhile, consumers are taking drastic steps in changing their eating habits to adjust to rising food prices. To add to the economic woes, The Auto Industry, traditionally one of the largest employers in North America as well as offering some of the best wages and benefits is also in a financial tailspin.

Monday, July 21, 2008

15x/Day



Suicides among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are reaching epidemic proportions. More than 6,000 veterans took their lives in 2005 alone, according to a study by CBS News. By some estimates, veterans are attempting suicide 1,000 times a month. Marine Corporal James Jenkins of New Jersey was one of these unsung casualties of war. A decorated veteran of the Iraq invasion and the Battle of Najaf, he took his own life after serving 22 months overseas. His mother, Cynthia Fleming, shares his story with ANP - a tragedy that is being repeated 15 times a day in this country.

They Pay Money For It


Domino's Scientists Test Limits Of What Humans Will Eat



I'm looking forward to the big New York hot dog pizza...

Salute Your Shorts



More pants in the news:

[W]earing pants below the waist is a crime - a violation of the city's disorderly conduct ordinance - and can give police probable cause to search saggers for other crimes, such as weapon or drug possession

"Given that Flint has one of the highest crime rates in the country, you would think the police chief would be fighting crime instead of the latest fashion fad,"

In the south Chicago suburb of Lynwood, village leaders have passed an ordinance that would levy $25 fines against anyone showing three inches or more of their underwear in public.

In Flint, Mich., the city’s police chief has directed his officers to arrest people wearing pants or shorts below their waists or buttocks, and issue misdemeanors, citing the city's disorderly conduct and indecent exposure laws.

And in Riviera Beach, Fla., local police are now able to act on the so-called "saggy pants" law that was put on the books in March after a legal glitch was fixed Wednesday night.

The southeast Florida city had adopted the controversial ordinance just months after nearby Opa-locka became one of the first U.S. cities to ban saggy pants in certain public facilities.

"I'm not sure what it really serves... They should solve some real problems."

"Proposals to ban saggy pants are starting to ride up in several places...There's a fear with people associating the way you dress with crimes being committed"

"They're better off taking the pants off and just wearing a dress"

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Netroots Nation

Saturday morning, Al Gore addressed the Netroots Nation at an Austin, TX, progressive bloggers convention.



Gore repeated the message he gave Thursday calling for true energy independence within 10 years and promoted the WE campaign, www.wecansolveit.org

Unfortunately, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attempted to ride his popularity and insultingly portrayed herself as holding the executive branch accountable, as well as being a climate hero.

She should take a page from a real Congressional leader in climate change, Senator Bernie Sanders
'Last year I wrote of Sen. Sanders' green collar jobs amendment which passed but currently awaits funding. Now his 10 Million Solar Roofs legislation – whose cosponsors include Republican Senators Arlen Specter and John Warner – offers yet another transformative alternative to oil dependence as usual. The bill would provide homeowners, businesses, non-profits and state and local governments with rebates covering up to half of the cost of photovoltaic systems which average $20,000. In order to qualify for the federal rebates, stringent energy efficiency standards would need to be met. Some experts say that if 10 percent of the existing rooftops in the US were equipped with properly installed systems, they could supply 70 percent of peak energy demands during summer months.'

A Note on Constitutions

From The Rights of Man

A constitution is not a thing in name only, but in fact. It has not an ideal, but a real existence; and wherever it cannot be produced in a visible form, there is none. A constitution is a thing antecedent to a government, and a government is only the creature of a constitution. The constitution of a country is not the act of its government, but of the people constituting its government. It is the body of elements, to which you can refer, and quote article by article; and which contains the principles on which the government shall be established, the manner in which it shall be organised, the powers it shall have, the mode of elections, the duration of Parliaments, or by what other name such bodies may be called; the powers which the executive part of the government shall have; and in fine, everything that relates to the complete organisation of a civil government, and the principles on which it shall act, and by which it shall be bound. A constitution, therefore, is to a government what the laws made afterwards by that government are to a court of judicature. the court of judicature does not make the laws, neither can it alter them; it only acts in conformity to the laws made: and the government is in like manner governed by the constitution.



3 Inches of Justice

LYNWOOD, Ill.—Be careful if you have saggy pants in the south Chicago suburb of Lynwood. Village leaders have passed an ordinance that would levy $25 fines against anyone showing three inches or more of their underwear in public.

Eugene Williams is the mayor of Lynwood. He says young men walk around town half-dressed, keeping major retailers and economic development away. He calls the new law a hot topic.

The American Civil Liberties Union says the ordinance targets young men of color.

Young adults in the village, like 21-year-old Joe Klomes, say the new law infringes on their personal style. He says leaders should instead spend money on making the area look nicer.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

$100 Billion Class War

There was high drama on the Hill when a whistle blower in hiding told how some of America's richest citizens cheat on their taxes with the help of offshore banks. The latest scandals point to deeper questions about the fairness of our tax system and the widening gulf between the rich and the rest of us.



The top 0.01% (14,000 Americans) hold 22% of America's wealth (a 2,200-fold equality gap).

The US has a GDP of about $13.8 TRILLION. So 14,000 people are in control of about $3 Trillion of our nations wealth.

That's well over $215 MILLION EACH on average.

The "bottom" 90% (133,000,000 tax paying families) hold 4% of America's wealth, about $550 billion of the national wealth, significant, but shameful in comparison to the 5.5x more wealth that 1/9000th hold.

And don't fool yourself into thinking it's an equal stratification: The bottom 50% (HALF the country) certainly doesn't hold as much wealth as the 50%-75% group, let alone the top 10%, 1%, or 0.01%

This social and economic disparity is the foundation for most of the nation's woes.



The land of opportunity?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Oh Oh It's...

Brain Magic



The Impossible Dollar Bill: Try and spend that shit


The Monk Illusion


The Rubik Cubes





[Keith Barry]

Foreign Obamacy



"Look, I am a Zionist," Kimche told me when we met in a Tel Aviv shopping mall. "I believe very strongly we need to have a state here. And I believe strongly that the only way to thrive is by reaching peaceful relations with our neighbors and reaching a two-state solution. If we have one state for two peoples, it will be our doom. It will have to become an apartheid state, an anti-democratic state."


Gore's Gone Wild!

www.Wecansolveit.org

Alliance for Climate Protection Solutions



100% Carbon-free in 10 years

[cue the U2]

The Zinn is In




"Have our political leaders gone mad? Have they learned nothing from recent history? Have they not learned that no one "wins" in a war, but that hundreds of thousands of humans die, most of them civilians, many of them children?"

Korea:
2 million casualties
50,000 American lives

Vietnam:
2 million casualties
58,000 American lives

Gulf War:
100,000 casualties
few hundred American lives

Afghanistan:
?
473 American lives

Iraq War:
1 million casualties
4,121 American lives

"We should be asking the presidential candidates: Is our war in Afghanistan ending terrorism, or provoking it? And is not war itself terrorism?"

[HowardZinn.org]

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Have Feith



Showing off his Nadlers

Fannie, Freddie, Indy





--House GOP leaders, defying Bush, called for hearings on the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rescue, and said it shouldn't be attached to the housing package, which they call a bailout for irresponsible homeowners and unscrupulous lenders. In a statement, Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the changes "should not be coupled with a multibillion-dollar taxpayer-funded bailout bill that includes no reform or a multibillion-dollar permanent new government spending program."


The takeover of IndyMac came amid rampant speculation that the federal government would also have to take over lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which together stand behind almost half of the nation’s mortgage debt.

The Patriot Act (Is Bullshit)

P & T; BS! - B1G BR0THER




Penn & Teller: Bullshit!

I mpeach, You mpeach, We all mpeach




The Case for Impeachment (So Far)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Iran Sand Jam

Last week, after years of being threatened as part of the Axis of Evil, Iran showed its "claws" with a series of war games missile tests



The two sides had better use diplomacy rather than force, guns and weapons. However, when they (the US and Israel) show their teeth, Iran must also show its claws to them. But I am quite sure that no war will take place.



Canada is home to one of the largest oil sites on the planet, but it's a bit dirty, and more costly to process. But should Canada really being paying big bucks to allow Shell and other petroleum developers access to the oil sands?






Over the next several days, Sweden is holding a record breaking jazz festival. In anticipation of the Stockholm Jazz Festival on Wednesday, a "marathon jazz improvisation" began Friday in an effort to log the Guinness World Record for the world's longest jam session.

Check out the jam while it's happening!

Living in Terror

These brave Iraqi women describe some of the horrors of being Alive in Baghdad:

being afraid to go to the market, to school; seeing neighbors and friends kidnapped before their eyes only to turn up dead a week later; seeing their country dismembered before their eyes...




With all the numbers of dead, wounded, and displaced Iraqi citizens, it's easy to lose sight of the direct impact that each one of those individuals faces as their country is torn apart by war. The scale of suffering of the Iraqi people is unfathomable.

Conyers: Obstacle to Justice

Rep John Conyers still refuses to decide on whether to move along impeachment hearings against both President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney.



(OFF CAMERA): What is holding you back from beginning impeachment proceedings at this point?

CONYERS: Well, as I have said before, what's holding me back is that I haven't decided to do them. So I think there are enormous consequences involved in this decision, and that's why I haven't arrived at one yet. I don't plan to give any excuse. I haven't made up my mind. How can I tell you why I'm not going to impeachment? I came here, and the first thing out of my mouth was "I haven't decided."

In a January, 2008 letter to Conyers, Robert Wexler urged him to move along with impeachment hearings against Cheney. It's been 6 months: still nothing from Conyers.

In June, Congressman Kucinich offered 35 articles of impeachment against Bush. One month later, with still no action taken, he introduced another, single article of impeachment against Bush. Still nothing.

Biggest obstacle?

It's not the White House.
It's not the GOP.
It is the democrat "leadership," it is John Conyers.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Lob-Bomba

Lob Bombs New Biggest Worry for US in Baghdad



Support the Iraq Veterans Against the War

Not Hearing Hearings

Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) again introduced an article of impeachment against President Bush.




Karl Rove failed to appear before the judiciary committee, despite a subpoena.



Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Friday, July 4, 2008

A Declaration of Independence



IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.


A Declaration for our times


Right of the People


The guise of something so noble

Backwards dictatorships

Men who dared

Would we be celebrating if our Declaration of Independence had been edited by King George III?

Pretend Patriotism

Common Sense

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Free Press

This is a War, make no mistake.



I love Naomi Klein
...and we are crazy out here