Saturday, May 24, 2008

Idiocy From The Past

In 2000....
Gov. George W. Bush of Texas said today that if he was president, he would bring down gasoline prices through sheer force of personality, by creating enough political good will with oil-producing nations that they would increase their supply of crude.

''I would work with our friends in OPEC to convince them to open up the spigot, to increase the supply,'' Mr. Bush, the presumptive Republican candidate for president, told reporters here today. ''Use the capital that my administration will earn, with the Kuwaitis or the Saudis, and convince them to open up the spigot.''

Just imagine... just increase supply a little and *poof!* happy days are here. Like cutting a 19¢ gas tax would accomplish much.

But nothing about the exponentially increased demand from growing economies....

So Beloved Leader was always a man of vision with a clear view of the world....

The History Of The Slinky

Action! Joe Slaps Joe

The modern age is an age of, well, bullshit, usual dishonesty in all areas. So it's refreshing when anyone cuts through the thick fog of crap we live in....
On Wednesday, Joe Lieberman wrote on this page1 that the Democratic Party he and I grew up in has drifted far from the foreign policy espoused by Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John Kennedy.

In fact, it is the policies that President George W. Bush has pursued, and that John McCain would continue, that are divorced from that great tradition – and from the legacy of Republican presidents like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Sen. Lieberman is right: 9/11 was a pivotal moment. History will judge Mr. Bush's reaction less for the mistakes he made than for the opportunities he squandered.

The president had a historic opportunity to unite Americans and the world in common cause. Instead – by exploiting the politics of fear, instigating an optional war in Iraq before finishing a necessary war in Afghanistan, and instituting policies on torture, detainees and domestic surveillance that fly in the face of our values and interests – Mr. Bush divided Americans from each other and from the world.

At the heart of this failure is an obsession with the "war on terrorism" that ignores larger forces shaping the world: the emergence of China, India, Russia and Europe; the spread of lethal weapons and dangerous diseases; uncertain supplies of energy, food and water; the persistence of poverty; ethnic animosities and state failures; a rapidly warming planet; the challenge to nation states from above and below.

Instead, Mr. Bush has turned a small number of radical groups that hate America into a 10-foot tall existential monster that dictates every move we make.

The intersection of al Qaeda with the world's most lethal weapons is a deadly serious problem. Al Qaeda must be destroyed. But to compare terrorism with an all-encompassing ideology like communism and fascism is evidence of profound confusion.

Terrorism is a means, not an end, and very different groups and countries are using it toward very different goals. Messrs. Bush and McCain lump together, as a single threat, extremist groups and states more at odds with each other than with us: Sunnis and Shiites, Persians and Arabs, Iraq and Iran, al Qaeda and Shiite militias. If they can't identify the enemy or describe the war we're fighting, it's difficult to see how we will win.

The results speak for themselves.

On George Bush's watch, Iran, not freedom, has been on the march: Iran is much closer to the bomb; its influence in Iraq is expanding; its terrorist proxy Hezbollah is ascendant in Lebanon and that country is on the brink of civil war.

Beyond Iran, al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan – the people who actually attacked us on 9/11 – are stronger now than at any time since 9/11. Radical recruitment is on the rise. Hamas controls Gaza and launches rockets at Israel every day. Some 140,000 American troops remain stuck in Iraq with no end in sight.

Because of the policies Mr. Bush has pursued and Mr. McCain would continue, the entire Middle East is more dangerous. The United States and our allies, including Israel, are less secure.

The election in November is a vital opportunity for America to start anew. That will require more than a great soldier. It will require a wise leader.

Here, the controversy over engaging Iran is especially instructive.

Last week, John McCain was very clear. He ruled out talking to Iran. He said that Barack Obama was "naïve and inexperienced" for advocating engagement; "What is it he wants to talk about?" he asked.

Well, for a start, Iran's nuclear program, its support for Shiite militias in Iraq, and its patronage of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

Beyond bluster, how would Mr. McCain actually deal with these dangers? You either talk, you maintain the status quo, or you go to war. If Mr. McCain has ruled out talking, we're stuck with an ineffectual policy or military strikes that could quickly spiral out of control.

Sen. Obama is right that the U.S. should be willing to engage Iran on its nuclear program without "preconditions" – i.e. without insisting that Iran first freeze the program, which is the very subject of any negotiations. He has been clear that he would not become personally involved until the necessary preparations had been made and unless he was convinced his engagement would advance our interests.

President Nixon didn't demand that China end military support to the Vietnamese killing Americans before meeting with Mao. President Reagan didn't insist that the Soviets freeze their nuclear arsenal before sitting down with Mikhail Gorbachev. Even George W. Bush – whose initial disengagement allowed dangers to proliferate – didn't demand that Libya relinquish its nuclear program, that North Korea give up its plutonium, or even that Iran stop aiding those attacking our soldiers in Iraq before authorizing talks.

The net effect of demanding preconditions that Iran rejects is this: We get no results and Iran gets closer to the bomb.

Equally unwise is the Bush-McCain fixation on regime change. The regime is abhorrent, but their logic defies comprehension: renounce the bomb – and when you do, we're still going to take you down. The result is that Iran accelerated its efforts to produce fissile material.

Instead of regime change, we should focus on conduct change. We should make it very clear to Iran what it risks in terms of isolation if it continues to pursue a dangerous nuclear program but also what it stands to gain if it does the right thing. That will require keeping our allies in Europe, as well as Russia and China, on the same page as we ratchet up pressure.

It also requires a much more sophisticated understanding than Mr. Bush or Mr. McCain seem to possess that by publicly engaging Iran – including through direct talks – we can exploit cracks within the ruling elite, and between Iran's rulers and its people, who are struggling economically and stifled politically.

Iran's people need to know that their government, not the U.S., is choosing confrontation over cooperation. Our allies and partners need to know that the U.S. will go the extra diplomatic mile – if we do, they are much more likely to stand with us if diplomacy fails and force proves necessary.

The Bush-McCain saber rattling is the most self-defeating policy imaginable. It achieves nothing. But it forces Iranians who despise the regime to rally behind their leaders. And it spurs instability in the Middle East, which adds to the price of oil, with the proceeds going right from American wallets into Tehran's pockets.

The worst nightmare for a regime that thrives on tension with America is an America ready, willing and able to engage. Since when has talking removed the word "no" from our vocabulary?

It's amazing how little faith George Bush, Joe Lieberman and John McCain have in themselves – and in America.


MacUser, out of boredom, provides these:
“Apple vs. Microsoft”

Three Microsoft engineers and three Apple employees are traveling by train to a computer conference. At the station, the three Microsoft engineers each buy tickets and watch as the three Apple employees buy only a single ticket.

“How are three people going to travel on only one ticket?” asks a Microsoft engineer.

“Watch and you’ll see,” answers the Apple employee.

They all board the train. The Microsoft engineers take their respective seats, but all three Apple employees cram into a restroom and close the door behind them. Shortly after the train has departed, the conductor comes around collecting tickets. He knocks on the restroom door and says, “Ticket, please.”

The door opens just a crack and a single arm emerges with a ticket in hand. The conductor takes the ticket and moves on.

The Microsoft engineers saw this and agreed it was quite a clever idea. So after the conference, the Microsoft engineers decide to do the same on the return trip and save some money.

When they get to the station, they buy a single ticket for the return trip. To their astonishment, the Apple employees don’t buy any ticket, at all.

“How are you going to travel without a ticket?” asks one perplexed Microsoft engineer.

“Watch and you’ll see,” answers an Apple employee.

When they board the train the three Microsoft engineers cram into a restroom and the three Apple employees cram into another one nearby. The train departs.

Shortly afterward, one of the Apple employees leaves his restroom and walks over to the restroom where the Microsoft engineers are hiding. He knocks on the door and says, “Ticket, please…”

Three employees, one from Microsoft, one from Sun, and one from Apple are in a restroom, at the urinals. When the Microsoft employee is done he washes his hands, he dries his hands completely with 10 paper towels. “At Microsoft,” he says, “We’re very thorough.” The sun employee finishes, washes his hands, and dries them with one paper towel. “At Sun, we’re very thorough AND very efficient.” The Apple engineer leaves without washing his hands, and says, “At Apple, we don’t piss on our hands.”

Two geeks are talking over lunch. The first guy says “You wouldn’t believe what happened this morning. A girl rode up to me on her bike, took off all her clothes, and said ‘Take whatever you want!’ … So I took the bike.”

The second guy says “Good choice, her clothes probably wouldn’t have fit you.”

And really, how does one defend a monopoly-based company run by a madman?

Scarily Weird, Bizarre News Stories

A West Virginia woman was being transferred to the Cleveland Clinic after walking the line between life and death.
Doctors are calling Val Thomas a medical miracle. They said they can't explain how she is alive.

They said Thomas suffered two heart attacks and had no brain waves for more than 17 hours. At about 1:30 a.m. Saturday, her heart stopped and she had no pulse. A respiratory machine kept her breathing and rigor mortis had set in, doctors said.

"Her skin had already started to harden and her fingers curled. Death had set in," said son Jim Thomas.

They rushed her to a West Virginia hospital. Doctors put Thomas on a special machine which induces hypothermia. The treatment involves lowering the body temperature for up to 24 hours before warming a patient up.

After that procedure, her heart stopped again.

"She had no neurological function," said Dr. Kevin Eggleston.

Her family said goodbye and doctors removed all the tubes.

However, Thomas was kept on a ventilator a little while longer as an organ donor issue was discussed.

Ten minutes later the woman woke up and started talking.
Edward Smith, who lives with his current "girlfriend" – a white Volkswagen Beetle named Vanilla, insisted that he was not "sick" and had no desire to change his ways.

"I appreciate beauty and I go a little bit beyond appreciating the beauty of a car only to the point of what I feel is an expression of love," he said.

"Maybe I'm a little bit off the wall but when I see movies like Herbie and Knight Rider, where cars become loveable, huggable characters it's just wonderful.

"I'm a romantic. I write poetry about cars, I sing to them and talk to them just like a girlfriend. I know what's in my heart and I have no desire to change."

He added: "I'm not sick and I don't want to hurt anyone, cars are just my preference."

Mr Smith, 57, first had sex with a car at the age of 15, and claims he has never been attracted to women or men.

But his wandering eye has spread beyond cars to other vehicles. He says that his most intense sexual experience was "making love" to the helicopter from 1980s TV hit Airwolf.

As well as Vanilla, he regularly spends time with his other vehicles – a 1973 Opal GT, named Cinnamon, and 1993 Ford Ranger Splash, named Ginger.

Before Vanilla, he had a five-year relationship with Victoria, a 1969 VW Beetle he bought from a family of Jehovah's Witnesses.

But he confesses that many of the cars he has had sex with have belonged to strangers or car showrooms.

His last relationship with a woman was 12 years ago - and he could not bring himself to consummate it, although he did have sex with girls in his younger days.

Mr Smith, from Washington state in the US, kept quiet about his secret fetish for years, but agreed to be interviewed as part of a channel Five documentary into “mechaphilia”. He is shown meeting other enthusiasts at a rally in California

Talking about how his unusual passion developed, Mr Smith said: "It's something that grew as a part of me when I was a kid and I could not shake it.

"I just loved cute cars right from the beginning, but over the years it got stronger once I got into my teenage years and was my first having sexual urges.

"When I turned 13 and the famous Corvette Stingray came about, that car was pure sex and just an incredible machine. I wanted it.

"I didn't fully understand it myself except that I know I'm not hurting anyone and I do not intend to."

He added: "There are moments way out in the middle of nowhere when I see a little car parked and I swear it needs loving.

"There have been certain cars that attracted me and I would wait until night time, creep up to them and just hug and kiss them.

"As far as women go, they never really interested me much. And I'm not gay.”

Mr Smith is now part of a global community of more than 500 “car lovers” brought together by internet forums.

What Wingnuts Get Themselves Crazy Over

There is no greater issue facing this nation and the world, from the whackos' perspective than Rachel Ray wearing this.

Music Viddie Of The Day

Quote Of The Day

Via /.:
Old timer, n.: One who remembers when charity was a virtue and not an organization.
The Chinese curse has come true... we live in interesting times....

Even Time Says It's Worse Than You Think; Another Obituary For America

Time seems to think we need another FDR, or maybe even Ronnie Raygun (not so much, and with another Paul Volker)... well, we're getting neither this cycle....
In the waning minutes of his only TV debate with Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980, Ronald Reagan looked straight into the camera and asked, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

It was a defining question of the campaign — and of late 20th century American politics. It was also pretty easy to answer. The "misery index," a then popular measure that added the unemployment rate to the inflation rate, had skyrocketed during Carter's tenure. Taxes had risen sharply. There were other issues on voters' minds, like the Iranian hostage crisis and those dang cardigans Carter used to wear. But the economy was crucial to Reagan's victory. After taking office, he responded by ushering in a new era in economic policy — cutting tax rates, slashing regulation and tirelessly preaching the gospel that individual Americans were better suited to make economic decisions than bureaucrats in Washington were.

This election year, the economy is again at the forefront of voters' minds. The misery index is no longer the problem; at 9% and change, it's miles below the 20% of late 1980. But Americans have a new menu of economic woes — among them a real estate crash, a credit crisis, a broken health-care system and nagging job insecurity. Poll after poll shows a vast majority convinced that the economy and the country are headed in the wrong direction.

The first and most obvious thing to be said is that this represents a big stumbling block for Republican John McCain. He's not the incumbent, so the "four years ago" line doesn't apply directly to him. But history shows that slow economic growth is among the best predictors of a change in party control of the White House — and right now the economy is barely growing at all.

The bigger issue for voters to wrestle with, though, is not what the economy can do to the presidential race but what the next President can do to the economy. Usually it's not so much. But every once in a while, like when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected in 1932 and Reagan in 1980, the effect can be dramatic. Reagan's policies, together with some luck and the inflation-killing zeal of Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, helped the U.S. economy break out of its 1970s malaise into a new era of flexibility, innovation and growth. And this era didn't end when Reagan left office in 1989. Subsequent Presidents, even Democrat Bill Clinton, followed more or less in Reagan's footsteps.

Economic eras don't last forever, though, and there are signs that the current slowdown is a harbinger of something bigger: an end to America's 25-year love affair with tax cuts and deregulation. A lot of the cracks that have emerged during that time, because of global economic shifts or our own neglect, have become impossible to ignore — stagnant incomes, a federal budget gone way out of balance, soaring energy prices, a once-in-a-lifetime housing crash and growing financial risks in retirement and from health care.

What it adds up to is a generalized sense of economic insecurity that has dimmed many Americans' optimism about their future. So there's a chance that this election could turn out to be a major economic turning point, just like 1980's was. A significantly new direction in economic policy seems much more likely if Barack Obama (or Hillary Clinton, on the off chance that she returns from the political dead yet again) prevails in November. But throw John McCain together with a Democratic Congress, and who knows what might pop out? Economic trouble begets economic change. Here's what may be in the offing.


If you feel as if you've been going backward, you haven't been imagining it. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median American family made $58,407 in 2006. That's $991 less, when you adjust for inflation, than the median in 2000, and indications are that things haven't gotten any better in 2007 or this year.

Recessions — like the one in 2001 and the one we might be in now — always reduce incomes. The problem since 2000 is that even when the economy was growing, the fruits of that growth landed almost exclusively in the pockets of the wealthiest Americans. According to economists Thomas Piketty and Emanuel Saez, 75% of all income gains from 2002 to '06 went to the top 1% — households making more than $382,600 a year.

The gap between high and low earners has been growing since the late 1970s, and until recently, economists attributed virtually all of it to technological and demographic changes that increased the premium paid to those with advanced skills and education. If that were true, the only answer would lie along the arduous path of improving the education and skill levels of American workers. And you certainly wouldn't want to discourage people from getting an education by heavily taxing the rewards for it.

But according to Piketty and Saez, the really dramatic developments have all been at the very, very top — not the top 1% but the top 0.01%, who now control 5.46% of all income, their highest share on record. (The data go back to 1913.) Most of these people are well educated, but it's awfully hard to portray their riches purely as rewards for education or skill.

Many economists now believe at least two other factors have contributed to the growth in inequality: globalization and Reagan's big cuts in taxes on the rich. Even as it rewards those at the top of their fields worldwide with spectacular paydays, globalization holds down earnings for millions of Americans who compete with workers overseas — not only lower-skilled factory and phone-center workers but also engineers, lawyers and doctors. Public opinion has reacted to this with increasing distrust of free trade, a wariness that both Obama and Clinton have echoed in their campaigns. But this is touchy territory: trade may distort the income distribution, but economists remain almost unanimous in warning that restricting trade would slow overall growth. There are similar concerns about using the tax code to address inequality, although Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels demonstrates in his new book, Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age, that the redistributive policies of Democratic administrations since World War II succeeded in delivering better income growth to low-income and middle-income Americans than Republican administrations did.

So what should be done about income disparity? In an April Gallup poll, 68% of respondents said wealth "should be more evenly distributed" in the U.S. — the highest percentage saying so since Gallup started asking the question in 1984. A smaller majority, 51%, agreed that "heavy taxes on the rich" were needed.

To the extent they talk about it at all, the two parties take different approaches to closing the income gap. Obama in particular has been explicit about wanting to shift more of the income-tax burden away from the middle class and onto those making more than $200,000 a year, while McCain has spoken mainly about creating better job-retraining programs for those displaced by globalization. Another potential path, although it hasn't been a theme in the campaign so far, would be a big effort to repair the country's crumbling infrastructure — which would create lots of jobs that couldn't be outsourced overseas and would also deliver long-term economic benefits. In any case, the income gap is an issue that's been danced around for too long. It's time to address it.
[more -- read the whole piece while you can!]

Read This And Weep; An Obituary For America -- And It's Just About All True

Thomas Frank in, of all places, Fox Bidness Journal:
Twenty years ago, when I started out as a writer, the problems of mass prosperity were the ones that intrigued me most. America was then, as I thought it would always remain, the great middle-class nation. And in the permanent affluent society, questions of taste and waste and marketing and alienation were what really mattered, now and forever. When moved to consider workplace issues in those days, I instinctively placed them in the category of brutal-things-settled-long-ago: Without even thinking about it, I connected the word "labor" to the word "history."

It's not a mistake anyone can make any longer, whether they are pondering the voting patterns of working-class Hoosiers or the driest statistics in the record book. Median "nonelderly" household income, we find, fell consistently through the first half of this decade, despite the solid economic growth enjoyed by the country as a whole.

Some nonmedian folks did just fine, of course: The top 20% of households earned more, after taxes, than the rest of the country combined in 2005, while the topmost 1% of the population took home more than the bottom 40%. The top-earning hedge fund manager of 2007, in fact, made about as much last year in nominal dollars ($3.7 billion) as J. Paul Getty, one of the richest men in the world, was worth in the mid-1970s.

Real hourly wages for most workers, on the other hand, have risen only 1% since 1979, even as those workers' productivity has increased by 60%. What's more, American workers now clock more hours per year than their counterparts in virtually every other advanced economy, even Japan. And unless you haven't read a newspaper for 15 years, you already know what's happened to workers' health insurance and pension plans.

I confess that I am fascinated by the mechanics of this huge social reconfiguration – in the same sense that I am fascinated by the industrial procedures of a slaughterhouse, or by the strategies that enabled small Confederate armies to win victories for slavery over much larger Union forces. How the big change was brought off is the subject of Steven Greenhouse's important new book, "The Big Squeeze," which is also my source for many of the statistics in the preceding paragraphs. Aside from the outsourcing, offshoring, and firing-at-will that make up the best-known weapons in the corporate arsenal, Mr. Greenhouse reveals how managers extract unpaid work through an array of ingenious tricks, from eliminating bathroom breaks to electronically erasing hours from workers' records.

The most extreme cases are described in a remarkable book by John Bowe called "Nobodies." Mr. Bowe's subject is "modern American slave labor," a term he uses without hyperbole, since his book tells how certain of our fellow Americans have actually forced others to work for them involuntarily. The trademark contrivance these bosses employ is debt bondage, the oldest management trick of them all. Their victims are generally migrant or "guest" workers, whose labor they have exploited from the tomato fields of Florida to the garment factories of Saipan.

The feeling I get from absorbing all these facts about the state of labor comes close to the nauseated dread that washes over me when I stay up late to read one of those what-if stories in which Hitler wins World War II. Could this really have happened to my country?

It has not merely "happened"; it has been done to us. The distinction is an important one to keep in mind as we survey the ruins of the affluent society. What has overtaken America's working people is not a natural disaster like "globalization," and not even some kind of societal atavism in which countries regress mysteriously to their 19th-century selves. This is a man-made catastrophe, a result that proceeded directly from the deliberate beatdown of organized labor and the wrecking of the liberal state.

It is, in other words, a political disaster, with tax cuts, trade agreements, deregulatory measures, and enforcement decisions all finely crafted to benefit one part of society and leave the rest behind. Few of the voters who gave Ronald Reagan his landslide victories, it is fair to say, intended for this to be the outcome. They wanted their country to stand tall again, certainly; they wanted the scary regulators off their backs, maybe; but I can recall no conservative who trumpeted those long-ago elections – or any of the succeeding contests, for that matter – as a referendum on plutocracy.

So let us have one now. Instead of pleasant talk about "change" and feats of beer drinking at the corner tavern, let us hear our candidates address this greatest issue of them all: What kind of country are we to be? A land of equality? Or a bankers' utopia – where the law of the land has achieved mystical oneness with the higher law of classical economics, and devil take the bottom 80%.

Friday, May 23, 2008

All Your Nightmares....

An Honest Commercial

Maybe, it just took too many takes with too many sips....

A Call To Arms

In the information age, we all have a data shadow.
We leave data everywhere we go. It's not just our bank accounts and stock portfolios, or our itemized bills, listing every credit card purchase and telephone call we make. It's automatic road-toll collection systems, supermarket affinity cards, ATMs and so on.
It's also our lives. Our love letters and friendly chat. Our personal e-mails and SMS messages. Our business plans, strategies and offhand conversations. Our political leanings and positions. And this is just the data we interact with. We all have shadow selves living in the data banks of hundreds of corporations' information brokers -- information about us that is both surprisingly personal and uncannily complete -- except for the errors that you can neither see nor correct.
What happens to our data happens to ourselves.
This shadow self doesn't just sit there: It's constantly touched. It's examined and judged. When we apply for a bank loan, it's our data that determines whether or not we get it. When we try to board an airplane, it's our data that determines how thoroughly we get searched -- or whether we get to board at all. If the government wants to investigate us, they're more likely to go through our data than they are to search our homes; for a lot of that data, they don't even need a warrant.
Who controls our data controls our lives.
It's true. Whoever controls our data can decide whether we can get a bank loan, on an airplane or into a country. Or what sort of discount we get from a merchant, or even how we're treated by customer support. A potential employer can, illegally in the U.S., examine our medical data and decide whether or not to offer us a job. The police can mine our data and decide whether or not we're a terrorist risk. If a criminal can get hold of enough of our data, he can open credit cards in our names, siphon money out of our investment accounts, even sell our property. Identity theft is the ultimate proof that control of our data means control of our life.
We need to take back our data.
Our data is a part of us. It's intimate and personal, and we have basic rights to it. It should be protected from unwanted touch.
We need a comprehensive data privacy law. This law should protect all information about us, and not be limited merely to financial or health information. It should limit others' ability to buy and sell our information without our knowledge and consent. It should allow us to see information about us held by others, and correct any inaccuracies we find. It should prevent the government from going after our information without judicial oversight. It should enforce data deletion, and limit data collection, where necessary. And we need more than token penalties for deliberate violations.
This is a tall order, and it will take years for us to get there. It's easy to do nothing and let the market take over. But as we see with things like grocery store club cards and click-through privacy policies on websites, most people either don't realize the extent their privacy is being violated or don't have any real choice. And businesses, of course, are more than happy to collect, buy, and sell our most intimate information. But the long-term effects of this on society are toxic; we give up control of ourselves.

What's There To Love About Corporatism?

It's evil:
An internal Cisco document (.pdf) leaked to reporters on the eve of a Senate human rights hearing reveals that Cisco engineers regarded the Chinese government's rigid internet censorship program as an opportunity to do more business with the repressive regime.

The 90-page document is an internal presentation that Cisco engineers and staffers in China mulled over in 2002 as the central government was upgrading its local, state and provincial public safety and security network infrastructure. Under the category "Cisco Opportunities," the document provides bullet point suggestions for how it might service China's censorship system called the "Golden Shield", and better known in the West as the Great Firewall of China.

The document is the first evidence that the networking giant has marketed its routers to China specifically as a tool of repression. It reinforces the double-edged role that Americans' technological ingenuity plays in the rest of the world. Companies including Cisco, Yahoo, Microsoft and Google have faced criticism for cooperating to various degrees with the repressive Chinese regime, and the document leak on Monday came one day before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing into U.S. technology companies' participation in foreign government censorship programs.

It's written by idiots:

The raw data is here.

Viddie Of The Day #2 - Watch more free videos

Viddie Of The Day

Another Victory For Corporatism, Another Defeat For America

Really, when are the, well, the people going to take back this country? Huh? Ever??

Off the front page of the Times (Hear, hear! Props to the Times):
On campuses nationwide, professors and administrators have passionately debated whether their universities should accept money for research from tobacco companies. But not at Virginia Commonwealth University, a public institution in Richmond, Va.

That is largely because hardly any faculty members or students there know that there is something to debate — a contract with extremely restrictive terms that the university signed in 2006 to do research for Philip Morris USA, the nation’s largest tobacco company and a unit of Altria Group.

The contract bars professors from publishing the results of their studies, or even talking about them, without Philip Morris’s permission. If “a third party,” including news organizations, asks about the agreement, university officials have to decline to comment and tell the company. Nearly all patent and other intellectual property rights go to the company, not the university or its professors.

“There is restrictive language in here,” said Francis L. Macrina, Virginia Commonwealth’s vice president for research, who acknowledged that many of the provisions violated the university’s guidelines for industry-sponsored research. “In the end, it was language we thought we could agree to. It’s a balancing act.”

But the contract, a copy of which The New York Times obtained under the Virginia Freedom of Information law, is highly unusual and raises questions about how far universities will go in search of scarce research dollars to enhance their standing. It also brings a new dimension to the already divisive debate on many campuses over whether it is appropriate for universities to accept tobacco money for research.

Viddie Of The Day

President McCain's BFF Is Also An Anti-Semite; Match That, Rev. Wright!

Jeez, what will Lieberman say to this? (What, and risk getting the veep nomination??)

(But see this....)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Yentas Kvetching About Beloved Leader's Grandpappy's Nazi Ties

I know I never get enough of this.... Remember: It takes the scion of Nazi-generated wealth to call Obama an appeaser on the Knesset floor. Hey, B.L.: Your grandpappy was far more of an appeaser than anyone you were alluding to!

Viddie Of The Day: The Secret History Of Burning Man

It's like out of Indiana Jones or something....

The Secret History Of Burning Man

Whoa, it's sorta, kinda like out Indiana Jones....

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Just Because One Can Never Post Too Often About Beloved Leader's Family Wealth Flowing From (In Part) Supporting The Nazis

If Borah, an isolationist Republican from Idaho, sounded naive saying "Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided," then what should be said about Bush's grandfather and other members of his family providing banking and industrial assistance to the Nazis as they built their war machine in the 1930s?

The archival evidence is now clear that Prescott Bush, the president's grandfather, was a director and shareholder of companies that profited from and collaborated with key financial backers of Nazi Germany.

That business relationship continued after Hitler invaded Poland in 1939 and even after Germany declared war on the United States following Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941. It stopped only when the U.S. government seized assets of Bush-connected companies in late 1942 under the "Trading with the Enemy Act."

So, perhaps instead of holding up Sen. Borah to ridicule, Bush might have acknowledged in his May 15 speech that his forebears also were blind to the dangers of Hitler.

Bush might have noted that his family's wealth, which fueled his own political rise, was partly derived from Nazi collaboration and possibly from slave labor provided by Auschwitz and other concentration camps.

A more honest speech before the Knesset - on the 60th anniversary of Israel's founding - might have contained an apology to the Jewish people from a leading son of the Bush family for letting its greed contribute to Nazi power and to the horrors of the Holocaust. Instead, there was just the jab at Sen. Borah, who died in 1940.

President Bush apparently saw no reason to remind the world of a dark chapter from the family history. After all, those ugly facts mostly disappeared from public consciousness soon after World War II.

Protected by layers of well-connected friends, Prescott Bush brushed aside the Nazi scandal and won a U.S. Senate seat from Connecticut, which enabled him to start laying the foundation for the family's political dynasty.

In recent years, however, the archival records from the pre-war era have been assembled, drawing from the Harriman family papers at the Library of Congress, documents at the National Archives, and records from war-crimes trials after Germany's surrender.

Managers for the Powerful

One can trace the origins of this story back more than a century to the emergence of Samuel Bush, George W. Bush's great-grandfather, as a key manager for a set of powerful American business families, including the Rockefellers and the Harrimans. [See's "Bush Family Chronicles: The Patriarchs."]

That chapter took an important turn in 1919 when investment banker George Herbert Walker teamed up with Averell Harriman, scion to a railroad fortune, to found a new investment banking firm, W.A. Harriman Company.

The Harriman firm was backed by the Rockefellers' National City Bank and the Morgan family's Guaranty Trust. The English-educated Walker assisted in assembling the Harriman family's overseas business investments.

In 1921, Walker's favorite daughter, Dorothy, married Samuel Bush's son Prescott, a Yale graduate and a member of the school's exclusive Skull and Bones society. Handsome and athletic, admired for his golf and tennis skills, Prescott Bush was a young man with the easy grace of someone born into the comfortable yet competitive world of upper-crust contacts.

Three years later, Dorothy gave birth to George Herbert Walker Bush in Milton, Massachusetts.

Lifted by the financial boom of the 1920s, Prescott and Dorothy Bush were on the rise. By 1926, George Herbert Walker had brought his son-in-law in on a piece of the Harriman action, hiring him as a vice president in the Harriman banking firm.

By the mid-Thirties, Prescott Bush had become a managing partner at the merged firm of Brown Brothers Harriman. The archival records also show that Brown Brothers Harriman served as the U.S. financial service arm for German industrialist Fritz Thyssen, an early funder of the Nazi Party.

Thyssen, an admirer of Adolf Hitler since the 1920s, joined the Nazi Party in 1931 when it was still a fringe organization. He helped bail the struggling party out with financial help, even providing its headquarters building in Munich.

Meanwhile, Averell Harriman had launched the Hamburg-Amerika line of steamships to facilitate the bank's dealings with Germany, and made Prescott Bush a director. The ships delivered fuel, steel, coal, gold and money to Germany as Hitler was consolidating his power and building his war machine.

Other evidence shows that Prescott Bush served as the director of the Union Banking Corp. of New York, which represented Thyssen's interests in the United States and was owned by a Thyssen-controlled bank in the Netherlands.

As a steel magnate, Thyssen was amassing a fortune as Hitler rearmed Germany. Documents also linked Bush to Thyssen's Consolidated Silesian Steel Company, which was based in mineral-rich Silesia on the German-Polish border and exploited slave labor from Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz. But records at the National Archives do not spell out exactly when Bush's connection ended or what he knew about the business details.

In 1941, Thyssen had a falling out with Hitler and fled to France where he was captured. Much of Thyssen's empire went under the direct control of the Nazis, but even that did not shatter the business ties that existed with Prescott Bush and Harriman's bank.

It wasn't until August 1942 that newspaper stories disclosed the secretive ties between Union Banking Corp. and Nazi Germany.

After an investigation, the U.S. government seized the property of the Hamburg-Amerika line and moved against affiliates of the Union Banking Corp. In November 1942, the government seized the assets of the Silesian-American Corp. [For more details, see an investigative report by the U.K. Guardian, Sept. 25, 2004.]

No Kiss of Death

For most public figures, allegations of trading with the enemy would have been a political kiss of death, but the disclosures barely left a lipstick smudge on Averell Harriman, Prescott Bush and other business associates implicated in the Nazi business dealings.

"Politically, the significance of these dealings - the great surprise - is that none of it seemed to matter much over the next decade or so," wrote Kevin Phillips in American Dynasty.

"A few questions would be raised, but Democrat Averell Harriman would not be stopped from becoming federal mutual security administrator in 1951 or winning election as governor of New York in 1954. Nor would Republican Prescott Bush (who was elected senator from Connecticut in 1952) and his presidential descendants be hurt in any of their future elections."

Indeed, the quick dissipation of the Nazi financial scandal was only a portent of the Bush family's future. Unlike politicians of lower classes, the Bushes seemed to travel in a bubble impervious to accusations of impropriety, since the Eastern Establishment doesn't like to think badly of its own. [For details, see Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege.]

To this day - as President Bush showed by mocking the long-forgotten Sen. Borah and then wielding the Nazi "appeasement" club against Barack Obama and other Democrats - the assumption remains that the bubble will continue to protect the Bush family name.

However, the evidence from dusty archives suggests that the Bush family went way beyond appeasement of Adolf Hitler to aiding and abetting the Nazis.

President McCain: Crazy, Corrupt, A Freaking Idiot Or What?

Just in case you somehow missed it: the guy can't keep corruption away. Great leadership... replacing one wuss with a bigger, dumber one; just what America needs....

The Greatness of President McCain

See for yourself!

Viddie Of The Day 3: An Art Film In 52 Seconds

(Read about it here.)

Viddie Of The Day 2: You'll Believe A Penis Can Fly!

Viddie Of The Day 1

Monday, May 19, 2008

Something Straight-Talking President McCain Said About Hamas, As Always, Subject To Pandering Flip-Flopping

I must say, that's a perfect little headline; I'd love to see it all over Big Media... and it's not like it's biased. To the contrary: it's objective because the facts -- The Saint's collected utterances, etc. -- proves it correct.

I digress....

Crazy President McCain; Can He Be Worse Than Beloved Leader??

In 2000 Jack Kemp (former congressman and Bob Dole's vice presidential candidate) told me, "McCain is a war maker, and I'm a peacemaker, so is George Bush. McCain would be too dangerous as President." (By the way, I noted this conversation in my book Crazy For God long before McCain was running for President in 2008 -- and therefore before Kemp's statement was topical.)

Jack and I were arguing on the phone about the then Republican primaries. I still had Jack's home number from back in the 80s when I was a right wing activist and regular guest in his home. In 2000 I liked McCain -- in contrast to Bush -- so I had briefly jumped back into some Republican political activism, something I'd gotten rusty at after I bailed because of what might be called post right-wing-nut stress disorder, i.e., burnout. Trying to stop Bush seemed like a patriotic duty, so I dusted off old phone books and sallied forth to no avail. Bush not only won, Bush soon sent my Marine son to a war of choice.

These days Jack Kemp (just like the rest of the Republican establishment) is supporting McCain. But in 2000 the Republican establishment's suspicion of McCain was overt. McCain -- went the word in the insider's Republican network -- was "unstable."

Now that McCain is the Republican's man of the hour, Republican heavy hitters are conveniently forgetting that for years they have regarded McCain as mentally unfit for the presidency. Back in 2000 I thought they were wrong and just didn't like McCain because of his "maverick" label.

I changed my mind because McCain has confirmed the worst possible take on his character. He's done this by blindly parroting Bush on the war in Iraq, and now he's even attacking Senator Obama in lock step with Bush's slander about Obama being an "appeaser" of Iran.

McCain has done this even though it is President Bush who has (though the Iraq War) empowered Iran to become the power that most threatens Israel and Middle Eastern stability.

McCain wants to not only stay in Iraq, he promises "victory." As the father of a Marine who served in the Bush/McCain war, this sounds plain nuts to me. How do you define victory in Iraq? Apparently by lying about Senator Obama, denouncing diplomacy and embracing stupid unwinnable wars -- forever.

McCain is more dangerous to America than Bush ever was -- hard to imagine, but true. Bush turned out to be nothing more than an empty suit easily manipulated and terminally obstinate. But there was a certain sense to his foolishness.

There was a business template to hold Bush's actions up to that made them intelligible, even while they were horribly wrong. So we understood (in a grim sort of way) what Bush was doing by feeding billions of our dollars to Halliburton, Blackwater, Boeing et al. It was ugly and he squandered American lives, he made the world a more dangerous place, he coddled and set Iran up as a regional power, thus betraying Israel. Yet there was a sort of ugly logic nonetheless. Bush wasn't a Dr. Strangelove, just the defense and oil business community's lap dog.

Not McCain. McCain isn't a civilian. He sees himself as in tune with a higher calling. He sees himself as a military man first and everything else comes second, including our economic interests.

It is no accident that McCain's memoir is titled Faith of My Fathers. Faith is the operative word here, faith as in religion, faith as in blind belief in things that reason might refute.

On the cover of McCain's memoir are pictures of McCain's military ancestors and of course Senator McCain as a young military man. To McCain and his family, military service is a religion, a self-defining way of life, the question and the answer.

McCain's reasons for keeping America at war in Iraq are religious, the expression of the cult of the warrior -- the liturgy of combat. No matter what war we were in right now McCain would say "stay the course" and "on to victory!" He'd do this in the same way that any priest would want to finish a liturgy, mass or service once begun, no matter what disturbances might threaten to interrupt it.

McCain is dangerous because he wants to do what is "honorable" according to voices the rest of us -- including ordinary sane men and women in uniform -- don't hear. McCain isn't driven to do what is good for America, or even good for our military men and women. For instance, he is against the new GI Bill that would give fair educational benefits to our men and women. McCain doesn't want to give them anything that might entice them to do anything but go to war, again and again and again. McCain serves the warrior god of his warrior ancestors, not America's best interests or even the interests of our soldiers.

McCain doesn't want to let down his grandfather, John Sidney McCain or his father, the admiral. Morality has nothing to do with it. America has nothing to do with it. Iraq as nothing to do with it. McCain is keeping faith with ghosts.

A New Guinea tribesman on a revenge ambush mission, a soldier in Agamemnon's army, a German general in 1944 would all "get" McCain's faith--and recognize a true brother. On the other hand George Washington and our founders would be appalled. McCain is no Washingtonian American citizen soldier. McCain is a lifetime (and very un-American) militarist.

McCain concludes his memoir as follows:
"...My father and grandfather had their last conversation. Near the end of his life, my father recalled their final moments together: 'My father said to me, son, there is no greater thing than to die for the principles -- for the country and the principles that you believe in...' I had remembered a dying man's legacy to his son, and when I needed it most... I held on to the memory."
What are "the principles" McCain's father, grandfather (and he) agreed they needed to "die for," or send others to die for? They are the "principles" of the warrior: victory or death, a cult as old (and Old World) and destructive as human history itself.

A McCain presidency would essentially be a militarist coup. Don't get me wrong, most actual military people I know despise McCain-style notions of death, victory and sacrifice for sacrifice's sake, let alone "victory" and "glory" held up as a sentimental family religion. They know that this is the BS that gets people klled for no reason.

Jack Kemp was right: McCain is too dangerous to make President.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Some Of What Our Leaders And Their Enablers Said Before The Iraq Fandango And It Then Went South (Or Is That "Underwater"?)


The Classy Huck

Of course there's no reason to expect any class from these rightist scumbags. (Equal time requires that however I could criticize those left of center, talking offensive crap like the rightists do as S.O.P. is not one such criticism.)
Republican Mike Huckabee responded to an offstage noise during his speech to the National Rifle Association by suggesting it was Barack Obama diving to the floor because someone had aimed a gun at him.

Hearing a loud noise and interrupting his speech, Huckabee said: "That was Barack Obama. He just tripped off a chair. He's getting ready to speak and somebody aimed a gun at him and he — he dove for the floor."

There were only a few murmurs in the crowd after the remark.

Everything You Need To Know About Beloved Leader's Nazi-Loving Grandpa

Read it all about here.

President McCain, Flip-Flopping On The Mid-East

If the recent exchanges between President Bush, Barack Obama and John McCain on Hamas and terrorism are a preview of the general election, we are in for an ugly six months. Despite his reputation in the media as a charming maverick, McCain has shown that he is also happy to use Nixon-style dirty campaign tactics. By charging recently that Hamas is rooting for an Obama victory, McCain tried to use guilt by association to suggest that Obama is weak on national security and won't stand up to terrorist organizations, or that, as Richard Nixon might have put it, Obama is soft on Israel.

President Bush picked up this theme yesterday. Without naming Obama during his speech last night to Israel's Knesset, Bush suggested that Democrats want to "negotiate with terrorists" while Republicans want to fight terrorists.

The Obama campaign was right to criticize the president for his remarks and for engaging in partisan politics while overseas. Many presidents have said things abroad that could be construed as violating this unwritten rule of American politics. But it is hard to remember any president abusing the prestige of his office in as crude a way as Bush did yesterday. Charging your opponents with appeasement and likening them to Neville Chamberlain in the Knesset is a brutal blow. It is bad enough that Republicans use the politics of personal destruction here at home, but to deploy that kind of political weapon at an occasion as solemn as an American president addressing the parliament of a friendly government marks a new low.

McCain, meanwhile, is guilty of hypocrisy. I am a supporter of Hillary Clinton and believe that she was right to say, about McCain's statement on Hamas, "I don't think that anybody should take that seriously." Unfortunately, the Republicans know that some people will. That's why they say such things.

But given his own position on Hamas, McCain is the last politician who should be attacking Obama. Two years ago, just after Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections, I interviewed McCain for the British network Sky News's "World News Tonight" program. Here is the crucial part of our exchange:

I asked: "Do you think that American diplomats should be operating the way they have in the past, working with the Palestinian government if Hamas is now in charge?"

McCain answered: "They're the government; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another, and I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy towards Hamas because of their dedication to violence and the things that they not only espouse but practice, so . . . but it's a new reality in the Middle East. I think the lesson is people want security and a decent life and decent future, that they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that."

For some Europeans in Davos, Switzerland, where the interview took place, that's a perfectly reasonable answer. But it is an unusual if not unique response for an American politician from either party. And it is most certainly not how the newly conservative presumptive Republican nominee would reply today.

Given that exchange, the new John McCain might say that Hamas should be rooting for the old John McCain to win the presidential election. The old John McCain, it appears, was ready to do business with a Hamas-led government, while both Clinton and Obama have said that Hamas must change its policies toward Israel and terrorism before it can have diplomatic relations with the United States.

Even if McCain had not favored doing business with Hamas two years ago, he had no business smearing Barack Obama. But given his stated position then, it is either the height of hypocrisy or a case of political amnesia for McCain to inject Hamas into the American election.

Yet More Pandering And Lying Hypocrisy From President McCain

President McCain's BFF's Spew

This Was Then

Now, no longer operative....

Message Of The Day


The Cartoon Of The Day

One chapter of the story of my life at present....

Viddie Of, Like, The Last Century

God Bless The English

An officer in the British Security Service agency MI5 has been forced to resign after admitting his wife was one of the prostitutes who took part in the orgy with FIA president Max Mosley, according to a report in the Sunday Times.

Now They Complain

But thay haven't given the story very much prominence....
After guards from Blackwater Worldwide protecting a State Department convoy killed at least 17 Iraqis in a hail of bullets last September, we hoped the Bush administration would rethink the folly of relying on mercenaries, who have no accountability to Iraqi or American law.

The ever-stubborn administration decided it couldn’t stay at war without its gunslingers. More than six months after the event, not a single charge has been brought against the guards. Last month, the State Department — which is supposed to be sensitive to local politics and perception — renewed Blackwater’s contract in Iraq for another year.

Patrick Kennedy, the under secretary of state for management, told James Risen of The Times, “If the contractors were removed, we would have to leave Iraq.”

That the United States is so dependent on 30,000 or so private guards to plug the holes in the understaffed military force underscores, once again, how badly this administration has mismanaged the occupation of Iraq — and why the United States must begin an orderly withdrawal as soon as possible.

The F.B.I. has still not concluded its investigation into the shooting. Some Blackwater guards might be indicted, but the company is not expected to face criminal charges. And while the Bush administration might have moved on, Iraqis — who see this as one more instance of American callousness and hypocrisy — have not.

Last October, the House passed a bill that would ensure that contractors working for the American government in conflict zones were liable for prosecution under American criminal law. It would also deploy special F.B.I. units to combat zones to investigate contractor crimes regularly. The bill, opposed by the White House, is stalled in the Senate. This month a Senate panel unanimously passed a bill that would bar private contractors from performing what are essentially government tasks in combat zones, which could bar the use of Blackwater guards.

These bills should become law. American credibility cannot afford anything less.