Friday, June 30, 2006


"Natural Food" Stores: Hip or Rip?

I don’t know about the rest of the country, but, over in Portland, Whole Foods is the place to go: cheeses, meats, everything la-de-dah and ever-so-hip. (Around here, central Oregon, Wild Oats is the equivilent. Has anyone else noticed that the rudest shoppers in the world push carts around in the very hip upscale markets? You move slowly down an aisle and you get shoved.)

It’s like the “organic” milk or “free-range vegetarian fed” chickens routine. If the label says it’s organic, it’s good. Right? ‘Tain’t necessarily so, as the old song goes.

Published on Thursday, June 29, 2006 by
Whole Foods CEO Mackey Endorses Cato Book – No More Corporate Crime Prosecutions
by Russell Mokhiber
Most people who shop at Whole Foods are liberal yuppies.

They have enough money to spend $9 on a pound of cherries.

They believe that shopping for groceries at Whole Foods instead of Safeway or Food Lion or Giant or Wal-Mart is the politically correct thing to do.

They probably believe that the President and CEO of Whole Foods is a liberal like themselves.

They of course would be wrong.

John Mackey is instead a libertarian with right-wing tendencies.

Mackey says that Milton Friedman is his hero.

He’s a devotee of Ayn Rand.

He’s opposed to national health insurance.

He’s a union buster.

And he has recently endorsed a book published by the libertarian Cato Institute whose author concludes that no corporation should ever be prosecuted for crimes – no matter the corporation, no matter the crime.

The book – Trapped: When Acting Ethically is Against the Law – is written by Georgetown University Professor John Hasnas.

“John Hasnas shows that new laws and regulations too often force CEOs to choose between acting legally and acting ethically,” Mackey says in a blurb on the back cover.

Unlike most books on white collar crime, which tend to rehash bland academic theories or cut corporate crimes of years past and paste them with dogmatic rants, Trapped is actually a compelling read with an original idea sprinkled here and there.

Hasnas’ big idea is that the whole system of prosecuting corporate crime is undermining the liberal principles built into traditional criminal law and designed to protect individuals against the power of the state.

The result is that corporations are forced to turn on their own employees to save their own corporate hide.

Hasnas is a hard line libertarian. He worked for a time as lawyer for the politically aggressive, right-wing, and privately-held Koch Industries – one of the nation’s largest oil companies.

And instead of concluding that we should fix the criminal justice system so that corporations and federal prosecutors can no longer gang up on individual employees – he concludes in his book that corporations should never be criminally prosecuted – ever.

No matter the crime.

No matter the corporation.

Hasnas wants to do away with corporate criminal liability.

If there is a crime committed by someone within the corporation, criminally prosecute the individual, he says.

But a corporation can’t commit a crime and should not be criminally prosecuted.


We wanted to know: does Whole Foods’ CEO Mackey agree – corporations should never be criminally prosecuted?

No matter the crime?

No matter the corporation?

Does the libertarian John Mackey support the big business funded Cato Institute and its right wing ideology with cash – or just with quotes?

Whole Foods spokesperson Kate Lowery did not return numerous calls and e-mails seeking comment.

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter.

For a complete transcript of the Interview with John Hasnas, see 20 Corporate Crime Reporter 27(12), July 5, 2006, print edition only.



Echevarria, Mexico's Butcher of Tleteloco, Arrested—Finally

The ‘60s and ‘70s were violent times in Latin America (among other places!). The Colossus of The North, in it’s spasms of hate toward anything remotely Left, financed and trained and armed militaries and paramilitaries from Mexico to Argentina. Mexico was as oppressive as Guatemala or Salvador; it’s just they had a smoother hand with P.R. since the country is so dependent on tourism.

Mexican ex-president ordered arrested in massacre;_ylt=Anza9ue9sPn5YdlmToWUBR9g.3QA;_ylu=X3oDMTA3MXN1bHE0BHNlYwN0bWE-
By Lorraine Orlandi1 hour, 4 minutes ago

A judge on Friday ordered the arrest of Mexico's former President Luis Echeverria for a 1968 student massacre in a surprise move just two days before a presidential election.

The judge ruled that there was enough evidence to support the charge of genocide brought against Echeverria, 84, by special prosecutor Ignacio Carrillo.

The arrest order, after two failed attempts in recent years to charge Echeverria with genocide, is a breakthrough in outgoing President Vicente Fox's halting drive to punish those responsible for past government brutality. Fox leaves office in December.

"For the first time in Mexico's history a president will be tried in this way," Carrillo said. "This will work against a repetition of abuse of power, to impede it forever."

Echeverria is expected to be held under house arrest due to his age and health concerns, defense attorney Juan Velasquez said after the judge's ruling. Echeverria was president from 1970 to 1976, at the height of a so-called dirty war against leftists.

Echeverria was interior minister in charge of national security when government troops stormed a student rally in Mexico City on October 2, 1968, days before the opening of the Olympics here.

"This is an historic accomplishment after a long struggle by many for justice and truth in the face of a criminal state in the Echeverria era," said Joel Ortega, who witnessed the massacre as a student protester.

Voters go to the polls on Sunday in the first presidential election since 2000, when Fox ousted the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which ruled Mexico for seven decades, at times using repression to crush dissent.

It was not immediately clear what impact the arrest order could have on Sunday's vote, but it was unlikely to help PRI candidate Roberto Madrazo. He is in third place in opinion polls and his party has repeatedly criticized the investigation into past rights abuses.

Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has a wafer-thin lead in opinion polls over ruling party candidate Felipe Calderon.

Officials said about 30 people died in what came to be known as the Tlatelolco massacre. But witnesses and rights activists put the death toll as high as 300. Echeverria has denied responsibility for the blood bath.

Carrillo, named by Fox to investigate and prosecute dirty-war crimes, says Echeverria oversaw a bloody campaign to stamp out dissidents when he was interior minister and president.

Fox took office pledging to shed light on Mexico's dark past and punish former high-ranking officials who planned and carried out state crimes, raising hopes for justice among survivors.

But the prosecutor has had little success, with few arrests and no convictions. Fox has been widely criticized by survivors and rights groups for falling short on his promises. He is barred by law from seeking re-election.

Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited.


Did Bush Commit War Crimes? Heh!

Here’s a cogent editorial about yesterday’s Supreme Court decision and the rule of law—which supposedly is the way things work. The Constitution says treaties are the supreme law of the land, by the way; so the Geneva Conventions...?

And the answer to Ms Brooks question, "Did bush commit war crimes?? is "Does a bear shit in the woods?"

Did Bush Commit War Crimes?
By Rosa Brooks
The Los Angeles Times,0,339573.column?coll=la-home-commentary
Friday 30 June 2006

Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld could expose officials to prosecution.

The Supreme Court on Thursday dealt the Bush administration a stinging rebuke, declaring in Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld that military commissions for trying terrorist suspects violate both U.S. military law and the Geneva Convention.

But the real blockbuster in the Hamdan decision is the court's holding that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention applies to the conflict with Al Qaeda - a holding that makes high-ranking Bush administration officials potentially subject to prosecution under the federal War Crimes Act.

The provisions of the Geneva Convention were intended to protect noncombatants - including prisoners - in times of armed conflict. But as the administration has repeatedly noted, most of these protections apply only to conflicts between states. Because Al Qaeda is not a state, the administration argued that the Geneva Convention didn't apply to the war on terror. These assertions gave the administration's arguments about the legal framework for fighting terrorism a through-the-looking-glass quality. On the one hand, the administration argued that the struggle against terrorism was a war, subject only to the law of war, not U.S. criminal or constitutional law. On the other hand, the administration said the Geneva Convention didn't apply to the war with Al Qaeda, which put the war on terror in an anything-goes legal limbo.

This novel theory served as the administration's legal cover for a wide range of questionable tactics, ranging from the Guantanamo military tribunals to administration efforts to hold even U.S. citizens indefinitely without counsel, charge or trial.

Perhaps most troubling, it allowed the administration to claim that detained terrorism suspects could be subjected to interrogation techniques that constitute torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under international law, such as "waterboarding," placing prisoners in painful physical positions, sexual humiliation and extreme sleep deprivation.

Under Bush administration logic, these tactics were not illegal under U.S. law because U.S. law was trumped by the law of war, and they weren't illegal under the law of war either, because Geneva Convention prohibitions on torture and cruel treatment were not applicable to the conflict with Al Qaeda.

In 2005, Congress angered the administration by passing Sen. John McCain's amendment explicitly prohibiting the use of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees. But Congress did not attach criminal penalties to violations of the amendment, and the administration has repeatedly indicated its intent to ignore it.

The Hamdan decision may change a few minds within the administration. Although the decision's practical effect on the military tribunals is unclear - the administration may be able to gain explicit congressional authorization for the tribunals, or it may be able to modify them to comply with the laws of war - the court's declaration that Common Article 3 applies to the war on terror is of enormous significance. Ultimately, it could pave the way for war crimes prosecutions of those responsible for abusing detainees.

Common Article 3 forbids "cruel treatment and torture [and] outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." The provision's language is sweeping enough to prohibit many of the interrogation techniques approved by the Bush administration. That's why the administration had argued that Common Article 3 did not apply to the war on terror, even though legal experts have long concluded that it was intended to provide minimum rights guarantees for all conflicts not otherwise covered by the Geneva Convention.

But here's where the rubber really hits the road. Under federal criminal law, anyone who "commits a war crime ... shall be fined ... or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both, and if death results to the victim, shall also be subject to the penalty of death." And a war crime is defined as "any conduct ... which constitutes a violation of Common Article 3 of the international conventions signed at Geneva." In other words, with the Hamdan decision, U.S. officials found to be responsible for subjecting war on terror detainees to torture, cruel treatment or other "outrages upon personal dignity" could face prison or even the death penalty.

Don't expect that to happen anytime soon, of course. For prosecutions to occur, some federal prosecutor would have to issue an indictment. And in the Justice Department of Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales - who famously called the Geneva Convention "quaint" - a genuine investigation into administration violations of the War Crimes Act just ain't gonna happen.

But as Yale law professor Jack Balkin concludes, it's starting to look as if the Geneva Convention "is not so quaint after all."


Rosa Brooks is a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law. Her experience includes service as a senior advisor at the US State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, as a consultant for the Open Society Institute and Human Rights Watch, as a board member of Amnesty International USA, and as a lecturer at Yale Law School.


Minutemen's Border Fence A Farce

It’s almost the Fourth. This seems like a fine time to remember a group who call themselves “Minutemen.” Their role, they told us a few months back, was to stop illegal immigrants from crossing the US-Mexico border. The group got lots of coverage—TV loved them, because they were picturesque, a symbol of the Old West meeting the electronic age, and they were led by a couple of guys who had a good sense of publicity.

The group ended up hiring a contractor to finish off their work, with a grand total of three miles of barbed-wire fence out of the ten miles they promised. I’ve yet to see a barbed-wire fence that keeps anybody out. One good thing: the Minutemen have been pretty quiet lately.

The Arizona Daily Star
Published: 06.21.2006
Ernesto Portillo Jr. : Minutemen's fantasy fence a bust


Rape In Iraq, Grief In A Farm Town...A Connection?

For many young people in rural places, military service appears to be about the only way out of a depressed area.

Of two soldiers recently kidnapped and killed in Iraq, one is from this area—Madras, up the road about forty-five minutes. Madras is a farm town, but the farming is becoming less and less productive, due to competition from overseas. There used to be sawmills there, as well, but they’ve become scarce. There isn’t a lot of hope about the future for a lot of kids. The military brags about teaching skills, money for college, adventure...all the things that sound good when you’re young and unsure. Unfortunately, what is promised and what is delivered are two different things.

It looks like maybe the young man from Madras was murdered because his unit did something pretty bad.

U.S. soldiers investigated for alleged rape, killings in Iraq
6/30/2006, 9:18 a.m. PT
The Associated Press

BEIJI, Iraq (AP) — Five U.S. Army soldiers are being investigated for allegedly raping a young woman, then killing her and three members of her family in Iraq, a U.S. military official told The Associated Press on Friday.

The soldiers also allegedly burned the body of the woman they are accused of assaulting in the March incident, the official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

Maj. Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of coalition troops in Baghdad, had ordered a criminal investigation into the alleged killing of a family of four in Mahmoudiyah, south of Baghdad, the U.S. command said. It did not elaborate.

The case represents the latest allegations against U.S. soldiers stemming from the deaths of Iraqis. At least 14 U.S. troops have been convicted.


However, a U.S. official close to the investigation said at least one of the soldiers, all assigned to the 502nd Infantry Regiment, has admitted his role and has been arrested. Two soldiers from the same regiment, including Pfc. Thomas Tucker of Madras, were slain this month when they were kidnapped at a checkpoint near Youssifiyah.

The official said the accused soldiers were from the same platoon as the two slain soldiers, whose bodies were mutilated. He said the mutilation of the slain soldiers stirred feelings of guilt and led at least one of them to reveal the rape-slaying on June 22.

At least four other soldiers have had their weapons taken away and are confined to Forward Operating Base Mahmoudiyah south of Baghdad.

The official said the killings appear to be unrelated to the kidnappings. He said those involved were all below the rank of sergeant. Senior officers were aware of the family's death but believed it was due to sectarian violence, common in the religiously mixed town, he said.

The killings appeared to have been a "crime of opportunity," the official said. The soldiers had not been attacked by insurgents but had noticed the woman on previous patrols.


AP correspondent Ryan Lenz is embedded with the 101st Airborne Division in Beiji, Iraq. He was previously embedded with the 502nd Infantry Regiment in Mahmoudiyah.


The Associated Press News and Information Research Center contributed to this report.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Racist Strategy Still Major GOP Tactic

Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” is alive and well, thanks to the current crop of neo-cons running around. They have, though, a large—huge—elephant sitting in the middle of their headquarters. It’s called racism.

Hans Johnson: 'Two faces of GOP hate'
Date: Thursday, June 29 @ 09:17:19 EDT
Topic: Republicans

Hans Johnson, In These Times

On the surface, Shawn Stuart and Ralph Reed have little in common, other than their quest for public office this year as Republicans. But, Stuart, a bona fide Nazi running for state representative in Montana, and Reed, who has repeatedly appealed to antigay and racist bias as Georgia GOP chair and hopes to become lieutenant governor, share an intimate bond. They both have bigotry at the core of their campaigns.

Playing on prejudice is a dance they perform with differing degrees of grace. Reed, a slick and polished consultant, looks to win his August primary, while Stuart, a clumsy first-time candidate, is a longshot for the legislature. Reed, more than Stuart, disguises gay-bashing and scapegoating of immigrants in rhetoric of faith, family, and America's security. But even fellow Republicans are having a hard time identifying what, in substance, distinguishes the wacko from the White House confidante.

Recently home from service in Iraq, Stuart is the lone GOP candidate in state House district 76, based in heavily Democratic Butte. He told the Missoula Independent that he conveyed to local Republicans his strong anti-immigrant and anti-gay views. Montana state party spokesperson Chuck Butler agreed that the 24-year-old Stuart seemed a normal, even an admirable, GOP standard-bearer. "He made a nice appearance and got himself on the ballot and then he happened to say, 'Oh, I represent some other interest.'"

"Like anybody else, you can be part of one organization and part of another," Stuart told the Missoula Independent, when his affiliation with the National Socialist Movement came to light. He added, to the Billings Gazette, that he holds "nothing against any other race. We have our right to exist in the world. They have their right to exist in the world."

Reed, also a first-time candidate, puts his appeals to prejudice down in black and white. You might not guess it from their wooden headings. His two main policy statements are called "Strengthen Georgia Families, Communities, and Values" and "A Safer and More Secure Georgia."

The first obsesses over same-sex marriage and calls for a special session of the legislature to attack it. (Yes, you read that right.) It also backs another round of gay-bashing via statewide ballot measure, like the one already approved in 2004.

The second endorses an anti-immigrant crackdown and heaps praise on Georgia Senate Bill 529, one of the harshest laws in the nation. It grants local police officers the authority to arrest and indiscriminately round up those they suspect lack proper documentation. A broad spectrum of religious leaders, including the U.S. Catholic Conference, denounced the law. Reed, however, sees it as just a "first step."

The longtime head of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, Reed has been tarred by his involvement in the Jack Abramoff GOP corruption investigation. But like his former boss, Reed has played on prejudice to sway voters and raise his reputation.

In 2002, he used mail and radio appeals denouncing abortion and praising the Confederate flag to help Saxby Chambliss defeat then-Sen. Max Cleland. In 2004, as southeast regional rep for Bush's reelection, he unleashed a mailing suggesting that Democrats would ban the Bible and aggressively promote gay couples.

The current debate about immigration reform, while dividing Republicans nationally, sets a welcome stage for some GOP candidates eager to tap into fear and hatred. It allows them to sidestep any concrete solution or measurable results by instead lashing out at what Reed calls "law-breaking" and what Stuart calls the mingling of "pelicans" and "crows."

Reed and Stuart aren't alone in playing on prejudice to woo Republican voters, or in blurring the lines between marginal and mainstream GOP candidacies.

* Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King has trivialized the torture of detained Iraqis as "hazing" and sought to cancel sections of the federal Voting Rights Act that help non-English-speaking citizens cast ballots. Like fellow GOP antagonist Tom Tancredo of Colorado, he takes a vicious line against immigrants and has called for a razor-wire wall on the Mexican border. He's also revived the tactics of Joe McCarthy by branding a California city official a "communist" and then blocking the dedication of a post office after the 94-year-old human-rights activist.

* Illinois state senator Chris Lauzen has emerged as another ringleader of attacks on gays and immigrants. In opposing a landmark state civil rights bill in 2005, he invoked the quack claims of discredited researcher Paul Cameron to argue that gays live shorter lives. And he fought a bid to allow qualified immigrants who seek a license to drive legally in the state, saying it was the same as having "privileges handed to you."

* Oklahoma state representative Kevin Calvey also rails against gays and immigrants. He has sponsored a bill like that Reed pushed through in Georgia, which would force local and state government workers to tell on suspected illegals. He also demanded, and won, the repeal of a state school board provision barring bias against gay people. Calvey trumpeted the change as insulating the state against "homosexual rights organizations."

* In Tennessee, in March, the executive committee of the state GOP bounced James Hart from the party's slot on the August 3 primary ballot. Hart was the party's candidate in 2004, taking 82 percent in the primary and 26 percent in the general election. He attacks immigrants and gays while also advocating eugenics and limits on immigration or reproduction by what he told the Associated Press are "less favored races."

Republicans can pay a price for being tagged as extremist. A March poll of Georgia Republicans by the polling company InsiderAdvantage shows that Reed, if he won his primary and appeared on the fall ballot with incumbent Gov. Sonny Perdue, would drag down all Republicans. For every 2 people who said his presence was an incentive, 3 others said he would be a hex.

Still, no other GOP leader goes as far as Butler, in Montana, who says Stuart is a disgrace to the Party of Lincoln: He and other local leaders have endorsed the Democrat in the fall showdown.

In the early '90s, longtime conservative direct-mail consultant Marvin Liebman criticized the Republican Party for increasingly relying on intolerance in its appeals to voters. He saw the GOP becoming just "an agglomeration of bigotries." For Liebman, who gave Reed one of his first jobs in politics and came out as a gay man after decades as an anti-communist mouthpiece, the pronouncement was all the more painful since it served as a mea culpa.

In politics, defeat is often a wakeup call to conscience. Democrats have regrouped from losses in '04 to move for immigrant rights at the federal level and make anti-gay discrimination illegal in three states. For Republicans, one potential by-product of rejection on Nov. 7 is that the practitioners of scapegoating might finally take a look in the mirror.

Hans Johnson, a contributing editor of In These Times, is president of Progressive Victory, based in Washington, D.C., and writes on labor, religion and the mechanics of political campaigns.

(c) 2006 In These Times

Source: In These Times

The URL for this story is:


SUVs, Cell Phones, And Wrecks

Here, in Bend Oregon, you ain’t anybody unless you have an SUV—Mercedes and Lexuses are preferred, but Land Rovers will do. Even Subarus are acceptable. Every winter they go slipping and sliding on the road up to the ski-lifts as Mt Bachelor. An amazing number of them end up in the ditch—which is about the only time they ever actually get “off-road.”

It seems like it’s required that if you have a big SUV—a Land Rover at least—and you’re driving, you also have to be talking on a cell phone. It’s some sort of fantasy about Living The Good Life. Oy.

4x4 debate: Enemy of the people
Gas-guzzling, road-hogging, air-polluting... and now even doctors have joined the outcry over 4x4 cars
By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor
Published: 23 June 2006
Doctors have joined the chorus of attacks on 4x4 vehicles with a warning that owners are recklessly putting other road users at risk by flouting laws over the use of mobile phones and seat belts.

Researchers who studied the behaviour of drivers of the all-terrain vehicles say that they took more risks because they felt safer than drivers of smaller cars. Scornfully known as Chelsea tractors due to their increasing appearance on urban streets, few 4x4s have seen more mud than can be picked up on a private school sports field. Teachers have tried to ban them and politicians want to impose penal tax rates on them - up to £2,000 a year, 10 times the normal road tax, in the latest proposal from the Liberal Democrats. They have been widely condemned as gas-guzzling, road-hogging and environmentally damaging. And the new front opened by the medical profession is bound further to inflame the debate on Britain's most controversial vehicle.

Although passengers in a 4x4 are less likely to suffer harm in an accident than those in a smaller vehicle, their owners are increasing the risk of injury to themselves and others by their failure to observe common safety measures, according to research from Imperial College, London, which is published in the British Medical Journal.

The pattern is an example of "risk compensation", where the safer a person feels the riskier the behaviour they indulge in.

A record 187,000 4x4s were sold in Britain last year, double the number a decade ago. One in seven cars on the road is now a 4x4, according to the Department of Transport.

However, the Energy minister, Malcolm Wicks, hit out at the vehicles recently, saying: "There will come a time when it will be irresponsible for those [4x4s] to be on sale."

They have also incurred the wrath of the London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, who lambasted urban owners as "complete idiots". The presenter of BBC's Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson, described them as "clinically insane".

For the study by researchers from Imperial College, drivers of passenger cars were observed passing three different points in Hammersmith, west London, in February 2004.

The vehicles were monitored for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening during weekdays. More than 38,000 vehicles were studied, including almost 3,000 4x4s.

The researchers found drivers of 4x4s were almost four times more likely to be seen using hand-held mobiles. They were also less likely to use seat belts.

Those who broke one law, on using a mobile or not using a seat belt, were more likely also to break the other. Overall, one in six drivers (15.3 per cent) was not wearing a seat belt and one in 40 (2.5 per cent) was using a mobile.

Lesley Walker and colleagues say in the BMJ: "Our data show a worryingly high level of non-compliance with laws on seat belts and hand-held mobile phones by drivers in London. Our observation that almost one in six drivers was not wearing a seat belt is a public health concern."

Last October the BMJ published an American study showing that 4x4s were more dangerous to pedestrians than normal cars. Tests showed that people who were hit by the vehicles in accidents were four times more likely to die than those hit by other cars.

Previous studies have shown that drivers using mobile phones have four times the risk of an accident. On that basis, 4x4 drivers are at 16 times the risk of having an accident, given that they are four times more likely to use a mobile compared with other drivers.

Dr Walker said: "In general 4x4s reduce the risk for their occupants but increase the risk for everyone else. In using a 4x4, instead of a normal car, one's chance of death or serious injury falls by four in 1,000 but the chance of killing or injuring others rises by 11 in 1,000, with a resulting cost to the community."

Bruce Thompson, charity executive, 54: 'It uses no more space than a saloon'

"We own two vehicles, a Land Rover Discovery TD5, and a high performance four-wheel-drive saloon car. The Land Rover ferries my wife to work every day, takes the family on holiday and tows a two-ton horse trailer.

"The alternative, if we want to pursue our hobby, is to buy another vehicle, which would be more harmful as the more damaging effects on the environment come from manufacture, not usage.

"It uses up no more road space than a typical, largish saloon car, and it has an engine no bigger than a typical saloon car. My wife does a round trip of 50 miles a day to the school where she teaches and does not go off-road and I drive to central London with it when I occasionally visit.

"I get cross about uninformed critics of 4x4 users and people who jump on the bandwagon and think that by banning the 4x4 there will be salvation for the planet. I find that the Land Rover encourages a more relaxed, non-aggressive approach to driving.

"I accept that you can't see past it easily, and for other road users that's annoying. I don't have a lot of sympathy with people who only buy them for the school run and never put them to the use for which they were designed."

Counting the cost

Driving a 13mpg 4x4 rather than a 25mpg car for a year will waste more energy than leaving the fridge open for seven years, leaving the TV on for 32 years or leaving the light on for 34 years.

Alliance Against Urban 4x4s

Range Rovers with a 4.4-litre engine have an urban mpg of 12.2 and emit 389g carbon dioxide per kilometre. In contrast, a Ford Mondeo 2-litre fuel-injected saloon has an urban mpg of 25 and emits 190g carbon dioxide. A Smart car emits 138g carbon dioxide.

Alliance Against Urban 4x4s

Urban 4x4s are involved in 25 per cent more accidents than saloon cars and do far more damage.

Churchill Insurance

4x4 drivers are 27 per cent more likely to be at fault in the event of an accident than saloon car drivers.

Admiral Insurance

If a pedestrian is hit by a 4x4 they are twice as likely to be killed than if they were hit by a saloon car.

New Scientist

Only 5 per cent of 4x4s are ever taken off-road.

Alliance Against Urban 4x4s

Sales of 4x4s grew by 12.8 per cent in 2004, to 179,000, more than double the number sold a decade ago.

Department of Transport, 2005

Drivers of 4x4s are most likely to have been in an argument with traffic wardens (22 per cent), compared with 6 per cent of saloon car drivers.

RAC Foundation, 2004

The risk of a fatal roll-over crash is twice as high for 4x4s as it is for a saloon car.

Alliance Against Urban 4x4s


Canada: Oil...Conquest?

One of America’s major drives is to control the world’s reserves of oil. It’s like Hitler’s drive toward Baku in World War Two: got to have that oil! With Texas oil-men running the country, this is understandable. We’re struggling to control Iraq. Venezuela is under seige, though no as full-blown as Iraq. Persia is being eyed as a country ripe for “regime change.” If Mexico swings left, then there’ll be lots and lots of US troops on the US-Mexico border!

Most people don’t know that Canada is actually our biggest foreign oil source—as well as of natural gas. We tried to dragoon them into fighting in Iraq but they wouldn’t go for it; enough pressure was put on, though, to get their troops in Afghanistan. What if Canada told the US to go whistle? We have to have oil, more oil, ever more more more oil.

The current hype about “alternative fuels” is just that: hype. It costs more energy to make these alternatives than they produce. Just another way to keep up the quest.

Look out, Canada, we have lots of major highways ending right at your border. We can get our military in there, fast!

C B C . C A N e w s - F u l l S t o r y :
Most Americans don't know Canada is their biggest oil supplier
Last Updated Tue, 27 Jun 2006 16:01:07 EDT

A new poll suggests the vast majority of Americans are unaware that Canada is the largest foreign supplier of crude oil to the U.S.

Canada is the biggest foreign supplier of oil and natural gas to the U.S. Canada is the biggest foreign supplier of oil and natural gas to the U.S.

The Canadian American Business Council (CABC) — which represents some of the biggest private sector companies in both countries — said its survey of 1,000 Americans found that only four per cent of respondents thought Canada was the country that provided them with more oil than anyone else.

The survey also found that 41 per cent of Americans asked would support replacing oil from unstable areas of the world with oil from Canada "even if doing so resulted in higher prices for U.S. consumers."

"The findings suggest a foundation of American public support for meaningful initiatives to expand Canadian energy supplies to the U.S.," said CABC chairman Randoph Dove in a statement.

"As more and more Americans recognize Canada as a secure source of energy resources, this support should only increase," he said.

The release of this poll came just as energy-rich Alberta launched a massive lobbying effort in Washington to get across its message that Canada — and especially Alberta — has a stable and secure supply of oil that it's eager to sell the U.S.

Exhibits about Alberta and its vast oil sands deposits occupy a prominent place in this year's Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington.

That's drawn criticism from an environmental lobby group, the National Resources Defence Council, which says the industry and government-sponsored exhibits at the festival make no mention of the "devastating environmental consequences" the council says oil sands mining creates.

The survey was conducted by Vitale & Associates, who interviewed 1,000 people from June 13 to 15. It has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Copyright ©2006 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation - All Rights Reserved


Wild Horses Again Under The Gun

Fires send sparks way ahead of the main blaze; that’s been one of the problems with the current administration: they don’t just start trying to burn the Constitution, they set fires where-ever possible. The sparks spread even further. Off-shore oil, domestic spying, claims on patriotism, corrupt awarding of contracts—the idea has been to run the opposition ragged trying to put out the spot fires.

The wild horses. This is another spot-fire that needs to be extinguished. The Administration plans on liquidating thousands of wild horses in order to buy the votes of the cattlemen and cowboy-heads—and to pay off the debts to these bozos that have already been incurred.

The wild mustang - free no more

Once federally protected animal may again be harvested

By Jessica Hawley - Staff Writer

"Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West," states a congressional declaration dated Dec. 15, 1971.

Yet, in a surprising and highly protested move, Congress recently passed a bill that allows for the slaughter of the American wild mustang reportedly effective Wednesday, Jan. 5.

Republican Senator Conrad Burns of Montana introduced the one-page Rider #142 into the 3,000-page Federal Appropriations Bill HR 4848.

The rider changes the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, splitting the once federally protected wild horses and burros into two categories, those over 10 years old and those that have been to a minimum of three unsuccessful adoptions. In accordance with the rider's language, the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is authorized to sell these animals to the highest bidder without regard for the buyer's intentions.

The rider was reportedly passed without opportunity for public hearing or debate. President George W. Bush signed it Dec. 8.


In 1987, a Federal Court of Appeals ruled that the BLM could not give title to a person whom they knew intended to sell the horse for slaughter. Instead, in an effort to prevent the overpopulation of the wild horses and preserve the public lands on which they grazed, the horses were gathered and held at facilities for training and adoption placement.


An ongoing debate over grazing land has encircled horse, environmental, animal activists and cattle ranchers for years. In 2003, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association reportedly proposed legislation to authorize the immediate sale of unadopted mustangs and to make federal agencies pay for land damaged by feral horses.

In a letter to Sen. Burns pleading for the removal of Rider #142, Executive Director of the Wild Mustang Foundation Mary L. Dobbs said, "Senator Conrad Burns proposed Rider #142 allowing the BLM to sell wild horses to slaughter, providing more grazing for cattle though federal law mandates protection for wild horses. Currently, there are 150 steers to every one wild horse on federal land. Only two percent of the beef eaten in the U.S. comes from public lands ranching. According to the [U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)] report in 1990, wild horses were not the cause of declining rangelands, it was attributed to overgrazing by cattle."


Up and Away

Took a few days off. The days actually took me off. Things to do. The world, no surprise, just kept right on keeping on. So did events.

The Supremes startled everybody, I think, with their decision that international law actually trumped the law as promulgated by El Presidente Maximo. The irony is that the US was one of the major powers to actually make international law as important as it is. After World War Two, most semi-civilized people realized we had to set some standards for human and national behaviors. Otherwise the international scene would be a chaotic scene of countries acting without any regard for anybody else. Well, yeah, that is what the US has been doing for the last six or seven years. Before then we weren't the greatest country when it came to following rules, but at least we made a pretense. The Bush-Cheney regime stripped away even that pretense. We really have become a rogue nation.

Maybe things will get better, now. Maybe.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


Government Manufactures and Equipts Wannabe Terrorists

Since I’m on a theme, this afternoon, of government secrecy and manufactured crises, I want to talk more about the busts of the “terrorists” down in Miami.

It continues to unroll as a publicity stunt for the government. You know, the way the flap about the Da Vinci Code made the movie seem like more than it really was? Good for ticket sales, mainly. Look: here’s a bunch of young black dudes down in one of Miami’s many hell-holes, Liberty City. It’s easy to picture that bleakness of life there: no jobs, high crime, little hope. Perfectly good place for frustration to brew into something really intoxicating.

Christ, if I lived there, I’d either be a drug-addict or one of these guys, probably...most likely, I’d be dead, yeah.

So these guys decided they were going to try to bring down America. But the guy they thought was al-Quaeda turned out to be a Fed. This secret police agent gave them money and a video camera, maybe some combat boots. Not much. In the agent’s presence, the group cooked up a whacked-out scheme to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago. If the cop was an agent provocateur. I would not be at all surprised. We’ve seen this happening...well, at least since the Molly McGuires and the Haymarket Bombing.

These guys talked big. But they didn’t do anything, except act stupid in front of a secret police agent. But, to hear the government talk about it, you’d think this crowd was as dangerous as the Black Panthers, Red Brigades, Taliban, the Irish Republican Army, SDS, and the Yippies, all rolled into one.

The main fuction of all this hoop-la is to con the American people into being even more afraid than they usually are, these days—and to take a little heat off the administration for it’s general incompetence and greedy games.

Here's a take on this from the World Socialist Web Site. It's a nice example of why the Trotsky-ites are not a world force: they're incredibly boring.

World Socialist Web Site

WSWS : News & Analysis : North America
Miami “terror” arrests—a government provocation
By Bill Van Auken
24 June 2006

There are many incongruities surrounding the arrest of seven men from the impoverished Liberty City neighborhood of Miami on charges of conspiracy to “wage war on the United States” that suggest it, like so many previous “terrorist plots” announced by the Bush administration, is a government-inspired provocation mounted for reactionary political ends.

None of the claims made by the government and repeated uncritically by the media concerning the arrest of these young working-class men can be accepted as good coin. Both the flimsiness of the criminal indictment and the lurid headlines surrounding it mark this event as an escalation in the anti-democratic conspiracies of the Bush administration.

There is every indication that this latest purported terrorist threat—described by some media outlets as “even bigger than September 11”—was manufactured by the FBI, which used an undercover agent posing as a terrorist mastermind to entrap those targeted for arrest.

While the Justice Department declared that the arrests had foiled a plot to blow up the tallest building in the US, the Sears Tower in Chicago, authorities in that city assured its residents that there had never been any threat to the structure.

The four-count indictment presented by the Justice Department in a Miami federal court on Friday contains not a single indication of an overt criminal act or even the means to carry one out. The brief 11-page document consists almost entirely of alleged statements made by the defendants to the FBI informant, referred to in quotes throughout the indictment as “the al Qaeda representative.”

The government chose to consummate its entrapment plan by unleashing dozens of combat-equipped federal agents, dressed in olive drab fatigues and carrying automatic weapons, on the predominantly African-American Liberty City neighborhood, one of the poorest in the country. Liberty City was the scene of riots that broke out in 1980 after the acquittal of white police officers for the beating death of a black motorist.

On Thursday, the government’s paramilitary squads confronted residents with pictures of the accused, demanding to know their whereabouts. The seven defendants are representative of the impoverished working class population of Miami, including Haitian immigrants.

It appears they were targeted by the FBI because they had formed a religious group, calling themselves the “Seas of David,” which reportedly incorporated elements of Christianity and Islam. One of their crimes, according to the FBI’s deputy director, John Pistole, was that the Seas of David “did not believe the United States government had legal authority over them.”

According to some residents of the neighborhood, the group lived together in the warehouse that was raided by the FBI, using it for religious worship and as a base of operations for a construction business.

Elements of the federal indictment are so self-incriminating as to border on the ludicrous. Among the charges are that the defendants “swore an oath of loyalty to al Qaeda.” Who administered this oath? The “al Qaeda representative,” AKA, the paid informant of the FBI.

Aside from this “loyalty oath” solicited by the FBI, only one of the seven defendants is accused of any overt act, outside of driving the FBI informant to meetings.

The only action with which this one individual is charged—all else is words—is taking pictures of the FBI headquarters in Miami. Who supplied the camera? The “al Qaeda representative”—i.e., the FBI agent provocateur.

The indictment further charges two of the accused with driving “with the ‘al Qaeda representative’” to a store in Dade County, Florida to purchase a memory chip for a digital camera to be used for taking reconnaissance photographs of the FBI building. The document does not say who paid for the chip, but there is hardly room for doubt.

In one of the more curious sections of the indictment, one of the accused, Narseal Batiste, is accused of asking the FBI informant to provide various items for his group, including footwear, for which he provided a “list of shoe sizes.” Apparently the FBI delivered the shoes.

Pistole, the FBI deputy director, admitted that the supposed plots to blow up buildings had been “more aspirational than operational.” In the raids carried out by the FBI squads, no weapons and no explosive substances were found.

“We preempted their plot,” declared Pistole. But the indictment and the facts of the case indicate that the alleged plot would never have existed had the government not planned and instigated it in the first place.

At a Washington press conference, US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales acknowledged that the alleged plot had posed no actual danger. He claimed this was because the authorities had intervened “in its earliest stages.”

So “early” was the preemption that officials associated with the supposed targets of the plot dismissed the government’s indictment. Barbara Carley, the managing director of the Sears Tower, told the press, “Federal and local authorities continue to tell us they’ve never found evidence of a credible terrorism threat against Sears Tower that’s ever gone beyond just talk.”

Her remarks were echoed by Chicago Police Superintendent Phil Cline, who said, “There never was any credible threat to the Sears Tower at all.”

In his press conference, Attorney General Gonzales asserted that the Miami group represented a “new brand of terrorism” created by “the convergence of globalization and technology.”

What these words mean is anyone’s guess. There is no indication that those charged, who were living in a warehouse in the poorest city in America, had access to any technology, and their supposed contact to the wider world was an informer planted by the FBI. The suggestion that the seven men were a “home-grown” terrorist group inspired by contact with Al Qaeda elements over the Internet is supported neither by evidence nor the charges contained in the government’s own indictment.

R. Alexander Acosta, the United States attorney in South Florida, told the media that the defendants had “lived in the United States for most of their lives, but developed a hatred of America.” This is presented as though it constituted evidence of a crime.

It is hardly surprising for someone living in Liberty City to hate the poverty and oppression that prevail there, or for Haitian immigrants to despise the imprisonment and repression that Washington metes out to those attempting to escape the brutal conditions imposed by US imperialism upon their homeland.

What is highly noteworthy is that the federal government decided to intervene in this situation to concoct a phony Al Qaeda connection and trumped up “terror plot.”

What is the government’s motive in manufacturing such a plot? Whose interests are served? Under conditions in which the majority of the American people have turned against the Iraq war and support the withdrawal of American troops, the Bush administration is desperately attempting to once again link its neo-colonial venture in Iraq with a supposed “global war on terror” waged to defend the American people against another 9/11.

To sustain such a fiction, fresh evidence of terrorist threats is periodically required. And it has been forthcoming on a regular basis. Every several months another “conspiracy” is unveiled, invariably involving an FBI informant and hapless individuals ensnared in a plot orchestrated by the government.

Until now, these “sting” operations have been targeted at Muslim immigrants. Last month, for example, Pakistani immigrant Shahawar Siraj in New York City was found guilty of plotting to blow up the Herald Square subway station in a “plot” that the evidence indicated was based entirely on suggestions from an FBI informant. The FBI agent provocateur taunted the defendant with photographs of Abu Ghraib torture victims and demanded to know how, as a Muslim, he could fail to take action.

Similarly, in Albany, New York two years ago, the FBI recruited a Pakistani immigrant, promising him leniency on minor fraud charges, to ensnare two other immigrants in a fictitious scheme to help a non-existent person buy a weapon for a fake terrorist plot.

These provocations and conspiracies are symptomatic of a government that is both ruthless and desperate. Confronting a population that is increasingly hostile to its political agenda of reaction at home and war abroad, it is driven to manufacture an endless series of terrorist threats aimed at disorienting and intimidating public opinion.

Copyright 1998-2006
World Socialist Web Site
All rights reserved


Because We Say So, That's Why

Here's a nice succinct version of the government's position in prosecuting terrorists: "We can do what we want and we don't gotta show you no stinking evidence."

Whenever somebody wants to actually see objective evidence, the government stonewalls them. I've mentioned this before. It isn't anything I grew up believing this country would do. Neither is a president and vice-president demanding even more secrecy, national ID cards, border fences, perpetual war for perpetual peace (maybe, sometime, we'll see), or any of the bullshit coming out of this government. Hell, I didn't even believe the Democrats would lick up every turd of that bullshit and smile about it... I was misinformed, yeah. We all were.

Government asserts "state secrets privilege" in surveillance case
6/23/2006, 7:33 p.m. PT
The Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Justice Department says a lawsuit filed here against warrantless civilian surveillance must be dropped because revealing information about the program — even whether an organization was monitored — would damage national security.

In a memorandum released this week, the Justice Department said it was asserting "state secrets privilege" in a lawsuit filed by the now-defunct Oregon branch of Al-Haramain, an Islamic charity, and was asking that the case be dismissed.

According to the memo, "the very subject matter of this lawsuit — including whether any of the Plaintiffs was subject to such surveillance, and whether any such surveillance was lawful — implicates classified activities and information, the disclosure of which would be required or risked if Plaintiffs' claims were to be adjudicated."

The lawsuit alleges that the National Security Agency illegally wiretapped electronic communications between Al-Haramain directors in Saudi Arabia and the group's Washington, D.C., lawyers without a court order.

Earlier this year, Al-Haramain lawyers filed a classified document under seal that they say supports their claim that the government illegally intercepted phone calls.

The government acknowledged accidentally turning over the document to Al-Haramain lawyers in 2004. The court considered it so sensitive that U.S. District Judge Garr King ordered it stored at a federal facility in Seattle because the only repository secure enough in Portland was the office of the FBI, a defendant.

In April, King said the Islamic charity has a right to know the arguments the government is making, "to the extent it can be done without compromising national security interests."

The Justice Department said in its memo this week that the secrets privilege must get the "utmost deference" from courts.

Even revealing who is being watched, the memorandum said, could reveal what the government knows and permit terrorists to adjust their operations.

Steven Goldberg, a lawyer for the charity, said the government argument misses the point.

"The essence of our case is not to say that they should not be out there doing surveillance, to do what they need to do to prevent a terrorist attack," he said. "We have no problem with that. But if they do it, do it based on the law."

"No president has the right to ignore what Congress has set forth as the procedure to be followed," Goldberg said.

He said the "state secrets privilege" still requires courts to decide if it should be used in a particular case.

"We're developing our arguments," Goldberg said, adding that they hope to reply by July 11.

In their memo, federal attorneys call Al-Haramain a "designated terrorist entity." The U.S. Treasury seized Al-Haramain assets in 2004 pending an investigation into whether the charity was involved in terrorism after it was accused of sending money to Islamic fighters in Chechnya in violation of federal tax laws.

Al-Haramain officials and foundation attorneys have denied any wrongdoing, saying the defunct charity had simply operated a prayer house and distributed Islamic literature to prisoners.

Prosecutors dropped the tax charges against Al-Haramain last year, saying it was a waste of time because nothing remained of the foundation but its corporate shell.

Since The New York Times revealed the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program in December, several civil lawsuits have challenged the legality of the program.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Who's Been Sleeping In My Bed? ...oh...

So, if the Republican administration is little more than a bootcamp for future big-time lobbyists and hucksters, who is actually opposing them?

Well, silly, the only entity that could possibly object guessed it: Satan.

Politics make for strange bedfellows, yeppers. Move over, big boy, I’m tired.
Article Last Updated: 6/23/2006 12:57 AM
Jacob's bad luck: Is it . . . Satan?
Bedeviled: His business deals have been delayed, keeping him from fully funding his campaign
By Robert Gehrke
The Salt Lake Tribune

As if beating a five-term congressman wasn't hard enough, John Jacob said he has another foe working against him: the devil.
"There's another force that wants to keep us from going to Washington, D.C.," Jacob said. "It's the devil is what it is. I don't want you to print that, but it feels like that's what it is."
Jacob said Thursday that since he decided to run for Congress against Rep. Chris Cannon, Satan has bollixed his business deals, preventing him from putting as much money into the race as he had hoped.
Numerous business deals he had lined up have been delayed, freezing money he was counting on to finance his race.
"You know, you plan, you organize, you put your budget together and when you have 10 things fall through, not just one, there's some other, something else that is happening," Jacob said.
Asked if he actually believed that "something else" was indeed Satan, Jacob said: "I don't know who else it would be if it wasn't him. Now when that gets out in the paper, I'm going to be one of the screw-loose people."
Jacob initially said the devil was working against him during a Wednesday immigration event, then reiterated his belief Thursday in a meeting with The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board.
"There's a lot of adversity. There's no question I've had experiences that I think there's an outside force," he said.
University of Utah political scientist Matthew Burbank said Jacob's sentiment is unusual for a political candidate and might show his inexperience, but is unlikely to be a major issue for the conservative voters he is targeting.
"Given that, I don't think it's very likely to make a big splash among Republican primary voters, but certainly if he gets through to the general election it might come up again and he'd have to explain it more," Burbank said.
Jacob, who like Cannon is LDS, said he is not the only one who is being opposed by Beelzebub. He said both Cannon and Sen. Bob Bennett have lost millions of dollars since going to Congress, and he believes their adversity is rooted in the same dark origins.
Cannon's campaign would not address whether Lucifer is opposing either candidate.
"Chris would not attribute any adversities to any outside influence," Cannon's chief of staff, Joe Hunter, said regarding Cannon's diminished personal wealth since going to Congress. "I'm not sure that Chris would even call them adversities. It's a conscious decision on Chris' part to do what's important to him. There's been far more important events in Chris' life than his business."
Jacob explained that, when people try to do something good, there are frequently forces that align to stop them.
"We have a country that was created by our Heavenly Father and it was a country that had a Constitution and everyone who came to America had strong faith. If that can be destroyed that would be the adversity. . . . Whether you want to call that Satan or whoever you want to call it, I believe in the last eight months I've experienced that."


Homeland Security or Handy Pick-Pocketing?

Corruption is US, should be the motto of our government. Here's a quick one from Raw Story, about the Dept of Homeland Security being little more than an easy slide into getting big bucks as a future contractor:


AZ Candidate Calls For Gulags

Excuse me? Aren’t “forced labor camps” part of what we were fighting in World War Two and in the Cold War? It’s amazing how the “freedom-loving” conservatives can so quickly qualify their definitions of freedom...So of Orwell-ish, you might say (and be correct).

ABC News
GOP Candidate's Call for Labor Camp Rebuked
Republican Candidate's Call for Forced Labor Camp for Immigrants Angers Two GOP Lawmakers
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - A Republican gubernatorial candidate's call for creation of a forced labor camp for illegal immigrants drew rebukes Friday from two GOP lawmakers, who labeled it a low point in the immigration debate.

Don Goldwater, nephew of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, caused an international stir this week when EFE, a Mexican news service, quoted him as saying he wanted to hold undocumented immigrants in camps to use them "as labor in the construction of a wall and to clean the areas of the Arizona desert that they're polluting."

The article described Goldwater's plan as a "concentration camp" for migrants.

Goldwater, a candidate for governor in Arizona, said in a statement Friday that his comments were taken out of context. He said he was calling for a work program for convicted nonviolent felons, similar to "tried and tested, effective and accepted practices" used by state and local jails.

But two Republicans, Arizona Sen. John McCain and Rep. Jim Kolbe, called Goldwater's comments "deeply offensive" and asked state Republicans to reject his candidacy in the Sept. 12 primary.

"That Mr. Goldwater is either unaware of or indifferent to the loaded symbolism, injustice and un-Americanism of his 'plan' to address the many serious issues caused by illegal immigration reveals his flaws as a candidate and a stunning lack of respect for the basic values of a generous and decent society," McCain said in a statement.

Kolbe said that if the comments are true, Goldwater "has demonstrated his complete unworthiness for public office, and I am confident he will be soundly rejected by Republicans from the party of Barry Goldwater, who consistently demonstrated his compassion and respect for all people. This is a sad day in the national debate on immigration policy."

McCain and Kolbe favor a guest-worker program for illegal immigrants.

Goldwater made a similar comment at an April anti-immigration rally.

"Build us that wall now!" Goldwater said, referring to a proposal to add 700 miles of fences along the U.S.-Mexico border. He promised then that if elected, he would put illegal immigrants in a tent city on the border and use their labor to build the wall.

Barry Goldwater, the former Arizona senator, was the Republican presidential nominee in 1964.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Copyright © 2006 ABC News Internet Ventures


ID Theft Aided By Incompetent Government

Here’s a two-fer, on the same topic: data theft.

From government, mostly, sites.

Let’s see: FEMA is good at employing political cronies, wasting money, and not getting anything done; Homeland Security is good at hyping publicity, employing pedophiles, and not getting anything done. And, of course, the Department of Justice (sic) is good at claiming states’ secrets—and hyping publicity.

And above and beyond all that, the government is virtually giving away sensitive personal data. Personal information from the VA got leaked; information on workers for the government up at Hanford got leaked; and now this, 28,000 sailors and their family members were exposed to data theft.

Even setting aside the stupid criminal war on Islam, and the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the current US government is utterly incompetent.

Yahoo! News
Government hit by rash of data breaches

By HOPE YEN, Associated Press Writer1 hour, 53 minutes ago

The government agency charged with fighting identity theft said Thursday it had lost two government laptops containing sensitive personal data, the latest in a series of breaches encompassing millions of people.

The Federal Trade Commission said it would provide free credit monitoring for 110 people targeted for investigation whose names, addresses, Social Security numbers — and in some instances, financial account numbers — were taken from an FTC attorney's locked car.

The car theft occurred about 10 days ago and managers were immediately notified. Many of the people whose data were compromised were being investigated for possible fraud and identity theft, said Joel Winston, associate director of the FTC's Division of Privacy and Identity Theft Protection.

"Basically these were attorneys who were going to file a lawsuit, and they had relevant evidence on their laptops," Winston said, noting that the FTC employees did not violate security procedures by storing the password-protected laptops in their cars.

"We will be reassessing what procedures we have to make sure reasonable measures are taken to protect data," he said.

The disclosure comes amid a widening data breach that is expected to cost the government hundreds of millions of dollars. In all, five government agencies have reported data theft, including the Veterans Affairs Department, which on May 22 acknowledged losing data on up to 26.5 million veterans.

Saturday, June 24, 2006 - 12:00 AM

Sensitive Navy info on 28,000 turns up on insecure Web site
By Josh White
The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Navy officials discovered personal data for nearly 28,000 sailors and family members was compromised when it appeared on a public Web site this week, fueling more concerns about the security of sensitive information on federal employees.

Five spreadsheet files of data — including names, birth dates and Social Security numbers of sailors and their relatives — were found exposed on a Web site Thursday night during routine internal sweeps of the Internet for sensitive material, said Lt. Justin Cole, a spokesman for the Chief of Naval Personnel. He said the material was removed from the site within two hours.

"It was information you don't want on a public Web site," Cole said. "But there was no indication it was being used for illegal purposes."

The potential security breach is one of several such losses of important personal data reported in Washington in recent weeks, part of an unusual string of thefts and Internet breaches that has compromised information belonging to millions of federal workers. Four other federal agencies have reported similar problems since early May.

The largest breach came May 9, when a Veterans Affairs laptop and external hard drive were stolen from a Maryland home, a theft that officials said included the personal information of up to 26.5 million veterans and active-duty military personnel. There was no indication the theft was targeting that information.

This week, the Agriculture Department reported that up to 26,000 employees had their data compromised by a hacker. A laptop containing data for 13,000 DC workers and retirees was stolen last week. The Energy Department reported this month that similar data for 1,500 employees might have been accessed by a hacker in September, and IRS officials said a laptop containing names, Social Security numbers and fingerprints of 291 employees and applications was misplaced in May.

In the Navy case, officials are unsure how the information ended up on an insecure Web site, and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service is looking into whether the person who posted it was supposed to have access to the data. Cole said it was possible the information was posted inadvertently.

Sailors can contact the Navy Personnel Command call center to determine if their names were on the compromised list: 866-827-5672

Navy Personnel Command's Web site:

The Navy plans to contact the individuals affected and urge them to closely monitor their bank and credit-card accounts for fraudulent activity. Congress is considering a measure that would pay for credit monitoring for those affected by the VA data loss last month.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., on Friday called for the Defense Department to provide immediate free credit monitoring for sailors who may have been affected by the Internet posting.

In a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Markey said the incident "raises serious questions about the nature and adequacy of privacy protections afforded to active-duty military personnel, their families and military veterans."

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

Friday, June 23, 2006


Sears Tower: Yetta Yetta Yetta

Not to rain on the government’s show-and-tell, but here’s a statement from the management at the Sears Tower in Chicago about the latest b.s.

But, by the way, what exactly is a "criminal discussion"?

Sears Tower terror plot foiled
June 23, 2006



Managers of the Sears Tower, the nation's tallest building, said in a statement they speak regularly with the FBI and local law enforcement about terror threats and that Thursday "was no exception."

Security at the 110-floor Sears Tower, a Chicago landmark, was ramped up after the Sept. 11 attacks, and the 103rd-floor skydeck was closed for about a month and a half.

"Law enforcement continues to tell us that they have never found evidence of a credible terrorism threat against Sears Tower that has gone beyond criminal discussions," the statement said.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Copyright © The Sun-Times Company
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Academic Freedom and Non-Freedom: The Case of Ward Churchill

Ward Churchill is somewhat out of the news these days. There’s a lot going on, as you might have noticed... Churchill’s perceivedBold lack of patriotism after 9/11 infuriated most of the right-wing of our right-est party. It also dove-tailed into the neo-McCarthyite attacks on schools, led by people like David Horowitz who has made a career out of being a born-again reactionary fighting against any and all international conspiracies out to overthrow this great country, etc., etc..

Immediately, pressure was put on the University of Colorado to fire Churchill. Colorado has never been known as a progressive or even semi-liberal state. And the state-supported schools have to get money out of the legislature, which is dominated by conservatives—who get most of their ideas from the far right.

The University went into a spasm of reaction and a committee detailed all kinds of charges against Churchill. They wanted to fire him.

Most of the charges boiled down to this: he told another version of American history, one where the white people actually went out of their way to destroy the Indians, as in genocide. He wrote and taught that the United States committed genocide on American Indians. Deliberately.

Churchill is very readable. He uses many sources for his points. Not all of his sources fit into the framework of euro-American intellectualism. He sometimes even uses oral traditions—the way information and philosophy has always been transmitted in indigenous cultures. That immediately raises the hackles of many scholars. Academic scholarship is a closed club with very stringent membership requirements. It’s male and it’s predominantly white male. Women’s studies, African-American studies, and American Indian studies are not particularly well-received. Colleges and universities offer them, but in terms of how they can be distorted to fit into the traditional academic structure. I know many American Indian graduate students who have bloody heads from trying to fit “Indian Studies” into their own culture, rather than that of white academics.

Here are a couple of postings about Ward Churchill and about academic freedom—and about academic biases. The first section is from my friend, Claudia, at Idaho.


University of Colorado sociology prof Tom Mayer makes some extremely interesting comments about both Ward Churchill ("hyperbolic but brilliant", thus hard to handle personally but well worth it intellectually) and the entire process of academic witch-hunting by conservative media-driven administrators: what indeed constitutes academic freedom? The paragraphs near the end address both these points very lucidly, I think.

I'm going to try to summarize the separate issues and confirm the link and then post on my LJ. You, however, not only correspond with far far more people but have a real blog -- ie readers -- so I'm hoping you will raise the issues for discussion. I think Mayer makes good points about the need to separate our personal responses to a person's style from acknowledgement that they do make an intellectual contribution by stimulating discussion ...

... To judge scholarship on its merits, within its genre, rather than misapplying standards from a different genre -- a Procrustean exercise predisposed by its nature to fault-finding. Even if we pretend that the meticulous, thorough, "even-handed" documentation and evaluation of every available source is possible, this type of scholarship -- a lit review, or overview -- is a completely different exercise academically than what Churchill does, which is to advance reasonable supportive sources for one's preferred theory of interpretation. Churchill is not doing an overview, he's advocating a theory of interpretation -- which is what 99% of scholars do in the humanities. "Adequate" and "good" use of supporting sources for one's theory of meaning has to be evaluated quite differently than the "literature review" standard this report's writers chose to apply...

Their dismissal of Churchill's reliance on oral literature and poetic interpretations is ethnically biased -- also, in fact, gender-biased. It harks back to the rationalist, scientistic, mechanistic epistemological choices of white male academic dominated western culture -- epistemological, in that it is a deliberate choice about what "kinds" of evidence are voted to be "truth." Since the vote is taken by those who are already invested in only the kind of "truth" it supports, the dismissal of oral, emotive, social, personal, felt, and other sorts of evidence is theory-laden and politically-biased. Feminist philosophers, philosophers of science, environmental philosophers, post-structuralists and postcolonial theorists have widely pointed out this flaw in western Cartesian thinking.

And finally, the fact that the CU commission -- taking their lead from conservative media hosts -- combed through more than a decade of Churchill's work to find discrepancies in citation and then made old and minor errors the stalking horse for new political hostility is, as the writer says, not only a scary violation of academic freedom's tenets, but a gigantic hypocrisy as well.


-------- Original Message --------
Indians, Ward churchill, and us all
Thu, 22 Jun 2006 10:30:35 -0300
Maurice Bazin
Science for the People Discussion List

Dear friends,
the politically motivated condemnation of Professor Churchill makes
us all potential "liars" if we cite any text we disagree with.
If Ward gets fired, as recommended by his University's Committee, we
all can be attacked in our bread earning jobs when denouncing the
makers of genocide, past and present. In the situation thus created
our (Science for the People activists) calling the Pentagon
Professors/Advisors "War Criminals" makes us commit 'academic
misconduct'. The official University word is at the University
of Colorado website.

The Report On Ward Churchill (
zig094.html )
by Tom Mayer

[Sociology Professor Mayer of the University of Colorado at Boulder
sent this text "to several local newspapers, but they all rejected
it because it was too
long." Our thanks to Louis Proyect and David Anderson who
brought this valuable contribution to Swans' attention.]

I have finally finished a careful reading of the 124 page report
about the alleged academic
misconduct of Ward Churchill. Often, but not always, I have
been able to compare the statements in the report with the
relevant writings of Professor Churchill. Although the report by
the committee on research misconduct clearly entailed
prodigious labor, it is a flawed document requiring careful
analysis. The central flaw in the report is grotesque
exaggeration about the magnitude and gravity of the
improprieties committed by Ward Churchill. The sanctions
recommended by the investigating committee are entirely out
of whack with those imposed upon such luminaries as Stephen
Ambrose, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Lawrence Tribe, all of
whom committed plagiarisms far more egregious than anything
attributed to Professor Churchill.

The text of the report suggests that the committee's judgments
about the seriousness of Churchill's misconduct were
contaminated by political considerations. This becomes evident
on page 97 where the committee acknowledges that "damage
done to the reputation of ... the University of Colorado as an
academic institution is a consideration in our assessment of the
seriousness of Professor Churchill's conduct." Whatever
damage the University may have sustained by employing Ward
Churchill derives from his controversial political statements and
certainly not from the obscure footnoting practices nor disputed
authorship issues investigated by the committee. Indeed, the
two plagiarism charges refer to publications that are now
fourteen years old. Although these charges had been made
years earlier, they were not considered worthy of investigation
until Ward Churchill became a political cause célèbre. Using
institutional reputation to measure misconduct severity
amounts to importing politics through the back door.

The report claims that Professor Churchill engaged in
fabrication and falsification. To make these claims it stretches
the meaning of these words almost beyond recognition.
Fabrication implies an intent to deceive. There is not a shred of
evidence that the writings of Ward Churchill contain any
assertion that he himself did not believe. The language used in
the report repeatedly drifts in an inflammatory direction:
disagreement becomes misinterpretation, misinterpretation
becomes misrepresentation, misinterpretation becomes
falsification. Ward may be wrong about who was considered an
Indian under the General Allotment Act of 1887 or about the
origins of the 1837-1840 smallpox epidemic among the Indians
of the northern plains, but the report does not establish that
only a lunatic or a liar could reach his conclusions on the basis
of available evidence.

The charges of fabrication and falsification all derive from short
fragments within much longer articles. The report devotes 44
pages to discussing the 1837-1840 smallpox epidemic. One
might think that Ward had written an entire book on this
subject. In fact this issue occupies no more than three
paragraphs in any of his writings. In each of the six essays
cited in the report, all reference to this epidemic could have
been dropped without substantially weakening the argument.
To be sure, the account given by Ward is not identical to that
found in any of his sources, but it is a recognizable composite
of information contained within them. The committee
peremptorily dismisses Churchill's contention that his
interpretation of the epidemic was influenced by the Native
American oral tradition. This is treated as no more than an ex
post facto defense against the allegation of misconduct. The
committee also discounts Native American witnesses who
support Churchill's interpretations as well as his fidelity to oral
accounts. The centrality of the oral tradition is evident in many
of Churchill's writings. His acknowledgments frequently include
elders, Indian bands, and the American Indian Movement. He
often integrates Native American poetry with his historical
analysis. Three of his books with which I am familiar, Since
Predator Came (1995), A Little Matter of Genocide (1997), and
Struggle for the Land (2002) all begin with poems. As a thirty-
year veteran of the intense political struggles within the
American Indian Movement, Ward Churchill could not avoid a
deep familiarity with the oral tradition of Native American

By addressing only a tiny fragment of his writings, the report
implies that Ward tries to overawe and hoodwink his readers
with spurious documentation. Anyone who reads an essay
like "Nits Make Lice: The Extermination of North American
Indians 1607-1996" with its 612 footnotes will get a very
different impression. Churchill, they will see, goes far beyond
most writers of broad historical overviews in trying to support
his claims. He often cites several references in the same
footnote. Ward is deeply engaged with the materials he
references and frequently comments extensively upon them.
He typically mounts a running critique of authors like James
Axtell, Steven Katz, and Deborah Lipstadt. Readers will see that
Churchill is familiar with a formidable variety of materials and
can engage in a broad range of intellectual discourses.

Ward Churchill is not just another writer about the hardships
suffered by American Indians. He offers a very distinctive
vision of what David Stannard calls the "American Holocaust."
According to Churchill, the extermination of Native Americans
was neither accidental, nor inadvertent, nor unwelcome among
the invading Europeans. On the contrary, it was largely
deliberate, often planned (sometimes by the highest political
authorities), and frequently applauded within the mainstream
media. "[A] hemispheric population estimated to have been as
great as 125 million was reduced by something over 90
percent....and in an unknown number of instances deliberately
infected with epidemic diseases" (A Little Matter of Genocide, p.
1). Moreover, Ward maintains that the American Holocaust
continues to this day. He thinks it is fully comparable to, and
even more extensive than, the Nazi genocide of the Jewish
people during World War Two. The endemic chauvinism and
Manichaean sensibility this process has induced within our
political culture helps explain Hiroshima, Vietnam, Iraq, and
other American exercises in technological murder.

"If there is one crucial pattern that most affects our
assessment," writes the committee, "it is a pattern of failure to
understand the difference between scholarship and polemic, or
at least of behaving as though that difference does not matter"
(p. 95). Taking away the negative imputation, I can agree with
the latter observation. Ward believes we are all in a race
against time. Thus the main point of historical scholarship is not
to recount the past, but rather to provide intellectual
ammunition for preventing future genocides now in the making.

Like most scholars, Churchill practices an implicitly Bayesian (a
statistical term) form of analysis. That is, he evaluates the
plausibility of assertions and the credibility of evidence partly
on the basis of his prior beliefs. That government officials
connived in generating the 1837-40 smallpox epidemic seems
far more plausible to Ward than to the investigating committee
precisely because he thinks this is what American governments
are inclined to do. He discounts many of the so-called primary
sources cited in the report because their authors despise
Indians or wish to conceal their own culpability in spreading the
epidemic. And contrary to what the report says (p. 96), many
first rate scholars focus on proving their own hypotheses rather
than considering all available evidence even-handedly. Einstein,
for example, spent the last three decades of his life trying to
disprove quantum mechanics while largely disregarding
evidence in its favor. This is not research misconduct.

Virtually all the mass exterminations of recent times have
evoked amazingly divergent historical assessments and
numerical estimates. This is true of the Armenian genocide,
Stalin's collectivization campaign and purges, the Nazi
holocaust, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Great Leap Forward,
Vietnam, Cambodia, and Rwanda. In some cases there is
dispute about whether the extermination even happened, and
even when mass killing is acknowledged, numerical estimates
sometimes differ by a factor of ten or even more. These
differing interpretations are almost never politically innocent
but, when honestly advanced, they do not constitute research
misconduct. Neither do Ward Churchill's assessments of
genocidal activities by John Smith or by the U.S. Army at Fort

The operational definition of academic misconduct used by the
investigating committee is so broad that virtually anyone who
writes anything might be found guilty. Not footnoting an
empirical claim is misconduct. Citing a book without giving a
page number is misconduct. Referencing a source that only
partially supports an assertion is misconduct. Referencing
contradictory sources without detailing their contradictions is
misconduct. Citing a work considered by some to be unserious
or inadequate is misconduct. Footnoting an erroneous claim
without acknowledging the error is misconduct. Interpreting a
text differently than does its author is misconduct. Ghost writing
an article is misconduct. Referencing a paper one has ghost
written without acknowledging authorship is misconduct. No
doubt this list of transgressions could be greatly expanded. I
strongly suspect that many people who vociferously support the
report have read neither it nor any book or essay Ward
Churchill has ever written. Perhaps this should be deemed a
form of academic misconduct.

If any of the sanctions recommended by the investigating
committee are put into effect, it will constitute a stunning blow
to academic freedom. Such punishment will show that a prolific,
provocative, and highly influential thinker can be singled out for
entirely political reasons; subjected to an arduous interrogation
virtually guaranteed to find problems; and then severed from
academic employment. It will indicate that public controversy is
dangerous and that genuine intellectual heresy could easily be
lethal to an academic career. It will demonstrate that tenured
professors serve at the pleasure of governors, political
columnists, media moguls, and talk show hosts. Most faculty
members never say anything that requires protection. The true
locus of academic freedom has always been defined by the
intellectual outliers. The chilling effect of Ward Churchill's
academic crucifixion upon the energy and boldness of these
freedom-defining heretics will be immediate and profound.

The authors of the report on Ward Churchill present themselves
as stalwart defenders of academic integrity. I have a quite
different perspective. I see them as collaborators in the erosion
of academic freedom, an erosion all too consonant with the
wider assault upon civil liberties currently underway. The
authors of the report claim to uphold the intellectual credibility
of ethnic studies. I wonder how many ethnic studies scholars
will see it that way. I certainly do not. Notwithstanding their
protestations to the contrary, I see committee members as
gendarmes of methodological and interpretive orthodoxy, quite
literally "warding" off a vigorous challenge to mainstream
understandings of American history. Confronted by the
evidence presented in this report, the appropriate response
might be to write a paper critiquing the work of Ward Churchill.
Excluding him, either permanently or temporarily, from the
University of Colorado is singularly inappropriate.

Ward Churchill is one of the most brilliant persons I have
encountered during my 37 years at this university. His brilliance
is not immediately evident due to his combative manner and
propensity for long monologues. Whenever reading one of his
essays I feel in the presence of a powerful though hyperbolic
intellect. The permanent or temporary expulsion of Ward
Churchill would be an immense loss for CU. In one fell swoop
we would become a more tepid, more timid, and more servile
institution. His expulsion would deprive students of contact with
a potent challenger of accepted cognitive frameworks. The
social sciences desperately need the kind of challenge
presented by Ward Churchill. His most strident claims may be
rather dubious, but they stimulate our scholarly juices and
make us rethink our evidence and assumptions. One of his
main objectives, Ward has often said, is "to bring consideration
of American Indians into the main currents of global intellectual
discourse." In this endeavor he has been a splendid success.

Maurice Bazin
Telefone: 48 3237 3140


Stay The Course, Fellow Lemmings!

I was going to edit this rap from The Smirking Chimp, but Ed Naha makes so many points that it’s better—and funny in a gallows-humorous way—to just stick the whole thing up.

If I didn't go for the humor, now and then, like watching "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report," I'd probably die of terminal pessemism.

I did particularly like his origin of the phrase “cut and run” as being what a sailing ship does when it’s in trouble and can’t get it’s anchor up: you cut the line and run with the wind. And “stay the course” is what lemmings say to each other as they head off the cliff.

Ed Naha: 'They're right. We're wrong.'
Date: Friday, June 23 @ 10:03:46 EDT
Topic: Republicans
Ed Naha

Guided by Republican talking points, the MSM has, of late, been trying to define Democrats, using words like "divided," "unsure" and "unfocused." Well, how's this as a defining moment of Republican leadership? CNN's John King talking about the Democratic plan for leaving Iraq with Dick Cheney.

King: "Well, you disagree with the Democrats' plan, but they are stepping into a political environment in which the American people -- clearly, some have anger, some have dissatisfaction, some have doubts about this war and the administration's plan for this war. Fifty-four percent of the American people say it's a mistake; 55 percent say things are going badly in Iraq; 53 percent in our polling say the American people actually support a timetable. Why is it that the administration has failed to articulate to the American people then? The American people don't think you have a plan, sir."

Cheney: "Well, they're wrong..."

There ya' go, kids. They're right. We're wrong. Deal with it.

(Personally, I'd like to guide the MSM into defining Republicans using words like "arrogant bastards," "thieves" and "liars." But that's just me.)

This bunch would do and/or say just about anything to stay in office. Now, take Pennsylvania's Rick ("name that fetus") Santorum...please. (Rimshot!) Together with fellow Republican handjob Pete Hoekstra (Mi.), Rick announced that weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq.

Relying on unclassified sections of a document prepared by the U.S. intelligence community, Santorum declared: "The idea that, as my colleagues have repeatedly said in this debate on the other side of the aisle, that there are no weapons of mass destruction is in fact false. We have found over 500 weapons of mass destruction and in fact have found that there are additional chemical weapons still in the country."

In a subsequent press release, Rick said that this was "critically important information that the world community needs to know."

The only problem is: what was found were old shells from the 1980s, from before the first Gulf War. A Defense Department official said: "This does not reflect a capacity that was built up after 1991." In fact, the old shells, scattered around the country, "are not the WMDs this country and the rest of the world believed Iraq had, and not the WMDs for which this country went to war."

David Kay, the head of America's Iraq weapons hunting team from 2003-2004, said that any nerve agents found in the shells would be "less toxic than most things that Americans have under their kitchen sink at this point."

Senator Rick, you know you're in trouble when "Hardball's" Norah O'Donnell laughs her ass off while covering your scoop.

The Republican-led Congress was in Orthodox Stooge mode this entire week, voting down two separate Democratic bills designed to bring our troops home from Iraq. "Cut and run!" Republicans howled. Bill ("The Cat's Meow") Frist even issued a press release entitled: FRIST DENOUNCES DEMOCRATS' PLAN TO CUT AND RUN.

If anyone cares, "cut and run" is a nautical term defining how to save your ship should your anchor get wedged below the sea. You cut the anchor's cable and allow your ship to sail off, unencumbered. Sounds like a plan to me.

The Republican's favorite slogan "stay the course," on the other hand, is actually based on the sound lemmings make as they charge off a cliff.

Led by Chickenhawk Karl Rove, the Republican lemmings have rallied behind our ace Fighter Pilot-in-Chief to use the Iraqi occupation as a political tool to galvanize their faltering base. That might explain the noticeable lack of reaction to the kidnap, torture and slaughter of two U.S. troops this week, as well as Iraq's slide into something resembling a "best of" episode of "The Untouchables."

Before the mutilated bodies of the Americans were discovered, Tony Snow seemed irritated that the MSM was devoting so much time to the story. Why weren't they talking about the good news out of Iraq? Uhhh. Because there isn't any?

Showing their respect for hard working Americans, the Senate voted down an increase in the minimum wage, which has been stuck at $5.15 an hour since 1997. (Possible press release? FRIST DENOUNCES MONEY-OBSESSED WORKERS.)

The Senate's compassion compelled Lou Dobbs to write: "Corporate America, the Bush administration and the national economic orthodoxy with which they're in league have consistently argued against helping working men and women at the lowest end of the wage scale by raising the minimum wage. Big business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable say it will harm the economy and eliminate jobs. As is so frequent with the faith-based economics that grips both political parties in Washington, such concerns have absolutely nothing to do with reality.

"For example, it's impossible to deny the national minimum wage of $5.15 is not enough for a family to live above the poverty line. The annual salary for workers earning the national minimum wage still leaves a family of three about $6,000 short of the poverty threshold.

"Raising the minimum wage to $7.50 would positively affect the lives of more than 8 million workers, including an estimated 760,000 single mothers and 1.8 million parents with children under 18. But even this 46 percent increase would get them only to the poverty line. Don't you think these families just might need that cost-of-living increase a bit more than our elected officials who are paid nearly $170,000 a year?

"With no Congressional action on raising the minimum wage since 1997, inflation has eroded wages. The minimum wage in the 21st century is $2 lower in real dollars than it was four decades ago and now stands at its lowest level since 1955, according to the Economic Policy Institute and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities."

Rest assured, though, our Republican representatives know what it's like to live check by check. That's why the House quietly voted last week to give Congress a $3K pay raise.

(Ironically, while all this was going down, the Economic Policy Institute think tank published a study stating the CEO's now earn 262 times the pay of an average worker. In fact, a CEO earned more in one day than the average worker earned in 52 weeks.)

Still, our elected officials showed that they felt Americans' pain. That's why they voted to cut taxes on inherited estates and relieve thousands of heirs from paying taxes during the next ten years.

In the year 2004, more than 30,000 estates were taxed. If the House changes become law, by 2011 only 5,100 a year would be taxed. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that uber-millionaires would save about $283 billion in taxes from 2006 to 2016. Sniff. It makes you proud, don't it?

"This is the ultimate values debate," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "It is morally wrong to do this, especially when we are turning down, rejecting, an increase in the minimum wage."

Wotta whiner. Get with the program, lady.

The House is also pushing a Presidential line-item veto law, slightly weaker than the line-item veto law struck down by the Supreme Court in 1998. (Back then, the Supreme Court said the law was notso hotso because it let the president single-handedly change laws passed by Congress. How times have changed.)

Republicans, with a straight face, are pushing this in order to allow the President to strip bills of "pork barrel" spending projects. Pork that the Republicans put in the bills in the first place. ("Stop me, Daddy, before I earmark again!")

The House Republicans' rather unique reasoning for wanting this new law led California Democrat George Miller to exclaim: "You control all mechanisms of spending. You control the House, you control the Senate, you control the presidency and you need help before you spend again! What is this, Comedy Central???"

The always hilarious House also effectively put the kibosh on Bush's immigration reforms, stating that representatives have to hold a series of hearings on the subject next month. House Speaker Dennis ("Close your mouth when you chew") Hastert opined that the hearings, to be held both in D.C. and across the country, are needed "so we understand what the American people are saying."

Fortunately, "The Bronx Cheer" sounds the same in English as it does in Spanish, so Hastert and company will definitely get the message.

The House also postponed a vote on renewing the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The law, which allowed millions of black voters to go to the polls, ended poll taxes and literary tests during the height of the civil rights struggle.

The reason the House began dragging its feet? In part, because the law requires ballots to be printed in more than one language in neighborhoods where there are large numbers of immigrants.


On the plus side, with all these bills passed and/or shot down, Congress can get down to some really important stuff. You know, topics that impact our lives every day, like gay marriage and a Constitutional amendment outlawing "flag desecration."

I personally would like a Constitutional amendment outlawing "IQ desecration." Every time any of these bozos uttered an asinine slogan, from "stay the course" to "we're fighting them over th'ar so we don't fight 'em over here," I'd fine their sorry butts. Within a month, one of two things would happen. They'd either shut up or file for bankruptcy...and we all know how easy it is to file for personal bankruptcy these days.

In terms of marriage? Let's all write to Republicans and say that, to preserve this spiritual union, we want a Constitutional amendment outlawing divorce! The silence will spread like wildfire.

So, with the week drawing to a close and Congressional Republicans heading back to their clown cars, I'd like to address California Democrat George Miller who asked "What is this, Comedy Central???"

No, George, it's more like the mutant spawn of "The Cartoon Network" and "Animal Planet."


This article comes from The Smirking Chimp

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