Saturday, September 30, 2006


Foley: Apt Comments He Made About Clinton

I want to gloat, but I know it's very very dangerous. I know politicians from both sides are untrustworthy. I know that misfortune that happens to others can dump on me, too, if I revel in the bad luck of others.

Still, hypocracy pisses me off.

Well, he should know, eh?

Congress sees through party-colored glasses

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 12, 1998
Republicans were aghast at Clinton's behavior, with many saying it showed he had lied and abused his power.

"It's vile," said Rep. Mark Foley, R-West Palm Beach. "It's more sad than anything else, to see someone with such potential throw it all down the drain because of a sexual addiction."


A Warning From Someone Who Knows

This says it better than I can:

A Warning From The Time of the Dirty War

I GREW UP in Argentina during the rule of a military junta that disappeared more than 30,000 people. I know that when a president has the sole power to detain people he deems to be enemies, when he alone can set the rules for interrogation, when detained people don't have the right to go to court, and when laws are written to immunize officials who have already committed torture, one is no longer living in a democracy but in a dictatorship.



Another Proponent of "Family Values" Sinks

The Republicans have painted themselves into a corner with their constant harping on morality and family values, apparently. Representative Mark Foley has now fallen from grace over a series of inappropriate emails and instant messages between himself and minors. Kind of like the mayor of Spokane who hustled young men with promises of city jobs… Or, on a parallel track, the adventures of various fundamentalist preachers like Swaggert and Jim Bakker, the various priests that have caved in to the “sins of the flesh,” and on, ad nauseam.

The more people repress their urges and try to model themselves as paragons of righteousness and virtue, the more risky their balancing acts and the more chances of them falling from their seats of goodness...

Beyond the headlines, beyond newsprint
The Chicago Tribune's Washington Bureau

Originally posted: September 30, 2006
Why did Foley keep child-protection job?
Posted by Frank James at 8:00 am CDT

One of the most troubling parts of the emerging scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley, the Florida Republican who sent sexually suggestive emails to teenaged congressional pages, is this: he chaired the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children.

Foley carved out a role for himself as a congressional leader on the issue of exploited children, and is credited with authoring important sections of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 which President Bush signed into law this summer.

He worked with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children whose website has pictures of him presenting awards to law enforcement officers and children who survived and or helped bring child predators to justice.

It would be a fascinating psychological study to try and understand how Foley could be both sending such emails to high schoolers while at the same time fighting against child predators. He is like the firefighter who turns out to also be an arsonist.

As yet no evidence has been produced publicly to indicate that Foley did anything more than have inappropriate Internet communications with minors. If such evidence does arise, then obviously the scandal becomes even more explosive.

Another difficult aspect of the story is how the House Republican leadership dealt with Foley. According to a story in the Washington Post, House Majority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) at the very least knew about Foley's "inappropriate contact" with a minor months ago:

"House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told The Washington Post last night that he had learned this spring of inappropriate 'contact' between Foley and a 16-year-old page. Boehner said he then told House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). Boehner later contacted The Post and said he could not remember whether he talked to Hastert.

It was not immediately clear what actions Hastert took. His spokesman had said earlier that the speaker did not know of the sexually charged online exchanges between Foley and the boy."

So Boehner, at the very least, knew about the "inappropriate contact." And Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) who oversees the congressional pages as head of the Page Board, the group responsible for the teenagers who work essentially as gofers and doorholders for lawmakers, knew even earlier.

The Post report contained the following passage:

"Shimkus said in a statement last night, 'in late 2005, I was notified by the then Clerk of the House,' that Alexander had told the Clerk 'about an email exchange between Congressman Foley and a former House Page. I took immediate action to investigate...

Friday, September 29, 2006


Censorship and Indian Issues in the U.S.

Yesterday, I posted a letter from Brenda Norrell, a writer who had just been sacked by the national publication Indian Country Today. I got the address of her blog (thanks, Elaine!) and found this article on it. It’s a good reminder of just how hard the government can lean on can lean on people to the point of them dying… Google John Trudell and read the details about what happened to his wife and family.

Ms Norrell’s blog (try it, you’ll like it) is

Buffy Sainte-Marie's censored sounds
© Indian Country Today August 09, 2006.
Posted: August 09, 2006
by: Brenda Norrell / Indian Country Today

PHOENIX - Nearly two decades after Cree singer and songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie's song ''Universal Soldier'' was released and shipments of her records mysteriously disappeared, the truth of the censorship and suppression by the U.S. government became public.

Now, in federal court, Charles August Schlund III stated he is a covert operative and supports Sainte-Marie's assertions that the United States took action to suppress rock music because of its role in rallying opposition to the Vietnam War.

Sainte-Marie says she was blacklisted and, along with other American Indians in the Red Power movements, was put out of business in the 1970s.

''I found out 10 years later, in the 1980s, that [President] Lyndon Johnson had been writing letters on White House stationary praising radio stations for suppressing my music,'' Sainte-Marie said in a 1999 interview with Indian Country Today at Dine' College.

''In the 1970s, not only was the protest movement put out of business, but the Native American movement was attacked,'' Sainte-Marie said.

In an affidavit to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act lawsuit against President George W. Bush and others, Schlund alleged he has been tortured in his attempts to reveal the truth about the Bush family's manipulation of U.S. voting results and the Drug Enforcement Agency's covert drug supplies to black communities.

Detailing the assassinations of the Kennedys and exposing the ''Don Bolles'' papers, named after the murdered Phoenix news reporter, Schlund said he remains alive today because of FBI protection.

Schlund, who said he previously worked in the covert drug operations in Phoenix, said rock music posed a threat to the United States and played a role in opposition to the Vietnam War.

In his federal court affidavit, Schlund said he has knowledge of ''the detailed plans for the break-up and destruction of rock n' roll music including the assassinations of many people to achieve their goals. The detailed plans to replace rock n' roll music with all-American music called country western.''

''This massive CIA and DEA covert operation was being conducted to stop political overtones in the rock n' roll music and to stop foreign influences on Americans caused by the exposure to foreign music. This operation was conducted because the Rockefellers had lost the Vietnam War because of the protest that was in part directly linked with rock n' roll music. In these files, the Rockefellers had needed the natural resources of Vietnam for the expansion of their corporate empire and they blamed the loss of the war in part on rock n' roll music.

''The assassinations started long before Vietnam but the plans to replace rock n' roll with country western music started during the Vietnam War and have continued to the present,'' Schlund stated to the court.

In his federal court affidavits filed in Maricopa County in Arizona, Schlund also stated that singer Buddy Holly, killed in an airplane crash in 1959, was considered a threat to the U.S. government.

Meanwhile, Sainte-Marie said she cut a singular path as she was being censored in the '60s and '70s.

''I usually didn't do what other people did. You didn't find me at peace marches. I was out in Indian country.''

Earlier, a young Bob Dylan heard Sainte-Marie sing in Greenwich Village and recommended she perform at the Gaslight, another hangout of the avant garde. Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley and Tracy Chapman were among those soon recording her lyrics. On the road, she traveled the world and received a medal from Queen Elizabeth II.

During this time, Sainte-Marie was selling more records than ever in Canada and Asia. But in the United States, her records were disappearing. Thousands of people at concerts wanted records. Although the distributor said the records had been shipped, no one seemed to know where they were. One thing was for sure: They were not on record store shelves.

''I was put out of business in the United States.''

Later, Sainte-Marie discovered the censorship and pressure applied to radio stations by Johnson during the Vietnam era, particularly toward ''Universal Soldier'' during the anti-war movement.

Sainte-Marie said Native people were put out of business, not just because they were succeeding in Indian country, but because they were succeeding in the broader community. She and others were a threat to the moneymakers of concert halls, uranium and oil, she said.

Then, fellow activist and Santee poet John Trudell's wife, mother-in-law and children were burned to death in a mysterious house fire shortly after Trudell burned an American flag in Washington, D.C., Feb. 11, 1979.

''I was just one person put out of business. John Trudell is just another person whose life was put out of business. Anna Mae Aquash and Leonard Peltier were put out of the living business - we were made ineffective,'' Sainte-Marie said of slain American Indian Movement activist Aquash and imprisoned Peltier.

But Sainte-Marie continued with her music and efforts with children after becoming a familiar face on ''Sesame Street.'' In the 1990s, from her home in Hawaii, she created the Cradleboard Teaching Project to link American Indian students with other students online around the world.

Remembering the 1970s and Trudell, Sainte-Marie said, ''We just kept chugging on. We kept coming to Indian country. We didn't worry about the fortune and fame because we went with our sincerity, our hearts and with our friends.''

Those years, however, were filled with pain.

''It was hard - seeing people hurt,'' she said.


Discrimination Against Women? You bet!

Isn’t it amazing the way the people who are into discrimination—keeping people down—keep finding ways to justify it? This sort of irrational bias should have died a natural death, a hundred years ago. But it’s like racial discrimination: the people who believe in it will dig up the most outrageous lies and then try to pass them off as the truth.

And, according to this piece, the NY Times columnist, David Brooks, has joined the biology-is-destiny crowd. Nice company: Adolf Hitler, Lester Maddox, Pat Buchanan, George Wallace...nice. Tasty group.

Discrimination Against the Female Brain
By Caryl Rivers
Thursday 28 September 2006

It's not biology, child-rearing demands, or differences in ability that explain slower female advancement in scientific and technical fields. It is discrimination, pure and simple.

Recently, a committee of specialists at the University of Miami found that it was not biology, hormones, child-rearing demands, or differences in ability that explained why women were not advancing as fast as they should in scientific and technical fields. It was discrimination, pure and simple. "It is not a lack of talent, but unintended bias that is locking women out," said Donna Shalala, president of the University of Miami and head of the committee that wrote the report. It was sponsored by the prestigious US National Academies of Science and Engineering and the Institute of Medicine.

This is not a new story. People familiar with the research know that for many years, studies have shown few gender differences that would account for women's lack of progress. They also know that the notion that "girls can't do math" starts as early as third grade and gets progressively worse. Harvard's Larry Summers got into trouble because - as he candidly admitted - he had gotten the science wrong. A quick check with some of his own faculty members could have saved him a lot of grief.

But the idea that women are uncomfortable with facts and systems dies hard. Cambridge University psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen ("The Essential Difference") says that males are good at leadership, decision making and achievement, while females are suited for "Making friends, mothering, gossiping, and 'reading' your partner." (He has been quoted in the New York Times, in a Newsweek cover story, in a PBS documentary and in many other major media outlets.)

Baron-Cohen bases his claims on one study (done in his lab in 2000) of day-old infants purporting to show that baby boys looked longer at mobiles, while day-old baby girls looked longer at human faces.

Elizabeth Spelke, the co-director of Harvard's Mind, Brain and Behavior Interfaculty Initiative, utterly demolished this study. It has never been replicated, nor has it appeared in a peer-reviewed journal, she reported. Furthermore, the study lacked critical controls against experimenter bias and was not well-designed. Female and male infants were propped up in a parent's lap and shown, side by side, an active person or an inanimate object. Since newborns can't hold their heads up independently, their visual preferences could well have been determined by the way their parents held them. Moreover, there's a long literature flat-out contradicting Baron-Cohen's study, providing evidence that male and female infants tend to respond equally to people and objects.

The idea that women are suited mainly for relationships keeps popping up all over the media. Best-selling author Michael Gurian ("The Wonder of Girls") claims that only 20 percent of girls have "bridge brains" that enable them to do math the way males do, a claim so unscientific it takes your breath away. Gurian also claims that girls will be unhappy if they focus too much on achievement, and that instead their primary goal should be learning to form relationships. Gurian is often cited uncritically in the media and invited to speak to groups of teachers.

The Academies' report found that female performance in high school mathematics now matches that of males. But the media focus is not on female performance, but on female hormones.

"Is chemistry destiny?" New York Times columnist David Brooks recently asked. His answer was a resounding vote in favor of sheer biological determinism. He blithely jettisoned a century's worth of research to chirp that "happiness seems to consist of living in harmony with the patterns that nature and evolution laid down long, long ago."

Long long ago, of course, was when men were in charge of the world and women knew their place.

Brooks was citing a new book titled "The Female Brain" by Louann Brizendine, a neuropsychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco. The book claims that the female brain is wired for connection. But the author unfortunately makes huge, unsubstantiated leaps. Take, for example, this statement: '"Studies indicate that girls are motivated - on a molecular and a neurological level - to ease and even prevent social conflict.'"

But as Robin Marantz Henig points out in her excellent New York Times review, the data for that statement is quite fuzzy. "The endnote lists nine scholarly articles, with no further explanation given. From the titles (which the reader has to look for in the bibliography), we can surmise that one study was on female mice, one on male and female rats, one (apparently) on female rhesus monkeys, and the other six on humans. But only one of those human studies explicitly mentions 'sex differences' in the title."

And long ago, "mean girls" were all the rage in media stories. What happened to the make-nice hormones in all those nasty high school kids?

The fact is that human behavior is an extremely complex mix of genes, hormones, environments, relationships, situations, drives, motivations - a vast, churning stew. There is huge variation among individuals; often, talking about how "men" or "women" behave has little bearing on what real people do. We are all products of both nature and nurture, constantly interacting.

But bits and pieces of this extremely complicated picture are teased out and used in a very simplistic - and very political - way. They are employed to argue that women can't do math, shouldn't be in the army, shouldn't be engineers, aren't natural leaders, aren't natural risk takers and so on, endlessly. The more that the actual behavior of women debunks such statements, the more widespread the statements become.

As the science of behavior becomes ever more nuanced and complex, the media notions about it become ever more conservative and simplistic. We should remember that while biology is an important part of who we are, biological determinism has an unscientific - and unsavory - past.

Caryl Rivers is a professor of journalism at Boston University and co-author, with Dr. Rosalind Barnett of Brandeis, of Same Difference: How Gender Myths Are Hurting Our Relationships, Our Children and Our Jobs.


Habeas Corpus Sold Out: America Sold Out...Big Time!

The blogs are full of articles about the suspension of Habeas Corpus. They should be, of course. The Republicans have taken away, or are in the process of taking away, one of the greatest legacies of English law.

I don’t know if this is because they’re incredibly ignorant of Constitutional History, they don’t care about it, or they really are a bunch of loony theocrats. Your guess is as good as mine.

The new law, as written, is unconstitutional, but for a law to be declared unconstituional means it has to be tested through the courts. And since part of the law precludes it being tested in the courts...This ugly legislation ranks with the most odious of American mistakes over the centuries. It’s just about the worst mistake Congress has ever made.

And it certainly has shown the Bush-Cheney Junta to be a bunch of wannabe dictators.

In Case I Disappear
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Friday 29 September 2006

I have been told a thousand times at least, in the years I have spent reporting on the astonishing and repugnant abuses, lies and failures of the Bush administration, to watch my back. "Be careful," people always tell me. "These people are capable of anything. Stay off small planes, make sure you aren't being followed." A running joke between my mother and me is that she has a "safe room" set up for me in her cabin in the woods, in the event I have to flee because of something I wrote or said.

I always laughed and shook my head whenever I heard this stuff. Extreme paranoia wrapped in the tinfoil of conspiracy, I thought. This is still America, and these Bush fools will soon pass into history, I thought. I am a citizen, and the First Amendment hasn't yet been red-lined, I thought.

Matters are different now.

It seems, perhaps, that the people who warned me were not so paranoid. It seems, perhaps, that I was not paranoid enough. Legislation passed by the Republican House and Senate, legislation now marching up to the Republican White House for signature, has shattered a number of bedrock legal protections for suspects, prisoners, and pretty much anyone else George W. Bush deems to be an enemy.

So much of this legislation is wretched on the surface. Habeas corpus has been suspended for detainees suspected of terrorism or of aiding terrorism, so the Magna Carta-era rule that a person can face his accusers is now gone. Once a suspect has been thrown into prison, he does not have the right to a trial by his peers. Suspects cannot even stand in representation of themselves, another ancient protection, but must accept a military lawyer as their defender.

Illegally-obtained evidence can be used against suspects, whether that illegal evidence was gathered abroad or right here at home. To my way of thinking, this pretty much eradicates our security in persons, houses, papers, and effects, as stated in the Fourth Amendment, against illegal searches and seizures.

Speaking of collecting evidence, the torture of suspects and detainees has been broadly protected by this new legislation. While it tries to delineate what is and is not acceptable treatment of detainees, in the end, it gives George W. Bush the final word on what constitutes torture. US officials who use cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment to extract information from detainees are now shielded from prosecution.

It was two Supreme Court decisions, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, that compelled the creation of this legislation. The Hamdi decision held that a prisoner has the right of habeas corpus, and can challenge his detention before an impartial judge. The Hamdan decision held that the military commissions set up to try detainees violated both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions.

In short, the Supreme Court wiped out virtually every legal argument the Bush administration put forth to defend its extraordinary and dangerous behavior. The passage of this legislation came after a scramble by Republicans to paper over the torture and murder of a number of detainees. As columnist Molly Ivins wrote on Wednesday, "Of the over 700 prisoners sent to Gitmo, only 10 have ever been formally charged with anything. Among other things, this bill is a CYA for torture of the innocent that has already taken place."

It seems almost certain that, at some point, the Supreme Court will hear a case to challenge the legality of this legislation, but even this is questionable. If a detainee is not allowed access to a fair trial or to the evidence against him, how can he bring a legal challenge to a court? The legislation, in anticipation of court challenges like Hamdi and Hamdan, even includes severe restrictions on judicial review over the legislation itself.

The Republicans in Congress have managed, at the behest of Mr. Bush, to draft a bill that all but erases the judicial branch of the government. Time will tell whether this aspect, along with all the others, will withstand legal challenges. If such a challenge comes, it will take time, and meanwhile there is this bill. All of the above is deplorable on its face, indefensible in a nation that prides itself on Constitutional rights, protections and the rule of law.

Underneath all this, however, is where the paranoia sets in.

Underneath all this is the definition of "enemy combatant" that has been established by this legislation. An "enemy combatant" is now no longer just someone captured "during an armed conflict" against our forces. Thanks to this legislation, George W. Bush is now able to designate as an "enemy combatant" anyone who has "purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States."

Consider that language a moment. "Purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States" is in the eye of the beholder, and this administration has proven itself to be astonishingly impatient with criticism of any kind. The broad powers given to Bush by this legislation allow him to capture, indefinitely detain, and refuse a hearing to any American citizen who speaks out against Iraq or any other part of the so-called "War on Terror."

If you write a letter to the editor attacking Bush, you could be deemed as purposefully and materially supporting hostilities against the United States. If you organize or join a public demonstration against Iraq, or against the administration, the same designation could befall you. One dark-comedy aspect of the legislation is that senators or House members who publicly disagree with Bush, criticize him, or organize investigations into his dealings could be placed under the same designation. In effect, Congress just gave Bush the power to lock them up.

By writing this essay, I could be deemed an "enemy combatant." It's that simple, and very soon, it will be the law. I always laughed when people told me to be careful. I'm not laughing anymore.

In case I disappear, remember this. America is an idea, a dream, and that is all. We have borders and armies and citizens and commerce and industry, but all this merely makes us like every other nation on this Earth. What separates us is the idea, the simple idea, that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are our organizing principles. We can think as we please, speak as we please, write as we please, worship as we please, go where we please. We are protected from the kinds of tyranny that inspired our creation as a nation in the first place.

That was the idea. That was the dream. It may all be over now, but once upon a time, it existed. No good idea ever truly dies. The dream was here, and so was I, and so were you.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Hastert Accuses Dems of Being Pro-Terrorist Rights

The Repugnicans are pulling out all the stops. I believe they'd put on Nazi uniforms if they thought it would win them the upcoming elections. Now Hastert, someone who looks like he belongs in a Grade B movie about southern politicians, has opinonated that anyone who is for all prisoners to have specific rights is somehow pro-terrorist.

I don’t agree with Pelosi; I don’t think Hastert is desperate so much as he is a corrupt asshole. Of course I have no proof of either assertion; except for having seen El Gordo on TV.

Speaker Dennis Hastert reiterated Thursday his claims that House Democrats who voted against the detainee bill were in favor of granting terrorists more rights. This comes after House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi called Hastert a "desperate man," for making such assertions.


Requiem For Naru: Extract, Exploit, Extinct...

This piece from Le Monde shows that boom-and-bust economies are not entirely American. But the U.S., I have to say, does excell in them. Has, does, will excell.

An Environmental Fairy Tale From the Middle of the Pacific
By Dominique Dhombres
Le Monde
Thursday 21 September 2006

Nauru is a miniscule island, lost in the Pacific Ocean, 2500 kilometers northwest of Australia. One can visit the whole island in a half hour. It's also the smallest republic in the world, with its 12,000 inhabitants. It is also, finally, on its 21 square kilometers, an absolute environmental, economic, and human disaster.

Thirty years ago, Nauru was the second wealthiest country in the world per inhabitant. Today, the island is bankrupt; electricity is cut several hours every day, and the port has been abandoned. Laurent Cibien and Pascal Carcanade's reportage broadcast Wednesday, September 20, on Arte resembles an environmental fairy tale with a bitter ending.

In Nauru's history, there was the good fairy first of all, then the bad one. One quickly understands that they are one and the same. Phosphate, which made the country rich when it became independent in 1968, has also caused its ruin. The income from the phosphate quarries radically changed the Nauruans' way of life. They bought uncounted numbers of big cars and air conditioners, home appliances and boats. And then the phosphate beds were exhausted. The government, poorly advised, had made disastrous investments overseas.

Phosphate exploitation has devastated the landscape. The center of the island has become a lunar landscape, scattered with holes and bumps. Car bodies are piled up in a gigantic open dump. One resident shows his old desperately empty refrigerator and his broken television set. "That's not too serious, since national television's transmitter is busted too," he says, laughing.

There's still worse. Nauru has the highest rate of diabetes on the planet. The blame rests on the too rich food of the fat years. Life expectancy is constantly decreasing. At present, it is, on average, only 55. Now one finds hardly anything but rice and flour in the shops. The tourism office is deserted.

Who would want to visit a port in ruins, abandoned quarries, and a car cemetery? The only activity for the future is also hopeless. Australia has installed detention camps for its asylum seekers on the island, far from the coasts. Up until now, the rudimentary shelters have held as many as 1,200 people from Iraq and Afghanistan. They've been emptied of their occupants, but could well be refilled again. After having squandered their only wealth, is the sole vocation open to Nauru's inhabitants to become prison guards?

Translation: Truthout French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.


9 Million Uninsured Kids in U.S..

9,000,000—How many is that? Quite a lot: especially since our country is touted as the “greatest country in the World.”

And the numbers don’t seem to be getting smaller. And the parents don’t appear to be lazy bums.

It’s shameful. Seems like I say that a lot, lately. Yeah—there are a lot of shameful things going on in this country. I don’t want to get ranting about what’s happened to habeas corpus, or the separation of powers. Or...

Texas, Florida lead nation in uninsured children

Families USA has released a new report highlighting a disturbing aspect of our nation's health care crisis: the fact that 9 million children have no health insurance.

Even more disturbing is the fact that most of these children have parents that work. As the AP reports:
Most of the 9 million uninsured children in the U.S. live in homes where at least one parent works full time. In more than one-quarter of the cases, there are two working parents. [...]

"I think they believe these are low-income people who don't work, who are very different from themselves," said the group's executive director, Ron Pollack. "These are people who work, who are doing the right thing." [...]

Overall, 88.3 percent of uninsured children age 18 and under live in households with a working parent. About 70 percent live in households were a parent works full time, year-round, according to the report.
States in the South and West lead the list for most uninsured children:
The five states with the highest rates of uninsured children are Texas, 20.4 percent; Florida, 17 percent; New Mexico, 16.7 percent; Nevada, 16.4 percent; and Montana, 16.2 percent.

Vermont had the lowest rate of uninsured children -- 5.6 percent. Michigan, Hawaii and New Hampshire were next at 6.4 percent. The national rate is 11.6 percent.Many assume that children still find coverage through Medicaid and state-based Children's Health Insurance Programs. Yet the report notes that because the parents work, many children aren't eligible because the programs are aimed at families below the poverty line (Medicaid) or just above it (CHIP). On top of that,
"The reason these children are not participating is that, No. 1, many don't know about it, and No. 2, the enrollment process is cumbersome," [Families USA's Ron] Pollack said.There's also a racial bias in which children fall through the cracks:
Families USA said that about 3.4 million of the uninsured children in the U.S. are white, about 1.5 million are black, and about 3.5 million are Hispanic.


War Costs Nearly $2 Billion Weekly!

No comment:

Cost of Iraq War Nearly $2 Billion a Week
By Bryan Bender
The Boston Globe

Thursday 28 September 2006

Washington - A new congressional analysis shows the Iraq war is now costing taxpayers almost $2 billion a week - nearly twice as much as in the first year of the conflict three years ago and 20 percent more than last year - as the Pentagon spends more on establishing regional bases to support the extended deployment and scrambles to fix or replace equipment damaged in combat.

The upsurge occurs as the total cost of military operations at home and abroad since 2001, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will top half a trillion dollars, according to an internal assessment by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service completed last week.

The spike in operating costs - including a 20 percent increase over last year in Afghanistan, where the mission now costs about $370 million a week - comes even though troop levels in both countries have remained stable. The reports attribute the rising costs in part to a higher pace of fighting in both countries, where insurgents and terrorists have increased their attacks on US and coalition troops and civilians.

Another major factor, however, is "the building of more extensive infrastructure to support troops and equipment in and around Iraq and Afghanistan," according to the report. Based on Defense Department data, the report suggests that the construction of so-called semi-permanent support bases has picked up in recent months, making it increasingly clear that the US military will have a presence in both countries for years to come.

The United States maintains it is not building permanent military bases in Iraq or Afghanistan, where the local population distrusts America's long-term intentions.

But for the first time, a major factor in the growth of war spending is the result of a dramatic rise in "investment costs," or spending needed to sustain a long-term deployment of American troops in the two countries, the report said. These include the additional purchases of protective equipment for troops, such as armored Humvees, radios, and night-vision equipment; new tanks and other equipment to replace battered gear from Army and Marine Corps units that have been deployed numerous times in recent years; and growing repair bills for damaged equipment, what the military calls "reset" costs.

At least one lawmaker, referring to reports of equipment shortages in the war zones and at US bases where troops are training for combat, says some of the spending is misplaced. "While we are spending billions in Iraq to build and maintain massive bases, we cannot [effectively] repair our abused equipment or replace it," US Representative Martin T. Meehan , a Lowell Democrat and member of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.

The Pentagon, which had previously made public its own estimate of operating costs, has not released up-to-date war costs.

The Congressional Research Service report estimates that after Congress approves two pending bills, the total war costs since Sept. 11, 2001, will reach about $509 billion. Of that, $379 billion will cover the cost of operations in Iraq, $97 billion will be the price tag for Afghanistan operations, and $26 billion will have gone to beefed-up security at US military bases around the world.

Though the military's operational costs in Iraq and Afghanistan have gone up despite a level number of US troops, the report attributes a large portion of the increased spending to the military's ongoing preparations to sustain combat operations in the two countries for the foreseeable future.

For example, the report shows that under the category of "procurement," the funds designated for "resetting the force" - replacing or repairing equipment damaged in combat and preparing for long-term fighting - has jumped from $7.2 billion in 2004 to $20.9 billion in 2005, and $22.9 billion this year. Separately, the Army has told Congress that it estimates it will need at least $36 billion more for equipment, while the Marine Corps has reported it needs nearly $12 billion.

Another major war cost is for infrastructure - bases, landing strips, repair shops - for the forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. These "operations and maintenance" costs remained steady at about $40 billion per year in 2003, 2004, and 2005, but have spiked to more than $60 billion this year.

Those factors alone, however, are "not enough to explain" the spiraling increase in operating costs, according to the report.

"You would expect [operating costs] to level off if you have the same level of people," said the report's principal author, Amy Belasco, a national defense specialist at the Congressional Research Service. "You shouldn't have as much cost to fix buildings that were presumably repaired when you got there. It's a bit mysterious."

The Pentagon has not provided Congress with a detailed accounting of all the war funds, making it impossible to conduct a full, independent estimate of how much Americans are spending in Iraq and Afghanistan - or to predict what future costs might be.

"In congressional hearings, the Department of Defense has typically provided estimates of the current or average monthly costs over a period of time for military operations, referred to as the `burn rate,'" the report stated. "While this figure covers some of the costs of war, it excludes the cost of upgrading or replacing military equipment and improving or building facilities overseas, and it does not cover all funds appropriated."


Censorship in Indian Country Same As in Anglo Country?

Trying to get the truth, when the media is as concentrated—monopolized—as it is now, is hard work. One of the papers I've been reading for years is News From Indian Country. It isn't bad, but it hasn't always been reliable when it comes to shaking up the powers-that-be.

Today, I got the following:

Censorship, the other genocide, killing of the spirit


I was just terminated by Indian Country Today. Since I began this
effort as a news reporter in Indian country 23 years ago in pursuit of
justice and truth, I feel I owe the readers an apology for allowing ICT
to censor the truth in articles I have written. I did protest the
censorship, but no retractions were published.

Officially, my position is being eliminated on Friday. This comes
after I repeatedly complained of censorship at the newspaper. During
the past month these issues were censored:

--Censored: After all reporters were told to write about the bird flu,
I wrote about how Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is profiteering by
millions from the sale of the drug Tamiflu, receiving profits from a
company where he holds shares. The article included information on the
earlier attempts of companies to profiteer from the sale of ribavirin
during the Navajo hantavirus outbreak. My article was censored in ICT
and turned into an advertisement for the medication Tamiflu.

--Raytheon Missiles on Navajo farm (NAPI) in the recent NAPI/Cuban
contract story; I was told not to include in the article the fact that
Raytheon is located on the Navajo farm and is responsible for spills
leading to cancer in South Tucson, where Chicanos and Indians live.
Raytheon produces missiles for the Department of Defense.

--Tohono O'odham teen ran over by Border Patrol, recent visit to the
site of Bennett Patricio Jr.'s death with Amnesty International; we
were followed by undercover agents on tribal land

Also, these are some of the articles censored since 2004:

--The fact that Ben "Nighthorse" Campbell is Portuguese and grew up in
California. His mother is full-blooded Portuguese and his story changed
about his father through the years. One Northern Cheyenne medicine man
asked ICT who Campbell is. Campbell first claimed to have some Apache
blood and later changed it Northern Cheyenne. The Denver Post reported
that Campbell is at least 7/8th non-Indian. Campbell did not respond
for a request to comment.

--Louise Benally of Big Mountain, comments comparing the Long Walk and
imprisonment in Bosque Redondo to the atrocities in Iraq (this deleted
from a published article)

--Denial of prison rights to Leonard Peltier in an article on Indian
prison rights

--The Montana governor's criticisms of the war in Iraq during his
formal address at NCAI's annual convention in 2005

--The handcuffing of Tohono O'odham Ofelia Rivas and attempts to
silence her by a non-Indian police officer of the Tohono O'odham Nation

--Comments by Bahe Katenay of Big Mountain on how the Navajo sacred
place of Creation in Dinetah, near Bloomfield, NM, in the Four Corners
area, is inundated with oil and gas wells and pollution from the power
plants on tribal land.

The ongoing censorship is a violation of the public trust.

This is the second time I've been terminated at ICT since the
newspaper was purchased by the Oneida Nation. I was already in
bankruptcy because of the first time they terminated me in 2001 (for
refusing to relocate, even though no male reporters were required to

To my knowledge, all female reporters who have not resigned have been
terminated. To my knowledge, none of the male reporters have ever been
terminated since the Oneida Nation purchased the newspaper.

However, the bigger issue is censorship. The censoring of vital
issues reflects what news reporters are enduring all over America. They
are forced into silence because of the necessity of work. However,
since ICT/Oneida Nation has already forced me into bankruptcy, I can
share a little of the truth. One of those truths is that Indian gaming,
at times, offers the illusion of wealth.

There are two Indian editors that deserve a great deal of praise for
what they have done over the past decades, Navajo Times managing editor
Duane Beyal and Indian Country Today founder, Lakota Tim Giago.
During the many years I worked for these two editors, I was never

When other publications refused to publish voices of Indian people
opposing the war in Iraq, the Navajo Times published those. When other
publications censored an article on Indians targeted by police in South
Dakota, Lakota Journal published it.

Those are just two examples. Both Beyal and Giago have championed the
pursuit of truth and never attempted to censor Indian peoples' voices.
I hope all Indian people will put pressure on Indian Country Today
concerning the censorship. There is a select agenda being published in
the name of "Indian Country," which does more to advance the interests
of the Oneida Nation and Indian gaming.

At ICT, I was repeatedly told to halt writing articles about
"grassroots people and the genocide of American Indians," by one of the
non-Indian managing editors.

Also, I hope people will question ICT hiring non-Indian managing
editors with no prior experience in Indian issues or Indian country,
and little experience in journalism. The managing editors are the ones
actually in the New York ICT office, chosing content and putting the
paper out. For years there has been a series of non-Indian managing
editors with no prior experience in Indian country. The censorship and
errors have increased.

It is easy to look at ICT and see what the agenda is and what is being
censored. There's certainly no articles on Leonard Peltier or how
Arizona Indian tribal members are living in poverty while the casino
gaming management makes a fortune. (One Tohono O'odham casino manager
made $800,000, according to a recent mainstream news article.)
Of course, I will continue to write for other Indian media, provide
information to radio stations and write for the UN Observer and
International Report at the Hague.

It is sad that at such a crucial time, while so many reporters are
being censored by corporations and the Bush administration, that Indian
Country Today has taken all of these extreme acts of censorship.
This censorship of Indian voices constitutes another form of genocide,
a killing of the spirit of the people.

Best, Brenda Norrell


Condoms and old-time religion...

I recently saw an op-ed piece in our local daily, the Bend Bulletin, about the failure of condoms to prevent the transmission of STDs. Uh-huh. Sure: and there's nothing wrong with DDT, either. The Religious Right—well, the Right, because the Right is the Religious Right, anymore: the fundamentalists' ideology is the ideology of the Republican Party; that was part of the deal when Nixon and Goldwater went after the Dixie Democrats; the Republican Party is essentially the old Dixiecrat bunch. Values, school choice, prayer in schools...we saw it back in the days of Strom Thurmond, and we're seeing it again.

The anti-abortion crowd isn't just against abortion: they're against birth control, period. Not because life is sacred: because the patriarchy wants women under their total control. If a woman can not have a child, the man isn't in charge. It says in the Bible that women are subservient to men. The Bible says it and they believe it. The theocracy edges closer on a daily basis.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Cranky? Maybe It Means You're Smarter...

It’s nice to have my hunches verified. Even nicer to have some of my behaviors validated (especially since the Light Of My Life every so often gets annoyed at me for being ...ahh...excessively ironic, let’s say. I get really pissed at stupidity, particularly institutionalized stupidity. Now I know it’s because I’m smarter-than-average.

Neener, neener.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006 - 12:00 AM

Cranky? It may benefit you in long run
By Joe Burris
The Baltimore Sun

Are you a forty-something grouch who's first to shout invectives in a slow-moving checkout lane? A youngster who mocks your dad's counsel? A graduate student known for driving your professor crazy with sardonic verbiage?

Take hope: Today, you might be dismissed as a smart-aleck. In your old age, you might be viewed as smarter than average.

Or at least that's what Jacqueline Bichsel suggests.

Bichsel, a psychology professor at Morgan State in Baltimore, recently co-authored a study that invites the conclusion that upon reaching 60, disagreeable people maintain a higher level of intelligence than more easy-going seniors.

"These individuals have a higher vocabulary," she said. "They have a better use of words, a better knowledge of facts."

It also suggests that those dismissed as grumpy old men and women are often smarter in some ways than the young. The study's findings fly in the face of notions that intellect and memory fade with age, and that has made it a hot topic in the psychology world.

Bichsel, 40, says publication of her study has produced an unanticipated 15 minutes of research fame; her work has drawn attention around the world.

"People are just intrigued by the fact that disagreeableness can be a good thing, particularly in old age," said Bichsel, who began the research as an assistant professor at the Harrisburg campus of Penn State.

Bichsel and Thomas Baker, a graduate student in psychology at York University in Toronto, tested 239 women and 142 men ages 19 to 89. Education ranged from some high school to graduate degrees.

Study participants were administered two tests: One was a personality assessment designed to measure openness to experience, continuousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. The other measures general intellectual ability and specific cognitive abilities. It covers such areas as phonetic awareness, long-term memory retrieval and general intellectual ability.

The results: Those age 19-60 did not outperform those over 60 in any cognitive ability measure. Their results were comparable with those of some participants over 60.

Yet a third group of those over 60 posted results that were superior to their counterparts in age as well as to the younger group.

Moreover, Bichsel wrote, "These results suggest that superior ... ability is relatively strongly associated with low agreeableness scores, meaning that older individuals who have a tendency toward being unfriendly and uncooperative maintain higher levels of breadth and depth of general knowledge."

Yet that doesn't mean that if you're 60 or younger and prone to be pushed around, standing up for yourself more often now will ensure you'll hold on to your smarts.

"What research has shown is that personality doesn't change a lot during the lifespan," Bichsel said. "And no single experience is going to change a person's personality."

Not everyone is comfortable with the findings, which Bichsel presented in August at the American Psychological Association meeting in New Orleans.

"The unfortunate interpretation of Bichsel's study is that it's good for older people to be cranky, and I feel that it reinforces those ageist stereotypes," said Susan Whitbourne, professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts.

She added that the study examined two correlated factors, personality and intelligence, "and it is impossible to know what causes what, or if both factors are related to some third, unmeasured factor, such as amount of education.

"Secondly," she said, "we don't know if the relationship between personality and IQ are different for the different age groups because they always were that way or because there was some function of getting older that made being less agreeable related to higher intelligence."

Philip Ackerman, a professor of psychology at Georgia Tech, argued that while there are relationships between personality, hunger for knowledge and memory retention, they are not large in scope.

"Domains such as critical thinking, at least in terms of abstract problem-solving, are not much affected by personality traits," he said, "but what knowledge one acquires throughout the adult years is more related to personality."

Still, Bichsel stands by her findings. In response to Whitbourne's assertion about ageist stereotypes, she said: "I would have to disagree. I feel it's just the opposite. The fact that disagreeableness can be viewed as a good thing negates the stereotypes."

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Photo I.D. Bill: "May ve see your papers, please?"

On a trip, we went through Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. There are communities there were people speak their own language. They’ve spoken Lakota for a long time—since before the English knew they were English. “Since time immemorial,” the saying goes. It’s the same on the Navajo—Dine`—Reservation in the southwest. Or with the descendants of Spanish settlers in New Mexico. These people have been speaking their native language, their “milk tongue,” for hundreds and hundreds of years before the Republican yahoos decided they knew what real ‘Merikuns should speak. It’s crap: racist, jingoistic crap. Now they want people to all have photo identification, so when someone says “Your papers, please,” they can obey these silly laws.

They should be ashamed of themselves. And they would be, if they knew what shame meant.

House Passes Bill to Make Voters Show ID
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House voted Wednesday to require Americans to show proof of citizenship in order to vote, and the Senate moved to build a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border as Republicans sharpened attacks on illegal immigration before the midterm elections.

The 228-196 House vote on a new photo ID plan and the Senate's consideration of the fence were both part of a get-tough policy on illegal immigrants that Republicans have embraced after Congress' failure to agree on broader legislation that would set a path for undocumented workers to attain citizenship.

House GOP leaders have insisted that tighter borders and tougher laws must precede more comprehensive immigration changes. The House passed the fence bill last week and plans votes Thursday on other enforcement measures: to increase penalties for people building tunnels under the border, make it easier to detain and deport immigrant gang members and criminals and clarify the ability of state and local authorities to detain illegal immigrants.

Republican sponsors of the voter identification bill said it was a commonsense way to stop fraud at the polls. People need photo IDs to board planes, buy alcohol or cash checks, said Rep. Vernon Ehlers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Administration Committee. "This is not a new concept."

"This is what Americans want," said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., "They want safe borders and they want safe ballots."


The bill would require everyone to present a photo ID before voting in federal elections by 2008. By 2010 voters would have to have photo IDs that certified they were citizens. In response to criticism that this would be a burden for the poor, the bill stipulates that states must provide the identification cards free of charge to those who can't afford them.


A Little Local Rant

We went up to our new big-time (™) mall to check out a Mexican restaurant that just opened. The mall is laid out like a little village; it's probably a clone of many other new-wave malls. We parked on a sidestreet just across from the restaurant, after seeing a car already parked there and noticing there were no signs prohibiting parking.

Imagine our surprise...when, after some good Zacatecan-style enchiladas, we came out and found a neon-orange “Parking Violation” sticker on the window. Parking in a fire land, in a no-parking zone, and blocking a drive-way. The “violation” informed us that a description of the car—and the license plate number— had been permanently filed: dire consequences would ensue if we ever again did such a terrible thing.

We won’t. We’ll make sure: we lived for some years without the mall and we can no doubt live for quite a few more years without returning.

Too bad, though, we thought the food was tasty.


Medicare-Medicaid Bungled According to Plan?

The Bush-Cheney administration has bungled the “war against terror;” they’ve bungled the occupation of Iraq; they bungled everything, including the Medicare drug-plan—I have to correct myself: they bungled everything except handing over billions of dollars to their cxorporate friends. At least they managed to do that according to plan.

Here’s the latest on the incredible screw-up with the Medicare drug plan:

The New York Times

September 25, 2006
Medicare Refund Mixup Part of Larger Tangle

WASHINGTON, Sept. 24 — When Medicare mistakenly sent premium refunds to 230,000 people who had signed up for prescription drug coverage, the Bush administration said the error had resulted from a rare “computer glitch.” But government records and interviews with federal officials show it was the latest example of a strained, often dysfunctional relationship between two of the government’s biggest programs.

For more than a year, officials who run the two programs, Social Security and Medicare, have struggled to mesh their computer systems so that Medicare premiums are correctly withheld from Social Security checks, and low-income people get the extra help to which they are entitled. The problems are compounded because this information is collected and used by scores of private Medicare drug plans, each with its own procedures and computer systems.

Lawmakers worry that similar problems will occur as millions of people sign up for new drug plans starting on Nov. 15.

Several recent surveys, including one by J. D. Power & Associates, the market research company, suggest that three-fourths of the people getting drug coverage through Medicare are satisfied with it. But officials predict that many beneficiaries will switch plans to lower their drug costs or get better coverage.

Under the 2003 Medicare law, people who sign up for drug coverage can pay premiums once a month on their own, or they can have the money withheld from their Social Security checks, just as basic Medicare premiums have for years been deducted from such checks.

Since the drug program began on Jan. 1, hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries have reported problems in getting the government to carry out their instructions to start or stop the withholding of premiums. Drug plans have repeatedly complained to Medicare officials that premiums have not been properly withheld and that beneficiaries have been upset.

Medicare officials say Social Security and its computer systems bear much of the responsibility. And Social Security says the data it receives from Medicare is often full of errors and does not match the information it already has. Without a perfect match, Social Security officials say they cannot order the Treasury to change the amount of a person’s Social Security payment.

The commissioner of Social Security, Jo Anne B. Barnhart, and the Medicare administrator, Dr. Mark B. McClellan, discussed the problems with the Senate Finance Committee behind closed doors on Sept. 7. After the briefing, lawmakers said they did not fully understand the interaction between the two agencies.

“There seems to be greater confusion, not less,” Senator Gordon H. Smith, Republican of Oregon, said after listening to the officials’ explanations.

In an interview, Beatrice M. Disman, a Social Security official who has been with the agency for more than 40 years, said: “What the public has to understand is that Social Security is at the end of the trail. We rely on information provided by Medicare.”

Medicare, in turn, relies on its own files and on information supplied by beneficiaries and the drug plans in which they enroll. Drug plans often must contact beneficiaries to resolve discrepancies in data compiled by the two federal agencies.

Social Security and Medicare officials said they were working hard to solve the problems, which Dr. McClellan cataloged in a recent letter to Commissioner Barnhart.

“In the past,” Dr. McClellan wrote, “my staff has felt that significant concerns they have expressed have not been taken into account by Social Security.” For example, he said, Social Security officials established “technical details of the data exchange” in 2004 without fully considering requirements of the new law or concerns expressed by Medicare officials at the time.

In his letter, Dr. McClellan complained about “the unnecessary complexity” of the system devised by Social Security, which performs “more than 40 edits” on each transaction requested for a Medicare beneficiary.

Ms. Disman defended these “quality checks,” saying: “We may have information that a person is in the ABC plan. Now Medicare tells us to withhold premiums for the XYZ plan. We have to verify that.”

Some Medicare beneficiaries change plans frequently, and drug plans are continually sending fresh information to Medicare. But in his letter to the Social Security Administration, Dr. McClellan said: “We have only been allowed to submit data to your systems for about 10 business days out of each month. Because of your system design, S.S.A. will not process transactions outside of that window.”

Constance S. Beskind, 80, of Westport, Conn., said it had taken her five months to get Social Security to stop withholding premiums for her drug coverage, provided by Humana. “It was a nuisance,” said Ms. Beskind, who takes drugs for osteoporosis and high blood pressure. Humana told her that Social Security was responsible for the problem, she recalled.

In Craigsville, W.Va., Alma L. Boggs, a 55-year-old nurse who is on Medicare because of a disability, had the opposite problem. Social Security stopped withholding her premiums with no explanation.

“I have yet to learn why they stopped,” said Miss Boggs, who takes 10 prescription drugs. “When I called the local Social Security office, the operator would not discuss it. She told me to call Humana. The company told me that Social Security quit paying the premiums on its own. It’s been a mess.”

Federal officials have discovered four types of problems.

Some beneficiaries asked that premiums be withheld from their Social Security checks, but the government did not act on the requests, so beneficiaries owe several months of premiums. In other cases, Social Security continued to withhold premiums after beneficiaries told the government to stop the deductions. In some cases, the government withheld premiums but failed to send the money to insurers, as it was supposed to do. Finally, some beneficiaries who switched plans are still having premiums for the original plan withheld.

In a bulletin to insurers, the administration described the situation: “When a beneficiary changes plans, Medicare sends the updated request to Social Security. In some cases, these requests were not accepted due to data differences. As a result, some beneficiaries are seeing inaccurate premiums being withheld from their Social Security payments.”

In late August, the administration notified tens of thousands of beneficiaries that they had received improper refunds of premiums and would have to return the money to the government. The letters said the problem had resulted from “a processing error” in Medicare computers.

Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services developed a “strategic communications plan” to play down the mistake.

“Our messaging will strive to maintain public confidence in C.M.S. and its systems, despite the recent error, and to deter any negative generalizations about Medicare or the Part D program,” which covers prescription drugs, the plan said.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Saturday, September 23, 2006


A Digression On Health and Chronic Diseases

Osteogenesis Imperfecta is a rare disease. Something like one in twenty thousand have it. The name, translated, means, duh, imperfect bone formation. Bones have a lack of collagen and are thus fragile—the popular name is “Brittle Bones.” The disease comes in many varieties, you might say: mild to fatal. The mildest is known as Type One. It can come as simply having it but rarely, if ever, breaking a bone, to having dozens over the course of a lifetime. Google osteogenesis imperfecta, if you're interested in it. It's so rare the scientists haven't figured out what to do about it.

I have Type One. I don’t know how many fractures I’ve had: at least fifty that I know of. I’ve had a large number of compression fractures of my vertebrae, as well; some of them I knew about, but others I was oblivious to at the time, or I simply wrote them off as “strains” or “I must have pulled something in my back.” Uh-huh: denial is not a river in Egypt. But, I got to say, between the age of, say, twenty, and fifty, it worked pretty well, all things considered.
Fifty is when my body started seriously breaking down. That was when I realized I couldn’t cut firewood or scramble up and down riverbanks on fishing trips, haul stuff that weighed half as much as I did, or even bend over while working on a car engine…

I just didn’t want to be known as a cripple—particularly by myself. I spent years trying to avoid that diagnosis. Made things worse, too.

I haven’t broken anything in a while, that I know of anyhow. But my vertebrae, because of the countless compression fractures I’ve had, are shaped like wedges of pie. I’m stooped over—hunchbacked. This has affected by rib cage; the official diagnosis for it is “kyphosis.” A month ago I had a serious case of bronchitis, and the doctors told me I was suffering from hypoxia. That’s a shortage of oxygen in my blood. That’s not a good thing at all and it scared the bejesus out of me. I now have, they say, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, COPD for short. For what it’s worth, emphysema is a form of COPD, too. Ugh. Hard to accept this. I know: I have to!

At least I’m back into exercising regularly over at the local municipal pool. Three days a week I’m in for water arthritis exercise: a half-hour of stretching and limbering, and a half-hour of aerobics. I got out of the habit of going back when my son died, and there have been many fits and spurts and false-starts since then.

So, I have two chronic diseases, now: osteogenesis imperfecta and COPD. One damn thing after another...sigh.


Housing and Wages

Here in Bend, the median home price is well beyond a quarter of a million dollars. Not only do workers have to support a family, they have to pay for shelter that’s way way overpriced.

Once the stock market proved less than a sure-thing, people on the make have touted real estate as the only way to surely make money. Mortgage brokers have had a great run; realtors’ commissions got bigger and bigger; cities’ tax bases have increased—BUT!

Something isn’t quite right. How can it be when less than a fifth of the jobs pay enough to support a family? And probably a smaller fraction of the jobs in Bend, one of the highest-priced housing markets in the country, pay an adequate amount.

Study: Less than 20% of Oregon jobs can support a family
Living wage - A researcher sees a need for a higher minimum and more training
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
The Oregonian

Fewer than one in five jobs in Oregon pay a so-called living wage -- enough to cover basic living costs -- for an entire family with two children, according to a report Tuesday by an advocacy group.

However, if two adults work, the report says, 48 percent of jobs pay enough to meet basic living expenses of a two-child family.

The report, called the Northwest Job Gap Study, found that nearly two in three jobs pay at least $11.83 an hour, the wage needed to cover average living costs such as food, housing and taxes for a single adult.

But less than 20 percent of Oregon jobs, taken alone, can provide for the basic needs of families with at least two children, said Gerald Smith, a study co-author with the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations. A single parent with two children in Oregon needs to make $23.40 an hour to cover expenses, including child care, the study found. Two working adults raising two children need to bring in a combined $30.38 an hour.

Smith said the findings highlight the need for state and local governments to set a higher minimum wage while also expanding job-training and apprenticeship opportunities.

"It's the two aspects we'd like to see policymakers and lawmakers improve," Smith said.

The living-wage movement has been around for more than a decade but has gained new momentum as labor, community and religious groups push for cities and states to enact higher minimum wages and target mega-retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

The Chicago City Council recently failed to override Mayor Richard Daley's veto of a living-wage ordinance. The measure would have required large retailers to pay at least $10 an hour plus $3 an hour in benefits by mid-2010.

Critics say by making jobs more costly for employers, living-wage laws eliminate low-wage jobs. In addition, they say, such laws do most to help young single people.

Research by the Public Policy Institute of California in 2005 found that living-wage laws in major metropolitan areas increased the wages of the lowest-paid workers but reduced employment among the lowest-paid and most poorly trained workers.

"They are not a panacea for the problem of low-wage work and poverty," the study's authors, Scott Adams and David Neumark, said of the laws.

The authors say other policies are needed, including job training that targets higher-paying jobs.

Multnomah County, Portland, Corvallis and Ashland have adopted living-wage ordinances affecting its contractors. Portland's ordinance requires that maintenance workers, security guards and parking lot attendants be paid at least $10.57 an hour, including benefits, city officials say.

The Northwest Federation of Community Organizers, a group promoting social and racial justice, arrived at its wage estimates by crunching mostly government data. It came up with an average budget for food, rent, transportation and other expenses, then calculated average wage rates from government employment surveys.

The group's living-wage estimate has risen faster than inflation over the past four years, the report found, largely because of the growing proportion of health-insurance costs that employees are being asked to foot.

Brent Hunsberger: 503-221-8359;,

©2006 The Oregonian


American Demonstrators To Be Lab Rats?

No matter what comes down the pike, it’s greeted by the American public with a big yawn—unless it happens to be the start of a “new” TV season. In that case, everybody is paying attention. Imagine: Callista Flipflop and Sally Ann Sappy in a new series! Shall we make a deal or not! Can Katy Krispy actually read the news? Will…

You know what I mean.

Here’s something from the Huffington Post, one of the better—at least more colorful and readable—blogs.

September 21, 2006 The Huffington Post

RJ Eskow
Future Shock: Evidence of Plans to Torture US Demonstrators

Remember this story from last week? "The Air Force secretary says nonlethal weapons such as high-power microwave devices should be used on American citizens in crowd-control situations before they are used on the battlefield." It's worse than we heard ... much worse. These weapons, which cause "intolerable pain" and have been condemned by scientists as mass torture devices, may be coming soon to a demonstration near you. And there are stranger and more lethal weapons where these came from.

The Secretary, Michael Wynne, is a longtime exec at defense contractor General Dynamics - a fox now in charge of the henhouse. The weapon he was describing is "intended to cause heating and intolerable pain in less than five seconds," as described in this Australian newspaper account.

And guess which company is one of the world's leaders in military microwave technology? General Dynamics. So you can rest assured that Wynne's very knowledgeable about this technology's intended use here and abroad, both by the military and other agencies.

Microwave beam devices are just one of a number of new weapons under development that could be used against US crowds. This article in Defense Update magazine describes the variety of anti-personnel energy weapons being developed by the Department of Defense. These include the Laser Induced Plasma Channel (LIPC) pictured above, which can "work like 'artificial lightning' to disable human targets" and "can be adjusted for non-lethal or lethal use."

Other weapons being developed include the "Pulsed Energy Projectile" (PEP) device which, as New Scientist explains, "delivers a bout of excruciating pain from up to 2 kilometres away." New Scientist observes that "pain researchers are furious that (medical research) aimed at controlling pain has been used to develop a weapon," adding that "they fear that the technology will be used for torture."

The Wynne story came and went so quickly that radio journalist Charles Goyette from KFNX in Phoenix tried to follow up. An interview was scheduled with the Air Force Secretary's spokesman, USAF Major Aaron Burgstein, to get elaboration on the Secretary's remarks. But Burgstein cancelled at the last minute without explanation.

Burgstein's email to Goyette added that "SECAR (Wynne) is not advocating using non-lethal weapons on the American public," just that they be "fully tested first before they're employed overseas" because our enemy "uses any and all opportunities to wage a propaganda war."

Sounds benign enough. Unfortunately, it directly contradicts what Wynne actually said. "If we're not willing to use it here against our fellow citizens," said Wynne, "then we should not be willing to use it in a wartime situation."

"If they are used in the US," Burgstein wrote Goyette, "it would be by the police, not the military." Burgstein equates these energy beams to tasers, perhaps unaware of the controversy surrounding a number of taser injuries and deaths.

Wynne, a major defense contractor turned Pentagon insider, tipped his hand. Pentagon planners intend to use high-tech weapons on Americans before turning them on Iraqis, either directly or by making the technology available to police and other agencies. And that's not a new story, either. ABC News reported in 2004 that there were active discussions to use sonic weaponry against demonstrators during the Republican National Convention in New York. When in "weapon" mode, the "LRAD" (long range acoustic device) "blasts a tightly controlled stream of caustic sound that can be turned up to high enough levels to trigger nausea or possibly fainting."

Sounds like waterboarding, doesn't it? It too would pass the Gonzales test of not "duplicating the pain associated with major organ failure" (assuming anyone has done a study comparing the two levels of pain.) As it turned out, there were no reports of LRADs being used against demonstrators in 2004, although many citizens were illegally detained during a temporary suspension of civil liberties on the streets of New York. (The city was eventually fined for mass violations of due process.)

As for the microwave beam, New Scientist reported that when it was tested, "experimenters banned glasses and contact lenses to prevent possible eye damage to the subjects, and in the second and third tests removed any metallic objects such as coins and keys to stop hot spots being created on the skin. They also checked the volunteers' clothes for certain seams, buttons and zips which might also cause hot spots."

In other words, this beam doesn't only inflict agony on its targets. If you can't move out of the way quickly enough it can cause serious burns and potentially even fuse contact lenses onto their wearers' eyeballs.

Goyette stayed on this story long enough for me to realize that I had missed its real significance. He's understandably struck by how quickly the Secretary's remarks seem to have been forgotten. I am, too, but I think I understand. This government is dismantling the world as we know it at an unprecendented rate. The suspension of civil liberties and the codifying of torture into law are only two examples. It's becoming increasingly difficult for many people to keep up with the pace of change while its happening, either psychologically or cognitively.

These revelations about mass "torture technology," and the Secretary's remarks, need to be viewed in the context of our collective "future shock." This Administration - which illegally uses the military to spy on Quaker peace demonstrators, violates laws and the Constitution with impunity, and degrades its country through torture - is literally capable of anything.

The idea of subjecting demonstrating Americans to group torture may seem unthinkable today. Yet a few years ago we couldn't have imagined that our government woul ban public demonstrations by forcing protesters into "Free Speech Zones" behind fences, miles away from other Americans. The unimaginable has now become real. This is only the next logical step, and it could happen soon.

Welcome to the Brave New America. Be careful out there.

Copyright 2006 ©, LLC


A Confession for The Week

Yes: I have been goofing off. At least I haven’t been posting as regularly as I used to do.

I’m burned out; maybe overwhelmed is a better term. Things don’t seem to be getting better. I think they’re getting worse. We watched the so-called “maverick Republicans” cave in to our tin-horn president. McCain is tossing around the idea of running in 2008, and to do so is going to require the support of the Bush-Cheney Junta. That means he has to take a dive about torture. Otherwise, no support, maybe no money.

The Democrats are about as outspoken as mushrooms and about equally dynamic. The once-bright rising star, Obama, is sounding more and more like a centrist Republican (if there were any left), another Clinton-ista. If Obama and Hillary C. are the two top presidential contenders from the Democratic Party, we’ll be involved in the Middle East for the next twenty years. The Empire Strikes Back and—I hope—Strikes Out. But maybe not.

I want to say, “Screw this: it’s hopeless.” I think it is pretty hopeless. America is locked onto a course that only leads downward. Maybe it’s karmic: this is what we all get for our white-washed history of slavery and genocide. Time for another system without the U.S. acting as Boss Hog. I’m too old to go much farther trying to change things. If the younger folks can’t or won’t do it, screw it. Another twenty-or-so years and I’ll be out of here. The only reason to speak up now is to not go gentle into that dark night.

The upraised middle finger is about all I have left.

Monday, September 18, 2006


Fashion Models Rejected: Too Thin

The world is not totally insane: Spain just proved that by banning too-thin fashion models.

Spanish fashion show carries out threat to ban too-thin models
Last Updated Sat, 16 Sep 2006 22:19:45 EDT
The Associated Press
Organizers of Spain's top annual fashion show on Saturday rejected five models as being too thin to appear in this year's event.

The show, known as the Pasarela Cibeles, had decided earlier this month not to allow women below a predetermined body mass index to parade down the catwalk.


Boom and Bust Repeats Itself

Boom-and-bust: the story of the West. Mining, silicon and computer electronics, land, logging, railroads, chinchilla farming, ostrich farming...Out here in our western states, the hills alive with the sound of—ghost towns. Within forty miles of here there are probably two dozen town-sites that are nothing but grazing land or scrub timber. Lamonta, Grizzly, Cloverdale, Shevlin, Opal City, and Plainview are the first five I can think of. Logging, railroad construction boom-towns, dry-land farming, homesteading. The farther east you go, out into the high desert, the more ghost towns. Same to the south. It's been the history since 1849.

It won't quit being our history, either. It's like the lottery: the hope of "getting in on the ground floor" is the dream. Pretty much the way the American Dream has turned out. These days, the dream has most recently been about making money off the housing market. Buy cheap, sell dear. People always need housing. As Mark Tramant points out in his essay, though, housing prices have climbed three times faster than median wages. Scores of forked tongue mortgage brokers and real estate sales people have hustled people into buying homes way way beyond their incomes—the idea being the market and demand would forever climb... New homes, built on spec, have been sprouting like weeds after a rain. There are dozens and dozens of them available around here, all new ones. People built and bought them for investments.

Uh-oh. What if you built a house and nobody bought it? It's the same all over the place: Portland, Seattle, Bend, name a fair-sized western city and think "subdivisions." They built, it would seem, too many. In Bend, the only growing sector of the job market is tactfully called service. Janitors, maids, restaurant staff, clerks. Used to be logging and sawmills Waitresses and waiters can't afford three hundred thousand dollar houses; they can barely afford five hundred dollar a month apartments. Redmond, the next city downstream, less than twenty miles away, the median home price is maybe fifty thousand less. I'm still trying to figure out what the economy is around Redmond: Bend is, I guess. Redmond used to be potato farms. Neither city seems to have an industrial base. They're both built on speculation, really, in the housing market.

Uh-oh, again (and again).


Today's bust is all about credit

Sunday, September 17, 2000

I love listening to the stories people tell.

A few years ago: It was a yarn about the instant wealth won in the stock market. People like me, wage earners, were sharing the supposed inside information from their brokers. We knew something special; we could get in on a first stock offering before the crowd. We owned hundreds of shares in The Best-Ever-Investment Co. It was a sure bet, the promise of an early retirement. Thank you very much.

But life is funny. Dot-com riches morphed into a very old regional story.

Not long after the stock market bubble burst in 2001, a woman by the name of Gertrude Murphy died. She was 99 years old -- and the last resident of Lester, Wash.

Murphy moved to Lester in 1929 to work as a teacher. "The town was the largest community along the upper Green River," according to "Like nearby settlements, Lester was developed in the 1880s to house crews needed to help trains climb the steep grade to the Stampede Tunnel. Later, logging operations helped the small communities grow."

Lester, like so many other Northwest timber, railroad or mining towns, once had a bright future. Or so it seemed.

This region ought to be one where we are comfortable with the boom-and-bust cycle. It is inevitable -- and it is reflected in our stories. Yet when we are in the cycle (or nearing the end), we think this time it's different.

I certainly thought that in 2000 and 2001. I couldn't see the end of the cycle -- and even when it started to turn I kept thinking that any losses would be temporary. The boom was just in a temporary interruption, soon to return.

Last week the U.S. Senate heard testimony on "The Housing Bubble and Its Implication for the Economy."

"For the past five years, the housing market has been a steadfast leader in the U.S. economy," Thomas Stevens, president of National Association of Realtors, testified. "After five years of outstanding growth, the housing market is undergoing a period of adjustment and becoming more and more of a balanced market between buyers and sellers."

And make no mistake, he said: "Contrary to many reports, there is not a 'national housing bubble.' We were seeing home prices and mortgage debt servicing cost-to-income ratios increase to unhealthy levels in some housing markets, which precipitate an adjustment."

But what if it's not a housing bubble at all? What if we've been living through a credit bubble? I would define the credit bubble as an era when slick mortgage packages make the unaffordable home seem within reach no matter how much we've saved or how much we earn. (And savings is a twisted word here -- since Americans have a negative savings rate right now.)

At the same Senate hearing, Richard Brown, chief economist for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., had another take on the bubble.

What stands out in this housing boom is that average U.S. housing prices grew three times faster than disposable incomes.

How could that be? It became easier to tap into loans with adjustable rate mortgages or ARMS.

"Over 30 percent of all conventional mortgages closed in 2004 and 2005 were ARMs. The ARM share moderated to 25 percent by the second quarter of 2006," Brown said.

But among poorer-credit borrowing, or subprime loans, Brown said, "the share of ARMs was far higher, closer to 80 percent."

In other words: Eighty percent of the loans of the people who can least afford a house are facing enormous risk, escalating payments and possible defaults.

On top of that, a lot of loans were interest-only or worse, fixed payment plans that increased the principal owed on a house.

Brown said it's difficult to measure how many of these loans are out there -- but they "appear to have made as much as 40 to 50 percent of all loans securitized by private issuers of mortgage-backed securities during 2004 and 2005."

The FDIC economist says there are only two possible outcomes: A period of stagnation and weak housing prices or a sharp decline in housing prices "with severe adverse consequences for homeowners, lenders and the real estate sector as a whole."

Brown testified that the second alternative is "unlikely" for a variety of reasons. But before you celebrate, consider that a long period of price stagnation will be painful, too.

What stories do we tell about all this? For the past few years many people talked about how real estate investment was easy, profitable and certain. It was a sure bet, the promise of an early retirement. That's why this is not a housing bubble -- or a housing bust. We'll always need places to live. This is a credit bust. And, once again, this time the cycle matches our history.

Mark Trahant is editor of the editorial page. E-mail:

© 1998-2006 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Sunday, September 17, 2006


Iraq Reconstruction Money: Republicans Only

And more: no surprises here—Iraq was a conquest for the benefit of Bush’s and Cheney’s big contributors, more looting of the public purse. The hubris involved in the way this administration has handed out our money is unbelievable. It isn’t a Greek tragedy: it’s vaudeville, or a Carl Hiaasen novel.

I’d say “How dare these people be so arrogant?” but I don’t think there’s any use. The public is so used to graft and corruption—and eager to get a piece of the action as well—the only time anyone seems to care is when they feel deserving of a contract or two. Nothing about morality.

Sunday, September 17, 2006 - 12:00 AM

GOP loyalty dictated who would rebuild Iraq

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
The Washington Post

After the fall of Saddam Hussein's government in April 2003, the opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq attracted professionals, Arabic-speaking academics, development specialists and war-zone adventurers. But they had to get past Jim O'Beirne's Pentagon office before going to Baghdad.

To pass muster with O'Beirne, a political appointee, applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in postconflict reconstruction. They did need, however, to be a member of the Republican Party.

O'Beirne's staff posed blunt questions about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade.

Many of those chosen to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which ran Iraq's government from April 2003 to June 2004, lacked vital skills and experience. A 24-year-old who never had worked in finance was sent to reopen Baghdad's stock exchange. The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq's $13 billion budget, even though they had no accounting background.

The decision to send the loyal and the willing instead of the best and the brightest now is regarded by many people involved in the 3 ½-year effort to stabilize and rebuild Iraq as one of the Bush administration's gravest errors. Many selected because of their political fidelity spent their time trying to impose a conservative agenda on the postwar occupation that sidetracked more important efforts and squandered good will among Iraqis.

About the report

This account was adapted from the book "Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside the Green Zone," by former Washington Post Baghdad bureau chief and now assistant managing editor Rajiv Chandrasekaran.

One former CPA employee who had an office near O'Beirne's wrote an e-mail to a friend describing the recruitment process: "I watched résumés of immensely talented individuals who had sought out CPA to help the country thrown in the trash because their adherence to 'the President's vision for Iraq' [a frequently heard phrase at CPA] was 'uncertain.' I saw senior civil servants from agencies like Treasury, Energy ... and Commerce denied advisory positions in Baghdad that were instead handed to prominent RNC [Republican National Committee] contributors."


The hiring of Bremer's most senior advisers was settled upon at the highest levels of the White House and the Pentagon. Some, like Foley, were personally recruited by Bush.

Others received jobs because an influential Republican made a call.***


Environmentally-friendly Warfare??

Again: the existence of the absurd is a constant; irony is a lost art; peace is war, destruction is construction, warfare is good for the environment…

No link on this, but who knows? It’s the London Times, by the way.

If it wasn't for stories like this, I would have gone apeshit years ago.

The Sunday Times September 17, 2006

Watch out, Sarge! It's environmentally friendly fire
Jon Ungoed-Thomas

BAE SYSTEMS, one of the world’s biggest arms manufacturers, is designing a new generation of “green” munitions, including “lead-free” bullets and rockets with reduced toxins.

It also wants to cut the dangerous compounds in its jets, fighting vehicles and artillery, which it warns “can harm the environment and pose a risk to people”.

The initiative is being backed by the Ministry of Defence, which has proposed quieter warheads to reduce noise pollution and grenades that produce less smoke. There have even been experiments to see if explosives can be turned into manure.

Dr Debbie Allen, director of corporate social responsibility at BAE systems, said that although it might seem strange to have a green policy for munitions, it was important to consider the environmental impact of all products.

“Weapons are going to be used and when they are, we try to make them as safe for the user as possible, to limit the collateral damage and to impact as little as possible on the environment,” she said.

BAE’s policy reflects the eagerness among big companies to trumpet their environmental concerns. The concept of “green munitions” has, however, infuriated campaigners opposed to the arms trade.

“This is laughable,” said Symon Hill of Campaign Against Arms Trade. “BAE is determined to try to make itself look ethical, but they make weapons to kill people and it’s utterly ridiculous to suggest they are environmentally friendly.”

During the Iraq war, Britain dropped more than 900 bombs while the United States has admitted dropping 1,500 cluster bombs, which detonate numerous explosions over a large area, and anti-landmine campaigners have sought to ban them. The exact death toll is unknown.

Both countries say they want to ensure their weapons are in future more sustainable and environmentally friendly. BAE stopped using depleted uranium in its weapons in 2003, but an expert panel now reviews all its products to ensure materials and manufacturing processes are as green as possible. Its arsenal and environmental practices now include:

# Bullets with lower lead content because, as the company states on its website, “lead used in ammunition can harm the environment and pose a risk to people”. BAE says its plantin Radway Green, near Crewe, has been working on eliminating lead from its bullets altogether.

# Armoured vehicles with lower carbon emissions. The company is using “hybrid” engines, which can be powered by batteries as well as conventional diesel engines.

# Weaponry with fewer toxins. BAE is working to reduce Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and other hazardous, and often carcinogenic, chemicals in its products.

# Safer and sustainable artillery. The company has started manufacturing “insensitive” shell explosives at its plant in Glascoed in south Wales. They do not blow up accidentally and have an unlimited shelf life, reducing the need for disposal.

# Energy saving measures and recycling, including experimenting with turning waste explosives into compost.

Copyright 2006 Times Newspapers Ltd.

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