Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Friday, August 31, 2007

Year Zero - The Silent Death of Cambodia

Oh. My. God. And it took the VIETNAMESE to finally put an end to the Khmer Rouge!


John Pilger vividly reveals the brutality and murderous political ambitions of the Pol Pot / Khmer Rouge totalitarian regime which bought genocide and despair to the people of Cambodia while neighboring countries, including Australia, shamefully ignored the immense human suffering and unspeakable crimes that bloodied this once beautiful country..

A Documentary Film By John Pilger - Runtime 59 Minutes - Produced 1979

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

July 17, 2007 Executive Order

Is this EO another building block in Bush's police state? With aggressive EO's and NSPD's, he has ostensibly given himself dominion over everyone and everything in this country. Question is: Will there be some tragic "event" that will "permit" Bush to exercise those powers? For America's and for freedom's sake, let's hope not. I'm not optimistic.

Bush Executive Order: Criminalizing the Antiwar Movement

Dandelion Salad
by Prof. Michel Chossudovsky
Global Research, July 20, 2007

A presidential Executive Order issued on July 17th, repeals with the stroke of a pen the right to dissent and oppose the Iraq war.

In substance, the Executive Order entitled “Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq” provides the President with the authority to confiscate the assets of “certain persons” who oppose the US led war in Iraq:

“I have issued an Executive Order blocking property of persons determined to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq or undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people.”

The Executive Order criminalizes the antiwar movement. It is intended to “blocking property” of US citizens and nationals. It targets those “Certain Persons” in America who oppose the Bush Administration’s “peace and stability” program in Iraq, characterized, in plain English, by an illegal occupation and the continued killing of innocent civilians.

The Executive Order also targets those “Certain Persons” who are “undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction”, or who, again in plain English, are opposed to the confiscation and privatization of Iraq’s oil resources, on behalf of the Anglo-American oil giants.
The order is also intended for anybody who opposes Bush’s program of “political reform in Iraq”, in other words, who questions the legitimacy of an Iraqi “government” installed by the occupation forces.

Moreover, those persons or nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), who provide bona fide humanitarian aid to Iraqi civilians, and who are not approved by the US Military or its lackeys in the US sponsored Iraqi puppet government are also liable to have their financial assets confiscated.

The executive order violates the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the US Constitution. It repeals one of the fundamental tenets of US democracy, which is the right to free expression and dissent. The order has not been the object of discussion in the US Congress. So far, it has not been addressed by the US antiwar movement, in terms of a formal statement.

Apart from a bland Associated Press wire report, which presents the executive order as “an authority to use financial sanctions”, there has virtually no media coverage or commentary of a presidential decision which strikes at the heart of the US Constitution..

Broader implications

The criminalization of the State is when the sitting President and Vice President use and abuse their authority through executive orders, presidential directives or otherwise to define “who are the criminals” when in fact they they are the criminals.

This latest executive order criminalizes the peace movement. It must be viewed in relation to various pieces of “anti-terrorist” legislation, the gamut of presidential and national security directives, etc., which are ultimately geared towards repealing constitutional government in the case of an impending “national emergency”.

The war criminals in high office are intent upon repressing all forms of dissent which question the legitimacy of the war in Iraq. The executive order combined with the existing anti terrorist legislation is eventually intended to be used against the anti-war and civil rights movements. It can be used to seize the assets of antiwar groups in America as well as block the property and activities of non-governmental humanitarian organizations providing relief in Iraq, seizing the assets of alternative media involved in a critique of the US-led war, etc.

In May 2007, Bush issued a major presidential National Security Directive (National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive NSPD 51/HSPD 20), which would suspend constitutional government and instate broad dictatorial powers under martial law in the case of a “Catastrophic Emergency” (Second 9/11 terrorist attack.)

On July 11, 2007 the CIA published its National Intelligence Estimate which pointed to an imminent Al Qaeda attack on America, a second 9/11 which would according to NSPD 51 immediately be followed by the suspension of constitutional government.

NSPD 51 grants unprecedented powers to the Presidency and the Department of Homeland Security, overriding the foundations of Constitutional government. It allows the sitting president to declare a “national emergency” without Congressional approval. The adoption of NSPD 51 would lead to the de facto closing down of the Legislature and the militarization of justice and law enforcement.

The executive order to confiscate the assets of antiwar/peace activists is broadly consistent with NSPD 51. It could be triggered even in the absence of a “Catastrophic emergency” as envisaged under NSPD 51. It goes one step further in “criminalizing” all forms of opposition and dissent to the US led war and “Homeland Security” agenda.


Message to the Congress of the US Regarding International Emergency Economic Powers Act + Executive Order: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq by George Bush

The Legal Pervert’s Parade: Executive Privilege Über Alles + Bringing It All Back Home: New Bush Order Could Criminalize Dissent by Chris Floyd

The Dogs of Connaught by Glitzqueen

Bush Pens Dictatorship Directive, Few Notice by Kurt Nimmo

Bush To Be Dictator In A Catastrophic Emergency by Lee Rogers (Martial Law; Police State)

National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD 51 READ THIS CLOSELY

US government fans homeland terrorism fear-plans for martial law, nuclear terror by Larry Chin

Police State

Michel Chossudovsky is the author of the international best America’s “War on Terrorism” Second Edition, Global Research, 2005. He is Professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa and Director of the Center for Research on Globalization.

To order Chossudovsky’s book America’s “War on Terrorism”, click here
Global Research Articles by Michel Chossudovsky

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

John Pilger - Freedom Next Time video

The truth can be painful. Now THIS, is MUST-SEE TV.

John Pilger - Freedom Next Time

43 min 43 sec - Jun 16, 2007
Average rating: (89 ratings)
Description: Australian journalist, author, film maker John Pilger speaks about global media consolidation, war by journalism, US military's quest for domination/hegemony in the post 9/11 era, false history in the guise of 'objective' journalism. Filmed in Chicago at Socialism 2007: Socialism for the 21st Century by Paul Hubbard. June 16, 2007 Broadcast on Democracy Now - The War and Peace Report - August 7, 2007

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Duck Ride

Jim Hightower on the Subprime Mortgage Disaster

Very good article from Jim explaining WTF is going on...

The Subprime Mortgage Disaster: Loan Sharks Wreak Havoc on Main Street and Wall Street
By Jim Hightower
Hightower Lowdown
Wednesday 22 August 2007

One of the most dramatic stories from the New Testament is of the time that Jesus encountered money changers in the temple. Enraged by their usury and sacrilege, he went on a tear - overturning their tables, physically driving them out and chastising them for converting the temple into a "den of robbers." The Bible doesn't say where these bloodsucking lenders went, but now we know: They have re-emerged in recent years to set up their tables right here in America, working a dark alley of homeowner financing called the "subprime mortgage market." The what? Don't be deterred by the finance industry's jargon (which is intended to numb your brain and keep regular folks from even trying to figure out what's going on). At its core, this is a classically simple story of banker greed and outright sleaze. And the astonishing part is that nearly all of the rank injustice perpetrated by today's money changers is considered legal and is practiced by supposedly reputable financial firms.

That's when avaricious mortgage hucksters and high-finance manipulators looked upon this broad pool of needy, vulnerable castoffs and suddenly shouted, "Eureka, GOLD!" With interest rates remarkably low, housing prices seemingly on a nonstop rise, and (this is the Big One) practically no regulation of this low-income market, the money changers promptly began to devise clever, Enronian schemes to entice such "subprime" borrowers into high-interest, high-fee loans. Never mind that these families really could not afford (and mostly did not understand) the level of debt being piled on their backs. That was a matter for manana. Today was for raking in profits from the poor.

The subprime schemes are run through an intricate, intertwined system of loan brokers, mortgage lenders, Wall Street trusts, hedge funds, offshore tax havens and other predators. To entrap borrowers, the industry created an arsenal of arcane financial devices and maneuvers known by such exotic names as "exploding ARMs," YSPs, teaser rates, low-doc mortgages, loan flipping and equity stripping. Ultimately, these schemes are scams, extracting high payments from the families, sucking out any equity they might build up and stealing their homes.

This is one of those economic stories, like the savings-and-loan scam of the 1980s, that are usually buried back in the business section of newspapers. But, just as with the S&L collapse, this debacle is growing too big to contain, and all of us need to be paying attention. The built-in traps of the subprime mortgage market have already taken the homes of more than a million people in just the past year, and the dangers are quickly rising for millions more. This collapse in homeownership for the working poor has begun seeping into the rest of the economy, causing thousands of job losses, shaking the soundness and reputations of some major Wall Street firms, and slowly - ever so sloooowly - forcing lackadaisical bank regulators and clueless politicians out of their laissez-faire stupor.

How It Works

You might have seen some of the come-ons: "Bad Credit? No Problem!" "Zero Percent Down Payment!" "Creative Financing!" "No Documentation Needed!" "Quick and Easy Money!"

The key to building the subprime market is hustle and flimflam-trying to rush anxious, uninformed people into signing on the dotted line for what they're assured is the deal of a lifetime. Of course, the mortgage industry casts its work in a noble light, asserting that its primary purpose is to help extend the joys of homeownership to the masses. But an examination of key players reveals little altruism.

BROKERS. These are independent, local operators who troll for borrowers in your town and mine, using flyers, doorbells, phone calls, personal contacts, websites, late-night TV ads, data banks and every means imaginable to get low-wage renters to sit still for a home-loan sales pitch or to find vulnerable homeowners who can be talked into taking out a refinancing loan. Brokers don't actually make the loans, service them or have any stake in whether the deals work out. Rather, they are simply "finders" who are paid an upfront fee by the mortgage lenders for every borrower they deliver. And 71 percent of all subprime mortgages come through them.

The pretense is that the broker is the borrower's trusted advisor in the shark-infested waters of banking. Au contraire, Bubba. In most states, agents have no legal responsibility to represent a buyer's best interest. And, in fact, they don't, for the system gives brokers lucrative incentives to deceive borrowers.

Through a common practice called "steering," unsuspecting families are guided into the most expensive, riskiest subprime loans. For doing this dirty job, brokers are paid cash bonuses called "yield spread premiums" (YSPs) - though you would call them by their more common name: kickbacks. The Center for Responsible Lending reports that these YSP payoffs, averaging $1,850 per loan, are added to about 90 percent of all subprime loans. That's right, struggling families are silently assessed an extra fee for being secretly steered into a loan with higher interest rates and worse terms than they're entitled to get. They're literally being robbed by their bankers.

LENDERS. These are the brand-name players you might recognize. They include nonbank lenders - for example, New Century Financial, Ameriquest, Option One, Countrywide and Ownit Mortgage Solutions - that sprang up to tap into the new subprime gold rush, and several of them are now bankrupt or under investigation. Many big banking firms, including Wells Fargo, Lehman Brothers and Citigroup, also joined the free-for-all by setting up their own subprime subsidiaries.

Brokers are on the front lines, but the lenders are the ones who invented the scams that are bleeding borrowers. Only a decade ago, subprime loans were a mere fraction of the home-loan market. Today, these financial instruments are an $800 billion business - about 20 percent of all housing loans.

How did the subprime market mushroom? The lenders - again, they are not subject to regulation - drastically and deceptively lowered normal banking standards to draw in low-income borrowers. As one broker says, "The culture around all these subprime lenders has been, 'Hey, bring it to us. We'll make it happen.'" If a borrower can pay little or nothing down, recently had a bankruptcy, and doesn't have the income to keep up payments, the bankers say, "That's OK. Bring us that loan."

Rather than do due diligence, lenders cavalierly offer "low-doc" and "stated income" loans - i.e., they make little or no effort to document an applicant's ability to take on this burden, instead accepting almost anyone's word about having the income to meet monthly payments. "You could be dead and get a loan," says one broker.

The loans themselves are doozies, filled with numerous and nasty provisions that set unwitting borrowers up for failure. These are tucked into 20-page loan agreements written in legal gibberish. A friendly, reassuring, always smiling loan agent flips through the pages saying, "It's simple, just sign here ... and here ... and here." Among the nasties are:

TEASERS. Subprime interest rates are loudly advertised to be only 7 percent or so, with only small-type notice that these are "adjustable rate mortgages" (ARMs). This means that the interest rate will explode to 11 percent or more after a couple of years, causing the families' monthly payments to jump by half or more. Over 90 percent of subprime loans contain ARMs.

BLOATED APPRAISALS. Subprime lenders are notorious for pressuring appraisers to inflate the value of a house, thus causing the borrower to take out a bigger loan than the house is worth.

HIDE-THE-ESCROW. In conventional loans, the borrower's property taxes and mortgage insurance premiums are figured directly into the monthly loan payments, with these monies set aside in an escrow account. For subprime loans, however, lenders often don't include these costly items in the mortgage, thus making the loans appear more affordable than they really are. This leads to borrower shock (and sometimes default) when the tax and insurance bills arrive separately in the mailbox. At this point, ever-helpful lenders offer to refinance the loan, thus collecting additional fees.

EXCESSIVE FEES. On conventional mortgages, various lender fees typically total less than 1 percent of the loan amount. By contrast, subprime borrowers commonly are hit with fees (hidden in mortgage payments) totaling more than 5 percent.

PREPAYMENT PENALTIES. Obviously, it's in a borrower's interest to get out of an abusive subprime loan as soon as possible and to refinance on better terms. But -Gotcha! - more than 70 percent of these loans carry a penalty fee of several thousand dollars for paying off the loan early. In the prime market, only about 2 percent of loans contain such punishment.

WALL STREET. None of the above would be happening (and certainly not on such a massive scale) if the fast-and-easy money crowd on Wall Street hadn't seen a chance to make a killing on lowly subprimers. Lured by the flow of sky-high interest rates being charged to these borrowers (and abetted by the lack of government regulation in this market), Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and other giants lumbered into the action.

They set up special investment units within their banks to buy these risky mortgages from the lenders. Then the Wall Street behemoths consolidated this bulk debt, leveraged it into complex IOUs called "mortgage-backed securities," and sold these packages to wealthy speculators around the world. This Rube Goldberg financial mechanism has shoved hundreds of billions of dollars of capital into the subprime market, fueling lenders' enthusiasm for making even more of these shaky loans.

What a system! Lenders mislead borrowers, collect fat fees from them, then shift the risk of any bad loans to Wall Street. The Wall Street repackagers then transfer the bad-loan risk to their rich investors, drawing even fatter fees. These investor elites get phenomenal yields on the IOUs, then plant their profits in tax-free havens like the Cayman Islands.

It's a brilliant Ponzi scheme ... as long as all those Mr. and Ms. Subprimes keep putting their little dabs of cash into it every month. Oops! There's the rub.

The Bust

Mr. and Ms. Subprime live on the economic edge, with little margin for financial downturns. In the last couple of years, three bad storms hit them. First, falling wages combined with growing inflation (fueled by rising prices for gasoline, utilities, healthcare, etc.) to squeeze their meager household finances to the breaking point. Second, their adjustable-rate mortgages began exploding; someone who was paying $1,000 a month at the start of a $150,000 loan had to pay $1,400 a month two years later.

Third, housing prices (which the whole system claimed would only rise and rise and rise) began tumbling, making it impossible for these borrowers to refinance or sell their homes to avoid financial foreclosure. When home sales were booming, George W declared this proved that his push for economic deregulation was creating a glorious new "ownership society." He was so enthused that he even designated June as National Home Ownership Month. But his laissez-faire "success" turns out to be a house of cards. As one market analyst says, "The gain in home ownership over the last four or five years is almost entirely due to looser lending standards [for subprime mortgages]."

Those cards are now crashing down. In the first half of this year, home foreclosures are up by 41 percent. Today, a record number of subprime borrowers have fallen behind in their monthly payments and face eviction (once you fall 90 days behind, lenders typically proceed with foreclosure). More than $2.28 trillion worth of ARMs are scheduled to explode to their higher interest rates between now and 2009. Two million families are expected to have the wrenching experience of losing their homes, as well as losing all the money they invested in them.

All of this is working its way up the economic chain. More than 80 lenders have gone out of business in the past six months, thousands of jobs are being cut, and hundreds of thousands of houses are being dumped on an already-saturated market (causing a further decline in prices, which makes other subprime homeowners even more vulnerable to foreclosure, which dumps more houses onto the market ... and the downward spiral continues).

Wall Street big shots are being stung as well. Bear Stearns, for example, has had to scramble to keep its two subprime hedge funds from imploding, bailing out one of them with a panic infusion of $1.6 billion. Analysts estimate that these funds are holding more than $200 billion worth of subprime loans that are in danger of default.

Regulatory Shame

This abuse of vulnerable families and the resulting economic mess would not have happened without the hands-off regulatory ideology that has infected our government. There are no less than five financial agencies at the federal level that could have protected people, yet the subprime surge was allowed to proceed on the fantasy that the financial players would police themselves. The Federal Reserve Board, for example, has direct authority under the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act to "prohibit acts or practices in connection with mortgage loans that the board finds to be unfair, deceptive or ... associated with abusive lending practices, or that are otherwise not in the interest of the borrower." The Fed simply ignored this law.

Finally, with the entire subprime system crashing around them, the regulators issued "guidelines" on June 29 requiring banks to stop some of the worst abuses, including prepayment penalties. But the new rules still allow many of the predatory practices and - worst of all - do not apply to the nonbank lenders that make a large share of subprime loans. In addition, the guidelines do not directly address the role of Wall Street in pushing such loans.

The subprime industry disingenuously asserts that any attempt to regulate it only hurts the poor people who receive these mortgages, for they have nowhere else to turn for homeowner financing. What self-serving hogwash! There could be subprime loans - from public, if not private, sources - structured and administered without deceit. Rather than target lower-income families as suckers to be had, packaging their dreams into investment playthings for speculators and tax dodgers, let's view these folks as assets to the larger community and realize that homes for them are investments in the common good. And while we're at it, let's recognize that the need for "subprime" mortgages is driven by our low-wage/no-benefit economy and by our country's growing scarcity of affordable housing. It's not merely a low-income mortgage system that must be fixed - our leaders' pursuit of a low-income America must be stopped.

From "The Hightower Lowdown," edited by Jim Hightower and Phillip Frazer, Aug. 2007. Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker and author of Thieves In High Places: They've Stolen Our Country And It's Time to Take It Back.

Siegelman jailing a political conspiracy?

Woah, this may be one of the reasons that Rove resigned. It could very well be that some of the emails that the Bush Gang is hiding will implicate Rove in a political conspiracy to "get" Siegelman back in 2002. Talk about political corruption! Manipulating the US Attorneys to frame up and actually put the Governor in jail? Talk about your abuse of power! Would anyone be surprised at how deep the corruption of the Bush Gang goes?

Inquiry will prove GOP conspiracy, Siegelman says
By Bob JohnsonThe Associated Press

Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman says in a letter from federal prison that he is confident his conviction will be overturned and a congressional probe will show that Republican politics was behind the investigation of his Democratic administration.

Siegelman, in a handwritten letter to The Associated Press received Monday, said he believes former presidential aide Karl Rove was behind the federal investigation.

"I am also encouraged by The Congressional inquiry and upcoming investigation which should prove the political involvement and establish this Alabama case as the 'Watergate of 2008,'" Siegelman wrote.

Responding to questions in a letter sent by AP to Siegelman at the federal prison in Oakdale, La., the veteran political figure said, "You asked how I'm doing? I'm fine! My spirits have been uplifted because of my friends' prayers, letters and action. I am blessed and I give thanks to God many times each day."

Federal prosecutors have denied that Rove or anyone in the Bush administration had any influence over the Justice Department's prosecution of the Democratic governor. Prosecutor Steve Feaga said Monday he's confident the convictions of Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy will be upheld on appeal.

Feaga called Siegelman's letter "typical jailhouse correspondence."

Siegelman and Scrushy were convicted last year of bribery and other government corruption charges. In the key charge, Siegelman was accused of appointing Scrushy to an influential hospital regulatory board in exchange for Scrushy arranging $500,000 in contributions to Siegelman's campaign for a state lottery.

Attorneys for both Siegelman and Scrushy have filed notice of appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and are seeking their release while the appeal is pending.

In his letter, Siegelman expresses confidence he will be vindicated.

"Based on established law recognized in previous cases by The U.S. Supreme Court and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, I believe this 'Alabama Case' will be vacated or reversed with little delay," Siegelman wrote.

Near the end of the five-page letter, written in easy-to-read script on white stationery, Siegelman indicates he wants to be a political player again in Alabama.

"I have learned a great deal about our prosecutorial, judicial and penal system and will be seeking changes, when the time comes, to help balance the scales of justice once again," he wrote.

Siegelman, 61, was sentenced June 28 to more than seven years in prison and Scrushy, 54, to almost seven years. Both were immediately taken into custody. Scrushy is serving his sentence at the federal prison in Beaumont, Texas.

In the motion seeking Siegelman's release, his attorneys argued that his conviction should be overturned because prosecutors did not prove that there was a "quid pro quo" agreement between Siegelman and Scrushy, which the motion said is required in bribery cases.

"If the 11th Circuit will follow the law and exercise common sense, there's no question the governor will be released immediately and this case will be over," defense attorney David McDonald said Monday.

Feaga, one of the career prosecutors who handled the case, said Siegelman "was prosecuted and convicted because he committed multiple acts of corruption while he was governor."

"We are confident that any review of this process will reach the same conclusion that has been reached by everyone that has reviewed it to date," he said.

Siegelman was acquitted on 25 of the 32 charges against him. He was convicted on six charges related to the Scrushy contribution and one charge of obstruction of justice involving money for a motorcycle.

The House Judiciary Committee's chairman has asked the Justice Department for documents involving its prosecution of Siegelman.

Houston bars go smoke-free 9/1/07

I have no problem whatsoever with Houston bars and restaurants going smoke-free. I understand that you'll still be able to smoke outside, say, on a patio terrace at a restaurant, for instance, and there are a few other exceptions.

The wife and I are soooo glad we quit smoking almost seven years ago. We quit 11/11/00, in the middle of the contested Gore/Bush presidential election of 2000. We figured, if we can quit during this insane bullshit, we can stay quit. And we have. The amount of money we have saved is probably well over $15,000 by now, not to mention the (missing) wear-and-tear on our lungs and clothes and furniture and cars, etc. If any of you readers out there are still smoking, go ahead and give it up. You can do it, and you'll be glad you did.

What I DO have a problem with is Houston's efforts to shut down all the titty bars in town. Houston gained a worldwide reputation for titty bars, and we've had some of the finest anywhere, anytime, with some of the most beautiful women. I know it's rather exploitative, but the vast majority of these women were/are doing it totally voluntarily. They're not forced into this business. Ok, some actually may be, and those need to be shut down and the perpetrators prosecuted. Sexual slavery is wrong, wrong, wrong. These women are trading on their fitness and beauty, and women have done that thru the ages (probably). Certainly, titty bars are more blatant than the subtle getting-your-way-using-your-feminine-wiles kind of thing, but Houston is cutting off one of its legs by doing this. I think they're going to be successful at closing them down. They already put into place a "3-foot rule" a few years ago whereby you cannot touch the women and they cannot touch you, which is patently absurd.

I think within a year or two, you won't find any titty bars in the city. You'll have to go outside the city into the county (where you'll still be able to smoke in a bar or club), and the likelihood of getting fleeced increases exponentially out there.

Oh yeah, the smoking story...

Ruling keeps Houston's smoking ban on track
By MATT STILES, Houston Chronicle

A federal judge on Monday rejected bar owners' complaints about Houston's comprehensive smoking ban, allowing the new restrictions to take effect Saturday.

After a daylong hearing in which the bar owners sought a preliminary injunction against the ordinance, U.S. District Judge Gray Miller found that the city can regulate alcohol-selling businesses to protect the public health and welfare.

Miller said the plaintiffs, Crazy Frogs Saloon and the Houston Association of Alcoholic Beverage Permit Holders, did not meet the legal burden required for an injunction.

He also rejected claims that the city's ordinance, which extends the current ban from restaurants to the indoors of most public places, including bars, improperly or unfairly regulated the businesses. He also dismissed claims the ordinance was unconstitutionally vague.

"The city of Houston's smoking ordinance, in my view, does not conflict with the state law that regulates the sale of alcohol," Miller said. "The mere fact that Texas has enacted laws that regulate the sale of alcohol does not preclude the city from passing ordinances regarding establishments that serve alcohol. Otherwise, the city could not impose regulations, such as a health code or noise ordinances."

Mayor Bill White, who quit smoking cigarettes and cigars years ago, praised the decision late Monday.

"We will be going into a new era of protection of public health when the smoke-free rules go into effect," he said.

White urged Houstonians to quit, noting the negative health effects and high costs of smoking, and he pledged to abandon his habit of occasionally chewing on cigars.

Inspectors get training

The city recently hired a second smoking enforcement officer, according to Jeff Conn, who had been the only smoking inspector. Conn also trained restaurant inspectors last week to be on the lookout for smoking violations during routine inspections, he said. Those inspectors are allowed to issue smoking citations to managers, who generally are responsible for enforcing smoking laws in their establishments, but not smokers themselves.

Kathy Patrick, a private attorney who agreed to handle the case pro bono, said the city succeeded because the ordinance was clearly worded and understandable, and because City Council acted to protect the health of all Houstonians.

"The law is very clear that, when you're talking ordinances enacted to protect the public health, the plaintiffs bear a very high burden to prevent those regulations from going into effect," she said.

Plaintiff's attorney Al Van Huff declined to comment after the verdict.

In an opening statement and in court filings, Van Huff argued that the city's ordinance pre-empted state laws limiting the regulation of on-premises liquor consumption to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

The new ordinance has exceptions for certain businesses, including convention facilities, hotels, private rooms in nursing homes and stores and bars that do significant tobacco sales.

By offering exemptions to some liquor-selling establishments and not others, the city's ordinance creates an unfair competitive climate for Houston's bars, Van Huff said.

"The city is interfering in a pretty delicate framework," Van Huff told Miller.

Patrick disputed that.

"The Alcoholic Beverage Code regulates the sale of alcohol, and this is a regulation of smoking," she said. "The two are very different, and there was no argument really that the city didn't have a right to regulate smoking."

Later, Van Huff called Mary Price, who owns Crazy Frogs Saloon, which operates in a small island of city-annexed land near Willowbrook Mall surrounded by Harris County.

'A difficult choice'

Price said she feared her customers and employees may abandon her bar for smoking establishments in the county, which does not restrict smoking in bars.

"If this ban had passed statewide, I'd be happy," she said. "I really believe that all the bars in Houston are going to suffer."

Both White and Patrick, whose son suffers from asthma, said they sympathized with bar owners concerned about their businesses. But they also argued that having smoke-free operations might draw in new customers, and they said the overall public health of employees and patrons warranted the ordinance.

"It was a difficult choice," Patrick said, "but that's why we have elected city councils to balance all of that and decide what's in the interests of everyone."

City Councilwoman Carol Alvarado, a ban supporter who held hours of hearings on the ordinance last year before its adoption, issued a statement praising the ruling.

"I want to thank Kathy Patrick and her team for doing a phenomenal job representing the City of Houston and for taking time out of their busy schedule to provide pro bono services on a lawsuit I believe was a waste of time and tax-paying dollars. Other cities have passed similar ordinances to protect their residents from the health hazards of secondhand smoke."

Chronicle reporter Alexis Grant contributed to this story.

Joke of the Day

Fall-Down Drunk A man, whose level of drunkenness was bordering on the absurd, stood up to leave a bar and fell flat on his face.

"Maybe all I need is some fresh air," thought the man as he crawled outside.

He tried to stand up again, but fell face first into the mud.

"Screw it," he thought. "I'll just crawl home."

The next morning, his wife found him on the doorstep asleep.

"You went out drinking last night, didn't you?" she said.

"Uh, yes," he said sheepishly. "How did you know?"

"You left your wheelchair at the bar again."

Monday, August 27, 2007

Seeqpod - cool music site

You can't download any music from this site, but you can create your own playlists and save them. It's pretty heavy in the rock world, not so much in jazz. Also have video, spoken word, all sorts of things. Some wierd things, some incomplete things too. Lots of Beatles. Lots of Satriani. Lots of lots of things.

Very cool, and the audio quality is pretty good. It's a keeper.

Another Republican Pervert?

(Republican) Senator (Larry Craig) Pleads Guilty After Arrest at Airport

Senator Larry E. Craig, Republican of Idaho, pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge earlier this month after his arrest in June by an undercover police officer in a men’s bathroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Published: August 28, 2007

WASHINGTON, Aug. 27 — Senator Larry E. Craig, Republican of Idaho, pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge earlier this month after his arrest in June by an undercover police officer in a men’s bathroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

A second charge of interference with privacy against the 62-year-old senator was dismissed. Mr. Craig was fined more than $500 at the Aug. 8 proceedings and was placed on unsupervised probation for one year. His 10-day jail sentence was suspended, according to a copy of a court document in the case.

According to a police report obtained by Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper that disclosed the episode and guilty plea today, a plainclothes police officer investigating complaints of sexual activity in the bathroom arrested the senator on June 11 after what the officer described as sexual advances made by Mr. Craig from an adjoining stall.

Roll Call reported that the officer said Mr. Craig tapped his foot as a signal to engage in lewd conduct, brushed his foot against the investigator’s and waved his hand under the stall divider several times before the officer showed him his badge. After his arrest, the senator denied any sexual intent and in a statement issued this afternoon he attributed the matter to a misunderstanding.

“At the time of this incident, I complained to the police that they were misconstruing my actions,” Mr. Craig said in a statement. “I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct.
“I should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter. In hindsight, I should not have pled guilty. I was trying to handle this matter myself quickly and expeditiously.”

Mr. Craig, whose seat is up for election next year, is the second Republican senator in recent weeks to find his personal behavior under scrutiny. Senator David Vitter of Louisiana was implicated in a separate case in the Washington area when his phone number turned up in the records of an escort service. He made a public apology for what he described as “a very serious sin in my past,” but he has not been charged with any crime.

In the Senate, Mr. Craig, who is married and has three children, is known for his advocacy for the rights of gun owners and has a close association with the National Rifle Association. When Republicans controlled the Senate in the last Congress, Mr. Craig was chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. He is a former member of the party’s Senate leadership. He represented Idaho in the House before first winning election to an open Senate seat in 1990 and he was easily re-elected in 1996 and 2002.

In 2006, Mr. Craig publicly rejected allegations by a gay rights advocate that he had engaged in a homosexual behavior, calling them “completely ridiculous.”

Oh, OK, Senator, you say the police were "misconstruing" your actions? What exactly did you intend, then, by making physical contact under the stall? We're waiting. This should be good. Do you have an uncontrollable nervous tic? In your feet? Were you mapping out, with your feet, which way you needed to go thru the airport when you left the stall? What?

It's just amazing how many Republicans are perverts. No, I take that back. Not a pervert, because sexual urges are a very natural thing. But, to a man, they'll stand up for "family values" or "traditional values," WHILE THEY'RE TROLLING FOR SEX IN PUBLIC BATHROOMS!!

Geez, is every one of them a hypocrite? What is really amazing is that a prominant Senator such as LARRY CRAIG, REPUBLICAN of IDAHO, would be caught doing this when so many others in the REPUBLICAN PARTY are going down in flames. They just CANNOT SEEM TO CONTROL THEIR SEXUAL URGES, but they'll be the first to decry the decaying, perverse or homosexual culture.

Lord, deliver us from these hypo-Christians!

Paul Krugman - A Socialist Plot

Published: August 27, 2007

Suppose, for a moment, that the Heritage Foundation were to put out a press release attacking the liberal view that even children whose parents could afford to send them to private school should be entitled to free government-run education.

They’d have a point: many American families with middle-class incomes do send their kids to school at public expense, so taxpayers without school-age children subsidize families that do. And the effect is to displace the private sector: if public schools weren’t available, many families would pay for private schools instead.

So let’s end this un-American system and make education what it should be — a matter of individual responsibility and private enterprise. Oh, and we shouldn’t have any government mandates that force children to get educated, either. As a Republican presidential candidate might say, the future of America’s education system lies in free-market solutions, not socialist models.

O.K., in case you’re wondering, I haven’t lost my mind, I’m drawing an analogy. The real Heritage press release, titled “The Middle-Class Welfare Kid Next Door,” is an attack on proposals to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Such an expansion, says Heritage, will “displace private insurance with government-sponsored health care coverage.”

And Rudy Giuliani’s call for “free-market solutions, not socialist models” was about health care, not education.

But thinking about how we’d react if they said the same things about education helps dispel the fog of obfuscation right-wingers use to obscure the true nature of their position on children’s health.

The truth is that there’s no difference in principle between saying that every American child is entitled to an education and saying that every American child is entitled to adequate health care. It’s just a matter of historical accident that we think of access to free K-12 education as a basic right, but consider having the government pay children’s medical bills “welfare,“ with all the negative connotations that go with that term.

And conservative opposition to giving every child in this country access to health care is, in a fundamental sense, un-American.

Here’s what I mean: The great majority of Americans believe that everyone is entitled to a chance to make the most of his or her life. Even conservatives usually claim to believe that. For example, N. Gregory Mankiw, the former chairman of the Bush Council of Economic Advisers, contrasts the position of liberals, who he says believe in equality of outcomes, with that of conservatives, who he says believe that the goal of policy should be “to give everyone the same shot and not be surprised or concerned when outcomes differ wildly.”

But a child who doesn’t receive adequate health care, like a child who doesn’t receive an adequate education, doesn’t have the same shot — he or she doesn’t have the same chances in life as children who get both these things.

And insurance is crucial to receiving adequate health care. President Bush may think that lacking insurance is no problem — “I mean, people have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room” — but the reality is that the nine million children in America who don’t have health insurance often have unmet medical or dental needs, don’t have a regular place for medical care, and frequently have to delay care because of cost.

Now, the public understands the importance of health insurance, even if Mr. Bush doesn’t. According to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, an amazing 94 percent of the public regards the fact that many children in America lack health insurance as either a “serious” or a “very serious” problem.

So how can conservatives defend the indefensible, and oppose giving children the health care they need? By trying the old welfare queen in her Cadillac strategy (albeit without the racial innuendo that made it so effective when Reagan used it). That is, to divert public sympathy from people who really need help, they’re trying to change the subject to the supposedly undeserving recipients of government aid. Hence the emphasis on the evils of “middle-class welfare.”

Proponents of an expansion of children’s health care have, as they should, responded to this strategy with facts and figures. Congressional Budget Office estimates show that S-chip expansion would, in fact, primarily benefit those who need it most: the great majority of children receiving coverage under an expanded program would otherwise have been uninsured.

But the more fundamental response should be, so what?

We offer free education, and don’t worry about middle-class families getting benefits they don’t need, because that’s the only way to ensure that every child gets an education — and giving every child a fair chance is the American way. And we should guarantee health care to every child, for the same reason.

Alberto Gonzalez resigns

Well, it's about effin' time. I wonder what legal proceedings Gonzo is trying to sidestep, as the rats continue to abandon Bush's rotting ship?

I also wonder what crony Bush will appoint to replace Gonzalez? Probably won't even have a law degree.

Finally, I have to wonder how quickly the Dems will cave-in this time and allow all this to merely wash down the memory hole?

I long ago lost faith in the inept Democratic Party. The Republican Party should be retired into the annals of worst ever. I kinda wish I had a party I could be proud of, but I don't think that's possible in America.

Vick: I Found Jesus!


Didn't take him long, did it? If you haven't already professed your love for Jay-sus, and if you get caught doing something stupid or illegal, like Vick did, you can always trot out the "I found Jesus!" defense, and PEOPLE WILL BELIEVE IT!


And this is supposed to lighten your punishment? Didn't work with George W. Bush did it? Google Bush and "Karla Fay Tucker." And I guess the "I found Jesus" defense won't work for Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig, who was recently popped for soliciting sex in a mens bathroom in an airport. Craig had already - repeatedly - professed his love for Jay-sus. Now, Craig can simply say that God has forgiven him. WHAT A RACKET!

I found Jesus: Vick
Tuesday, August 28th 2007, 4:00 AM

Falcons quarterback Michael Vick apologizes for his involvement in dogfighting scandal yesterday after pleading guilty to animal cruelty charges in federal court in Virginia.

NFL superstar Michael Vick apologized yesterday for the first time over his role in a brutal dogfighting ring - and vowed to come back a better man.

"I offer my deepest apologies to everyone," the Atlanta Falcons quarterback said after pleading guilty in a Virginia federal court to animal cruelty charges. "And I will redeem myself. I have to."
Vick could face five years in prison for the torture killings of up to eight pit bulls that were hanged or drowned because they were underperforming in dogfights Vick was bankrolling.

The razzle-dazzle star - now a poster boy for animal cruelty - claimed the lurid accusations have helped him find religion.

"Through this situation, I found Jesus and asked him for forgiveness and turned my life over to God," said Vick, 27. "I think that's the right thing."

Vick will be sentenced Dec. 10; prosecutors recommended he get at least a year behind bars.
He has been suspended indefinitely from the National Football League and could face a lifetime ban for associating with gamblers.

"I made a mistake of using bad judgment and making bad decisions," said Vick, who signed a record $130 million contract in 2004. "Dogfighting is a terrible thing, and I do reject it."
The owner of the Falcons, Arthur Blank, said the team would not immediately cut Vick for contractual reasons. Blank suggested they were planning to dump him but wanted to force him to return part of his fat $22 million signing bonus.

Big-bucks sponsors like Nike, Upper Deck and Rawlings have also raced to end their partnerships with Vick over the stomach-turning charges. Vick spoke out for the first time about the accusations after he formally pleaded guilty in a Richmond, Va., federal courthouse. U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson warned he might impose the maximum sentence.

"You're taking your chances here," Hudson sternly told Vick. "You'll have to live with whatever decision I make." The spectacular case burst onto the public scene in late April when authorities conducting a drug investigation of Vick's cousin raided the former Virginia Tech star's country home and seized dozens of dogs.

Some of the animals showed telltale signs of abuse caused by fighting. Authorities also found equipment commonly used in dogfighting. Vick admitted taking part in the scheme to train the dogs for fighting and going along with the execution of subpar dogs at his Bad Newz Kennels.

He also rubbed elbows with gamblers, although he did not admit placing bets. "What I did was very immature," Vick said. "So that means I need to grow up."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Zeitgeist - the movie

It'll mess you up...

ZEITGEIST, The Movie - Official Release - Full Film

1 hr 56 min 23 sec - Jun 26, 2007
Description: ZEITGEIST, The Movie - Official Release - Full Production (including the 'Overture') What does Christianity, 911 and The Federal Reserve have in common? Overture: 0:00-9:34 Part 1: 9:35-35:53 Part 2: 35:54-1:09:16 Part 3: 1:09:17-1:56:23 Please visit for information and the full source list for this work.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Houston Facts

  • Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States - the downtown office population on any given day is 185,000 people with a total population of 5.4 million people in the SMSA (Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area)
  • Houston is ranked as the fourth best restaurant city in the United States by Wine Spectator and Esquire magazines
  • Houston is the most ethnically diverse city in the United States - with 83 consulates, Houston has the third largest consular corps in the nation
  • Houston's downtown residential population (including Midtown) is 18.600 people and growing rapidly
  • Each year more than 44 million people zip in and out of Houston's two major airports
  • Houston is one of only three cities in the United States with standing year-round symphony, opera and ballet. New York and San Francisco are the others
  • Houston has the second largest volume of theatre and performance art space (in terms of square footage) in the United States ranking only behind New York
  • Houston is home to the world's largest medical center employing 120,000 people. The Texas Medical Center is expected to double in size by 2012
  • Houston is the energy capital of the world
  • Houston's light rail links Downtown to the Museum District through the Texas Medical Center to Reliant Stadium/Astrodome complex
  • There are approximately 60,000 people within walking distance to the light rail with a stop adjacent to the Houston Pavilions site
  • Houston is home to the second largest petrochemical complex in the world
  • Houston ranks third in the nation in terms of the volume of fine arts museum space
  • The Houston Museum of Natural Science is the fourth most visited museum in the United States, ranking only behind the Smithsonian Institute, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the American Museum of Natural Science
  • Houston is home to the world headquarters of more Fortune 500 companies than any city in the United States other than New York
  • The Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau is projecting double-digit increases in conventions and conventioneers through 2010
  • Houston is the third largest port in the United States and is the nation's largest port in terms of foreign tonnage
  • Houston is home to NASA

Phil Rockstroh - A Disneyland of Military Ignorance

I'm on outrage overload these days. Going to pull in the horns and slip out of sight for awhile. May post things here on this blog, but you won't see much of me in the near future. I'm just so frustrated by politics these days - especially the Democrats who can't seem to argue their way out of a wet paper bag.

But here's an article I found that echoed many of my thoughts. This particular passage was striking:

snip is imperative that we let the world in on a dirty, little secret that many naive liberals have managed to lockout of their minds: (Bill) Clintonism was a continuation of Reaganism, sans the Grecian Formula and pomade.

Furthermore, Bill Clinton was the diametric opposite of FDR, not in personal style -- but in his administration's domestic policies and social priorities. While Roosevelt was accused of being a "traitor to his class," for betraying his aristocratic ilk, by the enacting of The New Deal, Bill Clinton, also, proved to be a traitor to his class, by betraying those who shared his laboring class beginnings, by means of his ruinous neo-liberal trade policies and his anything-for-the-boys-on-Wall-Street economics.

As far as his relationship with the nation's military/industrial complex, Clinton, because he had avoided military service during the Vietnam War, had to prove he wasn't a patchouli-reeking peacenik by constantly kowtowing to the Pentagon establishment.

Withal, the situation will be worse with Hillary, who, time and time again, will have to establish her macho credentials by bombing somebody, anybody, anytime and anywhere.

In this way, due to his charm, intelligence and his almost preternatural talent to feign empathy -- Bill Clinton was more dangerous than George W. Bush -- because Bush, at least, reveals to the world the true face of empire. Although, at present, most Americans are unwilling or unable to face our true face.

the rest of the article is here:

Best of luck to all. We're all going to need it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Nick Anderson toon

Old age no barrier to sex

Some good news? Hmmm....not sure...

Old age 'no barrier' to sex life

Seniors with a partner are more sexually active, the study found. Old age is not preventing people from enjoying active sex lives, researchers in the US have discovered. A survey of 3,005 Americans aged 57 to 85 revealed that people often remain sexually active into their eighties.

Health problems or lack of a partner, rather than lack of desire, were the most common barriers to having sex.

The researchers say their survey overturns stereotypical ideas about sex and ageing, an area that has been little studied.

"There are a lot of people who feel that age is very tightly correlated with sexual activity or interest," Professor Edward Laumann of the University of Chicago, one of the report's authors, told the BBC.

"But it turns out that healthy people are sexually active if they have a partner, and that this is an important part of the quality of life."

Sex with a partner in the last year was reported by:

73% of those aged 57 to 64
53% of those aged 64 to 75
26% of those aged 75 to 85

Of those who said they were sexually active, most said they were having sex at least two or three times a month. Half of the people surveyed up to age 75 said they had oral sex.

About half of the men and a quarter of the women said they masturbated, regardless of whether they had a sexual partner.

"This suggests that, among older adults, there is an internal drive or need for sexual fulfilment," said Stacy Tessler Lindau, the study's leader.

Research gap

The research highlights the importance of health on people's sex lives. People who rated their health as poor were less likely to be sexually active than people in good health. About half of the respondents said they had a "bothersome" sexual problem.

Among men, the most common problem was erectile difficulties. Fourteen percent of men said they used medicine or supplements to boost their sex lives. Women said lack of desire, difficulty with lubrication and inability to climax were their most common problems.

The survey helps fill a gap in research on sex and sexual attitudes among elderly people, say the researchers.

"People are living longer," said Dr Lindau. "Many people have higher expectations for what ageing should be like, and we spend billions on treating erectile problems. Yet we have no baseline data on sexuality on later life.

"These data will give people a sense of whether what they're experiencing is typical."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Scott Ritter - Why Cheney Really Is That Bad

Why Cheney Really Is That Bad
Posted on Aug 21, 2007

Karl Rove, interchangeably known as “Boy Genius” or “Turd Blossom,” has left the White House. The press conference announcing his decision to resign has been given front-page treatment by most major media outlets, but the fact of the matter is the buzz surrounding Rove’s departure is much ado about nothing, especially in terms of coming to grips with the remaining 16 months of the worst presidency in the history of the United States.

Rove is a domestic political marauder, the personification of a conservative movement which lacks a moral compass and has a complete disregard for facts. The master of exploiting mainstream America’s predilection for news-as-entertainment, under which the likes of Rupert Murdoch can manufacture headlines out of thin air, Rove helped turn “fair and balanced” into a national joke which everyone laughs at but few actually comprehend. Rove served as the maestro of a political-smear orchestra composed of such intellectually challenged muckrakers as Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, manipulating the NASCAR/professional wrestling crowd’s addiction to seedy gossip in an effort to maintain the all-important 51 percent majority needed to win elections.

Perhaps if the Democratic Party had possessed a semblance of organization and cohesion (not to mention a post-Clinton message that could be sold to a majority of America), then Rove would be but a footnote in history, known simply as the man who helped the worst governor in the history of Texas get elected. Even the self-destructive campaign run by Al Gore in 2000, in which he distanced himself from a sitting president who, despite all of his faults, would have defeated Bush in a landslide if the Constitution permitted a third term, was enough to deny Rove his beloved 51 percent—it was Gore, not Bush, who won the majority of votes in that contest. It took a Republican governor of Florida, backed by a compliant Supreme Court, to put George W. Bush into the White House, not any genius on the part of Rove.

“Bush’s Brain” may claim that it was his careful manipulation of fiction over fact that carried the 2004 election, in which the term became synonymous with political character assassination, but it was the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the war in Iraq which sank the Democratic Party and its candidate for president, John Kerry. It is very difficult to unseat a president in a time of war, especially when so many Democrats voted in favor of the concept, first by buying into every post-9/11 policy put forward by the Bush administration (find me one Democrat who actually read the Patriot Act in its entirety before it was voted into law) and second by rubber-stamping the lies that led to Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in March 2003. Remember, it was Kerry’s inarticulate defense of his decision to vote in favor of granting war powers to the president that sank his election hopes, not his Vietnam War record.

Certainly, Karl Rove played a significant behind-the-scenes role in supporting Bush’s war policies. The perjury trial of “Scooter” Libby forced the collective of deaf, dumb and blind pseudo-journalists who populate what is known as the mainstream media in America to recognize how pathetically duplicitous and petty the Bush administration could get when it came to defending the policies propping up the so-called Global War on Terror and the awful tragedy of Iraq. Rove’s fingerprints were all over the decision by Vice President Dick Cheney to leak CIA officer Valerie Plame’s name to the media in an effort to thwart the truth-telling of her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson.

But that is about as deep as Rove's involvement in the two issues that will define the presidency of George W. Bush gets. While Rove might be the "genius" behind the kind of winner-takes-all dirty politics that won the Republicans a majority in Texas (and brought down the likes of Tom "The Hammer" DeLay), he was way out of his depth when it came to the reality of national security policy. Unlike unsubstantiated rumors of wrongdoing which can stain a political opponent's record for the brief moment needed to gain political advantage, regardless of what the actual truth is, the never-ending flow of dead American service members from a war based on a foundation of lies cannot be overlooked indefinitely, even by the most subservient of media outlets.

Try as Rove and his political operatives might, one cannot forever suppress the images of flag-draped caskets, row upon row of white grave markers sprouting up in cemeteries across America, or the thousands of wounded veterans left to rot in hospitals, forgotten by an administration that, with few exceptions, never knew war and used the military as an electioneering prop. Eventually, those patriotic Americans who were fooled into believing there was actually some coherent planning behind the global conflict Bush had dispatched their youths to fight and die in were bound to get wise. Rove never had the depth needed to navigate such serious waters.

Being the Brain of the most vapid, intellectually shallow president ever creates an apt epitaph for Rove's tenure at the White House. The Bush administration has never won accolades for its substance. Its best frontman, Colin Powell, self-destructed in front of the U.N. Security Council in February 2003. Powell's nemesis, Donald Rumsfeld, followed suit shortly thereafter, unable to coherently explain where Saddam Hussein had hidden all those WMD we went to war for, and ultimately telling the average foot soldier to pound sand when it came to the lack of adequate equipment needed to fight and survive in occupied Iraq. Bush's singular appeal has been the impression of steadfastness in the eye of the storm, even if the storm is for the most part self-created. For this we must look not to "Bush's Brain," but instead peer deep into the dark recesses of the White House, where we can glimpse the awful "soul" of the president-Dick Cheney.

The vice president is the single greatest threat to American and international security in the world today. Not Osama Bin Laden. Not the ghost of Saddam Hussein. Not Ahmadinejad or Kim Jung Il. Not al-Qaida, the Taliban, or Jose Padilla himself. Not even George W. Bush can lay claim to this title. It is Dick Cheney's alone. Operating in a never-never land of constitutional ambiguity which exists between the office of the president and the Congress of the United States, Cheney's office has made its impact felt on the policies of the United States of America as had no vice president's office before him. Granted unprecedented oversight over national security and foreign policy by executive order in early 2001, many months prior to the terror attacks of 9/11, Cheney has single-handedly steered America away from being a nation among nations (albeit superior), operating (roughly) in accordance with the rule of law, and toward its present manifestation as the new Rome, a decadent imperial power bent on global domination whatever the cost.

The absolute worst of the rot that has infected America because of the policies and actions of the Bush administration has originated from the office of the vice president. The nonsensical response to the terror attacks of 9/11, seeking a “global war” versus defending the rule of law at home and abroad, taking the lead in spreading the lies that got us involved in Iraq, legitimizing torture as a tool of American jurisprudence, advocating for warrantless wiretappings of U.S.-based communications (regardless of what the Fourth Amendment says against illegal search and seizure), and pushing for an expansion of America’s global conflict into Iran—all can be traced back to the person of Cheney as the point of origin.

America today is very much engaged in a life-or-death struggle against the forces of evil. The enemy resides not abroad, however, but at home, vested in the highest offices of the land. Neither Osama Bin Laden nor Saddam Hussein threatened the life blood of the United States—the Constitution—to the extent that Cheney has. Not Hitler, Stalin, Mao or Ho Chi Minh. Not since the American Civil War has there been a constitutional crisis of the magnitude that exists today, threatening to rip the very fabric of American society apart at the seams, courtesy of Dick Cheney.

That Congress today remains relatively mute on this crisis is one of the great mysteries of our time. Perhaps the vagaries of national politics can be blamed. The Democratic majority in Congress appears to have ceded its leadership role to unelected presidential candidates who seem solely empowered to comment on current events, domestic or foreign, and who, out of fear of any misstep which could hurt their chances to seize the White House as their own, refuse to actually take a substantive stand against the policies of the Bush administration. In an effort that is curiously Rovian in the quest for electoral victory, the Democratic candidates (with a few notable exceptions) have been less than bold in their opposition to the heinous policies that are currently in place concerning Iraq, Iran, the war on terror, torture and constitutional violations—unless you count empty rhetoric.

In many ways, the leading Democrats, both those running for office and those currently holding office, are a far greater insult to American values than the conservative standard-bearers for the policies of Cheney. No one of substance takes seriously the manic ranting of the Hannity/Limbaugh/Coulter triad. These Democrats, on the other hand, have mastered the art of compromise to the point that they stand for nothing at all—this at a time in American history when the policies of the administration, derived from the dark abyss of Bush’s soul, Cheney, provide the most concrete example of what we as Americans should be standing against.

The Democrats need to stand for something. Cheney has provided the sort of political ammunition that would enable them to fight, and win, a constitutional battle over the heart of America, the kind of defining struggle which I believe the vast majority of Americans would rally around. Unless the Democrats start separating themselves from the policies of the Bush administration, and take an active role in outing and suppressing the true evil that is Dick Cheney, all they will achieve in the coming years is a change in the titular political orientation of America, without the kind of deep-seated break from the failures and crimes of the past six-plus years that have taken our nation, and the world, right up to the edge of chaos.

“Bush’s Brain” may be gone, but his “Soul” lives on. It is high time all of America put Dick Cheney fully in the spotlight of collective accountability, purging our nation of this scourge which has harmed us in so many ways. If there is any case for impeachment to be made against any member of the Bush administration today, it can be made against a vice president who has shamed our nation, destroyed our moral standing and broken our laws.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Harper's Weekly - 8/21/07

Jittery global markets brought on by the subprime mortgage crisis led the Federal Reserve to cut its discount rate on loans to banks by half a percentage point.1

Citing America's $1 trillion debt to China, Senator Joe Biden warned, “We have to get off that sucking off of that breast which is China.” 2

It was reported that a South Carolina small-parts supplier run by twin sisters had cheated the Pentagon out of $20.5 million in shipping costs; two 19-cent washers sent to an Army base in Texas, for instance, incurred a $998,798 charge.3

Jenna Bush, the younger of the President's twin daughters by one minute, got engaged to tobacco heir Henry Hager.4

Baptist pastor Wiley S. Drake instructed his Buena Park, California, congregation to pray for the deaths of two members of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “Let his days be few,” read the prayer, “and let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.”5

It emerged that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act will allow the National Security Agency to intercept telephone calls, emails, and other Internet communications made by British citizens across American networks.6

The CIA was editing Wikipedia; one CIA entry concerned lyrics in a song from the television show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” A CIA spokesperson responding to queries about the edits stated, “I cannot confirm that the traffic you cite came from agency computers. I'd like in any case to underscore a far larger and more significant point that no one should doubt or forget: The CIA has a vital mission in protecting the United States, and the focus of this agency is there, on that decisive work.”7 8 9

Interpol sought the arrest of Saddam Hussein's eldest daughter and his first wife for allegedly providing support to Iraqi insurgents.1 In northern Iraq, a series of bombings targeting the Yazidi Kurds killed 344 people.2

A 1994 interview with Dick Cheney regarding the first Gulf war was released to the web. Asked whether U.S. forces should have invaded Baghdad in an attempt to oust Saddam Hussein, Cheney said, “No . . . we would have been all alone . . . It would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq. Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein's government, then what are you going to put in its place?” Cheney described Iraq as a “quagmire,” predicting sectarian conflict and the pointless loss of American lives. “How many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth? Our judgment was, uh, not very many, and I think we got it right.”3

A federal jury convicted Jose Padilla on terrorism conspiracy charges,4 while six of the Bali bombers got their jail terms reduced for good behavior.5

Two Manhattan firefighters died fighting a blaze in an abandoned skyscraper next to Ground Zero.6

A car bomb in Kandahar, Afghanistan, killed 13 civilians,7 and toy manufacturer Mattel recalled 436,000 miniature cars shaped like the character Sarge from the animated film “Cars” because they were coated with lead paint.8

Scientists analyzing the urine of the lonely found higher levels of epinephrine, a “fight or flight” chemical that contributes to physiological decay over time;1 a study suggested that women with breast implants were three times more likely to commit suicide than those without;2 and the Army's suicide rate was at an all-time high, leading the Army to hold a poster contest.3 4

A Massachusetts man pleaded guilty to intentionally eating glass in over a dozen restaurants to collect insurance compensation.5

An earthquake along the southern coast of Peru killed 510 people.6

German physicists claimed to have broken the speed of light,7 and Scottish physicists reversed the Casimir force to make objects levitate.8

David Beckham scored on a free kick during his first game for the LA Galaxy,9 and astronomers observed a dying star named Mira shedding a dazzling, comet-like tail.10
A study found that mothers who ate junk food while pregnant predisposed their children to obesity.11

After widespread flooding, 53,000 Bangladeshis contracted diarrhea,12 an Australian woman was crushed to death by her sexually aroused pet camel,13 and a couple in China named their baby “@.”14