Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mysterious Dem Majority Tales

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He's Not High: Inside Barney Frank's Plan to Legalize Marijuana

While Congress debates health care, handles the economic downturn, and the quagmire in Afghanistan, Congressman Barney Frank is eyeing America's draconian pot policies. Read our exclusive interview.

PLUS: Why Obama really might decriminalize weed, and what the Bush team knew about legalization

By John H. Richardson

To my shame, I started my interview with Congressman Barney Frank about the legalization of marijuana by apologizing to my subject. "I know you guys have a lot on your plate these days, so I'm sorry to be calling you about something kind of trivial..."

Then I did a rapid midcourse correction. "But it's not trivial, because people go to jail over it."

"That's exactly right," Frank said.

We were talking about the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2009, Frank's latest attempt to bring sanity to the federal marijuana laws. Currently, pot is classified as a Schedule I Controlled Dangerous Substance under federal law, which makes it worse than morphine, cocaine, amphetamine, and PCP. Possession of a single joint carries a penalty of $1,000 and a year in prison – a charge faced by about 800,000 American citizens every year. This is the government whose judgment on war and economics we are supposed to respect.

So I started the interview over.

ESQUIRE: Could you tell me why you're doing it at this time? Everybody says you guys have got so much to handle right now.

BARNEY FRANK: Announcing that the government should mind its own business on marijuana is really not that hard. There's not a lot of complexity here. We should stop treating people as criminals because they smoke marijuana. The problem is the political will.

ESQ: That's my second question. There's already been a lot of change in the country. Thirteen states have decriminalized pot. What's holding up Congress?

BF: This is a case where there's cultural lag on the part of my colleagues. If you ask them privately, they don't think it's a terrible thing. But they're afraid of being portrayed as soft on drugs. And by the way, the argument is, nobody ever gets arrested for it. But we have this outrageous case in New York where a cop jammed a baton up a guy's ass when he caught him smoking marijuana.

ESQ: You're kidding.

BF: Actually, I've just been corrected by my partner – it was a radio he jammed up the guy's ass, not his baton.

ESQ: Small radio, I hope.

BF: By the way, the bill is bi-partisan: I've got two Democrats and two Republicans.

ESQ: Who are the Republicans?

BF: Ron Paul. And Dana Rohrabacher from California.

ESQ: Isn't Rohrabacher pretty hard-right?

BF: He's a very conservative guy, but with a libertarian streak.

ESQ: That libertarian streak will help you out once in a while. And who's against it?

BF: Well, Mark Souder from Indiana, who's very much a proponent of the drug war.

ESQ: When you talk to Souder about it, what does he say?

BF: You don't waste your time on people with whom you completely disagree.

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Iranian consumers boycott Nokia for 'collaboration'

by Saeed Kamali Dehghan

 
Nokia cartoon by Hadi HeidariThe mobile phone company Nokia is being hit by a growing economic boycott in Iran as consumers sympathetic to the post-election protest movement begin targeting a string of companies deemed to be collaborating with the regime.

Wholesale vendors in the capital report that demand for Nokia handsets has fallen by as much as half in the wake of calls to boycott Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) for selling communications monitoring systems to Iran.

There are signs that the boycott is spreading: consumers are shunning SMS messaging in protest at the perceived complicity with the regime by the state telecoms company, TCI. Iran's state-run broadcaster has been hit by a collapse in advertising as companies fear being blacklisted in a Facebook petition. There is also anecdotal evidence that people are moving money out of state banks and into private banks.

Nokia is the most prominent western company to suffer from its dealings with the Iranian authorities. Its NSN joint venture with Siemens provided Iran with a monitoring system as it expanded a mobile network last year. NSN says the technology is standard issue to dozens of countries, but protesters believe the company could have provided the network without the monitoring function.

Siemens is also accused of providing Iran with an internet filtering system called Webwasher.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jul/14/nokia-boycott-iran-election-protests

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Crops, ponds destroyed in quest for food safety

Dick Peixoto planted hedges of fennel and flowering cilantro around his organic vegetable fields in the Pajaro Valley near Watsonville to harbor beneficial insects, an alternative to pesticides.

He has since ripped out such plants in the name of food safety, because his big customers demand sterile buffers around his crops. No vegetation. No water. No wildlife of any kind.

"I was driving by a field where a squirrel fed off the end of the field, and so 30 feet in we had to destroy the crop," he said. "On one field where a deer walked through, didn't eat anything, just walked through and you could see the tracks, we had to take out 30 feet on each side of the tracks and annihilate the crop."

In the verdant farmland surrounding Monterey Bay, a national marine sanctuary and one of the world's biological jewels, scorched-earth strategies are being imposed on hundreds of thousands of acres in the quest for an antiseptic field of greens. And the scheme is about to go national.

Invisible to a public that sees only the headlines of the latest food-safety scare - spinach, peppers and now cookie dough - ponds are being poisoned and bulldozed. Vegetation harboring pollinators and filtering storm runoff is being cleared. Fences and poison baits line wildlife corridors. Birds, frogs, mice and deer - and anything that shelters them - are caught in a raging battle in the Salinas Valley against E. coli O157:H7, a lethal, food-borne bacteria.

In pending legislation and in proposed federal regulations, the push for food safety butts up against the movement toward biologically diverse farming methods, while evidence suggests that industrial agriculture may be the bigger culprit.

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Seidman on Sotomayor

by Jonathan Adler

Elaborating on his strong words about Judge Sotomayor's hearing performance, Georgetown law professor Louis Michael Seidman writes:

I want to elaborate on some of the (perhaps intemperate) comments I made last night. There's no denying that Republicans on the committee put Judge Sotomayor in a difficult moral position, and I need not elaborate on their own culpability for doing so. Either Judge Sotomayor had to misrepresent what she knows judges (all judges, conservative and liberal) do in hard cases, or she had to risk defeat. I'm willing to concede that this is not an easy choice, but I nonetheless think that she made a serious mistake. To his tremendous credit, President Obama has made an effort in his public statements to shift the official ideology of judging so that it has some contact with reality. Yesterday, Judge Sotomayor explicitly repudiated the President. Here are some of the consequences of this kind of unilateral disarmament:

1. It means that the only people who end up on the Supreme Court are either naïfs or cynics.

2. It means that every official act that a justice takes deepens the corrosive cognitive dissonance between what she pretends to do and what she actually does. This kind of deep hypocrisy imposes psychic costs that, at some point, are bound to have an effect on decision-making.

3. Anyone who knows anything about law knows that the official version is a lie, but many Americans don't know anything about law. To them, the official version sounds plausible. Reinforcing that version has a terrible effect on the possibility of serious public deliberation about constitutional law.

The pity is that all of this was probably unnecessary. The Democrats have sixty votes in the Senate. It would have taken some courage for Judge Sotomayor to have told the truth, but not much. She said yesterday that judges should never decide cases out of fear. Yesterday, she testified out of fear. We have a right to expect better of her.

http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2009_07_12-2009_07_18.shtml#1247670901

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Palin Hints At Plans To Split Republican Party

 

Ohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohplease....

From her own PAC:
Palin Hints At Independent Conservative Movement

Excerpts from TammyBruce.com

Enter now Sarah Palin with very encouraging comments that lead one to believe that she is indeed planning to do what she must: build an independent conservative movement and take this nation back from the liberals which now control both parties.Thanks liberals, for provoking Sarah into the national scene while vetting that family at the same time.

One thing I will say, the Washington Times with their headline for this exclusive interview reveal an anti-Palin stance. She is, don't doubt, a threat to every existing political status quo.

Oh holy FSM, there is so much funny to be had with this perfect example of Republican syllogism, I don't know where to begin.

Palin is planning to do what she must???? Apparently, she mustn't finish the job she was elected to do. Nor must she actually read up and learn about the issues as many mainstream Republicans have begged her to do.

And when did we become controlled by liberals in both parties? What in the hell is Bruce on about? Does she really suggest that Boehner, Cantor, Coburn, Kyl, Inhofe, etc are liberals???? When you start with that ridiculous a premise, then you're just asking to be laughed out of the room.

And then, after blaming liberals for vetting Palin's family (erm...huh?), she then launches into an attack against the Washington Times--hardly a bastion of liberal thought--for being anti-Palin and then holds it as a banner of pride of somehow being proof of her bona fides.

The mind reels.

http://crooksandliars.com/node/29566/

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New Palin campaign slogan

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Michael Klare, Peak Oil and the Remaking of Iraq

Anthony Shadid has, without a doubt, been the finest American mainstream journalist to cover Iraq in the period after the 2003 invasion. He's now back in Baghdad for the Washington Post, telling the saddest story of all ("In the City of Cement"). Here's part of what he wrote just after American troops largely withdrew to the outskirts of town:

"Augustus boasted that he found Rome a city of bricks and made it a city of marble. Baghdad was another city of bricks, and a coterie of American generals turned it into a city of cement. Their concrete is everywhere -- from the sprawling Green Zone to the barriers and blast walls that line almost every street -- reorienting the physical, spiritual and social geography that for more than a millennium was dictated by the lazy bends in the Tigris River.

"In time, though, those walls may matter less than the deeper forces that six years of an American presence hastened. Baghdad is now a city divided from itself. Shiite neighborhoods rarely have Sunnis. Sunni ones, far less numerous today, no longer have Shiites. Christians have all but left. Potentates seek refuge in fortresses, and the poor fend for themselves... The Americans created none of it, but facilitated all of it, giving space to the region's worst impulses."

In what follows, Michael Klare, energy expert and author of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet, offers another, quite different version of this same sad tale: what if, after all the sound and fury, what happened really did signify next to nothing, despite the devastation of Iraq and the loss of so many lives? What if the new Iraq is now fated to be, as Klare suggests, just another service station at a rest stop on the global road to... well, where? Tom

Will Iraq Be a Global Gas Pump?

The (Re)Making of a Petro-State
By Michael T. Klare

Has it all come to this? The wars and invasions, the death and destruction, the exile and torture, the resistance and collapse? In a world of shrinking energy reserves, is Iraq finally fated to become what it was going to be anyway, even before the chaos and catastrophe set in: a giant gas pump for an energy-starved planet? Will it all end not with a bang, but with a gusher? The latest oil news out of that country offers at least a hint of Iraq's fate.

For modern Iraq, oil has always been at the heart of everything. Its very existence as a unified state is largely the product of oil.

In 1920, under the aegis of the League of Nations, Britain cobbled together the Kingdom of Iraq from the Ottoman provinces of Basra, Baghdad, and Mosul in order to better exploit the holdings of the Turkish Petroleum Company, forerunner of the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC). Later, Iraqi nationalists and the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein nationalized the IPC, provoking unrelenting British and American hostility. Hussein rewarded his Sunni allies in the Baath Party by giving them lucrative positions in the state company, part of a process that produced a dangerous rift with the country's Shiite majority. And these are but a few of the ways in which modern Iraqi history has been governed by oil.

Iraq is, of course, one of the world's great hydrocarbon preserves. According to oil giant BP, it harbors proven oil reserves of 115 billion barrels -- more than any country except Saudi Arabia (with 264 billion barrels) and Iran (with 138 billion). Many analysts, however, believe that Iraq has been inadequately explored, and that the utilization of modern search technologies will yield additional reserves in the range of 45 to 100 billion barrels. If all its reserves, known and suspected, were developed to their full potential, Iraq could add as much as six to eight million barrels per day to international output, postponing the inevitable arrival of peak oil and a contraction in global energy supplies.

http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175095

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Big blobs of mystery goo floating off Alaska coast

By Don Hunter

Something big and strange is floating through the Chukchi Sea between Wainwright and Barrow.

Hunters from Wainwright first started noticing the stuff sometime probably early last week. It's thick and dark and "gooey" and is drifting for miles in the cold Arctic waters, according to Gordon Brower with the North Slope Borough's Planning and Community Services Department.

Brower and other borough officials, joined by the U.S. Coast Guard, flew out to Wainwright to investigate. The agencies found "globs" of the stuff floating miles offshore Friday and collected samples for testing.

Later, Brower said, the North Slope team in a borough helicopter spotted a long strand of the stuff and followed it for about 15 miles, shooting video from the air.

The next day the floating substance arrived offshore from Barrow, about 90 miles east of Wainwright, and borough officials went out in boats, collected more samples and sent them off for testing too.

Nobody knows for sure what the gunk is, but Petty Officer 1st Class Terry Hasenauer says the Coast Guard is sure what it is not.

"It's certainly biological," Hasenauer said. "It's definitely not an oil product of any kind. It has no characteristics of an oil, or a hazardous substance, for that matter.

http://www.adn.com/2835/story/864687.html

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Israeli soldiers in Gaza describe a 'moral Twilight Zone'

By Dion Nissenbaum

JERUSALEM — Israeli combat soldiers have acknowledged that they forced Palestinian civilians to serve as human shields, needlessly killed unarmed Gazans and improperly used white phosphorus shells to burn down buildings as part of Israel's three-week military offensive in the Gaza Strip last winter.

In filmed testimony and written statements released Wednesday, more than two dozen soldiers told an Israeli army veterans' group that military commanders led the fighters into what one described as a "moral Twilight Zone" where almost every Palestinian was seen as a threat.

Soldiers described incidents in which Israeli forces killed an unarmed Palestinian carrying a white cloth, an elderly woman carrying a sack, a Gazan riding a motorcycle, and an elderly man with a flashlight, said Breaking the Silence, a group formed by army reservists in 2004.

Any Palestinian spotted near Israeli troops was considered suspect. A man talking on a cell phone on the roof of his building was viewed as a legitimate target because he could've been telling militants where to find Israeli forces, the group quoted soldiers as saying.

"In urban warfare, everyone is your enemy," said one soldier. "No innocents."

The 110-pages of testimony — along with 16 video clips — of interviews with 26 unnamed Israeli soldiers offers the most comprehensive look inside a military campaign that's become the subject of an unfolding United Nations war crimes investigation.

The Israel Defense Forces dismissed the report.

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/227/story/71837.html

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My daughter's tragedy: U.S. health care in a nutshell.

 

Now it's a bit more personal. My daughter's partner has suffered a health care catastrophe that threatens to leave them in poverty for the rest of their lives. And it's not necessarily his illness that will do the damage; it's our greed-driven, heartless, for-profit shell-game of a health care 'system'.

Like millions of Americans, my daughter's boyfriend lost his job this year. His unemployment was a direct result of the banksters' rape of the economy, which is a whole 'nuther story. And of course, with his job went his health insurance. He was offered temporary COBRA coverage, for a thousand dollars a month. For a healthy 30 year old with zero income and a mortgage to pay, that's a sick joke. So, like millions of Americans—but unlike anyone in Canada, England, France, Germany, Japan...—he was forced to go without health insurance. Affluent wingnuts and corporate conservatives like to claim that people like my prospective son in law are making a "choice", that they're refusing to carry health insurance so they can buy a big screen TV. That's bullshit. The working poor fail to carry health insurance because they simply cannot afford it. Period.

One night last week my daughter watched in horror as her partner started having a seizure in their living room. The seizures didn't stop until he was intubated, paralyzed and anesthetized at the hospital. The prolonged seizures caused his muscles to break down, leaking so much protein into his blood stream that his kidneys failed the next day. A CT scan revealed a brain tumor, which was the cause of his seizures. He's awake, walking and talking now. He's getting dialysis every day. If he's lucky, his kidneys will recover, and he'll undergo an MRI scan followed by a biopsy in a few weeks. If he's very, very lucky, the tumor will be benign and he'll have surgery to remove it next month. If he's unlucky and it's malignant...as a physician I know all too well what's in store for him down the road.

The quality of the care my daughter's partner has received has been excellent. But no matter how 'lucky' he is, his life has been ruined by the health care 'system'. Upon discharge he will be presented with a bill for somewhere north of $150,000. Every pill, every dialysis treatment, just adds to the mountain of debt. (By the time his treatment is complete, it's likely to total somewhere close to a half a million dollars.) The hospital is talking about 'financial assistance', meaning a discount on the bill. That should knock it down from $150,000 to a mere $120,000.

Will that be cash, check or charge?

My daughter's partner will be utterly, completely, permanently uninsurable due to his medical history.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/7/13/752911/-My-daughters-tragedy:-U.S.-health-care-in-a-nutshell.

 

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United Breaks Guitars

 
In the spring of 2008, Sons of Maxwell were traveling to Nebraska for a one-week tour and my Taylor guitar was witnessed being thrown by United Airlines baggage handlers in Chicago. I discovered later that the $3500 guitar was severely damaged. They didn't deny the experience occurred but for nine months the various people I communicated with put the responsibility for dealing with the damage on everyone other than themselves and finally said they would do nothing to compensate me for my loss. So I promised the last person to finally say no to compensation (Ms. Irlweg) that I would write and produce three songs about my experience with United Airlines and make videos for each to be viewed online by anyone in the world. United: Song 1 is the first of those songs. United: Song 2 has been written and video production is underway. United: Song 3 is coming. I promise. Follow me at http://twitter.com/DaveCarroll . Video Produced by Curve Productions of Halifax, http://www.curveproductionsinc.com.
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18 Essential Skills for a Maker

by UptownMaker

@AntonOlsen recently posted an article on GeekDad enumerating 100 Essential Skills for Geeks. As he was inspired to do so by a list of "Essential Skills for Men", so I am inspired to make this list of essential skills for Makers.

His list was a little long (100 items), terse (essentially one line per item, but with links), and slightly biased (heavier on computers than I might have liked, but to be fair, that is the most common geek fetish). I'm going to go for a shorter list, with slightly more verbose entries, and try to cast a wider net. If I get interest from this list, I'll follow up with an article on each point going into more detail.

1. Calculate power consumption and estimate battery life- Most electrical projects will involve batteries of some sort. Having an idea of how long your project will run on a battery can save you a lot of trouble later- that wireless garden soil moisture monitor is probably not going to run very long on a 9V battery. Maybe solar is a better idea?
2. Spot valuable salvage- Not only knowing where to get it, but knowing it when you see it. Finding it isn't too hard- curbs, alleys, and the classic dumpster dive. Deciding whether to keep it is the real trick: can it be broken down? Are there useful things inside (gears, motors, electronics, hardware, salvageable wood, springs, etc.)? Is trying to salvage parts of it a wise thing to do (upholstered items left outside are a great way to get bedbugs into your home)?
3. Spot eminently hackable, cheap Chinese crap- The glut of crap from China occasionally brings some real gems with it. Woot.com recently sold some rotating LED-based "police lights" for $3, which connect to USB and can be turned on and off by pressing a key on the keyboard.
4. Find "prior art"- In the patent world, "prior art" is anything which suggests that the idea you are trying to patent (or have patented) was developed or described by someone else first. The existence of prior art can break a patent. In the Maker world, prior art is a springboard. Someone, somewhere on the internet did (or tried to do) what you are trying to do. They may even be selling bits of the project which may make showstopping technical challenges mere speedbumps.
5. Stitch a simple and serviceable seam- We're not talking about making your daughter's prom dress, here- just being able to neatly and durably reclose the seam on the Furby you just hacked into reciting the Vincent Price speech from "Thriller".
6. Understand the voltage/current ratings on a power supply- If a battery won't cut it, you should understand at least the rudiments of power supplies: how to get a cheap wall-wart AC adapter, what voltage you can use, and why it's okay to use a 500mA supply to replace a 250mA supply.
7. Know which glue to use, when- Elmer's white, spray mount, Uhu glue sticks, JB Weld, cyanoacrylate, and two-part epoxy all have their uses.
8. Know which tape to use, when- Duct, masking, Scotch, foam-two-sided, and (occasionally) electrical tape all have their uses.
9. Deal with recalcitrant fasteners- Sooner or later, you'll want to remove a screw or bolt that is stripped, broken, or uses a security bit. Owning a wide variety of driver bits is a start, but knowing how to drill out a fastener or cut a notch for a flat-edge screwdriver should be somewhere in your bag of tricks.
10. Use a Dremel- 'nuff said.
 
http://uptownmaker.blogspot.com/2009/07/18-essential-skills-for-maker.html
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Chutzpah on Steroids

 

What is up with the banks and the rest of the financial industry? The people running this system remind me of gangsters who manage to walk out of the courthouse with a suspended sentence and can't wait to get back to their nefarious activities.

These malefactors of great wealth (thank you, Teddy) developed hideously destructive credit policies and took insane risks that hurt millions of American families and nearly wrecked the economy. Then they were bailed out with hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, money that came from the very people victimized by the industry's outlandish practices.

Now the industry is fighting against creation of an agency that would protect taxpayers and ordinary consumers from a similarly devastating onslaught in the future. And at the same time they are scrambling to raise credit card interest rates and all manner of exploitive fees to build a brand new superstructure of questionable profits on the backs of the taxpayers who came to their rescue.

We're reaching a whole new level of chutzpah here.

The Obama administration wants to create a Consumer Financial Protection Agency that would shield individuals and families from deceptive practices and outright fraud by banks and other businesses offering credit cards, mortgages, home loans and other forms of consumer finance.

Everything we've learned in this recession tells us we need such an agency. As Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner described it, "This agency will have only one mission: to protect consumers."

Protecting the consumer is, of course, anathema to the industry. So it's preparing for war. The Times's Edmund Andrews neatly summed up the matter when he wrote that "banks and mortgage lenders are placing top priority on killing" the president's proposal.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/14/opinion/14herbert.html?_r=1&th&emc=th

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California money

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