Friday, July 23, 2010

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DEA Holds THC Minister in Custody After Appeal

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13 church members were also arrested, but are out on bail.

Roger Christie
Roger Christie, founder of the THC Ministry.
Photo by thc-ministry.org

(HONOLULU / SALEM, Ore.) - Fourteen people on the Big Island of Hawaii were apprehended in a series of raids, including Roger Christie, founding director of The Hawaii Cannabis (THC) Ministry two weeks ago. He is still sitting in a cell.

61-year old Roger Cusick Christie was arrested when his apartment at Wainaku Terrace was raided at 6:25 a.m. on July 8th, in Hilo, Hawaii. The police booking log did not list charges at first, only that Christie was arrested by local police assisting "other" law enforcement agencies.

A neighbor who wanted to remain anonymous said he saw the agents that morning, "Some looked like DEA, and one of them had a tag on his jacket that said IRS."

"We assisted federal agents in the arrest, and that's about all I can say," said Capt. Randall Medeiros, commander of the Hawaiian police Criminal Investigation Division. He asked for further questions to be directed to the U.S. Attorney's Office, in Honolulu.

A man staying with Christie, 34-year-old Nathan Clark, told the Tribune-Herald that he was awakened around 6:30 a.m. and asked to leave the premises by the agents. "These arrests are a civil rights violation," Clark said.

"Cannabis is a sacrament in our religion... and this is a First Amendment issue."

The Hilo 14

We now know that a federal grand jury returned a secret indictment last month against the fourteen people, and that a federal judge unsealed the indictment on July 8th.

Roger Christie is being represented by federal public defender Matthew Winter. Roger and seven of the defendants initially remained behind bars; but according to the THC Ministry website, all thirteen have been released on personal recognizance bonds. All except Roger.

Roger was denied bail by the District Court and then again by an appeal to that ruling, despite a recommendation for a $50,000 bond by the federal Pre-Trial Services.

Others arrested are 58-year old Sherryanne L. St. Cyr (Christie's girlfriend), of Pahoa, 51-year old John D. Bouey III, of Keaau; 50-year old Perry Emilio Policicchio, of Hilo; 61-year old Michael B. Shapiro, of Keaau; 32-year old Jessica R. Walsh, of Hilo; 58-year old Richard Bruce Turpen, of Mountain View; 28-year old Victoria C. Fiore, of Hilo; 41-year old Aaron George Zeeman, of Hilo; 46-year old Suzanne Leonore Friend, of Honokaa; 58-year old Timothy M. Mann, of Honokaa; 40-year old Donald James Gibson, of Pahoa; Wesley Mark Sudbury; and Roland Gregory Ignacio.

Many of the same people had their homes, and the THC Ministry headquarters, raided on March 10th. No one was arrested at that time, and no charges were lodged, "belying prosecutors' assertions that he was a danger to the community," attorney Winter contended.

Federal Custody for a First Offense

According to Roger's friend and Ohio attorney, Don E. Wirtshafter, "Roger is a first time, non-violent drug offender. This is not about Roger being dangerous; this is a government tactic to shut Roger up. This week Roger's public defender filed a proper motion for the federal judge to overrule the magistrate's decision to deny bail."

That motion was denied.

http://salem-news.com/articles/july212010/roger-christie.php

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William Astore, Wars Don't Make Heroes

 
Consider a strange aspect of our wars since October 2001: they have yet to establish a bona fide American hero, a national household name.  Two were actually "nominated" early by the Bush administration -- Jessica Lynch, a 19-year-old private and clerk captured by the Iraqis in the early days of the American invasion and later "rescued" by Army Rangers and Navy Seals, and Pat Tillman, the former NFL safety who volunteered for service in the Army Rangers eight months after 9/11 and died under "enemy" gunfire in Afghanistan.

Both stories were later revealed to be put-up jobs, pure Bush-era propaganda and deceit.  In Lynch's case, almost every element in the instant patriotic myth about her rescue proved either phony or highly exaggerated; in Tillman's, it turned out that he had been killed by friendly fire, but -- thanks to a military cover-up (that involved General Stanley McChrystal, later to become Afghan war commander) -- was still given a Silver Star and a posthumous promotion.  Members of his unit were even ordered by the military to lie at his funeral, and he was made into a convenient "hero" and recruitment poster boy for the Afghan War. Both were shameful episodes, involving administration manipulation and media gullibility.  Since then, as TomDispatch regular and retired lieutenant colonel William Astore points out, U.S. troops as a whole have been labeled "our heroes," but individual heroes have been in vanishingly short supply.

In fact, the only specific figures who get the heroic treatment these days are our military commanders.  They tend to be written about like so many demi-gods (until they fall).  General McChrystal, before his ignominious nosedive, was presented in the press (with the Tillman incident all but forgotten) as a cross between a Spartan ascetic and a strategic genius (with the brain of a military Stephen Hawking).  Present war commander General David Petraeus regularly receives even more fawning media treatment and seems to be worshipped in Washington these days as if he were not only "an American hero," but a genuine military god (as well as a future presidential candidate).  Yet, in the way they've been treated, both of these figures seem closer to celebrities than heroes in any traditional sense.

Perhaps this catches something essential about America's unending wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and also what used to be called the Global War on Terror but now has no name.  Like the drone pilots who sit at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, killing peasants and terrorists 7,000 miles away and to whom new standards of "valor" are now being applied, most Americans are remarkably detached from the wars our "all volunteer" military force (and its vast contingent of for-profit mercenary warriors) fight in distant lands.  Our forces have become generically heroic, but no one cares to look too closely at the specifics of these bloody, dirty wars that will never end in victory, not close enough to end up with actual heroes.  Our "heroic" troops have no real names, any more than the wars they fight, and so individual heroics are perhaps beside the point.  (Check out the latest TomCast audio interview in which William Astore discusses heroism and the military by clicking here, or to download to your iPod, here.)  Tom 

"Our American Heroes" 
Why It's Wrong to Equate Military Service with Heroism 

By William J. Astore

When I was a kid in the 1970s, I loved reading accounts of American heroism from World War II.  I remember being riveted by a book about the staunch Marine defenders of Wake Island and inspired by John F. Kennedy's exploits saving the sailors he commanded on PT-109.  Closer to home, I had an uncle -- like so many vets of that war, relatively silent on his own experiences -- who had been at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941, and then fought them in a brutal campaign on Guadalcanal, where he earned a Bronze Star.  Such men seemed like heroes to me, so it came as something of a shock when, in 1980, I first heard Yoda's summary of war in The Empire Strikes Back.  Luke Skywalker, if you remember, tells the wizened Jedi master that he seeks "a great warrior." "Wars not make one great," Yoda replies.

Okay, it was George Lucas talking, I suppose, but I was struck by the truth of that statement.  Of course, my little epiphany didn't come just because of Yoda or Lucas.  By my late teens, even as I was gearing up for a career in the military, I had already begun to wonder about the common ethos that linked heroism to military service and war.  Certainly, military service (especially the life-and-death struggles of combat) provides an occasion for the exercise of heroism, but even then I instinctively knew that it didn't constitute heroism.

http://www.tomdispatch.com/archive/175276/

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The DEA is Out of Control: We Can Stop This!

 


President Obama's nomination of Michele Leonhart to be permanent head of the DEA is a trial balloon - a test of strength and resolve.

The nomination of a ruthless prohibitionist is a test of whether he takes himself seriously when he says that the federal government is going to stop wasting time, money and people on medical marijuana raids in states where it is legal. It is, more significantly, a test of whether he takes the drug reform movement seriously.

And the only way he will take us seriously is if we write now telling President Obama to replace Acting Administrator Michele Leonhart with someone who respects the rights of the ill and vulnerable.

If you have received appeals from our allies in drug policy reform, please send those along as well as ours.

Every email they receive counts.

Obama's pandering to the prohibitionists is a trial balloon.

We need to shoot it full of lead.

Thank you,



Neill Franklin

Executive Director
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

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The Governor Who Hates Her State

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Bryan Curtisby Bryan Curtis

In her quest to show why Arizona needs a tough immigration law, Gov. Jan Brewer has pulled off an awesome rhetorical feat. She has rebranded the entire state. Arizona is no longer the sun-drenched home of the Grand Canyon, golf courses, and retirees exulting in 100-degree lethargy. Arizona, in Brewer's telling, is a cross between a Cormac McCarthy novel and The Road Warrior.

"Has my 'dry heat!' desert finally seared one too many brain cells?" asks Rene Alegria. "Maybe so."


The controversial Arizona immigration law has sparked mass protests.

Taken together, Brewer's speeches, campaign commercials, and Fox News appearances offer a stern rebuke to anyone who thinks Arizona is a tranquil place. Arizona, Brewer told Fox News, is a "battlefield." It is the "drug corridor of the world," she said later. Phoenix—home to four pro sports teams and a well-regarded Trolley Museum—is "our nation's kidnapping capital," according to a Brewer campaign ad.

Brewer has been a relentless chronicler of Arizona's "porous" border with Mexico, which she said allows a daily "invasion" by undocumented immigrants. Who are the undocumented? The "majority" are "drug mules," she said, others are "human traffickers," and still others may carry "big, strong, dangerous guns, AK-47s."

What about the documented Arizonans—New West entrepreneurs, geezers, the Diamondbacks? "Beautiful people!" Brewer told Greta van Susteren. But also: "We have many, many people that feel they are not safe." And: "We need help." And: "We are just fed up." If Arizona's beautiful people sound slightly jittery, this may be because of what Brewer called the "terror which our citizens live in day in and day out along the border." Native Arizonans contacted by The Daily Beast were surprised the governor wasn't extolling tourist meccas like Tombstone Ranch and Sedona's yuppie playground. No, Brewer prefers to tout Arizona's "drop houses, kidnapping, auto accidents, extortion, drugs, the spillover with the drug cartels."

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-07-19/razing-arizona/?cid=hp:mainpromo6

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Retirement is for Losers

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Protofascism Comes to America: The Rise of the Tea Party

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Ted Rall's picture by Ted Rall
 
Is the Tea Party racist? Democrats who play liberals on TV say it isn't. Vice President Joe Biden says the Tea Party "is not a racist organization" per se, but allows that "at least elements that were involved in some of the Tea Party folks expressed racist views."

Right-wing Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has received permission to form an official Tea Party Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. It's official. The Tea Party matters.

So: is it racist? Certainly a sizeable minority of Tea Partiers' "take America back" rhetoric is motivated by thinly disguised resentment that a black guy is president. As for the remainder, their tacit tolerance of the intolerant speaks for itself. "Take America back" from whom? You know whom. It ain't white CEOs.

Yes. The Tea Party is racist. Obviously.

But racism is only one facet of a far more sinister political strain. It's more accurate to categorize the Tea Party as something the United States has never seen before, certainly not in such large numbers or as widespread.

The Tea Party is a protofascist movement.

Robert O. Paxton defined fascism as "a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."

Typical Tea Party rants fit the classic fascist mold in several respects. America, Tea Partiers complain, is falling behind. Like Hitler, they blame leftists and liberals for a "stab in the back," treason on the homefront. The trappings of hypernationalism--flags, bunting, etc.--are notably pervasive at Tea Party rallies, even by American standards. We see "collaboration with traditional elites"--Rush Limbaugh, Congressmen, Republican Party bigwigs (including the most recent vice presidential nominee)--to an extent that is unprecedented in recent history.

Tea Partiers haven't called for extralegal solutions to the problems they cite--but neither did the National Socialists prior to 1933. Then again, they're not in power yet. Wait.

http://smirkingchimp.com/thread/ted-rall/30250/protofascism-comes-to-america-the-rise-of-the-tea-party

 

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Why Socialism?

By Albert Einstein

This essay was originally published in the first issue of Monthly Review (May 1949).
 
Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism? I believe for a number of reasons that it is.
 
Let us first consider the question from the point of view of scientific knowledge. It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible. But in reality such methodological differences do exist. The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately. In addition, the experience which has accumulated since the beginning of the so-called civilized period of human history has-as is well known-been largely influenced and limited by causes which are by no means exclusively economic in nature. For example, most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples established themselves, legally and economically, as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood from among their own ranks. The priests, in control of education, made the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.
 
But historic tradition is, so to speak, of yesterday; nowhere have we really overcome what Thorstein Veblen called "the predatory phase" of human development. The observable economic facts belong to that phase and even such laws as we can derive from them are not applicable to other phases. Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future.
 
Second, socialism is directed towards a social-ethical end. Science, however, cannot create ends and, even less, instill them in human beings; science, at most, can supply the means by which to attain certain ends. But the ends themselves are conceived by personalities with lofty ethical ideals and-if these ends are not stillborn, but vital and vigorous-are adopted and carried forward by those many human beings who, half unconsciously, determine the slow evolution of society.
 
For these reasons, we should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.
 
Innumerable voices have been asserting for some time now that human society is passing through a crisis, that its stability has been gravely shattered. It is characteristic of such a situation that individuals feel indifferent or even hostile toward the group, small or large, to which they belong. In order to illustrate my meaning, let me record here a personal experience. I recently discussed with an intelligent and well-disposed man the threat of another war, which in my opinion would seriously endanger the existence of mankind, and I remarked that only a supra-national organization would offer protection from that danger. Thereupon my visitor, very calmly and coolly, said to me: "Why are you so deeply opposed to the disappearance of the human race?"
 
I am sure that as little as a century ago no one would have so lightly made a statement of this kind. It is the statement of a man who has striven in vain to attain an equilibrium within himself and has more or less lost hope of succeeding. It is the expression of a painful solitude and isolation from which so many people are suffering in these days. What is the cause? Is there a way out?
 
It is easy to raise such questions, but difficult to answer them with any degree of assurance. I must try, however, as best I can, although I am very conscious of the fact that our feelings and strivings are often contradictory and obscure and that they cannot be expressed in easy and simple formulas.
 
Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting, strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society. It is quite possible that the relative strength of these two drives is, in the main, fixed by inheritance. But the personality that finally emerges is largely formed by the environment in which a man happens to find himself during his development, by the structure of the society in which he grows up, by the tradition of that society, and by its appraisal of particular types of behavior. The abstract concept "society" means to the individual human being the sum total of his direct and indirect relations to his contemporaries and to all the people of earlier generations. The individual is able to think, feel, strive, and work by himself; but he depends so much upon society-in his physical, intellectual, and emotional existence-that it is impossible to think of him, or to understand him, outside the framework of society. It is "society" which provides man with food, clothing, a home, the tools of work, language, the forms of thought, and most of the content of thought; his life is made possible through the labor and the accomplishments of the many millions past and present who are all hidden behind the small word "society."
 
It is evident, therefore, that the dependence of the individual upon society is a fact of nature which cannot be abolished-just as in the case of ants and bees. However, while the whole life process of ants and bees is fixed down to the smallest detail by rigid, hereditary instincts, the social pattern and interrelationships of human beings are very variable and susceptible to change. Memory, the capacity to make new combinations, the gift of oral communication have made possible developments among human being which are not dictated by biological necessities. Such developments manifest themselves in traditions, institutions, and organizations; in literature; in scientific and engineering accomplishments; in works of art. This explains how it happens that, in a certain sense, man can influence his life through his own conduct, and that in this process conscious thinking and wanting can play a part.
 
Man acquires at birth, through heredity, a biological constitution which we must consider fixed and unalterable, including the natural urges which are characteristic of the human species. In addition, during his lifetime, he acquires a cultural constitution which he adopts from society through communication and through many other types of influences. It is this cultural constitution which, with the passage of time, is subject to change and which determines to a very large extent the relationship between the individual and society. Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organization which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.
 
If we ask ourselves how the structure of society and the cultural attitude of man should be changed in order to make human life as satisfying as possible, we should constantly be conscious of the fact that there are certain conditions which we are unable to modify. As mentioned before, the biological nature of man is, for all practical purposes, not subject to change. Furthermore, technological and demographic developments of the last few centuries have created conditions which are here to stay. In relatively densely settled populations with the goods which are indispensable to their continued existence, an extreme division of labor and a highly- centralized productive apparatus are absolutely necessary. The time-which, looking back, seems so idyllic-is gone forever when individuals or relatively small groups could be completely self-sufficient. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that mankind constitutes even now a planetary community of production and consumption.
 
I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.
 
The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor-not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production-that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods-may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.
 
For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call "workers" all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production-although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is "free," what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists' requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.
 
Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.
 
The situation prevailing in an economy based on the private ownership of capital is thus characterized by two main principles: first, means of production (capital) are privately owned and the owners dispose of them as they see fit; second, the labor contract is free. Of course, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist society in this sense. In particular, it should be noted that the workers, through long and bitter political struggles, have succeeded in securing a somewhat improved form of the "free labor contract" for certain categories of workers. But taken as a whole, the present day economy does not differ much from "pure" capitalism.
 
Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an "army of unemployed" almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers' goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.
 
This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.
 
I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.
 
Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far- reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?
 
Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service.
 
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George Carlin - Saving the planet

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It's Alive!: The Top Film Criticism Sites: An Annotated Blog Roll, Part One

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There's one word that sums up the World Wide Web: huge. Faced with the Internet's exponentially expansive growth and sprawling heterogeneity, every other generalization comes up short. Though the all-too-familiar "death of film criticism" polemics prefer to frame the current era in terms of (degraded) quality, the truly epochal shift in digital-age criticism is a function of quantity: total media saturation and head-spinning content overload.
Mid-century cinephilia offered its transatlantic disciples something that, for the other fine arts, had reached its breaking point in the Modernist period: a canon that could be mastered in its entirety by an individual consciousness. If you subscribed to a dozen or so of the "right" periodicals and faithfully patronized the art-house premieres and repertory revivals of London, Paris, or New York (or, later, San Francisco and Los Angeles), you could quite literally see everything that was considered worth seeing and read all the critics thought to be worth reading. This culture, of course, was built on a kind of artificial scarcity: the back catalogues of film history were just starting to be excavated and archived, much of world cinema was off the Western radar, and most of the accomplished criticism published in student newspapers, mid-sized metropolitan dailies, and underground film journals went largely unnoticed. The last two decades have yielded so much to cinephilia—from digital archives and movie-review clearinghouses to TCM and Netflix—but the surfeit has taken at least one thing away: the illusion of all-encompassing critical authority. The spirit of encyclopedic completism embodied in, say, Andrew Sarris's The American Cinema seems more anachronistic by the day. There are just too many films to see and (more to the point) too many smart writers to compete with.
So where do we get off appointing ourselves the selection committee for the top film criticism sites? If that strikes you as a little presumptuous, you're totally right. Though not "meaningless," the selections below are meaningful only in a contingent, puzzle-piece sort of way. There are plenty of sites that could just as easily have made the cut: Arbogast on Film, Buzz Buzz, Chronicle of a Passion, Cinema Styles, Confessions of an Aca-Fan, The Crop Duster, DVD Savant, Elusive Lucidity, The Independent Eye, Movie Morlocks, New Deal Sally, Rightwing Film Geek, Shooting Down Pictures, Theo's Century of Movies, Zero for Conduct, plus a dozen others we could name off the top of our heads—and who knows how many more that we're not even aware of. But here's the thing: while we could have billed the selections as "43 Semi-Randomly Selected but Genuinely Distinguished Film Criticism Sites," that meme just doesn't trend as well (#awkward). To tantalizingly mislabel the headline above and then clarify the stakes here in the introduction seemed like the best compromise, in a lie-that-tells-the-truth sort of way.
The blog roll has become the defining trope of critical exchange in the early Internet era: its network of laterally enmeshed connections quite literally defines "the Web." But the long, scrolling lists of hyperlinked sites are easily overwhelming. Jumping into a random blog midstream is often disorienting. And if you're already the kind of person who actively seeks out intelligent film criticism, your reading queue is no doubt pretty full. But maybe you'd like to refine your short-list of go-to sites, match your favorite venues against a few others in a Darwinian death-match—because how else are your tastes going to expand and evolve?
Our goal here is to make that process as easy and efficient as possible. For every URL included, one of our crack contributors has come up with an elegantly pithy synopsis of the critical style and obsessively revisited subjects that define the spirit of the site. When you've found a couple of capsules that pique your interest, bookmark them at the top of your browser and click over when you have some downtime. Try to have patience if the writer's personality doesn't immediately hook you. Just as in real life, the person who at first strikes you as slightly boring may later become your best friend forever. So give it a week or two of casual browsing; peruse the backlog of posts by subject tags; linger in the comments sections. Every writer has his own rhythms, her own hidden wellsprings of ideas and emotions, and sometimes it takes some up-front effort to tune in to that. The more you put in, the more you get out.
The projects included here span a wide range of genres: digital film journals, multi-writer theme sites, side projects of film studies academics, digital outreach by professional print reviewers, and, above all, the personal blogs of unpaid enthusiasts. Our only criteria for inclusion were that (a) posts must be written primarily in the English language and (b) the content must be specifically produced for online consumption. The selections are unranked and in randomly generated order (our highly sophisticated algorithm is modeled loosely on the perennial schoolyard favorite MASH).
For years now, Internet film critics have been relentlessly dumped on by many (but by no means all) in the legacy media. Though they've gotten little in the way of social recognition or financial compensation, cinephile bloggers have filled in the gaps of mainstream review coverage, corralled hard-to-find source materials, enriched cinema's theoretical vocabularies and historical narratives, and shared their personal obsessions in often fascinating, hilarious, and deeply affecting ways. I feel personally privileged and just really fucking happy to shine a light on their work—all of them life-affirming examples of democratic participation and humanizing cultural exchange. —Paul Brunick
The Self-Styled Siren
selfstyledsiren.blogspot.com
Self-Styled SirenClassical Hollywood fetishism has found a most enchanting ambassador. Farran Smith Nehme of The Self-Styled Siren turns the articulation of cliché and convention into a sport—no surprise she's chosen melodrama as her champion underdog and counts Max Ophüls and Douglas Sirk among her favorite directors. A witty, working mother of three (the blog originated during afternoon naptime), the Siren is a unique and refreshing voice in a field often prone to nostalgic vacuity or esoteric one-upmanship. An "Anecdote of the Week" feature showcases her extensive bibliographic endeavors. Her obituaries are the most dependably poetic on the scene. Whether dusting off forgotten gems and industry players or providing fresh analysis on the already canonical, the Siren speaks with the grit, gumption, and savvy of the pre-Code ladies she so admires. Her extensive research is a valuable corollary to the Hollywood Babylon school of salacious folklore; not that the blog is without juice (delicious bon mots care of her beloved George Sanders) or mysticism (a reverential moment of silence for Charles Boyer's "incomparable way with a hat"). The Siren abandoned anonymity upon co-programming a series for TCM, but lifting the veil, in true Merry Widow style, has only furthered the blossoming of her appeal: a recent blogathon hosted in association with the National Film Preservation Foundation has raised $13,500 and counting. Not only is the Siren the best film geek friend you ever had but an increasingly powerful force. —Brynn White
Strictly Film SchoolNo one embodies cinephilia in the Internet age better than the pseudonymous Acquarello (aka Pascual Espiritu), a self-described "NASA flight systems design engineer" who single-handedly creates all the content for Strictly Film School. Unapologetically auteurist in design, Strictly Film School's biggest draw is its jaw-droppingly extensive Director's Database that boasts over 500 names, from canonical faves like Chantal Akerman and Pedro Almodóvar to the less known (but no less worthy) Joaquim Pedro de Andrade and Lisandro Alonso—and that's just scratching the surface of the As. The directory doesn't offer bios but instead concise capsules whose brevity is belied by their insights. While online platforms offer practically limitless writing space, Acquarello's economical and precise prose is something to treasure. And for those looking to venture beyond auteurism, Strictly Film School offers the option to browse reviews by genres (of the academic sort: "Neo-Expressionism," "Cinema Verité"), themes ("Generational Conflict," "Aging/Obsolescence/Death"), and images ("Chromatic Shifts—State of Consciousness, Existential Realm" being my personal favorite). "Film-Related Reading Notes" on recently browsed print matter and a "Film Fest Journal" tops off this exhaustively (and exhaustingly) comprehensive site. If only real film schools were as informative and passionate as Strictly Film School. —Cullen Gallagher
Diagonal Thoughts
diagonalthoughts.com
Diagonal ThoughtsIn the distant future—when we are nothing more than incorporeal abstractions coded into the algorithmic consciousness of a virtual singularity, or blue-skinned, loin-clothed power-forwards cybersexing flora and fauna with our FireWire pony tails, or whatever!—I sincerely hope that our post-organic nervous systems will occasionally light up to the archived index of Diagonal Thoughts. Media and culture aficionado Stoffel Debuysere, a member of Belgium's Courtisane collective and co-programmer of its film and video festival, maintains a dense and diligently curated collection of "notes on seeing and being, sound and image, media and memory." The site presents fresh, often mind-bending findings drawn from the worlds of neuroscience, philosophy, sociology, computer science, cultural studies, and (of course) the cinema. Collating quotations from innumerable sources, Debuysere is much more than a mere cut-and-paster—the rhetorical patchwork of interviews, articles, and program note snippets have a synthetic brilliance all their own, further gilded with Debuysere's original observations and erudite commentary. Alongside his interest in new media's ontological collision with human cognition and perceptual reality is a stalwart passion for old-school avant-garde celluloid (lovingly categorized as "Indeterminate Cinema"); recent "Artists in Focus" have included Guy Sherwin, David Gatten, and Morgan Fisher. Tracking the intersecting vectors of technological and aesthetic evolution, Diagonal Thoughts is nothing less than the cinephile's survival guide for the 21st century. —Jesse P. Finnegan
Not Coming to a Theater Near YouRumsey Taylor was reared in the hinterlands of rural Kentucky, nurtured by VHS rentals and late-night cable TV. It's fitting that he would go on to found Not Coming to a Theater Near You, an ambitious online resource for reevaluations of forgotten and fringe cinema. Taylor's prowess as an editor lies in an innate ability to skirt both irreverent fan-boy pitfalls and highfalutin postgrad navel-gazing; the writing remains doggedly non-academic while retaining a sharp populism and simple elegance often lacking in similar niche sites. Not Coming increased its profile in 2009 by partnering with the NYC revival venue at 92YTribeca, where editors and contributors present public screenings of rare and controversial classics. The site sets itself apart through its assemblage of talented contributors, many of whom are able up-and-comers in New York's criticism and repertory programming scenes. In addition to reviews, Not Coming offers independent festival coverage, interviews with significant figures in alternative cinema and criticism (filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, animator Don Hertzfeldt, and New Yorker film editor Richard Brody were all recent respondents), as well as comprehensive essays on intriguingly obscure subjects. A recent piece analyzed the rogue cinephilia of underground video mixtapes, most of which are of questionable legal status. It's rare to find such subjects spotlighted with so much eloquence, and it's with essays like this that the site really scores. —Benjamin Shapiro
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Is Flipboard Legal?

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Is Flipboard Legal?

Social news app Flipboard was yesterday's hot new app, despite—or perhaps because of—technical problems that prevented some features from working. But there might be a bigger snag: Is Flipboard scraping content it doesn't have the rights to?

Flipboard, the new iPad app that renders links from your Twitter feed and favorite sites in a beautiful, magazine-style layout, has a problem: it scrapes websites directly rather than using public RSS feeds, opening it to claims of copyright infringement.

Unlike some similar news apps like Pulse, Flipboard appears to eschew the older syndication standby RSS to instead grab URLs from Twitter and Facebook feeds. While news sources that maintain their own automatic Twitter feeds tend to link the same stories as they do in their RSS feeds, there's one critical difference: RSS also allows content to be included in the feed, whereas Twitter provides only the URLs that link back to the full website. (Unless, of course, the site only writes 140 character news stories.)

Back in the ancient days of the mid-aughts, there was a healthy debate online about whether or not news outlets should provide full content feeds or simply headlines and excerpts. Rather than rehash that debate—one that's still ongoing—just remember this: whether a company chose to publish "full feeds" or excerpts, the choice remained theirs.

A new class of "feed readers" have ditched RSS and built their own content scrapers. The ever-popular Instapaper—the adblocker it's okay to like!—is a scraper: a reader views a story in their web browser (along with ads and other web chrome); clicks "Read Later"; Instapaper uses some sorting magic to figure out what part of the already-downloaded HTML is content and which is cruft.

From a licensing and copyright perspective it's a little bit iffy, but since content providers get at least one pageview every time someone uses Instapaper there has been a sort of truce. (One made more steady by the fact that many of those working in the media who might get frustrated by scrapers are also fans of long-form content—exactly the sort of reader to which Instapaper caters.)

http://gizmodo.com/5594176/is-flipboard-legal

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If Andrew Brietbart Edited It

Huckleberry Finn: Affirmative action sends ungrateful black man on river cruise, using lib-approved child labor. (via)
2001: An intelligent computer heroically stops wasteful government spending on space exploration. (via)
Little Rascals: Juvenile delinquency caused by having black friends. Also, where's Buckwheat's birth certificate? (via)
Aladdin: Swarthy thief flees jail, abducts princess, kills trusted advisor & performs coup d'etat. (via)
• Black men stole the rock and roll sound from Marty McFly!!! (via)
• MLK's famous speech: "I have a dream that my nation will not be judged by character." (via)
Inglorious Basterds: Deranged Jewish woman murders innocent moviegoers (via)
The Lord of the Rings: Through grit, working class Hobbits take back 'their' Middle America from colored Orcs (via)

#IfAndrewBrietbartEditedIt

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Sickened Ire

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Sickened Ire

By Barry Crimmins

Yesterday I went to a doctor for a preliminary consultation for a colonoscopy. The entire procedure was to be covered by a state agency because I am 57 years old; have no health insurance; and a family history of colon cancer. This was surprising to me because as a preexister, I never expect to get any medical care at all in the United States. In fact I've gotten to the point where I think even hoping for any medical care is dangerous for someone in my condition.

I have had Hepatitis C for almost 35 years. I'm not a junkie and never was. I just knew a junkie who I tried to help by destroying her needles. Needless to state, this was an unwise move. Because I have a disease common among IV drug users, the medical establishment generally treats me like an extra from Panic in Needle Park.

Wait, it gets worse. A few years ago when I ate in the wrong diner in New Jersey (or stayed at the wrong hotel or whatever) I got Hepatitis B. I nearly died. The one doctor who saw me, treated me like I was The Man With the Golden Arm (and leaden wallet.) She informed me that the tests she'd run indicated I had a bonus batch of the illness that was already killing me. Then she showed me to the front desk, where her billing people explained that there was no need for any follow-up visits. This was fine by me since I was too close to death to want to do anything but go home and lie on the couch with my dearest pal ever, the late Lloyd the Dog.

With the help of friends, the faithful companionship of Lloyd, some herbs and vitamins, and dozens of hilarious DVD's (big doff of the skimmer to W.C. Fields), I somehow inched my way back to health. But I've never been the same. My condition is up and down from day to day. So much as a common cold can drop me just down the street from Death's Door. It's tough but I'm alive and I can still write. I sometimes wonder what I would be able to do had I received timely care, monitoring and treatment for my illness. But mostly I just try to move ahead, enjoy life and continue my work.

And who knows, maybe Sesame Street will hire me to do the Hepatitis alphabet on the show. "G" is for "Ghana," don't drink the swamp water there!"

Anyway, back to yesterday. Upon entering the doctor's office, I was handed a zillion forms to fill out. I complied. One of the questions was: 'Have you ever been hospitalized?' Having never spent a single night in a hospital in my life, I checked "No."

I turned in the forms and waited about 40 minutes before I was called to go into an examining room, where a nurse went over my answers with me. When we came to the hospitalization part, I reiterated that I'd never been hospitalized. A minute later I mentioned how I had been to emergency rooms several times to be stitched up, x-rayed and so on. The nurse then turned prosecuting attorney on me, asking in a most accusatory tone, "I thought you said you've never been hospitalized?"

I responded, "That's right, I have never spent a night in the hospital. But I have been to several hospitals for various things, always as an outpatient. They never, as they say, kept me."

Looking as rueful as Miss Havisham on a bad day, she admonished, "Every one of those visits was a hospitalization."

I said, "Are you trying to establish that I'm a liar thereby adding mendacity to the list of reasons why I am not a good candidate for medical care?"  

She ignored this and repeated " So, you have been hospitalized."

"I guess I have, according to this new definition of the term. Thank goodness we caught that!" That was all I said but I was thinking, "If I'd really been trying to scam you on your boundless definition of 'hospitalization', why the hell would I have answered several other questions about my health history that would have made it clear that I had, on many occasions, set foot in a hospital for care, you corporate bureaucrat in drag as a caregiver!"

But I didn't and she lightened up a bit. Within no more than twenty minutes, even I could again speak with an unclenched jaw.

http://barrycrimmins.com/index.php?page=news&display=9105

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Curry spices for cows and sheep could cut methane emissions

Burping bovines emit the greenhouse gas methane

By Michael McCarthy

Burping bovines emit the greenhouse gas methaneCurry spices could hold the key to reducing the enormous greenhouse gas emissions given off by grazing animals such as sheep, cows and goats, scientists have claimed.

Research carried out at Newcastle University has found that coriander and turmeric – spices traditionally used to flavour curries – can reduce by up to 40 per cent the amount of methane that is produced by bacteria in a sheep's stomach and then emitted into the atmosphere when the animal burps.

Working rather like an anti-biotic, the spices were found to kill the methane-producing "bad" bacteria in the animal's gut while allowing the "good" bacteria to flourish. The findings are part of an ongoing study led by Dr Abdul Shakoor Chaudhry at Newcastle University.

There are around 30m sheep in the UK, each producing around 20 litres of methane a day, emitted by burping. Methane (CH4) is more than 20 times as powerful in terms of causing global warming as the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2). As well as the environmental implications, the sheep itself also loses an estimated 12 per cent of its food energy to methane production, resulting in a lower milk and meat yield.

"Methane is a major contributor to global warming, and the slow digestive system of ruminant animals such as cows and sheep makes them a key producer of the gas," Mr Hasan explained. "What my research found was that certain spices contain properties which make this digestive process more efficient so producing less waste – in this case, methane.

"Spices have long been used safely by humans to kill bacteria and treat a variety of ailments," he added. The study looked at five curry spices – cumin, coriander, clove, turmeric and cinnamon. Each was "ground up" – as if chewed by the sheep – and added to an in-vitro solution mimicking that found in the rumen of the animal. The level of methane released by each was measured against a control.

The most effective was found to be coriander, which reduced methane production from 14 millilitres per gram of food to eight – a drop of 40 per cent. Turmeric produced a 30 per cent reduction and cumin 22 per cent.

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/curry-spices-for-cows-and-sheep-could-cut-methane-emissions-2029761.html

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WWII poster from the US Department of Agriculture

 
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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Perpetual motion machine

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Obama a “Socialist”? I Wish!

By Matthew Rothschild

I got an e-mail from a group called 21st Century Democrats, bemoaning the fact that a recent poll shows that 55% of likely voters said that the word "socialist" describes Obama and his policies.

The 21st Century Democrats said, "You and I know [that] is not the case."

I only wish it were!

I wish Obama had pressed for single-payer national health care.

I wish Obama had nationalized Citicorp and Bank of America, rather than bail them out.

I wish he would have favored breaking up the rest of the big banks so they couldn't destroy our economy.

I wish he would have forced any banks taking federal bailout money to freeze foreclosures for at least a year and freeze interest rates on mortgages and credit cards.

I wish Obama would have proposed redistributing income from the wealthy to those who really need it by raising the marginal income tax, and the capital gains tax, and the estate tax.

I wish Obama would have proposed a transaction tax on every stock sale so as to curb speculation.

I wish Obama would have proposed raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour, as Ralph Nader has proposed.

I wish Obama would have replaced Ben Bernanke at the Fed with Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.

I wish Obama would have come out for democratizing the Fed, as Dennis Kucinich has recommended.

I wish Obama would have proposed a public works program to put every American who needs a job to work.

I wish Obama would have ordered every federal building to be installed with a solar panel, and almost every car in the federal fleet to be a hybrid or electric car.

I wish Obama would have proposed opening federal grocery stores in areas that are food deserts.

I wish Obama would have addressed the cruel problem of poverty in America.

I wish Obama would have proposed 12 months of paid maternity and paternity leave, mandatory paid sick leave, and federal child care.

I wish Obama would have advocated the nationalization of the armament companies, as Sen. Robert La Follette did back in 1924.

I wish Obama would have promoted ideas of worker participation in management, as it prevails in Germany, for instance.

No decent socialist would have implemented policies that have left unemployment at over 9 percent and foreclosures at record heights.

No decent socialist would have let the banks get off so easily.

http://www.progressive.org/wx071910.html

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Anarchism and Nonviolence: Time for a ‘Complementarity of Tactics’

More recently, in the aftermath of the Oscar Grant verdict in Oakland, the media fan the flames by blaming the few stray acts of window-breaking and looting on "self-described anarchists," while police officials emphasize that this de facto terrorist segment justifies their conduct vis-à-vis protesters in general. More rifts develop in the streets, and although a tenuous solidarity is at times expressed as well, the lasting images once again are of anarchists acting in seemingly unproductive ways that put the interests and safety of larger movement contingents in jeopardy.

These are but two recent examples of a phenomenon that has been regularly played out in North America since at least the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999. Antipathy toward anarchists seems to have increased steadily since then, not only from corporate elites and law enforcement officials, but from a number of fellow movement participants as well. Ironically, this comes at a time when interest in anarchism among activists has greatly expanded, and likewise when its impact upon American activism in general has seen a strong resurgence in recent years.

Critical voices regularly chastise anarchists without indicating that they fully understand what anarchism actually is. But anarchists as well oftentimes seem to act in contravention of both historical and political senses of what anarchism represents. This is further made problematic by the basic fact that anarchists generally eschew doctrinaire definitions and ideological litmus tests, suggesting that people ought to be free to define their own actions and ideas in the manner of their own choosing. And yet, a kind of orthodoxy that increasingly seems like "fundamentalist anarchism" may be taking hold among some sectors that posture as "real revolutionaries," who denigrate as "pathological" those who would seek to deploy their version of anarchism in less spectacular ways than overtly "smashing the state" by striking at some of its symbolic targets.

Interestingly, this plays right into the hands of the caricature of anarchism as violent, bomb-throwing, chaotic behavior that seems to be the first question one gets asked when their anarchism is presented in mixed company.

http://wagingnonviolence.org/2010/07/anarchism-and-nonviolence-time-for-a-%E2%80%98complementarity-of-tactics%E2%80%99/

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A Parliamentary Mob

Dissident Voice: a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice

When I was first elected to the Knesset, I was appalled at what I found. I discovered that, with rare exceptions, the intellectual level of the debates was close to zero. They consisted mainly of strings of clichés of the most commonplace variety. During most of the debates, the plenum was almost empty. Most participants spoke vulgar Hebrew. When voting, many members had no idea what they were voting for or against, they just followed the party whip.

That was 1967, when the Knesset included members like Levy Eshkol and Pinchas Sapir, David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan, Menachem Begin and Yohanan Bader, Meir Yaari and Yaakov Chazan, for whom today streets, highroads and neighborhoods are named.

In comparison to the present Knesset, that Knesset now looks like Plato's Academy.

What frightened me more than anything else was the readiness of members to enact irresponsible laws for the sake of fleeting popularity, especially at times of mass hysteria. One of my first Knesset initiatives was to submit a bill which would have created a second chamber, a kind of Senate, composed of outstanding personalities, with the power to hold up the enactment of new laws and compel the Knesset to reconsider them after an interval. This, I hoped, would prevent laws being hastily adopted in an atmosphere of excitement.

The bill was not considered seriously, neither by the Knesset nor by the general public. The Knesset almost unanimously voted it down. (After some years, several of the members told me that they regretted their vote.) The newspapers nicknamed the proposed chamber "the House of Lords" and ridiculed it. Haaretz devoted a whole page of cartoons to the proposal, depicting me in the garb of a British peer.

So there is no brake. The production of irresponsible laws, most of them racist and anti-democratic, is booming. The more the government itself is turning into an assembly of political hacks, the more the likelihood of its preventing such legislation is diminishing. The present government, the largest, basest and most despised in Israel's history, is cooperating with the Knesset members who submit such bills, and even initiating them itself.

The only remaining obstacle to this recklessness is the Supreme Court. In the absence of a written constitution, it has taken upon itself the power to annul scandalous laws that violate democracy and human rights. But the Supreme Court itself is beleaguered by rightists who want to destroy it, and is moving with great caution. It intervenes only in the most extreme cases.

Thus a paradoxical situation has arisen: parliament, the highest expression of democracy, is itself now posing a dire threat to Israeli democracy.

http://dissidentvoice.org/2010/07/a-parliamentary-mob/

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They're all grovelling and you can guess the reason

 
by Robert Fisk
 
It is the season of grovelling.
 
Only a week after CNN's Octavia Nasr and the British ambassador to Beirut, Frances Guy, dared to suggest that Sayyed Hassan Fadlallah of Lebanon was a nice old chap rather than the super-terrorist the Americans have always claimed him to be, the grovelling began. First Ms Nasr, already fired by the grovelling CNN for her effrontery in calling Fadlallah a "giant", grovelled herself. Rather than tell the world what a cowardly outfit she had been working for, she announced that hers was "a simplistic comment and I'm sorry because it conveyed that I supported Fadlallah's life's work. That's not the case at all".

What is this garbage? Nasr never gave the impression that she supported "Fadlallah's life's work". She merely expressed her regret that the old boy was dead, adding – inaccurately – that he had been part of Hizbollah. I don't know what her pompous (and, of course, equally grovelling) "senior vice president" said to her when she was given her marching orders. But like victims of the Spanish Inquisition, Nasr actually ended up apologising for sins she had never even been accused of. Then within hours, British ambassador Guy began her own self-flagellation, expressing her regrets that she may have offended anyone (and we all know what that means) by her "personal attempt to offer some reflections of a figure who, while controversial, was also highly influential in Lebanon's history and who offered spiritual guidance to many Muslims in need".

I loved the "controversial" bit – the usual "fuck you" word for anyone you want to praise without incurring the wrath of, well, you know who. The Foreign Office itself took down poor Ms Guy's blogapop on old Fadlallah, thus proving – as Arab journalists leapt to point out this week – that while Britain proclaims the virtues of democracy and the free press to the grovelling newspaper owners and grotty emirs of the Middle East, it is the first to grovel when anything might offend you know who.

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-theyre-all-grovelling-and-you-can-guess-the-reason-2028720.html

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Vilsack Must Keep Black Farmers On Their Land

One Million and a Half Black-Owned Farm Acres Being Looted by USDA While Farmers Wait for Justice

by Cynthia McKinney

[USDA Secretary] Secretary Vilsack admitted in a press conference today, "I did not think before I acted." It is clear from Agriculture Secretary Vilsack's press conference today that he failed to do his job appropriately in his treatment of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) employee, Shirley Sherrod.

Sherrod was fired after her superior, USDA Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook asked Sherrod to pull over on her drive from south Georgia to Athens, Georgia and quit her job after a speech made by Sherrod to the Coffee County NAACP was aired on a Douglas County TV cable access channel and then posted on the internet by Andrew Breitbart, a known conservative, activist blogger.

Sherrod, a veteran advocate for Black Farmers, who the USDA admits have been discriminated against, was fired because the White House feared that Glen Beck was going to discuss her alleged racist remarks on his TV show that night.  It turns out, however, that the tape of Sherrod's remarks had been badly doctored and the doctored version had been posted on the internet.  Glen Beck and the entire Fox News operation were reacting to the doctored internet posting.  Ms. Sherrod was fired without having an opportunity to explain her side of the story and before the White House and Secretary Vilsack had even bothered to look at her entire speech.  "The White House and Secretary Vilsack threw Shirley Sherrod under the bus before they had the facts," said [2008 Green Party presidential  candidate] Cynthia McKinney, who knows Sherrod and has spoken often at the Coffee County NAACP.

Unfortunately however, Secretary Vilsack has also thrown Black Farmers under the bus. To date, despite abundant headlines to the contrary, Black Farmers, including the named plaintiffs in Pigford v. Glickman (1997), Lucious Abrams and Cecil Brewington have not even had a meeting with USDA, to settle their discrimination claim.  Others who did receive settlements were then harassed by the Internal Revenue Service and had their bank accounts frozen and their Social Security payments offset by any government payments, including stimulus payments.  "The actual so-called settlement of the lawsuit was worse than the discrimination that the USDA has admitted to and discrimination is continuing at this very hour," said Pigford plaintiff Black Farmer Eddie Slaughter.

"The President is meeting with everyone except those who brought forward the lawsuit and those who suffered discrimination and the violation of their Constitutional rights," said Lucious Abrams.  Eddie Slaughter and Lucious Abrams met with Secretary Vilsack and apprised him of the current situation, but the Secretary to date has failed to act.

https://wilderside.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/mckinney-ag-secty-vilsack-must-keep-black-farmers-on-their-land/

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Iranian Scientist Would Not Play ‘Curveball’

Useful insights often must be seen through a glass darkly. But some can be pulled through the smoke and mirrors shrouding the wanderings of Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri, who is now back home in Iran after 14 months in the U.S. as guest of the CIA.

The confusing/amusing spin applied by both countries to L' Affaire Amiri can detract from the real issues. The facts beneath the competing narratives permit a key conclusion; namely, that U.S. intelligence has learned nothing to change its assessment that Iran halted work on the nuclear-weapons related part of its nuclear development program in the fall of 2003 and has not restarted that work.

That twin judgment leaped out of a formal National Intelligence Estimate, "Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities," [.pdf] approved unanimously by all 16 U.S intelligence agencies in November 2007. 

That NIE substituted a rigorous evidence-based approach for the knee-jerk premise of earlier estimates that Iran had already decided to develop nuclear weapons and the question was just when, not if, it would eventually acquire them.

The NIE began with these words:

"We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons. …

"We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons. …

"Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005."

That is not what President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney had been telling the world, preferring to hyperbolize the danger from Iran's nuclear "weapons" program. Indeed, visiting Israel in January 2008, Bush said he did not believe the NIE's key judgments, and actually apologized to the Israelis for the unfortunate Estimate.

But the word was out and it put the kibosh on White House/neocon plans to manufacture/embellish an imminent nuclear threat from Iran, to look the other way as the Israelis attacked, and to then spring to the aid of our Israeli "ally," even though there is no bilateral defense treaty requiring that. 

The timely publication of the NIE's key judgments played a key role in scuttling plans of those in Washington and Tel Aviv to prevent/pre-empt the ostensibly urgent, but actually bogus, threat from Iran.

http://original.antiwar.com/mcgovern/2010/07/17/iranian-scientist-would-not-play-curveball/

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10 of the Most Crooked Candidates of 2010

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This election's crop of the dirtiest, least ethical candidates vying for office in Washington.

Since 2005, the Watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has highlighted the most egregious violators of the public trust in its annual Most Corrupt Members of Congress report.  Now, CREW has begun a list of Crooked Candidates to shine the spotlight on some of the lousy politicians vying for federal office in 2010. Here's their collection of non-incumbent candidates so far:

CREW's Crooked Candidates 2010

Roy Blunt -- Running for U.S. Senate, Missouri

Running for U.S. Senate, Missouri

Roy Blunt is a candidate in the Republican primary for the United States Senate in Missouri. For the last 14 years, Rep. Blunt has served in the U.S. House of Representatives in the state's 7th congressional district. As a member of Congress, Rep. Blunt came under fire for a variety of issues including employing the same corrupt tactics that forced his mentor, former Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, to resign. Rep. Blunt's ethical issues were documented in CREW's 2006 report on the most corrupt members of Congress.

In 2003, Rep. Blunt divorced his wife of 31 years to marry Philip Morris (now Altria) lobbyist Abigail Perlman. Before it was known publicly that Rep. Blunt and Ms. Perlman were dating – and only hours after Rep. Blunt assumed the role of Majority Whip – he tried to secretly insert a provision into Homeland Security legislation that would have benefitted Philip Morris, at the expense of competitors. Notably, Philip Morris/Altria and its subsidiaries contributed at least $217,000 to campaign committees connected to Rep. Blunt from 1996 to 2006.

Also in 2003, Rep. Blunt helped his son, Andrew Blunt, by inserting a provision into the $79 billion emergency appropriation for the war in Iraq to benefit U.S. shippers like United Parcel Service, Inc. and FedEx Corp. Andrew Blunt lobbied on behalf of UPS in Missouri, and UPS and FedEx contributed at least $58,000 to Rep. Blunt from 2001 to 2006.

Family connections have also helped another of Rep. Blunt's sons, former Missouri Governor Matt Blunt. Gov. Blunt received campaign contributions from nearly three dozen influential Missouri lobbyists and lawyers when he ran for governor of Missouri in 2004, half of whom had provided financial support to his father. Earlier in 2000, when Matt Blunt was running for Secretary of State, Rep. Blunt was involved in an apparent scheme, along with Rep. DeLay, to funnel money through a local party committee into Matt Blunt's campaign committee.

Rep. Blunt and his staff had close connections to convicted former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In June 2003, Mr. Abramoff persuaded then-Majority Leader DeLay to organize a letter, co-signed by then-Speaker Dennis Hastert, then-Whip Blunt, and then-Deputy Whip Eric Cantor, which endorsed a view of gambling law benefitting Mr. Abramoff's client, the Louisiana Coushatta, by blocking gambling competition by another tribe. Mr. Abramoff had donated $8,500 to Rep. Blunt's leadership PAC, Rely on Your Beliefs.

Charlie Crist -- Running for U.S. Senate, Florida

Governor Charlie Crist is an Independent candidate running for United States Senate from Florida. Charlie Crist is currently the governor of Florida, but has held several public offices over the last 18 years.

Gov. Crist handpicked Jim Greer to head the Florida Republican Party. Despite multiple calls for Mr. Greer's resignation by fellow Republicans, due to extravagant spending at the party's expense, Gov. Crist defended Mr. Greer. Mr. Greer is now facing six counts of grand theft, fraud and money laundering. He is accused of secretly setting up a shell company, Victory Strategies, and signing a deal that would give Victory Strategies 10% of GOP donations – a deal that Gov. Crist allegedly approved.

Prior to serving as governor, Gov. Crist was the state's attorney general. As attorney general, Gov. Crist was criticized for failing to investigate those with whom he had political or financial ties. First, he failed to investigate state contractor GDX for leaking the personal information of 100,000 state employees. GDX had been subcontracted by computer company Convergys to index electronic personnel records but when GDX outsourced the job overseas, the personal information of up to 100,000 state employees may have been exposed. Convergys had close ties to then-Attorney General Crist. The company had hired his advisor as a lobbyist and was a donor to the Republican Party. Attorney General Crist dropped the investigation.

As attorney general, Gov. Crist also failed to fully investigate boy-band mogul Lou Pearlman. Mr. Pearlman, who ran a $300 million investment scam, was eventually indicted by federal authorities and pled guilty of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering charges. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. A lawsuit brought by investors claimed Gov. Crist and Florida regulators knew about the scheme but turned a blind eye for four years. The suit alleges Mr. Pearlman got a pass from the then-attorney general because he had donated at least $12,000 to Gov. Crist's campaign.

Jeff Denham -- Running for U.S. House, California

Jeff Denham is the Republican candidate for California's 19th congressional district. He has served as a California State Senator since 2003.

Sen. Denham has been accused of supporting the interests of Chukchansi Indian's casino in exchange for the tribe's political support. Sen. Dunham used his influence to oppose construction of a $250 million casino proposed by the North Folk Rancheria of Mono Indians, which would likely compete with the existing Chukchansi casino.

The Chukchansi Indian tribe has been tied to campaign ads and a charity event supporting Sen. Denham. First, the interest group, Californians for Fiscally Conservative Leadership, set up by the Chukchansi Indian tribe, aired radio ads attacking Sen. Denham's opponent just before the congressional primary election.

Additionally, Sen. Denham donated $25,000 and loaned $150,000 from his state senate campaign account to the nonprofit Remembering the Brave. The nonprofit was working in coordination with the Chukchansi Indian Tribe to host a charity concert. Remembering the Brave sponsored radio and television advertisements, prominently featuring Sen. Denham, to promote the concert. Experts agreed that the exposure the ads afforded Sen. Denham likely benefited his run for Congress. By donating and loaning the money from his state campaign account Sen. Denham may have violated rules forbidding the use of state campaign money on a federal race.

Furthermore, the Chukchansi Indian Tribe stated in a marketing memo that the charity concert would "raise funds for Jeff Denham and Joe Alberta campaigns." The tribe later called the memo a misprint.

Lastly, Sen. Denham may have violated federal election law in late March when he traveled on a plane owned by Harris Farms, a California agribusiness. Since 2007 it has been illegal for congressional candidates to fly on corporate planes. Sen. Denham boarded the plane with Karl Rove and Andy Vidak, a Republican candidate from the neighboring 20th district, and flew from Fresno to East Bay and then to Harris Ranch. Local charter operators estimated the cost of the flight to have been at least $750, but Sen. Denham, in his campaign finance disclosures, reported only $150 to Harris Farms for travel expenses.

Alvin Greene -- Running for U.S. Senate, South Carolina

Alvin Greene is the Democratic nominee for United States Senate from South Carolina.

There are major questions about the legitimacy of Mr. Greene's campaign.  When Mr. Greene won the primary he had engaged in no fundraising, had no website and had no organized campaign.  Mr. Greene was discharged from the Army in August 2009, is currently unemployed and lives with his father. In addition, when Mr. Greene was charged with obscenity in November 2009 for showing pornography to a University of South Carolina student, he was assigned a public defender, a service normally provided only to indigent defendants.

Given Mr. Greene's apparent lack of funds, CREW and others raised questions about whether someone had paid the $10,440 fee to file as a candidate with his own money.  The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) investigated Mr. Greene's finances and found he had used his own savings from the Army to pay the registration fees.  SLED also found Mr. Greene had no intent to deceive the court when he applied for a public defender to defend him against the obscenity charges though he is now being represented by a private lawyer.

Several politicians have criticized Mr. Green including House Majority Whip James Clyburn who claimed Mr. Greene is "someone's plant" from an outside party and called for an investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office.

CREW also filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging Mr. Greene violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) and FEC regulations by failing to file mandatory disclosure reports prior to the election. CREW's complaint to the FEC alleges Mr. Greene failed to file a Statement of Candidacy and that his campaign committee, Alvin M. Greene for Senate, failed to file a Statement of Organization as well as the April 15th and 12-Day Pre-Primary reports. These reports would have disclosed the campaign's contributions and expenditures leading up to the June 8, 2010 primary.  CREW asked the FEC to refer any knowing and willful violations to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution.

Offering an unusual job creation proposal, Mr. Greene suggested someone "make toys of me, especially for the holidays. Little dolls. Me. Like maybe little action dolls. Me in an army uniform, air force uniform, and me in my suit. They can make toys of me and my vehicle, especially for the holidays and Christmas for the kids.  So you see I think out of the box like that. It's not something a typical person would bring up. That's something that could happen, that makes sense. It's not a joke."   Later, Mr. Greene elaborated, "I am a true American hero and if any of the toy companies want to put something like that forward that would be good." He said he has not received any inquiries, but that it would be "Just a good positive thing for the kids."

http://www.alternet.org/news/147608/10_of_the_most_crooked_candidates_of_2010?page=entire

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