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Beef firm faces perplexing resistance to mad cow tests
Creekstone Farms Premium Beef is a small producer of high-quality beef in Kansas. But it's making a big point about mad cow disease. It wants to privately test all of the cattle it slaughters for the illness, which can cause a fatal brain disease in humans who eat infected meat. The way Creekstone Farms sees it, 100% testing would reassure U.S customers. The company also says it is talking with Japan about restarting exports there, where total testing is required. But the firm has run into surprising obstacles: from the federal government, which has pledged to do everything possible to detect the disease, and from the meat industry, which has scrambled to keep consumer confidence since December. That's when the first U.S. case of mad cow was found in a Washington cow imported from Canada. Their reasoning is as confounding as government foot-dragging over approving private testing. And it ill-serves confused customers who are looking for stronger assurances that the meat they buy is safe. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) currently does not allow such private testing for mad cow disease. And it claims that a new government testing system it approved this month is perfectly adequate. More than 10 times the number of cattle will be tested for mad cow under the new system, but the government still will be testing less than 1% of the 37 million cattle slaughtered in the U.S. each year. That falls far short of the 100% testing Creekstone Farms is proposing and Japan provides. Other beef producers complain that Creekstone Farms' 100% testing plans would set an expensive precedent. They worry that consumers might be misled into thinking an untested cut of beef isn't safe. --

*****Well, Duh? If it isn't tested it MIGHT be unsafe, doncha think???!!! - More Bush policy of "Let's fuck the American consumer"******
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posted by An Old Curmudgeon 1:07 PM

Creepier than Nixon
(David Talbot, Salon.com, March 31, 2004)
As Richard Nixon's White House counsel during the Watergate scandal, John Dean famously warned his boss that there was "a cancer on the presidency" that would bring down the administration unless Nixon came clean. In his new book, "Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush," Dean warns the country that the Bush administration is even more secretive and authoritarian than Nixon's -- in fact, he writes, it's "the most secretive presidency of my lifetime." "To say that the [Bush-Cheney] secret presidency is undemocratic is an understatement," he adds. "I'm anything but skittish about government, but I must say this administration is truly scary and, given the times we live in, frighteningly dangerous." While Nixon's presidency gave currency to the term "stonewalling," Bush and Cheney have made stonewalling their standard procedure, far in excess of Nixon. In short, in every area one looks, Bush and Cheney are more secretive than Nixon ever imagined being. There has never been a vice president -- ever (and even including Spiro Agnew who was Nixon's) -- who needed to be investigated more than Cheney. Nor has there ever been such a secretive vice president. Dick Cheney is the power behind the Bush throne. Frankly, I am baffled why the mainstream news media has given Cheney (not to mention Bush) a free ride. Cheney knows how to play Bush so that Cheney is absolutely no threat to him, makes him feel he is president, but Bush can't function without a script, or without Cheney. Bush is head of state; Cheney is head of government.

*****Take the day pass - this is a heady interview by someone well schooled in the dark side of politics. I echo his comment of disbelief that the mainstream media has given Cheney/Bush a free ride. Completely boggles the mind... but that's just this old curmudgoen's opinion, FWIW!!********
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posted by An Old Curmudgeon 10:58 AM

Running Scared From Clarke
(Philip James, The Guardian, 26 March 2004)
The swiftness and ferocity of the Bush White House's attack on Richard Clarke tells you two things: his story may be largely true, and the Bush administration is terrified that the American people will believe it. . . . The central allegation - that Mr Bush was so obsessed with going after Saddam Hussein that he openly challenged his counter-terrorism adviser to find a link between September 11 and Iraq the day after the attacks took place - is serious. . . . It threatens the fundamental platform of the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign: that you are safer with them than you are with the Democrats. . . . "The conversation absolutely took place. I was there, but you can't name me," the witness said. "I was one of several people present. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that the president had Iraq on his mind, first and foremost." . . . This former national security council official was too terrified to go on the record - he knows how vengeful this administration can be. . . . He remembers the late night phone call former treasury secretary Paul O'Neill received just before he published The Price of Loyalty, his account of how the Bush White House set its sights on Iraq from day one. He was about to discover the price of disloyalty to this administration. . . . It was Donald Rumsfeld on the line, a man more used to authorising deadly force on the grandest scale, gently advising him that it might not be in his best interests to go public. . . . When O'Neill ignored him, he instantly became the target of an investigation by his former department, which claimed that he had revealed state secrets. . . . Bush's mantra to the international community during his inexorable march to war in 2002-2003 - you are either with us or against us - applies, with equal force, to all who serve him. . . . His inner circle has used fear and intimidation to keep the White House airtight. But the cracks are opening up, and those pesky facts keep resurfacing like unsightly flotsam, evidence that supports Richard Clarke's revelations. . . . The fact that the Pentagon pulled the fighting force most equipped for hunting down Osama bin Laden from Afghanistan in March 2002 in order to pre- position it for Iraq cannot be denied. . . . "In spite of the fact that it had taken five months to establish trust, suddenly there were two days to hand over to people who spoke no Dari, Pastun or Arabic, and had no rapport." . . . The Bush White House has banked on all who were privy to these details keeping the code of silence. But too many people outside the White House sphere of influence are too well informed, be they commandos on the ground or career civil servants at the state department and CIA. . . . Some have come forward, risking the ire of the Bushies. Many more are considering it, weighing their conscience alongside their sense of self-preservation. . . . It is becoming clear their silence might ensure that the Bush White House gets away with the central lie of its tenure - the blanket denial that it abandoned the war on terror to pursue an unrelated, pre-selected Iraq agenda. . . . The louder the Bush administration proclaims that it is the only qualified protector of national security, the more offensively that rings in the ears of those who know the truth. Sooner or later - and certainly before November - that truth will out.
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posted by Lorenzo 7:11 PM

9/11: Blood on Bush's Hands?
(Jonathan David Morris, Strike The Root, March 24, 2004)
We hear so much about foreign dictators. We know leaders cause problems to keep themselves employed. Why is it some questions about 9/11 are out-of-bounds? Americans ought to be asking all questions, even the seemingly silly ones. Assessing our own errors won't bring back the victims, but it won't trash their memory, either. Mistakes were made. We know this. But was it incompetence or corruption? [Howard] Dean's comments were criticized, but his logic was spot-on: The fact is we don't know what happened. If the White House is on the up-and-up here -- if their want for regime change was as well-intentioned as it now seems ill-advised -- they should open up and show us, for their sake and ours. Patriot Act supporters tell civil libertarians they don't have to worry if they've done nothing wrong. The same standard should apply to elected officials and bureaucrats. They have nothing to fear if they've nothing to hide. But if they hide? Perhaps we should fear them.
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posted by An Old Curmudgeon 6:39 PM

An Administration of Insincerity
(Anthony Karnowski , Strike The Root, 3/25/2004)
Richard Clarke should be awarded a medal. By speaking out against the way the current administration handled the 9/11 attacks, he is helping to prove that we are being led by a regime of, to quote Al Franken, “lying liars.” Since the 60 Minutes interview with Clarke aired on Sunday night, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley have issued a series of statements that fly in the face of many of the facts that have been unearthed by the investigation surrounding our nation’s push to war.
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posted by An Old Curmudgeon 5:51 PM

Bush's Fascist Plan for America Is Coming Unraveled
(Paul Krugman, New York Times, March 23, 2004)
The Bush administration "dropped a shroud of secrecy" over the federal government. . . . Ari Fleischer ominously warned, "need to watch what they say, watch what they do." Patriotic citizens were supposed to accept the administration's version of events, not ask awkward questions. . . . But something remarkable has been happening lately: more and more insiders are finding the courage to reveal the truth . . . how risky it is to reveal awkward truths about the Bush administration. When Gen. Eric Shinseki told Congress that postwar Iraq would require a large occupation force, that was the end of his military career. When Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV revealed that the 2003 State of the Union speech contained information known to be false, someone in the White House destroyed his wife's career by revealing that she was a C.I.A. operative. And we now know that Richard Foster, the Medicare system's chief actuary, was threatened with dismissal if he revealed to Congress the likely cost of the administration's prescription drug plan. . . . On "60 Minutes" on Sunday, Mr. Clarke said the previously unsayable: that Mr. Bush, the self-proclaimed "war president," had "done a terrible job on the war against terrorism." After a few hours of shocked silence, the character assassination began. . . . Of course, Bush officials have to attack Mr. Clarke's character because there is plenty of independent evidence confirming the thrust of his charges. . . . Not only did John Ashcroft completely drop terrorism as a priority, it wasn't even mentioned in his list of seven "strategic goals" just one day before 9/11 he proposed a reduction in counterterrorism funds. . . . After 9/11 the F.B.I. requested $1.5 billion for counterterrorism operations, but the White House slashed this by two-thirds. (Meanwhile, the Bush campaign has been attacking John Kerry because he once voted for a small cut in intelligence funds.) . . . In November 2001 a bipartisan delegation urged the president to spend about $10 billion on top-security priorities like ports and nuclear sites. But Mr. Bush flatly refused. . . . "From the very first moments after Sept. 11," Kenneth Pollack told "Frontline," "there was a group of people, both inside and outside the administration, who believed that the war on terrorism . . . should target Iraq first." Mr. Clarke simply adds more detail. . . . Still, the administration would like you to think that Mr. Clarke had base motives in writing his book. But given the hawks' dominance of the best-seller lists until last fall, it's unlikely that he wrote it for the money. Given the assumption by most political pundits, until very recently, that Mr. Bush was guaranteed re-election, it's unlikely that he wrote it in the hopes of getting a political job. And given the Bush administration's penchant for punishing its critics, he must have known that he was taking a huge personal risk. . . . So why did he write it? How about this: Maybe he just wanted the public to know the truth.

[COMMENT: Any objective observer (whose life isn't dominated by fear) can see that Bush and his merry band of evil doers have almost completely destroyed the dream of freedom this nation was built upon. This is not the same nation that my father served in uniform during World War II. And this is not the country that I served in uniform during America's war on Viet Nam. At least then We the People could still turn out into the streets and force change. Today, under the Cheney-Bush junta, people are afraid to express their true feelings and speak the truth for fear of being branded a traitor for not following the Bush Family/Saudi Family/Bin Laden family/Israeli line. (And yes, those people are deeply interconnected.) The USA is in the process of becoming another Palestine. Pressure is building on the good people of this nation. A moment of truth cannot be far away.]
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posted by Lorenzo 5:58 AM

Insider's attack rattles Bush
(Justin Webb, BBC, 22 March 2004)
Former US terrorism czar Richard Clarke's allegations are a blow to a White House which intends to portray the president in this election year as a tireless fighter against terrorists. . . . The reality, according to Mr Clarke, is that the Bush Administration was so obsessed with Iraq that even after the 11 September attacks, key figures were looking for excuses to bomb Baghdad rather than Afghanistan - where al-Qaeda was based. . . . Mr Clarke said: "When we talked about bombing the al-Qaeda infrastructure in Afghanistan, Donald Rumsfeld said there were no good targets in Afghanistan: Let's bomb Iraq." . . . Mr Clarke countered that Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks. "That didn't seem to make much difference" to Mr Rumsfeld, he added. . . . The Iraq obsession, according to Mr Clarke, was not just lodged in the mind of the defence secretary - the president himself had caught the bug. . . . The White House is rattled. Rattled because these are grave allegations to make in election year and rattled because the man making them is a serious player: an anti-terrorism advisor to four successive presidents from Ronald Reagan through George W Bush.
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posted by Lorenzo 1:40 PM

This falls under the category of "what the hell were they thinking?"
Messing with the Constitution

Neal Boortz, Townhall.com, March 19, 2004
There is a move a foot in the Congress to essentially change the way the United States Constitution is amended. Eleven Republican congressmen have decided that the old system of congressional passage coupled with state ratification is just too cumbersome for this enlightened age. Their idea? To simply allow the House and Senate to amend our Constitution with a simple two-thirds majority vote. The outrage here is that eleven Republican members of the Congress of the United States have so little regard and respect for our Constitution that they would actually put their names on this insult. You would normally expect this depraved behavior from Democrats or the local mob. The offense, though, is so grave the guilty parties must be identified. See if one of these names is familiar to you. We have Lewis of Kentucky, Howard of North Carolina, DeMint of South Carolina, Kingston and Collins of Georgia, Everett of Alabama, Dolittle and Pombo of California, Franks of Arizona, Hefley of Colorado, Goode of Virginia and Pitts of Pennsylvania.

*****This one is so arrogant, it takes my breath away*******
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posted by An Old Curmudgeon 1:55 PM

Jefferson Was Right: Rebel Against the Corporations
(Dr. Michael P. Byron, 05/24/03)
Most Americans don't know it but Thomas Jefferson, along with James Madison worked assiduously to have an 11th Amendment included into our nation's original Bill of Rights. This proposed Amendment would have prohibited "monopolies in commerce." The amendment would have made it illegal for corporations to own other corporations, or to give money to politicians, or to otherwise try to influence elections. . . . Jefferson and Madison were so insistent upon this amendment because the American Revolution was in substantial degree a revolt against the domination of colonial economic and political life by the greatest multinational corporation of its age: the British East India Company. . . . In the end the amendment was not adopted because a majority in the first Congress believed that already existing state laws governing corporations were adequate for constraining corporate power. Jefferson worried about the growing influence of corporate power until his dying day in 1826. Even the more conservative founder John Adams came to harbor deep misgivings about unchecked corporate power. . . . The meaning of the Constitution, and hence the very nature of our political system, was now in the hands of an un-elected and effectively uncontrollable body. "The Constitution has become a thing of wax to be molded as the Court sees fit" Jefferson lamented. . . . The precipitating event was the case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. This case is cited to the present day as having conferred the status of "natural" as opposed to "artificial" personhood upon American corporations. In fact the Supreme Court declined to rule on the issue. J.C. Bancroft Davis, the Clerk of the Court, an attorney, who curiously was also a former railroad company PRESIDENT, used his position to simply write this conclusion into the head notes which summarized the case. Ever since this fateful event; this sleight-of-hand rewriting of the Constitution, corporations have had the status of "actual" persons whose rights are fully protected by the Constitution. It was a coup against democracy which succeeded because there were no real external checks and balances on the Court, and because the Court itself chose not to act to repudiate Davis' rewriting of the Constitution. The thing stood. Precedent was established. Jefferson's "thing of wax" nightmare had come to pass. . . . Consider the implications: Actual flesh and blood persons are indeed all roughly equal in overall attributes. But a corporation can possess MILLIONS of times greater resources than does any "natural" person, or even a group of such persons. Neither labor unions, nor any other category of "special interest" group possesses this attribute of personhood and so they too are fundamentally and intrinsically unable to compete against corporate "persons." . . . To make a long and sad story short: The concentrated power of corporate persons has overwhelmed our democratic system. The unsound decisions of our unchecked and unbalanced Supreme Court have handed the "keys to the Kingdom" over to our corporate overlords. . . . But now, in the era of global mega-corporations, after a long struggle, our "democratic immune system" is finally being overwhelmed. Democracy, rule of, by, and for the people, is dying in America. . . . Contemporary America is a nation almost wholly under the dominion of plutocratically wealthy, corporate quarterly-profit uber alles overlords. A seamless web of corporate power connects our multinational corporations with our mass media--now almost wholly owned by a handful of mega-corporations. This military-industrial-media complex largely determines which politicians will and will not get elected. Thus they control the government. They control access to money as well as determine how a candidate will be presented to the viewers. . . . Arguably, our corporate media has seen to it that the average American is as brainwashed as is say, the average citizen of North Korea. Our primary role in this atrocious system is simply to consume. We are consumers, corporate subjects, not citizens. Under this materialistic system our lives are devoid of deep meaning as we are conditioned to work ever harder and go ever deeper in debt to accumulate ever more useless junk as though if we just piled up enough of this crap we would somehow, magically, become happy. . . . Let's admit that our democratic, constitutional, system was derailed more than a century ago. Until we return power to the hands of flesh and blood citizens EXCLUSIVELY, until corporations are summarily striped of "personhood", until this legal obscenity is abolished, we can have no real freedom, democracy cannot flourish. . . . It's up to each of us to act NOW. Freedom itself hangs in the balance.
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posted by Lorenzo 4:47 PM

Homophobia - Southern Style
Tenn. County Wants to Charge Homosexuals

Associated Press
DAYTON, Tenn. - The county that was the site of the Scopes "Monkey Trial" over the teaching of evolution is asking lawmakers to amend state law so the county can charge homosexuals with crimes against nature. The Rhea County commissioners approved the request 8-0 Tuesday. Commissioner J.C. Fugate, who introduced the measure, also asked the county attorney to find a way to enact an ordinance banning homosexuals from living in the county. "We need to keep them out of here," Fugate said. The vote was denounced by Matt Nevels, president of the Chattanooga chapter of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. "That is the most farfetched idea put forth by any kind of public official," Nevels said. "I'm outraged." Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Texas' sodomy laws as a violation of adults' privacy. Rhea County is one of the most conservative counties in Tennessee.
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posted by An Old Curmudgeon 6:52 AM

DOJ "Keystone Kops" Demonstrate They Haven't a Clue
Newsweek, March 10, 2004
In the frantic months after September 11, Justice Department prosecutors arranged to release an indicted Detroit crack dealer after the man claimed he could help the FBI locate a higher priority target: Osama bin Laden. But once the accused trafficker, Nageeb Al-Haidari, was free, he allegedly continued to deal drugs—and then fled the country without providing any useful information about the Al Qaeda leader, federal law-enforcement sources tell NEWSWEEK. “He’s a fugitive,” says Michael Liebson, the assistant U.S. attorney in Detroit who had originally overseen Al-Haidari’s case when asked this week about the accused crack dealer’s status. “I have no idea of his whereabouts.” On Oct. 16, 2001, while Haidari was residing in a Detroit jail and about to be sentenced on the state charges, the U.S. attorney’s office in Detroit sent a letter to Paul Bernier, the assistant Wayne County prosecutor who was handling his case, urging that the defendant be freed. The letter said that Al Haidari “has recently provided valuable information to federal law enforcement” and that the “level and extent of his cooperation would be greatly enhanced if he were to be released on bond, pending sentencing” on the state charges. The letter is signed by the U.S. attorney Alan Gershel and Eric M. Straus, a top prosecutor in the office. It appears to have done the trick: Court records show that Al-Haidari was soon released. Convicted on two of the three counts he was facing (fleeing a police officer and possessing a loaded firearm in a car), he was sentenced to three years probation. Gershel and Straus did not return phone calls from NEWSWEEK seeking comment. Robert Pertuso, the FBI agent in charge of Al-Haidari, was warned by another informant that Al-Haidari was about to flee to Yemen. Pertuso is a key figure in the ongoing inquiry into the handling of informants by federal law-enforcement in Detroit—one aspect of the internal Justice Department probe. A flamboyant 26-year veteran agent who prided himself on his ability to recruit valuable informants, Pertuso recently retired amid a barrage of embarrassing disclosures that rocked the Detroit FBI office. In one case, the Detroit News reported that another of Pertuso’s informants—Marwan Farhat, Al-Haidari’s co-defendant in the crack dealing case—had written a letter claiming that he had spied on 242 Muslims, stole mail and broke the law at Pertuso’s direction.

******Our Law Enforcement at work - Don't you feel SAFER now?*********
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posted by An Old Curmudgeon 6:40 AM

The Pinocchio presidency
By Joe Wilson, Salon.com, 3/16/2004
President George W. Bush, in a recent "Meet the Press" interview, acknowledged to interviewer Tim Russert that the upcoming presidential campaign would be a time for the American people to assess whether he had used "good judgment" in his key decisions on foreign policy, and that he welcomed that debate. No more will we stand idly by while the Bush campaign lies about John Kerry's record on defense and national security. The criticism of his vote to shut down the B-2 bomber program came about as the result of recommendations by then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and President George H.W. Bush. It is outrageous for the Bush-Cheney campaign to take that vote out of context, as it is outrageous to suggest that a unanimously adopted congressional resolution to return monies hidden away in the National Reconnaissance Office to the taxpayer is to be weak on national security.
We Americans need a sound debate on the actions of our government over that past three and a half years, on our national security posture and on the future direction of our country. The president has said repeatedly that he welcomes the opportunity to defend his record. He should tell his minions to run just such an aggressive defense of his record and his vision of the future, but not a series of vicious attacks characterized by lies and disinformation as he is doing now. But his campaign of lies is consistent with his administration. Should he continue to march down that low road, he should know that this time the band of brothers and sisters will be the first responders.

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posted by An Old Curmudgeon 11:08 AM

A Rigged Election Coming Up in Ohio
(Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, Mother Jones, March 5, 2004)
"Ohio is the Florida of 2004." . . . That label sounds ominously accurate to the many who are skeptical of computerized voting. In addition to being as decisive as the 2000 polling in Florida, they worry this year's vote in Ohio could be just as flawed. Specifically, they worry that it could be rigged. And they wonder why state officials seem so unconcerned by the fact that the two companies in line to sell touch-screen voting machines to Ohio have deep and continuing ties to the Republican Party. Those companies, Ohio's own Diebold Election Systems and Election Systems & Software of Nebraska, are lobbying fiercely ahead of a public hearing on the matter in Columbus next week. . . . There's solid reason behind the political rhetoric tapping Ohio as a key battleground. No Republican has ever captured the White House without carrying Ohio, and only John Kennedy managed the feat for the Democrats. In 2000, George W. Bush won in the Buckeye State by a scant four percentage points. Four years earlier, Bill Clinton won in Ohio by a similar margin. . . . In recent years, central Ohio has been transformed from a bastion of Republicanism into a Democratic stronghold. Six of Columbus' seven city council members are Democrats, as is the city's mayor, Michael Coleman. But no Democrat has been elected to Congress from central Ohio in more than 20 years, and the area around Columbus still includes pockets where no Democrat stands a chance. One such Republican pocket is Upper Arlington, the Columbus suburb that is home to Walden "Wally" O'Dell, the chairman of the board and chief executive of Diebold. For years, O'Dell has given generously to Republican candidates. Last September, he held a packed $1,000-per-head GOP fundraiser at his 10,800-square-foot mansion. He has been feted as a guest at President Bush's Texas ranch, joining a cadre of "Pioneers and Rangers" who have pledged to raise more than $100,000 for the Bush reelection campaign. Most memorably, O'Dell last fall penned a letter pledging his commitment "to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President." . . . the Diebold boss' partisan cards are squarely on the table. And, when it comes to the Diebold board room, O'Dell is hardly alone in his generous support of the GOP. One of the longest-serving Diebold directors is W.R. "Tim" Timken. Like O'Dell, Timken is a Republican loyalist and a major contributor to GOP candidates. Since 1991 the Timken Company and members of the Timken family have contributed more than a million dollars to the Republican Party and to GOP presidential candidates such as George W. Bush. Between 2000 and 2002 alone, Timken's Canton-based bearing and steel company gave more than $350,000 to Republican causes, while Timken himself gave more than $120,000. This year, he is one of George W. Bush's campaign Pioneers, and has already pulled in more than $350,000 for the president's reelection bid. . . . While Diebold has received the most attention, it actually isn't the biggest maker of computerized election machines. That honor goes to Omaha-based ES&S, and its Republican roots may be even stronger than Diebold's. . . . A little less than eight months after steppind down as director of AIS, Hagel surprised national pundits and defied early polls by defeating Benjamin Nelson, the state's popular former governor. It was Hagel's first try for public office. Nebraska elections officials told The Hill that machines made by AIS probably tallied 85 percent of the votes cast in the 1996 vote, although Nelson never drew attention to the connection. Hagel won again in 2002, by a far healthier margin. That vote is still angrily disputed by Hagel's Democratic opponent, Charlie Matulka, who did try to make Hagel's ties to ES&S an issue in the race and who asked that state elections officials conduct a hand recount of the vote. That request was rebuffed, because Hagel's margin of victory was so large. . . . The first signs that the Diebold-made system in Volusia County was malfunctioning came early on election night, when the central ballot-counting computer showed a Socialist Party candidate receiving more than 9,000 votes and Vice President Al Gore getting minus 19,000. Another 4,000 votes poured into the plus column for Bush that didn't belong there. Taken together, the massive swing seemed to indicate that Bush, not Gore, had won Florida and thus the White House. Election officials restarted the machine, and expressed confidence in the eventual results, which showed Gore beating Bush by 97,063 votes to 82,214. After the recount, Gore picked up 250 votes, while Bush picked up 154. But the erroneous numbers had already been sent to the media. . . . What's particularly troubling, Harris says, is that the errors were caught only because an alert poll monitor noticed Gore's vote count going down through the evening, which of course is impossible. Diebold blamed the bizarre swing on a "faulty memory chip," which Harris claims is simply not credible. The whole episode, she contends, could easily have been consciously programmed by someone with a partisan agenda. Such claims might seem far-fetched, were it not for the fact that a cadre of computer scientists showed a year ago that the software running Diebold's new machines can be hacked with relative ease. . . . Equally troubling, of course, is the fact that the touch-screen systems Diebold, ES&S, and the other companies have on the market now aren’t designed to generate a polling place paper trail. While ES&S says it is open to providing voter receipts, and has even designed a prototype machine that does so, the company isn’t going to roll that prototype into production until state and federal elections officials make it mandatory. . . . In Ohio, Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell has already signed $100 million in agreements to purchase voting machines. The bulk of the purchases would go to Diebold and ES&S, and Blackwell insists there is no need for paper receipts. Considering the political opposition and the companies’ wait-and-see approach, it’s almost certain that voters using touch-screen machines in November will walk away from their polling places without ever seeing a printed record of their choices.
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posted by Lorenzo 12:00 PM

Better watch the stock market
A close friend just told me that his stock broker is recommending that he sell at least half of his high-performing assets immediately. Apparently, that is what the smart money began doing last week. His recommendation: cash and bonds.

Normally I don't pay much attention to rumors like this, but this particular broker has been advising my friend unerringly for many years. It is going to be interesting to see what happens to the Bush gang if the market crashes.
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posted by Lorenzo 3:29 PM

Something to think about
Colin Powell is "the most powerful and damaging black to rise to influence in the world in my lifetime."
-- Randall Robinson, TransAfrica founder
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posted by Lorenzo 5:21 PM

Why Bush Supports Outsourcing
(Daily Mis-Lead, March 10, 2004)
On the eve of his trip to Ohio to "focus on jobs," President Bush claimed yesterday that "we're creating jobs - good, high-paying jobs for the American citizen." His comments come despite the country having lost more than 2 million manufacturing jobs since he was elected. In Ohio, which lost 270,000 manufacturing jobs alone, the economic crisis has raised questions about why the president last month strongly endorsed the outsourcing of U.S. jobs to cheap overseas labor markets. A look at the president's donors offers an answer. . . . Misleader compared the companies that outsource the most U.S. jobs (referred to as "captive remote services companies" on page 11 of the trade association report noted below) with the president's campaign finance records. The analysis shows that the president's campaign has pocketed more than $440,000 and his party more than $3.6 million in just 4 years. These companies have a direct stake in the president publicly supporting outsourcing and doing everything he can to water down or oppose legislation to curb the practice. . . . The breakdown of campaign contributions is as follows:

[CLICK on the link above for the top outsourcers and their contribution amounts and for references for all of the above statements.]
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posted by Lorenzo 4:15 PM

Could this be a hoax?
Today I received an email with the following message:

You help is requested in gaining the opinion of on-line voters to the
following question. Whom do you favor for the next President of the United
States - John Kerry, George W. Bush, or Ralph Nader?

Go to American Family Associationhttp://www.onlinepolls.net/pollv1/default.aspx?pid=10 to express
your opinion.

Cast your vote. Forward to a friend. Help us feel the pulse of America.

Donald E. Wildmon, Founder and Chairman

So I went to that site and cast my vote, fully expecting to see that I was in the minority of voters on that far-right Web site. Imagine my surprise when I saw the results:

John Kerry 89.9%
George Bush 3.85%
Ralph Nader 6.26%

Either a bunch of leftists like me are skewing the vote on that site, or the Bush family is in more trouble than it realizes.
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posted by Lorenzo 3:59 PM

Letter of Resignation to Green Party
(Adrian Kuzminski, February 11, 2004)
I resign effective immediately as national platform committee representative to the United States Green Party from New York, and I also resign effective immediately as a member of the New York State Green Party state committee.
Adrian Kuzminski
Fly Creek, NY

A respect for the opinions of fellow greens obliges me to explain my resignations.
I no longer feel the Green Party is an effective instrument for advancing significant political change in the US. . . . Nader's 2000 candidacy jolted the national political landscape and set in motion questions and issues which, at least in part, have gradually come to penetrate political discussion, even in the resistant mainstream media. That was an important achievement. . . . The apparent revival of the Democratic Party in 2004 is something for which the Greens and Nader can take some credit. . . . The Green Party based its strategic approach on building itself up as a third party, challenging the reigning duopoly in electoral terms. It decried the 'winner-take-all' system and called for replacing it with proportional representation. The Democrats, it insisted, were hopelessly corrupt, and could never be a vehicle for fundamental change. . . . This all made a lot of sense in 2000, after years of rightward drift under Clinton, when Nader pointed out that the Republicans and Democrats were Tweedledum and Tweedledee. But that is no longer the case. . . . It was not the Democrats, but the Republicans, who upset the duopoly. Although the Democrats cooperated, it was the Republicans who brought us the unilateral preemptive War in Iraq, the Patriot Act, the tax cuts, the loss of jobs, and the crippling deficits. The Democratic Party today -- judging by results of the primaries -- has found itself suddenly animated from below by strong opposition to all these policies. . . . Yes, many Democrats, including John Kerry, enabled the Bush agenda by supporting it with their votes in Congress. But the Democratic Party, thanks mostly to the Dean campaign and to the continuing outrage at the grassroots, has now made Bush and his policies the issue in this campaign. . . . Given the significant differences which have now opened up between the major parties, sincere Democrats deserve support in their battle against the Republicans. To deny them that support by running a third party presidential candidate in the general election puts the Greens in the moral bind of helping Bush by dividing the anti-Bush vote. . . . The likely result will be that the Greens will be crushed and discredited by the Democrats, just as they were in 2000 when Nader lost more than half his support to Gore in the closing weeks of the campaign due to Democratic attacks. . . . Today most Greens are in denial about this. They dismiss the 'spoiler argument' as an illusion, as if it was still 2000. But the spoiler argument is built into the winner-take-all system. It didn't matter in 2000, when the parties were almost indistinguishable. But it matters greatly when they display significant differences, as they do today. . . . Greens say: 'We must change the winner-take-all system.' Unfortunately, they do not seem serious about this. If they were, they would have crafted the requisite federal and state constitutional amendments to this end, and they would have focused on advancing them before the public. Instead the Green Party choose to focus on running presidential candidates and high profile candidates in places like California. . . . This was important in 2000 but since has turned out to be a trap. The Green Party is now caught by the very same electoral system it pretends to decry. It has to play the 'winner-take-all' game and this has led it increasingly to accept the terms of the game, and it is now on the verge of being swallowed and coopted by the system. . . . More important, the Green Party has failed to distinguish itself from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. This is shown clearly by the support given by Nader as well as by David Cobb and other Greens to Kucinich. All the Democratic candidates ran if not wholly, then at least largely or in significant part, on progressive issues also supported by Greens. . . . Greens like to talk about consensus, but they have cut themselves off from the much larger group of people who share their values who remain Democrats. . . . A political party, after all, is only a means to an end. Greens at this point would do better to become Democrats. The Democratic Party is not yet quite up for grabs, as the destruction of Dean showed, but its leadership is under serious challenge from within, from the grassroots, for the first time in a generation. . . . When the Republican right wing was devastated in the 1964 election, with Goldwater going down to spectacular defeat, they did not go off to found their own party. Nearly all of them stayed in the Republican Party and worked to build up coalitions until they began to win elections. In the meantime, they imposed most of their values on the Republican agenda. . . . Greens could help other progressives do something similar in the Democratic Party. They could help to 'green' the Democratic Party. They do not have to lose their identity to do so. There could be a Green Caucus within the Democratic Party. . . . To succeed in making it an instrument for political and social justice, the Democratic Party would have to be liberated from corporate control. Howard Dean showed the way here. This may be a more important and realizable task then indulging in what now appears to be the self-defeating and self-righteous luxury of insisting on a third party. . . . If the Democratic Party cannot be reformed, as many Greens think, then the corporate powers will have confirmed their control over electoral politics in the country. But if that is the case, it would seem even more naive to believe that a third party like the Greens could make any headway at all playing straight electoral politics in a rigged system. . . . the Democrats remain the principal potential vehicle of opposition, one which could and should be reformed from within. . . . This goes to a deeper issue. The Greens have not justified their claim to national party status. To make a national claim is to offer something to the public no one else is offering. But the Green Party platform does not differ in essentials from the broader progressive agenda offered through the left wing of the Democratic Party. . . . That progressive agenda, it should be said, remains largely inadequate to the problems confronting us. It remains mired in a false left/right dichotomy. Progressives and other leftists retain a reliance on big government, on collectivized solutions; they have not adequately addressed the failure of both governments and corporations to be democratically accountable. . . . The left would give us big government dominating big business, just as the right has given us big business dominating big government. Neither is really satisfactory. . . . Still, at this point in history, the progressive/left agenda retains the potential to mitigate the recent excesses of the right, and pull the country back towards the center. In the long run, we will need something beyond that. But that's another story.

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posted by Lorenzo 2:15 PM

Senator Byrd: Bush Has Failed Us!
Senator Robert C. Byrd delivered the following remarks as the Senate Budget Committee prepares to debate and vote on the federal budget for Fiscal Year 2005. The Budget Committee is scheduled to work on that budget beginning on Wednesday, March 3, 2004.

With the release of the President's budget for the Fiscal Year 2005, and the upcoming markup of the Fiscal Year 2005 budget resolution, it's now clear that the promises made by this Administration during the 2000 election have not been kept. . . . Contrary to the promise made four years ago to ensure the Social Security benefits promised to our nation's workers, our retirement and disability system has become more vulnerable. . . . Contrary to the promise made four years ago to make health care more affordable, drug prices continue to rise and health insurance remains unobtainable for too many Americans. . . . Contrary to the promises made four years ago to protect our nation's vital industries, this Administration's tax and trade policies have been an unmitigated disaster, with an alarming number of jobs being lost overseas. . . . Contrary to its assurances that it could be trusted to act as a prudent and responsible manager of our nation's fiscal policies, the Bush Administration has demonstrated neither prudence nor fiscal responsibility. . . . The IMF, an international organization normally concerned with the debt problems of third-world nations, has issued an alarming critique of the United States, pleading with the Bush Administration to rein in its massive budget and trade deficits. Similar warnings have emanated from Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, from former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, and from the U.S. Comptroller General David Walker. Even the Administration's own political allies, ranging from the conservative Heritage Foundation to private-sector economists who endorsed the President's tax cuts, have pleaded with this Administration to get its fiscal act together. . . . The Administration is forcing working-class Americans not only to shoulder a massive debt burden, but also to give up those federal programs and services from which they most benefit. . . . The financial perils underlying the Social Security program were brought to light this week when Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan forced the President to confront the fact that his Administration has been hiding from for three years now: if we continue on the fiscal course set by this Administration, we will lose the only opportunity we have left to save Social Security. . . . It's absurd that the Administration is proposing to cut vital domestic investments while billions and billions of dollars are lost every year in the Pentagon's broken accounting system. . . . To date, contrary to the modern tradition of an Administration funding large scale, ongoing wars, at least in part, through the regular appropriations process, the Bush Administration has refused to request funds for the war in Iraq in its annual budget. The Administration waits until funds for the troops are almost exhausted before requesting additional funds through a Supplemental. . . . The Bush Administration's purpose is clear – to limit debate, to limit discussion, to limit having to explain to the American people how much this war will cost and how many lives will be lost before it is over. . . . This year, however, the political posturing has gotten worse. Not only did the President not include any funds in its budget for the ongoing operations in Iraq, the Administration has announced that no supplemental will be sent to the Congress until after – after – the November elections, depriving the American voters of any opportunity to judge the president based on his promises about the costs of a war in Iraq. . . This is a budget of gimmicks, false promises, and unrealistic expectations. It's a budget of misdirection, canards, speciousness, spuriousness, sophistry, equivocation, fallacies, prevarications, and flat out fantasy. Worse, under the guise of reining in budget deficits, this Administration is continuing its assault on the values of the working class. . . . This is an Administration of corporate CEOs and Texas oil men. The corporate elite of this Administration did not grow up wondering if their parents could afford to send them to college. Their parents did not have to choose between paying for groceries and paying for health care. They do not stay up late at night worrying about whether they will lose their pension benefits, or whether Social Security will be enough to provide for their retirement. . . . When the Administration proposes to cut these programs or fails to provide adequate resources for them, it's because it has no personal understanding of the plight of America's workers and how much the President's budget cuts affect middle-class America.
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posted by Lorenzo 5:15 PM

FOX News Caught Coordinating US Senate Floor Activities
[COMMENT: The following is from the developing story of "Hackergate", which may be read in full via the above link.]

Timing of Document Leeks Supported Republican Judiciary Strategy. "After Republicans walked into the Senate chamber together to begin the extraordinary session, Democrats argued that their move was not a show of unity but rather a television stunt orchestrated for Fox News. They pointed to a memo from Manuel Miranda, a staffer for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), which said: "It is important to double efforts to get your boss to S-230 on time ... Fox News Channel is really excited about this marathon and Brit Hume at 6 would love to open with all our 51 senators walking onto the floor -- the producer wants to know will we walk in exactly at 6:02 when the show starts so they get it live to open Brit Hume's show? Or if not, can we give them an exact time for the walk-in start?"
[The Hill, 11/14/03]

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posted by Lorenzo 2:23 PM

Furor over Bush's 9/11 ad
(Maggie Haberman, Thomas M. DeFrank, NY Daily News, March 4, 2004)
The Bush reelection campaign yesterday unveiled its first three campaign commercials showcasing Ground Zero images, angering some 9/11 families who accused President Bush of exploiting the tragedy for political advantage. . . . "It's a slap in the face of the murders of 3,000 people," said Monica Gabrielle, whose husband died in the twin tower attacks. "It is unconscionable." . . . Gabrielle and several other family members said the injury was compounded by Bush's refusal to testify in open session before the 9/11 commission. . . . "I would be less offended if he showed a picture of himself in front of the Statue of Liberty," said Tom Roger, whose daughter was a flight attendant on doomed American Airlines Flight 11. "But to show the horror of 9/11 in the background, that's just some advertising agency's attempt to grab people by the throat." . . . Mindy Kleinberg said she was offended because the White House has not cooperated fully with the commission and because of the sight of remains being lifted out of Ground Zero in one of the spots. . . "How heinous is that?" Kleinberg asked. "That's somebody's [loved one]." . . . Firefighter Tommy Fee in Rescue Squad 270 in Queens was appalled. . . . "It's as sick as people who stole things out of the place. The image of firefighters at Ground Zero should not be used for this stuff, for politics," Fee said. . . . The gauzy, upbeat spots, aimed at shoring up Bush's sagging approval numbers, begin airing today on national cable networks and 50 media markets in 17 states that Bush-Cheney strategists consider electoral battlegrounds. . . . Both ads reinforce the Ground Zero imagery with frontal shots of two firefighters. Unlike the paid actors and actresses in most of the footage, they are not ringers, but their red headgear gives them away as non-New Yorkers. The Bush campaign declined to reveal where the burly smoke-eaters actually work.
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posted by Lorenzo 1:38 PM

Will The End of Oil Mean The End of America?
(Robert Freeman, CommonDreams.org, March 1, 2004)
Pirsig uses the story [see above link] to illustrate the problem of value rigidity. The monkey cannot properly evaluate the relative worth of a handful of food compared to its life. It chooses wrongly, catastrophically so, dooming itself by its own short-term fixation on a relatively paltry pleasure. . . . America has its own hand in a coconut, one that may doom it just as surely as the monkey. That coconut is its dependence on cheap oil in a world where oil will soon come to an end. The choice we face (whether to let the food go or hold onto it) is whether to wean ourselves off of oil--to quickly evolve a new economy and a new basis for civilization--or to continue to secure stable supplies from the rest of the world by force. . . . As with Pirsig's monkey, the alternative consequences of each choice could not be more dramatic. Weaning ourselves off of cheap oil, while not easy, will help ensure the vitality of the American economy and the survival of its political system. Choosing the route of force will almost certainly destroy the economy and doom America's short experiment in democracy. . . . The world is quickly running out of oil. In the year 2000, global production stood at 76 Million Barrels per Day (MBD). By 2020, demand is forecast to reach 112 MBD, an increase of 47%. But additions to proven reserves have virtually stopped and it is clear that pumping at present rates is unsustainable. Estimates of the date of "peak global production" vary with some experts saying it already may have occurred as early as the year 2000. New Scientist magazine recently placed the year of peak production in 2004. Virtually all experts believe it will almost certainly occur before the end of this decade. . . . But oil production is now at its peak and the right hand side of the curve is a virtual drop off. Known reserves are being drawn down at 4 times the rate of new discoveries. . . . The reason for the drop off is that not only have all the "big" discoveries already been made, the rate of consumption is increasing dramatically. Annual world energy use is up five times since 1945. Increases are now driven by massive developing countries--China, India, Brazil--growing and emulating first or at least second world consumption standards. Fixed supply. Stalled discoveries. Sharply increased consumption. This is the formula for global oil depletion within the next few decades. . . . The situation is especially critical in the US. With barely 4% of the world's population, the US consumes 26% of the world's energy. But the US produced only 9 MBD in 2000 while consuming 19 MBD. It made up the difference by importing 10 MBD, or 53% of its needs. By 2020, the US Department of Energy forecasts domestic demand will grow to 25 MBD but production will be down to 7 MBD. The daily shortfall of 18 MBD or 72% of needs, will all need to be imported. . . . oil is the sine qua non of "industrial" civilization--the one thing without which such civilization cannot exist . . . When oil is gone, civilization will be stupendously different. The onset of rapid depletion will trigger convulsions on a global scale, including, likely, global pandemics and die-offs of significant portions of the world's human population. The "have" countries will face the necessity kicking the "have-nots" out of the global lifeboat in order to assure their own survival. Even before such conditions are reached, inelastic supply interacting with inelastic demand will drive the price of oil and oil-derived commodities through the stratosphere, effecting by market forces alone massive shifts in the current distribution of global wealth. . . . President Bush's National Energy Policy published in March 2001 explicitly commits the US to the third choice: Grab the Oil. It is this choice that is now driving US military and national security policy. And, in fact, the past 60 years of US policy in the Middle East can only be understood as the effort to control access to the world's largest supply of oil. . . . Fully 60% percent of the world's proven reserves of oil are in the Persian Gulf. They lie beneath Muslim countries undergoing a religious revolution that wants to return the industrial world to a pre-modern order governed by a fundamentalist Islamic theocracy. Saudi Arabia alone controls 25% of all the world's oil, more than that of North America, South America, Europe and Africa combined. Kuwait, Iran and Iraq, each control approximately 10% of the world's oil. . . . Another 15% of the world's oil lies in the Caspian Sea region, also a dominantly Muslim region. .. . . As long as the US chooses the Grab the Oil alternative, the implications for national policy are inescapable. The combination of all these facts--fixed supply, rapid depletion, lack of alternatives, severity of consequences, and hostility of current stockholding countries--drive the US to HAVE to adopt an aggressive (pre-emptive) military posture and to carry out a nakedly colonial expropriation of resources from weaker countries around the world. This is why the US operates some 700 military bases around the world and spends over half a trillion dollars per year on military affairs, more than all the rest of the world--its "allies" included--combined. . . . But the provocation occasioned by grabbing the oil, especially from nations ideologically hostile to the US, means that military attacks on the US and the recourse to military responses will only intensify until the US is embroiled in unending global conflict. This is the perverse genius of the Grab the Oil strategy: it comes with its own built-in escalation, its own justification for ever more militarization--without limit. It will blithely consume the entire US economy, the entire society, without being sated. It is, in homage to Orwell, Perpetual War for Perpetual Grease. . . . Donald Rumsfeld stated that the US was engaged in "…a thirty to forty year war (!) against fundamentalist Islam." It is the fever of War, of course, that becomes the all-purpose justification for the rollback of civil liberties. . . . Bush is using the self-ratcheting "War on Terror" to effect even more sweeping, perhaps permanent rescissions of civil liberties. . . . Under the Patriot Act, a person can be arrested without probable cause, held indefinitely without being charged, tried without a lawyer or a jury, sentenced without the opportunity to appeal, and put to death--all without notification of…anybody. This is simply a Soviet Gulag and it has been rationalized by the hysterical over-hyping of the War on Terror. The fact that it is not yet widespread does not diminish the more important fact that it has been put in place precisely in anticipation of such procedures needing to be being carried out on a mass scale in the future. . . . When Attorney General John Ashcroft testified on behalf of the Act, he stated, "…those who oppose us are providing aid and comfort to the enemy." These are carefully chosen words. "Aid and comfort to the enemy" are the words used in the Constitution to define Treason, the most fateful of crimes against the state. In other words, protest against the government--the singular right without which America would not even exist--is now being defined as trying to overthrow the government. . . . And by the internal logic of a global Oil Empire, this is entirely reasonable. The needs of the people of any one country must be subordinated to the larger agenda of Empire itself. This is what the Romans learned in 27 B.C. when Augustus proclaimed himself Emperor. It was the end of the Roman Republic and the disappearance of representative government on earth for almost 1,700 years, until the English Civil Wars in the 1600s. That is the reality we are confronting today--offering up our democracy in propitiation to an Empire for Oil. It will be a fateful, irreversible decision. . . . What, then, is the alternative, the letting go of the paltry handful of food in conscious preference for the life of continued freedom? . . . The alternative to Grab the Oil is to dispense with the hobbling dependency on oil itself and to quickly wean the country off of it. Call it the path of Energy Reconfiguration. It is to declare a modern day Manhattan Project aimed at minimizing the draw down in the world's finite stocks of oil, extending their life, and mitigating the calamity inherent in their rapid exhaustion. It means building a physical infrastructure to the economy that is based on an alternative to oil. And it means doing this, not unilaterally or militarily as the US is doing now, but in peaceful partnership with other countries of the world, the other counties in our shared global lifeboat that are also threatened by the end of oil. . . . Energy Reconfiguration also delivers enormous--perhaps incalculable--benefits to the environment. By reducing energy intensity, it reduces the impact on the biotic carrying systems of any level of economic activity. Global warming may be the single most potent threat to global stability today. A recently leaked Pentagon report predicted that rapid climate change may well set off global competition for food and water supplies and, in the worst scenarios, spark nuclear war. If the US did no more than change from being the most energy inefficient economy in the industrial world to being of only average efficiency, it would dramatically slow the environmental destruction that hangs like a sword over the entire world. . . . We should harbor no illusions, however, that adopting such a strategy will be easy. The military and energy industries in which the Bush family is so heavily invested will vigorously resist such a policy. And the energy bill now making its way through Congress is nothing so much as a testament to the death grip the energy industry holds on the American people. It provides tens of billions of dollars of subsidies and giveaways to energy companies while actually encouraging more intensive energy use. As the poster boy of these leviathans, President Bush expressed their sentiments best: "We need an energy policy that encourages consumption." What more need be said? . . . In the end, the choice of these two alternatives--Grab the Oil or Energy Reconfiguration--is much bigger than oil alone. It is a choice about the fundamental ethos and, in fact, the very nature of the country. Most immediately, it is about democracy versus empire. In economic terms, it is about prosperity or poverty. In engineering terms, it is a matter of efficiency over waste. In moral terms this is the choice of sufficiency or gluttony. From the standpoint of the environment, it is a preference for stewardship over continued predation. In the ways the US deals with other countries it is the choice of co-operation versus dominance. And in spiritual terms, it is the choice of hope, freedom and purpose over fear, dependency and despair. In this sense, this is truly the decision that will define the future of America and perhaps the world. . . . It is no accident that President Bush has not asked any sacrifices of the country for his War on Terror. That is part of the seduction, like the candy a drug pusher uses to lure an unsuspecting child. . . . But we cannot, like the monkey, claim to be unaware of the choice we are making. Awareness of such choices is part of the burden of mature citizenship. Nor can we feign ignorance of the consequences. Simply put, our present course will cost us our country. And our doom will be compounded by incalculable tragedy and what Lincoln once called "the last best hope for mankind" will, indeed, perish from this earth. Unless, that is, we find the vision, the wisdom and the courage to let go that handful of paltry treats and choose freedom instead.
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posted by Lorenzo 4:52 PM

The Age of Neuromarketing Has Dawned
(Douglas Rushkoff, February 19, 2004)
The latest innovation in a never-ending quest to decode consumer behaviors, the institute uses Emory University Hospital’s Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) equipment to scan the brains of human subjects on behalf of corporate clients such as Coca-Cola, K-mart and Home Depot. . . . Of course, this goes against the grain for any of us still old enough, or conscious enough, to recognize the difference between marketing and culture. We are already living in a world where the colors of wallpaper, the textures of carpet and the scents pumped through ventilation systems are concocted to alter our mood, change our gait and make us bring more items to the checkout line. Our children recognize McDonald’s and Nike logos before they can read, and our teens are suffering from more advertising-related psychological diseases every year–from diabetes and anorexia to attention deficit disorder and alcoholism. . . . So, yes, the thought of a once-respected university surrendering its MRI equipment, psychiatrists and addiction experts to an advertising agency in order for them to mine deep into our pre-conscious neural patterns and speak directly to our reptilian brains is disconcerting, to say the least. . . . If this stuff works, the bottom line of the corporate balance sheet could very well become the arbiter of reality–or at least the way we perceive it. . . . The simple craft of describing what a product does and taking some nice pictures of it has been replaced by the voodoo of emotional logic and cognitive imprinting. . . . Commercial Alert’s letter is quick to cite Forbes magazine, which has called neuromarketing the pursuit of "a buy button inside the skull." Indeed, in a 2002 press release, BrightHouse claimed it would use science "to identify patterns of brain activity that reveal how a consumer is actually evaluating a product, object or advertisement…to help marketers better create products and services and to design more effective marketing campaigns." . . . A decade or so from now, I suspect we will regard neuromarketing researchers and their techniques the way we regard phrenologists or blood-letters today. And we’ll realize that the only people who ended up being hypnotized by their wares were the daft corporate executives who paid for them.
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posted by Lorenzo 11:51 AM

Econometric Modeling as Junk Science
(Ted Goertzel, The Skeptical Inquirer, Jan/Feb 2002)
Do you believe that every time a prisoner is executed in the United States, eight future murders are deterred? Do you believe that a 1% increase in the number of citizens licensed to carry concealed weapons causes a 3.3% decrease in the state's murder rate? Do you believe that 10 to 20% of the decline in crime in the 1990s was caused by an increase in abortions in the 1970s? Or that the murder rate would have increased by 250% since 1974 if the United States had not built so many new prisons? . . . If you were misled by any of these studies, you may have fallen for a pernicious form of junk science: the use of mathematical models with no demonstrated predictive capability to draw policy conclusions. . . . Although economists are the leading practitioners of this arcane art, sociologists, criminologists and other social scientists have versions of it as well. It is known by various names, including "econometric modeling," "structural equation modeling," and "path analysis." . . . If one had perfect measures of all the causal variables, this would work. But the data are never good enough. Repeated efforts to use multiple regression to achieve definitive answers to public policy questions have failed. . . . But many social scientists are reluctant to admit failure. They have devoted years to learning and teaching regression modeling, and they continue to use regression to make causal arguments that are not justified by their data. I call these arguments the myths of multiple regression, and I would like to use four studies of murder rates as examples. . . . Myth One: More Guns, Less Crime. . . . Myth Two: Imprisoning More People Cuts Crime . . . Myth Three: Executing People Cuts Crime . . . Myth Four: Legalized Abortion Caused the Crime Drop in the 1990s.

[COMMENT: For the author's detailed discussion of each of the above myths, click the link above and read the full text of this essay.]
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posted by Lorenzo 4:50 PM

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