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The Muddled Mind of an Insane Leader: Bush on Medicare
WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: "I don't really understand. How is the new plan going to fix the problem?"
Verbatim response of George W. Bush:
"Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculated, for example, is on the table. Whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to that has been promised. Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, supposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help on the red."
[COMMENT by Lorenzo: As has been clearly evident for quite some time now, our Benevolent Dictator is completely insane. As the above example shows, the man is not even able to hold a cogent thought in his brain long enough to complete a single sentence. . . . And this whacko has his finger on the nuclear button!]
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posted by Lorenzo 11:01 AM
The New Fascism
(William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t, 17 January 2006)
Say "fascism" to anyone you meet, and you will conjure images of coal-scuttle helmets, of Nazi boot-heels clicking in terrible unison down Berlin streets during dark days that only a few remaining among the living remember. . . . Say "fascism" to anyone you meet, and you will be greeted with the boilerplate response of the blithely overconfident: such a thing cannot happen here. . . . To be sure, there are no coal-scuttle helmets lined in ranks down our broad avenues, no Tonton Macoute savaging dissidents, no Khmer Rouge slaughtering intellectuals and herding citizens from cities to die by the millions on roads littered with skulls. The core strength of our new fascism is that it speaks softly. It does not present itself in such an obvious way that those who subsist on the dogmas of our greatness can point and say there, there it is, I see it. . . . This new fascism is not fed only by lies, though to be sure the lies are there in preposterous abundance. This new fascism is fed by myths, our myths, the myths by which we rock ourselves to sleep. This new fascism is in truth an elemental fascism, reborn today by a confluence of events; the diligent work of the few, in combination with the passivity of the many, have brought forth this new order. . . . The writer Umberto Eco, in a 1995 essay titled "Ur-Fascism," delineated several core elements that have existed in one form or another in every fascist state in history: "Parliamentary democracy is by definition rotten, because it does not represent the voice of the people, which is that of the sublime leader. Doctrine outstrips reason, and science is always suspect. The national identity is provided by the nation's enemies. Argument is tantamount to treason. Perpetually at war, the state must govern with the instruments of fear. Citizens do not act; they play the supporting role of 'the people' in the grand opera that is the state." . . . George W. Bush has all but gelded Congress in recent months, attaching so-called "signing statements" to a variety of laws, which state that the president may act beyond the laws whenever he so chooses. The United States, fashioned as a republic, has as its voice the congressional body. This is all but finished. To cement his victory over the parliamentary system, Bush has put forth one Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court, a man who believes in the ultimate power of the one leader over the many. [Alito will provide the court with a Roman Catholic majority. This is a church that says both abortion and birth control are mortal sins!] The gelded congress does not appear able to keep this man from the high court, thus rendering the balancing branches of government into a satellite system of the Executive. . . . "The national identity is provided by the nation's enemies.4" . . . This has been with us for generations now. Our nation defined ourselves through a comparison to the Nazis, to the Imperial Japanese, and then through decades of comparison to Communism. Terrorism has supplanted all of these, hammered into place on a Tuesday in September by the actions of madmen. We are not them, all is justified in the struggle against them, and so we are defined. . . . "Perpetually at war, the state must govern with the instruments of fear." . . . The manipulation of this population by fear has been ham-fisted, to be sure, but has also been cruelly effective. We do not want the evidence to be a mushroom cloud. Weapons of mass destruction and al Qaeda in Iraq. Nuclear designs in Iran. Plastic sheeting and duct tape. Orange alert. Argument becomes tantamount to treason simply because everyone has been made to feel fear at all times. A frightened populace is easily governed, and governs itself; this lesson was well-learned in the duck-and-cover days of the Cold War. Those lessons have been masterfully applied once again. Today, the citizenry polices itself, and the herd moves as one body. Even the surveillance of innocent citizens by the state is brushed off as a necessary evil. Remember: you are being watched. . . . Today, we live in the nation of the vanishing voter. Power has been so far removed from the people by those with money and influence that most see voting as a waste of time. Add to this the growing control of the implements of voting and vote-counting by partisan corporations, and the rule of We the People is left in ashes. . . . We must disenthrall ourselves from the idea that our institutions, our traditions, the barriers that protect us from absolute and authoritarian powers, cannot be broken down. They are being dismantled a brick at a time. The separation of powers has already been annihilated. It is a whispered fascism, not yet marching down your street or pounding upon your door in the dead of night. But it is here, and it is laying deep roots. We must listen beyond the whispered fascism of today to the shouted fascism of tomorrow. We must look beyond the lies and the myths, beyond the dogmas by which we sleep.
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posted by Lorenzo 3:36 PM
Vermont Considers Succeeding from the USA
(Bill Kauffman, The American Conservative, December 19, 2005)
Organizers billed the Vermont Independence Convention of Oct. 28 as "the first statewide convention on secession in the United States since North Carolina voted to secede from the Union on May 20, 1861." . . . Only in Vermont, with its town-meeting tradition and tolerance of radical dissent, would the golden-domed State Capitol be given over to a convention exploring the whys and wherefores of splitting from the United States. . . . the Second Vermont Republic (SVR), which declares itself "a peaceful, democratic, grassroots, libertarian populist movement committed to the return of Vermont to its status as an independent republic as it once was between 1777 and 1791." . . . The Second Vermont Republic has a clear, if not simple, mission: "Our primary objective is to extricate Vermont peacefully from the United States as soon as possible." The SVR people are not doing this to "make a point" or to stretch the boundaries of debate. They really want out. . . . Although SVR members range from hippie greens to gun owners—and among the virtues of Vermont is that the twain do sometimes meet—Naylor describes his group’s ideological coloration as "leftish libertarian with an anarchist streak." . . . The SVR lauds the principles and practices of direct democracy, local control of education and health care, small-scale farming, neighborhood enterprise, and the devolution of political power. The movement is anti-globalist and sees beauty in the small. It detests Wal-Mart, the Interstate Highway System, and a foreign policy that is "immoral, illegal, and unconstitutional." . . . why not a new metaphor, suggests Naylor: that of Vermont, which is "smaller, more rural, more democratic, less violent, less commercial, more egalitarian, and more independent" than its sister states? . . . The group's seriousness of purpose is evident in its literate monthly, Vermont Commons, which includes contributions from the likes of Wendell Berry, Bill McKibben, and Kirkpatrick Sale on such topics as family and organic farming, community-supported agriculture, land trusts, and local currencies—constituting in sum, a humane and practicable alternative to the Empire of Wal-Mart and Warfare. The tincture is green, but conservative, too, and although Naylor refuses to kiss up to his state's hack politicians—he calls Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy "a world-class prostitute" - the Republican lieutenant governor has praised the SVR for "their energy and their passion." . . . Kirkpatrick Sale, author of the classic Human Scale, seeks to "put secession on the national agenda." Audacious, perhaps, but hardly a forlorn hope, for as Naylor asks, "Do you want to go down with the Titanic? No empire has survived the test of time." . . . Secession is blowing in the wind. Sale and Naylor count at least 28 U.S. secessionist movements active everywhere from those dubious Cold War states of Alaska and Hawaii to New York City —site of Norman Mailer’s prophetically pro-secession 1969 mayoralty campaign—to the states of the Confederacy, with their League of the South, and up to the felicitously named State of Jefferson in northern California and southern Oregon. America has gone fission. . . . Under a portrait of George Washington, Naylor, the founding father of this republic in gestation, charged that the U.S. government has "no moral authority... it has no soul," and he denied the salvific properties of the Democratic Party: "It doesn't matter if Hillary Clinton or Condoleezza Rice is the next president—the results will be equally grim." . . . I heard much talk of the need for libertarian conservatives and anti-globalist leftists to work together. There is a sense that the old categories, the old straitjackets, must be shed. When Reverend Matchstick preaches that we need decentralism because communities that ban genetically modified food must have the power to enforce those bans, he is speaking a language that pre-imperial conservatives will recognize—the language of local control. Russell Kirk would understand. When the "Vermont nationalist" CEO of a consulting firm insists that Vermont should have the right to determine where (and where not) its national guard is deployed, I hear an echo of the Old Right. Why should the Vermont National Guard be shipped overseas to fight the Empire's wars? . . . "Long Live the Second Vermont Republic and God Bless the Disunited States of America," concluded Thomas Naylor. You got a better idea?
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posted by Lorenzo 10:19 AM
More Government Spying on Nonprofits Revealed
(OMB Watch, 10 January 2006)
New documents released to the press in December 2005 show federal agencies have been infiltrating and conducting surveillance on a wide range of nonprofits, in what appears to be a policy of treating lawful dissent as an act of terrorism. . . . On Dec. 14, 2005 NBC published a story based on a 400-page Dept. of Defense (DOD) document that lists more than 1,500 "suspicious incidents" from the previous year. These included a number of peaceful nonprofit activities, such as a Fort Worth, FL Quaker group planning a protest of military recruitment in area high schools. The DOD document referenced over four dozen anti-war meetings and protests. DOD deemed 24 of these incidents as no threat to national security, but did not delete them from its Talon database. . . . The DOD surveillance, however, does not appear to have been inadvertent. A DOD briefing document, cited in the NBC story, indicated a policy of surveillance of protest groups, stating, "We have noted increased communication and encouragement between protest groups using the Internet..." . . . The FBI's use of Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) resources to spy on domestic groups engaging in peaceful protest has come to light through litigation filed by the ACLU. OMB Watch reported on several instances of surveillance of peace, civil rights and environmental groups last year, based on documents obtained by the ACLU through the Freedom of Information Act. . . . Similar incidents were revealed in Dec. 2005. First, the ACLU of Colorado announced release of documents showing the FBI had tracked the names and license plate numbers of people that attended a protest at the North American Wholesale Lumber Association's convention in Colorado Springs in June 2002. The documents released to the ACLU showed that JTTF recommended a domestic terrorism investigation of people planning to participate in a training on nonviolent protest. . . . The Colorado documents also revealed a FBI investigation of the Colorado Campaign for Middle East Peace, because the group's website promoted a Feb. 2003 anti-war demonstration in Colorado Springs. According to the ACLU report, the FBI conducted surveillance of a car pool meeting place for people attending the event. Of the incidents, ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein explained, "The FBI is unjustifiably treating nonviolent public protest as though it were domestic terrorism. The FBI's misplaced priorities threaten to deter legitimate criticism of government policy while wasting taxpayer resources that should be directed to investigating real terrorists." . . . Still more ACLU documents were released later that month. The New York Times reported that over 2,300 pages of FBI material revealed surveillance of a wide variety of groups, including the Indianapolis Vegan Project, the antipoverty group Catholic Workers, Greenpeace, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The documents showed that, in addition to surveillance, the FBI has used informants within targeted groups to collect information.
. . . Read more!
posted by Lorenzo 1:13 PM
Fill 'er Up with Oil Sands!
Are we running out of oil, petroleum, gas, etc? Or do we have 500 or so years left?
According to the late great economist Julian Simon, we'll never run out of any commodity. That's because before we do the increasing scarcity of that resource will drive up the price and force us to adopt alternatives. For example, as firewood grew scarce people turned to coal, and as the whale oil supply dwindled 'twas petroleum that saved the whales.
Now we're told we're running out of petroleum. So is this the beginning of the end? Nope. The Julian Simon effect is already occurring.
The evidence is in something called oil sands (also called tar sands), a gooey substance that can be surface mined. The oil is then separated from the dirt using energy from oil or natural gas extracted from the site itself to produce a thick liquid called bitumen. It's then chemically split to produce crude as light as from a well head.
We've only scratched the surface in terms of discovering and exploiting oil sand deposits, along with deposits of oil-containing rocks called oil shale. Still the amount, however huge, is necessarily finite. By one estimate, we may only have about more 500 years of energy from oils sands at current usage rates.
Oil sands in a single Venezuelan deposit contain an estimated 1.8 trillion barrels of petroleum, with 1.7 trillion in a single Canadian deposit. In all, about 70 countries (including the U.S.), have oil sand deposits although technology hasn't yet made them economical for exploitation. Of Canada's reserves alone, over 300 billion barrels (more than the entire proved oil reserves of Saudi Arabia) is currently considered recoverable. And recovering it they are.
The Canadians got in the game when Suncor Energy produced the first barrel of crude from oily sand back in 1967. The joint Canadian-U.S. venture Syncrude has been doing so since 1978 and now supplies over 13% of Canada's oil needs. Oil sands as a whole provide over a third of the nation's needs, with almost all of the rest going to the U.S.
Are We Out of Gas?
Let's get a little historical perspective. In 1914, the U.S. Bureau of Mines predicted American oil reserves would last merely a decade. In both 1939 and 1951, the Interior Department estimated oil supply at only 13 years. "We could use up all of the proven reserves of oil in the entire world by the end of the next decade," declared Pres. Jimmy Carter gloomily in 1977. In fact, the earliest claim that we were running out of oil dates back to 1855 -- four years before the first well was drilled!
Suncor's success can be measured by stock prices that have increased an incredible 400% in the past five years compared to a flat-lined Dow and a dropping Nasdaq and S&P 500.
Yet business is booming now more than ever. Suncor has just finished expanding production capacity from 225,000 barrels per day to 260,000 and plans to reach 350,000 barrels daily by 2008. On the whole, the industry expects production to triple by 2020. Thus while mature oil wells produce less each year, oil sands companies can keep producing more -- a rather happy trend.
Driving such expansion is the obvious -- sustained high prices of petroleum -- as well as continually improving technology that keeps making it cheaper to both mine and convert oil sands.
Just five centuries till the spigot runs dry! Where are the doomsayers when you need them?
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posted by Hal 8:32 PM
NSA Spied on Its Own, Congress and Media
The surveillance program was code named "Firstfruits" and was part of a Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) program that was maintained at least until October 2004.
NSA spied on its own employees, other U.S. intelligence personnel, and their journalist and congressional contacts. The National Security Agency (NSA), on the orders of the Bush administration, eavesdropped on the private conversations and e-mail of its own employees, employees of other U.S. intelligence agencies -- including the CIA and DIA -- and their contacts in the media, Congress, and oversight agencies and offices.
Firstfruits was a database that contained both the articles and the transcripts of telephone and other communications of particular Washington journalists known to report on sensitive U.S. intelligence activities, particularly those involving NSA. According to NSA sources, the targeted journalists included author James Bamford, the New York Times' James Risen, the Washington Post's Vernon Loeb, the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh, the Washington Times' Bill Gertz, UPI's John C. K. Daly, and this editor [Wayne Madsen], who has written about NSA for The Village Voice, CAQ, Intelligence Online, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).
In addition, beginning in 2001 but before the 9-11 attacks, NSA began to target anyone in the U.S. intelligence community who was deemed a "disgruntled employee." According to NSA sources, this surveillance was a violation of United States Signals Intelligence Directive (USSID) 18 and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. The surveillance of U.S. intelligence personnel by other intelligence personnel in the United States and abroad was conducted without any warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The targeted U.S. intelligence agency personnel included those who made contact with members of the media, including the journalists targeted by Firstfruits, as well as members of Congress, Inspectors General, and other oversight agencies. Those discovered to have spoken to journalists and oversight personnel were subjected to sudden clearance revocation and termination as "security risks."
. . . Read more!
posted by Hal 8:19 PM