Sunday, August 31, 2008

Katha Pollitt: Sarah Palin, Wrong Woman for the Job

John McCain's choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as running mate shows how desperate he is to distract attention from the fact that he is a cranky old man with nothing to offer but more of the same. Palin is a blatant pander for the women's vote. He must think we have the collective IQ of a Tampax.

Sure, Palin is cool -- she's pretty and vivacious and athletic, a former beauty queen who runs marathons, hunts , fishes and eats mooseburgers, plus she's got five kids with unusual names like Willow and Track, including a newborn with Down's syndrome. I feel tired just thinking of what her daily life must be like, and if she were my neighbor I would probably like her a lot.

Digby: Making Them Do It: The Next Challenge

Now that the festivities in Denver have drawn to a close and the bleary-eyed conventioneers (and media who cover them) have gathered up their swag and headed home, I wanted to take a moment to contemplate how this progressive moment looks in this short period of quiet after all the speeches and all the TV bloviating. One thing, at least, is clear to me after having spent four days among progressives from all over the country --- they are convinced that this moment is real and that the stakes have never been higher.

In casual conversation and formal addresses, from health care to foreign policy to media reform and beyond, the progressive agenda dominated the discourse far more than I expected. I knew there would be solidarity in opposition to conservative rule, but it no longer stems from that alone. There is a sense of opportunity and engagement with issues that I haven't seen in progressive circles for some time.

DDay at Hullabaloo: Proud To Be An American

Despite attending the DNC convention, the presence of protesters wasn't all that prominent unless you knew where to look. The security presence was palpable, and there definitely were lots of anti-abortion activists in the streets, but overall you had to look for and find the more wide-scale protests that were expected. And the cops actually facilitated the Tent State march on the Pepsi Center on Wednesday by leading the parade.

The RNC is far different, at least so far. Before one activist has hit the streets, before the delegates have even assembled, there is a coordinated effort by law enforcement to raid suspected protesters and imprison them.

Daily Kos: Sarah Palin: Dominionist Stalking Horse

Fri Aug 29, 2008 at 03:21:50 PM PDT

The big news, obviously, in the blogosphere today is John McCain's surprise pick for the Republican veep nominee--a relative unknown by the name of Sarah Palin, whom--at least in the more conventional political circles--would appear to be a complete cypher.

Unfortunately, if one digs just a bit deeper, Palin is found to have some very interesting--and very disturbing--connections...among them, being potentially the first Assemblies-linked VP candidate and having a number of links to dominionist groups targeting kids via "bait and switch" evangelism.

Diebold Coverup, Says SAIC Report And Stephen Spoonamore

We have been asserting for years that Diebold (now Premier Elections Systems) makes voting machines that don’t work, are unreliable and that have flipped elections. Just last week, Diebold was forced to admit that software in its machines has for a decade been dropping votes. These machines are being used in 34 states in the upcoming election.

Two years ago, The Brad Blog broke the Pentagon Papers of E-Voting stories about the SAIC report on the vast problems with Diebold vote machines. In short, Diebold had issued a 40 page redacted version of the SAIC report which whitewashed the problems. Computer cyber security expert Stephen Spoonamore got a copy of the 197-page unredacted report which listed hundreds of serious problems, and he released that report to us.

NRO's Pollowitz falsely claimed Palin visited troops in Kuwait "a year before" Obama "felt the need to go"

Summary: National Review Online's Greg Pollowitz falsely claimed that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin visited troops in Kuwait "a year before Senator [Barack] Obama felt the need to go." In fact, Obama first visited troops in Kuwait in January 2006, a year and a half before Palin's visit.

In an August 30 post on the National Review Online's Media Blog, Greg Pollowitz falsely claimed that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin visited troops in Kuwait "a year before Senator [Barack] Obama felt the need to go." Noting a July 24, 2007, Alaska Public Radio Network report that "Palin today visited with a National Guard unit from Alaska serving in Kuwait," Pollowitz wrote: "Unlike Senator Obama's staged trip to the Middle East, Governor Palin went to visit the troops in Kuwait before she was ever under consideration for Veep. ... And a year before Senator Obama felt the need to go," a reference to Obama's July 2008 visit. In fact, Obama also visited troops in Kuwait in January 2006.

Frank Rich: Obama Outwits the Bloviators

STOP the presses! This election isn’t about the Clintons after all. It isn’t about the Acropolis columns erected at Invesco Field. It isn’t about who is Paris Hilton and who is Hanoi Hilton. (Though it may yet be about who is Sarah Palin.) After a weeklong orgy of inane manufactured melodrama labeled “convention coverage” on television, Barack Obama descended in classic deus ex machina fashion — yes, that’s Greek too — to set the record straight. America is in too much trouble, he said, to indulge in “a big election about small things.”

As has been universally noted, Obama did what he had to do in his acceptance speech. He scrapped the messianic “Change We Can Believe In” for the more concrete policy litany of “The Change We Need.” He bared his glinting Chicago pol’s teeth to John McCain. Obama’s still a skinny guy, but the gladiatorial arena and his eagerness to stand up to bullies (foreign and Republican) made him a plausible Denver Bronco. All week long a media chorus had fretted whether he could pull off a potentially vainglorious stunt before 80,000 screaming fans. Well, yes he can, and so he did.

US Vulture Funds Head to Europe

By Emily Thornton

As the Continent's economy slows, American distressed-debt and workout funds go on a hunt for wounded businesses.

American vulture investors are swooping down on Europe. Attracted by the scent of rotting valuations, such high-profile players as Wilbur L. Ross Jr. in New York and Lone Star Funds in Dallas are starting to do deals across the Continent. On Aug. 18, Ross spent $70 million to acquire an 86 percent stake in struggling British auto supplier Wagon. Days later, Lone Star took over IKB Deutsche Industriebank, a troubled German bank, for $150 million. And such heavyweights as Oaktree Capital Management and Avenue Capital Group are raising billions to invest in European assets in coming months.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Death of the Credit Card Economy

Car leases, student loans, no-money-down mortgages, and high credit limits are vanishing.

By Daniel Gross
Posted Saturday, Aug. 30, 2008, at 6:39 AM ET

The most revolutionary notion in commerce today is one of the oldest. If you want to buy something, you may actually have to pay for it. We are reverting from a "borrow and buy" economy to the "cash and carry" model of our grandparents.

The Olesons may have extended store credit to Ma and Pa Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie, but widespread consumer credit is a very recent phenomenon. It began in the 1920s, when expensive consumer durables—cars, refrigerators—were first produced in mass quantities. It wasn't until Bank of America began carpet-bombing California with credit-card applications in the 1960s that the debt wave started in earnest.

Bush quietly seeks to make war powers permanent, by declaring indefinite state of war

As the nation focuses on Sen. John McCain's choice of running mate, President Bush has quietly moved to expand the reach of presidential power by ensuring that America remains in a state of permanent war.

Buried in a recent proposal by the Administration is a sentence that has received scant attention -- and was buried itself in the very newspaper that exposed it Saturday. It is an affirmation that the United States remains at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban and "associated organizations."

The truth about GM

Colin Tudge
Published 28 August 2008

Will GM technology feed the world - or destroy farming, and human health, in the name of corporate profit? How can we tell, when the science is up for sale?

Genetically modified crops might once have proved useful. In the early days, in the 1980s, scientists I spoke to in India hoped to transfer genes from groundnuts (which are very resistant to heat and drought) into sorghum, the staple cereal of the Sahel, which is also drought-resistant but succumbs in the worst years. In California, there were advanced plans to produce barley that could thrive in brackish water of the kind that is spreading worldwide in the wake of overzealous irrigation. In Brazil, just a few years ago, I found GM being used to make disease-resistant papaya - which grows everywhere in the tropics and is an instant, free source of succulence, energy and Vitamin A. I was all for it.

Support the Employee Free Choice Act

By Terrance Heath
August 29th, 2008 - 12:17pm ET
Sign the petition to support the Employee Free Choice Act, and make America work for working families again.

Labor Day is here, yet working families in America are having more trouble than ever before making ends meet. Rising fuel and food prices, along with health care costs, take bigger and bigger bites out of stagnant wages. Meanwhile, the same conservative movement and philosophy that gave us the economy that's devastating so many working families has undermined the rights of working Americans, and undermine the collective bargaining that once helped working Americans fight for fair and safe workplaces.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Simple fertilizer technique promises to feed Africa's hungry

A simple and cheap technique of applying fertilizer in small doses at the right time can double wheat crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa and feed millions of people, agronomists said in a report.

A four-year experiment with the technique in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger has boosted sorghum and millet production by 44 to 120 percent, and family incomes by 50 to 130 percent, said an International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) report published Thursday.

July incomes drop by largest amount in 3 years

WASHINGTON (AP) — Personal incomes plunged in July while consumer spending slowed significantly as the impact of billions of dollars in government rebate checks began to wane.

The Commerce Department reported Friday that personal incomes fell by 0.7 percent in July, the biggest drop in nearly three years and a far larger decline than the 0.1 percent decrease that analysts had expected.

Breaking harmful bonds

Brandeis scientists convert the mighty C-F bond

Waltham, MA—Everybody loves the way breakfast eggs conveniently slide off of Teflon without leaving any pesky pieces of egg in the pan. Indeed, the carbon-fluorine bond at the heart of Teflon cookware is so helpful we also use it in clothing, lubricants, refrigerants, anesthetics, semiconductors, and even blood substitutes. But the very strength of the C-F bond that makes it useful in so many applications also gives it formidable greenhouse gas effects that persist in nature. In a groundbreaking study this week in Science, Brandeis scientists report they have identified a catalyst that efficiently breaks the C-F bond and converts it to a carbon-hydrogen bond, rendering it harmless to the environment.

No One Should Have to Stand in Line for 10 Hours to Vote

Everyone complains that young people don’t vote, but consider the experience of students at Kenyon College in Ohio in the 2004 election. Officials in Knox County, Ohio, provided just two voting machines for the school’s 1,300 voters. Some students waited in line for 10 hours, and the last bleary-eyed voter did not cast a ballot until nearly 4 a.m.

That same day in Columbus, voters in black neighborhoods waited as long as four hours, often in the rain. Many voters there and in other urban areas — including Toledo and Youngstown — left their overcrowded polling places in disgust, or because they could not wait any longer, without casting a ballot. In many of Ohio’s white-majority suburbs, the lines were far shorter.

Evidence of Extremist Infiltration of Military Grows

The racist skinhead logged on with exciting news: He’d just enlisted in the United States Army.

“Sieg Heil, I will do us proud,” he wrote. It was a June 3 post to AryanWear Forum 14, a neo-Nazi online forum to which “Sobibor’s SS,” who identified himself as a skinhead living in Plantersville, Ala., had belonged since early 2004. (Sobibor was a Nazi death camp in Poland during World War II).

About a month after he announced his enlistment, Sobibor’s SS bragged in another post to Forum 14 that he’d specifically requested and been assigned to MOS, or Military Occupational Specialty, 98D. MOS98D soldiers are in high demand right now. That’s because they’re specially trained in disarming Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) like the infamous roadside bombs that are killing and maiming so many U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Presumably, a part of learning how to disarm an IED is learning how to make one.

Obama Assassination Plot Investigated, No Credible Threat Found

***UPDATE 8/26, 6:30 PM***

Following the press conference, the Associated Press reports that the men were no "true" threat to Obama.

U.S. Attorney Troy Eid (EYED) describes the men as "meth heads" who weren't capable of such an attack.

The investigation was triggered after police in the Denver suburb of Aurora stopped a truck that was swerving erratically early Sunday. Police say they found two high-powered rifles, two wigs, camouflage clothing, a bulletproof vest and two walkie-talkies in the truck. They say they also found three IDs in other people's names and what they believe to be methamphetamine.

The three men arrested Sunday face drug and gun counts.

McCain taps Alaska governor for VP

By LIZ SIDOTI and BETH FOUHY, Associated Press Writers
1 hour, 7 minutes ago

DAYTON, Ohio - Republican John McCain introduced first-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate Friday, a stunning selection of a little-known conservative newcomer who relishes fighting the establishment.

"She's exactly who I need. She's exactly who this country needs to help me fight the same old Washington politics of 'Me first and country second,' " McCain declared as the pair stood together for the first time at a boisterous rally in Ohio just days before the opening of the party's national convention.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Election of Our Lives

Tonight at Mile High will be extraordinary, I am sure; and I am so pleased that my twenty-year-old son Michael, heading the Brown Daily Herald news team, will be there to witness Obama's acceptance speech. But for me personally it would be hard to top last night at the Democratic Convention, listening to Bill Clinton and Joe Biden set the stage for Obama and bring the nation and the Democratic Party to the brink of the most important political watershed in the past four decades.

As Michigan State college students in 1966 and 1967, my hustand-to-become Bill and I met while working on a Civil Rights project in Mississippi. We participated in a small way in the fight for American fulfillment through the enfranchisement of blacks and in the repudiation of racial segregation that our generation helped to junp-start. Then, in 1968, we cried with millions of others when the hopes of the era took a dark turn after the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy.

Glenn Greenwald: What's Missing From the Democratic Convention?

As one would expect them to be, virtually all of the prime-time speeches at the Democratic Convention have been -- from a rhetorical perspective -- very well-crafted and well-delivered. Bill Clinton's speech, in particular, deserves all the plaudits it is receiving, both in terms of content and delivery. But as competent, well-executed and even dramatic as the Convention has been, at least as striking is what has been missing.

First, there is almost no mention of, let alone focus on, the sheer radicalism and extremism of the last eight years. During that time, our Government has systematically tortured people using sadistic techniques ordered by the White House; illegally and secretly spied on its own citizens; broken more laws than can be counted based on the twisted theory that the President has that power; asserted the authority to arrest and detain even U.S. citizens on U.S. soil and hold them for years without charges; abolished habeas corpus; created secret prisons in Eastern Europe and a black hole of lawlessness in Guantanamo; and explicitly abandoned and destroyed virtually every political value the U.S. has long claimed to embrace.

Convention as Psychodrama

How to Achieve Catharsis in a Charged Environment

By Harry Shearer
8/28/08 10:40 AM

So the Democratic convention has been about catharsis.

We’ve been told that this was what Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, her husband, former President Bill Clinton and the Clinton delegates were seeking — what they came to the Mile High City to get. As if the Pepsi Center needed to be fitted out with more than a thousand analysts’ couches — in addition to Arianna Huffington’s meditation-and-yoga oasis just outside the hall.

Protesters denied access to attorneys, forced to march in leg shackles, ACLU charges

The ACLU issued a stinging rebuke to the Denver Police Department Wednesday, alleging that the department may have violated laws and constitutional rights of protesters arrested outside the Democratic National Convention.

In the letter, obtained by RAW STORY, the ACLU revealed that the police refused those arrested access to attorneys. Police did not let detainees use phones unless they posted their own bonds, and even failed to provide shoes, in one case marching a protester into court in bare feet and leg shackles, according the ACLU.

Social factors key to ill health

Social factors - rather than genetics - are to blame for huge variations in ill health and life expectancy around the world, a report concludes.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has carried out a three-year analysis of the "social determinants" of health.

The report concludes "social injustice is killing people on a grand scale".

Bill Clinton hails Barack Obama

Former President Bill Clinton has given unequivocal backing to US Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, saying he "is ready to lead America".

He was the man to restore US leadership in the world, Mr Clinton told Democrats gathered at their convention in Denver.

Arctic ice 'is at tipping point'

Arctic sea ice has shrunk to the second smallest extent since satellite records began, US scientists have revealed.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) says that the ice-covered area has fallen below its 2005 level, which was the second lowest on record.

Melting has occurred earlier in the year than usual, meaning that the iced area could become even smaller than last September, the lowest recorded.

What a McCain Victory Could Mean: No Money for Health Care and the End of Our Volunteer Army

By Robert Parry, Consortium News
Posted on August 28, 2008, Printed on August 28, 2008

In judging the shape of a future John McCain presidency, there are already plenty of dots that are easy to connect. They reveal an image of a war-like Empire so full of hubris that it could take the world into a cascade of crises, while extinguishing what is left of the noble American Republic.

McCain has made clear he would continue and even escalate George W. Bush's open-ended global war on Islamic radicals. McCain buys into the neoconservative vision of expending U.S. treasure and troops to kill as many Muslim militants as possible.

If Obama Wins, Who Will Be in His Cabinet -- And Who Should Be?

By Jim Hightower, Hightower Lowdown
Posted on August 28, 2008, Printed on August 28, 2008

There'll be a crush of cameras at the front door of the White House on Jan. 20 as scores of media outlets scramble to record the moment when the new president walks in. But wait -- who will be sliding in quietly behind him? They're the ones who will spend the next four years whispering in the president's ear, sitting in strategy sessions, running presidential councils, filling agency slots and pulling the levers of executive power. They'll make up "the administration," and they'll affect everything from economic policies to war, so it's worth getting a sense of them in advance of the election.

For a clue as to what kinds of people either McCain or Obama would carry into office, look at the top campaign advisers, fundraisers and staffers already around them, for they're likely to move right along with their man. These people both reflect and shape a president's agenda, sometimes wielding the influence to alter both the overall direction and the specific substance of a presidency.

And the prudent shall survive

By John Browne

Though few may have noticed, the past few weeks may be regarded as a global economic turning point. Evidence is mounting that the United States is entering a recession, with increasing signs that it could morph into a depression. While the George W Bush administration appears resigned to bail out or nationalize large tracts of American commerce, the presidential candidates drift towards Great Society era spending proposals. At the same time, America's principal economic rivals appear to be charting courses that are not in line with US interests.

The Russian invasion of Georgia has revived tensions that have not been seen since the most frigid periods of the Cold War. With the Olympic Games over, China can relax and now exert its muscle without risking any politically motivated boycotts. Between them, these global players hold well over US$1 trillion, or 10%, of US government debt, which they can use as leverage in any strategic, economic or political confrontation with the US

If it ain't broke, don't fix it

If it ain't broke, don't fix it
By Hazel Smith

The current progress towards possible resolution of the long-lasting nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula is the result of the quite unlikely, somewhat unexpected, and very definitely unsung American foreign policy success that is the George W Bush administration's present strategy on North Korea.

After more than five decades of security crises, this bold new approach is unraveling tension and (hopefully) building peace in one of the world's most volatile hot spots.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

ABC Reporter Arrested in Denver Taking Pictures of Senators, Big Donors

Asa Eslocker Was Investigating the Role of Lobbyists and Top Donors at the Convention


Aug. 27, 2008—

DENVER--Police in Denver arrested an ABC News producer today as he and a camera crew were attempting to take pictures on a public sidewalk of Democratic Senators and VIP donors leaving a private meeting at the Brown Palace Hotel.

Police on the scene refused to tell ABC lawyers the charges against the producer, Asa Eslocker, who works with the ABC News investigative unit.

Bayer on defensive in bee deaths

German authorities look into allegation that RTP maker's pesticide harms environment

Sabine Vollmer, Staff Writer

Bayer CropScience is facing scrutiny because of the effect one of its best-selling pesticides has had on honeybees.

A German prosecutor is investigating Werner Wenning, Bayer's chairman, and Friedrich Berschauer, the head of Bayer CropScience, after critics alleged that they knowingly polluted the environment.

Thrifts warned not to change terms of home equity loans

WASHINGTON — After a rash of consumer complaints, the federal agency charged with regulating savings and loan institutions issued guidance Tuesday warning lenders they could not arbitrarily change the terms of home equity loans.

The Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) issued a six-page letter of guidance to the institutions, called thrifts, spelling out their obligations on home equity lines of credit, better known as HELOCs.

Vast Amount of Arctic Carbon Could Be Released

As global warming thaws the frozen soils of the Arctic, more stored-up carbon could potentially be released into the atmosphere than previously thought, a new study suggests.

Much of the frigid Arctic's soil is permafrost, or permanently frozen ground.

Seasonal freeze-thaw cycles can mix up the soil layers, a process called cryoturbation, forcing organic (carbon-based) material into the subsurface layers and storing it in the permafrost.

Bloggers Bust Up Telecom Blue Dog Party in Denver

By Jane Hamsher, Firedoglake
Posted on August 25, 2008, Printed on August 27, 2008

Last night I was at a party with Matt Stoller when he found a notice in the paper announcing a party that AT&T was having that night for the Blue Dogs.

Glenn Greenwald instantly became a man with a mission: he wanted to go interview the guests and see how they felt about their telecom hosts and the retroactive immunity delivered to them by the Blue Dogs, at bargain basement prices.

The Christian Right's Got a New Stealth Tactic to Smuggle Creationism into Science Class

By Sandhya Bathija, Church & State Magazine
Posted on August 27, 2008, Printed on August 27, 2008

In the 21 years Patsye Peebles taught biology in Louisiana public schools, she never received one complaint from parents for teaching evolution.

"The bottom line is that I never questioned their faith," she said.

Whenever she had a student who brought up creationism, she always made it clear that science is science, and religion is religion.

Hillary Electrifies: "Nothing Less Than the Fate of Our Nation ... Hangs in the Balance"

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet
Posted on August 27, 2008, Printed on August 27, 2008

Hillary Clinton urged her supporters to rally behind Barack Obama in a passionate and forceful address at the Democratic convention on Tuesday night that underscored her historic candidacy as the first woman to come within reach of a major political party's presidential nomination.

"I am so honored to be here tonight. I am here tonight as a proud mother, as a proud Democrat, as a proud senator from New York, a proud American and a proud supporter of Barack Obama," Clinton began, eliciting a rousing ovation. "My friends, it is time to take back the country we love, and whether you voted for me or you voted for Barack, the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose."

The Villains of the Housing Crisis Are Denying All Responsibility

By Dean Baker,
Posted on August 27, 2008, Printed on August 27, 2008

The central bankers of the world gathered last weekend for their annual meeting at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This was an opportunity to talk about the major issues confronting the world economy, as well as an opportunity to spend some time in a very beautiful vacation spot.

When they met in Jackson Hole in 2005, the meetings were devoted to an Alan Greenspan retrospective, honoring his 18-year tenure as Federal Reserve Board chairman, which was due to end the following January. A number of papers were presented analyzing his record at the Fed, including one that raised the question of whether Mr. Greenspan was the greatest central banker of all time.

Thomas Frank: Obama Should Find His Inner Kansan

For a different perspective, I decided to make my way to the Democratic convention in Denver by driving for two days across Kansas, one of the reddest states of them all. Kansas is my state: I grew up in its suburbs; I went to its public schools; I like to think I absorbed its values, and that I remain true to them even though Kansas and I have parted ways politically.

Let me explain what I mean by relating a conversation I had on Saturday in the distinctly blue-collar city of Wichita, a lovable but slightly down-at-the-heels place that will probably never get to host the convention of a national political party. The man I talked to was state legislator Dale Swenson, who was swept into the statehouse in 1995 by one of the many Republican waves to crash over the heartland over the past few decades.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

AT&T Thanks the Blue Dog Democrats With a Lavish Party

by Glenn Greenwald

Last night in Denver, at the Mile High Station -- next to Invesco Stadium, where Barack Obama will address a crowd of 30,000 people on Thursday night -- AT&T threw a lavish, private party for Blue Dog House Democrats, virtually all of whom blindly support whatever legislation the telecom industry demands and who also, specifically, led the way this July in immunizing AT&T and other telecoms from the consequences for their illegal participation in the Bush administration's warrantless spying program. Matt Stoller has one of the listings for the party here.

Armed with full-scale Convention press credentials issued by the DNC, I went -- along with Firedoglake's Jane Hamsher, John Amato, Stoller and others -- in order to cover the event, interview the attendees, and videotape the festivities. There was a wall of private security deployed around the building, and after asking where the press entrance was, we were told by the security officials, after they consulted with event organizers, that the press was barred from the event, and that only those with invitations could enter -- notwithstanding the fact that what was taking place in side was a meeting between one of the nation's largest corporations and the numerous members of the most influential elected faction in Congress. As a result, we stood in front of the entrance and began videotaping and trying to interview the parade of Blue Dog Representatives, AT&T executives, assorted lobbyists and delegates who pulled up in rented limousines, chauffeured cars, and SUVs in order to find out who was attending and why AT&T would be throwing such a lavish party for the Blue Dog members of Congress.

Pollutants cause birds to sing tainted love songs

12:54 26 August 2008 news service
Ewen Callaway

Traces of a chemical once used by power plants leave birds looking fit, but singing another tune altogether.

Wild chickadees exposed to permitted levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) can't keep a tune as well as other birds.

U.S. warships due to arrive in disputed Georgian port

POTI, Georgia — Defying Russia, an American warship that brought humanitarian aid to Georgia was expected to arrive Wednesday in this nervous Black Sea port that's being watched over by Russian soldiers, Georgian officials said.

The move would put U.S. military assets within close range of Russian forces for the first time since the Georgian conflict began, potentially setting up a confrontation with Moscow, the dominant naval power in the Black Sea.

US cold-war waste irks Greenland

Pentagon refuses to clean up toxic military bases, saying it would set a bad precedent.

By Colin Woodard | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
August 22, 2008 edition


The former Sondrestrom US Air Force Base is now a busy community of 500, a midsized town by Greenland standards.

Runways built for heavy bombers and transports now accommodate wide-­bodied jetliners, which disgorge passengers connecting to Greenland’s many small airstrips. Tourists head out on musk ox safaris or join cruise ships at the base’s old supply dock, while locals enjoy Greenland’s only indoor swimming pool, originally built for US troops.

Here we go again

By Martin Hutchinson

The echoes of the 1930s in the current situation are not confined to foreign policy. Economically also, the parallels between the 1929-32 downturn and the current difficulties are becoming alarmingly apparent. It must be remembered: the Great Depression became such, as distinct from a garden-variety downturn, though egregious policy errors by decision-makers in a number of countries. Repetition of those errors, all of which would have appeared unthinkable a decade ago, is becoming increasingly likely and in some respects is already happening.

Tough love's fatal attraction

By Julian Delasantellis

One of the most popular programs on the American A&E cable television network is called Intervention, or as I like to call it, the Super Bawl. Every week a person with a different type of addiction, be it with narcotics, alcohol, gambling, shopping, chicken nuggets, blogging, whatever, is featured on the show.


One wonders just how close the United States Federal Reserve and Department of the Treasury are now to offering the financial markets just one last chance to shape themselves up, or, failing that, from being ineligible for any further assistance or rescue.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Madness of Bankers

An Interview with Charles R. Morris.

Robert Bryce | August 22, 2008 | Features

Millions of words have been written about the ongoing financial disaster largely caused by the subprime mortgage mess. But the most concise and easiest to understand handbook on the issue is almost certainly Charles R. Morris’ The Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash. The book, published in March, spent several weeks on The New York Times best-seller list, and for good reason: The book explains in clear language exactly what happened and why.

Morris, a lawyer and former banker who lives in Manhattan, has written 11 books. His articles have been published in myriad publications, including Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times and BusinessWeek. He exchanged e-mails with Observer contributing writer Robert Bryce in early August.

What We Stand For—In Twelve Words

By Bernie Horn
August 24th, 2008 - 3:58pm ET

There’s no doubt that George W. Bush’s administration has been a catastrophe, and that historians will one day rank him as one of our nation’s very worst presidents. We’ve got to take back America—now—before solutions to national and global problems slip away into the distant future.

Because Bush and his allies have failed, our fellow citizens are ready to consider the progressive message. But what is it? In simple terms that all Americans understand, what do we stand for?

It’s crucial for us to have a simple, compelling answer. Yes, we’re for change…and prosperity, and peace.

Bacteria Power: Future For Clean Energy Lies In 'Big Bang' Of Evolution

ScienceDaily (Aug. 25, 2008) — Amid mounting agreement that future clean, "carbon-neutral", energy will rely on efficient conversion of the sun's light energy into fuels and electric power, attention is focusing on one of the most ancient groups of organism, the cyanobacteria.

Dramatic progress has been made over the last decade understanding the fundamental reaction of photosynthesis that evolved in cyanobacteria 3.7 billion years ago, which for the first time used water molecules as a source of electrons to transport energy derived from sunlight, while converting carbon dioxide into oxygen.

Tax loopholes seen costing billions annually

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Tax and accounting loopholes that largely benefit rich taxpayers and companies cost the government $20 billion a year even as the pay gap between chief executives and employees has widened, two groups said on Monday.

The biggest loss comes from a "stock option accounting double standard" that allows corporations paying executives stock options to deduct more than their actual expenses, they said.

First mass U.S. crossing for hydrogen cars completed

By Bernie Woodall
Sun Aug 24, 6:16 PM ET

Hydrogen fuel cell cars from nine automakers completed a 13-day cross-country trip this weekend, in the first such mass U.S. crossing for vehicles powered by a zero-emission technology still in its infancy.

As firsts go, the event, which ran from Portland, Maine, to the Los Angeles Coliseum, probably would not qualify for the record books. There were stretches without hydrogen fueling stations when the vehicles were carried on flatbed trucks, the longest from Rolla, Missouri, to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

But then one of the goals of the "Hydrogen Road Tour '08" was to demonstrate the need to build more fueling stations if the nascent technology is to develop, said Paul Brubaker, administrator for research and innovative technology for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

FBI saw threat of mortgage crisis

A top official warned of widening loan fraud in 2004, but the agency focused its resources elsewhere.
By Richard B. Schmitt, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 25, 2008
WASHINGTON -- Long before the mortgage crisis began rocking Main Street and Wall Street, a top FBI official made a chilling, if little-noticed, prediction: The booming mortgage business, fueled by low interest rates and soaring home values, was starting to attract shady operators and billions in losses were possible.

"It has the potential to be an epidemic," Chris Swecker, the FBI official in charge of criminal investigations, told reporters in September 2004. But, he added reassuringly, the FBI was on the case. "We think we can prevent a problem that could have as much impact as the S&L crisis," he said.

Wind turbines make bat lungs explode

17:00 25 August 2008 news service
Catherine Brahic

"Beware: exploding lungs" is not a sign one would expect to see at a wind farm. But a new study suggests this is the main reason bats die in large numbers around wind turbines.

The risk that wind turbines pose to birds is well known and has dogged debates over wind energy. In fact, several studies have suggested the risk to bats is greater. In May 2007, the US National Research Council published the results of a survey of US wind farms showing that two bat species accounted for 60% of winged animals killed. Migrating birds, meanwhile, appear to steer clear of the turbines.

Burning incense increases risk of respiratory tract cancers

Long term use of incense increases the risk of developing cancers of the respiratory tract, according to a new study. The new analysis, which the authors say is the first prospective investigation of incense and cancer risk, appears in the October 1, 2008 issue of CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

Incense is an integral part of daily life in large parts of Asia. Researchers have shown that burning incense—which is made of plant materials mixed with oils—produces a mixture of possible carcinogens, including polyaromatic hydrocarbons, carbonyls and benzene. Because incense smoke is inhaled, a number of studies have looked at the possible link between incense burning and lung cancer, but results have been inconsistent. In addition, the possible association of incense use and other respiratory tract cancers has not been analyzed. To investigate this, Dr. Jeppe Friborg of the Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, Denmark and colleagues in Singapore and the U.S. studied the associations between exposure to incense and the whole spectrum of respiratory tract cancers in a large population in Singapore.

Bolivia split in two as the wealthy aim to defy the Morales revolution

Violent protests against President Evo Morales have shaken Bolivia and cut the Andean nation in half, with rebel provinces blocking government attempts to regain control and tensions running dangerously high between the country's Indian majority and inhabitants of the richer and whiter eastern provinces.

Militia groups armed with clubs and shields took to the streets last week to impose a strike which paralysed much of the eastern lowlands and deepened a political crisis. Youths opposed to Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous leader, beat up senior police commanders in front of television cameras, underlining the brazen challenge to central government authority.

In Nuclear Net’s Undoing, a Web of Shadowy Deals

The president of Switzerland stepped to a podium in Bern last May and read a statement confirming rumors that had swirled through the capital for months. The government, he acknowledged, had indeed destroyed a huge trove of computer files and other material documenting the business dealings of a family of Swiss engineers suspected of helping smuggle nuclear technology to Libya and Iran.

The files were of particular interest not only to Swiss prosecutors but to international atomic inspectors working to unwind the activities of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani bomb pioneer-turned-nuclear black marketeer. The Swiss engineers, Friedrich Tinner and his two sons, were accused of having deep associations with Dr. Khan, acting as middlemen in his dealings with rogue nations seeking nuclear equipment and expertise.

Paul Krugman: Accentuate the Negative

So the Obama campaign has turned to the politics of personal destruction, attempting to make a campaign issue out of John McCain’s inability to remember how many houses he has. And the turn comes not a moment too soon.

Over the past month or so many Democrats have had the sick feeling that once again their candidate brought a knife to a gunfight. Barack Obama’s campaign, inexplicably, was unprepared for the inevitable Republican attack on the candidate’s character. By the middle of last week, Mr. Obama’s once formidable lead, both in national polls and in electoral college projections based on state-level polls, had virtually evaporated.

American Legion Immigration Report Replete With Falsehoods

By Sonia Scherr, Southern Poverty Law Center
Posted on August 20, 2008, Printed on August 25, 2008

Since its founding nearly 90 years ago, the American Legion has been a fixture of community life. It has hosted Memorial Day parades to remember those who died in America's wars. It has held bingo nights and dances at its 14,000-plus posts worldwide. It has supported thousands of Boy Scout groups, sponsored a baseball program that's produced numerous professional players, and helped children living in poverty or with special needs. From World War II to the war in Iraq, the legion has fought to improve benefits for veterans and their families.

Now, America's largest veterans organization has launched another campaign -- a hard-line attack on undocumented immigrants that's at odds with the legion's mainstream image. As part of this effort, the legion, which purports to speak for 2.7 million members, recently issued a booklet that regurgitates discredited and often completely false information about how "illegals" are bringing crime, disease, and terrorism to this country, even as they wreck the economy for natives.

Exposing the CIA's 'most secret place'

By Andrew Nette

PHNOM PENH - It was known as the "secret war", a covert operation waged by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) throughout the 1960s and early 1970s against communist guerrillas in Laos. The most secret location in this clandestine conflict was the former CIA air base of Long Chen, in central Laos, which remains off limits even today. A film exploring this little known conflict, The Most Secret Place on Earth, will be released in cinemas across Europe this year.

The film, which was previewed in Phnom Penh in mid-August, includes images of Long Chen shot by the first Western camera crew to enter the base since the communists took control of the country in 1975.

Warning on voting machines reveals oversight failure

By Greg Gordon, McClatchy Newspapers
Sun Aug 24, 5:37 PM ET

WASHINGTON — Disclosure of an election computer glitch that could drop ballot totals for entire precincts is stirring new worries that an unofficial laboratory testing system failed for years to detect an array of flaws in $1.5 billion worth of voting equipment sold nationwide since 2003.

Texas -based Premier Elections Solutions last week alerted at least 1,750 jurisdictions across the country that special precautions are needed to address the problem in tabulation software affecting all 19 of its models dating back a decade.

Voting experts reacted skeptically to the company's assertion that election workers' routine crosschecks of ballot totals would have spotted any instances where its servers failed to register some precinct vote totals when receiving data from multiple memory cards.

Dems seek peace in party as Obama convention opens

By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent
11 minutes ago

Democrats opened their national convention on Monday, seeking peace in the family as they pursue victory in the fall for Barack Obama and his historic quest for the White House.

An appearance by the ailing, aging Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and a primetime speech by Obama's wife, Michelle, headlined the convention's first night.

In excerpts released in advance, the would-be first lady said she and her husband were raised with solid American values: "that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say you're going to do, that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them, and even if you don't agree with them."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Biden and "Plagiarism"

In 1988, Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) was considered a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination during the year leading up to the Iowa caucuses. On the campaign trail, Biden often paraphrased a speech by eloquent British Labour politician Neil Kinnock:

KINNOCK: Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Why is Glenys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Was it because our predecessors were thick? Does anybody really think that they didn't get what we had because they didn't have the talent or the strength or the endurance or the commitment? Of course not. It was because there was no platform upon which they could stand.

The Veep’s Pipeline Push

By Michael Isikoff and Tony Hopfinger | NEWSWEEK

Frank Rich: Last Call for Change We Can Believe In

AS the real campaign at last begins in Denver this week, this much is certain: It’s time for Barack Obama to dispatch “Change We Can Believe In” to a dignified death.

This isn’t because — OMG! — Obama’s narrow three- to four-percentage-point lead of recent weeks dropped to a statistically indistinguishable one- to three-point margin during his week of vacation. It’s because zero hour is here. As the presidential race finally gains the country’s full attention, the strategy that vanquished Hillary Clinton must be rebooted to take out John McCain.

“Change We Can Believe In” was brilliantly calculated for a Democratic familial brawl where every candidate was promising nearly identical change from George Bush. It branded Obama as the sole contender with the un-Beltway biography, credibility and political talent to link the promise of change to the nation’s onrushing generational turnover in all its cultural (and, yes, racial) manifestations. McCain should be a far easier mark than Clinton if Obama retools his act.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

at-Largely: Mississippistan - What gives?

Some crazy stuff went down in Mississippi today that has lawyers in Mississippi up in arms. My friend Lotus over at Folo blog does a good job summarizing the situation:

"There was a strange event at the Mississippi Supreme Court today. I’m not entirely sure what to make of the story, which we have courtesy of Patsy Brumfeld of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal this evening. Here’s how her story began:

Something unusual happened Thursday at the Mississippi Supreme Court.

It may be the first time a majority of the justices voted to prohibit a colleague from publishing a dissent in a case.

As Democrats gather, liberal positions gaining in popularity

DENVER — As they meet for their national convention Monday through Thursday, Democrats are poised to shift their party's course — and the country's.

They're turning to the left — deeply against the war in Iraq, ready to use tax policy to take from the rich and give to the poor and middle class, and growing hungry, after years of centrist politics, for big-government solutions, such as a health-care overhaul, to steer the nation through a time of sweeping economic change.

Bush's Bureaucratic Dark Arts: Why the Federal Register Is the Most Important Publication in America Right Now

By Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive
Posted on August 23, 2008, Printed on August 23, 2008

Bush has vowed to sprint through the final five months of his Administration, and you better believe him.

Because he is pulling all the bureaucratic levers in the Executive Branch to advance his right-wing agenda.

Unable to accomplish his goals legislatively, Bush is trying to get them done by fiat.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The west shares the blame for Georgia

By Anatol Lieven

Published: August 13 2008 19:50 | Last updated: August 13 2008 19:50

The bloody conflict over South Ossetia will have been good for something at least if it teaches two lessons. The first is that Georgia will never now get South Ossetia and Abkhazia back. The second is for the west: it is not to make promises that it neither can, nor will, fulfil when push comes to shove.

Georgia will not get its separatist provinces back unless Russia collapses as a state, which is unlikely. The populations and leaderships of these regions have repeatedly demonstrated their desire to separate from Georgia; and Vladimir Putin, Russia’s prime minister, made it clear again and again that Russia would fight to defend these regions if Georgian forces attacked them.

How Do We Avoid Executing the Innocent?

By TChris, Section Death Penalty
Posted on Fri Aug 22, 2008 at 11:52:13 AM EST

Joseph Tydings is a former U.S. senator from Maryland. As a former U.S. attorney and as a private lawyer, he has prosecuted and defended death penalty cases. Tydings therefore has credibility when he argues that the risk of executing the innocent is simply too great.

As pro bono counsel, I unsuccessfully litigated a Virginia appeal of a mentally retarded minor who had been convicted and sentenced to death for a crime that I firmly believe he didn't commit, because his court-appointed attorney didn't want to represent him and was basically worthless as his lawyer. After seven years, the Virginia governor ultimately lacked the courage to stay the sentence, and my client was executed.

A Timetable By Any Other Name

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Friday, August 22, 2008; 12:31 PM

In agreeing to pull U.S. combat troops out of Iraqi cities by June, and from the rest of the country by 2011, President Bush has apparently consented to precisely the kind of timetable that, when Democrats called for one, he dismissed as "setting a date for failure." Bush can call it an "aspirational goal" until he turns blue, but a timetable is exactly what it is, thank you very much.

Bush has repeatedly warned that politics and public opinion should have no role in the decision about when to leave Iraq, but apparently he just meant American politics and public opinion. A clear majority of Americans has favored a withdrawal timetable for several years now, putting anti-war Democrats in control of Congress in 2006.

Leaving Green

Saving Water Starts With Innovative Landscaping


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And unfortunately, most Utah residents have always seen thick, green grass as drop-dead gorgeous. It is that, but the allure is also hideously unnatural.

Kentucky bluegrass and other popular types of turf go through water faster than Michael Phelps, draining our rivers and reservoirs and straining our limited liquid resources.

According to Dennis Strong, director of Utah's Division of Water Resources, a staggering two-thirds of Utah's culinary water is used for outdoor landscaping. That's ridiculous. We live in a desert. Precipitation is sparse. And still we try to make Utah yards look like lawns in Ohio.

MyDD: McCain's Strategic Blunder: Opening the Door to Keating Five

The McCain campaign thinks that it has an opportunity to turn their candidate's stupendous gaffe -- failing to recall how many houses his family owns -- into a positive by running an advertisement linking Barack Obama to Tony Rezko. Obama, claims the McCain campaign, got help buying his house from Rezko, a Chicagoan who has since gone to jail but received some $14 million in taxpayer money.

The problem with this attack? Aside from being thoroughly misleading -- Obama has not been seriously alleged to have done anything unethical in his interactions with Rezko -- this ad is a serious strategic blunder by the McCain campaign. Why? It blows wide open the door to talk about McCain's all-too-close relationship with Charles Keating and well reported on though somewhat forgotten charter membership in the so-called "Keating Five."

Suppressing the vote

NATIONALLY and in Ohio, the Republican Party has a long and shameful history of suppressing the vote to gain partisan advantage in elections, mostly by targeting minorities. Now they're at it again, with complaints about a law written, ironically, by GOP operatives in the General Assembly.

The law, which took effect at the beginning of 2006, created a five-day window at the end of September during which Ohioans will be able to register to vote, then immediately cast their ballot under provisions that allow both "no fault" absentee voting along with early voting, starting 35 days before the traditional Nov. 4 Election Day.

Protections Set for Antiabortion Health Workers

Opponents Denounce Proposed Regulation Allowing Federal Officials to Pull Funding

By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 22, 2008; A01

The Bush administration yesterday announced plans to implement a controversial regulation designed to protect doctors, nurses and other health-care workers who object to abortion from being forced to deliver services that violate their personal beliefs.

The rule empowers federal health officials to pull funding from more than 584,000 hospitals, clinics, health plans, doctors' offices and other entities if they do not accommodate employees who refuse to participate in care they find objectionable on personal, moral or religious grounds.

Battleground Zero

Dispatches From Swing Counties

By Jefferson Morley 08/22/2008

On the eve of the presidential nominating conventions starting next week, Sen. John McCain, the presumed Republican nominee, has narrowed, if not eliminated, the lead that Sen. Barack Obama, the likely Democratic candidate, held in national polls just a month ago.

The Zogby/Reuters poll that had McCain behind by seven percentage points in July now has the Arizona senator leading by five points. Meanwhile, Obama, though ahead by six points in a Gallup poll as recently as a month ago, now has just a slim one-point lead, well within the margin of error.

Why US must invest against climate change

14:49 22 August 2008 news service
New Scientist staff and Reuters

Eight scientific organisations have urged the next US president to help protect the country from climate change by pushing for increased funding for research and forecasting. The organisations say about $2 trillion of US economic output could be hurt by storms, floods and droughts.

"We don't think we have the right kind of tools to help decision makers plan for the future," said Jack Fellows, the vice president for corporate affairs of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, a consortium of 71 universities.

Paul Krugman: Now That’s Rich

Last weekend, Pastor Rick Warren asked both presidential candidates to define the income at which “you move from middle class to rich.” The context of the question was, of course, the difference in the candidates’ tax policies. Barack Obama wants to put tax rates on higher-income Americans more or less back to what they were under Bill Clinton; John McCain, who was against the Bush tax cuts before he was for them, says that means raising taxes on the middle class.

Mr. Obama answered the question seriously, defining middle class as meaning an income below $150,000. Mr. McCain, at first, made it into a joke, saying “how about $5 million?” Then he declared that it didn’t matter because he wouldn’t raise anyone’s taxes. That wasn’t just an evasion, it was a falsehood: Mr. McCain’s health care plan, by limiting the deductibility of employer-paid insurance premiums, would effectively raise taxes on a number of people.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Katha Pollitt: Good-Bye, John Edwards

So now we know. John Edwards did have sex with that woman, Rielle Hunter, just as the National Enquirer said. So much for all those jokes about Bat Boy and Hillary's alien baby. I always thought the Edwards rumors were true, because rumors like that usually are (says she cynically) , and I defended this view in many an e mail. But every time I started to write something about it here I would get into a debate about monogamy, privacy, Puritanism, the reliability of tabloids etc with one of our more polyamorous editors, and the air would leak out of my balloon. I would think, Well, really, what do I know? and Oh why add to poor Elizabeth's troubles? I still sort of think that.

Passengers can challenge no-fly list, says court

Court: Passengers can challenge no-fly list
Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Critics of the government's secret no-fly list scored a potentially important victory Monday when a federal appeals court ruled that would-be passengers can ask a judge and jury to decide whether their inclusion on the list violates their rights.

In a 2-1 ruling, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco reinstated a suit by a former Stanford University student who was detained and handcuffed in 2005 as she was about to board a plane to her native Malaysia.

Glenn Greenwald: The decay of serious journalism and Rachel Maddow's new show

As our political culture, economic security, standing in the world and our media institutions have all degraded beyond recognition after eight years of right-wing rule (much of it cheered on by The New Republic), what is The New Republic's Sacha Zimmerman deeply worried about? MSNBC's decision to give liberal Rachel Maddow her own show:

I really like Maddow and have found her thoroughly compelling throughout this latest campaign season, but I am not so thrilled about this trend toward partisan networks and news. By all means we should have progressive and conservative commentators and analysts, but is there no room for argument between the two? Where have all the iconoclasts gone? With this split in the networks and a near perfect red-blue divide nationwide, it seems that we are more and more retreating to our comfortable trenches and refusing to acknowledge anything but spite, paranoia, and conspiracy theory when it comes to the other side. And, since cable news is not exactly renowned for its nuance or intellectual rigor, knee-jerk reactions can pass for smart commentary. I think Maddow will be a wonderful host (and God knows MSNBC could use a smart woman), but how exciting is it really if she is just preaching to the choir?

Digby: Values and Worldviews


August 20th, 2008 - 12:45pm ET

One of the more interesting developments in this campaign year is the extent to which Democrats have sought out the so-called "values" vote --- the mostly evangelical and catholic voters who have tended to vote Republican in the past. With the guidance of a newly formed Democratic religion lobby, the presidential campaigns all formulated a sophisticated outreach effort to appeal to voters who were open to Democrats by broadening the Christian agenda to include other issues, like poverty and the environment.

This came about partially because of a very savvy campaign on the part of the lobby itself to leverage influence within the party and a matching campaign by certain big name evangelical leaders like Rick Warren and Jim Wallis. All in all, it was a successful merging of the leadership of the Democratic party and elements of the new leadership of what was once the religious right (and might now be considered the religious swing vote. Catholics have long been in that group.)

Climate change could be impetus for wars, other conflicts, expert says

Melissa Mitchell, News Editor

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Hurricane season has arrived, sparking renewed debate regarding possible links between global warming and the frequency and severity of hurricanes, heat waves and other extreme weather events.

Meanwhile, a related discussion has ensued among international-security experts who believe climate-change-related damage to global ecosystems and the resulting competition for natural resources may increasingly serve as triggers for wars and other conflicts in the future.

Jerome Corsi's Long, Strange Trip

By Max Blumenthal
August 20, 2008

These are good times for Jerome Corsi. Already notorious for his factually challenged book-length takedown of 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, Unfit For Command, the 61-year-old Corsi has another hit on his hands. His new book, Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality, has made Corsi a hot commodity again on the right-wing radio circuit, the bane of the Obama campaign and catapulted to the top slot on the New York Times bestseller list. With his newfound notoriety, Corsi has brought his pathographic anti-Obama narrative to hundreds of thousands of readers--and millions on radio and TV--just as he did with Kerry. Corsi has become the court bard of the conservative movement. "The goal is to defeat Obama," Corsi told the New York Times. "I don't want Obama to be in office."

Corsi's success represents the apotheosis of a long, strange trip from the furthest shores of the right into the national spotlight. During George W. Bush's first term, Corsi was a little-known financial services marketing specialist. In 1995, according to the Boston Globe, he coaxed twenty people into a shadowy investment venture in Poland that ultimately lost them a total of $1.2 million. "It ruined my career in the brokerage business, and it was a sad story for a lot of people," said Bradley Amundson, one of those enlisted into Corsi's bungled scheme. The FBI opened an investigation but never filed any charges.

A Few Speculators Dominate Vast Market for Oil Trading

By David Cho
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 21, 2008; A01

Regulators had long classified a private Swiss energy conglomerate called Vitol as a trader that primarily helped industrial firms that needed oil to run their businesses.

But when the Commodity Futures Trading Commission examined Vitol's books last month, it found that the firm was in fact more of a speculator, holding oil contracts as a profit-making investment rather than a means of lining up the actual delivery of fuel. Even more surprising to the commodities markets was the massive size of Vitol's portfolio -- at one point in July, the firm held 11 percent of all the oil contracts on the regulated New York Mercantile Exchange.

Predator state calls the shots

Economist Jamie K Galbraith's recent book [1] describes modern (Bush-Cheney) Republicanism as creating a "predator state". Its predatory aspects are starkly visible in the gangs of corporate lobbyists who roam Washington DC, the Halliburton Iraq war procurement scandal and the corruption and incompetence that surrounded the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

However, the broad concept of a predator state needs qualification as we are really talking of an "American corporate" predator state. Thus, the predatory nature of contemporary US governance is quintessentially linked to corporations, and it is also a uniquely American phenomenon.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Rick Perlstein: A Liberal Shock Doctrine

Progressive political change in American history is rarely incremental. With important exceptions, most of the reforms that have advanced our nation's status as a modern, liberalizing social democracy were pushed through during narrow windows of progressive opportunity -- which subsequently slammed shut with the work not yet complete. The post–Civil War reconstruction of the apartheid South, the Progressive Era remaking of the institutions of democratic deliberation, the New Deal, the Great Society: They were all blunt shocks. Then, before reformers knew what had happened, the seemingly sturdy reform mandate faded and Washington returned to its habits of stasis and reaction.

The Oval Office's most effective inhabitants have always understood this. Franklin D. Roosevelt hurled down executive orders and legislative proposals like thunderbolts during his First Hundred Days, hardly slowing down for another four years before his window slammed shut; Lyndon Johnson, aided by John F. Kennedy's martyrdom and the landslide of 1964, legislated at such a breakneck pace his aides were in awe. Both presidents understood that there are too many choke points -- our minority-enabling constitutional system, our national tendency toward individualism, and our concentration of vested interests -- to make change possible any other way.

Glenn Greenwald: Journalists and Their Good Friends in the White House

The Washington Post's White House reporter, Michael Abramowitz, was asked yesterday during a chat to name some of his "favorite people who work at the White House but who are not in the spotlight," and Abramowitz happily and easily offered a long list:

I like your question. One of the things you find in covering the White House is that many of the staff are extremely friendly and dedicated, and it's fun to get to know some of them. The truth is reporters tend to hang out with the people in the [White House] press office, so the names I might give you tend to be lower-level press aides, like Carlton Carroll, Stuart Siciliano and Pete Seat -- and spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore. They are extremely helpful to me (and I don't mean this list to be all-inclusive.)

I also enjoy talking with deputy chief of staff Joel Kaplan and deputy national security adviser Jim Jeffrey -- I wouldn't be surprised if Joel is one day a cabinet officer or a CEO somewhere. He has an interesting life story -- he joined the Marines after graduating from Harvard, then became a lawyer and is basically the top aide to Chief of Staff Josh Bolten.

MSNBC: Bush creating 'embryonic police state'

08/19/2008 @ 9:53 am

Filed by Nick Langewis and David Edwards

"Now that the Democrats were nice enough to fold up on FISA," MSNBC's Keith Olbermann said, "the issue is all contained now. Right? Not exactly."

The Justice Department has proposed changes to police intelligence-gathering rules that would ease the transfer of information about citizens to federal intelligence agencies, who would then keep the information for at least 10 years. The changes, the first since 1993, were introduced for public comment on July 31.

Thomas Frank: We're Not All Friedmanites Now

August 20, 2008; Page A17

Once upon a time there was a master narrative, and a neater little theory-of-everything you never did see. In its 19th century heyday it rationalized the having of the haves and commanded the deference of the have-nots; it spoke from the pulpit, the newspaper and the professor's chair.

Its name was market, and to slight it in even the smallest way was to take your professional life into your hands. In 1895, the economist Edward Bemis found this out when he was dismissed from John D. Rockefeller's University of Chicago thanks to his "attitude on public utility and labor questions," as he put it in a letter to Upton Sinclair. Professors elsewhere paid the same price for intellectual independence.

The US missile defence system is the magic pudding that will never run out

Poland is just the latest fall guy for an American foreign policy dictated by military industrial lobbyists in Washington

George Monbiot
The Guardian
Tuesday August 19 2008

It's a novel way to take your own life. Just as Russia demonstrates what happens to former minions that annoy it, Poland agrees to host a US missile defence base. The Russians, as Poland expected, respond to this proposal by offering to turn the country into a parking lot. This proves that the missile defence system is necessary after all: it will stop the missiles Russia will now aim at Poland, the Czech Republic and the UK in response to, er, their involvement in the missile defence system.

The American government insists that the interceptors, which will be stationed on the Baltic coast, have nothing to do with Russia: their purpose is to defend Europe and the US against the intercontinental ballistic missiles Iran and North Korea don't possess. This is why they are being placed in Poland, which, as every geography student in Texas knows, shares a border with both rogue states.

Republicans resurrecting Jeremiah Wright as campaign issue

Conservative philanthropy funded Media Research Center astonishingly claims news networks held collective tongues on the Wright affair

In 1962, two years after losing the presidency to John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon ran and lost the governor's race in California. At a post-election press conference, Nixon famously told reporters that they wouldn't "have Richard Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference." It wasn't. He won the presidency in 1968, escalated the Vietnam War, was re-elected in 1972, and two years later he was forced to resign in disgrace over the Watergate Affair.

Obama attacks McCain but fails to sway VFW crowd

ORLANDO — Democrat Barack Obama used his appearance Tuesday at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention to attack Republican John McCain's critique of him to the group a day earlier - but got a cooler reception than did the Vietnam veteran running against him for president.

Obama denied McCain's assertions that he was for failure in Iraq, or shifting his anti-war stance out of expediency, or in any way basing his foreign policy on a strategy to win the presidency. "Let's have a serious debate, and let's debate our disagreements on the merits of policy - not personal attacks," Obama said.

The Secret Deal For Iraq's Oil

by Jason Leopold
The Public Record
Friday, August 15, 2008

Rour months before the United States invaded Iraq, the Department of Defense was secretly working with Vice President Dick Cheney's old company, Halliburton Corp., on a secret deal that would give the world's second largest oil services company total control over Iraq's oil fields, according to interviews with Halliburton's most senior executives.

Previously undisclosed Halliburton documents obtained by The Public Record confirm that controlling the world's second largest oil reserves was a top priority for the Bush administration. Additionally, the deal between the Department of Defense and Halliburton unit Kellogg, Brown & Root to operate Iraq's oil industry saved Halliburton from imminent bankruptcy.

Study: Possible diabetes link to arsenic in water

CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- A new analysis of government data is the first to link low-level arsenic exposure, possibly from drinking water, with type 2 diabetes, researchers say.

The study's limitations make more research necessary. And public water systems were on their way to meeting tougher U.S. arsenic standards as the data were collected.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Digby: Getting The Job Done

While everyone was celebrating the fact that the media pointed out that McCain's campaign had gone negative, the media was also making sure that everyone saw McCain's negative message. And it worked:
Barack Obama's image suffers under John McCain attacks, poll finds

The presidential race remains tight, with respondents to a Times/Bloomberg poll choosing Obama by 45% to McCain's 43%, a statistical dead heat. Obama's race remains an issue with many voters.

Digby: The Gasbag Audience

Pew has published its annual study of the American news habits and it's as interesting as ever:
A sizable minority of Americans find themselves at the intersection of these two long-standing trends in news consumption. Integrators, who get the news from both traditional sources and the internet, are a more engaged, sophisticated and demographically sought-after audience segment than those who mostly rely on traditional news sources. Integrators share some characteristics with a smaller, younger, more internet savvy audience segment - Net-Newsers - who principally turn to the web for news, and largely eschew traditional sources.

Digby: Movements

Here is a fascinating post over at Mother Jones:
Is Barack Obama exaggerating when he compares his campaign to the great progressive moments in US history? We asked two dozen writers, thinkers, and historians to answer that question; read their responses below.
I think the most interesting thing about the answers is the degree to which just about everyone sounds ambivalent or confused. It's a very odd array of answers from people who are immersed in politics and history and who should be able to rattle off a compelling rationale for the candidate without any problem, even if they disagree with the notion that it's a movement on par with civil rights or the labor movement. I think all of the people queried want Obama to win, but virtually none of them seem to be sure what he's going to do.

Pelosi's Election Year Strategy

Speaker Crafting Compromise on Offshore Drilling, But Is It Designed to Fail?

By Mike Lillis 08/19/2008

Here we go again.

Just two months after House Democrats angered liberal voters by agreeing to controversial warrantless wiretapping legislation, party leaders are signaling compromise on another issue that could alienate many progressive supporters: offshore oil drilling.

It wasn't meant to be this way. Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), have railed against a drilling expansion for months. Yet in a tense election year, when public perception becomes political reality and nuance is often the first to flee the debate, Republicans seem to have sold their version of the drilling tale more effectively.

Herbivores eat away at climate-change predictions

22:00 18 August 2008 news service
David Robson

Large herbivores are likely to have a bigger influence on the fate of our planet than we thought.

Current climate simulations predict an increase in shrub-like vegetation in northern regions as the world heats up, and these plants should absorb some of the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and help buffer further temperature increase. Now it seems that grazers are set to eat this potential carbon sponge.

New climate record shows century-long droughts in eastern North America

Weak sun created cool oceans, lowered rainfall seven times in 7,000 years

ATHENS, Ohio (Aug. 19, 2008) – A stalagmite in a West Virginia cave has yielded the most detailed geological record to date on climate cycles in eastern North America over the past 7,000 years. The new study confirms that during periods when Earth received less solar radiation, the Atlantic Ocean cooled, icebergs increased and precipitation fell, creating a series of century-long droughts.

A research team led by Ohio University geologist Gregory Springer examined the trace metal strontium and carbon and oxygen isotopes in the stalagmite, which preserved climate conditions averaged over periods as brief as a few years. The scientists found evidence of at least seven major drought periods during the Holocene era, according to an article published online in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Daily Kos: Anatomy of A(nother) Fiasco

Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 08:57:24 AM DT
Georgia, Georgia
No peace can I find.
Just an old sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind.

Stuart Gorrell and Hoagy Carmichael

It’s not like I really wanted to spend the weekend thinking about last week’s small war between Russia and the Caucasian republic of Georgia – not when I could have been watching women’s beach volleyball at the Olympics instead.

But ever since the obscure dispute over the breakaway province of South Ossetia suddenly flared into a good old fashioned Cold War crisis (putting the US – or at least John McCain – toe-to-toe with the Russkies) I’ve been trying to figure out exactly how America found itself obligated to defend the security and territorial integrity of a place name most Americans probably associate with peach trees and Scarlett O’Hara.

Renewable Power's Growth in Colorado Presages National Debate

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 18, 2008; Page A01

DENVER -- When Colorado voters were deciding whether to require that 10 percent of the state's electricity come from renewable fuels, the state's largest utility fought the proposal, warning that any shift from coal and natural gas would be costly, uncertain and unwise.

Then a funny thing happened. The ballot initiative passed, and Xcel Energy met the requirement eight years ahead of schedule. And at the government's urging, its executives quickly agreed to double the target, to 20 percent.

McCain camp is whining because Andrea Mitchell reported that he was not in the “cone of silence”

By: John Amato on Monday, August 18th, 2008 at 5:00 PM - PDT

The McCain camp is whining today and attacking NBC and Andrea Mitchell because she had the nerve to make an accurate observation about Rick Warren’s forum. Andrea Mitchell said this Meet the Press:

The Obama people must feel that he didn’t do quite as well as they might have wanted to in that context, because that–what they’re putting out privately is that McCain may not have been in the cone of silence and may have had some ability to overhear what the questions were to Obama.

US bank 'to fail within months'

The global financial crisis is set to get worse, with a large US bank likely to collapse in the next few months, a former IMF chief economist has warned.

Kenneth Rogoff's comments came as shares in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac sank on a report that the home lenders would, in effect, be nationalised.

Voting Machines Can Never Be Trusted, Says GOP Computer Security Expert

By , Velvet Revolution
Posted on August 13, 2008, Printed on August 19, 2008

In an interview from October, 2006, that has only now seen the light of day, Stephen Spoonamore, one of the world's leading experts in cyber crime and a self-described "life-long Republican" destroys Diebold's already non-existent credibility.

Spoonamore lays it out for anyone to see and understand. If you care about America and it's survival as a democratic republic, you'll watch this interview.

The interviews are on YouTube and are being carried by a new site created by Velvet Revolution,

How Wind Farms May Really Replace Coal Mining

By Peter Slavin, AlterNet
Posted on August 19, 2008, Printed on August 19, 2008

The late John Flynn, an environmentalist raised in West Virginia's Big Coal River Valley, was a farsighted man. In 1995, Flynn met a Catholic sister fighting poverty there. They talked about the abuses that Massey Coal Company's operations had inflicted on the valley. There were the mining jobs denied to local people and an economy on its knees, people forced out of their homes to accommodate mining in hollows, and front porches blanketed by coal dust. Flynn wondered aloud about placing windmills on top of the mountains surrounding them to produce power. Why, he suggested, couldn't an array of windmills replace the giant coal mines that dominated the valley?

Monday, August 18, 2008

EPA Buzz Kill: Is the Agency Hiding Colony Collapse Disorder Information?

NRDC Forced to Sue to Get Public Records on Bee Mystery

WASHINGTON - August 18 - The Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit today to uncover critical information that the US government is withholding about the risks posed by pesticides to honey bees. NRDC legal experts and a leading bee researcher are convinced that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has evidence of connections between pesticides and the mysterious honey bee die-offs reported across the country. The phenomenon has come to be called “colony collapse disorder,” or CCD, and it is already proving to have disastrous consequences for American agriculture and the $15 billion worth of crops pollinated by bees every year.

EPA has failed to respond to NRDC’s Freedom of Information Act request for agency records concerning the toxicity of pesticides to bees, forcing the legal action.


They Did It

by digby

For several weeks I've been issuing joking disclaimers that my criticisms of McCain on completely unrelated subjects should not be considered an attack on his service in Vietnam. (I did it earlier today.) It never occurred to me that they'd actually go there

Setting The Table For Armageddon

by digby

Where do they get these crazy ideas?
Arab world sees Bush's response to Georgia-Russia crisis as hypocritical

The U.S. president should be 'too ashamed to speak about the occupation of any country, he is already occupying one,' one observer says.

President Bush's condemnation of Russia as a bullying intimidator in the Georgian conflict struck a hypocritical note in a Middle East that has endured violent reverberations from the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and where the sharp White House rhetoric against Moscow echoes what many Arabs feel in turn about the U.S.
Believe Your Eyes

by digby

Kevin is right when he says that painting McCain as a rich, hypocritical warmonger is not going to get the job done. This country has proven more than once that it likes rich, hypocritical warmongers just fine. That line of attack shows that the Democrats aren't merely playing the game less effectively than the Republicans, they aren't even on the same playing field.

Rhetorical Questions

September 2008 Atlantic Monthly

Who will win the presidential debates? What does each candidate’s use of words say about how he would govern as president? Can Obama’s rhetorical skills lift him to the heights of Lincoln, FDR, and Reagan—or will his speechmaking do him in? After watching all 47 (!) of the primary season’s debates, our correspondent has the answers—and some harsh criticism for the moderators.

by James Fallows

Recently I did what no sane person would: I watched the entire set of presidential primary debates, in sequence, like a boxed set of a TV show. In scale this was like three or four seasons’ worth of The Sopranos. The Democrats had 26 debates, nearly all more than one hour long, and all but one of them with both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The Republicans had 21, if you count the session for which a single “debater” showed up. That was the NAACP forum in Detroit, which all eight Democrats but only Representative Tom Tancredo of the Republicans agreed to attend. I had seen only two of the debates in real time because so few were carried internationally. Those that were available in streaming video were too slow and jerky to be watchable in China, where I’ve been living. (It eventually took more than two weeks of round-the-clock Internet downloading to collect all the files.)

Daily Kos: No Cone of Silence (Video!)

Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 03:28:52 PM PDT

Pastor Warren, the host of last night's forum was just on CNN. In an interview with Rick Sanchez the pastor admitted McCain was not even at the Church for the first half hour of the event. This admission comes as a surprise to those of us who watched the event and were told many times that McCain was at the Church and in isolation.

CNN says they talked to McCain's camp and they said no one in his camp was listening. The honor system, are you kidding me?

How Much More Handholding?

By Spencer Ackerman
08/18/2008, 11:15AM

Hard as it can be to keep up with the latest Iraq predictions, there's been an effort for the past several months to portray the Iraqi Army as increasingly competent and self-reliant. This, of course, has a long pedigree, as every single year -- stretching back to Donald Rumsfeld in September 2003 -- we're told that the Iraqi security forces are getting better and better, but if we withdraw from Iraq the Iraqi security forces will... fall apart. That makes it impossible to give face-value credence to the claims of improvement in the Iraqi army and police, but just because it's an expedient argument for the warmongers, doesn't automatically make it a lie.

A Call For 'Revolution' To Counter The Middle-Class Collapse

By Isaiah J. Poole
August 18th, 2008 - 11:02am ET

On "Meet the Bloggers" Friday, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said that there is a "collapse" of the middle class and that nothing short of a revolution will be needed to reverse it.

"What we really need is a political revolution in this country," Sanders said, beginning with countering the corporate media spin on what is happening in the economy.

Sanders indicted the media for not probing what is happening to working people on a consistent basis. "We need to raise the consciousness of the public" so that more Americans will ask such basic questions as why America is the only industrialized nation without universal health care or why the disparity between working-class families and the wealthy are at record levels.

Paul Krugman: It’s the Economy Stupor

By rights, John McCain should be getting hammered on economics.

After all, Mr. McCain proposes continuing the policies of a president who’s had a truly dismal economic record — job growth under the current administration has been the slowest in 60 years, even slower than job growth under the first President Bush. And the public blames the White House, giving Mr. Bush spectacularly low ratings on his handling of the economy.

Meanwhile, The Times reports that, according to associates, Mr. McCain still “dials up” Phil Gramm, the former senator who resigned as co-chairman of the campaign after calling America a “nation of whiners” and dismissing the country’s economic woes as nothing more than a “mental recession.” And Mr. Gramm is still considered a top pick for Treasury secretary.

Newly detected air pollutant mimics damaging effects of cigarette smoke

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 17, 2008 — A previously unrecognized group of air pollutants could have effects remarkably similar to harmful substances found in tobacco smoke, Louisiana scientists are reporting in a study scheduled for presentation today at the 236th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. Inhaling those pollutants exposes the average person up to 300 times more free radicals daily than from smoking one cigarette, they added.

The discovery could help explain the long-standing medical mystery of why non-smokers develop tobacco-related diseases like lung cancer, said H. Barry Dellinger, Ph.D., the Patrick F. Taylor Chair of Environmental Chemistry at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.