Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Prescience of JFK

By William Fisher
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Tuesday 31 October 2006

Religious and ethnic bigotry have long been at the root of the most heinous abuses of America's freedoms. For years, Jews were the targets: They controlled the banking system, the press, and all the other levers of power. Absurdly, they were also Bolsheviks and Communists.

Bolsheviks and Communists were, of course, the bull's-eyes in later episodes of government target practice. During the 1920s, American fears were whipped up by Attorney General Mitchell Palmer, who rounded up and deported hundreds of US citizens and legal residents. Thirty years later, the House Un-American Activities Committee and Senator Joe McCarthy famously dragged the nation into a scary and pathetic "Red Scare."

Then there was Papism. Espoused by many prominent Protestant clergymen and embraced by millions of their followers for more than a century, Papists equated the Roman Catholic Church with the absolute obedience of its adherents to the orders of the Pope.

It was against this background that, on September 12, 1960, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy decided to take the bull by the horns and deliver his now-famous speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association.

He told the group he believed in "an America where the separation of church and state is absolute - where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act ... For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew - or a Quaker - or a Unitarian - or a Baptist ... Today I may be the victim - but tomorrow it may be you - until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril."

I wonder if JFK realized how prescient he was. The Cold War is over. Anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism are of course still with us, but have been largely marginalized to the lunatic fringes of our society. But today - post 9/11 - we have a new target of hate: Islam. And there is ample evidence that it is being embraced not only by the lunatic fringe of America, but by a majority of our people, including clergymen on the religious right, and by the US government.

In the hysterical days and weeks following 9/11, hundreds of Muslims, along with South Asians mistaken for Arabs, were rounded up and imprisoned by John Ashcroft's Justice Department, though not a single person was ever charged with any terror-related crime.

Sadly, many prominent members of America's evangelical community have joined the Muslim-bashing crowd. Evangelical leaders like the Rev. Franklin Graham, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, and the Rev. Jerry Vines, past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, have publicly branded Islam, or Islam's prophet Muhammad, as inherently evil and violent.

Graham, son of the evangelist Billy Graham and head of a global missions agency, Samaritan's Purse, said that Islam was "a very evil and wicked religion." Vines described Muhammad as "a demon-possessed pedophile." Falwell said in a "60 Minutes" interview that "Muhammad was a terrorist."

According to a nationwide survey conducted by Cornell University, nearly half of all Americans believe the US government should restrict the civil liberties of Muslim Americans. Our Treasury Department's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence has shut down five major Muslim charities in the United States since 2001, and seized millions of dollars in assets. As of today, not a single officer or organization has been convicted of any crime connected to terrorism. But charitable giving - one of the pillars of the Muslim faith - has fallen precipitously, out of prospective donors' fear of becoming a target of government investigation.

President Bush has lavished praise on Muslim-Americans. But simultaneously, the FBI and our Departments of Justice and Homeland Security are clearly practicing ethnic profiling and conducting surveillance at Mosques and other Muslim gathering places. At the same time, they are actively conducting "outreach" programs to Muslim-American communities in the US.

They are also aggressively attempting to recruit Arab and other Muslim-Americans into the CIA, FBI, and other national security agencies (these recruiting programs have largely failed because, when the agencies learn that many of these prospective employees have friends and family in the Middle East, they are denied security clearances).

Many other forms of more and less subtle discrimination are taking place. For example, seven Muslims who have been waiting years to become US citizens were finally notified that their applications had been approved, but only after they joined a lawsuit accusing immigration officials of illegally delaying background checks and allowing applications to linger indefinitely. In Texas, three Muslim Americans wrongly accused of planning a terrorist attack on a Michigan bridge, and after having their bank accounts closed and their neighbors accuse them of being terrorists, demanded that authorities issue a public apology for targeting them because of their race. And an internal investigation by the Justice Department concluded there was "reasonable cause" to believe that senior FBI officials retaliated against the bureau's highest-ranking Arabic speaker for complaining that he was cut out of terrorism cases despite his expertise.

The academic community has suffered as well. For example, for more than two years, Tariq Ramadan, a prominent Muslim scholar, has been denied a visa to teach at Notre Dame. First he was told he had endorsed terrorism and violated the USA Patriot Act. Later, after filing a lawsuit against the government and having a federal judge force the State Department to reconsider his application, his visa was again denied because between 1998 and 2002 he had contributed small sums of money to a French charity supporting humanitarian work in the Palestinian territories.

Is this Islamophobia working? Is it smart? Is it helping us to find and prosecute terrorists?

My view is that we're using some pretty primitive blunt instruments to conduct our search for the bad guys. In the process, we're alienating the very people who probably could help us most - the millions of law-abiding Muslim-Americans who live among us - and who are just as terrified of terrorists as the rest of us.

I suppose I might be able to understand our approach if we were still back in 2001. But 9/11 happened five years ago. Isn't it long past time that all the clever folks in our government came up with something that actually works?

William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the Middle East and in many other parts of the world for the US State Department and USAID for the past thirty years. He began his work life as a journalist for newspapers and for the Associated Press in Florida. Go to The World According to Bill Fisher for more.

Teens Call Hyper-Sexualized Media Images "Normal"

By Sandra Kobrin
Women's eNews

Sunday 29 October 2006

Many female teens in a study last month said hyper-sexualized media depictions of women are "normal." Author Ariel Levy and media scholar Constance Penley offer different responses to what that means for the young women.

Los Angeles - On her wildly popular 2005 music video, "These Boots Are Made for Walking," teen idol Jessica Simpson sings, dances and washes her car as her breasts pour out of a skimpy top, her shorts creeping ever higher on her toned behind. When Nancy Sinatra first recorded the song in 1966, it entered popular culture as a feminist anthem. The album cover featured Sinatra in a long-sleeved sweater, tights and knee-high boots, posed with a come-hither look.

Dressed in stripper-influenced attire for their 2005 megahit "Don't Cha" video, the Pussycat Dolls sing "Don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?" On their way to stardom, the all-female dance band was featured in Playboy magazine in June 1999.

The debutante pop star Paris Hilton, meanwhile, shows up in a slew of magazines and newspapers, photographed wearing as little as possible as often as possible. Internet videos of Hilton performing oral sex on a man have only enhanced her image as a sex idol.

Concerned about how the outbreak of such highly sexualized images might be influencing young women, the San Francisco-based Women's Foundation of California last month held nine focus groups with female teens, about 30 young women in Los Angeles and 60 in Fresno and Oakland. They also conducted an online survey of 700 women and 300 men aged 13 to 18. Women's eNews was permitted to observe several of the focus groups through a two-way mirror with the requirement to respect the anonymity of the participants.

The young women were selected by age, economic status, race and family status. The various groups included respondents who were white, Latina, Asian and African American, as well as female teens in households headed by single mothers, those who attend church, youth leaders and those from extremely low-income families.

The foundation plans to use the data for a 2007 report. While the findings have not been analyzed, the teens' responses during the focus groups provide a tentative picture of these young women's reactions to media.

Respondents Review Videos

Los Angeles respondents gathered in three meetings at the offices of Lake Research in Sherman Oaks, Calif. They looked at images and videos of Simpson, Paris Hilton, the Pussycat Dolls and others.

Almost all of the teens polled said such highly sexualized images are "no big deal," part of their daily life, what they expect to see on television and in magazines.

While many said they believe the images are often not beneficial to women, the responses suggest that many of the young women are resigned to this being the way society is right now and that women's bodies are used to sell practically everything.

"I know in my head the images are excessive, but to me they feel normal," said a 17-year-old Southern California student class council representative, part of the group of students aged 16 to 18 assembled for the panel, all of whom held some type of leadership roles - political, scholastic, athletic or extracurricular - at their high schools.

"Sex is what sells, even to me," another 18-year-old said. "If you buy a magazine and it says sex or has a sexy cover, it intrigues you and you buy it and whatever makes them sell more they'll use," she said, in an apparent reference to advertisers. "The sexy images do have an effect on me even though I know it shouldn't because it is based on materialism and shallowness."

Images Geared to Men

Most of the young women noted that the images are geared toward men and may be harmful to women because they contribute to men's perceptions of women as sexualized objects.

Constance Penley, a professor of women's studies and film studies at University of California, Santa Barbara, and co-creator of the film and media journal Camera Obscura, however, says there is no research to suggest that young women are "used to" or "desensitized" by the flood of the highly sexual media images.

"While there is a flood of mass media images, we believe people have very complex responses to the use of images in ways that are surprising," she said.

Penley teaches a class that studies how female performers such as Madonna, Sandra Bernhard, Roseanne and Whoopi Goldberg have managed to command public attention, even though none but Madonna conforms to traditional standards of beauty.

"We learned you needed to be perceived as bad girl, a rebel to get heard," said Penley. "Women who appreciate feminism might be shocked by these young women's admiration of Madonna. They use her 'bad girlness' to come up with an identity of their own. How they are receiving it and transforming it is complex, but they're taking in those images and doing something with it for their own end."

Rising Raunch

Ariel Levy, author of the 2005 book "Feminist Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture," takes a darker view.

"It gives them a message before they are even sexually active. They have already been taught through music videos, reality TV, My Space, etc., that part of the job of being a female is to put on shows of wantonness ... even if it has nothing to do with what you want," Levy said in an interview. "Young women are trying to look and behave like those images, as if they were porn stars. As if being able to incite lust is women's work. That's just your first job, inciting lust."

Many young women in the study seemed to share Levy's dismay.

"Women that sell their sexuality on TV influences the way we want to be," said a 16-year-old student council representative. "For girls that already have low self-esteem it makes them feel even lower."

"The way women are portrayed in the media causes domestic violence," a 15-year-old said.

Levy says "raunch culture" has taken words such as "empowerment" from the women's rights vocabulary and applied it to sexual exhibitionism. "As if stripping was empowering and sexually liberated; all the emphasis is on performed sexiness," she said. "It's not empowering. It is trying to teach women that strong and hot are the same thing. It is not. Raunchy does not mean empowered."

At least one teen in the poll seemed to agree that the trend toward hyper-sexualized female pop stars did not serve their sense of empowerment.

"My parents' generation had the '60s and '70s, women's rights and the Beatles," she said. "What do we have? Paris Hilton."

Sandra Kobrin is a Los Angeles-based journalist who specializes in criminal justice and women's issues.




JOSEPH B. TREASTER, NY TIMES, ME - Michael Palmer, the general manager
of television stations WVII and WFVX, ABC and Fox affiliates in Bangor,
has told his joint staff of nine men and women that when "Bar Harbor is
underwater, then we can do global warming stories. . . "Until then," he
added. "No more."

Mr. Palmer laid out his policy in an e-mail message sent out during the
summer. A copy was sent to The New York Times. Mr. Palmer did not
respond to a phone message left with an employee of the stations nor to
an e-mail message. But a former staff member confirmed the e-mail
message that went out during the summer after the stations broadcast a
live report from a movie theater in Maine where Al Gore's movie on
global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth," was opening.

Mr. Palmer began his e-mail message: "I was wondering where we should
send the bill for the live shot Friday at the theater for the Al Gore
commercial we aired."

Mr. Palmer said he wanted no more stories broadcast on global warming
because: "a) we do local news, b) the issue evolved from hard science
into hard politics and c) despite what you may have heard from the
mainstream media, this science is far from conclusive." Mr. Palmer said
in his e-mail message to his operations manager and two women who served
as a news anchor and a reporter that he placed "global warming stories
in the same category as 'the killer African bee scare' from the 1970s
or, more recently, the Y2K scare when everyone's computer was going to


Drastic Action on Climate Change Is Needed Now
A new report ... demonstrate[s] what many of us suspected: that it would cost
much less to prevent runaway climate change than to seek to live with it. Useful
as this finding is, I hope it doesn't mean that the debate will now concentrate
on money. The principal costs of climate change will be measured in lives, not
pounds. As Stern reminded us yesterday, there would be a moral imperative to
seek to prevent mass death even if the economic case did not stack up.

The Day That Changed the Climate
Climate change has been made the world's biggest priority, with the publication
of a stark report showing that the planet faces catastrophe unless urgent
measures are taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


DC BACHELOR - At my first corporate gig I looked for a book that would
help me cope and adjust to corporate life. I never did find one, but now
after nearly six years I have figured it out on my own. These are my
tips that make working for corporations a little bit more tolerable.

1. Put your back to your cubicle entrance and practice falling asleep
with one hand on the keyboard and the other on the mouse. (Make sure you
have a work-related document open on the screen.) This is easy to do if
you have a chair that has a high back. There are two things to watch out
for: (1) Your screensaver may activate while you nap, and (2) Your hand
may smash some keys, making people who pass by you wonder why you have a
screen full of G's. . .

2. Assume you are doing a perfect job unless your boss gives regular
feedback, which he probably doesn't. When you are rated incompetent in
several areas during your yearly performance review, go through the five
stages of grief. They will admire the fact that you "care" and may not
put you under a "performance management plan." . . .

3. Do not get buddy-buddy with your boss. Rapport with you boss will
just make it easier for him to ask special favors of you that do not
translate into more pay. Stay distant: When he asks how your weekend
was, repeat the same thing every week ("Oh I just sat around the house
and watched TV") until he stops asking. Instead, be nice to everyone but
your boss. This way if he tries to fire you, everyone will chime in and
say what a great person you are, weakening his power and making him
appear delusional.

4. Be average. Do just enough work to not get fired but not so much work
that they consider you for management. The responsibilities that come
with management rarely makes it worth the often measly increase in pay.
. . .

5. Always have one good idea in the bag if your slacking is being
noticed by many people. . .

6. Contemplate killing yourself. Or, walk by the break room every 30
minutes to see if there is any leftover food, in the middle of yet
another attempt to break your record of most number of times you can
check your personal email in one day.


Thousands of Students "Join Sex Trade to Fund Degrees"

By Alex Duval Smith
The Independent UK

Tuesday 31 October 2006

Increasing numbers of young women in France are turning to sex work to help pay the bills while they are at university, according to one of the country's leading students' unions.

Paris - According to the SUD-Etudiant union, 40,000 students in France - or nearly 2 per cent - fund their studies through the sex trade.

The union says jobs taken by female students include hostess work and freelancing for escort agencies - as well as pavement prostitution. Many, it says, use secure payment sites on the internet through which they offer webcam striptease.

"As a rule, student prostitution is an individual and occasional activity," said a spokeswoman for the Office Central de la Répression de la Traite des Etres Humains, an anti-slavery group. "It is discreet, difficult to track and not a crime in itself."

The students' union admits the phenomenon is hard to quantify. But when its members carried out a sample survey at Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse, they concluded that 545 out of 30,000 students had at some point worked in the sex industry.

The union quotes the case of "Julie", 35, who worked in the Belgian sex industry during seven successive summer vacations while studying to become a vet in France. She started as a window model in Brussels and moved on to erotic massage and escort work.

SUD-Etudiant - which campaigns for the French state to pay all students the minimum wage - said the sex trend was a result of falling subsidies and rising consumerism.

Guillaume Houzel, president of the Observatoire de la Vie Etudiante (OVE), which charts students' living conditions and income, said: "The phenomenon exists. More and more students are having trouble making ends meet because property prices are increasing while grants are staying the same." A major study of the French under-25 population in 2000 found that 100,000 students were living below the poverty threshold and 51 per cent had jobs in term time.

One vice squad officer said there was little the authorities could do to combat the trade and that some young women would always be attracted to the supposed glitter and glamour of the escort world. He added that most student prostitutes did not solicit through pimps but "through small ads, erotic photos and webcams - areas which are difficult to police and which generally are not linked to vice".

He said resources were focused on a bigger problem - that of gangs who use student visas to get women into the country and put them to work as prostitutes.

Police are sceptical about the figures quoted by the student union. They say there are many more prostitutes pretending to be French students than there are students selling sex in pursuit of their degrees.



MARC ABRAHAMS, GUARDIAN, UK - How do porcupines make love? Wendy Cooper
discovered the answer while poking around the basement of the Australian
National University library in Canberra about five years ago. . . Cooper
found two studies written (one with co-authors) by Albert Shadle, of the
University of Buffalo, New York, in 1946. . . One paper is called The
Sex Reactions of Porcupines (erethizon d. dorsatum) Before and After
Copulation. The other is Copulation in the Porcupine. . .

The porcupines in the study were part of a colony that Shadle kept at
the University of Buffalo. . . Come mating season, the scientists would
place a male into a cage that already contained a female. Cooper
described the subsequent action. First came courtship: "When the male
encountered the female porcupine, he smelled her all over, then reared
up on his hind legs ... If she was prepared for mating, she also reared
up and faced the male, belly-to-belly. In this position, most males then
sprayed the female with a strong stream of urine, soaking her from head
to foot. She would 1) object vocally, 2) strike with her front paws, as
though boxing, 3) threaten or try to bite, or 4) shake off the urine and
run away. If ready for mating, the female did not object strongly to
this shower."

Then the porcupines did the business: "The male made sexual contact from
behind the female. The spines of both animals were relaxed and lay flat.
His thrusts were of the 'usual nature' and were produced by flexing and
straightening the knees. Males did not grasp the female in any way.
Mating continued until the male was exhausted ... If males refused to
co-operate, the female approached a nearby male and acted out the male
role in coition with the uninvolved male.". . .




INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE - Voters in Amsterdam and 34 other Dutch
cities may be using paper and pencil instead of computerized voting
machines in national elections next month. The government on Monday
banned the use of one common type of computer voting machine, fearing
that secret ballots may not be kept secret. It ordered a review of all
electronic machines after the Nov. 22 election.

Government Renewal Minister Atzo Nicolai said the move was necessary
after an investigation found the machines made by Sdu NV emitted radio
signals that a technology-savvy spy could use to peek at a voters'
choices from a distance of up to several dozen yards.

"What can be detected is the image on the screen that's visible to the
voter, by which his voting could be monitored," Nicolai said in a letter
to parliament.

"In short, the machines made by the company Sdu can now be tapped, and
there are no technical measures that can be taken before the upcoming
elections that would prevent this tapping and guarantee the secrecy of
the ballot."

He said he had revoked the permits for all the machines, about 10
percent of all voting machines used in the country. . .

The turnabout came after a group called "We Don't Trust Voting
Computers" protested the vulnerability of electronic voting to fraud or

"I think this will have repercussions far beyond Holland" said Rop
Gonggrijp, one of the group's founders, after Monday's announcement.


WE DON'T TRUST VOTING COMPUTERS - 90% of the of the votes in The
Netherlands are cast on the Nedap/Groenendaal ES3B voting computer. With
very minor modifications, the same computer is also being used in parts
of Germany and France. Use of this machine in Ireland is currently on
hold after significant doubts were raised concerning its suitability for

We were able to buy two Nedap voting computers from a Dutch
municipality. . . . When given brief access to the devices at any time
before the election, we can gain complete and virtually undetectable
control over election results. . . . We discovered that radio emanations
from an unmodified ES3B can be received at several meters distance and
be used to tell who votes what.




voting, a handful of glitches with electronic voting machines have drawn
the ire of voters, reassurances from elections supervisors -- and a
caution against the careless casting of ballots.

Several South Florida voters say the choices they touched on the
electronic screens were not the ones that appeared on the review screen
-- the final voting step.

Election officials say they aren't aware of any serious voting issues.
But in Broward County, for example, they don't know how widespread the
machine problems are because there's no process for poll workers to
quickly report minor issues and no central database of machine
problems.. . .

Debra A. Reed voted with her boss on Wednesday at African-American
Research Library and Cultural Center near Fort Lauderdale. Her vote went
smoothly, but boss Gary Rudolf called her over to look at what was
happening on his machine. He touched the screen for gubernatorial
candidate Jim Davis, a Democrat, but the review screen repeatedly
registered the Republican, Charlie Crist. . . A poll worker then helped
Rudolf, but it took three tries to get it right, Reed said.

Broward Supervisor of Elections spokeswoman Mary Cooney said it's not
uncommon for screens on heavily used machines to slip out of sync,
making votes register incorrectly. Poll workers are trained to
recalibrate them on the spot -- essentially, to realign the video screen
with the electronics inside. The 15-step process is outlined in the
poll-workers manual.




GARRY WILLS, NY REVIEW OF BOOKS - The right wing in America likes to
think that the United States government was, at its inception, highly
religious, specifically highly Christian, and even more specifically
highly biblical. That was not true of that government or any later
government - until 2000, when the fiction of the past became the reality
of the present. George W. Bush was not only born-again, like Jimmy
Carter. His religious conversion came late, and took place in the
political setting of Billy Graham's ministry to the powerful. He was
converted during a stroll with Graham on his father's Kennebunkport
compound. It is true that Dwight Eisenhower was guided to baptism by
Graham. But Eisenhower was a famous and formed man, the principal
military figure of World War II, the leader of NATO, the president of
Columbia University-his change in religious orientation was just an
addition to many prior achievements. Bush's conversion at a
comparatively young stage in his life was a wrenching away from mainly
wasted years. . . .

Bush was a saved alcoholic - and here, too, he had no predecessor in the
White House. Ulysses Grant conquered the bottle, but not with the help
of Jesus. Other presidents were evangelicals. Three of them belonged to
the Disciples of Christ - James Garfield, Lyndon Johnson, and Ronald
Reagan. But none of the three - nor any of the other forty-two
presidents preceding Bush (including his father)-would have answered a
campaign debate question as he did. Asked who was his favorite
philosopher, he said "Jesus Christ." And why? "Because he changed my
heart." . . .



PATRICK COCKBURN, ALTERNET - It has been the strangest war. It had
hardly begun in 2003 when President George W. Bush announced on May 1
that it was over: the American mission had been accomplished. Months
passed before Washington and London realized that the conflict had not
finished. In fact, the war was only just beginning. Three years after
Bush had spoken the US military had suffered 20,000 dead and injured in
Iraq, 95% of the casualties inflicted after the fall of Baghdad.

Almost without thinking, the US put to the test its claim to be the only
superpower in the world. It spurned allies inside and outside Iraq; in
invading Iraq Tony Blair was Bush's only significant supporter. The
first President George Bush led a vast UN-backed coalition to complete
victory in the Gulf War in 1991 largely because he fought a conservative
war to return the Middle East to the way it was before Iraq's invasion
of Kuwait. It was a status quo with which the world was familiar, and
restoring was therefore supported internationally -- and in the Middle
East. The war launched by his son, George W. Bush, twelve years later in
2003 was a far more radical venture. It was nothing less than an attempt
to alter the balance of power in the world. The US, acting almost alone,
would seize control of a country with vast oil reserves. It would assume
quasi-colonial control over a nation which fifteen years previously had
been the greatest Arab power. Senior American officials openly
threatened to change the governments of states neighboring Iraq.


Mirror Test Implies Elephants Self-Aware

Mirror Test Implies Elephants Self-Aware
By Andrew Bridges
The Associated Press

Tuesday 31 October 2006

Washington - If you're Happy and you know it, pat your head. That, in a peanut shell, is how a 34-year-old female Asian elephant in the Bronx Zoo showed researchers that pachyderms can recognize themselves in a mirror - complex behavior observed in only a few other species.

The test results suggest elephants - or at least Happy - are self-aware. The ability to distinguish oneself from others had been shown only in humans, chimpanzees and, to a limited extent, dolphins.

That self-recognition may underlie the social complexity seen in elephants, and could be linked to the empathy and altruism that the big-brained animals have been known to display, said researcher Diana Reiss, of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the Bronx Zoo.

In a 2005 experiment, Happy faced her reflection in an 8-by-8-foot mirror and repeatedly used her trunk to touch an "X" painted above her eye. The elephant could not have seen the mark except in her reflection. Furthermore, Happy ignored a similar mark, made on the opposite side of her head in paint of an identical smell and texture, that was invisible unless seen under black light.

"It seems to verify for us she definitely recognized herself in the mirror," said Joshua Plotnik, one of the researchers behind the study. Details appear this week on the Web site of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Still, two other zoo elephants, Maxine and Patty, failed to touch either the visible or invisible "X" marks on their heads in two runs of the experiment. But all three adult female elephants at the zoo behaved while in front of the jumbo mirror in ways that suggested they recognized themselves, said Plotnik, a graduate student at Emory University in Atlanta.

Maxine, for instance, used the tip of her trunk to probe the inside of her mouth while facing the mirror. She also used her trunk to slowly pull one ear toward the mirror, as if she were using the reflection to investigate herself. The researchers reported not seeing that type of behavior at any other time.

"Doing things in front of the mirror: that spoke volumes to me that they were definitely recognizing themselves," said Janine Brown, a research physiologist and elephant expert at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington. She was not connected with the study but expressed interest in conducting follow-up research.

Gordon Gallup, the psychologist who devised the mark test in 1970 for use on chimps, called the results "very strong and very compelling." But he said additional studies on both elephants and dolphins were needed.

"They really need to be replicated in order to be able to say with any assurance that dolphins and elephants indeed as species are capable of recognizing themselves. Replication is the cornerstone of science," said Gallup, a professor at the State University of New York at Albany, who provided advice to the researchers.

The three Bronx Zoo elephants did not display any social behavior in front of the mirror, suggesting that each recognized the reflected image as itself and not another elephant. Many other animals mistake their mirror reflections for other creatures.

That divergent species such as elephants and dolphins should share the ability to recognize themselves as distinct from others suggests the characteristic evolved independently, according to the study.

Elephants and mammoths, now extinct, split from the last common ancestor they shared with mastodons, also extinct, about 24 million years ago. In a separate study also appearing this week on the scientific journal's Web site, researchers report finding fossil evidence of an older species that links modern elephants to even older ancestors.

The likely "missing link" is a 27 million-year-old jaw fossil, found in Eritrea.

Blood in the Gutters

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Tuesday 31 October 2006

If you elect the Democrats they'll tax you into the poor house, and on the way, you'll meet a terrorist on every corner, and when you try to run away, you'll stumble over an illegal immigrant.

- Former President Clinton, describing the GOP's midterm message, 10/29/06

Columnist William Fisher, in his Monday Truthout column, described the campaign tactics being deployed by the GOP as the final week before the midterm elections unfolds. "The Republican challenger for the Wisconsin House seat of Congressman Ron Kind," wrote Fisher, "runs a TV ad headed, 'Ron Kind Pays for Sex!' with 'XXX' stamped across Kind's face. It turns out that Kind - along with more than 200 of his colleagues in the House - opposed an unsuccessful effort to stop the National Institutes of Health from pursuing peer-reviewed sex studies."

"In New York," continued Fisher, "the National Republican Campaign Committee runs an ad accusing Democratic House candidate Michael A. Arcuri, a district attorney, of using taxpayer dollars for phone sex. The facts are that one of Arcuri's aides had tried to call the state Division of Criminal Justice, which had a number that was almost identical to that of a porn line. The misdial cost taxpayers $1.25. In Ohio, GOP gubernatorial candidate J. Kenneth Blackwell runs a TV spot accusing Democratic congressman Ted Strickland of failing to support a resolution condemning sex between adults and children. The truth: Strickland, a psychiatrist, objected to a line suggesting that sexually abused children cannot have healthy relationships when they grow up."

Gadzooks. You'd think we didn't have anything better to talk about.

House Republicans, increasingly desperate to smear and slime their way out of the myriad messes they have left in their wake, are throwing as much mud against the walls as can be found. In a way, it is all reminiscent of the 2004 presidential campaign, when issues like Iraq, Abu Ghraib, the economy, 9/11, and the continued freedom enjoyed by Osama bin Laden somehow took a back seat to spurious debates over gay marriage and the war in Vietnam.

It worked, back then. Time will tell if it works this time around. There are, you see, an astonishing number of hurdles to be overcome by the GOP in their quest to maintain power. Going negative is all the GOP has left in its bag of tricks, and if the campaign for governor in Massachusetts is any indication - Republican candidate Kerry Healy's relentlessly vicious attack ads against Democratic challenger Deval Patrick have earned her a 25-point deficit in the polls, in a state where Republicans have owned the governor's mansion for going on 20 years - taking the low road may not be effective medicine.

It is hard, you see, to overcome stuff like this:

103 American soldiers killed in Iraq during the month of October. 2,816 dead American soldiers killed in Iraq since March of 2003. 44,799 American soldiers wounded in Iraq, many of them permanently and grievously, since March of 2003.

In Baghdad over just the last 48 hours, a car bomb in Sadr City killed 29 people. A roadside bomb killed a policeman and three others. Another bomb killed three people and wounded ten others. 40 people were abducted by unknown gunmen. Isam al-Rawi, a doctor who ran the University Teacher's Association in Iraq, was shot dead in his home. The bodies of six policemen, all of which showed signs of torture, were retrieved from a river. Two other car bombs killed nine people and wounded thirty more. A suicide bomber in Kirkuk blew himself up inside a police headquarters building, killing two people and wounding five.

A serious rift is developing between the American government and the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. Al-Maliki has demanded that US forces suspend the blockade surrounding the Sadr City slum that was implemented to quell the escalating violence in Baghdad. His ultimatum gave 5 p.m. Iraq time as the deadline. Despite this fight, the Iraqi government has requested $100 billion to rebuild their infrastructure. Add that to the hundreds of billions of dollars already spent.

Meanwhile, the ranks of Iraqi police appear to be riddled with militia fighters. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that "The signs of the militias are everywhere at the Sholeh police station. Posters celebrating Moqtada al-Sadr, head of the Mahdi Army militia, dot the building's walls. The police chief sometimes remarks that Shiite militias should wipe out all Sunnis. Visitors to this violent neighborhood in the Iraqi capital whisper that nearly all the police officers have split loyalties. And then one rainy night this month, the Sholeh police set up an ambush and killed Army Cpl. Kenny F. Stanton Jr., a 20-year-old budding journalist, his unit said. At the time, Stanton and other members of the unit had been trailing a group of Sholeh police escorting known Mahdi Army members."

Remember back in May, when right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh slapped aside the carnage in Iraq by comparing it to the rates of violence in Washington, Baltimore, Atlanta and several South American nations? "So Iraq, I mean, if you're just going to roll the dice and take your chances," he said, "Iraq's a much safer place to go than Washington or Jamaica or New Orleans pre-Katrina, or Venezuela."

Dozens of police officers and civilians aren't getting slaughtered every day in Baltimore and Atlanta. There are no car bombs popping off daily in Georgetown.

But yeah, we knew that.

It is going to be an ugly week in American politics, to be sure. The scum will rise and the stink will flood the airwaves, and pundits will shake their heads in mock dismay even as they revel in the chance to report on noise instead of news.

It will be bad, but it could be worse.

We could be in Baghdad, where dirty campaigns tend to involve bombs filled with nails and metal fragments, where torture and mutilation are the surest form of persuasion, where democracy means voting to stay inside so as to avoid being shot or abducted, where the failures of this administration and its rubber-stamp Congress are written in the blood flowing down the gutters.

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence. His newest book, House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation, will be available this winter from PoliPointPress.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!!!!!!!!!!................... Scott

October 31, 1926

Harry Houdini, the most celebrated magician and escape artist of the 20th
century, dies of peritonitis in a Detroit hospital. Twelve days before, Houdini
had been talking to a group of students after a lecture in Montreal when he
commented on the strength of his stomach muscles and their ability to withstand
hard blows. Suddenly, one of the students punched Houdini twice in the stomach.
The magician hadn't had time to prepare, and the blows ruptured his appendix. He
fell ill on the train to Detroit, and, after performing one last time, was
hospitalized. Doctors operated on him, but to no avail. The burst appendix
poisoned his system, and on October 31 he died.Houdini was born Erik Weisz in
Budapest in 1874, the son of a rabbi. At a young age, he immigrated with his
family to Appleton, Wisconsin, and soon demonstrated a natural acrobatic ability
and an extraordinary skill at picking locks. When he was nine, he joined a
traveling circus and toured the country as a contortionist and trapeze
performer. He soon was specializing in escape acts and gained fame for his
reported ability to escape from any manacle. He went on his first international
tour in 1900 and performed all over Europe to great acclaim. In executing his
escapes, he relied on strength, dexterity, and concentration--not trickery--and
was a great showman.In 1908, Houdini began performing more dangerous and
dramatic escapes. In a favorite act, he was bound and then locked in an
ironbound chest that was dropped into a water tank or thrown off a boat. In
another, he was heavily bound and then suspended upside down in a glass-walled
water tank. Other acts featured Houdini being hung from a skyscraper in a
straitjacket, or bound and buried--without a coffin--under six feet of dirt.In
his later years, Houdini campaigned against mediums, mind readers, fakirs, and
others who claimed supernatural talents but depended on tricks. At the same
time, he was deeply interested in spiritualism and made a pact with his wife and
friends that the first to die was to try and communicate with the world of
reality from the spirit world. Several of these friends died, but Houdini never
received a sign from them. Then, on Halloween 1926, Houdini himself passed on at
the age of 52. His wife waited for a communiquý from the spirit world but it
never came; she declared the experiment a failure shortly before her death in


October 30, 1938

Orson Welles causes a nationwide panic with his broadcast of "War of the
Worlds"--a realistic radio dramatization of a Martian invasion of Earth.Orson
Welles was only 23 years old when his Mercury Theater company decided to update
H.G. Wells' 19th-century science fiction novel War of the Worlds for national
radio. Despite his age, Welles had been in radio for several years, most notably
as the voice of "The Shadow" in the hit mystery program of the same name. "War
of the Worlds" was not planned as a radio hoax, and Welles had little idea of
the havoc it would cause.The show began on Sunday, October 30, at 8 p.m. A voice
announced: "The Columbia Broadcasting System and its affiliated stations present
Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater on the air in 'War of the Worlds' by H.G.
Wells."Sunday evening in 1938 was prime-time in the golden age of radio, and
millions of Americans had their radios turned on. But most of these Americans
were listening to ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his dummy "Charlie McCarthy" on
NBC and only turned to CBS at 8:12 p.m. after the comedy sketch ended and a
little-known singer went on. By then, the story of the Martian invasion was well
underway.Welles introduced his radio play with a spoken introduction, followed
by an announcer reading a weather report. Then, seemingly abandoning the
storyline, the announcer took listeners to "the Meridian Room in the Hotel Park
Plaza in downtown New York, where you will be entertained by the music of Ramon
Raquello and his orchestra." Putrid dance music played for some time, and then
the scare began. An announcer broke in to report that "Professor Farrell of the
Mount Jenning Observatory" had detected explosions on the planet Mars. Then the
dance music came back on, followed by another interruption in which listeners
were informed that a large meteor had crashed into a farmer's field in Grovers
Mills, New Jersey.Soon, an announcer was at the crash site describing a Martian
emerging from a large metallic cylinder. "Good heavens," he declared,
"something's wriggling out of the shadow like a gray snake. Now here's another
and another one and another one. They look like tentacles to me ... I can see
the thing's body now. It's large, large as a bear. It glistens like wet leather.
But that face, it ...it ... ladies and gentlemen, it's indescribable. I can
hardly force myself to keep looking at it, it's so awful. The eyes are black and
gleam like a serpent. The mouth is kind of V-shaped with saliva dripping from
its rimless lips that seem to quiver and pulsate."The Martians mounted walking
war machines and fired "heat-ray" weapons at the puny humans gathered around the
crash site. They annihilated a force of 7,000 National Guardsman, and after
being attacked by artillery and bombers the Martians released a poisonous gas
into the air. Soon "Martian cylinders" landed in Chicago and St. Louis. The
radio play was extremely realistic, with Welles employing sophisticated sound
effects and his actors doing an excellent job portraying terrified announcers
and other characters. An announcer reported that widespread panic had broken out
in the vicinity of the landing sites, with thousands desperately trying to flee.
In fact, that was not far from the truth.Perhaps as many as a million radio
listeners believed that a real Martian invasion was underway. Panic broke out
across the country. In New Jersey, terrified civilians jammed highways seeking
to escape the alien marauders. People begged police for gas masks to save them
from the toxic gas and asked electric companies to turn off the power so that
the Martians wouldn't see their lights. One woman ran into an Indianapolis
church where evening services were being held and yelled, "New York has been
destroyed! It's the end of the world! Go home and prepare to die!"When news of
the real-life panic leaked into the CBS studio, Welles went on the air as
himself to remind listeners that it was just fiction. There were rumors that the
show caused suicides, but none were ever confirmed.The Federal Communications
Commission investigated the program but found no law was broken. Networks did
agree to be more cautious in their programming in the future. Orson Welles
feared that the controversy generated by "War of the Worlds" would ruin his
career. In fact, the publicity helped land him a contract with a Hollywood
studio, and in 1941 he directed, wrote, produced, and starred in Citizen Kane--a
movie that many have called the greatest American film ever made.



This is from Sam Smith, Editor of the Progressive Review, http://prorev.com


THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH writing a steamy novel or two. There is,
however, something really weird about writing a steamy novel or two and
then thinking you're the best guy to defeat an incumbent GOP senator in
a state that hosts Jerry Falwell's operations down in Lynchburg. After
all, you don't want to end up like the 'Wreck of the Old 97':

It's a mighty rough road from Lynchburg to Danville,
It was lying on a three-mile grade,
It was on that grade that he lost his air brakes,
And you see what a jump that she made.

He was going down the grade making 90 miles an hour,
When his whistle began to scream,
He was found in that wreck with his hand on the throttle,
He was scalded to death by the steam.

Imagine if Jim Webb had done something mildly intelligent like calling
up Howard Dean and saying, "Hey, I'm thinking about running for senator
and thought maybe a thing I wrote in a steamy novel about a boy sticking
his penis in a man's mouth might be a problem. Whadya think?"

But Jim Webb probably didn't check with anyone because, in his view, he
was clearly the man for the job and if any hassles came up he figured he
could just spin his way out of them just as most major figures do these

There's just one little problem. This story isn't just about Jim Webb,
it's also about the Democratic Party which is within inches of taking
the Senate, and it is ultimately about America which is suffering under
its most repressively rightwing government in history. Maybe it won't
matter at all, but it would be too bad to lose the whole Senate thanks
because of a poorly placed blow job.

A normal reaction would have been to make a choice: both respectable.
Either you write steamy novels or you run as the Democratic candidate
for Senate in Jerry Falwell's turf. You don't do both not because you
don't think in the best of all worlds you should be able to, but because
in the year 2006 in the Commonwealth of Virginia you know you're just
asking for trouble.

Yet an increasing number of leaders in America don't have such normal
reactions because their narcissism has long passed the point of
individual character, spilling over into the lives of their friends,
their allies, and their constituencies. They make everyone around them
hostages on their ego trips.

This unconsciousness of, or indifference to, the effect of one's acts on
others is an increasingly familiar phenomenon. George Bush is, of
course, a prime example with a history of making others suffer for his
ambtions as far back as his teen years when he and his buddies would
blow up frogs with firecrackers and as recently as the last soldiers and
civilians to die in Iraq.

Then we have Representative Marc Foley who, even as he was chasing male
pages, was parading as a leading opponent of child pornography and
serving as chair of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children.
His victims now include some of his own colleagues in tight election

Then we have Jane Fernandes, just dumped as the new head of Gallaudet
University, who despite massive opposition from students, alumni and 80%
of the faculty, put Gallaudet through weeks of turmoil because she saw
the struggle as primarily a personal one she had to win to prove

And let's not forget Hillary Clinton whose ego is so uncontrolled she is
planning to run for president knowing full well that she carries past
baggage explosive enough that the TSA should ban her from ever flying.

We are not talking mere ambition here or even the ordinary narcissism of
a pol. We are speaking of people who are supremely incapable of
understanding or respecting the impact of their own behavior and faults
on others.

I first noticed a jump in this sort of behavior in the 1990s with a
number of non-profit executive directors who seemed bizarrely
unconcerned with the consequences to the organization of their egos and
arrogance. They projected an image of great leadership but were in fact
sinking their own ship.

The problem seemed to stem in part from the diaspora of the new robber
baron ethic promulgated by major business schools. The skills of
management were often seen as independent of, and in isolation from,
whatever was being managed. If you had these skills you could even be
the conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra without ever really
understanding music since running an orchestra was, after all, just
another management problem.

Aside from the illogic of such an approach, it gave vastly more
importance to the dominating personality and manic drive of those in
charge than to their competence in the matters at hand or to their
social intelligence. It easily became more like theater than actual
work. The 'great' manager performed a role rather than actually carrying
it out.

In many cases, things worked fine because competence was also there even
if deemed of lesser importance. But increasingly, those who were good at
manipulating people, situations, and language without either the
competence or the ability to work in an effective way with others were
the ones who made it to the top. Their pathological narcissism and
absence of shame about it was too often mistaken for strong leadership.

It also doesn't help that there are now 300 million of us. Ambition has
a harder climb and those who succeed often do so - like the viper and
the shark - for reasons that are not all that pleasant to contemplate.

And it is true that rooted power - power that comes out of place,
tradition, or community - has largely lost its influence and with it the
idea of success being dependent upon something other than oneself.
Certainly in politics, we seem to place little value on either
experience or service.

But, whatever the reasons, we are besotted by those whose idea of
leadership is defined by their own ambitions with little reference to,
or concern about, the well-being or desires of those around them.

A psychiatrist once suggested to me that a good way to diagnose
pathology in someone is to count the bodies that they leave behind.
Which is to say that healthy people don't leave a trail of victims as
they go through life. On the other hand, the disordered, no matter how
convincing their claim to normalcy, produce a wake that tells a
different story. In no small part, this is because their definition of
progress and success too often stops with themselves. Others are just so
many hostages of their fantasies. Which would be all right if it were
just a steamy novel, but unfortunately it's real life.


Now here is something REALLY scary for Halloween.....................Scott


[As noted here before, there is no constitutional grounds for the
president to declare martial law. This flagrantly dictatorial move would
strip Americans of one of their most important defenses against fascism:
the sovereign power of the states to have their own independent militias
- i.e. the state national guard. The stunning silence of the media on
this story is a prime example of how this media is failing America in
the midst of its most serious internal crisis since the Civil War]

FRANK MORALES, URUKNET - In a stealth maneuver, President Bush has
signed into law a provision which, according to Senator Patrick Leahy
(D-Vermont), will actually encourage the President to declare federal
martial law. It does so by revising the Insurrection Act, a set of laws
that limits the President's ability to deploy troops within the United
States. The Insurrection Act has historically, along with the Posse
Comitatus Act, helped to enforce strict prohibitions on military
involvement in domestic law enforcement. With one cloaked swipe of his
pen, Bush is seeking to undo those prohibitions.

[The bill], which was signed by the commander in chief on October 17th,
in a private Oval Office ceremony, allows the President to declare a
"public emergency" and station troops anywhere in America and take
control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the
governor or local authorities, in order to "suppress public disorder."

President Bush seized this unprecedented power on the very same day that
he signed the equally odious military Commissions Act of 2006. In a
sense, the two laws complement one another. One allows for torture and
detention abroad, while the other seeks to enforce acquiescence at home,
preparing to order the military onto the streets of America. Remember,
the term for putting an area under military law enforcement control is
precise; the term is "martial law."

Section 1076 of the massive Authorization Act, which grants the Pentagon
another $500-plus-billion for its ill-advised adventures, is entitled,
"Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies." Section 333,
"Major public emergencies; interference with State and Federal law"
states that "the President may employ the armed forces, including the
National Guard in Federal service, to restore public order and enforce
the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster,
epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or
incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United
States, the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to
such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or
possession are incapable of . . . maintaining public order. . . in order
to suppress, in any State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful
combination, or conspiracy."

For the current President, "enforcement of the laws to restore public
order" means to commandeer guardsmen from any state, over the objections
of local governmental, military and local police entities; ship them off
to another state; conscript them in a law enforcement mode; and set them
loose against "disorderly" citizenry - protesters, possibly, or those
who object to forced vaccinations and quarantines in the event of a
bio-terror event.

The law also facilitates militarized police round-ups and detention of
protesters, so called "illegal aliens," "potential terrorists" and other
"undesirables" for detention in facilities already contracted for and
under construction by Halliburton. That's right. Under the cover of a
trumped-up "immigration emergency" and the frenzied militarization of
the southern border, detention camps are being constructed right under
our noses, camps designed for anyone who resists the foreign and
domestic agenda of the Bush administration.

Make no mistake about it: the de-facto repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act
is an ominous assault on American democratic tradition and
jurisprudence. The 1878 Act, which reads, "Whoever, except in cases and
under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of
Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air Force as a posse
comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this
title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both," is the only U.S.
criminal statute that outlaws military operations directed against the
American people under the cover of 'law enforcement.' As such, it has
been the best protection we've had against the power-hungry intentions
of an unscrupulous and reckless executive, an executive intent on using
force to enforce its will. . .

Despite the unprecedented and shocking nature of this act, there has
been no outcry in the American media, and little reaction from our
elected officials in Congress. On September 19th, a lone Senator Patrick
Leahy (D-Vermont) noted that 2007's Defense Authorization Act contained
a "widely opposed provision to allow the President more control over the
National Guard [adopting] changes to the Insurrection Act, which will
make it easier for this or any future President to use the military to
restore domestic order without the consent of the nation's governors.".
. .

A few weeks later, on the 29th of September, Leahy entered into the
Congressional Record that he had "grave reservations about certain
provisions of the fiscal Year 2007 Defense Authorization Bill Conference
Report," the language of which, he said, "subverts solid, longstanding
posse comitatus statutes that limit the military's involvement in law
enforcement, thereby making it easier for the President to declare
martial law." This had been "slipped in," Leahy said, "as a rider with
little study," while "other congressional committees with jurisdiction
over these matters had no chance to comment, let alone hold hearings on,
these proposals."

In a telling bit of understatement, the Senator from Vermont noted that
"the implications of changing the (Posse Comitatus) Act are enormous".
"There is good reason," he said, "for the constructive friction in
existing law when it comes to martial law declarations. Using the
military for law enforcement goes against one of the founding tenets of
our democracy. We fail our Constitution, neglecting the rights of the
States, when we make it easier for the President to declare martial law
and trample on local and state sovereignty."

The historic and ominous re-writing of the Insurrection Act,
accomplished in the dead of night, which gives Bush the legal authority
to declare martial law, is now an accomplished fact.







(a) Use of the Armed Forces Authorized-

(1) IN GENERAL- Section 333 of title 10, United States Code, is amended
to read as follows:

`Sec. 333. Major public emergencies; interference with State and Federal

`(a) Use of Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies- (1) The President
may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal
service, to--

`(A) restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States
when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious
public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other
condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President
determines that--

`(i) domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the
constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of
maintaining public order; and

`(ii) such violence results in a condition described in paragraph (2);

`(B) suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful
combination, or conspiracy if such insurrection, violation, combination,
or conspiracy results in a condition described in paragraph (2).

`(2) A condition described in this paragraph is a condition that--

`(A) so hinders the execution of the laws of a State or possession, as
applicable, and of the United States within that State or possession,
that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege,
immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law,
and the constituted authorities of that State or possession are unable,
fail, or refuse to protect that right, privilege, or immunity, or to
give that protection; or

`(B) opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States
or impedes the course of justice under those laws.

`(3) In any situation covered by paragraph (1)(B), the State shall be
considered to have denied the equal protection of the laws secured by
the Constitution.

`(b) Notice to Congress- The President shall notify Congress of the
determination to exercise the authority in subsection (a)(1)(A) as soon
as practicable after the determination and every 14 days thereafter
during the duration of the exercise of that authority.'.



Friday, October 27, 2006


October 27, 1858

Theodore Roosevelt, the future 26th president of the United States, is born in
New York City. A dynamic and energetic politician, Theodore Roosevelt is
credited with creating the modern presidency.As a young Republican, he held a
number of political posts in New York in the 1880s and 1890s, and was a leader
of reform Republicans in the state. Appointed assistant secretary to the U.S.
Navy in 1897, he vehemently advocated war with Spain. When the Spanish-American
War began in 1898, he helped Col. Leonard Wood organize and lead the "Rough
Riders," a volunteer cavalry that became famous for its contribution to the
United States victory at the Battle of San Juan Hill in Cuba. The
publicity-minded Roosevelt rode his military fame to the New York governor's
seat in 1898 and to the U.S. vice presidency in 1900.In 1901, President William
McKinley was assassinated, and Roosevelt, at 43 years old, became the youngest
president ever to assume the office. He stamped the presidency with a vitality
that delighted most Americans and was elected to a second term in 1904. Abroad,
Roosevelt was an expansionist who asserted his executive powers to defend U.S.
interests. At home, he sought to balance the interests of farmers, workers, and
the business class. He insisted on a strong navy, encouraged the independence of
Panama and the construction of the Panama Canal, promoted the regulation of
trusts and monopolies, and set aside land for America's first national parks and
monuments. In 1906, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation of
the negotiations that ended the Russo-Japanese War.In 1912, three years after
finishing his second term, Roosevelt ran for president again as the candidate of
the new Progressive Party, which was made up reform-minded Republicans
dissatisfied with the Republican Party leadership. Challenging President,
President William Howard Taft, he campaigned on his "Square Deal" platform of
social reform. In November, the divided Republican Party was defeated by
Democrat Woodrow Wilson.In the last few years of his life, Roosevelt became a
vocal advocate of the U.S. entrance into World War I and even sought to win a
commission to lead a U.S. Army division in Europe. President Wilson declined,
and after the war Roosevelt opposed Senate ratification of Wilson's League of
Nations. On January 6, 1919, Roosevelt died at Sagamore Hill, his estate
overlooking New York's Long Island Sound. The tropical diseases he contracted
during his many travels had likely caught up with him. He was 60 years old.


Rush Limbaugh's Sleaze Campaign

By Molly Ivins, AlterNet. Posted October 26, 2006.

For misinformation and cruelty, not to mention plain bad manners, it is so hard to beat Rush Limbaugh.

It's a race to the bottom. For misinformation and cruelty, not to mention plain old dreadful manners, it is so hard to beat Rush Limbaugh. We can only measure the Great Blowhard against himself.

Even by Limbaugh standards, his recent attack on Michael J. Fox, the actor, is several levels lower than tacky. Fox, who has Parkinson's disease, has done some political ads favoring candidates who in turn support stem cell research.

"He is exaggerating the effects of the disease," Limbaugh told his listeners. "He is moving all around and shaking, and it's purely an act. This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn't take his medication or he's acting. This is the only time I've ever seen Michael J. Fox portray any of the symptoms of the disease he has."

The reaction from Parkinson's experts was swift and angry. "It's a shameless statement," said John Rogers of Parkinson's Action Network. "It's insulting. It's appallingly sad, at best."

So then Limbaugh, big-hearted guy, says while still on the air in the same broadcast: "Now, people are telling me they have seen Michael J. Fox in interviews and he does appear in the same way in the interviews as he does in this commercial. ... All right, then, I stand corrected. ... So I will bigly, hugely admit that I was wrong, and I will apologize to Michael J. Fox if I am wrong in characterizing his behavior on this commercial as an act ... ."

Then Limbaugh went on to say, "Michael J. Fox is allowing his illness to be exploited and in the process is shilling for a Democrat politician."

Exploiting his disease by pushing for a cure. Gee, I never thought of that. Do you think the late Christopher Reeve was faking it? Is Nancy Reagan exploiting her late husband?

If that isn't disgusting enough, let's take a look at a new ad running against Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee in the U.S. Senate race. You can find it on the Internet, and I think you'll be amazed. The ad strings together a series of ridiculous "positions" (e.g., "Canada can take care of North Korea") and a stacked blonde claiming she met Ford at a Playboy party. "Harold, call me," she coos.

The NAACP and other groups popped up immediately to point out that the babelicious blonde raises the old racist scare tactic about black men and white women. I thought the whole ad was racist. Ugh. "Heh, heh, let's make fun of how dumb the coon is."

Ford has been a member of Congress for 9 years and is well respected in his party. The ad is attributed to the Republican National Committee, which now disowns it. That denial comes from Ken Mehlman, who used his time at the White house to do favors for clients of Jack Abramoff.

I notice a similar talking point in use again, with the right-wing punditry united as one in their dismissal of Rep. Nancy Pelosi as among "the most disliked" in Congress, although rather obviously she is more than usually popular with her own party.

One way to dismiss her is to call her "a San Francisco Democrat," which I suppose means she's not prejudiced against gays. But with Reps. Foley and Kolbe in the news, it's not a good year for Republicans to take that line of attack.

And elsewhere, former Food and Drug Administration chief Lester Crawford, who resigned two months after his confirmation, has just pleaded guilty to hiding his ownership in food and drug companies "regulated" by his agency.

I realize it is difficult to keep up with the degree of Republican sleaze around these days, but I did like President Bush's celebration of National Character Counts Week. He went to Pennsylvania to support Rep. Don Sherwood, who is being sued for repeatedly beating his mistress.

Molly Ivins writes about politics, Texas and other bizarre happenings.

Why Republicans Are Running from Bush At Election Time

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet. Posted October 27, 2006.

Bush's White House is going down in flames, and the Republican machine is doing everything it can to keep "conservatism" from burning along with it.

So-called "principled" conservatives -- the faux libertarian voices of the Big Business elite that's always been the real base of the Republican Party -- are in full flight from the flaming wreck the Bush administration has become.

Former Bush I and Reagan official Bruce Bartlett lambasted the administration earlier this year with his book "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy," which was soon followed by longtime conservative activist Richard Viguerie's "Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause." There are a dozen of them churning out columns and op-eds condemning Bush's profligate spending and pillorying his "compassionate," "Big Government" conservatism. Even former congressman Joe Scarborough -- MSNBC's cut-rate version of Bill O'Reilly -- got into the act, devoting a segment of his show to the fundamental question, "Is Bush an idiot?" and writing that he'd prefer "an assortment of Bourbon Street hookers running the Southern Baptist Convention to having this lot of Republicans controlling America's checkbook for the next two years."

And Christopher Buckley -- son of William F. and probably the funniest right-winger alive -- recently called Bush's governing philosophy "incontinent conservatism," and asked:

Who knew, in 2000, that "compassionate conservatism" meant bigger government, unrestricted government spending, government intrusion in personal matters, government ineptitude, and cronyism in disaster relief?

These "rebels" are enjoying a symbiotic relationship with the national media; writers love the intra-party feud -- usually the stuff of Democratic politics -- and the rogue conservatives get to brandish their "principles" and portray themselves as tip-toeing above the gutter of petty partisan politics in which the rest of us wallow.

But make no mistake: Underlying their dissent lies a massive deceit. Read between the lines, and you'll find that what really motivates them is a desperate attempt to save modern "conservatism" itself from going down with this administration. All of the libertarian rhetoric about limited government has always been a grand fraud; truly limited government is an anachronism. Perhaps it was appropriate in a time when small stakeholders toiled away in an agricultural economy, but it's simply impossible to govern a complex, modern, populous society like ours without a lot of staff.

Everybody knows it. The real question isn't about the size of government but whose interests it advances. Just consider that 43 of the 55 senators in the party of "limited government" voted for the bloated prescription drug bill that's now projected to cost $720 billion over the next ten years. It's a crappy, liberal-looking entitlement that was always just a giveaway to insurance companies and Big Pharma.

Judd Gregg, R-N.H., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, says on his website that he's proud to have promoted "responsible federal spending" during his tenure, but after voting to increase the country's debt ceiling to $9 trillion, he said sheepishly: "It's hard to understand what a trillion is. I don't know what it is."

Political scientists have known for a long time that while people respond positively to the idea of limited government in the abstract, when it comes to specifics people love big government and most, if not all of what it does. They want a government that will educate their children and put out forest fires and pay for their million-dollar cancer treatments and make sure that big chemical companies aren't poisoning their water and keep them from having to eat cat food after they've busted their asses working for 50 years. They expect cheap student loans and meat inspections and smooth highways, and even the lowest of "low information" voters know they're not going to get that stuff from the private sector.

Much more importantly, most people won't vote for politicians who honestly endorse a scorched earth, slash-and-burn libertarianism. Just ask Congress's loneliest (and most frustrated) man, Ron Paul, R-Texas, the Republican Party's only real libertarian.

And, contra the limited government types' spin, people aren't afraid of paying taxes to get government to do the things they expect it to. Take health care. The results of an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken during Bush's first term found results that are pretty typical: by a 2-1 margin Americans favored a universal health care system "modeled on Medicare." The nightmare for anti-tax activists was that eight in ten said it was "more important to provide health care coverage for all Americans, even if it means raising taxes, than to hold down taxes but leave some people uncovered."

For decades, Republicans have dealt with this reality with bullshit social issues, flag-waving demonstrations of patriotism that give even the worst of their economic victims a sense of self-respect and, most of all, by facing the American people squarely and just lying to their faces.

The Big Lie -- the deceit that's won them so many elections -- is that they can offer government that's just as big, but Americans won't ever have to pay for it. All the services you want and half the taxes! Eat ice-cream all day long and never put on a pound! Who wouldn't vote for such a utopian crock?

It's a series of boldfaced economic lies, actually, based on the carefully crafted separation of spending and taxes. The rebel conservatives' favorite statistic is that under Clinton, the government grew by 3.4 percent annually, and under Bush it's "exploded" -- a word that's ubiquitous to the genre -- to an average of over 10 percent each year (for some reason, they never mention that government spending increased by 9.75 percent annually under Saint Reagan).

But they never discuss his tax cuts. They've enriched a tiny über-wealthy minority enormously, without doing anything to stimulate the economy. The cost, of course, is a tab the kids will have to pay -- massive deficits that legendary former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan called "unsustainable."

The idea that Americans can have their big government cake and eat their tax cuts too is nothing more than a scam on a huge scale that's been perpetrated for forty years. It's left voters dizzy. Public opinion about budgets and taxes at Pollster.com is a tangled mess of contradictions. By 66-31 Americans think reducing the deficit is more important than getting tax breaks and by 2-1 they think the Bush tax cuts haven't done anything to help their own families, but by 58-30 they approve of the cuts anyway and by a margin of 50-35 they want them extended. It's psychotic.

But psychosis can be treated. And that's why so many "principled" paleoconservatives are running away from Bush like the Roadrunner from Wiley Coyote: His excesses threaten to expose the fact that the whole ideology's a sham -- that the wizard's dead and there's a little man behind that curtain.

Bush, a fake cowboy from a billion-dollar Connecticut family, has spent six years telling Americans that his voodoo economics will "unleash capital" and create a "torrent of new growth." Don't worry, he promises with his trademark smirk, we'll just "grow our way" out of the deficits. But his own comptroller, David Walker, told an audience earlier this year that "anyone who says we can grow our way out of the problem wouldn't pass Economics 101 or basic math." And the General Accounting Office says of Bushenomics: "Today's fiscal policy remains unsustainable" and adds, for clarity, "what is unsustainable will not be sustained."

Bush, the former frat boy, is a president whose excesses go across the board, and that's not the way it's supposed to be done. His father was Big Business's handmaiden, but he took governing seriously. This Bush's administration thinks government's a joke, and has elevated cronyism and corruption to an artform. Reagan was a hypernationalist, yes, but he fought proxy wars and picked off some easy meat in Grenada. When he found his Marines in the middle of a civil war in the Middle East, he cut-and-run with the best of them. Twenty years later Bush's adventure in Iraq threatens to give militarism a bad name. And while Saint Reagan was a homophobe who paid lip service to the religious right, Bush went to the mattresses for a brain-dead woman in Florida, even as his staff referred to his Christianist base as "insane," "ridiculous," "nuts." That threatens to expose the whole hypocritical game of footsie the GOP's played with the religious right for decades.

Make no mistake: Those "principled" conservatives don't hate Bush for his spending, they hate him because he is them -- the only kind of conservative who can win an election, a Republican peddling big government and low taxes without blinking. And if Americans get a clue that modern conservatism is nothing but a bunch of economic lies gilded with some bogus "family values" and softened with a bit of morphine for the terror junkies, he can bring the whole fetid house of cards down with him.

Joshua Holland is an AlterNet staff writer.