Saturday, April 29, 2006
Maureen Dowd: Say Uncle, Rummy (TimesSelect wall)
The former "Matinee Idol," as W. liked to call him, is now a figure of absurdity, clinging to his job only because some retired generals turned him into a new front on the war on terror. On his rare, brief visit to Baghdad, he was afraid to go outside Fortress Green Zone, even though he yammers on conservative talk shows about how progress is being made, and how the press never reports good news out of Iraq.
If the news is so good, why wasn't Rummy gallivanting at the local mall, walking around rather than hiding out in the U.S. base known as Camp Victory? (What are they going to call it, one reporter joked, Camp Defeat?)
In further evidence of their astute connection with the Iraqi culture, the cabinet secretaries showed up there without even knowing the correct name of their latest puppet. It turned out that Jawad al-Maliki, the new prime minister-designate, considered "Jawad" his exile name and had reverted to Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
If Iraq were American Idol, Matinee Idol would have been voted off the show long ago.
Link to the full article: Ed Strong, The Daily Mindbender: Maureen Dowd: Cranky, Eccentric "Uncle" Rummy
Blogtopia (yes! skippy invented that phrase!) was all a-twitter last night on news that Rush Limbaugh had been arrested. Alas, the truth is much less sexy. Rush 'turned himself in on a warrant', in Florida law enforcement parlance, in order to plead out to a new, lesser charge. Presumably he couldn't plead out to the original charge and still get the sweetheart deal his very expensive lawyer, Roy Black, negotiated for him.
All future defendants in drug cases in Florida should make the Rush Limbaugh Lame Excuses Argument:
The news that Limbaugh, a savage critics of others' moral behavior, was addicted to drugs was taken as a sign of hypocrisy by his detractors. His friends and staunchest fans, however, said Limbaugh was merely working through the kinds of challenges that can affect anyone.
I can just see the crackheads at their arraignments now: "Your honor, I was just working through the kinds of challenges that can affect anyone. Please let me plead out to a lesser charge, give me a fine I can pay with my eyes closed, and leave me with a clean record so I can still vote. Ok, everybody?"
Not happening for anybody else. Rush got Rich White Boy Junkie treatment. He's still a junkie.
WaPo: Rush Limbaugh Turns Himself In On Fraud Charge In Rx Drug Probe
MIAMI, April 28 -- Talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh surrendered to authorities Friday on a charge of committing fraud to obtain prescription drugs, concluding an investigation that for more than two years has hovered over the law-and-order conservative.
The charge will be dropped in 18 months, said his attorney, Roy Black, provided that Limbaugh continues treatment for drug addiction, as he has for 2 1/2 years. According to an agreement with the Palm Beach County state's attorney's office, Limbaugh also must pay $30,000 to defray the costs of the investigation, as well as $30 a month for his supervision.
The agreement is not an admission of guilt to the charge, which was fraud by concealing information to obtain a prescription.
A spokesman for the state's attorney's office, Mike Edmondson, said the agreement dropping the charge is "standard for first-time offenders who admit their addiction."
In court documents, investigators connected Limbaugh to 19 prescriptions for the drugs Lorcet, Norco and hydrocodone called in between April and August 2003. The prescriptions were issued by doctors in New York, Florida and California. According to medical records, Limbaugh's doctor in Palm Beach County was unaware of some of the other prescriptions.
Limbaugh was using prodigious amounts of the painkillers, according to the documents. In May 2003, a prescription for 50 tablets of Lorcet was filled for Limbaugh at the Zitomer Pharmacy on Madison Avenue in New York. The tablets were to be taken at a rate of two a day, and at that pace the prescription should have lasted 25 days. Three days later, a prescription was filled for Limbaugh at the same pharmacy for another 50 tablets. A third prescription for 96 tablets of Norco was filled about the same time at the Lewis Pharmacy in Palm Beach, according to the court documents.
WaPo: Limbaugh Reaches Settlement in Drug Case
WaPo: Limbaugh cuts deal in drug probe
Friday, April 28, 2006
WaPo: Congress Members Arrested at Sudan Protest
I think Paul Krugman should have titled his column today "The Incompetence, the Corruption, and the Cronyism", but he called it The Crony Fairy (behind the TimesSelect wall; Middle Earth Journal has the column here.)
On the other hand, the history of the Bush administration, from the botched reconstruction of Iraq to the botched start-up of the prescription drug program, shows that a president who isn't serious about governing, who prizes loyalty and personal connections over competence, can quickly reduce the government of the world's most powerful nation to third-world levels of ineffectiveness.
And bear in mind that Mr. Bush's pattern of cronyism didn't change after Katrina. For example, he appointed Julie Myers, the inexperienced niece of Gen. Richard Myers, to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement — an agency that, like FEMA, is supposed to protect us against terrorism as well as other threats. Even at the C.I.A., the administration seems more interested in purging Democrats than in improving the quality of intelligence.
So let's skip the name change for FEMA, O.K.? The United States will regain effective government if and when it gets a president who cares more about serving the nation than about rewarding his friends and scoring political points. That's at least a thousand days away. Meanwhile, don't count on FEMA, or on any other government agency, to do its job.
I see the Bush MO for destroying government as follows:
The Corruption: Lie about your political aims (Compassionate Conservatism, Against Nation Building); cheat to get into office (Florida 2000; Ohio 2004)
The Cronyism: Reward friends and bagmen (Pioneers) with appointments (Michael Brown, Harriet Miers, Tom Ridge) to jobs they can screw up.
The Incompetence: Run federal agencies into the ground (FEMA, Army Corps of Engineers, EPA, OSHA).
Declare war and go home to reap the profits (probably to be employed in Iraq very soon.): Proclaim that government doesn't work, get lame members of Congress to support abolishing government agencies.
In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for. As for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican. H.L. Mencken
Digby: Portrait of The Racist As A Young Man
Ezra points to this fascinating profile of George Allen in the New Republic by Ryan Lizza. You really have to read it to believe it.
I know little about Allen except that he sounds even dumber than George W. Bush every time I see him speak on television. Yesterday he was blathering on about something and I was struck by how his rosy cheeks and strange purplish hair made him look a little like Reagan. So he has Reagan's looks and Bush's brains. Oh Jesus.
What I didn't know was that he was a racist, sadistic prick. I now understand why he is such a Republican favorite. I had heard that he kept a confederate flag around and that he had a cute little "noose" hanging from a ficus tree. I didn't know that he had been a neoconfederate since he went to Palos Verdes High, right here in LA. (He didn't live in the south until he was a sophomore in college.)
In high school, Allen's "Hee Haw" persona made him a polarizing figure. "He rode a little red Mustang around with a Confederate flag plate on the front," says Patrick Campbell, an old classmate, who now works for the Public Works Department in Manhattan Beach, California. "I mean, it was absurd-looking in our neighborhood." Hurt Germany, who now lives in Paso Robles, California, explodes with anger at the mention of Allen's name. "The guy is horrible," she complains. "He drove around with a Confederate flag on his Mustang. I can't believe he's going to run for president." Another classmate, who asks that I not use her name, also remembers Allen's obsession with Dixie: "My impression is that he was a rebel. He plastered the school with Confederate flags."
...when his father was on the road, young George often acted as a surrogate dad to his siblings. According to his sister Jennifer, he was particularly strict about bedtimes. One night, his brother Bruce stayed up past his bedtime. George threw him through a sliding glass door. For the same offense, on a different occasion, George tackled his brother Gregory and broke his collarbone. When Jennifer broke her bedtime curfew, George dragged her upstairs by her hair.
George tormented Jennifer enough that, when she grew up, she wrote a memoir of what it was like living in the Allen family. In one sense, the book, Fifth Quarter, from which these details are culled, is unprecedented. No modern presidential candidate has ever had such a harsh and personal account of his life delivered to the public by a close family member. The book paints Allen as a cartoonishly sadistic older brother who holds Jennifer by her feet over Niagara Falls on a family trip (instilling in her a lifelong fear of heights) and slams a pool cue into her new boyfriend's head. "George hoped someday to become a dentist," she writes. "George said he saw dentistry as a perfect profession--getting paid to make people suffer."
The New Republic article also reveals that Allen is wearing a confederate flag pin in his high school portrait (above): Dilatory Action: George Allen in High School
More on George Allen's racist past: Brendan Nyhan: George Allen's ugly history on racial issues
His incredible dumbness: Harvard Crimson: Bernanke Becomes Federal Reserve Chair
The New York Times reported that Sen. George Allen, R-Va., when asked for his opinion on Bernanke’s nomination, responded, “For what?” Informed that Bernanke had been nominated for the Fed chairmanship, Allen admitted that he had “paid no attention” to the hearings.
Yes, that is the actual Yahoo caption. Hat tip to Crooks & Liars.
Hastert couldn't keep up the pretense even for a few blocks.
WaPo: Phony War on Gas
Attacks on 'price gouging' make good politics, but they don't help consumers much.
NYTimes: Bush Set to Approve Takeover of 9 Military Plants by Dubai
WASHINGTON, April 27 — President Bush is expected on Friday to announce his approval of a deal under which a Dubai-owned company would take control of nine plants in the United States that manufacture parts for American military vehicles and aircraft, say two administration officials familiar with the terms of the deal.
[T]he plants in question are owned by Doncasters Group Ltd., a British company that is being purchased for $1.2 billion from the Royal Bank of Scotland Group by Dubai International Capital, which is owned by the United Arab Emirate government.
Because the plants make turbine blades for tanks and aircraft, the deal was reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which sent it on to Mr. Bush himself for a decision, a step used only when the potential security risks or political considerations are particularly acute.
One official who was briefed on the Doncasters transaction said there would be provisions in the agreement protecting American military secrets. But it was unclear whether that would satisfy Congressional objections. With nine Doncasters plants in Georgia and Connecticut making parts for American military contractors, the prospect of a takeover by the Dubai company has already caused nervousness among some lawmakers.
Representative John Barrow, Democrat of Georgia, likened the Doncasters deal to "outsourcing" part of the nation's industrial-military complex.
Yes, George "I'm the Decider" Bush has decided to let the foxes run the henhouse. The Dubai company taking over Doncasters is owned by the government of the UAE. These slimy bastards, according to the 9/11 Commission, met with Osama bin Laden in 1999. Money was transferred to the 9/11 hijackers through the UAE banking system, and after 9/11 the UAE refused to cooperate with the US in tracking down Osama bin Laden's bank accounts. And these are the people George Bush thinks are appropriate to let into our military plants.
Moron of all morons.
Previous posts: Will Bush Outsource Defense Contracting to Dubai? (April 25, 2006)
Sale of Defense Contractor to Dubai Company in Bush's Hands (April 14, 2006)
Now We're Gonna Sell Our Tank Parts Manufacturing to Dubai (April 12, 2006)
Thursday, April 27, 2006
TPM Muckraker: CIA's Goss Drawn Into Hooker Probe?
Ken Silverstein reports at Harper's blog on the spreading Cunningham-Wade-Wilkes prostitute scandal. He says more lawmakers, past and present, are being investigated. Sounds like he thinks House Intel Chair-turned-CIA Director Porter Goss is one of them:I've learned from a highly-connected source that those under intense scrutiny by the FBI are current and former lawmakers on Defense and Intelligence comittees -- including one person who now holds a powerful intelligence post. [emphasis added]
Actually, make that a double-yowzah: Remember that Goss is the one who plucked one of Wilkes' old San Diego friends, the unusual and colorful Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, out of CIA middle-management obscurity to be his #3 at the agency. At the time of Foggo's appointment, no one could figure out where he came from, or how Goss knew him.
But if Goss was at the "parties," I wonder, was Foggo there too? Did they see each other? Is this where Goss had an opportunity to gauge Foggo's abilities, and determine he was qualified for the CIA executive director post?
Another falsely pious Rethug about to go down in flames, here, and in the afterlife? Too delicious.
TPM Muckraker: Sweeney, the Grand Old Partier
[from the Union College newspaper]
Congressman Socializes with Students
By John Tomlin
April 27, 2006
Congressman John Sweeney, a Republican from the 20th district of New York State, appeared at a registered party at Alpha Delta Phi on Friday, April 22. The Congressman came from Geppetto's Bar and was described by witnesses as being inquisitive and engaging, while also acting openly intoxicated. Longtime friend and owner of Geppetto's Paulie Lichorat accompanied Rep. Sweeney. Lichorat was unavailable for comment regarding this issue.
The New York politician was barraged with a multitude of political questions and lighthearted comments from Union students when he arrived at the party. His attitude was described as cordial, and Sweeney was observed joking around with the students, sometimes even using profanity. It was reported that one student approached the Congressman with drug paraphernalia and asked to take a picture. The Congressman refused.
Yet witnesses affirm that Mr. Sweeney appeared to have been under the influence of alcohol at the party. One student saw the representative drinking a Keystone Light beer. "He was clearly not in the normal state of mind. He had definitely been drinking, there is no question about it," commented sophomore Kenneth Falcon, who attended the party. Falcon also managed to capture photographs and video footage of the congressman of his digital camera and cellular telephone.
Junior Rebecca Winnick, who spoke to Sweeney at the fraternity house said, "I told him I had worked for Congressman McNulty (D- Green Island), and [Sweeney] was very rude. He said, 'Oh, that's too bad for you, I'm a Republican'."
When asked about her feelings towards Congressman Sweeney's appearance at the party, Winnick commented, "I think it was really inappropriate and probably a poor political decision."
Let's clean House and put a grown-up in this seat. Kristen Gillibrand for Congress.
Previous post: My Political Dollars at Work (April 17, 2006)
UPDATE: Another picture, from the Albany Times-Union's Capitol Confidential blog:
Hat tip: Your Logo Here
Back when the Three Mile Island accident happened, a friend printed up t-shirts that said "We All Live In Pennsylvania", with the nuclear power symbol. Point being, it could happen here. It could happen anywhere that nuclear power plants are allowed to operate. And the wind blows nuclear material far, far from the original site. (Did you know that there are 10 sheep farms in Scotland under quarantine, cannot sell their sheep, because they are still contaminated with nuclear material that the winds blew there from Chernobyl in 1986?)
A good article from Harvey Wasserman, senior advisor to Greenpeace USA, on commondreams.org yesterday about this. He is especially upset about Patrick A. Moore's WaPo editorial in favor of resuming nuclear power plant construction, describing Moore as "[a] bit player in the original founding [of Greenpeace], Moore is cashing in on his stale, marginal association to Greenpeace for the benefit of his polluter-employers."
Did you know that you have no recourse if you are injured or killed by a nuclear disaster? Congress passed legislation to make nuclear power plant operators exempt, and no private insurance company will insure you against nuclear disaster. If it happens, it falls (no pun intended) on us.
Chernobyl Kills While Bought ex-Greenpeacer Shills
The 1986 explosion at the reactor outside Kiev was the world's worst industrial disaster. It spewed at least 200 times more radiation than the bombing of Hiroshima. It's a fitting tombstone for the most expensive technological failure in human history.
Chernobyl happened exactly 20 years ago. But it is 49 since the first commercial reactor opened at Shippingport, Pennsylvania, in 1957.
That day the nuke makers said it was "only a matter of time" before private insurers would protect the public from a Chernobyl or Three Mile Island-style accident, both of which they said were "impossible."
In the meantime, Congress passed the Price-Anderson Act, which shielded reactor makers from liability against what did happen at TMI and Chernobyl, and what could be happening as you read this.
A half-century later, we taxpayers are still holding the bag. Not one private insurer will guarantee you or your family against the financial consequences of a reactor disaster. Check out any US homeowner's insurance policy and you'll see their duck and cover in black and white.
In 1980 I reported extensively from central Pennsylvania on the consequences of the radioactive emissions at Three Mile Island, a year earlier. To this day it is not precisely known how much radiation escaped, or where it went.
But I saw the deformed animals. I spoke to the sick children and their dying parents. America has been fed some big lies lately, but the biggest ever told remains "no one died at Three Mile Island."
A quarter-century later, some 2400 central Pennsylvanians still can't get their day in court. TMI's victims and their families have sued the power company that irradiated them, but the federal courts refuse to hear their case. Why?
n perhaps the saddest line in the entire nuclear debate, Moore has termed the Three Mile Island accident "a success," apparently because it didn't explode like Chernobyl. But in a matter of moments, the TMI melt-down turned a $900 million asset into a $2 billion (or more) liability, with an unknowable final price tag or death toll. Not until 9/11/2001 would there be a similar "success" on our soil.
Moore's service to the nuclear industry is hardly his only calling. He shills for a tawdry crew of corporate eco-thugs, including forest clear-cutters and chemical polluters. In making himself a conduit through which pro-nukers and rich polluters can conjure the Greenpeace name, Moore is merely practicing the oldest profession in phony green garb. But even that won't outlast the killing power of the atomic reactors he and his cohorts are attempting to revive.
Previous posts: Chernobyl (April 26, 2006)
Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) is currently holding the Senate hostage by refusing to yield the floor until his amendment, to end all subsidies to the oil industry when the price of oil is over $55 a barrel, is voted on.
Thank you for standing up for common sense, and fiscal sense. Bush's oil buddies don't need any more money from you and me.
Tune in to C-Span2 for live coverage.
UPDATE: Wyden is on C-Span 2, not regular C-Span. He's still at it, and has been joined by co-sponsor Jon Kyl (R-Arizona). Good; we'll need Republican votes to win.
We are putting our most severely ill senior citizens, who have already reached the Medicare Part (D)isaster prescription drug doughnut hole, through hell. The plan only covers you until you have been provided $2,250 in drugs. Then it pays nothing, not one thin dime, from dollar $2,251 to dollar $5,100 -- leaving the seniors to pay that $2,849 from their already meager incomes. The $2,849 gap has come to be known as the doughnut hole. For poor, ill seniors, it's more like the train tunnel where the light coming at you is the train.
Drug companies, taking full advantage, have dropped programs that used to provide poor seniors with free drugs. So the severely ill seniors are looking at months where they either pay for their drugs themselves, making it impossible for them to pay for the necessities of daily living; or worse, they go without the lifesaving drugs they need. While Bush is out there pushing tax cuts for billionaires, these poor folks are just trying to stay alive.
I can't even imagine the mental stress these poor people are going through, dealing with a serious illness and then dealing with financial pressures like this:
WaPo: Disabled, Seniors Confront Medicare Hole
WASHINGTON -- Mildred Lindley is stuck in a hole, the doughnut hole "right in the middle of it," she says that comes with Medicare's new prescription drug benefit.
Just four months into the program, Lindley has hit the point in her coverage where she has to pick up, at least for a few months, the full cost of the medication she takes to keep her bone marrow cancer in remission. As a result, her two-month supply of Thalomid shot up from $40 to a whopping $1,300.
"If I can't get it, I guess I'm here until the Lord takes me out. That's all I can do, because there's no way I can afford it," said Lindley, an 80-year-old from Jonesboro, Ark.
"I'm in the hole all right."
[T]here are beneficiaries who are convinced they will be worse off, many of whom had relied on free medicine provided by the drug manufacturers. They were told by the manufacturers this year that the free supplies would stop now that they were eligible for Medicare coverage.
Victoria D'Angelo of Denver relied on the patient assistance programs for many of her prescription needs last year. She enrolled in a Medicare drug plan when told by one of those companies that such help would end Jan. 1.
Now, that she's hit the doughnut hole, she's charging some of her drugs to her credit card. She said she'll worry about the ramifications later since she cannot afford to skip taking her Seroquel, which is used to control bipolar disorder.
"Basically, I've been to hell and back on this," said D'Angelo, referring to her disease. "I'm just deathly afraid of getting sick again."
Shirley Rhodes of Gladwin, Mich., figures that while she and her husband, Samuel, are in the doughnut hole, they'll have about $49.67 a month to live on after covering their drug expenses.
For that reason, they will wait until the last possible day to enroll in a Medicare drug plan. In the meantime, she'll continue to ask the pharmaceutical companies to help her out, and she'll work with Social Security officials to figure out how the family might qualify for extra assistance through Medicare.
"If we don't qualify, we will be giving our house back to the mortgage company, and then we'll still owe for the second and third mortgage," Rhodes said.
Lawmakers are also pleading with drug manufacturers to continue with patient assistance programs that allowed many low-income people to get free medicine.
"We've got a situation where it looks like the May 15 date has become an excuse for dropping the assistance that many Medicare beneficiaries rely on, and that's not right," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
Previous posts: Medicare Part (D)isaster: Watch Out For That Hole (April 12, 2006)
President Out-of-Touch Moron Meets the Seniors (March 19, 2006)
Medicare Part (D)isaster: Making the Mentally Ill Sicker (February 6, 2006)
Medicare Part (D)isaster Creating Havoc at Social Security Administration (February 4, 2006)
Right Wing Blogs Exhibit Myopia Over Medicare Part D(isaster) (January 24, 2006)
Medicare Part (D)isaster (January 20, 2006)
Operation Photo Op, Medicare Part D edition, 1.0 (January 18, 2006)
'Horrific at Best' (January 9, 2006)
The Incompetence, The Corruption, and The Cronyism: Sunday, January 8, 2006 (January 8, 2006)
1. Orrin Hatch is asking questions about the Nevada bomb test scheduled for June 2nd:
Booman Tribune: Mushroom Cloud to appear over NV June 2nd
When even Sen. Orrin Hatch questions the sanity of this move, you know there's a problem:
SALT LAKE CITY U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch wants reassurances that a massive explosion test planned for Nevada this summer won't disperse radioactive material from past nuclear weapons tests.
Hatch, R-Utah, has joined a group of Congress members voicing concerns about "Divine Strake," the detonation of a 700-ton ammonium nitrate and fuel oil bomb scheduled for June 2 over the Nevada desert.
Although the bomb isn't nuclear, there are concerns that it could shake loose radioactive material from past tests at the Nevada Test Site, about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
Previous post: This Won't Be On Your Front Page Tomorrow, But It Should Be (April 19, 2006)
2. Secretary of State Matt Brown has pulled out of the Democratic race in Rhode Island for the right to oppose Lincoln Chafee in November; send your Democratic contributions to Sheldon Whitehouse. Let's get a real liberal back in the saddle in Rhode Island, not a faker. (hat tip, dailykos)
Previous post: My Political Dollars at Work (April 17, 2006)
3. Net neutrality lost in the House Energy and Commerce Committee by a vote of 34-23. Five Democrats, recipients of Big Telecomm money, voted with the Republicans and against net neutrality. Matt Stoller is rallying progressives to give those jamokes a call and a chance to move into the light. Our calls and emails narrowed the margin, and now the fight moves to the full House, and the Senate.
Previous posts: A Better Argument for Saving the Free Internet (April 25, 2006)
Save the Internet.com (April 24, 2006)
4. Oh, and on Monday this post was featured on Peter Daou's blog report, "Daou Report", on salon.com. Cool.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Today (and yesterday) is the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. A nuclear power plant in the middle of a crowded city of over 100,000 people exploded and melted down. Thousands are believed to have died, although the exact number is unknown. 100,000 were evacuated. The old Soviet Union still stood, and information was suppressed from the outside world.
Reading about Chernobyl, all I can think about is our insane President and his nuclear threats. He's already started a war because he wanted to, with no real justification; I see no evidence that he has any concern for the real-world consequences of a nuclear strike. It's just another piece on the checker board. (I'd say chess board, but he's not that smart.)
I saw a link to Ghost Town in the comments section on Booman Tribune. The site was set up by a woman named Elena Filitova who remembers being evacuated from the area as a small child. She goes back, riding her motorcycle and carrying a geiger counter, which she holds up in many of the pictures to show what the dosage is at that location.
There are questions about the legitimacy of her story. Wikipedia and last year's New York Times Chernobyl tourism article give different stories as to how the pictures were taken. Still, the photographs are definitely in the poisoned area, and they are instructive.
The pictures really let you see what a large and populated area this was and how it is now, as Filipova describes it, a modern Pompeii, where disaster has made time stand still. It is always April 26, 1986 in Chernobyl and it will always be. From Chapter 2:
Dad is nuclear physicist, and he has educated me about many things. He is much more worried about the speed my bike travels than about the direction I point it. My trips to Chernobyl are not like a walk in the park, but the risk can be managed. It is similar to walking on a high wire with a balancing pole. One end of the pole is the gamma ray emission intensity and the other end of the pole is the exposure time. But the wire is also covered with a slippery dust, and this is the major risk. I always go for rides alone, sometimes with pillion passenger, but never in company with any other vehicle, because I do not want anyone to raise dust in front of me.
Dad and their team have worked in the "dead zone" for last 18 years doing research about the day it all happened. The rest of the team is comprised of microbiologists, doctors, botanists and other professions with long names and many syllables. I was a schoolgirl back in 1986 and within a few hours of the accident , dad put all of us on the train to grandma's house. Granny lives 800 kms from here and dad wasn't sure if it was far enough away to keep us out of reach of the big bad wolf of a nuclear meltdown.
The Communist government that was in power then kept silent about this accident. In Kiev, they forced people to take part in their preciously stupid labor day parade and it was then that ordinary people began hearing the news of the accident from foreign radio stations and relatives of those who died. The real panic began 7-10 days after accident. Those who were exposed to the exceedingly high levels of nuclear radiation in the first 10 days when it was still a state secret, incuding unsuspecting visitors to the area, either died or have serious health problems.
NYTimes: First at Chernobyl, Burning Still
The Multimedia section of this article is chilling. Click on the section titled "Liquidators". That's what they called the people called in to clean up the mess, to liquidate the problem. They all had high radiation doses. I found the statement of fireman Leonid Shavray (last picture on the right) moving:
Our watch went on duty on the 26th. At 1:23 there was an explosion. The building shook. I didn't understand at first. There was one pop, then another, then the siren went off. Our unit was opposite the atomic station. We jumped up and we couldn't see the ventilation pipe. There were no pipes, as if they had been blown away. And there was a mushroom-shaped sphere. From below a flame. And above a mushroom cloud.
In three minutes we were at the station. There was such a rumble. It was broken glass below our feet. It was such a state that your hair even stood on end. We saw the personnel running around. They said the fourth block blew up, the roof is burning. We parked the cars and climbed up. The temperature was so high. True, what helped us is that the wind was blowing not from the station towards us but towards the station. At about 4:00 a.m. or 4:30, our replacements came.
We went down. I smoked a bit. There was a sweet taste. Prischepa was already nauseous. We were so thirsty. We drank water and we started throwing up. We went to wash. The alarm goes off. Wash again. Same thing. We lay down and were dizzy.
On the 30th we were hospitalized in Ivanokovo. We spent 24 hours there on IV. Then we went to Lomonosovo, to the hospital. I'd fall asleep and they'd say, "Don't sleep, don't sleep." And they pumped us like that at night. Our hands hurt. I.V.'s, I.V.'s, washing the blood. They gave me a bone marrow transplant. Thank God, I lived.
From commondreams.org. If Bushco were a corporation, they'd head the list. Go to the article to read about the hideous misdeeds of these corporate vermin:
The Ten Worst Corporations of 2005
The corporations will never give up power, unless forced to do so by the people.
Where to start?
No better place than the 10 worst corporations of 2005, presented herewith in alphabetical order:
ThinkProgress: Breaking: Rove Meeting With Special Prosecutor About Leak Case
John King, CNN’s political correspondent, just reported:CNN is told by three force sources familiar with the investigation that this morning Karl Rove, the president’s deputy chief of staff and top political adviser, is meeting with his attorney and is to meet this morning — if it is not already under way — with the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald. According to sources, the goal of the meeting is for Karl to clear up some lingering questions about his role in a White House campaign to undermine Ambassador Joe Wilson — remember he was the the critic of the Bush administration case ever going to war in Iraq, his wife the CIA operative Valerie Plame, whose name was Outed.
It’s a complicated legal investigation and it has become a complicated political problem for the White House. Our understanding, Karl Rove is meeting with his attorney this morning, meeting with the special prosecutor this morning and the hope from Rove’s camp is that he can answer the few remaining questions about his involvement, his back and forth with reporters, during that time frame, his comments to the FBI and other investigators including the grand jury that is investigating this for quite some time now. And the hope from the Rove camp, all can be resolved and Karl Rove cleared of wrongdoing in the relatively near future.
The AP is also reporting that Fitzgerald went before the the grand jury this morning.
First, let's celebrate one of our sports foremothers: Billie Jean King. On the heels of the rousing success of their documentary on the US Women's Soccer team, "Dare to Dream", HBO just released a film on the story of Billie Jean King,
The Woman Who Transformed Tennis (WaPo)
As an athlete, she set a Wimbledon record by winning 20 titles (since tied by Navratilova) and held the No. 1 ranking five times. She was also relentless -- and remains so -- in her efforts to gain equal rights for women in her sport. Just last week, King, 62, pushed anew for equal prize money for men and women at Wimbledon.That's just one of many battles she's fought. In the 1970s, King was a catalyst for the formation of a women's professional tour (sponsored by Virginia Slims) and led the drive to organize her fellow players into what would become the Women's Tennis Association. She testified before Congress in support of Title IX, legislation that provided equal athletic opportunities for young women and girls at school. She stood next to Gloria Steinem at rallies for women's rights. And, after a past lover filed a palimony suit against her in 1981, essentially outing her as a lesbian, she eventually became a public advocate for gay rights.
No one can forget how King created worldwide headlines when she won the "Battle of the Sexes" singles match, beating self-declared male chauvinist Bobby Riggs at the Houston Astrodome in 1973. Greenburg and Bernstein do an excellent job of capturing both the event's circuslike atmosphere and its cultural significance.
Did King change the world? According to "Portrait of a Pioneer," yes. As Deford puts it: "She and Jackie Robinson are the two figures in sports who stand out in the culture. She should be honored for what she did."
Amusing to see the quote from Frank DeFord, an old sportwriter who was virulently against women in sports until he had the radicalizing experience of fathering a daughter. Now he's a convert.
See, also, Alessandra Stanley in the Times: The Legacy of Billie Jean King, an Athlete Who Demanded Equal Play
The thrill of seeing Billie Jean's story on HBO is tempered by today's news that Wimbledon will continue to discriminate against women tennis players in pay:
WaPo: Wimbledon Will Still Pay the Men More
WIMBLEDON, England, April 25 -- Wimbledon remains the only Grand Slam tournament that pays the men's champion more than the women's winner.
The All England club announced Tuesday that the men's winner this year will receive $1.170 million and the women's champion $1.117 million, a difference of $53,000. It's a 4 percent increase in British currency.
"In the 21st century, it is morally indefensible that women competitors in a Grand Slam tournament should be receiving considerably less prize money than their male counterparts," WTA Tour chief executive Larry Scott said in a statement.
He accused Wimbledon of taking a "Victorian-era view" on pay.
And Title IX is still under attack from within, from the Bush Administration. Although their attempt to dismantle Title IX by commission in 2002 failed (thank you thank you thank you, Julie Foudy!!!), their latest attempt to attack the law is by letting schools continue to offer less scholarships and participation opportunities to girls, by giving a survey to female undergrads. If the girls don't respond to the survey, they're assumed to have no interest in sports. Like you've never deleted a survey from your email, or hung up on a survey company. The Bushies rule would actually allow the schools to count girls who didn't respond as not interested. (Obviously, there's no category for 'busy'). Besides, that's not really the group you should be surveying anyway. Why not survey high school varsity athletes? They're the ones most likely to play sports in college. Why not them? Because the purpose is to gut the law, not to maintain its goal of equal opportunity for women athletes.
Personally, I would just abolish the Office of Civil Rights regulations at this point. They were passed 30 years ago just to give schools some time to get into compliance with Title IX. It gave them ways to be in compliance while they worked toward the goal of equity. It's time for equity. 30 years is enough. No more half measures. No surveys, no analysis, no bullshit. You have 56% female undergrads (that's the national average)? Then you spend 56% of your money and offer 56% of the athletic opportunities to women. That's it. No more half measures. If you don't give out money in your sports program equally, you lose your federal funds.
Do you know that the Office of Civil Rights has never actually stripped any educational institution of federal funds? How can you enforce a law when you never enact the penalty? You can't, and they haven't. Instead, as of 2003 when 55% of female undergraduates were female, only 42% of college athletes were women. That means that the 45% of male undergraduates got 58% of the participation opportunities. That's after 34 years of Title IX "enforcement."
My kind of change to Title IX law and enforcement will require the election of a Democrat, and probably a woman. Run, Julie Foudy, run!
Southern Maryland Online: Mikulski Calls for Title IX Hearing
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) has joined a group of her Senate colleagues in calling on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Senator Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyo.) to hold a hearing on the Department of Education's enforcement of Title IX under the "Additional Clarification of Intercollegiate Athletics Policy."
For over thirty years, Title IX has opened doors by giving women and girls an equal opportunity to participate in student sports, we're concerned that the Department's proposal could unfairly reduce their opportunities for participation in the future. Under the Department's new guidance, colleges that provide fewer sports opportunities to women can be considered to have accommodated female students and complied with Title IX, based solely on the results of a student survey. If female students do not reply to a survey emailed to them, the Department will assume that they are not interested in additional sports activities. But a survey alone cannot reliably measure students' interest in sports. Many students may not respond to, or even open, email surveys. In fact, in a report to the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Department highlighted the low response rates of surveys and the importance of monitoring by the Office of Civil Rights.
Jane Jacobs was a person who lived in New York City and found it good. She believed cities were for people, not cars. She was brave and tenacious and therefore considered a giant pain in the ass by the powerful and mighty. She was arrested in urban renewal protests, and moved to Toronto in 1969 because of her opposition to the Vietnam War. Farewell to a giant thinker of our age.
Her book "The Life and Death of Great American Cities" (1961) attacked the 'urban renewal' concept that was obliterating neighborhoods in cities across America to build high-rise buildings and expressways. (Boston, for example, completely bulldozed its West End neighborhood to build ugly towers for rich people to live in. The neighborhood isn't really a functioning neighborhood any more.) From the NYTimes obituary:
"Death and Life" made four recommendations for creating municipal diversity: 1. A street or district must serve several primary functions. 2. Blocks must be short. 3. Buildings must vary in age, condition, use and rentals. 4. Population must be dense.
These seemingly simple notions represented a major rethinking of modern planning. They were coupled with fierce condemnations of the writings of the planners Sir Patrick Geddes and Ebenezer Howard, as well as those of the architect Le Corbusier and Lewis Mumford, who championed their ideal of graceful towers rising over exquisite open spaces.
NYTimes: Jane Jacobs, Urban Activist, Is Dead at 89
Village Voice: Jane Jacobs, in Her Own Words
For the urban thinker, now dead at 89, the fight was not abstract
Preserving the Village
Reason, Emotion, Pressure: There is No Other Recipe
By Jane Jacobs
May 22, 1957
The best you can say for redevelopment is that, in certain cases, it is the lesser evil. As practiced in New York, it is very painful. It causes catastrophic dislocation and hardship to tens of thousands of citizens. There is growing evidence that it shoots up juvenile-delinquency figures and spreads or intensifies slums in the areas taking the dislocation impact. It destroys, more surely than floods or tornados, immense numbers of small businesses. It is expensive to the taxpayers, federal and local. It is not fulfilling the hope that it would boost the city's tax returns. Quite the contrary.
Furthermore, the results of all this expense and travail look dull and are dull. The great virtue of the city, the thing that helps make up for all its disadvantages, is that it is interesting. It isn't easy to make a chunk of New York boring, but redevelopment does it.
On the other hand here is the Village—an area of the city with the power to attract and hold a real cross-section of the population, including a lot of middle-income families. An area with demonstrated potential for extending and upgrading its fringes. An area that pays more in taxes than it gets back in services. An area that grows theaters all by itself . . .
Wouldn't you think the city fathers would want to understand what makes our area successful and learn from it? Or failing such creative curiosity that they would at least cherish it?
WaPo: Jane Jacobs, 89; Writer, Activist Spoke Out Against Urban Renewal
The urban-renewal movement of the mid-20th century spent hundreds of millions of dollars clearing communities that were deemed slums, building low-income housing projects and creating parks and highways. Anyone criticizing the model, with its political backing, was not looked on kindly.Wikipedia: Jane Jacobs
In this atmosphere came Mrs. Jacobs, a middle-aged, self-taught architectural and urban-planning specialist with Architectural Forum magazine. She was an incautious woman, at times disheveled in appearance, who tended to anger very powerful people. Several times, she courted arrest to speak out against plans by Robert Moses, a New York City commissioner whose portfolio included oversight of the city's parks and roads.
In her name-making book, "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" (1961), she recorded what she considered the human toll of urban renewal.
She spoke of the displacement of thousands of residents and the destruction of small, if untidy, communities whose diversity she said was crucial to a city's allure. She maintained that urban renewal worsened the problems it was intended to solve: high crime, architectural conformity and a general dullness infecting daily life.
She attacked the arrogance of city planners for making decisions without consulting those affected.
"The planner's greatest shortcoming, I think, is lack of intellectual curiosity about how cities work," she told the New York Times in 1969. "They are taught to see the intricacy of cities as mere disorder. Since most of them believe what they have been taught, they do not inquire about the processes that lie behind the intricacy. I doubt that knowledgeable city planning will come out of the present profession. It is more likely to arise as an offshoot of economics."
Public Citizen and United for a Fair Economy have released a report documenting how the super-rich have spent millions -- to safeguard their billions from the estate tax (The Paris Hilton tax, I should say).
Here's a link to the report, a PDF file:
Spending Millions to Save Billions
The Campaign of the Super Wealthy to Kill the Estate Tax
These are the 18 families:
Allyn-Soderberg (Allyn Family Real Estate Company)
Blethen Family (Seattle Times Co.)
Cox Family (Cox Enterprises Inc.)
DeVos Family (Alticor Inc., Amway)
Dorrance Family (Campbell Soup Co.)iony $429.4 million$1.7 billionx $663.4 million
Gallo Family (E&J Gallo Winery)
Harbert Family (Investments)
Johnson Family (BET, RLJ Development Co.)
Koch Family (Koch Industries)
Mars Family (Mars Inc.)
Mayer Family (Captiva Resources)
Nordstrom Family (Nordstrom Inc.)
Sobrato Family (Sobrato Development)
Stephens Family (Stephens Inc.)
Timken Family (The Timken Co.)
Walton Family (Wal-Mart)
Wegman Family (Wegmans Food Markets, Inc.)
Remember those names when you hear politicians talking about family farms. It's a public relations strategy by these super-rich families to make the issue about the mythical family farm. It's really the billionaire family bank account, and the billionaires huge portfolios of inherited stocks, bonds, and property, but you'll never see the CEO of Wal-Mart in any estate tax repeal ad.
Together these super-rich families stand to save $71.6 billion dollars from the estate tax repeal. No wonder they have been willing to contribute almost half a billion dollars in lobbying dollars. They've formed their own 501(c) corporations with innocuous sounding names like "Freedom Works" and the "Free Enterprise Fund" to lobby for these huge tax breaks.
And remember that most of the money in the hands of these super-rich people has never been taxed. Remember that when you're paying 25 or 30 or 35 percent of your earned income every year in taxes.
The reality is that the bulk of wealth in large taxable estates has never been taxed at all. This is wealth in the form of appreciated property, stocks, and bonds that have increased in value since they were acquired or inherited -- and have never been taxed. Without an estate tax, billions of dollars of untaxed capital gains would pass within wealthy families without any tax. (Report, page 41.)
I saw this at ThinkProgress:
18 Families Bankroll Estate Tax Repeal Campaign
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee: 10 Reasons Republicans Are To Blame For High Gas Prices
April 25, 2006
By: Phil Singer, DSCC
If you’re looking for ten reasons that Republicans are to blame for high gas prices, keep on reading…
When George Bush took office in January 2001, the average price of a gallon of gas was $1.46. Today, the price is $2.91, a 100 percent increase over the course of the Bush presidency. [AAA Fuel Gauge Report, 4/25/06]
Under Bush’s watch, U.S. dependence on foreign oil has increased by nearly one billion barrels. [ EIA, U.S. Imports by Country of Origin and Annual Energy Outlook 2006]
Senate Republicans killed a Democratic proposal to make gas price gouging a federal crime. Without making price gouging a federal crime, the federal government can only prosecute oil companies if they can prove collusion to control markets, a standard that is nearly impossible to meet. [S. 2020, Vote #334, 11/17/05; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 11/18/05]
The Bush Federal Trade Commission has looked the other way when it comes to price gouging. Even during Hurricane Katrina, when price gouging was rather evident, the FTC investigation "found no evidence of collusion among oil companies in the 2005 gas price surge.” [ San Francisco Chronicle, 4/25/06]
The GOP Congress has ignored oil and gas monopolies: Since 2001, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee in charge of overseeing mergers, led by Mike DeWine,has held just one hearing - two years ago - to examine high gas prices.[ USA TODAY, 4/25/06; Judiciary Committee Hearing Schedule, accessed 4/25/06]
The GOP Congress has turned a blind eye to holding executives from the nation’s richest oil companies accountable. In November, when executives from the nation’s richest oil companies testified before the Senate Energy and Commerce Committees, Republican leaders refused to force them to testify under oath. [Cantwell Release, 11/8/05; CNNMoney, 11/9/05; Fox News, 11/17/05, CNN 11/17/05]
Republican lawmakers who crafted the 2005 energy bill showered billions in tax breaks on oil and gas companies that that they later testified under oath they do not need. [Bloomberg, 7/29/05; Video Clip of March 2006 Oil and Gas Hearing, available here]
In December, Senate Republicans – with Cheney casting the tiebreaking vote – adopted a budget package that included $20 million in cuts to Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program. [Vote 363, 12/21/05; House Budget Committee, Democratic Caucus Analysis, 12/22/05]
Oil and gas companies are constantly lining the pockets of Washington Republicans and GOP candidates. In the 2004 election cycle alone, the oil and gas industry contributed more than $20 million to Republican candidates and incumbents. In the 2006 cycle, this number has already topped $6 million. [Center for Responsive Politics, accessed 4/24/06]
The White House’s failure to properly plan for the war in Iraq has caused a disruption in the pre-war supply of 900,000 barrels of oil a day from Iraq, the largest single supply disruption that is leading to spikes in the price of oil. [CERA, 4/24/06]
Hat tip to AMERICAblog, which points out that Bush's 'action' today of releasing oil companies from their obligation to comply with federal environmental gasoline standards will probably increase their windfall profits. Moron.
Success! Iran's president has issued a decree that allows women in Iran to attend football (soccer) matches.
AP (LA Times): Iran to Let Women Go to Soccer Games
TEHRAN, Iran -- Iranian women will be allowed to attend soccer matches for first time since the country's 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran's president said in a decree posted on his Web site Monday.
Women would sit in separate section of the stands, away from the usually raucous male fans.
"The presence of families and women will improve soccer-watching manners, and promote a healthy atmosphere," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said. "They will be allocated some of the best stands in stadiums," he added.
Iran's Islamic law imposes tight restrictions on women. They need a male guardian's permission to work or travel, and have rarely been allowed to attend public sporting events. In 2001, a group of Irish women was permitted to attend a World Cup qualifier match between Iran and Ireland that was held in Tehran.
The petition to allow women to attend football matches in Iran has 6,004 signatures as of today.
Previous post: Take Action for Women's Rights (April 11, 2006)
Digby: Playing By The Rules
Republican style...Amid all the partisan rancor of congressional politics, the softball league has for 37 years been a rare case of bipartisan civility, an opportunity for Democratic and Republican aides to sneak out of work a bit early and take the field in the name of the lawmaker, committee or federal agency they work for.
This year, the league will be missing something: a lot of the Republicans.
During the off-season, a group of Republican teams seceded from the league after accusing its Democratic commissioner, Gary Caruso, of running a socialist year-end playoff system that gives below-average teams an unfair chance to win the championship.
The league "is all about Softball Welfare -- aiding the weak by punishing the strong," the pitcher of one Republican team told Mr. Caruso in an email. "The commissioner has a long-standing policy of punishing success and rewarding failure. He's a Democrat. Waddya' expect?" read another email, from Gary Mahmoud, the coach of BoehnerLand, a team from the office of Republican Majority Leader John Boehner.
Is every Republican in Washington the emotional age of seven? The rules require that some of the lesser teams get a chance to participate in the "playoffs" so the manly he-men who have shed their blood and sweat throughout the grueling season are angry that it denies them their rightful place atop congressional softball Olympus. After all, they deserve the glory:
The congressional league is a relaxed affair: No umpires call balls and strikes, so batters don't have to swing until they get a pitch they like. Fields are open to the public, so most teams dispatch an intern or junior aide to reserve a field several hours before game time.
Can someone tell me why these awesome GOP athletes aren't in Iraq instead of measuring their dicks in a slow-pitch softball league that a junior high girls team could easily dominate? Could it be because they are a bunch of pathetic, bedwetting chickenshits? I thought so.
As a collegiate athlete and former ringer member of the Yellow Journalists, the press entry into the Congressional Softball League, I must take issue with Digby's accusation that "a junior high girls team could easily dominate?" Number one, IT IS NOT AN INSULT TO COMPARE AN ATHLETE TO A GIRL. I'm a girl. I throw like a girl. I've given men bruises on their hands in a game of catch that got a little competitive. Stop insulting all women by insinuating that female athletes aren't good athletes. Just stop. Now. Just say they could have beaten a junior high softball team. Don't add gender as an insult. It's not, and you just show your pre-Title IX mentality.
Second, the quality of play in the league was definitely high school, not junior high. I was an old creaker of 30 when I played. I was living with my brother and sister in DC while I did an internship with a DC firm. My brother and sister were also ringers, having been recruited in the parking lot outside a bar by the Yellow Journalist's manager, who saw two six-foot former college athletes and appraised their athletic potential quickly enough to hand them uniforms out of the trunk of his car. My sister was the stealth third baseman. Guys would see her come to the plate and come in close, and she'd slam the ball over their heads. Happened every time, they never learned.
So anyway, it's sad to hear that the Rethugs, who have turned everything they've touched in DC in the last 5 years to shit, have also fucked up the Congressional Softball League. I spent many happy nights in dugouts with stressed out aides finally having some fun, and even happier nights at the post-game parties.
Another reason to vote the bums out in November.
Now it's eight:
ThinkProgress: VIDEO: 8th General Calls For Rumsfeld’s Resignation
Van Riper follows the calls of Generals Swannack, Newbold, Eaton, Zinni, Batiste, Riggs, and Clark.
Two more and the Leaker-In-Chief will give Rumsfield a Medal of Freedom.
The Leaker-In-Chief has his CIA chief out there polygraphing CIA officers to try and keep us from learning about all his violations of the law and the Constitution. Anything to avoid impeachment. Last week CIA veteran Mary McCarthy was fired for "knowingly and willfully shared classified intelligence", although exactly what she is alleged to have leaked is in doubt. Originally it was claimed that she was WaPo reporter Dana Priest's source for her story on Bush's illegal, immoral, and shameful secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe. Today's WaPo says she denied being Priest's source, and that the CIA agrees: "a senior intelligence official confirmed yesterday that she is not believed to have played a central role in The Post's reporting on the secret prisons." [N.b., if she wasn't Dana Priest's source, why wouldn't the Washington Post, Priest's employer, just tell us that? Or would that be violating some tenet of journamalism?]
The corporate media reports McCarthy's firing as somehow the equivalent of the outing of Valerie Plame. There is no nuance in their reporting. A leak is a leak is a leak, and the subject of the leak or the intent of the leak is not something they analyze.
That is, of course, bullshit. Larry Johnson (former CIA agent himself) has the pithiest take on the difference:
Larry Johnson at TPM Cafe: Between Conscience and Unconscionable
There is a fundamental moral and ethical difference between someone who leaks information in order to serve the public good and someone, like George Bush, who authorizes leaks only for the purpose of saving his sorry political ass.
The decision to approve the deal to sell British-owned defense contractor Doncasters to a company owned by the government of Dubai has been on Bush's desk for at least 10 days, so a decision is imminent. He's fucked up every other major decision he's made in his presidency, so the Vegas money is surely on his approving the deal.
Other blogs have picked up on the sale of Doncasters to Dubai International Capital, as the result of an article in the Asia Times:
Americablog: Another Dubai port deal?
Mike the Mad Biologist: First, the Ports, Now...
Asia Times: Another Dubai deal, another security row
Sale of Defense Contractor to Dubai Company in Bush's Hands (April 14, 2006)
Now We're Gonna Sell Our Tank Parts Manufacturing to Dubai (April 12, 2006)
From Steve Gilliard at The News Blog:
Killing your job, killing your life
A lot of people have been discussing "net neutrality" this week . You can hit this site to get the details.
But like a lot of political wonks, they're talking about bills and lobbying, and it all may make your eyes glaze over.
But it's really simple.
Remember the old AOL? How you were restricted to what they offered, and couldn't reach the internet. And when you could, you were stuck with their browser?
Do you want that back?
Also, there's been a lot of talk about blocking and slowing sites.
Think that's a small deal? Try reaching WebMD and not get it, when your kid is sick. Or being blocked from paying your Time Warner bill on a Verizon DSL line. Or being fired because your company is now paying millions to send interdepartmental e-mail and they have to make cuts.
The Telcos want to not only change the internet, they want to change your life. All of the things you now take for granted, like sending a text message via e-mail, or checking your mail on any computer, or seeing your kids homework assignment from pre-k to college course syllibuses. or that nanny cam or home security you set up.
This is not just about laws and computers, but your life.
Think about how we use the internet for the daily functions of our lives, banking, keeping in touch, dealing with distant workmates, ordering hard to find items.
Everyone is worried about political speech and using Google. and those are real concerns.
But this will change the way you use the net to make your life better. It will limit your choices and the ability to have the life you want, the way you want. It will limit what bank you use, what shows you follow, what make up you use and how you wash your clothes. It may even limit your ability to protect your home from robbers and your child from abuse.
If they can charge for services online, they can limit your ability to live the life you choose. That cam in the Pre-K you check in on your kids with, may cost too much for the school if you have to pay to get live video. You may find the cost of checking on your house with streaming video too much.
When my 10 year old nephew needed ties for school, real ties, not clip-ons, it took me two hours to find some at a reasonable price, but I found them. My sisters couldn't find them in stores, but I found them online. I don't know what would have happened if I didn't have access to the Internet. Within a week, he had ties for every day of school. Is that a big deal? No. But it made a difference.
Their quest for profits isn't just about limiting your speech, although it will have that effect. It will limit your life. All the little things you do, from order silicone bakeware to planning your Vegas vacation, will now be subject to the whims of the people who own the pipes.
When you write to your Congressmember, remind them how easy the Net has made their lives, their personal lives, and how the Telcos want to limit that, based on the spurious idea that they need to make a profit from the Internet. Call it Google envy.
The problem is that the internet is now the main highway for life in the west. It makes real life that much better. We're no longer limited to local shortages and catalog ordering. Small companies can make their livings from customers around the world. And the telcos want to end this in the illusory search for profits.
The telcos want to go back to the past, and ruin your life in the process.
Monday, April 24, 2006
And there are lot of them out there.
Sunday Times (UK): Rich List 2006 (Britain)
Rich List 2006 (Women)
J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame is #10; the queen is only #15.
Rich List 2006 (Young People)
29 men on the list play football (soccer), far more than any other category, e.g. music (16).
Rich List 2006 (Ireland)
No. 7 on the list is my former landlord, Thomas Flatley, who owns scads and scads of property around here, and put up a hideous statue (pictured above) memorializing the Irish Famine. I'm not sure how he qualifies for the Irish list, given that he's lived in Massachusetts his entire adult life
Harper's Index for March 2006
Number of U.S. counties where more than a fifth of “residents” are prison inmates: 21 
Number of these that are in Texas: 10
Minimum number of times that Frederick Douglass was beaten in what is now Donald Rumsfeld’s vacation home: 25
AOL: Blender's The 50 Worst Things to Ever to Happen to Music
THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER
Here's an idea: Let's have the theme song for the world's biggest and most diverse democracy be: 1) boring; 2) violently militaristic; and 3) next to impossible to sing. Not enough? OK, now let's bring in ROSEANNE BARR to perform. She's too busy? Get me WILLIAM HUNG!
Another cold and rainy day. It seems even worse because it was so beautiful for the last two weeks. Anyway, a good day to make a pot of one of my favorite soups:
Portugese Kale Soup
1 T olive oil
1 package chorizo, sliced into thin rounds (can substitute linguica)
1 large onion, diced
3 or 4 cans (14 oz.) low-sodium beef broth
3 or 4 cans (14 oz.) low-sodium chicken broth
4 carrots, peeled and diced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatos
1 can (15 oz.) kidney beans
1-2 lbs kale, stems removed, roughly chopped
salt & pepper to taste
Saute the onion in oil, add the chorizo and saute for 3-4 minutes. If you're a fat nazi, pour off the fat. Add the broth, carrots, and potatoes, bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Add tomatoes, kidney beans (I don't even drain them, just dump in the whole can) and kale, cook five minutes more.
All measurements are to taste. You can double or halve any ingredient and it will still taste great. Kale has woody stringy stems, so you've got to lay each stalk on the cutting board sideways and cut out the stem. I've also made this soup with swiss chard and mustard greens. Using both beef and chicken broth really deepens the flavor, although for years I made it using chicken broth only and loved it. I also made it once with only water for the liquid.
This soup always reminds me of going to the Lobster Pot in Provincetown, back when they had the old man in the straw boater and red and white striped vest calling people in to the restaurant from the street. They served it with little packages of oyster crackers. I've also had it with French bread rounds, regular saltines, Portugese sweet bread, and corn bread. Beer is also a traditional accompaniment, although that was probably because it was summer and I was on vacation.
It makes a big pot, and this soup doesn't freeze well because of the potatoes. Luckily my friend loves this soup, so I'll take half to her. She even likes to eat it cold, which I find disgusting, but c'est la vie.
CSI, or Crime Scene Investigation, is a very popular, extremely boring (IMHO) television show.
Paul Krugman uses it as the title of his column today on the trade deficit:
CSI: Trade Deficit (behind the TimesSelect wall)
Here's the puzzle: the trade deficit means that America is living beyond its means, spending far more than it earns. (In 2005, the United States exported only 53 cents' worth of goods for every dollar it spent on imports.) To pay for the excess of imports over exports, the United States has to sell stocks, bonds and businesses to foreigners. In fact, we've borrowed more than $3 trillion just since 1999.
How is this possible? The answer, almost certainly, is that there's something wrong with the numbers. (Laypeople tend to treat official statistics as gospel; professional economists know that putting these numbers together involves a lot of educated guesswork — and sometimes the guesses are wrong.) But depending on exactly what's wrong, the U.S. economy either has hidden strengths, or it's in even worse shape than it seems.
There's something wrong with this picture. As Daniel Gros of the Center for European Policy Studies puts it, it's hard to believe that foreigners would continue investing in the United States "if they were really being constantly taken to the cleaners."
In a new paper, Mr. Gros argues — compellingly, in my view — that what's really happening is that foreign companies are understating the profits of their U.S. subsidiaries, probably to avoid taxes, and that official data are, in particular, failing to pick up foreign profits that are reinvested in U.S. operations.
If Mr. Gros is right, the true position of the U.S. economy isn't as bad as you think — it's worse. The true trade deficit, including unreported profits that accrue to foreign companies, isn't $800 billion — it's more than $900 billion. And America's foreign debt, including the value of foreign-owned businesses, is at least $1 trillion bigger than the official numbers say.
Shorter Krugman: There's a light at the end of the trade deficit tunnel, and it's a train.
Link to full article: Middle Earth Journal
The reason you can read my somewhat radical opinions on the internet (actually, I believe I am middle of the road, and the country is dangerously tilted to the right) is because the big telecommunication companies (Big Telecomm) aren't allowed to block content they disagree with. Now Big Telecomm wants to decide what you see.
Not just bloggy paranoia, as SaveTheInternet.com tells us:
This isn’t just speculation -- we've already seen what happens elsewhere when the Internet's gatekeepers get too much control. Last year, Canada's version of AT&T -- Telus-- blocked their Internet customers from visiting a Web site sympathetic to workers with whom Telus was negotiating. And Shaw, a major Canadian cable company, charges an extra $10 a month to subscribers who dare to use a competing Internet telephone service.
As citizens, we need to fight for free speech to continue to rule on the web, and urge Congress to vote for Net Neutrality. Sign the petitions (links below), call your congressperson, write letters of the editor to your local paper. The net neutrality bill is being marked up in committee this week, probably Wednesday.
MyDD: The Internet Freedom Fight: A Round-Up
Background on the Issue: The internet is open because private companies haven't been allowed to block content they don't like. Now the telcos want to make it so they can block what you see.
The Threat to You is Real: Telcos have already blocked competing services, censored emails, and prevented customers from reading political web sites. Why do you assume they care about your rights?
Come On, This Isn't Really Happening: Fine, don't believe me. Ignore the fact that the CEO of AT&T is on record that this is going to happen. You can pretend that this won't affect you, if you want.
'Net Neutrality': A Simple Explanation: Annoying tech issue, maybe, but you can watch this this simple video explanation.
Explaining the Players in the Fight: It's a corporate cartel with bought and paid lobbyists versus a free market and citizens groups.
Can we win this fight? Yes, we can. Congress isn't that set on giving away the internet. They just don't understand the issues involved and don't think anyone's paying attention.
What You Should Link to:
Save the Internet on MySpace
Digby: Save The Internet