Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Over-Soul by Ralph Waldo Emerson

"But souls that of his own good life partake,
He loves as his own self; dear as his eye
They are to Him: He'll never them forsake:
When they shall die, then God himself shall die:
They live, they live in blest eternity."
Henry More

Space is ample, east and west,
But two cannot go abreast,
Cannot travel in it two:
Yonder masterful cuckoo
Crowds every egg out of the nest,
Quick or dead, except its own;
A spell is laid on sod and stone,
Night and Day 've been tampered with,
Every quality and pith
Surcharged and sultry with a power
That works its will on age and hour.

Rep. Barrett to give pay raise to charity

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett says he is donating his new congressional raise to an Anderson charity.

Barrett says he will donate the $4,700 salary increase that begins in 2009 to Anderson Interfaith Ministries - an organization of churches and individuals who provide assistance to the needy and helps them become self-sufficient.

Barrett says lawmakers should not be earning more during these poor economic times. He says he voted against the automatic pay raise and all increases should have to be voted on individually.

Barrett is beginning his fourth term in Congress. The Republican's district runs along the Savannah River in the northwestern corner of South Carolina.

Government aid could save U.S. newspapers, spark debate

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Connecticut lawmaker Frank Nicastro sees saving the local newspaper as his duty. But others think he and his colleagues are setting a worrisome precedent for government involvement in the U.S. press.

Nicastro represents Connecticut's 79th assembly district, which includes Bristol, a city of about 61,000 people outside Hartford, the state capital. Its paper, The Bristol Press, may fold within days, along with The Herald in nearby New Britain.

That is because publisher Journal Register, in danger of being crushed under hundreds of millions of dollars of debt, says it cannot afford to keep them open anymore.

Nicastro and fellow legislators want the papers to survive, and petitioned the state government to do something about it. "The media is a vitally important part of America," he said, particularly local papers that cover news ignored by big papers and television and radio stations.

To some experts, that sounds like a bailout, a word that resurfaced this year after the U.S. government agreed to give hundreds of billions of dollars to the automobile and financial sectors.

Relying on government help raises ethical questions for the press, whose traditional role has been to operate free from government influence as it tries to hold politicians accountable to the people who elected them. Even some publishers desperate for help are wary of this route.

Providing government support can muddy that mission, said Paul Janensch, a journalism professor at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, and a former reporter and editor.

"You can't expect a watchdog to bite the hand that feeds it," he said....

The Charlotte Observer

It was the year the U.S. government pledged more than $8.5 trillion in loans and guarantees to bail out struggling companies.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson appeared on the cover of the New York Post more than Paris Hilton. Stockholders lost more than $30 trillion in market value. Here's a look at 2008 through the numbers, as of the end of Dec. 30:

$30: Amount, in trillions, erased from the value of stocks worldwide.

$8.6: Amount, in trillions, of taxpayer money the U.S. government has pledged to prop up cash-strapped financial companies as of Nov. 25, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

$61,871: Maximum amount the bailout could cost each taxpayer, based on 139 million tax returns filed in 2007.

$882: Amount, in billions, of U.S. currency in circulation, according to Bloomberg data.

$613: Amount, in billions, listed as liabilities when Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed for the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history.

$150: Amount, in billions, of taxpayer money pledged to help American International Group

$440,000: Cost of a resort retreat for AIG salespeople days after its September bailout.

$37: Amount, in billions, clients invested with Bernard Madoff, according to Bloomberg's latest tally of disclosures and news reports.

400: Number of U.S. nonprofit organizations directly affected by Madoff's alleged Ponzi scheme, according to data tallied by Bloomberg.

$742: Amount, in millions, raised by President-elect Barack Obama's campaign, as of Nov. 24, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. It was the first time a major-party candidate declined public financing since the system was started in 1976.

11.7: Number, in millions, of households that owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, according to

2.7: Increase, in millions, in the number of unemployed since last December, according to data released by the Labor Department in December.

$144,545: Cost of outfitting, accessorizing and styling Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, according to

$57,884: Annual tuition for Malia and Sasha Obama to attend Sidwell Friends School, where they start studies in January.

$600: Maximum rebate check paid to individuals as part of President George W. Bush's economic stimulus program, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

$339: Cost of a guest room on the club level at Washington's Mayflower Hotel where former N.Y. Gov. Eliot Spitzer (aka Client 9) met Ashley Dupre.

77: Number of years since the Standard & Poor's 500 Index has fallen this much (1931).

76: Percent decline in the price of crude oil from a high of $146.93 on July 14 to a low of $35.35 on Dec. 24.

18: Number of times in 2008 the S&P 500 rose or fell at least 5 percent in a single day.

2, 1: Number of pictures, respectively, of Hank Paulson and Paris Hilton on the front page of the New York Post, according to a LexisNexis search and the Post's on-line archives.

0: Number of the five largest securities firms that aren't now banks or partly owned by the U.S. government.

Group protests Redford's stand against oil, gas drilling

Deseret News

A civil rights group says it is organizing protests against actor Robert Redford for what it says is his political role as the Grinch who is hurting low-income families by fighting oil and gas drilling in Utah.

"If Robert Redford succeeds in blocking natural gas production in Utah, it's going to hurt a lot of people on the other end of the pipeline — especially low-income families who are struggling to pay their heating bills," said Niger Innis, national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality.

Redford appeared via satellite on Dec. 17 at a National Press Club briefing to lend his star power to fight a Bush administration auction in Utah of oil and gas leases, some near national parks. Redford said the sale had "morally criminal" intent. The auction occurred anyway on Dec. 19, but environmental groups and supporters have urged President-elect Barack Obama to overturn it when he takes office.

Innis said CORE and the High Impact Leadership Coalition are launching a "Don't Freeze Us Out" campaign that will seek to organize churches, civil rights groups, consumer groups and others "to fight Redford and self-styled environmental groups that are working to constrict supplies of natural gas and other energy resources," a press release said.

"We are not going to stand by as Robert Redford tries to slow the flow of home heating fuel from the Rockies and drive up home heating prices to millions of Americans in his lust for environmental headlines," Innis said. "There are literally people whose lives are at stake this winter because they can barely afford to heat their homes now."

Innis also recently appeared at a press conference in Washington of state legislators from around the country who rallied in support of the Americans for American Energy Act sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah. It is designed to push for greater development of domestic oil, natural gas, coal, oil shale, nuclear, wind, solar and other energy sources in the "all of the above" approach pushed by Republicans.

Innis said at that rally, "Environmental extremists and their allies in the media act like the energy crisis is over because of the drop in gas prices. What they fail to recognize ... is that the radical increase (projected this winter) in home heating costs is going to create an economic tsunami for millions of poor and working-class Americans."

Innis added in his new press release, "The Hollywood crowd likes to pontificate in front of the cameras to show their love for the environment, but what they are actually doing is leading a 'war on the poor' by constricting energy supply and encouraging prices to go higher."

Innis said: "Hollywood may be insensitive to the needs of low-income Americans on affordable energy, but President-elect Obama is not. We are convinced that he will answer the call of our community, and poor families everywhere, who need access to affordable and reliable energy."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ex-US Army man admits spying for Israel

The Jerusalem Post

An 85-year-old former US Army mechanical engineer likely will get no prison sentence after admitting Tuesday he passed classified documents to the Israelis in the 1970s and '80s.

Ben-ami Kadish told US Magistrate Judge Theodore H. Katz he believes he was promised the government will not seek a prison term when he is sentenced Feb. 13.

Assistant US Attorney Iris Lan said prosecutors promised only that they would not oppose or challenge a sentence that included no prison time.

Kadish, a US citizen who lives in New Jersey, pleaded guilty only to one of the four charges of conspiracy he originally faced.

He was accused of taking home classified documents from 1979 to 1985, when he worked at the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center at the Picatinny Arsenal in Dover, New Jersey. The government said he let an Israeli agent photograph documents, including information about nuclear weapons, a modified version of an F-15 fighter jet and the US Patriot missile air defense system.

Prosecutors said it appeared that Kadish, who was born in Connecticut but was raised in Palestine in an area the British government was trying to turn into a Jewish state, was motivated by a desire to help Israel.

The judge asked Kadish if he obtained the classified documents from the library of the Picatinny Arsenal and supplied them to Yossi Yagur, an Israeli government agent who had requested them.

Kadish, who worked there from 1963 to 1990, said he had.

The judge also asked if Kadish requested anything of value or received anything of value for the classified documents.

Kadish said he did not. He admitted that he provided the documents for the benefit of Israel.

Yagur, now retired and living in Tel Aviv, is the agent who obtained information from convicted Pentagon spy Jonathan Pollard, who is serving a life sentence for selling military secrets to Israel while working as an intelligence analyst for the Navy. Pollard's case damaged US-Israeli relations and remains a sore point between the countries.

US authorities say Kadish confessed to FBI agents that he had given Yagur between 50 and 100 classified documents and accepted no cash in return, only small gifts and occasional dinners for him and his family.

Kadish had told the FBI that he knew that one restricted document he provided to the agent included atomic-related information and that he did not have the required clearance to borrow it, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case.

Outside court on Tuesday, Kadish, asked if he was hopeful the spy case was over, said, "I hope so." His wife told him not to say any more.

Election judge is dumbfounded her ballot was rejected

DULUTH - Shirley Graham was astonished to learn that a lawyer from Norm Coleman's campaign on Tuesday blocked her absentee ballot from being added to the U.S. Senate recount.

"I'm an election judge," said Graham, of Duluth. "I expected to be the last person whose ballot wouldn't be counted."

Her sealed ballot was among 60 from St. Louis County that were blocked by representatives of Coleman and Al Franken during the first day of a statewide review of absentee ballots that may have been wrongly rejected in last month's election. Under a state Supreme Court ruling, local election officials and the two campaigns must all agree that a ballot was wrongly rejected for it to be sent along to St. Paul for inclusion in the recount.

Coleman's camp, which rejected 59 of the 60 ballots set aside Tuesday in St. Louis County, objected to Graham's ballot on the grounds that the date next to her signature did not match the date next to the signature of her witness, Jack Armstrong.

That's dumbfounding, Graham said. "Both of us are former educators, and he used to work in the secretary of state's office," she said. "As he sat across the table from me, he actually said, 'Shirley, this date has to be the same.' I don't understand how it could be different."

Graham said that because she works each Election Day in a neighboring precinct, she votes absentee. She didn't have any idea that her ballot had been rejected, reconsidered and rerejected until receiving a reporter's call.

"I want to see my ballot," said Graham, who added that she'd consider going to court, if she must, to get her vote counted.

A final irony: She voted for Coleman.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sean Hannity: Media Matters' 2008 Misinformer of the Year

As Media Matters for America has demonstrated time and again, Fox News' Sean Hannity has been a prolific and influential purveyor of conservative misinformation. But never has he so enthusiastically applied his talents for spreading misinformation as he did to the 2008 presidential race, focusing his energies primarily on President-elect Barack Obama. Day after day, Hannity devoted his two Fox News shows and his three-hour ABC Radio Networks program to "demonizing" the Democratic presidential candidates, starkly explaining in August: "That's my job. ... I led the 'Stop Hillary Express.' By the way, now it's the 'Stop Obama Express.' " Hannity's "Stop Obama Express" promoted and embellished a vast array of misleading attacks and false claims about Obama. Along the way, he uncritically adopted and promoted countless Republican talking points and played host to numerous credibility-challenged smear artists who painted Obama as a dangerous radical. When he was not going after Obama, Hannity attacked members of Obama's family, as well as Sen. Hillary Clinton and other progressives, and denied all the while that he had unfairly attacked anyone.

Hannity's attacks may have also influenced mainstream media coverage. ABC News' George Stephanopoulos appeared on Hannity's radio program on April 15, during which Hannity suggested to Stephanopoulos that he ask Obama at the Democratic presidential debate the following evening about his "association with Bill Ayers, the unrepentant terrorist from the Weather Underground." Stephanopoulos assured Hannity that he was "taking notes right now." Stephanopoulos then did ask Obama at the debate to "explain that relationship for the voters, and explain to Democrats why it won't be a problem," though he later denied that Hannity had exerted any influence on his questioning.

Because of the unending stream of falsehoods and character attacks that fueled the "Stop Obama Express," and the countless other distortions he promoted throughout 2008, Sean Hannity is Media Matters for America's Misinformer of the Year.

Among the myriad falsehoods and attacks that Hannity promoted throughout 2008, several found their way into regular rotation:


Unrest caused by bad economy may require military action, report says

EL PASO -- A U.S. Army War College report warns an economic crisis in the United States could lead to massive civil unrest and the need to call on the military to restore order.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Nathan Freir wrote the report "Known Unknowns: Unconventional Strategic Shocks in Defense Strategy Development," which the Army think tank in Carlisle, Pa., recently released.

"Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities ... to defend basic domestic order and human security," the report said, in case of "unforeseen economic collapse," "pervasive public health emergencies," and "catastrophic natural and human disasters," among other possible crises.

The report also suggests the new (Barack Obama) administration could face a "strategic shock" within the first eight months in office.

Fort Bliss spokeswoman Jean Offutt said the Army post is not involved in any recent talks about a potential military response to civil unrest.

The report become a hot Internet item after Phoenix police told the Phoenix Business Journal they're prepared to deal with such an event, and the International Monetary Fund's managing director, Dominique Strauss-Khan, said social unrest could spread to advanced countries if the global economic crisis worsens.

Javier Sambrano, spokes-man for the El Paso Police Department, said city police have trained for years so they can address any contingency, but not with the military.

"The police (department) trains on an ongoing basis as part of its Mobile Field Force Training," Sambrano said. "As a result, the police will be able to respond to emergency situations, such as looting or a big civil unrest. The police (department) does not train with soldiers."
Earlier this year, Pentagon officials said as many as 20,000 soldiers under the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) will be trained within the next three years to work with civilian law enforcement in homeland security.

Joint Task Force-North, a joint command at Biggs Army Airfield, which conducts surveillance and intelligence along the border, comes under NORTHCOM. No one was available at JTF-North to comment on the Army War College's report. NORTHCOM was created after the 9-11 attacks to coordinate homeland security efforts.

Soldiers under the former Joint Task Force-6 (now JTF-North) supported the Border Patrol in El Paso with its drug-interdiction operations.

In case civilian authorities request help or become overwhelmed, El Paso has several National Guard and military reserve units that can be called on. In 1992, National Guard and active Marine and Army units were deployed to help police control riots and looting in Los Angeles.

Charles Boehmer, political science professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, was skeptical about the Army War College report.

"The military was not called out during the Great Depression, and I don't think our economic problems are as bad as they were then," he said. "The military always has contingency plans. It's a think tank's job to come up with scenarios, but that doesn't mean it represents an active interest on the part of the (Pentagon)."

Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at; 546-6140.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gingrich: RNC Ad is 'Destructive Distraction'

Atlantic Magazine

Dear Chairman Duncan,

I was saddened to learn that at a time of national trial, when a president-elect is preparing to take office in the midst of the worst financial crisis in over seventy years, that the Republican National Committee is engaged in the sort of negative, attack politics that the voters rejected in the 2006 and 2008 election cycles.

The recent web advertisement, "Questions Remain," is a destructive distraction. Clearly, we should insist that all taped communications regarding the Senate seat should be made public. However, that should be a matter of public policy, not an excuse for political attack.

In a time when America is facing real challenges, Republicans should be working to help the incoming President succeed in meeting them, regardless of his Party.

From now until the inaugural, Republicans should be offering to help the President-elect prepare to take office.

Furthermore, once President Obama takes office, Republicans should be eager to work with him when he is right, and, when he is wrong, offer a better solution, instead of just opposing him.

This is the only way the Republican Party will become known as the "better solutions" party, not just an opposition party. And this is the only way Republicans will ever regain the trust of the voters to return to the majority.

This ad is a terrible signal to be sending about both the goals of the Republican Party in the midst of the nation's troubled economic times and about whether we have actually learned anything from the defeats of 2006 and 2008.

The RNC should pull the ad down immediately.


Newt Gingrich

Chairman, American Solutions

Former Speaker of the House of Representatives

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Obama Birth Certificate Kooks In Court

Jason Linkins

Mike Madden chronicles in Salon a day spent watching the people who believe President-Elect Barack Obama isn't a natural born citizen because of gamma rays emanating from internet porn. It's a story to be delighted in and savored. It's the incredibly true tale of "dentist-slash-lawyers" and manic-depression and multiple violations of Godwin's Law and the "press conference" they held at the National Press Club.

I mean, this is straight bonkers, y'all:

Throughout the press conference, the conspiracy theorists had trouble keeping things focused. Harlem minister James David Manning wandered off on a tangent about how Obama's election still means "there's never been a black womb" that produced a president. Manning might have seemed like he was making a case against Obama based on some theory of black nationalism, except that he admitted he had endorsed John McCain in the campaign. That was after he had called Obama "this usurper, this long-legged mack daddy."

Taitz -- the lead attorney in the case the Supreme Court declined to hear Monday morning -- kept making stranger and stranger assertions. At one point, she asked why the government had fined broadcasters for Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction," but didn't intervene to force the media to report on Obama's allegedly phony birth certificate. She claimed Obama holds passports from at least four countries, compared him to Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver, equated the "controversy" about Obama to Watergate, and finished her tour-de-force presentation by saying that if Obama can claim he's a U.S. citizen and win an election, then so could just about anyone. "If a person can become a presidential candidate only based on his own statement," she said, "then somebody like Osama bin Laden, theoretically, can come and write a statement, 'I'm eligible,' and we should put him on the ballot, too?"

I also appreciate that Madden is kind enough to throw in a little News You Can Use about how the mentally ill are always using the National Press Club as a venue to validate their lunatic night terrors:

It was clear from the occasional applause that most of the people in the room agreed with Schultz, anyway. Although the event was at the National Press Club, that's no guarantee of mainstream media interest. Groups may appear legitimate because they hold a news conference at the club, but the dirty little secret is the club rents out its rooms to anybody who shows up with the money. Most of the people apparently came from the weirder corners of the media. One friendly questioner, Shelli Baker of Morning Song Radio, wound up taking the mike for about 10 minutes to tell a complicated story involving Saudi oil barons, John Ashcroft, sharia law, the World Bank and Mitt Romney, which left even Schultz confused.

If you recall, the National Press Club is where the unbalanced Larry Sinclair held his own "stupefying press conference." Anyway, Madden says the conspiracy twits have "another lawsuit up [their] sleeve," so, there's no reason that any of this ever has to end.