Saturday, August 26, 2006

Another step away from representative democracy...

Here's a no-brainer, zero-cost, pure people power issue for Democrats to latch onto for November: Get rid of this "secret hold" crap in the Senate:

Senator who put 'secret hold' on bill to open federal records is a secret, too

WASHINGTON - In an ironic twist, legislation that would open up the murky world of government contracting to public scrutiny has been derailed by a secret parliamentary maneuver.

An unidentified senator placed a "secret hold" on legislation introduced by Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., that would create a searchable database of government contracts, grants, insurance, loans and financial assistance, worth $2.5 trillion last year. The database would bring transparency to federal spending and be as simple to use as conducting a Google search.

... Now the bill is in political limbo. Under Senate rules, unless the senator who placed the hold decides to lift it, the bill will not be brought up for a vote.

The measure in question had passed out of committee unanimously and was on the fast track for floor action until the hold was placed. This is an incredible accountability measure, especially for Internet researchers like those who abound here at Daily Kos and other websites. Here's a description of what the mysterious hold is preventing, from Obama's site:

This bill would require the Office of Management and Budget to establish and maintain a single public Web site that lists all entities receiving federal funds, including the name of each entity, the amount of federal funds the entity has received annually by program, and the location of the entity. All federal assistance must be posted within 30 days of such funding being awarded to an organization.

Holds are not uncommon; in fact, they were used to great effect recently by Clinton and Murray, who held up approval on Bush's new FDA nominee until Plan B was okayed. But anonymous holds are nothing more than cowardly attempts at obfuscation, undermining as they do the underlying assumption of representative democracy - that legislators will be held accountable by voters for their actions. Clinton and Murray took that risk. This senator did not.

I'd really like to see the duly elected objector - never mind if it's a Democrat or Republican - stand up and say: I think it's a really, really bad idea to have $300 billion worth of government contracts available for public scrutiny. And then we can hope he or she is facing re-election this cycle.

Update: It looks like Porkbusters has already begun a campaign to have constituents call their senators and deny the secret hold. Join that effort and keep checking in there to see who’s still on the suspect list next week.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Stem Cell Lunacy

This is the key excerpt from an article I was reading about the president's dangerous course on the stem cell issue.....It's an absurd calculus employed by the President's neoright-wing followers to justify the ban on fed funding and one that's illustrative of their overall astonishing, brazen analytical dishonesty: ESCR, we're assured, is speculative, it involves destroying children; spending a few million dollars and in essence providing a 'stay of execution' by diverting a few blastocysts into research--when they're on their way to a medical incinerator--is somehow 'destroying the little tykes' for no immediate and obvious gain. Life is sacred you see. But often these same troglodytes will assure us that spending billions, dropping thousands of bombs, cutting men, women, and children in half with high powered depleted uranium rounds, and burning the living skin off of civilians with white phosphorus in Iraq is 'worth the sacrifice,' and we must 'stay the course', because of some vague, never-fully-stated, fuzzy benefit that might, some how, some way, at some unknown time, come to pass years or decades down the road.

The President's rationale in pictures: An Iraqi girl, one of the thousands of living human beings BushCo considers worth sacrificing for an unknown benefit, and a human embryonic stem cell magnified thousands of times; a life too precious to risk destroying no matter what the potential benefit. Image courtesy of Biomedical Awards Gallery 2006

How much a we falling backwards over a cliff due to these imbeciles????

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Limbaugh sez Hispanics "will do things other people won't do"

Why is this piece of shit still on the air????

On the August 23 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio program, Rush Limbaugh suggested that the competition in a new season of CBS' reality TV program Survivor, in which contestants are reportedly divided into competing "tribes" by ethnicity, "is not going to be fair if there's a lot of water events." In support of this assertion, he cited a March 2 HealthDay article reporting that "young blacks -- especially males -- are much more likely to drown in pools than whites."

Regarding the new Survivor series, Limbaugh also stated that there "are many characteristics ... that you would think would give [the African-American tribe] the lead, and the heads up in terms of skill and athleticism and so forth." He also stated that "our early money" is on "the Hispanic tribe" -- which he said could include "a Cuban," "a Nicaraguan," or "a Mexican or two" -- provided they don't "start fighting for supremacy amongst themselves." Limbaugh added that Hispanics have "probably shown the most survival tactics," that they "have shown a remarkable ability to cross borders" and that they can "do it without water for a long time, they don't get apprehended, and they will do things other people won't do."

Read the rest if you can stomach it here:

Again, you just have to wonder how the Aryan Nation can get their representative on so many radio stations these day????

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

We Become What We Hate, Part 248,459,458

Proving again that if we give up our liberties, we ain't got anything worth dying for.......

back from the mideast
I just came back from a short trip to Jordan and Syria. The trip to Syria was so fast, but I managed to visit some Lebanese refugee camps. I am so impressed by the Syrian people's generosity in receiving Lebanese refugees. The Syrian government didn't even have to send food or supplies to the refugees because of the overwhelming grassroots support. When I was in the school/refugee camp, many neighbors were walking in with food and clothes. Neighbors donated mattresses, TVs, satellites, money, and other aid.

The other thing you can't miss in Jordan and Syria is people's anger against the US. On more than occasion, I got shouted at because I live in the US. The most interesting incident was during a visit to a Lebanese refugee camp. I was called by two young Lebanese people, and they asked me whether me and the rest of the delegation visiting their shelter where coming from the US. I said yes. They said: "you better get the hell out of here unless you want us to make a scene". I tried to explain that we are the "good" Americans who are against the war, so they said go back home and change your government. "you can't come here visit us in a shelter that we were sent to because of your tax money and your bombs, and expect us to be nice to you". So me and the other Americans got the hell out of there.

The trip to Jordan was more productive and organized. I managed to put together a couple of meetings with Iraqi parliamentarians representing the major groups in the parliament. One meeting was with two MPs, one representing the biggest Sunni Group, and the other representing the biggest Shia group in the parliament. They gave the US delegation that accompanied me a strong and united message against the US presence in Iraq. It was a clear Sunni/Shia demand to end the occupation and set a timetable for withdrawing the US troops. Another meeting was with MPs and some other NGO representatives of mainly secular and liberal Iraqis. We had some other meetings with Human rights organizations as well. Read Tom Hayden's piece in The Nation for more details about our meeting in Amman.

That week in Jordan and Syria was so intense. I came back to DC for a day, then I took the bus to New York to watch Fear Up: Stories from Baghdad and Guantanamo, and participate in some discussions.

The next day, I went to JFK in the morning to catch my Jet Blue plane to California. I reached Terminal 6 at around 7:15 am, issued a boarding pass, and checked all my bags in, and then walked to the security checkpoint. For the first time in my life, I was taken to a secondary search . My shoes were searched, and I was asked for my boarding pass and ID. After passing the security, I walked to check where gate 16 was, then I went to get something to eat. I got some cheese and grapes with some orange juice and I went back to Gate 16 and sat down in the boarding area enjoying my breakfast and some sunshine.

At around 8:30, two men approached me while I was checking my phone. One of them asked me if I had a minute and he showed me his badge, I said: "sure". We walked some few steps and stood in front of the boarding counter where I found out that they were accompanied by another person, a woman from Jet Blue.

One of the two men who approached me first, Inspector Harris, asked for my id card and boarding pass. I gave him my boarding pass and driver's license. He said "people are feeling offended because of your t-shirt". I looked at my t-shirt: I was wearing my shirt which states in both Arabic and English "we will not be silent". You can take a look at it in this picture taken during our Jordan meetings with Iraqi MPs. I said "I am very sorry if I offended anyone, I didnt know that this t-shirt will be offensive". He asked me if I had any other T-shirts to put on, and I told him that I had checked in all of my bags and I asked him "why do you want me to take off my t-shirt? Isn't it my constitutional right to express myself in this way?" The second man in a greenish suit interfered and said "people here in the US don't understand these things about constitutional rights". So I answered him "I live in the US, and I understand it is my right to wear this t-shirt".

Then I once again asked the three of them : "How come you are asking me to change my t-shirt? Isn't this my constitutional right to wear it? I am ready to change it if you tell me why I should. Do you have an order against Arabic t-shirts? Is there such a law against Arabic script?" so inspector Harris answered "you can't wear a t-shirt with Arabic script and come to an airport. It is like wearing a t-shirt that reads "I am a robber" and going to a bank". I said "but the message on my t-shirt is not offensive, it just says "we will not be silent". I got this t-shirt from Washington DC. There are more than a 1000 t-shirts printed with the same slogan, you can google them or email them at . It is printed in many other languages: Arabic, Farsi, Spanish, English, etc." Inspector Harris said: "We cant make sure that your t-shirt means we will not be silent, we don't have a translator. Maybe it means something else". I said: "But as you can see, the statement is in both Arabic and English". He said "maybe it is not the same message". So based on the fact that Jet Blue doesn't have a translator, anything in Arabic is suspicious because maybe it'll mean something bad!

Meanwhile, a third man walked in our direction. He stood with us without introducing himself, and he looked at inspector Harris's notes and asks him: "is that his information?", inspector Harris answered "yes". The third man, Mr. Harmon, asks inspector Harris : "can I copy this information?", and inspector Harris says "yes, sure".

inspector Harris said: "You don't have to take of your t-shirt, just put it on inside-out". I refused to put on my shirt inside-out. So the woman interfered and said "let's reach a compromise. I will buy you a new t-shirt and you can put it on on top of this one". I said "I want to keep this t-shirt on". Both inspector Harris and Mr. Harmon said "No, we can't let you get on that airplane with your t-shirt". I said "I am ready to put on another t-shirt if you tell me what is the law that requires such a thing. I want to talk to your supervisor". Inspector Harris said "You don't have to talk to anyone. Many people called and complained about your t-shirt. Jetblue customers were calling before you reached the checkpoint, and costumers called when you were waiting here in the boarding area".

it was then that I realized that my t-shirt was the reason why I had been taken to the secondary checking.

I asked the four people again to let me talk to any supervisor, and they refused.

The Jet Blue woman was asking me again to end this problem by just putting on a new t-shirt, and I felt threatened by Mr. Harmon's remarks as in "Let's end this the nice way". Taking in consideration what happens to other Arabs and Muslims in US airports, and realizing that I will miss my flight unless I covered the Arabic script on my t-shirt as I was told by the four agents, I asked the Jet Blue woman to buy me a t-shirt and I said "I don't want to miss my flight."

She asked, what kind of t-shirts do you like. Should I get you an "I heart new york t-shirt?". So Mr. Harmon said "No, we shouldn't ask him to go from one extreme to another". I asked mr. harmon why does he assume I hate new york if I had some Arabic script on my t-shirt, but he didn't answer.

The woman went away for 3 minutes, and she came back with a gray t-shirt reading "new york". I put the t-shirt on and removed the price tag. I told the four people who were involved in the conversation: "I feel very sad that my personal freedom was taken away like this. I grew up under authoritarian governments in the Middle East, and one of the reasons I chose to move to the US was that I don't want an officer to make me change my t-shirt. I will pursue this incident today through a Constitutional rights organization, and I am sure we will meet soon". Everyone said okay and left, and I went back to my seat.

At 8:50 I was called again by a fourth young man, standing with the same jetblue woman. He asked for my boarding pass, so I gave it to him, and stood in front of the boarding counter. I asked the woman: "is everything okay?", she responded: "Yes, sure. We just have to change your seat". I said: "but I want this seat, that's why I chose it online 4 weeks ago", the fourth man said " there is a lady with a toddler sitting there. We need the seat."

Then they re-issued me a small boarding pass for seat 24a, instead of seat 3a. They said that I can go to the airplane now. I was the first person who entered the airplane, and I was really annoyed about being assigned this seat in the back of the airplane too. It smelled like the bathrooms, which is why I had originally chosen a seat which would be far from that area.

It sucks to be an Arab/Muslim living in the US these days. When you go to the middle east, you are a US tax-payer destroying people's houses with your money, and when you come back to the US, you are a suspected terrorist and plane hijacker.

If you want to call Jet Blue and ask about their regulations against Arabic script, you can use the following numbers:

* If calling within the U.S., Bahamas or Puerto Rico: 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583)
* If calling from the Dominican Republic: 1-200-9898
* If calling from outside the U.S. or Dominican Republic: 001-801-365-2525
* Customers who are deaf or heard of hearing (TTY/TDD): 1-800-336-5530

or you can leave them some comments here. Help make the US a better place by stopping such unconstitutional violations of our rights.

Printing Solar Film Like Paper

Check out this exciting story about a Palo Alto company....

Marine recall shows Iraq getting worse

Well, before they go back maybe they will have an opportunity to find out that they are not fighting anyone connected to 9/11. What a way to treat people....but then again this is how our administration treats just about everyone.

Congressman John Murtha (D-PA) has blasted the involuntary recall of Marines to Iraq at "a time when we should be bringing our fighting men and women home from Iraq, we're sending more over there," as symbolic of the "mismanagement of this effort," RAW STORY has learned.

Murtha, the first Vietnam War veteran to serve in Congress, is mulling a campaign for Majority Leader, should Democrats recapture the House in the fall's midterm election.

"This recall is just another sign of how badly the war in Iraq is going," Murtha insisted.

"Because of the mismanagement of this effort and all the killing and maiming in Iraq," he blasted, "young men and women are not joining the military at the necessary recruitment levels. We're involuntarily recalling Marines and increasing the age limit of soldiers to maintain troop levels.

"If everything were going as well as predicted or depicted by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld," he continued, "we would be fulfilling field commander's desires of earlier this year to reduce troops. Instead we're going to extraordinary means to increase them."

Container Mania

Here in Fresno, officials have gone off the deep end in an effort to get folks to stop leaving their trash containers at the curb all week. In their zeal, they are now telling citizens that they will have to pay a fine even if their containers are neatly stored alongside their home as long as it is still possible for somebody to still see them. What a crock of excessive government!
Here is a response I got from my councilman when I wrote about this very issue:

Thank you for your comments on this subject.

The City of Fresno staff (621-CITY) will be pleased to come to your house to provide suggestions as to how you can screen your refuse cans. The cost and effort will be minimal.

Constituents tell us over and over again how they do not like to see these cans from the sidewalk/street.

Your interest in the City of Fresno is sincerely appreciated.


Councilmember, District 2
2600 Fresno Street
Fresno, CA 93721
(559) 621-8000

The key phrase here is that "the cost and effort will be minimal." To me, these are highly relative terms. The cost and effort might be "minimal" for an able-bodied college professor. Can the same be said for someone with physical challenges living on a more limited income? And, if the cost and effort are truly "minimal", maybe the city should consider footing the bill??
My main problem with this whole issue is that the city is going tooo far. The city's own website has "before" and "after" pictures that show people with containers left out by the street or the end of the driveway. They don't even dare to show someone with containers neatly places alongside their home. Check it out at this link:

Given the narrow gates and walkways alongside many homes, the city is way out of bounds in forcing people to make what the councilmember has surely mislabeled as "minimal cost and effort". The ordinance should be revised to permit homeowners to store their containers along the sides of their homes as long as they are behind the frontline of their house.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

This story stuck me because I was just reading about how many hurricanes they are having this year as well. I wonder if An Inconvenient Truth is showing in Chinese theaters yet?

China's Suffers Worst Drought in 50 Years
August 22, 2006 04:30 PM - Alex Pasternack, Beijing, China

The common expression "it flows like water," which is used to describe a supposedly limitless resource (ha!), probably never had much relevance in places like east Africa or rural China, and it certainly doesn't now. For the second week, southwest China is experiencing its worst drought in 50 years, leaving over 18 million people in fifteen Chinese provinces and regions suffering from drinking water shortages and affecting more than 130 million hectares of cropland and more than 17 million livestock. In the megalopolis of Chongqing, the water level in the legendary Yangtze river -- China's longest -- hit 3.5 meters (11.5 feet), its lowest in 100 years. According to the Chinese Ministry of Water Resources, "The severe drought will not ease up and is very likely to get worse."

Most surprising perhaps are the sudden numbers of "climate refugees" who are being transported to the western Xinjiang region as part of an emergency government program.

The "cotton exodus" started on Aug. 19 and will last until Sept. 5. Twenty-six trains will leave from Chongqing and another eight will carry 10,000 farmers from Chengdu, capital of the neighboring Sichuan Province...
Unmentioned however (in a story that has already largely gone unmentioned outside of China, and been given a positive spin on news cycles in China) are the causes--like reckless agricultural techniques, nearsighted land planning and high end-user consumption, aside from high temperatures--as well as the longer-term effects of the drought. Scarce and polluted urban water supplies will be further taxed, and widespread water table depletion and grain shortage, of the sort that Lester Brown has been making noise about for years, will get even worse.

And that's not to mention the social and political implications of direct and indirect climate migration: thousands of people may have to be moved (see the Three Gorges Dam) to make way for massive water-relocation projects in the coming years, while the continued migration of ethnic Chinese into Xinjiang could further indirectly threaten the Muslim Uighur minority that has long called for independence of the region they refer to as "East Turkestan." Just as it might be argued that drought in the Sudan was partly to blame for the ongoing genocide in Darfur, so it may be said that China's drought is abetting the country's repressive minority policies.

In Chinatown, perhaps the darkest, sexiest movie on the topic of water management, the nefarious water baron tells Jack Nicholson's detective Jake, "You may think you know what you're dealing with, but believe me, you don't." But this ain't Chinatown, and we can know. Huge environmental disasters like this aren't common, but unless we all see them as warning signs, they could be.

Animal House in the West Wing

Who new we elected Bluto???

He loves to cuss, gets a jolly when a mountain biker wipes out trying to keep up with him, and now we're learning that the first frat boy loves flatulence jokes. A top insider let that slip when explaining why President Bush is paranoid around women, always worried about his behavior. But he's still a funny, earthy guy who, for example, can't get enough of fart jokes. He's also known to cut a few for laughs, especially when greeting new young aides, but forget about getting people to gas about that.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Bush Now Says What He Wouldn’t Say Before War: Iraq Had ‘Nothing’ To Do With 9/11

Golly, I hope all those poor troopss fighting in Iraq don't hear about this and realize they have been duped all along into believing they were fighting the people that attacked us.

President Bush was in the midst of explaining how the attacks of 9/11 inspired his “freedom agenda” and the attacks on Iraq until a reporter, Ken Herman of Cox News, interrupted to ask what Iraq had to do with 9/11. “Nothing,” Bush defiantly answered.

BUSH: The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East.

QUESTION: What did Iraq have to do with it?

BUSH: What did Iraq have to do with what?

QUESTION: The attack on the World Trade Center.

BUSH: Nothing. Except it’s part of — and nobody has suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a — Iraq — the lesson of September 11th is take threats before they fully materialize, Ken. Nobody’s ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq.

As Fresno Goes, So Goes the Country....

Thanks to Mike Rhodes for the following report on police zooming in on our remaining shards of privacy....

Will Big Brother be watching? The Fresno Police Department video surveillance project will be discussed on Tuesday, August 22 at 3:15 PM at the Fresno City Council meeting at City Hall, 2600 Fresno Street. The FPD will ask the City Council to adopt a policy manual for the use of the video equipment. Funding for this project will not be granted until the policy manual is approved.
As a member of the panel (appointed by Jerry Duncan) I helped write the manual. Unfortunately, there are several sections of the manual that were changed, at the last minute by the FPD, that are contrary to the agreements made by the panel members. Therefore, I will be at the City Council meeting to oppose the document.

The most critical and unacceptable sections of the policy manual are:

1. The policy manual, as re-written by the FPD, now says they will use the cameras to monitor political demonstrations. The draft written by the panel said: No cameras will have the ability to view any images of locations such as but not limited to:

. . .

A peaceful political demonstration or gathering.

. . .

That language has since been deleted and has been replaced, on page 10, with the following: "Demonstrations or rallies of any kind may be actively monitored only for potential criminal activities or crowd management."

2. There is no oversight (other than the FPD) to monitor the project. The panel, at our last meeting on July 27, directed Captain Maroney to include language in the policy manual that gave someone outside of the police department the ability to look at the operation of the video surveillance project. How will we know if there is a problem or abuse taking place if only the FPD oversee their own project?

3. There is no review/evaluation process. We need to evaluate the effectiveness of the Video Policing project. Is this a good use of taxpayers money? How will we know if we don’t review this project? A section should be added that puts a trigger in place for an annual (or semi-annual) review of the project.

4. The FPD changed the language in the final draft of the policy manual to allow them to follow people (track them) around town with the video cameras without getting a warrant. If the police want to follow you around town now, they need to go to a judge and show probable cause for why they want to follow you. This is called judicial review. The new language, changed without discussion with the panel who wrote the manual, removes this judicial oversight and says all that is required is "articulable reasonable suspicion" by the camera operator to follow you around town.

I’m asking you to join me at the City Council meeting and voice your concern about the FPD video surveillance project.

For background information about this story, see:

To send an email or fax to your City Council member, go to:


"There was of course, no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. . . you had to live, did live, from habit that became instinct, in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized."

—George Orwell, 1984


If you're adverse to a tears in your eyes, don't watch the new Neil Young video for his song "Families" from the LIVING WITH WAR album.


My wife and I saw Neil and the rest of CSN&Y in concert here in Fresno recently. It was totally awesome. It was good to hear someone get up on stage and call this administration exactly what it is. Way to go Neil!!!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Use the Ronald McHummer Sign-O-Matic™

This month McDonald's is giving away toy Hummers — 42 million of them, in eight models and colors — with every Happy Meal or Mighty Kids Meal. That's right: The fast-food chain that helped make our kids the fattest on Earth is now selling future car buyers on the fun of driving a supersized, smog-spewing, gas-guzzling SUV originally built for the military. Use the Ronald McHummer Sign-O-Matic™ to tell us what you think of this misguided marriage of two icons of American excess.

Sounds like a great idea to me. Let McDonald's know that it is still off the mark when it comes to sending the right message for our environment.

Great Fresno Bee letter

'A great source'

(Updated Sunday, August 20, 2006, 8:48 AM)

As a professor at California State University, Fresno, who teaches social policy, I have recommended to students who want to understand the current political issues in the U.S., that they listen to Air America as well as Fox news and the other corporate media, in order to be able to hear all sides of the issues.

"The Majority Report" with Sam Seder is a great source of progressive political analysis and information for all of us in the Valley, and I hope that Air America will continue to broadcast his radio program.

Dr. Lynn Jacobsson, Oakhurst

I guess Lynn got fed up with Alan gettin all the press with his constant letter writing. Way to go Lynn! Hopefully some more folks will check out Air America on 790 am in Fresno for some relief from the stale crap that passes for political commentary on KMJ!

Catholic bishop blasts Democrats
ROCKFORD, August 17 (UPI) — The bishop of the Roman Catholic Church's Rockford, Ill., diocese has issued a withering indictment of Democratic Party leaders. Bishop Thomas George Doran, writing on the diocesan Web site, described as seven "sacraments" the party's devotion to "abortion, buggery, contraception, divorce, euthanasia, feminism of the radical type and genetic experimentation and mutilation." Doran further wrote that these seven secular sacraments are espoused, professed and promoted by Democratic Party leaders — whom he referred to "as adherents of one political party." The continuance of these politicians "in public office is a clear and present danger to our survival as a nation," Doran wrote Aug. 10.

So if you had any doubt about what your priorities should be as a Democrat, the Bishop is here to clear up any confusion for you. Have you buggered anyone today?