Wednesday, June 30, 2010

From YouTube: Sen. Al Franken Draws Map of the United States

Senator Al Franken draws a map of all 50 states from memory during an appearance on Minnesota Public Radio's Midday at the Minnesota State Fair. Listen to the full interview with Sen. Franken here:

Monday, June 28, 2010

From The New York Times

The Third Depression 

Recessions are common; depressions are rare. As far as I can tell, there were only two eras in economic history that were widely described as “depressions” at the time: the years of deflation and instability that followed the Panic of 1873 and the years of mass unemployment that followed the financial crisis of 1929-31.

Neither the Long Depression of the 19th century nor the Great Depression of the 20th was an era of nonstop decline — on the contrary, both included periods when the economy grew. But these episodes of improvement were never enough to undo the damage from the initial slump, and were followed by relapses.

We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost — to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs — will nonetheless be immense.

And this third depression will be primarily a failure of policy. Around the world — most recently at last weekend’s deeply discouraging G-20 meeting — governments are obsessing about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending.

In 2008 and 2009, it seemed as if we might have learned from history. Unlike their predecessors, who raised interest rates in the face of financial crisis, the current leaders of the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank slashed rates and moved to support credit markets. Unlike governments of the past, which tried to balance budgets in the face of a plunging economy, today’s governments allowed deficits to rise. And better policies helped the world avoid complete collapse: the recession brought on by the financial crisis arguably ended last summer.

But future historians will tell us that this wasn’t the end of the third depression, just as the business upturn that began in 1933 wasn’t the end of the Great Depression. After all, unemployment — especially long-term unemployment — remains at levels that would have been considered catastrophic not long ago, and shows no sign of coming down rapidly. And both the United States and Europe are well on their way toward Japan-style deflationary traps.

In the face of this grim picture, you might have expected policy makers to realize that they haven’t yet done enough to promote recovery. But no: over the last few months there has been a stunning resurgence of hard-money and balanced-budget orthodoxy.

As far as rhetoric is concerned, the revival of the old-time religion is most evident in Europe, where officials seem to be getting their talking points from the collected speeches of Herbert Hoover, up to and including the claim that raising taxes and cutting spending will actually expand the economy, by improving business confidence. As a practical matter, however, America isn’t doing much better. The Fed seems aware of the deflationary risks — but what it proposes to do about these risks is, well, nothing. The Obama administration understands the dangers of premature fiscal austerity — but because Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress won’t authorize additional aid to state governments, that austerity is coming anyway, in the form of budget cuts at the state and local levels.

Why the wrong turn in policy? The hard-liners often invoke the troubles facing Greece and other nations around the edges of Europe to justify their actions. And it’s true that bond investors have turned on governments with intractable deficits. But there is no evidence that short-run fiscal austerity in the face of a depressed economy reassures investors. On the contrary: Greece has agreed to harsh austerity, only to find its risk spreads growing ever wider; Ireland has imposed savage cuts in public spending, only to be treated by the markets as a worse risk than Spain, which has been far more reluctant to take the hard-liners’ medicine.

It’s almost as if the financial markets understand what policy makers seemingly don’t: that while long-term fiscal responsibility is important, slashing spending in the midst of a depression, which deepens that depression and paves the way for deflation, is actually self-defeating.

So I don’t think this is really about Greece, or indeed about any realistic appreciation of the tradeoffs between deficits and jobs. It is, instead, the victory of an orthodoxy that has little to do with rational analysis, whose main tenet is that imposing suffering on other people is how you show leadership in tough times.

And who will pay the price for this triumph of orthodoxy? The answer is, tens of millions of unemployed workers, many of whom will go jobless for years, and some of whom will never work again.

From Douglas Lain

"Pick Your Battle" (foraging as revolutionary self-help)

The following project is the brain child of Douglas Lain, the son of one of my oldest and dearest childhood friends.  He lives in Portland, Oregon and is trying to obtain enough money to fund the writing and self-publishing of a radical "self-help" book entitled "Pick Your Battle." He has presently raised on Kickstarter over $3,600. His pledge goal is $6,000.  The project will only be funded if at least $6,000 is pledged by Wednesday July 14, 3:00am EDT. $1 is the minimum pledge. Any assistance you may offer will be greatly appreciated.

You may click here to make a pledge or scroll down to read more about the project.

From the Author

"Pick Your Battle" is the title of a radical self-help book that starts off from where my more pessimistic and surreal effort at self-help "How to Cut Yourself to Pieces" left off. In a time of peak oil, peak population, and peak insanity just stepping outside and getting to know the plant life in your neighborhood represents a radical break.

Money raised for the "Pick Your Battle Project" will cover the writing, printing, promotion, and distribution of a book that will explain and explore urban gleaning, situationist theory, and unschooling while telling the story of my own and my family's attempt to revolutionize our everyday lives. It will support efforts to organize local foraging, community gardens, psychogeographic field trips, and a confrontation with the current system.

While writing the book I will also continue discussing permaculture and the radical politics on the Diet Soap podcast and give updates on my progress.

What I Need and What I'll Do

I am asking for $6000 to cover printing, postal, travel, organizing, and some living expenses while I write. The fruit trees will blossom and produce their goods throughout the summer, so from June to September I'll organize picking expeditions while simultaneously meeting up with others who want to put this project into the broader context of developing an inclusive and democratic food economy for Portland's various communities.

Chomsky for a Dollar

I am offering a PDF copy of my novelette "Noam Chomsky and the Time Box" to anyone who pledges a dollar or more to the Pick Your Battle project. The novelette is similar in spirit to the Pick Your Battle book. It is yet another attempt to wed radical critique to the imagination.

Daniel Coffeen, whose lectures on Rhetoric at UC Berkeley can be heard on iTunes U, commented on the story:
"I was afraid it was going to become didactic, but it never assumed that tone. It's got this impeccable feel to it. Just in tone there is resistance. The tone is engaged, open, and playful. I laughed out loud."

Listen to Me Talk

As this Kickstarter campaign has proceed I've discussed the project on podcasts and radio programs. You can listen online or on your MP3 player.

If Your Just Joining Us Podcast with host Jon Armstrong

The Next Step Podcast with host Jarett Sanchez.

Media Monarchy, with host James Evan Pilato

Shamanic Freedom Radio, with host Opaque Lens

Agroinnovations Podcast with host Frank Aragona

Black Light in the Attic with host Cody

Tuesday Morning After on KCUT Community Radio with host Ed Yersh

Community of Backers
I've been excited by the many pledges and emails offering ideas and moral support. Here's an example:
Hi Doug,

I am especially excited about your "Pick Your Battle" project.

I have taken an interest in your Pick your Battle project because I am a biology instructor at El Paso Community College, and for a while I have had an idea to do some psychogeography and food forest projects with my students. The students I teach are so disconnected with the world of the "outside of buildings" that they have almost no experiential context to which they can tie the content that they learn in my biology classes.

I am keenly awaiting your book and I hope that your efforts have some foraging, psychogeography, and community building work out well. I will probably use some of what you are doing as a model of future projects with students.


I am primarily a fiction writer and I've always left my best ideas on the pages of magazines and books filled with made up stories. I've operated as though creativity was something separate from life. Dreams were relegated to the realm of art. To keep my fantasy life safely inside the box of commercial fiction, to deny the imagination, this was realistic.

With the zero years behind us we've all seen how destructive this realism can be. There are wars and occupations, there is economic collapse, a huge swath of the Pacific ocean has been polluted into a plastic soup, there is climate change, we're facing peak oil, and so I'm finished with the usual realism. I want to take something small and tangible, like a cherry from our backyard tree, or a fig from the tree around the block, and step forward into the impossible.

Using the harvesting of the fruit trees in my neighborhood as a jumping off point I hope to pick my battle, work with others, and create an ongoing community effort toward self-reliance, connection, and solidarity. I'd like to start a process of revolutionizing my every day life.

More concretely I plan on reaching out to pre-existing organizations such as the Portland Fruit Project, Urban Gleaners, Growing Gardens and others as I organize with neighbors to map out and harvest my immediate environment. Perhaps this will mean we simply split the spoils between the pickers at first, perhaps we will participate with pre-existing distribution networks, but the idea is to reach out to others and help spread abundance and self-sufficiency. I hope to participate in what I see as a free food movement where planting trees and gardens is integrated into what we do. I dream of smashing the industrial food system with locally produced free food.

In the meantime I'll start over on that radical self-help book. This time the self that is helped will be plural, a "we" instead of an "I".

Project location: Portland, OR 

Douglas Lain is the author of dozens of short stories and two novels. His work has regularly appeared in nationally distributed literary magazines and journals such as Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and Amazing Stories since 1999, and his first book “Last Week’s Apocalypse” was a collection of these stories published by Night Shade Books. His first novel, entitled “Billy Moon: 1968,” tells the story of Christopher Robin Milne’s fictional involvement with the French general strike in May of 1968, and is due out from Tor Books in 2011. His second novel, entitled “the Brainwash Brand,” is currently under option at Tor.

Since 1991 Lain has been involved with various activist and liberatory projects. He is a member of the radical nonprofit Education Without Borders, a former participant in the Portland Peaceful Response Coalition that formed after the attacks of September 11th, 2001, and an organizer of protests against the Patriot Act and against the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. He has also been an organizer of events and fundraisers for literary and political organizations such as Books not Bombs and Veterans for Peace. His overtly political writings have been featured in ‘zines and journals such as Magnitizdat (a journal of illegal writing), the Portland Alliance, and Flytrap.

Lain is also the editor of the ‘zine “Diet Soap,” which Stephanie Holmes of the Xerography Debt described as “the equivalent of reading the well-written diary of the paranoid neurotic you have a raging crush on.” Lain is also the host of a weekly podcast with the same title as his ‘zine. On its 46th episode the Diet Soap podcast typically has well over a thousand listeners every week, and has featured conversations with Penelope Rosemont of the Chicago Surrealist group, the journalist David Lindorf, the novelist Geoff Nicholson, the anarchist philosopher Takis Fotopoulos, and many others. Douglas is also a frequent guest on a variety of other podcasts including the C-Realm, the Next Step, Frank Aragona’s Agroinnovations podcast, and others.

Lain’s metafictional and autobiographical short story “A Coffee Cup/Alien Invasion Story” was reprinted in Richard Horton’s Science Fiction Best of the Year anthology in 2006, and Lain was nominated for the Elliot Fintushel Short Story Award in 2003 and 2004, but lost to Elliot Fintushel both times. He has also been nominated or shortlisted for the Nebula, the Fountain Award, the Locus Award, and strangely enough the MTV Music Video award for best choreography.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Hike Over to The Narrows (Photos)

I have had numerous encounters with copperheads over my life time. Some will remain in my memory till I die.

When I was eleven my father and I one summer drove out to an old abandoned homestead to gather stones from the remains of an old stone chimney. As my father stop to explain and demonstrate how to safely pick up each stone (making sure to first lift only one end of the stone, keeping it between you and whatever may be beneath it), the nose of a large copperhead struck the end of my fathers left middle finger as he lifted the stone. Both of us must have jumped several feet backwards. If you survive, experiential learning trumps abstract learning every time.

A year ago this past May, some of you may have read an account I posted of another encounter with a copperhead called Even Severed Heads Can Bite. If not, take a look-see.

From aolHealth

boy eating fruitBy Mary Beth Sammons

In the United States alone, an estimated 4.5 million children ages 5 to 17 have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and rates of diagnosis have risen 3 percent a year between 1997 and 2006. Yet it is unclear what is causing this increase. New research is investigating many avenues. One of them is environmental factors such as pesticides and allergens.

In a study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers studied 1,139 children ages 8 to 15. All of the children studied had measurable residue of pesticides commonly used on fruits and vegetables. Diet is a major source of pesticide exposure in children, according to the National Academy of Sciences, and much of this exposure comes from the common kid-friendly fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries, strawberries and celery. In a 2008 government report, detectable concentrations of malathion (a pesticide commonly used in agriculture, residential landscaping and mosquito abatement) were found in 28 percent of frozen blueberry samples, 25 percent of fresh strawberry samples and 19 percent of celery samples.

In the Pediatrics study, researchers found that for every tenfold increase in the urinary concentration of pesticide residue, there was a 35 percent increase in the chance that the child would develop ADHD. The effect was seen even in kids who had a very low level of detectable, above-average pesticide residue.

Unlike other studies of pesticidal impact, this one looked at the average exposure to pesticides in the general population of children and not at a specialized group such as children who live on farms, according to lead author Maryse Bouchard of the University of Montreal.

Because certain pesticides leave the body after three to six days, the presence of residue shows that exposure is likely constant, Bouchard said. The study found that children with the kind of metabolites left in the body after malathion exposure were 55 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. Almost universally, the study found detectable levels: The compounds turned up in the urine of 94 percent of the children. Children may be especially prone to the health risks of pesticides because they're still growing and may consume more pesticide residue than adults, relative to their body weight.

More research is needed to confirm the findings, says Bouchard. But the take-home message for parents, she says, is to give kids organic produce as much as you can and to wash fresh fruits and vegetables -- organic or not -- thoroughly.

An unpublished 2008 study out of Emory University found that in children who switched to organically grown fruits and vegetables, urine levels of pesticide compounds dropped to undetectable or close to undetectable levels.

Denver immunologist Dr. Isaac Melamed is studying another effect that may contribute to ADHD: the inflammation caused by all allergies including food, pollen and dust. In his unpublished study, he found that the inflammation caused by an allergic reaction may contribute to ADHD. Therefore, he says, by controlling a child's exposure to allergens, parents may be able to better control ADHD. Melamed says that although much more study needs to be done on this, in his private practice, he has controlled his patients' ADHD by limiting allergic triggers.

Remember that all of this research is in the very early stages and needs to be studied more thoroughly before it can be confirmed.

More on Allergies:
Allergy Medication Side Effects
Outdoor Allergy Triggers

Thursday, June 24, 2010

From Gush-Shalom

The End of Sicarii Zionism*

by Dov Yirmiya


I am one of the remaining veterans of the Haganah**, who had served in the British Army and thereafter were among the initiators of the Ha'apala [illegal immigration] of Holocaust survivors, struggling with the forces of victorious Great Britain for the right to arrive at the shores of this country.

Its warships and soldiers, those who had just fought and defeated the worst of all enemies, went over to attacking with fury and hatred our cockleshell boats which set to this country from the shores of Italy, full of survivors of the Nazi hell. The warships chased after them, closed around them, sometimes actually crushing them - and shot at them, killing and wounding many of their passengers.

And now I have observed with horror and a broken heart the repetition of the same scenes – but with the roles reversed. It is the soldiers and sailors of the force which boasts of being the "Israeli Defense Forces" who are now the pursuers and killers. There is no limit to the disgrace, the cruelty and the hypocrisy which wrap our criminal acts with words of lie and malice.

I am depressed to the bottom of my heart ... how could we have fallen so low??? How did we become an unjust and cruel people, turning from persecuted to persecutor?

Yes! It could have been expected! For 19 years we have "contented ourselves" with a system of a military government over the Arab minority which remained with us after the War of Independence, dispossessing and discriminating them. There followed the 43 years of intoxicating nationalist bravado, which spread through our people like an addictive drug after our victory in 1967, which brought the Greater Israel movement to the power which it since then holds in Israel.

Our golden opportunity as victors, to make peace with the Palestinian people, vanished at once. The fascist Zionist regime, governing in the style of the Italian in North Africa, violent conquest and rapist settlement of the land of Palestine and its people… But with the latest move, the tragicomic charge of the ridiculous Zionist "armada" in an effort to tighten its stranglehold on an enclave of a million and half miserable Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, our arrogant little people have clearly gone too far.

The huge burden of injustice and mad villainy with which Sicarii Israel is loaded brings about quick disaster. Already in the foreseeable future it is about to finally destroy Israel's chances of survival. The "Mene Mene" of destruction is already inscribed in blood on our walls. Woe to our children, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren to whom we leave such a legacy...

Dov Yirmiya Nahariya

* The Sicarii were Jewish zealots of the First Century. In present day Hebrew the term refers to fanatic nationalists.

** Haganah (Hebrew: "The Defense", ההגנה HaHagana) was a Jewish paramilitary organization in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine from 1920 to 1948, which later became the core of the Israel Defense Forces.

From Right Wing Watch

Fischer: God Is Cursing Us With Bear Attacks For Failing To Follow The Bible

Submitted by Kyle on June 21, 2010 - 10:28am

Last week, researchers at Yellowstone National Park trapped a Grizzly Bear, tranquilized it and fitted it with a radio collar. Shortly after the bear awoke, it attacked and killed a man who had apparently "ignored warning signs posted advising hikers to avoid the area because of the likelihood of a dangerous bear encounter."

So you know that means - Bryan Fischer is back with a new post about how this tragic death is proof that God is cursing us for failing to abide by his Biblical rules:
History reveals that God’s covenant with an ancient nation suggests that one of the consequences for a nation which walks in his statues is that it will have nothing to fear from wild animals. “If you walk in my statutes...I will remove harmful beasts from the land” (Lev. 26:3,6).

On the other hand, “[I]f you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments...I will let loose the wild beasts against you” (Lev. 26:14,22).

A wholly preventable tragedy occurred outside Yellowstone National Park last week as a bear that only hours before had been trapped and tranquilized by researchers woke up from his induced slumber just in time to maul a 70-year old man who was out for a stroll.

The man was, according to the AP, mauled at almost exactly the same site where the researchers had left the bear after he’d been tranquilized.

The grizzly is a predator, a fierce, savage unstoppable killing machine. Lewis and Clark did not believe the stories they’d been told by Indian peoples about grizzlies until they started running into them. It was not long before their “curiosity” was “quite satisfied” about the grizzly.

Because these researchers were intent on studying the grizzly rather than killing him to protect innocent human life, a husband, father and grandfather is dead today. This was an utterly unnecessary death which could have happened only because our culture has jettisoned a biblical view of the relative value of human life compared to animal life.

Because this animal was given a nap instead of a bullet, a human being is dead, and a savage animal is alive, on the prowl, and ready to kill again.

Earlier this year, I reminded readers that if biblical precedent had been followed, the whale that killed SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau would have been euthanized in 1991 when it killed its first human victim. Ms. Brancheau would be alive today if the principles of the Judeo-Christian tradition had been followed.

God said a curse would fall on a land which turned its back on him, and one consequence would be more tragic deaths at the hands of predatory animals. The truly sad thing here is that we are bringing this curse upon ourselves.
Have I mentioned that Fischer is still listed as a "confirmed speaker" at the next Family Research Council Values Voter Summit along with Rep. Michele Bachmann, Rep. Mike Pence, and Mike Huckabee? Just want to keep pointing that out.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

From The White House

President Obama's Statement on General McChrystal and Afghanistan 

June 23, 2010 | 8:31

The President announces that he has accepted the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal, that he will nominate General David Petraeus to take over command of troops in Afghanistan, and that the Administration remains unified in its commitment to victory in Afghanistan.

From My Sister's Yard (Photos)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

From MSNBC Countdown (A Must See)

Keith Olbermann's Special Comment on Gen. McChrystal's self-destruction

From The Narrows (Photos)

On the ridge trail over to the Narrows, a hundred yards from my house, a very old and large red oak tree split into at its base on Saturday. I had been concern about its health for many years. The tree's diameter before it split was right at 5 feet, over 15 feet in circumference. That means that this tree began growing before Tennessee was a state, back before the thirteen colonies won their independence from Great Britain.

From The Washington Post

A GOP chorus of Joe Bartons on the BP oil spill

By Eugene Robinson Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Joe Barton is not alone. The Texas congressman's lavish sympathy for BP -- which he sees not as perpetrator of a preventable disaster but as victim of a White House "shakedown" -- is actually what passes for mainstream opinion among conservative Republicans today.

The GOP leadership came down hard on Barton after he apologized to the oil company for the beastly way it was being treated by the White House, saying he was "ashamed" that BP was being pressured to put $20 billion into a "slush fund" to compensate victims of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Barton was reportedly threatened with losing his powerful position as ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee if he didn't retract his words, and pronto.

But Barton was only echoing a statement that Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) had issued a day earlier in the name of the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of House conservatives whose Web site claims 115 members. The statement groused that there is "no legal authority for the president to compel a private company to set up or contribute to an escrow account" and accused the Obama administration of "Chicago-style shakedown politics." Just to review: A group constituting roughly two-thirds of all Republicans in the House takes the position that President Obama was wrong to demand that BP set aside money to guarantee that those whose livelihoods are being ruined by the oil spill will be compensated. In other words, it's more important to kneel at the altar of radical conservative ideology than to feel any sense of compassion for one's fellow Americans. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how today's GOP rolls.

To be sure, there are Republicans who realize that this is not the message the party should be sending as the midterm election nears. "I couldn't disagree with Joe Barton more," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Party leaders insisted that there was nothing to see at the cliff where Barton went through the political guardrails and that everyone should just move along.

But no. Let's slow down and crane our necks.

Barton's remarks were no spontaneous gaffe. They came in a prepared statement and represent his genuine view of the situation: that the rights of a private company are absolute even when weighed against the clear interests of the public.

While the party leadership has managed to squelch members of Congress who might have been tempted to weigh in on Barton's side, the conservative amen chorus can't help itself. Rush Limbaugh called the agreement on the $20 billion escrow fund "unconstitutional" and accused the administration of acting like "a branch of organized crime." Newt Gingrich said the White House was "extorting money from a company." Stuart Varney of Fox News claimed -- falsely -- that Obama had moved to "seize a private company's assets" and complained that the action was "Hugo Chavez-like." Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol said that "I have no sympathy for BP," but then proceeded to be sympathetic, offering that "it's not helpful for the country, for the economy as a whole, for the president to bully different companies and different industries." I'd advise these people to get a grip, but they're just saying what they believe. It just happens that what they believe is absurd.

There is ample evidence that BP, one of the biggest and most profitable oil companies in the world, cut corners in operating the Deepwater Horizon rig that resulted in the worst spill ever to despoil U.S. waters. BP's assertions about its ability to prevent, contain and clean up any oil leak turned out to be patently false. If we were not dealing with such a tragic situation, the company's tin ear for public relations would be comic; the unforgettable line from BP's chairman -- "We care about the small people" -- sounds like something Mel Brooks might dream up for a sequel to "The Producers." Meanwhile, thousands of fishermen, shrimpers, oil-rig workers, restaurant owners and others along the Gulf Coast are suffering the economic effects of the spill. The environmental damage, still worsening, will be felt for decades. A mile beneath the surface, that noxious plume of gas and oil continues to billow.

Yes, President Obama used the power of his office to pressure BP to set money aside for compensation. If Republicans believe he shouldn't have, then by all means they should speak up. Come November, the voters will be able to decide who's right.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I've Always Been Amazed

by Dee Newman

You know, I’ve always been amazed by certain political leaders’ ability to talk out of both sides of their mouths and never say anything that resembles the truth, and yet, convince a sizable number of folks that they are uttering Gospel.

The same Republicans who are now blaming the government and the President for inadequate regulatory oversight are the same folks who, just a few months ago, were accusing him and his administration of trying to engineer a socialist takeover of our society, portraying his administration as a classic, tax and spend, big-government over-regulator. Yes, the same right-wing intransigents who have for decades fought to make government regulatory officials impotent, are now demanding a robust Federal response to the Gulf oil spill and blaming the Obama administration for the disaster.

And to top it off, when the President starts to kick some ass and demands BP to set aside $20 billion to help the people of the Gulf whose lives and livelihood have been completely devastated by BP’s greed and incompetence, they call his actions unwarranted and unconstitutional, demanding that he apologize to BP.

Are they nuts? Have they lost all contact with reality?

And, how about all the seemingly rational folks who appear to be shaking their heads in agreement? Are they nuts, too? I suppose, as Ben Franklin once said, rational beings can rationalize anything.

But, how can anyone in their right mind believe such utter nonsense and hypocrisy as we have been subjected to in recent weeks by the leadership of the Grand Old Party?

I learned a long time ago that the distortion of truth, information, and facts by politicians is always intended to defend the indefensible. You would think that this time the indefensible is so outrages and obvious defending it would be political suicide.

After this past week, if the American people cannot distinguish between the “watch-dogs” and the “lap-dogs” or the “ass-kickers” from the “ass-kissers,” then, believe you me, hope for our future, here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, looks pretty damn dismal to me, at best.

From The Harvard Crimson

BREAKING: Detained Harvard Sophomore Safe From Deportation

Published: Saturday, June 19, 2010
Eric Balderas '13, whose detainment last Monday for unlawfully being in the United States attracted international attention, is no longer facing deportation to Mexico, the Boston Globe reported Friday night.

Deborah E. Anker, one of Balderas' attorneys on the case and a professor at the Law School, confirmed that the Department of Homeland Security granted Balderas deferred action status, and said that they are "delighted" to hear this decision.

"DHS can grant this relief in deserving cases and we are gratified that it recognized Eric's extraordinary talent and his enormous potential to contribute to our country," Anker wrote in an e-mailed statement to The Crimson on Saturday.

Balderas, 19, who was arrested in San Antonio after attempting to board a plane back to Boston for his summer research internship, has been granted deferred action for an indefinite period—a move that will allow him to apply for a work permit in the United States and continue taking classes at Harvard. The rising sophomore in Eliot House would be able to apply to renew the deferred action when it expires.

“We are relieved that Eric Balderas’ status has been resolved for now and that he will be allowed to continue his studies," Christine Heenan, vice president of Harvard public affairs and communications wrote in an e-mailed statement to The Crimson on Saturday. "We are also grateful to everyone—including Senators Durbin and Kerry and Congressman Capuano—who came to the assistance of this bright young man during this difficult period."

The news follows a week of public outcry over his arrest, with over 5,500 people supporting Balderas with a Facebook group "Keep Eric Home" and Harvard officials affirming his academic standing. Mario Rodas, the Facebook group's creator, told The Crimson in an interview on Saturday that he and Eric are "thrilled" about the news of this deferred action.

Balderas, an aspiring molecular and cellular biology concentrator, was stopped by TSA officials in his hometown last Monday when he tried to board a plane using a Mexican consulate card and his Harvard student identification. He was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, who kept him in a detention center for several hours before he was released.

After the arrest revealed his status as an undocumented student, Balderas said he contemplated suicide and almost wrote a letter of apology to his mother, whom he was visiting in San Antonio. His family had illegally immigrated to the United States when he was 4-years-old.

"I had been so strong before," Balderas told The Crimson in an interview on Sunday. "And now my spirits were just destroyed."

Over the past week, Balderas has been encouraging others in his predicament to continue fighting for the DREAM Act, proposed federal legislation that would allow immigrant students to apply for legal residency.

"This event has highlighted the importance of the DREAM Act in ensuring that students like Eric can pursue a college education or military service and ultimately contribute to the future of our nation," Heenan wrote.

Rodas said that this action is only a kind of relief, but the potential passage of the DREAM Act remains an urgent issue.

"Just hang in there," Balderas said on Sunday. "Let others know of your problem and try and gain support for the DREAM Act, because that's ultimately what's going to save us all."

In addition to Anker, Balderas is being represented by Paul Glickman and Ellen Sullivan of Glickman Turley.

Neither Balderas nor ICE officials could be reached for comment Friday night.

—Staff writer Xi Yu can be reached at

Friday, June 18, 2010

From American Constitution Society

Senator Al Franken Addresses 2010 ACS National Convention

On June 17, Senator Al Franken addressed the 2010 ACS National Convention at the Convention's opening night gala dinner. Sen. Franken spoke on the current state of the judiciary and judicial nominations, and the changing landscape of the courts. A transcript of Sen. Franken's speech is available here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

From The Rachel Maddow Show (This is a Must Watch and Listen)

Rachel's  take on what she wished the President had said in his Oval Office Oil Spill Speech

I believe that this country, the world, would be a better place if Rachel Maddow was our President, blotches and all.

I just emailed President Obama with a link to the The Rachel Maddow Show and told him that this is what I wish he had said. Here is the White House link: 

 I am about to call him, as well. Here is his phone number: 202-456-1111

I will post the transcript of Rachel's Presidential Address to the Nation when I can find it.

Up Date: Here is the Transcript

Good evening.

I'm here to announce three major developments in the response to the BP Oil Disaster that continues, right now, to ravage the beloved Gulf Coast of the United States of America.

I wish I could tell you that the first development is that BP has capped the well, stopped the leak. They haven't. They can't. They don't know how. And no one else does either. Their best hope is a relief well, which poses its own risks and challenges, and which even in a best case scenario, affords no relief until August.

All the might of this, the mightiest nation on earth, and the combined expertise of the richest, most technologically ambitious corporations the world has ever seen, cannot, it turns out, cap an oil well when it breaks five thousand feet-deep in the ocean. It is something that mankind does not yet have the technological capability to fix.

And that brings us to the first development in this disaster that I am announcing tonight: Never again, will any company, anyone, be allowed to drill in a location where they are incapable of dealing with the potential consequences of that drilling.

When the benefits of drilling accrue to a private company, but the risks of that drilling accrue to we the American people, whose waters and shoreline are savaged when things go wrong, I as Fake President stand on the side of the American people, and say to the industry: From this day forward, if you cannot handle the risk, you no longer will take chances with our fate, to reap your rewards.

Our nation's regulatory oversight of the oil industry has been a joke in many ways, for decades -- from the revolving door of industry apparatchiks taking supposed "oversight" jobs in government, in which they just rubberstamped the desires of the industry to which they were loyal -- to energy industry lobbyists, themselves being allowed, in secret meetings, to write our nation's energy policies.

In light of the state of the Gulf right now, my fellow Americans, the details of how industry has infiltrated and infected the government that was supposed to be a watchdog protecting the American public from them -- those details are enough to turn your stomach. But no detail tells you more about the corroding power of the industry against the interests of the American people than the simple fact that they have been allowed to drill in American waters, without being forced to first prove that drilling is safe.

That will never happen again, as long as I am Fake President.

When I announced in March, that my administration's energy policy would include expanded offshore drilling, that policy change was premised on our acceptance of the oil industry's assurances that they knew how to do such drilling safely. They were lying. It cannot be done safely -- not when no technology exists to cap a blowout on the sea floor.

Offshore drilling will not be expanded in American waters, the moratorium will be held firm and in place, unless and until the industry conclusively demonstrates major advances in safety. Oil industry jobs are important, and I will work with industry to mitigate the impact on American families who survive on oil company paychecks -- but in the 21st century, and in the name of the 11 workers who were killed when the Deepwater Horizon rig blew out, we will not play Russian Roulette with workers' lives, and we will not play Russian Roulette with irreversible, national, environmental disaster for the sake of short-term income.

The second major development I'm announcing tonight, my fellow Americans, concerns another oil industry assurance that we can no longer believe. The industry, has long assured us that they were capable of handling spilled oil. In BP's own disaster response plan for the Gulf of Mexico, they claimed they were perfectly capable of containing, and cleaning-up, up to 250,000 barrels of oil a day. That no significant amount of an oil spill of even that size would get to shore, foul beaches, kill wildlife, or destroy wetlands. They were lying.

And the industry is lying when it says it takes seriously its responsibilities to contain and clean-up disasters they cause. The same low-tech, inffective equipment and techniques are being used to respond to this oil disaster today, as were used in the 1960s and '70s to respond to spills back then. That's because the industry hasn't invested in any new containment and cleanup technology in all of these decades. Because they haven't cared too much about it, as an issue.

And it shows. It shows both in the inept technology that we have to deploy, to contain and clean-up a spill like this, and in the lackadaisical, uncoordinated, unprofessional way this inept technology has been deployed by BP.

Beaches have been fouled and wetlands destroyed and wildlife killed that should have been saved. Pensacola Bay in Florida, if properly boomed, should never have been breached by oil. Perdido Pass at Orange Beach, Alabama, should never have been breached by oil. Queen Bess Island, the pelican nesting ground in Barataria Bay in Louisiana, Barataria Bay itself, none of these areas should have been breached by oil -- even given the sad state of existing technology to stop it -- but the fact that those areas were breached is BP's human error.

And tonight, as Fake President, I'm announcing a new federal command specifically for containment and cleanup of oil that has already entered the Gulf of Mexico, with a priority on protecting shoreline that can still be saved; shoreline that is vulnerable to oil that has not yet been hit. I have asked the Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, to assist me in the diplomatic side of this -- in soliciting, greenlighting and expediting all international offers of help from experts in booming and skimming from all over the world. We will bring in the best experts and the best equipment from anywhere on Earth, to dramatically increase our efforts to get the oil out of the water, and off of the coast.

Oil industry workers are often trained in booming and skimming. I am hereby directing BP to fund booming-and-skimming crash academies for all available oil industry personnel, anywhere in the world, to radically overhaul what has been a haphazard, half-hearted, totally unacceptable protection effort. Starting immediately. No expense will be spared and no excuses will be brooked. Even if the oil leak is capped today, the oil in the water will continue to surge toward shore for weeks if not months. As Fake President, I will personally issue a public update on cleanup and containment efforts every single day until this disaster is under control.

And finally, the third development I have to announce to you tonight in the response to this oil disaster is about how we got here, and how that will change. Every president in the modern era has complained that America must get off oil. Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush -- and now I, Fake President Obama -- have all intoned, solemnly, that we must get off oil.

Now that we have, at the hands of the oil industry, experienced the worst environmental disaster in American history, the time for talk is over. The world is different now. Our country is different now. The scales have fallen from our eyes. People say we're not ready? They're right. We're not ready. We also weren't ready to fight in World War 2 before Pearl Harbor, but events forced that upon us, and events have forced this fight upon us now. I no longer say that we must get off oil like every president before me has said too. I no longer say that we must get off oil. We will get off oil and here's how:

The United States Senate will pass an energy bill. This year. The Senate version of the bill will not expand offshore drilling. The earlier targets in that bill for energy efficiency and for renewable energy-sources will be doubled or tripled.

If Senators use the filibuster to stop the bill, we will pass it by reconciliation, which still ensures a majority vote. If there are elements of the bill that cannot procedurally be passed by reconciliation, if those elements can be instituted by executive order, I will institute them by executive order.

The political cowardice that has kept politicians from doing right by this country, finally, on energy, and standing up to the oil industry -- that cowardice has been drowned; drowned in oil on Queen Bess Island. There is a new reality in this country that has been forced on us by this disaster.

As Fake President, I pledge to you that the land and sea and livelihood and lives of the American people will be put first. As we do everything that is humanly possible to stop this disaster. We will never again let the oil industry put America at this kind of risk. We will save what can still be saved that is directly at risk from the oil in the Gulf. And we will free ourselves, as a nation, once and for all, from the grip of this industry that's lied to us as much as it has exploited us, as much as it has befouled us with its toxic effluent.

The oil age, America, is over. If you are with me, let your Senator know it.

I'll next speak to you about the BP oil disaster tomorrow, with my first public update on the cleanup effort in the Gulf.

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

Oh, and also -- I've decided I'm not a White Sox fan anymore. I'm a Red Sox fan. And I'm closing Guantanamo.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Cougar

by Dee Newman

Several years ago I was out riding my mountain bike just north of the Narrows on an old dirt gravel road, in an area, which I had wanted to explored for sometime. After cresting a hill and heading down the other side I noticed at the bottom in the middle of the road in full profile what seemed to be a very large cougar . . . at least 250 pounds of stealth and power, 8 feet from nose to tail.

At first, my mind refused to believe what I was seeing. Cougars were killed off in Tennessee over 150 years ago. I had read about unconfirmed sightings in Eastern Tennessee in the Great Smoky Mountains over the years, but none here in middle Tennessee.

It was not the first time I had seen a cougar in the wild. While backpacking out west I had seen a number of them from a distance, but this time the length of space separating this cougar from me was rapidly closing.

When I finally came to my senses (just in time) and slammed on my breaks,  I was less than 10 yards from this magnificent creature. The eye contact between us will remain in my memory forever.

Sliding sideways my back tire threw dirt and gravel at the large predator. Fortunately, instead of jumping towards me, the cougar leaped to my left, from a standstill, nearly 20 feet into the tall grass and disappeared from view. For a moment I just stood there mesmerized by the movement of the undergrowth as he slowly sauntered away. And then, suddenly, the vegetation stopped moving.

Immediately, I felt the effects of the adrenaline being released into my blood stream. I would not be surprised if it took me less time to peddle up that hill than it did to come down it.

Since then, there have been a number of reported sightings.

From The Daily Show

Stewart Goes After Obama

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

From Tribe of Heart

TOH News Banner
News from

Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home
wins a Best of Fest Audience Award
at the Berkshire International Film Festival

Coming up: Screenings in Chicago, Cleveland and Johnstown, PA
Dear friends,
Audience AwardWe've recently returned from an unforgettable weekend in Western Massachusetts, where Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home won the Best of Fest Audience Award for documentary at the Berkshire International Film Festival. The film was shown twice, followed by lengthy Q&A sessions with an engaged and inspired audience.
The second screening was especially exciting for us, as two of the film's subjects, Harold Brown and Cheri Ezell-Vandersluis, were in attendance. This was Cheri's first experience of watching the film with an audience, and we were all moved to tears at many points during the screening. Likewise, it was the first public screening for Kevin Bartlett, one of the two talented composers whose music comprises the film's score (the other is Joy Askew). Though Kevin had seen the film with us privately, he remarked that it was ten times more powerful viewing it in a theater with an audience.
Berkshire FFBerkshire International Film Festival board member Maria Nation introduced the film as one that changed her life. Based on our interaction with viewers afterwards, as well as their written comments (see some of them below), it's clear that many others were similarly affected. So it was both a thrill and an honor to see this response reflected in their votes for our film, which led to the award.
We have three more screenings planned in the next few weeks, and we hope if you live near Chicago, IL, Cleveland, OH, or Johnstown, PA, that you can join us (see details in right column).
In addition to all these events, and in preparation for the DVD release, we have been working day and night on a new web site and print materials that will accompany the film. Time and again, we've heard from film festival viewers that they want to learn more so that they may continue on the journey of awakening conscience that the film has begun. To that end, our new web site, called Peaceable Journey, will be launched, along with a printed companion piece, shortly before we launch the DVD. We envision these resources being a valuable stepping stone not just for people who have seen the film, but for anyone beginning to explore the important issues touched on in the film -- compassion, non-violence, sustainability, and a global vision for peaceful co-existence.
We are ever mindful of the growing community of caring individuals all across the world whose invaluable advice, volunteer time and donations are what Jenny 
Stein and James LaVeck make our work possible.To you, we give our humble thanks as we continue on the journey to co-creating a compassionate future -- the journey home.

Warm wishes,
James and Jenny
Co-founders, Tribe of Heart

Tribe of Heart needs your support now, more than ever, to complete the Peaceable Journey web site and printed resources which will accompany the launch of the DVD. Please help us bring these much needed educational tools to people who are eager to put them to use in communities around the world!
Donations can be made online or mailed to:
Tribe of Heart, PO Box 149, Ithaca, NY 14851

Berkshire Film Fest
Audience Comments from the
Berkshire International Film Fest
One of the most powerful films I've ever seen -- an inspiration -- thank you.
Well worth the wait! Not only is "the journey home" about our individual and collective journeys to truth and justice, but the animals' journeys "home." They are our teachers if we will only listen -- hear them -- and learn. Maybe this is "the one" that will awaken the collective. I can only hope.
This film made me decide to reconsider my way of living. THANK YOU.
It is time for all of us to stop closing our eyes to the inhumanity imposed on our animal friends. Bravo! Forever changed.
Amazing and powerful and a visceral experience... I appreciate all the beautiful emotional connections between the animals and people. I'm very moved.
It's hard to communicate the number of feelings that enveloped me while viewing this film. The emotions of the audience surrounded and touched me as an ocean of compassion.
Very powerful without being preachy. Very brave -- it's especially powerful to see farmers talking about this. I'm a "locavore" who eats "humane meat" so there's much to think about.
It was eye-opening, heart-warming and nostalgic. Reminded me of the feeling I had as a child growing up on a dairy farm and connecting with so many cows, calves, chickens, etc. It was an amazing story of bravery and courage on the part of all the people devoting their lives to making such a great change at such a huge cost (financially) -- but also, what a great reward in being able to live and express such love and kindness and compassion. The reward is peace of mind and serenity.
If I had any doubt in terms of my future direction as a vet student, the film dissolved it; I have no choice but to devote my life to caring for the animal victims of gross human indiscretion.
Very moving film. When I was very little I had a pet chicken, Elizabeth. At the end of the summer she went back to the farmer. I thought of her a lot during this movie. She was a great chicken. That was over 60 years ago.

Intense. Meaningful and significant. Big messages to share. Emotional. Thank you!
Thank you for bringing my awareness to a shift of consciousness that is happening on a global level... seeing this movie, today, will affect the choices I make in what I eat. The humanity and courage of the people in this film touches me deeply -- people living their values -- and that is what needs to change... beyond our prayers, we can make a difference in how we live.
Outstanding documentary filmmaking... the music was extraordinary as well as the visuals.
I am usually articulate, especially with pen and paper. I am speechless... I'd like to remember how I feel now and make the changes I would like to make. I don't want to become complacent.
I'm not entirely sure whether to thank you for this exposure or whether to wonder if this opens a whole Pandora's box of questioning a large part of our culture and daily life. It was a fantastic film, extremely well done and very tender. I will only know how it affects me when I get quite a way down the road. Good luck with this endeavor.
Your film was eye-opening and powerful. I'm leaving the theater with many questions for myself that I have previously avoided. Thank you!
I had seen "Food, Inc." and was touched by the idea of supporting the small independent farmer -- however, this film goes even further... I never realized (duh!) cows had to be pregnant to produce milk. I thought it was a natural result of their digesting grass, hay, etc. Another real eye opener.
Thank you for a beautiful experience.
So very moving and enlightening. I felt my heart breaking at the violence and cruelty. It made me cry to think of the part I have played in the misery of other living creatures. Thank You!
Fantastic, life-altering film... very important piece of work. Congratulations.
Thank you for the awareness of the possibility to change in a huge way.

calf running
Watch a preview of
Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home
Visit the film's official web site

Mindful Metropolis article
A Peaceable Invitation
Mindful MetropolisIn Chicago's Mindful Metropolis magazine, documentary filmmaker James LaVeck discusses why he’s excited to share Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home with Chicago audiences later this month, what went into making the film, and some inspiring moments he’s experienced at recent screenings.
Read the full article: pdf or html

Upcoming Screenings
Mindful Metropolis
Chicago, IL
Thursday, June 24th
MindfuLive! Community Event
5:30 PM - Pre-Screening Reception
7 PM - Film Screening followed by
Q&A with filmmaker James LaVeck
Irish American Heritage Center
4626 N. Knox, Chicago, IL

Free Parking and convenient to 90/94,
CTA Blue Line: Montrose, and CTA Buses

Mindful Metropolis magazine hosts this special screening as part of their MindfuLive! Community Event series. Light fare will be served, catered by Tsadakeeyah's Catering Gourmet Vegan Food and The Chicago Diner. There is a cash bar. More details
Tickets are $15 in advance and can be purchased here. Tickets will also be available at the door for $20 (cash only).
facebook If you are on Facebook and plan to attend, RSVP here, and invite your Facebook friends, too!

Ohio Premiere: Cleveland
Sunday, June 27 at 4 PM
Cleveland Institute of Art
Aitken Auditorium
11141 East Blvd., Cleveland, OH

In University Circle, across from the Cleveland Museum of Art
FREE Screening & Reception
Plus Q&A with filmmakers Jenny Stein & James LaVeck, and film subject
Harold Brown
The newly formed Cleveland Animal Rights Alliance hosts this free screening and reception as their inaugural event. Former farmer Harold Brown returns to Cleveland where he formerly resided before moving to central New York and founding FarmKind.
Please share our evite with your friends and family in the Cleveland area!
facebook If you are on Facebook and plan to attend, RSVP here, and invite your Facebook friends, too!

Vegetarian Summerfest
Conference Premiere: Vegetarian Summerfest
Johnstown, PA

Saturday, July 10
Details TBA
Annual Conference of the
North American Vegetarian Society
Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center
University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown, PA
Screening followed by Q&A
with filmmakers Jenny Stein & James LaVeck and film subjects Harold Brown, Cayce Mell and Jason Tracy
We are delighted to be returning to the annual Vegetarian Summerfest for the conference premiere of our new film, which will also be the first public screening attended by film subjects Cayce Mell and Jason Tracy. Former farmer Harold Brown will also be joining us. Both he and producer James LaVeck will be giving talks throughout the weekend. If you've never been to the Vegetarian Summerfest, this is the year to check it out! More details coming soon.

Sheepish in Seattle
Devlin Last month's Seattle premiere of Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home at the beautiful Egyptian theatre drew a crowd of people lined up around the block to get in. This first community-organized screening of the film was a resounding success in every way we could have hoped. The nearly full house of 400 enjoyed an emotional and uplifting evening which included a lively Q&A with Willow Jeane and LymansHoward Lyman, and a reception featuring donated animal-friendly treats.
The audience response to the film was the warmest we have yet received, and in the days and weeks since the screening, Tribe of Heart volunteer Kate Sharadin, who organized it, has shared with us a steady stream of updates about the ripples of change that keep moving out from this single event: Hearts changed and minds opened, new friendships made and new commitments on the part of many people to align their lives with their values, to engage more directly with the work of creating a more just and sustainable future for us all.
audienceThis all-volunteer effort, carried out with consummate excellence by each person who took part, shows just how powerful authentic community can be. It is our caring effort, our commitment to our values, and our willingness to collaborate in service of something larger than ourselves--not money, not political connections, not fame--that are the keys to changing the world. Congratulations and many thanks to Kate and her outstanding team! You’ve inspired us all and established a high standard for all the community screenings to come in the months ahead.
Kate Sharadin
See more photos and some
audience comments here

Tribe of
 Heart logo Tribe of Heart is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that produces award-winning, life-changing films about the journey of awakening conscience and the ethics of the human-animal relationship.
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