Thursday, October 28, 2010

From The White House

Esperanza Spalding Performs at the White House Poetry Jam: 5 of 8

May 12, 2009 | 4:03 | Public Domain

Musician and rising star Esperanza Spalding performs “Tell Him” on the double bass at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word on May 12, 2009.

Sandhill Cranes (Please Read)

Dear Friends,

Nearly two decades ago, Tennessee wildlife officials began cultivating over 700 acres of feed crops (corn, millet, buckwheat and winter wheat) inside the 6,000-acre Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Meigs County. It was done in order to entice and encourage among other birds tens of thousands of migrating Sandhill Cranes to linger awhile in our state. As expected, the cranes liked the abundant food supply and soon began to stop and feed in and around the refuge.

Today, the refuge has become the temporary home of over 40,000 migrating Sandhill Cranes, and according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), the home to the state’s largest wildlife viewing event – the Cherokee-Crane Days festival. Thousands of individuals from all over the southeast and even other parts of the world gather at the refuge during the winter festival each year to view these majestic creatures.

Sharing the skies and the waterfront with the Sandhills is a small group of endangered whooping cranes along with a flock of snow geese, egrets, herons, bald and golden eagles, and other waterfowl and songbirds.

Recently, the TWRA discreetly informed the public that it was considering changing the status of the Sandhill Crane to a “game bird” in Tennessee, and if approved, would start a hunting season on them in the southeastern part of the state in 2011-2012.

When I first heard what the TWRA was contemplating my immediate responds was – THEY’RE WHAT?

To even consider such an action is beyond belief. Why would a government agency spend limited taxpayer dollars for nearly two decades to lure and entice a defenseless creature with sustenance and sanctuary, encourage them to flock and gather in enormous numbers, create a 17-year-old festival to celebrate their charismatic existence, attract thousands of devoted wildlife enthusiasts to Tennessee each year to admire these magnificent creatures, and then, in a complete reversal, propose hunting them for the “sport” of it?

It is mind-boggling, incredulous! Besides revealing the TWRA as a poor manager of Tennessee’s wildlife and resources, it completely and utterly identifies them as another government agency that cannot be trusted, an agency that is easily manipulated by a small but politically powerful group.

If this is an attempt by the TWRA to revitalize the vanishing “sport” of hunting, it is both imprudent and unwise. I can assure them, authorizing the killing of Sandhill Cranes will be extremely provocative and polarizing. Though the small influential hunting community will be thrilled, the larger more diverse community of wildlife watchers will not.

Sandhill Cranes attract tens of thousands of wildlife enthusiasts each year  to the Hiawassee Wildlife Refuge area. The communities near and around the refuge benefit from the increased revenues brought in by ecotourists. Nationwide, wildlife watchers and photographers outnumber and outspend hunters 6 to 1. The sport of bird watching alone is a multi-billion dollar business.  It is a valuable part of our nation’s economy, much more so than the so-called "sport" of hunting.

If the TWRA, once again, insists on using “crop damage” and “over population” to justify instituting a hunting season for yet another protected species in Tennessee, especially after using taxpayer dollars to intentionally interrupt the crane’s natural migratory behavior for over two decades, the cry from the larger community will be “foul”.

Killing should never be the first and primary solution to any perceived problem. It should always be the last resort, if that.

Has it not occurred to these so-called state wildlife managers to stop feeding them? To allow them, once again, to fly along their migratory routes as they have done for thousands of years without TWRA’s meddling?

The Agency's mission is "to preserve, conserve, protect, and enhance the fish and wildlife of the state and their habitats for the use, benefit, and enjoyment of the citizens of Tennessee
and its visitors." Nowhere in the Agency's mission statement does it mention providing hunters with an abundant number of wild animals to hunt and kill. And yet, it seems that that has been and continues to be the Agency's primary mandate and endeavor.

If the TWRA needs a broader based funding mechanism to accomplish its mission, let us all advocate for it. Believe me,  wildlife watchers, photographers, and birders will gladly pay fees to use state wildlife refuges. But, they will not pay fees to observe innocent wildlife killed by hunters.

Recently, Sandhill Cranes have become “game birds” in a number of states where they breed and/or migrate. These wild stately prehistoric symbols of life on earth are shot for "sport" and food all up and down the Central Flyway. Allowing them to be hunted in Tennessee, after luring them here would be a travesty.

I am not optimistic that the opinion of the general public will have any impact on TWRA’s final decision. Nonetheless, if you believe, as I do, that shooting these beautiful creatures (who are only capable of fledging, if they’re fortunate, one offspring a year) is an appalling act, please write or email the TWRA and express your views.

Thank you.

Dee Newman

Please call your TWRA Commissioner and other state-wide Commissioners! The website,, has a list of phone numbers, email addresses and a link to a map showing each of your districts. Comments need to be sent to Also, please send a copy of your comments to Chairman Mike Chase:


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

From Dan Miller's Notebook


August 15, 2008

There are 10 multiple choice questions here, each with a Tennessee connection. The correct answers are at the bottom of the page.

Play fair.... don't look at the answers until you've answered all 10 questions.

Just like in school, you must get 7 correct to pass.

Here we go:

1) What place in Nashville features the largest bronze doors in the world?
A. War Memorial Auditorium
B. The Parthenon
C. Alan Jackson's home
D. The Ryman Auditorium

2) Which of the following rivers is the longest?
A. The Harpeth
B. Caney Fork
C. Tennessee River
D. Cumberland River
3) The Ku Klux Klan was formed in 1865 in which Tennessee city?
A. Murfreesboro
B. Tullahoma
C. Pulaski
D. Bruceton
4) One of the following celebrities DID NOT attend Nashville's Hume-Fogg High School. Which one?
A. Phil Harris
B. Dinah Shore
C. Delbert Mann (movie director)
D. Mel Torme
5) One of these music legends -- as far as I can determine -- NEVER recorded a song at Sun Studios in Memphis. Which one?
A. Rick Nelson
B. Roy Orbison
C. B.B. King
D. Ike Turner
E. Charlie Rich
F. Conway Twitty
6) Which one of these cities NEVER served as Tennessee's state capital?
A. Nashville
B. Kingston
C. Murfreesboro
D. Knoxville
E. Manchester
7) When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped on the moon, what were they wearing that was manufactured in Nashville?
A. gloves
B. helmets
C. socks
D. sunglasses
8) After the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp honoring Tennessee's bicentennial celebration in 1996, what glaring mistake was discovered on the stamps?
A. the flag on the stamps was the wrong color
B. the flag was upside down and backwards
C. there was no glue on the stamps
D. the stamps were inadvertently priced one cent under the first class rate
9) What city lies at the exact geographical center of Tennessee?
A. Lebanon
B. Cookeville
C. Murfreesboro
D. Nolensville
10) In Fred Thompson's very first movie acting role, he portrayed what character?
A. the president
B. a senator
C. himself
D. a gangster


1) B. The Parthenon's doors are 24 feet high and 7 feet wide.

2) D. The Cumberland River is 678 miles long... just 26 miles longer than the Tennessee River.

3) C. The Klan was formed in Pulaski in 1865 by six Confederate veterans.

4) D. Mel Torme never lived in Nashville and obviously never attended Hume-Fogg though, coincidentally, he was known as "The Velvet Fog."

5) A. There's no indication that Rick Nelson ever recorded anything at Sun.

6) E. Manchester is the only one of those cities that never was the state capital... but, interestingly, Kingston was the state capital for only one day in 1807.

7) C. The socks worn by the astronauts as they stepped onto the moon in 1969 were manufactured by May Hosiery Mill on Chestnut Street in Nashville, which had a contract with NASA at the time.

8) B. The Tennessee Bicentennial stamps were backwards and upside down. And, get this... when someone from the Postal Service went to the governor's office to talk about the problem, they realized the flags inside the governor's office were also displayed upside down.

9) C. Murfreesboro is smack dab in the middle of every geographical line drawn border to border.

10) C. In 1977 Fred Thompson was Marie Ragghianti's attorney after she was fired from her job as Chairman of the Tennessee Parole Board for refusing to release convicted felons who had bribed aides to Governor Ray Blanton. In the mid-1980s, when the movie "Marie" was being made, the producers asked Thompson -- who had no acting experience -- if he'd like to play himself in the film. He agreed, and that led to all his other acting roles.

From Harpers

From The New York Times

An Indefensible Defense

Published: October 24, 2010

It can be hard to distinguish between the Bush administration and the Obama administration when it comes to detainee policy. A case the Supreme Court agreed last week to hear, Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, is one of those occasions.

It turns on a principle held sacrosanct since the country’s early days: the government cannot arrest you without evidence that you committed a crime. An exception is the material witness law, which allows the government to keep a witness from fleeing before testifying about an alleged crime by somebody else.

These principles were horribly twisted when John Ashcroft was President George W. Bush’s attorney general. The Justice Department held a former college football player in brutal conditions on the pretext that he was a material witness in a case in which he was never called to testify and which fell apart at trial.

The Bush administration’s behavior was disturbing, and so is the Obama administration’s forceful defense of this outrageous practice of using a statute intended for one purpose for something very different. Judge Milan Smith Jr. of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals called it “repugnant to the Constitution.”

The Justice Department arrested Abdullah al-Kidd, known as Lavoni Kidd when he was a star football player at the University of Idaho, at Dulles airport in March 2003 before he boarded a plane to Saudi Arabia, where he was going to work on his doctorate in Islamic studies. For over two weeks, he was treated like an enemy of the state — shackled, held in high-security cells lit 24 hours a day, and sometimes humiliated by strip searches. When Mr. Kidd was released, he was ordered to live with his wife and in-laws, restrict his travels and report to a probation officer. The restrictions lasted 15 months.

The government said Mr. Kidd was a material witness against Sami Omar Hussayen, who was tried for supporting an Islamic group that the government said “sought to recruit others to engage in acts of violence and terrorism.” A jury acquitted Mr. Hussayen on some charges and didn’t reach a verdict on others. Mr. Kidd was not called to testify. Nor was he ever charged with a crime.

Mr. Kidd sued Mr. Ashcroft personally, saying he unlawfully used the material witness statute as a pretext. The former attorney general asserted that he had immunity. In the ruling now being reviewed by the Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit found that he did not.

To qualify for absolute immunity, the appeals court said, Mr. Ashcroft had to be prosecuting Mr. Kidd, not investigating him. When the purpose is “to investigate or pre-emptively detain a suspect,” at most a prosecutor is entitled to qualified immunity. Mr. Ashcroft didn’t qualify even for that because Mr. Kidd made a plausible case that it was the attorney general’s own strategy that led to misuse of the material witness statute.

The word “plausible” is key. In 2009, by a vote of 5 to 4, the Supreme Court sided with Mr. Ashcroft and others in a lawsuit, because the complaint against them was too vague and the allegations were not plausible. The government hasn’t challenged the plausibility of the core allegations in the current case.

Prosecutorial immunity is intended to let prosecutors enforce the law without fear of being held personally liable. Protecting that legitimate aim did not require the administration to defend the indefensible. In forcefully defending the material witness statute on grounds that curtailing it would severely limit its usefulness, it is defending the law as a basis for detention. That leaves the disturbing impression that the administration is trying to preserve the option of abusing the statute again.

Another Walk at the Narrows (Photos)

Monday, October 25, 2010

From The New York Times (A Must Read)

What Happened to Change We Can Believe In?

Published: October 23, 2010

PRESIDENT Obama, the Rodney Dangerfield of 2010, gets no respect for averting another Great Depression, for saving 3.3 million jobs with stimulus spending, or for salvaging GM and Chrysler from the junkyard. And none of these good deeds, no matter how substantial, will go unpunished if the projected Democratic bloodbath materializes on Election Day. Some are even going unremembered. For Obama, the ultimate indignity is the Times/CBS News poll in September showing that only 8 percent of Americans know that he gave 95 percent of American taxpayers a tax cut.

The reasons for his failure to reap credit for any economic accomplishments are a catechism by now: the dark cloud cast by undiminished unemployment, the relentless disinformation campaign of his political opponents, and the White House’s surprising ineptitude at selling its own achievements. But the most relentless drag on a chief executive who promised change we can believe in is even more ominous. It’s the country’s fatalistic sense that the stacked economic order that gave us the Great Recession remains not just in place but more entrenched and powerful than ever.

No matter how much Obama talks about his “tough” new financial regulatory reforms or offers rote condemnations of Wall Street greed, few believe there’s been real change. That’s not just because so many have lost their jobs, their savings and their homes. It’s also because so many know that the loftiest perpetrators of this national devastation got get-out-of-jail-free cards, that too-big-to-fail banks have grown bigger and that the rich are still the only Americans getting richer.

This intractable status quo is being rubbed in our faces daily during the pre-election sprint by revelations of the latest banking industry outrage, its disregard for the rule of law as it cut every corner to process an avalanche of foreclosures. Clearly, these financial institutions have learned nothing in the few years since their contempt for fiscal and legal niceties led them to peddle these predatory mortgages (and the reckless financial “products” concocted from them) in the first place. And why should they have learned anything? They’ve often been rewarded, not punished, for bad behavior.

The latest example is Angelo Mozilo, the former chief executive of Countrywide and the godfather of subprime mortgages. On the eve of his trial 10 days ago, he settled Securities and Exchange Commission charges for $67.5 million, $20 million of which will be footed by what remains of Countrywide in its present iteration at Bank of America. Even if he paid the whole sum himself, it would still be a small fraction of the $521 million he collected in compensation as he pursued his gambling spree from 2000 until 2008.

A particularly egregious chunk of that take was the $140 million he pocketed by dumping Countrywide shares in 2006-7. It was a chapter right out of Kenneth Lay’s Enron playbook: Mozilo reassured shareholders that all was peachy even as his private e-mail was awash in panic over the “toxic” mortgages bringing Countrywide (and the country) to ruin. Lay, at least, was convicted by a jury and destined to decades in the slammer before his death.

The much acclaimed new documentary about the global economic meltdown, “Inside Job,” has it right. As its narrator, Matt Damon, intones, our country has been robbed by insiders who “destroyed their own companies and plunged the world into crisis” — and then “walked away from the wreckage with their fortunes intact.” These insiders include Dick Fuld and four other executives at Lehman Brothers who “got to keep all the money” (more than $1 billion) after Lehman went bankrupt. And of course Robert Rubin, who encouraged Citigroup to step up its investment in high-risk bets like Countrywide’s mortgage-backed securities. Rubin, now back as a rainmaker on Wall Street, collected more than $115million in compensation during roughly the same period Mozilo “earned” his half a billion. Citi, which required a $45 billion taxpayers’ bailout, recently secured its own slap-on-the-wrist S.E.C. settlement — at $75 million, less than Rubin’s earnings and less than its 2003 penalty ($101 million) for its role in hiding Enron profits.

It should pain the White House that its departing economic guru, the Rubin protégé Lawrence Summers, is an even bigger heavy in “Inside Job” than in the hit movie of election season, “The Social Network.” Summers — like the former Goldman Sachs chief executive and Bush Treasury secretary Hank Paulson — is portrayed as just the latest in a procession of policy makers who keep rotating in and out of government and the financial industry, almost always to that industry’s advantage. As the star economist Nouriel Roubini tells the filmmaker, Charles Ferguson, the financial sector on Wall Street has “step by step captured the political system” on “the Democratic and the Republican side” alike. But it would be wrong to single out Summers or any individual official for the Obama administration’s image of being lax in pursuing finance’s bad actors. This tone is set at the top.

Asked in “Inside Job” why there’s been no systematic investigation of the 2008 crash, Roubini answers: “Because then you’d find the culprits.” With the aid of the “Manhattan Madam” (and current stunt New York gubernatorial candidate) Kristin Davis, the film also asks why federal prosecutors who were “perfectly happy to use Eliot Spitzer’s personal vices to force him to resign in 2008” have not used rampant sex-and-drug trade on Wall Street as a tool for flipping witnesses to pursue the culprits behind the financial crimes that devastated the nation.

The Obama administration seems not to have a prosecutorial gene. It’s shy about calling a fraud a fraud when it occurs in high finance. This caution was exemplified most recently by the secretary of housing and urban development, Shaun Donovan, whose response to the public outcry over the banks’ foreclosure shenanigans was to take to The Huffington Post last weekend. “The notion that many of the very same institutions that helped cause this housing crisis may well be making it worse is not only frustrating — it’s shameful,” he wrote.

Well, yes! Obama couldn’t have said it more eloquently himself. But with all due respect to Secretary Donovan’s blogging finesse, he wasn’t promising action. He was just stroking the liberal base while the administration once again punted. In our new banking scandal, as in those before it, attorneys general in the states, where many pension funds were decimated by Wall Street Ponzi schemes, are pursuing the crimes Washington has not. The largest bill of reparations paid out by Bank of America for Countrywide’s deceptive mortgage practices — $8.4 billion — was to settle a suit by 11 state attorneys general on the warpath.

Since Obama has neither aggressively pursued the crash’s con men nor compellingly explained how they gamed the system, he sometimes looks as if he’s fronting for the industry even if he’s not. Voters are not only failing to give the White House credit for its economic successes but finding it guilty of transgressions it didn’t commit. The opposition is more than happy to pump up that confusion. When Mitch McConnell appeared on ABC’s “This Week” last month, he typically railed against the “extreme” government of “the last year and a half,” citing its takeover of banks as his first example. That this was utter fiction — the takeover took place two years ago, before Obama was president, with McConnell voting for it — went unchallenged by his questioner, Christiane Amanpour, and probably by many viewers inured to this big lie.

The real tragedy here, though, is not whatever happens in midterm elections. It’s the long-term prognosis for America. The obscene income inequality bequeathed by the three-decade rise of the financial industry has societal consequences graver than even the fundamental economic unfairness. When we reward financial engineers infinitely more than actual engineers, we “lure our most talented graduates to the largely unproductive chase” for Wall Street riches, as the economist Robert H. Frank wrote in The Times last weekend. Worse, Frank added, the continued squeeze on the middle class leads to a wholesale decline in the quality of American life — from more bankruptcy filings and divorces to a collapse in public services, whether road repair or education, that taxpayers will no longer support.

Even as the G.O.P. benefits from unlimited corporate campaign money, it’s pulling off the remarkable feat of persuading a large swath of anxious voters that it will lead a populist charge against the rulers of our economic pyramid — the banks, energy companies, insurance giants and other special interests underwriting its own candidates. Should those forces prevail, an America that still hasn’t remotely recovered from the worst hard times in 70 years will end up handing over even more power to those who greased the skids.

We can blame much of this turn of events on the deep pockets of oil billionaires like the Koch brothers and on the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which freed corporations to try to buy any election they choose. But the Obama White House is hardly innocent. Its failure to hold the bust’s malefactors accountable has helped turn what should have been a clear-cut choice on Nov. 2 into a blurry contest between the party of big corporations and the party of business as usual.

Friday, October 22, 2010

From Natural News

Why McDonald's Happy Meal hamburgers won't decompose - the real story behind the story

Sunday, October 17, 2010
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
Editor of (See all articles...)

It's always entertaining when the mainstream media "discovers" something they think is new even though the natural health community has been talking about for years. The New York Times, for example, recently ran a story entitled When Drugs Cause Problems They Are Supposed to Prevent ( We've been covering the same topic for years, reporting on how chemotherapy causes cancer, osteoporosis drugs cause bone fractures and antidepressant drugs cause suicidal behavior.

The latest "new" discovery by the mainstream media is that McDonald's Happy Meal hamburgers and fries won't decompose, even if you leave them out for six months. This story has been picked up by CNN, the Washington Post and many other MSM outlets which appear startled that junk food from fast food chains won't decompose.

The funny thing about this is that the natural health industry already covered this topic years ago. Remember Len Foley's Bionic Burger video? It was posted in 2007 and eventually racked up a whopping 2 million views on YouTube ( And this video shows a guy who bought his McDonald's hamburgers in 1989 -- burgers that still haven't decomposed in over two decades!

Now, he has an entire museum of non-decomposed burgers in his basement.

Did the mainstream media pick up on this story? Nope. Not a word. The story was completely ignored. It was only in 2010 when an artist posted a story about a non-decomposing McDonald's hamburger from six months ago that the news networks ran with the story.

Check out the video link above and you'll see an entire museum of Big Macs and hamburgers spanning the years -- none of which have decomposed.

This is especially interesting because the more recent "Happy Meal Project" which only tracks a burger for six months has drawn quite a lot of criticism from a few critics who say the burgers will decompose if you give them enough time. They obviously don't know about the mummified burger museum going all the way back to 1989. This stuff never seems to decompose!

Why don't McDonald's hamburgers decompose?
So why don't fast food burgers and fries decompose in the first place? The knee-jerk answer is often thought to be, "Well they must be made with so many chemicals that even mold won't eat them." While that's part of the answer, it's not the whole story.

The truth is many processed foods don't decompose and won't be eaten by molds, insects or even rodents. Try leaving a tub of margarine outside in your yard and see if anything bothers to eat it. You'll find that the margarine stays seems immortal, too!

Potato chips can last for decades. Frozen pizzas are remarkably resistant to decomposition. And you know those processed Christmas sausages and meats sold around the holiday season? You can keep them for years and they'll never rot.

With meats, the primary reason why they don't decompose is their high sodium content. Salt is a great preservative, as early humans have known for thousands of years. McDonald's meat patties are absolutely loaded with sodium -- so much so that they qualify as "preserved" meat, not even counting the chemicals you might find in the meat.

To me, there's not much mystery about the meat not decomposing. The real question in my mind is why don't the buns mold? That's the really scary part, since healthy bread begins to mold within days. What could possibly be in McDonald's hamburger buns that would ward off microscopic life for more than two decades?

As it turns out, unless you're a chemist you probably can't even read the ingredients list out loud. Here's what McDonald's own website says you'll find in their buns:

Enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid, enzymes), water, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, yeast, soybean oil and/or partially hydrogenated soybean oil, contains 2% or less of the following: salt, calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate, wheat gluten, ammonium sulfate, ammonium chloride, dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, datem, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, mono- and diglycerides, ethoxylated monoglycerides, monocalcium phosphate, enzymes, guar gum, calcium peroxide, soy flour), calcium propionate and sodium propionate (preservatives), soy lecithin.

Great stuff, huh? You gotta especially love the HFCS (diabetes, anyone?), partially-hydrogenated soybean oil (anybody want heart disease?) and the long list of chemicals such as ammonium sulfate and sodium proprionate. Yum. I'm drooling just thinking about it.

Now here's the truly shocking part about all this: In my estimation, the reason nothing will eat a McDonald's hamburger bun (except a human) is because it's not food!

No normal animal will perceive a McDonald's hamburger bun as food, and as it turns out, neither will bacteria or fungi. To their senses, it's just not edible stuff. That's why these bionic burger buns just won't decompose.

Which brings me to my final point about this whole laughable distraction: There is only one species on planet Earth that's stupid enough to think a McDonald's hamburger is food. This species is suffering from skyrocketing rates of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, dementia and obesity. This species claims to be the most intelligent species on the planet, and yet it behaves in such a moronic way that it feeds its own children poisonous chemicals and such atrocious non-foods that even fungi won't eat it (and fungi will eat cow manure, just FYI).

Care to guess which species I'm talking about?

That's the real story here. It's not that McDonald's hamburgers won't decompose; it's that people are stupid enough to eat them. But you won't find CNN reporting that story any time soon.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

From Consequence of Sound

Ben Folds proclaims his love for “Saskia Hamilton” on Fallon

By Ray Roa on October 15th, 2010 in News,

As if having the one and only Pee Wee Herman on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon wasn’t enough to get you to tune in to the show last night, yesterday’s installment of the show also featured a musical performance from Ben Folds.  If you don’t already know, Folds recently teamed up with acclaimed English novelist Nick Hornby (who was on hand to introduce the performance) for Lonely Avenue, an album which features music and vocals from Folds and lyrics from the 53-year-old author of numerous classics, including High Fidelity.

The duo hit the stage at NBC’s studio 6B and performed a synth-ed out, harmony laden, rocking version of “Saskia Hamilton”. The song has lyrics that find Folds singing about falling in love with the famed American poet despite only “seeing her name on a spine.” The lyrics themselves are awesome, but the energy from Folds and his band make the performance unforgettable. They even throw in Herman’s “secret word” for kicks.

Check it out below, then catch Folds on the road at one of the tour dates listed below. Tickets are available via

Ben Folds 2010 Tour Dates:
11/05 – Chicago, IL @ The Riviera
11/06 – Detroit, MI @ The Fillmore
11/07 – Grand Rapids, MI @ The Orbit Room
11/08 – Columbus, OH @ LC Pavilion
11/10 – Cincinnati, OH @ Bogarts
11/11 –  Pittsburgh, PA @ Club Zoo
11/12 – Buffalo, NY @ Town Ballroom
11/13 – Philadelphia, PA @ Tower Theatre
11/17 – Boston, MA @ Orpheum Theater

11/18 – Montclair, NJ @ Welmont Theatre
11/20 – Charlotte, NC @ The Fillmore
11/21 – Atlanta, GA @ Tabernacle
11/27 – Nashville, TN @ Tennessee Performing Arts Center

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

From Huffington Post

Why I Got Fired From Teaching American History

by Thaddeus Russell

Five years ago, I had every reason to believe that my job as a history professor at Barnard College was secure. I had been teaching there for four years, I had published my dissertation with a major publisher, and because I had tripled the sizes of the introductory U.S. history course and the American Studies program, colleagues told me they "would be shocked" if I were not promoted to a tenure-track position.

But that was before my colleagues knew what I was teaching.

I had always been a misfit in academia, partly because of my background, partly because of my personality, and increasingly over the years because of my ideas -- ideas that are now a book called "A Renegade History of the United States."

I was raised by pot-smoking, nudist, socialist revolutionaries as an egghead white boy in black neighborhoods in Berkeley and Oakland. I nearly flunked eighth grade and finished high school with a C average. Then I went to the anarchist, ultra-hippy Antioch College in Ohio, which accepted all their applicants, didn't give grades, and didn't have a history department.

So even though I managed to pull myself out of that background and into and through Columbia for a PhD, then onto a job at an elite college, I was highly uncomfortable moving from the world of weed to the world of tweed. I hated being "Professor." I cursed in class. I talked about sex. I used politically incorrect terms. My students said they had never heard the things I was teaching them in class. They called me "Bad Thad."

I showed them that during the American Revolution drunkards, laggards, prostitutes, and pirates pioneered many of the freedoms and pleasures we now cherish -- including non-marital sex, interracial socializing, dancing, shopping, divorce, and the weekend -- and that the Founding Fathers, in the name of democracy, opposed them. I argued not only that many white Americans envied slaves but also that they did so for good reason, since slave culture offered many liberating alternatives to the highly repressive, work-obsessed, anti-sex culture of the early United States. I demonstrated that prostitutes, not feminists, won virtually all the freedoms that were denied to women but are now taken for granted. By tracing the path of immigrants from arrival as "primitives" to assimilation as "civilized" citizens, I explained that white people lost their rhythm by becoming good Americans. I presented evidence that without organized crime, we might not have jazz, Hollywood, Las Vegas, legal alcohol, birth control, or gay rights, since only gangsters were willing to support those projects when respectable America shunned them.

This was not the standard left-liberal perspective my students had heard, and it certainly wasn't a conservative one, either. It was informed by an unlikely mix of influences, including the hippies and other cultural radicals I had encountered in my early life, black and gay cultures that showed me a way out of the self-imposed limitations of being white and straight, and libertarians who caused me to question the commitment to freedom among the left that I had been born into and which employed me as a professor.

I gave my students a history that was structured around the oldest issue in political philosophy but which professional historians often neglect - the conflict between the individual and community, or what Freud called the eternal struggle between civilization and its discontents. College students are normally taught a history that is the story of struggles between capitalists and workers, whites and blacks, men and women. But history is also driven by clashes between those interested in preserving social order and those more interested in pursuing their own desires -- the "respectable" versus the "degenerate," the moral versus the immoral, "good citizens" versus the "bad." I wanted to show that the more that "bad" people existed, resisted, and won, the greater was what I called "the margin of freedom" for all of us.

My students were most troubled by the evidence that the "good" enemies of "bad" freedoms were not just traditional icons like presidents and business leaders, but that many of the most revered abolitionists, progressives, and leaders of the feminist, labor, civil rights, and gay rights movements worked to suppress the cultures of working-class women, immigrants, African Americans, and the flamboyant gays who brought homosexuality out of the closet.

I had developed these ideas largely on my own, in my study and in classrooms, knowing all the while that I was engaged in an Oedipal struggle to overthrow the generation of historians who came of age during the 1960s and 1970s, controlled academic history, and had trained me. They were so eager to make the masses into heroes that they did not see that it was precisely the non-heroic and unseemly characteristics of ordinary folks that changed American culture for the better.

So I was quite anxious when I was asked to present my work to colleagues in order to get a long-term contract and be moved into line for a shot at tenure. A friend in the history department told me that given my publishing record and popularity among students the talk would be "really just a formality." But I knew it would be trouble.

Several distinguished professors from Columbia showed up, since the university has final say on all tenure decisions at its sister college, Barnard. During my talk, a Columbia professor who had been named by a national magazine as the most important public intellectual in the United States, stared at me with what I took -- rightly, it turned out -- to be disgust. Another walked out before I finished. One of my graduate school advisors asked a series of hostile questions. Other colleagues told me after the talk that I was "courageous," that I was "wonderfully, relentlessly revisionist," and that I made some famous historians "look like dinosaurs."

But emails came into the hiring committee from "important places," I was told, calling my ideas "improper," "frightening," and "dangerous." They said my ideas had no place in the academy and insisted that I be terminated. It was simply not okay for me to describe the "oppressed" in the terms used by their oppressors -- "shiftless," "sexually unrestrained," "primitive," "uncivilized" -- even though my argument transformed those epithets into tributes.

After I was told that I would be leaving Barnard, hundreds of students protested in faculty and deans' offices and the Columbia Spectator devoted an editorial to my case, but to no avail. There did indeed seem to be no place for me in the academy. And so I wrote a book.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

From DailyKos

DE-Sen: Video proof that O'Donnell really did say: "where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?"

by Jed Lewison

Tue Oct 19, 2010 at 10:52:49 AM PDT

As Markos wrote earlier, in a debate yesterday Christine O'Donnell said Chris Coons was ignorant about the Constitution and challenged him to explain "where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" When Coons explained that little thing about how the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws on the establishment of religion, O'Donnell didn't believe him. "You're telling me that's in the First Amendment?" she asked.

And it was all captured on video. Here's the key snippets (you can watch the full video here):

To answer Christine O'Donnell's question about whether the separation of church and state is in the First Amendment: yes, it is. And although I know she didn't realize it, the audience wasn't laughing with her. They were laughing at her.

DE-Sen: O'Donnell is a Con Law expert, but she's never read the Constitution

by kos

Tue Oct 19, 2010 at 10:10:03 AM PDT

I was on a radio show not too long ago promoting American Taliban, when a woman called in to defend the Tea Party. She said that she had gone to a Constitutional workshop and learned a great deal about the Constitution, and that it was a good thing. The host asked her, "What did you learn?"
The caller hemmed and stammered until finally she said, "There's the thing about guns, and how they can't ram health care down our throats." And that was it, in a nutshell, the teabagger understanding of our Constitution.
Witness Christine O'Donnell, a supposed serious person in their movement:
The exchange came in a debate before an audience of legal scholars and law students at Widener University Law School, as O'Donnell criticized Democratic nominee Chris Coons' position that teaching creationism in public school would violate the First Amendment by promoting religious doctrine.
Coons said private and parochial schools are free to teach creationism but that "religious doctrine doesn't belong in our public schools."
"Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" O'Donnell asked him.
When Coons responded that the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion, O'Donnell asked: "You're telling me that's in the First Amendment?"
Her comments, in a debate aired on radio station WDEL, generated a buzz in the audience.
"You actually audibly heard the crowd gasp," Widener University political scientist Wesley Leckrone said after the debate, adding that it raised questions about O'Donnell's grasp of the Constitution.
Instead of asking Coons about the First Amendment in a live debate, she could have spared herself the embarrassment and read it. I mean, we know that Republicans don't like to read things that are long and full of words, but it's the First Amendment, and the relevant part is the first clause of its single sentence:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Yet ignoramuses like O'Donnell walk around talking about the Constitution, making bold claims like this one:
"Talk about imposing your beliefs on the local schools," she said. "You've just proved how little you know not just about constitutional law but about the theory of evolution."
Remember -- O'Donnell knows more about Constitutional law than a room full of law professors and students, and she knows more about the theory of evolution than 99.99999 percent of the world's scientists.
And while O'Donnell won't win, a bunch of candidates like her will. It's going to be a much nastier, and a much dumber Congress, come January 2011.

Monday, October 18, 2010

From The Center for Public Integrity

Stimulating Hypocrisy: Scores of Recovery Act Opponents Sought Money Out of Public View

By John Solomon and Aaron Mehta | October 17, 2010
The following is an excerpt. To read the entire article click here
Lamar Alexander, the senior Senator from Tennessee, is another prominent GOP leader who voted against the bill, calling it a “colossal mistake” during debate. He has since written at least eight letters requesting funds. Several of these projects, he wrote, “will provide both short-term and long-term benefits” to “economically disadvantaged and distressed” regions in his state.

Sen. Lamar Alexander speaking on the floor of the Senate.

Spokesman Jim Jeffries told the Center that Alexander voted against the stimulus “because it was too much spending and too much debt for too little benefit to the economy.” However, he adds, “Republicans lost that fight and the money is being spent, and because Tennessee taxpayers are footing part of the bill, they have a right to apply for the funds.”

All told, five members of the GOP’s leadership — including McConnell, Pence, Sessions, Alexander, and Washington Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers — sent letters requesting that funds be funneled to more than a dozen projects. All voted against the bill.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


What Your Computer Might Look Like in 10 Years

Twenty-five years ago, a qualified job applicant was expected to be a capable typist who could work their way around an electric typewriter. Today, most companies expect their new hires to be expert PC users who are fluent in a number of programs (Excel, PowerPoint, PhotoShop, you name it).

When Remington manufactured the typewriter back in the late 1800s, little did anyone know that it would gradually morph into the computer, which has developed into a multifunctional device that is a staple in many people’s lives. But researchers and technology experts predict that the computer as we know it today is evolving into an even faster, “smarter” system that will be easier to use and maintain.

Current trend
In addition to working on our computers at the office for several hours a day, computers now also serve as one-step entertainment “venues,” which allow users to listen to music, watch movies, create photo albums, and more. According to Claire Doyle Ragin, a Durham, N.C., web design and communication professional, “Computers in the home are becoming home entertainment centers. We will probably ditch cable next year and get video over the Net. Between and Netflix instant downloads, I see no reason to have cable.”

Christopher Lampton, who has written extensively about consumer technology and has published approximately 100 books on a wide variety of subjects, says, “Over the next few years we'll see two major trends: One is the increasing interconnection of the electronic devices we use on a daily basis and the other is the proliferation of smart, tiny gadgets that can be used away from home. I already have my television networked to my desktop computer via my XBox 360, so that I can sit in the living room and stream video and music from my computer, watch movies from Netflix at the click of a button, and play video games, all without moving from my couch. I also have a collection of smaller gadgets -- a cell phone, an iPod Touch, and an e-book reader -- that I can carry with me when I go outside.”

Computers of the future
According to a November 2007 Computer World story, magnetic disk drives in laptops and other devices will be replaced with nanotechnology in the next few years, which will greatly speed up performance. also reported in July 2008 that researchers had created the first artificial DNA, which will influence technological advancements, including computers.

As “Sam,” a security engineer and tech expert who wishes to remain anonymous because of the nature of his job, explains: “With regard to nanotechnology and artificial DNA, computers are going to get smaller and be able to handle more tasks. For example, I see artificial DNA being used with accelerating the use of 'self-healing' servers (servers that can fix themselves when a problem occurs).”

According to Lampton, “What technology experts want to achieve is what they've wanted to achieve for decades now: computerized devices with more capacious storage and faster processing units. Nanotech and DNA-based computers are just possible means to these ends.”

The “smart” era
Will all this signal the end of the desktop computer as we know it? According to our experts, that day will eventually come. “Smart phones these days can accomplish most tasks that users require. Desktop and laptop computers will still be around for a while, but they will eventually be replaced by smart terminals in offices and smart phones in the field,” Sam says. He also predicts that computer circuitry will get smaller and smaller, with more features embedded into the device, and voice commands will be an option but not the norm. (Most people like the anonymity of typing rather than speaking, he explains.)

Doyle Ragin concurs: “Why lug around a computer when you can check your email, browse the web, etc., on a phone?”

“Cloud computing”
Cloud computing and web storage services also allow you to securely store all your documents, photos, downloads and more in the ‘cloud’ (the Internet) instead of your hard drive. According to Lampton, “Cloud computing can make the size of your computer's external memory effectively infinite.”

Updating your computer
As Lampton explains, “As for users, their computer needs will depend on what they plan to do. If all you want to do is type documents and send email, the computer you have today will probably still meet your needs in ten years.”

If you're not quite ready to ditch your laptop for a nanotechnology machine with artificial DNA, there are various programs that can help extend your existing PC's lifespan, such as Computer Checkup Premium and PerfectSpeed. Computer Checkup, for example, helps your computer run faster by cleaning up its hard drive, removing unnecessary startup items, cleaning the Windows registry and correcting common security flaws.

“For most people, the main motivation for upgrading may be to keep up with the increasingly large amount of data streaming on the Internet," Lampton says. "If you want to watch high-definition streaming video off the World Wide Web in real time while simultaneously carrying on a virtual conversation with several friends, you'll need a fast computer, a fast graphics card, and a fast Internet Service Provider.”

-- Tara Taghizadeh --

A Late Morning Walk at the Narrows

Iron Jawed Angles

HBO's 2004's Iron Jawed Angels starring Hilary Swank (as Alice Paul) Frances O'Connor (as Lucy Burns) Lois Smith (as Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw) Vera Farmiga (as Ruza Wenclawska) Brooke Smith (as Mabel Vernon) Patrick Dempsey, Julia Ormond as (Inez Milholland) and Anjelica Huston (as Carrie Chapman Catt.)

This movie will give you a glimpse into what our foremothers had to endure to gain the right to vote in this country.  

So Please – GO VOTE!

Part 1 of 12 

On January the 9th, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson announced his support of the Nineteenth Amendment:
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any States on Account of sex. The Congress shall have the power by appropriate legislation to enforce the provisions of this article.
The next day the House of Representatives narrowly passed the amendment. The Senate, however, refused to debate the amendment until October.

In the 1918 midterm elections The National Woman's Party urged voters to vote against anti-suffrage Senators up for reelection. Somehow, following those elections, most members of Congress became pro-suffrage.

On May 21, 1919, the House of Representatives passed the amendment by a vote of 304 to 89 with the Senate following the House's lead on June 4, by a vote of 56 to 25.

Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan were the first states to pass the amendment.

Georgia and Alabama rushed to pass their oppositions. The anti-suffrage forces included both men and women. They were well-organized, and passage of the amendment was difficult.

Eventually thirty-five of the necessary thirty-six states ratified the amendment. Anti-suffrage and pro-suffrage forces from around the nation descended on Nashville, Tennessee. The final vote was scheduled for August the 18th, 1920.

Up to that time a young  24 year old legislator, Harry Burn, had voted with the anti-suffrage forces.  But, his mother had urged him to vote for the amendment. When he saw that the vote would be tied 48 to 48, he decided to vote as his mother had urged him – for the right of women to vote. And so, on August the 18th, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th and deciding state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Unfortunately, the anti-suffrage forces used parliamentary maneuvers to try and convert some of the pro-suffrage votes to their side. Eventually their tactics failed.

And so, on August the 26th, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution became law, and women for the first time were able to vote in the fall elections, including for the President of the United States of America.

No Copyright Infringement intended. I do not intend on making a profit selling to others; I do not own this material; I am not abusing the copyright in any way. All rights and ownership belong to HBO.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I Have a Question

by Dee Newman

But first, let’s examine a few facts.

History has shown us, time and time again, when there are no restrictions on the accumulations of wealth other than the market itself, recession and/or depression are unavoidable. Capitalism collapses!

Why? Because free-market capitalism creates a climate conducive to greed, encouraging an unbalanced accumulation of capital, which inevitably leads to an economic pattern of boom and bust.

Over the last decade, conservative economic principles and policies, once again, nearly drove us to the depths of another Great Depression.

The truth is, President Obama inherited the worst financial crisis this country had seen since the Great Depression.

When the President took office his first and most urgent task was to stop the financial melt down and prevent the economic collapse from becoming another great depression.

And, he did it!

But not alone. As Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner points out in an article in the Washington Post, titled "Five Myths About TARP" the Troubled Asset Relief Program, "perhaps the most maligned yet most effective government program in recent memory," was not created by President Obama, but was created by a conservative Republican president, George W. Bush and passed by the same Republican congressional leaders who are now denouncing it as a Democratic strategy to assert more government control over the economy.
Despite new evidence about the low ultimate cost and positive impact of the TARP, there is still a chasm between the perceptions of the program and its overwhelmingly favorable effect on the U.S. economy.
The TARP was doomed to be unpopular from inception, because Americans were rightfully angry that the same firms that helped create the economic crisis got taxpayer support to keep their doors open. But the program was essential to averting a second Great Depression, stabilizing a collapsing financial system, protecting the savings of Americans and restoring the flow of credit that is the oxygen of the economy. And it helped achieve all that at a lower cost than anyone expected.

Geithner went on to point out:
Before President Obama took office, the Bush administration committed nearly $300 billion under the TARP, including investments in banks representing more than three-quarters of the entire sector, two of the three big American car companies and AIG. That support was critical to preventing a complete system collapse, but it also represented a level of government involvement in our economy not seen since the Great Depression.
Obama adopted a strategy designed to get the government out of the private sector as quickly as possible. To date, we have recovered more than $200 billion in TARP funds, as well as made $28 billion in profits. Our remaining investments in banks are a small fraction of what we inherited. And, in the end, 90 percent of that once-feared $700 billion TARP price tag either will not have been spent or will be returned to the taxpayers.
We will exit the AIG and automotive industry investments much faster than anyone predicted. General Motors is planning an initial public offering for later this year, and AIG has announced a restructuring plan that will accelerate the timeline for repaying the government.
The TARP is over. And as we put it behind us, it is worth noting that the financial security of all Americans is much stronger today than it would have been without the rescue strategy that the program made possible. It worked.

TARP was created to save us from the consequence of a very devious contrivance, "the sub-prime mortgage scam".

Real estate prices were artificially inflated by encouraging and allowing folks like you and me to buy homes on substandard credit and under terms that now seem not only ridiculous, but criminal.

The resulting mortgages were then fraudulently traded on the market as "AAA" securities.

Inevitably, this sham, like a house of cards, had to crash, and when it did, the economy of the entire world nearly collapsed with it.

Many of us here in the United States, particularly those of us who lost our homes and jobs, were greatly harmed by this calamity.

However, the culprits (the Bush Administration and the Republican controlled congress, all those corrupt conservative politicians and government agency regulators who turned a blind-eye to what was going on, the bankers and mortgage brokers who relaxed their credit rules and wrote all those ridiculous contracts, the rating agencies who lied about the value of all those packaged securities, and yes, the real estate agents who got rich peddling overpriced property to people who clearly could not afford it) remained, for the most part, as always, unscathed. In fact, many of them made out like bandits.

You would think that this economic crisis would cause everyone in congress, Democrats and Republicans, to come and work together, to collectively confront the crisis in a non-partisan and cooperative way. It was obviously a time for statesmanship. Unfortunately, as we all know, Republicans decided to pursue another path, a path of pure partisan politics, becoming the party of obstructionism and no.

The self-described champions of the "free market", the culprits of this catastrophe, remain resolute. Their goals have not changed; they continue to desire and push for lower and lower taxes on their income and investments, while pushing for fewer and fewer regulations on their business interests.

In spite of what this country and the world is now enduring, they have refused to admit or take any responsibility for the economic crisis. Nor have they offered any plausible or new approach to solving our nation’s economic problems. In fact, they have done nothing, except to propose the same old failed policies of the past, the same old conservative philosophy that led to this mess in the first place: trickle-down economics, touting, once again, de-regulation for Wall Street and corporate America.

Unfortunately, according to the polls, the massive negative “message repetition” by the GOP, assisted by their far-right media machine and their corporate cronies, has, once again, triumphed over the facts.

It is amazing how easily ignorance and fear can be used to manipulate and hoodwink large constituencies into disregarding their own health, happiness and well-being for the benefit of the well-connected and the well-to-do.

Is it, I wonder, really possible, after what these lying scumbags did to all of us during the Bush years, for the American people to hand them the reins, again?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Miner Miracle

When the last of the 33 miners was pulled to freedom late last night celebrations erupted in Chile and around the world. The men were all thought dead when the mine caved in on August 5th. But miraculously, 17 days later,  after boring a 2,000 foot hole (the width of a grapefruit) rescuers found them all alive. That tiny hole became their life line as water and food began to be lowered down the long narrow shaft, keeping them alive until a larger hole could be bored to bring them up.

Once that larger hole was completed (in record time) and the final operation began, it took only 22 hours for the Chilean miners to be pulled to the surface and another 2 and half hours for the last of the rescuers to emerged from the copper and gold mine late last night.

I too, like much of the world, have been transfixed on this human drama. And yet, over the last two months my mind has often flashed back to the coverage of other mine disaster rescues – some of which were performed far less proficiently and successfully.

During many, if not all, of these rescue efforts, my mind has often recalled Billy Wilder's 1951 film Ace in the Hole, staring Kirk Douglas. The film is an uncompromising portrait of human nature at its worst and a searing examination of the press, the news it reports and the manner in which it is reported.

Why is it, I wonder,  that a significant number of us are so perversely attracted to these horrific events?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

From Save Darfur Coalition

Dear Dee,

If you had 90 days to prevent another Darfur, what would you do?

On January 9th, Southern Sudan will vote for its independence. The country is currently led by an indicted war criminal, Omar al-Bashir. Both north and south are preparing for war, leaving civilians at grave risk of major human rights violations.

Send a message to President Obama asking him to act now.

The U.S. Secretary of State has called the situation a "ticking time bomb." The CIA has said that "mass killing or genocide is most likely to occur in Southern Sudan." President Obama has said that "the stakes are enormous."

We have a brief window of opportunity to do something that has rarely been done: stop a war before it starts. But if the international community is too hesitant or too late in its efforts -- as was the case in Darfur -- hundreds of thousands could die. The last war between the North and South was ended by a U.S.-led peace process, but not before two and a half million men, women, and children perished.

What can we do? Take action now by emailing President Obama.

Republicans and Democrats stand arm in arm for this cause, a cause which does not require sending US troops or billions of dollars. In fact, a combination of international pressure and robust diplomacy ended the last North/South war in 2005. It can work again.

Tell President Obama that we support every effort to use robust diplomacy -- in coordination with all our diplomatic partners -- to ensure a successful referendum, and peace in the South and Darfur. Our President has the power to gather the political will to stop a genocide before it starts, and we must demand that he do so.

The international community was late to Darfur. Late to the Congo. Late to Rwanda. Late to Bosnia. Tell our President that the people of South Sudan can't afford for us to be late again.

Your voice can stop a war.

Send a personal message to the president on the Sudan Now website.

–George Clooney and John Prendergast

Sunday, October 10, 2010

From The Atlantic

Why is This GOP House Candidate Dressed as a Nazi?

An election year already notable for its menagerie of extreme and unusual candidates can add another one: Rich Iott, the Republican nominee for Congress from Ohio's 9th District, and a Tea Party favorite, who for years donned a German Waffen SS uniform and participated in Nazi re-enactments.

Rich Iott, second from right, in a Nazi SS Waffen uniform.

Iott, whose district lies in Northwest Ohio, was involved with a group that calls itself Wiking, whose members are devoted to re-enacting the exploits of an actual Nazi division, the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking, which fought mainly on the Eastern Front during World War II. Iott's participation in the Wiking group is not mentioned on his campaign's website, and his name and photographs were removed from the Wiking website.

When contacted by The Atlantic, Iott confirmed his involvement with the group over a number of years, but said his interest in Nazi Germany was historical and he does not subscribe to the tenets of Nazism. "No, absolutely not," he said. "In fact, there's a disclaimer on the [Wiking] website. And you'll find that on almost any reenactment website. It's purely historical interest in World War II."

Rich Iott and his wife, as shown on his campaign website.
Iott, a member of the Ohio Military Reserve, added, "I've always been fascinated by the fact that here was a relatively small country that from a strictly military point of view accomplished incredible things. I mean, they took over most of Europe and Russia, and it really took the combined effort of the free world to defeat them. From a purely historical military point of view, that's incredible."

Iott says the group chose the Wiking division in part because it fought on the Eastern Front, mainly against the Russian Army, and not U.S. or British soldiers. The group's website includes a lengthy history of the Wiking unit, a recruitment video, and footage of goose-stepping German soldiers marching in the Warsaw victory parade after Poland fell in 1939. The website makes scant mention of the atrocities committed by the Waffen SS, and includes only a glancing reference to the "twisted" nature of Nazism. Instead, it emphasizes how the Wiking unit fought Bolshevist Communism:
Nazi Germany had no problem in recruiting the multitudes of volunteers willing to lay down their lives to ensure a "New and Free Europe", free of the threat of Communism. National Socialism was seen by many in Holland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and other eastern European and Balkan countries as the protector of personal freedom and their very way of life, despite the true underlying totalitarian (and quite twisted, in most cases) nature of the movement. Regardless, thousands upon thousands of valiant men died defending their respective countries in the name of a better tomorrow. We salute these idealists; no matter how unsavory the Nazi government was, the front-line soldiers of the Waffen-SS (in particular the foreign volunteers) gave their lives for their loved ones and a basic desire to be free.
Historians of Nazi Germany vehemently dispute this characterization. "These guys don't know their history," said Charles W. Sydnor, Jr., a retired history professor and author of "Soldiers of Destruction: The SS Death's Head Division, 1933-45," which chronicles an SS division. "They have a sanitized, romanticized view of what occurred." Sydnor added that re-enactments like the Wiking group's are illegal in Germany and Austria. "If you were to put on an SS uniform in Germany today, you'd be arrested."

Christopher Browning, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, said, "It is so unhistorical and so apologetic that you don't know to what degree they've simply caught up innocent war memorabilia enthusiasts who love putting on uniforms."

Iott says he does not recall exactly when he joined the Wiking group (his name appears on a unit roster as far back as 2003), but did so with his son "as a father-son bonding thing." He says his name and pictures were removed from the Wiking website not out of concern that they would harm his political career, but because he quit the group three years ago, after his son lost interest.

Iott participated in the group under his own name, and also under the alias "Reinhard Pferdmann," which has also been removed, and which Iott described as being his German alter ego. "Part of the reenactor's [experience]," Iott said, "is the living-history part, of really trying to get into the persona of the time period. In many, not just in our unit, but in many units what individuals do is create this person largely based on a Germanized version of their name, and a history kind of based around your own real experiences. 'Reinhard' of course is 'Richard' in German. And 'Pferdmann,' 'pferd' is a horse. So it's literally 'horse man.'"

Asked whether his participation in a Nazi re-enactor's group might not upset voters, particularly Jewish voters, Iott said he hoped it would not: "They have to take it in context. There's reenactors out there who do everything. You couldn't do Civil War re-enacting if somebody didn't play the role of the Confederates. [This] is something that's definitely way in the past. ... [I hope voters] take it in context and see it for what it is, an interest in World War II history. And that's strictly all."

Iott at Nazi re-enactment.

Rabbi Moshe Saks, of the Congregation B'nai Israel in Sylvania, Ohio, a suburb of Toledo that sits in the 9th district, disagreed. "Any kind of reenactment or glorification of Nazi Germany, to us, would be something unacceptable and certainly in poor taste, if not offensive," he said. "I think the reaction here will be very negative. And not just among the Jewish community, but the broader community."

In a follow-up email today, Iott seemed at pains to address concerns that his conduct may have alienated veterans groups but made no specific mention of possible offense to Jews or human rights groups: "Never, in any of my reenacting of military history, have I meant any disrespect to anyone who served in our military or anyone who has been affected by the tragedy of war. In fact, I have immense respect for veterans who served our country valiantly, and my respect of the military and our veterans is one of the reasons I have actively studied military history throughout my life." He added that he has participated in re-enactments as a Civil War Union infantryman, a World War I dough boy and World War II American infantryman and paratrooper.

The actual Wiking unit has a history as grisly as that of other Nazi divisions. In her book "The Death Marches of Hungarian Jews Through Austria in the Spring of 1945," Eleonore Lappin, the noted Austrian historian, writes that soldiers from the Wiking division were involved in the killing of Hungarian Jews in March and April 1945, before surrendering to American forces in Austria.

"What you often hear is that the [Wiking] division was never formally accused of anything, but that's kind of a dodge," says Prof. Rob Citino, of the Military History Center at the University of North Texas, who examined the Wiking website. "The entire German war effort in the East was a racial crusade to rid the world of 'subhumans,' Slavs were going to be enslaved in numbers of tens of millions. And of course the multimillion Jewish population of Eastern Europe was going to be exterminated altogether. That's what all these folks were doing in the East. It sends a shiver up my spine to think that people want to dress up and play SS on the weekend."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

John Lennon will be 70 on Saturday


Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

Friday, October 1, 2010

From White House Blog

White House White Board: CEA Chair Austan Goolsbee Explains the Tax Cut FightToday we're trying out something new -- White House White Board, in which one of our key players on the White House team will cut through the political back-and-forth you hear every day and break down an issue affecting American families into simple, understandable terms.  Today, Austan Goolsbee, the new Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers here at the White House, tackles the tax cut fight and what it means that Congressional Republicans are "holding middle class tax cuts hostage" as the President has said: