Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Three Little Birds: From Playing For Change

This video is the first track on their new album, PFC 2 – Songs Around The World, coming May 31st!! (click here to pre-order) The journey begins in West Africa, in the ancient village of Kirina, Mali. The instruments start to play, and we hear the familiar words “don’t worry about a thing, every little thing is gonna be alright.” The message is timeless  and invites us on a musical journey through time and space. "Playing for Change" continues to connect us to the world through music.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Robert Flower, Twelve

By Dee Newman

“Willy Flower, Fourteen”
that’s all the simple wooden cross said,
at least, that’s all it said in words.

He stood there for a long moment,
watching a tumbleweed fight
to free itself from a nearby cross,
turning his head frequently from the wind
to spit away the desert grit.

The winter sun had all but fallen
beneath the floor of the Yuma Desert,
inflaming a once white mass of cumulus clouds.
The chill that had crept across earlier
with the evening shadows had become
more than discomforting, drawing in
his shoulders as it shivered up his spine.

As he turned to head back
the tumbleweed finally broke free
and began to bounce around the cemetery,
scoring off the crosses as if each
were a peg in a pin-ball machine.

That afternoon he had quit school
(just as his brother and sister had done before him),
refusing to accept any longer
the endless jeering insults
of the white kids in Yuma.

“Why, why do they call me those names?”
he thought, as he bent beneath a rugged
Palo Verde limb to gather several
dead branches to take back for the fire.
“I’m not lazy. I don’t drink.”

The horrifying hush, the utter hopelessness
of the desert had all but eaten away his heart.
He felt as if he too were already dead.

Approaching the hut he saw his grandmother
leaning over the fire frying the last
of the government-surplus pinto beans.
He lived there in that ancient mud-twig hut
with his withered grandmother,
his nineteen-year-old sister,
and her two strangely glazed-eyed children.

While his brother was still alive
the six of them were existing on two
eighty-five dollar monthly welfare checks
and the beans and rice from the federal
government’s surplus food program.
Last month his brother’s portion
of their check was deducted.

After dropping the branches and small twigs
he had collected by the fire and ducking
within the door-less opening of their dirt-floor hut,
he lay down on an old cotton mattress
and buried his head in his crossed arms.

In the far corner on a bed of flattened
cardboard boxes his sister sat breastfeeding
both her infant and three-year-old.
Her dark liquid eyes glistened
from the light of the fire
as she watched her grandmother stir
the beans with an old wooden spoon.

Her husband had abandoned her a year ago,
ironically enabling his then pregnant wife
and daughter to draw welfare and survive.

Suddenly, her eyes drop to her daughter.
Pulling back from her mother’s breast,
the three-year-old sniffled, wiping her nose
uselessly with the back of her hand.
Only last week one of Amie Star’s
children died of bronchial pneumonia.

Rolling over on his back he felt something
hard beneath him. It was his brother’s Bible.
“He really believed it,” he thought to himself,
“but why, why had he . . .”

His mind began to race back to that night,
that terrifying night when they found him
still clutching the barrel with his big toe
locked within the trigger-housing
where he had released a load of buckshot
through the roof of his mouth and brain.

His brother had quit school only the day before.

I wrote this in 1970 after working for a five county community action agency in southern Arizona.

From Demoracy Now

Vermont Poised to Become 1st State to Enact Single-Payer Healthcare

May 26, 2011

Today Vermont is set to make history by becoming the first state in the nation to offer universal, single-payer healthcare when Gov. Peter Shumlin signs its healthcare reform bill into law. The Vermont plan, called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will attempt to stem rising medical care prices and provide universal coverage. We speak with Dr. Deb Richter, president of Vermont Health Care for All. She moved from Buffalo, New York, to Vermont in 1999 to advocate for a universal, single-payer healthcare system in the state. Gov. Shumlin calls her the “backbone” of the grassroots effort that helped persuade the Democratic-led state legislature to pass the bill this spring.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

From Common Dreams.Org (A Must Read)

After the assassination of bin Laden I received such a deluge of requests for comment that I was unable to respond individually, and on May 4 and later I sent an unedited form response instead, not intending for it to be posted, and expecting to write it up more fully and carefully later on. But it was posted, then circulated.

That was followed but a deluge of reactions from all over the world. It is far from a scientific sample of course, but nevertheless, the tendencies may be of some interest. Overwhelmingly, those from the “third world” were on the order of “thanks for saying what we think.”  There were similar ones from the US, but many others were infuriated, often virtually hysterical, with almost no relation to the actual content of the posted form letter. That was true in particular of the posted or published responses brought to my attention. I have received a few requests to comment on several of these. Frankly, it seems to me superfluous. If there is any interest, I’ll nevertheless find some time to do so.

The original letter ends with the comment that “There is much more to say, but even the most obvious and elementary facts should provide us with a good deal to think about.” Here I will fill in some of the gaps, leaving the original otherwise unchanged in all essentials.

Noam Chomsky
May 2011

*     *     *     *

On May 1, 2011, Osama bin Laden was killed in his virtually unprotected compound by a raiding mission of 79 Navy Seals, who entered Pakistan by helicopter. After many lurid stories were provided by the government and withdrawn, official reports made it increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law, beginning with the invasion itself.

There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 79 commandos facing no opposition - except, they report, from his wife, also unarmed, who they shot in self-defense when she “lunged” at them (according to the White House).

A plausible reconstruction of the events is provided by veteran Middle East correspondent Yochi Dreazen and colleagues in the Atlantic. Dreazen, formerly the military correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, is senior correspondent for the National Journal Group covering military affairs and national security. According to their investigation, White House planning appears not to have considered the option of capturing OBL alive: “The administration had made clear to the military's clandestine Joint Special Operations Command that it wanted bin Laden dead, according to a senior U.S. official with knowledge of the discussions. A high-ranking military officer briefed on the assault said the SEALs knew their mission was not to take him alive.”

The authors add: “For many at the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency who had spent nearly a decade hunting bin Laden, killing the militant was a necessary and justified act of vengeance.”  Furthermore, “Capturing bin Laden alive would have also presented the administration with an array of nettlesome legal and political challenges.” Better, then, to assassinate him, dumping his body into the sea without the autopsy considered essential after a killing, whether considered justified or not – an act that predictably provoked both anger and skepticism in much of the Muslim world.

As the Atlantic inquiry observes, “The decision to kill bin Laden outright was the clearest illustration to date of a little-noticed aspect of the Obama administration's counterterror policy. The Bush administration captured thousands of suspected militants and sent them to detention camps in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay. The Obama administration, by contrast, has focused on eliminating individual terrorists rather than attempting to take them alive.” That is one significant difference between Bush and Obama. The authors quote former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who “told German TV that the U.S. raid was ‘quite clearly a violation of international law’ and that bin Laden should have been detained and put on trial,” contrasting Schmidt with US Attorney General Eric Holder, who “defended the decision to kill bin Laden although he didn't pose an immediate threat to the Navy SEALs, telling a House panel on Tuesday that the assault had been ‘lawful, legitimate and appropriate in every way’.”

The disposal of the body without autopsy was also criticized by allies. The highly regarded British barrister Geoffrey Robertson, who supported the intervention and opposed the execution largely on pragmatic grounds, nevertheless described Obama’s claim that “justice was done” as an “absurdity” that should have been obvious to a former professor of constitutional law (http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-05-03/osama-bin-laden-death-why-he-should-have-been-captured-not-killed/). Pakistan law “requires a colonial inquest on violent death, and international human rights law insists that the ‘right to life’ mandates an inquiry whenever violent death occurs from government or police action. The U.S. is therefore under a duty to hold an inquiry that will satisfy the world as to the true circumstances of this killing.”

Robertson adds that “The law permits criminals to be shot in self-defense if they (or their accomplices) resist arrest in ways that endanger those striving to apprehend them. They should, if possible, be given the opportunity to surrender, but even if they do not come out with their hands up, they must be taken alive if that can be achieved without risk. Exactly how bin Laden came to be ‘shot in the head’ (especially if it was the back of his head, execution-style) therefore requires explanation. Why a hasty ‘burial at sea’ without a post mortem, as the law requires?”

Robertson attributes the murder to “America’s obsessive belief in capital punishment—alone among advanced nations—[which] is reflected in its rejoicing at the manner of bin Laden’s demise.” For example, Nation columnist Eric Alterman writes that “The killing of Osama bin Laden was a just and necessary undertaking.”

Robertson usefully reminds us that “It was not always thus. When the time came to consider the fate of men much more steeped in wickedness than Osama bin Laden -- namely the Nazi leadership -- the British government wanted them hanged within six hours of capture. President Truman demurred, citing the conclusion of Justice Robert Jackson that summary execution ‘would not sit easily on the American conscience or be remembered by our children with pride…the only course is to determine the innocence or guilt of the accused after a hearing as dispassionate as the times will permit and upon a record that will leave our reasons and motives clear’."

The editors of the Daily Beast comment that “The joy is understandable, but to many outsiders, unattractive. It endorses what looks increasingly like a cold-blooded assassination as the White House is now forced to admit that Osama bin Laden was unarmed when he was shot twice in the head.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

From The Writer's Almanac

Today is the birthday of short-story writer, poet, and occasional essayist Raymond Carver (1938) (books by this author), born in Clatskanie, Oregon. He was the son of a sawmill worker, and he got married young — right out of high school — to his 16-year-old girlfriend, Maryann Burk. They had two kids in quick succession, and he went to work in a variety of blue-collar jobs to support his young family. He took a college creative writing course in California when he was 20, and that sparked his first interest in writing as a profession. He's best known for his short stories, but he was also an accomplished poet in the realist tradition of Robert Frost and W.S. Merwin.

He drank heavily throughout the '60s and '70s, like his father before him, even as he was emerging as America's most influential writer of short stories. He made his name writing about the hardships of the working poor, in spare prose made sparer by the influence of his editor, Gordon Lish. He's been called "minimalist," but he didn't care much for that label. "It suggests the idea of a narrow vision of life, low ambitions, and limited cultural horizons," he said. "And, frankly, I don't believe that's my case. Sure, my writing is lean and tends to avoid any excess. There's a saying of Hemingway's that I could take for my motto: 'Prose is architecture. And this isn't the Baroque age.'"

In 1977, he got sober, convinced that he would be dead at 40 otherwise. He left his wife the following summer to move in with the poet Tess Gallagher, who would be his companion, muse, and co-author for the rest of his life. His writing became more expansive, more hopeful, and he referred to this period as his "second life."

Carver, who once described himself as "a cigarette with a body attached to it," died of lung cancer at the age of 50. His epitaph, from his poem "Late Fragment," reads:

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

Click here to read one of his short stories –  A Small, Good Thing

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

From The Kiss

When We Were More Than Dreams

By Dee Newman

In the morning light
Of another long and lonely night
I think of when it all seemed right
When we were more than dreams

Along this narrow ridge
There are traces of our passage
That still hold my heart hostage
When we were more than dreams

In this lonely place
I still long to be in your embrace
To feel your breath upon my face
When we were more than dreams

Beyond the rise, on the downward curve
The twists and turns test every nerve
Though we rarely get what we deserve
We never know what fate will serve

From the hill country
To the foggy depths of destiny
You’ll still have the best of me
As I go reaching for extremes

Through the mist and twilight
Of this cold and lonesome night
Nothing seems fixed or finite
Now that we’re no more than dreams

I suppose, I always knew
You were too good to be true
Too young to pursue
And that one day we’d seem
No more than just a dream

From RollingStone

His best songs, his funniest lyrics, a trivia quiz and more

By Rolling Stone

May 24, 2011 8:30 AM ET

Bob Dylan, one of the best and most influential songwriters of all time, turns 70 today. To celebrate this milestone, Rolling Stone has put together an enormous tribute to the man and his incredible body of work. We got stars such as Bono, Bob Weir and Lucinda Williams to reveal their favorite Dylan tune, rounded up the living legend's 10 best and 20 most underrated songs, and put together a challenging Dylan trivia quiz.

Photos: The Evolution of Bob Dylan
We also listed the 10 best Dylan bootlegs, his funniest and most inscrutable lyrics, as well as other musicians' finest cover versions of his songs. You can also check out the very first Rolling Stone interview with Dylan from back in 1969.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Morning Photos

The Cicadas Are Back

by Dee Newman

Earlier this month millions of 17-year periodical Cicadas began to emerge from the earth here in middle Tennessee and northward. Four or five days after their emergence, the males started “singing.”

Their high-pitched, courtship cacophony serves as a mating call to attract females. It is produced by two drum-like membranes on the side of their abdomens.

Once mating has been accomplished, the females begin laying eggs. They have a knife-like ovipositor they use to slit the twigs of trees and other woody plants. In each slit, the female lays around two dozen eggs and then she moves forward to cut another slit and deposits more eggs. Each female can lay a total of 400 to 600 eggs.

Adult cicadas live for only four to five weeks. Their eggs hatch in six to seven weeks. The newly-hatched white, ant-like nymphs then drop to the ground and work their way into the soil until they find a suitable root to suck on. They grow very slowly. And no, their feeding seems to have no noticeable effect on the trees.

According to the University of Tennessee’s Agricultural Extension Service there are two races of the periodical cicada. One with a life cycle of 13 years which is common in the southeastern United States and one with a life cycle of 17 years which is generally more northern in distribution. Due to Tennessee’s location, both the 13-year and 17-year periodical cicadas occur in our state. There are also various populations (called broods) that emerge at different 13- or 17-year intervals.

In May, seventeen years from now, the nymphs will, once again, burrow upward and leave the soil. The emergence usually occurs after sunset. The nymphs will seek upright structures on which to molt.

The new adults will emerge several hours later. They are, at first, soft and white but become harder and darker in a short period of time. Adults then take flight, and their life cycle continues.

Though we may find their mass emergence a nuisance, scientists say: it aerates the soil, provides a banquet to thousands of predators, trims the tops of trees, and provides a needed burst of nutrients into the environment.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

From The White House Blog

The President's Weekly Address: Reforming “No Child Left Behind” This Year

Posted by Jesse Lee on May 21, 2011 at 04:00 AM EDT

Having just given the commencement address at Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, which has made inspiring progress in recent years, the President says Congress must reform No Child Left Behind to help all our schools thrive.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

From Jack


I checked the blog after 6pm ET. That I could and that it was there astounded me! I had such hope for the End. So sad for so many of us. What shall we do? I had prepared myself for Hell.

The End would have given meaning compared to this:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Never mind.


To Jack

Soon his followers will be revamping
The predictions of Harold Camping.
        Once more, Jesus will not return,
        Nor will non-believers burn.
It will be a time for re-programing.

From Jack


I'm concerned that the almighty read your blog about the rapture. Being omniscient, I'm sure he did.

This will not go well for you.

Goodbye, Dee.

Know that you are, I mean were, valued in my life.

We still have time to talk before 6PM ET today.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Ben Folds-Sleazy (on Trple J)

An amusing live radio performance of Ben Folds and gang performing Sleazy.  Note:  Sam Smith plays fly swatter and coffee cup . . .

From The Teapot Party Blog

The Teapot Party began two days after Willie Nelson was arrested for marijuana possession in Texas on Nov. 28. He sent me an email suggesting the need for an alternative to the Tea Party – the “Teapot” Party. I started the Facebook page and and within 48 hours our nascent movement had 30,000 supporters.

Nelson christened the party with the motto: “We lean a little to the left – tax, it, regulate it, legalize it,” of course referring to marijuana. Several months went by and our numbers grew to 50,000. State and local chapters sprung up like weeds across the nation. A group calling themselves the Teapot Party State Administrators wanted more concrete action and soon divorced themselves from the main Teapot Party.

At this point I asked Nelson for more direction. He wrote back: “The purpose of the Teapot Party is to vote in people who believe the way we do, and vote out the ones who don’t.” With that in mind, we embarked on a campaign to find candidates to support in upcoming elections. Three of our candidates – Doug Linkhart (Denver mayor), Kris Bailey (Austin City Council) and Dana Larson (BC New Democratic Party – have lost their races. We recently endorsed Washington State Rep. Roger Goodman for Congress. We’ve also endorsed Nelson’s longtime friend Gatewood Galbraith (Kentucky governor) and Bill Levin (Indianapolis City Council).

On Tuesday, the Teapot Party announced our biggest endorsement yet – former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson for the Republican presidential nomination. This was done with great thought. Johnson has been courting the marijuana-reform establishment ever since he was governor from 1995 to 2003. With his position in favor of legalizing marijuana as an acting governor, Johnson was clearly blazing a new path. Since he left office, and especially during the last year, Johnson has attended and spoken at numerous marijuana events, including the NORML Conference, MPP Gala, Cypress Hill Smokeout, High Times Medical Cannabis Awards, Seattle Hempfest, Portland Hempstalk and the Austin Marijuana March & Rally.

Ten days ago, Johnson was in Texas for the Austin Rally. That night, he attended Nelson’s show in New Braunfels, near San Antonio. I set up a meeting between Johnson and Nelson before the show. I wanted them to get to know each other. If Willie approved of Johnson, we would move ahead and endorse him.

Two days later, I received the following email from Nelson about Johnson: “I think we should endorse him.” I informed Johnson’s campaign and they happily provided an “acceptance” quote from the Governor: “I am truly gratified to have the endorsement of such an iconic entertainer, philanthropist, innovator and champion for individual rights as Willie Nelson. Not only is he a superstar talent, he is a bold advocate for social change. Americans are demanding the freedom and opportunity to pursue their dreams without interference from a heavy-handed government, and Willie Nelson lends a tremendous voice to those demands.”

Yesterday, both the Teapot Party and Gary Johnson 2012 sent out press releases announcing the endorsement. The media immediately jumped on it, with Politico, Fox and Raw Story leading the coverage. We were on a roll.

But not so fast. I sent the press release and coverage links to Nelson. His response took me by surprise: “My position is it too early for me to endorse anyone. And I think every one should vote their  own conscience.”

I wrote back reminding him that he had approved the endorsement.

“I know I said that,” Nelson replied. “But I think I will wait and see where he stands on other things. My bad. Sorry. I still think he is a good guy but so Is Dennis and if he decided to run I would personally vote for him. If it came down to either him or Gary I’m already committed to Dennis. They both have said they support legal pot.”

Willie was referring to Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who he supported in 2008 for the Democratic nomination. I defended our choice of Johnson and reminded him that we were only endorsing him for the Republican nomination, which is wide open.

Willie then wrote back: “The Teapot Party is millions of people. It’s not me. I jokingly said after I got out of jail in Texas that there is a Tea Party and there should be a Teapot Party. The difference between us is we follow our own drummer. No one can tell us how to think. If we back someone that’s us telling them how to vote. I’m not qualified. You can say or do anything you like and I will do the same but let’s don’t back a political candidate. Let’s give our opinions and say what we know about everyone but let’s let everyone decide for themselves.”

He sent this quote to Linda Banks at stillisstillmoving.com and she posted it Wednesday morning.

So the cat was out of the bag, so to speak. Willie Nelson has changed his tune. “Where do we go from here?” I asked him.

“I still say that the people have the power to change things and they will if they vote,” Nelson replied. “The Teapot Party started as a joke but it could still be a way for people to speak out about important things. I am not a criminal. The millions of pot smokers in this country are not criminals. We don’t like being treated as such and I for one will stand up for what I believe in and will vote for anyone I choose. You should do the same. We are not ever going to agree on everything and everybody. The best advice I ever got was from my ex father-in-law. He said take my advice and do what you want to. End of story.”

And one more email from Nelson, sort of a postscript: “This will blow over and the world moves on. No harm done. We sound like a bunch of pot smokers, that’s all… The more I get into politics the more I realize that I am a guitar player.”

Over the next few days, Teapot Party coordinators around the country will reassess the party’s direction. Where should we go from here? Let us know.

From The Writer's Almanac

On this day in 1845, Robert Browning met Elizabeth Barrett (books by this author) in person for the first time. Elizabeth was one of the most popular writers in England at the time, and Robert Browning wrote her a letter in praise of her work. Elizabeth, who was suffering from a “nervous disorder” and was confined to bed, wrote him back and thus began one of the most famous courtships-by-letter in all of history.

Elizabeth was six years older than Robert and in poor health, and she had trouble believing he really loved her. But his letters convinced her, and they continued their correspondence and eventually married. But their entire relationship was carried out in secret because Elizabeth’s father had forbidden all of his children to marry. When he found out that Elizabeth had married Robert, he disinherited her. But Elizabeth had some money of her own and the couple settled in Italy, where Elizabeth bore one son, Pen, at the age of 43.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s most famous work was written after she met Robert Browning and includes Sonnets from the Portuguese (1846), a collection of 44 love sonnets and Aurora Leigh (1856), an epic novel/poem. At first, she thought the poems were too personal to publish, but Robert proclaimed them the finest sonnets since Shakespeare’s. “Portuguese” was Robert’s nickname for Elizabeth.

She wrote, “I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you.” 

From Sonnets from the Portuguese

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

From Tennessee Citizen Action

Share This:

Mary Mancini
Tennessee Citizen Action Statement on House Passage of HB130

Nashville, Tenn. (May 19, 2011) -- Today, the Tennessee General Assembly spent almost a full day arguing about a bill that will do absolutely nothing to bring quality jobs, fix our state’s economy, or generate revenue for
much-needed public services and infrastructure in the state. HB130, which would abolish the long-standing right of teachers to speak up for decent working conditions in their classroom and better pay, passed the House 59-39.

“It’s ironic and very sad that on the day the Tennessee Commissioner of Labor & Workforce Development announced that Tennessee’s unemployment rate for April rose to 9.6 percent, the conservative majority of the State House have shown that their priorities are completely out-of-line with those of the people of Tennessee,” said Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action. “We need a legislature that cares about what we care about - quality jobs, a robust economy, and more revenue for much-needed public services and infrastructure, not one that attacks the hardworking people of our state."

50 Vantage Way Ste 250 | Nashville, TN 37228 US

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

From The Writer's Almanac

On this day in 1902, archaeologist Valerios Stais discovered the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient analog computer from the first or second century B.C., that was used to calculate the position of the sun, moon, and stars in relationship to the observer’s position on the surface of the earth. For many decades, archaeologists did not recognize the mechanism’s degree of mechanical sophistication, which is comparable to a 19th-century Swiss clock. To date, the only other artifacts with that degree of mechanical sophistication have come from the 14th century or later.

Stais uncovered the mechanism while exploring the Anitkythera shipwreck off the northwest coast of Crete. Divers discovered the sunken ship in 1900 and had already unearthed statues, musical instruments, and other artifacts. Stais guessed that the mechanism was a clock and other archaeologists conjectured it was some type of astronomical device. But the mechanism, which has between 30 and 70 very small gears, underwent years of cleaning and it wasn’t until British science historian Derek J. de Solla Price began to investigate it in earnest that archaeologists realized the significance of the artifact, which had a front dial that showed the progress of the sun and moon through the zodiac; an upper rear dial showing various monthlong and yearlong cycles; and a lower rear dial that tracked the progress of a single month with an adjoining dial that tracked the 12 months of the lunar year.

Today the mechanism is on display at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens and is studied by the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project. In 2008, the Project found the inscription “Olympia” on the mechanism, and they now think the device may have been used, in part, to track the occurrence of the ancient Olympic games.

Production Credits

Host: Garrison Keillor
Writers: Betsy Allister, Margaret Boehme
Technical Director: Thomas Scheuzger
Engineers: Thomas Scheuzger, Noah Smith, and Sam Hudson
Permissions: Kathy Roach

Monday, May 16, 2011

From CBS 60 Minutes

Robert Gates: The soldiers' secretary

May 15, 2011 5:00 PM
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in his first interview since the killing of Osama bin Laden. Katie Couric also traveled with the secretary on a five-day mission to the Middle East that included a stop in Iraq.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

From NPR

Paul Simon has brought joy to so many for so long, but on this night he made Rayna Ford's dream come true. During a show in Toronto on May 7, Rayna Ford, a fan from Newfoundland, called out for Simon to play "Duncan," and said something to the effect that she learned to play guitar on the song. In a moment of astonishment and disbelief, Paul Simon invited her on stage, handed her a guitar and asked her to play it for the crowd. When she strapped on the guitar, the audience went crazy. In a few strums, the band played along, tears ran down Rayna Ford's cheeks and Simon stood by her side in smiles.

It was an absolute moment of sobbing joy for Ford and for the crowd. It was a moment so beautiful, so human, it could almost be a story in a Paul Simon song. Excuse me while I wipe my own tears. Go Rayna and all the Raynas out there with dreams. As the song says:
Oh, oh, what a night
Oh, what a garden of delight
Even now that sweet memory lingers
I was playing my guitar
Lying underneath the stars
Just thanking the Lord
For my fingers,
For my fingers

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Judgment Day: The Perils of Proselytizing

by Dee Newman

Last weekend I drove over to Greenville, SC. The daughter of my good friend, Bob Pazelinec, was graduating from Furman University.

On Saturday before the graduation Paz and I were walking down Main Street together in Greenville when we ran into a couple of young men from Bob Jones University.

One of the young men had a poster attached to a backpack extending above his head that read: Judgment Day May 21 – The Bible Guarantees It – Cry Mightily Unto God – FamilyRadio.com.

The two of them were passing out pamphlets and warning anyone who would stop and listen that God’s Judgment Day was at hand.

Paz (a psychologist and ex-seminarian) just walked away. I tried to explain to the young man who approached me that over the last 66 years I had lived through at least a half of dozen Raptures and was still here to tell about. He was not at all interested and continued to try and convince me that if I did not immediately accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior I was not only going to Hell, I was going to suffer unbearable torment.

I told him that I was not a believer and that (for me) God only existed in his mind and those who believe as he did. But, he just ignored me and continued his assault.

So, as Paz looked on, I decided to give that young man a piece of my mind . . . I told him that even if there was a God I would certainly not chose to worship an omnipotent deity who could have easily created fearless, intelligent, and decent human beings, yet who obviously preferred to make fearful, ignorant, and corrupt ones; who could have easily created a heaven here on earth, but chose to created a world of suffering for millions of innocent men, women, and children; who espouses justice, mercy, forgiveness, and the Golden Rule, while utilizing the fear of damnation and hell as a contrivance to intimidate and coerce his imperfect creations to do good works; who mouths morals to all his flawed offspring, and yet, lacks the understanding that morality can neither be arbitrary nor be promoted with promises of reward and/or threats of punishment; who states in Leviticus 25:44 that I may actually possess slaves provided I purchase them from a neighboring nation; And, who condemns immorally offensive acts, yet has committed them all Himself as his God has so proudly proclaimed within that there “Holy Book” he believes his God wrote word for word.

As he stood there with his mouth open, trying (I suppose) to conjure up a response, I thanked them for his concerns for my well-being and wish him a safe journey to the Promised Land on May the 21st.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

From Harper's

1. “Asymmetrical Warfare”

When President Barack Obama took office last year, he promised to “restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great.” Toward that end, the president issued an executive order declaring that the extra-constitutional prison camp at Guantánamo Naval Base “shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order.” Obama has failed to fulfill his promise. Some prisoners there are being charged with crimes, others released, but the date for closing the camp seems to recede steadily into the future. Furthermore, new evidence now emerging may entangle Obama’s young administration with crimes that occurred during the George W. Bush presidency, evidence that suggests the current administration failed to investigate seriously—and may even have continued—a cover-up of the possible homicides of three prisoners at Guantánamo in 2006.

Late on the evening of June 9 that year, three prisoners at Guantánamo died suddenly and violently. Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, from Yemen, was thirty-seven. Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, from Saudi Arabia, was thirty. Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, also from Saudi Arabia, was twenty-two, and had been imprisoned at Guantánamo since he was captured at the age of seventeen. None of the men had been charged with a crime, though all three had been engaged in hunger strikes to protest the conditions of their imprisonment. They were being held in a cell block, known as Alpha Block, reserved for particularly troublesome or high-value prisoners.

As news of the deaths emerged the following day, the camp quickly went into lockdown. The authorities ordered nearly all the reporters at Guantánamo to leave and those en route to turn back. The commander at Guantánamo, Rear Admiral Harry Harris, then declared the deaths “suicides.” In an unusual move, he also used the announcement to attack the dead men. “I believe this was not an act of desperation,” he said, “but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.” Reporters accepted the official account, and even lawyers for the prisoners appeared to believe that they had killed themselves. Only the prisoners’ families in Saudi Arabia and Yemen rejected the notion.

Two years later, the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which has primary investigative jurisdiction within the naval base, issued a report supporting the account originally advanced by Harris, now a vice-admiral in command of the Sixth Fleet. The Pentagon declined to make the NCIS report public, and only when pressed with Freedom of Information Act demands did it disclose parts of the report, some 1,700 pages of documents so heavily redacted as to be nearly incomprehensible. The NCIS documents were carefully cross-referenced and deciphered by students and faculty at the law school of Seton Hall University in New Jersey, and their findings, released in November 2009, made clear why the Pentagon had been unwilling to make its conclusions public. The official story of the prisoners’ deaths was full of unacknowledged contradictions, and the centerpiece of the report—a reconstruction of the events—was simply unbelievable.

According to the NCIS documents, each prisoner had fashioned a noose from torn sheets and T-shirts and tied it to the top of his cell’s eight-foot-high steel-mesh wall. Each prisoner was able somehow to bind his own hands, and, in at least one case, his own feet, then stuff more rags deep down into his own throat. We are then asked to believe that each prisoner, even as he was choking on those rags, climbed up on his washbasin, slipped his head through the noose, tightened it, and leapt from the washbasin to hang until he asphyxiated. The NCIS report also proposes that the three prisoners, who were held in non-adjoining cells, carried out each of these actions almost simultaneously.

Al-Zahrani, according to the documents, was discovered first, at 12:39 a.m., and taken by several Alpha Block guards to the camp’s detention medical clinic. No doctors could be found there, nor the phone number for one, so a clinic staffer dialed 911. During this time, other guards discovered Al-Utaybi. Still others discovered Al-Salami a few minutes later. Although rigor mortis had already set in—indicating that the men had been dead for at least two hours—the NCIS report claims that an unnamed medical officer attempted to resuscitate one of the men, and, in attempting to pry open his jaw, broke his teeth.

The fact that at least two of the prisoners also had cloth masks affixed to their faces, presumably to prevent the expulsion of the rags from their mouths, went unremarked by the NCIS, as did the fact that standard operating procedure at Camp Delta required the Navy guards on duty after midnight to “conduct a visual search” of each cell and detainee every ten minutes. The report claimed that the prisoners had hung sheets or blankets to hide their activities and shaped more sheets and pillows to look like bodies sleeping in their beds, but it did not explain where they were able to acquire so much fabric beyond their tightly controlled allotment, or why the Navy guards would allow such an obvious and immediately observable deviation from permitted behavior. Nor did the report explain how the dead men managed to hang undetected for more than two hours or why the Navy guards on duty, having for whatever reason so grievously failed in their duties, were never disciplined.

A separate report, the result of an “informal investigation” initiated by Admiral Harris, found that standard operating procedures were violated that night but concluded that disciplinary action was not warranted because of the “generally permissive environment” of the cell block and the numerous “concessions” that had been made with regard to the prisoners’ comfort, which “concessions” had resulted in a “general confusion by the guard and the JDG staff over many of the rules that applied to the guard force’s handling of the detainees.” According to Harris, even had standard operating procedures been followed, “it is possible that the detainees could have successfully committed suicide anyway.”

This is the official story, adopted by NCIS and Guantánamo command and reiterated by the Justice Department in formal pleadings, by the Defense Department in briefings and press releases, and by the State Department. Now four members of the Military Intelligence unit assigned to guard Camp Delta, including a decorated non-commissioned Army officer who was on duty as sergeant of the guard the night of June 9, have furnished an account dramatically at odds with the NCIS report—a report for which they were neither interviewed nor approached.

All four soldiers say they were ordered by their commanding officer not to speak out, and all four soldiers provide evidence that authorities initiated a cover-up within hours of the prisoners’ deaths. Army Staff Sergeant Joseph Hickman and men under his supervision have disclosed evidence in interviews with Harper’s Magazine that strongly suggests the three prisoners who died on June 9 had been transported to another location prior to their deaths. The guards’ accounts also reveal the existence of a previously unreported black site at Guantánamo where the deaths, or at least the events that led directly to the deaths, most likely occurred.
Satellite photograph from Terraserver.

2. “Camp No”

The soldiers of the Maryland-based 629th Military Intelligence Battalion arrived at Guantánamo Naval Base in March 2006, assigned to provide security to Camp America, the sector of the base containing the five individual prison compounds that house the prisoners. Camp Delta was at the time the largest of these compounds, and within its walls were four smaller camps, numbered 1 through 4, which in turn were divided into cell blocks. Life at Camp America, as at all prisons, was and remains rigorously routinized for both prisoners and their jailers. Navy guards patrol the cell blocks and Army personnel control the exterior areas of the camp. All observed incidents must be logged. For the Army guards who man the towers and “sally ports” (access points), knowing who enters and leaves the camp, and exactly when, is the essence of their mission.

One of the new guards who arrived that March was Joe Hickman, then a sergeant. Hickman grew up in Baltimore and joined the Marines in 1983, at the age of nineteen. When I interviewed him in January at his home in Wisconsin, he told me he had been inspired to enlist by Ronald Reagan, “the greatest president we’ve ever had.” He worked in a military intelligence unit and was eventually tapped for Reagan’s Presidential Guard detail, an assignment reserved for model soldiers. When his four years were up, Hickman returned home, where he worked a series of security jobs—prison transport, executive protection, and eventually private investigations. After September 11 he decided to re-enlist, at thirty-seven, this time in the Army National Guard.

Hickman deployed to Guantánamo with his friend Specialist Tony Davila, who grew up outside Washington, D.C., and who had himself been a private investigator. When they arrived at Camp Delta, Davila told me, soldiers from the California National Guard unit they were relieving introduced him to some of the curiosities of the base. The most noteworthy of these was an unnamed and officially unacknowledged compound nestled out of sight between two plateaus about a mile north of Camp Delta, just outside Camp America’s perimeter. One day, while on patrol, Hickman and Davila came across the compound. It looked like other camps within Camp America, Davila said, only it had no guard towers and it was surrounded by concertina wire. They saw no activity, but Hickman guessed the place could house as many as eighty prisoners. One part of the compound, he said, had the same appearance as the interrogation centers at other prison camps.

The compound was not visible from the main road, and the access road was chained off. The Guardsman who told Davila about the compound had said, “This place does not exist,” and Hickman, who was frequently put in charge of security for all of Camp America, was not briefed about the site. Nevertheless, Davila said, other soldiers—many of whom were required to patrol the outside perimeter of Camp America—had seen the compound, and many speculated about its purpose. One theory was that it was being used by some of the non-uniformed government personnel who frequently showed up in the camps and were widely thought to be CIA agents.

A friend of Hickman’s had nicknamed the compound “Camp No,” the idea being that anyone who asked if it existed would be told, “No, it doesn’t.” He and Davila made a point of stopping by whenever they had the chance; once, Hickman said, he heard a “series of screams” from within the compound.

Hickman and his men also discovered that there were odd exceptions to their duties. Army guards were charged with searching and logging every vehicle that passed into and out of Camp Delta. “When John McCain came to the camp, he had to be logged in.” However, Hickman was instructed to make no record whatsoever of the movements of one vehicle in particular—a white van, dubbed the “paddy wagon,” that Navy guards used to transport heavily manacled prisoners, one at a time, into and out of Camp Delta. The van had no rear windows and contained a dog cage large enough to hold a single prisoner. Navy drivers, Hickman came to understand, would let the guards know they had a prisoner in the van by saying they were “delivering a pizza.”
The paddy wagon was used to transport prisoners to medical facilities and to meetings with their lawyers. But as Hickman monitored the paddy wagon’s movements from the guard tower at Camp Delta, he frequently saw it follow an unexpected route. When the van reached the first intersection to the east, instead of heading right—toward the other camps or toward one of the buildings where prisoners could meet with their lawyers—it made a left. In that direction, past the perimeter checkpoint known as ACP Roosevelt, there were only two destinations. One was a beach where soldiers went to swim. The other was Camp No.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

From HBO's "Real Time" with Bill Maher

I was writing a political verse about how we got to where we are when a friend sent me the following clip of Bill Maher's last new rule of Friday’s episode of “Real Time.” I decided to post the clip and suspend the verse.

In the clip Maher points out that Republicans have proven themselves to be neither fiscally conservative nor strong on defense, losing "a ten-year game of hide and seek with Osama bin Laden” while quadrupling the national debt.

President Barack Obama, Maher proclaims, has proven himself to be “one efficient, steely-nerved, multitasking, black ninja gangster president.”

Watch the clip below, which aired on May 6, 2011 on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.” Embed courtesy Mediaite.

Monday, May 9, 2011

From The Los Angeles Times

Judges hand down the law with help from Bob Dylan

The protest era's vagabond poet is cited more often than any other songwriter in legal opinions and briefs. His ballads have become models for legal storytelling.
On summer nights in the mid-1960s, while black-and-white television crackled elsewhere in his Staten Island home with news of Southern violence and Vietnam, Bobby Lasnik would stretch out in his bedroom to let the righteous soundtrack of the civil rights movement waft into his impressionable teenage soul.

Tuned in to WBAI-FM, coming across the water from Manhattan, he heard baleful laments about injustice that he would carry with him for a lifetime.

"Suddenly there was someone speaking a certain kind of truth to you. You'd say, 'Wow! That's something I'm not used to hearing on the radio, something that moved me,'" Lasnik said of the first time he heard the lyrics of Bob Dylan. "I don't even remember which song it was, but I loved the imagery, the words you wouldn't think about putting together and the concepts that would emerge in your mind when you heard them."

Now the imagery flows in the other direction. U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik — Your Honor, not Bobby — has been known to invoke the voice of the vagabond poet in rulings from the federal bench in Seattle. He has recited lines from "Chimes of Freedom" in a case weighing the legality of indefinite detention and "The Times They Are A-Changin'," the battle cry of the civil rights movement, in a landmark ruling that excluding contraceptives from an employer's prescription drug plan constitutes sex discrimination.

Lasnik isn't alone in weaving Dylan's protest-era pathos into contemporary legal discourse.

No musician's lyrics are more often cited than Dylan's in court opinions and briefs, say legal experts who have chronicled the artist's influence on today's legal community. From U.S. Supreme Court rulings to law school courses, Dylan's words are used to convey messages about the law and courts gone astray.

His signature protest songs, "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times They Are a-Changin'," gave voice and vocabulary to the antiwar and civil rights marches. His most powerful ballads, "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" and "Hurricane," have become models for legal storytelling and using music to make a point.

Dylan's music and values have imprinted themselves on the justice system because his songs were the score playing during the formative years of the judges and lawyers now populating the nation's courthouses, colleges and blue-chip law firms, says Michael Perlin, a New York Law School professor who has used Dylan lyrics as titles for at least 50 published law journal articles.

Perlin and others lured to the law by the moral siren songs of the 1960s credit Dylan with roles in passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, federal sentencing guidelines that purport to ensure more equitable prison terms and due process reforms prohibiting racial profiling.

"Everyone wants to believe that the music they listen to says something about who they are," says Alex Long, a University of Texas law professor who has researched the penetration of political songwriting into the legal system.

"Being a judge is a pretty cloistered existence, having to crank out these opinions in isolation. Dylan was popular at the time they were coming of age and trying to figure out who they were," says Long, a 41-year-old exposed to Dylan's musings as a child at the foot of his parents' record player. "The chance to throw in a line from your favorite artist is tempting, a chance to let your freak flag fly."

During a semester in 2007, Long combed legal databases to identify lyrics in court filings and scholarly publications, finding Dylan cited 186 times, far outpacing the rest of the top 10: the Beatles, 74; Bruce Springsteen, 69; Paul Simon, 59; Woody Guthrie, 43; the Rolling Stones, 39; the Grateful Dead, 32; Simon & Garfunkel, 30; Joni Mitchell, 28; and R.E.M., 27.

And it doesn't end with musicians. In apparent efforts to add rhetorical flourish to their rulings, judges have also often cited famous writers and humorists. In a U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruling last year, Judge Francis M. Allegra lamented the perplexity of the 1982 Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act, writing that it "is the sort of law that brings to mind the old Mark Twain line: 'The more you explain it, the more I don't understand it.'"

But to date, it is the songs of the 1960s that seem to have the judges' ears.

One oft-cited line comes from Dylan's first top 10 hit, which half a dozen California appellate court rulings have included to convey that expert testimony is unnecessary to make a point obvious to any layman.

You don't need a weatherman

To know which way the wind blows.

— "Subterranean Homesick Blues"

Georgetown Law School Professor Abbe Smith describes Dylan's "Hattie Carroll" as "an almost perfect ballad, a little bit of story and a little bit of lecture." It mocks the injustice of a six-month jail sentence given a wealthy Maryland socialite, William Zantziger, for the 1963 beating death of black barmaid Hattie Carroll for being too slow to bring his drink.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

From The Rachel Maddow Show (Must Watch)

This is what I have been saying for years  . . .

War On Terror Fought On Bin Laden's Terms

From The Washington Post

Posted at 12:15 PM ET, 05/02/2011  
By Susan Jacoby

People cheer and wave U.S. flags outside the White House as President Barack Obama delivers remarks to the nation on the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, in Washington May 1, 2011. Al Qaeda's elusive leader Osama bin Laden was killed in a mansion outside the Pakistani capital Islamabad, Obama said. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) (JIM YOUNG - REUTERS)
I suppose that someone, somewhere in the United States finds it ethically repugnant that our government hunted down and killed Osama bin Laden. I am not that someone. It is just and necessary that this evil man was finally punished for the mass murders he engineered on September 11, 2001. But I am repelled by the scenes of mindless jubilation, from Times Square to the park in front of the White House, that erupted after President Obama delivered the news in a properly sober tone Sunday night.

I am even more repelled by the pundits who began blathering Monday morning about the renaissance of patriotism they discerned in the crowds of young people (mainly men) who materialized on the streets to chant “USA…USA,” on the mall to strip off their clothes in the reflecting pool, and near the bars around Times Square to lift a few cold ones after literally wrapping themselves in the flag. On NBC’s Morning Joe, Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal did everything but crow when she declared that the killing of Bin Laden sends a wonderful message to children because it demonstrates that “bad guys do get caught.” Mike Barnicle, another regular member of the commentariat at the table, saw the can-do spirit of America resurrected and predicted that regular guys looking for jobs would resume the search with more of a spring in their steps.

This is the sort of sentimental hogwash that has elevated unreason to a fundamental principle of American public life. “Bad guys do get caught.” One very bad guy was caught in this instance by years of intelligence work and by the Navy SEALs, the most elite military unit in the nation’s armed forces. That’s it. The episode says nothing about the general competence or achievements of Americans as a people or America as a nation.

I’m wondering if all of those patriotic young people will be motivated to actually vote in the next election. And I didn’t notice any lines Monday morning outside military recruiting offices. Talking about national pride is cheap, and today’s young Americans have an absolute assurance that they will not have to risk their lives for their country unless they choose to do so.

What we saw in the streets Sunday night and into the early hours of Monday morning was a demonstration of unearned joy. Far from home, a superbly trained military unit did what professional warriors do—took out an enemy of this country. Nothing less, nothing more. I was watching the New York Mets play the Philadelphis Phillies when the first rumors about Bin Laden’s death reached the stadium. You could see people getting the news from their cellphones and passing it to their neighbors, as the first chants of “USA” began in the crowd. This scene—people attending a sporting event while seeking additional diversion on their personal digital devices—is more than a metaphor for the way we conduct war now. It is the way we conduct war now.

If there is a moral here, it is emphatically not the childish mantra that “bad guys do get caught.” It is that unearned happiness is a fleeting, unreliable commodity that has nothing to do with reason, justice, or what it takes to build a decent society and a decent world.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

It Just Is

Old Photos of Norris and the Surrounding Area

In 1949 when I was four and half years old my family moved from Oak Ridge, Tennessee to Norris, a small planned community fifteen miles northeast of Oak Ridge. Norris was designed and developed by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in 1933 to house the workers building Norris Dam (the first TVA dam) named in honor of Nebraska Senator George W. Norris, a long-time supporter of TVA.

The design of the town was loosely based on the English garden city movement of the 1890s with the city’s winding, rolling roads following the contours of the east Tennessee terrain. The self-contained town represents one of the first uses of greenbelt design principles in the United States. It was built around a central common green and was surrounded by a green belt of rural land. The houses were built using local wood and stone and were some of the first all-electric homes in the country. Norris was the first town in Tennessee to have a complete system of dial telephones. The Norris Creamery was the first milk-producing plant in the world to be powered solely by electricity.

If you click the photo below it will take you to Eddie Stair's Facebook Photo Album where you may continue to click and see many more historic photos of Norris and the surrounding area:

Ben Folds - Sleazy (Ke$ha Cover)

From The White House

The Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. Seated, from left, are: Brigadier General Marshall B. “Brad” Webb, Assistant Commanding General, Joint Special Operations Command; Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Standing, from left, are: Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; Chief of Staff Bill Daley; Tony Binken, National Security Advisor to the Vice President; Audrey Tomason Director for Counterterrorism; John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Please note: a classified document seen in this photograph has been obscured.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Though Dead – Will We Allow Him TO Have The Last Laugh?

by Dee Newman

In November of 2004 Osama bin Laden told us that his goal was to “bleed America to the point of bankruptcy.” He went on to say that he had found it easy “to provoke and bait” the Bush administration and that America would suffer major human and economic losses while Bush’s buddies would rake in enormous profits. 

“ The real loser is you," he said. "It is the American people and their economy."

Yesterday, May 1, was the 9th anniversary of Bush's infamous "Mission Accomplished" declaration back in 2003. It was more than a year earlier, in 2001, that Bush told us that he would capture bin Laden "dead or alive."

Bush never did.

Though President Obama did, Osama bin Laden will surely have the last laugh if we continue this endless, unpaid for War on Terror. Bin Laden's goal to bleed us to the point of bankruptcy  will be realized.

We do not have the resources for nation building, not even for our own, let a lone, a country on the other side of the world . . . a country with a corrupt and failing government that continues to rely on cruel and repressive warlords.

To believe we can transform Afghanistan into a modern functioning state is ludicrous. A year ago we were teetering on the brink of an economic melt down, another Great Depression – mainly because of our reaction to 9/11 just as bin Laden had planned. Though we may no longer be teetering, we are still too damn close to the edge to try to transform any failing government but our own.

Please, Mr. President, stop the “bleeding!“ It cannot continue unabated, if this nation is to survive. Think about the jobs that will not be created here in the US, think about the money that will be squandered on an un-winnable war and that will never be invested in health care, our children's educations, and rebuilding the infrastructure we need to compete economically in the world.

We cannot possibly succeed. Ask the Russians. Ask Genghis Khan. Societies are not changed in two years or even in a single generation. The corruption of the Afghan government, the deaths and suffering of civilians caused by US and NATO forces is too great for us to ever win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. They will never rally behind the Karzai government or the occupation of their country by our armed forces.

As I said to President Bush – if the war against al Qaeda is truly vital to our national interests and security, then damn-it, implement a draft, and force us all to sacrifice. Stop allowing less than 2 percent of those eligible for military service to do the fighting for us – again and again and again. And for the sake and well being of us all, have the courage to increase our taxes in order to pay for it. Make us all sacrifice! Then and only then, will we truly know what is at stake.

Otherwise, get the hell out! 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

LIVE STREAM From The White House

Bin Laden Is Dead

From the East Room of the White House tonight, President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden was killed in a house outside of Islamabad, Pakistan.

The White House announced that Osama bin Laden's body will be handled in accordance with Islamic tradition.

According to them the compound was built in 2005 in the affluent suburb about 35 miles from Islamabad, but they do not know how long bin Laden actually lived there. The compound was eight times larger than other houses nearby.

The house was valued at about $1 million. It had no phone or Internet hook-ups. It had few windows facing out of the compound.

Up date: DNA testing confirms it is bin Laden

Transcript of President Obama's speech on the death of Osama bin Laden

Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.

It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history. The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory -- hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.

And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world. The empty seat at the dinner table. Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace. Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.

On September 11, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together. We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood. We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country. On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.

We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice. We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda -- an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe. And so we went to war against al Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies.

Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in that effort. We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense. In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government, which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support. And around the globe, we worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.

Yet Osama bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan. Meanwhile, al Qaeda continued to operate from along that border and operate through its affiliates across the world.

And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.

Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.

For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.

Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must –- and we will -- remain vigilant at home and abroad.

As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.

Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done. But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

The American people did not choose this fight. It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens. After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war. These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.

So Americans understand the costs of war. Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.

Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work, nor know their names. But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.

We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.

Finally, let me say to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores.

And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.

The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.

Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.