George Orwell and Howard Zinn on Nationalism

(noon. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Writing in 1945 in his remarkable essay Notes on Nationalism, author George Orwell noted the following distinction between patriotism and nationalism

Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism.  Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved.  By “patriotism” I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people.  Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power.  The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.

Author and journalist George Orwell

Is the expression of nationalism in itself, as George Orwell suggests, necessarily an undesirable urge?  Not if seen in its proper context.  After all, the desire to define a group’s identity and live under some form of societal organization gave birth to the idea of the nation-state and hundreds of years later, led to mass de-colonisation and independence for hundreds of millions of people around the world — particularly in the period immediately following World War I and leading to a trend which accelerated during the years after World War II.

A bombardier in World War II, historian Howard Zinn came to detest war and killing.  On this day in 2007, he wrote this article in The Progressive magazine in which he recounted the American obsession with the idea of nationalism and how it manifested itself in American foreign policy

On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed.

Is not nationalism — that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder — one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred?

These ways of thinking — cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on — have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those out of power.

2nd Lieutenant Howard Zinn, bombardier, Army Air Force in England, pictured decades earlier in 1945

Zinn didn’t condemn the kind of benign nationalism that exists in smaller countries lacking the technological wherewithal or the pernicious desire towards expansionism.  He didn’t explicitly state it but agreed that if nationalism is the celebration of a common culture, shared history, and similar experiences or of traditions, language, and ethnicity, he wouldn’t offer too many objections to this definition of an imagined community.  In countries where this wasn’t an evolutionary process, and which came into being without the pre-requisite conditions for the creation of a nation-state, the results have been disastrous.  The old Soviet Union comes to mind — a country that disintegrated for many reasons but also, importantly, perhaps because it became a state before it became a nation.

In the United States, given its size and propensity towards expansionism since its early years, Zinn saw a strain in the American character that he felt no pride in and found a country full of contradictions. From the early English settlers in this country to the years when Manifest Destiny was all the rage in the mid-19th century to our present ill-advised adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq, Zinn saw an American desire to dominate other peoples in direct contrast to its professed aims of ‘liberty,’ ‘democracy,’ and ‘freedom.’

Many years ago, I wrote this diary — Is the United States Imperialist? — which directly addressed the concerns raised above by Zinn

From Thucydides to Machiavelli to Bismarck to Winston Churchill to Charles de Gaulle to George Kennan on down, historians, theorists, and politicians have offered real lessons and, importantly, caution flags to our leaders.  It has become a cliche to suggest that the United States has never been and never will be an imperialist nation — damaging historical evidence to the contrary.  Our kids are taught that from an early age.  It is ingrained in our bones.  And too many of our leaders have often perpetuated this myth by painting our global actions in the best possible light.  We never seek to dominate and exploit other nations. We are Americans, they tell us, and not a hegemonic power conniving to stifle other cultures.  Our role is to assist, enlighten, reform, and lift up other nations.  It is indeed our ‘Manifest Destiny.’

In the period of the Great Depression and during the years in which this country was involved in the Second World War, leaders like President Franklin Roosevelt mobilized the entire country and this successful mobilization of men, women, material, and minds allowed the United States and its allies to ultimately prevail over the dark threat of Fascism.  Even during the decades-long Cold War from 1946-1991, leaders of both political parties appealed to the American people to join hands in an ideological struggle against an external threat and rallied this country to ‘contain’ Communism. Contentious as that policy was domestically — and  often carried to extremes during periods such as the McCarthy Era in the 1940’s and 1950’s — it was largely free of excessive religious rhetoric.  

If you’ve ever seen the movie The Spy Who Came in From the Cold based on John le Carre’s famous spy thriller novel, you’ll remember this unforgettable quote by Alec Leamas, the novel’s cynical, self-loathing protagonist

What the hell do you think spies are?  Moral philosophers measuring everything they do against the word of God or Karl Marx?  They’re not! They’re just a bunch of seedy, squalid bastards like me: drunkards, queers, hen-pecked husbands, civil servants playing cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten little lives.  Do you think they sit like monks in a cell, balancing right against wrong?

In 2007, Zinn reserved his harshest words for the likes of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for their distinctly non-secularist foreign policies

How many times have we heard President Bush tell the troops that if they die, if they return without arms or legs, or blinded, it is for “liberty,” for “democracy”?

And nationalism is given a special virulence when it is said to be blessed by Providence.  Today we have a president, invading two countries in four years, who announced on the campaign trail in 2004 that God speaks through him.

We need to refute the idea that our nation is different from, morally superior to, the other imperial powers of world history.

During the Bush Years — particularly since that fateful day on September 11, 2001 – discussions of American nationalism in a complicit media frequently degenerated into arguments over whether this country was more superior in its way of life when compared to others.  A natural extension of this xenophobia and the policies that flowed from this attitude were brilliantly captured in this article by Hendrik Hertzberg in the New Yorker magazine.

It was the emergence of this kind of ‘virulent’ nationalism that once compelled someone like Keith Olbermann to offer this special comment in which he quoted Oliver Cromwell in sending a message to the Bush Administration

You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately… depart, I say; and let us have done with you.  In the name of God, go!

Three years ago on Independence Day, Zinn found that sham of an administration openly flouting the rule of law and true to form, attempting to, though failing miserably to stifle dissent — an idea, coincidentally, central to the very basis of this country’s foundation.   Offering a cautionary note of restraint and self-reflection, he reminded us that excessive or ‘ultra’ nationalism could be quite dangerous to a country’s long-term democratic health.

In 1945, Orwell could have as easily been describing today’s delusional, irrational, and, yes, in many instances, racist Teabaggers when he wrote

The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them… every nationalist is haunted by the belief that the past can be altered.  He spends part of his time in a fantasy world in which things happen as they should.

If I can summarize George Orwell’s and Howard Zinn’s important messages, it would be this: it is useful, now and then, for every country to take a good look at itself in the mirror and never be afraid to air its dirty laundry even as it celebrates its many accomplishments.

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For the diary poll, please refer to these lists — Founding Fathers of the United States, Top 10 Founding Fathers, and Delegates to the Constitutional Convention — to learn more about the country’s Founding Fathers.

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I first wrote an abbreviated version of this diary on July 4, 2007

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Crossposted at Daily Kos and Docudharma

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Stuff

I have stuff. Lots of stuff and not just the tangible kind that you can put your hands on and touch. When I suggested to ek hornbeck that we start this site and began working on diaries that I should write to help fill the pages as we attract readers and participants here, I began by looking at some of the “stuff” in my bookmarks and went WOW, I need to “clean” out all this stuff. Then I said “Wait, I  now have a place to put this “stuff” that I am about to “delete” forever into the infinity of cyberspace”.

So, I am going yo to share with you some of “stuff” that I was about to put into a “trash bin”. Some of it is kind of funny, nostalgic and some of it is sad. Much of it is going to get the reaction I had. “What were you saving that for?” Where you out of your mind?” So here goes.

Squid up nose excites doctors

Things I Learn From My Patients

I think I remember why I saved this but it’s fuzzy

When will the Proxigean Tides arrive between 1999-2020?

I have no frelling clue as to why I saved this. The first paragraph put me into a coma, about its only use since I have insomnia. I found it better than the “Introduction to Inorganic Chemistry”

Of version numbering and convergence

I am pretty sure I know why I saved this but it’s time to send it to the “trash bin”

The 2000s: How things changed

I’m a redhead with brown eyes and I love my kitties

Photobucket

A game I never played but was good for a laugh when I sent it to my Republican in-laws.

Quail Hunting School

My daughter had rescued pet sheep from a petting zoo. One was named “Harold”.

Never mind Crop Circles now we have Sheep Circles

Photobucket

Ewe must be joking: Sheep form a perfect ring in Herefordshire in a bid to copy crop circle

I have this “Cat” in my herb garden.

Photobucket

One more. I sent this to ek as we were banging our heads on our computers putting diaries together and the finishing touches for the “Grand Opening”. This was originally for my son-in-law. a systems analyst and admin for the UN.

Photobucket,

The weird sense of really good sysadmins have can border on the sociopathic, but it’s nice to know that it stands between the forces of darkness and your cat’s blog servers.

Got “Stuff”?

Pique the Geek 20100704: The Science of Fireworks

(midnight. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

This has been sort of a recurring theme for me the past few years for the installment nearest Independence Day.  You can hit my profile and find the earlier entries in this series.

This time, I intend to focus on the single greatest improvement in technology (other than the development of black powder) that has made modern, highly colored fireworks possible.  Until relatively recently the only colors available were white, yellow, and a dull red, with very faded out, compared to today, other colors.

First some theory, then some facts.  Please follow.

Color in fireworks is produced, for the most part, in one of two ways.  The first way is for the firework act as a blackbody radiator, meaning that the color of the firework depends on the temperature of the burn.  Like heating steel with a torch, as it gets hotter it begins to radiate visible light, first a dull reddish glow, then orange, to yellow, to white hot.  You can see the same thing with an electric kitchen stove element, which gets brighter and less red as you pump in the electricity.

The incandescent light bulb takes this to the extreme, producing a yellowish white light.  However, it is not possible to produce a “pure” color with a blackbody radiator because of the fact that the distribution of radiation covers a broad spectrum.  The reason that you can get a fairly good red from one depends on the wavelength sensitivity of the human eye.  When something is glowing red, it actually is glowing over a wide range of wavelengths, most of them infrared that the human eye can not see.  A rattlesnake can, though.

Thus, except for the red, a blackbody radiator can not provide a “pure” color.  By the way, blackbodies are of extreme interest from the point of view of physics, because the behavior of their radiation was not explained by classical physics.  Max Plank explained the actual observations of blackbody radiators by postulating the quantization of energy, and that set the basis for modern particle physics.  A blackbody radiator is pretty well defined as an object that has no intrinsic color of its own, the color of the light that it emits being only a function of its temperature.  Another term for the same thing is cavity radiation, since a hollow sphere with a little observation hole in it behaves the same way, if the radiation from it depends only on temperature.

Thus, you can see that it is not possible to get vibrant colors from a blackbody radiator.  That means that some other process has to happen to make fireworks brilliant.  That other process is that of atomic emission of light (sometimes molecular emission).  Interestingly, is a direct result of quantization of energy, first postulated from the study of blackbody radiation.

When electronically excited, all atoms emit electromagnetic radiation when the excited electron returns to its ground state.  Sometimes this electromagnetic radiation falls into the visible range for humans.  I should explain those terms, or none of the rest of this will make any sense.  The ground state is the most stable arrangement of electrons around an atom at a particular temperature, in our case ambient July outdoor ones.  An excited atom has had some type of energy input to take an electron to a higher energy state.  It can exist in the excited state for very long, so the electron returns to its lower energy state, thus giving off a photon (the particle that mediates the electromagnetic force).  In doing so, if the wavelength is between 400 nanometers and 800 nanometers (roughly), it can be perceived as visible light to humans.

For example, the familiar neon light glows orange red because it has a strong emission in that part of the spectrum as an excited electron falls back to the ground state.  But if you were to feel of a neon tube, it would be barely warm (except at the ends, where the electrodes are).  You could hold on to the center of a glowing neon tube for hours without harm, but an oven element of the same color would burn you instantly and severely.  Thus, the mechanisms of color production are quite different.  In a neon tube, a weak electrical current excites some of the electrons to an excited state, then they fall back to the ground state.  Heat is not required, but also can be a source of excitation.  Here is the line spectrum of neon.

Neon

Neon

Note that the line spectra that I present are photographs, and photographic film is, for the most part, more sensitive in the violet and becomes less sensitive towards the red.  The human eye, however, has its maximum sensitivity in the yellow-green, falling off rapidly towards both violet and the red.

The same thing happens with a compact florescent lamp, except that mercury is the element emitting light.  However, we can not see the very efficient 253.7 nanometer wavelength (is is in the ultraviolet), so a coating on the interior of the bulb absorbs the UV and then reradiates it at a wavelength that is visible.  Thus, a 23 watt CFL can give off as much visible light as a 100 watt incandescent one.  Try this:  touch a 23 watt CFL coil and then a 100 watt incandescent one.  You can hold the CFL essentially forever, and will be burnt badly with the incandescent one.

All elements have characteristic line spectra when they fall from an excited state to the ground state.  One very familiar to you is that of sodium, which makes a gas flame look yellow, as when a salty stew boils over its vessel.  As a matter of fact, the element helium was discovered by an analysis of the light from the sun before it was found on earth, hence the name, from the Greek helios, sun.  For fireworks, the following ones are important.  I have given a name for the element and its line spectrum as a picture after it, with some comments.

Barium

Barium

Note that barium has a very complex spectrum, but the important thing to take away is that the human eye is most sensitive in the green part of the spectrum.  There you see a big, fat line in the blue green area, and another, not as fat one in the yellow green area.  When decoded by our brains, those two lines overwhelm the others and make a nice, pure green.

Strontium

Strontium

Strontium also has a complex spectrum, but if you look closely you will see that the fattest bands are in the red part.  (The apparent “fatness” of the bands in the blue region is an artifact resulting that photographic film is much more sensitive towards the blue end of the spectrum, unlike human eyes, and that that same film is very much insensitive to red wavelengths).  The result is a very carmine red as we perceive it.

Sometimes lithium is used for a red, but I can not find a picture of its line spectrum.  It tends to be shallower than strontium because of several reasons.

Iron is often used for sparkle effects, and it does has a visible spectrum.  However, because that it is burning very hot, we mostly see the blackbody radiation from it.  You can see that it emits in the green, mainly, but that is not what we see.  We see yellow to white sparkles since the blackbody effect very much overwhelms the atomic emission.

Iron

Iron

Yellow is easy.  Sodium does it well.

Sodium

Sodium

Look at that HUGE, fat line in the yellow (not too far from the human maximum sensitivity for color perception).  This is one reason that potassium salts are used to make pyrotechnic mixes for fireworks, because the sodium yellow line would overwhelm otherwise.  Sodium salts are cheaper than potassium ones, but everything would look yellow.  Here is why.

Potassium has a complex spectrum, but the fattest lines are in the far blue and violet.  Hence, a potassium transition is barely visible to the human eye.  By using potassium salts, the colors of the other elements can be observed.  As a matter of fact, potassium nitrate is used in military infrared flares because it is not very bright in the visible (although cesium nitrate is used in the more advanced ones, but it horrifically ($100 / lb or more).

Potassium

Potassium

White is easy.  Burning aluminum, magnesium, or both provide a very bright white light, due to blackbody radiation.  They burn at a much higher temperature than does iron, so their atomic emission spectra are completely overwhelmed by their blackbody radiation.

Orange is also easy.  Calcium is the ticket.

Calcium

Calcium

That big, fat band of orange overwhelms the green ones, and it looks orange.  However, orange is not a very popular fireworks color, the yellow from sodium contamination in the raw materials is often used to make up for it, and the incandescent burning iron makes a better effect.  Calcium is rarely used in fireworks.

Blue is the hardest to achieve.  No common, nontoxic element has a strong blue line, and our eyes are insensitive to blue in comparison with longer wavelengths.  Arsenic was used many years ago (unfortunately, I have not been able to find an emission spectrum of arsenic), but was banned because of its toxicity.

Making a true, quite blue, fire is just about the ultimate reach of the pyrotechnician.  In the first place, the human eye is relatively insensitive to blue photons, so there have to be a lot of them to get a proper sensation.  Second, with no atomic line spectrum that gives an intense one, other means have to be found.

That means is the copper/chlorine molecular ion.  Copper, in its 1+ electronic state (aka, cuprous) and chlorine form a very unstable molecular ion with the formula of CuCl+.  When excited gently, it produces a very pure blue light (I could not find the spectrum for it) that is dazzling.  Only in the past few decades has a “true” blue been possible without arsenic.  That is usually made by taking a copper salt and mixing it with polyvinyl chloride plastic, and with a minimum amount of oxidizer to keep the temperature low enough so not to destroy the molecular ion.

Now to mention the breakthrough in fireworks material.  Whilst black powder (a mixture of potassium nitrate, carbon, and sulfur) is usually used as the lifting mix in aerial fireworks, black powder burns at much too of high of a temperature for good color development.  Remember what we have discussed about exited states of atoms.

To make anything burn, there are three requirements.  First, oxygen (for normal burning, but other electronegative elements can also suffice), fuel, and a high enough temperature to keep the reaction going.  Unfortunately, potassium nitrate requires such a high temperature that things being burnt by its oxygen often become ionized rather than just excited.  That means rather than just exciting an electron to a higher state, the electron is completely removed from the atom.  When a new one finds its way back, the electromagnetic radiation that results is usually in the ultraviolet, and we humans can not perceive it, but some insects can.

That is why fireworks are almost totally dependent on potassium chlorate.  This material begins to emit oxygen at a very much lower temperature than the nitrate does, and makes possible the vivid colors.  Potassium nitrate does not decompose until 560 degrees C, but potassium chlorate, properly sensitized with sulfur, begins to decompose at around 120 degrees C.  Thus even in colored fireworks without a lifting charge, you can still smell burning sulfur.  Colored smokes are similar in that chlorate is used with sulfur to keep the temperature low enough not to decompose the dyes that color the smokes.  I love the smell of burnt powder!  It is pretty easy to make good greens, reds, and whites with it (most of the brilliant whites are from atmospheric oxygen, anyway, and are blackbody effects), but to get a good blue is extremely challenging.

That cuprous chloride molecular ion is very fragile, and even chlorate can ionize it, washing out the color.  Even with the elemental ones, temperature control is essential.  Fortunately, we have ways to make them behave.

One of the most important parts of a firework to develop good color is a coolant.  This is where science and art intersect, because it is impossible to say with any certainty what combination will work well.  The purpose of a coolant is to slow down the reaction between the fuel, the oxidizer, and the colorant to make the most intense display of brilliance.  Many chemicals have been used as coolants, but only a few work very well.

Sodium bicarbonate is a good one, since it releases carbon dioxide and water when it nears 100 degrees Celsius.  It is also a sweetener, since its weak basic properties neutralize the acids given off as the other materials decompose, making the fireworks more stable.  However, it does not last forever and finally can be exhausted as fireworks age.  Hint:  do not keep fireworks for more than a couple of years.  Not only does their performance suffer, they become, in some cases, dangerously unstable.

Another sweetener has to do with a series of complex organic molecules, often used in “smokeless” powder.  These are also sacrificial in that they neutralize the decomposition products of the propellant.  Most of them are not coolants, however.

We call them sweeteners because the acidic products of self decomposition are sour to the taste.  Caution to those of you who load your own cartridges, just use new powder.  Even 10 year old powder may be dangerously depleted in sweeteners.

You ask, “Doc, how do you know all of this?”  I answer that before I was five years old, my dad had taught me to reload shotgun shells (that was back in paper shell days).  I got good at it, and when the plastic ones came out, dad and I jiggered his rig to reload them, too.  Then came the sabot “shot cup”, made of plastic that replaced the compression and spacer wads that were made of wood fibre.

Well, I also became a scientist and found my way into making smoke munitions for hiding troops for the Army as a civilian.  I then had access to the best literature on the subject.  I also developed defensive “sting” grenades as well, and have been hit by many rubber balls testing them.  Yes, I kept on my protective glasses.

Well, that is it for tonight.  Eat your Independence Day food (mine happens to be a hamburger with all of the trimmings, the former Mrs. Translator’s baked beans, and perhaps some French fries (I eat them very rarely)).  I wish only the best for everyone reading, and hope that you have an excellent evening.

Well, you have done it again!  You have wasted many einsteins of photons reading this colorless post.  And even though Mike Huckabee admits that he is going to run in 2012 when he reads me say it, I learn much more by posting this series than I could possibly ever hope to teach.  Too bad that he has rectal/cranial inversion.  Please keep comments, recs, questions, and corrections coming!  No science or technology subject is off topic here, and I love to interact with folks who comment.

Warmest regards, and Happy Independence Day!

Doc

Crossposted at Docudharma.com and Dailykos.com

 

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

Now with 51 Top Stories.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Spotlight on bank tests as ECB readies rate meeting

by William Ickes, AFP

Sun Jul 4, 3:47 am ET

FRANKFURT (AFP) – The European Central Bank on Thursday will urge eurozone banks and governments to shore up their accounts in the face of market pressure for a clear reading on the health of the European financial sector.

The ECB’s main interest rate will undoubtedly remain at a record low 1.0 percent set in May 2009 and bank president Jean-Claude Trichet will press banks again to draw on state support if necessary to bolster balance sheets.

Around 100 banks across Europe are being subjected to “stress tests” aimed at determining whether they can withstand shocks such as another recession or the default of a major borrower.

2 New Afghan war commander formally takes reins

by Lynne O’Donnell, AFP

Sun Jul 4, 11:48 am ET

KABUL (AFP) – US General David Petraeus formally took up his new role as commander of the Afghan war during a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Kabul on Sunday, saying: “We are in this to win.”

In a solemn ceremony held amid tight security, Petraeus received the colours of US and NATO forces engaged in the Afghan war, marking his assumption of command over the 140,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan.

Wearing fatigues, he told a small crowd of Afghan military, civilian VIPs and diplomats, the war had reached a “critical moment” and reiterated his call for a united effort against the Taliban-led insurgency in the country.

3 New Afghan war commander appeals for unity

by Lynne O’Donnell, AFP

Sat Jul 3, 1:40 pm ET

KABUL (AFP) – US General David Petraeus appealed Saturday for a united effort to end almost nine years of war against the Taliban as he made his public debut as the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The four-star general, who arrived in the Afghan capital on Friday, faces a tough task to bring peace and secure a face-saving exit for allied troops fighting an increasingly deadly insurgency by the hardline Islamists.

“This is an effort in which we must achieve unity of effort and common purpose. Civilian and military, Afghan and international, we are part of one team with one mission,” Petraeus said at the US embassy in Kabul.

4 Kaczynski concedes defeat in Polish presidential bid

by Jonathan Fowler, AFP

28 mins ago

WARSAW (AFP) – Polish ex-premier Jaroslaw Kaczynski conceded defeat Sunday in a presidential vote forced by his identical twin’s air-crash death, after exit polls indicated he had lost to rival Bronislaw Komorowski.

“I congratulate the winner. I congratulate Bronislaw Komorowski,” the eurosceptic Kaczynski said in a speech at his Warsaw headquarters, as supporters gasped when the figures were revealed the moment voting ended.

Komorowski, the acting president and the candidate for Poland’s governing liberals, won 53.1 percent of the vote to conservative Kaczynski’s 46.9 percent, according to an exit poll for public broadcaster TVP.

5 Biden urges Iraqi leaders to break political deadlock

by Arthur MacMillan, AFP

1 hr 45 mins ago

BAGHDAD (AFP) – US Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday pleaded to Iraqi leaders to end the bickering and delays that have threatened to derail the conflict-torn nation’s democracy since an inconclusive general election.

Biden, on the second day of a visit to Baghdad, made his comments after separate meetings with the two men whose feud over who should lead Iraq’s new government as prime minister has deadlocked the political process.

He also stressed America had no “hidden agenda” over the outcome of the dispute which has overshadowed a phased withdrawal of US combat troops after seven years of operations since the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

6 Biden ‘extremely optimistic’ about Iraq’s democracy

by Arthur MacMillan, AFP

Sat Jul 3, 4:36 pm ET

BAGHDAD (AFP) – US Vice President Joe Biden said on a surprise visit to Baghdad on Saturday he was optimistic Iraqi politicians could end the squabbles that have deadlocked the conflict-torn nation’s democracy for months.

Biden, wearing a blue blazer and khaki slacks, was accompanied on the trip by his wife Jill, who was on her first trip to a country which has failed to form a new government since a close general election race on March 7.

The White House said the couple was “in Iraq to celebrate the Fourth of July with US troops,” but in his first remarks to reporters the vice president indicated that politics was at the heart of his unannounced visit.

7 Villa, Klose star as Europe tighten World Cup grip

by David Legge, AFP

Sun Jul 4, 12:27 pm ET

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – David Villa and Miroslav Klose confirmed they are among the finest football predators as the chances of a first European World Cup triumph outside the continent rocketed this weekend.

Netherlands are favoured to defeat Uruguay in the first semi-final Tuesday while Spain and Germany clash a day later in an intriguing repeat of the 2008 Euro final settled by a Fernando Torres strike.

Torres is having a bittersweet tournament as he helps Spain move within two victories of a first World Cup title while unable to regain the scoring touch that made him feared.

8 Villa leads Spain into W.Cup semi-finals

by Barnaby Chesterman, AFP

Sat Jul 3, 6:09 pm ET

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – David Villa scored the only goal as European champions Spain beat Paraguay 1-0 at Ellis Park on Saturday to set up a World Cup semi-final against Germany.

Villa, who now has five goals in the tournament, struck the winner seven minutes from the end of what had been a disjointed quarter-final performance from the fancied Spaniards in a game that saw both goalkeepers save second-half penalties.

Germany, who lost to Spain in the Euro 2008 final, had earlier thumped Argentina 4-0 in Cape Town.

9 Germany rout Argentina to reach W.Cup semi-finals

by Ryland James, AFP

Sat Jul 3, 2:44 pm ET

CAPE TOWN (AFP) – Germany stormed into the World Cup semi-finals on Saturday with a 4-0 demolition of Diego Maradona’s outclassed Argentina as Miroslav Klose edged towards becoming the tournament’s greatest ever goal-scorer.

Germany now face either Spain or Paraguay, who meet later on Saturday, in Durban next Wednesday with a place in the final at Johannesburg’s Soccer City on July 11 at stake.

It was the third time at these finals that rampant Germany had scored four goals in a match while Argentina superstar Lionel Messi once again failed to reach the heights expected of him.

10 Uruguay end brave Ghana’s bid on penalties

by Robert Smith, AFP

Fri Jul 2, 7:56 pm ET

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – Uruguay claimed their first World Cup semi-final appearance in 40 years after a pulsating 4-2 penalty shootout win over heartbroken Ghana at Soccer City on Friday.

Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera saved skipper John Mensah and Dominic Adiyiah’s attempts after the quarter-final had been locked at 1-1 after extra time.

Two-time World Cup winners Uruguay will now play the Netherlands in the semi-finals in Cape Town on Tuesday.

11 Russian spy arrests came after threats to decade-long probe

AFP

Sat Jul 3, 4:31 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The dramatic arrests of 11 suspected deep-cover Russian agents, a throwback to the heydays of the Cold War, came after a threat to the decade-long US investigation, a report said Saturday.

Last Sunday’s swoop on sleeper agents — 10 in the United States and another in Cyprus — living unremarkable suburban American lives revived nostalgia for the shadowy hostilities of decades past between the two superpowers.

It also came exactly a week ahead of the Independence Day holiday, when US patriotism runs at an all-time high.

12 230 dead after DR Congo tanker truck explosion

by Jean-Baptiste Badhera, AFP

Sat Jul 3, 4:58 pm ET

SANGE, DR Congo (AFP) – A fuel truck exploded and set fire to a village in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, killing more than 230 people and injuring scores, officials and local residents said Saturday.

Flames engulfed dozens of earth and straw constructed homes as villagers, many of them children, crowded around the tanker after it overturned late on Friday to scavenge its contents.

“People tried to escape but were caught by the fire and reduced to ashes,” said Tondo Sahizira, a 28-year-old teacher at Sange, home to some 50,000 people located around 70 kilometres (40 miles) south of the Sud-Kivu regional capital of Bukavu, close to the border with Burundi.

13 Supertanker skims oil as spill now worst accident on record

by Allen Johnson, AFP

Fri Jul 2, 7:59 pm ET

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AFP) – A Taiwanese supertanker began preliminary efforts to skim oil in the Gulf of Mexico Friday as the disaster became the worst accidental spill on record.

Rough seas and strong winds were expected to continue to delay clean-up efforts, displace protective booms and push the oil deeper into fragile coastal wetlands, endangering wildlife preserves and the thousands of birds nesting there.

“This is going to be a very long and arduous clean-up operation in the days to come,” said Coast Guard Admiral Paul Zukunft.

14 Protests in Pakistan after suicide attacks kill 43

by Waqar Hussain, AFP

Fri Jul 2, 1:56 pm ET

LAHORE, Pakistan (AFP) – Angry protesters took to the streets in Pakistan on Friday, burning tyres and condemning Taliban extremists after two suicide attacks killed 43 people at a shrine in the eastern city of Lahore.

The carnage at the Sufi shrine on Thursday was caught on camera in dramatic CCTV footage showing the bombers and the blast which sent hundreds of panicked worshippers fleeing in all directions engulfed in clouds of white smoke.

Thousands of protesters in Lahore and other cities demonstrated against the attack on the shrine dedicated to Sufi saint Hazrat Syed Ali bin Usman Hajweri, popularly known as Data Ganj Bakhsh.

15 Russian cargo ship fails to dock with ISS

by Stuart Williams, AFP

Fri Jul 2, 3:22 pm ET

MOSCOW (AFP) – An unmanned Russian Progress cargo ship on Friday failed to dock as planned with the International Space Station (ISS) after flying past the facility in a rare mishap, mission control said.

The Progress M-06M cargo ship, launched on June 30, is carrying 2.6 tonnes of fuel, food and water for the six astronauts on the station. Failure of automatic docking systems is known but a complete docking failure is very rare.

“The docking was scheduled at 20:58 Moscow time (1658 GMT),” a spokeswoman for mission control told AFP.

16 Falling unemployment fails to quell US recovery fears

by Andrew Beatty, AFP

Fri Jul 2, 3:26 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US unemployment rate fell to 9.5 percent last month as more than half a million people abandoned the job hunt, fueling doubts about the economic recovery.

The Labor Department reported a net loss of 125,000 jobs last month even as unemployment fell to its lowest rate in almost a year.

The falling jobless rate — down from 9.7 percent in May — offered some succor to President Barack Obama, who is running out of time to put the economy firmly back on track before congressional elections in November.

17 We have a ‘wiener’: American eats the most hot dogs

AFP

1 hr 21 mins ago

NEW YORK (AFP) – American Joey “Jaws” Chestnut wolfed down 54 hot dogs in 10 minutes on Sunday to claim his fourth consecutive world title in one of the planet’s most bizarre sports: competitive eating.

But the New York event was marred by the arrest of Takeru “Tsunami” Kobayashi, Chestnut’s arch rival from Japan who had pulled out of the contest but tried to storm the stage and disrupt the victory ceremony.

Chestnut, the 26-year-old reigning champion, left the rest of the competition trailing as he retained the coveted prize, a mustard-yellow prize-fighter’s belt, with room to spare.

18 Dunga takes rap as Brazil feels pain

by Angus MacKinnon, AFP

Fri Jul 2, 9:29 pm ET

PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa (AFP) – Brazil coach Dunga has accepted the blame for the World Cup quarter-final defeat by the Netherlands that brought his four-year reign to a bitterly disappointing end.

The man who captained the Selecao’s winning squad in 1994 has reached the end of his current contract and any hopes he may have harboured of being asked to stay on until Brazil hosts the tournament in 2014 were crushed by the Dutch, who came from behind to claim a 2-1 win on Friday.

“I was contracted for four years and we knew that from the start,” Dunga said. “During the last four years I have been very happy to coach this Brazilian team and if you look at the players’ faces you would understand how they feel.”

19 Liberal defeats bereaved twin in Polish vote: exit polls

by Jonathan Fowler, AFP

Sun Jul 4, 2:51 pm ET

WARSAW (AFP) – Liberal Bronislaw Komorowski beat conservative opposition leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Poland’s snap presidential election Sunday, exit polls indicated, in a vote forced by the air-crash death of Kaczynski’s twin.

An exit poll by the TNS OBOP institute for public broadcaster TVP gave Komorowski 53.1 percent of the vote to Kaczynski’s 46.9 percent.

A rival poll by MillwardBrown SMG/KRC for private station TVN showed Komorowski with 51.09 percent to Kaczynski’s 48.91 percent.

20 Treasure trove of vintage Arab film posters hidden in Beirut

by Jocelyne Zablit, AFP

Sun Jul 4, 1:33 pm ET

BEIRUT (AFP) – Deep under Beirut’s busiest shopping district lies a treasure trove of the Arab world’s film history where movie buff Abbudi Abu Jawdeh has amassed vintage film posters spanning some 80 years

What started as a childhood passion today offers a rare and little known pictorial record of Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi, Palestinian and Lebanese films, including many that no longer exist, lost over time because of wars, fires or simple neglect.

“I have loved cinema since I was a child and every Sunday, rather than go to church I would head to the movie theatre,” said the 52-year-old Abu Jawdeh, who runs a publishing house in Beirut’s Hamra district where his collection is stored.

21 US oil spill clean-up resumes after storm

by Allen Johnson, AFP

Sun Jul 4, 6:32 am ET

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AFP) – Clean-up work gathered speed in some areas of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill Sunday, but heavy swells kept many boats docked, halting efforts to fight the ecological disaster.

A Taiwanese mega-skimmer dubbed “A Whale” was in position near the site of the leak and set to undergo 48 hours of “proof of concept” testing, Coast Guard spokeswoman Ayla Kelley told AFP.

The 300-yard (275-meter) long tanker can vacuum up 21 million gallons of oily water a day, separating oil from water and spitting the seawater back out.

22 Gulf beaches quiet as spill spreads

By Sharon Reich, Reuters

Sun Jul 4, 1:06 pm ET

PENSACOLA BEACH, Florida (Reuters) – Gulf coast beaches, normally packed on Independence Day, were quiet on Sunday as workers cleaned up tar balls from BP’s leaking oil well while the company was reported to be taking steps to ward off potential takeover bids.

The impact of the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history on the Gulf of Mexico tourist industry was evident on its 76th day as dozens of workers picked up tar balls along Pensacola Beach.

“It’s … sad to see the beach is not as crowded as it normally is, there’s not as many people here. Not as many people in the restaurants. Very sad because you know they need the business,” said Derek Robbins, a tourist from Houston who has been coming to Pensacola every year for decades.

23 BP launches search for new investors: report

Reuters

1 hr 17 mins ago

LONDON/DUBAI (Reuters) – Oil major BP Plc is seeking a strategic investor to secure its independence in the face of any takeover attempts as it struggles with a devastating oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, newspapers said on Sunday.

Britain’s Sunday Times said the company’s advisers were trying to drum up interest among rival oil groups and sovereign wealth funds to take a stake of between 5 and 10 percent in the company at a cost of up to 6 billion pounds ($9.1 billion).

Abu Dhabi newspaper The National said BP could get a reprieve from Middle East financial institutions looking to make a strategic investment, citing informed sources.

24 Afghan war at critical stage, says Petraeus

By Rob Taylor, Reuters

Sun Jul 4, 1:29 pm ET

KABUL (Reuters) – The nine-year war in Afghanistan has reached a critical stage, U.S. General David Petraeus said on Sunday, as he formally took command of the 150,000-strong NATO-led force fighting a growing Taliban insurgency.

“We are engaged in a tough fight. After years of war we have arrived at a critical moment,” Petraeus told guests at a change-of-command ceremony at the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters in Kabul.

“We all recognize the threat that the Taliban, al Qaeda and the other associated syndicate of extremists pose to this country, this region and to the world,” he said. “We are in this to win.”

25 Biden nudges Iraqi leaders to end deadlock

By Rania El Gamal and Waleed Ibrahim, Reuters

Sun Jul 4, 4:16 pm ET

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Vice President Joe Biden urged Iraqi leaders on Sunday to press ahead and form a government after four months of post-election deadlock but said neither Washington nor anyone else should dictate to them.

In talks with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the top vote winner in the March 7 election, ex-Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, Biden promised U.S. support for Iraq’s democracy as it emerges from sectarian war but struggles to halt a stubborn insurgency.

He said Washington had a long-term commitment to Iraq despite plans to end U.S. combat operations in August and withdraw completely next year, and cautioned Iraq against falling under the sway of other nations in the region.

26 Komorowski wins Polish presidential election

By Gabriela Baczynska and Pawel Sobczak, Reuters

1 hr 52 mins ago

WARSAW (Reuters) – Bronislaw Komorowski, the candidate of Poland’s ruling pro-business Civic Platform (PO), won Sunday’s presidential election run-off, removing a potential obstacle to reforms needed to repair battered public finances.

An exit poll by TVP state television gave Komorowski, who was previously acting president, 53 percent of the vote against 47 percent for his rival Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the right-wing main opposition party Law and Justice (PiS).

Partial results based on just 21 percent of ballots counted showed Komorowski on 51 percent and Kaczynski on 49 percent.

27 Suicide bomber in government HQ in west Iraq kills 3

Reuters

Sun Jul 4, 6:50 am ET

FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) – A female suicide bomber blew herself up Sunday in the governor’s compound of Iraq’s western Anbar province, killing three people and wounding 39, as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visited Baghdad, officials said.

A police source said the blast occurred in the reception area of the heavily fortified compound in Ramadi, 100 km (60 miles) west of the capital. A hospital source said the 39 wounded included 13 police officers.

The sprawling desert province was the heartland of a fierce Sunni Islamist insurgency after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and was in the grip of al Qaeda. Its main cities, Ramadi and Falluja, witnessed some of the fiercest fighting of the war.

28 U.S. asks Japan to pay more for moving Marines

Reuters

Sun Jul 4, 3:40 am ET

TOKYO (Reuters) – The United States has asked Japan to shoulder additional costs for shifting part of the U.S. Marines based in southern Japan to Guam, Kyodo news agency said, further complicating bilateral ties already hurt by disputes over where to relocate the U.S. airbase.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates made the request last month because costs for upgrading water, electricity and other infrastructure to accommodate incoming personnel will likely exceed original estimates, Kyodo said, citing diplomatic sources.

Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama had raised the hopes of people on the Japanese southern island of Okinawa last year that the U.S. Futenma airbase could be moved off the island despite a 2006 deal to shift the base to a less crowded part of Okinawa.

29 Fuel tanker explosion kills over 230 in Congo

By Katrina Manson, Reuters

Sat Jul 3, 2:49 pm ET

KINSHASA (Reuters) – At least 230 people were killed when a fuel tanker overturned and exploded in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, unleashing a fire ball that tore through homes and cinemas packed with people watching World Cup soccer.

Officials said on Saturday the explosion late on Friday also injured 196 people, adding that the death toll could rise.

They described scenes of devastation in the town of Sange, where houses were burned and bodies littered the streets. Some people died while trying to steal fuel leaking from the tanker, but most were killed at home or watching World Cup soccer in cinemas.

30 Clinton sees "steel vice" squeezing civil liberties

By Arshad Mohammed, Reuters

Sat Jul 3, 11:08 am ET

KRAKOW, Poland (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Saturday a “steel vice” is crushing groups that promote democracy and civil liberties around the world, and defended U.S. government funding for them.

Speaking on the eve of a Polish presidential run-off, she held the country up as a model democracy that emerged from Soviet domination strong enough to survive an air crash that killed its president, military leaders and many lawmakers in April.

However, Clinton cited many countries — from Iran and North Korea to Cuba and Zimbabwe — where nongovernmental organizations are banned, harassed or restricted.

31 Otunbayeva sworn in as Kyrgyz interim president

By Olga Dzyubenko, Reuters

Sat Jul 3, 9:10 am ET

BISHKEK (Reuters) – Roza Otunbayeva was sworn in as Kyrgyzstan’s interim president on Saturday after guiding it through three months of revolt, ethnic violence and a referendum intended to build Central Asia’s first parliamentary democracy.

A former foreign minister, Otunbayeva, 59, came to power on April 7 during a popular revolt that overthrew the government of the small but strategically-placed central Asian state, which borders China and houses both U.S. and Russian military bases.

She was sworn in to act as president until the end of 2011 under the terms of a new constitution that voters backed in a referendum last week, creating a parliamentary system in a region otherwise dominated by authoritarian presidents.

32 Fireworks to follow sun-scorched July 4 festivals

By MARC BEJA, Associated Press Writer

31 mins ago

NEW YORK – The nation’s largest fireworks show will light up the skies over the Hudson River straddling New York and New Jersey, one of hundreds around the country that will bring sizzling ends to a scorching day for much of the U.S.

Budget cuts have forced some communities to pull the plug on the pyrotechnics, but the gigantic Macy’s fireworks show will continue on Manhattan’s West Side, where it moved in 2009 after eight years on the East River. And that move has brought with it a change in fortune for businesses, too.

In the city that’s home to the $1,000 umbrella and the $175 cheeseburger, tickets have been sold at $1,450 a pair for one sweet spot to see the fireworks that are free for anyone standing on a nearby street corner or at a window.

33 Petraeus takes over Afghan fight, vows to win it

By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer

2 hrs 11 mins ago

KABUL, Afghanistan – “We are in this to win,” Gen. David Petraeus said Sunday as he took the reins of an Afghan war effort troubled by waning support, an emboldened enemy, government corruption and a looming commitment to withdraw troops even with no sign of violence easing.

Petraeus, who pioneered the counterinsurgency strategy he now oversees in Afghanistan, has just months to show progress in turning back insurgents and convince both the Afghan people and neighboring countries that the U.S. is committed to preventing the country from again becoming a haven for al-Qaida and its terrorist allies.

“We are engaged in a contest of wills,” Petraeus said as he accepted the command of U.S. and NATO forces before several hundred U.S., coalition and Afghan officials who gathered on a grassy area outside NATO headquarters in Kabul.

34 Blasts mar Biden’s call for new gov’t, unity

By REBECCA SANTANA and LARA JAKES, Associated Press Writers

Sun Jul 4, 4:19 pm ET

BAGHDAD – Vice President Joe Biden urged rival Iraqi politicians Sunday to end months of delays and select new leaders for their wobbly democracy, predicting a peaceful transition of power even as suicide bombers struck government centers in two major cities.

The attacks in Mosul and Ramadi underscored persistent fears that insurgents will exploit Iraq’s political uncertainty to stoke widespread sectarian violence. Four people were killed and 25 injured in the two blasts that occurred hundreds of miles apart.

The twin explosions on the Fourth of July illustrated the vexing nature of the U.S. involvement in Iraq and its efforts to nudge the country toward stability and democracy.

35 Rough weather curtails some Gulf cleanup work

By TOM BREEN, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jul 4, 4:27 pm ET

NEW ORLEANS – Cleanup crews across the Gulf of Mexico surveyed damage done by last week’s hurricane while contending Sunday with choppy seas that idled many of the boats dedicated to keeping oil from hitting vulnerable beaches and marshes.

Offshore skimming vessels were able to operate in Louisiana waters, but not off the coasts of Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, officials said.

“We’ve got our guys out there and they’re docked and ready, but safety is a huge concern for us, especially with the smaller vessels,” said Courtnee Ferguson, a spokeswoman for the Joint Information Command in Mobile, Ala.

36 Horses take off, injure 24 people at Iowa parade

Associated Press

10 mins ago

BELLEVUE, Iowa – Two horses running out of control trampled children collecting candy and other onlookers along a Fourth of July parade route in a small Mississippi River town in eastern Iowa on Sunday.

Twenty-four people were injured, including at least two children who were in critical condition, police and hospital officials said.

The horses took off after one rubbed its head against the other, removing that horse’s bridle, police said. The horses, with a wagon in tow, galloped for several blocks, running over children and adults who sat and stood along the streets watching the parade in Bellevue. At one point, the wagon flipped, ejecting two people in it, police said.

37 Wyoming threatens to sell prime Grand Teton land

By MEAD GRUVER, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jul 4, 1:11 pm ET

MOOSE, Wyo. – For Sale: Two square miles of Grand Teton National Park.

Majestic views of the Teton Range. Prime location for luxury resort, home development. Pristine habitat for moose, elk, wolves, grizzlies.

Price: $125 million. Call: Gov. Dave Freudenthal.

38 Cleveland might feel economic pinch without LeBron

By MEGHAN BARR, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jul 4, 4:43 pm ET

CLEVELAND – Before LeBron James, there were thousands of empty seats for most Cleveland Cavaliers games and downtown was silent after dark. With him, every game is a sellout and nearby bars and restaurants bustle.

As they face the possibility of losing the free-agent NBA superstar, residents wonder if the man they call King James might take a little of this struggling city’s economy with him.

“The kingdom lies where the king resides,” said Nick Kostis, owner of a restaurant and comedy club on East Fourth Street, a pedestrian-only district near the Cavaliers’ arena that began to take off in the early 2000s.

39 Hotdoggin’ it: Ex-champ crashes NYC eating contest

By VERENA DOBNIK, Associated Press Writer

2 hrs 31 mins ago

NEW YORK – A Japanese eating champion who sat out this year’s Coney Island Fourth of July hot dog contest apparently couldn’t resist the temptation to hotdog afterward.

Competitive eater Joey “Jaws” Chestnut gobbled his way to a fourth consecutive championship Sunday. But he was suddenly upstaged by the surprise appearance of his biggest rival – six-time champion Takeru Kobayashi, who did not compete but crashed the stage after Chestnut’s win and wrestled with police.

“Let him eat! Let him eat!” the crowd chanted as police handcuffed the world’s No. 3 professional eater, dubbed “The Tsunami.”

40 GOP lawmakers wary of Obama’s Afghan deadline

By MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jul 4, 10:28 am ET

WASHINGTON – Leading Republican lawmakers and the Afghan ambassador to the United States are voicing opposition to President Barack Obama’s plan to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan starting next year.

Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, appearing on the Sunday talk shows while in the Afghan capital, said Obama’s decision to start pulling out in July 2011 is a mistake and will embolden Taliban and al-Qaida extremists. The senators and the Afghan envoy, Said Tayeb Jawad, said withdrawal should be based on a conditions on the ground, not a fixed date.

Their comments came as Gen. David Petraeus assumed command of the 130,000-strong international force in Afghanistan. “We are in this to win,” he said, at a time of growing casualties and skepticism about the nearly 9-year-old war. Petraeus backs the withdrawal plan but has stressed it will also be based on conditions.

41 Congo: Burn survivors recover from tanker blast

By MAX DELANY, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jul 4, 1:57 pm ET

SANGE, Congo – Dozens of moaning and badly burned survivors from a massive tanker blast that killed at least 230 people recovered in hospitals and clinics across eastern Congo on Sunday, two days after the wrecked fuel truck exploded on a rural highway.

President Joseph Kabila declared a two-day national mourning period, and Red Cross workers sprayed chlorine and poured disinfectant powder over the blackened scene of the explosions in the village of Sange, where priests prayed during a brief memorial service on a barren football field.

In a conflict-strewn corner of one of the world’s most unstable countries, the shocking tragedy late Friday in the village of Sange was a devastating blow for residents in a still lawless region who survived back-to-back back wars that lasted from 1996 to 2002.

42 Harvick wins wild race at Daytona

By JENNA FRYER, AP Auto Racing Writer

Sun Jul 4, 6:32 am ET

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Kevin Harvick lined up next to his Richard Childress Racing teammate for a two-lap sprint to the finish at Daytona International Speedway.

He and Clint Bowyer didn’t bother to talk strategy.

“It was every man for himself at that point,” Harvick said.

43 On July 4 in spill country, pondering America

By PETER PRENGAMAN, Associated Press Writer

2 hrs 36 mins ago

LAFITTE, La. – From the country’s earliest days, when a handful of colonists became fed up with Britain and decided independence was worth dying for, Americans have been guided by fires in their bellies and a deep belief in the ability to accomplish anything.

For the United States, big dreams and the confidence they inspire have always produced big deeds — the creation of a new nation, the taming of a wild frontier, the building of an industrial giant and the ascent of a superpower.

But on the weekend when we celebrate becoming Americans, an inability to plug a vomiting oil well in the Gulf of Mexico – or launch a coherent, effective cleanup response on par with the disaster – has many people along the coastline wondering whether we have lost our way.

44 Sinking oil threatens historic Gulf shipwrecks

By CAIN BURDEAU, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jul 4, 1:12 pm ET

TIMBALIER ISLANDS, La. – Not just flora and fauna are getting caked in oil. So is the Gulf of Mexico’s barnacled history of pirates, sea battles and World War II shipwrecks.

The Gulf is lined with wooden shipwrecks, American-Indian shell midden mounds, World War II casualties, pirate colonies, historic hotels and old fishing villages. Researchers now fear this treasure seeker’s dream is threatened by BP PLC’s deepwater well blowout.

Within 20 miles of the well, there are several significant shipwrecks – ironically, discovered by oil companies’ underwater robots working the depths – and oil is most likely beginning to cascade on them.

45 Towns grapple with tidying forsaken cemeteries

By STEPHANIE REITZ, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jul 4, 12:34 pm ET

MONTVILLE, Conn. – Almost 125 years ago, 15-month-old Emma Wheeler was laid to rest within sight of her family’s church near a stone wall in a New England cemetery.

The church is now long gone, and the cemetery is abandoned. Over time, the toddler’s grave and the rest of the Montville burial grounds became obscured by shoulder-high branches, brambles and fern fronds.

It’s a scene mirrored at an untold number of abandoned cemeteries nationwide, leaving state and local governments under pressure from residents to clean up the burial grounds out of respect for the dead – without imposing more costs on the living.

46 ‘Holy men’ blaze curious trail across country

By MEGHAN BARR, Associated Press Writer

Sun Jul 4, 12:16 pm ET

CANFIELD, Ohio – The monks seemed to come out of nowhere.

They arrived from Cleveland last fall – Archbishop Timothy and Father Anthony and the cleric in charge, Metropolitan Stephen. In their billowing black robes, they were looking for a new base for the Syro Russian Orthodox Catholic Church.

It was Archbishop Timothy who first drove past the Canfield Colonial Motel Condotel, a crime-ridden, no-tell motel on a desolate road dominated by hay bales and barns with sunken roofs.

47 Finding gold in them thar foreclosures

By ADAM GELLER, AP National Writer

Sun Jul 4, 12:00 am ET

GILBERT, Ariz. – If we’re going to search for gold in the wreckage of the mortgage crisis, then 6:57 a.m. in front of 1009 W. Juanita Avenue is as good a time and place as any to start.

The Cooper Ranch subdivision, tucked behind an industrial park 25 minutes from downtown Phoenix, is just beginning to stir. But when Casey Doran pulls his pickup to the curb, the tan stucco house has already seen a steady trickle of visitors. From under the visor of his ball cap, Doran sizes up the first foreclosure of the day.

“Still occupied,” he says, nodding to a green plastic tag hanging from the meter by the garage, proof that someone’s paying the electric bill. He leans on the bell; when no one answers, he tries the door. The house resists his advances, leaving Doran squinting into the darkness behind the blinds. He tugs on the back gate, peering over the wall into a yard corralling chest-high tumbleweeds.

48 Old technology foils Schwarzenegger’s wage order

By CATHY BUSSEWITZ, Associated Press Writer

Sat Jul 3, 6:11 pm ET

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – As the Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger was the technology of the future, feared by humans. As governor, he’s being foiled by the technology of the past.

For the second time in two years, Schwarzenegger has ordered most state workers’ pay cut to the federal minimum wage because lawmakers missed their deadline to fix the state’s $19 billion budget deficit. The Legislature’s failure to act has left the state without a spending plan as the new fiscal year begins.

A state appellate court ruled in Schwarzenegger’s favor Friday, but the state controller, who issues state paychecks, says he can’t comply. One reason given by Controller John Chiang, a Democrat elected in 2006: The state’s computer system can’t handle the technological challenge of restating paychecks to the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

49 Churches, nonprofits fight for survival amid spill

By JAY REEVES, Associated Press Writer

Sat Jul 3, 2:43 pm ET

BAYOU LA BATRE, Ala. – God only knows what will happen to churches and other nonprofit organizations who say they are struggling for survival because of the Gulf oil spill crisis.

Months after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and its well started gushing oil, the British petroleum giant says it has yet to decide how to handle claims filed by religious groups and other charitable organizations that are endangered because people can no longer afford to contribute.

Pastor Dan Brown prays BP PLC comes up with a solution quickly: He said he filed a $50,000 claim last month over lost revenues at Anchor Assembly of God. His small, storefront church outlived Hurricane Katrina and is now struggling because of the oil crisis.

50 Sororities’ antics spur school alcohol efforts

By LISA CORNWELL, Associated Press Writer

Sat Jul 3, 2:17 pm ET

OXFORD, Ohio – Sorority spring formals call up visions of young women in colorful dresses dancing the night away – not vomiting on tables, urinating in sinks or having sex in closets.

The drunken shenanigans of three sororities at Miami University in southwest Ohio sound like something out of “Animal House” and were especially startling for a school that frequently makes the top 50 in a U.S News & World Report academic ranking but never makes lists of big-time party schools.

The school suspended two of the sororities and put the third on probation. A task force is reviewing discipline and education policies on student behavior and alcohol, and the campus group governing sororities says it will begin teaching new members to speak out when they witness bad behavior.

51 Forget grade levels, KC schools try something new

By HEATHER HOLLINGSWORTH, Associated Press Writer

Sat Jul 3, 1:41 pm ET

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Forget about students spending one year in each grade, with the entire class learning the same skills at the same time. Districts from Alaska to Maine are taking a different route.

Instead of simply moving kids from one grade to the next as they get older, schools are grouping students by ability. Once they master a subject, they move up a level. This practice has been around for decades, but was generally used on a smaller scale, in individual grades, subjects or schools.

Now, in the latest effort to transform the bedraggled Kansas City, Mo. schools, the district is about to become what reform experts say is the largest one to try the approach. Starting this fall officials will begin switching 17,000 students to the new system to turnaround trailing schools and increase abysmal tests scores.

The World Cup: A Brief, Gringo’s Guide to Futbol

( – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Most of the planet has been tuned in to the World Cup since June 11, 2010, and will continue to watch and argue about it until the last whistle is blown on July 11. It’s expected that the audience for the final game will draw a tenth of the people on the planet. An audience of about 600 million people. It doesn’t matter very much to these people that their own countries didn’t qualify, or got eliminated. No. They’re watching, glued to the Tube, because that game is the World Game. And they love it. And they know great Futbol when they see it.

Unfortunately, in the US relatively few people care about futbol. Or soccer as most call it. They don’t reflect on the fact that the barefoot kids kicking a ball made of duct tape and rags in a vacant lot in Port au Prince or Kabul or in a favela in Rio are playing the same game that well scrubbed kids wearing uniforms and $100 shoes are trying to play in this country. So they don’t reflect on how democratic the game is. How anybody can play. And does. And how all you need is some ground and something to make a ball with. Shoes are optional. Goal posts are optional. Uniforms, optional. Only getting the ball into a goal counts.

And best of all, you don’t have to be big. In fact, it helps to be small and fast and coordinated. Lionel Messi is a big star at 5 feet 7 inches. England’s Peter Crouch at 6 feet 7 inches is consistently insulted by those who say he’s a good player, for a big man. What helps is to be fast, very fast, and to have the kind of endurance that lets you run without stopping, hard, for 90 minutes and to be coordinated. The game doesn’t let you use your hands, unless you’re a goalkeeper, so you have to be able to use your feet, your legs, your thighs, your chest, your head. You can learn to do this with practice. The part you cannot learn you have to be born with: it’s a futbol gift that is distributed at seeming random across the entire world. But you recognize it as soon as you see it.

In the US the common folklore is that futbol is boring. Right. It’s boring in the same ignorant way as anything that has not been examined and is not properly understood. Actually, I suspect that this is a rap given the sport in the US because you cannot stop the game for commercials. That would be sacrilege. You cannot cut away to the studio. You watch until the time runs out. Then, and only then, do you get up, get something to eat, relieve yourself, watch commercials. In Spain you don’t stand up during the game. That blocks others’ views. Same in Germany and Italy. OK to yell and scream and curse and drink. Not OK to block somebody else’s view.

Who are these players in the World Cup? The world’s best futbol is played by club teams. The club season starts in early Fall and continues until Spring. Some of the teams are famous names, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, to name a few from the top of English Premier League. In England there are about 5 professional leagues below the Premier League. Every one of the players in every one of the teams in every one of those leagues aspires to play for a team in the top league. And every single player on a team in the top league aspires to be “capped,” to be asked to play for the national team. That is a huge and important honor. This is the situation in the top leagues throughout Europe, which are in Italy (Internazionale, AC Milan, Lazio), Germany (Bayern Munich, Wolfburg), Spain (Barcelona, Real Madrid), France, and Holland. It’s also the case throughout Cental and South America and Asia. The US has a few leagues, the top one MLS isn’t really good. That’s why the MLS season is going on now even though the world cup is happening. The players in MLS aren’t at the World Cup (with a very, very few exceptions).

If you have DirecTV you can actually watch futbol in the regular, club season from England, Italy, Spain, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, and so on. These are exciting games. Goltv.tv and FoxSoccerChannel broadcast live and taped games.

How do you get to the World Cup? After about a year of qualifying (18 games in South America; about 10 in North America) a national team has to beat enough of the other teams in its region to make the finals. Every 4 years 32 teams are selected for the World Cup through regional qualifying. Those teams showed up in South Africa this year on June 11. They were divided into 4-team groups and played 3 games. The best two teams in each group advanced to the round of 16. Then there were games that pared the teams down to 8, and then 4. There are now 4 teams remaining.

On Tuesday, at 2:30 pm ET, Uruguay plays the Netherlands. On Wednesday, at 2:30 pm ET, Germany plays Spain. There is a game for 3rd place on 7/10, and the final on 7/11.

What does it take to win a game at this level? It takes a lot more than great individual players. All of the remaining teams have great players and have played very, very well. Spain probably has the most talented, most famous team. Germany and Netherlands have played brilliantly. Netherlands beat Brazil. Uruguay has been impressive as well. Its star Diego Forlan has been a magician throughout the World Cup. To win at this point, though, it takes massive energy and confidence. You cannot let down at all during the entire game, and you cannot be slow to start. The US team demonstrated that playing from behind, after an early goal, makes winning really difficult, if not impossible. The team has to play as a team. We are well beyond the point at which a star or two’s great play will win the game. And the most important thing, I think, is that there be no defensive errors.

When a goal is scored everybody tends to blame the keeper. That’s easy, but that’s frequently not fair. If the defense allows a clear shot on goal, the keeper can sometimes do very little to make the save. Defensive lapses, and more important, forced defensive lapses, are the key to who will win these final games. That means that teams need a swarming, strong, airtight defense that can “close down” the field. But they also need an offense that is capable of creating space in front of the goal, space into which a striker can kick a ball into the net.

I hope you’ll all drop what you’re doing and watch these final games. The rest of the world will put everything on hold. You can do the same. It’s worth it.

A prediction: Spain and Germany will advance to the finals. Spain will win the finals 1-0.


———————–

simulposted at The Dream Antilles

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On Patriotism

It’s an interesting coincidence that exactly 50 years after The Declaration, Jefferson and Adams died within hours of each other.  Ironically Adam’s last words were- “Jefferson still survives.”  In fact Jefferson preceeded Adams which could have caused some embarrassment provided you believe in an afterlife and that Jefferson and Adams could have ended up in the same place.

Me?  Not so much.  People forget that our founders were revolutionaries and the establishment of The United States of America led to a string of more or less successful rebellions in Haiti, South America, and France.

It’s certainly not a historical leap of faith to call The Council of Europe and the Age of Metternich a reaction to a little fight we picked on the road between Lexington and Concord.

History is real, and not so very long ago.

These were people just like us.  Every bit as smart, twice as tough, and doing the best they could with the tools they had available.

Recently they’d been through 30 years of Civil War based on religious sectarianism and class warfare.  Fighting the French and Indians was kind of intermittent by comparison.

They were not rubes by any means though it’s a classic American gambit going back to Franklin at least to put a dead beaver on your head and pretend to be an idiot.  It makes the women want you.

My favorite Ben who is not a traitor was considered the head of the committee that composed The Declaration, but the principal Author was Thomas Jefferson whom we find recently to have made a last minute substitution of ‘citizen’ for ‘subject’ that I found reflective of his principles as a Founder.

Revolution is not all skittles and beer.

America had its Cincinattus and a Republic if we could keep it, but political feuding between the Democratic-Republicans and the Federalists was little short of open warfare in the election of 1800.  People were literally shot down like dogs.

Adams had to suffer Jefferson as a Vice-President (Mr. Heartbeat) and successor.  Two Term Jefferson left his office to James “Mr. Constitution” Madison and the rest, as they say, is history until AndrewKingfishJackson (but that’s a story for another day).

The democratic impulse and enlightenment values embodied in the work of our Founders, little things like the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the institutions of the Congress, Presidency, and Court have always been under attack by powerful elites who seek to influence outcomes in their favor.

The very least honor we owe these brave and principled patriots is to resist those efforts and defend justice and the rule of law to the best of our ability.

BP’s Well May Leak For 55 Years Or More Into The Gulf Of Mexico?

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

On June 15, 2010 the US Department of Energy announced that a group of federal and independent scientists convened by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and Chair of the National Incident Command’s Flow Rate Technical Group (FRTG) Dr. Marcia McNutt (Director of the U.S. Geological Survey) had developed a new estimate for the amount of oil gushing from the ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico that indicated the leak could be spewing up to 2.52 million gallons of crude oil per day into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico from British Petroleum’s Macondo Well.

“This estimate brings together several scientific methodologies and the latest information from the sea floor, and represents a significant step forward in our effort to put a number on the oil that is escaping from BP’s well,” said Chu, who then expanded with “As we continue to collect additional data and refine these estimates, it is important to realize that the numbers can change.  In particular, the upper number is less certain – which is exactly why we have been planning for the worst case scenario at every stage and why we are continuing to focus on responding to the upper end of the estimate, plus additional contingencies.”

Estimates from both BP and from the US Government of the amount of oil gushing from the blown out wellhead on the gulf seabed have been almost continually revised upwards since the well blowout and leak began on April 20, with widespread suspicions that BP has deliberately understated the leak rate in attempts to limit liability for the company.

It now appears that Chu may have been somewhat prescient with his statement that “it is important to realize that the numbers can change”, and that the estimate of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico may need to be increased again, since an undated internal BP document (.PDF) obtained by Chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) was released by Markey on Sunday June 20 showing that BP’s own internal analysis believed that a worst-case scenario, based on damage to the well bore, could result in a leak rate from the well of 55,000 to 100,000 barrels of oil per day.  

In the document, BP stated: “If BOP and wellhead are removed and if we have incorrectly modeled the restrictions – the rate could be as high as ~ 100,000 barrels per day up the casing or 55,000 barrels per day up the annulus (low probability worst cases)”

“Considering what is now known about BP’s problems with this well prior to the Deepwater Horizon explosion, including cementing issues, leaks in the blowout preventer and gas kicks, BP should have been more honest about the dangerous condition of the well bore,” said Markey

“When the oil spill started, BP said it was only 1,000 barrels a day. Now we know it could end up being 100 times larger than that in a worst-case scenario,”

“This document raises very troubling questions about what BP knew and when they knew it. It is clear that, from the beginning, BP has not been straightforward with the government or the American people about the true size of this spill. Now the families living and working in the Gulf are suffering from their incompetence.”

“BP needs to tell us what it will do if the well bore is compromised and 100,000 barrels per day of oil spills into the ocean. At this point, we need real contingency planning, not a plan with dead scientists and walruses…”

100,000 barrels per day would be 4.2 million gallons of oil per day leaking into the waters of the gulf, or more every three days than the total officially reported 10.8 million gallons of crude oil the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill poured into Prince William Sound off the Gulf of Alaska.

BP’s well has now been leaking continuously for more than two months.

Congressman Markey appeared on NBC’s Meet The Press with his announcement. Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman reports in this video.

What may be even more troubling is a Sunday June 20 Associated Press report that states:

The oil emanating from the seafloor contains about 40 percent methane, compared with about 5 percent found in typical oil deposits, said John Kessler, a Texas A&M University oceanographer who is studying the impact of methane from the spill.

That means huge quantities of methane have entered the Gulf, scientists say, potentially suffocating marine life and creating “dead zones” where oxygen is so depleted that nothing lives.

“This is the most vigorous methane eruption in modern human history,” Kessler said.

The small microbes that live in the sea have been feeding on the oil and natural gas in the water and are consuming larger quantities of oxygen, which they need to digest food. As they draw more oxygen from the water, it creates two problems. When oxygen levels drop low enough, the breakdown of oil grinds to a halt; and as it is depleted in the water, most life can’t be sustained.

All of which prompted Orlando Independent Examiner Gregory Patin to speculate that:

Given the continual incremental increases of the oil leak as well as the failure to mention the amount of methane gas escaping in to the Gulf, it does suggest that at best, this is a result of utter incompetence or outright lies. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the American people have been willfully mislead by BP, the corporate media and the US government in order to gradually condition them to accept the enormity of this disaster.

It is also possible that the environmental damage will not be able to be reversed – at least in our lifetimes. Some of the oil may be able to be cleaned up, but it is impossible to clean up methane.

If the well is leaking at this so far maximum estimated rate of 100,000 barrels per day, that times 365 days in a year would equal 36 million 500 thousand barrels leaked per year.

Oil industry analysts have estimated that there may be as much as a billion barrels or more of oil in the reservoir below BP’s Macondo Well.

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said on June 16 that “One – one expert said to me – and I don’t know if this is overblown or  not – that they’re still really concerned about the structural base of  this whole operation, if the rocks get moved, this thing could really  explode and they’re sitting, what, on – on a billion potential barrels  of oil at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.”

Bloomberg noted June 19 that “The ruptured well may hold as much as 1 billion barrels, the Times  reported, citing Rick Mueller, an analyst at Energy Security Analysis in  Massachusetts.”

CBS noted on June 18 that “The oil well spewing in the Gulf of Mexico could contain as much as 1 billion barrels of oil and could keep flowing for more than a decade, the Times of London reported” and that “The Macondo oil well could be one of the largest oil discoveries in the world.”

The Times article has since been removed from their website. The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary of News International. News International is entirely owned by the News Corporation group, headed by Rupert Murdoch.

Given that BP’s nearby Tiber and Kaskida wells each contain at least 3 billion  barrels of oil (see this, this, this and this), estimates of more than a billion barrels for the leaking Macondo reservoir are not unreasonable.

If the well is leaking at this so far maximum estimated rate of 100,000 barrels per day, and there are 1 billion barrels of oil in the reservoir, then determining how long the well could leak if it is not plugged is a simple high school mathematics level calculation.

One billion barrels divided by 100,000 barrels per day equals 10,000 days to empty the reservoir into the Gulf of Mexico.

That would mean a continuous leak of 100,000 barrels per day for 27.39 years, if the well is not plugged.

If BP”s well is “only” leaking at half that rate – at 50,000 barrels per day – then it will leak for about 55 years, if there is a billion barrels in the reservoir, if it is not plugged.

While these admittedly back of the envelope calculations do not take into account possible pressure and daily flow rate changes over time, they certainly give a new perspective on the enormity of the catastrophe and on its potential environmental impacts.

With those calculations in mind, it is therefore no surprise that Kenneth Feinberg, the US lawyer chosen to manage the $20 Billion compensation fund BP agreed to in a June 16 deal with President Barack Obama, said that not all claimants for damages resulting from BP’s leak can be compensated:

“There’s not enough money in the world to pay every single small business that claims injury no matter where or when,” Kenneth Feinberg told the House of Representatives Committee on Small Business.

“You’ve got to decide in a principled way… and work out some definition in that regard,” he said, while stating his determination to “pay every eligible claim.”

“There’s no question that the property value has diminished as a result of the spill. That doesn’t mean that every property is entitled to compensation,” he said, adding: “There’s not enough money in the world to pay everybody who’d like to have money.”

Feinberg, who also headed a compensation fund for victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks, was tapped by President Barack Obama to administer the 20-billion-dollar fund established by BP earlier this month.

The House Committee on Small Business examined the recently created $20 billion BP compensation fund for victims of the oil spill at a hearing entitled “Recovery in the Gulf: What the $20 Billion BP Claims Fund Means for Small Businesses” on June 30, 2010.

Watch Kenneth Feinberg’s testimony to the committee in this video, from the hearing…

It is also no surprise, considering the calculations above and the potential for a decades long uncontrolled leak into the Gulf of Mexico, that the day after BP agreed in meeting with Obama to the compensation fund that the International Business Times reported that the $20 billion escrow fund (.PDF) deal may in fact have been a positive outcome for BP in terms of limiting BP’s exposure over the long term:

The terms include $20 billion set aside in an escrow fund to pay for damages and $100 million in a separate fund to help oil workers who lost their jobs. In addition, BP has agreed cancel dividends for the rest of 2010.

For the $20 billion fund, BP will pay $3 billion in the third quarter of this year, $2 billion in the fourth quarter, and then $1.25 billion per quarter until the full amount is exhausted. Meanwhile, before the fund reaches $20 billion, BP will set aside U.S. assets to “assure” payments.

However, $20 billion is not the cap for liabilities and it does not include fines and penalties.

Brian Gibbons, senior oil & gas analyst at CreditSights, an independent credit research firm, said the $20 billion escrow fund – which was not overly punitive – removed a large degree of regulatory uncertainty by providing an established dollar amount and time line.

“The fear was that the government was going to do something so drastic as to effectively push the company into bankruptcy,” said Gibbons.

“Now they can come out of the meeting and say they have held BP accountable and hold up a $20 billion escrow account,” explained Gibbons.

The cost of helping the US Gulf Coast recover economically from BP’s catastrophic oil leak could run into the trillions of dollars, a US lawmaker said Thursday following a briefing from top government officials.

“It will take billions of dollars – even trillions,” Democratic Representative Sheila Jackson Lee told reporters, citing “a presentation by the president’s team on the BP oil spill” early Thursday July 1.

The ecological environment and sea life of the Gulf of Mexico may never recover.

…………………………

Originally published at Antemedius: Liberally Critical Thinking

…………………………

What Day Is It Agin?



RawStory:

Every Fourth of July, Americans gather to celebrate the country’s declaration of independence from … um, what country was that again?

If you answered the above question with the word “England” or “Britain,” you would be obviously correct. But a new Marist poll finds that more than a quarter — 26 percent — of Americans polled couldn’t bring to mind the name of the country from whom the original 13 colonies gained independence.

Results were especially poor among the young: Of respondents aged 18 to 29, only 60 percent correctly identified Great Britain. A full one-third were unsure.

[snip]

China? Maybe all this poll tells us is that six percent of people who answer surveys like to screw around with them.

That’s a possibility that Jack Stuef at the Wonkette blog is ready to consider.

Consider that a good 10% of Americans probably have Alzheimer’s. Then another 5% are just regular crazy people. And probably 11% of Americans got offended that some annoying academic called them up during dinner to ask them this single, inane question and answered “the United States won its independence from the country of My Ass.”

Let’s hope Stuef is right. Or this country is in big trouble.

“A Paddle for Your Boat”

Shit Creek Paddle Store

The Commission for Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, better known as the “Cat Food Commission” has targeted Social Security and Medicare for some serious reductions that will put many senior citizens and future senior citizens in jeopardy of being relegated to homeless shelters or the streets. Sound harsh, over the top? Well listen to the co-chair former Sen. Alan Simpson, who was hand picked by President Barack Obama, in the video below the fold. And how about Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi who purposely put a “requirement that the House will vote on the deficit commission’s recommendations in the lame duck session if they pass the Senate“?

Alan Simpson: Cutting Social Security Benefits to “Take Care of the Lesser People in Society”

(transcript for the hearing impaired is in this link)

Cutting Social Security and Medicare is how Sen. Simpson thinks the US can obtain fiscal responsibly works and his co-chair, Investment banker and former Clinton chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, who negotiated Social Security cuts with Newt Gingrich, now wants to do it again.

Although the commission is composed of 10 Democrats and 8 Republicans and the final report will need a super majority of 14 to pass, most of the members are Wall St. fiscal conservatives to whom Obama and Congress have catered.

Warnings from both House Majority and Minority leaders, Rep. John Conyers and John Boehner, that the final report will be presented to a lame duck Congress were ignored by Obama, Reid and Pelosi who are determined to bring whatever this commission decides to a vote by the end of the year. Now Pelosi has sealed the deal by slipping in the provision into the War Funding bill that requires the House to vote on whatever the Senates passes.

This Presidential Commission, which is also proposing tax hikes beyond the increases in 2011 when the Bush tax cuts expire, is selling out the middle class who is virtually up that “shitty” creek without a paddle and can’t afford to buy a paddle.

The Rock Star’s Hollow Gazette, Pt. 1: Eight Fables About Action, Inaction, and Distraction

If I’m part of a problem, but not part of the problem, then it’s not really your problem.

-Keir DuBois

For many years now, I’ve forgotten my dreams-if I ever remember at all. Reality wants my attention more often, so I always come when she calls, and I’m getting used to the pull of routine and the comfort of my fatal flaws. Cause I never really found Boredom attractive, but she won’t stop flirting with me. She don’t understand that I can’t reprimand her for such innocent flattery, and I used to think I could hold out forever-but she’s circling patiently. For many years now, I’ve forgotten the fear-but now I remember it all. The nerves and the pressure of one good impression are making my confidence crawl, cause I’ve got a date with Ambition tonight but she’s not returning my calls.

Note:: Couldn’t get the tunes to display/play as they do on DKos, so you guys just get little links. Sorry.

Listen to “Fatal Flaws” by Honey White

Get busy bringing out the cheap tequila. It’s awful, but I just can’t put it down. Here comes another drinking song, but I can’t help myself-lately the hangovers and hang-ups hang around, and suffer like a half-assed work of fiction within the steady grip of epic funk. If talent jumps a generation, here it skipped them all-as if it’s easier to deal with it drunk, and sing one last hallelujah before we say good night. The liquor’s flowing all over creation, and even though by now it’s way too late, I’ll have a little rum and honey, you can nurse your gin-and we’ll pretend to finally set the record straight, cause your attention span’s a starving artist, and it’s high time you finally did some good. Who do you think you are now, honey? What do you take me for? Get off the cross-it’s cold, we need the firewood. And if you’re going back to town alone, you better keep your halo out of sight, and sing one last hallelujah before you say good night.

Listen to “One Last Hallelujah” by Honey White

Survival on the naked truth has saved another boring youth from having any bit of fun, or getting close to anyone-and by the time I bought the myth an amateur could deal with, I heard the luck was running out for everybody anyhow. Come on love-forget about the pressure and the fear, cause we can’t afford to waste another year. It used to mean the world to me, but chasing down elusive dreams and second-guessing everything is so unhealthy, mon ami. Come on love-forget about the pressure and the fear, cause we can’t afford to waste another year. Here we come now, here we come-so unprofessional to some-but we know better, we know best, and we’ll endure nevertheless. Come on love-forget about the pressure and the fear, cause we can’t afford to waste another year.

Listen to “Unprofessional” by Honey White

Too lazy if I work, too nervous if I steal. Too heavy if I hurt, too harmless if I heal. Too smart to waste the effort, too stupid to appeal to anyone too superficially unreal. So please have mercy on me-I don’t know what I want to be. Too many hours later, too much is still the same. Too close to losing everything and too scared to play the game. Too good to get the credit for taking all the blame, and too thirsty for the glory to feel any shame. So please have mercy on me-I don’t know what I want to be. Too noisy on location, too quiet on the set to notice if I might deserve exactly what I get. Too casual in theory to really break a sweat, and too busy at the moment to care about that yet. The choice ain’t ever up to me, and it’s not the life I want to lead, so please have mercy on me-I don’t know what I want to be.

Listen to “Mercy Rule” by Honey White

A few weeks into summer, and I’ve yet to see the sun illuminating anything the way I want it done. It’s not for lack of trying, and not for lack of fun, but I got tangled up beneath the losers and the lost-ripping into frenzy just to get the point across, and desperate to win it all no matter what the cost. If only you could see me now. If only you could see me now. I knew what I was doing-I knew it all along. I knew when not to worry all about the right or wrong of ending up anonymous and dying to belong. If only you could see me now.  If only you could see me now. Don’t know if it’ll ever be enough for anyone to believe me when I promise that I’ve only just begun to keep myself from sinking into sweet oblivion. If only you could see me now. If only you could see me now.

Listen to “Sweet Oblivion” by Honey White

Somehow we began the night invincible as ever, and always so impulsive or inspired. Somehow we’re all ending up immobilized together, and always so oblivious and tired. Suddenly it’s all about denial on a bender, and everyone’s so easily impressed. Suddenly it’s all about the easiest surrender, and definitely blacking out the rest, forgetting everything I know and then dissolving into history again. The waves are rolling in again, allmighty and illegal, and I’m already in over my head. The volume is intensive and the impacts are for real and no one is immune who isn’t dead.

Listen to “Blacking Out” by Honey White

When I was younger, I was still insane-I looked like Abel and I felt like Cain. I learned to fear, I learned the art of war-until I guess I couldn’t take it anymore. or else I got too callous-so I grew up and I approached the bomb with automatic cool and heroic calm, methodically defused her right in time, and now our reason overrules our rhyme and interrupts our rhythm. So, why upend the balance? Sometimes I feel okay, and deal, and I give up but then sometimes I feel like tempting fate again, or wreaking havoc every now and then, or risking everything I got to slash and burn up past another point of no return, and leave the rest in ruins. So why upend the balance? Sometimes I feel okay, and deal, and I give up but tonight-tonight I feel like tempting fate again. demo mp3 link

Still up against the way it always will be, and shackled to the way it’s always been. Still opposite the center of attention, and banished to the outside looking in. Forgiven any consequence of any reckless stunts, as long as I do anything to win. Don’t matter if I can’t move like I used to, or even if I think as slow as sin, or even if I don’t know any better, or if a soul is underneath this skin-cause all the broken pieces always snap back into place as long as I do anything to win. Cause I can take a dive, yeah I can take a fall-but as soon as I can take control I’m gonna take it all. So when the worst of here and now is over, and dangerous charades are wearing thin, and aftershocks are right around the corner, and ever after’s itching to begin, I’ll look out on the promised land, the king of all I see-as long as I do anything to win. Oh yeah, I would do anything-it’s been too long, I’m bound to hit the wall. Cause I can take a dive, yeah I can take a fall-but as soon as I can take control I’m gonna take it all. demo mp3 link

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