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Undernews For April 28, 2008

Undernews For April 28, 2008

FROM THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW
Washington's Most Unofficial Source
611 Pennsylvania Ave SE #381
Washington DC 20003
202-423-7884
Editor: Sam Smith

28 APRIL 2008

WORD

Beyond the Euphrates began for us the land of mirage and danger, the sands where one helplessly sank, and the roads which ended in nothing. The slightest reversal would have resulted in a jolt to our prestige giving rise to all kinds of catastrophe; the problem was not only to conquer but to conquer again and again, perpetually; our forces would be drained off in the attempt. - Emperor Hadrian AD 117-138

PAGE ONE MUST

WILL YOUR CANDIDATE SUPPORT BIDETS?

TREE HUGGER - Bidets [are] a key green technology, because they eliminate the use of toilet paper. They also provide important health benefits. These include increased cleanliness, and the therapeutic effect of water on damaged skin (think rashes or hemorrhoids).

We use 36.5 billions rolls of toilet paper in the U.S. each year, this represents at least 15 million trees pulped. This also involves 473,587,500,000 gallons of water to produce the paper and 253,000 tons of chlorine for bleaching purposes. The manufacturing process requires about 17.3 terawatts of electricity annually. Also, there is the energy and materials involved in packaging and transporting the toilet paper to households across the country.

Toilet paper also constitutes a significant load on the city sewer systems, and water treatment plants. It is also often responsible for clogged pipes. In septic systems, the elimination of toilet paper would mean the septic tank would need to be emptied much less often.

Basically, the huge industry of producing toilet paper could be eliminated through the use of bidets. Instead of using toilet paper, a bidet cleans your posterior using a jet of water. Some bidets also provide an air-drying mechanism.

In Japan, high-tech bidets called Washlets are now the most popular electronic equipment being sold -- 60% of households have them installed. In Venezuela they are found in approximately 90% of households.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT DEFENDS WAR CRIMES BY CIA

MSNBC - Recent letters from the U.S. Justice Department to Congress state that intelligence agents working on counterterrorism can legally use interrogation techniques that might otherwise be banned by international law, The New York Times reported in its Sunday editions. The Justice Department's interpretation shows the Bush administration is contending that the boundaries should have a degree of latitude, the Times said, despite the president's order last summer that he said meant the CIA would hew to international norms on the treatment of detainees. . .

A March 5 letter from the Justice Department to Congress makes clear the Bush administration has not set boundaries for which interrogation methods might violate the ban in the Geneva Conventions on "outrages upon personal dignity," the Times reported.

"The fact that an act is undertaken to prevent a threatened terrorist attack, rather than for the purpose of humiliation or abuse, would be relevant to a reasonable observer in measuring the outrageousness of the act," Brian Benczkowski, a deputy assistant attorney general, wrote in one letter.

The Times said the letters were provided by the staff of Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

A senior Justice Department official, speaking to the Times on condition of anonymity, said of the classified information: "I certainly don't want to suggest that if there's a good purpose you can head off and humiliate someone." But he said "the fact that you are doing something for a legitimate security purpose would be relevant." "There are certainly things that can be insulting that would not raise to the level of an outrage on personal dignity," the official said.

MONSANTO GOES AFTER FARMERS FOR ACTING LIKE FARMERS

DONALD L. BARLETT AND JAMES B. STEELE, VANITY FAIR - As interviews and reams of court documents reveal, Monsanto relies on a shadowy army of private investigators and agents in the American heartland to strike fear into farm country. They fan out into fields and farm towns, where they secretly videotape and photograph farmers, store owners, and co-ops; infiltrate community meetings; and gather information from informants about farming activities. Farmers say that some Monsanto agents pretend to be surveyors. Others confront farmers on their land and try to pressure them to sign papers giving Monsanto access to their private records. Farmers call them the "seed police" and use words such as "Gestapo" and "Mafia" to describe their tactics.

When asked about these practices, Monsanto declined to comment specifically, other than to say that the company is simply protecting its patents. "Monsanto spends more than $2 million a day in research to identify, test, develop and bring to market innovative new seeds and technologies that benefit farmers," Monsanto spokesman Darren Wallis wrote in an e-mailed letter to Vanity Fair. "One tool in protecting this investment is patenting our discoveries and, if necessary, legally defending those patents against those who might choose to infringe upon them." Wallis said that, while the vast majority of farmers and seed dealers follow the licensing agreements, "a tiny fraction" do not, and that Monsanto is obligated to those who do abide by its rules to enforce its patent rights on those who "reap the benefits of the technology without paying for its use." He said only a small number of cases ever go to trial.

Some compare Monsanto's hard-line approach to Microsoft's zealous efforts to protect its software from pirates. At least with Microsoft the buyer of a program can use it over and over again. But farmers who buy Monsanto's seeds can't even do that.

For centuries-millennia-farmers have saved seeds from season to season: they planted in the spring, harvested in the fall, then reclaimed and cleaned the seeds over the winter for re-planting the next spring. Monsanto has turned this ancient practice on its head.

Monsanto developed G.M. seeds that would resist its own herbicide, Roundup, offering farmers a convenient way to spray fields with weed killer without affecting crops. Monsanto then patented the seeds. For nearly all of its history the United States Patent and Trademark Office had refused to grant patents on seeds, viewing them as life-forms with too many variables to be patented. "It's not like describing a widget," says Joseph Mendelson III, the legal director of the Center for Food Safety, which has tracked Monsanto's activities in rural America for years.

Indeed not. But in 1980 the U.S. Supreme Court, in a five-to-four decision, turned seeds into widgets, laying the groundwork for a handful of corporations to begin taking control of the world's food supply. In its decision, the court extended patent law to cover "a live human-made microorganism." In this case, the organism wasn't even a seed. Rather, it was a Pseudomonas bacterium developed by a General Electric scientist to clean up oil spills. But the precedent was set, and Monsanto took advantage of it. Since the 1980s, Monsanto has become the world leader in genetic modification of seeds and has won 674 biotechnology patents, more than any other company, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

Farmers who buy Monsanto's patented Roundup Ready seeds are required to sign an agreement promising not to save the seed produced after each harvest for re-planting, or to sell the seed to other farmers. This means that farmers must buy new seed every year. Those increased sales, coupled with ballooning sales of its Roundup weed killer, have been a bonanza for Monsanto.

TOP AIDE TO COLIN POWELL RAISES WAR CRIME QUESTION RE CHENEY

BBC - A top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell has launched a stinging attack on US Vice-President Dick Cheney over abuse of prisoners by US troops. Col Lawrence Wilkerson accused Mr Cheney of ignoring a decision by President Bush on the treatment of prisoners in the war on terror.

Asked by the BBC's Today if Mr Cheney could be accused of war crimes, he said: "It's an interesting question."

"Certainly it is a domestic crime to advocate terror," he added.

"And I would suspect, for whatever it's worth, it's an international crime as well."

This is an extraordinary attack by a man who until earlier in the year was Mr Cheney's colleague in the senior reaches of the Bush team, the BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says.

Col Wilkerson has in the past accused the vice-president of responsibility for the conditions which led to the abuse of prisoners.

But this time he has gone much further, appearing to suggest Mr Cheney should face war crimes charges, our correspondent adds.

He said that there were two sides of the debate within the Bush administration over the treatment of prisoners.

Mr Powell and more dovish members had argued for sticking to the Geneva conventions, which prohibit the torture of detainees.

Meanwhile, the other side "essentially wanted to do away with all restrictions".

Mr Bush agreed a compromise, that "Geneva would in fact govern all but al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda look-alike detainees". . . .

BLACK LIKE WHO?

Sam Smith

Discussions of race and gender have overwhelmed the presidential campaign - or national conversation as the yammerers like to put it. But they show little sign of helping people seeking the right choice of candidate. One reason is quite simple. As the community organizer Saul Alinsky explained once, "When the poor get power, they'll be shits like everyone else." The same is true of blacks, women and blind, dyslectic Latvians.

Thus, being either ethnically prejudiced against a presidential candidate or enthused because of that candidate's genome misses the point. It is power itself that more likely calls the shot.

For example, in my home town of Washington DC, over the past decade two black Democratic mayors, with the help of Democratic black and women city council members, have:

Closed the city's public hospital

Torn down much of the city's public housing

Emasculated the elected school board and turned much of the public school system over to private charter schools.

Encouraged in numerous ways the socio-economic cleansing of the city and its neighborhoods.

Outsourced its prisoners to the federal system, meaning that nonviolent inmates may be thousands of miles away from home and relatives.

Disrupted a taxi cab system which was the largest per capita in the country and the only major one in which a majority of drivers owned their cabs.

It is true that some of these efforts were enabled by a federal takeover of the city in the 1990s backed by a white president name Clinton, but he had considerable help from our black female non-voting delegate in Congress and his own black budget and management aide, Franklin Raines.

Raines, the son of Seattle janitors, went to Harvard College, Harvard Law and to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He recently agreed to pay $24.7 million to escape further actions over his misdeeds as vice chair of Fannie Mae two years after a federal suit had been filed against him to recover some or all of $50 million he received thanks to accounting "errors" that vastly increased bonuses for top executives like him. To get some idea of how much this is, consider that Wesley Snipes is headed for a three year jail term for the accounting error of not filing personal income taxes that involved about 7% of the amount in the Raines case. So even among the powerful there are gradations.

The reason the Washington example is useful is because, literally being a U.S. colony, it has a long history of being the canary in the mine shaft of American politics, both for the good and the bad. On the good side, for example, Lincoln signed a DC Emancipation Act nine months before the federal one. On the bad side, DC is used as a dumping ground for crummy ideas that congress members can't get approved in their own districts.

For some years now, the story of Washington has been one of subtly brutal treatment of its underclass. For example, despite an alleged urban renaissance, from 1989 to 2006 the poverty rate increased by one third - from 15% to 20% even as services were declining.

In comparison, between 1980 and 1989 the poverty rate actually fell 20%. The mayor was also black but of a sort white liberals have no problem ridiculing: Marion Barry. In fact, under Barry, conditions for lower income residents, blacks, women and gays all improved despite his drug habit. And while the Washington Post missed no opportunity to trash Barry, to this day it covers for Raines. Similarly, while blacks and whites working to save basic services for the city's less wealthy wander in the wilderness, the upscale crowd and the Post still backs Mayor Fenty to the hilt.

So even among the powerful there are gradations. Distinctions are easily made by white liberals between a Barry and a Fenty, or a Jesse Jackson and Barack Obama, but that is considered safe because they involve class and style rather than ethnicity. Change the names to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and you have a whole new game.

Providing some scientific support for Lord Acton's remark about the corruption of power, psychology professor Dacher Keltner in the magazine Greater Good writes:

"Unfortunately, this is not entirely a myth, as the actions of Europe's monarchs, Enron's executives, and out-of-control pop stars reveal. A great deal of research-especially from social psychology-lends support to Acton's claim, albeit with a twist: Power leads people to act in impulsive fashion, both good and bad, and to fail to understand other people's feelings and desires.

"For instance, studies have found that people given power in experiments are more likely to rely on stereotypes when judging others, and they pay less attention to the characteristics that define those other people as individuals. Predisposed to stereotype, they also judge others' attitudes, interests, and needs less accurately. One survey found that high-power professors made less accurate judgments about the attitudes of low-power professors than those low-power professors made about the attitudes of their more powerful colleagues. . .

"A great deal of research has also found that power encourages individuals to act on their own whims, desires, and impulses. When researchers give people power in scientific experiments, those people are more likely to physically touch others in potentially inappropriate ways, to flirt in more direct fashion, to make risky choices and gambles, to make first offers in negotiations, to speak their mind, and to eat cookies like the Cookie Monster, with crumbs all over their chins and chests.

"Perhaps more unsettling is the wealth of evidence that having power makes people more likely to act like sociopaths. High-power individuals are more likely to interrupt others, to speak out of turn, and to fail to look at others who are speaking. They are also more likely to tease friends and colleagues in hostile, humiliating fashion. Surveys of organizations find that most rude behaviors-shouting, profanities, bald critiques-emanate from the offices and cubicles of individuals in positions of power. . .

"This leaves us with a power paradox. Power is given to those individuals, groups, or nations who advance the interests of the greater good in socially-intelligent fashion. Yet unfortunately, having power renders many individuals as impulsive and poorly attuned to others as your garden variety frontal lobe patient, making them prone to act abusively and lose the esteem of their peers. What people want from leaders-social intelligence-is what is damaged by the experience of power."

There are another problems with harping on race and gender. For one thing, favorable stereotypes about such topics are just as discriminatory as unfavorable ones. Further, race is a racist concept and doesn't exist as an objective fact. The power of this concept, however, can be seen in that Obama is almost universally considered black even though his mother was considered white. No one on national TV dares talk about why Obama is called black and not white or bicultural. And while sex does have a physiological basis, what is being discussed or hinted - namely the alleged distribution of human virtue - is just as amorphous and unreliable. Besides, in a truly non-racist, non-sexist society we wouldn't be so obsessed with the subject.

On the other hand, the question of how each candidate might handle power is fascinating, important and underreported. Both Clinton and McCain have had their sociopathic moments based on the accounts of colleagues and staffers. The sort of anger and threatening that each has displayed hardly recommends them for the 3 a.m. watch. Obama seems to swing between being a preacher or a professor, both roles tending to leave him aloof from some of the audience he is trying to reach, especially those who are culturally removed, whether by education, ethnicity or class. But a more serious problem may be that he will over-parse issues, thus producing insignificant results, rather than that he will bully or manipulate his way to his goal. In this way, he may be far more accomplished on foreign policy disputes than on domestic policy. He may be a new Jimmy Carter, who in the end did better overseas than on Capitol Hill.

Obama may also imitate Carter in being a transitional figure. The Carter administration was a bridge over which America crossed, leaving the New Deal and Great Society behind and moving into the brutal capitalism of Reagan, Bush and Clinton. Just as Carter's failure helped bring Reagan, so Obama's weaknesses may help to revive progressive politics.

These are just guesses, but they raise a far more important and useful topic than race or gender because, yes, Hillary Clinton is a woman, but like who? And Obama is considered black - but black like who? And we're not helping either come up with the right answer by reducing the race to a choice as puerile as selecting your favorite brand in a supermarket aisle. Likewise the seeming indifference of Democrats to what sort of black Obama would be or woman Clinton would be.

In the end, it makes a lot more sense to talk about real things, like who's going to end the war and the recession, and who's going to end their administration with honor. The danger, in the alternative, is to discover too late that you bought what was on the outside of the box and not what was actually in it.

THE DEMOCRATS' PROBLEM

ROBERT D. STACEY CHARLOTTE OBSERVER - The first Republican to win a presidential election was Abraham Lincoln. Since that initial success, the GOP has won 23 presidential elections compared to just 14 for the Democrats.

Since the Civil War only four Democrats -- Jimmy Carter, Lyndon Johnson, Franklin Roosevelt and Samuel Tilden -- have won a majority of the popular vote. (Tilden in 1876, lost the Electoral College vote and never became president.)

It has been 32 years since a Democrat won a majority of the popular vote. The last to do so was Carter, who won a whopping 50.1 percent of the votes in 1976. He defeated Republican incumbent Gerald Ford, the man who pardoned Richard Nixon and carried the burden of Watergate and the Vietnam War into the election. . .

Like the 1976 contest, all conditions point toward an easy Democratic victory this November. George W. Bush, the Republican incumbent, suffers from abysmal approval ratings -- below 30 percent in some polls. The economy is weak and appears to be entering a recession. And the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain, while certainly something of a maverick, is quite close to the president on the one issue causing him the most damage -- the war in Iraq.

Yet right now in a hypothetical head-to-head match-up, McCain and Obama appear to be in a dead . . .
The fact is Democrats historically have struggled to win the White House and have found ways to lose contests that presumably they should have won. Since Lincoln, Americans have tended to see the presidency as primarily a Republican institution. It's not that Democrats cannot win, but they seem to have more negative voter assumptions to overcome.

RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW Democrats lost the past two presidential elections by nominating candidates who had trouble connecting with down-scale white voters. They are about to do the same, but with their eyes wide open. . . Hillary Clinton, whose sense of entitlement, nonexistent common touch, and dubious credibility throwing back boilermakers hardly make her a natural populist. But Obama has transformed her into one. Obama has won the white vote only in seven states. He lost whites without a college degree even in his native Illinois. Among traditional Democratic voters in Pennsylvania, Clinton racked up numbers as if she had been running against an obscure alderman instead of the most lavishly financed primary candidate in America history. . . She won 70 percent of non-college-educated whites, 59 percent of union members, 69 percent of Catholic voters, and won every income level below $150,000.

PREPARATIONS UNDERWAY FOR WAR WITH IRAN

DAN HAMBURG, SANTA MONICA MIRROR George W. Bush is poised to order a massive aerial bombardment - possibly including tactical nuclear weapons - of up to 10,000 targets in Iran. The attack would be justified on grounds that Iran is interfering with U.S. efforts in Iraq and that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon, a charge that was debunked last fall in the National Intelligence Estimate.

According to international experts, the U.S. declared economic war against Iran on March 20. On that day, the U.S. Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network called on the world's financial institutions to stop doing business with Iran, making it much more difficult for Iran to engage in global commerce.

Now the Bush administration is preparing to drop the other shoe. Below are some of the indications that a U.S. military attack on Iran is imminent:

- The March 11 resignation of CENTCOM Commander Admiral William Fallon who, according to a well-publicized Esquire magazine article, "openly opposed Bush's Iran policy and was a lone voice against taking military action to stop the Iranian nuclear program."
- The recent removal of Vice Admiral John Stufflebeem, Commander of the 6th Fleet (Mediterranean Sea), also known to be a critic of the administration's war plans.

- Two U.S. warships took up positions off Lebanon last month. According to US News & World Report, "The United States would want its warships in the eastern Mediterranean in the event of a military action against Iran."

- The United States has two aircraft carrier strike groups (the USS John C. Stennis and the USS Eisenhower) stationed in the Persian Gulf with at least one additional group reportedly on the way.

- The Israeli air strike against Syria last September was advertised as an attack on a nuclear facility. Current speculation is that the real purpose of the raid was to "force Syria to switch on the targeting electronics for newly received Russian anti-aircraft defenses." Knowing the electronic signatures of these systems would reduce the risks for U.S. and Israeli warplanes heading to Iranian targets.

- Israel conducted its largest military exercises ever beginning the week of April 6. This exercise simulated missile strikes from Iran, Lebanon, and Syria. . .

- One day after a March visit from Vice President Cheney, the Saudi government announced "national plans to deal with any sudden nuclear and radioactive hazards that may affect the kingdom." This announcement came following warnings of possible attacks on Iran's nearby Bushehr nuclear reactors.

- According to former U.N. chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter, the Pentagon has contracted for additional bunker-buster bombs and planes that carry them. Delivery is due this month.

- The oncoming monsoon season, which would carry radioactive fallout by wind and rain to countries east of Iran (including Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India), narrows the window for the optimal launch of an air attack.

RAW STORY Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the Pentagon is planning "potential" military actions against Iran, reports The Washington Post. Mullen criticized Iran's "'increasingly lethal and malign influence' in Iraq," writes Ann Scott Tyson for the Post.

Addressing concerns about the US military's capability of dealing with yet another conflict at a time when forces are purportedly stretched thin, Mullen said war with Iran "would be 'extremely stressing' but not impossible for U.S. forces, pointing specifically to reserve capabilities in the Navy and Air Force," Tyson notes.

"It would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability," she quotes the U.S.'s top military leader at a Pentagon news conference.

Mullen's assertion comes a day after American forces reportedly fired warning shots at Iranian speedboats in the Persian Gulf, a confrontation that Iran denies took place.

A prior incident involving U.S. forces in the Strait of Hormuz and Iranian speedboats in January of this year--which Republican White House candidates used (with the notable exception of Ron Paul) as a saber-rattling opportunity during a nationally-televised debate--was later discredited as a virtual fabrication.

BIOPLASTICS AREN'T WHAT THEY'RE MEANT TO BE

GUARDIAN, UK The worldwide effort by supermarkets and industry to replace conventional oil-based plastic with eco-friendly bioplastics made from plants is causing environmental problems and consumer confusion, according to a Guardian study. The substitutes can increase emissions of greenhouse gases on landfill sites, some need high temperatures to decompose and others cannot be recycled in Britain.

Many of the bioplastics are also contributing to the global food crisis by taking over large areas of land previously used to grow crops for human consumption.

The market for bioplastics, which are made from maize, sugarcane, wheat and other crops, is growing by 20-30% a year.

The industry, which uses words such as "sustainable", "biodegradeable", "compostable" and "recyclable" to describe its products, says bioplastics make carbon savings of 30-80% compared with conventional oil-based plastics and can extend the shelf-life of food.

Concern centers on corn-based packaging made with polylactic acid. Made from GM crops, it looks identical to conventional polyethylene terephthalate plastic and is produced by US company NatureWorks. The company is jointly owned by Cargill, the world's second largest biofuel producer, and Teijin, one of the world's largest plastic manufacturers.

Pla is used by some of the biggest supermarkets and food companies, including Wal-Mart, McDonald's and Del Monte. It is used by Marks & Spencer to package organic foods, salads, snacks, desserts, and fruit and vegetables. . .

While Pla is said to offer more disposal options, the Guardian has found that it will barely break down on landfill sites, and can only be composted in the handful of anaerobic digesters which exist in Britain, but which do not take any packaging. In addition, if Pla is sent to UK recycling works in large quantities, it can contaminate the waste stream, reportedly making other recycled plastics unsaleable.

Anson, one of Britain's largest suppliers of plastic food packaging, switched back to conventional plastic after testing Pla in sandwich packs. Sainsbury's has decided not to use it, saying Pla is made with GM corn. "No local authority is collecting compostable packaging at the moment. Composters do not want it," a spokesman said.

FREE THINKING SOLDIER SUES ARMY OVER THREATS

NY TIMES When Specialist Jeremy Hall held a meeting last July for atheists and freethinkers at Camp Speicher in Iraq, he was excited, he said, to see an officer attending. But minutes into the talk, the officer, Maj. Freddy J. Welborn, began to berate Specialist Hall and another soldier about atheism, Specialist Hall wrote in a sworn statement. "People like you are not holding up the Constitution and are going against what the founding fathers, who were Christians, wanted for America!" Major Welborn said, according to the statement.

Major Welborn told the soldiers he might bar them from re-enlistment and bring charges against them, according to the statement.

Last month, Specialist Hall and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group, filed suit in federal court in Kansas, alleging that Specialist Hall's right to be free from state endorsement of religion under the First Amendment had been violated and that he had faced retaliation for his views. In November, he was sent home early from Iraq because of threats from fellow soldiers.

Eileen Lainez, a spokeswoman for the Defense Department, declined to comment on the case, saying, "The department does not discuss pending litigation."

Specialist Hall's lawsuit is the latest incident to raise questions about the military's religion guidelines. In 2005, the Air Force issued new regulations in response to complaints from cadets at the Air Force Academy that evangelical Christian officers used their positions to proselytize. . .

At the July meeting, Major Welborn told the soldiers they had disgraced those who had died for the Constitution, Specialist Hall said. When he finished, Major Welborn said, according to the statement: "I love you guys; I just want the best for you. One day you will see the truth and know what I mean."

Major Welborn declined to comment beyond saying, "I'd love to tell my side of the story because it's such a false story."

But Timothy Feary, the other soldier at the meeting, said in an e-mail message: "Jeremy is telling the truth. I was there and witnessed everything."

Mikey Weinstein, a retired Air Force judge advocate general and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said . . . he has been contacted by more than 5,500 service members and, occasionally, military families about incidents of religious discrimination. . .

Complaints include prayers "in Jesus' name" at mandatory functions, which violates military regulations, and officers proselytizing subordinates to be "born again." . . . "Religion is inextricably intertwined with their jobs," Mr. Weinstein said. "You're promoted by who you pray with."

Though with a different unit now at Fort Riley, Specialist Hall said the backlash had continued. He has a no-contact order with a sergeant who, without provocation, threatened to "bust him in the mouth." Another sergeant allegedly told Specialist Hall that as an atheist, he was not entitled to religious freedom because he had no religion.

FREEDOM BEAT

HEY, IT WORKED FOR HITLER

FOX NEWS, MA - Springfield's men in black are returning. The city's new police commissioner, William Fitchet, says members of the department's Street Crime Unit will again don black, military-style uniforms as part of his strategy to deal with youth violence. Fitchet's predecessor, Edward Flynn, had ditched the black attire as part of an effort to soften the image of the unit. Flynn left Springfield in January to become the police chief in Milwaukee. Sgt. John Delaney told a city council hearing Wednesday that the stark uniforms send a message to criminals that officers are serious about making arrests. Delaney said a sense of "fear" has been missing for the past few years.

DON'T CRY FOR ME, ARKANSAS

Nostalgic moments from the Clinton years

NEWSMAX, 1999 Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has commuted Sharlene Wilson's 31-year sentence after she served most of the Clinton administration in jail for having delivered small quantities of drugs. In 1994 Wilson described Clinton's alleged cocaine use to the London Sunday Telegraph. The prosecutor who sent her to jail was her ex-boyfriend Dan Harmon, who later ended up in prison himself on drug, racketeering, and extortion charges. Here's what the Telegraph's Ambrose Evans Pritchard has written about Wilson:

She told The Sunday Telegraph that she had supplied Bill Clinton with cocaine during his first term as Governor. "Bill was so messed up that night, he slid down the wall into a garbage can," she said. The story has credibility because she told it under oath to a federal grand jury in Little Rock in December 1990. At the time she was an informant for the Seventh Judicial District drug task force in Arkansas. Jean Duffey, the prosecutor in charge of the task force, talked to Wilson days after her grand jury appearance. "She was terrified. She said her house was being watched and she'd made a big mistake," said Duffey. "That was when she told me she'd testified about seeing Bill Clinton get so high on cocaine he fell into a garbage can . . . I have no doubt that she was telling the truth." Shortly after Wilson's testimony the drug task force was closed down.

Duffey was hounded out of her job and now lives at a secret address in Texas. Wilson was charged with drug violations. In 1992 she was sentenced to 31 years for selling half an ounce of marijuana and $100 worth of methamphetamine to an informant . . . With the help of a brilliant Arkansas lawyer, John Wesley Hall, her case went all the way to the US Supreme Court. Finding a violation of her constitutional rights, the court ordered the state of Arkansas to give Wilson a fresh trial or set her free.

ECOLOGY

ECOLOGY CONCERNS DRAW ATTENTION TO FOOD SHIPPING TRADITIONS

ELISABETH ROSENTHAL, NY TIMES Cod caught off Norway is shipped to China to be turned into filets, then shipped back to Norway for sale. Argentine lemons fill supermarket shelves on the Citrus Coast of Spain, as local lemons rot on the ground. Half of Europe's peas are grown and packaged in Kenya. . .

Food has moved around the world since Europeans brought tea from China, but never at the speed or in the amounts it has over the last few years. .

Increasingly efficient global transport networks make it practical to bring food before it spoils from distant places where labor costs are lower. . .

But the movable feast comes at a cost: pollution - especially carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas - from transporting the food.

Under longstanding trade agreements, fuel for international freight carried by sea and air is not taxed. Now, many economists, environmental advocates and politicians say it is time to make shippers and shoppers pay for the pollution, through taxes or other measures.

"We're shifting goods around the world in a way that looks really bizarre," said Paul Watkiss, an Oxford University economist who wrote a recent European Union report on food imports.

He noted that Britain, for example, imports - and exports - 15,000 tons of waffles a year, and similarly exchanges 20 tons of bottled water with Australia. More important, Mr. Watkiss said, "we are not paying the environmental cost of all that travel."

Europe is poised to change that. This year the European Commission in Brussels announced that all freight-carrying flights into and out of the European Union would be included in the trading bloc's emissions-trading program by 2012, meaning permits will have to be purchased for the pollution they generate.

RECOVERED HISTORY

DIANA'S DEATH

DOMINICK DUNNE, VANITY FAIR - The more I hear and read and think about Diana's and Dodi's deaths in the Pont d'Alma tunnel, in Paris, on August 31, 1997, in what is possibly the world's most famous car crash, the more I doubt the truth of their great romance. If it was anything at all, it was a flirt, a fling, "just one of those things," as Cole Porter once wrote. Like the conspiracy theory surrounding their deaths, their romance, too, was orchestrated by Mohamed Al Fayed. The shrine to the eternal love of Dodi and Diana, in Harrods, the most famous of English department stores, owned by Al Fayed, is a popular tourist attraction. People line up to look at it. They speak in whispers, as if they were in church, instead of next to the Egyptian escalator in the basement of the store. . . They had been romantically involved with each other for less than a month. . .

Several friends of Diana's told me she was downhearted after the breakup of her romance with Hasnat Khan, the Pakistani surgeon, with whom she was still in love. They say Khan ended his serious relationship with Diana because, as a respected doctor, he could not stand the publicity that overwhelmed her life. (He told the inquest that Diana had broken up with him after she became involved with Dodi.) What is rarely mentioned, although it is well known, is the existence of a beautiful American model named Kelly Fisher, who wore on her left hand an enormous and very expensive engagement ring. She says her fiancé had bought her a mansion in Malibu, where they would live after their marriage. She had tentatively set the date of August 9, 1997, for the wedding, nearly a month off. Her fiancé was Dodi Al Fayed. The two were in Paris together on July 14, when Dodi was summoned by his father to join Princess Diana on the Jonikal, the yacht Mohamed Al Fayed had reportedly purchased for $20 million the day after the Princess accepted his invitation for a sailing trip with her sons, William and Harry. Kelly was left behind in Paris, though a few days later she was flown to St. Tropez and transported to another Al Fayed yacht. There she languished during the day while waiting for evening visits from Dodi.

Diana returned to the Jonikal in August. The fact that she came back for a second visit so soon really shows her loneliness more than it does a passion for Dodi. Her two sons were at Balmoral, one of the Queen's castles, with their father, Prince Charles, and their grandparents the Queen and Prince Philip, as was their August habit. Diana wasn't being invited around to the great English estates for long weekends. She had become too famous. It was too difficult to have her stay. Strangers gathered at the gates to get a glimpse of her. Helicopters hovered. She really had no place to go. The Jonikal invitations were perfect. A splendid yacht. A helicopter. A private plane. Guards to keep the paparazzi at bay. She probably knew that she was being used by a social climber for his and his son's advancement in London society, but in high society it was a fair deal. Each benefited. However, I think it is safe to say that Diana didn't know that Kelly Fisher was on another family yacht, waiting for furtive visits from Dodi, with whom she had been in a relationship for nearly a year. Diana had already played that scene in her marriage to Prince Charles. The guards assigned to Dodi and Diana by Mohamed Al Fayed must have known about Kelly. . .

On August 10, 1997, the paparazzi snapshot that became known as "The Kiss" appeared in the Sunday Mirror. The picture left no doubt that Dodi and Diana were romantically involved. Kelly was toast. She must have known that she was no match for the Princess of Wales, and she hotfooted it back to Hollywood, where she immediately hired the well-known Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred to file a breach-of-contract suit against Dodi. . . Gloria has written a soon-to-be-released book about her cases, entitled Fight Back and Win, which includes Kelly's lawsuit. As Allred writes, Kelly was standing there next to her, but she was too overcome with sadness and tears to speak: "Ms. Fisher is emotionally devastated and traumatized by Mr. Fayed's mistreatment of her. She is unable to speak to the press today because she breaks down in tears whenever she begins to relive what she has personally suffered." There's no question that they thought they had the case of the year, and that the sympathy and spotlight would shift to Kelly as the wronged woman. . .

Kelly even offered to meet with the Princess of Wales to tell her what Dodi was really like. The Princess did not reply to the invitation. And then, days later, the lovers were killed in the Alma tunnel. Kelly did the proper thing and withdrew her breach-of-contract lawsuit.

BOOKSHELF

HOTEL: AN AMERICAN HISTORY

KERRY HOWLEY, REASON For the women of the mid-19th century, a fine hotel was a perilous place to be. Not only did respectable gentlewomen run the risk of consorting with prostitutes (a popular book of etiquette advised female travelers to keep a safe distance from any broad with "a meretricious expression of eye"), but extended time away from the joys of cooking and cleaning might ruin them for life. One defender of home and hearth described the lady hotel dweller this way: "Idle and lazy, and dyspeptic from the want of exercise, she becomes such a mere puppet and machine that she loses all sense of individual responsibility."

Even if she managed to avoid the whores and dyspepsia, she ran great risk of seduction, possibly by a traveling salesman. And if she contrived to keep her virginity intact, there was always luggage to lose. The detective Allan Pinkerton declared that there was "no more prevalent or more popular branch of dishonesty" than the robbery of inns.

Did hotels really merit such expansive social anxieties? In Hotel: An American History (Yale University Press), the University of New Mexico historian A.K. Sandoval-Strausz responds with an emphatic yes. Hotels, he argues, were "a significant episode in the modern idea of a pluralistic, cosmopolitan society," and conservatives invested in the status quo were right to fear them. Transportation advances granted people a new mobility, and traveling Americans suddenly required social mores not predicated on years of shared community bonds.

Consider the condition of the stranger in mid-18th-century America. "Public authority," writes Sandoval-Strausz, "was deeply invested in policing people's comings and goings." Innkeepers were often required to notify officials when strangers rolled into town, and transients needed official permission to stay for any length of time. In 1765 Boston hired a municipal bouncer of sorts to hunt down unauthorized visitors and send them packing. . .

In contrast to the humble taverns they replaced, early hotels were sweeping architectural statements. As plans for the country's first hotel were revealed in 1793, one journalist declared that D.C.'s Union Public House would be "the most magnificent building in America, perhaps in any other country." A year later, construction began on New York's City Hotel, which would feature a ballroom, stores, and the largest circulating library in the nation. Not to be outdone, Boston responded with the Exchange Coffee House, a 200-room building that may have been the nation's largest structure at the time. Alas, the Exchange was not to last: When a fire broke out in the building's attic in 1818, there were no ladders in the city tall enough to reach the flames.

Hotels, then and now, are a material manifestation of a world that prizes free mobility and peaceful exchange. "The built environment expresses the values of the people that created it," writes Sandoval-Strausz. In a time when America is spending billions to build a wall along its southern border, this brilliant history is a reminder that the fear of the traveling stranger is something we have overcome before.

ORDER

DEPARTMENT OF GOOD STUFF

WHAT HAPPENED WHEN JOSHUA BELL PLAYED VIOLIN IN A SUBWAY STATION

This article, which appeared a year ago in the Washington Post Magazine, just won a Pulitzer Prize for Weingarten

GENE WEINGARTEN WASHINGTON POST - By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.

It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12, the middle of the morning rush hour. In the next 43 minutes, as the violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by. Almost all of them were on the way to work, which meant, for almost all of them, a government job. L'Enfant Plaza is at the nucleus of federal Washington, and these were mostly mid-level bureaucrats with those indeterminate, oddly fungible titles: policy analyst, project manager, budget officer, specialist, facilitator, consultant. . .

A onetime child prodigy, at 39 Joshua Bell has arrived as an internationally acclaimed virtuoso. Three days before he appeared at the Metro station, Bell had filled the house at Boston's stately Symphony Hall, where merely pretty good seats went for $100. Two weeks later, at the Music Center at Strathmore, in North Bethesda, he would play to a standing-room-only audience so respectful of his artistry that they stifled their coughs until the silence between movements. But on that Friday in January, Joshua Bell was just another mendicant, competing for the attention of busy people on their way to work. . .

Bell's been accepting over-the-top accolades since puberty: Interview magazine once said his playing "does nothing less than tell human beings why they bother to live." He's learned to field these things graciously, with a bashful duck of the head and a modified "pshaw." For this incognito performance, Bell had only one condition for participating. The event had been described to him as a test of whether, in an incongruous context, ordinary people would recognize genius. His condition: "I'm not comfortable if you call this genius." "Genius" is an overused word, he said: It can be applied to some of the composers whose work he plays, but not to him. His skills are largely interpretive, he said, and to imply otherwise would be unseemly and inaccurate. It was an interesting request, and under the circumstances, one that will be honored. The word will not again appear in this article.

BREVITAS

In 2007, a whopping 400,000 books were published or distributed in the United States, up from 300,000 in 2006, according to the industry tracker Bowker, which attributed the sharp rise to the number of print-on-demand books and reprints of out-of-print titles. University writing programs are thriving, while writers' conferences abound, offering aspiring authors a chance to network and "workshop" their work. The blog tracker Technorati estimates that 175,000 new blogs are created worldwide each day . . . And the same N.E.A. study found that 7 percent of adults polled, or 15 million people, did creative writing, mostly "for personal fulfillment.". . . IUniverse, a self-publishing company founded in 1999, has grown 30 percent a year in recent years; it now produces 500 titles a month and has 36,000 titles in print, said Susan Driscoll, a vice president of its parent company, Author Solutions. . . Driscoll said that most writers using iUniverse sell fewer than 200 books. Other self-publishing outfits report similar growth. Xlibris, a print-on-demand operation, has 20,000 titles in print, by more than 18,000 authors, said Noel Flowers, a company spokesman. - Rachel Donadio, NY Times

Peter Swire, RINF In a recent briefing with Canadian press [Michael] Chertoff made the startling statement that fingerprints are "not particularly private": QUESTION: Some are raising that the privacy aspects of this thing, you know, sharing of that kind of data, very personal data, among four countries is quite a scary thing. . . SECRETARY CHERTOFF: Well, first of all, a fingerprint is hardly personal data because you leave it on glasses and silverware and articles all over the world, they're like footprints. They're not particularly private

ACLU Considering that 89 percent of the mind-boggling 829,625 people arrested for marijuana law offenses in 2006 - the most recent year for which data is available - were arrested for mere possession, the bi-partisan "Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2008" would go a long way toward increasing public safety by freeing up our federal law enforcement resources to focus on serious, violent crime. Taxpayers are stuck with the multibillion dollar bill for these hundreds of thousands of marijuana arrests, which consume 4.5 million law enforcement hours - the equivalent of taking 112,500 law enforcement officers off the streets. . . According to a 2001 Zogby poll, 61 percent of Americans oppose arresting and jailing nonviolent marijuana users, while a 2002 Time/CNN poll found that 72 percent of Americans think people arrested for marijuana possession should face fines rather than jail time. Yet, legislators remain under the impression that support for marijuana law reform would brand them with a stigma as soft-on-crime. That's a shame for the three-quarters of a million small-time marijuana offenders who this year will be branded with the stigma of arrest, leading to employment discrimination, loss of financial aid for college and other public assistance, loss of child custody, and oftentimes imprisonment.

MSNBC - The new U.S. Embassy complex does not have enough fortified living quarters for hundreds of diplomats and other workers, who must remain temporarily in trailers without special rooftop protection against mortars and rockets, government officials have told The Associated Press. Sorting out the housing crunch and funding could further delay moving all personnel into the compound until next year and exposes shortcomings in the planning for America's more than $700 million diplomatic hub in Iraq. . . At one point - during the heaviest barrages early this month - the State Department ordered all its Baghdad employees to wear body armor and other protective gear while outside buildings in the Green Zone, which also contains the British Embassy, key Iraqi government offices and other international compounds. Staffers also were ordered not to sleep in their trailers, and hundreds of cots were placed inside the current embassy - a former Saddam Hussein palace.. . . The precise figure for the looming housing shortfall was not disclosed. Currently, the trailers behind the embassy hold more than 1,000 people

Another diplomatic incident threatens to taint U.S.-Israeli relations: The American government has recently demanded Israel clarify how five U.S.-made helicopters sold to Israel in the mid-70s found their way into the hands of a Columbian drug cartel. According to American sources, the military copters currently serve the drug mafia in the South American country. . . The ministry permitted the choppers, of a MD 500 Defender model, be sold either to the Mexican federal police, or to the Spain firefighters department. However, contrary to the terms of the license, the copters ended up in Columbia, by way of Canadian mediators. - Ynet, Israel

Sen. Barack Obama does come from the Chicago school of politics, where historically voter turnout has been unusually high for residents of certain graveyards. And he has been unusually successful raising money. Now he's raising money by raising the dead. The Times' campaign finance writer Dan Morain found Obama campaign records reporting a $50 donation by Roy Scheider, who lists his occupation as actor and his home as Sag Harbor, N.Y. Remember him from many great movies, including "The French Connection" and "Jaws," and the immortal line "You're gonna need a bigger boat"? According to campaign records, Scheider made the donation March 10. Trouble is, Scheider died exactly one month before that, on Feb. 10, at age 75. Just another example of Hollywood's undying affection for Democrats. - LA Times

San Diego officials say they're going to fight security contractor Blackwater Worldwide's permit to build an indoor military training facility in the city. . . Blackwater's permit was obtained by Raven Development Group. Southwest Law Enforcement's name is on the design plan that the city reviewed. Bonfiglio said the company has never sought to hide its affiliation with those businesses. . . Blackwater officials in March abandoned the company's plans to build an 824-acre training center in Potrero, a rural community about 40 miles east of downtown San Diego. Blackwater's plans there sparked intense opposition from critics who said the facility would bring noise and traffic to the quiet community. The company dropped its proposal after noise tests showed that the noise from gunfire exceeded county standards. - San Diego Mercury News

Drug and medical device companies should be banned from offering free food, gifts, travel and ghost-writing services to doctors, staff members and students in all 129 of the nation's medical colleges, an influential college association has concluded. The proposed ban is the result of a two-year effort by the group, the Association of American Medical Colleges, to create a model policy governing interactions between the schools and industry. While schools can ignore the association's advice, most follow its recommendations. - NY Times

The [Arizona] Maricopa County Board of Supervisors this week agreed to pay out $925,000 to settle two cases that involved the Sheriff's Office. One was a wrongful-death claim brought by the family of a 28-year-old man who suffered a heart attack while in custody. The Sheriff's Office and the Correctional Health Services, a county department responsible for giving inmates medical care, split the $800,000 settlement equally. On the heels of that settlement, Phoenix attorney Michael Manning dispatched a six-page letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, asking that Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his deputies be investigated for abusing the civil rights of inmates housed in county facilities. . . His letter cites cases stretching from a January verdict that awarded $2 million to the family of Brian Crenshaw, a disabled man who died after a fight with a detention officer, to the 1996 case of Scott Norberg, whose family settled for $8.25 million after Norberg died in a restraint chair at the jail. . . Arpaio was defiant in the face of another request for federal authorities to inspect his methods. The letter was the third in three weeks, following missives to the Justice Department from Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and the Anti-Defamation League, and came on the same day the state's Legislative Latino Caucus drafted a letter requesting U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi hold hearings to look into potential civil-rights violations. - Arizona Central

A thief has struck four times Four times in the last two weeks he has struck at Frank Fahy's vegetable patch. On each occasion he has cut through protective netting and pinched a single head of broccoli. The serial thieving is driving Mr Fahy, a 71-year-old retired professor, to distraction - not least because his efforts to deter the culprit have been fruitless. . . 'Each time one head was taken. They are each worth about 50p. It is a bit distressing.' After the first theft Mr Fahy put up a notice saying 'smile you are on camera' - but within three days the thief struck for the second time. Then he put up a notice saying he had sprayed some of his 30-strong crop with insecticide - but still the thefts continued. Now he has put up a notice by his allotment warning the burglar that police are investigating. . . Parish council chairman David Bidwell said: 'It is hard to know exactly when they may strike again. 'But one would hope somebody carrying several large heads of broccoli would be noticeable in a place like King's Somborne, where there is not much crime.' - Daily Mail, UK

The Voter ID conclusion reached by the Supreme Court as a whole is that the law may be unconstitutional as applied to a small number of voters who must incur cost in order to obtain the ID, but that since this case has no such voters as plaintiffs, it fails to reach that claim. Another lawsuit with that particular type of voter as a plaintiff may reach it in the future. - Ballot Access News

Jurgen Vsych, who has been Ralph Nader's campaign filmmaker, has written a biography the independent candidate, What Was Ralph Nader Thinking? - now available in paperback, hardback or audiobooks.

THE SWAMPOODLE REPORT

Great moments in Wikipedia: "Pleasantville has a long and rich history going back to the days of the original inhabitants. . . "

Michael Feldman reports that Barack Obama claims to be only a high holiday Congregationalist.

According to the Washington Times, Dennis Hof, owner of the Bunny Ranch - the largest legally operated house of prostitution in the nation and now in its third season of being featured on HBO - attended the White House Correspondents' Association dinner. "Mr. Hof told us that during the dinner 'I spotted several of my customers,' two of whom emailed him this morning and 'thanked me for not walking up to them to say hello.'"

READER COMMENTS

NOTE: You can post your comments on any of the above stories by going to our Undernews site and searching for the headline. Once posted, a copy is immediately mailed to the Review and we pick some of the most interesting to publish here. http://prorev.com/indexa.htm

HILLARY CLINTON

- Get this divisive, bitter campaigner out of the race. Please. She is taking us down the same old path of politics. And this country deserves better.

OBAMA

- If I considered myself a religious person (I don't), if I owned a gun and was a hunter (I don't and I'm not), if I like to be around my own friends and family and coworkers who I love and respect and also speak the same language as I do (I do), then why in the world would I vote for someone who claims I'm clinging to my religion and church and guns and people like me because I am bitter. . . I found this terribly insulting, and I don't even live in Pennslvania - BB Fellows Minneapolis, MN

- Am I crazy to enjoy Jeremiah Wright's straight talk immensely? Further, I find he grows on one. I got a kick of seeing Fox News broadcast his NAACP talk, probably chortling over wrecking Obama with guilt by association. I hope they keep it up and predict in time Wright will be seen for what he is - a spellbinding orator who resonates broadly with most of us. I want more, especially on Fox. Maybe Fox's well-paid token blacks will lead a palace revolution. Finally, compare the white talking heads clucking over Wright while their coverage of ex-Nazi youth Ratzinger just oozed unction and reverential tones, enough to make the toughest stomach retch. - WH, ME

LOCAL HEROES: SEATTLE TEACHER SUSPENDED FOR REFUSING TO GIVE TEST..

- Standardized tests are the best measure we presently have for holding teachers accountable for what they are or are not teaching. The argument that "there are better things for teachers to spend their time on than standardized testing" is completely ridiculous, as a typical testing cycle takes 3-4 days (out of 180 in Indiana). Most kids miss around 5 days of school a year, so the thought that it's a strain on teachers is completely invalid.

Was this teacher on the state board that approved this test? Did he attend the meetings that helped set the criteria for the test? I seriously doubt it. If he had, then more than likely it would have been mentioned in the article to help glorify this guy. So before you label him as a "hero" for doing something popular, think.

The state sets standards to teach, then does its best to measure how well each school is imparting these standards onto the students. I hate standardized testing, but it's what we have, so it's what we have to live with for now until someone comes up with a better idea. Yes, it's not fair to some, but to the other 95% of kids, it's a fairly accurate measure of what they know. I see around 275 kids each day, and I have access to their test scores for our state's standardized test. There was only 2 or 3 whom failed the test that surprised me. Is it sad that those kids are being unfairly judged based off of some bubble test? Yes, it's awful. What else are we supposed to do? Once you stop holding teachers and kids accountable for their work, people become complacent and stop working as hard and/or stop caring.

I teach at a school where most of the teachers are 40+, which is fine, but most of them are burnt out and very lazy and, oddly enough, our test scores are quite low. I did my student teaching at a school where the teachers were very active and came up with extra programs, made kids who were struggling stay after, spent extra time, et cetera, and oddly enough their test scores are pretty high. Coincidence?

How about - instead of complaining about standardized tests - you come up with an adequate replacement for it?

Nothing is more ridiculous than someone complaining about a problem, yet offering no solution to it. Now, if you have a good, realistic solution to testing, let's hear it. Nothing annoys me more than senseless whining. It serves no purpose.

- I am a retired 6th grade teacher. I retired just before this testing madness became a reality. I would have been proud to have worked with Mr. Chew, he is a credit to the word education. Many times I have said that I would not have been able to teach with the current testing regulations, children need and must have the creative side of them expressed in order to survive and flourish.

- This isn't something that is just going on in Washington. Most states have a horrible standardized test that teachers must teach to. The pressure put on us and the students (I am a teacher myself) is insane. To the person who claimed Mr. Chew was "whining" - walk a day in a teacher's shoes and see what we deal with on a daily basis.

- If you are a teacher or belong to one of the major teacher unions, you must contact your union at the local, state, and national level and tell them to stop supporting or only half-heartedly opposing No Child Left Behind. They should unequivocally oppose any Republican education policies since they invariably serve two purposes:

1. funneling money into the pockets of cronies, in this case testing companies.

2. making public education look like a failure, in this case by wasting teachers and students time preparing for the test, then using the test results to prove public schools are failing.

IT'S 3 A.M. AND HILLARY CLINTON STILL HASN'T GONE HOME YET

- We have the candidate and we have the president. There's a difference. We can't know what Obama will do as president until he's elected. Being a candidate, meanwhile, is treading a minefield. Nerve wracking, wondering if you're going to say the wrong thing. Gotta please the funders, gotta please the voters. The agonizing thing is that what the voters want is often what the funders fear. What we really need is a New Deal, but how are we going to be able to afford it? This primary phase feels like a long, long boxing match, and the contenders are on the ropes. If he gets too specific, then he hems himself in to promises that might not seem appropriate a year from now.

BLACK LIKE WHO?

- True enough, re. your comments about Obama's mom not being mentioned as white and that the media posits him as 'black' solely. But let's be honest: blacks also tend to co-opt in that fashion. For example, many blacks claim Tiger Woods as a 'black man', conveniently forgetting or omitting the fact that his parentage is in fact multi-racial. This nonsense cuts across almost all fronts nowadays.

- Standardized tests are mind controlled programming. They signify nothing, and teach nothing. That is why public school is a joke. Take your test and shove it.

- You want a replacement for your standardized test? How about teaching academic topics? How about tests that measure and teach?

- Outstanding commentary, Sam. After about ten years of travels through what passes for the American Left, the severest indictment is the fact that I rarely heard your name.

- What I see on the outside of two boxes is (a) a candidate willing to "obliterate" a country, (b) a candidate willing to keep us at war for 100 years, and (c) a candidate who says we have to change this mindset. I agree with candidate (c). ( of course they may be "just words" that don't matter.) But, those are my realistic choices. Keep in mind also, that we have "Black History" one month out of the year. So, Tiger Woods, and Barack Obama, as living history, may be as close as a lot of kids get. It sure isn't in the grade school curriculum.

HEY, IT WORKED FOR HITLER

- Your country scares the hell out of me, More and more people around the world are feeling the same - A northern neighbor

RECOVERED HISTORY: DIANA'S DEATH

- Diana Spencer died in a stupid and avoidable accident, and that's sad--but this thing needed to be put to bed a long time ago, and would have been if it weren't for the continual, artificially-stimulated-by-the-mainstream-media appetites for 'news' about the rich, the decadent, the Eurotrash jet-set crowd, and celebrities famous for nothing more noteworthy than creating homemade porn on their cell phones. If anyone is truly interested in investigating a conspiracy, they'd put their energies to better use by investigating the conspiracy among news outlets to keep the public ignorant of stories and facts germane to their real existences, interests and needs, as opposed to brain popcorn centering around the latest dubious achievers of the moment. That would make for a truly worthy piece of investigative journalism, in contradistinction to the 'investigations' of a non-existent cabal surrounding a vacuous young woman's unfortunate but accidental death. And I'm not holding my breath waiting to ever see it in print, either, sorry to say.

Dunne was dispelling the theories about Diana's death, not encouraging them.

WORD

- Meetings are nowhere near as useful as masturbation. They are rather torture for masochists and punishment for those who have misbehaved

THE DEMOCRATS' PROBLEM

- The progressive instincts of Democrats clash with their policies. For instance, Democrats for years said that people in the US ought to pay more for gas like those Europeans. However high gas prices have a regressive impact, so they hurt the low income people the most.

*************

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