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Undernews For July 14, 2008

Undernews For July 14, 2008

FROM THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW
Washington's Most Unofficial Source
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Editor: Sam Smith

14 JULY 2008

WORD

Hi, this is Senator Tom Bromwell. I can't come to the phone right now because I'm in jail. If you care to leave a message, I'll call you back in six years. By the way, I'm doing okay. -- Recent phone message from former Maryland state senator (D-Baltimore County) as reported by the Washington Post. Bromwell entered a federal pen in Massachusetts on July 1 to begin his sentence on racketeering and tax-crime charges.

SWAMPOODLE REPORT: WHEN WILL THE MEDIA DITCH THE RIGHTWING ECONOMIC CULT?

Sam Smith

Even before the current mortgage crisis, evidence that rightwing economic policy since Reagan has been a failure was overwhelming. The problem was that nobody seemed to notice. In no small part, this was thanks to a media - heavily comprised of ex-political science, history and English majors - accepting without question propaganda from the right that, in many ways, was the same thing to economics as creationism is to evolution.

Even now, with news of collapse unavoidable, journalists try to sound intelligent by suggesting government involvement in the rescue from two and a half decades of corporatism might be a violation of the allegedly sacred principles of the free market. This is not an ideological matter on the media's part - after all, NPR has been a regular enabler - but rather reflects the journalists' willingness to rely on whatever "expert" happens to be in power at the moment.

Thus, the average reader or viewer may not realize that during the glory years of the second robber baron era, things like these have fallen significantly:

Minimum wage as percent of average wage
Real income
Real manufacturing wages
Percent of single women and mothers in the workforce
The bottom 40%'s share of national wealth
Older families with pensions.
Workers covered by defined benefit pensions.
The savings rate
US manufacturing jobs

And here are some of the things that have grown:

Top 1% share of total income
Income gap between rich and poor
Foreign debt as a percent of GDP
Age at which one can receive Social Security
Hunger
Consumer credit debt
Housing foreclosures
Severe poverty rate

With the media almost completely blacking out all but conservative economic viewpoints, the public has little idea of how well socialism often works or how a blend of capitalism and public involvement can solve many problems, or that we actually function on a principle Paul Soglin, the former mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, labeled lemon socialism, of which the current bailout of the big housing insurers is a classic case and in which the capitalists both get to make money and then get bailed out by the government when they fail.

This has been one of the media's greatest sins, one that stems from ignorance, groveling to power and infatuation with the cliches of the moment.

Just as examples, why are we not allowed to debate regulations on credit care usury? Or an equity sharing program in which the government helps people buy homes rather than helping the banks when the loans go bad? Or letting the government as well as the banks print money - to be used for non-inflationary public works instead of putting generations in debt for stupid wars?

The Republicans lack the intelligence, the Democrats lack the courage. The media can continue to contribute to our downward economic slide or it can help introduce us the ideas, principles and approaches that will show the way out of a quarter century of greed and stupidity parading as economic theory.

PAGE ONE MUST

NY ATTORNEY GENERAL EXPANDS EFFORT TO CENSOR INTERNET

John Timmer, Arstechnica Last month, the New York state Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, announced that a sting operation had uncovered an indifference on the part of Internet service providers regarding complaints about child porn accessible through their networks. Using a combination of legal threats and public shaming, Cuomo was able to get three ISPs to drop access to the entire alt.* hierarchy of Usenet, a move that encouraged California to request similar measures. Now, in a sign that these efforts against child porn were becoming a movement, Cuomo has announced the launch of a web site, nystopchildporn and agreements with two more ISPs.

AOL is the subject of one of the new agreements, which isn't much of a surprise, given that its corporate sibling, Time Warner Cable, had already signed on with Cuomo. It will apparently require no changes on its part, as CNET reports that the company had already implemented a policy of blocking child porn access. AT&T is the other, and, given that it's apparently the US' largest service provider, it represents a significant accomplishment for the AG. Apparently, AT&T's efforts will be as indiscriminate as those pursued by Verizon, in that they plan on blocking access to the entire alt.binaries.* hierarchy. . .

Regardless of how you feel about Cuomo's efforts or the implementation of his agreements by the ISPs, it's difficult to interpret the new site as anything more than an effort in self promotion. Its intent is signaled by the entry page, which is entitled "Press Releases" and contains an animation that rotates through four photos of Cuomo announcing the site's launch. Three of the four sentences in the draft letter to ISPs include Cuomo's name, and the fourth refers to him by his title.

The letter is also notable for the fact that it no longer focuses on the actual accessibility of child porn via the ISP, and instead simply requests they join in Cuomo's campaign. The rapid shift of focus from an identifiable problem to a high-publicity campaign seems as likely to produce cynicism as it is to lead to progress on the underlying issue.

TELCOM IMMUNITY VIOLATES CONSTITUION'S BAN ON EX POST FACTO LAWS

Stephen Neitzke, Populist America No matter the blizzard of bullshit from the elite channels of discourse -- political party bosses, law school professors, CEOs, and sundry dignitaries -- there is no such thing as legal retroactive immunity for crimes already committed. The Constitution does not say, "We don't like ex post facto law, but Congress can go ahead and pass it, and then let the courts sort things out." The Constitution says, "No ex post facto law . . . shall be passed". Any and all retroactive immunity for crimes already committed would require ex post facto law. And ex post facto law is unconstitutional, anti-Constitutional, and blatantly illegal. No ifs, ands, or buts.

SOUTH AFRICAN APARTHEID VETERANS VISIT OCCUPIED PALESTINE, FIND THINGS THEY NEVER HAD TO FACE

Donald Macintyre, Independent, UK Veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle said last night that the restrictions endured by Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories was in some respects worse than that imposed on the black majority under white rule in South Africa.

Members of a 23-strong human-rights team of prominent South Africans cited the impact of the Israeli military's separation barrier, checkpoints, the permit system for Palestinian travel, and the extent to which Palestinians are barred from using roads in the West Bank.

After a five-day visit to Israel and the Occupied Territories, some delegates expressed shock and dismay at conditions in the Israeli-controlled heart of Hebron. Uniquely among West Bank cities, 800 settlers now live there and segregation has seen the closure of nearly 3,000 Palestinian businesses and housing units. Palestinian cars (and in some sections pedestrians) are prohibited from using the once busy streets.

"Even with the system of permits, even with the limits of movement to South Africa, we never had as much restriction on movement as I see for the people here," said an ANC parliamentarian, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge of the West Bank. "There are areas in which people would live their whole lifetime without visiting because it's impossible."

Mrs Madlala-Routledge, a former deputy health minister in President Thabo Mbeki's government, added: "While I want to be careful not to characterize everything that I see here as apartheid, I just do find comparisons in a number of places. I also find differences."

Comparisons with apartheid have long been anathema to majority Israeli opinion, though they have been somewhat less taboo since the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, last year warned that without an early two-state agreement Israel could face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights.

Fatima Hassan, a leading South African human rights lawyer, said: "The issue of separate roads, [different registration] of cars driven by different nationalities, the indignity of producing a permit any time a soldier asks for it, and of waiting in long queues in the boiling sun at checkpoints just to enter your own city, I think is worse than what we experienced during apartheid." She was speaking after the tour, which included a visit to the Holocaust Museum at Yad Vashem and a meeting with Israel's Chief Justice, Dorit Beinisch.

One prominent member of the delegation, who declined to be named, said South Africa had been "much poorer" both during and after apartheid than the Palestinian territories. But he added: "The daily indignity to which the Palestinian population is subjected far outstrips the apartheid regime. And the effectiveness with which the bureaucracy implements the repressive measures far exceed that of the apartheid regime.". . .

Andrew Feinstein, a former ANC parliament member, said that the visit to Yad Vashem had been "extremely moving" because his mother had been a Holocaust survivor who lost many members of her family. "As you walk into Yad Vashem you see a quote that says in effect you should know a country not only by what it does but what it tolerates," he said. "So I found it very shocking to then come and here and see footage of teenagers heaping abuse on Palestinian children as they come out of school, and throwing stones at them. And that this should be done in the name of Judaism I find totally reprehensible.

"What the Holocaust teaches us more than anything else is that we must never turn our heads away in the face of injustice."

SAUDIS SEND MIXED MESSAGES ABOUT THEIR OIL SUPPLY

We have received this note from a reader with extensive experience - both governmental and scholarly - in the field of energy:

Recently and whatever their intentions, the Saudis have been sending mixed messages about their future crude-oil production.

(1] In March, the King said that discoveries of new reservoirs of crude oil must be reserved for future generations.

[2] In June, Oil & Gas Journal tabulated Saudi projects recently completed or close to completion which would add more than four million barrels per day to Saudi capacity. [ No mention of the rates of decline for reservoirs already in production. ]

[3] The same report stated that production from these projects will peak in 2008 or 2010. In other words, production will begin to decline very soon after the projects are completed. This is very strange. Do these projects represent acts of desperation?
[4] In June, Saudi officials announced a national goal of increasing capacity to 12.5 million barrels, with the possibility of 15 million barrels later on, "if necessary" to meet world demand. This is from a current level reported as 9.5 million barrels.

[5] Now comes Business Week and says that Saudi production of crude oil will peak in 2010 at only 12 million barrels per day. Moreover, this level can only be sustained for short periods of time. The sustainable level will peak at 10.4 million barrels. The source of this information is said to be Saudi sources who are both reliable and have access to statistics for individual reservoirs.

Whatever the truth of the matter, the most important news is that which has not been reported. After five decades of official optimism, of portraying Saudi Arabia as the cornucopia of crude oil, there is no longer any certainty nor even a coherent party line about its future capacity. And without Saudi Arabia as the cornucopia, the illusion of oil forever has been shattered forever.

Of the 80 plus countries with significant crude-oil production, 63 admit that theirs is in permanent decline, including Mexico, the North Sea countries and the USA. Meanwhile, expansion of production in Iran, Iraq, Nigeria and Russia is on hold for political reasons, while the Saudis say that Iran and Nigeria cannot expand in any case.

With so many errors, omissions and bald-faced lies in oil statistics, I still doubt that we can pinpoint the year of the peak in world crude-oil production. But more than ever, we can be sure that it is coming and coming sooner than a lot of people think.

OBAMA WILL GET THE TROOPS OUT OF IRAQ. . . EXCEPT FOR THE ONES HE LEAVES THERE

Progressive Review - Although Barack Obama is commonly described as the candidate who would end the war in Iraq and remove our troops, the reality appears to be somewhat different. For example, in a July 14 New York times op ed, Obama wrote, "As I've said many times, we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 - two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces. That would not be a precipitous withdrawal."

Leaving aside the remarkable circularity of leaving troops in Iraq to protect "American service members" and the fact that we went to Afghnistan to go after remnants of Al Qaeda, Obama's plans leave unclear just how large his force will be.

Democracy Now, Feb 28 - Jeremy Scahill reports Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama will not "rule out" using private military companies like Blackwater Worldwide in Iraq. Obama also has no plans to sign on to legislation that seeks to ban the use of these forces in US war zones by January 2009. Despite their antiwar rhetoric, both Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton have adopted the congressional Democratic position that would leave open the option of keeping tens of thousands of US troops in Iraq for many years.

Eli Lake, NY Sun, April 4 - A key adviser to Senator Obama's campaign is recommending in a confidential paper that America keep between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in Iraq as . . . The paper, obtained by The New York Sun, was written by Colin Kahl for the center-left Center for a New American Security. In "Stay on Success: A Policy of Conditional Engagement," Mr. Kahl writes that through negotiations with the Iraqi government "the U.S. should aim to transition to a sustainable over-watch posture (of perhaps 60,000–80,000 forces) by the end of 2010 (although the specific timelines should be the byproduct of negotiations and conditions on the ground).". . .

Mr. Kahl's approach would call on the remaining troops in Iraq to play an "over-watch role." The term is used by Multinational Forces Iraq to describe the long term goal of the coalition force presence in the country, Mr. Kahl said in an interview.

"It refers to the U.S. being out of the lead, largely in a support role. It doesn't mean the U.S. does not do things like targeted counterterrorism missions or continue to train and advise the Iraqis," he said. "It would not be 150,000 Americans taking the lead in counterinsurgency."

Mr. Obama's policy to date also allows for a residual force for Iraq. In early Iowa debates, the senator would not pledge to remove all soldiers from Iraq, a distinction from his promise to withdraw all combat brigades. Also, Mr. Obama has stipulated that he would be open to having the military train the Iraqi Security Forces if he received guarantees that those forces would not be the shock troops of one side of an Iraqi civil war.

From Democracy Now

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Obama, quick question: 70 percent of Iraqis say they want the US to withdraw completely; why don't you call for a total withdrawal?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Well, I do, except for our embassy. I call for amnesty and protecting our civilian contractors there.

AMY GOODMAN: You've said a residual force-

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Yeah, but-

AMY GOODMAN: -which means [inaudible] thousands [inaudible].

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Well, no. I mean, I don't think that you've read exactly what I've said. What I said is that we do need to have a strike force in the region. It doesn't necessarily have to be in Iraq; it could be in Kuwait or other places. But we do have to have some presence in order to not only protect them, but also potentially to protect their territorial integrity.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you call for a ban on the private military contractors like Blackwater?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: I've actually-I'm the one who sponsored the bill that called for the investigation of Blackwater in [inaudible], so-

AMY GOODMAN: But would you support the Sanders one now?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Here's the problem: we have 140,000 private contractors right there, so unless we want to replace all of or a big chunk of those with US troops, we can't draw down the contractors faster than we can draw down our troops. So what I want to do is draw-I want them out in the same way that we make sure that we draw out our own combat troops. Alright?

JEREMY SCAHILL, DEMOCRACY NOW: I started looking at Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's Iraq plans, and one of the things that I discovered is that both of them intend to keep the Green Zone intact. Both of them intend to keep the current US embassy project, which is slated to be the largest embassy in the history of the world. . . . I think it's 500 CIA operatives alone, a thousand personnel. And they're also going to keep open the Baghdad airport indefinitely. And what that means is that even though the rhetoric of withdrawal is everywhere in the Democratic campaign, we're talking about a pretty substantial level of US forces and personnel remaining in Iraq indefinitely. . .

Obama is saying he wants to keep the embassy. Obama is saying he wants to keep the Green Zone. Obama is saying he wants to keep the Baghdad airport. Who's guarding US diplomats right now at this largest embassy in the history of the world? Well, it's Blackwater, Triple Canopy and DynCorp; it's these private security companies. . . And so, the situation right now is that Obama seems to have painted himself into a corner on this issue, . . .

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, let me ask you, in terms of this whole issue of mercenaries in general, I mean, are we facing the possibility that a Democratic president would in essence reduce the troops but increase the mercenaries?

JEREMY SCAHILL: . . . Joseph Schmitz, who's one of the leading executives in the Blackwater empire, recently said this: "There is a scenario where we could as a government, the United States, could pull back the military footprint, and there would then be more of a need for private contractors to go in." So apparently these contractors see a silver lining in that scenario. You know, the reality is, right now, that these forces are one of the most significant threats to Iraqis in the country. I mean, we've seen scores of incidents where they've shot at them, etc.

AFGHANISTAN TO REMAIN COLONY OF U.S.

Washington Post Congress has quietly used fiscal 2008 legislation on military construction to signal that it plans on a long-term military presence in Afghanistan. In the recently approved supplemental funding bill for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, legislators approved construction of a $62 million ammunition storage facility at Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base, where 12 planned "igloos" will support Army and Air Force needs. "As a forward operating site, Bagram must be able to provide for a long term, steady state presence which is able to surge to meet theater contingency requirements," the Army said in requesting the money. . .

In another sign that U.S. troops will be there a long time, the Army requested, and Congress provided, $41 million for a 30-megawatt power plant at Bagram. It is capable of generating enough electricity for a town of more than 20,000 homes.

On the other hand, Congress eliminated the Army's request for $184 million to build power plants at five bases in Iraq. Those are to be among the final bases and support locations where troops, aircraft and equipment will be consolidated as the U.S. military presence is reduced.

WORLD'S FORESTS THREATENED BY POPULATION GROWTH

New Scientist Two reports [say] that booming demand for food, fuel and wood as the world's population surges from 6 to 9 billion will put unprecedented and unsustainable demand on the world's remaining wooded ecosystems.

"Arguably, we are on the verge of the last great global land grab," says Andy White, co-author of Seeing People Through the Trees, one of the two reports which are both published by Rights and Resources Initiative, a US organization.

White's report said that unless agricultural productivity rises sharply, new land equivalent in size to 12 times the area of Germany will have to be cultivated for crops to meet food and biofuel demand by 2030.

Virtually all of it is likely to be in developing countries, principally land that is currently forested.

"Unless steps are taken, traditional forest owners, and the forests themselves, will be the big losers," says White. "It will mean more deforestation, more conflict, more carbon emissions, more climate change and less prosperity for everyone."

The second report, From Exclusion to Ownership, notes that governments still claim ownership of most forests in developing countries, but says they have done little to ensure the rights and tenure of forest dwellers.

It says people whose main source of livelihood is the forests were usually the best custodians of the forests and their biodiversity.

STUPID POLICE CHIEF TRICKS: MAKING SAGGY PANTS A CRIME

Ben Schmitt, Detroit Free Press Flint residents now have to watch their butts because Police Chief David Dicks is on the lookout. Dicks, who took over the department last month on an interim basis, announced that his officers would start arresting people wearing saggy pants that expose skivvies, boxer shorts or bare bottoms.

"Some people call it a fad," Dicks told the Free Press this week while patrolling the streets of Flint. "But I believe it's a national nuisance. It is indecent and thus it is indecent exposure, which has been on the books for years."

On June 27, the chief issued a departmental memorandum telling officers: "This immoral self expression goes beyond freedom of expression."

The crime, he says, is disorderly conduct or indecent exposure, both misdemeanors punishable by 93 days to a year in jail and/or fines up to $500.

Dicks, 41, broke down his interpretation of the laws as such: Pants pulled completely below the buttocks with underwear showing is disorderly conduct; saggy pants with skin of the buttocks showing is indecent exposure, and saggy pants, not completely below the buttocks, with underwear exposed results in a warning.

The American Civil Liberties Union is already scrutinizing the enforcement, something Dicks fully expected. But he said he's not backing down until the pants stop falling down. . .

On Monday, a Free Press reporter and videographer rode with the chief as he confronted teens sporting the sag look. He issued verbal warnings to several people and said the style also gives police probable cause to search those wearing no-rise jeans.

As he drove through Flint's north and east sides, he flipped on the flashing lights of his departmental-issued Chevy Tahoe as he stopped a shirtless young man walking in the street with saggy shorts and exposed boxers.

"Did you hear about the law?" the chief asked.

"I heard about it the other day," the man responded.

"I'm gonna issue a warning. I need you to get a belt because it's indecent exposure," the chief said to the twentysomething man on Delaware and N. Franklin. "Spread the word, put your shirt on and don't expose your underwear.". . .

"If I pay for my pants, I should be able to wear them how I want to," said 16-year-old Montez Phifer, taking a break from playing hoops in the city Monday. "Everyone thinks it's gangster, but it's a fashion. Nothing more."

His friend, Lorenzo Johnson, 14, said his mother warned him about the chief's stance on sagging.

"I pulled them up to respect her," he said. "When she left I pulled them back down."

Another friend, Senita Abrams, 18, said: "I think it's cute when boys sag.". . .

Greg Gibbs, a lawyer and chair of the ACLU Flint chapter, said the crackdown sounds like a "vast waste of resources."

"We are concerned that the enforcement of the chief's memo may lead to some constitutional violations on a case-by-case basis due to the failure of his memo to define what constitutes indecent exposure," Gibbs said. "From a First Amendment standpoint, I still have to crack the books to find out what the courts have said on this issue.". . .

TEACHERS UNION CALLS FOR END OF NO CHILD LAW

George N Schmidt, Substance - In a major address to the 3,000 delegates to the national convention of the American Federation of Teachers, outgoing president Ed McElroy announced that the union was no longer in favor of tinkering with the federal "No Child Left Behind" law and called for the abolition of NCLB.

According to the press release summarizing McElroy's remarks: "McElroy pledged that the AFT would work with the next president to move beyond the No Child Left Behind Act (which he called 'an idea whose time has gone') to 'create a new education law that respects the knowledge of classroom professionals and helps teachers and paraprofessionals provide our students with the high-quality education they deserve."

To the loudest cheers of his valedictory speech, McElroy repeated that No Child Left Behind cannot be repaired, and had to be replaced. . .

When No Child Left Behind was originally proposed by the administration of President George W. Bush in 2002, it received widespread bipartisan support, including the support of U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy (D, MA) and U.S. Representative George Miller (D, CA), who at the time were the ranking minority leaders in the Senate and House on matters of education. Senator Kennedy stood beside President Bush at the signing of NCLB.

AFT long maintained in public that NCLB was basically an "unfunded" mandate, and publicly clamored for more funding for NCLB. Kennedy and Miller followed their lead. When NCLB came up for reauthorization in 2007, however, widespread national opposition to the law was even heard inside the Beltway in Washington, D.C., and at the offices of the two national teacher unions . . . By mid-2007, it was clear that NCLB was in trouble, and even its staunchest supporters inside the Democratic Party were being forced to retreat. Rep. Miller returned to his home district in California to find himself followed by teachers and others who were actively opposing NCLB. . .

By the summer of 2007, two of the contenders for the nomination (U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Governor Richardson of New Mexico) told people across the county that there were opposed to NCLB, and that the law should be eliminated. The two leading contenders for the Democratic Party nomination -- New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Illinois Senator Barack Obama -- were less emphatic in their opposition to the renewal of NCLB. Both continued throughout the 2008 primary season to discuss NCLB as if it might be improved, and not simply eliminated. . .

Although U.S. Senator Barack Obama appeared before a high-priced fundraiser at one of the two main convention hotels on the night of July 11, his campaign has continued to announce that his address to the AFT will be by satellite, as he addressed the NEA two weeks earlier. Many at the AFT convention consider Obama's refusal to appear in person before the convention a personal snub. Chicago's teachers were among the first supporters Obama had when he was gathering support for the Democratic Party nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2003 and early 2004. In fact, without the support of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, Obama would not have received the backing of the Cook County Democratic Party and the junior senator from Illinois today would be Dan Hynes, a member of a prominent Democratic Party family in Chicago who was the early favorite in 2003 for the nomination. By July 11, there was some speculation that Obama was reconsidering his decision to snub the AFT as he had snubbed the NEA by refusing to appear in person.

LOCAL HEROES: SOME WHO HAVE STOOD UP AGAINST SCHOOL TEST MANIA

Fair Test Examiner Individual teachers, parents and students sometimes respond to high-stakes testing by putting themselves on the line:

- Carl Chew, a 60-year-old sixth grade science teacher from Seattle, wrestled annually with his conscience about administering the Washington Assessment of Student Learning tests to his students. "Each year I would give the WASL, and I would promise myself I would never do it again," he said. "I decided, 'I'm not going to wimp out this time.'" His refusal resulted in a nine-day unpaid suspension along with accolades from parents and teachers around the nation. Chew explained his reasons in a Seattle Post Intelligencer commentary: "I performed this single act of civil disobedience based on personal moral and ethical grounds, as well as professional duty. I believe that the WASL is destructive to our children, teachers, schools, and parents. . . "

- North Carolina special education teacher Doug Ward could no longer bring himself to give the state's alternative assessments to his students with severe disabilities. He was fired for his act of civil disobedience this spring. Ward, who had been teaching special needs students for three years, said he did not want to give a test to his students that was invalid and that they could not pass. "Someone needs to use a little common sense and say, 'I am just not going to do it,'" Ward said. Like Chew, Ward has received support from parents, colleagues and the community. Bob Williams, whose son Kyle was taught by Ward, said he admires his son's teacher for what he did, and that the test doesn't measure what Kyle has learned. "If you ask me as a parent is (Kyle) succeeding, you are darn right he is succeeding," Williams said. "When he started third grade, he couldn't walk down the hall. When he started school as a kindergartner, he was in a wheelchair. Now he can walk down the hall on his own. The test doesn't test that."

- Parent Craig Haller of Brookline, Mass., whose daughter Hannah is a high school freshman with severe disabilities, has launched an exhaustive effort to exempt his daughter from the state test and alternative assessment. State authorities failed to respond to his many requests that 15-year-old Hannah not be tested because she is unable to communicate and her individualized education plan does not align with the state curriculum frameworks. Haller contacted every local and state official he could find and alerted the news media. . . In a letter to state Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester, Haller wrote, "She will experience heightened stress and anxiety at the time of the exam by not being physically able to respond to any part of the exam. She will experience loss of self esteem and self image by completely and totally failing an exam that is not designed to test or assess her knowledge but the mastery of the Massachusetts curriculum frameworks."

- Virtually the entire 8th grade of a South Bronx, New York City, middle school boycotted a practice version of the state exam. Their teacher was disciplined for supposedly fomenting the rebellion. The 160 students from six classes at Intermediate School 318 handed in blank answer sheets rather than take a three-hour practice round of the state social studies exam. "We've had a whole bunch of these diagnostic tests all year," said 13-year-old Tatiana Nelson. "They don't even count toward our grades. The school system's just treating us like test dummies for the companies that make the exams."

The students also submitted a petition to school authorities saying they were tired of the "constant, excessive and stressful testing" that takes time from instruction. The students insisted the boycott was their idea, but administrators blamed Douglas Avella, the students' probationary social studies teacher, and reassigned him to New York's notorious "rubber room" for teachers accused of various kinds of misconduct. "Now they've taken away the teacher we love only a few weeks before our real state exam for social studies," Nelson said. "How does that help us?"

- St. Lucie County, Florida high school Assistant Principal Teri Pinney resigned from her position in June rather than comply with her principal's request that she suspend students for sleeping or "Christmas Treeing" (filling in bubbles to make a pattern) during state testing and other requests she believes were unethical. Neither Pinney nor another assistant principal complied, but the principal suspended the students. Pinney said, "Two of the kids he suspended were good students, never got in trouble, and had excellent attendance. They were children of migrant Mexican workers. The parents pleaded with me and I gave in and lifted the suspensions. Of course, that opposition with my boss got me in trouble." In a newspaper commentary, Pinney expressed her dismay at the role played by testing in schools today: "I believe that misuse or overuse of standardized testing is creating a maddening race for everybody to that elusive finishing line."

GREEN PARTY PICKS MCKINNEY AS ITS CANDIDATE

Reuters The U.S. Green Party, which captured far less than 1 percent of the vote in the last presidential election, chose former Democratic Rep. Cynthia McKinney as its 2008 presidential candidate on Saturday.
McKinney, 53, will be joined on the ticket for the November election by vice presidential candidate Rosa Clemente, a hip-hop artist and activist. . In 2004, the Green Party drew 119,859 votes, or 0.1 percent of the total, finishing in sixth place behind the two major parties and three other third-party tickets.

The party's best performance came in 2000 when Ralph Nader headed the ticket, and won 2.8 million votes, or 2.7 percent of the total. . . McKinney served six terms in Congress and lost her 2006 bid for re-election. She was the first black woman to represent Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives.

READER COMMENTS

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MCCAIN AS TOAST

I'm reading Karp's Indispensable Enemies right now and it may be - if I follow Karp´s analysis - that the Republican organization has decided that McCain is to lose anyway and that is why he was selected. The Republicans don't want to win because then the problems would have to be dealt with that were in part created by them, but heavily supported by Democrats. Now if he goes too badly - sort of like McGovern in 1972 - that could pose problems. But if not as bad, well that would be preferable for them. On the Democratic side - following Karp again - the Democratic organization wants to win but not win overwhelmingly because that would put their organization at risk, make it harder to control the politicians, and give some hope for a change or many changes in the political landscape. Obama is tacking to center and right to recover from collecting support for those who want substantial change and hence it is time to dump them. By moving right he can claim that he cannot win without moving right and hence, if and when in power, has hamstrung himself. Pelosi and Reid (and the majority of Democrats) colluded so much with Bush that to become unstuck would raise issues of substantial change. Better to treat the voting public cynically and in turn be treated cynically. Makes for status quo. - Rick Harkin

THE CORPORATE CURSE

Well written. You have successfully explained how America became a fascist state. Yet you incredibly believe that the production of MBA graduates is the cause of this. Perhaps one should think of that as another effect of the wide ranging and idiotic evolution of our government from caretaker of freedom to nanny and tyrant.

In other words, our economy (and nation) are in trouble not because young people see the future in the MBA or because the university creates an MBA program, but because the drive for an ever more powerful national nanny to guard us from every worry and relieve us of every responsibility forces us to major in business or management and schools to standardize education.

In other words, it is all the natural result of a massive federal monarchy which, in essence, now "owns" everything.

THE THREE WORST MOST MENTIONED PICKS FOR DEMOCRATIC VICE PRESIDENT

Clark is too close to the Clinton/Arkansas political scene and as such would be a liability on the ticket. I think that Barry and the Dems know this, as well. It is more than likely that they have trotted out old Wes to do what he does best, be the hit man. Look at his past accomplishments in the service of the Clintons and the DLC. His tanks rolled on Waco, he pulverized the citizenry of Kosovo for 70+ nights, he managed to derail the Howard Dean candidacy, and now they have him making bad for John McCain.

Obama would be wise to avoid further diluting the Democratic position in the Senate by choosing a running mate from there. For the time being my money is on Governor Richardson of New Mexico. Not only does he help solidify the Hispanic vote, being from a Southwestern state he'll be able to negate to some extent McCain's appeal on his home turf. He's also as versed as Barry with the mock progressive spiel, so liberals will think they're getting something out of the deal. Big money and the real brokers of power will respect his family connections to the Mayflower, old fashioned business as usual, and of course, Citibank, so they'll know they're getting something out of the deal.

FREEING JULY 4TH

In all seriousness, when the USA acknowledges and atones for the atrocities it has committed throughout history, learns from history, and ceases to commit such atrocities, then I'll be feeling good about America again. Start with the genocide of Native Americans, the graves of which the USA's "birthday" is built. Until then, even non-politicized small-town celebrations are not enough to erase and heal the uncomfortable historical truths that so many choose to ignore.

STUDENT DIES AFTER POLICE ALLEGEDLY ABUSE HIM

It is clear the Boston PD are a bunch thugs and jerks. They've been a bunch of thugs and jerks for as long as memory serves. They've continually demonstrated little interest with regard to the legitimate service of up-holding the law.

It is also true that Boston sports fans are given to moments of savage behavior. So mix in a Celtics victory, a group of testosterone poisoned young men pounding down beers all night, still at it and saying stupid shit, a bunch of neurotic power-crazed cops, and there's the perfect recipe for an incident.

When in Boston during a sporting frenzy, mind your own business and watch what you say. It's probably also a good idea to leave the Yankee hats home.

Nowhere in the Boston Globe story, nor the police charges, nor the Commissioner's statement was it alleged that he was "mouthing off." What is not in dispute is that he was killed at the hands of the police. Neither drinking in public nor "mouthing off" carry the death penalty in the U.S. Common sense would be to jail police who abuse their power to properly ensure public safety. Seems that common sense isn't so common any more.

More words of advice, coming from a Boston resident just waiting to get the hell out: stay away from Boston athletic events. The Celtics, the Socks, and heck, even the Pats all help to make this rude, violent and--above all--stupid city all the more rude, violent and stupid. Everyone in this city is always itching for a fight, and the booze and testosterone that accompanies athletic events around here just compound matters. It's too bad; Boston is a beautiful city with a great history and lots of opportunity. Unfortunately, a culture of rank meanness has taken over, and the city is being held back from its potential glory as a result.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT OBAMA'S PALS?

Of course the wind blows hard in Washington environs, but you left out two of Barack's best "friends": Jeremiah Wright and Hilary Clinton. One he abandoned for expediency and the other he embraced for the same reason.

ELITE ETHNOGRAPHY

That's too bad for these rich people. Maybe there should be some sort of affirmative action for them so that they don't have to go through this humiliation.

There is and G. W. Bush took advantage of it. If your parents went to an Ivy League school, there is a place reserved for you there regardless of your grades or what prep school you went to.

COUPLE FINED FOR LETTING LAWN DIE IN MIDST OF DROUGHT

Having lived in Northern California, I can attest that the region has some of the most enlightened laws and policies regarding conservation anywhere. This is particularly true regarding issues surrounding water usage. Sacramento is no exception. So, there has got to be more to this story, something doesn't ring quite true.

The source of the story is the Sacramento Bee, a once fine and respected newspaper gobbled up by the McClatchy Company. That ought to be enough to raise a few caution flags any discriminating reader.

For one thing there's a good chance the editors of this very story have never even seen Sacramento as McClatchy has been 'outsourcing' editorial duties of the paper to India.

McClatchy papers are also given to sensationalism and distortion. Such is the case with the article at hand.

Should one choose to read the complete story, somewhere among the last few sentences it is revealed that the Hartridges didn't just allow their lawn to go into dormancy, they tore it out completely in 2005 and were cited then for having inadequate ground cover---the yard was bare dirt. The most recent citation has been given because the front yard is still bare dirt---their efforts at establishing a new having repeatedly failed. The Hartridges had claimed they initially wanted to plant a vegetable garden in the front yard. Extrapolating from the results of their efforts with grass one can only imagine what that garden was like.

Conclusion: Not everybody has a green thumb, and maybe, it was true that the Hartridges' yard represented a genuine eyesore for nearly three years and they were rightfully cited for failing to maintain their property.

HAPPIEST COUNTRY

Re: Denmark is the happiest country in the world. Given the peril to the planet, humankind and individual freedom represented by the corporate dominated neocon governments of US, UK,WB, IMF, NATO, et al, I'm not sure "don't worry, be happy" is a good survival mechanism.

BIOFUELS FORCED GLOBAL FOOD PRICES UP 75% SAYS WORLD BANK STUDY

Isn't it also possible that Cargill, ADM, and ConAgra just happened to decide that they ought to raise prices because they can? When three or four transnational companies control nearly 90% of a market they can do whatever they want. Who's going to stop them?

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