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Undernews For July 22, 2008

Undernews For July 22, 2008

Washington's Most Unofficial Source
611 Pennsylvania Ave SE #381
Washington DC 20003
Editor: Sam Smith

22 JULY 2008


"Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire



• Obama leads McCain by 7
Obama has gained 2 points vs. McCain in last 10 polls
Obama is 117 electoral votes ahead of McCain with 119 undecided
Nader and Barr each get 1-3% of vote
• Dems pick up 3-9 Senate seats
Dems in House pick up as many as 16 or lose as many as 4
Dems pick up as many as 1 governorships or lose 1



From the Chris Matthews Show

ROGER SIMON: The optics are all very good on this trip. I mean, the beginning of this trip is so good, Senator Obama might just want to call off the end and just keep running the videotape. He goes into a gym, everybody, all the service people there cheer. He shoots a basket, you know, it goes through the hoop. He's obviously standing there with troops, they seem to be liking him, smiling. They don't seem to feel that Barack Obama wants to desert them, to leave them in Iraq. This is exactly what the Obama campaign hoped for, and this was supposed to be the tough part of the trip. The meatiest part of the trip in Jordan and Israel may be tough in terms of foreign policy, but the back end of the trip to cheering European crowds will certainly be as good if not better than this. So I think he's feeling very good right now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Andrea, I want to get ethnic a little bit here --

ANDREA MITCHELL: This is message --

MATTHEWS: Yeah, go ahead, please.

MITCHELL: Let me just say something about the message management. He didn't have reporters with him, he didn't have a press pool, he didn't do a press conference while he was on the ground in either Afghanistan or Iraq. What you're seeing is not reporters brought in. You're seeing selected pictures taken by the military, questions by the military, and what some would call fake interviews, because they're not interviews from a journalist. So, there's a real press issue here. Politically it's smart as can be. But we've not seen a presidential candidate do this, in my recollection, ever before.

When Matthews inquired about the atmospherics of the trip, Mitchell made clear her frustration as a reporter.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about access to the troops, Andrea. A lot of African-American faces over there, very happy, delighted faces. Is that a representation of the percentage of servicepeople who are African-American, or did they all choose to join someone they like, apparently? What's the story?

MITCHELL: I can't really say that. Being a reporter who was not present in any of those situations, I just cannot report on what was edited out, what was, you know, on the sidelines. That's my issue. We don't know what we are seeing.

Good on Andrea. Now, will the rest of the MSM press the Obama campaign to release the outtakes from the war zone?


Think Progress This Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said he wanted U.S. troops out of Iraq as soon as possible, supporting the plan set forth by Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). "Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes," he said.

When Maliki signaled support for a timetable earlier this month, McCain rejected it. This weekend, a senior McCain aide told Marc Ambinder, "voters care about [the] military, not about Iraqi leaders." On NBC’s Today Show today, McCain was again dismissive of Maliki, suggesting that only he knows what the Iraqis really "want":

Q: If the Iraqi government were to say, if you were president, ‘we want a timetable for troops being removed,’ would you agree to that?

McCAIN: I’ve been there too many times. I’ve met too many times with him. And I know what they want. They want it based on conditions. And of course they’d like to have us out. That’s what happens when you win wars.


Herald, UK - Drumming in a rock concert puts the performer through a workout as gruelling as a Premier League footballer endures during a match, exercise scientists revealed. An eight-year study involving Blondie's Clem Burke found that drumming over 90 minutes lifted his heart rate to the same level as Cristiano Ronaldo's in a league game. The physical demands of his trade meant Burke's heart averaged between 140 and 150 beats per minute, but could go as high as 190. He burned between 400 and 600 calories per hour during the trials.

Tests on the Atomic drummer included the measurement of oxygen uptake, blood lactate and heart rate in rehearsal tests and monitoring heart rate and blood lactate during live stage performances. . .

Dr Marcus Smith, of Chichester, said: "There is a clear link between fitness and performance. Musicians need exceptional stamina to sustain optimum output, especially when on tour.

"Footballers can normally expect to play 40 to 50 games a year. But in one 12-month period, Clem played 90-minute sets at 100 concerts. If you looked at the heart rates of a Premiership footballer and Clem over 90 minutes, you wouldn't know which was which.

"Footballers find playing a Champions League game once every two weeks a drain, but these guys are doing it every day when they are on tour.

"When you consider the implications of the touring on top of the performance requirements for high-profile drummers, it is clear that their fitness levels need to be outstanding. . .

A dedicated drumming laboratory is being built at Gloucestershire's Oxstalls campus and it is hoped other professional drummers will come forward to undertake physiological profiling.


John Nichols, Nation - After meeting with the Democratic presidential candidate inside the US base in Jalalabad, Afghan warlord turned provincial governor Gul Agha Sherzai told reporters, "Obama promised us that if he becomes a president in the future, he will support and help Afghanistan not only in its security sector but also in reconstruction, development and economic sector."

Translation: Obama is not listening. He is making commitments. Specific commitments.

Despite the fact that there are more foreign troops in Afghanistan today than at any time since the 2001 invasion - roughly 60,000 total, including 36,000 Americans - Obama is proposing to dispatch two more US combat divisions (comprising more than 7,000 soldiers) to Afghanistan. That will give the United States even greater responsibility for a technically NATO-led occupation. . .

Dramatic increases in the US troop presence in Afghanistan in the past year have done nothing to stabilize the situation on the ground in the country. In fact, US military officials acknowledge that attacks in eastern Afghanistan - the sector of the country where the majority of US forces currently operate - are up by 40 percent so far in 2008.


According to After Downing Street, Barack Obama's advisor, Cass Sunstein, speaking at the netroots convention cautioned against prosecuting criminal conduct by the Bush regime. Prosecuting government officials risks a cycle of criminalizing public service, he argued, and Democrats should avoid replicating retributive efforts like the impeachment of President Clinton--or even the "slight appearance" of it.


We recently ran pictures of flight accomodations (top) for high Air Force brass provided by the Project on Government Oversight. POGO has now come up with the enlisted equivalent. Troops have sat for hours on long flights in mangled seats and on netting inside cargo aircraft. This photo (bottom) was taken at Al Udeid Airbase in Qatar. Al Udeid is a major logistics hub for U.S. operations in Afghanistan, and is a command center for operations in Iraq. It is home to the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing of the U.S. Air Force.

David Barrett, History News Network - On July 25, 1963, the [Post] featured a story about how Air Force officials had spent $5000 on top-of-the-line bedroom furniture (from the Jordan Marsh Company) for a northeastern air base's hospital, in case the famously pregnant Mrs. John F. Kennedy would decide to have her baby there, should she be in Massachusetts when the time came. (Indeed, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy would be born, following premature labor and emergency caesarian section surgery, on August 7 of that year at Otis Air Force Base, the Massachusetts facility in question on the JFK tapes. The baby would die two days later in Boston Children's Hospital.). . .

The tape recorder was rolling when JFK telephoned two people just after seeing a photo in the morning's Post of an Air Force officer with the furniture. An absolutely furious JFK told Arthur Sylvester, the press spokesman for Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara: "I'd just like to send that goddamn furniture back. . . to Jordan Marsh in an Air Force truck this afternoon with that captain [who made the furniture purchase] on it. . . What about transferring his ass out of here in about a month?. . . for incompetence, not for screwing us. And that silly fellow who had his picture taken next to the bed, I'd have him go up to Alaska, too." . . .

To his Air Force aide, General Godfrey McHugh, the President exploded: "Did you see the Post this morning?....You just sank the Air Force budget!" Kennedy predicted, "Any congressman's gonna get up and say, 'Christ, if they can throw $5000 away on this, let's cut 'em another billion dollars.' "

About the "silly bastard" featured in the Post photograph standing next to "Mrs. Kennedy's bed, if that's what it is. . . I wouldn't have him running a cat house!"

McHugh tried to respond, "Well sir, this is obviously a..." JFK didn't wait for McHugh to finish "Well, this is obviously a fuck up!"


Tree Hugger - Edmonton, Canada is in the process of building a waste-to-ethanol plant. Now, Reno, Nevada will be getting in on the act. The facility in question will be built by Fulcrum BioEnergy and is expected to begin operating in 2010. Taking municipal sold waste and converting it to ethanol, the Sierra BioFuels plant will produce approximately 10.5 million gallons of biofuel per year, from 90,000 tons of material that otherwise would have been disposed of in landfills. The plant, located ten miles east of Reno, will cost $120 million to build, with construction starting later this year.


Alan Bock, Antiwar There seem to be two possibilities, according to several experts and sources I talked to last week, to explain the fact that the United States decided to have Undersecretary of State William Burns, the third-ranking person in the State Department, sit in the same room with Iranian nuclear envoy Saeed Jalili and high-ranking diplomats from five other countries in Geneva on Saturday. Well, maybe there's a third possibility.

The first, of course, is that the Bush administration is in the beginning stages of a relatively dramatic turnaround in its approach to Iran. As Ted Carpenter, vice president for foreign policy and defense studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, told me, "Perhaps they understand that a military option is simply not realistic, or too unpredictable, and as with North Korea, have been dragged into diplomacy.". . .

Marina Ottaway, who heads Middle East studies at the generally realist/liberal Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told me the Bush administration has to be aware that it is increasingly isolated in foreign policy, especially in the Gulf region. At the UN, Russia and China effectively prevent the most severe of sanctions being imposed multilaterally. And the Gulf countries, which fear they would be among the first victims of Iranian retaliation in the event of military action, are not following where the U.S. in its more hard-line mood wants to lead, so the U.S. is not leading anything or anyone. . .

There's another way to interpret the administration's move, however. It could be that a decision has been made to take some kind of military action against Iran – or to facilitate an Israeli action to ensure that it does enough damage to matter – before the administration leaves office. Under this possibility, even the Cheney-neocon cabal understands that it would be better, before a military strike is undertaken, to be able to say that we tried the diplomatic option, we talked, we met, we discussed, but the other side was just too intransigent, too unyielding, too unreasonable, and ultimately too potentially dangerous to leave us any choice but to strike them militarily.

As Ted Carpenter put it to me, "the hawks might want to be able to say they gave Iran one last chance, and made it clear to Iran during the talks that it was their last chance to stop doing provocative nuclear stuff," (however much the Iranians claim it's for electricity, not bombs). He suggested to me that one signal that option two was the real plan might be if Defense Secretary Robert Gates or Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen resigns, as their public statements have suggested that they are both quite opposed to military action against Iran, at least in the near future.

The wild card in all this, of course, is Israel. . . It would be difficult for Israel to carry out a minimally effective strike (one that does enough damage to Iran's bomb-making capacity to at least delay its ability to build deliverable nuclear weapons) without close cooperation from the United State – refueling over Iraqi airspace, needing rescue helicopters based in Iraq, etc. There's a possibility that this slight diplomatic opening to Iran has been accompanied by a stern word to the Israelis to keep their warplanes sheathed. But there's also the possibility that Israel could find ways to deliver damaging-to-devastating strikes without open U.S. cooperation.

The third possibility is that the administration hasn't decided yet what to do, but has decided that this gambit gives it the most options. If negotiations suggest that the Iranians are not eager to see military action and are willing to make some concessions on nuclear enrichment (maybe getting some supplies suitable for civilian use from a third party under strictly monitored conditions?), then the diplomatic option would go forward. If the Iranians in private negotiations – the kind that don't have to be followed up by a press conference where both sides mouth milky platitudes – sound more like the provocative Ahmadinejad than the more practical mullahs, the military option could still be exercised, perhaps after the November U.S. elections. Early reports from the Saturday meetings suggest that the Iranians were not inclined to yield much at this stage. An apparent two-week deadline for the Iranians to show some flexibility leaves this option quite open; things could go either way.

That third option might well turn out to be the most likely, which would be reason to keep the champagne on ice for a while and not pop the corks just yet.


Joe Mahr And Jeremy Kohler, St. Louis Post-Dispatch - During Labor Day weekend 2002, St. Louis city police responded shortly after midnight to an unusual call. The police chief's daughter, Aimie Mokwa, then 27, had crashed a car.

It was a car she didn't own. St. Louis police had seized it during a drug arrest and turned it over to a private company that holds a lucrative towing contract with the department. That company gave her free use of it.

The company has supplied her with more vehicles - until the Post-Dispatch began asking questions this spring and, police say, Chief Joe Mokwa ordered the firm to stop it.

That 2002 incident is at the heart of questions about what the chief knew about freebies his daughter received from a company his department fed thousands of tow jobs a year.

There are also questions about how many police officers received similar perks, and how the tow company gained so much business when the city had its own towing operations.

Beyond her getting free use of the car in 2002, the newspaper found that Aimie Mokwa bought three other vehicles from the company for less than half of their typical wholesale value - saving her more than $10,000 off what dealers could expect to pay for similar vehicles.

On Friday, the police department first acknowledged part of the arrangement. The next day, it began contradicting details in an investigative report from its own law firm on when the chief learned of the arrangement.

The law firm, Armstrong Teasdale, announced that Aimie Mokwa and a number of unnamed officers had been given free use of previously impounded vehicles owned by an arm of the private tow firm, St. Louis Metropolitan Towing.

In a 17-page report, the firm asserted that the chief did not learn of the practice until this spring, when he ordered a stop to the "largess."

But on Saturday, the president of the Board of Police Commissioners, Chris Goodson, said Chief Mokwa did know before this spring about his daughter driving formerly impounded cars. Goodson, though, could not say how long Mokwa knew about it. Still, he defended the chief, noting that Aimie Mokwa is not part of the department.


Daily Express, UK - Alarming new health warnings are to be issued over cholesterol-lowering wonder drugs taken daily by more than four million patients.

In some cases, users of statins have suffered a rare form of lung disease. More commonly, patients prescribed statins have suffered depression, sleep disturbance, memory loss and sexual problems.

An investigation by the Daily Express has found that one in 20 patients who complained that statins gave them side-effects highlighted those four conditions. . .

A safety review by the European medicines watchdog has concluded there is enough evidence to alert both doctors and patients. From the autumn, drug firms will have to add the warnings to information sent to doctors as well as leaflets included in the box of pills. . .

New data on these side-effects collected by drugs firms was recently handed to a European working party and has resulted in the demand for patients to be informed. The European Medicines Agency and the UK's Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority have now contacted drugs firms telling them of the change.

However, an attempt by the Daily Express to access the studies seen by the European regulators has been refused on the grounds that it is commercially sensitive to the drug firms.

This secrecy means GPs will be left without vital information on whether one brand of statin causes fewer side-effects than another.

Until now, only a few brands of statin warned patients that they might cause problems. But some drugs firms do not even reveal these warnings to GPs.


Conor Dougherty, Wall Street Journal Decades of white flight transformed America's cities. That era is drawing to a close.

In Washington, a historically black church is trying to attract white members to survive. Atlanta's next mayoral race is expected to feature the first competitive white candidate since the 1980s. San Francisco has lost so many African-Americans that Mayor Gavin Newsom created an "African-American Out-Migration Task Force and Advisory Committee" to help retain black residents. . .

For much of the 20th century, the proportion of whites shrank in most U.S. cities. In recent years the decline has slowed considerably -- and in some significant cases has reversed. Between 2000 and 2006, eight of the 50 largest cities, including Boston, Seattle and San Francisco, saw the proportion of whites increase, according to Census figures. The previous decade, only three cities saw increases. . .

While most of the 50 largest cities continue to see declines in the share of whites, it is at much-reduced rates. In Los Angeles the share of the white population declined only about a half a percentage point between 2000 and 2006, compared to a 7.5-point decline the previous decade. Cities including New York, Fort Worth and Chicago show a similar pattern.

Demographic readjustments can take decades to play out. But if current trends continue, Washington and Atlanta (both with black majorities) will in the next decade see African-Americans fall below 50% for the first time in about a half-century.

Meantime, in San Francisco, African-American deaths now outnumber births. Once a "natural decrease" such as this begins, it's tough for the population to bounce back, since there are fewer residents left to produce the next generation. . .

Although this article, in best Wall Street Journal fashion, puts a benign cast on gentrification, the energy crisis will make this shift far more costly to those being renmoved. One of the things now driving gentrification is the inherent efficiency of having things close by. The poor are being pushed out to places that are more isolated from jobs and services, with the price of getting to them growing rapidly.


The third US Court of Appeals has thrown out a half million dollar fine against CBs in the Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" case in which one of her breasts was briefly exposed during a Super Bowl halftime show. The court said the FCC acted "acted arbitrarily and capriciously."

The FCC, in the opinion of the court did not live up to its own standard of only fining programming that was so "pervasive as to amount to 'shock treatment' for the audience."

"Like any agency, the FCC may change its policies without judicial second-guessing. But it cannot change a well-established course of action without supplying notice of and a reasoned explanation for its policy departure."

"Its orders constituted the announcement of a policy change - that fleeting images would no longer be excluded from the scope of actionable indecency."


Sun, UK Homeowners must let council inspectors in to check for dancing bears after they were handed 1,043 powers to pry. Armies of clipboard-touting officials can demand entry to check on everything from pot plants to fridges. Details of the vast array of laws were quietly slipped out to MPs day by the Home Office.
The list includes 430 new powers of entry brought in by Labour ministers – a year after a report said there were only 266.

The checks include whether pot plants have pests or imported "passport" documents, or if hypnotism is being practiced illegally. Inspectors can demand to know if homeowners are keeping rabbits. Brits must also reveal if their hedge is too high under the Anti Social Behavior Act, and whether their fridge has the correct EU energy rating under little-known Energy Information Household Refrigerators and Freezers Regulations 2004. Bureaucrats can also make a sweep for weapons of mass destruction. In 2007 Gordon Brown promised a bonfire of petty rules – yet 16 more have become law since he became PM.


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.


This is a very reasonable possibility. McCain does not project image of health or competence in his recent appearances. When confronted by questions, he has difficulty responding intelligently. I look for a move to draft Jeb Bush as a candidate. - David


Food prices may be going up, but at least people in the US have food. . . unlike the 100 million people that may starve to death, because US whiners have diverted million of tons of corn and other grain to ethanol production to feed their SUVs instead.


This attitude is uncannily like the essence of the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tsu, which contains much on ruling wisely:

In focusing your influence, can you yield as a newborn child?
In loving people and leading the organization, can you take no action?
In seeing clearly in all directions can you be without knowledge?

Act without expectation.
Advance without domination.
These are called the subtle powers.


The only way to have reasonably decent politicians is to keep them humble, make constant fun of them and don't let them get away with anything. It is by ignoring such rules that we have ended up with the likes of George Bush and Bill Clinton.

I suspect that today's politicians do not reject irony and satire. They are rather completely blind to incongruity. This is the result of that most pernicious of defense mechanisms of the narcissist -- denial. The inability to perceive intent is contagious, and instantaneously spreads to the politico's staff and ardent supporters as well.

As proof, I offer the acceptance of Steven Colbert by the Bush vetters prior to the presentation of his skit to the White House Correspondents Association. Also, the endless use of stories from "The Onion" as though they were something other than satire. Though I must note that these failures of interpretation seem to afflict the so called right, more than the so called left. - m


This is another example of how the rich are more and more disconnected from reality. If business is doing well, then the economy is in great shape and it doesn't matter how many people can't pay their bills.

Are they really too stupid to realize that if all their customers have no money, then sooner or later, they will have no income? There may be a lot of negative things that can be said about Henry Ford and his legacy but this was an area where he knew what he was doing. The whole purpose of the firestorm he created by paying his workers a then unheard of $10 a day was for the sole purpose of making it possible for them to buy the cars they were building.


There are certainly ethical and legal issues about what the Congress did. And most most importantly, Constitutional issues which make it clear that every member who voted for this law has violated their oath of office. But, the ex post facto legal theory is a protection against a government punishing someone for committing a behavior that was legal at the time. It is a protection for the individual, and its purpose does not apply to removing culpability. Focus on some of the many other issues that have a basis in law, heritage and the Constitution.

The proper legal way for the President to have gotten what he wanted was for the telecoms to be convicted of their crimes and then pardoned.


What an odd way to expand the war on crack. . .


When the media is no longer owned by the rightwing economic cult.

They will ditch the rightwing cult when the left wing cult shows some promise of actually working. For instance there is no debate on credit card rates because limiting rates will limit the amount of money that people can borrow. These are the very people you seem to want to help. Limiting mortgage lending will limit home ownership by poor people. The real state of economic reporting is that the government people are in bed with the money people on right and left. Obama and the developers for instance. Not that the Republicans will say anything because they're completely in the bag.


Yawn. The Greens self-destructed four years ago thanks to that thieving huckster David Cobb. This is just the death rattle now. Nader supporters here in California (including many of the more principled Greens) are already making plans to form a new party next year and ditch these losers.

Washington's Most Unofficial Source
611 Pennsylvania Ave SE #381
Washington DC 20003
Editor: Sam Smith






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