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Undernews For August 30, 2008

Undernews For August 30, 2008

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

30 AUG 2008


We are meeting in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political and material ruin . . . .
From the prolific womb of injustice we breed the two great classes -- tramps and millionaires. -- Populist Party platform, 1892



Sam Smith

The confluence of Barack Obama's stadium acceptance extravaganza and John McCain's pick for vice president offers superfluous but final proof that Americans have been consigned to spend their lives as part of a crowd scene in an HBO special. Both Obama and Palin have come out of nowhere, rising to preeminence not on the basis of achievements, politics or service but by having all the qualities an ad executive looks for when trying to market a new product. What the Mad Men of the 1960s sought in cigarettes and cars, their 21st century equivalents now apply to candidates.

Of course, at some point reality enters and we find that the cigarettes bringing us springtime on one puff and the cars taking us to heaven weren't what they seemed. Or, as ad executive Jerry Della Famina once put it, "There is a great deal of advertising that is much better than the product. When that happens, all that the good advertising will do is put you out of business faster." Which is one reason why, as our marketing skills have improved, both our economy and politics have declined.

If you step way from the politics and reality, the marketing of Obama has been remarkable if not necessarily all productive. Dana Milbank gave the feel:

|||| Obama's everyman efforts are unlikely to be aided by accepting the nomination in front of Greek-style columns in the middle of a football stadium. Privately, Democrats cringed. . . Luckily, Democrats had the foresight to remove the Air Force One model, the presidential limousine, the full-size replica of the Oval Office and the inauguration gowns that had been on exhibit earlier in the week. . . Instead of savoring the history-making, Obama aides found themselves answering questions about the columns and the stadium from anxious Democrats and from journalists . . . After nightfall, the nominee emerged between the columns, walked out to the wedding cake and waved skyward. He delivered a speech that soared to the heights of Mount Olympus. . . The speech ended, the nominee gazed heavenward, and red, white and blue fireworks poured from the tops of the columns. Streamers hung over the Doric frieze. Triumphant orchestral music played, and Obama, his running mate, and his family departed through the still-smoking Pillars of Hercules. ||||

It may seem stunning that an otoh botoh (on-the-one-hand-but-on-the-other-hand) unaccomplished centrist whose vaunted eloquence is so elusive that his only words regularly quoted are marketing slogans like "change we can believe in" and "yes we can" has made it so far so quickly. Yet if you study the other work of some of his major backers in Hollywood such as David Geffin it becomes less surprising. For example, as I watched the stadium oration, the trailer for Genghis Khan drifted into my head.

The marketing effort for Obama has been aided immensely by a media that no longer offers the relief of facts but functions as movie critics, applauding the skill or failure of fictions rather than comparing them to reality. Proof of this shift is that candidates have submerged positions or policies in favor of narratives, once the skill of novelists and playwrights rather than those engaged in the real. In the past month alone, the term narrative has been used along with the word campaign over 2200 times in new stories. And the Democratic convention speeches were as stuffed with appealing personal sagas as they were lacking in ideas or arguments.

The media commentary has also been hyperbolic in the extreme. Howard Fineman claimed that "If you know American history, you know that Obama's nomination is the social equivalent of landing a man on the moon." And Radar reported that " Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews kicked things off right with some unabashed rejoicing (replete with comparisons to Alexander the Great and Aaron Sorkin). . . Political analyst Michelle Bernard later tried to keep things in perspective by admitting that she watched the speech alone in the green room so she could weep and declaring that it was 'the greatest day in our nation's history.'"

In fact, the nomination of a bi-ethnic candidate for president was only a matter of time rather than of effort and it insults an entire civil rights era to give it such an overblown status. Obama has been trained, financed and comforted by the white establishment and while this is not his fault, neither does it compare with the pain and suffering of those who paved his way.

Further, in its groupie-like enthusiasm, the media has ignored major matters such as another speech Obama gave in Colorado some weeks before the convention. In it he made the extraordinarily frightening promise that "We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded."

With Google's news search, one comes up with only two media citations of this comment, both by conservative journals.

Besides, before one assigns too much credit to Obama's purported intrinsic qualities, consider that Hillary Clinton came within inches of being successfully recreated as a sturdy defender of the working class as well as having all her past sins, lies and near indictment totally exorcised from public discussion. It's amazing what the Mad Men can do with enough money floating around.

And now, less than 24 hours after Obama departed the Albert Spearian stage in Denver a new product has been introduced: Sarah Palin.

Palin is where Obama was four years ago: overwhelmingly unknown and suddenly selected by powers that be for a leading role in another made for TV special. While Obama was young, bi-ethnic, smart and unthreatening, Palin also has plenty of meat for the Mad Men, witness this from Wikipedia:

|||| Palin was born as Sarah Louise Heath in Sandpoint, Idaho, the daughter of Charles and Sally (Sheeran) Heath. Her family moved to Alaska when she was an infant. Charles Heath was a popular science teacher and coached track. The Heaths were avid outdoors enthusiasts; Sarah and her father would sometimes wake at 3 a.m. to hunt moose before school, and the family would regularly run 5k and 10k races. Palin was the point guard and captain for the Wasilla High School Warriors, in Wasilla, Alaska, when they won the Alaska small-school basketball championship in 1982; she earned the nickname "Sarah Barracuda" because of her intense play. She played the championship game despite a stress fracture in her ankle, hitting a critical free throw in the last seconds. Palin, who was also the head of the school Fellowship of Christian Athletes, would lead the team in prayer before games.

In 1984, Palin was second-place in the Miss Alaska beauty pageant after winning the Miss Wasilla contest earlier that year, winning a scholarship to help pay her way through college. In the Wasilla pageant, she played the flute and also won Miss Congeniality. Palin holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Idaho where she also minored in politics.

Her husband, Todd, is a Native Yup'ik Eskimo. Outside the fishing season, Todd works for BP at an oil field on the North Slope and is a champion snowmobiler, winning the 2000-mile "Iron Dog" race four times. The two eloped shortly after Palin graduated college; when they learned they needed witnesses for the civil ceremony, they recruited two residents from the old-age home down the street. She briefly worked as a sports reporter for local Anchorage television stations while also working as a commercial fisherman with her husband, Todd, her high school sweetheart. One summer when she was working on Todd's fishing boat, the boat collided with a tender while she was holding onto the railing; Palin broke several fingers.

On September 11, 2007, the Palins' son Track joined the Army. Eighteen years old at the time, he is the eldest of Palin's five children. Track now serves in an infantry brigade and will be deployed to Iraq in September. She also has three daughters: Bristol, 17, Willow, 13, and Piper, 7. On April 18, 2008, Palin gave birth to her second son, Trig Paxson Van Palin, who has Down syndrome. She returned to the office three days after giving birth. Palin refused to let the results of prenatal genetic testing change her decision to have the baby. "I'm looking at him right now, and I see perfection," Palin said. "Yeah, he has an extra chromosome. I keep thinking, in our world, what is normal and what is perfect?"

Details of Palin's personal life have contributed to her political image. She hunts, eats moose hamburger, ice fishes, rides snowmobiles, and owns a float plane. Palin holds a lifetime membership with the National Rifle Association. She admits that she used marijuana when it was legal in Alaska, but says that she did not like it. ||||

If you were looking for something to replace the Obama special on HBO, this wouldn't be a bad narrative. And just as irrelevant to what we should be talking and thinking about.

Some years ago the Green Party in Germany was divided into two groups known as the fundis and the realos. While the definitions aren't applicable - the fundis held to core Green priniciples while the realos wheeled and dealed with the other parties - the names seem to fit well what has happened to Democratic politics. The liberal fundis - like Christian fundamentalists - are content with an icon with whom to deposit not only their hope but any critical thought about what such a course might produce. Fundi liberals are not new; they first appeared in large numbers with the campaign of Bill Clinton, the most right wing Democratic presidential candidate in over 60 years. These liberals essentially gave up thinking about anything other that which the Clinton regime wanted and Clinton took full advantage of them. The same is going on with Obama, a jettisoning of any serious interest in policies and programs in favor of blind faith in a particular leader. History tells us that little good comes of this.

In fact, you need only check the lack of significant liberal activity in anti-war, anti-torture and efforts to preserve the constitution to see how incapable the fundi libs are of anything beyond adoration.

Realos are those who still believe in working on issues and understand that politicians play a complicated and often contradictory role in achieving their goals. They know Obama will be good about some things and awful about others. They know that his post-partisanship so far only appears to include outreach to conservatives. And while they know that he would be better than Bush or McCain, blind complicity in a phony political "narrative" that relieves him of all pressure to do right is a disaster waiting just a few months to happen.

It is truly scary to be a realo these days, to be told repeatedly that it is enough to have hope and faith and that , implicitly, everything politics is meant to be about really doesn't matter. It is sad to find how little liberal participation there has been in efforts to save the Constitution or to press for sanity in numerous other areas. It is painful to find those whose job description is the description of reality - that is to say, the media - enthralled by endless fictional manipulations.

But it is where we are and those who prefer reality to fiction are badly outnumbered on both the left and the right. In the end, as it always does, reality decides to speak for itself and, when it does, we then wonder why we hadn't thought about it sooner.


There is one real reason to been concerned about Obama-Ayers flap: Obama is botching it.

The incident provides an unsettling insight into how Obama handles crises. What should have been a minor sidelight to the campaign is becoming more important in large part because a strange combination of misdirected caution and misguided aggression.

The caution of Obama's personal response has obscured a key point: if you're involved in urban politics, you're going to find yourself mixed up with the Bill Ayers of the world. Hell, if I were held personally responsible for every political crook or scoundrel I ever had in my house, met over lunch, or served on a board with, I couldn't get into a Starbucks, let alone public office.

This is a strange concept for those Americans who live in far less polyglot places and have no sense of what the diversity of urban politics is like.

Obama has handled the problem the way he does so many that make him uncomfortable - with attorney like parsimonious parsing that comes off as evasive and unresponsive. It isn't that he's really done anything wrong; he just makes it sound that way.

The best way to handle the truth is to tell it. And then explain it.

For example, it would have been interesting to know how many other strange people have shared board seats with Obama. Hell, I'm on a board with Christopher Hitchens and no one has ever accused me of being unduly influenced by that notorious intellectual terrorist.

It would also have been helpful if the Obama campaign had stressed that Ayers was brought into the Chicago school reform movement by that other radical activist, Mayor Richard Daley. If Daley has - from all accounts - survived the association, maybe Obama will as well. Further, the whole controversial schools project that Obama and Ayers were involved in was funded by decidedly unradical Annenberg money.

God knows why Daley named Ayers, but one thing you learn about urban politics is that you have to have been there to understand it. Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun Times tried to explain it last spring:

||||| For Obama, perhaps a problem, because of Ayers' extremist past -- which has never bothered anyone in Chicago. That's why back in the day when Obama was starting his political career -- making a visit to the Ayers home while running for a state Senate seat, and then agreeing to being on panels with him and serve on a foundation board together -- it was no big deal, or any deal, to any local political reporters or to the editorial boards of the Sun-Times or Tribune.

Once Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground, and wife Bernardine Dohrn, also in the group -- surfaced after years on the lam, they settled easily in to the village known as Hyde Park-Kenwood in Chicago, fitting into the highly political, supremely philosophical community anchored by the University of Chicago. For outsiders, it's Cambridge, Berkeley and Evanston --without a lot of chain stores. It's also the place the Obamas call home.

But Ayers, who became a scholar at the University of Illinois-Chicago, was also eventually embraced by a pragmatic son of blue-collar Bridgeport desperately trying to upgrade Chicago's chronically troubled schools: Mayor Daley, whose father's legacy was tarnished because of anti-Vietnam War protesters getting clobbered in the 1968 convention and the Days of Rage the next year. . .

Obama made it seem at the debate he hardly knew Ayers. Besides serving on the Woods Fund board, in 1997 he and Ayers were to be on a University of Chicago panel organized by Michelle Obama, then an associate dean. And Ayers could reinforce Obama as an elitist: In 2002, Obama and Ayers were scheduled to be on a UIC panel with this lampoon-able title: "Intellectuals in Times of Crisis." |||||

Stunningly absent from the whole debate has been the worthy original purpose that brought Ayers and Obama into contact: reforming public schools including an emphasis on local school councils. If someone is going to accuse Obama of being an Ayerhead, they should at least point to one campaign speech in which he has shown any real interest in public schools.

Obama's real problem is not that he knew Ayers but that Obama is such a pretentious prig about the myth he has created for himself that anything that threatens it becomes a capital crime.

He's not the first Democratic candidate with this problem. John Kerry masochistically got the swiftboaters going by his exaggerated and narcissistic references to his Vietnam experiences. As I noted at the time:

|||| John Kerry's hyping of his Vietnam tour has proved a huge disaster among voters who are veterans. According to a new CBS poll, only 37% of vets now support Kerry compared with 46% immediately after the convention. Bush, despite his AWOL status during the same war, has moved up from 46% to 55%. . .

In short, this has been one of the great political missteps of recent years, a candidate who goes out and makes a big deal of a few months in his life only to have it backfire on him among the very voters he is trying to reach. . .

If Kerry had let others speak of his Vietnam activities, all might have been well. Instead, the candidate engaged in version of the maritime barroom trait known as telling "sea stories." Some of these may be true, but typically they are embellished for the benefit of the listener. A "sea story" is by definition an exaggerated version of events, not considered malicious but also not to be taken as the verbatim truth.

When the sea story involves one's own alleged heroism, however, the reaction of other vets can turn decidedly sour. Bill Mauldin said you could tell the hero in a bar because he was the morose guy in the corner by himself. George McGovern described them as the ones who came home dead.

Kerry broke the rules of the game by his bragging and now is paying the price. It doesn't matter that some of his critics are also telling sea stories or real untruths. He should have been smart enough to see it coming and avoided the temptation. Now his campaign and the nation are paying the price as one of the dumbest campaign gimmicks of recent times falls part. |||||

Kerry, like Obama, was trying to control his own myth. Unfortunately, it seldom works.

Obama has created another problem. Instead of coming up with a reasonable explanation of his relationship with Ayers, he has sent his troops out to intimidate media outlets that offer their own. As with the Kerry affair, some of these alternative stories are wrong but presumably being wrong will still be a protected right under an Obama administration. Or will it?

Writes Time: "The Obama campaign is fighting back against National Review writer Stanley Kurtz and his research into Obama's association with Bill Ayers. Kurtz was on WGN Radio's Extension 720 with Milt Rosenberg tonight to discuss what he's found in the files at the University of Chicago. The Politico's Ben Smith has an email the Obama campaign has sent out to supporters hours ago asking them to call into the show. Here are some excerpts:

"'Tonight, WGN radio is giving right-wing hatchet man Stanley Kurtz a forum to air his baseless, fear-mongering terrorist smears. He's currently scheduled to spend a solid two-hour block from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. pushing lies, distortions, and manipulations about Barack and University of Illinois professor William Ayers. Tell WGN that by providing Kurtz with airtime, they are legitimizing baseless attacks from a smear-merchant and lowering the standards of political discourse. . . It is absolutely unacceptable that WGN would give a slimy character assassin like Kurtz time for his divisive, destructive ranting on our public airwaves. At the very least, they should offer sane, honest rebuttal to every one of Kurtz's lies.'"

In fact, according to Rosenberg's producer, the Obama campaign was invited to appear on the show with Kurtz but hung up on him.

When you combine this with the letter the campaign wrote to the Justice Department trying to stomp out a group running ads on the Ayers issue and the pressure being put on national media to avoid such ads, one gets an uncomfortable hint of what life might be like over the next eight years. Next to evangelical Christians, evangelical liberals are among the nation's most intolerant constituencies.

Besides it's stupid. I listened to a portion of the Kurtz interview and while I think he could make much better and more honest use of his time on this earth, there was nothing so astounding or outrageous as to have deserved the tactics of the Obama campaign, which, as Rosenberg noted, he hasn't seen in three decades on the air.

In short, Obama's avoidance of the issue and aggression in dealing with those who raise it merely keeps the matter alive. It's dumb politics driven by a campaign's overwrought sense of its own role in the universe.

In fact, anyone who spends a few minutes watching Obama knows that you don't need a weatherman to know which way his wind is blowing. The only thing he would ever bomb is his own chances.



Anchorage Daily News, 2006 - The volatile issue of teaching creation science in public schools popped up in the Alaska governor's race this week when Republican Sarah Palin said she thinks creationism should be taught alongside evolution in the state's public classrooms.

Palin was answering a question from the moderator near the conclusion of Wednesday night's televised debate on KAKM Channel 7 when she said, "Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both.". . .

The teaching of creationism, which relies on the biblical account of the creation of life, has been ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court as an unconstitutional injection of religion into public education.

Last December, in a widely publicized local case, a federal judge in Pennsylvania threw out a city school board's requirement that "intelligent design" be mentioned briefly in science classes. Intelligent design proposes that biological life is so complex that some kind of intelligence must have shaped it.


SAT Math scores 2001-2007
SAT reading scores 1994-2007

Other education trends

Per capita spending on schools vs. prisons
Student loan debt
Increase in college tuitions
US international rank for high school completion
US international rank for college completion
Blacks in college


Forward - Former president Jimmy Carter’s controversial views on Israel cost him a place on the podium at the Democratic Party convention in late August, senior Democratic operatives acknowledged to the Forward.

Breaking with the tradition of giving speech time to living former presidents, convention organizers honored Carter with only a short video clip highlighting his work with Hurricane Katrina victims and a brief walk across the Pepsi Center stage.

The sidelining of Carter was driven by recognition in the Obama camp and among Democratic leaders that giving the former president a prominent convention spot might alienate Jewish voters.

"What more could we do to diss Jimmy Carter?" said a Democratic official who was involved in deliberations on how to handle the former president’s presence at the convention. The treatment Carter received, the official added, "reflects the bare minimum that could be done for a former president.". . .

Carter, according to party insiders, was initially scheduled to speak at the event, though organizers insisted he focus only on issues relating to domestic policy and not touch on foreign affairs. During his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention in Boston, Carter mentioned Israel, but he only touched in general terms on the need to bring peace to the region.

Jewish Democrats approved of Carter’s limited presence at the convention, as they have argued that embracing the former president could tarnish the party in November.

"You can’t give him a podium, because people will draw the conclusion" that the Democratic Party supports Carter’s views on the Middle East, said Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York. "I wouldn’t let him within 100 miles of the convention center, because it would be used by an unscrupulous Republican Party that doesn’t care about the truth in character assassination against our candidate."

While Carter did come to Denver, he downplayed suggestions that he had been silenced.

In an August 26 interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Carter said that the idea not to speak at the convention was his own.

Among some of Jewish delegates to the convention, however, denying Carter a speech but offering him a video tribute was not nearly sanction enough.

"He hasn’t shown respect to Israel and many of the Jewish constituencies here based on the things he has done," said Nan Rich, a Florida state senator who left the hall in protest before Carter’s appearance onstage.


Annals of Improbable Research - Now that both major political parties have announced their nominees for president and vice president, the Annals of Improbable Research U.S. Presidential Election Algorithm (Debowy and Schulman 2003) can be used to predict the results of the upcoming November election. The algorithm was developed based on the experience of the major party candidates for president and vice president in each of the 54 U.S. presidential elections between 1789 and 2000 and correctly predicted the outcome of the 2004 election.

According to the algorithm, being a United States Senator does not contribute to one’s electability for president or vice president, so the Obama/Biden ticket has a total electability of zero. In addition to his 22 years in the Senate, John McCain spent four years in the U.S. House of Representatives, giving him 4 points of presidential electability. However, he divorced his first wife (-110 electability points), so he has a total presidential electability of -106. Sarah Palin has been governor of Alaska for two years, which means she has a vice presidential electability of 2 and the McCain/Palin ticket has a total electability of -104.

The algorithm thus predicts that the Democratic ticket of Barack Obama and Joe Biden will win the election in November. The fact that both major political parties chose candidates with low electabilities when candidates with high electability were available suggests that the validity of the Annals of Improbable Research U.S. Presidential Election Algorithm is not yet accepted by most major party primary voters in the United States, despite its 100% rate of successful predictions.


Guardian, UK - London mayor Boris Johnson has found a new use for urban roof gardens - as a key weapon on the front line against global warming. An increase in the number of rooftop gardens to soak up rainwater across the capital is among a series of measures suggested by Johnson as part of efforts to prepare London for the effects of climate change.

The mayor's adaptation strategy, billed as a world first, aims to address the challenges of flooding, extreme temperatures and drought. It calls for compulsory water metering, greater awareness of flood risks and more tree planting, alongside stronger efforts to resist attempts by local authorities and insurance companies to fell existing urban trees.

The mayor's team said they were also looking to copy a heatwave emergency plan used in US cities, including Philadelphia, where old and vulnerable people are collected in air-conditioned buses and taken to cool public buildings, such as libraries, shopping centers, churches and offices.

Despite previously attacking the Kyoto Protocol - which regulates international carbon emissions - as "pointless" and saying that anxiety over climate change was "partly a religious phenomenon" Johnson now admits that the 2006 Stern review on the issue had convinced him of the need to act. "When the facts change, you change your mind," he said. . .

Fifteen per cent of London is at high risk from flooding due to global warming - an area including 1.25 million people, almost half a million properties, more than 400 schools, 75 underground and railway stations, 10 hospitals and London City airport. At stake is an estimated L160bn worth of assets. . .


Scientific Blogging - Andrew Scholey, Ph.D., professor of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia has led a research study on the effects of chewing gum on stress relief and focus and concentration. The study found that chewing gum helped relieve anxiety, improve alertness and reduce stress among individuals in a laboratory setting. . .

The study noted:

- When chewing gum, participants reported lower levels of anxiety.

- Gum chewers showed a reduction in anxiety as compared to non-gum chewers by nearly 17 percent during mild stress and nearly 10 percent in moderate stress.

- Increased Alertness: Participants experienced greater levels of alertness when they chewed gum.

- Gum chewers showed improvement in alertness over non-gum chewers by nearly 19 percent during mild stress and 8 percent in moderate stress.

- Reduced Stress: Stress levels were lower in participants who chewed gum.

- Levels of salivary cortisol (a physiological stress marker) in gum chewers were lower than those of non-gum chewers by 16 percent during mild stress and nearly 12 percent in moderate stress.

- Improved Performance: Chewing gum resulted in a significant improvement in overall performance on multi-tasking activities.

Both gum-chewers and non-chewers showed improvement from their baseline scores; however, chewing gum improved mean performance scores over non-gum chewers by 67 percent during moderate stress and 109 percent in mild stress.


Susan Ohanian
My neighbor is teaching her two-year-old to read the Wall Street Journal

It all began when she woke up one morning
and heard on NPR that US kids are behind.
And there was her son squishing Cheerios with his thumb,
Not even counting them.
Just squishing.

"Ohmygod," she worried, "I’m leaving this boy behind.
How will he ever get ahead in the Global Economy?"

Too old for Baby Einstein, she bought her boy
a subscription to the Wall Street Journal,
figuring it’s never too young to get a feel for the landscape.

They read together after morning vitamins.
He sits beside her, his sticky little fingers
tracing the letters SMART MONEY,
While she reads the Nasdaq numbers,
Nuzzling his neck and whispering encouragement
into his soft, pliant ear.

He is a handsome child with curly hair and bright brown eyes.
And she is a good teacher.
Persistent but not impatient,
Later encouraging him to fingerpaint the page
orange and purple, his favorite colors.
Princeton’s colors, too.

Admittedly, phonemes are still a frustration,
But she’s making flashcards to upgrade the
Wall Street Journal breakfast experience.
Phonemes for the Global Economy.

Too young to pick stocks on his own,
For now, she manages
his portfolio as well as his phonemes.
And he’s on the A-list for the right sort of pre-school.


Alexander Bolton, The Hill - AT&T [flexed] its muscles at the Democratic National Convention with elaborate spreads for lawmakers and delegates that have drawn the ire of telecom rivals and good-government watchdog groups.

The telecom giant says it is simply being a good corporate citizen with its hospitality that has ranged from a lavish party for the House Democratic Blue Dog Coalition featuring rising pop star KT Tunstall to separate lunch receptions for the Maryland, Illinois and California delegations. AT&T also scheduled a VIP Jazz brunch for the House New Democrat Coalition and a salute to African-American voters, held atop the Grand Hyatt in downtown Denver that affords guests views of snow-capped peaks 100 miles away.

The company has sponsored at least 14 events and receptions, according to list of events compiled by Quinn Gillespie & Associates, a lobbying firm that received $60,000 in the second quarter of this year to represent the corporation.

Good-government critics blast AT&T’s busy schedule as a brazen skirting of ethics law.

"They wouldn’t be paying for all of this if they weren’t getting good return on their investment - visibility which translates into access and influence," said Meredith McGehee of the Campaign Legal Center. .

AT&T [sponsored] the after-hours fete at The Loft, as well as batting practice for delegates, congressional aides and lawmakers at Coors Field, plus a campaign party with the Recording Industry Association of America.

The corporate PAC has given over $3.5 million to federal candidates this election cycle, including many lawmakers, according to CQ MoneyLine, a website that tracks political giving. . .


Time Washington Bureau Chief James Carney and political correspondent Michael Scherer sit down with Sen. John McCain on the eve of the GOP convention

There's a theme that recurs in your books and your speeches, both about putting country first but also about honor. I wonder if you could define honor for us?

Read it in my books.

I've read your books.

No, I'm not going to define it.

But honor in politics?

I defined it in five books. Read my books.

[Your] campaign today is more disciplined, more traditional, more aggressive. From your point of view, why the change?

I will do as much as we possibly can do to provide as much access to the press as possible.

But beyond the press, sir, just in terms of . . .

I think we're running a fine campaign, and this is where we are.

Do you miss the old way of doing it?

I don't know what you're talking about.

Really? Come on, Senator.

I'll provide as much access as possible . . .

In 2000, after the primaries, you went back to South Carolina to talk about what you felt was a mistake you had made on the Confederate flag. Is there anything so far about this campaign that you wish you could take back or you might revisit when it's over?

[Does not answer.]

Do I know you? [Says with a laugh.]

[Long pause.] I'm very happy with the way our campaign has been conducted, and I am very pleased and humbled to have the nomination of the Republican Party.

You do acknowledge there was a change in the campaign, in the way you had run the campaign?

[Shakes his head.]

You don't acknowledge that? O.K., when your aides came to you and you decided, having been attacked by Barack Obama, to run some of those ads, was there a debate?

The campaign responded as planned.

Jumping around a bit: in your books, you've talked about what it was like to go through the Keating Five experience, and you've been quoted as saying it was one of the worst experiences of your life. Someone else quoted you as saying it was even worse than being a POW

That's another one of those statements made 17 or 18 years ago which was out of the context of the conversation I was having. Of course the worst, the toughest experience of my life was being imprisoned, so people can pluck phrases from 17 or 18 years ago . . .

A lot of people know about your service from your books, but most people don't know that you have two sons currently in the military. Can you describe what it means to have Jack and Jimmy in uniform?

We don't discuss our sons.


Time - On average, a black man living in Washington, D.C., does not live as long as a man in India, and he certainly doesn't live as long as a white man in his hometown. The reasons - just like the reasons that the Japanese and Swedes live longer than the Ukrainians, and why aborigines in Australia on average die 17 years earlier than non-aborigines - are almost entirely social, according to a new report from the World Health Organization.

It may seem obvious, or even inevitable, that a poor person would live a shorter, sicker life than a rich one. But consider also that a "social gradient of health" exists even among the rich: the outlandishly wealthy live healthier and longer than the rich, who live better than the merely comfortable. In every country around the world, WHO's Commission on the Social Determinants of Health found that the very best off had better health than people a few rungs below them on the socioeconomic ladder. "Even in Sweden" - a country with a strong history of social and economic equality - "if you look over the last 10 years, life expectancy has improved across the board. But it's improved more for people with high education than it has for people with low education," says Michael Marmot, chair of the Commission and a U.K.-based epidemiologist.


Us Magazine - Cindy McCain's half sister is planning on voting for Barack Obama. "I'm not voting for McCain," Kathleen Hensley Portalski tells Us. "I have a different political standpoint. "I'm voting for Obama," the Phoenix resident says. "I think his proposals to improve the country are more positive and I'm not a big war believer."

Portalski, 65, and the potential first lady, 54, have the same father: Jim Hensley, the founder of the beer distributor Hensley and Co. that Cindy McCain now chairs. In an interview with NPR News' All Things Considered last week, Portalski said she felt "like a non-person" after Cindy McCain described herself as an "only child."

Portalski's mother is Hensley's first wife; Cindy McCain's mother, Marguerite Hensley, also had another daughter from her first marriage. "She's kinda cool, standoffish," Portalski tells Us of her half sister.

Portalski also doesn't expect Cindy McCain to make an effort to reconcile their relationship. "She never has, and I doubt that she ever will," she tells Us.

Portalski's son Nathan, a 45-year-old aerospace machinist, is also backing Obama. "I wouldn't vote for John McCain if he was a Democrat," he tells Us. "I would not vote at all before I'd vote for him.I question whether Cindy is someone I'd want to see in the White House as first lady."


Organic Consumers - The Food and Drug Administration has okayed the irradiation of lettuce and spinach. Food irradiation is the process of exposing food to ionizing radiation in order to destroy disease causing pathogens, like bacteria and viruses.

Some major concerns with food irradiation include:

-The formation of free radicals, which can set off chain reactions in the body that destroy antioxidants, tear apart cell membranes, and make the body more susceptible to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, liver damage, muscular breakdown and other serious problems.

-Serious health problems in laboratory testing, including, including premature death, fatal internal bleeding, cancer, stillbirths and other reproductive problems, mutations and other genetic damage, organ malfunctions, stunted growth and vitamin deficiencies.

-The creating mutant forms of dangerous bacteria, like E. coli and Salmonella

-Nutrient loss in foods, including the destruction of vitamins and essential fatty acids.

-The formation of carcinogenic chemicals, like benzene and toluene.

-While irradiated lettuce and spinach must be labeled in supermarkets, there are currently no labeling requirements for restaurants serving irradiated produce or other items. Patrons and clients may consume irradiated lettuce and spinach in the future without their knowledge, nor consent.


Organic Consumers - The Natural Resources Defense Council has filed a lawsuit to uncover information that the US government is withholding about the risks posed by pesticides to honey bees. NRDC legal experts and a leading bee researcher are convinced that the US Environmental Protection Agency has evidence of connections between pesticides and the mysterious honey bee die-offs reported across the country. The phenomenon has come to be called "colony collapse disorder," or CCD, and it is already proving to have disastrous consequences for American agriculture and the $15 billion worth of crops pollinated by bees every year.

EPA has failed to respond to NRDC's Freedom of Information Act request for agency records concerning the toxicity of pesticides to bees, forcing the legal action.

In 2003, EPA granted a registration to a new pesticide manufactured by Bayer Crop Science under the condition that Bayer submit studies about its product's impact on bees. EPA has refused to disclose the results of these studies, or if the studies have even been submitted. The pesticide in question, clothianidin, recently was banned in Germany due to concerns about its impact on bees. A similar insecticide was banned in France for the same reason a couple of years before. In the United States, these chemicals still are in use despite a growing consensus among bee specialists that pesticides, including clothianidin and its chemical cousins, may contribute to CCD.

In the past two years, some American beekeepers have reported unexplained losses of 30-90% of the bees in their hives. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, bees pollinate $15 billion worth of crops grown in America. USDA also claims that one out of every three mouthfuls of food in the typical American diet has a connection to bee pollination.


John Byrne, Raw Story - The ACLU issued a stinging rebuke to the Denver Police Department, alleging that the department may have violated laws and constitutional rights of protesters arrested outside the Democratic National Convention.

The ACLU revealed that the police refused those arrested access to attorneys. Police did not let detainees use phones unless they posted their own bonds, and even failed to provide shoes, in one case marching a protester into court in bare feet and leg shackles, according the ACLU.

What's more, police are said to have tricked protesters into pleading guilty, by giving them the impression they had to plead guilty in order to post bond. This meant that no one was allowed to make a phone call unless they plead guilty, thus making it impossible for arrestees to even call a lawyer until admitting guilt.

Most ominously, the ACLU letter claims that protesters were told they would be "facing 'years' in jail for a conviction of a single particular charge."

"In fact, all the charges were municipal court violations that do not carry such penalties," the ACLU added in a footnote.

Charges for arrestees were issued on pre-printed forms, where police were told to "cross out" charges that they were not facing. In many cases, police failed to cross out inappropriate charges, and so the detainee would be charged with "begging, loitering and throwing stones and missiles," the ACLU said.

Nor were protesters even given the chance to back down before they were arrested.

"It is not clear whether any order to disperse was given. No legal observer, witness or arrestee on the scene we've debriefed heard any order to disperse," wrote Taylor Pendergrass, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Colorado. "Numerous persons, including legal observers, asked to be able to leave the blockaded area and were refused."

"After the arrests, attorneys from the People's Law Project and the ACLU arrived at the [Temporary Arrestee Processing Site] to conduct confidential attorney-client consultations," Pendergrass continued. "The City refused to provide any access to allow these persons to meet with attorneys."

"Arrestees were kept barefoot at [the detention center]," Pendergrass wrote. "I personally saw one such arrestee later at the City and County Building. I saw her marched from the elevator to the courtroom in bare feet and leg shackles. I saw her appear in bare feet and leg shackles."

"Some arrestees who could not make their own bond spent 6, 7, 8, or more hours waiting at TAPS before being transferred to court," he added.


Sean Wilentz, Newsweek - There is a quotation that ought to give Democrats, and not just Democrats, pause: "This year will not be a year of politics as usual. It can be a year of inspiration and hope, and it will be a year of concern, of quiet and sober reassessment of our nation's character and purpose. It has already been a year when voters have confounded the experts. And I guarantee you that it will be the year when we give the government of this country back to the people of this country. There is a new mood in America. We have been shaken by a tragic war abroad and by scandals and broken promises at home. Our people are searching for new voices and new ideas and new leaders."

Delivered in Obama's exhortatory cadences, the words are uplifting. The trouble is, though they seem to fit, the passage is from Carter's acceptance speech at the Democratic convention in 1976.

The convergence is revealing. As Republican strategists have begun to notice with delight, Obama's liberal alternative to the post-Bush GOP to date has much in common with Carter's post-Watergate liberalism. Rejecting "politics as usual," attacking "Washington" as the problem, promising to heal the breaches and hurts caused by partisan political polarization, pledging to break the grip that lobbyists and special interests hold over the national government, wearing his Christian faith on his sleeve as a key to his mind, heart and soul - in all of these ways, Obama resembles Jimmy Carter more than he does any other Democratic president in living memory.


This Is London - Moscow has issued an extraordinary warning to the West that military assistance to Georgia for use against South Ossetia or Abkhazia would be viewed as a "declaration of war" by Russia.

The extreme rhetoric from the Kremlin's envoy to NATO came as President Dmitry Medvedev stressed he will make a military response to US missile defence installations in eastern Europe, sending new shudders across countries whose people were once blighted by the Iron Curtain.

And Moscow also emphasized it was closely monitoring what it claims is a build-up of NATO firepower in the Black Sea.

The incendiary warning on Western military involvement in Georgia - where NATO nations have long played a role in training and equipping the small state - came in an interview with Dmitry Rogozin, a former nationalist politician who is now ambassador to the North Atlantic Alliance.

"If NATO suddenly takes military actions against Abkhazia and South Ossetia, acting solely in support of Tbilisi, this will mean a declaration of war on Russia," he stated.

Yesterday likened the current world crisis to the fevered atmosphere before the start of the First World War.

Rogozin said he did not believe the crisis would descend to war between the West and Russia.


Debra Sweet, World Can't Wait - The weather here is hot and dry and we're on the streets reminding each other to drink a lot, wear sunscreen, and rest. But the real heat has been from the police-state created here in response to political protest. New military-type troop transport vehicles which hold 12 cops in riot gear outside the vehicle so they can jump off; horse patrols, motorcycle and bike patrols constantly form up when they see "protesters." But, curiously, only when they are identifiably anti-war protesters. Yesterday, the Fred Phelps' anti-gay, woman-hating screamers (with a 6 foot tall sign saying "Homo Sex is a Threat to National Security") got a free pass to be in our permitted area, and when the young man who held the permit challenged them, and held a sign saying "Separation of Church & State," he was thrown to the ground and arrested. It's all . . . part of the pattern developing this week, undoubtedly to continue at the RNC in St. Paul. . .

Sunday evening we had a kind of magical, inspired gathering at the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theater. Highlights were Phil Aliff, a young Iraq veteran from Atlanta, who challenged us to keep resisting in the face of the Democrats capitulating on ending the war; Ron Kovic, who provided an emotional high by reading from Born on the 4th of July, his memoir; Jeremy Scahill, who took apart the Biden nomination; and Ann Wright, Cindy Sheehan, Cynthia McKinney, Pam and Ramona Africa, and Tom Chelston, who created a new song for the evening called "The World Can't Wait". Sunsara Taylor brought the house to its feet with the line, "If you have more allegiance to the Democratic Party than to the interests of the people of the world, you have no business calling yourself an anti-war leader!" . . .

Monday was Human Rights Day. . . At the Federal Building, organizers allowed us to perform a waterboarding, for which we received a lot of press attention. The Fox News cameraman walked away muttering "that's about enough of that," and I said to him, yes, the world thinks so too. That's why we're doing it. Reactionary radio talk show host Laura Ingram's producers badgered me to be on her show this morning about torture, but when the connection didn't work, I could hear her on air joking about waterboarding. . . .

There was a mass arrest Monday night that our activists witnessed, with passersby caught by pepper spray, thrown to the ground, and detained for 90 minutes. Police have called out names of activist leaders, with threats, "we're going to get you." There are hard core reactionary anti-abortionists who verbally championed killing doctors, and shoved us, and Minutemen here to threaten immigrants. A real "democratic" scene.

The reception from the people has been largely warm, and every hour our literature table has been up, it's been mobbed with DNC delegates, Denver residents, and the press. I've done 60 interviews, and everyone with WCW orange on is stopped by press to talk. . .

One more note. The protests here were very small, at least until today, with at most 1200 marching on Sunday. I had long talks with reporters about why. Yes, the repression did scare people off. But mainly, I believe people have been systematically demobilized by both the Democratic Party and those anti-war leaders with more allegiance to them than to the people of the world. That makes those people who are here all the more precious.


Ethan Nadelmann' Drug Policy Alliance Network - Sen. Joe Biden is unquestionably one of the chief architects of the modern war on drugs, but is also an unlikely ally in many important fights. He has been at the center of many of our national campaigns; perhaps more so than any other senator.

Earlier this year, Sen. Biden surprised many by introducing legislation, co-sponsored by Sen. Hillary Clinton, to completely eliminate the 100-to-1 crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity, leapfrogging more modest reforms put forth by Senators Kennedy, Hatch, Sessions and others. Like many members of Congress, he voted for the legislation in the 1980s that created the disparity. Unlike most though, Sen. Biden has the guts and humility to admit he was wrong.

Sen. Biden’s groundbreaking bill has seven co-sponsors, including Sen. Obama. It is a sign of how politically popular drug policy reform has become among voters that a major presidential candidate not only co-sponsors a reform bill but nominates the bill’s sponsor as his running mate. That Sen. Biden is willing to be on the same ticket with Sen. Obama, who has indicated he understands the war on drugs isn’t working and called for a new paradigm, may be evidence that his views on drug policy are shifting.
Sen. Biden has been a strong supporter of treatment and prevention. For instance, he helped write the Drug Addiction Treatment Act, which makes it easier for doctors to prescribe buprenorphine and other replacement medication from their offices rather than special treatment clinics. He was one of only five Senators to vote against confirming President Bush’s drug czar, John Walters, who has a history of short-changing treatment.

On the other hand, Sen. Biden played a major role in enacting the draconian mandatory minimum sentences, in the 1980s, which have filled our prisons with nonviolent drug law offenders. And he sponsored the law creating the Office of National Drug Control Policy, giving Bill Bennett and other drug war extremists a national stage and increased power. More recently, he passed the RAVE Act, which makes it easier for the government to prosecute bar and nightclub owners for the drug law offenses of their customers.

The Drug Policy Alliance Network’s relationship with Sen. Biden has certainly been rocky. . . We’ll thank policymakers when they’re right and criticize them when they’re wrong.



Compiled by Radar

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ABC - The Commerce Department reported that personal income dropped by 0.7 percent in July, the largest decrease in nearly three years.


Washington Post - On the map, it's a long, squiggling line running along the East Coast. It starts in the Maine backcountry and meanders until it hits the Florida Keys. For bicyclists, it represents a 2,930-mile journey on trails, urban streets and genteel country thoroughfares that they hope will become as famous as the Appalachian Trail: the East Coast Greenway. Members of the East Coast Greenway Alliance, the organization that mapped the trail, have been working on the project since 1991. The alliance doesn't construct bike paths; it maps existing ones, a time-consuming process that includes field-testing. It's still in the early stages of putting up signs to guide bicyclists along the way. . . Although the group's dream is to have the entire route go off-road, only 20 percent of the current path is car-free.


Jennifer Merin, Women's Media Center - [A] study from [Martha Lauzen], the guru of women-in-Hollywood statistics and analysis indicates that 70 percent of movie reviews published in America's top 100 daily newspapers are written by men, and that 47 percent of those publications -- almost half -- ran no reviews written by female critics.


Private eye Anthony Pellicano, who worked for the Clintons, has been convicted of illegal wiretapping and faces up to ten years in prison. As Worldnet Daily reported a few years ago, "Pellicano's violent career as a private investigator reveals much about the sorts of qualifications Hillary sought in her Shadow Team. In the January 1992 issue of GQ magazine, Pellicano boasted of the dirty work he had performed for his clients, including blackmail and physical assault. He claimed to have beaten one of his client's enemies with a baseball bat. 'I'm an expert with a knife," said Pellicano. "I can shred your face with a knife.'" Pellicano was used by the Clintons to try to discredit Gennifer Flowers.



Good Magazine - Authorities at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam have etched the image of a black housefly into each urinal. It seems that men usually do not pay much attention to where they aim, which can create a bit of a mess. But if you give them a target, they can’t help but try to hit it. Similar designs have been implemented in urinals around the world, including mini soccer goals, bulls-eyes, and urine video games. Since the bugs were etched into the airport urinals, spillage has decreased by 80 percent.



Rules of Thumb - Always live east of your office so you never have to drive into the sun going to/from work



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.


I am a committed lefty - deeply suspicious of the government and the profit motive. I believe in very strict regulation of the food chain, consumer products, the chemical industry, and anything else with the potential to harm human or animal health. However, I am also a degreed chemical engineer who applies my training in the management/marketing arena.

My main criticism of my fellow lefties is that they often do not understand the scientific issues that they rebel against and frequently sound false alarms. I'm sure that they are earnest, but often they do more harm than good. This post is a glaring example.

The dire warnings in the article are classic examples of the wise old saying "a little knowledge is dangerous". They are a hodge-podge of snippets of truth in the wrong context. For example:

"The formation of free radicals, which can set off chain reactions in the body. . . "

Yes, radiation chemistry does create free radicals. However, since lettuce is mainly solid and inanimate, the radicals can not cause a cascading "chain reaction". And yes, they may slightly reduce the amount of antioxidants in the food (so slightly that no scientific instrument can measure the reduction). But so what? We eat lots of foods that are not rich in antioxidants. If the total amount of antioxidant in our spinach is immeasurably reduced does that make it poision? Nope. It just means that the spinach may have slightly less nutritional value, although the difference is so small it can't be measured and will have no effects on your health.

"Serious health problems in laboratory testing, including, including premature death. . . "

Yes, these effects will occur if you were to expose a living organism to radiation - such as a person close to a pile of cobalt-60 or another radiation source. However, these effects depend upon time of exposure, dose, and the chemical dynamics of the organism.

Lettuce leaves are not reproducing cells whose disruption could lead to a cancer. The plant is not radioactive after exposure to radiation - radiation is not a substance that you can ingest; it is an energy that has passed through the lettuce. Eating the lettuce does not expose you to radiation so we are only concerned with the effect of the radiation on the lettuce. We only care about whether the radiation transforms the chemical compounds that make-up the structure of lettuce into toxic compounds - which it does not. The main constituents of leafy vegetables - cellulose and water - do not degrade to carcinogenic chemicals. However, EPA checked for changes in the chemical make-up after irradiation. They found that the changes were the same as what you would get from cooking the vegetables (also known as exposure to infrared radiation, or thermal radiation).

"The creating mutant forms of dangerous bacteria, like E. coli and Salmonella. . . "

This one is just silly. The point of the radiation is to kill the germs such as salmonella, etc. Any bacteria that survive the radiation either had the good fortune to avoid being hit by a photon or they were uniquely resistant to radiation beforehand. The radiation may down-select for radiation resistant bugs, but it insn't going to create "X-Men Salmonella". Incidentally, standard washing techniques will have the same selective effect - bacteria that survive soap will be soap resistant. So are we to stop washing lettuce in hopes of avoiding soap-resistant bacteria? That's far worse than where we started.

"While irradiated lettuce and spinach must be labeled in supermarkets, there are currently no labeling requirements for restaurants. . . "

True, but meaningless. Much more lettuce and spinach are sold in grocery stores than in restaurants so the terms of the market are set by the stores. The economics of irradiation can only be made to work if it is done on a large scale. If the stores don't buy, it probably won't happen. And since labeling is required in stores, and since the public at large is even more ignorant than the author of the article above, than it aint gonna happen without a change to the labeling rules.

Last but not least, even if the dangers listed in the article were real (which they are not) it still makes sense to irradiate food. Compare the risks - indeed the results - of not having any reasonable defense against salmonella outbreaks. Pathogens have already killed more people in the past few years than the most wild-eyed fantasy of irradiated lettuce could concoct. - Chris

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