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KN4M 01-14-06

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  • Robert Sterling
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com Quote of the Day I have the feeling about 60
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 14, 2006
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      Please send as far and wide as possible.

      Thanks,
      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist
      http://www.konformist.com

      Quote of the Day

      "I have the feeling about 60 percent of what you say is crap."
      David Letterman, to Falafel-lover Bill O'Reilly

      *****

      Branded
      James Moore
      01.04.2006
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-moore/

      There are times in which it is easy to be suspicious. We can get to
      that feeling fairly quickly if we even pay slight attention. I've
      been trying to get over this odd emotion for at least a year. I
      can't find any rationale for letting it go, though I want
      desperately not to have these thoughts.

      This week last year I was preparing for a trip to Ohio to conduct
      interviews and research for a new book I was writing. My airline
      tickets had been purchased on line and the morning of departure I
      went to the Internet to print out my boarding pass. I got a message
      that said, "Not Allowed." Several subsequent tries failed. Surely, I
      thought, it's just a glitch within the airline's servers or software.

      I made it a point to arrive very early at the airport. My
      reservation was confirmed before I left home. I went to the
      electronic kiosk and punched in my confirmation number to print out
      my boarding pass and luggage tags. Another error message
      appeared, "Please see agent."

      I did. She took my Texas driver's license and punched in the
      relevant information to her computer system.

      "I'm sorry, sir," she said. "There seems to be a problem. You've
      been placed on the No Fly Watch List."

      "Excuse me?"

      "I'm afraid there isn't much more that I can tell you," she
      explained. "It's just the list that's maintained by TSA to check for
      people who might have terrorist connections."

      "You're serious?"

      "I'm afraid so, sir. Here's an 800 number in Washington. You need to
      call them before I can clear you for the flight."

      Exasperated, I dialed the number from my cell, determined to clear
      up what I was sure was a clerical error. The woman who answered
      offered me no more information than the ticket agent.

      "Mam, I'd like to know how I got on the No Fly Watch List."

      "I'm not really authorized to tell you that, sir," she explained
      after taking down my social security and Texas driver's license
      numbers.

      "What can you tell me?"

      "All I can tell you is that there is something in your background
      that in some way is similar to someone they are looking for."

      "Well, let me get this straight then," I said. "Our government is
      looking for a guy who may have a mundane Anglo name, who pays tens
      of thousands of dollars every year in taxes, has never been arrested
      or even late on a credit card payment, is more uninteresting than a
      Tupperware party, and cries after the first two notes of the
      national anthem? We need to find this guy. He sounds dangerous to
      me."

      "I'm sorry, sir, I've already told you everything I can."

      "Oh, wait," I said. "One last thing: this guy they are looking for?
      Did he write books critical of the Bush administration, too?"

      I have been on the No Fly Watch List for a year. I will never be
      told the official reason. No one ever is. You cannot sue to get the
      information. Nothing I have done has moved me any closer to getting
      off the list. There were 35,000 Americans in that database last
      year. According to a European government that screens hundreds of
      thousands of American travelers every year, the list they have been
      given to work from has since grown to 80,000.

      My friends tell me it is just more government incompetence. A tech
      buddy said there's no one in government smart enough to write a
      search algorithm that will find actual terrorists, so they end up
      with authors of books criticizing the Bush White House. I have no
      idea what's going on.

      I suppose I should think of it as a minor sacrifice to help keep my
      country safe. Not being able to print out boarding passes in advance
      and having to get to the airport three hours early for every flight
      is hardly an imposition compared to what Americans are enduring in
      Iraq. I can force myself to get used to all that extra attention
      from the guy with the wand whenever I walk through the electronic
      arches. I'm just doing my patriotic duty.

      Of course, there's always the chance that the No Fly Watch List is
      one of many enemies lists maintained by the Bush White House. If
      that's the case, I am happy to be on that list. I am in good company
      with people who expect more out of their president and their
      government.

      Hell, maybe I'll start thinking of it as an honor roll.

      *****

      JANUARY 6 - 12, 2006
      Zeitlist: Politics
      Scandalous! A Year of Republican Treachery
      by DOUG IRELAND
      LAWeekly.com

      You could wait for the book, or check out the darkest shadows of the
      past 12 months right here:

      Duke of California

      In the Department of Plain Old-Fashioned Boodling, let's start with
      California's own Congressman Duke Cunningham, who tearfully pleaded
      guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes from a defense contractor,
      and is now in the slammer. Don't forget that 32 other GOP
      congressmen took campaign cash from that same bribe-giving
      contractor and have shed no tears.

      Noe's Way

      In Ohio, the sewer of political corruption, Governor Bob Taft
      pleaded "no contest" to taking bribes and favors from an indicted
      top Republican fund-raiser named Tom Noe. Taft had put the state's
      workers' compensation fund in the hands of Noe, who turned around
      and invested it in rare coins, as millions disappeared. Many of
      Taft's top staffers also wrongfully accepted Noe's favors
      and "loans," as did a GOP congressman. Noe was also indicted for
      illegal bundling of campaign cash for Dubya. The entire Ohio
      Republican Party is reeling from this scandal.

      Doctor Is Out

      In Washington, the wealthy Dr. Bill Frist, the Senate Republican
      leader, is now under investigation by the Securities and Exchange
      Commission for making a second fortune through illegal insider
      trading in the stock of the scandal-plagued company his family owns
      HCA (Hospital Corporation of America, America's largest hospital
      conglomerate) — which had previously been fined a record-breaking
      $1.7 billion for defrauding Medicare and Medicaid.

      Generous Jack

      Then there's the jolly little band of Republican boodlers who
      clustered around indicted megalobbyist Jack Abramoff with their
      hands out. Abramoff is now singing to prosecutors after his indicted
      henchmen snitched on him — and by the time Abramoff is done naming
      names, there'll be a hail of indictments of congressmen and at least
      three senators, like Idaho's Conrad Burns, a major recipient of
      Abramoff's largess. This will be as big, or bigger, than the S&L
      scandal back in the '80s.

      Abramoff's biggest buddy and water carrier, House Republican Leader
      Tom "the Hammer" DeLay, is already under indictment in a different
      scandal — illegally laundering corporate campaign cash for Texas
      legislators who gerrymandered the Democrats out of six U.S. House
      seats. If Abramoff gives up his man DeLay, the majority leader will
      be in double jeopardy.

      Legal Outlaws

      Of course, there's an old saying in Washington: The real scandal
      isn't what's illegal, the real scandal is what's legal! At the top
      of the list of legal boodlers has to be Halliburton, Dick Cheney's
      old company. When a Pentagon procurement officer blew the whistle on
      deliberate Halliburton cost overruns in Iraq that bilked hundreds of
      millions in taxpayer dollars, Bush's man Rumsfeld punished not
      Halliburton but the whistle blower! And then the Bushies turned
      around and gave Halliburton juicy post–Hurricane Katrina
      reconstruction contracts — even as they threw the poorest victims of
      Katrina out of their hotel and motel rooms and onto the streets.
      Scandalous, but legal.

      Payola

      Also quite legal is Washington's pay-to-play revolving door, where
      retired solons are paid lavishly as lobbyists to distribute campaign
      cash to their former colleagues in return for special legislative
      favors. In fact, 43 percent of the 198 lawmakers who have left for
      the private sector since 1998 have become lobbyists, according to a
      new study by the public-interest group Public Citizen. Example: When
      Louisiana Republican Billy Tauzin stepped down as chairman of the
      House Energy and Commerce Committee, where he used to regulate the
      drug industry among other things, he took a job heading a drug-
      industry lobby that reportedly pays him $2.5 million per year.
      Scandalous but legal. But there's so much of this sort of thing that
      a cynical and blinkered press gives it short shrift, and most voters
      don't ever hear about it.

      Big Brother

      All the others are only about money. The biggest scandal in the long
      run is the Republicans' shredding of the Bill of Rights. Bush's
      recent admission that he ordered spying on American citizens by the
      National Security Agency without a court order — clearly an
      impeachable crime — is only the tip of the iceberg. Just two weeks
      ago, NBC got hold of a 400-page Pentagon memorandum revealing that,
      under Rumsfeld, the military had been spying on anti-war and other
      protest groups and individuals, accumulating a huge database through
      this surveillance of Americans exercising their free speech rights.
      Many of those targeted were student or religious groups. My fave
      among the Pentagon's spying targets: the gay group at the University
      of California at Santa Cruz, which — to protest military recruitment
      on campus because of the anti-gay "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy
      that has only increased the number of gays expelled from the armed
      forces — decided to stage a "kiss-in." When the Pentagons' gumshoes
      reported this, their superiors deemed the kiss-in a "credible
      threat" of... terrorism! Bush's FBI has also been caught massively
      investigating anti-war, environmental and student groups — including
      those dangerous folks at PETA — as possible "terrorists." But the
      Pentagon's and FBI's spying hasn't gotten nearly the media attention
      of Bush's illegal electronic eavesdropping. Americans fought a
      revolution against one King George for the right to criticize their
      government when they thought it necessary. This Republican
      administration thinks it has royal prerogatives to brush aside the
      Constitution's guarantees of that right if it wants to. And if that
      isn't scandalous, what is?

      Doug Ireland can be reached through his blog, DIRELAND, at
      http://direland.typepad.com/direland/

      *****

      Bush Recess Appointments Meet With Protest
      By DEB RIECHMANN
      Associated Press
      Thu Jan 5, 2006

      President Bush's decision to bypass the Senate in filling posts at
      the State Department, Federal Election Commission and National Labor
      Relations Board drew protests Thursday from lawmakers and advocacy
      groups.

      Under the Constitution, the president may avoid the Senate
      confirmation process and make appointments while the chamber is in
      recess. Such appointments usually are short-term, expiring at the
      end of next congressional session.

      But because the Senate held a pro forma session Tuesday and then
      adjourned, the White House contends the second session of the 109th
      Congress has begun. Therefore, the White House believes Bush's
      nearly 20 recess appointments are valid until the following session,
      which won't conclude until the end of 2007.

      White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the appointments
      were necessary to fill vacancies, and that a few posts were empty
      because some lawmakers "are playing politics with the nomination
      process."

      However, Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record), R-Ariz., said
      the regular confirmation process should be used so the Senate can be
      assured that nominees are qualified.

      Sen. Edward Kennedy (news, bio, voting record), D-Mass., protested
      Hans von Spakovsky's appointment to the FEC. Kennedy said von
      Spakovsky, a Justice Department lawyer who was Republican Party
      chairman in Fulton County, Ga., worked toward requiring Georgia
      voters to have a photo identification — a requirement critics said
      would harm black voters.

      Kennedy also contended that von Spakovsky was involved in a decision
      that rejected a recommendation of career Justice Department lawyers
      in a Texas redistricting case. Those lawyers had concluded that the
      redistricting plan violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because it
      eliminated several districts where minorities had substantial voting
      power and illegally diluted black and Hispanic voting power.

      The president also appointed to the FEC Robert Lenhard, who was part
      of a legal team that challenged the constitutionality of the McCain-
      Feingold campaign finance law, and Steven Walther, a lawyer with
      ties to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

      Reid, Kennedy and AFL-CIO President John Sweeney all expressed
      disappointment with Bush's recess appointment of Peter Kirsanow to
      the National Labor Relations Board, citing his record as a member of
      the Commission on Civil Rights.

      "He is an ardent foe of basic worker protections, including the
      minimum wage and prevailing wage laws, and is a vehement opponent of
      affirmative action," Kennedy said.

      Bush's appointment of Ellen Sauerbrey to be assistant secretary of
      state for refugees, population and migration, was opposed by
      advocacy groups that say she lacks experience on refugee issues.
      Currently, Sauerbrey is U.S. ambassador to the United Nations
      Commission on the status of women.

      "Sauerbrey's record at the United Nations has been a relentless
      effort to foist the administration's anti-choice agenda onto
      international bodies dealing with population and reproductive health
      and rights," said Jodi Jacobson, director of the Center for Health
      and Gender Equity, a group that advocates for the health and rights
      of women and girls across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

      Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said he was disturbed by the recess
      appointments of Julie Myers to head the Bureau of Immigration and
      Customs Enforcement and Tracy Henke to lead the Homeland Security
      Department's office of state and local preparedness. Myers'
      confirmation was stalled because of concerns that she lacks
      experience to head immigration and customs enforcement, the federal
      government's second-largest investigative force.

      Lieberman complained that the president appointed Henke before the
      Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee had a
      chance to vote on her nomination. "The recess appointment power
      should be sparingly used, and not merely to avoid having to put
      administration nominees to a vote," Lieberman said.

      The senator had earlier expressed concern about Henke's decision at
      the Justice Department to delete statistics about racial disparities
      in traffic stops from a draft press release — an action that
      Lieberman said "may have undermined the office's reputation for
      objectivity and independence."

      Henke said she edited the press release because it didn't accurately
      portray information in a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

      *****

      Did Jesus exist? Court to decide

      ROME, Italy (Reuters) -- Forget the U.S. debate over intelligent
      design versus evolution.

      An Italian court is tackling Jesus -- and whether the Roman Catholic
      Church may be breaking the law by teaching that he existed 2,000
      years ago.

      The case pits against each other two men in their 70s, who are from
      the same central Italian town and even went to the same seminary
      school in their teenage years.

      The defendant, Enrico Righi, went on to become a priest writing for
      the parish newspaper. The plaintiff, Luigi Cascioli, became a vocal
      atheist who, after years of legal wrangling, is set to get his day
      in court later this month.

      "I started this lawsuit because I wanted to deal the final blow
      against the Church, the bearer of obscurantism and regression,"
      Cascioli told Reuters.

      Cascioli says Righi, and by extension the whole Church, broke two
      Italian laws. The first is "Abuso di Credulita Popolare" (Abuse of
      Popular Belief) meant to protect people against being swindled or
      conned. The second crime, he says, is "Sostituzione di Persona," or
      impersonation.

      "The Church constructed Christ upon the personality of John of
      Gamala," Cascioli claimed, referring to the 1st century Jew who
      fought against the Roman army.

      A court in Viterbo will hear from Righi, who has yet to be indicted,
      at a January 27 preliminary hearing meant to determine whether the
      case has enough merit to go forward.

      "In my book, 'The Fable of Christ,' I present proof Jesus did not
      exist as a historic figure. He must now refute this by showing proof
      of Christ's existence," Cascioli said.

      Speaking to Reuters, Righi, 76, sounded frustrated by the case and
      baffled as to why Cascioli -- who, like him, came from the town of
      Bagnoregio -- singled him out in his crusade against the Church.

      "We're both from Bagnoregio, both of us. We were in seminary
      together. Then he took a different path and we didn't see each other
      anymore," Righi said.

      "Since I'm a priest, and I write in the parish newspaper, he is now
      suing me because I 'trick' the people."

      Righi claims there is plenty of evidence to support the existence of
      Jesus, including historical texts.

      He also claims that justice is on his side. The judge presiding over
      the hearing has tried, repeatedly, to dismiss the case -- prompting
      appeals from Cascioli.

      "Cascioli says he didn't exist. And I said that he did," he
      said. "The judge will decide if Christ exists or not."

      Even Cascioli admits that the odds are against him, especially in
      Roman Catholic Italy.

      "It would take a miracle to win," he joked.

      ***

      The God Who Wasn't There
      TheGodMovie.com

      Bowling for Columbine did it to the gun culture.

      Super Size Me did it to fast food.

      Now The God Who Wasn't There does it to religion.

      Holding modern Christianity up to a bright spotlight, this bold and
      often hilarious new film asks the questions few dare to ask.

      Your guide through the world of Christendom is former fundamentalist
      Brian Flemming, joined by such luminaries as Jesus Seminar fellow
      Robert M. Price, professor Richard Dawkins, author Sam Harris and
      historian Richard Carrier.

      See the movie the Los Angeles Times calls "provocative - to put it
      mildly."

      Hold on to your faith. It's in for a bumpy ride.

      The movie that has been astounding audiences in theaters around the
      world is now available on a high-quality, feature-packed DVD.

      In this provocative, critically acclaimed documentary, you will
      discover:

      The early founders of Christianity seem wholly unaware of the idea
      of a human Jesus

      The Jesus of the Gospels bears a striking resemblance to other
      ancient heroes and the figureheads of pagan savior cults

      Contemporary Christians are largely ignorant of the origins of their
      religion

      Fundamentalism is as strong today as it ever has been, with an
      alarming 44% of Americans believing Jesus will return to earth in
      their lifetimes

      And God simply isn't there

      Dazzling motion graphics and a sweeping soundtrack propel this
      uncompromising and taboo-shattering documentary that Newsweek
      says "irreverently lays out the case that Jesus Christ never
      existed."

      The God Who Wasn't There includes provocative interviews with:

      Sam Harris, PEN Award-winning author of The End of Faith

      Robert M. Price, Jesus Seminar fellow and author of The Incredible
      Shrinking Son of Man

      Alan Dundes, Professor of Folklore at the University of California
      at Berkeley

      Richard Carrier, historian and author of Sense and Goodness Without
      God

      Barbara & David P. Mikkelson, authors of the Urban Legends Reference
      Pages at snopes.com

      And many others

      Special Features

      The special features on this DVD are both generous and carefully
      selected. As DVD Talk puts it: "This DVD delivers the film in a
      quality presentation, with extras that quadruple the amount of
      content in a positive way with no filler."

      The extras include:

      Two full-length alternate audio tracks with commentary from
      evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (A Devil's Chaplain), scholar
      Earl Doherty (The Jesus Puzzle) and popular blogger The Raving
      Atheist (ravingatheist.com)

      Over one hour of selected additional interview clips with each
      person in the documentary

      An in-depth slide show on every topic in the film, with active links
      to the Web (Windows or Mac computer required for Web features)

      Cast and crew biographies

      Selected music from the soundtrack album

      Full-motion chapter menus

      The movie is presented full-screen, with crisp Dolby Digital 2.0
      stereo audio. The DVD is playable in all regions, but is English
      language only (no subtitles or captions).
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