- Please send as far and wide as possible.
Editor, The Konformist
"Son, you're making the same mistake in Iraq that I made with your
mother. I didn't pull out in time..."
George Herbert Walker Bush to son
Sean Penn Accepts 'First Amendment Award' -- Hits Media, Calls for
By E&P Staff
Published: December 19, 2006
NEW YORK Sean Penn, the actor and occasional foreign correspondent
for the San Francisco Chronicle, hit the media and called for
impeachment of the president in receiving the 2006 Christopher Reeve
First Amendment Award fromThe Creative Coalition Monday night in New
Presented since 1997, the First Amendment Award
recognizes "individuals who are dedicated to the sanctity of the
first amendment and its free speech provision." Other Creative
Coalition honorees last night included Branford Marsalis, Harvey
Keitel, Heather Graham and Marcia Gay Harden.
In his remarks, Penn listed more than a dozen serious issues facing
the country, and commented, "We depend largely for information on
these issues from media industries, driven by the bottom line to
such an extent that the public interest becomes uninteresting."
Turning to his views of President Bush, Penn said, "Now, there's
been a lot of talk lately on Capitol Hill about how impeachment
should be `off the table.' We're told that it's time to look ahead -
"Can you imagine how far that argument would go for the defense at
an arraignment on charges of grand larceny, or large-scale
distribution of methamphetamines? How about the arranging of a
contract killing on a pregnant mother? `Indictment should be off the
table.' Or `Let's look forward, not backward.' Or `We can't afford
another failed defendant.'
"Our country has a legal system, not of men and women, but of laws.
Why then are we so willing to put inconvenient provisions of the
U.S. constitution and federal law `off the table?'"
Penn said he admired New York Times columnist Frank Rich but
disagreed with his position that pursuing impeachment now would
In his prepared remarks, he also lamented how the U.S. public was
allegedly tricked into backing the Iraq invasion and derided those
media figures who did that, describing Rush Limbaugh as "high as a
kite on OxyContin," Bill O'Reilly as "factually impaired," and Sean
Hannity as "simply a whore to the cause of his pimps - Murdoch and
Ailes?" He then rapped former Rep. Mark Foley, Sen. Joe Lieberman
and even singer Toby Keith.
With that, he imagined listeners thinking, "Oh, there goes Sean...he
had to go and name-call. They say he can't help himself." But he
asked: "Or, did I name-call? Maybe I just quickly summed up seven or
eight little truths. Oh, no, you're right - I name-called. I
said, `putz.' I take it back. Or, do I? Did I say whore? Pimp? These
are questions. But, the real and great questions of conscience and
accountability would not loom so ominously -- unanswered or evaded
at such tremendous cost -- without our day-to-day failure to insist
on genuine accountability.
"Of course we'd prefer some easy ways to get there. But no easy ways
exist. Not a new Congress. Not Barack Obama. And, not John McCain."
More excerpts from his prepared speech, first posted at
The most effective forms of de facto censorship are pre-emptive.
Systemically, we are encouraged to keep our heads down, out of the
line of fire - to avoid the danger, god forbid, that someone in the
White House, on Capitol Hill, or a media blow-hard might take a shot
But, as a practical matter, most of the limits on creative
expression and other forms of free speech come from self-censorship,
where the mechanism of corporate clout offers carrots and brandishes
sticks. We avoid a conflict before the conflict materializes. We
reach for the carrots and stay out of range of sticks.
Decades ago, Fred Friendly called it a "positive veto" -
corporations putting big money behind shows that they want to
establish and perpetuate. Whether in journalism or drama, creative
efforts that don't gain a financial "positive veto" are dismissible,
then dismissed. We may not call that "censorship." But whatever we
call it, the effects of a "positive veto" system are severe. They
impose practical limits on efforts to bring the most important
realities to public attention sooner rather than later...
We're beginning to see more revealing images of this war. But it's
later now, isn't it? What we have to pay attention to are the
results of these "practical limits." One, is that wars become much
easier to launch than to halt&hellip.
I'm sure many people who I met in Baghdad, both in my trips prior to
and during the occupation, now similarly cannot just look forward.
With lives so entirely shattered by a violence of occupation - an
ongoing U.S. war effort and the civil war that it has catalyzed. All
on the back of a crumbled infrastructure, following eleven years of
devastating U.N. sanctions...
Let's give the whistle-blowers cover, let's get the subpoenas out
there, and then, one by one, put this administration under oath. And
then, if the crimes of "Treason, bribery, or other high crimes and
misdemeanors" are proven, do as Article 2, Section 4 of the United
States Constitution provides, and remove "the President, Vice
President and...civil officers of the United States" from office. If
the Justice Department then sees fit to bunk them up with Jeff
Skilling, so be it&hellip.
Christopher Reeve promised to get out of that chair. Well, I don't
know about you, but it feels like he's up now and I wouldn't be
standing here if it weren't on his shoulders. Let it be for
Dennis Prager and the Constitution
By Gerald Plessner
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Dec 21, 2006
A number of my friends think Dennis Prager is a brilliant,
thoughtful commentator. I believe that, as far as the Constitution
is concerned, Prager is a first class idiot. You be the judge.
Dennis Prager believes that Congressman-elect Keith Ellison of
Minnesota should be required to take the oath of office with his
hand on the Bible. Ellison, who is an American-born convert to
Islam, has said that he intends to take the oath with his hand on
Prager has written that "America, not Keith Ellison, decides what
book a congressman takes his oath on." Prager recently defended his
statement on the "Hannity & Colmes" show on FOX News, an outlet
that, not surprisingly, has also defamed Ellison. The congressman-
elect was elected by a majority of voters in his district, which,
incidentally, is home to a large percentage of the Minneapolis
Prager might have saved himself from looking foolish had he read our
Constitution, which in Article Six states, "The Senators and
Representative before mentioned, and the members of the several
state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of
the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath
or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test
shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public
trust under the United States."
That paragraph, seldom cited in the debate over the relationship
between church and state, provides two important lessons. First it
does not require the swearing to involve the presence of any holy
writ, Jewish Bible, Christian Bible, Koran, Book of Mormon or
Senators, representatives and many state and local groups of
officials are sworn in simultaneously and never swear on a book.
But even more enlightening about the paragraph is the option given
to the person being sworn to affirm their intentions rather than
swear to them. That indicates that the Constitution's authors
decided that non-believers and members of religions other than the
dominant religion at the time, Christianity, should be accorded the
courtesy, yea the right, to swear if they wish upon whatever holy
writ they believed in.
Prager states that "You don't have to be Christian to acknowledge
that the Bible is the source of America's values." I respectfully
disagree. The Bible was one of the sources of our values, along with
the Enlightenment, John Locke, the Federalist and Anti-Federalist
Papers, the Magna Carta, the writings of Thomas Paine and many
Dennis Prager is the only Jew I know of who thinks America should be
a Christian nation. As a Jew that perplexes me. As an American, it
saddens me because it is one more silly argument that separates and
divides our people when we so badly need to come together.
But the nasty aspect of Prager's vengeful crusade to humiliate an
American who takes his citizenship seriously reminds me of a
terrible time in our world's history. Our mutual ancestors, his and
mine, in Spain, Portugal and across northern Europe were murdered by
the Inquisition because they refused to convert to Christianity.
Forcing a Muslim to swear on any Bible, a Jew to swear on the
Christian Bible, or a Mormon to swear on something other than the
Book of Mormon if he wishes, comes just about as close to a modern
Inquisition as I can imagine.
I cannot forgive Prager for that!
Gerald Plessner is a Southern California businessman who writes
regularly on issues of politics and culture. He would be pleased to
hear from you and may be contacted at gerald@....
Bill seeks to ban trans fats from Massachusetts
BOSTON, Massachusetts (Reuters) -- A lawmaker introduced a bill
Tuesday that would make Massachusetts the first U.S. state to ban
artificial trans fats from restaurants, closely following New York
City's ban of the artery-clogging oils.
"We have an opportunity to vastly improve public health by directing
restaurants to switch to healthier alternatives," Peter Koutoujian,
a Democratic representative in the Massachusetts Legislature, said
in a statement.
The bill uses language similar to new regulations announced this
month by New York City, but marks the first effort to force
restaurants in an entire state to stop frying foods in oils that
contain high levels of trans fats. (Interactive:Trans Fat 101 )
New York's law, believed to be the first of its kind in the United
States, requires restaurants including McDonald's Corp.to eliminate
trans fats by July 2007 or face fines for each violation.
Trans fats increase the risk of heart disease and stroke by
increasing levels of so-called "bad" cholesterol, known as LDL, and
reducing levels of "good," or HDL, cholesterol.
Massachusetts has one of the lowest obesity rates in the country,
according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"New York City's decision to ban trans fats from restaurants shows
how government can take positive action toward improving public
health," said Koutoujian, house chairman of the Legislature's Joint
Committee on Public Health.
Under his proposal, no foods with artificial trans fat could be used
to prepare restaurant menu items, with the exception of food served
directly to customers in the manufacturer's original sealed package
like potato chips.
Restaurants would have one year to switch to oils, margarines and
shortenings that contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat for every
Trans fats occur naturally in some meat and dairy products, which
would not be subject to the ban. Instead, the law targets nearly all
artificial trans fats, which are chemically added to oils and give
french fries their crunch and help create the texture of pie crusts
America's fast-food chains, whose foods are among the most laden
with trans fats, are moving toward voluntary reduction.
Wendy's International Inc. has reduced trans fats by switching to a
different cooking oil, while McDonald's has been trying since 2002
to reduce trans fats in its french fries.
The privately held Dunkin' Donuts chain in 2004 started removing
trans fats from bagels, muffins and cookies, and is researching
alternative ways to make its mainstay doughnuts healthier.
Koutoujian said he hopes he'll find support for the bill from fellow
lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled Legislature, which starts its
new two-year session in January.
"There is an overwhelming amount of evidence out there revealing
just how damaging trans fats are," he said.
Toyota said to overtake Ford in January 2007
America's No. 2 automaker says by 2007 its Japanese rival will
overtake it in sales in the U.S. market - report.
December 21 2006
NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Ford Motor Co. expects Japan's Toyota Motor
Corp. to unseat it next year as the second biggest company behind
General Motors Corp. in the American car market, a position Ford has
held since the 1920s, the New York Times said on its Web site
Citing internal Ford projections, the paper says the projections
show that company officers believe Ford will permanently fall to
third place as soon as January.
Ford, which is struggling to restructure itself under a plan called
The Way Forward, predicted in September that its market share within
two years would bottom out at 14 to 15 percent of the market, making
it smaller than Toyota is now, the paper said.
While it had not specifically predicted that it would end up behind
Toyota, the implication was clear, the New York Times said.
Edmunds.com, a Web site offering car-buying advice, plans to issue
its own forecast Thursday that will echo the internal Ford
projections, predicting second place for Toyota (Charts) by mid-
2007, the paper said.
The New York Times said that Ford's chief sales statistician, George
Pipas, declined to comment Wednesday night on the internal
projections. Of the Edmunds forecast, Mr. Pipas said only: "Unless
you think Toyota is going to go backwards, it's a good possibility
that they will gain market share," according to the paper.
Ford was not immediately available for comment.
Toyota is already bigger than Ford globally, and is rivaling the
world's largest automaker, General Motors (Charts).
Toyota plans to surpass GM sales in 2007
By Martin Fackler
Friday, December 22, 2006
Toyota Motor said Friday that it planned to sell 9.34 million
vehicles next year, a figure that analysts said would be big enough
to put it ahead of the troubled General Motors as the world's
largest auto company.
Toyota reported global group sales this year of 8.8 million cars and
trucks, below GM's forecast for 2006 sales of 9.2 million vehicles.
But the figures Friday showed the two rival car giants on starkly
different trajectories, with Toyota expecting to add a half million
vehicle sales next year, at a time when GM is shuttering plants and
laying off workers.
Surpassing General Motors would be a crowning achievement for
Toyota, a company that got its start in the 1930s by reverse-
engineering GM and Ford cars, and that spent decades catching up
with Detroit. It would also end GM's 81-year reign over the global
auto industry, and mark another step in the rise of Asian carmakers.
However, becoming the global leader would also have its pitfalls for
Toyota, analysts warned. The Japanese automaker could become a
victim of its own success and follow GM's decline, they said, if it
grows complacent or lets quality control slip amid its rapid
expansion. Being at the top could also make Toyota a fatter target
for critics, particularly in the U.S. Congress, where the company's
rise could fan a protectionist backlash, analysts said.
"Does being No. 1 matter? It matters for GM, and for America," said
Hirofumi Yokoi, an auto analyst at CSM Asia. "It becomes a political
issue when America gets passed in a core industry. Toyota will have
to be even more sensitive and cautious in the U.S. market."
Toyota's emergence as No.1 would also realign the global auto
industry. The Japanese car company would become the new industry
benchmark, analysts said, and one that would be tough to match.
While GM's strength in recent years has been its finance arm,
Toyota's success is grounded in its formidable manufacturing
prowess. As the world's most profitable carmaker, it also has the
cash to invest heavily in new technologies and products, analysts
Analysts also said that reaching the top would not exhaust Toyota's
opportunities for growth. They said the company would continue to
gain in the American market, where higher gasoline prices have
increased the popularity of smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.
They said Toyota was expanding in developing markets, particularly
China, and into alternative-energy vehicles, like hybrid and fuel-
Toyota's rise would also prove a victory of sorts for its unique
corporate culture, the so-called Toyota Way, which is rooted in an
obsession with craftsmanship and constant improvement, or kaizen.
Analysts said the Toyota Way would likely become enshrined as the
industry's gold standard, and the model to mimic or surpass for new
challengers from South Korea and China.
"This proves that the Toyota Way is more than just an odd, quirky
theory," said Chester Dawson, author of the book "Lexus: the
Relentless Pursuit." "Being No.1 means Toyota now sets the standards
that everyone has to beat."
For Toyota, the immediate concern appears to be avoiding any
political fallout from passing GM. On Friday, Toyota's president,
Katsuaki Watanabe, treaded lightly around the issue of his company's
overtaking GM, while announcing may open another factory in North
America. At a press conference in Nagoya, near his company's Toyota
City headquarters, Watanabe said passing GM "is just a question of
results," and not a significant event for Toyota, according to
Toyota is also considering another factory somewhere in North
America, Watanabe said. The company just opened a $1.28 billion
pickup truck plant in San Antonio, Texas last month, and has another
factory under construction in Woodstock, Ontario slated to open in
Toyota has been building plants in the United States since the
1980s, partly to blunt trade criticism. The expanded production will
help Toyota to meet U.S. sales gains without increasing exports from
Japan, a Toyota executive vice president, Tokuichi Uranishi, said,
according to Bloomberg News.
Watanabe also addressed Toyota's growing number of recalls this
year, which have tarnished the company's reputation for sterling
quality. In Japan alone, Toyota has recalled 1.2 million vehicles
this year, prompting the Transport Ministry to order the company to
improve quality control.
"There will be no growth without quality," Watanabe said, according
to The Associated Press.
Analysts said the growing number of defects could seriously
undermine the company in the long run.
"Now that it's Toyota's turn on top of the industry," said CSM's
Yokoi, "Toyota has to figure out how to keep from following GM into
So far, the defect problems have not slowed Toyota's pace of growth.
The company said Friday that it and its affiliates expected to build
9.42 million cars and trucks next year, up from 9.04 million this
year. The Toyota group includes two subsidiaries, the truck maker
Hino Motors and a maker of compact cars, Daihatsu.
Toyota also gave a regional breakdown for its sales forecast for
next year of cars built by the parent company that bear the Toyota
and Lexus brands. The largest market will remain the United States,
where sales are expected to rise 6 percent, to 2.68 million vehicles.
The company also said it expected a 9 percent rise in Europe and a
15 percent gain in Asia, including China.
Some analysts noted with irony that being No.1 had not helped the
current title holder, GM, which posted $10.6 billion in losses last
"Being on top won't change anything in terms of share price or
earnings," said Atushi Kawai, an auto analyst at Mizuho Investors
Securities in Tokyo. "In fact, if you look at who's been No.1 until
now, you see that there really aren't many benefits at all."