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KN4M 02-02-07

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  • Robert Sterling
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com Jim Webb s barnburner By Mike Whitney Online
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 2, 2007
      Please send as far and wide as possible.

      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist

      Jim Webb's barnburner
      By Mike Whitney
      Online Journal Contributing Writer
      Jan 26, 2007

      We are now as a nation held hostage to the predictable -- and
      predicted -- disarray that has followed the invasion of Iraq." --
      Senator Jim Webb (D-VA)

      "A star is born." --Mark Shields, political pundit on Jim Lehrer
      News Hour assessing Jim Webb's Democratic response to the Bush's
      State of the Union address.

      Nothing scares the "powers that be" more than a straight-shooting
      populist who can rally people against government policy. And, yet,
      that's exactly what happened on Tuesday night in the Democratic
      response to the State of the Union Speech (SOTU).

      In just 9 minutes, freshman Senator Jim Webb took a sledgehammer to
      George W. Bush's policy in Iraq and left 45 million Americans
      cheering for more. It was a tour de force the likes of which we
      haven't seen since Harold Pinter gave his Noble acceptance speech
      two years ago.

      Webb was brilliant. He not only erased 40 minutes of Bush-blather
      and demagoguery; he lifted the country out of the squalor of
      pessimism by pointing the way out of Iraq and towards greater
      economic justice.

      Hoorah! Isn't that what leadership is all about?

      It's ironic that it took a former Reagan Republican to lower the
      boom on Bush; especially when the burgeoning crop of Democratic
      presidential hopefuls are stumbling over themselves to appear more
      antiwar than the other.

      Webb made them all look wishy-washy in comparison. He now joins that
      select group of Democratic vertebrates who speak from the heart and
      have the cajones to back it up.

      The senator's speech was lucid and statesmanlike invoking numerous
      examples from American history to blast the administration's
      fanatical strategy in Iraq. His no-nonsense style and sense of
      conviction only added to an already powerful statement.

      Oh yeah, and he's a decorated combat veteran, too. He served his
      time in Vietnam while Bush was sucking down truckloads of Lone Star
      beer in the Texas National Guard "champagne unit." (When he wasn't

      When Webb held up the photo of his father (who served in WW2) and
      spoke of his son (now serving in Iraq), he cut through all the
      rhetorical-horseshit about "democracy" and "liberation" and gave us
      a clear picture of who really makes the sacrifices in war. Too bad,
      he didn't have photos of the 650,000 Iraqis who have died in Bush's
      Folly; that would have given his audience a chance to appreciate the
      magnitude of this tragic blunder.

      Webb also wrote his own speech. It wasn't a compilation of poll-
      tested thoughts and feelings extracted from a White House focus
      group and flashed on a teleprompter for a fake president. It was the
      heartfelt expression of a guy who still believes in the American

      "I still keep my father's picture to remind me of the sacrifices
      that my mother and others had to make, over and over again, as my
      father gladly served his country. I was proud to follow in his
      footsteps, serving as a Marine in Vietnam. My brother did as well,
      serving as a helicopter pilot. My son has joined in the tradition,
      now serving as an infantry Marine in Iraq.

      "Like so many other Americans, today and throughout our history, we
      serve and have served, not for political reasons, but because we
      love our country. On the political issues -- those matters of war
      and peace, and in some cases of life and death -- we trusted the
      judgment of our national leaders. We hoped they would be right, that
      they would measure with accuracy the value of our lives against the
      enormity of the national interest that might call upon us to go into
      harm's way. We owe them our loyalty, as Americans, and we gave it.
      But they owed us sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our
      welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the
      price we might be called upon to pay in defending it."

      Webb speaks with the quiet rage of someone who has performed his
      duty and been betrayed. But then, we were all betrayed. There were
      no weapons, no terrorist connections, and no threat to national
      security. It was all fiction.

      Webb's son and the others like him are now stuck in Iraq fighting an
      invisible and lethal enemy in a brutal colonial occupation. That's
      not what they bargained for. They were grossly misled by their
      commander in chief and, now, the anger is beginning to come to the

      Phased withdrawal

      "The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is
      being fought; nor does the majority of the military," Webb said. "We
      need an immediate shift toward strong, regionally-based diplomacy, a
      policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq's cities, and
      a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave

      This isn't the plan for "immediate withdrawal" that many of us now
      seek, but it is a step in the right direction. The coalition of
      antiwar Americans is now reaching deep into the conservative base.
      It's the death knell for Bush's plans for "perpetual war."

      The war at home -- the class war

      Webb was equally persuasive in his condemnation of Bush's economic
      policies. Deregulation, privatization, and outsourcing are savaging
      the middle class and creating divisions that threaten our democracy.

      "Wages and salaries for workers are at all-time lows as a percentage
      of national wealth, even though the productivity of the American
      workers is the highest in the world. Medical costs have skyrocketed.
      College tuition rates are off the charts. Our manufacturing base is
      being dismantled and sent overseas. Good American jobs are being
      sent along with them . . . In short, the middle class of this
      country, our historic backbone for a strong society in the future,
      is losing its place at the table. Our workers know this, through
      painful experience. Our white-collar professionals are beginning to
      understand it, as their jobs are starting to disappear also. And,
      they expect, rightly, that in this age of globalization, their
      government has a duty to insist that their concerns be dealt with
      fairly in the international marketplace."

      Webb's speech revives the spirit of American populism and frames the
      war in Iraq within the larger context of class struggle. He cited
      former presidents who served the public interest by using their
      power to fight big business:

      "Regarding the economic imbalance in this country, I am reminded of
      the situation President Theodore Roosevelt faced in the early days
      of the 20th Century. America was then as it is now drifting apart
      along class lines. The so-called robber barons were unapologetically
      raking in a huge percentage of the national wealth. The dispossessed
      workers at the bottom were threatening revolt. Roosevelt spoke
      strongly against these divisions. He told his fellow Republicans
      that they must set themselves `as resolutely against improper
      corporate influence on the one hand as against demagogy and mob rule
      on the other.' And he did something about it."

      "We must ensure that the benefits of our economy are properly shared
      among all Americans," Webb added.

      "Redistribution" from a Reagan Republican? What Democrat would be
      bold enough to say that?

      The Democrats are nearly as guilty of ignoring class warfare and the
      unjust distribution of wealth as the Republicans. It takes a
      catastrophe like Katrina to rouse politicians from their slumber and
      see how the poor are brushed aside like garbage.

      Webb's speech hit the jackpot on a number of levels. It was another
      withering blow to Bush's crumbling credibility and it put
      the "widening income gap" back on the political docket. Both of
      these are positive developments.

      If Webb's speech is any indication, the Democrats are off to a good
      start. With ex-Marines Webb and Murtha leading the charge, we might
      be able to end this monstrous bloodbath after all.

      Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at:


      Sources say case workers for wounded laid off
      By Karen Jowers - Staff writer
      Saturday Jan 20, 2007

      Defense Department officials have laid off most of their case
      workers who help severely injured service members, sources said.

      The case workers for the Military Severely Injured Center serve as
      advocates for wounded service members who have questions or issues
      related to benefits, financial resources and their successful return
      to duty or reintegration into civilian life — all forms of support
      other than medical care.

      The center officially opened in February 2005, with its primary
      offices in Arlington, Va., but also hired advocates at hospitals
      around the country.

      Four sources said the decision was made to cut back the personnel
      because officials with the Army's Wounded Warrior program felt the
      Defense Department program was a duplication of efforts.

      Defense officials did not comment on the actions as of Jan. 19.
      Wounded Warrior officials also could not be reached.

      Reports indicate that Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Lewis, Wash.; and Fort
      Campbell, Ky., were among the locations that had case workers cut.
      It is not clear what will happen to case workers at the Arlington

      The only case workers that have not been laid off are at three
      hospitals: Brooke Army Medical Center, Texas; Tripler Army Medical
      Center, Hawaii; and Naval Medical Center San Diego, sources said.
      But those case workers will not be allowed to work with soldiers and
      must refer them to the Army Wounded Warrior program.

      The laid-off workers were told Wednesday to finish up their case
      work with severely injured troops, and that Friday would be their
      last day.

      "I'm just livid about this," said Janice Buckley, Washington state
      chapter president for Operation Homefront.

      She was notified that the two case workers at Fort Lewis were given
      short notice that their jobs were ending, but she has no further

      "They did a fabulous job for these families," Buckley said. "The
      kind of work they do for these families who are hanging by a
      thread ... no other organization helped service members and their
      families like they did."

      The MSIC case workers provided the wounded service members with
      contacts and referrals to other organizations and agencies, ranging
      from the Department of Veterans Affairs to the Social Security
      Administration, depending on their individual needs. Operation
      Homefront often helps with the families' emergency financial needs.


      January 22, 2007
      In Raw World of Sex Movies, High Definition Could Be a View Too Real

      SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 21 — The XXX industry has gotten too graphic,
      even for its own tastes.

      Pornography has long helped drive the adoption of new technology,
      from the printing press to the videocassette. Now pornographic movie
      studios are staying ahead of the curve by releasing high-definition

      They have discovered that the technology is sometimes not so sexy.
      The high-definition format is accentuating imperfections in the
      actors — from a little extra cellulite on a leg to wrinkles around
      the eyes.

      Hollywood is dealing with similar problems, but they are more
      pronounced for pornographers, who rely on close-ups and who, because
      of their quick adoption of the new format, are facing the issue more
      immediately than mainstream entertainment companies.

      Producers are taking steps to hide the imperfections. Some shots are
      lit differently, while some actors simply are not shot at certain
      angles, or are getting cosmetic surgery, or seeking expert grooming.

      "The biggest problem is razor burn," said Stormy Daniels, an
      actress, writer and director.

      Ms. Daniels is also a skeptic. "I'm not 100 percent sure why anyone
      would want to see their porn in HD," she said.

      The technology's advocates counter that high definition, by making
      things clearer and crisper, lets viewers feel as close to the action
      as possible.

      "It puts you in the room," said the director known as Robby D.,
      whose films include "Sexual Freak."

      The pornographers' progress with HD may also be somewhat slowed by
      Sony, one of the main backers of the Blu-ray high-definition disc
      format. Sony said last week that, in keeping with a longstanding
      policy, it would not mass-produce pornographic videos on behalf of
      the movie makers.

      The decision has forced pornographers to use the competing HD-DVD
      format or, in some cases, to find companies other than Sony that can
      manufacture copies of Blu-ray movies.

      The movie makers assert that it is shortsighted of Sony to snub
      them, given how pornography helps technologies spread.

      "When you're introducing a new format, it would seem like the adult
      guys can help," said Steven Hirsch, co-chief executive officer of
      Vivid Entertainment Group, a big player in the industry. Mr. Hirsch
      added that high definition, regardless of format, "is the future."

      Despite the challenges, pornographers — who distributed some 7,000
      new movies on DVD last year and sold discs worth $3.6 billion in the
      United States — are rapidly moving to high-definition.

      One major company, Digital Playground, plans to release its first
      four HD-DVD titles this month, and plans four new ones each month.
      In March, Vivid plans to release "Debbie Does Dallas ... Again," its
      first feature for both HD-DVD and Blu-ray.

      Vivid, like Digital Playground, has been shooting with high-
      definition cameras for two years to build up a catalog of high-
      definition movies. Both studios have released the movies in standard
      definition but plan to make the high-definition versions available
      as compatible disc players and televisions become more popular.

      The studios said their experience using the technology gives them an
      advantage in understanding how to cope with the mixed blessing of
      hypercrisp images. Their techniques include using postproduction
      tools that let them digitally soften the actors' skin tone.

      "It takes away the blemishes and the pits and harshness and makes it
      look like they have baby skin," said the director known as Joone,
      who made "Pirates," one of the industry's top-selling videos. It
      will be available this month in high-definition.

      Joone does not use a last name, but he does use a number of
      techniques to keep his films blemish-free. They include giving out
      lifestyle tips.

      "I tell the girls to work out more, cut down on the carbs, hit the
      treadmill," he said.

      Within the industry, the issue seems to have created a difference in
      perspective that cuts roughly along gender lines. Some male actors
      have begun using makeup to mitigate wrinkles or facial flaws, but
      generally they, and the male directors, are less worried about high-
      definition's glare and more enamored of the technology.

      Ms. Daniels said that attitude was just so typical of men.

      "Men are all about outdoing each other, being up with the times,
      being cool, having the latest technology," she said. "They're
      willing to sacrifice our vanity and imperfections to beat each
      other" to high-definition, she said.

      Other female actors say they generally like working with high-
      definition — except for the cosmetic-surgery part.

      Jesse Jane, one of the industry's biggest stars, plans to go under
      the knife next month to deal with one side effect of high-
      definition. The images are so clear that Ms. Jane's breast implants,
      from an operation six years ago, can be seen bulging oddly on

      "I'm having my breasts redone because of HD," she said.

      The stretch marks on Ms. Jane from seven years ago when she gave
      birth to her son are also more apparent. But she deals with those
      blemishes in a simpler way: by liberal use of tanning spray.

      Still, Ms. Jane likes the technology, as does her close friend
      Kirsten Price, 25, who appeared in "Manhunters" and "Just Like That."

      "HD is great because people want to see how people really look," Ms.
      Price said. "People just want to see what's real."

      Ms. Price is allowing them to do so, mostly. She had laser
      treatments to diminish tiny purple veins on her thighs that weren't
      visible to viewers before.

      "You can see things you cannot see with the naked eye. You see skin
      blemishes; you see cottage cheese," said Robbie D. "But some
      cellulite is not necessarily a bad thing. It's kind of sexy."

      The technology makes the experience more intimate, he said. "People
      look to adult movies for personal contact, and yet they're still not
      getting it. HD lets them see a little bit more of the girl."

      That's not necessarily good, said Savanna Samson, an actress who
      last December directed her first movie, "Any Way You Want Me."
      During a scene in which she played a desperate housewife, she ran
      into a problem: the high-definition camera revealed she had a tiny
      ill-placed pimple.

      "We kept stopping and trying to hide it. We put on makeup and
      powder, but there was no way," Ms. Samson said. Finally, they tried
      another approach: "We just changed positions," she said.


      Kerry won't run for president in '08
      By Rick Klein, Globe Staff
      January 24, 2007

      WASHINGTON --An emotional Senator John F. Kerry today said he will
      not run in the 2008 presidential race and vowed to use his Senate
      perch to hasten an end to the war in Iraq, saying he would work with
      lawmakers from both parties to reverse President Bush's
      troop "surge" and force him to withdraw virtually all troops from
      Iraq by early next year.

      Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, used the unusual forum of the
      Senate floor to announce his political ambitions. Choking up as he
      harkened back to his service in Vietnam, Kerry said he would work to
      make sure the next president doesn't have to cope with the
      consequences of a "wider war" sparked by the failed policy in Iraq.

      "Two years ago I sought the presidency to lead us on a different
      course. I'm proud of the campaign that we ran," Kerry said.

      "We came close, Mr. President, certainly close enough to be tempted
      to try again," he continued. "There are powerful reasons to want to
      continue that fight now. But I've concluded that this isn't the time
      for me to mount a presidential campaign. It is the time to put my
      energy to work as part of the majority in the Senate, to do all I
      can to end this war and strengthen our security.

      "The people of Massachusetts have given me an incredible privilege
      to serve, and I intend to work here to change a policy in Iraq that
      threatens all that I have cared about and fought for since I came
      home from Vietnam," he said.

      Kerry's decision to stay out of the presidential race reflects a
      realization that he would have had an uphill climb in capturing the
      Democratic nomination, given the other party heavyweights who are
      already in the race, according to Kerry associates.

      Kerry, the party's 2004 presidential nominee, has been acting like a
      2008 candidate virtually since he lost to President Bush --
      traveling the country, spreading money to other Democratic
      candidates, and keeping in place a campaign infrastructure that was
      ready for another presidential bid.

      But according to Kerry associates, the senator's plans changed
      dramatically in the fallout of his election-eve "botched joke" about
      the education levels of US troops. The harsh reaction to that
      incident -- from many Democrats as well as Republicans -- displayed
      to Kerry the extreme skepticism within his own party about whether
      he should mount another run.

      And, with polls giving front-runner status to Senator Hillary Rodham
      Clinton of New York and Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, Kerry
      realized that he would face formidable adversaries in the quest for
      the Democratic nomination. Clinton, Obama, and a host of other
      candidates have been busily hiring campaign operatives and signing
      up key fund-raisers in recent weeks.

      On Iraq, Kerry has emerged as a fierce war critic after initially
      supporting the invasion of Iraq. He has spoken of his war opposition
      in a similar vein to his efforts to bring the Vietnam War to a
      conclusion in the early 1970s.

      Kerry's announcement freezes in place the various Democratic
      aspirants to his Senate seat. Massachusetts hasn't had a vacant
      Senate seat since 1984 -- when Kerry himself won his first six-year-
      term -- and several members of the state's all-Democratic
      congressional delegation have expressed interest in running for the
      Senate if Kerry retired.


      Rome's Palatine Hill shows new treasures
      By ARIEL DAVID, Associated Press Writer
      Tue Jan 23, 2007

      Work on Rome's Palatine Hill has turned up a trove of discoveries,
      including what might be the underground grotto where ancient Romans
      believed a wolf nursed the city's legendary founders Romulus and

      Archaeologists gathered Tuesday at a conference to save crumbling
      monuments on the Palatine discussed findings of studies on the
      luxurious imperial homes threatened by collapse and poor maintenance
      that have forced the closure of much of the hill to the public.

      While funds are still scarce, authorities plan to reopen some key
      areas of the honeycombed hill to tourists by the end of the year,
      including frescoed halls in the palaces of the emperor Augustus and
      of his wife, Livia.

      After being closed for decades, parts of the palaces will be opened
      for guided tours while restoration continues, officials said.

      It was during the restoration of the palace of Rome's first emperor
      that workers taking core samples from the hill found what could be a
      long-lost place of worship believed by ancient Romans to be the cave
      where a she-wolf suckled Romulus and Remus, the abandoned twin sons
      of the god of war Mars.

      Irene Iacopi, the archaeologist in charge of the Palatine and the
      nearby Roman Forum, said experts used a probe to peer into the 52-
      foot-deep cavity and found a vaulted space decorated with frescoes,
      niches and seashells. It is too early to say for sure whether the
      worship place known as "lupercale"_ from "lupa," Latin for wolf —
      has been found, but Roman texts say that it was close to Augustus'
      palace and that the emperor had restored it, Iacopi said.

      "It was a very important symbolic place and we believe that it was
      well preserved," said Giovanna Tedone, an architect leading the work
      at the palace. Archaeologists are now looking for the grotto's
      entrance, she said.

      Other finds to have emerged recently from the Palatine's largely
      unexplored palaces and temples include an ancient Roman sewer,
      insignia believed to have belonged to the emperor Maxentius, terra-
      cotta statues and an alabaster tiger striped with gray marble.

      Officials said the resurfaced treasures highlight the importance of
      a hill so favored by the rich and powerful that its name is at the
      origin of the words "palace" in English, "palais" in French
      and "palazzo" in Italian.

      Today rainwater seeps through stones, roots bore through bricks and
      retaining walls crack under layer after layer of construction, from
      the eighth-century B.C. remains of Rome's first fledgling huts to a
      medieval fortress and Renaissance villas.

      Only a quarter of the Palatine's nearly 500 buildings are above the
      ground and just 40 percent of the hill's 67 acres can be visited.

      The latest closure came in November 2005, when a 16th-century wall
      collapsed one night in a well-visited area near the emperor
      Tiberius' palace. No one was hurt, but the collapse prompted
      authorities to study the stability of the hill and its monuments.

      Experts said Tuesday they are considering restoring the ancient
      Roman sewage system to help drain rainwater.

      Each year, 4 million people buy a ticket granting access to the
      Palatine and the nearby Colosseum, but 90 percent of them just go to
      the ancient arena, said Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli. The
      minister said that $9 million will be available in 2007 for more
      restoration on collapse-prone areas such as Tiberius' palace.
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