Friday, August 31, 2007


After serious discussion on Iraq, Hillary offers her top ten campaign promises.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mindless In Minneapolis- And Elsewhere (from Gay City News)

New York's "Gay City News" Editor Paul Schindler's offers insight into the hypocrisy of Larry Craig and Republicans, but also asks a very important question about the law enforcement game of entrapment.
Largely absent from the national debate has been the question of why law enforcement resources at security-challenged locations such as the Minneapolis and Atlanta airports are being tied up chasing down behavior such as Craig's. The cop in Minneapolis from his own description was sitting in that stall for a good while. The Atlanta officer volunteered the information about recruiting pigeons online. Paul Schindler, 8.30.07 Gay City News NYC

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Self Esteem of a Roach


A very wise man at a very expensive school once told his truth seeking students; if your Mother tells you she loves you, check it out. Another wise man down Alabama once stood in a field of watermelons on a hot summer day and lambasted his opinionated then-teenage son arguing that opinions are like a**holes, everybody’s got one.

But, occasionally, opinion and fact come together forming a complicated but insightful prism by which to view an event.

It could be said that the ‘event’ this past June at the Minneapolis St. Paul airport where Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig, 62, was arrested by a police officer investigating illicit sexual activity in public restrooms is a sad reminder of the fact that homophobia in America is alive and well in America.

Larry Craig, a married Methodist Midvale Idaho farmer/rancher with three children was first elected as a Republican back in 1974 to the Idaho State Senate. In 1980, Craig ran for and was elected to the US House of Representatives. Later, in 1990, he was elected to the Senate finding himself on such committees as Homeland Security and Health and Human Services.

He, like thousands of other similarly repressed souls are products of a generation where the acceptance of homosexual, bisexual or any other sexual beyond the coupling of a man and woman is seen as wrong. If one of those individuals is in fact, homosexual or bisexual they often believe they must either repress their feelings, pursue those desires in secret or muster up the bravery to be honest with themselves and those around them, and come out. For someone who is a 62 year old Republican Senator from Idaho, coming out might be a bit more difficult than say, New Jersey.

In order to live a successful double life, a self professed Right Winger must master the art of repression which these days, places the individual squarely in the firing line of those on the left and the right, if the cover gets blown. For example, if the repressed individual is caught in a misstep, ala an attempted solicitation of an undercover cop, and if the details are then blasted to a scandal loving public, those on the Right turn the repressed into the leper.

But, sadly and most importantly, the truth is, if this weren’t a “gay thing” we wouldn’t be hearing so much about it.

Wasn't there another Republican who was recently linked to an escort service?

No matter how much some of us would like to believe society has progressed to a more accepting and enlightened state, those are the rules for, God only knows, how many thousands of similar individuals who more than likely have the self esteem of a very frightened roach and are limited to seeking sexual gratification in places like bathroom stalls or other shadowy spots they feel are safe from the public eye. It appears that Senator Craig can be counted among the repressed, still denying his own sexuality, going so far over the years to cloak and hide his own identity by espousing, embracing and supporting a litany of classic gay bashing ultra conservative rhetoric and policies in The United States Senate. It is an almost nauseating pattern that has been repeated countless times not only in government, but in day to day lives throughout the world. Craig's profile fit's the self loathing closeted older man profile beautifully, a perfect fit that is now being sadly aired for the world to see.

Senator Craig is an example of the epidemic of hypocrisy that has permeated the Republican Party in recent years especially when it comes to moral issues. The fact is that Craig has been a vocal and instrumental member of the current GOP incarnation, a party that has not been the most gay friendly, a Party currently so steeped in hypocrisy and fear that would rather eat its young rather than perhaps scolding or disciplining Craig for dipping his hand into a politically forbidden jar of honey. It is the fact that Craig was caught soliciting gay sex that probably infuriates more members of Craig’s party who proudly say, come join us, be like us, but parade your wife, your maleness your masculinity and let no one doubt your heterosexuality lest you be judged or found out to be gay. Rumor has it, a lot of higher ups in the capital were aware of alleged dalliances by Craig among others one could add. Still it could easily be said that if indeed Larry Craig was living a double life, he was a hypocrite simply because of the anti-gay policies he supported. But his fellow Republican party House and Senate members are engaging in an even greater hypocrisy as they run like the wind to distance themselves from one of their most successful, conservative and longest running players. With this scandal, the truth about homophobia, the fact that it does exist and it does impact policy seems to be secondary in most public analysis of the event. And, among the GOP Powerful, a shameful collective hypocrisy raises its nasty head yet again on the moral values stage. But, these politicians are failing to see the political danger of what looks almost cowardly.

By abandoning a man who got caught being lewd in a public bathroom, a man who they just weeks ago, were sitting down with and attempting to forge policy, perhaps sharing breakfast critiquing Iraq or lambasting Democrats, a public display of the sad and misplaced priorities within politics goes on display. Further, all Americans get to see more frightening evidence that anyone, or any group, has the potential of being used as a means for obtaining votes. Hopefully voters will take note of the fair weather friends in Washington's current Republican party, and if they do, these leaders like many before them, will learn that while folks will forgive a mistake, no one likes a hypocrite. That is a fact that needs no checking.

A Great Paper Asks About Fairness: Two Years On

Editorial From The "Times-Picayune" in New Orleans, August 29, 2007 TREAT US FAIRLY MR PRESIDENT

Louisiana had three times more damaged homes and seven times more severely damaged homes than Mississippi. Universities in this state had three times as many students displaced and had four times the losses of Mississippi's campuses. Louisiana fisheries suffered almost 75 percent of the damage done by Katrina, and our hospitals lost 97 percent of the hospital beds closed by the storm.

Yet in every case, Mississippi ended up with a disproportionate share of aid. Housing grants, for instance: Mississippi got $5.5 billion in Community Development Block Grant money for its 61,000 damaged homes. Louisiana, with 204,000 damaged homes, got $10.4 billion. If the aid were given out proportionately, this state would have gotten twice that much.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Probe Into DOJ Firings to Continue

Despite the resignation of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the probe into whether or not the Department of Justice played a role in the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman will continue according to a number of officials in Washington.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Two Years After Katrina- The Threat Remains (TIME.COM)

TIME Magazine's Michael Grunwald takes brutal but fascinating and disturbing look at the man made causes of the disaster that was Katrina.
The most important thing to remember about the drowning of New Orleans is that it wasn't a natural disaster. It was a man-made disaster, created by lousy engineering, misplaced priorities and pork-barrel politics. Katrina was not the Category 5 killer the Big Easy had always feared; it was a Category 3 storm that missed New Orleans, where it was at worst a weak 2. FROM THE THREATENING STORM-TIME Inc. LINK TO FULL STORY

Thursday, August 23, 2007

US Attorney Scandal Gets Dirty (APRIL 2007-SALON)

In APRIL 2007, Reporter Mark Follman from SALON.COM wrote this investigative story that looks at the relationship between attorney firings, the DOJ and pornography.
Although the prosecution of adult obscenity has long been a fixation for right-wing Republicans, since the Reagan era it has never been more than a negligible fraction of the Justice Department's work. Yet, the alleged failure of two U.S. attorneys to go after porn prosecutions became part of a dubious set of "performance-related" reasons given by top officials for the recent firings.

Who's Running the Obscenity War?

NOTE: THIS STORY IS FROM AUGUST 2005 (originally published in the September 1, 2005 edition of New York’s Gay City News)

By Cody Lyon

Lavinia is a tiny community in eastern Montana about 30 miles north of Billings. There’s a gas station, a post office, according to some residents, that’s about it. It was in the post office where 65 year old former school teacher Thomas Lambert was caught committing a crime that would eventually send him to jail for over two years. Lambert and his two alleged co-conspirators, Sanford Wasserman and Gary Robinson were prosecuted and convicted of what the federal government called a serious crime, distributing obscenity.

Since 2001, the United States Department of Justice has prosecuted 40 obscenity cases, with indictments pending against an additional nineteen persons or organizations. That compares to just four prosecutions during the Clinton administration from 1993 through 2000. Each has been handled by the Child Exploitation and Obscenity unit or CEOS at the DOJ criminal division. The more aggressive approach faces greater challenges because of the internet and the borderless distribution it allows.

Regardless, the Bush White House, an administration politically beholden to some of its most conservative constituencies has made the crusade against pornography a policy priority. In fact, a few members of a closely connected web of anti-porn warriors now play official roles in the Department of Justice’s new efforts. To them, the conviction of an individual like Thomas Lambert is a triumph over what they have long seen as a scourge on society.

“It’s pretty simple how he got caught, since everybody knows everybody in that little town,” said Mark Errebo, Lambert’s attorney in Billings.

“Lambert kept bringing in these brown, unmarked packages to be mailed to people across the country, and the girl who works in the Post Office, got suspicious and called the Postal inspector general here in Billings,” he said.

According to Errebo, a Lavinia Postal worker informed higher ups in Billings that Lambert had been sending an inordinate number of packages to points across the country out of that Post Office. A warrant was obtained, one of the brown packages opened, and inside, inspectors found hard core pornographic videos. At that point, federal prosecutors were notified, another warrant issued, and then a raid by federal agents on Lamberts home near Lavinia.

“Lambert’s house is out in the country, and that’s where they found the copying equipment, and the gig was up,” said Lambert attorney Errebo.

“That’s when he contacted me.”

“It actually took them a while to charge the case, for whatever reason, “noted Errebo during a phone conversation from Montana.

At first, Lambert pled ignorance, shifting part of the responsibility to co-defendant Wasserman. Errebo says Lambert explained Wasserman had told him the adult video distribution would be legal. Wasserman apparently owed Lambert around $60,000, and had offered to set up the video distribution operation as an alternative to paying him back. Wasserman allegedly said he’d not only would he make his money back, but then some through the mail order and distribution system. The other convicted individual in the case, Gary Robinson, had later joined Lambert and Wasserman as an employee.

In the end, defendant Lambert admitted the videos were obscene and was convicted in July, 2005. He is now serving a 30 month sentence in a California federal prison. Co-defendant Robinson was sentenced to one year while Wasserman faces up to 10 years since this is his second conviction

Lambert’s case was prosecuted personally by Montana U.S. Attorney Bill Mercer. .

When an obscenity case is charged and brought before a jury, prosecutors use a three prong test established by the United States Supreme Court in the 1973 Miller v. California ruling. The Miller case provided prosecutors with a tool that lets them ask a jury three important questions; whether or not the “average” person in that community would view the material in question as appealing to “the prurient interests,” whether it was presented in a “patently offensive” manner, and whether it was lacking serious artistic, political or scientific value. Film, print or live performance has to meet all three tests to be judged as obscene. For all their detail, the questions are vague and subjective, relying in large part on a particular community’s standards. Adding greater confusion is the advent of the borderless Internet, which present even more complicated legal questions to prosecutor efforts.

Regardless, some observers say that the Bush administration’s Department of Justice has been flexing its muscles in more conservative districts where it believes it might find a jury willing to convict on charges of obscenity. In other words, what might be deemed obscene and win a conviction in Lavinia, might not be as easy in a more liberal community like New York City. In the Lambert case, clues indicate that directives from Washington to Montana were indeed at play.

In a phone conversation from Billings, Lambert’s attorney Mark Errebo said that he had worked on a number of federal cases in his practice but that it was rare for him to deal directly with the U.S. Attorney, especially in a case such as this. But, Errebo said all it took was a phone call for him to realize the “sense of urgency” that federal law enforcement officials felt regarding Lambert’s case.

“I knew it was a priority when the actual for the district, Bill Mercer, called and said he would personally handle the case,” said Errebo.

“I knew this was more than your regular run of the mill prosecution” he said.

According to Errebo, Mercer informed him that there had been a directive from the top to “aggressively prosecute obscenity cases.

“I’ve known Bill for years and he said, hey, we’ve got our orders here, this is serious and we are going to take this case very seriously,” Errebo said.

Errebo speculated that the fact the case was brought in Montana was probably coincidental, however, he noted that the particular jurisdiction near Lavinia played right into the government’s prosecutorial efforts.

“This is an extremely conservative judicial district, with very conservative residents,” Errebo said.

“I think the fact that the district is conservative made the case something the U.S. attorney’s office would want to pursue,” he said.

Earlier, in the nation’s capital, details of a new task force were revealed by the Department of Justice.

On May 5, 2005, the DOJ announced plans for the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force whose exclusive mission would be the investigation and prosecution of sexual content crimes. The task force included a $13.8 million increase in the DOJ’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section budget at the Criminal Division provided for the hiring of several new attorneys, FBI agents and forensic experts who specialize in cyber technology.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had on several occasions publicly expressed his commitment to going after pornography, saying “obscenity and child pornographers rip at the heart of our moral values and easily corrupt communities,” going on to say that “prosecution and enforcement is absolutely necessary to protect our children and citizens from exposure to obscene materials.”

Critics charge such rhetoric that loops together what some see as legitimate adult material together with child pornography that has led to a controversial and complicated red herring in the debate over whether or not sexually explicit material is worthy of free speech protections.

The DOJ had also announced plans to strengthen the 1988 Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act, U.S. USC 2257 laws. The original intent of the 2257 regulations was to keep minors from being used in adult material. The justice department’s new more meticulous 2257 regulations would require adult material producers to keep paper files of government issued identification on file at a disclosed physical location a move they said would prevent children from exploitation by pornographers.

But in fact, there had been only four documented where underage performers have slipped through existing regulations over the past 20 years according to available prosecution records.

The newer 2257 laws would also extend the existing rules from covering primary producers to all distributors of pornographic material. For online web sites with sexual content, the new requirements mean that official government identification of all models or anyone who appears on their web pages must be available for government inspection for seven years.

Failure to comply with the rules could result in five years prison time for first time offenders and up to ten years for a second offense.

Adult entertainment industry lawyers immediately charged that the new 2257 regulations would place what it called “burdensome” record keeping requirements on distributors and websites. The fear being that the rules could potentially inhibit the production and distribution of all adult material. Eventually they formed their own advocacy group Free speech Coalition, challenging the 2257 requirements in federal court where they now await a decision from a Denver judge who will decide whether an injunction will be issued.

“When you have a new regulation that broadly interprets and expands the government’s power, that’s a significant event” said First Amendment attorney Bob Corn-Revere in Washington DC.

“Under the justice department’s new interpretation, its authority under 2257 is actually very broad, so as a result, we will all be watching to see what the courts have to say about it” he said.

While recognizing the depravity of child exploitation, some critics of the 2257 regulations argue that they serve as smokescreen for a broader agenda since most pedophiles operate in a shadowy, underground world amongst themselves. In addition, they say there are clear distinctions between purveyors of child pornography and the more established adult entertainment industry.

The current crusade against porn has roots in the Reagan administration when then Attorney General Edwin Meese led a commission that would strengthen criminal penalties against the then, less regulated adult entertainment industry. After not meeting with much success, commission members discovered the way to win the public’s sympathy was by using child protection talking points as a means to meet an end.

“The mandate of the Meese Commission was how to get rid of porn, and after a number of attempts to win public support, what they found was that there were two hot button issues people respond to, the big one being kids” said New York photographer and artist Barbara Nitke.

Nitke, whose work includes erotic S/M imagery is among plaintiffs challenging the federal Communications Decency Act, another measure intended to place potentially sharp limits on sexual material on the Internet. She says the use of children in the rhetoric makes it difficult for people to speak up against the new moves by the DOJ.

““With every law regarding adult material, it is always about protecting children, but I’m cynical enough to believe they don’t really care about kids” she said.

Recognizing the bread and butter risks it now faces from more aggressive DOJ officials, the Adult Entertainment Industry says that it has taken new steps in its online networks to police its distributors and consumers including the creation of the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection. A spokesperson for the group, Joan Irvine, said the industry employs a number of technologies meant to protect and prevent children from exposure to pornographic material. The technology includes subscriptions that require credit card and age verification.

Among civil libertarians watching the crop of new obscenity prosecutions is the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The DOJ can make themselves look heroic, saying we’re just protecting children” said Marvin Johnson, legislative counsel for the ACLU in Washington.

Still others warn that pedophiles and child pornographers have indeed utilized the internet and other distribution networks, but they say, the last thing are worried about is compliance with DOJ rules.

“This is a moment where there is a great deal of exploitation of children through images, and the internet has been a major facilitator of how people can do that,” said Amy Adler, law professor at New York University.

But she added “Pedophiles are criminals, on the fringes of society and are probably not worried about complying with 2257 in the first place.”

ACLU’s Marvin Johnson says he understands how the controversial and uncomfortable nature of adult entertainment makes it difficult for politicians to be outspoken, but he says the fact is, there are already existing laws and computer technologies that if enforced, would accomplish the stated mission of protecting children from pornography.

“There are laws on the books that specifically protect children without having to restrict any one industry or free speech” he said further pointing out that parents can install blocks to adult content when necessary.

Even still, the very topic, marketing and consumption of pornography by adults, presents a difficult political land mine that even the most liberal leaders find difficult to defend, an industry seen by millions as nothing more than a factory of “smut” and cultural corruption.

But in spite of widespread disdain for pornography, there are those who say DOJ efforts to rid the country of pornography is an illegal government intrusion that will ultimately fail because of what they say is a greater threat to free speech.

When asked about the latest increase in DOJ obscenity prosecutions despite new industry self policing efforts and the available technologies, a DOJ spokesperson said it was a matter of official policy that comes directly from the White House.

It is no secret that the White House has used hot button social issues, from Gay marriage to abortion in its attempts to appease the Religious Right. Indeed, one of the longest running stated goals of the social conservative movement has been the elimination of pornography. But in this case, it appears that the Bush DOJ was not only willing to make obscenity prosecutions a top priority, it would also utilize the resources offered by members of these groups as tools for carrying out that goal.

Back in June, 2005, Family Research Council president, Tony Perkins, revealed that he had been assured by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that the DOJ was undertaking what it called a new war on pornography. Perkins told readers of his widely read Washington newsletter at the FRC web site, that the attorney general said he “intends to smash these criminal enterprises on the Internet and elsewhere” with what Perkins called a “new obscenity strike force.” Perkins went on to write ‘this is the only way to handle hard-core pornographers.”

Perhaps even more telling, a 2002 report from PBS “Frontline” written by reporter Nicholas Confessore detailed a meeting between a cast of conservative players and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. The Confessore report said that Ashcroft assured the dozen or so leaders in attendance that aggressive prosecution of the pornography industry was a top priority of the Bush Administration Among those at the meeting in Ashcroft’s private conference room were Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family, Beverly La Haye of Concerned Women of America and Bruce Taylor, and attorney and prosecutor who got his start in law as a Cleveland city attorney.

Bruce Taylor has said that he has gone after more pornographers than any other prosecutor in the nation. Among those Taylor prosecuted, Hustler magazine Larry Flynt.

“Bruce claims to be the architect of a number of Internet laws that were eventually stricken by the courts,” noted ACLU’s Marvin Johnson who added with a sigh, “Bruce has been around a long time.”

In fact, Bruce Taylor was general counsel to Charles H. Keating’s Citizens for Decency Through Law or CDL, which had pressed for Flynt’s 1977 prosecution and was also instrumental in the highly publicized 1990 indictment of The Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center then-director Dennis Barrie in the infamous Robert Maplethorpe exhibition flap.

In 1990, Charles Keating was convicted of fraud for his role at Lincoln Savings part of the nation’s saving and loan scandal of the 1980’s.

In the meantime, Bruce Taylor went on to head The National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families which is now located near nation’s capital in Fairfax, Virginia. Presently, that organization describes itself as a “law enforcement assistance and public education center” providing resources to state and federal prosecutors, police investigations and legislators. In recent years, the group has focused much of its energies on cyber pornography.

After the 2000 election of President George W. Bush, Bruce Taylor found himself in a new job at the Department of Justice, senior counsel to John Richter, the assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal division. Richter is the official that the new Obscenity Task Force reports to. Efforts to reach Taylor weren’t successful, but reports show that in addition to other duties, Taylor edits the new task force newsletter that appears on the official Department of Justice web site. There, readers can find information about recent obscenity and child exploitation convictions.

By 2005, a few weeks before the June meeting between Focus on the Family’s Tony Perkins and current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, another group of leading conservatives gathered once again to strategize on how best to fight what they see as the scourge of obscenity.

Headlining the meeting on May 19 was Florida Republican Congresswoman Katherine Harris, then more famous for her role as that state’s Secretary of State during the heated 2000 Bush-Gore election who was then also a Senatorial candidate.

During the meeting, Harris lambasted pornography for its misogynistic content as well as the potential for porn to incite crimes against children.

“Too many studies have linked pornography with horrific crimes against children and women for responsible lawmakers to remain silent,” Harris reportedly said at the meeting.

Also attending the May summit was a U.S. assistant attorney general and leaders of at least two groups that appear to have risen to quasi governmental status, providing assistance to the current Department of Justice. Each, Morality in Media and Enough is Enough are now featured on the official Department of Justice web site alongside official government agencies including the FBI and U.S. Postal Service- as resources or entities where citizens can “report” obscenity or child exploitation violations.

The president of Enough is Enough is Donna Rice Hughes, who first came to national prominence after photos of her sitting on the lap of then-Senator Gary Hart on a boat named “Monkey Business” appeared in national media and eventually sunk the Democrat’s 1988 presidential ambitions. For a number of years, Rice’s group shared office space in Fairfax with Bruce Taylor’s National Law Center for Children and Families as well as the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families. When visiting the Enough is Enough website, readers can view recommendations for sexual counseling along with reading suggestions like the book “Crisis in Masculinity” and “The Battle is the Lords.”

A few hundred miles away in New York City is “Morality in Media”. That organization is headed by its president Robert Peters. Each fall, the group sponsors a visibility action called White Ribbons Against Pornography. In 1992, the organization’s then-Massachusetts chapter’s president spoke to the group’s religious undertones when she said “we are a Christian nation.” Peters himself is no stranger to controversial positions as shown by his claim that the television program “Queer as Folk” is a “frightening indication of how far the gay rights movement has come.”

Further evidencing a new found cooperation between the DOJ and conservative interests was money. In 2005 as liberal eyebrows rose over Bush administration funding cuts meant to combat hate crimes, the DOJ secured and distributed discretionary grants of $500,000 to Enough is Enough and $150,000 to Morality in Media.

Artists, free speech activists and other observers are clearly concerned over these relationships and what they see as greater threats to free speech. However, they acknowledge that the controversial topic pornography has led to a more nuanced reaction. Additionally, some have advised caution when attempts are made to interpret the current efforts of the DOJ.

“While some of the conservative political supporters of this administration have been talking about wholesale censorship, you can’t necessarily impute what they say in the political market place and assume it will have an impact on what is going on within the justice department” said attorney Bob Corn Revere in Washington.

New York Artist Barbara Nitke worries that the American public is not paying attention to the greater issue of free speech.

“I think you’re going to have trouble getting the average person to really care about this particular topic because people simply don’t understand the broader free speech principals at stake,” she said.

“It’s going to creep up on people and it’s going to be to late.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rules May Limit Health Program Aiding Children

The "New York Times" August 21, report by Reporter Robert Pear
The Bush administration, continuing its fight to stop states from expanding the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, has adopted new standards that would make it much more difficult for New York, California and others to extend coverage to children in middle-income families.
Link to story at NYT

Sunday, August 19, 2007

About That Upcoming Report On Iraq.....Another Rabbit Trail?

CBS NEWS Bob Schieffer invokes a little Texas wisdom on a White House that appears to, well, lack it.

CBS NEWS Video Report on Tragic Fire at Ground Zero

CBS NEWS reports on the tragic fire at Ground Zero that killed Firemen Joseph Graffagino,34, Brooklyn and Robert Beddia, 54, Staten Island. Link to REPORT

The Deconstruction of the Deutsche Bank Building (From The Real Deal)

Here's my article that takes a look the demolition business as well as the deconstruction process happening at the former headquarters of Deutsche Bank that was damaged on 9/11. As has been widely reported, two New York City firemen were killed in a tragic fire in the building this past Saturday August 18.

FROM New York Real Estate Magazine - LINK AT THE REAL DEAL
The Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center, which oversees construction projects in Lower Manhattan, wouldn't offer a cost estimate for the demolition of 130 Liberty, but reportedly the range has been anywhere from $45 to more than $250 million. Interestingly, this is the price range of buildings in the area, so it could cost more to take down the building than it would to buy it.

Deborah Wetzel, spokesperson for the construction planning group, in explaining the high cost of the Deutsche Bank building's demolition noted that one has to factor in labor costs, equipment and materials.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

So You Think Your Home is Insured for its Full Value?

An revealing look from the PBS news program NOW about how the home insurance industry is failing many of its customers. The report serves as a warning to consumers to be careful when purchasing insurance plans. Here's the link

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Getting Fit for Good Grades


Fitness advocates are seeking to transform physical education into a lifestyle that incorporates physical activity, health and wellness. And while the health benefits of exercise are obvious, more experts are also pointing out that physically fit students do better academically.

Physical education classes appeared in American schools prior to World War I after the federal government mandated them for the purpose of military readiness.


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Iliteracy Colors Outrage In a Small (Alabama) Town

From the Sunday August 12 "Birmingham News"
By David Nichols
From AL.COM-Bham News- On Christmas Eve 1980, Montevallo, a quaint, college town of 4,000 residents, awoke to the news of a gruesome murder of one of its own: an elderly, highly respected woman and widow of a former dean of Alabama College (University of Montevallo). Within hours, suspects were in custody - two young black men who grew up in this college community: a community with two distinct cultures divided by race, social, economic and residential lines of demarcation. There was a silent yet widespread sense of outrage among folks, both black and white.
Link To Story

Italian Anti-Mafia Investigators Uncover $40 million Iraq Arms Deal (From Associated Press)

Story by Charles J. Hanley and Ariel David at AP-As the secretive, $40 million deal neared completion, Italian authorities moved in, making arrests and breaking it up. But key questions remain unanswered.

For one thing, The Associated Press has learned that Iraqi government officials were involved in the deal, apparently without the knowledge of the U.S. Baghdad command — a departure from the usual pattern of U.S.-overseen arms purchases. LINK TO STORY CLICK HERE

Thursday, August 09, 2007

What About Our Infrastructure?


At an August 9 press conference, US President George W. Bush was asked whether or not he thought a proposal to raise gasoline taxes by 5 cents a gallon with revenue being used to solidify the safety of the nation’s bridges was a good idea.

He said “before we raise taxes which could affect economic growth, I would strongly urge the Congress to examine how they set priorities.

Some might say the President needs to examine his own priorities and perhaps study the nation’s infrastructure a little harder, that is if one takes a 2005 Report Card from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) seriously. That report found dangerous flaws not only in bridges, but in some of our most basic modern life lines. Those life lines are the backbone of our nation’s economy, the very nuts and bolts. The ASCE report warns that if more isn’t done to repair the nations bridges, roadways, water supply, electrical grids, dams among others, we potentially face disruptions in the way we get around, surf the web, fly in a plane, drink our water and as New Yorker’s learned yet again this week after a summer downpour, if and when we can take the subway.

The potential impacts of any type of infrastructure failure are clear. The nation’s economy relies on the transport of goods, services and people from point A to B. Blackouts are a real threat and when they happen, entire cities, even the nations largest, can come to standstill. Airports are more crowded than ever, as are our skies, safety on the runway is essential. Childhood nightmares of a dam giving way, walls of water gushing downstream, are more of a threat than ever. A number of states are sniping with one another over water rights as towns and municipalities secure a resource more precious than oil, water.

All of that may sound unnecessarily apocalyptic, but, as the recent horrific bridge collapse in Minneapolis proved, the potential threat to human life by crumbling infrastructure is real and some would say, in need of urgent attention.

For example, the 2005 ASCE report card said that in fact, 27.1 percent or over 160 thousand of the nation’s bridges are considered structurally deficient. The ACSE says it would cost around $9.4 billion annually for 20 years to bring all these bridges out of deficiency.

ASCE estimates it would cost around $1.6 trillion over a five year period to bring the entire national infrastructural system up to fully safe status. ASCE says that much of that money has already been allocated in existing budgets, but is continuously “raided” to be used in other programs.

While $1.6 trillion is somewhat hard to comprehend, so is the estimated $450 billion spent so far on the war in Iraq. Economists have estimated that the cost to taxpayers in that conflict would approach $1.2 trillion in the coming years. And, it would take more than a nod to or pronouncement of a figure to fully acknowledge and give due respect to the loss of life and sacrifice in American blood.

A great deal of the money has been used to rebuild infrastructure, some of which we helped destroy. But, there is one disturbing note, during a period from October 2003 until June 2004, $9 billion of the money earmarked for Iraq’s reconstruction, went un accounted for according to a 2005 Special Inspector General Report led by Stuart W. Bowen Jr. That was $9 billion that could have brought the states one year closer to safer bridges.

So, as we pour tremendous amounts of money into a nation, now teetering on the brink of a civil war we helped enable, can we also afford to sit idly by, while our economy’s most basic fundamental physical support system, its infrastructure, crumbles from within?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Edwards, Clinton, and Obama debate about Lobbyist

John Edwards poses a challenge and the real debate begins on how America finances its elections.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

CBS News Bob Schieffer Grills Condoleeza Rice

CBS News Washington Chief Correspondent Bob Schieffer asks tough questions of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in a "bordering on hot" exchange. From "Face the Nation"

P!nk - Dear Mr. President Offical Video

If you haven't seen/heard Pink's message to the President, well, it's time you did.

Friday, August 03, 2007

More On Alabama's Former Governor

More officials asking questions about Alabama's Former Governor Don Siegelman's conviction.