Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Once again, the Bob Perry Story (Re-post)

What Bob Perry's Politicking Says About Campaign Finance Rules In America
But, Ahmed says she thinks the busloads of elderly lobbyist were in fact brought in, fed breakfast as well as slanted information, educated, by Pro court reform coaches connected to the Texas homebuilder industry about the so-called frivolous lawsuits, in what Ahmed believes was a clear case of smoke and mirrors politics meant to promote tort reform specifically favorable to home builders and developers. Ahmed says the Austin tort reform blitz was organized by the group Texas For Lawsuit Reform (TLR), run by Richard Weekly. Richard Weekly is the brother of another Texas homebuilder/developer, David Weekly. Ahmed and others have also said that the Texas Tort reform efforts were bankrolled by Developer Perry and Weekly's generous financial support for homebuilder friendly legislative, gubernatorial and judicial candidates.


Monday, September 22, 2008

(REUTERS) Hadron Collider halted for months

Hadron Collider halted for months-FROM REUTERS
Sept. 21 - The Large Hadron Collider near Geneva may be shut down for at least two months after a serious malfunction, the European Organisation for Nuclear Reserach (CERN) says.
Engineers were forced to switch off the world's most powerful particle accelerator after a magnet failure, which led to tonnes of liquid helium leaking into the Collider's 27-km tunnel.
Earlier this month international scientists celebrated the successful start of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) machine located in a deeply-buried tunnel on the Swiss-French border.
The biggest and most complex machine ever made, the LHC aims to unlock the physical secrets of the universe by simulating the conditions of the "Big Bang" that created the universe.
Helen Long reports.SOUNDBITE: James Gillies, Cern's Head of Communications.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Trip to Ground Zero: Fourth in a Series (Re-post)

From Thursday, September 14, 2006

(photo courtesy Anthony German)


On a cool, clear September 11th 2006, at around one in the afternoon, two friends riding bicycles met at a fountain just off Christopher Street alongside the Hudson River in New York City. The fountain was the pre-chosen starting point for the two friend’s annual pilgrimage downtown to ground zero, a ritual they’ve repeated for the past four years. The two friends, both in New York during the attacks of 2001, experienced the immediate effects of the disaster in different ways. One witnessed United Flight 175’s crash into the South Tower from his fifth floor Soho apartment. Unbeknownst to him at the time, an old friend was on that plane. He later watched both buildings collapse from his building’s roof.

The other friend, at the time a resident of East 14th Street, was at first oblivious to the event’s magnitude. He was on his way to work at the World Financial Center finding himself underground for over two hours in a Subway tunnel when the towers fell. When he was finally evacuated at City Hall station, just a few blocks from the collapse, he emerged among dust and smoke in a changed world.

For the next few months, both friends, like millions of New York residents, inhaled the smell of death, experienced pain that still has the ability to overcome joy but all the while experiencing a new sense of connectivity with their city.

The two, one originally from Alabama, the other from Germany, had met through friends just a few months after 9/11. They first bonded that June at a large outdoor dance party on the Westside pier at 13th Street. As fireworks blasted and a disco version of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” played, the two took in the new downtown skyline, discussed the event and shed tears as the one who lost his friend in the crash, began to talk about his lost friend’s zest for life.

“He was such a fun guy, he’d be here now, if he were around” he said, with an almost empty smile on his face.

The bond between the two new made friends was instant.

Over four years later, pedaling slowly to Ground Zero down the bike path along the Hudson, several persons, some with photographs of smiling faces, wedding pictures or individuals in other happy moments, passed by. One elderly couple dressed in sensible shoes and matching white top’s, each wearing a photograph of a smiling bright eyed woman, held hands as they walked on the path uptown. Men and women in uniform walked by, many with peaceful expressions that have long since dealt with the horror and loss this day represents. Motorcycles, many with POW flags, whizzed by on the highway, while honking horns blew in the distance from back at Christopher Street, an area now called Point Gratitude.

When the two reached the Hudson side of the former World Trade Center as bells rang in the distance, the two friends paused and separated.

As they stood among TV trucks, law enforcement officials and other observers, dust and dirt from the pit, one of Manhattan’s rare un-paved, plant free massive patches of earth, kicked up into the sky like a giant wave crashing against the sea wall. Interestingly, on the first anniversary of the horrors, dust had swirled from the freshly cleared site where the towers fell, in almost poetic cyclonic motion high into the sky.

This year it was different.

The two then rode a little further downtown, crossed the West Side Highway, hopped off the bikes and walked among the crowds past the Deutsche Bank building and around the corner headed towards the site itself. As they walked towards Liberty Street, now a giant observation area, they came upon Engine/Ladder Company 10, the firefighter’s station directly across from where the twin towers once stood.

On the side of the buildings wall, is the 56 foot bronze memorial structure that honors members of the New York City Fire department who died just across the street from the fire-station. The dramatic interactive memorial, designed by Martin V. Rambusch of the Rambusch Decorating Company, a gift from the Holland and Knight Law firm, was dedicated this past June 6, the four year anniversary of the conclusion of Fire Department recovery operations.

The top of the firefighter’s memorial reads “Dedicated to those who fell and to those who carry on- May we never forget.”

The wall was dotted with photographs of victims, mostly firefighters with names like Scott Larsen and Michael Kieffer.

Flowers and candles covered the base of the memorial and at one end of the structure, a large stuffed red heart that said in big gold letters, Angel.

All around, tears began their slow decent down countless faces forever marked by pain while the bells continued tolling in chaotic rhythms in the background.

While people of all shapes, shades and sizes stood quietly staring, reflecting or mourning, the two friends slipped into the huge shuffling crowds that moved at the steady pace of deceased head of state’s viewing.

Once past the site, the two crossed the street to find the bells they’d been hearing, four of them, all around the size of the famous one in Philadelphia, hanging at waist’s height with large ropes attached so that anyone could walk up and ring one in tribute to the fallen.

But, the earlier reverence was overshadowed by the piercing anger of protests competing for ears, cameras and notepads.

To some, the sadness of 9/11’s memory has been overshadowed by a tragic evolution of national and world events, politics and the selfish evidence of National division on vivid display at Ground Zero.

Clearly, the long extinguished flames of 9/11 continue to cast a pungent smell over a dvided nation and tumultuous world.

In the crowded blocks surrounding the 16 acres that changed the world, the smell was stronger than ever. The two friends inhaled the scene and mood around them in disoriented silence and sad awe.

Many in the crowd appeared to revel in the division, the conspiracy folks who claim “Bush knew” with their shrill condemnation of all that is mainstream to the “we support the President and our troops” crowd, brimming with self righteous certitude and shallow patriotic arrogance.

One wonders, if the angry people pointing, accusing, shouting and politically exploiting the deaths of nearly 3000 innocent souls had lost a loved one when the towers fell. In fact, one wonders if members of this circus were even in New York City on this day back in 2001.

According to a “New York Times” “CBS News” poll, around one third of New Yorker’s think about September 11th terrorist attacks every day.

As the two friends made their way through the newly formed town square, a police officer said she didn’t find the protesters offensive.

“They have a right to do and say what they want” she said.

Such is the beauty of a free society. But, had any of the shouting, pointing and exploiting people taken some time to go over to the memorial wall at Engine Company 10, and if they had, did they take a moment to digest and understand what it means to not forget?

The two friends had completed their annual ritual in less than two hours. It was time to get on their bikes, ride back uptown to the village, and contemplate all that has been lost.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Descent into political chaos

by Cody Lyon

On Wednesday, September 10, 2008, New York City saw puffy clouds, cool breezes and sunshine that gently bathed the city's tall buildings in crisp golden sunlight. The bike path along the Hudson was filled with cyclists and joggers while on the streets, tourists made their way to places like Times Square or the ferry out to the Statue of Liberty.

Outside towers near Wall Street, office workers took smoking breaks enjoying the hints of autumn while others lunched on benches tossing an occasional crumb to pigeons while traffic whizzed by on the West Side Highway. From an observation deck of an individual life in the city, the island of Manhattan was enjoying a beautiful day.

Still, there is no doubt, countless New Yorkers have been engrossed by the ongoing nonsense gripping the current contest for the land's most important political office a horse race that has recently been punctuated by references to dogs, swine and lipstick.

But with that captivation has come an increasing sense of worry and frustration, as many New Yorkers watch and listen to a political contest that has in many minds descended into a chaotic diversion and not a debate over party ideology, values and solutions.

Here it is, the second week of September and despite a Congressional Budget Office report saying the United States deficit is projected to rise to $407 billion, along with a continued rash of failing financial institutions, the nightmare of misled war in Iraq, a mere treading of water in the land of the Taliban, Afghanistan, despite the fact that 50 million un-insured, a disappearing middle class, the headlines are filled with talk of pitbulls, swine and lipstick, as if some sort of Animal Farm like fever had stolen the meat from the potato's of reality that politics is meant to address.

Even on this day before the anniversary of what is arguably the city's greatest tragedy, a crime of death, destruction and horror, a memory that still blips loudly on the radar screens of so many New Yorkers and Americans everywhere, text messages were being sent and phone calls made among political junkies who call themselves Democrat as they worried aloud that the party values they support were facing increasingly tremendous obstacles come November.

For many, some who call themselves transplants, those who originally come from places far away from the so called sophistication, the bustle and hustle, those who ran away to New York to exist in tolerance and acceptance, an added sense of urgency was setting in as polls showed increasing numbers for the party they held responsible for exploiting pain and tragedy for political gain.

They wondered why, in an election year where the baggage of the past administration would simply and dramatically sink the hopes of Republicans maintaining control of the executive branch, the Democrats were failing in their attempts to make victory, perhaps more appropriate, change, a "sure thing" in November

Since the days of September 11, 2001, New York City has moved on. Sure, the memories are still there, the pain, the hurt and the anger, but regardless, the busy lot that New Yorkers are, dictates staying on their toes, and that includes politics.

In one phone call, a CEO of a small marketing firm downtown said that whomever devised the coronation of Sarah Palin as a running mate for the 25 year veteran of Congress was "simply genius."

He went on to say that they, the Republican strategists, long ago mastered how to get into the psyche of America's heartland.

Just what is that psyche?

In a chapter tilted Persecuted, Powerless and blind from his book "What's the matter with Kansas", author Thomas Frank asserts that in what he calls 'red land' "both workers and their bosses are supposed to be united in disgust with those affected college boys at the next table, prattling on about French cheese and villas in Tuscany and the big ideas for running things that they read in books.

According to the transplant marketing exec in Manhattan, the people described in that book are his family, his family's friends and other people who see the antithesis of those college boys in Sarah Palin and John McCain.

"David Axelrod just got his head handed to him on a silver platter," he yelled into his phone.

Not that the marketing exec is happy about that. Rather, he says, the Democrats, i.e. Obama and his team must rise up, perhaps take a humble pill, and somehow figure out how to "inspire" the reportedly "more than half" of the nation's voters. He, his running mate and his surrogates must figure out a way to re-inject the hope that a better America is somehow attainable through the political process, a poisoned process that they can overcome, if they maintain their sincere message of opportunity for all.

To be fair, the marketing man on the phone was a Hillary supporter during the primary and as of just a few weeks ago, made no denials of his reluctance to grudgingly support the Obama-Biden ticket. But, with the new Alaska superstar stealing the thunder from everyone else in the campaign, he says he realized that his frustration was geared more towards the American people, and perhaps the media for not highlighting the crucial differences in the candidates and what it is they intend to do, or not do, once in power.

Plain and simple, how can Democrats spell out to the people that voting for the Republican candidate would most likely do little to change their lives from the current state it is in now?

Still, during the chat, he said some members of his own mostly politically moderate working class family had been energized by Palin simply because they can identify with her.

"They really don't care about her stand on issues, it's about a person that's like them, not some fancy pants elite politician like Obama," he said.

At that moment in the conversation, thinking back in political time to the Democratic Primaries, one can't help but recall the moment that Senator Hillary Clinton seemed to wake up and embrace the populism espoused by the now "disgraced" John Edwards. It was at that point Clinton appeared to whip her campaign out of an entitled, arrogant state of being and began to aggressively market herself as someone who passionately embraced the populist issues of all the people in a manner that was purely political, but somehow sincere. In the waning days of her campaign, Clinton was able to work that political formula, while guzzling whiskey shots and beer all the way to several victories, but alas, to little to late.

For some reason, despite being a Clinton, people began to believe, that this candidate would wake up every morning and fight for their interests. They saw someone who would seek to bridge the glaring economic inequity that had helped further foster the class divides of the states. Perhaps, they even began to believe that she was sincere.

It is imperative that the Obama campaign figure out its way in doing the same, perhaps not a carbon copy repeat of the Clinton awakening but certainly not the sad tit for tat insult show that the campaign has engaged in along with the Republicans. Otherwise, millions of Americans will continue on their quest to choose a candidate they can relate to.

Meanwhile, in New York City, the anniversary of that day that shook modern America to its very foundation, tested its resolve and for a brief shining moment, unified a nation so tightly, will come and go just like every other day.

McCain gains among women voters (REUTERS)

McCain gains among women voters (REUTERS)
(02:08) Report
Sep 9 - McCain's surge in the polls since the Republican Convention is attributable to a shift in support among white women, who now give McCain a 12 point lead.
According to a Washington Post/ABC poll, among all voters who supported Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries-- nearly a quarter-- about 5 million voters-- say they plan to support John McCain in November.
Jon Decker reports.
SOUNDBITE:Brian Darling, senior fellow, Heritage Foundation

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Truth about Pit Bulls and Lipstick

by Cody Lyon

Pit bulls with lipstick aren't an especially pretty sight. In more harsh terms, they smell of oxymorons, sort of wolves in sheep's clothing.

At this week's Republican Convention in St Paul Minnesota, Senator John McCain's new running mate Sarah Palin said “the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull” was “lipstick.”

Now it's not that pit bulls themselves aren't lovely canines, when they are given love, and trained properly by caring owners. These pooches can be truly some of the most affectionate animals around

But with her lipstick on a terrier analogy, Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin set the house on fire at the GOP Convention after pontificating her resume, revealing some of her private and public persona to a curious nation by charming the audience, even introducing her family in the more personal eagerly anticipated getting to know you portion of the speech heard round the country.

But then the lipstick came off and the ideological pit bull stepped up to bat as Palin tossed out some classic right wing red meat into the Republican "pound" by lashing out at the "elite" media, Washington insiders, her opponents record's and with an an almost deceitful fashion, utilizing her sisterhood to reach out to women voters by vaguely implying she had co-opted Senator Hillary Clinton's role as the new "woman candidate."

It was and is politics at its most clever. It is also politics at its most misleading at least as far as women's and other social issues are concerned.

Still, according to a number of Republican spokespeople and pundits, much of the vetting, curiosity, criticism and shock over Senator John McCain's politically crafty pick of Palin is simply media hype that has its roots in sexism.

But, that's when the Republicans walk right into the land of the ridiculous by participating in a political system gone awry that has seen an epidemic of kitchen table issues going on the back burner while image and pre-packaged selfish identity political sell tactics command the front and center of political discourse.

As for sexist media coverage, there is no valid comparison between the treatment dished out on Hillary Clinton and the miniscule reportage on Governor Sarah Palin. The media and the people of America practically just met the Alaska Governor. Clinton, on the other hand, has seen her record, rhetoric, other assorted baggage and even her pantsuits picked clean by the press, much of which, covertly expressed its disdain of anything Clinton with shrill tactics that called into question character and motive, thus, at least in part, contributing to one of the boldest political derailments in American history.

In Governor Palin's case, it might appear sexist when some question whether this Mother of five will have time for her children as vice President. True as well, some have made fun of her pistol packin, assault rife shootin NRA endorsement, echoes of the Democratic Primary Annie Oakley snip by Obama a few months ago when Hillary talked about going hunting, Yes, there will be unfair attention paid to Palin's children's private lives, an area that should be off limits since, in fact, it's really nobody's business but her and her family's and how the Palin's handle their affairs doesn't really affect most American's elderly parents social security checks or whether or not their child goes to a good school.

Of course, there will be those, like the many individuals who will not vote for Obama because of his race, or in fact those who didn't vote for Hillary because of her gender, who might avoid casting a ballot for a ticket that could potentially lead to a female President, a nugget of sad commentary on a still maturing nation. But, really, that's all irrelevant in the grand scope of potential tangible change considering the fact that one positive that will result from the outcome of this race will be, no matter what the narrow minded wish, a historic first will be seen in the White House in January.

Still, as we've seen throughout this election process, the power of self identity politics is alive and well and it is in part a reaction to our collective struggles with racial prejudices and a continuing culture of sexism. More unfortunate, is the power it possesses over an electorate that at times appears to lose site of what is truly at hand in this race to Pennsylvania Avenue.


Could it actually be a sign of pervasive sexism, that a woman candidate believes that in order to win her party's approval she must prove she's tough enough to run a nation by invoking analogous machismo by holding up a dog with a less than gentle reputation as an example of her strength? Is Palin and her party's attempt to elevate her into a tomboyish tough love Mom with conservative virtues a party that deep down, at least appears to be complacent with a woman knowing her place in the grand political game of the true powers that be in the western world? While it might be true, that the Republican party claims to be a party that endorses a stronger philosophy of individual responsibility, does the scent of hypocrisy not waif through the minds of millions of women who recognize it is also a party that would deny them the right to choose?

Perhaps on a more basic level it might be worth considering the pit bull and lipstick analogy. Like any dog, a pit bull depends on its owner and trainer for guidance. As most people know, there have been countless news reports over recent years detailing pit bull owners who have bred and trained the dogs for cruel and vicious fighting matches. Usually, the dogs in question were seen as mere objects used by cruel, self serving owners who engaged in inhumane treatment all for victory in the dog fight ring, regardless of the cost to the animal itself.

On the day after the speech, New York City tabloid headlines were screaming pit bull with lipstick. But, there is a more important story about Governor Palin's politically clever line and her party. Palin, like any other up and coming political figure has been trained, mentored and has let it be known that she subscribes to an Party ideology that has for the most part been responsible for one of saddest, most selfish economic, disastrous foreign policy reigns of our century. The results have led to one of the most destructive collective psychological downturns that this country has ever seen. Albeit hard to accurately measure, American's are not happy with the direction the nation is now heading. Gloom is in the air as an occasional news report or perhaps more revealing, a casual conversation at the grocery store details heartache and struggle, perhaps Americans witness a foreclosure sign on a neighbor's home, maybe the reality comes in the form of a knock on the door from a military officer with bad news regarding a loved one who bravely followed orders from a commander in chief who's administration now appears to have engaged in the most sinful form of deceit.

No matter how much lipstick one applies on the conditions and philosophy, facts bubble forth. And, once weaved together, those facts are very telling. And, it is imperative that voters do their homework and look beyond the makeup of both parties and understand what is at stake here.

Regardless of Sarah Palin's gender, her charisma or any questions on negatives and positives regarding her ability to lead, there are greater, more stark choices in this election. In the end, despite the historic change our nation will witness with the election of either of these tickets, sexism, racism and all the prejudicial and reactionary baggage that comes with it will continue to poison our society. But, putting "lipstick" on Party ideology that endorses policy that has led us to what could be called the miserable place so much of our nation finds itself in today, only threatens the realistic changes that government can indeed make in all American's lives.