Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Shut up Giuliani

By Ben Cohen

Former mayor of New York Rudolph Giuliani has just announced his presidential proposal for Health care. Rejecting universal coverage for Americans, Giuliani has offered a free market system based on people having more control over their plans.

"Government cannot take care of you. You've got to take care of yourself," he said. "As more of us do that, the cheaper it will become and the higher in quality it becomes."

So apparently, the idea is that as more people buy insurance, insurance companies lower their prices. This would be possible by giving families a $15,000 tax break to pay for it.

The plan is so ridiculous it is hardly worth discussing. Given the fact that 20% of the population make under $18,500 and 10%, (that's 30 million people) make under $10,500, the tax break means absolutely nothing to those who need it most.

Has Giuliani not been paying attention to the disastrous effects of the free market on the health care system? For the past 30 years, U.S health care has fallen to pieces under market 'liberalization', thanks to the notion that health is a privilege, not a right.

There is no need to go in to the shocking statistics about the U.S system, as most ordinary Americans already know it from their day to day experiences.

Along with his gung ho foreign policy rhetoric, Giuliani is truly out of touch with where most people stand on the issues. In essence, Giuliani is offering a more dangerous alternative to the Bush Administration, given the fact he can actually formulate sentences. If he thinks the U.S is on the right course, that it's health care system is just fine and dandy, and more war is the answer to peace in the Middle East, he will have a rude awakening when faced with an increasingly aware electorate.

Running for President off one good speech delivered after 9/11, Giuliani is about as redundant a politician as you are likely to find. He has nothing new to say, nothing new to offer, and nothing worth listening to.

So, Rudolph, it's time to change your political philosophy or just shut up. END Read more!

I don't like Faux News either but Ridley is right...

I really don't like Fox News. Often I disagree with MSNBC commentator John Ridley, though that is because of his dismissal of non-MSM writers and far left thinking rather than because I think he is wrong. But in the case of whether Democrats should appear on Fox News I have to agree with him. Those in the liberal blogosphere, many of whom I like and respect, who say that Democrats should not appear on Fox News because it legitimizes it are wrong. It is already the highest cable news network. The difference is that rather than writing Fox News viewers off, as some have done, I think we should be able make our case to them as well. As biased as Fox News is the story becomes even more one-sided if when people from the left are invited on they decline. In that case no matter what Fox does we will never get to these people and if we truly want change we cannot simply write-off 25% of the American population.
The article is below the fold.
From the Huffington Post:
So I was going through my favorite news, information, pop culture websites this past weekend when I came across an interesting post. It was put up by your typical anonymous responder #54 (okay, truth be told he was the first responder on the thread, but I'm pretty sure Guido was not the cat's true name) who blasted Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis) for appearing on Fox News Sunday as being "this week's FOX Democrat. Shame on him."

Put a hex on Feingold for showing up on Fox news?

Okay, disclosure: I'm from Wisconsin, and cast my last presidential vote there. Except for McCarthy and Dahmer I like all things Badger State.

That said, I saw Feingold on FNS. He acquitted himself excellently.


Chris Wallace asked questions that could be considered only somewhat vast rightwing conspiracy slanted, if at all. But there was certainly nothing from so far left...well, right field that Feingold couldn't handle it. Why, then, "shame on him" for NOT being afraid to take it to the "other guy's" house and state his case? For me the shame oughta be on guys like Guido; the left leaners who want to flay Democrats for having the meat to stand in the Foxlight.

Obviously, Fox News makes its bank in extreme opinion. I've already registered my disgust with John Gibson who is NOT a racist. He's just an old white guy who thinks white people oughta maintain their white dominance by having lots of white babies. But does Fox opine any less than Keith Olbermann or Chris Matthews over at MSNBC (another disclosure, I co host Morning Joe on the network, though I hope by now that's not actually a disclosure for anyone anymore)?

The far left fringe feasting on their own is, of course, hardly a new phenomenon. There are nearly half a dozen pejoratives reserved for any liberal who would dare to be a guest of "the enemy." Quite ironic when you consider that House Speaker Nancy had no fear of slapping on a do-rag and having a siddown with actual "enemy" Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (as have Republicans), and in light of the current Obama/Clinton dust up over Obama's remarks that he would go "toe to toe with the leaders of rogue nations."

And why not? if Nixon could stare down China, if Reagan could do the same to the Soviets, why should the Dems cower before aggressors?

They shouldn't.

Read the full article
Read more!

Hurricanes linked to Global Warming, says new report

By Ben Cohen

There is a new report that confirms the theory that climate change is increasing the frequency and ferocity of Hurricanes. It seems the more we study the effects of our rapidly heating planet, the more we find is going wrong. Climate change deniers were quick to trash environmentalists who pointed to global warming when Hurricane Katrina struck two years ago, but have now been proved wrong again.

Here is the report from the BBC:

"A new analysis of Atlantic hurricanes says their numbers have doubled over the last century.

The study says that warmer sea surface temperatures and changes in wind patterns caused by climate change are fuelling much of the increase.

Some researchers say hurricanes are cyclical and the increase is just a reflection of a natural pattern.

But the authors of this study say it is not just nature - they say the frequency has risen across the century.

Two-decade rise

Hurricanes are a spinning vortex of winds that swirl around an eye of low pressure.

Thunder clouds surround the edges of these storms and they can wreak devastation on people and property when they hit land - most famously in the case of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005.

Scientific analyses in recent years suggest hurricane numbers have increased since the mid-1980s.

This new study, published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in London, looks at the frequency of these storms from 1900 to the present and it says about twice as many form each year now compared to 100 years ago.

The authors say that man-made climate change, which has increased the temperature of the sea surface, is the major factor behind the increase in numbers.

"Over the period we've had natural variability in the frequency of storms, which has contributed less than 50% of the actual increase in our view," said Dr Greg Holland from the United States National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, who authored the report.

"Approximately 60%, and possibly even 70% of what we are seeing in the last decade can be attributed directly to greenhouse warming," he said.

Experts say that 2007 will be a very active season with nine hurricanes forecast, of which five are expected to be intense."

Read more!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Why Michael Moore missed the point

By Ben Cohen

Although I thought Michael Moore's film raised some excellent points his film 'Sicko', Dr. Mark Hyman makes a compelling argument that Moore missed the fundamental flaw in the U.S (and world wide) medical industry. And that it is the shocking fact that the health care industry has nothing to do with health. Watch this interesting video to see why:

Read more!

Iraqi Soccer Captain Speaks Out About U.S. Occupation

By Matt Wells

In the wake of Iraq's surprise victory in soccer's Asian Cup, captain Younis Mahmoud is taking advantage of the attention his side is receiving to speak out about the American occupation of his homeland.

The full story can be read here. The highlights are below:

Despite a frantic Asian Cup official by his side pleading, "No politics, no politics," the Iraqi captain made clear his distaste for his nation's continuing occupation: "I have only one thing to say: I want America out of Iraq now."

He would like to take the cup on a victory tour of Iraq, but asked: "Who secures my life?

In Iraq you do not know who will kill you."

He said he did not fear being among the Iraqi people "but the American and the Government troops? One of my closest friends, the official forces … arrested him for more than one year, and until now neither his family nor me know where he is.

"I don't like the American people to be angry with me but I am very sorry the Americans invade Iraq, and I hope it will be very soon to get rid of the Americans."

In a not-so-surprising development, Fox News is doing its best to ignore this part of the story. Click here to get their sanitized take. END Read more!

Now I'm just confused....

by Ari Rutenberg
A few days ago my co-editor and I got into a little discussion about an article he wrote regarding remarks made by Hilary Clinton at the recent Youtube debate in response to a question she and Senator Obama received about meeting with foreign leaders with whom President Bush has refused to have diplomatic relations.

Before I begin let me be clear. First I don't particularly like Hillary Clinton. I think she is a pure politician who will try to be all things to all people and never really takes a stand on an issue. In addition I do like Barack Obama. I think his answer to this question, which was whether they would promise to meet with the leaders of states currently on Bushes blacklist within a year.

Obama responded essentially by saying yes, which is the best possible answer in my opinion. Hillary responded that "I will not promise to meet with these leaders within a year. I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort because I think it is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are. I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes. I don't want to make a bad situation even worse."

Ben argued that "Hilary Clinton believes that the United States is too morally superior to speak to its enemies." I do not think that is what she meant by that statement, though I do have to say that it was a blatant political dig at Obama's perceived inexperience in foreign policy. I simply think it means that she does not want to promise to meet with them personally in a one-year time frame, not that she does not believe in using diplomacy. Now that all being said I'm never sure with her.

In an email following our discussion, Ben said: "Check this out mate:

Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said Obama "has committed to presidential-level meetings with some of the world's worst dictators without precondition during his first year in office. Senator Clinton is committed to vigorous diplomacy but understands that it is a mistake to commit the power and prestige of America's presidency years ahead of time by making such a blanket commitment."

I think that smacks of exceptionalism, and hypocrisy."

Now I would have to agree that the statement by her spokesman is exceptionalist and hypocritical. That being said I also think it contradicts the sentiment of what she said at the debate. So I went on her campaign website and looked up what her 'issues' sections had to say and this is the email I sent back to Ben:
"also check this out...its from her website
"And to keep our country safe, we need to start engaging our enemies again. During the Cold War, with missiles pointed at us, we never stopped talking to the Soviet Union. That didn't mean we agreed with them or approved of them. But it did mean we came to understand them -- and that was crucial to confronting the threats they posed." so im really not sure what position they are taking."
Ben responded by saying "Typical Clinton; take every position on every subject to cover your bases." At which point I gave up in exasperation. All I could say was "now I'm just confused." Which , I guess, is a pretty good description of her entire campaign.END Read more!

Larry Merchant and HBO

HBO Sports was shaken last month when Thomas Hauser's article 'Larry Merchant and HBO' was posted on Secondsout.com. Hauser's credentials go far beyond the world of games. One of his books ('Missing') served as the basis for the Academy-Award-winning Costa-Gavres film starring Jack Lemon and Sissy Spacek. Another Hauser work ('Final Warning') made its way to the screen as 'Chernobyl: The Final Warning' starring Jon Voight and Jason Robards.

'Larry Merchant and HBO' examines the decision-making process at one of the most powerful media-entertainment conglomerates in the world. It's an important article that deserves the widest distribution possible. The Daily Banter is pleased to share it with our readers.

Larry Merchant and HBO

By Thomas Hauser

The recent contract negotiations between Larry Merchant and HBO offer insight into several facets of the relationship between boxing and the media.

As virtually every boxing fan knows, Merchant’s previous contract with HBO expired on June 1, 2007. It was widely anticipated that, thereafter, his employment would be terminated by the network. But after much drama, he was offered and signed a new agreement that calls for him to remain with the cable giant until May 31, 2009. HBO has an option to extend his services through May 31, 2011.

HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg declined a request to be interviewed for this article. But many present and past HBO employees were willing to talk about the matter on condition of anonymity while others agreed to speak on the record.

Merchant is a calming presence, not the sort of person one would expect to find at the center of a storm. He’s 76 years old and has called more than 600 fights during his 29-year career with HBO. He has never been a traditional television commentator. At his core, he’s an old-time, old-line, old-school journalist with ink in his veins. He has never promoted himself as a show business personality. His responsibility, as he sees it, is to commentate insightfully on HBO fights. He’s quiet and well-mannered, a voice of reason who tells it like it is when the emperor has no clothes.

Most viewers like Merchant; some don’t. But everyone agrees that he speaks the truth as he sees it. Seth Abraham (former president of Time Warner Sports and the original architect of HBO’s boxing program) calls him “one of the pillars of HBO’s boxing franchise” and “the conscience of HBO boxing.”

“Over the years,” Abraham says, “Larry’s contribution to HBO has gone far beyond his work behind the microphone. Even though Lou [DiBella] wore a diamond stud in his ear, Lou was a suit when he was making fights for HBO. Lou was management. And Larry was never a suit. He was an ombudsman, a voice for the fan, and a reliable knowledgeable sounding board for everything we did.”

It’s not often that the public figures one looks up to in youth turn out to be as decent and honorable as they appeared to have been when viewed through adolescent eyes. But as new generations of journalists and TV personnel have become Merchant’s co-workers, they have found him to be a man of integrity and grace. His presence in the sweet science gives boxing and everyone associated with it a bit more dignity and class.

In late 2005, Ross Greenburg began planning to remove Merchant from his role as lead analyst on HBO’s World Championship Boxing and pay-per-view fights. His primary motivation is said to have been a desire to appeal to a younger audience demographic. Toward that end, Greenburg met with Max Kellerman (now 33 years old). In March 2006, a contract was signed. Informed sources say that it called for Kellerman to serve as lead analyst on all Boxing After Dark telecasts and perform desk duty on selected pay-per-view events through May 31, 2007. Thereafter, Max would assume Merchant’s role as lead analyst on all World Championship Boxing and pay-per-view shows. The contract runs through May 31, 2010. Kellerman received in the neighborhood of $10,000 for each Boxing After Dark telecast. When he stepped into Merchant’s shoes, his salary was to rise to approximately $550,000 a year.

In 2003, Showtime brought Al Bernstein in to fill a vacancy in the lead-analyst position on Showtime Championship Boxing. Before Bernstein was hired, Jay Larkin (then the head of Showtime Boxing) sat down with blow-by-blow commentator Steve Albert and asked him how he felt about the move and what he thought the chemistry between him and Bernstein would be like. Albert responded enthusiastically.

There is no evidence that Greenburg had a similar conversation with Jim Lampley regarding his partnering with Kellerman. To the contrary, replacing Larry with Max was Greenburg’s call, plain and simple. Informed sources say that he did it with relatively little staff input and against the wishes of most of the people who deal with boxing at HBO.

Moreover, as one current HBO employee observes, “If you’ve promised a person’s job to someone else, the only honorable thing to do is pick up the phone and tell him; or better yet, tell him face-to-face. And that’s particularly true when the person you’re terminating is Larry Merchant, who has been with you for 29 years.”

But that call wasn’t made. And ultimately, Merchant was left dangling for months while his future remained in doubt.

Multiple sources say that it wasn’t until November 2006 that Merchant was advised that his role on World Championship Boxing and pay-per-view fights as he knew it was about to be terminated. At that time, Greenburg offered him a slot on Boxing After Dark and unspecified “other duties” at a seventy-percent cut in pay.

Merchant was prepared to begin the process of stepping back to make way for a successor, but not to the degree that Greenburg wanted. He pressed for clarification of just what those “other duties” would be and learned that they were largely illusory. In essence, Greenburg simply wanted him to trade jobs with Kellerman.

Merchant suggested a variety of alternatives, one of which conformed to Greenburg’s desire to have him give up World Championship Boxing and pay-per-view fights. Larry said he would become the lead analyst for Boxing After Dark if he could also be the matchmaker for BAD. He felt that HBO could, and should be making better fights than it was. But Greenburg rejected the offer, saying that HBO’s management team was perfectly capable of making good fights. Ross also voiced the view that it would be improper for one person to make and then commentate upon fights, despite the historical precedent of Gil Clancy, Ferdie Pacheco, and Alex Wallau doing so at CBS, NBC, and ABC respectively.

Thereafter, other than offering a bit more money, Greenburg refused to budge and Merchant readied to leave HBO. It wasn’t a negotiating ploy on Larry’s part; he wasn’t posturing. He felt unwanted and thought it was time to go.

“I don’t blame Max,” Merchant told intimates. “Every job in television is open to competition. This isn’t about Max. It’s a decision that Ross made with regard to me. He never told me why he was doing it. I’m sure he’ll be asked at some point and he’ll say something like, ‘Larry was here for 29 years and we love him but we have to look to the future.’”

“I’m not going to dodge the reality of what’s happening,” Merchant continued. “Change of this nature causes anxiety, but I feel good about myself and I’m optimistic about the future. I have a lot of good memories. When I look back over the years, that run in the eighties with Leonard, Hearns, Hagler, and Duran was fantastic. Holmes-Cooney was a fascinating event. Tyson-Douglas, Holyfield-Bowe, Gatti-Ward, Barrera-Morales; those fights were extraordinary. But all good things come to an end.”

On February 28th, Greenburg and Ray Stallone (HBO’s vice president for sports publicity) met with Merchant in Los Angeles to discuss how his departure from the network would be handled from a public relations point of view.

“They were in a very self-protective mode,” Merchant said afterward. “Ross wanted to be seen as the good guy who asked me to stay on. They handed me a written outline of how they hoped I would explain this to the media; the idea being that HBO offered to keep me on in a slightly different role but that I wanted to go in a different direction. It was corporate-speak and ignored the reality that Ross made it very clear to me by his words and actions that he wanted me out. I said I’d think about it. We agreed that Taylor-Spinks [on May 19th] would be my last fight. Then they asked what sort of pomp and circumstance I wanted at the end, and I told them that I didn’t want a grand tour. Whatever I do, I’ll plan it myself.”

Thereafter, Merchant drafted some farewell remarks that he intended to share with viewers on May 19th. When asked, he told Rick Bernstein (executive producer of HBO Sports) that he did not want an on-air tribute at the close of the telecast.

Then the landscape shifted. Word began to leak out that Merchant wouldn’t be continuing at HBO, and there was an outpouring of emotion from the boxing community. It came from fighters, writers, managers, promoters, television personnel, and fans. There was anger over his imminent departure, coupled respect for Merchant himself.

“Ross didn’t have a clue as to the backlash he’d get because he doesn’t understand boxing fans or most of the people in boxing,” says one HBO insider. “He had no idea how many people would stand by Larry, and he had no idea that there would be such a negative reaction to Max.”

“I’m disappointed,” said Seth Abraham. “Larry and I were together for 25 years and I consider him a friend, so I’m not a dispassionate observer. But having Larry or not having Larry doesn’t change the audience demographics. And a broadcast team is just that. It’s a team. Larry makes everyone else on the team better. He asks the right questions. He has the right follow-up. He never tries to be bigger than his fellow commentators. The question is not whether Max is better than Larry. The question is, ‘Will Max make the team better?’”

“Just because you’re the head of a department doesn’t mean that you have a monopoly on brains,” Abraham continued. “Sometimes you have a monopoly on shortsightedness and stupidity. That’s one reason I’ve always liked consensus. When I was at HBO, I had the final vote, subject at times to the approval of [CEOs] Michael Fuchs and Jeff Bewkes. But there were occasions when I would think one thing and Ross, Lou [DiBella], Mark [Taffet], and even [financial officer] Barbara Thomas would have a different point of view. When that happened, I’d go into Bryant Park, sit down with a cup of cappucino, and ask myself, ‘Why do these very intelligent people have a view that’s different than mine?’ And often -- not always, but often – I’d come around to their view. Larry brings so much to the telecast. He’ll be missed in many ways. If I were the president of HBO Sports – and I’m not, it’s Ross’s decision to make – I would renew Larry’s contract.”

Blow-by-blow commentator Jim Lampley also sang Merchant’s praises. It’s axiomatic in boxing that styles make fights, but styles also make announcing teams. The chemistry between Lampley and Merchant is superb; a blend of fire and ice. The one time that Lampley and Kellerman had been paired (on HBO’s October 14, 2006, telecast of Joe Calzaghe versus Sakio Bika), the on-air chemistry between them had not been good. There were fears that replacing Larry with Max could wind up being the equivalent of trying to shove a square peg into a round hole.

Lampley spoke of Kellerman in complimentary terms but had special praise for Merchant. “Larry is not replaceable,” Jim said. “He’s unique in the history of our sport in terms of his integrity. The term ‘truth-teller’ is often used. It’s the kind of flattery that anyone would like to hear, but to say it about Larry is to say it in the purest possible sense. Larry has never shilled for a moment. He has never bent to corporate will for a moment. Whether dealing with a fighter, a promoter, a corporate executive, a major sponsor, anyone; he has never said a word that he didn’t firmly believe was the truth. I can only hope that someday, somewhere in my career, I can look at myself and, in my heart of hearts, believe that I’m as courageous as Larry. He inspires me every day that I work with him and he will continue to inspire me after he’s gone.”

Others were less charitable in viewing the situation. “I don’t understand who Ross thinks he’s appealing to with this move,” said one industry insider. “I keep hearing, ‘Younger demographic! Younger demographic!’ Let’s get real. Does Max appeal to young urban blacks? You’ve got to be kidding. Young women? I don’t think so. The NASCAR crowd? No way. Instead of pandering to a younger demographic that he doesn’t understand, Ross should try appealing to a boxing demographic. Better fights will attract more viewers.”

Meanwhile, Kellerman was in a difficult situation. The lead analyst position on World Championship Boxing was his dream job and he was on track to get it. But the issue of Merchant’s termination was making Max a lightning rod for criticism of HBO, and he was being attacked on both a professional and personal level.

“Max is a provocateur, not an analyst,” said one member of HBO’s production team. “To be an analyst, it’s not enough to be able to talk. You need judgment and maturity and you have to know what you’re talking about. There are times when Larry pauses on air to search for the right word. That’s not age. That’s thinking before he speaks instead of shooting off his mouth.”

On a February 17th Boxing After Dark telecast, Kellerman had likened Paulie Malignaggi to Billy Conn. As reported by Internet writer Charles Jay, “Max proceeded to make this comment about Malignaggi as the self-proclaimed ‘Magic Man’ entered the ring: ‘He’s an ethnic white guy, fights in the Northeast, doesn’t hit with a lot of power, and so inevitably he reminds me of the great Billy Conn, light-heavyweight champion, who gave a very good showing against the great Joe Louis, a heavyweight, much like Malignaggi gave a very good showing against Miguel Cotto at junior-welterweight.’”

“INEVITABLY he reminds you of Conn?” Jay wrote. “I had no idea of the inevitability of that comparison. That’s kind of like saying that, because they’re both loud, obnoxious, and Jewish, Kellerman should be compared to Howard Cosell.”

Actually, most people who meet Kellerman and talk with him one-on-one find him rather likable, whereas Cosell was even more abrasive and unpleasant in person than he was on television. Also, Cosell frequently sought to undermine his commentating partners, while Kellerman does the opposite. By way of example, Lennox Lewis says, “From the very beginning, Max has done everything he could to make me feel more comfortable behind the microphone.”

Regardless, Max has lobbed quite a few hard verbal shots at targets on the air. And in boxing, when you throw punches, punches come back.

“Replacing Larry Merchant with Max Kellerman is like replacing Jack Nicholson with Jack Black,” Ron Higgins of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal wrote. “Kellerman has zero journalistic background and is just another blabby radio-talk-show host whose schtick plays well on TV for the attention-deficit-disorder demographic of video-game zombies who prefer their knowledge in five-second sound-bytes.”

Doug Krikorian of the Long Beach Press-Telegram declared, “In what has to be one of the most misguided decisions in sports television history, HBO president Ross Greenburg has decided not to renew the contract of his longtime boxing analyst, Larry Merchant, and replace him with Max Kellerman. Omigod! What is Mr. Greenburg thinking? If he wanted a clown, I’m sure there are plenty available at Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus that are a lot more entertaining than Max Kellerman. Kellerman has a superficial knowledge of boxing, makes a lot of noise, and offers the kind of opinions one routinely hears in places like beer bars, fraternity houses, and barber shops. Greenburg is insulting the intelligence of his audience.”

But no critic was more persistent than Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News, who, in a series of columns, attacked Kellerman for “smug rants designed to pander to the coveted younger demographic,” and proclaimed, “Replacing Larry Merchant with Max Kellerman would be like replacing Picasso with the guy who sells the velvet Elvises outside of Graceland. MeMax’s greatest asset is his ability to self-promote. He has fooled more than a few TV and radio suits, who again prove that having a brain is not a prerequisite for becoming a network sports executive. If HBO honchos dump Merchant in favor of Kellerman, it will signal a lowering of journalistic standards, which have always separated HBO Sports from all other TV sports operations.”

The situation reached critical mass in Las Vegas during the week leading up to Oscar De La Hoya versus Floyd Mayweather Jr. Greenburg had wanted to replace Merchant with someone who would elicit a reaction from the media and fans, but this wasn’t the reaction he wanted.

“Ross is all alone on this one,” one HBO insider said. “Kery Davis, Mark Taffet, Rick Bernstein, Barbara Thomas; everyone thinks he’s making a mistake.”

The HBO bubble that Greenburg lives in was bursting. His decision to terminate Merchant’s tenure was being attacked as evincing a lack of respect for boxing fans and boxing. It was suggested by one observer of the scene that HBO launch a new TV reality series entitled Greenburg-Merchant-Kellerman 24/7.

One moment spoke volumes. Several days before De La Hoya-Mayweather, Greenburg came into the media center at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, walked past dozens of writers and other “boxing people” without a word, and sat down next to former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda. By virtue of his position as president of HBO Sports, Ross was the most powerful person in the room. But he didn’t seem to like the people he was sharing the room with very much.

Meanwhile, an extremely troubling issue had arisen. Earlier that week, Greenburg had been interviewed by Michael Hiestand of USA Today with regard to Merchant’s contract status.

“Larry is still throwing a 95-mph fastball and hitting the corners,” Hiestand quoted Ross as saying. “We’d never give him a reduced role. We’re working to hammer this out.”

The words, “We’d never give him a reduced role,” were at odds with the truth.

Time Warner (HBO’s parent company) is a media-entertainment conglomerate with a long tradition of journalistic excellence. Time Magazine and CNN are among its component parts. Closer to home, HBO prides itself on its journalistic integrity. That’s the philosophy behind its boxing telecasts and shows like Real Sports.

For the president of HBO Sports to be quoted in “America’s newspaper” and for that quote to be false was disheartening to a lot of people at HBO.

Then everything changed. Depending on one’s point of view, either Greenburg blinked or had a change of heart.

On Friday, May 4th (the day before De La Hoya-Mayweather) Ross asked to have breakfast with Merchant at the MGM Grand and made an unexpected offer. His proposal was for a two-year contract with options at HBO’s election for two years more. Merchant would work all of HBO’s pay-per-view boxing cards (an estimated six per year) and half of its World Championship Boxing shows (Larry would choose which ones). His role on the telecasts would be the same as in the past. Other details (including salary) were ironed out at a May 8th meeting in New York when Merchant was in town to tape commentary for the network’s replay of De La Hoya-Mayweather.

Merchant considered the agreement to be fair and was pleased with it. Then, a week later, he received unsettling news in the form of a telephone call from Rick Bernstein. Bernstein had been a strong advocate for Larry within HBO. Indeed, some people had begun referring to him as “the janitor” because, in the words of one co-worker, “he’s trying to clean up the mess that Ross has made.”

Bernstein told Merchant that there was a snag. Greenburg had thought he could persuade Kellerman to accept a lesser role on World Championship Boxing and pay-per-view fights and continue as the lead analyst on Boxing After Dark. But Max was objecting to Larry’s new contract on grounds that he had a contract of his own and expected it to be fulfilled. Short of that, Kellerman was demanding parity with Merchant in assignments and refusing to work Boxing After Dark subsequent to May 31st because it wasn’t required by his contract.

“HBO has gotten locked into bad longterm contracts with fighters in the past,” marveled one network executive. “But this is the first time that HBO has gotten screwed on a longterm contract with an announcer.”

Regardless, Greenburg was now backing away from the agreement that he and Merchant had reached. If Larry’s new contract was to be finalized, he would have to accept a lesser number of fights than previously agreed to and would no longer have the right to choose which fights he worked.

Intimates say that Merchant was shaken and angered by the new turn of events. “This knocks me for a loop,” he said. “I was prepared to leave. I had come to grips with it emotionally. And now, to be told that we have a deal for me to stay on and, less than ten days later, to be told that the terms of the deal are changing; I’m not happy about it at all. In the three decades that I’ve been at HBO, nothing like this has happened to me before and I’m not aware of it happening to anyone else.”

Once again, Merchant’s status was in limbo. Taylor-Spinks came and went. Larry finished the telecast not knowing whether he’d sit behind an HBO microphone again.

Then another precinct was heard from. At the kick-off press conference for his July 14th fight against Alfonso Gomez (which will be televised on HBO), Arturo Gatti was asked what he thought about Merchant’s possible departure. Gatti has fought under the HBO banner twenty-one times. Only Oscar De La Hoya and Roy Jones Jr have made more appearances.

“I wouldn’t want to speak to nobody but Larry Merchant after a fight,” Arturo opined. “Some people don’t like him. I like him because he’s real. He’s got balls to say it. If Max Kellerman goes to HBO, HBO is gonna go to shit.”

Still, time was running out. May 31st came and went. Now a new deadline loomed. On June 8th, the Boxing Writers Association of America was to present Merchant with the James J. Walker Award for “long and meritorious service to boxing.” The next night, Miguel Cotto versus Zab Judah would be televised from Madison Square Garden on HBO Pay-Per-View. The announcing team for that fight was still undetermined.

More negotiations followed. HBO refused a request from the Kellerman camp that it sweeten Max’s contract by relaxing an exclusivity provision that precludes him from appearing on ESPN. Merchant made several concessions with regard to terms that Greenburg had initially promised but later withdrew.

Finally, on June 8th, HBO issued a press release announcing that the network and Merchant had agreed to a new contract. “We are delighted to have one of sports television’s most respected broadcasters continue to call them as he sees them,” the release quoted Greenburg as saying. “Larry is an institution at HBO. Sharing the workload with Larry will be Max Kellerman, which essentially gives us two formidable broadcast teams on World Championship Boxing.”

Informed sources say that Merchant’s contract with HBO provides for the following: (1) Merchant will work half of all World Championship Boxing and up to six pay-per-view shows per year; (2) to ease Boxing After Dark’s transition to a new announcing team, he will work two BAD shows each year; and (3) he will have first priority on all fights outside of the United States. Beyond that, HBO will determine which shows Larry works after “meaningful consultation” between him and Rick Bernstein.

As for how things will play out, Merchant and Kellerman are said to have overlapping expectations. But each of their contracts is “pay or play,” an industry term which means that HBO can apportion air-dates between them as it sees fit as long as it pays them.

It would be unfair to Kellerman to judge his work against the standard that Merchant has set. Max should be allowed to rise or fall on his own merits. But he’ll be under a lot of pressure in the months ahead. And by refusing to work Boxing After Dark, he has created an opening for whoever fills BAD’s lead-analyst slot. As Earnie Shavers once said, “When you marry your mistress, you create a vacancy.”

Meanwhile, HBO has a new set of problems as a result of the resolution of L’Affaire Merchant. An announcing team is a network’s representative to the viewing public and, where boxing is concerned, the only constant the public sees from show to show. HBO is now in a situation where its flagship product (World Championship Boxing) has a schizophrenic identity. Some football teams have a quarterback controversy with two guys switching back and forth. HBO is on the brink of a lead-analyst controversy that will aggravate some viewers and create a certain amount of internal discomfort.

Greenburg’s critics say that his handling of the situation typifies a larger malaise within HBO’s boxing program. Dan Rafael wrote recently that Ross “bungled the entire Larry Merchant affair from Day 1, handling contract negotiations with his irreplaceable star analyst like a rookie instead of a seasoned executive.” One member of HBO’s production crew likens Ross’s championing of Kellerman to Coca Cola’s ill-fated product improvement (“new Coke”) of the 1980s.

And more than a few feathers were ruffled on June 8th when the annual Boxing Writers Association of America awards dinner took place. Showtime CEO Matt Blanc and Ken Hershman (who runs that network’s boxing program) were there to see Steve Albert receive the Sam Taub Award for excellence in broadcast journalism (which was bestowed upon Merchant in 1985). Larry, as noted earlier in this article, was honored on June 8th for his long and meritorious service to boxing. Greenburg chose not to attend the dinner.

Still, as Seth Abraham notes, “One of the marks of good leadership is the ability to recognize that you’ve made a mistake and the willingness to change course. I think it’s to Ross’s credit that he took a step back, re-evaluated the situation, and changed his mind as far as Larry’s future at HBO is concerned.”

That brings us back to Merchant. On June 9th, HBO asked if he would be willing to cover its June 16th Boxing After Dark card at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. Larry agreed and, the following weekend, flew from California to the east coast, did the show, and (on two hours sleep) flew back to California. At age 76. That’s a team player, the guy Greenburg wanted to terminate.

Merchant is satisfied with his new contract. “It worked out as well as I could have hoped for under the circumstances,” he says. “It’s a fair deal. It gives me time to do a few more things, personal and professional, that I want to do and keeps me involved with boxing. I’m satisfied.”

Then Merchant is asked what he thinks will happen with boxing at HBO over the next few years.

“I don’t know,” he answers. “One or two guys can change everything. And those guys can be in the ring or out of it.”

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com
. Read more!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The questions the media won't ask

By Ben Cohen

I was recently watching Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton's campaign managers debate on Chris Matthews 'Hard Ball' on MSNBC, and was struck by the hosts complete lack of journalistic integrity.

Howard Wolfson, the communications director for Senator Clinton‘s campaign and David Axelrod, the chief media strategist for Senator Obama‘s campaign squared off for a somewhat meaningful debate about their candidates stance on foreign policy.

Although Matthews challenged Wolfson on his assertion that Clinton would not grant the Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahjmadinejad an immediate meeting if she were president (because he was a holocaust denier), Matthews could only quote Jack Kennedy when he said 'We should never fear to negotiate'. A nice sounds byte, but hardly a serious question.

Like many in the mainstream news media, he failed miserably to point out the massive inconsistencies in U.S foreign policy, the cherry picking of 'bad guys' that suit U.S strategic needs. Matthews did point out that Nixon negotiated with China, and that Reagan negotiated with the Soviet Union, but didn't ask any serious questions as to what constituted an 'enemy'.

For example, why did Matthews not point out the fact that the U.S negotiates on a regular basis with brutal dictatorships? Why did he not ask what special qualities Chavez, Castro and Ahjmadinejad have as opposed to the Saudi government or Hosni Mubarek of Egypt?

There is a bizarre voluntary vow of silence in the mainstream media that basically states that some questions just cannot be asked.

Orders are taken from the White House when it declares a country an enemy or friend, and no questions are asked as to why. The U.S supported both Iran and Iraq at various points in history, and dumped them when they did not support America's strategic interests. The media, compliant as always, accepted the governments assertions and did not question the support of some of the world's most brutal dictators.

The opposite same has happened recently with Hugo Chavez, the new U.S bogeyman. Matthews and his colleagues have all stepped into line accepting the Bush Administrations new categorization of the Latin leader, and have not thought to point out its massive inconsistencies.

Wolfson also referred to Chavez as a 'dictator' during the show, which is flatly not true. Chavez, like him or not, has been democratically elected three times in Venezuela, a fact that Matthews did not see fit to point out.

In fairness to Matthews, he was one of the only mainstream pundits to openly question the Iraq war during its build up, but he has consistently failed to ask the most basic questions about American foreign policy. It's something the U.S would greatly benefit from, and if Matthews is serious, he might start doing it. Read more!

Good news from Iraq (how often do you get to say that?)

The Iraqis won the Asian soccer title 1-0 over Saudi Arabia this morning! These people deserve something to raise their spirits and it's clear that even with the threat of violence they will not be stopped from celebrating this victory.

From the BBC: Iraq celebrates football victory

Thousands of Iraqis have spilled onto the streets to celebrate their football squad's Asian Cup victory, firing guns into the air despite a government ban.

Iraq beat Saudi Arabia 1-0. Celebratory gunfire was heard in Baghdad, where authorities had banned vehicles and urged fans not to gather.

It was feared crowds could be targets for bombers. Some 50 people died in attacks after last week's semi-final.

Correspondents say Iraq's progress has temporarily united the divided country.

The team includes Sunni and Shia Muslims, as well as Kurds. Thousands of Iraqis, who had been following the match in Indonesia on television, rushed into the streets of the capital and other cities to celebrate.

The crowds in Baghdad included members of the security forces. Guns were fired into the air despite an earlier warning by the authorities that any such displays would be punished.

Meanwhile at the stadium in Jakarta, the BBC's Lucy Williamson says the atmosphere is electric.

She says there is huge sympathy and support here for the Iraqi team, for their difficulties in training and the continuing violence at home.

The team said they wanted to give Iraq something to celebrate as a nation - they have done it and many others in Indonesia are celebrating with them, our correspondent says.

Read the full article

Read more!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The U.S brings liberty to the world...

This is a quick run down of American foreign policy over the last 50 years. Not pleasant.

Read more!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Wind Power the way forward

By Ben Cohen

This is a very informative article about how effective Wind Power can be. It's not flashy or particularly interesting sounding (as opposed to cold fusion, solar power etc), but good old fashioned air could help save the planet.

This article was originally posted on ecofriend.org

Global Wind Power Reduces Emissions by 43 Million Tons
Bharat Bharat,Shimla, INDIA

wind turbinesjpgWind has been our prime refuge, ever since it’s come upon the inhabitants to fight it out for the sake of environment. Wind turbines have been installed worldwide with a motive of finding some respite from the carbon emissions. The plan’s paid off to some extent – according to Worldwatch Institute report, wind turbines installed around the globe in 2006 produced 15,200 megawatts of energy i.e. similar to what 23 average sized US coal fired power plants would, though, with a benefit, compensating for their excessive (43 million tons) carbon dioxide emissions.

The pace with which the global wind power capacity has increased, it is evident that countries around the world are resorting to the same, for cleaner energy – it’s projected to have taken over the global growth of both nuclear and coal combined. Now, the phenomenon of wind power is taking a ply to the Asian States of China and India, from its core in North America and Europe.

With renewable energy becoming the latest priority, and reduction of green house emissions a prime concern worldwide – countries are rapidly joining the fray of wind power energy. With the abovementioned already on route, countries like Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, and Portugal soon expected to gain ground.

Top two coal burning nations – China and US – are on a run to reach the pinnacle of the wind energy, setting example for the others to take heed. Wind energy is, and will play a vital role in doing away with the fossil fuels and green house gas emissions, it’s presumed that wind power could reduce global emissions growth by 20 percent by 2015.

[Image Credit: Skf] Read more!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Honour thy father and mother ye loyal consumers!

By Nick Lang

Imagine a world where no matter how neglectful, strict or abusive they may have been, you are pressured by society to not just ‘honour thy father’, but buy him and your mother cards and shitty trinkets just for making you. Have you got the picture in your mind? Scary isn’t it? Welcome to the world of consumerism at its finest. For anyone who has a ‘bad’ parent, one that has passed away, or even one who they never knew, how fun is it that once a year society rubs it in? In every shop, large and small, as well as every TV and radio transmission, a purchase is demanded.

“What kind of a son are you?”
“Imagine how your poor mother must feel?”
“You can’t even spare a card? You ungrateful little…”

“Uh oh. All of these people are judging me! I’d better buy something quick! Erm. Shit, they’re all rubbish! Wait, what’s this? Wow, jackpot! Yes, I’ll get this well-crafted piece of crap with ‘I wuv my mummy’ written on it. Perfect…”

“Here you go mum, to show how much I love and appreciate you for popping me out years ago, I got you this adorable inexpensive piece of commercial shit for you to place with pride onto you mantelpiece.” Son of the year.

And for those with decent and loving parents, yes it’s nice to show your appreciation, but there are better ways than a cheesy mug and a cringe-worthy card. If you want to show that you appreciate them, take them out for a pint and talk to them like human beings, not like fucking Forever Friends. Read more!

What have we become?

From thinkprogress.org:

Slave labor used to construct U.S. Embassy In Baghdad.

During testimony before the House Oversight Committee today, Rory Mayberry, a former subcontract employee of the firm responsible for the construction of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, said he believes that at least 52 Filipino nationals had been kidnapped to work on the embassy project. He testified:

Mr. Chairman, when the airplane took off and the captain announced that we were heading to Baghdad, all you-know-what broke out on the airplane. The men started shouting, it wasn’t until the security guy working for First Kuwaiti waved an MP5 in the air that the men settled down. They realized that they had no other choice but to go to Baghdad. Let me spell it out clearly: I believe these men were kidnapped by First Kuwaiti to work at the US Embassy… I’ve read the State Department Inspector General’s report on the construction of the embassy. Mr. Chairman, it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on. This is a cover-up and I’m glad that I’ve had the opportunity to set the record straight.

Read more!

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in Afghanistan

By Matt Wells

In Canada, we are fortunate in that we did not involve ourselves in the American-led debacle in Iraq. Lucky for us, the Prime Minister in charge at the time the war was launched had no interest in involving himself in such a foolish enterprise. We did, however, buy into the idea that Afghanistan had to be "liberated", and sent a nominal military force in to help with the NATO mission.

Six years on, Afghanistan is about as much of a mess as Iraq, though the chaos is of a lower intensity. Several dozen of our soldiers have died over the past few years: a large number considering we only have a couple of thousand of troops on the ground. Our current right-wing Conservative government, however, led by our America-loving Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has been trying to use this fruitless war as a means to promote a more hawkish foreign agenda. As such, it has been using some creative means of propaganda to mask the reality of what is going on half a world away.

"Progress" is the watchword whenever Canadians suffer additional casualties in Afghanistan. Political and military leaders rush in front of the cameras to remind us of the "remarkable improvements" being made on the ground thanks to our soldiers. The deaths of our troops are necessary sacrifices to be made in the name of advancing Afghan society, they say.

So how is this society being advanced, exactly? Familiar themes are brought out each time through the news cycle. Infrastructure is being built. Roads where there were no roads before. Schools where there were no schools. Women's rights are another big bragging point. Women can walk through the streets with impunity. They can get educated. They can play sports. This is what Canadians are helping to accomplish.

As for those doing the killing, they're being put to flight. They may swoop into some village and rule the roost for a while, but eventually our brave men and women chase them away, and peace is restored. The heroes defeat the bad guys, and the locals rejoice.

These stories may sound as if they have a Hollywood ring to them. In fact, the themes they incorporate are pulled straight out of the Western genre. In the classic Western movie (and novel, for that matter), a group of baddies besieges the innocent men and women that dwell in some sort of rustic, desolate setting. In the old days, these bad guys were usually Native Americans, but in more sensitive times, the classic "men in black hats" emerged: outlaws, corrupt officials, powerful landowners and the like. Men who hate good, honest folks, and the good, honest lives that they led.

Our Canadian troops, then, play the roles of sheriffs and their posses. They protect law and order against the forces of evil and anarchy on the wild frontier (it doesn't hurt that rural Afghanistan very much resembles the typical Western setting, at least on television.) To suggest that we should pull of out Afghanistan, then, would be tantamount to suggesting that Wyatt Earp and his men should have abandoned Tombstone instead of staying to fight at the O. K. Corral.

Images can be powerful tools of propaganda. This is not to suggest that they images of Afghanistan that are presented to us are completely misleading. But those that defend the mission do so by telling a very specific story. The narrative they present therefore distorts many of the details, and leaves out certain significant plot points.

The biggest lie of the Western genre, of course, is that the settlers of the towns and farmsteads were living in an "untamed" wilderness. The part of the story that is left out is the fact that they were inhabiting land that had already been claimed by an emerging superpower, a superpower that was adamant in extending its control over all the territory between its Atlantic and Pacific borders. The big battles over this territory were fought by the United States military against the Native Americans that resisted them. The so-called "Indian Wars" won the west for America, not the deeds of Wyatt Earp.

Westerns present a romanticized, localized view of western expansion. This is why the themes of the genre are so readily adopted by those defending the Canadian mission in Afhganistan. By presenting our soldiers as modern-day sheriffs, and the Afghan people as honest, innocent folk, they tap into a narrative that most Canadians already know, and that many of them enjoy.

Even those that are aware of the historical inaccuracies of Westerns often still like them for the sheer visceral thrills they can provide. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West are still great movies, even if they don't present authentic depictions of the American West. A story about Canadian troops that uses the same conventions as a good Western can provide the same enjoyment, and therefore present a positive image of our mission.

Obscured in these tales of Canadian daring-do, of course, is the larger picture, as it is with the Western genre. Rather than concealing the heavy hand of a powerful centralized government, however, those that promote our Afghanistan project are attempting to paper over the larger questions related to the country's social, political and economic development.

So far, its prospects are looking bleak. President Hamid Karzai has proven to be largely incapable of convincing the bulk of his people to support him. Local fundamentalist groups still terrorize much of the countryside. Women are harassed as much as they ever have been in many places. Karzai and his officials have been accused both of corruption and of general ineptness. While he was technically elected into office, his rise to power seems to have stemmed largely from his good timing in supporting the American invasion of his country in the fall of 2001.

There remains, moreover, the larger question of what sort of nation Afghanistan is to become. Are we expecting it to become a prosperous ally of Canada, the United States, and the West just because it held elections? The world is riddled with examples of places where people can (or could) vote, but where they remain impoverished and often terrorized. Are we expecting Afghanistan to become an economic power just because we want it to? The West became powerful by a process of wealth accumulation going back centuries, a process in which much of the rest of the world, including Afghanistan, suffered. While other, more prosperous places still struggle to emerge out of this imbalance, it is hard to imagine Afghanistan being able to do so anytime soon.

But the beauty of a compelling narrative is that those issues that could potentially spoil it are easily dismissed. So don't expect to hear much about Afghanistan's macroeconomic problems the next time our mission is discussed by those in charge of it. Rather, expect to hear more of the same about the Clint Eastwood-style heroics of our cowboy soldiers.

Read more!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I don't know who has more contempt...Bush for the Congress or the Senate for Alberto Gonzales

From tpmmuckraker.com:

"As expected the House Judiciary Committee approved citations of contempt against Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten in a vote just a few minutes ago. The vote was along party lines, 22-17. We'll have more from the committee's meeting shortly.

The AP reports, citing "a senior Democratic official," that "a vote by the full House would most likely happen after Congress' August recess."

It about damn time they actually did something. Thank God.... Read more!

Oh dear...Alberto Gonzales goes back before the Senate

by Ari Rutenberg

Where even to begin with the Attorney General. He has been so inept and incompetent that one might think almost nothing he could do would shock the conscience anymore. And yet you would be wrong.

First the latest news from the Associated Press, via thinkprogress.org:

The AP reports that a four-page memo sent by then-National Intelligence Director John Negroponte in May 2006 confirms that a March 2004 White House intelligence briefing for top congressional leaders was on “the Terrorist Surveillance Program.”


The revelation is significant because just yesterday Alberto Gonzales testified that the White house briefing was about “other intelligence activities.”

“The dissent related to other intelligence activities,” Gonzales testified at Tuesday’s hearing. “The dissent was not about the terrorist surveillance program.”

“Not the TSP?” responded Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. “Come on. If you say it’s about other, that implies not. Now say it or not.”

“It was not,” Gonzales answered. “It was about other intelligence activities.”

In response to that and other totally fabricated and mendacious testimony, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary committee said the following (again from thinkprogress.org)

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) warned Gonzales yesterday: “My suggestion to you is you review your testimony to find out if your credibility has been breached to the point of being actionable,” Specter said. Time reports, “The maximum penalty for being caught lying to Congress is five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 per count. Specter wryly noted to reporters during a break that there is a jail in the Capitol complex.” (read the full article)

If Republicans are saying he clearly perjured himself in front of Congress, then these are dire times indeed for General Gonzales. It is shameful that the DoJ has been reduced to such a pale and malicious caricature of its former self. Though I do not want to sanitize the record of the DoJ in terms of its often oppressive and sometimes unlawful conduct, there has been a sense at least since World War II that it should operate independently of the normal political machinations of the government in terms of consistently, fairly, and blindly applying the law to everyone including holding other branches of government and themselves accountable for their misdeeds.
It is very disappointing to see these ideologues throw away such noble sentiment in favor of bold politicization and dogmatic ideological purity among even the professional ranks of the department. And to make the DoJ party to criminal manipulation of the Justice system and the electoral process, as the U.S. Attorney firings blatantly have done, seems to me one of the most dishonorable and contemptible actions a government could perpetrate on a supposedly free people, if indeed it does not rise to the level of unconstitutional activity and possibly outright treason.
It is time for this government to be held accountable for its disgraceful, immoral, and illegal mismanagement of our government. Alberto Gonzales should be tried for perjury and Bush and Cheney should be impeached. There is nor more time for political correctness. There is only, maybe, enough time to stop these men before they permanently damage our government's most basic ability to function. Read more!

The sad state of our nation

by Ari Rutenberg

It pains me to read articles like the one posted below. It is a sad day in America when people who are not technically even in our country are harassed and abused by the TSA and the Border Patrol. If this country wants ot be seen as anything but an imperialist pseudo-fascist state we need to start being welcoming to those who visit us from other nations. It is not new that air travel in this country is a hassle, indeed I have always joked that of all the countries I've been to it's the hardest to get into America. If this nation wants to improve its image among other countries we could start by not making it a frustrating and undignified ordeal to simply pass through, or indeed enter, this country. As is said in the article: people from other parts of the world have been dealing with terrorism for 40 or 50 years and they have not had to resort to such draconian tactics to make themselves fell secure.

From crooksandliars.com:

The travel and tourist industry is one of the United States’ biggest money-makers, generating $103 billion in tax revenue every year. Without this tax revenue, every American household would pay nearly $1,000 more in taxes every a year. But while the travel business is flourishing internationally, tourism to America has been on a steep decline, dropping 36 percent between 1992 and 2005, with a loss of $43 billion in 2005 alone. The nation’s international tourism balance of trade declined more than 70 percent over the past 10 years - from $26.3 billion in 1996 to $7.4 billion in 2005.

People are simply choosing to go elsewhere. But as a follow-on to Logan Murphy’s excellent post on the increasing invasion of privacy by the soon-to-be approved Passenger Name Record for passengers entering international airports, allow me to present a personal view into why tourists are deciding not to spend their money visiting the States.

I moved from Great Britain to New Zealand last week, requiring a flight of 26 hours crammed into a big metal tube with about four hundred other brave souls, the vast majority of us packed into the Economy Class part of a 747, with the usual narrow seats, no leg rests, and poor overheated air ventilation that inevitably leads to sharing every virus on board with everyone else. I dropped at least half my on-board meals down my cleavage trying to eat with elbows pressed together, my ankles swelled to the size (and shape) of a small elephant’s, my calves were a mass of cramps, my eyes throbbed from trying to watch too many movies on a tiny screen eight inches from my nose, my back ached from trying to sleep at twisted, unnatural angles, and my throat tickled with what I knew would end up being a full blown head cold. No, long-haul flights are not fun. People take them because it’s about the only way to get where they really, really want to go. And I really, really wanted to go to New Zealand.

At least there was a chance for a small break once we’d landed in Los Angeles to change flight crews, restock the food galleys and drinks trolleys and refuel the plane, a chance to stretch our legs in the transit lounge and take a breath of fresh air. So you would think…

And you would be so wrong

Read the full article

Read more!

Former Reagan Adviser calls for Impeachment of Cheney

This is an extremely interesting piece written a couple of weeks ago by a former Reagan adviser on why Vice President Dick Cheney should be impeached for his flagrant violations of the constitution.

The author, Bruce Fein was the associate deputy attorney general under former President Ronald Reagan. Mr. Fein was also an adjunct scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, a resident scholar at the Heritage Foundation, a lecturer at the Bookings Institute, and an adjunct professor at George Washington University.

This article was originally published on Slate.com

Impeach Cheney
The vice president has run utterly amok and must be stopped.
By Bruce Fein

Under Dick Cheney, the office of the vice president has been transformed from a tiny acorn into an unprecedented giant oak. In grasping and exercising presidential powers, Cheney has dulled political accountability and concocted theories for evading the law and Constitution that would have embarrassed King George III. The most recent invention we know of is the vice president's insistence that an executive order governing the handling of classified information in the executive branch does not reach his office because he also serves as president of the Senate. In other words, the vice president is a unique legislative-executive creature standing above and beyond the Constitution. The House judiciary committee should commence an impeachment inquiry. As Alexander Hamilton advised in the Federalist Papers, an impeachable offense is a political crime against the nation. Cheney's multiple crimes against the Constitution clearly qualify.

Take the vice president's preposterous theory that his office is outside the executive branch because it also exercises a legislative function. The same can be said of the president, who also exercises a legislative function in signing or vetoing bills passed by Congress. Under Cheney's bizarre reasoning, President Bush is not part of his own administration: The executive branch becomes acephalous. Today Cheney Chief of Staff David Addington refused to renounce that reasoning, instead laughably trying to diminish the importance of the legal question at issue.

The nation's first vice president, John Adams, bemoaned: "My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived; and as I can do neither good nor evil, I must be borne away by others and meet common fate." Vice President John Nance Garner, serving under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, lamented: "The vice presidency isn't worth a pitcher of warm piss." In modern times, vice presidents have generally been confined to attending state funerals or to distributing blankets after earthquakes.

Then President George W. Bush outsourced the lion's share of his presidency to Vice President Cheney, and Mr. Cheney has made the most of it. Since 9/11, he has proclaimed that all checks and balances and individual liberties are subservient to the president's commander in chief powers in confronting international terrorism. Let's review the record of his abuses and excesses:

The vice president asserted presidential power to create military commissions, which combine the functions of judge, jury, and prosecutor in the trial of war crimes. The Supreme Court rebuked Cheney in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. Mr. Cheney claimed authority to detain American citizens as enemy combatants indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay on the president's say-so alone, a frightening power indistinguishable from King Louis XVI's execrated lettres de cachet that occasioned the storming of the Bastille. The Supreme Court repudiated Cheney in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld.

The vice president initiated kidnappings, secret detentions, and torture in Eastern European prisons of suspected international terrorists. This lawlessness has been answered in Germany and Italy with criminal charges against CIA operatives or agents. The legal precedent set by Cheney would justify a decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to kidnap American tourists in Paris and to dispatch them to dungeons in Belarus if they were suspected of Chechen sympathies.

The vice president has maintained that the entire world is a battlefield. Accordingly, he contends that military power may be unleashed to kill or capture any American citizen on American soil if suspected of association or affiliation with al-Qaida. Thus, Mr. Cheney could have ordered the military to kill Jose Padilla with rockets, artillery, or otherwise when he landed at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, because of Padilla's then-suspected ties to international terrorism.

Mr. Cheney has championed a presidential power to torture in contravention of federal statutes and treaties.

He has advocated and authored signing statements that declare the president's intent to disregard provisions of bills he has signed into law that he proclaims are unconstitutional, for example, a requirement to obtain a judicial warrant before opening mail or a prohibition on employing military force to fight narco-terrorists in Colombia. The signing statements are tantamount to absolute line-item vetoes that the Supreme Court invalidated in the 1998 case Clinton v. New York.

The vice president engineered the National Security Agency's warrantless domestic surveillance program targeting American citizens on American soil in contravention of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. He concocted the alarming theory that the president may flout any law that inhibits the collection of foreign intelligence, including prohibitions on breaking and entering homes, torture, or assassinations. As a reflection of his power in this arena, today the Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Cheney's office, as well as the White House, for documents that relate to the warrantless eavesdropping.

The vice president has orchestrated the invocation of executive privilege to conceal from Congress secret spying programs to gather foreign intelligence, and their legal justifications. He has summoned the privilege to refuse to disclose his consulting of business executives in conjunction with his Energy Task Force, and to frustrate the testimonies of Karl Rove and Harriet Miers regarding the firings of U.S. attorneys.

Cheney scorns freedom of speech and of the press. He urges application of the Espionage Act to prosecute journalists who expose national security abuses, for example, secret prisons in Eastern Europe or the NSA's warrantless surveillance program. He retaliated against Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, through Chief of Staff Scooter Libby, for questioning the administration's evidence of weapons of mass destruction as justification for invading Iraq. Mr. Cheney is defending himself from a pending suit brought by Wilson and Plame on the grounds that he is entitled to the absolute immunity of the president established in 1982 by Nixon v. Fitzgerald. (Although this defense contradicts Cheney's claim that he is not part of the executive branch.)

The Constitution does not expressly forbid the president from abandoning his chief powers to the vice president. But President Bush's tacit delegation to Cheney and Cheney's eager acceptance tortures the Constitution's provision for an acting president. The presidency and vice presidency are discrete constitutional offices. The 12th Amendment provides for their separate elections. The sole constitutionally enumerated function of the vice president is to serve as president of the Senate without a vote except to break ties.

In contrast, Article II enumerates the powers and responsibilities of the president, including the obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. A special presidential oath is prescribed. Section 3 of the 25th Amendment provides a method for the president to yield his office to the vice president, when "he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office." There is no other constitutional provision for transferring presidential powers to the vice president.

Yet without making a written transmittal to Congress, President Bush has ceded vast domains of his powers to Vice President Cheney by mutual understanding that circumvents the 25th Amendment. This constitutional provision assures that the public and Congress know who is exercising the powers of the presidency and who should be held responsible for successes or failures. The Bush-Cheney dispensation blurs political accountability by continually hiding the real decision-maker under presidential skirts. The Washington Post has thoroughly documented the vice president's dominance in a four-part series running this week. It is quite a read.

In the end, President Bush regularly is unable to explain or defend the policies of his own administration, and that is because the heavy intellectual labor has been performed in the office of the vice president. Cheney is impeachable for his overweening power and his sneering contempt of the Constitution and the rule of law. Read more!

Michael Moore on Health Care again

By Ben Cohen

Seeing as we've posted every other clip of Michael Moore on the mainstream media, we thought it irresponsible not to continue. Here is Michael Moore on MSNBC talking about the Presidential candidates and their positions on Health care. Not always completely balanced, Moore is still an important figure in American politics and has the power to actually influence people's opinions on a mass level.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Clinton lectures Obama, calling his comments 'irresponsible' and 'naive'

By Ben Cohen

For reasons best known to herself, Hilary Clinton believes that the United States is too morally superior to speak to its enemies. Having lived through 6 years of atrocious U.S diplomacy, one would have thought Clinton would be more amenable to speaking equally with leaders of other countries. But when Barack Obama stated that he would be willing to hold direct talks with the Venezuelan, Cuban, Iranian and North Korean leaders at the latest Democratic debate, Clinton accused Obama of being 'irresponsible' and 'naive'.

Conveniently forgetting U.S relationships with some of the world's worst human rights abusers that her husband maintained throughout his tenure (Saudi Arabia, Columbia, Indonesia, Egypt, Jordan and Israel for example), Clinton said that she would speak to the 'axis of evil' countries only 'through envoys' to avoid being 'used for propaganda purposes' (whatever that means).

It is this imperialist attitude that has lead to America's demise in the eyes of the rest of the world, and Clinton would do well to put a lid on it. Lecturing other countries about morality after voting for the illegal invasion of Iraq is hypocritical beyond belief. Obama has quite rationally proposed another doctrine for American policy, and Clinton's absurd rebuke is further proof that she is just another politician not worthy of serious respect. Read more!

Why we should remain vigilant

By Peter Bauer

I was reading through a personal log that I keep of exceptional blogs and discovered a combination of interesting ideas that have distilled into this piece.

I believe that it is important that we as citizens, remain watchful and vigilant. We are living under an Administration that is openly defying congress, refusing to let former aides testify by claiming executive privilege, refusing to end an illegal war, lying about WMD's, and seizing power in a 5-4 Supreme Court decision in an election that was skeptical at best, and diabolical at worst.

Nothing they have done up to this point leads me to believe that they can be trusted. And yet:

On May 9th, 2007, President Bush signed the National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive. On the face, this plan is intended to provide guidance for State, and private sector organizations in order to,

"Ensure a comprehensive and integrated national continuity program that will enhance the credibility of our national security posture and enable a more rapid and effective response to and recovery from a national emergency"

However, upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that this is directive is about consolidating power to the executive branch in case of a "National Emergency." In such a case, "Continuity requirements shall be incorporated into daily operations of all executive departments and agencies."

Additionally The Secretary of Homeland Security shall "Coordinate the implementation, execution, and assessment of continuity operations and activities." Do we really trust this sort of responsibility to a Department that just raised the terror threat level because its director had a " gut feeling"?

So should we be concerned? Paul Craig Roberts, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration seems to think so. Roberts speculates that,

"With appropriate propaganda, the directive could be triggered by a US nuclear attack on Iran. The use of nuclear weapons arouses the ultimate fear. A US nuclear attack would send Russian and Chinese ICBMs into high alert. False flag operations could be staged in the US. The propagandistic US media would hype such developments to the hilt, portraying danger everywhere. Fear of the regime's new detention centers would silence most voices of protest as the regime declares its "national emergency." Read More

In other news, Brittney Spears slapped her mom, Lindsay Lohan checked into (or out of) rehab, and Paris Hilton did nothing newsworthy, once again. Read more!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Americans send Bush his report card. It's not good.

By Ben Cohen

The six years of war, tax beaks for the rich, no rise in minimum wage, collapsing health care, and crumbling infrastructure has finally taken its toll on the American people. According to The American Research Group, Bush has now hit a record low in approval rating.

Stunningly, only 25% of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing, while 71% disapprove.
Even worse for the Administration is the publics perception of their handling of the economy. A pathetic 23% of Americans think Bush has done a good job handling the economy while 73% disapprove.

Forget the multiple war crimes, torture, wire tapping and firings of federal prosecutors, shouldn't this man be impeached for sheer incompetence? Read more!

The low down on the $100 'One Lap Top Per Child' program

Check out the specifics on the proposed 'One Lap Top Per Child' project. It's makers are aiming to create a basic lap top easily affordable in poorer countries (costing around $100). This could be an interesting way for third world countries to close the information gap between them and the industrialised world.

Internal hardware Computer screenWi-fi antennasComputer softwarePull-string recharger KeyboardPlastic caseVideo cameraData ports

Read more!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Just a little fun...Rudy Giuliani's campign treasurer is a cokehead!

This is really amusing... how the hell do you hire a current coke head to be your campaign treasurer? Well Rudy Giulani did, adding to along line of choice personnel descisions he's made including the nomination of the exceedingly corrupt Bernard Kerik to be the Secretary of DHS. Read on and enjoy.
From Associated Content:
The prestigious Ravenel family of South Carolina faces a public setback today as Thomas Ravenel, the South Carolina State Treasurer, faces charges of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute according to the Associated Press. He was indicted on Tuesday with the charges. Ravenel and his attorney, Joel Collins, had no comment as of press time. Ravenel will face arraignment on July 9 in Columbia's federal court.

Ravenel is accused of purchasing less than 500 grams of cocaine with the intent to share with others back in 2005. The charge levies a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Before Ravenel was elected to office in 2006, suspicion was already in place by state investigators. They did not have enough evidence to charge him at the time. The State Law Enforcement Division had to turn the case over to the Federal Bureau of Investigations in April 2007 because Ravenel held a political position handling state money.

Since the charges were filed, South Carolina governor Mark Sanford has since suspended Thomas Ravenel from his position. Should Ravenel be convicted of the charges, the state lawmakers would decide on a permanent replacement. For now will be replaced in interim with Ken Wingate, a prominent South Carolina attorney and accountant. Mark Sanford was not pleased with the situation and hoped that it was resolved quickly.

Read the full story Read more!

Mike Gravel scolds Democrats for 'Showboating'

From the Huffington Post

Senator Mike Gravel

Open Letter to Harry Reid and Senate Dems: Stop Showboating

I am glad to see that you have finally used the powers of the Senate to try to stop the war, but frankly I agree with the Republicans: this week's Senate sleepover was more theater than substance.

First off, the Reid--Levin bill will not stop the war - it calls for a limited pull out that would leave the rest of our troops even more vulnerable. If we are going to fight to end the war, let's fight for a bill like I proposed which would immediately begin a complete troop withdrawal and make it a felony for George Bush to continue the war. Clinton, Biden, Obama and Dodd say they want to end the war, but so far none have submitted a bill that would really do it.

Second, your decision to accept the result of a single cloture vote lets the Republicans off the hook. One overnight debate didn't give the American public enough time to digest what was going on. They didn't even have time to contact their Senators and tell them to break with George Bush or face their wrath in 2008.

If you really want to shape war policy, you must call up a cloture vote every single day. Of course you wouldn't have the votes at first, but that's why you need to force the Senate to remain in session seven days a week to vote every day on cloture throughout the summer. The same tactic would apply for both the House and Senate to override a veto.

In the meantime the press will report on the daily votes alongside the mounting death toll. The American people will then have time to see which Senators and Congressmen still refuse to take responsibility for ending the carnage. If you keep up the pressure every single day, I guarantee your opponents will wither-on-the-vine and you will get an up-down vote. You've already flipped 4 of the 23 Republicans up for reelection next year. The rest will flip when their constituents weigh-in and threaten their political survival.

By not calling for repeated cloture votes throughout the summer, you let the heat off the Senate Republicans and you undermined your own cause by making the all-nighter look like a publicity stunt- exactly what your critics claim.

Harry, it's time to get serious about forcing a constitutional confrontation with Bush even if it means canceling the Congress' summer recess. Can you do anything less after a number of Senators have publicly ridiculed the Iraqi parliament for not canceling their summer recess. But why should vacations matter when American and Iraqi blood is being needlessly spilled? We Democrats need real leadership right now - not political showboating. Your colleagues in the Congress are not going to like the tough leadership I am suggesting. But believe me if you're successful, and you will be successful, your leadership will make Senate history.

Clearly you are not getting proper council and support from your fellow Senators and my presidential candidate colleagues. They all talk a good game about ending the war but they haven't shown any legislative leadership on the matter. As a former Senator with experience stopping an earlier futile war, I will be happy to meet with you and my candidate colleagues to explain how the Senate can begin the process of ending this war once and for all.

Feel free to call me.

Senator Mike Gravel

Read more!

The Aviation Industry Gets Responsible

From Ecofriend.org

EasyJet EcoJet: An Ecofriendly Aircraft to Reduce CO2 Emissions by 50%

JollyShimla, INDIA

easyjet ecojet

Increasingly the airline companies have become the targets of vicious censure by the ever-growing lobby of environmental activists. Clamor has grown demanding that they accept their responsibility and draw a chart for the plan of action that they wish to adopt.

EasyJet has become the first airline to officially announce its plans to cut on the carbon emissions. Its next generation of aircrafts expects to cut CO2 emissions by about %50. The airline, however, is not expected to reach the skies anytime before 2015.

EasyJet stated that the company was in talks with Boeing, Airbus and Rolls-Royce about the need for a green aircraft. The company showed off the first designs of the aircraft telling how it may look like. According to the designers the EasyJet EcoJet would be 25% quieter and would emit 50% less CO2 and 75% less NOx than today’s newest aircrafts.

The aircraft should reach the skies in another seven years and to match the deadline research by airframe and engine manufacturers is being carried out. The projection for the 50% CO2 reduction is based on the findings from the latest research by the industry leaders and will come from the engines, the lightweight airframe and from the improvements to ATC.

Read more!