Saturday, September 29, 2012
Nuns Nixed over No Voter-ID
With Supreme Court blessings, voter ID laws are taking the nation by storm, or storm troops.
Thursday, 27. September, 2012
by Greg Palast | For The Progressive
This is an excerpt from Greg Palast's brand new book:
Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps.
With a foreword by Robert F Kennedy Jr. and comics by Ted Rall.
Stop me if you heard this one. See, these ten nuns walk into a polling station in Indiana and the guy in charge says, “Whoa, Sisters! What do think you’re doing?”
“Voting,” says Sister Mary.
“Well, not here, ladies; not without your ID!” He demanded their driver’s licenses, but the ten quite elderly Sisters of the Holy Cross, including a 98 year-old, had long ago given up cruising.
“Scram, Sis!” said the man, and kicked their habits right out of the polling station.
I may not have gotten the dialogue exactly right, but I got the gist of it and the facts: the ten nuns who’d been voting at that station for decades were booted out in 2008, just after the state of Indiana’s Republican legislature imposed new voter ID laws.
The reason for nixing the nuns? To stop voter identity theft. There wasn’t exactly a voter identity crime wave. In fact, despite no photo ID requirement, there wasn’t a single known case of false identity voting in the state in over one hundred years.
About four hundred thousand voters (9 percent of Indiana’s electorate) are African American. Nearly one in five (18.1 percent) lack the ID needed to vote, according to Matt Barreto of the University of Washington.
That’s twice the number of whites lacking ID. Therefore, as many as 72,000 black voters will get the boot when they show up to vote this November. Coincidentally, that’s three times Barack Obama’s victory margin in that state in 2008. Coincidentally.
And who are the white folk lacking ID? The elderly, like the sisters, and students like Angela Hiss and Allyson Miller, whose official state IDs don’t list their dorm room addresses and so can’t be used to vote.
Black folk, the elderly, students, poor whites blocked from registering and voting—a federal judge didn’t think it was all that coincidental. Justice Terence Evans could see a pattern: “The Indiana voter photo ID law is a not-too- thinly veiled attempt to discourage election-day turnout by certain folks believed to skew Democratic.”
But Supreme Court Justice is blind. The Indiana law does provide a voter the chance to obtain an ID from government offices. The average voter’s distance to the office is seventeen miles. By definition, the folks that need the ID don’t drive. And the ninety-eight-year-old is pretty darn slow in her walker.
A lawyer for Indiana voters told me that the average bus trip back and forth, requiring two changes, takes an entire work day. They tested it. But Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia ruled that the law was fair and provided “equal protection” to all voters because “seventeen miles is seventeen miles for the rich and the poor.”
Our investigative team decided to check that assump- tion. Justice Scalia drives a black BMW. No kidding. What he meant to say is that whether a poor person or a rich person is driving a BMW, it takes the same time. And whether the BMW is black or white doesn’t matter either.
With Supreme Court blessings, voter ID laws are taking the nation by storm, or storm troops.
Apparently, the idea came to Karl Rove while buying his pampers. He told the Republican National Lawyers Association, “I go the grocery store and I want to cash a check to pay for my groceries, I have to show a little bit of ID. [So, why not when] it comes to the most sacred thing in our democracy?”
(Actually, Karl, you don’t have to show ID to swallow the Eucharist or matzo. But if by “most sacred thing” in our democracy you mean making donations to American Crossroads, you don’t need ID for that anymore either. If you mean voting is sacred, then it shouldn’t be dependent on taking a driving test, should it?
Anyway, I’d love to see Rove actually cashing a check at a grocery store, especially one written by the Ice Man. But I digress.)
Santiago Juarez sees some truth in Rove’s remarks. I met with Santiago in Espanola, New Mexico, where he was running a registration drive among low-riders, the young Mexican Americans who cruise the street in hopping, bopping, neon-lit Chevys. He says, “And who’s going to give these kids a credit card?” Of course, you can always get ID from a state office . . . if you already have ID.
Voting-rights lawyer John Boyd, who works for both parties, is alarmed by the “thousands and thousands” of poor people in each state that will lose their vote because of new ID laws. “I don’t have any doubt this could decide the election,” he told me. “People don’t understand the enormity of this.”
People don’t. But Karl does.
And so does the Brennan Center. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School brings together America’s most prestigious scholars in the field of voting rights who are widely ignored because of their unquestioned expertise. The Brennan Center reports that the ID laws are racist, ageist, classist, and the stupidest way to stop “fraud.”
Here’s the Brennan Center breakdown of those without government photo ID:
6.0 million seniors
5.5 million African Americans
8.1 million Hispanics
4.5 million 18-24 year olds
15 percent voters with household income under $35,000 a year.
Now, don’t add them up because there’s a lot of double-counting here. “Poor,” “black,” and “young” go together like “stop” and “frisk.”
But let’s cut to the chase: the draconian ID law and other voting and registration restrictions passed in just the year before the 2012 election, according to the Brennan Center, are going to cause five million voters to lose their civil rights.
Overwhelmingly, the changes were made in twelve “battleground” states, with the most radical exclusion laws adopted in Florida and Wisconsin. The cheese-chewer state will require government-issued IDs to vote. But the IDs issued by the state itself to University of Wisconsin students won’t be accepted. That’s okay because, as a New Hampshire legislator, hoping to emulate Wisconsin, points out, “Kids, you know, just vote liberal.”
Using a formula provided by the Brennan Center, we can calculate that 97,850 student voters were barred, turned away, blocked, challenged, or given provisional ballots (left uncounted) on recall Election Day in June. No US paper listed Wisconsin as a “swing” state that month. Well, it swung.
Altogether, the 2012 changes in Wisconsin law were sufficient alone to account for the victory of Republican Governor Scott Walker in staving off that recall vote in June 2012. Walker did have the popular support of $31 million (versus $4 million raised by his Democratic opponent).
Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Armed Madhouse and Vultures' Picnic.
Palast has just released his brand new book Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps.
Copyright © 2012 Greg Palast, All rights reserved.
NeoCon Lobbyist - We Need a False Flag to Start War with Iran
"NeoCon At Globalist Think-Tank Says Use False Flag to Start War With Iran"
September 26, 2012
Patrick Clawson, member of the globalist-controlled think-tank and neo-con influenced Washington Institute for Near East Studies (WINES); recently spoke about the use of false flags as a necessary way for instigating a war with Iran. Clawson remarked that Obama has had a difficult time “getting the US into a war with Iran” and advocating the use of conventional means (i.e. using a false flag to provoke a military strike).
Clawson said: “If in fact Iran is not going to compromise, then it would be best if someone else started the war. . . One can combine other means of pressure with sanctions. We could step up the pressure. I mean, look people – Iranian submarines go down all the time. What if one of them did not come back up? Who would know why?”
The WINES was founded by Martin Indyk, an academic and deputy of research for the Zionist lobby the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Through AIPAC, the US government supplies Israel with:
• Defense intelligence and military security
• Technologies that facilitate defense and military equipment
• Science and agricultural products
The WINES attempts to coerce the US Congress into following their “recommendations” with conferences, the Military Fellows Program (which has ties to the Council on Foreign Relations and the RAND Corporation), the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress , and secret meetings; as well as a multitude of publications and research reports. WINES instill Zionist propaganda and demonize Arabs and Muslims. However, they are hand-in-hand with one of the largest Zionist-controlled and pro-Israeli lobby in the US.
The neocon phenomenon consists of Zionists and sympathizers that dictate and coerce US foreign policy to reflect the agendas of the Zionist regime. According to neocon Irving Kristol, founder of the movement and the Commentary Magazine , the neoconservative agenda is explained as: “The historical task and political purpose of neo-conservatism is to convert the Republican Party and American conservatism in general, against their prospective wills, into a new kind of conservative politics suitable to governing a modern democracy.”
Kristol believes that the US can be compared to the Soviet Union in ideology and interests. “The US will then always feel obliged to defend a democratic nation under attack from non-democratic forces, external or internal. That is why we feel it is necessary to defend Israel when its survival is threatened. No complicated geopolitical calculations of national interest are necessary.”
Prominent neocons have purveyed the Zionist agenda such as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Jeanne Kilpatrick, Norman Podheretz, Joshua Goldberg, and many others.
Evidence of the power of WINES was manifest in the bill HR 4133 which allocates US resources to Israel at the expense of the taxpayer. This legislation marks Obama’s unwavering commitment to Israel as a puppet of the global Elite. Israel may siphon money from the Federal Reserve, use the US military at their whim and expect the backing of the US government during provoked attacks of other Middle Eastern sovereign nations.
Mainstream media is following the Zionist script to the letter in regard to the false claims of Iranian endeavors to build nuclear weapons. Now there are reports that Iran is capable of launching a pre-emptive strike should Israel attack, as they are threatening to do.
According to Amir Ali Hajizadeh, brigadier general for the CIA-sponsored Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps states that: “Iran will not start any war but it could launch a pre-emptive attack if it was sure that the enemies are putting the final touches to attack it.”
Hajizadeh explains that the Zionist-controlled Israeli government will not start “a war without America’s support. Therefore, in case of a war, we will get into a war with both of them and we will certainly get into a conflict with American bases.”
Other propaganda purveyed by an anonymous expert claims that Iran “will attack the forces of the US or any country that tries to take out its nuclear program are not mere boasts, experts say, but any such strike could be met with devastating counterattacks.”
The Zionist regime are continuously decrying that Iran has a nuclear weapon. However, this is an old game they are playing and the American public’s memory may be too short to recall how many times this lie has been perpetrated. In the past, there have been several claims by Israeli Prime Minister and globalist puppet Benjamin Netanyahu and other supporters of the lie that Iran was on the precipice of having a nuclear weapon.
In 1992, Netanyahu predicts that Iran was “3 to 5 years” from having a nuclear weapon.
In 1992, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres predicts an Iranian nuclear warhead by 1999 to French TV.
In 1995, New York Times reports US and Israel claim Iran would have the bomb by 2000.
In 1998, speaking before Congress Donald Rumsfeld proclaims Iran could have an intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit the US by 2003.
The reality is that between 1985 and 2002 the Israeli Ministry of Defense used shell corporations to smuggle nuclear triggers from the US. One of the operatives, Richard Kelly Smith, met with Netanyahu who worked for one of the shell corporations called Heli Trading Company and was an integral part of the smuggling ring.
In the 1950’s the US assisted Iranian nuclear endeavors with the aid of Atoms for Peace program that united the US and other European governments to contribute to Iran’s nuclear program until the state-sponsored removal of the Shah of Iran. When the US-friendly Ayatollah Khomeini was installed, he disbanded the nuclear program citing conflictions of nuclear weapons with the Qur’an.
Still, mainstream media continues to sound the alarm that Iran not only has nuclear weapons, but will strike US bases if attacked by Israel. While Iran maintains that their nuclear program is to develop power for their nation, Israeli officials, including Netanyahu say: “Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.”
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad explains that Iran does not take the Zionist regime’s threats of military strike seriously. Ahmadinejad asserts that Iran is quite capable of defending itself against an attack with Israeli armed forces. He also said that Iran views the Zionists at a “dead end” and scrambling to gain ground and maintain power.
The NFL's Union Referees Return to Work in Style
September 27, 2012
The NFL referee lockout is over and we now have an answer to the question, "What does it take to pierce the shame-free cocoon of unreality where NFL owners reside?" All you need, it seems, is condemnation across the political spectrum ranging from the President of the United States to small-town mayors, to even anti-union corporate lickspittles like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. All you need is one of your flagship teams, the Green Bay Packers, publicly threatening to strike or "take a knee on every play." All you need are your star quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees blasting your product. All you need are online petitions with miles of signatures and 70,000 fans calling the league offices in the 24 hours following the debacle of a Monday night game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers. All of this collective scorn finally punctured the owners' magical mental space, bringing them to the negotiating table to settle.
The deal is damn near a slam dunk for the NFL referees. Remember the root of this lockout was two-fold: the league wanted to end the pension system and ban refs from holding jobs outside of the sport. Now the league will continue—and even increase—the pension payouts for the next five years before a negotiated transfer to a 401K. Refs will also be given a 25% hike in pay starting next year, with more salary increases until the end of the seven-year agreement. The NFL owners wanted to hire 21 more officials to phase in as full-time employees. The refs agreed to seven new full time hires, and no restrictions on their own abilities to take outside work. In other words, Roger Goodell and the owners were shellacked by the same people they locked out, dismissed, and disrespected. The now infamous words of NFL VP Ray Anderson, “You’ve never paid for an NFL ticket to watch someone officiate a game", is now the league’s version of “You’re doing a heckuva job Brownie.”
But there is a bigger story here as well: the entire country received a High Def, prime time lesson in the difference between skilled, union labor and a ramshackle operation of unskilled scabs. When Scott Walker is sticking up for the union, you know we've arrived at a teachable moment worth shouting from the hills. People who care about stable jobs with benefits and reversing the tide of inequality in the United States should seize this moment. We should ask not only the Scott Walkers of the world but politicians of both parties drinking from the same neoliberal fever-swamp: why do you think we need skilled union labor on the football field but not in our firehouses, our classrooms, or even our uranium facilities? Similarly players need to be asking questions to the owners: how can you actually posture like you care about our health and safety ever again after subjecting us to this hazardous environment the first three weeks of the season, or as Drew Brees put it on twitter, "Ironic that our league punishes those based on conduct detrimental. Whose CONDUCT is DETRIMENTAL now?"
Lastly, it's another embarrassment after a year of embarrassments, for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. He has through his arrogance created an asterisk on this season, left an indelible mark on his legacy as commissioner, and created a crisis of confidence in his ability to do his job. He learned that people may not pay to watch referees but they do pay to watch a competently officiated contest. He also hopefully learned that if there's one thing people don't pay to watch, it's him: sweating before the cameras and doing his damnedest to make the NFL a reflection of the worst corporate arrogance. Hear the message Roger. This nine billion dollar league? This unprecedented popularity? This limitless national audience? You didn't build that. Your owners didn't build that. The sponsors didn't build that. It was built by the blood, sweat, and tears of those on the field of play including the referees. It was built by fans who invest their passion and the tax payers who have underwritten your archipelago of mega-domes in cities across the country. I can't wait for the union refs to be cheered when they take the field this weekend. We may go back to booing them after the firstplay, but it will be with respect: respect earned because they stood as one and beat the NFL bosses.
“I’ve got to do something that the NFL is not going to do, and I have to apologize to the fans. Our sport is generated, a multi-billion dollar machine, by people who pay good money to come watch us play. And the product on the field is not being complemented by an appropriate set of officials. The games are getting out of control... I just feel bad for the fans. They pay good money to watch this. The game is being tarnished by an NFL that obviously cares more about saving some money than having the integrity of the game diminished.”
Here's my results for week 3
W-L-T record: 5-6
Season record: 13-16
I was going to boycott week 4, but as the NFL got a clue and cut a deal with the real refs, I will continue to bet foolishly. Here's my picks:
San Francisco 49ers (-4) over New York Jets
The 49ers underperformed against the Vikings, but it shouldn't happen two weeks in a row.
San Diego Chargers (-1) over Kansas City Chiefs
The Chargers fell flat against the Falcons last week, but it too shouldn't happen two weeks in a row.
Arizona Cardinals (-5 1/2) over Miami Dolphins
I'm sold on the Cards defense. Despite Reggie Bush, I'm not sold on the Dolphins.
Denver Broncos (-7) over Oakland Raiders
Peyton Manning, despite the Broncos 1-2 start, is playing better in the 4th quarter than his brother Eli.
Cincinnati Bengals (-1 1/2) over Jacksonville Jaguars
The Bengals have looked pretty impressive so far this year.
Philadelphia Eagles (-1) over New York Giants
I'll take Vick and the Eagles to rebound at home.
Dallas Cowboys (-3 1/2) over Chicago Bears
The Cowboys have underperformed the last two weeks, but that should change against the Bears.
All bets are placed at Station Casinos:
To check Las Vegas odds, The Konformist recommends VegasInsider.com:
Sunday, September 23, 2012
The votes are in, and The Konformist readers have spoken. Paul Ryan is your choice for the 2012 Beast of the Year - a choice that is well deserved.
Perhaps the biggest news story of the last year - if not of the last four years - is just how scary crazy the entire GOP has gone in the age of Obama. And no figure has been more important in the Republican Party to the right-wing movement than Paul Ryan, currently their VP nominee in this year's election. His 2012 federal budget plan would abolish korporate income taxes, estate taxes, taxes on capital gains, dividends and interest, and heavily reduce tax rates on the wealthy while ruthlessly cutting social programs, partially privatizing part of Social Security to Wall Street and fully privatizing Medicare. Some would call this "Ayn Rand on Crack" (which may be an unfair smear of Ms. Rand, who was at least a gifted writer) yet all but four Republicans in the the HOR and five in the Senate voting for it.
Runner-Up: Brian Moynihan
In the unlikely event that Ryan can no longer fill his duties as Beast of the Year, Brian Moynihan is ready to take over the crown. Rest assured the BOTY trophy is in good hands either way, as Mr. Moynihan has had great Beastly practice as CEO of Bank of America.
In any case, we salute you, Paul Ryan and Brian Moynihan. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, dudes!!!
Friday, September 21, 2012
Greg Palast's brand new book Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps, is out. To read more about it, go to GregPalast.com, or visit The Konformist Blog at:
To order via Amazon.com:
On Friday, Governor Mitt Romney had breakfast with billionaires.
JOHN PAULSON, Paul Singer and Ken Langone who have dropped more than a million dollars each into the Romney “Super-PAC” Restore Our Future. As Butch said to Sundance, “Who ARE these guys?”
Singer's known as "The Vulture" on Wall Street. Langone's database company came up with the list of innocent Black voters that Katherine Harris wiped off the voter rolls of Florida in 2000. But who is Paulson, a guy so dark and devious he doesn't even have a nick-name?
I tried to join them ("Sorry, sir") just to ask why Romney was chowing down with the nation's most notorious billionaires and ballot bandits.
Here is just a bit about Breakfast Billionaire #3: John Paulson from my new book, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps—An investigation of Karl Rove, the Koch Gang and their Buck-Buddies. There's a comic book inside by Ted Rall with an introduction by Bobby Kennedy Jr. Get it here now.
It was just released today and already hit number one non-fiction PAPERBACK in the USA.
In August 2007, billionaire John Paulson walked into Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, with a billion-dollar idea. Paulson’s brainstorm had all the elements that Goldman found enchanting: a bit of fraud, a bit of flimflam, and lots and lots of the ultimate drug: OPM—Other Peoples’ Money.
Paulson’s scheme was simple. Paulson, a much followed hotshot hedge-fund manager, would announce that he was betting big on the recovery of the U.S. housing market. He was willing to personally insure that billions of dollars of shaky subprime mortgages, like the ones dumped on Detroit, would never go into default.
Now, all Goldman had to do was line up some suckers with more money than sense, some big European banks that handled public pension funds, and get them to put up several billion dollars to join with Paulson to insure these shaky mortgages. Paulson, to lure the “marks” into betting the billions, would pretend to put $200 million into the investment himself.
But, in fact, Paulson would be betting against those very mortgages. Paulson himself was the secret beneficiary of the “insurance” on the mortgages. When the housing market went bust, Paulson collected from the duped banks and they didn't even know it.
And Goldman would get a $15 million fee, or more, for lining up the sheep for the fleecing.
Goldman provided Paulson with a twenty-nineyear old kid, a French neophyte, to play the shill, making presentations to the European buyers with a fancy, 28-page “flip-book” about the wonderful, secure set of home mortgages the “clients” would be buying.
The young punk that Goldman put on the case texted a friend (in French — mais oui! —about the inscrutable “monstruosités”) while he was in the meeting, right as Paulson was laying on the bullshit.
The carefully selected bag of sick mortgages was packaged up into bundles totaling several billion dollars. To paint this turd gold, Paulson and Goldman brought in the well-respected risk-management arm of ACA Capital. Paulson personally met with ACA and gave them jive that he himself was investing in the insurance (as opposed to investing against the insurance).
Secretly, Paulson personally designed the package of mortgages to load it up heavily with losers, concentrating on adjustable rate mortgages, given to those with low credit scores, while culling out high-quality loans given by West Coast banker Wells Fargo. ACA, thinking Paulson was helping them pick the good stuff, put their valuable seal of approval on the mortgage packages, though they were quite nervous about their “reputation.” (But that’s what happens when you go out with bad boys.)
The mortgages in each package were dripping dreck—but with the ACA/Goldman stamp, Moody’s and Standard & Poors gave the insurance policies a AAA rating. European banks that hold government pension investments snapped up the AAA-rated junk.
In August 2008, over one million foreclosures resulted in the Goldman mortgage securities losing 99% of their value. The Royal Bank of Scotland, left holding the bag, wrote a check to Goldman Sachs for just short of one billion ($840,909,090). Goldman did the honorable thing . . . and turned over the money to Paulson (after taking their slice).
Don’t worry about the Royal Bank of Scotland. The British taxpayers and Bank of England covered its loss, taking over the bleeding bank.
And here’s the brilliance of it: when it came out that Goldman and other mortgage-backed securities were simply hot steaming piles of manure, their value plummeted further and the mortgage market, already wounded, now collapsed—and mortgage defaults accelerated nationwide. The result was that as the market plummeted, Paulson’s profits skyrocketed: his hedge fund pulled in $3.5 billion and Paulson put over a billion of it in his own pocket.
With Paulson skinning some of Europe’s leading banks for billions, there was a bit of a diplomatic and legal dustup. The SEC investigated, confirmed in detail Paulson’s scam and sued the kid at Goldman who acted as Paulson’s assistant, the one who couldn’t even follow the complex deal. Goldman paid a fine, but never admitted wrongdoing.
And Paulson received . . . a tax break.
Robert Pratt, a UAW member I met in Detroit, and several million others, lost their homes, including a Saudi prince who, in the recession, had to sell his Vail, Colorado, home ... to Paulson for just $45 million.
But now the bandit billionaire had a bit of problem. With $3.5 billion of ill-gotten lucre in his pocket, he needed something else in his pocket: politicians who would protect the tax dodge and keep the SEC enforcement dogs on a tight leash. Paulson wasn’t alone in profiteering from the savaging of the mortgage market. There was his billionaire buddy Paul Singer, known on Wall Street as “The Vulture.” Together they launched the super-PAC "Restore Our Future" with a check for one million each. They asked Bill Koch to throw in some change. Koch did: $2 million.
To restore the billionaires' future, the super-PAC's first order of business was to ally with Karl Rove. "Turdblossom," as George Bush called his mastermind Rove, had created a massive database on Americans, “DataTrust,” which works with a second massive database, “Themis,” funded by two other Koch Brothers, Charles and David. But that's another story in another chapter, read it, in Billionaires & Ballot Bandits.
Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Armed Madhouse and Vultures' Picnic.
Palast's brand new book Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps, is out on September 18. You can order Billionaires & Ballot Bandits from Barnes & Noble, Amazon or Indie Bound. Author's proceeds from the book go to the not-for-profit Palast Investigative Fund for reporting on voter protection issues.
Or donate and get a signed copy of the book.
Copyright © 2012 Greg Palast, All rights reserved.
September 18th, 2012
Excerpted from Here Comes Trouble: Stories From My Life by Michael Moore
“Don’t just stand there, the niggers are comin’!”
Walter was twelve, and he was only trying to be helpful.
“Whaddaya mean?” I asked while standing in his driveway with my baseball glove and a bat, hoping to get a game going before sundown.
“The niggers in Detroit are rioting! My dad says they’re on their way here right now! We’re headin’ up north!”
And sure enough they were. They were wasting no time hurriedly jamming their station wagon full of food and supplies and shotguns. Walter’s mother, Dorothy, was shouting orders to her six boys about what to load and what to leave behind. I stood there in awe of the precisionlike nature of this operation. It was as if they had run this drill many times before. A few doors down, I noticed another family doing the same thing. I started to get scared.
“Walter, I don’t understand. Why are you guys doing this? Are you going to come back?”
“Don’t know. Just gotta git. Dad says the niggers from Detroit are on their way here and will be here any minute!”
On their way to where? Here? They’re coming to Hill Street?
“Walter, I think Detroit’s a long way away from here.”
“Nope, no, no, it’s not! Dad says they could be here just like that!” Walter snapped his fingers, as if by doing so he could magically make a Negro appear to prove his point to me. “They’re going to get together with the niggers in Flint and then come ’n’ kill us all!”
Although I had never heard anything this fantastical before, I was not unfamiliar with the attitudes in the town of Davison when it came to the issue of the Colored People. Black people—niggers, as many wistfully called them—were simply not welcomed. There was not, to my knowledge, a single black person living among the 5,900 people who inhabited the city of Davison. Considering we were just outside Flint, a city with fifty thousand black people, this was not an accident. Through the years, realtors knew what to do if there were any inquiries from Negroes looking to move out of Flint and into Davison. And the unwritten, though not always unspoken, agreement among the city residents was to never sell your house to a black family. This kept things nice and orderly and white for decades.
This attitude did not exist a century before. In the 1850s and 1860s, Davison was a stop on the Underground Railroad, a series of secret destinations that stretched from the Ohio River Valley north through Indiana and Ohio and into Michigan, all the way to the Canadian border, where escaping black slaves would find their freedom. There were over two hundred secret stops along the Railroad in the state of Michigan. Members of the new Republican Party in Michigan worked extensively on the Underground Railroad, assisting the runaway slaves, giving them safe passage, and hiding them in their homes.
But bounty hunters from the South were allowed by federal law to come into states like Michigan and legally kidnap any slaves they found and bring them back home to their masters. This was one of the many compromises the North had made over the years to keep the slave states happy and in the Union. Thus, a slave was not free by simply escaping to a free state; he or she had to make it all the way to Canada.
So it was with some risk that hundreds of Michiganders set about to protect the victims of this cruel and barbaric system. One such person owned the home on the corner of Main and Third streets in Davison, a mere fifty-nine miles to the Canadian border. It was said in later years that the family in this house had a hiding space in their cellar and that the townspeople kept this secret from the marauding bounty hunters. (This house would eventually become my grandparents’ home.)
It became a sense of pride in Davison that the village was participating in something important, something historic. Many of the boys in the area would soon be off to the Civil War, and when slavery ended, the people of Davison were proud of the small role they played in making this happen.
Such was not the mood on a sweltering August day in the summer of 1924 when twenty thousand people gathered at the Rosemore racetrack in Davison to attend a rally of the Benevolent Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Looking at the photos from that day, with thousands of citizens in white robes, one wonders how hot they must have been, especially with those pointed hoods! Many, though, did not wear the hoods, as there really was no reason to hide their identities because it seemed that everyone and their third cousin was a member of this fine organization dedicated to terrorizing and lynching black people.
But in the summer of 1924, it wasn’t so much the Negroes in Flint (most of whom had learned to know their place and remain quiet) that were the issue. No, the problem confronting the Klan on this Sunday afternoon was the “Papists”—the Catholics. Catholics, it seemed, had starting running for office. They were moving into neighborhoods meant for white Protestants, and this did not seem like the natural order of things. Catholics had also started to intermarry, something that created a deep, sick feeling among the gathered faithful. Marriage, as you were supposed to know, was to be between a Protestant man and a Protestant woman (and, yes, it could be between a Catholic man and a Catholic woman — but not between a Catholic and a Protestant).
My mother’s dad (Grandpa Wall) did not understand such rules (and he was to be forgiven as he was, after all, from Canada). In 1904 he, an Anglican, married my grandmother, a Roman Catholic. For his troubles, the Klan burned a cross on his front yard in Davison.
“It wasn’t much of a cross,” my grandmother would later remark. “You’d think we’d rate more than a four-foot-high cross!”
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Davison and other parts of Michigan were hotbeds of enthusiastic bigotry. From Father Charles Coughlin railing against the Jews each Sunday on his nationwide radio show from Royal Oak, to the Sunday Klan rallies in Davison (and Kearsley Park in Flint), there
was enough to be ashamed of and enough to wonder about how far the state had drifted from the days of the loving humanity of the newborn Republican Party, a party that not only ended slavery but also the death penalty and sought to give women the right to vote. Now what we had were scenes like Henry Ford getting medals from Hitler.
It was the last week of July 1967, and all that was on my mind was that we were soon moving six blocks away to a paved street! But down in Detroit, some sixty miles away, the city was indeed in flames. It had been on the news the night before. From what I could gather the police had tried to arrest every black person at an after-hours club that was holding a party for two returning Vietnam vets. This offended the neighborhood and triggered immediate protests, which then turned to violence. The National Guard was called in and much of southeastern Michigan was convinced that the race riots that broke out in Watts two years prior—and in Newark, just two weeks earlier—were now in full bloom in our state.
What was not understood at the time was that, in fact, this was an uprising of Detroit’s poor — and those poor found the police and the Guard going berserk and gunning down any suspicious person with black skin.
Up in Flint, though, things were different. The year before, the city had elected the country’s first black mayor, Floyd McCree. McCree was a beloved figure in Flint, a city that was still nearly 80 percent white. Flint’s voters would also soon pass the country’s first open housing law, making it illegal to discriminate when renting or selling a home.
Although Flint’s neighborhoods were by and large still segregated, there seemed to be some sort of desire to “fix things” when it came to the issue of race.
Which made Walter’s family and their crazed fleeing seem all the more absurd to me as I stood in their driveway. Flint was not going to explode, and the black people there were not going to kill me. I didn’t even need to check in with a parent to confirm that. Actually, my biggest fear was that my mother might have heard Walter saying “nigger,” a word that was never spoken and specifically forbidden in our household. I would suffer some embarrassment if she yelled out to me to get back in the house, but there was nothing to worry about, as she and my dad were busy planning our move to Main Street.
The station wagon was filled to the brim with provisions and paranoia, and so off they peeled down the street, their tires kicking up the gravel as they fled to safety.
Flint did not riot, but Detroit raged on for a week. Each night on the local news, war scenes from Vietnam were replaced with war scenes from Detroit. It jolted the entire state. Detroit, this beautiful, bountiful city, would never be the same again. In later years it would be hard for anyone to understand what that meant, but those of us who grew up within a stone’s throw saw Detroit as our Emerald City, this place so full of life, its sidewalks packed with people, its stores the envy of the Midwest, its universities and parks and gardens and art museum (with its Diego Rivera mural), the Detroit of Aretha and Iggy and Seger and the MC5, Belle Isle and Boblo, and the twelfth floor of Hudson’s, where the real Santa sat on his throne and promised us a gift-wrapped future of endless possibilities and eternal cheer, on Comet and Cupid and...Donner...and...Blitzen...and...and...and in the blink of an eye, it was gone. All gone. It wasn’t like we didn’t know where it went or that we couldn’t remember why it went. We knew when it went; we knew the exact moment when it went. It went up Woodward and down Twelfth Street, over to Grand River and down past Tiger Stadium and it didn’t stop until it took our last morsel of optimism with it. And then we ran, da-doo-run-run, to get away from them to leave them behind, to let them suffer and wallow in the misery they’d never really climbed out of since we, the Michiganders, led the charge to free them. President Johnson sent the 82nd Airborne Division into Detroit on the fourth day, complete with tanks and machine guns a-blazing, the Vietnam War finally at home. When it was over, forty-three people were dead and two thousand buildings had been blasted apart or burned to the ground, and our spirit was buried deep under the rubble.
It was in this backdrop that my dad took the family to a Tigers ball game in Detroit just a couple weeks later. The tickets had been purchased at the beginning of the summer, and although my mother voiced her concern over the wisdom of such a “trip” to Detroit at this time, I suppose they decided that to throw away tickets they’d paid for was a worse crime, and so off we went.
It was a Thursday night, an unusual time for us to drive to Detroit to see a ball game. My dad preferred to drive there during the daytime; all previous excursions were made to day games on Saturdays or Sundays. But this was a game against the Chicago White Sox, who that year had Tommy John and Hoyt Wilhelm pitching for them, and former Tiger Rocky Colavito in the outfield. My dad thought this would be a good game, as both teams were in a tight pennant race.
It wasn’t. The Tigers lost, 2–1. But it was my first night game, and it may not make me sound like much of a sports guy, but it was truly a magical moment for me to see that historic field bathed in such a bright light, as if it came from the heavens, or at least a nearby Fermi nuclear plant.
When the game was over, there was a tension in the crowd as people exited into the neighborhood that bordered the riot area. It was the March of the Frightened White People, a kind of walk-run people do when they hear the sound of a tornado siren. Walk, don’t run—but run! Run for your life!
We got to our car, a ’67 Chevy Bel Air, which my dad had parked in a paid lot instead of on the usual free side street. Saving money on parking in this post-riot month was not on anyone’s mind. Getting out alive was.
We pulled out of the lot off Cochrane Street and headed down Michigan Avenue until we came to the right turn that would take us onto the Fisher Freeway north. As we approached the expressway ramp, steam began coming out of the hood of our car. Thinking there might be a gas station on the other side of the entrance ramp, my father continued on the overpass and into uncharted territory. It was there that the Chevy simply died. I looked up at the street sign. We were on Twelfth Street, ground zero for the riots. I pointed this out to my dad, and he became agitated in a way I rarely saw.
“Everybody just stay calm,” he said in a voice that was nothing resembling calm. Lock the doors!”
We obeyed immediately, but our father saw the growing terror on our faces, and he took this as a lack of faith in his ability to get us out of this mess.
“Dammit! I don’t know why we came down here! Wasn’t anyone paying attention?!”
That he could be both philosophical about why we were in Detroit and accusatory over an accidental breech in engine fluids was impressive, I thought.
My mother and sisters got very quiet. I was sure I could hear the thumping of our hearts, but the actual thumping was being caused by a black man knocking on our window.
“You need help?” he asked, as panic filled the Chevy’s interior.
My dad answered, “Yes.”
“Well, let’s take a look at what the problem is,” the black man offered.
“Just stay inside,” my dad said. “I’ll handle this.” He did not look like the guy who wanted to handle this.
I looked out the back window to see that the man’s car was parked behind us. And in the car was a woman and two or three kids.
“You at the ball game?” he asked my dad, as they met at the steaming hood.
“We were, too! Came down from Pontiac. Man, that sure was some sorry game!”
The two dads lifted the hood and poked around and soon figured out the problem.
“We got a bum radiator hose,” my dad shouted back to us. The black man went back to his car and opened the trunk.
He brought out a jug of water and gave it to my dad to pour into the radiator.
“This should get you a few blocks to the gas station,” the stranger said. “But I’d go back in the other direction.”
My dad thanked him for his kindness and offered to pay him something, but the man would have none of it.
“Just glad I could help,” the man said. “Hope someone would do that for me if I needed it. You want me to follow you?”
My dad, probably still wondering if we would indeed have stopped for him if he’d been in trouble, said, no, we’ll be fine, we’ll just head back to Michigan Avenue where surely someone would be open.
And someone was. The gas station attendant replaced the radiator hose, filled the radiator up, and we were on our way. “We were lucky,” my dad said somewhere around Clarkston. “That was a good man we ran into. And that was the last night game we’re going to.”
Eight months later, and just six days before the Opening Day of a new Detroit Tigers season (one in which they would go on to win the World Series), Holy Week was approaching. It was Easter time, and this year the nuns thought it would be a good idea for us to see where the original “Last Supper” on Holy Thursday came from.
“The apostles and Jesus were Jews,” Sister Mary Rene told us. “They were not Christian or Catholic. They were Jews and they observed Jewish traditions. And so during this week, Jesus had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, the Jewish feast commemorating the time Jews were told by God to smear lamb’s blood on their doorposts in Egypt. This was done so that when the Angel of Death was making his rounds to kill all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, he’d know where the Jewish houses were so he could skip them. This was God’s way of sending a message to the Pharaoh: let Moses and the Jewish people go or I’ll fuck you up some more.”*
OK, well, whew, that was some story, and as I was the first (and only) son in my family, I found it mildly interesting if not creepy. God, in the Old Testament, seemed to have some sort of chip on his shoulder. He was constantly whacking whole tribes or tossing guys inside whales’ stomachs. Real attitude problem, I used to think. And why wasn’t his Angel of Death smart enough to know which ones were the Egyptian homes and which were the Jewish homes without having to mess up the Jewish front doors with difficult-toremove bloodstains? Couldn’t he just tell them apart from the different styles of architecture each group employed— the Egyptians with their split-level colonials, and the Jews with their fixer-upper slave huts? Plus, wouldn’t that blood on the door make the Jews less safe, especially considering the next morning, all the Egyptians are going to wake up to find they’ve got a dead kid in the house and then they’re like, “Let’s go get the Jews!” But then someone says, “How the hell will we find them?” and then someone else runs in and says, “Hey, they’ve all got blood out on their porches! Just burn down the huts with the lamb’s blood!”
Sister Mary Rene, like Sister Raymond and the other nuns, took great pains to let us know that, contrary to what we may have heard, the Jews did not kill our Lord and Savior. The Romans did. Jesus was Jewish, was born Jewish, and died Jewish and he’d be very upset if he thought we blamed his own people for his demise — which was supposed to happen anyway so that he could rise from the dead and start our religion! Yay!
The nuns contacted one of the three synagogues in Flint and asked if they could bring some seventh and eighth grade students over for a Passover dinner so we could learn the Jewish tradition of this time of year. The rabbi was more than happy to accommodate and we spent a week learning to sing “Hava Nagila” as a sort of thank-you to them.
I didn’t remember much about this event they called a seder, other than someone asked four questions and we couldn’t put the chocolate cake on the dish that had what passed for beef.
It was one week from Holy Thursday, 1968, the Thursday before Palm Sunday, the day that Jesus would enter Jerusalem and prepare for what would be his last Passover on the following Thursday. At St. John’s during Lent there was either a Lenten service or Mass on each weeknight. I was asked to be an altar boy on this particular Thursday. There were gospel readings and Communion and the consecrating of the altar with incense.
I was given the silver censer that held the burning coal onto which you placed the incense and then swung it around the altar and throughout the church. This had all of my favorite activities rolled into one: fire, smoke, and emitting a strange odor.
When Mass was over, one of my duties was to take the censer outside the church and dispose of the smoldering incense and coal onto the ground, putting it out with my foot.
It was a chilly evening on this early April night, and the vestments that I wore over my clothes were not enough to keep out the piercing wind that was blowing up into my black robe and making me want to get back inside as quickly as possible. I emptied the remnants of the incense out onto the still-frozen ground and rubbed them around, pressing hard with the heel of my shoe, until they were extinguished. It was then that a man in the parking lot, a parishioner who had gone out early to his car to warm it up, had heard a news bulletin on the radio as it came on. Excited, he wanted to share it with everyone as they were departing the church. With his car door open, he stood up on the floorboard so all coming out of Mass could hear his joyful announcement:
“King’s been shot! They’ve shot King! Martin Luther King!”
At that moment — in what I will recall for the rest of my life as one of the most depressing things I would ever witness — a cheer went up from the crowd. Not from everyone, not even from most. But from more than a few, a spontaneous joyful noise came out of the mouths that had just held the body of Christ. A whoop and holler and a yell and a cheer. I was still processing the stunning and tragic news about Reverend King I had just heard—heard from a man who said it with such surety that all would be well now, this Negro, this nigger, this terrorist, was somehow no longer going to bother us anymore. Hallelujah.
I jerked my head in the direction of the church door to see who in God’s name was celebrating this moment. Some people had smiles. But most were stunned. Some remained silent, while others rushed to their cars so they could turn on their radios and hear for themselves that this troublemaker was no longer with us. A woman began to cry. People passed the news back inside the church to those who had not yet come out. There was much commotion, and all I could think about was that stupid Angel of Death—and who the hell forgot the lamb’s blood tonight in Memphis? There would be no pass over.
What was special about this night? Every Easter, from then on and for the rest of my life, I would know the bitter answer.
* She did not use the F word. I just thought it would be cool if she did.
(The Paperback Is Out Today!)
Tuesday, September 18th, 2012
Today my publisher is releasing the paperback edition of my book, 'Here Comes Trouble.'
This is my best book. Ever. How do I know that? The New York Times said so! Well, an ad in today's Times said so.
You can get the paperback right now, real cheap, by clicking here:
I get a buck-twenty from every book. If you don't want to click here to buy 'Here Comes Trouble' from the Evil Empire, I certainly don't blame you. Five years from now, there won't be publishing houses – it'll just be Amazon and Apple cutting deals with authors and then selling the books directly to you and your glowing device. Those still left with a decent income will be able to buy a "special classic print edition (cover and binding optional)."
You CAN visit that one local indie bookstore in your town that has survived the scorched-earth rampage of Borders.
Did I mention I really love this book – and that I know you will, too? Have I ever let you down? I'm not gonna start now. Read this book. I'm so convinced you'll love 'Here Comes Trouble' that, if you don't, I will personally come to your home and rotate your tires and clean out your gutters. Honest. I'll even bring the cider.
Thanks for reading and watching all my stuff over the years. I wish I could personally thank each and every one of you. Please know that I feel VERY grateful and lucky and blessed to have you as a friend and a fan.
All my best,
Credit to Kenn Thomas & SteamshovelPress.com for tipping us off on this comic...
Two popular underground musicians (Lex & Cal) modify their electronic instruments and gear, allowing them to recreate any event in history. Through a combination of music, technology, particle theory, altered states, and a bit of the old ultra-violence, they begin to unravel the ugly truths of recorded history – proving that many “conspiracy theories” are fact.
This project aims to make alternative history more accessible through interactive graphic novels, games, and more. The stories cover ongoing research into secret societies, mind control, government cover-ups, and corruption from both past and present, with each adventure reflecting a different conspiracy-theory corresponding to actual research.
When is it acceptable to start celebrating Halloween? According to Dinosaur Dracula, the start of September. The site is the new version of X-Entertainment.com, which also would annually start it's holiday celebrations after Labor Day, following with Thanksgiving Day & Christmas homages on November 1st. In any case, check it out and learn about kool thinks like Candy Corn Oreos & Pumpkin Spice Eggos...
Imagine authentic woodfired pizza from your kettle grill.
The KettlePizza® insert will turn your grill into a real pizza oven!
Works with all kettle grills including Weber® and others.
KettlePizza Ovens & Accessories Are Proudly Made In USA
Vienna Coffee Company
Our goal is to supply the very best, freshest specialty coffees available to coffee lovers throughout east Tennessee and the southeast. We roast our specialty coffee in a rustic 3000 sq. ft. Roastery in beautiful Maryville, Tennessee, in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. Roastmaster John Clark and his staff (see our profiles here) invite you browse this site or visit us at the Roastery to learn why and how our PASSION for Great Coffee was born...
Konformist Book Club: Best of Rivals
Joe Montana, Steve Young, and the Inside Story behind the NFL's Greatest Quarterback Controversy [Hardcover]
Hardcover List Price: $26.00
Price: $17.16 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25.
You Save: $8.84
Kindle Edition $12.99
Publication Date: August 28, 2012
JOE MONTANA AND STEVE YOUNG -- THEY WERE THE BEST... AND BEST OF RIVALS
In this revealing, in-depth look at the NFL's greatest quarterback controversy, Adam Lazarus takes readers into the locker room and inside the huddle to deliver the real story behind the rivalry-- when Joe Montana and Steve Young battled on and off the field and forged one of the finest football dynasties of all time. From 1987 to 1994, the two future Hall of Famers spurred each other on to remarkable heights, including three Super Bowl wins and four MVP awards, and set new standards for quarterback excellence.
The two men couldn't have been more different in background, personality, and playing style, and their competition created as much tension as it did greatness, forcing Montana to prove that he was still the game's best quarterback and Young to prove that he was a worthy successor.
Featuring candid interviews with Montana, Young, Jerry Rice, George Seifert, and many more, Best of Rivals brings to life the story of two sports legends, the golden era of football their rivalry presided over, and the amazing legacy it produced.
Booklist, September 2012
“Lazarus provides solid backstory…Readers might be surprised to see how imperfect these great players (and their hallowed wide receiver Jerry Rice) could be in the heat of competition, but also to see the class with which these preternaturally competitive men handled their situation. Instructive as well as informative.”
From the Back Cover
Advance praise for BEST OF RIVALS
"Lazarus does a very good job explaining the dynamic of the Joe Montana-Steve Young competition of the 49ers heyday. I was particularly interested in this book because of the stiff competition those two provided to my teams."
--Bill Parcells, two-time Super Bowl winning head coach
"A fascinating look at one of the breathtaking one-on-one battles in NFL history. Young? Montana? Adam Lazarus takes two all-time greats and, against all odds, makes you pull
for both of them. Wonderfully done."
--Jeff Pearlman, author of the New York Times bestseller Boys Will Be Boys
"[Best of Rivals] is a must-read for 49ers fans of all ages. You will smile, cringe, and curse, then you will nod at the enduring lesson that, at some point, even the greatest of the greats will be replaced--whether they're ready or not."
--Jim Trotter, senior writer for Sports Illustrated
"Lazarus did an excellent job of showcasing the character of these two Hall of Fame quarterbacks, who had so much in common with their great skills, but were so very, very different in terms of personalities and their approach to the game."
--Joe Starkey, former play-by-play voice of the San Francisco 49ers
"It wasn't just that Joe and Steve won Super Bowls; it was that Joe and Steve were can't-miss theatre. The highs--and more importantly, the lows--of their careers and rivalry are important reading for anybody who loves the 49ers and their rich history."
--Brian Murphy, sports radio host on San Francisco's KNBR
"The ultimate story of pro football's ultimate rivalry, Adam Lazarus pulls us back to a golden era by the Golden Gate when to Niner fans Joe Montana was the nearest thing to a god and Steve Young's only fault was he wasn't Joe Montana."
--Art Spander, Pro Football Hall of Fame writer
"It seems like a fine idea to have two great quarterbacks on your roster, at least until Sunday when only one of them gets to play. Adam Lazarus takes you inside the dynamic but difficult partnership that was the Joe Montana-Steve Young era in San Francisco."
--Ray Didinger, Pro Football Hall of Fame writer
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Press (August 28, 2012)
Underrated Album of the Summer:
Clockwork Angels, by Rush
Still rocking after all these years...
Awesome Quotes: Goodfellas
“Jimmy was the kind of guy that rooted for bad guys in the movies.”
Game of the Month: Borderlands 2
A new era of shoot and loot is about to begin. Play as one of four new vault hunters facing off against a massive new world of creatures, psychos and the evil mastermind, Handsome Jack. Make new friends, arm them with a bazillion weapons and fight alongside them in 4 player co-op or split-screen on a relentless quest for revenge and redemption across the undiscovered and unpredictable living planet.
Borderlands 2 follows the story of four new Vault Hunters as they fight to free Pandora from the clutches of Handsome Jack, the brilliant, charismatic, and utterly despicable CEO of the Hyperion Corporation.
Players will fight across the whole of Pandora to stop Jack from awakening an ancient alien evil known only as "the Warrior." Their quest will bring them into contact with some familiar faces from the old game – most notably, the original four Vault Hunters: Roland, Lilith, Brick and Mordecai. They, along with some brand new characters, will help players defeat Jack, destroy the Warrior, and save Pandora.
Stoner Cooking: Breakfast Burrito
Ellie Krieger, All Rights Reserved
4 servings, serving size 1 burrito
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 small red onion, diced (1 cup)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup drained, rinsed canned black beans, preferably low-sodium
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 eggs and 4 egg whites
1/3 cup (about 1 1/2-ounce) shredded pepper Jack cheese
4 (10-inch) whole-wheat tortillas (burrito-size)
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/4 cup salsa
1 large tomato, (4 ounces) seeded and diced
1 small avocado (4 ounces), cubed
Heat the canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over a medium-high heat. Cook the onions and peppers until onions are softened and peppers are slightly charred, about 8 minutes. Add black beans and red pepper flakes and cook until warmed through, another 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a dish.
Whisk together the eggs and egg whites then stir in the cheese. Spray the skillet with cooking spray, and reheat the skillet over a medium heat. Reduce heat to low and add eggs, scrambling until cooked through, about 3 minutes. Spread each tortilla with 1 tablespoon each sour cream and salsa, then layer with 1/4 of the black bean mixture, 1/4 of the scrambled eggs, some diced tomato and 1/4 of the avocado. Season, to taste, with hot sauce. Roll up burrito-style and serve.
Calories 460; Total Fat 20 g; (Sat Fat 6 g, Mono Fat 4 g, Poly Fat 1 g) ; Protein 23 g; Carb 51 g; Fiber 12 g; Cholesterol 235 mg; Sodium 860 mg
Excellent source of: Protein, Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C,
Good source of: Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin K, Calcium, Iodine, Iron, Potassium, Selenium
Co-founder and co-editor, 'The American Prospect'
Two years ago, the Democrats handed the Republicans their two crown jewels -- Social Security and Medicare. By targeting Medicare for budget "savings" that could be used to finance what the Republicans called Obamacare, the White House gave the GOP ammunition to contend that the Democrats were taking benefits away from seniors.
Expanding health coverage for the young and defense of Medicare for the elderly got depicted as a zero sum game. Republicans made huge gains in 2010 with seniors. Instead of the political winner it should have been, Obamacare became an epithet.
Then, in the aborted grand budget bargain of 2011, Obama was so eager to achieve a compromise on mostly Republican terms that he very nearly agreed to needless cuts in Social Security. Only Republican intransigence on any kind of tax hikes saved the president from himself -- or more precisely from his deficit-hawk advisers.
Now, however, Republicans have given Social Security and Medicare back to the Democrats (where they belong.) Polls show that Medicare is no longer a winner for the Republicans, and the Democrats have embraced the term, "Obamacare" as positive label.
The reason, of course, is Paul Ryan.
Thanks to Ryan's very explicit advocacy of scrapping public Medicare in favor of vouchers, seniors are returning to their natural Democratic home. The transparently bogus effort of the Romney-Ryan ticket to walk back Ryan's voucher proposal -- and alter it into a plan where seniors get to choose traditional public Medicare or vouchers -- only reinforces the voter perception of Romney as someone who keeps changing his story. The euphemism of "premium support" is fooling nobody and adds to the perception of Republican evasiveness.
The latest New York Times-CBS poll shows that some three quarters of likely voters favor keeping Medicare the way it is, and trust Obama more than the Republicans to defend it. This is a huge shift from last year.
Democrats, meanwhile, have acquired some spine. Defense of public Medicare against "vouchercare" has become part of their standard message.
So far, so good.
Also good ammunition against Romney-Ryan was Ryan's support in 2005 for a George W. Bush plan to allow younger workers to divert some of their Social Security taxes into private accounts -- a proposal that proved a political disaster and was subsequently scrapped.
But never underestimate the Democrats' capacity for snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory.
Lurking in the wings is the latest reincarnation of Bowles-Simpson, the bipartisan zombie that refuses to die. A "Fix the Debt" campaign," chaired by none other than Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, has become the darling of the centrist media and of Wall Street.
The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the National Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, several leading Democratic deficit hawks, and some 70 corporate CEOs have pledged to raise $50 to 100 million dollars in corporate money for this latest campaign, which promotes yet another a grand bargain of tax increases and cuts in Social Security and other social spending.
Bowles continues to be touted as Obama's next Treasury Secretary when Tim Geithner finally (mercifully!) calls it a day. Other Democrats who are part of this effort are former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who was chair of the Democratic National Committee in 2000, and former Democratic Congressman Vic Fazio, who once headed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Rounding out this group of Democrats doing Republicans' bidding on fiscal issues are former Georgia Senator Samm Nunn and Wall Streeter and former Obama official Steve Rattner.
Bowles and Simpson were featured on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday where they were described as "widely hailed as serious thought leaders on dealing with the country's economic problems."
Hailed, that is, by the same corporate media. The mainstream media just laps this stuff up, because Simpson, a Republican, is willing to criticize the Romney-Ryan ticket and Bowles, a Wall Street Democrat, is not shy about criticizing Obama. So they must be both courageous and right. As Bowles said on Meet the Press Sunday, "We don't think President Obama has gone far enough in his reduction on entitlement spending."
But Social Security continues to be in surplus, and to lend the rest of the government money. Its projected future deficits did not cause the current economic crisis. Its reduced revenues are the result of the crisis.
Social Security is financed by payroll taxes. If median worker pay rose with productivity, instead of most of the gain in national income going to people like those on the "Fix the Debt Campaign", Social Security would be in surplus indefinitely. Social Security's modest projected shortfall can be erased by raising the ceiling on income subject to payroll tax, not by slashing benefits.
The corporate elite lives in a self-reinforcing bubble, where the deficit is the economy's most dire problem. An important study by political scientists Benjamin Page, Larry Bartels and Nathan Seawright interviewed a sample of very wealthy Americans. Not surprisingly, their views on the importance of budget balance versus job creation and social supports were far to the right of those of most voters. (Fully 87 percent of very wealthy respondents put deficit reduction as the most pressing national issue.)
This is conventional wisdom among the top one percent. Corporate CEOs of the sort who are underwriting this latest Bowles-Simpson assault don't need Social Security for their own retirement and don't mind sacrificing it on the altar of budget balance.
Back in the real world, Social Security is both good policy and good politics. As private pension plans keep being gutted and seniors interest earnings on savings accounts are basically nothing, Social Security is the one government guaranteed portion of retirement income. It is immensely popular, and to the extent Democrats are resolute in its defense, the program's popularity rubs off on them.
But because of pressure from corporate-funded groups like this one, the Obama Administration keeps coming close to buckling on the issue of traditional Democratic defense of Social Security. This will arise again as Congress gets closer to the dread "fiscal cliff," made up of expiration of the Bush tax cuts in January 2013 and the threatened budget sequester (that is the fruit of Republicans holding the government hostage in 2011.)
Given the importance of Social Security to regular Americans and its partisan value to Democrats since Franklin Roosevelt, no sane Democrat should be associated with these efforts. But in an age of Citizens United and unlimited corporate donations, where Obama tacks back and forth between criticizing Wall Street and soliciting Wall Street executives for campaign funds, it is all too tempting to demonstrate fiscal "soundness" by joining this parade.
Thanks to Paul Ryan, however, the president may be spared again. The association of Romney-Ryan with the gutting of Medicare and Social Security offers just too tempting a political target to throw away for the sake of impressing Simpson, Bowles, and their corporate cronies. Or so we must hope.
Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect and a senior fellow at Demos. His latest book is A Presidency in Peril.
Bizarre story behind film that supposedly sparked middle east unrest
Paul Joseph Watson
Thursday, September 13, 2012
An anti-Muslim film that has been blamed for the attacks on U.S. embassies in Egypt, Libya and Yemen is likely a contrived fraud designed to stir up unrest in the Middle East while shielding the true reasons behind the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens.
A trailer for the film, entitled The Innocence of Muslims, has been on You Tube for over two months. Despite the alleged film maker’s claim that the movie was funded by rich Jewish donors to the tune of $5 million dollars, it has all the quality of a low budget film school project. The trailer has now been banned in several middle eastern countries, including Egypt and Afghanistan.
Indeed, the full film itself may not even exist, a doubt that has also been shared about the existence of its shadowy director Sam Bacile, who told the Associated Press this week that he was a 56-year-old “Israeli Jew” who lives in California, despite telling actors on set that he is Egyptian, while others have claimed he is an American.
Bacile claims he made the film to illustrate how “Islam is a cancer, period.”
However, numerous authorities have failed in attempting to locate a ‘Sam Bacile’ residing in California. Bacile is likely a pseudonym for the only real person who has been positively connected with the movie – Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a 55-year-old Coptic Christian living in California who was convicted for federal bank fraud in 2010.
The movie itself – or the 14 minutes of it which have been released – is also highly suspect. Actors involved in filming were told “they were appearing in a film about the life of a generic Egyptian 2,000 years ago.” Following the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, all 80 cast members put out a joint statement stating that they were misled by the producer.
“The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer. We are 100% not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose,” the statement says. “We are shocked by the drastic re-writes of the script and lies that were told to all involved. We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred.”
The film has been purposely dubbed and edited to elicit maximum outrage from Muslims. The Prophet Muhammad is depicted as a pedophile, a homosexual, a religious phony, a philanderer, a womanizer and a bloodthirsty dictator.
During dialogue, the actors words have been crudely dubbed to include references to Muhammad that were not in the original script.
As Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress involved in the movie, told Gawker, “In the script and during the shooting, nothing indicated the controversial nature of the final product. Muhammed wasn’t even called Muhammed; he was “Master George.”
“The words Muhammed were dubbed over in post-production, as were essentially all other offensive references to Islam and Muhammed,” writes Adrian Chen.
For example, at 9:03 in the trailer, the words “Is your Muhammed a child molester?” are heard, yet the actress’ voice has been dubbed as her lips do not form the word “Muhammed”.
As the Christian Science Monitor summarizes, the film looks like, “it could have been ginned up by someone sitting a basement with cheap dubbing software.”
Everything about the movie suggests it was a contrived fraud to artificially manufacture unrest in the middle east at a time where speculation that the U.S. and Israel are about to launch military interventions in Iran and Syria is rife.
The amateurish nature of the film may be a ruse to deflect suspicion away from its true purpose and the real identities of its creators.
“Those sniffing the air properly smell some sort of intelligence/influence operation in the whole situation,” writes Daniel McAdams, comparing the film to Kony 2012. “A purposely bad cover for what happened in Benghazi yesterday? A badly done attempted cover for what happened yesterday? Arabs — even Muslim Brotherhood — looking to score points by blaming “wealthy Jews” for making the film? A power struggle between Islamist factions in Egypt? Israelis attempting to make it look like Arabs made a crudely anti-Semitic cover story for a crude film?”
What’s known for sure is the fact that the establishment media has seized upon the movie as an excuse to explain away the attacks on the embassies in Cairo and Benghazi as just another instance of extremist Muslims getting riled up over nothing in particular.
Subsequent reports confirmed that the attacks were coordinated well in advance of the release of the Arabic version of the trailer this week and had nothing to do with the film, but the media immediately ran with that narrative.
This conveniently disguises the true narrative behind the attacks, which is the fact that the United States and other NATO powers are seeing their chickens come home to roost having armed and empowered Al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic extremists in pursuit of regime change, most notably in Libya where the removal of Gaddafi was achieved via NATO’s support for the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group – which is listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department and was responsible for killing U.S. troops in Iraq.
Given that these same militants are now being used by Gulf states and NATO powers in a bid to topple President Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, their connection to the embassy attacks must be downplayed. This was evident when NATO stooge Ali Aujali, Libya’s Ambassador to Washington, ludicrously claimed that Gaddafi loyalists were responsible for killing Ambassador Stevens.
With embassies in Yemen, Tunisia and other countries now coming under siege, the mass media’s promotion of what would otherwise have been an obscure, ineffectual and downright laughable 14 minute You Tube trailer has now created a crisis that threatens the stability of the entire region.
The bizarre circumstances behind The Innocence of Muslims, its shadowy creators and the deliberate attempt to manipulate the film to offend Muslims clearly suggests that the whole farce was a contrived set-up to inflame tensions in order to justify an acceleration of U.S., Israeli and NATO aggression across the Middle East and North Africa.
Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Prison Planet.com. He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a regular fill-in host for The Alex Jones Show and Infowars Nightly News.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Banned but better: Fly straight golf balls go extra distance
August 21, 2012
Polara's orignal golf balls did the impossible: They always flew straight. And their success was also their downfall: The balls worked too well for duffers with slower swings and better mechanics.
Apparently, no two golfers are bad in quite the same way.
Now the company is back -- and it has a solution.
You see, the original Polara Ultimate Straight golf ball uses a patented dimple design to reduce side spin, which causes hooks and slices. That dramatic anti-slicing effect comes at a price, though: lower lift, which reduces distance.
That’s not an issue for players who would otherwise live in the rough at the sides of the course. But it is for moderate slicers. With those folks in mind, Polara released a second ball this year, the XD. Like the original, it uses specialized dimples to self-correct side spin, but it does so with 25 percent less correction and more lift.
“Critical reception to our original ball last year was phenomenal,” Dave Felker, president of Polara, told FoxNews.com. “But some of our customers didn’t like the compromise in distance,” he adds, noting the Amazon user reviews that say as much.
“So we devised a ball with 50 percent correction instead of the original 75 percent. The result is a ball that gives people as much distance as normal golf balls, while still mitigating slice.”
I had a chance to test the new balls at my local driving range recently, and like the originals FoxNews.com reviewed last year, the new XD worked as advertised, adding about 10 yards more to my shot while keeping a straight line.
The new XD isn’t for everyone though. To understand the difference, consider that fairways range from 90 to 135 feet wide. Assuming a “terrible slicer” to be someone who hits balls 100 feet or more off the centerline, when using the original 75 percent correcting ball, said slicer would only be 25 feet off the line, well within the fairway.
When using the new XD, however, he would still be vulnerable to the rough. Since 50 percent reduction in slice equates to 50 feet off centerline, this would still put him in the thick stuff on narrower fairways (which are 45 feet off centerline).
'Our mission is to make golf more fun, that’s all.'
- Dave Felker, president of Polara
Hence, the XD is best for more moderate slicers – “light hitters or players with better mechanics,” Felker said — whereas the Ultimate Straight remains ideal for players who hit the stuffing out of the ball (i.e. men in general) or anyone with a more forsaken swing.
“If the first wasn’t right for you, this is perfect,” Felker said.
Still answering the critics
Of course, like last year’s original Ultimate Straight, the new XD is banned from USGA tournaments — everything from club championships to The Masters.
After all, the original short-lived Polara ball from the early 80s worked so well in reducing slice that the USGA created the “no asymmetrical balls” rule to ban it. The golfing authority then settled with Polara to have the ball removed from shelves until last year.
As such, golf purists say using a Polara is akin to using a cheater’s ball, steroids, or that sweet no-miss laser putter from Caddyshack II. “Isn’t it just easier to lie about your score,” wrote Real Clear Sports’ Jeff Neuman last year.
No big deal, Felker told FoxNews.com. “I don’t want to see nonconforming stuff made legal. Our mission is to make golf more fun, that’s all.”
To that end, the company plans to release additional performance-enhancing equipment for recreational players within the next six months. Felker won’t say what, but he’s quick to note the release will include more than just new balls.
“If you’re playing in the U.S. Open, these products aren’t for you,” he said. “We’ll continue to build gear that is only limited by the laws of physics, not USGA rules that don’t apply to the 85 percent of players who already play gimme putts, mulligans, illegal drops -- or just want to make their next round of golf as enjoyable as possible.”
Anti-doping authorities don't play fair against athletes
The system is so relentlessly rigged that even Lance Armstrong doesn't see a point in fighting it.
August 26, 2012
With the whole world atwitter over Tour de France champ Lance Armstrong's decision to drop his legal fight against anti-doping allegations, it's the right moment to be appalled at the travesty in sports this case represents.
It's not that the case will be seen as a major victory for sports anti-doping authorities. It's that the anti-doping system claiming its highest-profile quarry ever is the most thoroughly one-sided and dishonest legal regime anywhere in the world this side of Beijing.
It's a system deliberately designed to place almost insurmountable hurdles in the way of athletes defending themselves or appealing adverse findings. Evidence has emerged over the years that laboratories certified by the World Anti-Doping Agency, or WADA, have been incompetent at analyzing athletes' samples or fabricated results when they didn't get the numbers they were hoping to see.
Athletes' defense attorneys harbored some hope that by picking a fight with Lance Armstrong, the anti-doping system might have sowed the seeds for its own reform. Finally, it was thought, here was an athlete with the money and motivation to expose the legal sophistry, the pseudoscience, the sheer sloppiness that underlies sports anti-doping prosecutions all over the world.
Instead, the outcome shows that the system is so relentlessly rigged that even Lance Armstrong doesn't see a point in fighting it.
"We're talking about three, four, five years of litigation," says Mark Levinstein, a veteran sports lawyer and a member of Armstrong's legal team. "Who in his right mind would or could go through that?"
Before we go further, let's address the question most people think is the nub of the matter. Is Lance Armstrong a doper?
Here's the answer: I don't know. You don't know either. More to the point, Travis Tygart, head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, doesn't know. That hasn't kept USADA from declaring Armstrong to be guilty of charges it has not proved in public, or to attempt to strip him of his seven Tour de France titles. (It's not yet clear that USADA has the latter authority.)
And there lies what is, in fact, the nub of the matter. It shouldn't matter if you believe Armstrong doped in winning his titles. You should still be appalled, even frightened, by the character of the prosecution.
In part that's because under the rules written by the anti-doping system, athletes' cases are heard not in a court of law but in arbitration.
Arbitration is a system that more Americans are becoming familiar with, to their misfortune and distaste. It's where banks, brokerages, cellphone companies and other powerful business institutions force their customers to litigate grievances, for the simple reason that arbitration systems favor those who use them the most — banks, brokerages, cellphone companies, etc.
The real secret of why anti-doping agencies have been able to hound athletes out of their sports with impunity is that in this system they're not only the prosecutors but also the judges and juries. They write the arbitration rules, including those governing what evidence is relevant and under what circumstances it can be questioned.
Defending oneself in this system is horrifically expensive. The hiring of lawyers and scientific experts, the cost of visiting labs in foreign lands and attending hearings all over the country can drive a routine defense to six figures.
How many amateur athletes have the resources to do that? So most defendants give in and accept a suspension for a year or more. But countless innocent athletes, or competitors whose violations are clearly the result of an accident or blameless error, carry the stigma of cheater because they couldn't afford a defense.
"You're up against a prosecutor who drafts the rules, and goes back and changes the rules when they go against him," says Michael Straubel, director of the sports law clinic at Valparaiso University Law School and a defense attorney who handed USADA one of its rare defeats in an arbitration case.
The Lance Armstrong case has inspired several such stealth rule changes.
For example, World Anti-Doping Agency rules provide for an eight-year statute of limitations, meaning that anti-doping agencies aren't supposed to use test results older than that to bring charges against an athlete. But Armstrong has pointed out that USADA was basing its case against him on test results as much as 14 years old. Presto: WADA is proposing to update its statute of limitations to 14 years — and it's proposing that the update be retroactive.
Federal Judge Sam Sparks of Austin, Texas, who was asked by Armstrong to block USADA's case against him, found lots not to like about the agency's pursuit of the cyclist. He called USADA's charging document, a letter that listed Armstrong's purported doping violations, "so vague and unhelpful it would not pass muster in any court in the United States." The deficiency, he said, "is of serious constitutional concern."
He questioned whether USADA's real goal in bringing the charges was to combat doping in sports as it claimed, or whether its motivation was "less noble." Armstrong had argued that the case reflected a vendetta against him by anti-doping authorities, possibly conceived after he blew to smithereens leaked accusations against him in 2005, embarrassing a major WADA lab in the process.
Yet despite his concerns, Sparks last week dashed Armstrong's hopes on the same shoal that has wrecked the defenses of other athletes. He ruled that by competing in sports events, Armstrong implicitly agreed to arbitrate any doping charges against him. In other words, the matter was out of the court's hands.
And sure enough, anti-doping prosecutors almost never lose an arbitration. USADA has won all but three cases it has brought to arbitration since 2000. That's a record, it likes to suggest, that points to its unrivaled skill and integrity.
It should be obvious that if USADA's lawyers were that good they wouldn't be wasting their time badgering athletes for taking a Sudafed before competing or not being at home when drug testers arrive to take a random urine sample; they'd be making national news prosecuting Mafia killers or Wall Street bankers. (Test scheduling issues have constituted nearly 95% of USADA's caseload, according to its own figures.)
On the rare occasions when anti-doping prosecutors have to bring their cases before a legitimate court, they almost never win. Roger Clemens: two trials, zero convictions. Barry Bonds: four charges, one conviction (for obstruction of justice). After spending months pondering whether to bring Armstrong to trial for doping misdeeds, federal prosecutors abandoned the case in February.
You may choose to believe that Clemens, Bonds and Armstrong are guilty based on the size of their craniums or their superhuman physical achievements. But on the rare occasions when the facts have been tested in a courtroom subject to the rules of due process and evidentiary standards afforded ordinary Americans, they haven't measured up.
The biggest problem with the sports anti-doping system is that it's driven by anti-drug hysteria, not by reasoned judgments about what we expect from our athletes and what technological assistance should be permitted.
The same people lining up to brand Lance Armstrong a cheater will worship a pitcher who undergoes Tommy John transplant surgery to save his career. The Oakland A's Bartolo Colon will be missing 50 games for taking testosterone, but what about the batters he's faced who have had their eyeballs surgically refabricated with Lasik so they can read his pitches better?
Is the rule that it's OK to enhance your performance by scalpel but not by hypodermic needle? Then let's discuss that and establish exactly what the grounds are for the distinction. Until we clear that up, along with why caffeine isn't on the banned list but marijuana is, athletes will try anything they can to beat their records, thrill the masses and make money. And why not?
It's all well and good to say the goal of the anti-doping system is to ensure that sports stay clean, and it's certainly true that clean athletes have every reason to resent having to compete against cheaters.
But we've created a strange way to uphold these principles — a system that writes its own rule book, moves the goal posts at will, lies and fabricates to get the score it wants and fiercely resists playing before an objective umpire. Whatever you choose to think of Lance Armstrong, his case is just one more indication that the supposed guardians of honesty and integrity in sports are among the filthiest players of all.
Michael Hiltzik's column appears Sundays and Wednesdays. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, read past columns at latimes.com/hiltzik, check out facebook.com/hiltzik and follow @latimeshiltzik on Twitter.