Archive for April, 2006

Entry for April 30, 2006

April 30, 2006

When you search for an image of the band for the contra dance in Floyd last night, The Red hot Chili Pickers, this is what you get…Paul Rosen called.

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Oh those Wacky C-PACs (04/28/06)

April 28, 2006

The above is the cover art for the Billy Joel boxed set,  My Lives.   In the last entry, I mentioned Tom Frith talking about the estate tax at CPAC (the Conservative Political Action Conference), which  is a project of the American Conservative Union

 Its 2006 sponsors look like a directory  to the right.  Maybe Bill Joel could use this list for a new song, a la “We Didn’t Start the Fire.

60 Plus
Accuracy in Media, Inc.
Affinity 4
American Conservative Union
American Family Business Institute
American Security Council
American Spectator
Americans for Dr. Rice
Americans for Limited Government
Americans for Prosperity Foundation
Americans for Sovereignty (Jeff Gaynor’s group who calls “for U.S. to get out of the U.N. and to force the U.N. to get out of the U.S.”)
Americans for Tax Reform
Americans for Technology Leadership
Association of American Physicians & Surgeons (demanded an autopsy for Terry Schiavo and lobby against single payer insurance)
BMW Direct, Inc.
Bruce W. Eberle & Associates, Inc.
Capital Research Center
CapitolWatch
Christian Voice 
Citizens Against Government Waste
Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms
Citizens United
Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute
Club for Growth
College Republican National Committee
ConservativesforPeace.com
Consumer Electronics Corporation
Crown Forum
DCI Group, LLC
Defender’s of Property Rights
Dezenhall Resources
Direct Communications Group
Direct Communications Inc.
Drug Policy Alliance
Eagle Forum
European Conservative Union
Fabrizio McLaughlin
FairTax.org
Family Research Council
Free Enterprise Action Fund
Free Enterprise Fund
Freedom Alliance
FreedomWorks
Frontiers of Freedom
GOPUSA
Graf for Congress
Heritage Foundation, The
HSP Direct
Human Events
Independent Women’s Forum
Institute for Policy Innovation
Intercollegiate Studies Institute
Islamic Free Market Institute
Jake McGuire
Jesse Helms Center, The
John M. Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs
John William Pope Foundation, The
Judge Janice Law
Judicial Watch
Leadership Institute
Let Freedom Ring
Marijuana Policy Project
Media Research Center
MikeHovell.com
Muslim Public Affairs Council
MyWireless.org
National Black Republican Association
National Center for Public Policy Research, The
National Legal and Policy Center
National Restaurant Association
National Rifle Association
National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation
National Tax Limitation Committee
National Taxpayers Union
National Vietnam Veterans Foundation, Inc.
Nelson Current (Thomas Nelson Publishers)
New York State Conservative Party
Objectivist Center & Atlas Society, The
O’Leary Report
Radio America
Recording Industry Association of America
Republican National Hispanic Assembly
Restoretrust.us
RightMarch.com
Shirley & Banister Public Affairs
Students for Academic Freedom
Students for Saving Social Security
Tax Foundation
TCSDaily.com
Townhall.com
Tradition, Family, Property, Inc.
TV Watch
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
United for Jobs
United States Justice Foundation
UST  Public Affairs, Inc.  (lobbying arm of holding company to  manufacture and market moist smokeless tobacco products and premium wines)
Vision America
Visteva
Washington Times Weekly
Young America’s Foundation

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In case you’re wondering, here are the Republican top ten , as  identified by the House Republican Study Committee’s  Chairman Mike Pense (R-IN) on February 28:

1. Make the Bush tax cuts of 2003 permanent.
2. Pass significant reforms to the budget process.
3. Pass another deficit reduction bill.
4. Pass ethics reform that requires transparency and earmark reform.
5. Pass the Marriage Protection Amendment.
6. Pass a Balanced Budget Amendment.
7. Offset all emergency supplemental spending with spending reductions.
8. Pass the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act to defend the sanctity of human life.
9. Pass legislation to provide protections for religious freedom.
10. Pass legislation providing for personal Social Security accounts.

Not as funny as Dave Letterman’s top ten list. Sigh. 

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Speaking of Letterman, tangentially, got the illustration for the last post  by way of the blog of Jack Bogdanski, who teaches tax law at Lewis & Clark, where Bill Stafford used to teach writing and Kim Stafford, his son still does.  Since 1999, 

 Jack was a director until 1999 of the Public Interest Law Project which encourages law graduates to pursue public interest careers and raises funds for the Summer Stipend Program,

which provides stipends for law students to take jobs with organizations dedicated to protecting the environment, constitutional rights, Native American rights, juvenile rights, victims of domestic violence, and other worthy causes.

Jack’s biggest thrill of late (pun intended?), was being the writer of  “Letter No 1. ” on the November 16 2001 Late Show.

The Estate Tax (04/28/2006)

April 28, 2006

The illustration, “Birth Tax”, is by graphic designer Jordan Romney (email), which he posted to his blog, TheFreeSpeechZone.net back in February 4, 2005 when he was thinking about Bush’s Social Security privatization schemes. “Birth Tax,” of course is a spoof on the term “Death Tax,” the right’s term for the estate tax. Another spoof is the “Parris Hilton Benefit Act,” “”coined by Michael J. Graetz and Ian Shapiro, authors Death by a Thousand Cuts. On July 25, the Las Vegas Review Journal editorizized in “Death Tax Back on the Table,”

It’s right there in Chapter II of The Communist Manifesto, right between the abolition of all private property and the confiscation of all property belonging to emigrants and rebels: The “abolition of all right to inheritance.”

The economic notions put forth by Marx have been discredited pretty much everywhere outside Pyongyang, Havana and American academia. But a number of Senate Democrats also cling to Marx’s inheritance tenet — which is why the United States still has a death tax.

H.R. 8, the Death Tax Elimination Act of 2000 passed the House and Senate, but was vetoed by Clinton and the House did not have the 2/3 margin needed to override. The proposed Act for 2001 was dovetailed into the budget bill, The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, the budget bill by amendmet 24.

on June 7 of that year. Public Law 107-16 provided for a scheduled phase-out of rates and an increase in the unified credit, until there was absolutely no tax liability on estates in the calendar year 2010.

The current law only taxes the assets of fewer than 2 percent of Americans at the time of their death. The only way to pass the measure was to promise a sunset of the law in 2011. While the purpose of sunset clauses is to revisit measures, opponents of the estate tax like to pretend that at that time, there will be no further modifications and 1997 law with a top rate of 55 percent and a unified credit of $1 million will go back into effect.

Five days after passage of the 2001 measure, there was already a resolution to make the repeal permanent. The Permanent Death Tax Repeal Act of 2002, passed the House by a vote of 256 to 171. It stalled in the Senate. H.R. 8, the Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act of 2003, passed 264 – 163 in June and likewise stalled in the Senate.

The Death Tax Repeal Permanancy Act of 2005 (H.R. 8) passed the House by a vote of 272-162 on April 13, 2005. Only one Republican voted against it. 42 Democrats voted for it. Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN) spoke against the bill:

This legislation is further evidence of Republican’s chronic addiction to digging deeper into debt. At a time when we face a deficit of over $400 billion, Republicans today chose to pass a bill that will cost Americans another $290 billion—with the cost growing to nearly a trillion dollars after 10 years.

Representative Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) proposed an amendment in the nature of a substitute to immediately eliminate the estate tax for most estates; to increase the estate tax exclusion to $3 million, effective January 1, 2004. The measure failed this time with only 9 Democrats voting against it. As the Washington Post editorialized on April 12 in “The Rich Get Richer,”

The estate tax is a tough vote for some lawmakers in part because of the enormous amount of misinformation surrounding it. House members who fear that a vote for the more responsible Pomeroy alternative will be used against them should ask themselves two questions: Will my constituents really punish me for a vote to exempt 99.7 percent of estates from taxation? And how can I justify adding to the deficit, or cutting other programs, to underwrite a costly tax break for the extremely rich?

In the Senate, the measure was immediately scheduled for the calendar. On July 29, Senate Republicans moved to vote to cut off debate after the recess, hoping by then Senator Kyl, sponsor the companion bill, S.420, could reach a compromise with Democrats. Kyl was offering an $8 million dollar exclusion with a minimal 15% tax rate on the remainder. Frist withdrew the motion on September 6 in order to clear the caldendar due to Hurrican Katrina.

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In an editorial on May 24, 2005, the Review Journal had editorialized in “Kill the Deasth Tax,”

The very rich aren’t campaigning against the death tax, because they don’t pay it.

that just wasn’t true, at least, according to “Spending Millions to Save Billions: The Campaign of the Super Wealthy to Kill the Estate Tax, “ released April 25, 2006 by Public Citizen and United for a Fair Economy.

According to that report, 18 families worth a total of $185.5 billion have financed and coordinated a 10-year effort to repeal the estate tax, a move that would collectively net them a windfall of $71.6 billion. These families operate businesses such as Wal-Mart, Gallo wine, Campbell’s soup, and Mars Inc., maker of M&Ms. These families work to end the estate tax through a coalition of business and trade associations they have organized as well as though their company-hired lobbyists on the estate tax and they

provided funding to at least four outside groups – the Policy and Taxation Group, the American Family Business Institute, the Club for Growth, and Citizens for a Sound Economy (now FreedomWorks) – that have either lobbied on the estate tax, run anti-estate tax advertisements, or both.

A fifth group, the Free Enterprise Fund, was founded by the former president of the Club for Growth and partnered with the American Family Business Institute on a $7 million ad campaign in 2005.

These groups have launched multimillion-dollar attack ads against Republican and Democratic senators alike, including former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Olympia Snow (R-Maine), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Lincoln Chaffee (R-R.I.) and Kent Conrad (D-ND).

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Bill Gates, Sr., contributed an audio statement to a press conferenc
e in Washington announcing the report’s release. United for A Fair Economy provided a transcript.

The estate tax should be regarded as just paying back to country what’s all the wonderful things it’s made possible for the people who have that wealth. And the notion, some how the notion of people with really large estates tens, even hundreds of millions of dollars being dissatisfied with being able to pass only 30 or 40 percent of it along to their heirs is kind of appalling to me, frankly.

I don’t think there’s any great societal goal being served by inherited wealth. And certainly there’s no sensible argument that I can think of for insisting on being able to pass the last penny of $100 million on to your three kids.

Elizabeth Letzler, an investment manager from New York who will be subject to the estate tax spoke at the press conference.

The current estate tax structure should permit any wealthy household to pass on a legacy of financial security, education and family heirlooms to the next generations….Do something spectacular during your life-time investing in the social welfare and well-being of the children and grandchildren at the bottom of the pyramid.

Her daughter Stephanie added

If keeping the estate tax means a step closer to a debt-free treasury, a step closer to improved health care, Social Security, education, and every other program that makes me proud to be an American, show me where to sign the check.

Actor Paul Newman, founder of Newman’s Own food company, made this statement:

For those of us lucky enough to be born in this country and to have flourished here, the estate tax is a reasonable and appropriate way to return something to the common good. I’m proud to be among those supporting preservation of this tax, which is one of the fairest taxes we have.

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The Washington Post’s Bob Thompson had published an extensive article April 13, 2003, “Sharing the Wealth? The battle over the ‘death tax’ pits some of the nation’s wealthiest people against . . . some of the nation’s wealthiest people. But the stakes are high for the rest of us, too.” Bill Gates, Sr. was fighting the repeal even back then.

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The Allyn-Soderberg, Dorrance, Gallo, Koch, Mars, Mayer (Captiva Resources, Inc. petroleum producer of Denver) and Sobrato families have donated an undisclosed amount to the Policy and Taxation Group, which operates out of offices at 3941 South Bristol St., #46, Costa Mesa, CA 92704. It reports $4.1 million in expenditures, solely on the estate tax, since 1998.

The group’s contact is Patricia Soldano of Cymric Family Office Services which offers families with over $25 million in assets

customized services… including asset allocation analysis; investment management cash flow and financial management(including bill paying, tax planning and preparation), estate planning; trust administration; insurance placement and management; business management; succession planning; family meeting organization and facilitation; and foundation and charitable giving management.

The group’s valentine is Senator Bill Frist and quotes his comments at CPAC on February 14,

But let me make it clear, the days of the death tax are numbered! This May I’ll bring it to the Senate floor for a vote. I will do everything in my power to bury the death tax once and for all!

These are the Republicans who oppose Frist. Write them and say way to go!

*Voinovich (OH).
*Chafee (RI)
*DeWine (OH)
* McCain (AZ)
*Snowe (ME)

These are the Democrats being targeted. Write them and say hang tough!

Democrats
Bayh (IN)– has voted for repeal in the past.
Wyden (OR)– has voted for repeal in the past.
Baucus (MT)– has voted for repeal in the past.
Landrieu (LA)– has voted for repeal, but Katrina has changed her mind.
Cantwell (WA)– has not voted for repeal.
6)Murray (WA)– has said that she might vote for a compromise.

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According to the report, the Raymond and Marguerite Harbert of Birmingham, AL, have contributed more than $500,000 to The American Family Business Institute, which reported $1.5 million in expenditures, solely on the estate tax, since 1998. The group sponsored or cosponsored at least three ad campaigns, including a $7 million campaign in summer 2005. It has set up a toll-free number to call your Senator, but you have to give them your name and address. Why not use the Capitol’s toll-free number–1-888-355-3588–instead?

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The Koch family foundation has donated over $12 million to Freedom Works, formerly Citizens for a Sound Economy, which has reported lobbying for five years on repeal of the estate tax since 1998.

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The Stephens family is a big contributor to The Club for Growth claims over 30,000 members. Wonder how many are just looking to snoop on the activities in their members only section?

Entry for April 27, 2006

April 27, 2006

My favorite paper on the Sago mining disaster, Charleston’s Gazette has posted on its website an archive of testimony in the MSHA investigation.  Most interesting to read is that of Sam Kitts, younger brother of Gene Kitts. ICG recruited  Sam, who had been Vice President of Alpha Natural Resources Services Company, to be Vice President of Senior Vice President—West Virginia & Maryland Operations, according to the April 20, 2005 issue   Kentucky Coal Association News  (see page 4).

In the interview, which took place from 8:46 a.m. to 10:12 a.m., Kitts said of his tenure with ICG,

In those 11 months prior to — well, prior to January 2nd, I was  probably at the Sago Mine maybe three times. (page 8).

ICG’s Attorney Rajkovich would not let Kitts speak as to the reasons for the explosion or the failure of the seals, nor as to who was conducting ICG’s investigation.

… if those facts are something that’s held by the company. That’s best directed to the company. (page 26)

Nor would the attorney allow questions regarding who would speak for the company or who prepared the ICG newsrelease which stated that the company had found the cause to be lightening.  Cecil Roberts, International President of the United Mine Workers has criticized that report, saying.

Entry for April 26, 2006

April 26, 2006

This afternoon for a few minutes I tuned into C-SPAN to watch the House’s Permanent Slect Committee on Intelligence consider H.R.  5020, the fiscal year 2007 appropriation for  intelligence and intelligence-related activities. 

 Unfortunately the House Rules Committee  on the motion of Representative Adam Putnam e (R-FL) adopted House Resolution 774 without intervening motions.  The Committee had called for copies of proposed amendments to be submitted to them in a letter sent on April 20.

The ranking member, Jane Harman (D-CA) sent a letter yesterday to colleagues outlining her problems with the bill. (I will insert information later, as the adobe at the community college where I am writing this is read only.) 

On C-SPAN, Harman was talking about the problems in the House’s complaints about journalists who published leaks, stating that she did not think that they were motivated by money and notoriety.  The Republicans were talking about the book contract and Pulitzer for the NSA unauthorized domestic spying without a warrant by New York Times reporters  Lichtblau and  Risen, as well as the Pulitzer won by Washington Post reporter Priest on the CIA-operated secret prisons overseas.

Meanwhile, my remaining favorite journalist at the Village Voice published a column April 23, “Learning Why We’re Americans: Schools fail the future when they don’t teach individual liberties in the Constitution.” 

In a war against terrorism with no discernable end, precedents by this president can be harder to dislodge by his successors than at any time in our history. Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe charts the grim future:

“The more people grow accustomed to a listening environment in which the ear of Big Brother is assumed to be behind every wall, behind every e-mail, and invisibly present in every electronic communication, telephonic or otherwise, the Constitution will be mummified.”

Oh that Tribe were on the Supreme Court instead of Alito, but then we’ve known that wouldn’t be the case when Bush “took” office after the 2000 election.

Amy Goodman of  Democracy Now aired today  Hentoff yesterday as he spoke at NYU’s conference on presidential p0wers, as her program looked at the  government’s clamp down the public’s access to secret information. 

This espionage case, which has been not reported sufficiently in the media, United States of America v. Franklin, Rosen and Weissman, is the first in which the federal government is charging violations of the Espionage Act by American citizens who are not government officials for being involved in what until now have been regarded as First Amendment protected activities engaged in by hundreds of journalists, not everyday, but quite often. Stephen Rosen and Keith Weissman, former officials of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee – they have since been fired – are accused of receiving classified information from a Defense Department analyst, Lawrence Franklin, about American Middle East and terrorism strategy. Rosen and Weissman are charged with providing that classification information to an Israeli diplomat and a journalist.

….This censorship of the press was cut out… of the Espionage Act of 1917. Now, if the Supreme Court agrees with the Bush administration and Judge Ellis in March, maybe not now, we will, as Steven Aftergood says, “We will have to build many more jails and disarm the First Amendment.”

Meanwhile, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has sent out an alert to prevent Congress from strangling the internet.  To view two campaigns, go to Free Press.net and SaveAccess.org.

 NOTE: Steve Aftergood emailed me April 27 that he has an entry on the Congressional actions on HR 5020 at Secrecy News also posted on April 27.

Entry for April 25, 2006

April 25, 2006

Peace Takes Courage features the animation of a 15-year old peace activist, Ava Lowery, who lives in Alabama. She has entered the animation contest at Huffington Post and asks your help in getting her message out.

I first learned of her when I read Matt Rothschild’s essay yesterday at The Progressive, “Animation Creator Gets Ugly Slurs.” Avery

submitted one of her latest creations, “WWJD,” to the monthly “contagious” contest that huffingtonpost.com is running. (It’s an open contest that ranks the number of viewers for each submission.)

“WWJD” (“What Would Jesus Do”) is a powerful animation that features a soundtrack of a child singing “Jesus loves me, this I know” while one picture after another of a wounded, bloody, or screaming Iraqi child fills the screen.

“The object of the animation,” says Lowery, is “to get the following point across: Jesus loves Iraqis, too.”

Lowery ends the video with quotations from Beatitudes, including, “Blessed are they who mourn” and “Blessed are the meek” and “Blessed are the merciful” and “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

She says she’s received a lot of positive feedback in short messages back to her site. And she understands that the fact that “people are on the web, and they just let loose.” But she was unprepared for the viciousness of the negative feedback—especially the ugly sexual slurs similar to those that Cindy Sheehan has faced.

Apparently the rabid right believes “No Child Left Behind” applies not to education, but to hateful speech. I’ll not repeat the slurs here. Matt has included them in his story. Suffice it to say they’re really ugly.

Thank you for Smoking (04/24/06)

April 25, 2006

Joined Rita and Jeff Krasnow and David Nova to see Jason Reitman’s  new film, Thank You For Smoking, based on Christopher Buckley’s novel.

Entry for April 23, 2006

April 23, 2006

The above illustration comes from University of Arizona.  Dr.  Guoqiang Li and Dr. Nasser Peyghambarian of The College of Optical Sciences have invented switchable focus optical lenses, just reported in the April 18 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  

The lenses will be manufactured right her in Roanoke, Virginia by Pixel Optics which bought the patent from Johnson and Johnson,  original funder pf the research.  Senior management includes optometrist Ronald Blum, originally with Blum, Newman and Blackstock (now just Newman-Blackstock in Radford and Lexington.  Another senior manager at Pixel Optics  is Dwight Duston, Ph.D., former head of R&D for the U.S Strategic Defense Initiative, i.e. “Star Wars.”  

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Blum founded Innotech in 1990, took it public on the NASDAQ in 1996 and sold it to Johnson and Johnson in 1997 for $115 million.  There he led the team within J&J known, first known as the Innotech Division and later  as the Spectacle Lens Group, which invented the Definity Lens acquired by Essilor, which proceeded to close the Roanoke plant.

Earlier,  nine eye care ompanies had sued Johnson and Johnson, according to a September 12 story by Roanoke Times reporter Tad Dickens.  alleging Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc. had abandoned its commitment to the Excalibur System a lens-making technology, first manufactured in 1993 by Innotech.  Since the early 1990s, Innotech  had promised customers

 it would help market and maintain the machines…and also promised to sell Excalibur customers the machine parts needed to make the lenses [and that]  in about seven to 10 years, the $15,000 to $20,000 machines would pay for themselves…Company officials had told its Excalibur customers that Johnson & Johnson would sink millions into the machines after it bought Innotech

The promises turned out to be so much snake oil. 

Johnson & Johnson told its Excalibur customers in February 1999 that another company would sell some of the parts to eye care businesses through the end of that year. On March 31, 1999, Johnson & Johnson “ceased all support” and “stopped the manufacture and supply” of the machines, according to the suits. .. Johnson & Johnson had set up a reimbursement system for Excalibur owners. That system was pro-rated….Those who had owned it for three years or more would get $2,000.

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While the glasses are pretty clunky, what interested me are the future plans for contact lenses, if the promises are more factual than those for Excalibur or Star Wars.

In the future it may be possible to fit pixelated contact lenses that focus dynamically and will allow a wearer to focus far, near or in between. This would solve the current visual problems associated with contact lens bifocals or multifocals. It should be noted that significant additional research and development is needed before this can become a reality. (One patent has issued and another is pending.)

As someone who suffers from early onset cataracts,  probably due to radiation treatment, I was even more interested in the possibility of a better intra-ocular lens.  Current replacement  lenses  a deal with the devil.  Keep your own lenses which adjust but are flawed, or get  onces that allow you to see perfectly, but at only one fixed point. 

It may also be possible to replace a dysfunctional human crystalline lens with a fully dynamic pixelated intra-ocular lens. This would allow for dynamic focusing of far, near and in between. In addition, it could allow for post-surgical remote tuning of the prescription. Also, there are very promising indications that this technology may allow to remotely focus / steer an image from a diseased or damaged retinal location to a healthy portion of the retina, thus helping individuals with Macular Degeneration see better. (Several patent applications are pending.)

Wow! 

*

 How do these things work?  According to an April 3 article  by UA’s senior science writer Lori Stiles,

They are basically two pieces of flat glass spaced five microns apart. Five microns is an incredibly small space — roughly one-twentieth the diameter of a human hair. The space is filled with liquid crystal — the same kind of stuff in your laptop’s liquid crystal display.

The flat glass is coated with an even thinner layer (one-tenth micron) of indium tin oxide, or ITO, which is a transparent electrode. Unlike electrodes made of aluminum or gold, ITO transmits most of the light that hits it.

The transparent electrodes are patterned in a circular array over the area of the lens. The circular pattern is created through photolithography, an extremely precise technique that processes with light and chemicals.

Applying less than two volts to the circuit changes the orientation of the liquid crystal molecules, and that changes the optical path length through the lens. It takes only about 1.8 volts to change the index of refraction so that light refocuses, Peyghambarian and Li explained. The result is a flat piece of glass that acts like a lens.

 

Nat Hentoff on the Supreme Court (04/22/06)

April 22, 2006

The above  is Time Magazine’s depiction of Jose Padilla. 

A few days ago, I wrote about the shake-up at the Village Voice.  Ward Harkavy reassigned.  Media critic, Press Clips columnist Sydney H. Schanberg quitting.  James Ridgeway out.    At least Nat Hentoff is still writing  his column, “Liberty Beat” for the Village Voice.   “Mutiny at the Supreme Court: The Roberts Court signals the president that he is not immune from the Constitution.”  published April 16,  finds encouragement in  two recent events that

 regarding the most dangerous thrust of Bush’s reign, his continuing, unprecedented expansion of his powers as commander in chief, the court is finally and crucially alarmed.

 March 30  the Court looked at Jose Padilla v. Hanft, a re-filing of the case the Bush administration had tried to remove from the Supreme Court’s arena:

At last, when the Supreme Court indicated it would consider listening to his appeal, the Bush administration—fearing that, My God, there might be a majority to declare Bush’s “enemy combatant” designation unconstitutional—pulled a not-so-hidden-ball trick.

Pulling Padilla out of the military brig and into our real justice system, the administration filed a mélange of new charges [my link]—without any mention of the “radioactive dirty bomb” that John Ashcroft had tried to scare us with. When that happened, a majority of the high court—clearly resentful of the Bush team’s trying to game the system by preventing the court from ruling on the lawfulness of putting people away as “enemy combatants”—decided to hear Padilla once more.

On  June 28,  2004, the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, writing for the majority,  dismissed  the case Rumsfeld v.  Padilla 5 to 4  on a technicality  about jurisdiction, but speaking for the court he acknowledged that the  case was “indisputably of profound importance.”  

 Padilla’s attorney’s refiled, encouraged by decision affirmed by all but Justice Clarence Thomas that the two-year-long detention of an American citizen, Yaser Esam Hamdi, had either been invalid from the beginning or had become so, for constitutional or statutory reasons.   A second ruling issued that day held that  federal courts might have jurisdiction to hear claims of illegal detention from those held in other foreign locations. 

Hentoff writes that on March 30, while only Justices Ginsburg, David Souter, and Stephen Breyer wanted to proceed with a second appearance before the court by Padilla,  

in a concurring opinion by John Paul Stevens, Anthony Kennedy (again!), and most notably, Chief Justice Roberts, it became clear that this case is still very much alive… although they decided to hold off on the “enemy combatant” ruling until Padilla goes through our regular courts, a majority of the justices showed they’re aware that even if he is found innocent of the new charges, the administration can still put him into military prison again as an “enemy combatant.”

Justices  Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, and now Samuel Alito appear to support the  president  in his method of

removing terrorism suspects from our system of laws by setting them apart as “enemy combatants” imprisoned in military cells indefinitely, incommunicado, without access to lawyers, and without charges—as he did to Padilla.

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Hentoff also reports that during oral arguments on March 28 for  Hamdan v. Rumsfeld,  the case considering the constitutional legitimacy of the military commissions at Guantánamo, created solely by the president  and  whether the Supreme Court itself has the right to hear the case.

 …Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said to Solicitor General Paul Clement: “I thought it was the government position that these enemy combatants do not have any rights under the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

“That is true, Justice Ginsburg,” the solicitor general said. The unmistakable subtext of the government’s answer was: “So why is this court interfering with the inherent constitutional powers of the commander in chief in the war on terrorism? Get lost!”

Hentoff says this reply angered at least five on the court,  most notably Justice Anthony Kennedy,  and posits that  their questions and comments

revealed a strong likelihood that the court will disagree with the president’s skewed concept of due process (basic fairness in our rule of law) in inventing these military commissions….

Hentoff had written in greater detail about Hamden in his April 9 column, “Supreme Court Judges Bush: At last, Bush’s assumption of supremacy over Congress and the courts is in peril.”

 

Bombing Iran (04/21/06)

April 21, 2006

The above illustration is from Global Security.org, which maintains a list of links on military operatons in Iran–both government and anti-war sites.

I first started thinking about Iran when I read Mathew Rothschild’s ( Editor of the Progressive) article, “The Human Costs of Bombing Iran” posted on April 11. He posted a second article today, “Slighting Chining, Threatening Iran.”

The State Department held a briefing today with with Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns and Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Bob Joseph. Burns represented the US in Moscow at talks among the P-5 ( Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany) and the G-8. He described Russian attempts

to try to get Iran to return to its senses and to return to a rational discussion with the international community about its very obvious attempt to create a nuclear weapons capability for itself.

Burns claimed that

Each country said that we all ought to act now collectively to ensure that we speak with one voice and take one series of actions designed to isolate the Iranians and, if necessary, to think about punitive diplomatic, economic measures for Iran to stop its current efforts. And I was struck by the change in atmosphere and, if you will, the sense of urgency as we think about the actions in the Security Council in May and June to make sure that we are operating together.

He added,

A number of countries in the P-5 and G-8 spoke up against Iran’s leading support for terrorism in the Middle East, as well as a concern about its more aggressive policy in the region, as well as concern about the human rights situation inside Iran.

One reporter, identified only as Peter, asked exactly the question that came to mind as I read the transcript.

The Russians, for one, are saying that they’re not going to apply sanctions because they see no proof that Iran is heading towards a nuclear weapon, so it seems like that international consensus is not as solid as you might suggest.

Burns claimed secret information,

It’s always interesting to match what you hear privately in negotiations versus what people say publicly….Russia and China have not agreed to what that specific action should be. But they said to us in private that they believe that there should be some kind of effort made by the Security Council beyond where we’ve been. A reporter identified only as John asked another good question.

How do we know if we can believe the statements that are coming out of Iran and that their claims are — how do we know that they’re not exaggerating and how much confidence do we really have in our intelligence on Iran, any more than we had with Iraq?

Burns claimed the situation was different because

not a single country of which I’m aware believes that Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. is trying to achieve a nuclear weapons capability.

we’re just judging Iran on what it’s saying it’s doing. It’s crossing every international red line, which has produced this movement against and back — I think backlash against Iraq — Iran, excuse me.

A Freudian slip?

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As for Joseph, he returned last Friday, having visited the Gulf states and seeks to scare us about Iran.

First, in terms of activities on the ground in Iran, it’s fair to say, I believe, that the Iranians have put both feet on the accelerator….

The Iranians claim that they had converted enough uranium for 110 tons of UF-6, UF-6 being the feed material for centrifuges. This is enough material for more than 10 weapons. The Iranians have said that they actually produced enriched uranium to 3.5 percent. If you can produce to 3.5 percent, you’re well on your way to producing enriched uranium at a much higher content, including weapons grade material.

Perhaps most disturbing, at least in my calculation, is the announcement that they are operating a centrifuge cascade consisting of 164 centrifuges. Now, I’m a political scientist, not a nuclear physicist, but every nuclear physicist that I have talked to in the past has always suggested that 164 is a key number, because once you’re able to operate, over a sustained period of time, 164 centrifuges in cascade and feed into that this material, this UF-6 that I talked about, you’re well on your way to an industrial scale capability in terms of the production of enriched uranium. …

Iran has clearly demonstrated that it is not willing to cooperate and that it is determined, despite calls for compromise and despite calls for negotiation, determined to move forward in complete defiance of the international community.

Joseph talked to Bahrain, UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Egypt about

financial measures…to disrupt the proliferation activities…banking transactions or closing front companies…[to affect]Iran’s ability to acquire more technology and expertise from the outside.

And we also talked about other defensive measures…including greater cooperation on missile defense [against Iran’s] ballistic missile offensive capability…that’s growing significantly. …

We also talked about…training and exercising in the area of chemical and biological defense.

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Global Security’s Executive Director, John E. Pike, worked for nearly two decades with the Federation of American Scientists,. In December 2000, he founded the new organization to

reduce reliance on nuclear weapons and the risk of their use — both by existing nuclear weapons states and those states seeking to acquire such capabilities. GlobalSecurity.org aims to shift American conventional military forces towards new capabilities aligned with the post-Cold War security environment, and to reduce the worldwide incidence of deadly conflict.

On of the spookiest items from his list of The spookiest is a Target Iran countdown timeline.

The election of Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad as Iran’s new president would appear to preclude a negotiated resolution of Iran’s nuclear program. The success of strikes against Iran’s WMD facilities requires both tactical and strategic surprise, so there will not be the sort of public rhetorical buildup in the weeks preceeding hostilities, of the sort that preceeded the invasion of Iraq. To the contrary, the Bush Administration will do everything within its power to deceive [my emphasis] Iran’s leaders into believing that military action is not imminent.

Compare this with the State Department briefing. Burns says,

So we haven’t given up on diplomacy. We have not given up on the Security Council. And the largest part of our effort is going to be through the Security Council.

Hm-m-m.

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Global Security’s timeline starts in 2001 with the f
ormation of The Coalition for Democracy in Iran by Michael Ledeen [of the American Enterprise Institute], Morris Amitay [a former director of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC], and James Woolsley [former CIA director]. It has strong ties to the exiled Reza Pahlavi, the deceased shah’s son and works to mobilize support for President Bush’s policies including his designation of Iran as part of the deadly “axis of evil.” Here are the future predictions:

August 2007
Monday, September 3rd is Labor Day 2007, the notional beginning of the 2008 Presidential campaign. If the White House is politically risk averse with reference to striking Iran, the weeks before Labor Day might mark the last opportune moment to do the deed before the Presidential campaign gets under way.

4 November 2008
The US presidential election of 2008 is scheduled to occur on November 4, 2008. If the White House judges that military strikes would rally the country around the President and his party, it would argue for timing strikes as little as a week before the election, a pre-planned October Surprise.

20 January 2009
The new President is innaugurated. Depending on political calculation, a final window of opportunity to strike Iran opens during the transition from the old President the new. If Bush judged that his incoming successor lacked the resolve to take the neccessary action, or if it were judged that blaming Bush would ease the way of the new President, there might be arguments for striking after the election but before the innauguration.

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After reading Rothschild, I decided to look into the the Brits’ Oxford Research group Iran: Consequences of a War. In this briefing paper, published in February, its globlal security consultant and Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, Paul Rogers concluded:

A US military attack on Iranian nuclear infrastructure would be the start of a protracted military confrontation that would probably involve Iraq, Israel and Lebanon as well as the United States and Iran, with the possibility of west Gulf states being involved as well. An attack by Israel, although initially on a smaller scale, would almost certainly escalate to involve the United States, and would also mark the start of a protracted conflict.

Although an attack by either state [the U.S. or Israel] could seriously damage Iran���s nuclear development potential, numerous responses would be possible making a protracted and highly unstable conflict virtually certain. Moreover, Iran would be expected to withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty and engage in a nuclear weapons programme as rapidly as possible. This would lead to further military action against Iran, establishing a highly dangerous cycle of violence.

The termination of the Saddam Hussein regime was expected to bring about a free-market client state in Iraq. Instead it has produced a deeply unstable and costly conflict with no end in sight. That may not prevent a US or an Israeli attack on Iran even though it should be expected that the consequences would be substantially greater. What this analysis does conclude is that a military response to the current crisis in relations with Iran is a particularly dangerous option and should not be considered further ��� alternative approaches must be sought, however difficult these may be.”

Rogers enumeration of Iran’s possible responses after the initial “victory”

*withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty
*immediate reconstitution of the nuclear infrastructure, developing it wherever possible in a more survivable manner. This would include systems redundancy, dispersal of research, development and production capabilities and the use of deep underground facilities for future work wherever feasible. Furthermore, there may already be elements of redundancy built in to the current Iranian civil nuclear programme and there may be elements of which the United States is unaware. If so, this would aid the reconstitution of capabilities.
*refusal to negotiate in the future
*more militant action by Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon.with a large quantities of surface-to-surface missiles of a range sufficient to
reach Haifa and other population centres in the north of Israel, which would in return attract a vigorous Israeli response
*interference with Gulf oil exports,leading to a formidable impact on oil markets
*sabotage by paramilitary units linked to Iran of oil export facilities in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
*improved morale and greater ability to recruit for the Revolutionary Guard.
*rapid activation of links with the Iraqi Shi���a militias
*criticism by India, China and Russia, given the recent major long-term economic agreements

Does Bush think that if he blows Iran to Kingdom Come, he will avoid another quagmire such as Vietnam and Iraq?

Another interesting article is Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press’s piece, “The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy,” in the March/April 2006 Foreign Affairs. They posit that the current administration may even be planning a first strike on Russian and China.

“The United States already has more than a thousand nuclear warheads capable of attacking bunkers or caves. If the United States’ nuclear modernization were really aimed at rogue states or terrorists, the country’s nuclear force would not need the additional thousand ground-burst warheads it will gain from the W-76 modernization program. The current and future U.S. nuclear force, in other words, seems designed to carry out a preemptive disarming strike against Russia or China.

“The intentional pursuit of nuclear primacy is, moreover, entirely consistent with the United States’ declared policy of expanding its global dominance. “

They also theorize that the current missile defense plans which seem idiotic are part of the first strike strategy.

“…the sort of missile defenses that the United States might plausibly deploy would be valuable primarily in an offensive context, not a defensive one — as an adjunct to a U.S. first-strike capability, not as a standalone shield.

They conclude,

“If Washington continues to believe such preeminence is necessary for its security, then the benefits of nuclear primacy might exceed the risks. But if the United States adopts a more restrained foreign policy — for example, one premised on greater skepticism of the wisdom of forcibly exporting democracy, launching military strikes to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and aggressively checking rising challengers — then the benefits of nuclear primacy will be trumped by the dangers.”

They also have a forthcoming article, “The End of MAD? The Nuclear Dimension of U.S. Primacy,” International Security 30, no. 4 (Spring 2006).