More from Alexander Cockburn
May 27th, 2007 by Ken Hagler

The Green­housers Strike Back and Out [Coun­ter­Punch]

The lat­est in the series on glob­al warm­ing that I’ve men­tioned pre­vi­ous­ly.

The origins of life here, and elsewhere
May 27th, 2007 by Ken Hagler

Good­bye, Stan­ley Miller. Stan­ley Miller’s obit­u­ary was in the papers last week. He died aged 77, but earned those obit­u­ar­ies at the age of 22 while still a stu­dent. Nobel lau­re­ate Harold Urey had sug­gest­ed that Earth’s prim­i­tive atmos­phere might, like Jupiter’s, be rich in hydro­gen, ammo­nia, methane and water vapour. Miller won­dered if he could repli­cate those ear­ly con­di­tions, and bom­bard­ed a pyrex flask filled with those chem­i­cals with elec­tric charges to sim­u­late light­ning. After two days he found a sim­ple amino acid, glycine, had been cre­at­ed. After a week he found that 10–15 per­cent of the car­bon had formed into organ­ic com­pounds, includ­ing 13 of the 22 amino acids that make pro­teins.

The ‘Miller exper­i­ment’ was an imme­di­ate sen­sa­tion when he pub­lished his paper in the jour­nal Sci­ence in May 1953. Peo­ple had spec­u­lat­ed that the build­ing blocks of life might have assem­bled them­selves in the primeval sea or atmos­phere, but no-one had sup­posed it would be so fast. The impli­ca­tion was that if it could hap­pen so eas­i­ly and so quick­ly, then it might have hap­pened else­where. His exper­i­ment changed our per­cep­tion of life from that of being an unlike­ly and rare occur­rence into some­thing which might hap­pen reg­u­lar­ly dur­ing the devel­op­ment of cer­tain types of plan­et.

He also showed that even a hum­ble stu­dent armed with a good idea and the wit to pur­sue it can make his or her mark and add to human knowl­edge and under­stand­ing. He nev­er gained the Nobel prize he prob­a­bly deserved, but he did gain the acco­lade of his peers and the respect of his gen­er­a­tion. Thank you, Stan­ley Miller. [Adam Smith Insti­tute Blog]

Besides its impli­ca­tions for the ori­gins of life on Earth, the exper­i­ment takes on new sig­nif­i­cance with the recent dis­cov­ery of a poten­tial­ly hab­it­able plan­et in the Gliese 581 sys­tem.

Space travel for capitalists
May 22nd, 2007 by Ken Hagler

Elon Musk Is Bet­ting His For­tune on a Mis­sion Beyond Earth’s Orbit [Wired]

A look at SpaceX, a com­pa­ny which is very close to reach­ing orbit entire­ly on their own, with no gov­ern­ment hand­outs.

Pro-slavery Democrat
May 22nd, 2007 by Ken Hagler

In an arti­cle most­ly about Iraq, we also find this:

Edwards also called Mon­day for spread­ing the bur­den of serv­ing the coun­try by man­dat­ing nation­al ser­vice.

One of the things we ought to be think­ing about is some lev­el of manda­to­ry ser­vice to our coun­try, so that every­body in Amer­i­ca — not just the poor kids who get sent to war — are serv­ing this coun­try,” he said.

I’m a lit­tle sur­prised that even a Demo­c­rat would open­ly advo­cate slav­ery in the 21st cen­tu­ry. I sup­pose that, now that the first ten amend­ments to the Con­sti­tu­tion are pret­ty much dead, they’ve decid­ed to move on the the thir­teenth.

An essay on the new religion
May 21st, 2007 by Ken Hagler

MARK BRADY: Arguably the Sin­gle Best Essay on Glob­al Warm­ing That I Have Read So Far.

Read Josie Appleton’s Mea­sur­ing the Polit­i­cal Tem­per­a­ture here. The author explains how glob­al warm­ing has ceased to be a sci­en­tif­ic hypoth­e­sis and become an eth­i­cal, reli­gious and polit­i­cal prin­ci­ple to guide our lives.

[Lib­er­ty & Pow­er: Group Blog]

An inter­est­ing look at what has become the cen­tral dog­ma of the ecof­reak reli­gion.

Another Bushevik doesn’t realize what he’s saying
May 21st, 2007 by Ken Hagler

Those Vicious Iran­ian Drug Cops.

In an appar­ent attempt to drum up sup­port for war with Iran, neo­con bul­wark Michael Ledeen points read­ers to pic­tures of an Iran­ian drug bust, and com­ments:

Ter­ri­fy­ing pic­tures, to be sure. For me, the most reveal­ing thing about them is that the police feel oblig­ed to wear masks while con­duct­ing a drug bust in the cap­i­tal. tells you some­thing about the rela­tion­ship between the peo­ple and the state.

Oh, where to begin. Per­haps here. Or here. Or here. Or here. Or here. Or here. [Hit & Run]

For once, he’s absolute­ly cor­rect. It real­ly does tell you something–just not about the state he had in mind.

Why the US Government Is Hated All Over the World
May 21st, 2007 by Ken Hagler

Why the US Government Is Hated All Over the World.

Fred Reed at - they hate us for our government's bullying. As they should. As you should. Click here for Fred's own copy of this essay, entitled "A New Improved America: The Coming of God Knows What". [lew]


Violeta had a visa, issued by the consulate, both times when we went to the US. Still she got bullied by the border Nazis. It was ugly. I am obviously not a Mexican, but I get the same hostile questioning as to where I am going, why I was in Mexico, and so on. It is none of their business where I go in my country. Or shouldn’t be, but there are no limitations on governmental powers now. A friend, married to a Mexicana, again with a visa, got separated from her, and both got abusive questioning. She came out crying.

America was not like this. Now it is.

Compare this with the real world. I land in Beijing – evil commie Beijing, right? Maybe twenty seconds to see whether my visa was valid, clonk of stamp, thank you, no baggage search, into a taxi. Vi and I land in Paris, en route to Italy. Glance at passport, yep, it’s a passport, no stamp, no nothing, on we go. Italy didn’t even look at our passports. Grown-ups.

I am not ashamed of the United States. It is a hell of a country. Been there, done that, loved it. In two weeks in DC with Violeta, although she is clearly not American, she was everywhere, always, treated with perfect courtesy and friendliness, whether on Cap Hill or Farmville, Virginia. Americans really are good folk. The government isn’t. It’s the gravest problem we face, both internationally and domestically.

[End the War on Freedom]

Yet another poll
May 19th, 2007 by Ken Hagler

NEOCONNED: Who is biggest Neo­Conartist? [Free Cen­tu­ry]

What makes this poll unusu­al is that the three can­di­dates who have been anoint­ed by the main­stream media as the only ones who mat­ter actu­al­ly do occu­py the top three posi­tions in the results.

Ron Paul makes an impression
May 16th, 2007 by Ken Hagler

Ron Paul’s Radical Mix: Truth & Politics. Hats off to Ron Paul for another great performance in the Republican presidential debate in South Carolina last night.

For almost six years, politicians have acted as if it is federal crime to speak bluntly about 9/11. On the day of the attacks, George Bush proclaimed that the hijackers attacked because they hate America for its freedom. This has been treated as a revealed truth ever since. (When I saw Bush on TV that day, I was perplexed how the US government could know the motive before it knew the identity of the hijackers).

Ron Paul has never kowtowed to this dogma, and last night he deftly debunked the 9/11 catechism. From the transcript:

MR. GOLER: Congressman Paul, I believe you are the only man on the stage who opposes the war in Iraq, who would bring the troops home as quickly as — almost immediately, sir. Are you out of step with your party? Is your party out of step with the rest of the world? If either of those is the case, why are you seeking its nomination?

REP. PAUL: Well, I think the party has lost its way, because the conservative wing of the Republican Party always advocated a noninterventionist foreign policy. Senator Robert Taft didn’t even want to be in NATO. George Bush won the election in the year 2000 campaigning on a humble foreign policy — no nation-building, no policing of the world. Republicans were elected to end the Korean War. The Republicans were elected to end the Vietnam War. There’s a strong tradition of being anti-war in the Republican party. It is the constitutional position. It is the advice of the Founders to follow a non-interventionist foreign policy, stay out of entangling alliances, be friends with countries, negotiate and talk with them and trade with them.
Just think of the tremendous improvement — relationships with Vietnam. We lost 60,000 men. We came home in defeat. Now we go over there and invest in Vietnam.
So there’s a lot of merit to the advice of the Founders and following the Constitution.
And my argument is that we shouldn’t go to war so carelessly. (Bell rings.) When we do, the wars don’t end.

MR. GOLER: Congressman, you don’t think that changed with the 9/11 attacks, sir?

REP. PAUL: What changed?

MR. GOLER: The non-interventionist policies.

REP. PAUL: No. Non-intervention was a major contributing factor. Have you ever read the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we’ve been over there; we’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years. We’ve been in the Middle East — I think Reagan was right.
We don’t understand the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics. So right now we’re building an embassy in Iraq that’s bigger than the Vatican. We’re building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting. We need to look at what we do from the perspective of what would happen if somebody else did it to us.

MR. GOLER: Are you suggesting we invited the 9/11 attack, sir?

REP. PAUL: I’m suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it, and they are delighted that we’re over there because Osama bin Laden has said, “I am glad you’re over on our sand because we can target you so much easier.” They have already now since that time — (bell rings) — have killed 3,400 of our men, and I don’t think it was necessary.

MR. GIULIANI: Wendell, may I comment on that? That’s really an extraordinary statement. That’s an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the
attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don’t think I’ve heard that before, and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th. (Applause, cheers.) And I would ask the congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn’t really mean that. (Applause.)

MR. GOLER: Congressman?

REP. PAUL: I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about blowback. When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the shah, yes, there was blowback. A reaction to that was the taking of our hostages and that persists. And if we ignore that, we ignore that at our own risk. If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem.
They don’t come here to attack us because we’re rich and we’re free. They come and they attack us because we’re over there. I mean, what would we think if we were — if other foreign countries were doing that to us?


Giuliani’s snort is the best answer the Republican establishment can offer for the hard facts that Paul presents.

But such snorts will not be enough to perpetuate Republican control over the American people.

Ron Paul is the type of candidate that the Founding Fathers envisioned - someone who cherishes the Constitution and understands why it leashed politicians in perpetuity. [Bovard]

Despite the predictable howls of outrage from the media and the other Republican candidates for pointing out the obvious, this actually seems to have helped Ron Paul considerably. After the last debate, the mainstream media largely ignored him, with some articles and polls not even mentioning his name. Now, they're falling over each other in the rush to denounce him and insist that he should be excluded from future debates.

Music promotion and the Internet
May 14th, 2007 by Ken Hagler

Sex, Drugs and Updating Your Blog. The universe of musicians making their way online includes many bands that function in a traditional way — signing up with a label — while using the Internet primarily as a means of promotion, the way OK Go has done. Two-thirds of OK Go’s album sales are still in the physical world: actual CDs sold through traditional CD stores. But the B-list increasingly includes a newer and more curious life-form: performers like Coulton, who construct their entire business model online. Without the Internet, their musical careers might not exist at all. Coulton has forgone a record-label contract; instead, he uses a growing array of online tools to sell music directly to fans. He contracts with a virtual fulfillment house called CD Baby, which warehouses his CDs, processes the credit-card payment for each sale and ships it out, while pocketing only $4 of the album’s price, a much smaller cut than a traditional label would take. CD Baby also places his music on the major digital-music stores like iTunes, Rhapsody and Napster. Most lucratively, Coulton sells MP3s from his own personal Web sites, where there’s no middleman at all.

In total, 41 percent of Coulton’s income is from digital-music sales, three-quarters of which are sold directly off his own Web site. Another 29 percent of his income is from CD sales; 18 percent is from ticket sales for his live shows. The final 11 percent comes from T-shirts, often bought online.

Indeed, running a Web store has allowed Coulton and other artists to experiment with intriguing innovations in flexible pricing. Remarkably, Coulton offers most of his music free on his site; when fans buy his songs, it is because they want to give him money. The Canadian folk-pop singer Jane Siberry has an even more clever system: she has a “pay what you can” policy with her downloadable songs, so fans can download them free — but her site also shows the average price her customers have paid for each track. This subtly creates a community standard, a generalized awareness of how much people think each track is really worth. The result? The average price is as much as $1.30 a track, more than her fans would pay at iTunes. [The New York Times Magazine]

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