Friday Night Fun and Culture 1970s LA Sunset Strip Edition

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John Dean Knows How to Get Rid of Clarence Thomas

From Truth Dig:

By John Dean
Posted on Jun 28, 2011

For good reason, there has been serious hand-wringing over what to do about the ethical lapses of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The fact that Supreme Court justices are exempt from the code of ethical conduct which applies to the rest of the federal judiciary; the problem of bringing a sitting justice before the Congress to question the conduct of a constitutional co-equal; the reality that justices cannot easily defend themselves against news media charges; the defiant, in-your-face posture of Thomas—the list goes on but it need not. There is clear precedent for how to deal with the justice. Thomas could be forced off the bench.

As the associate deputy attorney general in President Richard M. Nixon’s Department of Justice, I was there when Assistant Attorney General William Rehnquist outlined how to remove a Supreme Court justice who had engaged in conduct not quite as troublesome as that of Thomas. Rehnquist, of course, would later become chief justice of the United States. His memorandum providing the process for the Department of Justice to proceed against then Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas remains solid precedent and the way to deal with Clarence Thomas. But before looking at the solution, I should explain the problem.

To begin with, there is absolutely no question in my mind that Thomas lied his way onto the Supreme Court in 1991 when he denied Anita Hill’s charges that he had sexually harassed her and some of his other subordinates. If anyone needs proof, please examine the reporting of Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson, authors of “Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas,” which sets forth the case against Thomas with an abundance of clear and convincing evidence (not to mention the evidence corroborating Hill that Joe Biden, then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, withheld).

The way Thomas reached the court is important for two reasons. First, there was once a time when those sitting on our highest bench would never do anything to tarnish the court, and this factors into both his conduct and the chances of his removal. Secondly, Thomas’ deceit during his confirmation hearing has overshadowed all of his behavior since he arrived on the court.

Thomas fooled no one when he dissembled in 1991. Those who embrace his consistently radical conservative voting record often overlook how he arrived on the high court, and a few supporters and admirers even defend him by diminishing the significance of his persistently questionable behavior. Those who are unhappy with Thomas as a justice, not to mention his aggressive polarization of the court, find that he has simply lived down to his standards as a scoundrel and fabulist. No one is particularly surprised that his behavior as a justice just keeps sinking lower and lower, constantly reaching new bottoms. (For a catalog that samples Thomas’ failings, see The Reid Report.)

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Federal court strikes down Michigan ban on affirmative action

From Raw Story:

By Reuters
Friday, July 1st, 2011

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A federal appeals court on Friday struck down a Michigan law that banned affirmative action in college admissions, creating the possibility of a U.S. Supreme Court battle.

The 6th U.S. Circuit of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, found that a 2006 amendment to the Michigan constitution, “unconstitutionally alters Michigan’s political structure by impermissibly burdening racial minorities.”

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said he will appeal the ruling through a formal request for a rehearing by the entire 6th Circuit. The law, known as the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, will stay in effect pending a final decision.

“Entrance to our great universities must be based upon merit, and I will continue the fight for equality, fairness and rule of law,” said Schuette in a statement.

George Washington, a Detroit attorney who represented a civil rights group opposing the law, said Michigan universities already give special consideration in admissions to certain groups of students, including those from rural backgrounds, those with lower incomes, and veterans.

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Kicking off The Forth of July Weekend with some 80s Fun Music

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Mac Stores Tell Workers, Instead of Giving You Health Care, Working for Apple ‘Should Be Looked at As An Experience’

From Alternet:

By Josh Eidelson
June 28, 2011

On the day Apple celebrated 10 years since opening its first Apple Store, employee Cory Moll announced a campaign to unionize the company’s 30,000-plus retail employees. Moll sent an e-mail to reporters declaring that “the people of Apple are coming together to “‘work different.’” “The core issues definitely involve compensation, pay, benefits,” Moll said.

A Reuters reporter echoed the response of many journalists in calling the union drive “unusual given Apple’s reputation for fierce employee loyalty.” But interviews with workers in three states help explain how and why some of Apple’s employees want to change the company. (All three employees interviewed for this article requested and were provided anonymity based on their fear of retaliation.)

A Bay Area employee described what happened last year when he and about a dozen co-workers realized employees with years of service were being paid less than new hires doing the same work. Agitated about the situation but concerned about retaliation, the workers committed to a plan: during the approaching round of annual one-on-one meetings between workers and managers, they would each ask about pay disparities.

Those workers who did ask received a consistent response: “Money shouldn’t be an issue when you’re employed at Apple.” Instead, managers said, the chance to work at Apple “should be looked at as an experience.” “You can’t live off of experience,” said the worker interviewed. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Apple has outpaced Tiffany & Co. jewelers in retail sales per square foot.

Employees said that Apple keeps its healthcare costs down by defining even employees working 40 hours a week as part-time if they can’t guarantee open availability (availability to be scheduled to work anytime the store is open). The three workers interviewed said that most employees at each of their stores either work second jobs or go to school, making open availability impossible.

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Insiders Sound an Alarm Amid a Natural Gas Rush

From The New York Times:

Published: June 25, 2011

Natural gas companies have been placing enormous bets on the wells they are drilling, saying they will deliver big profits and provide a vast new source of energy for the United States.

But the gas may not be as easy and cheap to extract from shale formations deep underground as the companies are saying, according to hundreds of industry e-mails and internal documents and an analysis of data from thousands of wells.

In the e-mails, energy executives, industry lawyers, state geologists and market analysts voice skepticism about lofty forecasts and question whether companies are intentionally, and even illegally, overstating the productivity of their wells and the size of their reserves. Many of these e-mails also suggest a view that is in stark contrast to more bullish public comments made by the industry, in much the same way that insiders have raised doubts about previous financial bubbles.

“Money is pouring in” from investors even though shale gas is “inherently unprofitable,” an analyst from PNC Wealth Management, an investment company, wrote to a contractor in a February e-mail. “Reminds you of dot-coms.”

“The word in the world of independents is that the shale plays are just giant Ponzi schemes and the economics just do not work,” an analyst from IHS Drilling Data, an energy research company, wrote in an e-mail on Aug. 28, 2009.

Company data for more than 10,000 wells in three major shale gas formations raise further questions about the industry’s prospects. There is undoubtedly a vast amount of gas in the formations. The question remains how affordably it can be extracted.

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Recession makes educated women in rich countries postpone having babies

From The Guardian UK:

Fertility worldwide dropped but UK population rose by 470,000 in 2010 because, say experts, less educated had more children

, environment editor, Thursday 30 June 2011

Highly educated young women in many rich countries have delayed having children because of the global recession, and may on average wait for a further five-to-eight years if governments slash public spending, say leading demographers.

A study for the European Union by the Vienna Institute of Demography shows a steep decline in fertility rates in the US and Spain in 2009-10, and stagnation in Ireland and most European countries.

However the report coincides with UK government figures that show Britain’s population rose by 470,000 in 2010, the highest annual growth rate for nearly 50 years. It rose 0.8% on the previous year and stands at 62.2m – a rise caused by natural change rather than immigration for the third consecutive year, according to the Office for National Statistics.

“If this is the case, then Britain joins the very few countries who are increasing their fertility rate despite the recession,” said Tomáš Sobotka, one of the Austrian report’s authors. “It is possible this is because the educated women are choosing to delay having while the less educated are having more.”

According to the report: “Highly educated women react to employment uncertainty by adopting a ‘postponement strategy’, especially if they are childless. In contrast, less-educated women often maintain or increase their fertility under economic uncertainty.”

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Time to End the Chemical War Against Superweeds

From Common Dreams:

by Lasse Bruun
Published on Thursday, June 30, 2011 by Greenpeace International

Have you ever thought about how your favorite picnic spot in the local city park is managed? Or what happens when herbicides are sprayed on the crops that make up your breakfast cereal? The truth is that in both city parks and the intensive agriculture used to produce breakfast cereals, weed killers are used on a massive scale, under the unproven assumption that they are safe.  Roundup, one of the most common commercially available herbicides, is marketed by US agrochemical company Monsanto as “safe” for the environment, and for humans – but “deadly for weeds”. Our new report, Herbicide Tolerance and GM Crops written jointly with fellow non-governmental organization GM Freeze, however, paints a very different picture.

One of the main ingredients of Roundup, as well as several other herbicides, is a chemical known as glyphosate. Numerous studies covered in the report associate exposure to glyphosate with cancer, birth defects and neurological illnesses (including Parkinson’s). Alarmingly, lab testing suggests that glyphosate can cause damage to cells, including human embryo cells. Other studies mentioned in the report indicate that glyphosate may be a gender-bender chemical that interferes with our hormonal balance. Do you still feel like having your picnic and breakfast cereal?

The environmental impacts of glyphosate are not much better with evidence suggesting that the chemical has a damaging impact on our rivers and on the animals that live in them. It also disrupts nutrients in soil, exposing plants (that are not weeds) to disease and could end up contaminating drinking water.

Whether we like it or not, we all receive exposure to herbicides: sometimes from aerial spraying, sometimes through chemical residues in our food and sometimes because of chemical run off from agricultural land that pollutes nearby fields, seas or rivers. Nobody is happy with this situation, as an extensive survey on attitudes to the environment published by the European Commission last week shows that, across the board, Europeans feel they need more information on chemicals and farming.

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Time For Climate Activists to Get Tough

From Rolling Stone:

By Jeff Goodell
June 30, 2011

Have we failed to slow global warming pollution in part because climate and environmental activists have been too polite and well behaved?  Is it time to take to the streets, express some outrage, maybe engage in a little guerilla warfare against Big Oil and Big Coal?

That’s the message you get in a new documentary film called Just Do It: A Tale of Modern Day Outlaws, which will be released in the U.K. this summer.  The film follows the adventures of several British climate activists as they cut through fences and get smacked around by cops in riot gear.  The film is selling a kind of moral outrage: Big Oil and Big Coal are wrecking the planet just to turn a profit, and nobody – certainly not mild-mannered treehuggers – is doing anything to stop it.  As one activist in the film says: “I want to feel like doing something, rather than nothing, and not just watching the world go to shit.”

This question of how far to take the fight to stop global warming has haunted activists for years.  But now that more conventional solutions, such as a global treaty to cut greenhouse-gas pollution, are dead, the issue is more pressing than ever.  As the crisis grows, the temptation to turn up the volume with more dramatic and attention-grabbing protests will only increase.  Climate activists often speculate about who will emerge as the Martin Luther King of the climate movement.  But it may be equally relevant to ask who will emerge as the Malcolm X.

Here in the U.S., demonstrations have been tame and peaceable.  A five-day protest march earlier this month to draw attention to mountaintop-removal coal mining at Blair Mountain in West Virginia, the site of a bloody labor battle in 1921, went off without confrontation.   There have been sit-ins in various governors’ offices and rallies at the National Mall in Washington D.C. and banners hung on smokestacks at coal plants in a number of states and untold numbers of conferences and campus demonstrations.  All these events may or may not be helping to build a broad social movement.  But they certainly have not done much to stop the amount of greenhouse gases being dumped into the atmosphere.

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If Brazil Has to Guard Its Rainforest, Why Does Canada/U.S. Get to Burn Its Tar Sands?

From The Huffington Post:

Posted: 06/27/11

It was big news in Canada when, in 2008, the country slipped from the top-ten list of the world’s most peaceful countries (all the way to eleventh). By this year, it was back in eighth, 74 places above the U.S. and, when liberals in the U.S. feel despairing, what dominates their fantasy life but “moving to Canada?”

And yet, today, you could make an argument that Canada has actually become one of the earth’s more irresponsible nations — namely, when it comes to the environment. Indeed, you could argue that the world would be better off if the government in Ottawa was replaced by, say, the one in Brasilia, which has made a far better show of attending to the planet’s welfare. It’s a tale of physics, chemistry, and most of all economics, and it all starts in the western province of Alberta.

The Province’s Tar Sands cover an area larger than the United Kingdom and contain most of the world’s supply of bitumen, a particularly sticky form of petroleum that must be heated or diluted before it can be pumped. Because it’s so unwieldy, it’s only been in recent years that large-scale development of the tar sands have taken place. The steep rise in global oil prices has set off a boom in the region, with all that naturally follows (prostitutes have reported incomes as high as $15,000 a week).

But this is a boom unlike others. It’s the first huge oil play of the global-warming era, the first time we’ve dangerously stepped onto new turf, even though we understand the stakes.

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Yes to Violence, No to Sex

From Truth Dig:

By Robert Scheer
Posted on Jun 28, 2011

This American life of ours has long been pro-violence and anti-sex, unless the two can be merged so that violence is the dominant theme. The U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that historical record on Monday in declaring California’s ban on the sale of violent video games to minors unconstitutional while continuing to deny constitutional protection to purely prurient sexual material for either minors or adults.

The California law that the court struck down prohibited the sale or rental of violent games to minors “in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being,” unless the work, taken as a whole, possessed redeeming literary, artistic or social value—qualities that limit censorship of sexually “obscene” material.

The Supreme Court, in essence, said no—“sexually assaulting an image of a human being” is protected speech, but depicting graphic sexual activity that is nonviolent and consensual is not.

“California has tried to make violent-speech regulation look like obscenity regulation by appending a saving clause required for the latter,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion. “That does not suffice. Our cases have been clear that the obscenity exception to the First Amendment does not cover whatever a legislature finds shocking, but only depictions of ‘sexual conduct.’ ”

As Scalia put the prevailing argument that says yes to violence and no to sex, it is only violence that possesses deep cultural roots going back to our favorite fairy tales. Arguing that “violence is not part of the obscenity that the Constitution permits to be regulated,” Scalia made clear that the problem is with the sex and not the violent or misogynist behavior that some critics argue will result from material the court defines as obscene: “Because speech about violence is not obscene, it is of no consequence that California’s statute mimics the New York statute regulating obscenity-for-minors that we upheld in Ginsberg v. New York. That case approved a prohibition on the sale to minors of sexual material that would be obscene from the perspective of a child.”

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