Ballooning is an expensive hobby, we were told, a balloon costs upward of $20K. Photography is not so bad after all :)
PS: More photographs.
And today, the word of the day in the corporate press is... presumptuous. Used in a sentence: Senator Obama is being presumptuous during his trip -- acting all presidential and dignified. How dare he be presidential while running for, you know, president. Presumptuous. During the live CNN web feed of the Berlin address, an anchor used it to describe the event. Joe Klein used it in a blog post today. Of course Joe attributed it to racist voters rather than very serious reporters -- racist because it's presumably a synonym for 'uppity' and we can't accuse the press of such awfulness. And Candy Crowley used it in her post-address analysis on CNN. That's a lot of coincidences. "Presumptuous" must really be a popular word. ......
AP: "In a speech that risked being seen as presumptuous..."
TIME Magazine: "capable to become the Commander in Chief of a superpower -- without seeming presumptuous..."
The National Journal: "He is well aware voters here at home might see that as presumptuous..."
Washington Post: "Whether by the end of this week he will be seen as presumptuous or overly cocky..."
Chicago Tribune: "That means walking the fine line between looking presidential and appearing arrogant and presumptuous..."
Boston Globe: "plus the growing sense in some quarters that the presumptive Democratic nominee is getting a little presumptuous..."
There is a malaise in this country that I experience every day. I have so called freedom of speech. I am a world recognized scientist. Yet if I dare open my mouth to criticise the American system with respect to science or health care I am quickly marginalized by the anti-intellectual countrymen I encounter every day.From a dkos diary on the sorry state of the US as measured by the human development index and health care.
We Americans have only had one experience of death delivered from the air since World War II – the attacks of September 11, 2001. As no one is likely to forget, they shocked us to our core. And you know how those deaths were covered, right down to the special pages filled with bios of civilians who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the repeated invocations of the barbarism of al-Qaeda's killers (and barbarism it truly was).
These wedding parties, however, get no such treatment. Initially, they are automatically assumed to be malevolent – until the reports begin to filter in from the hospitals, the ruined villages, and the graveyards, and, by then, it's usually too late for much press attention. When that does happen, their deaths are chalked up to an "errant bomb," or that celebratory gunfire, or no explanation is even offered.
Nothing barbaric lurks here, even though we can be sure that these civilians were hardly less surprised by the arrival of the attacking planes than were the victims of 9/11. For their deaths, no word portraits are ever painted. No one in our world thinks to memorialize them, nor is there any cumulative record of their deaths. Whole extended families have been wiped out, while the dead and wounded run into the hundreds, and yet who remembers?
Here's the truth of it: In Bush's wars, the wedding singer dies, the bride does not get a chance to run away, and the event might be relabeled my big, fat, collateral damage wedding.
In the process, we have become a nation of wedding crashers, the uninvited guests who arrived under false pretenses, tore up the place, offered nary an apology, and refused to go home. It's a remarkable record, really, and catches the nature of the Bush administration's air war not on, but of and for terror in a particularly raw way. And yet, in this country, when the latest wedding party went down, no reporter seems even to have recalled our past history of wedding-party obliteration. So it goes.
My husband is among the small army of criminal defense lawyers representing the "enemy combatants" held at Guantanamo Bay. One of his clients, a poor, illiterate Afghani farmer whose first contact with electricity and plumbing occurred in Cuba, served five years before being released last year. His crime? The man's sister refused to marry a neighboring farmer, who then denounced her brother to the U.S.Anecdote? One of a kind error?
# "A CIA analyst warned the Bush administration in 2002 that up to a third of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay may have been imprisoned by mistake, but White House officials ignored the finding and insisted that all were 'enemy combatants' subject to indefinite incarceration."From the new book by Jane Mayer of New Yorker, as reported by Glenn Greenwald.
# "[A] top aide to Vice President Cheney shrugged off the report and squashed proposals for a quick review of the detainees' cases . . .
'There will be no review,' the book quotes Cheney staff director David Addington as saying. 'The president has determined that they are ALL enemy combatants. We are not going to revisit it.'"
# "[T]he [CIA] analyst estimated that a full third of the camp's detainees were there by mistake. When told of those findings, the top military commander at Guantanamo at the time, Major Gen. Michael Dunlavey, not only agreed with the assessment but suggested that an even higher percentage of detentions -- up to half -- were in error. Later, an academic study by Seton Hall University Law School concluded that 55 percent of detainees had never engaged in hostile acts against the United States, and only 8 percent had any association with al-Qaeda."
After accepting the Plea Agreement and before imposing sentence, the judge gave the defendants the right of allocution. Most of them chose not to say anything, but one who was the more articulate said humbly: "Your honor, you know that we are here because of the need of our families. I beg that you find it in your heart to send us home before too long, because we have a responsibility to our children, to give them an education, clothing, shelter, and food."
The good judge explained that unfortunately he was not free to depart from the sentence provided for by their Plea Agreement.
Technically, what he meant was that this was a binding 11(C)(1)(c) Plea Agreement: he had to accept it or reject it as a whole. But if he rejected it, he would be exposing the defendants to a trial against their will. His hands were tied, but in closing he said onto them very deliberately:
"I appreciate the fact that you are very hard working people, who have come here to do no harm. And I thank you for coming to this country to work hard. Unfortunately, you broke a law in the process, and now I have the obligation to give you this sentence. But I hope that the U.S. government has at least treated you kindly and with respect, and that this time goes by quickly for you, so that soon you may be reunited with your family and friends."
The defendants thanked him, and I saw their faces change from shame to admiration, their dignity restored. I think we were all vindicated at that moment.
Before the judge left that afternoon, I had occasion to talk to him and bring to his attention my concern over what I had learned in the jail interviews.
That is also what prompted my brief conversation with the judge: "Your honor, I am concerned from my attorney-client interviews that many of these people are clearly not guilty, and yet they have no choice but to plead out."
He understood immediately and, not surprisingly, the seasoned U.S. District Court Judge spoke as someone who had already wrestled with all the angles. He said: "You know, I don't agree with any of this or with the way it is being done. In fact, I ruled in a previous case that to charge somebody with identity theft, the person had to at least know of the real owner of the Social Security number. But I was reverted in another district and yet upheld in a third."
I understood that the issue was a matter of judicial contention. The charge of identity theft seemed from the beginning incongruous to me as an informed, impartial layperson, but now a U.S. District Court Judge agreed. As we bid each other farewell, I kept thinking of what he said. I soon realized that he had indeed hit the nail on the head; he had given me, as it were, the last piece of the puzzle.
It works like this. By handing down the inflated charge of "aggravated identity theft," which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 2 years in prison, the government forced the defendants into pleading guilty to the lesser charge and accepting 5 months in jail.
Clearly, without the inflated charge, the government had no bargaining leverage, because the lesser charge by itself, using a false Social Security number, carries only a discretionary sentence of 0-6 months. The judges would be free to impose sentence within those guidelines, depending on the circumstances of each case and any prior record.
Virtually all the defendants would have received only probation and been immediately deported.
In fact, the government's offer at the higher end of the guidelines (one month shy of the maximum sentence) was indeed no bargain. What is worse, the inflated charge, via the binding 11(C)(1)(c) Plea Agreement, reduced the judges to mere bureaucrats, pronouncing the same litany over and over for the record in order to legalize the proceedings, but having absolutely no discretion or decision-making power.
As a citizen, I want our judges to administer justice, not a federal agency.
When the executive branch forces the hand of the judiciary, the result is abuse of power and arbitrariness, unworthy of a democracy founded upon the constitutional principle of checks and balances.
Y'know, gay marriage just might ruin hetero marriage! Look, it's already happening to me! Two guys moved in to a delapidated house down the block from us (I think they're "that way") and started fixing it up. Pretty soon all I hear from the little helpmeet is "Why doesn't our lawn look like that" and "Why don't you do that to our deck" Next thing I know, she's over there, consulting with them on house colors. She consults, but I have to paint, of course. Well, last night the axe fell. After we drove past and my wife looked at the progress they have made on their retaining walls and garden, I heard her mutter "Next time, I think I'll marry a man!"
I'm telling ya, I never get a break!
Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as a heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere. Destroy this spirit and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors. - Abraham Lincoln
*** H.R. 6304 Amendment Debate Commences Tuesday, July 8 ***
At approximately 11 a.m. EDT Tuesday, after an hour of morning business, the Senate will formally proceed to H.R. 6304 and debate will begin on the three amendments made in order to the pending bill. All votes have been postponed until Wednesday morning (per a UCA change adopted Monday to the unanimous consent agreement for this bill; the Senate will hold no rollcall votes on Tuesday).
The apparent voting order for the amendments is:
1. The Dodd/Feingold/Leahy amendment to strip telecom immunity. This amendment has been allotted a maximum of two hours for debate. It must receive a 51-vote simple majority to pass.
2. The Arlen Specter amendment to maintain the separation of powers by providing that the determination of the legality of the warrantless spying requests be made by the Judicial Branch. This amendment has been allotted a maximum of two hours for debate. It must receive a 60-vote supermajority to pass.
3. The Jeff Bingaman amendment (which is supported by Specter, among others) to stay the civil suits, pending the outcome of the mandated IG report, plus 90 days. This amendment has been allotted a maximum of one hour for debate. It must receive a 60-vote supermajority to pass.
The order of Tuesday's debate on the three amendments will likely vary throughout the day, as the managers of debate time for each amendment see fit. Presumably general debate on the bill itself will also be in order.
The Senate will stand in recess from 12:30 p.m. until 2:15 p.m. Tuesday (for the weekly Democratic caucus lunch).
Thus, if amendment debate starts at 11 a.m. Tuesday, and continues without interruption before and after the midday recess, the allotted time would expire at about 6 p.m. EDT (general bill debate not included). At which point the action carries over to Wednesday.
The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just. - Abraham Lincoln
*** H.R. 6304 Debate and Voting Concludes on Wednesday, July 9 ***
Starting at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, as soon as the Senate convenes, and despite the fact that amendment votes will still be pending, the pre-cloture debate will begin, and last until about 11:15 a.m., when voting on the three amendments will begin.
The voting order, apparently, is Dodd/Feingold/Leahy (51), Specter (60), Bingaman (60), followed immediately by the vote on the motion to invoke cloture, because cloture's debate time will have elapsed before the amendment voting began (the cloture vote requires a 60-vote supermajority, which, if attained, will result in final passage of the bill shortly thereafter, with no intervening debate). Just 41 No votes will stop cloture and sustain Dodd's filibuster.
We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution. - Abraham Lincoln
More details of the current, pending perversion are spelled out here by a DailyKos diarist:
(3) The Presidential Authority Clause Ratifies Bush's Actions As Lawful, Thus Providing Bush With Immunity.
This is the problem. Bush will now have a colorable argument that Congress has ratified or confirmed that Bush had "authority" to issue Executive Orders that directed and managed the domestic spying program(s). As noted by Senator Dodd, if this "misguided FISA legislation" is passed, it "will ratify a domestic spying regime that has already concentrated far too much unaccountable power in the president's hands and will place the telecommunications companies above the law."
When a president does not factually have authority to take actions in 2001-2007, and then Congress subsequently confirms that Bush had "authority" in 2008, this is called Congressional ratification. An inherent element of congressional ratification is to backdate the statement of authority in 2008 to the years 2001-2007 to transform the prior unauthorized actions into now authorized actions.
However, the federal preemption section bans retroactive and prospective investigations of telecoms by states and cities, which would include criminal prosecutions. This leaves open the door for a federal criminal prosecution. However, aside from the clearly minimal political will to criminally prosecute Bush after he leaves office, if Congress is now confirming that Bush had "authority" to conduct domestic spying via his EO, then Bush's conduct was lawful, not criminal. - Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse
Calls and faxes (urging support for all the amendments and oppostion to cloture) to the following Democratic Senators will be especially important Tuesday:
California's Dianne Feinstein
Colorado's Ken Salazar
Delaware's Tom Carper
Florida's Bill Nelson
Hawaii's Daniel Inouye
Indiana's Evan Bayh
Missouri's Claire McCaskill
Montana's Max Baucus
North Dakota's Kent Conrad
Pennsylvania's Bob Casey
Rhode Island's Sheldon Whitehouse
Virginia's Jim Webb
Wisconsin's Herb Kohl
I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong. - Abraham Lincoln
New York Times, 14 October 2001
''If bin Laden takes over and becomes king of Saudi Arabia, he'd turn off the tap,'' said Roger Diwan, a managing director of the Petroleum Finance Company, a consulting firm in Washington. ''He said at one point that he wants oil to be $144 a barrel'' -- about six times what it sells for now.
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
That's it. That's the Fourth Amendment. That is what these folks in Washington, D.C., have violated continuously and in secret for seven long years.
How dare they?
Democracy cannot exist without strong differences. And going forward, some of you may decide that my FISA position is a deal breaker. That's ok. But I think it is worth pointing out that our agreement on the vast majority of issues that matter outweighs the differences we may have. After all, the choice in this election could not be clearer. Whether it is the economy, foreign policy, or the Supreme Court, my opponent has embraced the failed course of the last eight years, while I want to take this country in a new direction. Make no mistake: if John McCain is elected, the fundamental direction of this country that we love will not change. But if we come together, we have an historic opportunity to chart a new course, a better course.Obama's pol-speak comes on a day when the third judge who has looked at all this asserts the original FISA is unambiguously the law of the land. In Glenn Greenwald's words:
A Bush-41-appointed Federal District Judge yesterday became the third judge -- out of three who have ruled on the issue -- to reject the Bush administration's claim that Article II entitles the President to override or ignore the provisions of FISA. Yesterday's decision by Judge Vaughn Walker of the Northern District of California also guts the central claims for telecom immunity and gives the lie to the excuses coming from Congress as to why the new FISA bill is some sort of important "concession." More than anything else, this decision is but the most recent demonstration that, with this new FISA bill, our political establishment is doing what it now habitually does: namely, ensuring that the political and corporate elite who break our laws on purpose are immune from consequences.
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AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - Amsterdam police say 15 camels, two zebras and an undetermined number of llamas and potbellied swine briefly escaped from a traveling Dutch circus after a giraffe kicked a hole in their cage.From yahoo news.