June 27, 2011 archive

“Hot Coffee” the real “True Blood” on HBO

HBO is on tonight!

What is Hot Coffee? It is a feature documentary by Susan Saladoff about “what really happened to Stella Liebeck, the Albuquerque woman who spilled coffee on herself and sued McDonald’s.” Apparently after listening to her interview on the Leonard Lopate Show, I decided that the documentary is about much more than that.

Filmmaker Susan Saladoff, a former public interest lawyer, talks about her documentary “Hot Coffee,” about the McDonald’s coffee case, which continues to be cited as a prime example of how citizens use “frivolous” lawsuits to take unfair advantage of America’s legal system. But is that an accurate portrayal of the facts? The movie looks at the infamous legal battle that began with a spilled cup of McDonald’s coffee and investigates America’s zeal for tort reform, which, Saladoff argues, could restrict the legal rights of everyday citizens and undermine the entire civil justice system.  

You can listen to the interview here. Why don’t you come back here for for a Hot Coffee Open Thread? But right now why don’t you use the time to get friends who never found out the root of tort reform propaganda in America interested in the documentary that will be on HBO at 9 p.m. eastern and pacific and 8 o’clock in central time zones.

While you are helping to create an informed constituency, I’ll give a few details about Susan Saladoff’s discussion with Leonard Lopate below.  

Staying Human: Preparing to Sail to Gaza

by Kathy Kelly

June 27, 2011

Last week, newly-arrived in Athens as part of the US Boat to Gaza project, our team of activists gathered for nonviolence training.  We are here to sail to Gaza, in defiance of an Israeli naval blockade, in our ship, “The Audacity of Hope.” Our team, and nine other ships’ crews from countries around the world, want Israel to end its lethal blockade of Gaza by letting our crews through to shore to meet with Gazans.  The US ship will bring over 3,000 letters of support to a population suffering its fifth continuous decade of de facto occupation, now in the form of a military blockade controlling Gaza’s sea and sky, punctuated by frequent deadly military incursions, that has starved Gaza’s economy and people to the exact level of cruelty considered acceptable to the domestic population of our own United States, Israel’s staunchest ally.

The international flotilla last year was brutally attacked and the Turkish ship fired on from the air, with a cherrypicked video clip of the resulting panic presented to the world to justify nine deaths, one of a United States citizen, most of them execution-style killings. So it’s essential, albeit a bit bizarre, to plan for how we will respond to military assaults. Israeli news reports say that their naval commandos are preparing to use attack dogs and snipers to board the boats.  In the past, they have used water cannons, taser guns, stink bombs, sound bombs, stun guns, tear gas, and pepper spray against flotilla passengers. I’ve tried to make a mental list of plausible responses:  remove glasses, don life jacket, affix clip line which might prevent sliding off the deck, carry a half onion to offset effect of tear gas, remember to breathe.  

Israel Defense Forces are reportedly training for a fierce assault intended to “secure” each boat in the flotilla, the “Freedom Flotilla 2”. As passengers specifically on the U.S. boat, we may be spared the most violent responses, although Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has not ruled out such violent responses and has preemptively certified any response we may “provoke” (in sailing from international waters to a coastline that is not part of Israel) is an expression of Israel’s “right to defend themselves” . Israel says it is prepared for a number of scenarios, ranging “from no violence” (which it knows full well to expect) to

“extreme violence.”

We are preparing ourselves not to panic, and to practice disciplined nonviolence whatever scenario Israel decides to enact.

If they overcome our boat swiftly, they will presumably handcuff us and possibly hood us, before commandeering our ship toward an Israeli port, removing us from the ship, jailing us and (judging from their past actions) deporting us. I don’t know what country I would be deported to, but I would eventually return to the U.S. and to my home city of Chicago, and to a safety I cannot share with the desperate people of Gaza, or friends from throughout this region so troubled by war, much of it instigated by my own country.

The slogan of our flotilla is “Stay Human.” It’s advice that exposure to violence, real or imagined, always tempts us to forget. Young friends I have met in Afghanistan, faced with pervasive everyday precarity I cannot easily imagine, have expressed this idea in a YouTube video which utterly takes my breath away:  They ask Gazan youth to hold on to hope and to the capacity for childlike joy: “To friends in Gaza: don’t stay angry for too long, Stay together, and love from us in Afghanistan!”

My fellow passenger John Barber recently visited Gaza, and this morning he told me a harrowing story of a Gazan family, that of a farmer named Nasr, living near the Gazan-Israeli buffer zone. The first attack took place in June of 2010.  To quote John’s website:  “…the Israeli army attacked the family home while the children were playing outside…Nasr’s wife, Naama, was in the front yard when a tank 500 meters from the home fired shells packed with nails at the home. Nasr’s wife, torn to ribbons, bled to death in the yard when ambulances were not permitted down the narrow dirt road to his home.”  Ambulance stoppages are a frequent punitive measure used against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.”

“After the second attack,” which occurred in April 2011, “Nasr’s family moved to a house in the village, near to the cemetery where his wife was buried. One night, around midnight, Nasr woke to find his children gone. He went outside and found them at their mother’s grave.” The next day he took them away from that village and back to their land, to try and put the past behind them, and await a future they can barely hope will be kind.

I hope that our ship will make it to Gaza.  I hope Johnny Barber can again visit Nasr, and that I can visit the family and the trapped young men who sheltered me during the final days of the crushing December 2008 “Operation Cast Lead” bombardment.  I hope that our ship will make it out of dock – acting on an “anonymous complaint,” the government here has demanded an inspection of several days before they will allow our (entirely seaworthy) ship to sail. With its world-headline-producing economic troubles, Greece seems incredibly vulnerable to the intense pressure that the Israeli and U.S. governments seem openly prepared to exert: we hope that neither economic nor political blackmail will succeed at stopping our ship from leaving the spot near Athens where it is waiting to receive us.  

“Please don’t lose the human capacity for happiness.” My Afghan friends in the video urge us to stay human. Ali, who speaks in the video, has been harassed by Afghan security forces since becoming active with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. So has his family. Others of his companions have faced death threats, interrogation, arson and theft.  Their persistence encourages and guides me, and I struggle to let their persistence urge me on, because staying human is also about doing what is right.  

I think of Nasr’s children watching their mother die, and I think that if they’re going to stay human then I and my countrymen and women ought to help. We have to become more human than we’ve so far managed to be: We have to make sacrifices to stop the crimes that are ultimately being committed in our names. In different ways, we have to risk the consequences of being where we need to be when we need to be there. We have to stand up to injustice and with the victims of injustice, and rely on our opponents to find their humanity in time, given enough examples of what it can look like. When we find ourselves, against all odds, staying human, that example surprises us and helps sustain us in hope for the power of humanity. We hope we will be allowed through to Gaza, we hope that the siege will be lifted, and that in this time when humankind can so little afford the nightmares of greed and ignorance that rend the Middle East and that render our leaders incapable of uniting to address ever-more desperate, ever-more-frightening global crises, we as a species, one with no assurance of its perpetual survival, will somehow find some way to stay human.

Kathy Kelly  ([email protected]) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence

Safe in Sangin

News from the Sangin District of Helmand Province in Afghanistan…

First Battalion 5th Marines have fought bitterly to secure a “safe zone” of two square kilometres (less than a square mile) around the district bazaar.

And that’s the only “safe zone” in Sangin!


You can’t see two square kilometers on this scale, but maybe if we zoom in…


Nah, you still can’t see our “safe zone,” so let’s zoom again!

Today on The Stars Hollow Gazette

Due to playing in the mud (don’t ask, trust me it’s messy), the Evening Edition this week will be an Abbreviated Evening Edition by c’est moi.

Our regular featured content-

These weekly features-

These featured articles-

The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is an Open Thread

Obama the Republican


This is a good read about the current President of the good ol’ US of A.  The only question remaining is are we going to have a moderate Republican warmonger as President after 2012, or will we have a reactionary Republican warmonger as President?  The only one running who’s even close to decent is Ron Paul, and I don’t trust anybody who calls themselves a libertarian (think Capitalism with no restraints).  It’s sad that no Democrat from what is whistfully called the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party is willing to stand up and run against Obama.  At least then we’d have a possibility of someone who’s not concerned about lining their pockets as President.

Six In The Morning

Europe Stifles Drivers in Favor of Alternatives


Published: June 26, 2011

ZURICH – While American cities are synchronizing green lights to improve traffic flow and offering apps to help drivers find parking, many European cities are doing the opposite: creating environments openly hostile to cars. The methods vary, but the mission is clear – to make car use expensive and just plain miserable enough to tilt drivers toward more environmentally friendly modes of transportation.

Cities including Vienna to Munich and Copenhagen have closed vast swaths of streets to car traffic. Barcelona and Paris have had car lanes eroded by popular bike-sharing programs. Drivers in London and Stockholm pay hefty congestion charges just for entering the heart of the city. And over the past two years, dozens of German cities have joined a national network of “environmental zones” where only cars with low carbon dioxide emissions may enter.

Monday’s Headlines:

Philip Morris sues over Australian plans to ban logos from cigarette packets

Khmer Rouge trial begins despite ‘political pressure’

Libya: Fierce fighting south-west of Tripoli

Eternal triangle fuels Uganda tension

Women’s World Cup kicks off in Germany

Muse in the Morning

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Muse in the Morning

Time for a break from poetry…in order to create some art.

Life is neither static nor unchanging. With no individuality, there can be no change, no adaptation and, in an inherently changing world, any species unable to adapt is also doomed.

–Jean M. Auel

Bang 4

Asshole experts: Matt Ridley/Ray Kurzweil edition.

Ray Kurzweil believes the “singularity,” his vision of man/machine cyborg, “the borg,” is imminent.  This douche-nozzle bases his predictions on recent evolution, the exponential increase in human knowledge since the age of oil.  You tell me what’s wrong with that argument.  To call him a “douchebag” insults douchebags.  

The same, the exact same, is true of Matt Ridley.  How I hate these douchebags.

I really hate them.

If I could choke them out, I would.  Stupid, lying-ass bastards, and dumb mother fuckers to boot, despite their degrees.

Please pardon my realism.  I would gladly choke them.

Late Night Karaoke

TSA Gropes My Commercial Pilot Friend

One of my best friends is a commercial pilot for United Airlines and regularly flies 747s from Chicago to Asia and Europe.  He lives in Memphis and commutes to Chicago via a connecting flight, usually arriving in Chicago several hours before his scheduled flight.  Today he missed his connecting flight from Memphis to Chicago after being detained and groped by the TSA.  Of course, he was not able to make his Chicago to London flight and lost his pay.

My friend and client is a no-nonsense guy who doesn’t put up with much.  He was politely waiting in line to go through the Memphis checkpoint when he noticed that only one line was available.  After hearing customers complaining, he decided to ask a TSA supervisor if another check line could be opened.  

After getting a hostile negative response, he decided to drop the matter as he was in a hurry to catch his flight.  Since he was going to be piloting a plane in several hours, he was wearing his United Airlines uniform.  Since he is a pilot he was not required to stand in line and had been immediately ushered through the normal x-ray checkpoint without problems or alarms going off.  

After passing through the checkpoint, he noticed a female TSA employee not going through the checkpoint and made a comment about the person not being checked.  That is when the shit hit the fan. She immediately required him to go through a punitive recheck.


Nine Months?

Do I have to be called a hate monger because I hate the gullibility of the sheeple populace of the country I was brought up in?  “They” captured Saddam Hussein nine months before the media “roll out”?  Yes this I do believe/ find far more credible that the original government fairy tale/s and even if you yourself can not extend your belief system far enough to accept any of it, well it’s still far better than anything on any of 900 channels of commerical lamestream.

Keith Hunter on project camelot.org


Pique the Geek 20110626: Sulfur

Sulfur is one of the few chemical elements found in its pure state in nature.  Consequently, it was known and used by the ancients.  Many of those uses are still employed to this day, so it is a good thing that sulfur is rather common, at least locally.  Historically, sulfur was mined near volcanic activity and thermal springs where it often occurs.  In a few third world countries that is still a source of income for a significant number of people.

As the use of sulfur (mostly as sulfuric acid) increased in the 19th century, mining sulfur near volcanic regions could not keep up with demand, so new sources had to be developed.  It was known that vast amounts of sulfur occur in association with salt domes in and near the Gulf of Mexico, but there was no way to mine it due to water and shifting sand.  Thus, in 1894 a brilliant process was devised by German-American engineer Herman Frasch to solve the problem.