Thursday, August 31, 2006

An MSNBC Live Vote

Well, I'm glad to see that a majority of respondents have some sense even if it's a small majority:

Do you agree with President Bush when he likens the struggle against Islamic fundamentalism with the fight against Nazis and communists?

Yes. Bin Laden and others are the Hitlers and Stalins of our times. 40%

Maybe. But I'm going to need some more convincing one way or the other. 4.3%

No. This is just dishonest, warmongering designed to scare voters about national security in time for this fall's elections. 56%

Results may not total 100% due to rounding.

Thursday good news blogging

Have you heard about carbon offset programs? Well, they enable you to buy into a process that actually takes carbon out of the atmosphere so as to neutralize, in effect, the carbon your behavior puts in. Here's an article that shows how the idea is spreading. It's subtitled "For a price, travelers can offset carbon impact of flying, driving" and here's part of what it says:

Eco-travelers of the world, listen up. Two major online travel agencies this week launched programs to let you offset travel-related emissions tied to global warming. The question now is whether people who consider themselves environmentally aware will buy into the concept.

Rivals Travelocity and Expedia are taking slightly different approaches to the idea of offsetting the carbon dioxide emitted by aircraft, rental cars and even hotel rooms.

Travelocity is allowing folks who buy vacation packages to offset carbon emissions through a tax-deductible donation to The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit that then plants trees, which absorb carbon dioxide as they grow.
The nonprofit Conservation Fund said a $10 donation offsets an average trip including air travel, a one-night hotel stay, and rental car for one person; $25 offsets air travel, a four-night hotel stay, and rental car for two people; and $40 offsets air travel, a four-night hotel stay, and a rental car for four people.

You can learn more about becoming carbon neutral at the Solar Electric Light Fund website. A link is provided that lets you calculate how much carbon your personal energy usage puts into the atmosphere. Ways of offsetting that are also suggested.

Big tobacco is at it again

This is from an article in the Washington Post entitled "Nicotine Up Sharply In Many Cigarettes:
Some Brands More Than 30% Stronger"

The amount of nicotine in most cigarettes rose an average of almost 10 percent from 1998 to 2004, with brands most popular with young people and minorities registering the biggest increases and highest nicotine content, according to a new study.

Nicotine is highly addictive, and while no one has studied the effect of the increases on smokers, the higher levels theoretically could make new smokers more easily addicted and make it harder for established smokers to quit.
The nicotine in Marlboro products, preferred by two-thirds of high school smokers, increased 12 percent. Kool lights increased 30 percent. Two-thirds of African American smokers use menthol brands.

Not only did most brands have more nicotine in 2004, the number of brands with very high nicotine yields also rose.
"The reports are stunning," said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "What's critical is the consistency of the increase, which leads to the conclusion that it has to have been conscious and deliberate."

"People need to be aware of this," said Sally Fogerty, Massachusetts's associate commissioner for community health. "If a person is trying to quit and is having a hard time, it's not just them. There is an increasing percentage of nicotine that they are ingesting, and that may make it more difficult."

Big tobacco has no conscience. The companies are deliberately trying to prevent people from quitting so as to keep buying their product. Only by more tightly regulating the industry will this kind of strategy be addressed.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

JonBenét and our pathetic press

I want to recommend two articles today from the Smirking Chimp website that refer to the recent JonBenét feeding frenzy by the media. The first is entitled "Sick puppy meets media beast" and it gets started this way:

John Mark Karr is one sick puppy - a school teacher who fantasized that he'd engaged in consensual sex so passionately with six-year-old JonBenet Ramsey that he accidentally killed her.

And television news in our country is one ravenous beast - abandoning any notion of journalism, proportion or decency to again prey upon JonBenet's corpse for ratings and profit.

God only knows what combination of hurt and mental illness went into producing the sick puppy. On the other hand, there's no mystery about what created the media beast: corrupt government policies combined with corporate greed.

Make no mistake: The media beast is every bit as compulsive and out of control as Karr, who may yet end up behind bars for child pornography. But the beast is free to maul again and again.

For 10 days, TV news has fixated on this imposter-culprit as if he were a world-historical figure - like Nelson Mandela emerging from prison, only bigger. TV tracked Karr's travels across the globe, telling us what he ate for dinner, analyzing his attire.

To extend Karr's allotted 15-minutes of fame into a 10-day ordeal, TV news ignored important stories of war, environmental degradation, corruption, citizen activism. Instead, TV viewers were offered hundreds of hours of single-minded examination and debate on one burning question: did Karr do it? The inquiry was relentless and aired all sides.

If only we'd had such in-depth, full-spectrum debate when the Bush team was dragging our country into war based on pretense.

If only, indeed.

And now I want to quote from an article entitled "JonBenét died - and Bush lied?" by Thom Hartmann:

I was on the air doing my radio program two weeks ago when the story came down the wire that the killer of JonBenét Ramsey had been captured in Thailand just hours earlier. I opened the microphone and said words to the effect of, "Today there must be something really awful going down for the Republicans. Maybe Rove really will be indicted. Maybe Cheney. Maybe some terrible revelation about Bush. And if there isn't, today will be the day they'll toss out the unsavory stories - like gutting an environmental law or wiping out pension plans - that they don't want covered."

Apparently it was worse than I'd imagined.

That same morning - just hours after the JonBenét information hit the press and just after I got off the air - it was revealed that US District Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor had ruled that George W. Bush and now-CIA Director Michael Hayden had committed multiple High Crimes, Misdemeanors, and felonies, both criminal and constitutional. If her ruling stands, Bush and Hayden could go to prison.

Yeah, like that would ever really happen.

Hartmann believes the Ramsey story and the recent terror alert and other news "coincidences" have been engineered by the Republicans:

So we have Republicans who have admitted spying illegally. Who brag about it. And who have evidently - according to Tom Ridge - played the media like a violin for years. Could it be that the Karr/Ramsey case is another Soviet-style manipulation of the media?

Or is that too paranoid to contemplate?

Tragically, there are virtually no investigative reporters left in America, and the few who are still working find incredible roadblocks - and over the past year the threat of imprisonment - when looking into the workings of the Bush administration's intelligence services.

I don't think it's paranoid in the least. I think it's the way these people operate and anyone who thinks otherwise is sadly naive.

The cost of war

I've blogged this before but I think a repeat is in order:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

-- Dwight D. Eisenhower

That "fascism" word

Here are the results from today's CNN Quick Vote:

Do you agree with describing the war on terror as a war on "fascism"?

Yes - 32%

No - 68%

The new GOP buzzword: Fascism

Cheney is the real president

This morning, Charlotte Alexandre sent me an article that I want to share with you. It's called "See Dick Run (the Country)" and what it says is absolutely chilling. Here's a sample:

George W. Bush has been faulted in some quarters for taking an extended vacation while the Middle East festers. It doesn't much matter; the man running the country is Vice President Dick Cheney.

When historians look back on the multiple assaults on our constitutional system of government in this era, Cheney's unprecedented role will come in for overdue notice. Cheney's shotgun mishap, when he accidentally sprayed his host with birdshot, has gotten more media attention than has his control of the government.
Cheney is in a class by himself. The administration's grand strategy and its implementation are the work of Cheney -- sometimes Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, sometimes Cheney and political director Karl Rove.

Cheney has planted aides in major Cabinet departments, often over the objection of a Cabinet secretary, to make sure his policies are carried out. He sits in on the Senate Republican caucus, to stamp out any rebellions. Cheney loyalists from the Office of the Vice President dominate interagency planning meetings.

The Iraq war is the work of Cheney and Rumsfeld. The capture of the career civil service is pure Cheney. The disciplining of Congress is the work of Cheney and Rove. The turning over of energy policy to the oil companies is Cheney. The extreme secrecy is Cheney and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

If Cheney were the president, more of this would be smoked out because the press would be paying attention. The New York Times' acerbic columnist Maureen Dowd regularly makes sport of Cheney's dominance, and there are plenty of jokes (Bush is a heartbeat away from the presidency). But you can count serious newspaper or magazine articles on Cheney's operation on the fingers of one hand.

Go read the rest of the article. It will curdle your blood. Sadly, we really do have a useless press in this regard. It's shameful that this isn't regularly, relentlessly covered.
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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Katrina anniversary

Roses in memory of those lost during Hurricane Katrina are tossed into 17th Street Canal during a memorial ceremony on the first anniversary of the disaster in New Orleans, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2006. (Yahoo News)

Casualty of war

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An oil-covered crab at Tabarja, north of Beirut, is among the wildlife casualties resulting from the enormous spill.

This is so bad. So very bad. I'm giving you some excerpts here from an article entitled "An Environmental Disaster Emerges on Lebanon Coast". Here's part of what it says:

The sand along the public beach in south Beirut is blackened and stained. The sea, normally a rich azure, is a noxious yellowish green. The water reeks of petroleum. All the fish are dead; there is not a single bird in the sky.

These are the scars of the Lebanese oil spill, triggered July 15 when Israeli jets bombed the power station at Jiyeh, 18 miles south of Beirut. Between 10,000 and 15,000 tons of heavy fuel oil spilled into the Mediterranean Sea and began flowing north. After six weeks, the slick has spread an estimated 90 miles north and now could threaten the coastal waters of Syria and Turkey.

And it's getting worse.

Some of the oil has washed up on the Lebanese shoreline or sunk to the seabed in a layer up to 4 inches thick, according to a video shot by Lebanese divers and released by Greenpeace.
In the Palm Islands Nature Reserve just off the coast near Tripoli, nesting grounds for sea turtles have been inundated with oil. The turtles had already laid their eggs by the time the Israelis began bombing. When the baby turtles hatch, they will have to crawl through an oil slick to get to the water.

"We've never had an environmental disaster like this in Lebanon," said Tarek Moukkaddem, a volunteer from Tripoli who had come to help clean up the Beirut beaches.
The health effects of the spill could be dire. Thousands of families on the Lebanese coast depend on fishing for their primary food supply, but surviving fish may contain hydrocarbons and other carcinogens.

The economic effects of the spill go far beyond the immediate coastline. More than 1.6 million tourists had been expected to visit this year -- bringing in $4.4 billion, said Tourism Minister Joe Sarkis. The economy had been growing between 5 and 6 percent because of the tourism boom. "Unfortunately, the war stopped everything," he said.

Tourism accounts for about 12 percent of Lebanon's economy, and seaside resorts and restaurants accounted for more than half of that. "Without the sea, it would reduce the attraction of Lebanon," Sarkis said. "It might take between one and two years to clean."

Lebanon has about 200 beaches and all have been affected, he said. He said resorts such as Eddé Sands and the Movenpick, both of which declined to comment for this article, have all been affected, and many will remain closed for an unknown period of time.

The Israelis deliberately targeted that power station. It's unconscionable. Simply unconscionable.

Dealing with anger and despair

This is from an interview with environmental activist and writer Derrick Jensen:

So what I don't do with the anger is I don't push it away. That's a really, really important thing. About 15 years ago I was undergoing this sort of collapse where I just bursting into sobs all the time over the death of the salmon or just over how horrible this culture is. I called up this American Indian friend of mine, a writer and activist, and I said to her that this thing being an activist is breaking my heart. She said, “Yeah. It'll do that”. I said, “The dominant culture just hates everything, doesn't it?” and she said “Yeah it hates even itself”. I said, “It has a death urge, doesn't it?” and she said, “Yeah, it does”. I said, “ Unless it's stopped it's going to kill everything on the planet. We're not going to make it to some great new glorious tomorrow, are we?” and her response was the best response she could give and it was, “I've been waiting for you to say that”. The reason why that was just a perfect response was because it let me know that it normalised my despair and that despair is an appropriate response to a desperate situation. It let me know that my sorrow is just sorrow and my pain is just pain and that I can feel it. It's not so much my sorrow or my pain that hurts, it's my resistance to it. The other thing is it lets me feel all of these things and I knew it wouldn't kill me. There's this fear that if I recognise how bad things are then I'll just die. Well no. There's even a better thing that happens. When you recognise how bad things are, it does kill you and there's a wonderful thing about being dead and that's once you're dead they can't touch you any more. They can't touch you with threats, they can't touch you with promises and one of the smartest things the Nazis did was they made it every step of the way to appear it was in the Jews best interests not to resist. Do you want to get an ID card or do you want to resist and possibly get killed? Do you want to move to a ghetto or do you want to resist and possibly get killed? Do you want to get on a cattle car or do you want to resist and possibly get killed? Do you want to take a shower or do you want to resist and possibly get killed? Every step of the way it was in their national best interest not to resist. What's very, very, very important is that the Jews that participated in the Warsaw ghetto up rising had a higher rate of survival than those that went along with it. We need to keep that in mind over the next 10 years. The point is that once that rage and sorrow really started to crystallize and once it started to go through me like I said, it killed me. The “me” it killed wasn't the animal me, wasn't the human me. The “me” it killed was the socially created me. What emerged was someone who no longer relies on hope and someone who is simply an animal who is going to defend those I love.

When I was undergoing my early meditation training I was taught the slogan, "Hope and fear unsettle the mind." It is a great liberation to let go of hope (and by that I mean the demand that an expectation be realized) and do what's right anyway.

NOW look what he's doing

It's just one outrage after another. Look at this excepert from an article by Paul Craig Roberts entitled "Bush goes retro to avoid prosecution":

Under the Nuremberg standard, Bush is definitely a war criminal. The U.S. Supreme Court also exposed Bush to war crimes charges under both the U.S. War Crimes Act of 1996 and the Geneva Conventions when the Court ruled in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld against the Bush administration's military tribunals and inhumane treatment of detainees.

President Bush and his attorney general agree that under existing laws and treaties Bush is a war criminal together with many members of his government. To make his war crimes legal after the fact, Bush has instructed the Justice (sic) Department to draft changes to the War Crimes Act and to U.S. treaty obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

One of Bush's changes would deny protection of the Geneva Conventions to anyone in any American court.

Bush's other change would protect from prosecution any U.S. government official or military personnel guilty of violating Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Article 3 prohibits "at any time and in any place whatsoever outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment." As civil libertarian Nat Hentoff observes, this change would also undo Sen. John McCain's amendment against torture.

Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, says that Bush's changes "immunize past crimes."

Under the U.S. Constitution and U.S. legal tradition, retroactive law is impermissible. What do Americans think of their president's attempts to immunize himself, his government, CIA operatives, military personnel, and civilian contractors from war crimes?

Apparently, the self-righteous, morally superior American "Christian" public could care less. The Republican-controlled House and Senate, which long ago traded integrity for power, are working to pass Bush's changes prior to the midterm elections in the event the Republicans fail to steal three elections in a row and Democrats win control of the House or Senate.

Now here's what I want to know. Are you hearing about this on the mainstream news broadcasts? Are journalist screaming about this? No? So what's happened to our democracy? It's being stolen from us right in front of our eyes. And, as a people, we're letting it.

Co-opting the language

I want to call your attention to an article by Thom Hartmann entitled "Reclaiming the issues: Islamic or Republican Fascism?" Here's the main point:

Genuine American fascists are on the run, and part of their survival strategy is to redefine the term "fascism" so it can't be applied to them any more. Most recently, George W. Bush said: "This nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation."

In fact, the Islamic fundamentalists who apparently perpetrated 9/11 and other crimes in Spain and the United Kingdom are advocating a fundamentalist theocracy, not fascism.

And here's something about real fascism:

As the 1983 American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is: "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism." (The US dictionary definition has gotten somewhat squishier since then, as all the larger dictionary companies have been bought up by multinational corporations.)

I'm really sickened by the Orwellian "newspeak" that is practiced by the current administration. It's important that those of us who know what fascism really is state so loudly and clearly.

A truly great rant

Charolotte Alexandre sent me the following this morning entitled "Let Me See If I've Got This 'RIGHT'" by Nancy Greggs. I'm afraid I don't know where it's published so I can't provide you with a link. Therefore, I'm posting it in its entirety:

Let Me See If I've Got This 'RIGHT'

I'm supposed to believe that the man who sat in a classroom reading a kids' book for seven minutes AFTER he was told the country was under attack, who was warned repeatedly about imminent threats against the country and chose to ignore them, who has traipsed off on vacation everytime there is a domestic or international disaster, is a decisive man-of-action with the fortitude to run a nation.

I am supposed to believe that God himself chooses my nation's leaders and that, in His infinite wisdom, he chose a lying, thieving, self-absorbed, pro-torture, pro-war, lazy frat-boy jerk like George W. Bush.

I am supposed to believe that the same man who used family money and influence to duck military duty, who has failed at every business venture he ever tried, who never did an honest day's work or accomplished anything of value in his entire life, is fit to be Commander-in-Chief.

I am supposed to believe that a man who ignores the Constitution he swore to uphold, breaks the law with abandon, repeatedly lied about the reasons for going to war, its cost, its duration, and even its goals, is honest and trustworthy.

I am supposed to believe that the escalating violence, chaos and deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan are a sign of progress.

I am supposed to believe that a man who, by his own admission, does not read newspapers, who only meets with and listens to 'yes' men, who refuses to speak before any group that is not hand-picked from his staunchest supporters, is in touch with the realities of the world.

I am supposed to believe that sending US soldiers into combat without proper equipment or a viable military strategy, while decreasing their pensions and their benefits, is a patriotic display of supporting the troops.

I am supposed to believe that gutting the funding of social programs aimed at assisting the poor, the sick, the hungry and the homeless is the outcome of good Christians being in office, and that torturing, maiming and killing innocent civilians is "doing the Lord's work".

Oh, don't go anywhere, because I haven't even gotten started yet.

I am supposed to believe that a president who acts like an ill-mannered, oafish, mindless buffoon in public, both at home and in international settings, and a vice president who tells a colleague to go f*ck himself in the course of conducting the country's business, are both deserving of respect.

I am supposed to believe that spying on US citizens, quashing free speech, and suspending laws that govern detention and confinement without just cause is preserving the tenets of democracy.

I am supposed to believe that alienating our allies, isolating ourselves from the world, refusing to use diplomacy instead of aggression, and causing people around the globe to hate us is the best way to protect my country from violent attack.

I am supposed to believe that no-bid contracts awarded to companies owned by members of this Administration, its families and its cronies is pure coincidence, and that secret meetings resulting in policies that enrich their supporters to the detriment of hard-working Americans is good and honest government.

Hold on, because there's MORE of this crap ...

I am supposed to believe that outsourcing American jobs, under-funding our educational system, and plunging the country deeper into debt with every passing day will lead to a stronger, more competitive nation in the years to come.

I am supposed to believe that the same people who left NOLA to drown, who refuse to secure our borders, who refuse to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, and who initiate policies that incite anger and violence the world over are protecting my country from harm.

I am supposed to believe that an Administration whose policies make basic medical care and life-saving drugs unaffordable for millions of Americans is pro-life.

I am supposed to believe that elected representatives who voted for the Bankruptcy Bill, tax breaks for wealthy individuals, and tax subsidies for multi-billion dollar corporations are looking out for theirconstituents.

Along with all of the above, I am also supposed to believe that selling authority over our ports to foreign nations, selling our national lands to private interests, and selling our children's future by burdening them with debt for decades to come is in the best interests of our country.

Drum roll, please -- here's the BIG FINALE ...

I am supposed to believe it is safe to board an airplane with a hold full of uninspected cargo as long as no passengers are in possession of baby formula, that a group of men in Britain were about to take down ten airliners without tickets or passports, that seven men in Miami were going to blow up buildings in cities they didn't have the money to get to, that one lone guy in New York was going to take down the Brooklyn Bridge with a blow-torch, that if we leave Iraq every terrorist in the world is going to come to the US and fight us in the malls and the supermarkets, that the 'Liberal media' simply forgets to cover the lies, cover-ups and corruption of this Administration and its party members, that voting for a Democrat in Connecticut sends shockwaves of unbridled encouragement throughout the Muslim world, that a bunch of PNAC members whose predictions have been proven totally wrong in every instance should be dictating policy to my government, that our military isn't stretched too thin and they are just recalling those who have already fulfilled their duty because they've got too much time on their hands, and that George W. Bush spends his summers reading CAMUS and SHAKESPEARE.

Oh, if only I were GULLIBLE, ILL-INFORMED, EASILY LED and TOTALLY STUPID - what a FINE Bush supporter I would have made!

Send this to anybody you know who thinks at all. The Bush supporters who have drunk the Kool-aid are beyond hope, I know. But some people are waking up. This piece might just help.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A memo to Congress

Let's hear it for biblical values:

Shame on you! you who make unjust laws and publish burdensome decrees, depriving the poor of justice, robbing the weakest of my people of their rights, despoiling the widow and plundering the orphan. What will you do when called to account, when ruin from afar confronts you? To whom will you flee for help?

-- Isaiah 10:1-3

A dangerous preacher

I want to recommend that you click through and read an article by Walter C. Uhler called "Crackpot Christianity: Part Two". Personally, I think the adjective "crackpot" is too mild a word because it carries the connotation of being relatively harmless. But the preacher in question is not harmless at all. Here's how the article gets started:

During the weekend of August 26-27, 2006, Americans were given another opportunity to see "Crackpot Christianity" in action. All they had to do was tune in to The Coral Ridge Hour and watch its presentation of Darwin's Deadly Legacy. I watched it Saturday evening and was respectively amused and appalled by the show's infantilism and dishonesty. Although it would not persuade any educated American, the show's dishonesty implies a staggering contempt for its intended audience -- the untaught.

Knowing the audience, I expected such buffoonery and mendacity. As I demonstrated in an earlier article (
Crackpot Christianity and America's Current oral Degeneration), the overwhelming majority of America's Christians know next to nothing about the origins and actual composition -- let alone the myriad contradictions -- of the holy book they ostensibly revere. Why would they know anything more about the evolutionary biology so many of them despise?

In addition, I already had read the asinine assertion made by the program's foremost crackpot Christian, Dr. D. James Kennedy: "To put it simply, no Darwin, no Hitler."

Here's something about Dr. Kennedy I found in the comments section:

D. James Kennedy is the most visible Dominionist, and founder of the Coral Ridge Ministries, Coral Gables, FL. He airs on Sunday mornings on ABC - his lying, twisted talks are worth watching - they'll get your bile boiling. He lies to his funda-mental-less following while he himself is Calvinist Presbyterian. These are the same Presbyterians who ruled South Africa, the ones who believe they are "predestined" since before the beginning to time to rule the world and to take it to destruction.

D. James Kennedy "saw the light" while he was bucking to become the manager of the Arthur Murray dance studios. Contrary to any form of Christianity I am aware of, he believes in astrology and has written a book on it. He is a close friend of James Dobson who fosters corporal punishment for children as young as 15-18 months. He must necessarily share Dobson's views on child abuse. He has openly declared his intentions of seeing the downfall of the USA, the replace the Constitution with a theocracy overseen by "regents". In my opinion, this Dominionist is one of the very worst charlatans, and unbelievably dangerous.

I stumbled upon the Coral Ridge broadcast one Sunday morning when I happened to be at home (maybe I was sick or something.) I was definitely appalled.

I want to share something else I read this morning in The Sun magazine. It the transcript of an interview with Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. Here's a rather inflammatory statement Harris made:

If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion. I think more people are dying as a result of our religious myths than as a result of any other ideology. I would not say that all human conflict is born of religion or religious differences, but for the human community to be fractured on the basis of religioius doctrines that are fundamentally incompatible, in an age when nuclear weapons are proliferating, is a terrifying scenario. I think we do the world a disservice when we suggest that religions are generally benign and not fundamentally divisive.

That's strong. As most people who read this blog know, I'm a religious person. But I take his point; I really do. And with people like D. James Kennedy poisoning and manipulating people right and left, I think Mr. Harris may well be right.

How global warming affects plants

Well, I learned something today from an article entitled "Global warming alarmists aren't upset enough" by Richard Lasker. Take a look:

An increase of 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit doesn't just mean it's warmer. It means that plants, especially temperate climate plants (not tropical plants), have to keep cool by increasing the rate of transrespiration, moving water throughout the plant. That's how plants "keep cool."

But an increase in daytime temperatures of 10 degrees Fahrenheit equates to a 50 percent increase in transrespiration in most temperate climate plants, less in some, more in others. The water doesn't circulate in the plant, go up then down and all around, it comes out of the leaf stomas (openings) as water vapor. That's part of what humidity is, plant sweat.

Now, with 50 percent of the U.S. currently in one form or another of drought, and plants needing an increase of roughly 50 percent of water movement, doesn't this mean that the plants are using the ground water at half again the normal rate? And, we've established, the ground water (rain) replenishment rate is at drought levels, yes?

That's my point here: Most plant physiologists, most botanists, most biologists know these simple plant facts. Where are they in this "debate" about global warming?

Where are the real alarmists who should be shouting at the tops of their lungs that a major calamity is scheduled to befall the North American continent unless global warming is brought to a halt now. Not 10 years from now, not five years from now. Now!

Allow me to be the alarmist. At the current rate of rainfall, coupled with the current rate of transrespiration, North America will start losing major areas of vegetation in the next two years. Yes, two years. Anyone who knows the climatic history of the Sahara Desert or Spain or Italy can tell you that once you strip or lose the trees and grasses, you do not get the rainfall back.

I wonder if we're going to meet the challenge as a species or just let the calamity happen. I really do. And I'm not optimistic.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


I'm still disgusted about the new airline rules:

On some flights the only thing airlines are letting you take on are a passport and cash. The passport, of course, for identification and the cash, so they can sell you a bottle of water for $20.

--Jay Leno

Sunday prayer blogging

Here's a prayer I found today on the website Spirituality and Practice. It's from the book in Life Prayers from Around the World edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon:

May my feet rest firmly on the ground
May my head touch the sky
May I see clearly
May I have the capacity to listen
May I be free to touch
May my words be true
May my heart and mind be open
May my hands be empty to fill the need
May my arms be open to others
May my gifts be revealed to me
So that I may return that which has been given
Completing the great circle.

— The Terma Collective

Scientific understanding

My friend, Larry Hicks, had a letter to the editor published yesterday in our local newspaper, Tulsa World. I thought I'd reproduce it here:

A study in Science, the premier American journal of science in the U.S., reported in the Aug. 11 issue that America ranks near the bottom of 34 countries for acceptance of evolution. Only Turkey ranked lower. Factors identified with America's low score was a poor understanding of biology, particularly relating to genetics. Writers also linked the literal interpretation of the Bible by many Americans and the mixing of science, politics and religion.

What an embarrassment for our country that is supposed to be an enlightened beacon for the rest of the world. It's also scary. Maybe I underestimate many of my fellow Okies, but I would bet that we as a citizenry are close to the bottom in scientific literacy in the U.S.

Folks who would bring industry and innovation to Oklahoma are certainly not excited when they hear of this scientific ignorance. As a grandfather with children in our public schools, I am not excited when I hear of this. Also as a senior citizen looking forward to quality health care and well-trained scientists in our hospitals and labs, I do not welcome the idea that our scientific minds might lag behind, or even not accept, the best of current scientific thought.

Biology is the study or understanding of life. Medicine is biology. Ecology is biology. Agriculture is biology. Evolution is the unifying theme of all biology and its disciplines. To deny evolution as the basis of biology is to strip it of all foundations and framework for future breakthrough discoveries.

I'm very worried about scientific illiteracy as well. We are descending into a dark age of dangerous ignorance and superstition. It's truly worrying.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The control of information

When government blocks the free flow of information, we are in a sorry state indeed. We are, in fact, headed for totalitarianism. Please take a look at these excerpts from an article by Carl Pope entitled "The Ministry of Truth strikes again, and again, and again...".

The reactionary campaign against knowledge and information is reaching frightening new heights.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been ordered by the White House to "
shut down [its] libraries, end public access to research materials and box up unique collections on the assumption that Congress will not reverse President Bush’s proposed budget reductions." Fifteen states will lose library service immediately, the rest will follow, and the public is to be turned away as soon as possible.

Unsurprisingly, EPA scientists are protesting, saying that the lack of access to data will impair their research and scientific capabilities. The Administration says its plan is to "centralize" control of all data; EPA scientists say the real goal is to "suppress information on environmental and public health-related topics." The Administration is not yet burning books, but they are getting very close.

They're not much fonder of telling the truth -- the whole truth -- over at the Defense Department. The Department has refused to complete congressionally ordered studies of the potential security threat to radar systems from wind turbines. Until it finishes that study,
Defense is blocking all new wind turbines that might help reduce our dependence on what the President calls our "addiction" to oil and natural gas "often from insecure places."
Nor will the Department of Defense tell us how many wind projects it has stopped, even though it has issued "don't proceed" orders to each one, so the information is obviously available. According to media reports, at least 15 wind farm proposals in the Midwest alone have already been shut down. The list of stalled projects includes one outside of Bloomington, Illinois, that would have been the nation's largest source of wind energy -- generating enough electricity to power 120,000 homes in the Chicago area.

This is beyond outrageous. With our "addiction to oil" we need those wind farms. I don't believe it has anything to do with defense. I think it has to do with the oil companies who don't want there to be an alternative energy supply.

And look what else is in this article:

But scientists are good for one thing -- as scapegoats. Only a few weeks ago, reactionary columnist Peggy Noonan was setting up the climate science community to take the fall for Bush Administration inaction on global warming. According to Noonan, if only global warming scientists weren't such obvious liberal hacks, the world would have acted in time. Scientists, Noonan said, are responsible, "for refusing to be honest, for operating in cliques and holding to ideologies. For failing to be trustworthy." She could not, however, cite a single example of such behavior. Perhaps all her evidence had already all been hidden away under lock and key in the EPA's "deaccessed" library system.

Un-freakin'-believable. I can't believe the sheer unmitigated gall of these people.

Blogger problems again

Blogger is acting up again. It takes an inordinate length of time to publish a single post and I have to go into code to format properly. So expect light posting today. Let's hope the quirks in the program get resolved soon!

Remembering Peace Pilgrim

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Today I blogged on Peace Pilgrim over on Meditation Matters and it seems appropriate to do so here as well. If you don't know who Peace Pilgrim was, she was a deeply spiritual woman who undertook at twenty-eight year pilgrimage of walking for peace. Read this about her:

Peace Pilgrim walked more than 25,000 miles across this country spreading her message - "This is the way of Peace: Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love." Carrying in her tunic pockets her only possessions, she vowed, "I shall remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food." She talked with people on dusty roads and city streets, to church, college, civic groups, on TV and radio, discussing peace within and without.

Her pilgrimage covered the entire peace picture: peace among nations, groups, individuals, and the very important inner peace - because that is where peace begins.

She believed that world peace would come when enough people attain inner peace. Her life and work showed that one person with inner peace can make a significant contribution to world peace.

And here's something she said about an encounter she had on the road:
There are those who know and do not do. This is very sad. I remember one day as I walked along the highway a very nice car stopped and the man said to me, "How wonderful that you are following your calling!" I replied, "I certainly think that everyone should be doing what feels right to do." He then began telling me what he felt motivated toward, and it was a good thing that needed doing. I got quite enthusiastic about it and took for granted that he was doing it. I said, "That's wonderful! How are you getting on with it?" And he answered, "Oh, I'm not doing it. That kind of work doesn't pay anything." And I shall never forget how desperately unhappy that man was. But you see, in this materialistic age we have such a false criterion by which to measure success. We measure it in terms of dollars, in terms of material things. But happiness and inner peace do not lie in that direction. If you know but do not do, you are a very unhappy person indeed.

That is actually a very tragic story. What would happen if we all did what we really believed we were called to do? Possibly that golden age of peace for which Peace Pilgrim dedicated her life would come to pass.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Bumper sticker of the day

The Dominionists and their plans

John Dean has written an important article about the Dominionists - also known as Christian Reconstructionists - who are quite blatant about their desire to replace the Constitution with Old Testament law. These are very dangerous and subversive people and we need to be aware of them and oppose them at every turn. Dean's article is entitled "Michelle Goldberg's study of the rise of Christian Nationalism, and its adherents' strategy to use the courts to further their agenda". Here's part of what it says:

If more Americans would read works like Michelle Goldberg's Kingdom Coming: The rise of Christian Nationalism, the longevity of our democracy, as we know it, would be more assured. I say this because the more people who understand the thinking and agenda of the growing forces of "Christian nationalism," the less likely it will be that these forces will succeed. Not many people want to go where Christian nationalists want to take the country.

Michelle Goldberg, a journalist who writes for Salon,
defines Christian nationalism as the "Christian worldview" that envisions Christianity governing "every aspect of public and private life, and [holds] that all -- government, science, history, culture, and relationships -- must be understood according to the dictates of scripture." Christian nationalists have "biblically correct positions on every issue, from gay marriage to income tax rates."

These believers are also known as dominionists. Dominionism is a theology drawn from God's instruction to Adam in Genesis (1:26-27) to take dominion over the animate and inanimate world. As Goldberg explains, "dominionism is derived from a theocratic sect called Christian Reconstructionism, which advocates replacing American civil law with Old Testament biblical law."

What is particularly troubling is their overall strategy:

It's well-established that the religious right seeks to use the courts to outlaw abortion, to return prayer to the public square, and lower the barriers separating church and state. What was news to me, however, was Goldberg's finding that the "entire Christian nationalist agenda ultimately hinges on conquering the courts." Christian nationalists, who have been working with others in the conservative movement, have declared nothing short of a war on the federal courts.

Reconstructionist leaders see federal judges -- probably correctly, Goldberg notes -- "as the only thing protecting American secularism. They know that if they can take the courts, they'll have the country."

These people are the Christian Taliban. It is profoundly disturbing to become aware of what they want to do and to see what they have already accomplished. I urge you to click through and read all of Dean's article as I really can't do it justice with just a couple of brief excerpts.

Blogger difficulties

The Blogger program is not functioning properly today and it is very difficult and time consuming to post as a result. I apologize for there being fewer posts than usual. Normal posting will resume as soon as Blogger is behaving itself.

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Ellie Finlay

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Some more numbers

This is obscenely wrong:

In 2003, the average worker in the United States was netting $517.00 per week. How much were CEO's taking home at that time? A mere $155,000. 52 times per year. That is a staggering 301 to 1 differential. In 1982 the ratio of CEO to average worker pay was "a mere" 42 to 1. From 1990 to 2003 US corporate profits rose 128%.

And this doesn't even mention the wages of outsourced manufacturing jobs in Bangladesh and China.

Did you know he said this?

Take a look:

I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace.

— George W. Bush, June 18, 2002

Right out of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

More good news blogging

The good news is that Americans are waking up. A recent Zogby poll has learned that over the last two years, more Americans have become convinced of the reality of global climate change. Here are some of the findings:

* 74 percent are more convinced that global warming is happening than they were two years ago, while only one in five are now less convinced.

* 70 percent of respondents also linked
severe weather to global warming.

* 72 percent thought reducing industrial
greenhouse gas emissions could improve the environment without affecting the economy.

* Democrats (87 percent), Independents (82 percent) and Republicans (56 percent) are much more convinced that global warming is happening than they were two years ago.

Now here's something really interesting. A population that is generally conservative wants action on global warming. Take a look:

A poll conducted by the [National Wildlife Federation] earlier this year found that the majority of hunters and fishermen think the country is on the wrong track with its energy policy and should be a leader in combating global warming.

Let's hope policy makers are paying attention. If they are then the recent polls provide good news indeed.

UPDATE: The insurance companies are convinced of the reality of global warming. Check out this CNN article entitled "Insurance companies take on global warming".The conclusion is encouraging:

It will be interesting to see whether the insurers will now join in the Washington debate over climate change. Such influential companies as General Electric, Wal-Mart and Shell now say that they believe that the government should regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

If big insurers join them, their voices will be taken seriously on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. They could once again help make the world safer for the rest of us.

Let's face it - the Bush administration is only going to listen to big business. So if big business is finally starting to pay attention, good for them.

Thursday good news blogging

It's about Plan B - the emergency "morning after" contraceptive. The Washington Post reports in a story called "FDA Approves OTC Sales of Plan B". Here's part of what it says:

The Food and Drug Administration approved an application today making the long-debated emergency contraceptive Plan B, commonly known as the "morning-after pill," available without a prescription to women 18 and older.

The FDA said Barr Laboratories, the maker of Plan B, could begin selling the drug, but only at pharmacies and health clinics. Women purchasing the drug will have to show proof of age.

Many social conservatives in and out of Congress have battled to keep the drug from becoming available without a prescription. Some say that could encourage promiscuity, and others say use of the pill causes a very early abortion. Their position had for almost three years trumped an overwhelming medical and scientific consensus that the drug could be safely dispensed by a pharmacist without a prescription.
"This is something that women's health groups have been working on for more than a decade," said Amy Allina of the National Women's Health Network. "If the decision comes out as we expect it to, that's a real victory."

Allina added that restricting access to women 18 and older is disappointing. "There's no medical or scientific reason for restricting access. It sends a message that it's somehow less safe for younger women, which just isn't true," she said.

It is, indeed, disappointing that access is restricted to women 18 and older. I think a lot of unnecessary abortions will take place as a result. But today's decision is a start in the right direction and is very encouraging.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Some numbers worth knowing

I found the following in an article by Jim Hightower entitled "Where Bush's arrogance has taken us" :

* Number of White House officials and cabinet members who have any of their immediate family in Bush's war: 0

* Total value of contracts given to Halliburton for work in the Bush-Cheney "War on Terror" since 2001: More than $15 billion

* Amount that Halliburton pays to the Third World laborers it imports into Iraq to do the work in its dining facilities, laundries, etc.: $6 per 12-hour day (50 cents an hour)

* Amount that Halliburton bills us taxpayers for each of these workers: $50 a day

* Amount that Halliburton bills U.S. taxpayers for:
-- A case of sodas: $45
-- Washing a bag of laundry: $100

There are lots of other numbers in that article that are worth knowing but these are the ones that stood out to me.

Please don't shop at Wal-Mart - part 14

Frank Ford sent me the following this morning:

Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) yesterday vetoed legislation aimed at forcing Wal-Mart to provide its workers with more adequate benefits. That wasn't a surprise - Ehrlich is the standard "corporate whore in politicians clothing" that now occupies many of our nation's highest public offices.

What is shocking, however, is how open he was about acknowledging that Big Business pulls all of the strings when it comes to public policy. As the Los Angeles Times notes, "Eduardo Castro-Wright, chief operating officer of Wal-Mart stores USA division,
stood at the Republican governor's side as he signed the official veto." The photo at right captures it on film - Ehrlich, who has pocketed campaign cash from Wal-Mart, is waving after the veto, as the Wal-Mart executive prowls behind him.

This is, in no uncertain terms, an admission that we no longer have a government that could be called "of the people." Our democracy has been degraded so forcefully by Corporate America, that it's become standard operating procedure for corporate executives to be physically looming/lurking as one of their lackeys in high office spits on ordinary workers and does Big Business's bidding.

If you shop at Wal-Mart, you are supporting the exploitation of workers, the shipping of American jobs overseas, sweatshop manufacturing, the destruction of independent small businesses and the use of tax dollars to subsidize Wal-Mart's poverty stricken workers. Please be willing to pay a fair price for goods and services. Patronize local small businesses and the larger coporations that treat their workers fairly.

Our crude, vulgar president

This is from the very conservative U.S. News and World Report:

He loves to cuss, gets a jolly when a mountain biker wipes out trying to keep up with him, and now we're learning that the first frat boy loves flatulence jokes. A top insider let that slip when explaining why President Bush is paranoid around women, always worried about his behavior. But he's still a funny, earthy guy who, for example, can't get enough of fart jokes. He's also known to cut a few for laughs, especially when greeting new young aides, but forget about getting people to gas about that.

Bringing honor and dignity back to the White House. Yeah, right.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

So much for democracy - part 2

I want to recommend an op-ed piece by Eugene Robinson in today's Washington Post. It's entitled "President on Another Planet". The whole article is really worth reading but here's the part I particularly want you to see:

Here's another line from the president's news conference: "What's very interesting about the violence in Lebanon and the violence in Iraq and the violence in Gaza is this: These are all groups of terrorists who are trying to stop the advance of democracy."

Now, whatever you think about George Bush's intellect, he knows full well that the Hamas government in Gaza was democratically elected. He also knows full well that Hezbollah participates in the democratically elected government of Lebanon, or what's left of Lebanon. And so he has to know full well that U.S.-backed Israeli assaults on Gaza and Lebanon -- even if you believe they were justified -- had the impact of crippling, if not crushing, two nascent democracies of the kind the Bush administration wants to cultivate throughout the Middle East.

If we had a press that was worth anything, someone would have called him on that "advance of democracy" remark. But I don't think Bush wants to cultivate democracy throughout the Middle East at all. I think "democracy" as he used the word is a euphemism for puppet government compliant with what the White House wants.

Thought for the day

I agree:

The soldiers killed in Iraq today deserve more press than a cute, blond girl killed 10 years ago.

- Zing!

Relinquishing illusions

This is a true patriot:

It is natural for man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts... For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth, to know the worst, and to provide for it.

-- Patrick Henry

From a meditative point of view, a refusal to acknowledge the truth about a situation is indulging in the mind poison of delusion. One way delusion manifests is as the need not to know. The remedy, of course, is cultivating a willingness to know. This is what we need to cultivate if we are not to lose freedoms completely.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Our news media

I have Opinionated Old Fart to thank for this. Just look:

Number of reporters contributing to Friday's front page New York Times story on the JonBenet Ramsey case: 13

Number of reporters contributing to Friday's front page New York Times
story on the federal court ruling that the NSA warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional: 2

Is that disgusting or what?

"It's as though we are evil."

I've been an admirer of Gore Vidal for a long time. Today, Frank Ford sent me the transcript of an interview of Vidal published in The Progressive magazine. I want to give you a quote from that:

We’ve never had a government like this. The United States has done wicked things in the past to other countries but never on such a scale and never in such an existentialist way. It’s as though we are evil. We strike first. We’ll destroy you. This is an eternal war against terrorism. It’s like a war against dandruff. There’s no such thing as a war against terrorism. It’s idiotic. These are slogans. These are lies. It’s advertising, which is the only art form we ever invented and developed.

But our media has collapsed. They’ve questioned no one. One of the reasons Bush and Cheney are so daring is that they know there’s nobody to stop them. Nobody is going to write a story that says this is not a war, only Congress can declare war. And you can only have a war with another country. You can’t have a war with bad temper or a war against paranoids. Nothing makes any sense, and the people are getting very confused. The people are not stupid, but they are totally misinformed... [Our leaders] don’t want us to know anything. When you’ve got a press like we have, you no longer have an informed citizenry.

Yes, the ignorance of the American people is appalling. The only thing that will make a difference is if enough of us keep saying so.

About the ozone layer

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With all the concern about global warming lately, there hasn't been much talk about the ozone layer. But today CNN has some news in that regard. It's an article entitled "Scientists: Ozone layer recovery will take longer" and here's part of what it says:

GENEVA, Switzerland (AP) -- The atmosphere will take up to 15 years longer than previously expected to recover from pollution and repair its ozone hole over the southern hemisphere, the United Nations' weather organization said Friday.

Thinning in the ozone layer -- due to chemical compounds leaked from refrigerators, air conditioners and other devices -- exposes the Earth to harmful solar rays. Too much ultraviolet radiation can cause skin cancer and destroy tiny plants at the beginning of the food chain.

Scientists said Friday it would take until 2065, instead of 2050 as previously expected, for the ozone layer to recover and the hole over the Antarctic to close.

"The Antarctic ozone hole has not become more severe since the late 1990s, but large ozone holes are expected to occur for decades to come," ozone specialist Geir Braathen told reporters in summarizing a new report by the World Meteorological Organization and the U.N. Environment Program. The report will be released next year.

The good news, of course, is that the ozone layer is healing itself because of our choosing to refrain from using chlorofluorocarbons in air conditioners, refrigerators and aerosols. What we need to realize is that this healing will happen when we stop behavior that is damaging to the environment. Now if only we'll follow our own example with regard to global climate change.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

How we advance the empire

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Baby of Ecuador

As I was driving home from church today, I happened to be listening to NPR while John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, was being interviewed. I was sickened and apalled by what he revealed about how we exploit other countries in the developing world. Then I found a transcript on line of an interview he gave in 2004. Somehow the publication of this book didn't come to my attention then. But I'm glad it has now. Take a look at some of what he has to say (I know I'm giving you a lot to read here but please do read this; it's important that we know what's being done in our name):

Basically what we were trained to do and what our job is to do is to build up the American empire. To bring -- to create situations where as many resources as possible flow into this country, to our corporations, and our government, and in fact we’ve been very successful. We’ve built the largest empire in the history of the world. It's been done over the last 50 years since World War II with very little military might, actually. It's only in rare instances like Iraq where the military comes in as a last resort. This empire, unlike any other in the history of the world, has been built primarily through economic manipulation, through cheating, through fraud, through seducing people into our way of life, through the economic hit men. I was very much a part of that.
Well, I was initially recruited while I was in business school back in the late sixties by the National Security Agency, the nation's largest and least understood spy organization; but ultimately I worked for private corporations. The first real economic hit man was back in the early 1950's, Kermit Roosevelt, the grandson of Teddy, who overthrew of government of Iran, a democratically elected government, Mossadegh’s government who was Time's magazine person of the year; and he was so successful at doing this without any bloodshed -- well, there was a little bloodshed, but no military intervention, just spending millions of dollars and replaced Mossadegh with the Shah of Iran. At that point, we understood that this idea of economic hit man was an extremely good one. We didn't have to worry about the threat of war with Russia when we did it this way. The problem with that was that Roosevelt was a C.I.A. agent. He was a government employee. Had he been caught, we would have been in a lot of trouble. It would have been very embarrassing. So, at that point, the decision was made to use organizations like the C.I.A. and the N.S.A. to recruit potential economic hit men like me and then send us to work for private consulting companies, engineering firms, construction companies, so that if we were caught, there would be no connection with the government.
Well, the company I worked for was a company named Chas. T. Main in Boston, Massachusetts. We were about 2,000 employees, and I became its chief economist. I ended up having fifty people working for me. But my real job was deal-making. It was giving loans to other countries, huge loans, much bigger than they could possibly repay. One of the conditions of the loan–let's say a $1 billion to a country like Indonesia or Ecuador–and this country would then have to give ninety percent of that loan back to a U.S. company, or U.S. companies, to build the infrastructure–a Halliburton or a Bechtel. These were big ones. Those companies would then go in and build an electrical system or ports or highways, and these would basically serve just a few of the very wealthiest families in those countries. The poor people in those countries would be stuck ultimately with this amazing debt that they couldn’t possibly repay. A country today like Ecuador owes over fifty percent of its national budget just to pay down its debt. And it really can’t do it. So, we literally have them over a barrel. So, when we want more oil, we go to Ecuador and say, “Look, you're not able to repay your debts, therefore give our oil companies your Amazon rain forest, which are filled with oil.” And today we're going in and destroying Amazonian rain forests, forcing Ecuador to give them to us because they’ve accumulated all this debt. So we make this big loan, most of it comes back to the United States, the country is left with the debt plus lots of interest, and they basically become our servants, our slaves. It's an empire. There's no two ways about it. It’s a huge empire. It's been extremely successful.

My fellow Americans, there is blood on our hands. We allow this and we benefit from it. And it's no wonder the world hates us.

UPDATE: If you want to know what has happened to the poor in Ecuador because of our economic manipulation, read an article by Greg Palast entitled "THE ELECTRO-DOLLAR RIOTS IN ECUADOR". It's an eye-opener.

So much for democracy

This is really sickening. Has it come to your attention that the Bush administration is considering "other alternatives" to democracy in Iraq? Check out this London Times article that Frank Ford sent me entitled "Bush's final gamble: giving Iraq a dictator?":

The news was buried in a New York Times story last week but it confirmed what others in the Washington chattering classes have been observing lately.

The context is that the White House has been inviting outsiders in to the Oval Office to discuss strategy in Iraq. The new chief of staff Josh Bolten has apparently been trying to pierce the intellectual cocoon in which the president comfortably resides. Bush family consigliere James Baker has already been asked to rescue the president’s failed Iraq policy.

But last week the new nugget: an anonymous “military affairs expert” attended a White House briefing and reported: “Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy. Everybody in the administration is being quite circumspect, but you can sense their own concern that this is drifting away from democracy.”

Here's something else the article says that lets you know something about how we are viewed abroad:

Remember Dick Cheney’s comments about the insurgency being in its “last throes”? Those words have become as credible as the president’s denial of torture as an interrogation policy authorised by the White House.

That observation is just dripping with cynicism. And with good reason.

So how's the administration going to spin installing another dictator in Iraq after assuring us that the reason we went to war was to bring democracy to its people? I just can't wait for the answer to that one.

People are waking up

I read an article in the Washington Post this morning entitled "Pundits Renounce The President". The first two paragraphs are pretty powerful:

For 10 minutes, the talk show host grilled his guests about whether "George Bush's mental weakness is damaging America's credibility at home and abroad." For 10 minutes, the caption across the bottom of the television screen read, "IS BUSH AN 'IDIOT'?"

But the host was no liberal media elitist. It was Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman turned MSNBC political pundit. And his answer to the captioned question was hardly "no." While other presidents have been called stupid, Scarborough said: "I think George Bush is in a league by himself. I don't think he has the intellectual depth as these other people."

The article goes on to report on how various pundits such as George Will and Thomas Friedman are abandoning support of Bush and then concludes by referring to Scarborough again:

Few have struck a nerve more than Scarborough, who questioned the president's intelligence on his show, "Scarborough Country." He showed a montage of clips of Bush's famously inarticulate verbal miscues and then explored with guests John Fund and Lawrence O'Donnell Jr. whether Bush is smart enough to be president.

While the country does not want a leader wallowing in the weeds, Scarborough concluded on the segment, "we do need a president who, I think, is intellectually curious."

"And that is a big question," Scarborough said, "whether George W. Bush has the intellectual curiousness -- if that's a word -- to continue leading this country over the next couple of years."

Now what really irritates me is the fact that he didn't say this during the last presidential election campaign. Anybody could see that Bush is an idiot by watching the debates. So now the conservatives are concerned. Too little, too late, chums. Unless, of course, some of these same pundits throw their support behind Democrats in November. I'm not holding my breath.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

They really, REALLY don't want us there.

Here're some numbers I didn't know:

Consider the evidence recently provided by journalist Tom Lasseter: "When L. Paul Bremmer, then the top U.S. representative in Iraq, appointed an Iraqi Governing Council in July 2003, insurgent attacks averaged 16 daily. When Saddam Hussein was captured that December, the average was 19. When Bremmer signed the hand-over of sovereignty in June 2004, it was 45 attacks daily. When Iraq held its elections for a transitional government in January 2005, it was 61. When Iraqis voted last December for a permanent government, it was 75. When U.S. forces killed terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al Zarqawi in June, it was up to 90." [Miami Herald, Aug. 16, 2006]

-- Walter C. Uhler

It's an occupation

We need to say this over and over:

It is time to tell an inconvenient truth about Iraq: it is an occupation, not a war. In wars, armies fight to dominate land. The US won the war three years ago when Bush said, “Mission Accomplished”. Then the occupation started, and our troops were not trained or equipped for an occupation under predictably hostile circumstances. Finally getting the courage to tell the truth that the US is an occupying force drastically changes the picture in Iraq. You cannot “win” an occupation. “Cut and run” does not apply to an occupation. Occupiers have to leave; the only question is when and how.

-- George Lakoff

Friday, August 18, 2006

The JonBenet story

Sadly so true:

Does anyone really believe that we would still be hearing about JonBenet if her name had been LaKeisha Rene Ramsey?

- Zing!


I found this on Eschaton:

2602 people killed in Twin Towers on 9/11.

2603 US troops have died in Iraq.

Not to mention, of course, the troops that are horribly maimed for life.
Not to mention, of course, the fact that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

Church and state

This is a very good point:

As a person of faith, I have a further objection to the entanglement of church and state. It ultimately trivializes the faith because it suggests that religion needs the support of the state for legitimacy. When you fetishize the Ten Commandments or demand a ritualized, formal prayer in school or on public occasions, you diminish the faith itself.

-- Randall Balmer

I found the above on Opinionated Old Fart.

Friday cat blogging!

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Photo by Ellie Finlay

Friday good news blogging

I want to share with you an article from the Washington Post entitled "Republicans Losing The 'Security Moms'". I must say, that is music to my ears. Here's how it gets started:

CLINTONVILLE, Ohio, Aug. 17 -- Married women with children, the "security moms" whose concerns about terrorism made them an essential part of Republican victories in 2002 and 2004, are taking flight from GOP politicians this year in ways that appear likely to provide a major boost for Democrats in the midterm elections, according to polls and interviews.

This critical group of swing voters -- who are an especially significant factor in many of the most competitive suburban districts on which control of Congress will hinge -- is more inclined to vote Democratic than at any point since Sept. 11, 2001, according to data compiled for The Washington Post by the Pew Research Center.

Married mothers said in interviews here that they remain concerned about national security and the ability of Democrats to keep them safe from terrorist strikes. But surveys indicate Republicans are not benefiting from this phenomenon as they have before.

Disaffection with President Bush, the Iraq war, and other concerns such as rising gasoline prices and economic anxiety are proving more powerful in shaping voter attitudes.

The study, which examined the views of married women with children from April through this week, found that they support Democrats for Congress by a 12-point margin, 50 percent to 38 percent. That is nearly a mirror-image reversal from a similar period in 2002, when this group backed Republicans 53 percent to 36 percent. In 2004, exit polls showed, Bush won a second term in part because 56 percent of married women with children supported him.

I really fault the news media for the fact that "scurity moms" supported Bush in the first place. You're far more likely to have a fatal accident at home than you are to die from a terrorist attack and this really needs to be emphasized by the media. They are truly complicit in all the fear mongering going on. But at least some people are finally waking up.

Clueless on global warming

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I want to share with you a brief article by Dr. David Suzuki of the David Suzuki Foundation that basically says that the public is clueless on global warming. Take a look:

Recently, my foundation conducted a focus group about global warming to see where people are at in their understanding of this complex and challenging problem. The results? Let's just say they were disconcerting, to say the least.

Simply put, most people don't have a clue. The majority felt that global warming was a pretty important problem and they were concerned about it. But when pressed as to why it was a problem or what caused the problem, all heck broke loose.

Apparently, according to the average Joe, global warming is happening because we've created a hole in the ozone layer, allowing the sun's rays to enter the atmosphere and heat up the earth -- or something like that. The cause of the problem is cars, or airplanes, or aerosol cans. No one really knows for sure.

Now that's pathetic. How can people be so ill informed? Here's Suzuki's big concern:

People don't get it. This is a big problem, because if people don't get it, then they don't really care, so politicians and CEOs don't really care, and status quo rules the day. And blindly we march into the sunset.

And here's a concise explanation of the difference between the ozone layer problem and global warming:

So, to clarify -- the ozone layer is a part of the atmosphere way up high that helps shield the earth from the sun's most harmful rays. A couple of decades ago, scientists realized that some of the chemicals we were using in our industries and homes were finding their way into the upper atmosphere, reacting with the ozone and destroying it. Scientists were concerned that if this continued, it would thin the vital protective layer, leading to increased skin cancers and crop damage. They sounded the alarm bell, the international community responded with the Montreal Protocol to phase out ozone-depleting substances, and today the ozone layer is gradually healing itself.

Global warming is a quite different phenomenon. Again, it's a human-made problem, but this time it's due to the heat-trapping gases we are putting into the atmosphere from our industries, cars and homes. These gases act like a blanket, keeping more heat near the earth's surface. More heat also means more energy in the atmosphere, which means more frequent or severe extreme weather events like droughts, storms and floods.

With each new piece of research, the expected effects of global warming become clearer, more urgent and more disturbing. Scientists say this will be one of the biggest challenges humanity will face this century. Right now we are not tackling the issue fast enough or direct enough to escape the most severe consequence.

So if you understand what global warming is, and what it isn't, please tell your friends. Please speak up and help ensure that we don't continue to grope blindly into the future, searching in the darkness for a light switch. Because at this rate, by the time we finally reach it, it may no longer work.

Do what you can. Speak out. Cut down on those car trips. Change your incandescent light bulbs to compact florescent. Turn up the thermostat in the summer and turn it down in the winter. Do your bit. If we don't, if we are passive and complacent, there is no hope.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

NRSC Endorses Lieberman

Surprise, surprise:

This morning, a source at the National Republican Senatorial Committee confirmed in a phone interview that the party will not help Schlesinger or any other potential Republican candidate in Connecticut, and it now favors a Lieberman victory in November.

Why doesn't he just join the Republican party and be done with it?

Today's ruling

Don't forget, the key word is warrantless:

It was never the intent of the Framers to give the President such unfettered control, particularly where his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights.

-- U.S. District Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, in a ruling today that strikes down the National Security Agency's warrantless domestic spying program.

UPDATE - Here's a comment from AMERICAblog on the subject:

The laws are actually really friendly for law enforcement--they can even apply after the fact for a retroactive warrant. But because they're not taking that route, it seems likely that they're using the wiretaps not to fight terrorism or crime, but to spy on their political opponents, which would include journalists, activists, writers, musicians, and just about anyone else.

Be sure to make this point with all your wing-nut friends: The ruling does not strike down spying. It just says you have to get a warrant. If they don't want to get a warrant, it must mean that at least part of the spying they're doing has nothing to do with terrorism.

Fox News exposed

Now this is encouraging. But will the mainstream press cover it?

As the ceasefire in Lebanon enters its third day, the Middle East crisis continues to be one of the top news stories in the US press. But the coverage of the conflict in the corporate media has come under criticism from some quarters.

Two weeks ago, two producers working for Fox News in Amman Jordan resigned in protest of the network's coverage. In their resignation letter, Serene Sabbagh and Jomana Karadsheh wrote "We can no longer work with a news organization that claims to be fair and balanced when you are so far from that." They went on to write "Not only are you an instrument of the Bush White House, and Israeli propaganda, you are war mongers with no sense of decency, nor professionalism."

Click through and read the transcript of an interview with one of the people who resigned. So much for "fair and balanced".

Those ungrateful Iraqis

One of my favorite bloggers on the web is Watertiger over on Dependable Renegade. Here's something she said yesterday that really bears repeating:

We came in, removed the only person holding the country together (albeit, through a dictatorship), blasted their infrastructure back to the Stone Age, set back women's rights about 1,000 years, opened up a Pandora's box of sectarian violence, and demanded they accept a Western style of government, and THIS is how they thanks us?

WASHINGTON, Aug. 15 — President Bush made clear in a private meeting this week that he was concerned about the lack of progress in Iraq and frustrated that the new Iraqi government — and the Iraqi people — had not shown greater public support for the American mission, participants in the meeting said Tuesday.

Really, I have nothing to add to this, other than the fact that it points out just how cloistered, monomaniacal and tin-eared Bush is. Build nations? He couldn't build a peanut butter sandwich.

And I have nothing to add either. She said it better than I ever could.

Economic reality

It's a tired old saying but it's still true: The rich are getting richer and poor are getting poorer. This reality is discussed in an article entitled "Delusional democracy breeds delusonal prosperity". Here's part of what it says:

Contrary to popular thinking, many revolutions have not occurred because of a widespread desire for freedom or democracy. They have been driven by mass hatred and rejection of economic inequality. The poor have revolted against the rich for eons. For much of human history the lack of freedom was linked to economic inequality. Those in power limited personal freedom so they could control the economy and prevent a fair distribution of wealth, allowing a relatively few to amass riches. Things change. If there is a special American capitalist genius it is maintaining a system with considerable freedom but where economic inequality is staggering. Our freedom subverts the need to revolt against the economy.

The unwritten theory seems to be that if citizens have personal freedom they will ignore economic inequality. And it seems to be working well here in the United States of Affluence. Aristocratic power-economic elites that really run the country have done more than shred the structure of our democracy under both Republican and Democratic regimes. They have engineered an economic system that is destroying the vaulted middle class, creating a simpler two-class system: the wealthy and the working poor. Americans are kept in a distractive state of consumer borrowing and spending. They never use their consumer power to challenge the system. They are continually fed economic lies. They are mostly blind to their delusional democracy and its flip side – delusional prosperity.

The article then goes on to analyze the disparity between rich and poor and explain how that gap is widening. Then the writer predicts a revolt:

The hallmark of delusional prosperity is a widespread and stubborn belief that people who work hard will prosper because of so much economic opportunity. Yet data continually show that working- and middle-class Americans are not benefiting anywhere near the extent that wealthy Americans are. We may be a nation with great personal freedom, but we no longer have an economy in which macro-prosperity is shared. Like they say, the rich really are getting richer and everyone else is getting poorer. Fixing American democracy also means fixing our economy. Otherwise we are headed towards a class struggle of monumental proportions. Voting against "establishment" politicians in both major parties is a key way for Americans to "revolt" against the political system. There is no comparable way to rebel against our cruel economy, except to leave it.
When will the Second American Revolution begin? How much more economic misery will it take? Maybe just a little more will bring the American population to the tipping point. We can hope.

I hope there's a revolt as well but I'm not really optimistic. I think we're headed for a police state such that any attempt at revolution will be immediately and effectively put down. And, of course, let us not forget that it is the peculiar genius of the Republicans that they are able to convince people to vote against their economic self-interest. That's part of the problem.