Monday, December 31, 2007

Something about Reagan

This is from an article by Alexander Cockburn. I'm glad I didn't know this while Reagan was president:

The default option these days is fantasy ­ a trend in American politics kicked off in this epoch by Ronald Reagan. Reagan knew how to keep things simple. When Reagan died a Pentagon official told me that when Ron became president in 1981, and thus "commander in chief" the Joint Chiefs of Staffs mounted their traditional show-and-tell briefings for him, replete with simple charts and a senior general explicating them in simple terms. Reagan found these briefings way too complicated and dozed off. The Joint Chiefs then set up a secret unit, staffed by cartoonists. The balance of forces were set forth in easily accessible caricature, with Soviet missiles the size of upended Zeppelins, pulsing on their launchpads, with the miniscule US ICBMs shrivelled in their bunkers. Little cartoon bubbles would contain the points the joint chiefs wanted to hammer into Reagan's brain, most of them to the effect that "we need more money". Reagan really enjoyed the shows and sometimes even asked for repeats.

Reagan set the bar for the level of national political debate. They called him the Great Communicator and no one has moved the bar since. So who cares if his great contribution to the national fantasy "missile defense", aka, "the strategic defense initiative" aka "Star Wars, is now scheduled to consume 19 per cent of the defense budget even though it's well nigh universally admitted the system is useless. The system is impregnable to reform and everyone knows it.

How on earth did we think this man was better than Carter? And, by th way, if we had listened to Carter, we would be much better off with regard to energy and the global warming situation.

Christianity: the real thing

Today, a friend of mine (who happens to be conservative) sent me an article from the Wall Street Journal that was rather disparaging of liberation theology. The claim was made that it represented "class warfare" since it advocated justice for the poor.

What I don't understand is why it is not considered "class warfare" when the poor are denied an income that allows them to survive without descending into utter destitution?

One of my heroes is the martyred Oscar Romero who started out a conservative but became a proponent of liberation theology when a Jesuit priest and personal friend who labored for the poor was murdered in El Salvador.

Look at something he said on Christmas Eve, 1978:

This is the Christian’s joy: I know that I am a thought in God, no matter how insignificant I may be – the most abandoned of beings, one no one thinks of. Today, when we think of Christmas gifts, how many outcasts no one thinks of! Think to yourselves, you that are outcasts, you that feel you are nothing in history: “I know that I am a thought in God.” Would that my voice might reach the imprisoned like a ray of light, of Christmas hope – might say also to you, the sick, the elderly in the home for the aged, the hospital patients, you that live in shacks and shantytowns, you coffee harvesters trying to garner your only wage for the whole year, you that are tortured: God’s eternal purpose has thought of all of you. He loves you, and, like Mary, incarnates that thought in his womb.

Now look at what he said on New Year's Eve of the same year:

Through the church’s eyes I see the great deficiencies in our Christianity... superstitions, traditionalism, scandal...And those who have money even publish those scandals as though they were defending genuine values. They don’t realize that they are defending the indefensible: a lie, a falsehood, a lifeless traditionalism, and, much worse, certain economic interests, which, lamentably, the church served. But that was a sin of the church, deceiving and not telling the truth when it should have.

And then he said this a week later:

The liberation Christ has brought is of the whole human being. The whole person must be saved: body and soul, individual and society. God’s reign must be established now on earth. That reign of God finds itself hindered, manacled, by many idolatrous misuses of money and power. Those false gods must be overthrown, just as the first evangelizers in the Americas overthrew the false gods that our natives adored. Today the idols are different. They are called money, they are called political interests, they are called national security. As idolatries, they are trying to displace God from his altar. The church declares that people can be happy only when, like the magi, they adore the one true God.

No wonder they killed him.

Holy Oscar Romero, pray for us.

Looking at America

I am grateful to AMERICAblog for steering me toward this New York Times editorial. Here's part of what it says:

There are too many moments these days when we cannot recognize our country. Sunday was one of them, as we read the account in The Times of how men in some of the most trusted posts in the nation plotted to cover up the torture of prisoners by Central Intelligence Agency interrogators by destroying videotapes of their sickening behavior. It was impossible to see the founding principles of the greatest democracy in the contempt these men and their bosses showed for the Constitution, the rule of law and human decency.

It was not the first time in recent years we’ve felt this horror, this sorrowful sense of estrangement, not nearly. This sort of lawless behavior has become standard practice since Sept. 11, 2001.

The country and much of the world was rightly and profoundly frightened by the single-minded hatred and ingenuity displayed by this new enemy. But there is no excuse for how President Bush and his advisers panicked — how they forgot that it is their responsibility to protect American lives and American ideals, that there really is no safety for Americans or their country when those ideals are sacrificed.

Out of panic and ideology, President Bush squandered America’s position of moral and political leadership, swept aside international institutions and treaties, sullied America’s global image, and trampled on the constitutional pillars that have supported our democracy through the most terrifying and challenging times. These policies have fed the world’s anger and alienation and have not made any of us safer.
We can only hope that this time, unlike 2004, American voters will have the wisdom to grant the awesome powers of the presidency to someone who has the integrity, principle and decency to use them honorably. Then when we look in the mirror as a nation, we will see, once again, the reflection of the United States of America.

Yes, we can only hope. However, so very damage has been done that I don't see how the next president can fix it all. And here's the horrible question: Will he or she even want to?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Oh good grief!

Take a look at this:

ROME - The Catholic Church has vowed to “fight the Devil head-on” by training hundreds of priests as exorcists.

Father Gabriele Amorth, 82, the Exorcist in Chief, announced the initiative amid church concerns about growing worldwide interest in Satanism and the occult.

Under plans being considered, each bishop would have a group of priests in his diocese who were specially trained in exorcism and on hand to take action against “extreme Godlessness”.

“Thanks be to God that we have a Pope who has decided to fight the Devil head-on,” Father Amorth said.

“Now bishops are to be obliged to have a number of established exorcists for their diocese. Too many bishops are not taking this seriously and are not delegating their priests in the fight against the Devil. You have to hunt high and low for a proper, trained exorcist.

“Thankfully Pope Benedict XVI believes in the existence and danger of evil, from the time he was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

Yeah, you know what that "Congregation" is. It's the Inquisition.

You know, I actually would like to see the Pope fight the Devil head-on. You do that by fighting poverty, corruption, violence and ignorance. The Devil triumphs while the priests play-act at kicking him out. Meanwhile, the Devil definitely gets the last laugh.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Cultivating optimism

Near Cape Town, South Africa

I came across an article today called Ten Reasons to Feel Good About the Future by Martha Beck. That seems like a skillful thing to cultivate this time of year. Here's an excerpt and I agree with each of these:

Thing Six: South Africa

When I went to South Africa for a book tour, I didn't expect to fall desperately in love with an entire country. It's been one of those affairs that both breaks and heals your heart—sometimes wonderful, sometimes terrible, always unforgettable. At one point, I heard a limo driver unleash a stream of such vicious racism that I felt physically ill with shame, until I started discussing this experience with other South Africans of all races. Astonishingly, they met horrific prejudice with neither fear nor hatred but with deep, improbable, battle-scarred love and optimism. They refused to relinquish hope. If South Africans can still trust in the future and work toward peace and justice, how can I do less?

Thing Seven: Dogs

Dogs are my favorite role models. I want to work like a dog, doing what I was born to do with joy and purpose. I want to play like a dog, with total, jolly abandon. I want to love like a dog, with unabashed devotion and complete lack of concern about what people do for a living, how much money they have, or how much they weigh. The fact that we still live with dogs, even when we don't have to herd or hunt our dinner, gives me hope for humans and canines alike.

Thing Eight: The Marriage of Eastern and Western Philosophies

I lived in Asia during my early 20s. At the time, I didn't realize that studying Eastern languages and cultures was changing my worldview. Decades later, I see that millions of Americans are asking those same questions. Asian philosophical concepts have been filtering across the Pacific so long that they no longer sound nonsensical. Jews, Christians, Muslims, and atheists are learning yoga and meditation, dabbling in tai chi and feng shui. This blend of East and West is bringing out the best of both cultures, and I'm delighted to be watching it.

So here's my advice to you for the New Year: Find a way to visit Cape Town, get a dog and, for goodness' sake, meditate! Your life will be better for all three, I assure you.

Friday, December 28, 2007

This is from a list of the 20 funniest political videos of 2007:

Well, at least we know she has a talent for understatement

Check this out:

It has been embarrassing to see what has happened under the George Bush presidency.

- Hillary Clinton

Friday cat blogging!


Working cats inspire me; they really do!

Take a look at this story from CNN:

MOUNT WASHINGTON, New Hampshire (AP) -- Neither strong wind nor high flames bothered Nin the cat during a dozen years patrolling the Northeast's highest peak as mascot of the Mount Washington Observatory.

It's retirement that bums him out.

The regal ex-stray with a bright white coat and black splotches was carried off the mountain Wednesday for the last time and will live with some park rangers in the valley below due to old age and a recent infection claiming the last of his teeth.

"He's 17 or 18 years old, so he's getting up there. We wanted to do the most humane thing for him," said Scot Henley, executive director of the nonprofit weather observatory.

Nin is moving in with Diane Holmes and Mike Pelchat, rangers at Mount Washington State Park, after years of petting and pampering from visitors and researchers alike.

"I am the latest in a long and famous line of Observatory felines," reads Nin's
profile on the facility's Web site. "I ... find it very unnerving to head down the mountain (especially since they only take me to the vet's!)."

Nin was never fazed by the gusty wind and bad weather. He trotted down the peak with the rest of the crew during a fire in February 2003, going straight back to work when the time came. He was a welcome pal to legions of meteorologists and scientists passing through during weekly stints taking weather measurements in hurricane-force wind and heavy fog.

Yes, the search is on for Nin's successor. The new cat has big shoes to fill, that's for sure!

Americans are primarily consumers

This is a very discouraging observation. But I fear it is true:

First of all you have to note, from the public side, that very few Americans actually function as citizens anymore. What I mean by that are people who invest themselves in this country, people who care, who give a damn. Americans are primarily consumers today, and so long as they continue to wrap themselves in the cocoon of comfort, and the system keeps them walking down a road to the perceived path of prosperity, they don't want to rock the boat. If it doesn't have a direct impact on their day-to-day existence, they simply don't care.

-- Scott Ritter

You will remember that Mr. Ritter was a chief United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. He's the one who said that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.

Moral as well as practical choices

Gary Snyder

I want to call your attention to an essay I just found by Gary Snyder. Here's an excerpt:

The organic life of the planet has maintained itself, constantly changing, and has gone through and recovered from several enormous catastrophic events over hundreds of millions of years. Now we are realising that the human impact on air, water, wildlife, soil and plant life is so extreme that there are species becoming extinct, water dangerous to even touch, mountains with mudslides but no trees, and soil that won’t grow food without the continuous subsidy provided by petroleum. As we learned over time to positively work for peace to head off the possibilities of war, so now we must work for sustainable biological practices and a faith that includes wild nature, if we are to reverse the prospect of continuously dwindling resources and rising human populations.

One can ask what it might take to have an agriculture that does not degrade the soils, a fishery that does not deplete the ocean, a forestry that keeps watersheds and ecosystems intact, population policies that respect human sexuality and personality while holding numbers down, and energy policies that do not set off fierce little wars. These are the key questions.

Many of our leaders assume that the track we’re on will go forever and nobody will learn much; politics as usual. It’s the same old engineering, business and bureaucracy message with its lank rhetoric of data and management. Or, when the talk turns to ‘sustainability’ the focus is on a limited ecological-engineering model that might guarantee a specific resource (such as grass, water, or trees) for a while longer but lacks the vision to imagine the health of the whole planet. The ethical position that would accord intrinsic value to non-human nature, and would see human beings as involved in moral as well as practical choices in regard to the natural world makes all the difference.

Are we going to listen to our prophets like Snyder in time? That is another key question.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A reminder

When I think of how animals suffer due to modern factory farming methods, when I think of how they suffer being transported to slaughter (from excessive heat, cold and thirst and hunger), when I think of how they are often skinned and scalded while still alive because the workers are under too much time pressure to stun them properly, I want to beg the whole world not to contribute to this horror by eating meat:

Oh, my fellow men, do not defile your bodies with sinful foods. We have corn, we have apples bending down the branches with their weight, and grapes swelling on the vines. There are sweet-flavored herbs, and vegetables which can be cooked and softened over the fire, nor are you denied milk or thyme-scented honey. The earth affords a lavish supply of riches, of innocent foods, and offers you banquets that involve no bloodshed or slaughter; only beasts satisfy their hunger with flesh, and not even all of those, because horses, cattle, and sheep live on grass.

-- Pythagoras

And now just let your imagination loose with this:

Can you really ask what reason Pythagorus had for abstinence from flesh? For my part I rather wonder both by what accident and in what state of mind the first man touched his mouth to gore and brought his lips to the flesh of a dead creature, set forth tables of dead, stale bodies, and ventured to call food and nourishment the parts that had a little before bellowed and cried, moved and lived. How could eyes endure the slaughter when throats were slit and hides flayed and limbs torn from limb? How could his nose endure the stench? How was it that the pollution did not turn away his taste, which made contact with sores of others and sucked juices and serums from mortal wounds? It is certainly not lions or wolves that we eat out of self-defense; on the contrary, we ignore these and slaughter harmless, tame creatures without stings or teeth to harm us. For the sake of a little flesh we deprive them of sun, of light, of the duration of life to which they are entitled by birth and being.

If you declare that you are naturally designed for such a diet, then first kill for yourself what you want to eat. Do it, however, only through your own resources, unaided by cleaver or cudgel or any kind of ax.

-- Plutarch, in an essay “On Eating Flesh”

Am I willing to kill an animal with my own teeth and bare hands? If not, then it is not appropriate for me to eat meat.

And while we're on the subject, remember that the meat industry contributes far more to global warming than all the motorized vehicles in the world.

This is depressing


Well, the big news of the day is, of course, the Bhutto assassination. Here's something she recently said:

We want to see Pakistan be a modern, progressive and prosperous state, where people should enjoy a good life and better living.

Way too sensible and caring to allow her to live, of course.

Tragic. Unbelievably tragic.

UPDATE: Take a look at the Guardian's Special Report entitled "Moderniser, moderate, martyr".

UPDATE 2: Here are more details in an article by Ali Eteraz reprinted on Alternet. Here's something he says:

Irrespective of one's views on Bhutto -- mine were mostly negative -- she was the primary secular-minded democratic leader of Pakistan. She had made statements about hunting Bin Laden, eradicating the pernicious madrassa system, as well as apologizing for allowing the Taliban to acquire power during her watch in the mid 90's. Her killing is a huge blow to the anti-extremist movement in Pakistan. Frankly, as it stands now, there are no other anti-extremist democratic leaders in Pakistan.

I know she was an ambiguous figure. But her death portends serious instability. And that's very disturbing.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Queen's message

I want you to go to YouTube right now and watch the Queen's Christmas broadcast for this year. I'm unable to post it here because the embedding code has been denied (no doubt a BBC copyright issue.) It is really quite marvelous.

UPDATE: I just discovered this: "Her Majesty writes her own Christmas Message – it’s the only thing that is from her as a person and not the government." (From a comment at Jake's place.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas hope

It is hard to have hope, isn't it, when the world is so full of violence and the Earth herself is under such assault. And so I bring you an excerpt from an opinion piece in the Washington Post by E. J. Dionne Jr. called "The Enabling Virtue":

Even more than faith and love, I think, hope is closest to the heart of the Christmas story. In an anthropological sense, Christmas celebrates new life and birth, a theme that crosses cultures and traditions. This sense of Christmas has a beauty all its own and embodies a nearly universal quest for renewal.

But in the theological sense as understood by Christians, the holiday is even more radical. Christianity -- drawing on the Jewish scriptures, particularly Isaiah -- revolutionized the concept of the divine by putting aside deities who dominated humanity in favor of a God who entered the world in human form.

Thus were authoritarian conceptions swept away in favor of a loving God sympathetic to creation and empathetic toward human suffering. Think about the line from John's Gospel: "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him." John was not some 1960s hippie. He was offering something very new and important, a trustworthy God who inspired hope.

Somehow, in spite of everything, I still believe in Love and that all love will last - whether the part of us that knows the way we know now lasts or not. And that gives me true hope.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The meaning of "Kamunyak"

Malcah Zeldis
Peaceable Kingdom, 1999
Oil on canvas
Collection of the artist
New York, NY

Although the phrase of “the lion shall lie down with the lamb” is one of the more popular quotes from the Bible, it’s really misquoted. In the King James version, it’s the wolf that dwells with the lamb, and it’s a leopard that lies down with a kid, and “the calf and the young lion and the fatling together.” (Isaiah 11:6)

But in today’s world, there really is a lion that lies down with a calf…in fact, she adopted and nurtured a total of five antelope calves.

It’s a remarkable story of the love of one animal for another, and it seems to personify the truth that not all natural enemies are exactly that—natural and unavoidable enemies.

On Christmas Day of 2001, game wardens at the Samburu National Park in Kenya watched as an adult lioness frightened off an oryx antelope mother, and picked up her baby calf in its mouth. Because lions normally hunt these antelope, they assumed the lion would kill and eat the baby. But then the unexpected happened.

The lion, named Larsens, began to nuzzle and fondle the frail little creature. Behavioral scientists first stated that the lioness had probably mistaken the oryx calf for a lion cub. But then the lioness showed her awareness of the calf as another species, because she allowed the calf to return to her natural mother to nurse.

For more than two weeks, the lioness Larsens nudged the little calf along, all the while allowing her to return to her antelope mother for nourishment before chasing the mother antelope away once again.

The fragile baby oryx was seen crossing the savannah with her lioness “mother,” and would curl up by her side for naps. Tragedy struck one day while the lioness napped by a water hole. While the baby oryx was playing, another lion attacked and killed it.

According to the wardens, Larsens was enraged when she woke. Ten times she circled the lion that killed her oryx calf, roaring all the while. Then she disappeared from view.

Larsens was seen a few weeks later, following herds of oryx antelope. “She never kills them,” said one warden. “When she is hungry, she goes after warthogs.”

But Larsens would again amaze the rangers with her mothering instincts. On Valentine’s Day, 2002, lioness Larsens was spotted with another oryx calf. And just like the last one, she’d adopted the calf as her own.

It seemed Larsens had learned the need to protect her new baby from other lions and predators. She guarded the new baby ferociously, chasing off any lions that approached. “There are other lions trying to attack the lioness to get to the baby, but the rangers are watching them and the lioness is protecting the calf,” said park warden Mark Lenya-kopir.

“This is one extraordinarily maternal cat,” said lion expert Jim Cavenor. “I've seen lions adopt a few small animals, but they usually end up turning round and eating them after a couple of days. But she seems to be totally fixated on this little one.”

Unlike the common assumptions of most people, animals do think. Their thinking is not some robotic response to environmental stimuli, but an active, cognitive reasoning. Larsens is proof of this. She adopted a series of what was normally a “prey” species for lions, and protected them as her own. She knew she could not provide nourishment for them, and allowed them to return to their mothers for food.

Larsens is just one example of how animals react with emotion, with feeling and with true knowledge of what they are doing. She ultimately adopted a total of five oryx, giving all of them fierce protection and tender care while ignoring her own basic needs. Her actions have made her a legend among the people of Kenya, and they bestowed another name on her because of their reverence for her loving nature.

The Samburu people call her Kamunyak—the blessed one.

Sources: The Observer, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
May we each learn to be a "Kamunyak" this blessed season.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The real class warfare

I want to get you started here on an article entitled "Bush's Class Warfare":

Just a week before Christmas, President Bush gave corporate America two big presents. On Tuesday, his Federal Communications Commission changed the rules to allow the nation’s giant conglomerates to further consolidate their grip on the media by permitting them to purchase TV and radio stations in the same local markets where they already own daily newspapers. As a gift to the country’s automobile industry, Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency ruled Wednesday, over the objections of the agency’s staff, that California, the nation’s largest and most polluted state, and 16 other states, can’t impose regulations to limit greenhouse gases from cars and trucks that are stronger than the federal government’s own weak standards.

So far, no major politicians or editorial writers have labeled these actions “class warfare,” although this is precisely what Bush is engaged in — helping the already rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else. Class warfare is, in fact, the very essence of Bush’s tenure in the White House. In thousands of ways, big and small, Bush has promoted the interests of the very rich and the largest corporations. Corporate lobbyists have the run of the White House. Their agenda - tax cuts for the rich and big business, attacks on labor unions, and the weakening of laws protecting consumers, workers and the environment from corporate abuse - is Bush’s agenda.
Virtually every week since he took office, the Bush administration has made or proposed changes in our laws designed to help the rich and powerful while harming the most vulnerable people in society and putting the middle class at greater economic risk. The list of horrors can be so numbing that one can lose sight of the cumulative impact of these actions. Taken together, they add up to the most direct assault on working people, the environment and the poor that the country has seen since the presidency of William McKinley over a century ago.

And yet, working people continue to vote against their self-interest. It's hard to understand and it's depressing as hell.

Jane Goodall - Overpopulation in the Developing World

Friday, December 21, 2007

A little comic relief

Are you an organ donor?

I came across a blog post today entitled "Do something great this holiday season: become an organ donor." I want to say I really agree with that.

And here's a comment to that posting:

Over half of the 98,000 Americans on the national transplant waiting list will die before they get a transplant. Most of these deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate about 20,000 transplantable organs every year. Over 6,000 of our neighbors suffer and die needlessly every year as a result.There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage -- give organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. People who aren't willing to share the gift of life should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.

Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition.

That is an absolutely great idea. Asking grief-stricken people to donate their loved one's organs at the time of death is not the way to do it. And if people knew they'd go to the end of the line if they don't sign up, they'd do it in a big hurry! (I would, however, say that children should be the exception. It's not their fault if their parents don't sign them up.)

Okay, folks. This is funny!

Look, I'm certainly not an atheist, okay? But I really get it why some people are. And I really, really get it why a lot of people are fed up with the faux religiosity of today's politicians.

Oh, and if you want to see the above chart with a bit more clarity, you can do so here.

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Two simple solutions

Over on AMERICAblog today there is an article about a girl who died after being denied a transplant by her insurance company. Here is someone's comment about that:

Publicly funded elections and single payer healthcare will go a long way toward fixing what's wrong with this country.

Inalienable right to life, my ass.

I so, so agree.

UPDATE: Here's another comment I appreciate:

No, the Dems aren't angels, but higher taxes to pay for things that are needed to make America strong is WAY more angelic than BORROWING BILLIONS FOR AN UNNECESSARY WAR while cutting taxes on the richest and letting the middle class die out and take away the social safety net for our most vulnerable.

And when are Republican voters going to realize that, yes, their taxes will go up if we get univeral health care but their insurance premiums (which are enormous) will be eliminated! That means for their employer too. Which means business will get better and they can effectively negotiate for higher wages.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The war on drugs

I really wish we'd stop this stupid AND harmful "war on drugs". Please go read the article about it on Alternet. Here's how it gets started:

Prohibition has failed -- again. Instead of treating the demand for illegal drugs as a market, and addicts as patients, policymakers the world over have boosted the profits of drug lords and fostered narcostates that would frighten Al Capone. Finally, a smarter drug control regime that values reality over rhetoric is rising to replace the "war" on drugs.

"The Global War on Drugs can Be Won"

No, it can't. A "drug-free world," which the United Nations describes as a realistic goal, is no more attainable than an "alcohol-free world" -- and no one has talked about that with a straight face since the repeal of Prohibition in the United States in 1933. Yet futile rhetoric about winning a "war on drugs" persists, despite mountains of evidence documenting its moral and ideological bankruptcy. When the U.N. General Assembly Special Session on drugs convened in 1998, it committed to "eliminating or significantly reducing the illicit cultivation of the coca bush, the cannabis plant and the opium poppy by the year 2008" and to "achieving significant and measurable results in the field of demand reduction." But today, global production and consumption of those drugs are roughly the same as they were a decade ago; meanwhile, many producers have become more efficient, and cocaine and heroin have become purer and cheaper.

If you read the article you'll come across the concept of "reduce harm" rather than reduce supply or demand. We need to help people maintain their health whether they use drugs or not. For God's sake, we need needle exchange programs. And I can't believe that drug stores won't sell needles and syringes without a doctor's prescription or proof of insulin use. What? Do they think people will say, "Oh, all right. I just won't use drugs then"???? No, they will simply use someone else's dirty needle and pick up HIV that way.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The GOP and religion

Run, don't walk, over to the Washington Post and read an opinion piece entitled "Hard-liners for Jesus" by Harold Meyerson. Here's a little bit of what it says:

My concern isn't the rift that has opened between Republican political practice and the vision of the nation's Founders, who made very clear in the Constitution that there would be no religious test for officeholders in their enlightened new republic. Rather, it's the gap between the teachings of the Gospels and the preachings of the Gospel's Own Party that has widened past the point of absurdity, even as the ostensible Christianization of the party proceeds apace.

The policies of the president, for instance, can be defended in greater or (more frequently) lesser degree within a framework of worldly standards. But if Bush can conform his advocacy of preemptive war with Jesus's Sermon on the Mount admonition to turn the other cheek, he's a more creative theologian than we have given him credit for. Likewise his support of torture, which he highlighted again this month when he threatened to veto House-passed legislation that would explicitly ban waterboarding.
But it's on their policies concerning immigrants where Republicans -- candidates and voters alike -- really run afoul of biblical writ. Not on immigration as such but on the treatment of immigrants who are already here. Consider: Christmas, after all, celebrates not just Jesus's birth but his family's flight from Herod's wrath into Egypt, a journey obviously undertaken without benefit of legal documentation. The Bible isn't big on immigrant documentation. "Thou shalt neither vex a stranger nor oppress him," Exodus says the Lord told Moses on Mount Sinai, "for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt."

I really recommend that you go read the whole thing. What sickens me is that, in the eyes of the religious right, Christianity has become a huge purity code rather than a teaching on justice and compassion. And that's completely contrary to what Jesus actually taught.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Think before you buy that toy

Fair trade toys

Take a look at this excerpt from a Toronto Star article:

For children in China’s southern Guangdong province, the holiday season is the most gruelling time of the year.

That’s because instead of receiving toys, they make them. Guangdong is the epicentre of China’s multi-billion dollar toy industry, with upwards of 1.5 million workers in 5,000 factories. They make everything from stuffed animals to video games, most of which are exported to places like Canada and the U.S. in time for Christmas.

Many of those workers are children from impoverished rural areas. Their desperate parents are often tricked by factory owners into signing contracts they cannot read, unknowingly committing their children to work in the country’s burgeoning industrial cities.

While it’s impossible to know just how many of them are making our toys - child labourers are usually undocumented - even a single visit to Guangdong’s factories leaves no doubt that the problem is an epidemic. In many of them, rows and rows of children, some younger than 10, sit at tiny desks assembling toys. They are usually housed in giant warehouse-like buildings with poor ventilation, meaning chemicals and toxins never escape. There is a bitter taste in the air. Most of the workers are girls - second-class citizens under China’s one-child policy.

The children work 80-hour weeks and earn as little as a dollar a day, but still have to pay deductions for their often dilapidated accommodations. If they don’t work fast enough, they are beaten.

During the holiday rush, when orders from the West increase dramatically, it’s not uncommon for factory employees to work seven days a week, with overtime, for months at a time. That kind of workload can be fatal.

It will not surprise you to know that I blame Wal-Mart for this. Wal-Mart demands completely unreasonbly low prices from suppliers and then other retailers follow suit in order to compete.

Well, what can we do if we have children to buy for? Here's a site for ordering fair trade and US made toys. And here's another one. I have a great-niece and a goddaughter on my gift list. I bought both of their toys at the Fair Trade Bazaar at Fellowship Congregational Church here in Tulsa that's held every November.

Take the time to do some research. It's worth it not to support child exploitation with your dollars.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Science education in Texas

We have definitely entered the new Dark Age:

Christine [Castillo Comer] has worked in the Texas education system for 36 years. She spent 27 years in the classroom and 9 of them as the Texas Education Agency’s director of science. While working as the director of science she discovered that evolution doesn’t affect everyone equally.

Christine received an e-mail message from the National Center for Science Education announcing that Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University would be giving a talk in Austin. National Center for Science Education is known as a pro-evolution group that thinks evolution happened in the past and is continuing. She sent that notice to a group described as an “online community. That got her fired by Lizzette Reynolds.

Lizzette was a deputy legislative director for then Governor George W. Bush. Following her boss to Washington, Lizette joined the U.S. Department of Education. Tiring of the life in Washington she moved back to Texas and joined the Agency where Christine worked. When she learned of Christine’s e-mail she was upset. She said that notifying people about a speech pertaining to evolution “assumes this is a subject that the agency supports.” Coming from George Bush’s Washington one might at first conclude that having observed those with whom Mr. Bush consorts, she took it as proof that were it anything other than a misguided theory neither George Bush nor Dick Cheney could be where they are today. That is not what motivated her.

She knew that Barbara Forrest testified in Dover, Pennsylvania in 2005 on behalf of the plaintiffs in a case dealing with intelligent design vs. evolution. In that case the court found that intelligent design was not to be included in curricula as part of scientific education. When Lizzette and others in the agency learned of the e-mail sent by Christine they instructed her to retract the e-mail even though retracting the e-mail did not make the lecture disappear. The lecture went on as scheduled. Lizzette wanted the retraction because, said she, notifying people of a lecture was taking a position on “a subject on which the agency must remain neutral.” Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the agency elaborated saying that by sending the e-mail announcing the lecture Christine was injecting her personal opinions and beliefs into the evolution vs. intelligent design debate.
Notwithstanding Christine’s e-mailed retraction, an act that in the time of heretics frequently would save the heretic’s life, the retraction did not save Christine’s job. The offense, said Lizzette, is an offense “that calls for termination.”

You might like to click through and read some of the comments to this article. As I write there are fifty-four of them.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

About those tapes

This from Naomi Wolf:

What we are likely to see if the tapes documenting the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah and Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri are ever recovered is that the “confessions” of the prisoners upon which the White House has built its entire case for subverting the Constitution and suspending civil liberties in this country was obtained through methods such as electrocution, beating to the point of organ failure, hanging prisoners from the wrists from a ceiling, suffocation, and threats against family members (”I am going to find your mother and I am going to fuck her” is one direct quote from a US interrogator). On the missing tapes, we would likely see responses from the prisoners that would be obvious to us as confessions to anything at all in order to end the violence. In other words, if we could witness the drama of manufacturing by torture the many violently coerced “confessions” upon which the whole house of cards of this White House and its hyped “war on terror” rests, it would likely cause us to reopen every investigation, including the most serious ones (remember, even the 9/11 committee did not receive copies of the tapes); shut down the corrupt, Stalinesque Military Commissions System; turn over prisoners, the guilty and the innocent, into a working, accountable justice system operating in accordance with American values; and direct our legal scrutiny to the torturers themselves — right up to the office of the Vice President and the President if that is
where the investigations would lead.

Sometimes I just can't believe this is happening. Eight years ago I would truly never have believed it. Since the "election" of 2000, however, anything is possible. One thing is for sure: If we ever were "the good guys", we are no longer.

The right thing to fear

This makes so much sense to me:

I can't understand why people are frightened by new ideas. I'm frightened by old ones.

- John Cage

Friday, December 14, 2007

Some kind of irony

The irony is, of course, that they aren't. And how they justify it is beyond me. Jesus said absolutely nothing about homosexuality. He had quite a bit to say about divorce. And yet the conservatives give divorced and remarried bishops a pass. Go figure.

The future

I'm watching the tail end of NOW on PBS right now. And David Brancaccio mentioned something Kurt Vonnegut said not long before he died:

KURT VONNEGUT: Look, I'll tell you. It's one thing that no cabinet had ever had, is a Secretary Of The Future. And there are no plans at all for my grandchildren and my great grandchildren.

DAVID BRANCACCIO: That's a great idea. In other words a Cabinet post--

KURT VONNEGUT: Well, it's too late! Look, the game is over! The game is over.

We do need a Secretary of the Future. But, like Vonnegut, I'm afraid it's too late.

Here's what one blogger had to say:

Even if there had been a Secretary of The Future it would have been futile. The Secretary would have had to go up against too many unmovables. Such a Cabinet Secretary would have had to disabuse us of the idea of perpetual, or even steady, growth. That immediately implies conflict with religion and politicians always wanting to grow us out of economic challenges. The hopelessness of it all becomes quickly apparent.

Was it really inevitable that we would end up destroying ourselves? Somehow, I can't believe that. I think the human species could have chosen differently. That we didn't is the tragedy. I remember reading an article some years ago about a woman working hard to recover from cancer. She said that her treatment could be summed up in these words: "Learn to change or die." That impressed me hugely and I've never forgotten it. That reality is now before humanity as a species. And still we are determined not to change.

Bush to veto torture ban

Yeah, I just wonder how much torture he could take. Look at this from the Washington Post:

The House approved legislation yesterday that would bar the CIA from using waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics, drawing an immediate veto threat from the White House and setting up another political showdown over what constitutes torture.

The measure, approved by a largely party-line vote of 222 to 199, would require U.S. intelligence agencies to follow Army rules adopted last year that explicitly forbid waterboarding. It also would require interrogators to adhere to a strict interpretation of the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war. The rules, required by Congress for all Defense Department personnel, also ban sexual humiliation, "mock" executions and the use of attack dogs, and prohibit the withholding of food and medical care.

Was Bush just born a sociopath or did he somehow lose his humanity along the way? It's perplexing.

And remember this, people. He started by torturing animals.

Here's something to think about:

The causes of this sociopathic disorder have been narrowed to several factors through research. One of the primary causes of sociopathic behaviour is believed to be neurological abnormalities mainly in the frontal lobe of the brain. This area of the brain is responsible for "self-control, planning, judgment, the balance of individual versus social needs, and many other essential functions underlying effective social intercourse" (Sabbatini, 1998, p.7). This area is also related to fear conditioning. The abnormal anatomy or chemical activity within this area of the brain may be caused by abnormal growth (possibly genetic), brain disease, or injury. This theory has been supported by much research using positron emission tomography (PET) which visually shows the metabolic activity of neurons within the brain (Sabbatini, 1998). A second factor believed to be partially responsible for the sociopathic disorder in some cases is the primary socialization of individuals within dysfunctional environments, such as abusive, poorly educated, or poverty stricken homes. For years, this was thought to be the primary cause of sociopathy. But as knowledge has increased in the area of neuroscience, it has been realized that this is possibly only a secondary cause. Therefore, it can be said that the type of brain the sociopath was born with and/or the environment in which it was nourished forms the sociopath (Andreasen, 1984).

You know, maybe it's not his fault. I can easily see that. But it is the fault of the American people that a person with no empathy whatsoever rose to the highest office in the land.

Horrible cruelty

I don't usually watch CSI: Crime Scene Investigation on Thursday nights but last night I did. That is, until I turned it off because I couldn't stomach it anymore. You see, the episode was about exposing what goes on in the dog fighting underground. As one of the characters started to explain how the dogs are trained (with vivid pictures) I was purely sickened and turned off the TV.

I don't know how to support the effort to prosecute people who engage in this so-called "sport" except to donate generously to animal welfare orgainzations. Maybe the outrage over the Michael Vick situation will help.

Here's something the Humane Society says:

The injuries inflicted and sustained by dogs participating in dogfights are frequently severe, even fatal. The American pit bull terriers used in the majority of these fights have been specifically bred and trained for fighting and are unrelenting in their attempts to overcome their opponents. With their extremely powerful jaws, they are able to inflict severe bruising, deep puncture wounds and broken bones.

Dogs used in these events often die of blood loss, shock, dehydration, exhaustion, or infection hours or even days after the fight. Other animals are often sacrificed as well. Some owners train their dogs for fights using smaller animals such as cats, rabbits or small dogs. These "bait" animals are often stolen pets or animals obtained through "free to good home" advertisements.

For heaven's sake, please don't ever give your animal away without doing a thorough background check on the potential owner.

And here's why dogfighting should be a felony everywhere:

Because dogfighting yields such large profits for participants, the minor penalties associated with misdemeanor convictions are not a sufficient deterrent. Dogfighters merely absorb these fines as part of the cost of doing business. The cruelty inherent in dogfighting should be punished by more than a slap on the hand. Dogfighting is not a spur-of-the-moment act; it is a premeditated and cruel practice.

Those involved in dogfighting go to extensive lengths to avoid detection by law enforcement, so investigations can be difficult, dangerous, and expensive. Law enforcement officials are more inclined to investigate dogfighting if it is a felony. As more states make dogfighting a felony offense, those remaining states with low penalties will become magnets for dogfighters.

In Oklahoma it is a felony to fight dogs or to own fighting dogs but it is only a misdemeanor to be a spectator at a dog fight. But there are seventeen states in which it is a felony to be a spectator. We need to make that happen here too. Come on, people. Let's write some letters!

Kindness and science

Please go over to The Huffington Post and read a little article on kindness by Susan L. Smalley, Ph.D., a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA who specializes in the genetics of psychiatric disorders. Here's part of what it says:

I've studied genetics and human behavior for over 20 years. At one time I thought genetics held all the answers to make the world a better place by enabling us to 'fix' our genetic mutations and reduce disease and suffering. Now I see that genetics is extremely important, but for another reason: Genetics may be the best tool to provide a rationale for including kindness as a guiding principle to govern our day-to-day behaviors as well as government and institutes in general. Clearly, the thesis that we are 'all created equal' is evident in our genomes; we differ so minutely from one another. If we recognize fully that we are truly a single human family, taking it to the extreme, one could view the whole human species as a single human 'organism' based on our shared DNA. Through our shared genomes, we can see that to reduce suffering, to remove harm toward any of our members, is equivalent to removing harm toward ourselves.
What would the world be like if it were one where kindness was its guiding principle? War would not be an answer to anything, period. We would protect the planet, animals on it, and each other at all costs. Genocide would not happen.

Why is this so hard for humanity? We've had the Golden Rule for thousands of years and it's found in all major wisdom traditions.

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Speak "intel"

Brought to you by my dear friend, Walter Callahan.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Dumbest Things President Bush Said in 2007

10. "And there is distrust in Washington. I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I'm sorry it's the case, and I'll work hard to try to elevate it."
--interview on National Public Radio, Jan. 29, 2007

9. "I fully understand those who say you can't win this thing militarily. That's exactly what the United States military says, that you can't win this military."
--on the need for political progress in Iraq, Washington, D.C., Oct. 17, 2007

8. "One of my concerns is that the health care not be as good as it can possibly be."
--on military benefits, Tipp City, Ohio, April 19, 2007

7. "Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your introduction. Thank you for being such a fine host for the OPEC summit." --addressing Australian Prime Minister John Howard at the APEC Summit. Later, in the same speech: "As John Howard accurately noted when he went to thank the Austrian troops there last year..."
--referring to Australian troops as "Austrian troops," Sept. 7, 2007

6. "My relationship with this good man is where I've been focused, and that's where my concentration is. And I don't regret any other aspect of it. And so I -- we filled a lot of space together."
--on British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Washington, D.C., May 17, 2007

5. "You helped our nation celebrate its bicentennial in 17 -- 1976."
--to Queen Elizabeth, Washington, D.C., May 7, 2007 (Watch video clip)

4. "The question is, who ought to make that decision? The Congress or the commanders? And as you know, my position is clear -- I'm a Commander Guy."
--deciding he is no longer just "The Decider," Washington, D.C., May 2, 2007 (Watch video clip)

3. "Information is moving -- you know, nightly news is one way, of course, but it's also moving through the blogosphere and through the Internets."
--Washington, D.C., May 2, 2007

2. "There are some similarities, of course (between Iraq and Vietnam). Death is terrible."
--Tipp City, Ohio, April 19, 2007

1. "As yesterday's positive report card shows, childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured."
--on the No Child Left Behind Act, Washington, D.C., Sept. 26, 2007 (Watch video clip)

~Compiled by Daniel Kurtzman

The real meaning of compassion

I was amazed to find this:

Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.

-- Thomas Merton

Amazed at who said it, I mean. Sounds like something a Buddhist would say, doesn't it? Of course, Merton was influenced by Buddhism. It's just another example of how close serious practitioners of the spiritual path actually turn out to be regardless of their respective belief systems.

Now if we could just get the politicians of the world to realize this....

Quote of the week

From Sojourners:

We have the technology to create the most highly advanced military system, but when these veterans come home they find an understaffed, under-funded and under-equipped VA mental-health system that has so many challenges to get through it that many just give up trying.

- Mike Bowman, father of Timothy Bowman, a 23-year-old Illinois National Guardsman who committed suicide eight months after returning home from Iraq. (Source: McClatchy Newspapers)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Finally someone is telling the truth

And that someone is Grist Magazine in an article entitled "Beyond the Point of No Return". We have reached it. And deep down I think most of us have known that for quite a while:

As the pace of global warming kicks into overdrive, the hollow optimism of climate activists, along with the desperate responses of some of the world’s most prominent climate scientists, is preventing us from focusing on the survival requirements of the human enterprise.

The environmental establishment continues to peddle the notion that we can solve the climate problem.

We can’t.

We have failed to meet nature’s deadline. In the next few years, this world will experience progressively more ominous and destabilizing changes. These will happen either incrementally — or in sudden, abrupt jumps.

Under either scenario, it seems inevitable that we will soon be confronted by
water shortages, crop failures, increasing damages from extreme weather events, collapsing infrastructures, and, potentially, breakdowns in the democratic process itself.
From a more personal viewpoint, an acknowledgement of the reality of escalating climate change plays havoc with one’s sense of future. It is almost as though a lone ocean voyager were suddenly to lose sight of the North Star. It deprives one of an inner sense of navigation. To live without at least an open-ended sense of future (even if it’s not an optimistic one) is to open one’s self to a morass of conflicting impulses — from the anticipated thrill of a reckless plunge into hedonism to a profoundly demoralizing sense of hopelessness and a feeling that a lifelong guiding sense of purpose has suddenly evaporated.

This slow-motion collapse of the planet leaves us with the bitterest kind of awakening. For parents of young children, it provokes the most intimate kind of despair. For people whose happiness derives from a fulfilling sense of achievement in their work, this realization feels like a sudden, violent mugging. For those who feel a debt to all those past generations who worked so hard to create this civilization we have enjoyed, it feels like the ultimate trashing of history and tradition. For anyone anywhere who truly absorbs this reality and all that it implies, this realization leads into the deepest center of grief.

Yes, grief is the right word. What grieves me the most is that it was so unnecessary.

When I was a young girl during the height of the Cold War, I thought that the world would end because of fear and hostility. Turns out it will have been pure and simple greed after all.

UPDATE: Here's a comment to the above article I just found:

Most have heard that as global warming progresses, the methane gas which has been frozen in the Arctic perma-frost for millions of years, will be released into the atmosphere, as it already is doing. When the mixture of that gas reaches a certain critical point, ???, all animal life on Earth will die. Then some credible scientists are of the opinion, that eventually the atmosphere will become so explosive, that any spark will ignite the atmosphere and the planet will become a big ball of flames. The only humans who may be witness to the massive fire storm, will be any who may be still alive in a space station...

And then without earth for resupplying life support, they're gonners too.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's worse than we thought

Oh dear, folks. This is really bad:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An already relentless melting of the Arctic greatly accelerated this summer, a warning sign that some scientists worry could mean global warming has passed an ominous tipping point. One even speculated that summer sea ice would be gone in five years.

Greenland's ice sheet melted nearly 19 billion tons more than the previous high mark, and the volume of Arctic sea ice at summer's end was half what it was just four years earlier, according to new NASA satellite data obtained by The Associated Press.

"The Arctic is screaming," said Mark Serreze, senior scientist at the government's snow and ice data center in Boulder, Colorado.

I'm so grieved for the polar bears. They will suffer and die with no idea why their world has stopped supporting them.

Environmental criminal

Oh dear, this is very disturbing. I just came across an article called "BP Set To Commit ‘The Biggest Environmental Crime in History’". Here's part of it:

BP, the British oil giant that pledged to move “Beyond Petroleum” by finding cleaner ways to produce fossil fuels, is being accused of abandoning its “green sheen” by investing nearly £1.5bn to extract oil from the Canadian wilderness using methods which environmentalists say are part of the “biggest global warming crime” in history.

The multinational oil and gas producer, which last year made a profit of £11bn, is facing a head-on confrontation with the green lobby in the pristine forests of North America after Greenpeace pledged a direct action campaign against BP following its decision to reverse a long-standing policy and invest heavily in extracting so-called “oil sands” that lie beneath the Canadian province of Alberta and form the world’s second-largest proven oil reserves after Saudi Arabia.

Producing crude oil from the tar sands - a heavy mixture of bitumen, water, sand and clay - found beneath more than 54,000 square miles of prime forest in northern Alberta - an area the size of England and Wales combined - generates up to four times more carbon dioxide, the principal global warming gas, than conventional drilling. The booming oil sands industry will produce 100 million tonnes of CO2 (equivalent to a fifth of the UK’s entire annual emissions) a year by 2012, ensuring that Canada will miss its emission targets under the Kyoto treaty, according to environmentalist activists.

The oil rush is also scarring a wilderness landscape: millions of tonnes of plant life and top soil is scooped away in vast open-pit mines and millions of litres of water are diverted from rivers - up to five barrels of water are needed to produce a single barrel of crude and the process requires huge amounts of natural gas. The industry, which now includes all the major oil multinationals, including the Anglo-Dutch Shell and American combine Exxon-Mobil, boasts that it takes two tonnes of the raw sands to produce a single barrel of oil. BP insists it will use a less damaging extraction method, but it accepts that its investment will increase its carbon footprint.

Mike Hudema, the climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace in Canada, told The Independent: “BP has done a very good job in recent years of promoting its green objectives. By jumping into tar sands extraction it is taking part in the biggest global warming crime ever seen and BP’s green sheen is gone."

I wish I could say that I have hope for the earth but I don't. What's wrong with the oil executives? Don't they have children and grand-children too?


How many could find either Afghanistan or Iraq on a map before either war?

Sometimes I think war is God's way of teaching us geography.

--Paul Rodriguez

Monday, December 10, 2007

Quote of the Day

From the Washington Post's letters to the editor:

In his speech on religion, Mitt Romney remarked that "freedom requires religion." This is like saying that "oranges require apples."

-- William Lorton

Vick sentencing

Well, Michael Vick is going to be sentenced today:

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- How much, if any, will Michael Vick's role as financier of a brutal dogfighting ring hurt him? What about his use of drugs while awaiting sentencing?

Or will he benefit from his public apology? His cooperation? His voluntary early start on his prison term?

Answers to these questions, among others, will determine how much time the suspended
Atlanta Falcons quarterback will serve in prison for his role in a federal dogfighting conspiracy. And the only man who knows the answers is U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson, who will sentence Vick in a packed courtroom Monday while the disgraced NFL star's supporters and animal-rights activists rally outside.

Vick faces a maximum of five years in prison. Hudson is not bound by sentencing guidelines that suggest a year to 18 months, or prosecutors' recommendation.
Perhaps a bigger concern for Vick, according to Malone, is the extent of his involvement in executing dogs. Vick admitted helping kill six to eight pit bulls. Any details the judge learns about exactly what Vick did could weigh heavily in his decision, Malone said.

He didn't just help kill them. He tortured them. I really hope Judge Hudson sends a strong message.

UPDATE: He got 23 months. Not enough as far as I'm concerned.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

True religion

Needless to say, I agree with this:

There is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast it is all a sham . . .

-- Anna Sewell from Black Beauty

Pelosi is a big disappointment

What has happened to decency in this country? I want you to know about an article entitled "Hill Briefed on Waterboarding in 2002; In Meetings, Spy Panels’ Chiefs Did Not Protest, Officials Say". Here's how it gets started:

In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA’s overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised.

Here's what a commenter said:

Well, that erases the last ounce of mystery about Pelosi’s refusal to launch investigations of the duplicitous duo in the Whitehouse.

I guess so. What a disappointment.

UPDATE: Here's what John Aravosis says about this over at AMERICAblog:

It's pretty clear that either one of the Republican members of Congress at the meeting, or the CIA, decided to leak what happened at a super-classified post-9/11 briefing in order to embarrass Pelosi and the Democrats. And I don't doubt for a minute that Bush approved the leak, as he always does.

It's also clear that had Pelosi raised any private objections during the meeting - remember, it took place in the first year after September 11 - Bush and the Republicans would have leaked that fact to the public (like they just did) and destroyed her career and marked her publicly as a traitor. No member of Congress, no American, could have spoken up about anything in the months after September 11 and survived. It's patently unfair to suggest that somehow because Pelosi didn't object then that she doesn't have the right to object now.

One final point. I hope this teaches Pelosi and Reid and all the Democrats that no matter what you do, this administration will mark you as a traitor and try to do destroy you. You might as well fight back and try to win, because if you don't, you'll sit back and lose.

Makes sense, actually.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

There is no Planet B

And plenty of people in the world seem to know it. Take a look at these excerpts from an AP article entitled "World Climate Change Protests Kick Off":

LONDON - Skiers, fire-eaters and an ice sculptor joined in worldwide demonstrations Saturday to draw attention to climate change and push their governments to take stronger action to fight global warming.

From costume parades in Manila to a cyclist’s protest in London, marches were held in more than 50 cities around the world to coincide with the two-week U.N. Climate Change Conference, which runs through Friday in Bali, Indonesia.

Hundreds of people rallied in the Philippines wearing miniature windmills atop hats, or framing their faces in cardboard cutouts of the sun.

“We are trying to send a message that we are going to have to use renewable energy sometime, because the environment, we need to really preserve it,” high school student Samantha Gonzales said at the rally in the capital, Manila. “We have to act now.”
In London, demonstrators braved the cold, rainy December weather to descend on Parliament Square, wielding signs marked: “There is no Planet B.”
The London protest has singled out one particular target - President Bush - calling his administration the biggest obstacle to progress at the Bali talks. Organizers plan to underline the point by ending the protest in front of the U.S. Embassy.

The only protest in the US reported on was one in Fairbanks, Alaska. We're just too busy being in denial, I guess.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

What's with our love affair with guns?

Yeah, yeah, I know. Second Ammendment and all that. But read the thing, all right? It's all about having a militia. It's not about an individual having an AK-47 that their 19 year-old stepchild can steal and then shoot up a mall:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Once again there has been a mass shooting in the United States, this time in a Nebraska shopping mall. Once again there is no national outcry for gun control.

A 19-year-old man shot and killed eight people and then himself in Omaha, Nebraska, on Wednesday with a semi-automatic AK-47 that police say he stole from
his stepfather.

Leading presidential candidates for the November 2008 U.S. election issued statements expressing sorrow and support for the victims. None called for tighter gun laws, which are traditionally left to state and local authorities.

The crime revived memories of a massacre in April at Virginia Tech university, where a student killed 32 people.

Why we make high powered weapons so easy to obtain is byond me.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Quote of the week

Here's the quote of the week from Sojourners:

The really uncomfortable part for the administration, aside from the embarrassment, is the policy implication. The dirty secret is the administration has never put on the table an offer to negotiate with Iran the issues that would really matter: their own security, the legitimacy of the Islamic republic, and Iran’s place in the regional order.

- Flynt Leverett, Middle East expert at the New America Foundation, who served on President Bush's National Security Council, describing how the White House has consistently ruled out any real diplomacy with Iran that could resolve the conflict over its nuclear program.

Save the planet! Eat chocolate!

Ha! Don't we wish! It's really that we need to plant chocolate. Take a look at part of an NPR report on the subject:

Many people agree that chocolate is good for the soul, and researchers are finding that chocolate can be good for the body, too. But the environment? How could chocolate help with global climate change?

The answer is found in a little piece of paradise, a patch of rainforest in eastern Brazil.

Everywhere you look, something is growing. Orchids nestle in the crooks of trees. There are hundreds of shades of green, and the forest is loud with birds and insects.

Some areas have been thinned out and planted with cacao trees — the source of chocolate. The pods contain the magical beans that Aztecs counted like gold. The cultivated cacao trees grow just a bit higher than a man can reach, and rainforest trees tower over them like something out of Dr. Seuss — some round like lollipops, some flat like a plate.

And here's the climate connection. Rainforest trees and plants store massive amounts of carbon — keeping it from getting into the air as carbon dioxide.
Joao Tavares is a fourth-generation cocoa producer. Tavares, along with his brother and father, has 2,200 acres of rainforest planted with cacao trees. They grow cocoa using a method called cabruca — cutting down just a few of the tall rainforest trees, and planting the mid-height cacao trees underneath.
Tavares has worked hard to maintain, and also to restore, his little piece of the rainforest. He says that in the past 10 years, he has planted many wild trees.

"We understand that we have to preserve the cabruca," Tavares says, "even if you have less production."

It seems that cocoa plants raised the cabruca way attract fewer insects and less disease. And environmentally-friendly chocolate fetches a higher price than that grown by so-called modern methods. So that's a good deal all the way around.


See how efficient it still is,
how it keeps itself in shape—our century's hatred.
How easily it vaults the tallest obstacles.
How rapidly it pounces, tracks us down.

It's not like other feelings.
At once both older and younger.
It gives birth itself to the reasons
that give it life.
When it sleeps, it's never eternal rest.
And sleeplessness won't sap its strength; it feeds it.

One religion or another -
whatever gets it ready, in position.
One fatherland or another -
whatever helps it get a running start.
Justice also works well at the outset
until hate gets its own momentum going.
Hatred. Hatred.
Its face twisted in a grimace
of erotic ecstasy.

Oh these other feelings,
listless weaklings.
Since when does brotherhood
draw crowds?
Has compassion
ever finished first?
Does doubt ever really rouse the rabble?
Only hatred has just what it takes.

Gifted, diligent, hard-working.
Need we mention all the songs it has composed?
All the pages it has added to our history books?
All the human carpets it has spread
over countless city squares and football fields?

Let's face it:
it knows how to make beauty.
The splendid fire-glow in midnight skies.
Magnificent bursting bombs in rosy dawns.
You can't deny the inspiring pathos of ruins
and a certain bawdy humor to be found
in the sturdy column jutting from their midst.

Hatred is a master of contrast-
between explosions and dead quiet,
red blood and white snow.
Above all, it never tires
of its leitmotif - the impeccable executioner
towering over its soiled victim.

It's always ready for new challenges.
If it has to wait awhile, it will.
They say it's blind. Blind?
It has a sniper's keen sight
and gazes unflinchingly at the future
as only it can.

--Wislawa Szymborska (translated from the Polish by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh)

This was sent to me by Poppi and Tom.