Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The future of humanity


Science is clearly one of the most profound methods that humans have yet devised for discovering truth, while religion remains the single greatest force for generating meaning. Truth and meaning, science and religion; but we still cannot figure out how to get the two of them together in a fashion that both find acceptable... if some sort of reconciliation between science and religion is not forthcoming, the future of humanity is, at best, precarious.

-- Ken Wilber

About habeas corpus

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There's an article you really need to read over on Common Dreams. It's called "What is Habeas Corpus?" and it explains just how sinister is the assertion (by Gonzales) that the Constitution does not grant the right of habeas corpus. Take a look:

Under Habeas Corpus, you have the right to say, I want to be brought into the court to determine if I am the right person charged, if there’s an actual law prohibiting what I’m charged with, if the people who are holding me have the jurisdiction to do so, and I want that publicly known and I want the right to dispute all of that and the right to be tried too.

Without Habeas Corpus you can be swept up off the street and never heard from again. Period. Nobody has to know. Nobody – including yourself – has to know why. Nobody gets to determine if there is a law against what you’re charged with. You have no rights at all.

In America, the Constitution forbids taking habeas corpus away from you (except “in case of rebellion or invasion the public safety shall require it.”) It was written that way because the right of habeas corpus was a basic right even under the King of England. It was the most basic check on a king’s tyranny. It was assumed.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales now asserts something he thinks is very tricky and clever. What if you never had such a right? Then not giving you the right of Habeas Corpus would not be taking it away. That would allow his president to order someone snatched up off the street, or from their homes, and then anything could be done to them. Prison for life. Tortured. Killed. Sent to another country. And nobody would even have the right to ask if our government imprisoned that person. Or why. Or if it was the right person.

Can you imagine what it would be like to be arrested and not be told why and not have access to a lawyer and not be able to let your family know? That you have no such rights is now what the Bush administration is asserting.


I logged on to Common Dreams a few minutes ago and there I found three articles among today's postings about the seeming inevitability of the US attacking Iran. One is called "Iran Clock is Ticking" and another is "Bush 'Spoiling for a Fight' with Iran". The one I want to quote is from the Guardian and is entitled "Europeans Fear US Attack on Iran as Nuclear Row Intensifies":

Senior European policy-makers are increasingly worried that the US administration will resort to air strikes against Iran to try to destroy its suspect nuclear programme.

As transatlantic friction over how to deal with the Iranian impasse intensifies, there are fears in European capitals that the nuclear crisis could come to a head this year because of US frustration with Russian stalling tactics at the UN security council. "The clock is ticking," said one European official. "Military action has come back on to the table more seriously than before. The language in the US has changed."

As the Americans continue their biggest naval build-up in the Gulf since the start of the Iraq war four years ago, a transatlantic rift is opening up on several important aspects of the Iran dispute.
The Americans and Europeans have sought to maintain a common front on the nuclear issue for the past 30 months, with the European troika of Britain, France and Germany running failed negotiations with the Iranians and the Americans tacitly supporting them.

But diplomats in Brussels and those dealing with the dispute in Vienna say a fissure has opened up between the US and western Europe on three crucial aspects - the military option; how and how quickly to hit Iran with economic sanctions already decreed by the UN security council; and how to deal with Russian opposition to action against Iran through the security council.

"There's anxiety everywhere you turn," said a diplomat familiar with the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

And here's a very disturbing report:

A US navy battle group of seven vessels was steaming towards the Gulf yesterday from the Red Sea, part of a deployment of 50 US ships, including two aircraft carriers, expected in the area in weeks.

The most worrying part, of course, is the likelihood that Bush will decided to use nuclear weapons against Iran. He has hinted very pointedly that he wants to do so. Heaven help the world if that monster is unleashed once again.

About light bulbs

I've blogged several times before about a painless way for us to reduce our carbon footprint and that is to switch from incandescent to compact florescent light bulbs. Now here's an article about a movement to ban incandescent bulbs. I think it's a good idea. The article is called "California may ban conventional lightbulbs by 2012" and here's part of what it says:

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California lawmaker wants to make his state the first to ban incandescent lightbulbs as part of California's groundbreaking initiatives to reduce energy use and greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

The "How Many Legislators Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb Act" would ban incandescent lightbulbs by 2012 in favor of energy-saving compact fluorescent lightbulbs.

"Incandescent lightbulbs were first developed almost 125 years ago, and since that time they have undergone no major modifications," California Assemblyman Lloyd Levine said on Tuesday.

"Meanwhile, they remain incredibly inefficient, converting only about 5 percent of the energy they receive into light."

Levine is expected to introduce the legislation this week, his office said.

If passed, it would be another pioneering environmental effort in California, the most populous U.S. state. It became the first state to mandate cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, targeting a 25 percent reduction in emissions by 2020.

Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) use about 25 percent of the energy of conventional lightbulbs.

I have changed all the bulbs in my office to CFLs with only one exception (and that is a decorative, multi-colored 40 watt bulb). About half the bulbs now in my home are CFLs. As bulbs burn out, I replace them with compact florescents. I'm very happy with the light quality and I have seen a reduction in my electric bill.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Deceit about global warming

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Wow. You've got to look at this CNN headline: "Chairman: Bush officials misled public on global warming". I sincerely hope there is outrage about this. Take a look at part of what the article says:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Democratic chairman of a House panel examining the government's response to climate change said Tuesday there is evidence that senior Bush administration officials sought repeatedly "to mislead the public by injecting doubt into the science of global warming."

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, said he and the top Republican on his oversight committee, Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, have sought documents from the administration on climate policy, but repeatedly been rebuffed.

"The committee isn't trying to obtain state secrets or documents that could affect our immediate national security," said Waxman, opening the hearing. "We are simply seeking answers to whether the White House's political staff is inappropriately censoring impartial government scientists."

"We know that the White House possesses documents that contain evidence of an attempt by senior administration officials to mislead the public by injecting doubt into the science of global warming and minimize the potential danger," Waxman said.
Two private advocacy groups, meanwhile, presented to the panel a survey of government climate scientists showing that many of them say they have been
subjected to political pressure aimed at downplaying the threat of global warming.

The groups presented a survey that shows two in five of the 279 climate scientists who responded to a questionnaire complained that some of their scientific papers had been edited in a way that changed their meaning. Nearly half of the 279 said in response to another question that at some point they had been told to delete reference to "global warming" or "climate change" from a report.
The groups report described largely anonymous claims by scientists that their findings at times at been misrepresented, that they had been pressured to change findings and had been restricted on what they were allowed to say publicly.

I'm sure there's a special place reserved in hell for those who knowingly and willfully deceive the public in this way about the very survival of our species. Simply unbelievable. And, by now, you know my stock question on this matter: Do the conservatives not think that their children and grandchildren will have to live and die with the consequences of catastrophic climate change too? What are they thinking?

Message to Bush

This is from Saturday's anti-war protest in Washington, D.C. Very clever, don't you think?

(Hat tip to Watertiger at Dependable Renegade.)

The real enemy

From the movie, Crimson Tide:

Hunter: In a nuclear world, the real enemy can't be destroyed.
Ramsey: Attention on deck, Von Clausewitz will now tell us who the real enemy is. Von?
Hunter: In my humble opinion, in the nuclear world, the real enemy is war itself.

Attacking Iran

Here's a disturbing article entitled "America ‘Poised to Strike at Iran’s Nuclear Sites’ from Bases in Bulgaria and Romania" from the Sunday Herald - a Scottish newspaper. Take a look:

President Bush is preparing to attack Iran's nuclear facilities before the end of April and the US Air Force's new bases in Bulgaria and Romania would be used as back-up in the onslaught, according to an official report from Sofia.

"American forces could be using their two USAF bases in Bulgaria and one at Romania's Black Sea coast to launch an attack on Iran in April," the Bulgarian news agency Novinite said.

The American build-up along the Black Sea, coupled with the recent positioning of two US aircraft carrier battle groups off the Straits of Hormuz, appears to indicate president Bush has run out of patience with Tehran's nuclear misrepresentation and non-compliance with the UN Security Council's resolution. President Ahmeninejad of Iran has further ratcheted up tension in the region by putting on show his newly purchased state of the art Russian TOR-Ml anti-missile defence system.
Sofia's news of advanced war preparations along the Black Sea is backed up by some chilling details. One is the setting up of new refuelling places for US Stealth bombers, which would spearhead an attack on Iran. "The USAF's positioning of vital refuelling facilities for its B-2 bombers in unusual places, including Bulgaria, falls within the perspective of such an attack." Novinite named Colonel Sam Gardiner, "a US secret service officer stationed in Bulgaria", as the source of this revelation.

Just go read the whole article if you want more details. Very disturbing and worrying.

"Only humans should suffer..."

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I want to call your attention to an article called "Only Humans Should Suffer: The End-of-Life Double Standard" by Mary Shaw. Shaw tells us of the race horse, Barbaro, who was euthanized after suffering from a leg injury that could not be healed and then makes this point:

With his Kentucky Derby win, Barbaro became no less a Philly sports hero than Eagle Donovan McNabb. But there's one big difference: If a football player (or your uncle Joe) were to suffer a terminal injury that left him dying a slow death in constant excruciating pain that even modern medicine could not control, he would just have to suffer.

As of this writing, Oregon is the only state in the U.S. that allows physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients in pain who want to die with dignity on their own terms. Efforts to pass similar legislation in other states have failed, due in no small part to challenges by those who confuse a "culture of life" with a culture of forced suffering.
In addition to Oregon, physician-assisted suicide is currently legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland. Everywhere else, the terminally ill are forced to endure sometimes horrific pain at the end of life, or end their misery with a plastic bag, a noose, or some other undignified means. And those sad, desperate acts will continue as long as so-called "pro-life" factions keep fighting attempts to widen the acceptance of physician-assisted suicide and provide more people with the power to choose a comfortable death over a horrible, lingering, painful one.

What it boils down to is this: While life is precious and should not be thrown away lightly, modern medical science cannot yet provide adequate pain control in all dying patients, even in the best hospices.
So why do we treat our dying animals with more mercy than we give our dying people?

Why, indeed? I do not want my animals to suffer at the end of their lives and I will do the right thing by them when their time comes. But who will put me out of my misery when my time comes? A caring, compassionate society will provide for physician assisted suicide. But our society is rigid, judgmental and punitive.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Bush Diaries

I have just found the most interesting new blog. It's called The Bush Diaries and here is its description:

A daily, somewhat irreverent and highly personal "conversation" with President George W. Bush about national and international news; but also about issues of broad cultural interest.

Here's an excerpt from today's posting:

I only hope you had as profitable a weekend as I did, Bush. Three days (almost) of (almost) total silence. Can you imagine anything more beautiful? This, nestled in among the snow-blanketed hills of New Mexico, just a little south od Santa Fe. It was cold at nght, I promise you. And the meditation sits sometimes seemed long: an hour in the morning, and three consecutive hours in the afternoon interspersed with two half-hour periods of meditative walking. Sometimes, too, the hour seemed unbelievably short. It depends, of course, on what the mind is doing. If it's busy fighting the whole thing, as mine sometimes does, then the hour gets interminable: I sit there wondering what I'm doing there and when it's going to end. When the mind's at rest, observant and attentive and the breath flows smoothly, the hour flies by.

It would have been great to have you there with us, Bush. Our teacher--a Thai Forest monk who normally studiously eschews politics in his teaching--relayed the joke that the voice of God had been revealed to be actually your Cheney on the intercom, and that no one had yet figured out a way to tell you.
Had you been with us, though, I believe you would have been much moved by his teachings on goodwill, compassion, empathetic joy and equanimity. Such great wisdom in the Buddha's teachings, much of it not at all inconsistent with the teachings of your Jesus but with the added benefit, for me, in not needing to believe in any God--or gods. The notion that happiness is possible for human beings to achieve, if only they manage to let go their cravings, is an attractive one; and the breath meditation is a wonderful way to release those cravings, if only for one moment at a time.

Would Bush really have been moved by a teaching on the Four Divine Abodes? I don't know. Maybe the blog author was being snide in a subtle kind of way.

In an earlier posting, the blog author talks about taking his dog to the vet and the excellence of the medical care his dog received. Then he has this to say:

Coincidentally, though, both Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert chose to write about health care insurance yesterday. For humans, of course. Krugamn was deploring your latest let-them-eat-cake approach to solve the growing problem of the unavailability of health insurance for those most in need ot it: the poor, who can't afford it; and those who are already sick, and excluded from coverage by insurance companies who are in it for the profit and are disinclined to cover those who might actually cost them money. Your proposal for providing tax deductions for those probably too poor to be paying taxes anyway is absurd to the point of cruelty. And your "incentives" do nothing for those who are rejected from the system in advance. Herbert highlights the growing problem of those reduced to using credit card debt to cover essential health care costs.

I'm glad that Hillary Clinton put this out at the top of her agenda, and I hope that it will become a central topic in the coming campaign. "Coming"! It's already in high gear. But no matter how much the political hopefuls talk, there will still be people out there for the next couple of years facing life-and-death medical decisions in a system designed to benefit the insurance companies rather than the sick. I've talked about this national disgrace in the past, Bush. I understand you plan to talk about it tonight. If you say what Paul Krugman suggests you're going to say, your proposal is lamentably lacking in the "compassion" you once touted to convince the American people that you were the right man for that job that you hold onto with increasing futility and desperation.

The insurance situation in the country is deplorable beyond expression. I wonder if we can even hope that anything will be done about it anytime soon.

A real pity

I just discovered an interesting article on the CNN website. It's called "Cats lose visiting privileges at women's prison". Here's part of what it says:

WINDSOR, Vermont (AP) -- At the Southeast State Correctional Facility, inmates are subjected to head counts several times a day. But not Ziggy, Marmalade, Smokey and Shane -- they come and go as they please.

They're prison cats -- but only for now. They are being involuntarily paroled by the new superintendent of Vermont's largest women's prison, to the chagrin of inmates who feed them, pay for their care and cherish them.

"It is not a physical plant that is conducive to a pet program," said Superintendent Anita Carbonell. "I know a lot of the inmates consider them pets, but they aren't really."

Cats have been fixtures at the farm-turned-prison since the 1980s, sleeping in warm garages and nooks and crannies on the 22-building campus and keeping it mouse-free. The number fluctuated as the prison became a dumping ground for unwanted felines and they found their way under fences, into barns and into the hearts of inmates.

Caring for cats "teaches empathy, teaches responsibility, teaches compassion and it's a great educational tool," said Sue Skaskiw, director of Vermont Volunteer Services for Animals Humane Society. "These women have taken on these animals. To take them away is unnecessary and insensitive to their situation."

There is another side to this, of course:

But the cats have caused problems, too.

Inmates have been scratched, and some are allergic to cats, or just don't like them. Recently, an inmate used a cigarette lighter to burn the fur off one of them. That cat has since recovered and is now living with a staff member.

"They see the benefits, they see the therapeutic part of the animals, but they don't ever see the cost or they don't ever see what happens when things go wrong," said Correctional Officer Mark McGuire.

Carbonell said the cats are inconsistent with the mission of the facility, which is to help the women shake their addictions, learn to control their tempers and get educations.

Well, my take on it is that caring for animals will actually improve the effectiveness of that mission although I would never want to see animals at risk for abuse. And how are they going to keep the mouse population down?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

New bumper stickers

Sent to me by Charlotte Alexandre:

That's OK, I Wasn't Using My Civil Liberties Anyway
Let's Fix Democracy in This Country First
Of Course It Hurts: You're Getting Screwed by an Elephant
G.W. Bush: Creating the Terrorists Our Kids Will Have to Fight
One Nation, Under Surveillance
Whose God Do You Kill For?
Jail to the Chief
No, Seriously, Why Did We Invade Iraq?
Bush: God's Way of Proving Intelligent Design is Full of Crap
We Need a President Who's Fluent In At Least One Language
We're Making Enemies Faster Than We Can Kill Them
Is It Vietnam Yet?
You Elected Him. You Deserve Him.
Impeach Cheney First
Pray For Impeachment
The Republican Party: Our Bridge to the 11th Century
What Part of "Bush Lied" Don't You Understand?
2004: Embarrassed; 2005: Horrified; 2006: Terrified
At Least Nixon Resigned

Signs at the protest

A commenter on one of the blogs I frequent noticed these signs at yesterday's protest:

“Women tell Bush, Pull Out Now!”
“Draft All Republicans First!”
“Bush; so full of shit it won’t fit on this sign!”
“The Rapture is not an exit strategy”
“You Can’t Pray a Lie”
“Fag Hags For Peace!”
“God Told Me to Impeach Bush!”

Good huh? (I love the last one!)

Yesterday's protest

Here's the latest CNN QuickVote. Sad:

Will Saturday's protest in Washington have any effect on President Bush's Iraq war policy?

Yes - 8%

No - 92%

A "conservative document"

I want to share with you an article from about a week ago (in the section of the Guardian known as The Observer) but I've just now discovered it. It's called "Global warming: the final verdict" and is subtitled "A study by the world's leading experts says global warming will happen faster and be more devastating than previously thought." Here are a couple of excerpts:

Global warming is destined to have a far more destructive and earlier impact than previously estimated, the most authoritative report yet produced on climate change will warn next week.

A draft copy of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, obtained by The Observer, shows the frequency of devastating storms - like the ones that battered Britain last week - will increase dramatically. Sea levels will rise over the century by around half a metre; snow will disappear from all but the highest mountains; deserts will spread; oceans become acidic, leading to the destruction of coral reefs and atolls; and deadly heatwaves will become more prevalent.

The impact will be catastrophic, forcing hundreds of millions of people to flee their devastated homelands, particularly in tropical, low-lying areas, while creating waves of immigrants whose movements will strain the economies of even the most affluent countries.

'The really chilling thing about the IPCC report is that it is the work of several thousand climate experts who have widely differing views about how greenhouse gases will have their effect. Some think they will have a major impact, others a lesser role. Each paragraph of this report was therefore argued over and scrutinised intensely. Only points that were considered indisputable survived this process. This is a very conservative document - that's what makes it so scary,' said one senior UK climate expert.
The report reflects climate scientists' growing fears that Earth is nearing the stage when carbon dioxide rises will bring irreversible change to the planet. 'We are seeing vast sections of Antarctic ice disappearing at an alarming rate,' said climate expert Chris Rapley, in a phone call to The Observer from the Antarctic Peninsula last week. 'That means we can expect to see sea levels rise at about a metre a century from now on - and that will have devastating consequences.'

However, there is still hope, said Peter Cox of Exeter University. 'We are like alcoholics who have got as far as admitting there is a problem. It is a start. Now we have got to start drying out - which means reducing our carbon output.'

Yes, we are dealing with a bona fide addiction here. But it's going to take a collective realization that we have a problem. And I don't know if we've reached the critical mass yet.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Now here's a thought

I just came across an article entitled "Should a President Undergo Mental Health, IQ, Political Science/Civics and Basic Etiquette Exams?" Here's part of what it says:

Considering the vast duties required of the currently selected president George W. Bush, it is only fair that he and every other president after him (as he has been dubbed by many as "the worst president in history" both nationally and internationally) be administered various tests. Ironically, he strongly endorses the NCLB (No Child Left Behind) testing for all children (thus robbing them of acquiring critical thinking skills and forcing teachers to instruct according to the tests themselves) and making them automatons in the process.

Furthermore, the office of president itself has sunken to such a low that I bet former presidents such as Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, etc. are probably rolling over in their graves in disgust. Bush has made this office such a mockery that it is difficult to fathom that men such as Lincoln, FDR, Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton (with the exception of the Monica L. incident) held the post with such dignity and respect that the entire world admired us.

Based on the knowledge above and the utter ignorance and uncouthness of Bush, I believe that hereafter all other presidential candidates undergo the same types of psychological and educational testing as the people who apply for civil service jobs (who are required to take various tests to determine their ability to perform the job) do. The instruments that would exhibit the core competencies for this position are the WAIS (Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale) – which assesses his overall IQ, the MMPI-2 (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) – which assesses any pathological mental illnesses such as psychopathy and/or sociopathy, in particular, high school-level political science/civics and geography exit exams.

Interestingly, some of the government agencies such as the CIA and FBI use these assessments on some of their more secretive agents. If this is so, why is it that the chief-executive-officer of the U.S. not mandated to take these tests?

Go read the rest of the article. Makes you think. We'd really get an eyeful if we could see results for some of these tests.

That ABC movie again

Do you remember the ABC "docudrama" movie called "Path to 9/11" that I got so hysterical about a while back? Well, it's back. Here's what AMERICAblog has to say about it:

FOX and far-right Republican activist Sean Hannity are planning on broadcasting the portions of the Disney/ABC "documentary" about 9/11, "Path to 9/11," that were deleted from the film because they were shown to be inaccurate (Disney/ABC left other inaccurate storylines in the "documentary," including alleging that American Airlines let Mohammad Atta board his flight even though they had warning that he was a possible terrorist.)

Apparently, former President Clinton is looking into the matter. He ought to sue the pants off ABC becuase his administration was blamed in the movie for 9/11 and both Sandy Berger and Madeleine Albright were badly and inaccurately slandered.

You know, what the right wingers are trying to do is to smear Hillary Clinton by bringing these lies about the Clinton administration before the public. It's beyond reprehensible.

Friday, January 26, 2007

"All life is a circle."

Frank Ford sent me the following meditation:

The atom is a circle, orbits are circles, the earth, moon, and sun are circles. The seasons are circles. The cycle of life is a circle: baby, youth, adult, elder. The sun gives life to the earth who feeds life to the trees whose seeds fall to the earth to grow new trees. We need to practice seeing the cycles that the Great Spirit gave us because this will help us more in our understanding of how things operate. We need to respect these cycles and live in harmony with them. Great Spirit, let me grow in knowledge of the circle.


All My Relations,

Everything above ground came from under the ground. Our relationship to all things is a valuable thing to realize because we are unable to survive comfortably without it. When Creator placed special medicine plants and critters on this earth it probably was not his intent to see man murder them off into extinction. Man is killing trees, plants daily and all of the special critters to make way for progress. When the last of the land is gone and we have soil that cannot produce our food or oxygen it will be too late to turn back. Right now we are almost at the midnight hour. Bad storms, climate changes, poor air quality and diseases. What part are we doing to prevent this world from being destroyed? What part of the great circle do I posess?

Gitsch Manito-Creator, Spiritworld,

Please help us to realize that our earth is dying and we are along with it. Please help us to stop the big business from destroying our air, water, food supplies and medicines for a worthless piece of paper called money. Many of us know it is not a good thing except good to destroy many things here on earth and other planets with our trash from space exploration. Please help us all to unite for a common cause called the healing of mankind and earth.

--Rolling Thunder, CHEROKEE


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This is from an article entitled "Our Mercenaries in Iraq" and which is subtitled "The president relies on thousands of private soldiers with little oversight, a disturbing example of the military-industrial complex." Take a look:

The president called on Congress to authorize an increase of about 92,000 active-duty troops over the next five years. He then slipped in a mention of a major initiative that would represent a significant development in the U.S. disaster response/reconstruction/war machine: a Civilian Reserve Corps.

"Such a corps would function much like our military Reserve. It would ease the burden on the armed forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them," Bush declared. This is precisely what the administration has already done, largely behind the backs of the American people and with little congressional input, with its revolution in military affairs. Bush and his political allies are using taxpayer dollars to run an outsourcing laboratory. Iraq is its Frankenstein monster.

Already, private contractors constitute the second-largest "force" in Iraq. At last count, there were about 100,000 contractors in Iraq, of which 48,000 work as private soldiers, according to a Government Accountability Office report. These soldiers have operated with almost no oversight or effective legal constraints and are an undeclared expansion of the scope of the occupation. Many of these contractors make up to $1,000 a day, far more than active-duty soldiers. What's more, these forces are politically expedient, as contractor deaths go uncounted in the official toll.

The president's proposed Civilian Reserve Corps was not his idea alone. A privatized version of it was floated two years ago by Erik Prince, the secretive, mega-millionaire, conservative owner of Blackwater USA and a man who for years has served as the Pied Piper of a campaign to repackage mercenaries as legitimate forces. In early 2005, Prince — a major bankroller of the president and his allies — pitched the idea at a military conference of a "contractor brigade" to supplement the official military. "There's consternation in the [Pentagon] about increasing the permanent size of the Army," Prince declared. Officials "want to add 30,000 people, and they talked about costs of anywhere from $3.6 billion to $4 billion to do that. Well, by my math, that comes out to about $135,000 per soldier." He added: "We could do it certainly cheaper."

This is very disturbing. Mercenaries do not have the accountability to the Constitution that members of the military have. They are not subject to the military justice system if they commit crimes.

Here's another point from the article:

From Iraq and Afghanistan to the hurricane-ravaged streets of New Orleans to meetings with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger about responding to disasters in California, Blackwater now envisions itself as the FedEx of defense and homeland security operations. Such power in the hands of one company, run by a neo-crusader bankroller of the president, embodies the "military-industrial complex" President Eisenhower warned against in 1961.

Somehow, I think it is futile to object to this. It has an inevitable feel to it.

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Thursday, January 25, 2007

An effect of poverty

I just came across an article entitled "Menopause at 30 for Millions in Poverty". Here's how it gets started:

Millions of women in India are going through the menopause as young as 30 because of chronic malnutrition and poverty, according to a study by a prominent Indian think-tank.

The research suggests that almost one in five women in the country have gone through the menopause by the age of 41.

Malnutrition is believed to be a contributory factor, particularly in rural areas, although the study did not address the causes. Yesterday doctors called for further research into the condition.

The study, by the Institute for Social and Economic Change, based in Bangalore, found that 3.1 per cent of Indian women — about 17 million — reached menopause between the ages of 30 and 34. Eight per cent ( 44 million) are in menopause by the time they are 39, the institute’s study showed, while 19 per cent have gone through “the change of life” by the age of 41.

Medical experts say that natural menopause, when the ovaries stop producing oestrogen, occurs in women between the ages of 45 and 55, with the global mean being 51. Premature menopause is defined as the cessation of menstruation before the age of 40 and affects an estimated 1 per cent of women worldwide.

That's really tragic to think that 17 million women went through menopause between 30 and 34. They should still be young women at that age.

This needs to inspire us to be committed to the Millineum Development Goals. It really is possible to eradicate extreme poverty throughout the world. All we need is the will to do it.

The cost of "blunders"

Today's CNN QuickVote:

Do you believe that perceived blunders have hurt the Bush administration's credibility on Iraq?

Yes - 91%

No - 9%

Melting Arctic ice

"The pace is staggering" according to an AP article entitled "The Arctic region as global warming barometer". Here's an excerpt:

TROMSOE, Norway (AFP) - The Arctic Ocean's pack ice is expected to disappear entirely in the coming decades and will bring unforeseeable changes to the region, international experts meeting this week in Norway said.

For many participants at the Arctic Frontiers conference held in the northern Norwegian town of Tromsoe, 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) south of the North Pole, the pace of global warming is staggering.

"Climate change in the Arctic is not coming. It is here," said Canadian researcher at the University of Manitoba, David Barber.

Barber predicts that between 2030 and 2050, the Arctic's sea ice will have disappeared completely during the summer months.

"Last time something like that happened was a million years ago. It is a tremendous change," Barber added.
The waters of the ocean have become more acidic in line with increasing emissions of greenhouse gases. A development that could, according to Bellerby, lead to the extinction of certain marine organisms, especially plankton, altering the ocean's entire ecosystem.
"The winters are getting warmer, the vegetation is changing and it has consequences for the reindeer that graze in winter ... they cannot reach lichen," the speaker of the Sami parliament Aili Keskitalo said.

"Insects are more numerous, worms are eating the birch leaves, all this because we did not experience in the last winters ... the (typical) temperatures of minus 35 to 40 C (minus 31 to 40 F)," she added.

I don't have much of a comment. I just hope the powers that be pay attention.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Jim Webb

It was the very articulate Senator Jim Webb of Virginia who gave the Democratic response to the State of the Union address last night. I was very impressed - especially when I learned that he wrote his own speech. Here's an evaluation of what he said by Jeff Cohen:

If you watched freshman Virginia Sen. Jim Webb deliver the Democratic response to Bush’s State of the Union speech, you witnessed something historic -- a Democrat on national TV unabashedly ripping into six years of Bush rule for an uninterrupted 10 minutes.

With no O’Reilly or Hannity to disrupt or out-shout him.

Webb offered a populist, anti-corporate stand on economics and a blunt attack on Bush for “recklessly” dragging our country into the Iraq war – a sharply-worded address that must have startled millions of TV viewers accustomed to Democrat vacillation.

It was the kind of stirring appeal, both progressive and patriotic, that could win over voters at election time -- including swing voters, NASCAR dads, soccer moms, even Republican leaners. The new Senator – a novelist and former Secretary of the Navy -- reportedly discarded the speech handed him by Democratic leaders, and wrote his own.

But Webb’s speech was not just a rebuttal to Bush. It was also a pointed response to the tepid pablum that comes out of the mouths of mainstream media-anointed Democratic presidential candidates: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

TV viewers could easily see the contrast between Webb’s words and those of Clinton and Obama, since the two candidates were featured one after another on TV network after network soon after Bush and Webb. Yet they said so little.
Whether intended or not, Webb was offering a way for Democrats to win elections -- a script for any presidential candidate who wants to distinguish him or herself in the primaries, and then defeat the Republicans in Nov. 2008.

And if taken from the realm of mere rhetoric to actual policy, a means to reform our country in a way that would give Democrats majority support for years to come.

Now, will the powers that be in the Democratic Party use that much sense? That remains to be seen.

The State of the Union address

What I really wanted to bring you this morning is the picture of Nancy Pelosi sitting in the chair of the Speaker of the House during President Bush's State of the Union address. You want to know something funny? The White House website has photoshopped both Cheney and Pelosi out of the picture and shows just Bush in front of the huge American flag. Or else they've used a picture of a different occasion. They just couldn't stand to have Pelosi in the picture, could they? (Well denial is not just a river in Egypt.)

Here's a CNN QuickVote that may interest you:

What was your overall impression of the president's State of the Union address?

Positive - 37%

Negative - 63%

Now I'd like to share with you an excerpt from an article entitled "28% and Counting, the Disintegration of a President" by Anthony Wade. It's a good summary from a progressive point of view of what Bush said. Here's what Wade has to say about the part of the speech on the economy:

Moving quickly, the president then entered fantasy land to discuss the economy. It is important to understand that the only thing that George Bush has ever supported economically is business and the super-rich. The Holy Grail of this president's economic vision is his extremely unfair and slanted tax cuts. His goal when he came into office was to roll taxes back, with 95% of the money going to the top 1% of the rich in this country. Not you or I, just the rich. A spade is a spade, and I am tried of people crying "class warfare" while they are waging warfare on the middle class and working poor. Make no mistake about it America; George Bush's primary domestic imperative is to keep the tax cuts for the rich permanent. In order to do this, he must pretend that these tax cuts have spurred the economy. In order for that fairy tale to be true, he needs to pretend that the economy is somehow doing well, when it clearly is not. I have heard all about the fake statistics and the irrelevant stock market. The average person on the street knows full well that that there are two economies. The one for the rich is doing very well; hence the stock market increases. The one for the average American though, is failing them every day. The jobs acquired today are worse than the ones we had ten years ago. Healthcare is not affordable. Gas prices are still unacceptable. College tuition is out of reach. These are the realities facing Americans each and every day but all George Bush can do is pretend they do not exist. He is forced to pretend that "uninterrupted job growth" demands that the rich get richer, even though he cannot create enough jobs to keep up with the new job seekers. In closing on the economy, Bush offered two other proposals that were so funny I had to laugh. One was to balance the budget, even though he never has and the second one was to eliminate earmarks, even though he never vetoed one GOP spending bill in his presidency. The smell of hypocrisy was pungent in the air, as Congresspersons winked and nodded.

Click through and read the whole article - particularly if you couldn't bear to listen to the speech as it was being delivered.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Swiftboating Obama

You know, this is really sickening. The right wing hit people have managed to smear Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in a single story. I want to call your attention to a CNN article entitled "CNN debunks false report about Obama". Here's some of what it says:

JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- Allegations that Sen. Barack Obama was educated in a radical Muslim school known as a "madrassa" are not accurate, according to CNN reporting.

Insight Magazine, which is owned by the same company as The Washington Times, reported on its Web site last week that associates of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, had unearthed information the Illinois Democrat and likely presidential candidate attended a Muslim religious school known for teaching the most fundamentalist form of Islam.

Obama lived in Indonesia as a child, from 1967 to 1971, with his mother and stepfather and has acknowledged attending a Muslim school, but an aide said it was not a madrassa.

Insight attributed the information in its article to an unnamed source, who said it was discovered by "researchers connected to Senator Clinton." A spokesman for Clinton, who is also weighing a White House bid, denied that the campaign was the source of the Obama claim.

He called the story "an obvious right-wing hit job."

Insight stood by its story in a response posted on its Web site Monday afternoon.

The Insight article was cited several times Friday on Fox News and was also referenced by the New York Post, The Glenn Beck program on CNN Headline News and a number of political blogs.
"I came here to Barack Obama's elementary school in Jakarta looking for what some are calling an Islamic madrassa ... like the ones that teach hate and violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan," [CNN's John] Vause said on the "Situation Room" Monday. "I've been to those madrassas in Pakistan ... this school is nothing like that."

"It's not (an) Islamic school. It's general," Winadijanto said. "There is a lot of Christians, Buddhists, also Confucian. ... So that's a mixed school."

The Obama aide described Fox News' broadcasting of the Insight story "appallingly irresponsible."

Irresponsible isn't the half of it. It's an outright lie.

Yeah, it would be Fox.

And, don't forget, Insight Magazine is owned by the Moonies. (Very right wing.)

"Smoking gun"

This morning, Matt Huculak sent me an article entitled "'Smoking gun' report to say global warming here". It's no longer adequate to say that the news on climate change is disturbing. We are in serious, serious trouble. Take a look:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Human-caused global warming is here -- visible in the air, water and melting ice -- and is destined to get much worse in the future, an authoritative global scientific report will warn next week.

"The smoking gun is definitely lying on the table as we speak," said top U.S. climate scientist Jerry Mahlman, who reviewed all 1,600 pages of the first segment of a giant four-part report. "The evidence ... is compelling."

Andrew Weaver, a Canadian climate scientist and study co-author, went even further: "This isn't a smoking gun; climate is a batallion of intergalactic smoking missiles."

The first phase of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is being released in Paris next week.

This segment, written by more than 600 scientists and reviewed by another 600 experts and edited by bureaucrats from 154 countries, includes "a significantly expanded discussion of observation on the climate," said co-chair Susan Solomon a senior scientist for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
As confident as scientists are about the global warming effects that they've already documented, they are as gloomy about the future and even hotter weather and higher sea level rises.

Predictions for the future of global warming in the report are based on 19 computer models, about twice as many as in the past, Solomon said.

In 2001, the panel said the world's average temperature would increase somewhere between 2.5 and 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit and the sea level would rise between 4 inches and 35 inches by the year 2100. The 2007 report will likely have a smaller range of numbers for both predictions, Pachauri and other scientists said.

The future is bleak, scientists said.

I don't imagine that the word "bleak" is used lightly. We are headed for extinction - all because of human selfishness, all because of people with influence who won't give up their short term profits.

Monday, January 22, 2007

I miss her

She understood:

What the people want is very simple. They want an America as good as its promise.

~Barbara Jordan

He's taking a killing in the polls

Well, this is encouraging. I want to call your attention to a Washington Post article entitled "Confidence in Bush Leadership at All-Time Low, Poll Finds". Here are some details that are worth knowing:

Bush's overall approval rating in the new poll is 33 percent, matching the lowest it has been in Post-ABC polls since he took office in 2001. Sixty-five percent say they disapprove. Equally telling is the finding that 51 percent of Americans now strongly disapprove of his performance in office, the worst rating of his presidency. Just 17 percent strongly approve of the way he is handling his job.

Only two presidents have had lower approval ratings on the eve of a State of the Union speech. Richard Nixon was at 26 percent in 1974, seven months before he resigned in disgrace because of the Watergate scandal. Harry S. Truman was at 23 percent in January 1952, driven down by public disapproval of the Korean conflict and his firing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

Just 29 percent approve of Bush's handling of the Iraq war, which is only one percentage point off his career low recorded a month ago, and 70 percent disapprove. Similarly, Bush's approval rating on handling terrorism is at a near-low, with just 46 percent giving him positive marks and 52 percent negative.

Additional signs of Bush's weakened position come in responses to questions about his personal and leadership attributes. Forty percent describe Bush as honest and trustworthy, equaling the low point of his presidency. Barely a third think he understands the problems of people like themselves.

Well I hope those people who voted for Bush because they thought they'd like to have a beer with him are satsified. They have nobody to blame but themselves.

Police State, USA

Frank Ford sent me an article entitled "Letter to editor brings Secret Service visit". Here's part of what it says:

An elderly man who wrote a letter to the editor about Saddam Hussein's execution that "they hanged the wrong man" got a visit from Secret Service Agents concerned he was threatening President Bush.

The letter by Dan Tilli, 81, was published in Monday's edition of The Express-Times of Easton, Pa. It ended with the line, "I still believe they hanged the wrong man."

Tilli said the statement was not a threat. "I didn't say who — I could've meant (Osama) bin Laden," he said.
The agents almost immeditately decided Tilli was not a threat...

Well, isn't that nice?

But imagine getting a visit like that because of something you wrote in a letter to the editor. It's creepy. And that's putting it mildly.


So true:

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

~ John Kenneth Galbraith

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Listen up, carnivores

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All right. If you won't go vegetarian out of an ethical concern for animal suffering, how about doing it as your part in fighting global climate change? Do you realize that livestock production, processing, and transport together put an enormous amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere? I want to share with you an article called "Vegetarian is the New Prius" by Kathy Freston. I'll give you an excerpt here but I really want to encourage you to click through and read the whole thing:

Last month, the United Nations published a report on livestock and the environment with a stunning conclusion: "The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." It turns out that raising animals for food is a primary cause of land degradation, air pollution, water shortage, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and not least of all, global warming.

That's right, global warming. You've probably heard the story: emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are changing our climate, and scientists warn of more extreme weather, coastal flooding, spreading disease, and mass extinctions. It seems that when you step outside and wonder what happened to winter, you might want to think about what you had for dinner last night. The U.N. report says almost a fifth of global warming emissions come from livestock ... that's more emissions than from all of the world's transportation combined.
Last year researchers at
the University of Chicago took the Prius down a peg when they turned their attention to another gas guzzling consumer purchase. They noted that feeding animals for meat, dairy, and egg production requires growing some ten times as much crops as we'd need if we just ate pasta primavera, faux chicken nuggets, and other plant foods. On top of that, we have to transport the animals to slaughterhouses, slaughter them, refrigerate their carcasses, and distribute their flesh all across the country. Producing a calorie of meat protein means burning more than ten times as much fossil fuels--and spewing more than ten times as much heat-trapping carbon dioxide--as does a calorie of plant protein. The researchers found that, when it's all added up, the average American does more to reduce global warming emissions by going vegetarian than by switching to a Prius.

You know, it's not that hard. Here's how you do it: Simply choose a day a week to eat vegetarian. Painless. After a few weeks of that strategy, then pick two days a week and continue in that fashion until you abstain from meat entirely. There are lots of good vegetarian guide books and cook books on the market but I'll tell you what motivated me the most and that was reading Animal Liberation by Peter Singer. Once I realized how animals are treated by today's factory farming methods I knew I could no longer support the meat industry. Do it for your health, do it for the animals, do it for the planet. Come on - you know there's a part of you that knows this is the right thing to do. Become a vegetarian. You won't regret it.

Did he really say this?

This simply defies belief:

I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude. We've endured great sacrifice to help them.

-- George W. Bush

Tens of thousands dead
Cities destroyed
Infrastructure decimated
Health care system devastated
Depleted uranium poisoning
Sectarian violence unleashed

And for this, they should be grateful?

What planet is he living on?

"It starts to feel creepy..."

Thomas Friedman

Well, here I am quoting Thomas Freidman again. Here's a sample from his column entitled "A Warning From the Garden":

Don't know about you, but when I see things in nature that I've never seen in my life, like daffodils blooming in January, it starts to feel creepy, like a Twilight Zone segment... I don't care whether it is a federal gasoline tax, carbon tax, B.T.U. tax or cap-and-trade system, power utilities, factories and car owners have to be required to pay the real and full cost to society of the carbon they put into the atmosphere. And higher costs for fossil fuels make more costly clean alternatives more competitive... And prices matter. They drive more and cleaner energy choices. So when the president unveils his energy proposals, if they don't call for higher efficiency standards and higher prices for fossil fuels -- take your socks off yourself. It's going to get hot around here.

Are we going to do it? Are we going to save ourselves from climate catastrophe? Or do we simply not have the will to do it? Are we so attached to our "way of life" that we will commit suicide as a species in order to keep it?


Here's a QuickVote poll on the CNN website:

Which senator's recently announced presidential bid is more likely to win your support?

Sen. Sam Brownback - 33%

Sen. Hillary Clinton - 67%

Taking away our freedoms

Frank Ford sent me an article entitled "Gonzales Questions Habeas Corpus" that is very, very disturbing indeed. Take a look:

In one of the most chilling public statements ever made by a U.S. Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales questioned whether the U.S. Constitution grants habeas corpus rights of a fair trial to every American.

Responding to questions from Sen. Arlen Specter at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Jan. 18, Gonzales argued that the Constitution doesn’t explicitly bestow habeas corpus rights; it merely says when the so-called Great Writ can be suspended.

“There is no expressed grant of habeas in the Constitution; there’s a prohibition against taking it away,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales’s remark left Specter, the committee’s ranking Republican, stammering.

“Wait a minute,” Specter interjected. “The Constitution says you can’t take it away except in case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn’t that mean you have the right of habeas corpus unless there’s a rebellion or invasion?”

Gonzales continued, “The Constitution doesn’t say every individual in the United States or citizen is hereby granted or assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn’t say that. It simply says the right shall not be suspended” except in cases of rebellion or invasion.

“You may be treading on your interdiction of violating common sense,” Specter said.

While Gonzales’s statement has a measure of quibbling precision to it, his logic is troubling because it would suggest that many other fundamental rights that Americans hold dear also don’t exist because the Constitution often spells out those rights in the negative.

This kind of "quibbling" does, indeed, indicate that Gonzales wants to believe that we have no right to habeas corpus. Sometimes, I just can't believe that this is happening - that the freedoms we have cherished for so long in this country are eroding before our very eyes.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The real enemy

Succinctly put:

The only ones who can destroy American freedom are government officials who claim the right to read our mail, listen to our phone calls, bug our e-mail, and deny some of us the right to have lawyers to defend us. They are the real enemy.

-- Andrew Greeley

Gobal warming summary

There's a commments thread over at AMERICAblog about global warming deniers (apparently there are a lot of them) and one person (whose moniker is Joe Blow) left this excellent summary of what is happening:

Global warming is a fact. It is also a fact that it is caused by rising levels of CO2 and CH4. It is a fact that human activity has "liberated" enormous quantities of both since we started burning fossil fuels - that is, coal, oil, methane, etc. laid down millions of years ago. We are heating up this planet and we will see signifcant changes in our lifetimes. Millions of people are at risk of environmental catastrophy. Loss of water sources, severe storms, changed weather patterns, extinction of animals, etc.

CO2 does not reflect solar radiation so the suns rays can come through and heat the earth. It does reflect infra-red radiation so the heat given off by the earth's surface does not escape into space as much as it used to. The amount trapped is proportional to the abundance of greenhouse gases. Our current CO2 concentration is TWICE as much as any measured in the last 500,000 years and it is expected to TRIPLE In the next ten years if nothing is done.

We are reaching the saturation point in the oceans and they will soon turn acidic and no longer absorb more CO2. We can already measure the effects on plankton. The turn to the worse will be RAPID and eventually UNSTOPPABLE.

We need to do everything we can right now to cut emissions.

I wish I could copy that on a card and personally place it in the hands of every senator and congressperson - not to mention the president and his cabinet.

John Muir

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John Muir

I happened to find the following quote on a blog I regularly visit:

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

-- John Muir

The name seemed vaguely familiar to me but I couldn't quite place it so I decided I needed to find out who, in fact, John Muir was. I have simply been rivited in reading about him:

John Muir (April 21, 1838 - December 24, 1914) was one of the earliest modern preservationists. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, and wild life, especially in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, were read by millions and are still popular today. His direct activism helped to save the Yosemite Valley and other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is now one of the most important conservation organizations in the United States. But more than that his vision of nature's value for its own sake and for its spiritual, not just practical, benefits to mankind helped to change the way we look at the natural world. (from the Wikipedia article)

Here's something he said that I wish we would pay attention to:

No dogma taught by the present civilization seems to form so insuperable an obstacle in a way of a right understanding of the relations which culture sustains as to wilderness, as that which declares that the world was made especially for the uses of men. Every animal, plant, and crystal controverts it in the plainest terms. Yet it is taught from century to century as something ever new and precious, and in the resulting darkness the enormous conceit is allowed to go unchallenged.

He would be horrified, if he were alive today, by what we have done to the earth.

You can support the Sierra Club by going here.

UPDATE: Here's a link that might interest you: John Muir Trust. It was brought to my attention by commenter Tim.

She's in!

Senator Hillary Clinton

So here's part of what CNN has to say:

Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton launched her run for the White House Saturday by setting up an exploratory committee to test opinions and raise money. "I'm in. And I'm in to win," she wrote on her Web site. "I believe that together we can bring the leadership that this country needs." Her move came days after Sen. Barack Obama began his run.
Clinton's announcement comes two years to the day the next president will be inaugurated: January 20, 2009.
Should she win, she would be the first woman to serve as president of the United States -- and the first presidential spouse to do so as well.

So does she have a chance? It's hard to tell. And, mind you, I'm still disappointed in her for voting for the war. But I would really love, before I die, to have the chance to vote for a woman for president.

Friday, January 19, 2007

I like this:

What we need is Star Peace and not Star Wars.

- Mikhail S. Gorbachev

Please go read this article.

I want to recommend a short article called "It All Started With an American Taliban" by David Swanson. It's really impossible to give you an excerpt that will do it justice. It's a short article so just go read it. It's about what the government did to John Walker Lindh. It's also about Jesselyn Radack, a member of the Justice Department who was attacked by the government for simply saying that "the FBI could not legally interrogate Lindh, knowing that his father had retained counsel on his behalf." We need to know what our government has done - is doing. I will now tell you how the article ends:

The Justice Department aggressively attacked Radack, costing her a job there and a later job with a private law firm, threatening her license to practice law, damaging her reputation, denying her income, placing her on the "no-fly" list, and endlessly harassing her. Her book recounts the hell she went through.

As we watch the Libby trial unfold, let's bear in mind that this is what it is about: retribution against Joe Wilson who told the truth about the lie that launched the war. His wife was collateral damage.

Please go read the whole thing.

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Paul Rogers

Paul Rogers writes the following:

Here are a few pictures of next door cat Sox. In one picture he looks mean, but he's really saying "Please, please pick me up!" Sox comes by to watch the birds feed from under the truck and is far enough away that they don't worry about him.

You can see another picture of Sox over on my other blog, Meditation Matters.

By the way, if any human companions of cats are looking at this, Sox should not have his collar on so loose. That's a good way for a cat to get accidentally choked or hanged.

Ney's sentencing

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Blame it on the booze. I'm sick of Republicans weasling out of responsibility for their actions by declaring themselves alcoholics. You know, alcohol doesn't change your values; it reveals your values. In vino veritas and all that. Take a look at part of the CNN article on the matter:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former Rep. Bob Ney was sentenced Friday to 30 months in federal prison for his role in a congressional bribery scandal.

Ney, the first congressman ensnared in the case, pleaded guilty to trading official favors for golf trips, tickets, meals and campaign donations from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
According to letters submitted in court, Ney was a functioning alcoholic who often began drinking early in the morning and rarely made it through the day without a drink.

The letters, including one from his doctor and another from a former staff member, were filed by Ney's defense teams in hopes of convincing the judge to lighten the Ohio Republican's sentence.
Ney also wanted [U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal] Huvelle to rule that his corruption was influenced by alcohol addiction. His lawyers had asked that the six-term lawmaker be recommended for a prison drug abuse program, which could make him eligible for release in about a year.

When he agreed to plead guilty, Ney apologized to his constituents and said he was checking into an alcohol treatment program.

His strategy doesn't seem to have worked as he will serve his time in a federal prison. Good.


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You know, I've watched "24" just a few times and I've really been appalled by it for its portrayal of Muslims and its approval of torture. So I'm glad to see this article on the CNN website entitled "Muslims protest '24'". Here's part of what it says:

CLIFTON, New Jersey (AP) -- Two years ago, Muslim groups protested when the plot of the hit Fox drama '24' cast Islamic terrorists as the villains who launched a stolen nuclear missile in an attack on America.

Now, after a one-year respite during which Russian separatists played the bad guys on the critically acclaimed series, Muslims are back in the evil spotlight. Unlike last time, when agent Jack Bauer saved the day, the terrorists this time have already succeeded in detonating a nuclear bomb in a Los Angeles suburb.

Being portrayed again as the heartless wrongdoers has drawn renewed protests from Muslim groups, including one that had a meeting with Fox executives two years ago over the issue.

"The overwhelming impression you get is fear and hatred for Muslims," said Rabiah Ahmed, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. She said Thursday she was distressed by this season's premiere. "After watching that show, I was afraid to go to the grocery store because I wasn't sure the person next to me would be able to differentiate between fiction and reality."
Sohail Mohammed, a New Jersey immigration lawyer who represented scores of detainees caught up in the post September 11, 2001 dragnet, watched the episode depicting the nuclear attack with an Associated Press reporter.

"I was shocked," he said. "Somewhere, some lunatic out there watching this will do something to an innocent American Muslim because he believes what he saw on TV."

Suppose Jews were consistently depicted as wrongdoers and enemies of America on a major television program. Would that be considered acceptable?

Here's an excerpt from the Wikipedia article on "24" under the heading of "criticism":

On the January 16, 2007 edition of Countdown with Keith Olbermann, the liberal political commentator Keith Olbermann accused 24 of being "propaganda designed to keep people thinking about domestic terrorism to keep us scared". He suggested the show actually has a political agenda to aid the Republican Party, rhetorically asking, "is it a program-length commercial for one political party?" and noted, "if the irrational right can claim that the news is fixed to try to alter people's minds or that networks should be boycotted for nudity or for immorality, shouldn't those same groups be saying 24 should be taken off of TV because it's naked brainwashing?" The criticism by Olbermann followed 24's January 15 broadcast, in which a small nuclear weapon is detonated in Valencia, California by a terrorist group.

I agree.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Let's hear it for Letterman!

Take a look:

And in the interview President Bush said that popularity is not his goal. Popularity is not his goal. And I thought, well, mission accomplished.

- David Letterman

This is reprehensible

This just goes to show how important it is that corporations be regulated. Today I found an article entitled "Nicotine Boost Was Deliberate, Study Says". Take a look:

Data supplied by tobacco companies strongly suggest that in recent years manufacturers deliberately boosted nicotine levels in cigarettes to more effectively hook smokers, Harvard researchers conclude in a study being released today.

The companies increasingly used tobacco richer in nicotine and made design changes to give smokers more puffs per cigarette, according to the analysis from the Harvard School of Public Health. The report expands on a landmark Massachusetts Department of Public Health study issued last August showing that the amount of nicotine that could be inhaled from cigarettes increased an average of 10 percent from 1998 through 2004.

The Harvard researchers, who corroborated the basic findings of the state study, wanted to determine why cigarettes were delivering more nicotine. The state report did not address causes .
"It was systematic, it was pervasive, it involved all the manufacturers, and it was by design," said Dr. Howard Koh, an associate dean at the Harvard School of Public Health and an author of the study.

Another author said that the likelihood that the nicotine increase happened by chance was less than 1 in 1,000.
"The tobacco industry is clearly looking to addict people quickly and to keep them heavily addicted by making it really, really hard for them to quit," said Diane Pickles, executive director of the advocacy group Tobacco Free Massachusetts, which was not involved with the study.

The Harvard researchers, as well as antismoking forces, said the study offers compelling evidence that the federal government should regulate tobacco much the way pharmaceuticals are controlled by the US Food and Drug Administration.

I do think we need regulation like that. The tobacco companies are clearly immoral.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Doomsday Clock moved forward

Well, it distresses me to call your attention to an AP article entitled "'Doomsday Clock' moves nearer midnight". Here's how it gets started:

LONDON - The world has nudged closer to a nuclear apocalypse and environmental disaster, a trans-Atlantic group of prominent scientists warned Wednesday, pushing the hand of its symbolic Doomsday Clock two minutes closer to midnight.

It was the fourth time since the end of the Cold War that the clock has ticked forward, this time from 11:53 to 11:55, amid fears over what the scientists are describing as "a second nuclear age" prompted largely by atomic standoffs with Iran and North Korea.

But the organization added that the "dangers posed by climate change are nearly as dire as those posed by nuclear weapons."

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, founded in 1945 as a newsletter distributed among nuclear physicists concerned by the possibility of nuclear war, has since grown into an organization focused more generally on manmade threats to the survival of human civilization.

Now here's something else that disturbs me. You know, I check the CNN website everyday to see what the mainstream press is reporting. Perhaps you know that CNN has a U.S. edition and an international edition. Well, the Doomsday Clock story was picked up by the international edition but not the American one. So how are we to interpret that? Do Americans just not want to know? Do we not deserve to know? Has some decided that it's better if we don't know? Who made that judgment call and why?

Welcoming the stranger

Linda Cole sent me the following reflection that moved me very much. It is entitled "On the Journey to Universal Solidarity" and it was written by Clara Fraschetti:

I recently spent a week in a small rural village called Sega, in Ghana, West Africa. My purpose was to establish a partnership with the local school where my organization, Intercordia Canada, hopes to place student volunteers. One day I met with about 50 parents, some of whom would be asked to host our students for three months this summer. Mister Godwin, the head of the school, introduced me and asked me to say a few words about Intercordia. When I was done, Mister Godwin asked if any parents had questions. A small, older gentleman stood up, his back hunched, his skin wrinkled by the hot sun, and he asked in Dambe, "What are your first impressions of our community?" Mister Godwin translated as I described my time in Sega. I told them about my first morning and how the children had immediately taken my hand and led me through the village. As we passed people on the road, they recognized right away that I was new in town and most nodded or said "You are welcome!" Some enthusiastically took my face in their hands and said something in Dambe and then repeated "You are welcome! You are welcome!" I looked at the man standing there amongst the other parents and told him that if a stranger came to my neighbourhood, with different coloured skin, who dressed differently, no one would offer a greeting. In fact people might look at that person with suspicion and turn away. The old man looked at me with concerned eyes and said, "But, that is no way to treat a stranger." I humbly agreed with him. Then he said with conviction, "Then you must send your students, so that we can help to develop your community."

That is so beautiful. You know, reading this made me quite sad - sad that our culture is so marked by suspicion and hostility. What would it be like to live in a culture in which a basic value was to welcome the stranger? Not only would newcomers benefit but we all would be deeply enriched. And yes, we need help from people like those of Sega in Ghana to help us develop communities that manifest this level of compassion and lovingkindness.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

About Iran

I want to share with you a couple of brief excerpts from an article entitled "Hoping for a Miracle, against All the Evidence":

Does anyone suppose that we can send bombers to strike Iran's nuclear enrichment plants -- widely dispersed and dug deeply into the granite under mountains -- and not expect that action to set the Middle East on fire and paralyze economies at home and abroad by sending the price of oil beyond $100 or even $200 a barrel?

Does anyone think that Iran's ayatollahs wouldn't signal Iraqi Shiite militias and Iran's own deeply embedded commando teams inside Iraqi to launch new and deadly attacks against our troops scattered across the Iraqi battlegrounds and cut our long and vulnerable supply lines that feed, fuel and provide ammunition to our forces? And what signals might the Iranians send to their Hezbollah allies in Lebanon and beyond, and to their Shiite allies in western Afghanistan?

The Iraq Study Group certainly urged the Bush administration to engage with Iran and Syria, but they recommended diplomatic engagement, not military engagements.
Expanding a war that we're losing in Iraq to a neighboring nation three times larger, with a much better army and far more whacked-out religious fanatics, is hardly something that our commander in chief should even be dropping hints about at this juncture in a growing disaster.
Perhaps it's time for all of us to hope for a miracle. We can all hope, and pray too, that this commander in chief comes to his senses before he sets our world afire in the two years he has left in the highest office in the land.

I just know Bush wants to nuke Iran. Can anybody stop him?

Buddhist sworn in

Mazie Hirono

Well, I certainly didn't discover this in the mainstream press. Take a look at this excerpt from an article entitled "Buddhist congresswoman sworn in, urges tolerance":

WASHINGTON, USA -- While a new, Muslim member of Congress sparked a controversy for taking his oath of office with a Quran instead of a Bible on Thursday, another new member who is Buddhist was sworn in with no book at all.

Rep. Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat who was raised in the Buddhist tradition, said, "I don't have a book. ... But I certainly believe in the precepts of Buddhism and that of tolerance of other religions and integrity and honesty."

Members of the House for the 110th Congress were sworn in en masse, then had individual swearing-in ceremonies with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. In many cases, members rest a hand on a Bible while taking the oath, but they're not required to do so.

We're supposed to be a free country. None of this should matter. But isn't it interesting how people get all upset about Muslim but are cool about a Buddhist.