Friday, November 30, 2007

The vote in 2008

I just finished watching NOW on PBS. This week's program is entitled "Will The 2008 Vote Be Fair?" and watching it was very disturbing.

Here's the show's description:

How safe is your right to vote? Former Justice Department official and voting rights lawyer David Becker, who worked under both President George W. Bush and former President Bill Clinton, alleges a systematic effort to deny the vote to hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of Americans. In a revealing interview with NOW's David Brancaccio, Becker openly worries that the 2008 election will not be free and fair. Is our government part of the solution, or part of the problem?

You can see it on video at the PBS website. Please watch it. I must say, knowing how Republicans are preventing likely Democrats from voting is really depressing.

Superman's predicament

Our war crimes

I wonder if anything will come of this:

SAN FRANCISCO — U.S. war veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have announced they’re planning to descend on Washington, DC this March to testify about war crimes they committed or personally witnessed in Iraq.

“The war in Iraq is not covered to its potential because of how dangerous it is for reporters to cover it,” said Liam Madden, a former Marine and member of the group Iraq Veterans Against the War. “That’s left a lot of misconceptions in the minds of the American public about what the true nature of military occupation looks like.”

Iraq Veterans Against the War argues that well-publicized incidents of American brutality like the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the massacre of an entire family of Iraqis in the town of Haditha are not the isolated incidents perpetrated by “a few bad apples,” as many politicians and military leaders have claimed. They are part of a pattern, the group says, of “an increasingly bloody occupation.”

“This is our generation getting to tell history,” Madden told OneWorld, “to ensure that the actual history gets told — that it’s not a sugar-coated, diluted version of what actually happened.”
[Author Gerald Nicosia said,] “The majority of the American people are very dissatisfied with the Iraq war now and would be happy to get out of it. But Americans are bred deep into their psyches to think of America as a good country and, I think, much harder than just the hurdle of getting troops out of Iraq, is to get Americans to realize the terrible things we do in the name of the United States.”

It's up to the press now, isn't it, whether this story will get the attention it deserves.

Two roads diverge

I just found this in my files and can't remember if I've posted it or not. Anyway, it bears repeating if I have:

We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost's familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road—the one "less traveled by"—offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.

Rachel Carson

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A country that gets it right

Be sure to watch this all the way to the end:

The problem of "us" versus "them"

Here's why it doesn't work to go after the "evildoers":

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

-- Alexander Solzhenitsyn

The fix is in, folks

Man, I simply can't believe this. I just now read an article called "The Plot to Rig the 2008 US Election". Here's an excerpt:

Today, the Republicans are trying to exploit the discontent with the electoral college among Americans in a way that would rig the system in their favour. At the moment, every state apart from Maine and Nebraska hands out its electoral college votes according to a winner-takes-all system. This means that if 51 per cent of people in California vote Democrat, the Democrats get 100 per cent of California’s electoral votes; if 51 per cent of people in Texas vote Republican, the Republicans get 100 per cent of Texas’ electoral votes.

The Republicans want to change this - but in only one Democrat-leaning state. California has gone Democratic in presidential elections since 1988, and winning the sunny state is essential if the Democrats are going to retake the White House. So the Republicans have now begun a plan to break up California’s electoral college votes - and award a huge chunk of them to their side.

They have launched a campaign called California Counts, and they are trying to secure a state-wide referendum in June to implement their plan. They want California’s electoral votes to be divvied up not on a big state-wide basis, but according to the much smaller congressional districts. The practical result? Instead of all the state’s 54 electoral college votes going to the Democratic candidate, around 20 would go to the Republicans.

If this was being done in every state, everywhere, it would be an improvement. California’s forgotten Republicans would be represented in the electoral college, and so would Texas’s forgotten Democrats. But by doing it in California alone, they are simply giving the Republicans a massive electoral gift. Suddenly it would be extremely hard for a Democrat ever to win the White House; they would need a landslide victory everywhere else to counter this vast structural imbalance against them on the West Coast.

Now if this weren't appalling enough, do you know where the article was published? In the Independent in the UK. Why isn't this being widely publicized in the US? You know why. Because if the Republicans can sneak this by the American people, they will have permanent power in this country. It is sickening beyond expression.

Social Security again

I found this comment to a Common Dreams posting today and want to share it with you:

One of the most important questions of last night’s Republican YouTube debate was addressed by at least two candidates, but the question itself was completely IGNORED.

“The federal government has borrowed 2 trillion dollars from the Social Security Trust Fund. What will you do to repay the funds and restore the trust?”

We got diatribe about entitlements out of control and overspending by the government. We got nothing near an answer, and to CNN’s discredit, they did not insist upon receiving an answer. There are, of course, only two possible answers. (1) We will never repay the funds to the SS Trust, or (2) We will raise the high-end income and capital gains and estate taxes as needed, since the insufficiency (especially due to cuts by Republicans since Reagan) of those taxes is why Social Security funds were “borrowed” in the first place, and why that “borrowing” is expected to continue to 2017.

Democrats tagging the Republicans for outright theft of all the Social Security money is THE single theme that would win the election of 2008 by a landslide. Why don’t we citizens help the Democrats find their bearings on this one?

It really galls me to hear Republicans disparage Social Security as an "entitlement" as if it were some kind of give-away. I have been paying into Social Security my entire working life. When I'm old enough to receive a Social Security income, it will not be a hand-out! That money needs to be put back and somebody needs to speak up about it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hey, let's hope

I just read an article called "Black Friday Die Die Die" by Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle and whom I admire very much.

Take a look at these two paragraphs:

Which reminds me of the nice discussion I had over Thanksgiving dinner about oil. My dinnermate’s belief was that, as oil prices creep up and gas prices inch toward four, five, 10 bucks a gallon in the U.S. over the next decade, one of the first things to suffer will be the megastores, the Wal-Marts and the Targets and their Black Friday-promoting ilk, and not merely because their transportation costs will skyrocket and it will be increasingly unfeasible for them to ship their sweatshop crap over from China and then truck it from the docks to the individual stores.

No, he suggested Wal-Mart and its rapacious brethren will begin to fade because people in the more rural parts of America will refuse to pay the 10 or 15 bucks in fuel costs for a round-trip drive to the nearest big box mega-outlet just to get some crackers and shampoo and some nails. Instead, they will return to shopping locally, in their own neighborhoods and downtowns, where the shops are smaller and the hardware store owner knows them personally. They might still haul ass to Wal-Mart once a month for a serious shopping excursion, but that won’t be enough for the big boxers to stay in business for long. And lo, the world will improve. A little.

Now, sadly, the author thinks that Wal-Mart is malevolent enough to find way around this. But, still. I'll grab any excuse to be a little optimistic!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The poor and climate change

I heard about this on the radio today. Take a look at this excerpt from a CNN article entitled "U.N. report: Poor hit hardest by climate change":

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Floods, droughts and other climate disasters will rob millions of children of the decent meals and schools they need unless rich nations pony up $86 billion by 2015 to help the poor adapt to global warming, an expert panel has warned.

The U.S. government needs to cover $40 billion of that spending, which will "strengthen the capacity of vulnerable people" to cope with climate-related risks, according to the report commissioned by the U.N. Development Program.

The nearly 400-page Human Development Report comes just a week before the world's nations convene in Indonesia to negotiate a new climate treaty. It adds a dire economic perspective to previous U.N. scientific findings that carbon and other heat-trapping "greenhouse gas" emissions must stabilize by 2015 and then decline.

Without the money, the panel found, a warmer world "could stall and then reverse human development" in the countries where 2.6 billion people live on $2 a day or less.

Scientists have reported that temperatures rose an average 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 100 years, bringing the prospect of a century of extreme weather, rising seas, widening drought and disease and harm to fisheries, forests and farmland.

The irony is, of course, that it is the rich who have CAUSED climate change and they are the ones who will be protected from it. For a while at any rate. Eventually, we will all perish unless something is done soon.

It Is One

They shot a man into the sky
The moon and stars became his bed
He saw the sun rise seven times
And when he came back down he said

It is one, it is one
One world spinning 'round the sun
Wherever it is you call home
Whatever country you come from
It is one, it is one, it is one, it is one

They shot a man in Africa
At a time of rivalry and war
He had some dreams of a good life
But dreams aren't what they killed him for

Now people stand themselves next to the righteous
And they believe the things they say are true
They speak in terms of what divides us
To justify the violence they do

But it is one, it is one
One world spinning 'round the sun
Wherever it is you call home
Whatever country you come from

It is one, it is one, it is one, it is one
One -- the deep blue ocean
One -- the endless sky
One -- the purple mountains
One -- you and I

It's not a world of our own choosing
We don't decide where we are born
This life is a battleground between right and wrong
One way or other we are torn

And people stand themselves next to the righteous
And they believe the things they say are true
And speak in terms of what divides us
To justify the violence they do

But it is one, it is one
One world spinning 'round the sun
Wherever it is you call home
Whatever country you come from
It is one, it is one, it is one, it is one
It is one, it is one, it is one, it is one
One -- the deep blue ocean
One -- the endless sky
One -- the purple mountains
One -- you and I

Would Jesus Discriminate?

I came across a very interesting and accessible website today entitled "Would Jesus Discriminate?" and I thought I'd share that with you. Here's a passage from the introduction:

Would you give me three minutes of your time to consider three critical questions?

First, as we look back over history, do you think we Christians have ever been wrong on important theological issues? Of course, we know the answer is “yes!” Classic examples include:

* Supporting slavery
* Opposing the right of women to vote
* Opposing interracial marriage

The sad truth is, for hundreds of years the vast majority of Christians were on the wrong side of each of those issues. And people who took the other side were accused of being unbiblical -- and of trying to overthrow God’s natural creation order.

Which brings me to my second question: How is it possible that so many Christians could have been so wrong? Clearly, the Bible didn’t change. The problem was, they allowed deeply ingrained cultural prejudices to distort their interpretation of the Bible on these key issues.

It’s not hard to see how that happened. For all of human history, slavery had been an established institution. It seemed to be part of God’s natural order. For all of human history, women had been denied the right to vote. That just seemed part of God’s creation.

Today, we realize how wrong we were, and pray we will never make that kind of mistake again.

Which leads to my last question: Is it possible that history is repeating itself? Could most Christians be wrong today when they say God condemns homosexual relationships?

I've read the whole site. It's really fascinating and inspiring. I recommend it highly.


I want to call your attention to an article entitled "Stunned by Lack of Outrage, Not Outrageous Acts" by Beth Quinn. Here's part of what it says:

I continue to be stunned.

Not by Bush any longer. There was a time when I was stunned by nearly everything he did. Or said. Who wouldn’t be stunned by a president who could say, “They misunderestimated me,” and sincerely believe he’s on top of things?

Nor by Cheney. His pure evil no longer surprises me, although there was a time when he routinely stunned me. Torture? Torture??

Not by Congress, either. There was a time when I was stunned by that crowd’s sheeplike mentality. I’d hear them decry the war, decry torture, decry Bush’s growing deficit, then I’d drop my jaw as they voted time and again to give the president carte blanche.

No longer. I fully expect Congress to disappoint, to fail to do its job in balancing the White House power grab.

I’m no longer stunned by the politicized courts nor by the media, which is unwilling to offend and uses vague, watered-down language instead of strong condemnations of this, the worst presidency in history.

So who continues to stun me?

I will tell you. I am stunned by all that is left of America: Americans.

I am stunned by the public’s lack of outrage over all this presidency has done to ravage our nation. Where is the outrage over this war-without-end? Over waterboarding? Over our dead and maimed soldiers?

I am stunned that Americans aren’t writing angry letters to the editor about the Iran rhetoric, this carbon copy of lies that led up to Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

I am stunned that Americans didn’t take to the streets with placards condemning Bush for vetoing a bill that would have ensured health care for children.

There's more. Please go read it. Interestingly, this article seems to have touched a nerve because, as I write, there are 131 comments posted. I agree with Beth Quinn. I don't understand why there hasn't been massive outrage.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Rowan Williams on US foreign policy

The Most Reverend Dr Rowan Williams

Frank Ford sent me a Telegraph article entitled "Archbishop's assault on US foreign policy". As many of you know, Rowan Williams is a personal friend of mine. He presided at my Solemn Profession (life vows) back in 1994 when he was Bishop of Monmouth. I love him dearly. I have disagreed with a lot of his actions since he became Archbishop of Canterbury, however. But with the following, I agree completely:

[The Archbishop] claimed the US had lost the moral high ground since the September 11 attacks, and urged it to launch a "generous and intelligent programme of aid directed to the societies that have been ravaged; a check on the economic exploitation of defeated territories; a demilitarisation of their presence"
"It is one thing to take over a territory and then pour energy and resources in to administering it and normalising it. Rightly or wrongly, that's what the British Empire did in India, for example.

"It is another thing to go in on the assumption that a quick burst of violent action will somehow clear the decks and that you can move on and other people will put it back together - Iraq, for example."

He described violence as "a quick discharge of frustration", adding: " It serves you. It does not serve the situation. Whenever people turn to violence what they do is temporarily release themselves from some sort of problem but they help no one else.

"A lot of pressure around the invasion of Iraq was 'we've got to do something, then we'll feel better'. That's very dangerous."

Remember, when he heard that the attacks on Iraq had started, Bush pumped his fist into the air and said, "Feels good. Feels good." And, yes, that is very dangerous indeed.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


I want to encourage you to go read a Time Magazine article entitled "What Makes Us Moral". Here's how it gets started:

If the entire human species were a single individual, that person would long ago have been declared mad. The insanity would not lie in the anger and darkness of the human mind—though it can be a black and raging place indeed. And it certainly wouldn't lie in the transcendent goodness of that mind—one so sublime, we fold it into a larger "soul." The madness would lie instead in the fact that both of those qualities, the savage and the splendid, can exist in one creature, one person, often in one instant.

We're a species that is capable of almost dumbfounding kindness. We nurse one another, romance one another, weep for one another. Ever since science taught us how, we willingly tear the very organs from our bodies and give them to one another. And at the same time, we slaughter one another. The past 15 years of human history are the temporal equivalent of those subatomic particles that are created in accelerators and vanish in a trillionth of a second, but in that fleeting instant, we've visited untold horrors on ourselves—in Mogadishu, Rwanda, Chechnya, Darfur, Beslan, Baghdad, Pakistan, London, Madrid, Lebanon, Israel, New York City, Abu Ghraib, Oklahoma City, an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania—all of the crimes committed by the highest, wisest, most principled species the planet has produced. That we're also the lowest, cruelest, most blood-drenched species is our shame—and our paradox.

If we don't get some insight into that paradox soon we're going to end up doing ourselves in as a species. Let's definitely pray for those involved in this research.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Jeannie Dibble

What would Jesus buy?

Well, it's Black Friday. So maybe we ought to take a look at this:

Bill Talen, known as Reverend Billy, doesn't mind making a fool of himself. He is happy to throw himself on the floor in a fit of religious ecstasy, perform cash register exorcisms or go caroling with the 35 members of the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir, singing such favorites as "Fill the malls with wealthy people," to the tune of "Deck the Halls." He does all this and much, much more in the new documentary about him and his Church of Stop Shopping, What Would Jesus Buy?

Ten years ago Talen came to New York and, struck by the commercialization in Times Square, wanted to do something. He saw the people getting the most attention were the street preachers, so getting into his role, he bought a clerical collar to go with his white caterer's jacket, dyed his hair blonde, combed it into a tall pompadour and started preaching against over-consumption.

Now Talen is known for his protests against, among others, Disney (the "High Church of Retail"), Victoria's Secret, and Starbucks. The coffee chain has banned Talen from going into any of the stores in California, and he is the subject of a memo to its employees, "What Should I Do If Reverend Billy Is In My Store?" When he decided to take his church across the country in two biodiesel buses in December 2005 to face the Christmas season head on and preach against the Shopocalypse, Filmmaker Rob VanAlkemade and his crew tagged along.

If people can change how they act at Christmas, Talen says, that could bleed over into the rest of the year. And he thinks people are ready for change. He sees it with all the emails the church gets supporting its anti-consumer message and in other ways, such as the dozens of communities across America that have successfully resisted Wal-Mart. He points to the town of Hercules, in California, that used eminent domain to take the land that the giant retailer planned to build on. In the city council's definition, a Wal-Mart store is "urban blight."

"That was creative, using eminent domain," Talen says. "And we're looking for creativity in protests. Progressive people have been protesting exactly the same way for a long, long time."

Savitri Durkee, the choir director and Talen's wife, says she is also feeling optimistic. She emphasizes that small changes are important.

"I know that people are going to shop one way or another," she says. "I just hope they'll think about what they buy and try and support local economies. Utopian ideas are really important, but if I can get 100 people to shop less, that's great."

Hey, anybody who supports the resisting of Wal-Mart is okay in my book!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Mark Twain was a marvel. We need his spirit now:

Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for -- annually, not oftener -- if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians. Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man's side, consequently on the Lord's side; hence it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments.

--Mark Twain

Oh, by the way, Mark Twain was a vegetarian.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What are you eating tomorrow?

Well spoken, Bill Maher:

Fifty million turkey corpses will go into American ovens this Thanksgiving. More than 9 billion turkeys and chickens are killed in the U.S. each year. But not one of them is guaranteed a painless death, as documented in this video that was narrated by my fellow animal-lover and HuffPo Blogger, Alec Baldwin. The Senate can find time to vote to condemn an advertisement, but not to add birds to humane slaughter laws.

So in the face of this surreal situation, in which, once again we can’t put our faith in the president, I ask you to do what I’m going to do and pardon a turkey this Thanksgiving. It’s not hard. Just eat something else (ideas
here and here). Not omeone else, because it doesn’t seem fair to spare a turkey and roast a hunk of pig or cow instead. If we can bow our heads in gratitude for our families, our friends and our big screen TVs, and then carve into a creature who lived a miserable life and died a horrible death, then our ethics are about as sensible as Britney’s parenting skills.

Former Vice President Al Gore
should be the first to take the meat-free Thanksgiving pledge. Since raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined, is it too much ask Mr. Gore to stop gazing at his Oscar and his Nobel Prize long enough to read the United Nations report that calls the meat industry “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global”?

Most people don't know that farm animals are exempt from animal cruelty laws. There's something very wrong with that.

Merchandizing candidates


The idea that you can merchandise candidates for high office like breakfast cereal that you can gather votes like box tops is, I think, the ultimate indignity to the democratic process.

-- Adlai Stevenson

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hey, fair is fair

Lies in high places

Oh my goodness. this is from Scott McClellan's new book:

"The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," writes McClellan. "So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby."

But his press performances weren't based on the facts, McClellan continues.

"There was one problem. It was not true," he writes. "I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President's chief of staff, and the president himself."

Of course, we knew it all along. But now McClellan has admitted it.

Wonder if anything is going to come of this or will the Democrats just shrug and do nothing as usual?

Read about it right here.

Moral depravity

I just finished reading an article called "The GOP Has Become the Party of Moral Depravity". It starts off this way:

The conservative movement made hay for 40 years claiming that liberals were "morally depraved." Let's look at the record.

There's really no way to do this article justice with excerpts so I'm going to ask you to click through and read it all. Definitely worth looking at.

About our prison system

This morning I came across a Reuters article entitled "Prison System a Costly and Harmful Failure: Report". Take a look:

WASHINGTON - The number of Americans in prison has risen eight-fold since 1970, with little impact on crime but at great cost to taxpayers and society, researchers said in a report calling for a major justice-system overhaul.

The report released on Monday cites statistics and examples ranging from former vice-presidential aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby to a Florida woman’s two-year sentence for throwing a cup of coffee to make its case for reducing the U.S. prison population.

It recommends shorter sentences and parole terms, alternative punishments, more help for released inmates and decriminalizing recreational drugs as steps that would cut the prison population in half, save $20 billion a year and ease social inequality without endangering the public.
The report was produced by the JFA Institute, a Washington criminal-justice research group, and its authors included eight criminologists from major U.S. public universities. It was funded by the Rosenbaum Foundation and financier George Soros’s Open Society Institute.
“There is no evidence that keeping people in prison longer makes us any safer,” JFA President James Austin, a co-author of the report, said in a release.
“The massive incarceration of young males from mostly poor- and working-class neighborhoods, and the taking of women from their families and jobs, has crippled their potential for forming healthy families and achieving economic gains,” it said.

We can start by decriminalizing recreational drug use.

Also we need to recognize that prisons have been largely privatized and now represent a for profit industry. It is in the self-interest of the people who run them for there to be more and more of our population incarcerated. There's something very wrong with this.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Giuliani, Kerik, Judith Regan and Fox "news"

Take a look at this excerpt from a Guardian article called "Fox News: A Myth in the Unmaking":

Judith Regan, a former Fox host perhaps best known in the UK as the, um, brains behind the OJ Simpson If I Did It mediapalooza, has sued her former employer for wrongful dismissal.

So what? So this. Regan spent some portion of the dawn of the 21st century having an affair with NYC’s then police commissioner, Bernard Kerik. The commissioner was recently indicted by a federal prosecutor in New York for alleged misdeeds dating from his time as a public servant. Kerik is a very close associate of presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani - so close that Giuliani once recommended Kerik to President Bush as homeland security director.

The nomination advanced far enough for Bush to stand at Kerik’s side at a press conference. But suddenly, the doors blew open and the allegations against Kerik - that he’d renovated his home with ill-gotten gains, and more distressingly that he had suspected connections to organised crime - ended his nomination quickly. Ever since then, the question has loomed over Giuliani: when did he know that the man he recommended to run America’s security was alleged to have mob ties? (A now deceased investigator once suggested that he warned Giuliani, but Giuliani says he has no memory of this.)

Regan, naturally enough given her special knowledge of the man, was questioned about Kerik by federal investigators. And she now alleges that two executives of Fox News instructed her to “lie to, and withhold information from” the investigators about Kerik. Regan charges that Fox executives did this because they feared the inquiry into Kerik might singe Giuliani, whose presidential ambitions, her complaint charges, Fox has long been intent on “protecting”.

Let’s linger over that for a moment. Two executives of a major news organisation may have told a citizen to lie to federal investigators to protect a presidential candidate. It’s a stunning charge. If proven someday, Fox will no longer be able to hide behind the fiction that it’s a neutral news outfit.

In the meantime, Democrats should ratchet up their refusal to pretend that Fox bears any relationship to news. I’ve always felt they should just boycott the network en bloc. One can be pretty confident that if the situation were reversed - imagine a cable channel that was known as a Democratic house organ and run by, say, Bill Clinton adviser James Carville - Republicans would have done something like that long ago. I asked Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic speaker, about this last Friday, and she just replied wanly: “I think we have to reach out to all the viewers out there.”

There they go again. The Democrats, I mean. Can you say "utter spinelessness"? That's right. I knew you could.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Deep down, we know this:

No people can be both ignorant and free.

Why are we taught phony history?

I have only just now discovered this book, undoubtedly because I was living overseas when it first came out.

Here are some excerpts from the Introduction:

College teachers in most disciplines are happy when their students have had more rather than less exposure to the subject before they reach college. Not in history. History professors in college routinely put down high school history courses. A colleague of mine calls his survey of American history "Iconoclasm I and II," because he sees his job as disabusing his charges of what they learned in high school. In no other field does this happen. Mathematics professors, for instance, know that non-Euclidean geometry is rarely taught in high school, but they don't assume that Euclidean geometry was mistaught. English literature courses don't presume that "Romeo and Juliet" was misunderstood in high school. Indeed, a later chapter will show that history is the only field in which the more courses students take, the stupider they become.
Textbooks almost never use the present to illuminate the past. They might ask students to learn about gender roles in the present, to prompt thinking about what women did and did not achieve in the suffrage movement or the more recent women's movement. They might ask students to do family budgets for a janitor and a stock broker, to prompt thinking about labor unions and social class in the past or present. They might, but they don't. The present is not a source of information for them. No wonder students find history "irrelevant" to their present lives.

Conversely, textbooks make no real use of the past to illuminate the present. The present seems not to be problematic to them. They portray history as a simple-minded morality play. "Be a good citizen" is the message they extract from the past for the present. "You have a proud heritage. Be all that you can be. After all, look at what the United States has done." While there is nothing wrong with optimism, it does become something of a burden for students of color, children of working class parents, girls who notice an absence of women who made history, or any group that has not already been outstandingly successful. The optimistic textbook approach denies any understanding of failure other than blaming the victim. No wonder children of color are alienated. Even for male children of affluent white families, bland optimism gets pretty boring after eight hundred pages.
Even though the books are fat with detail, even though the courses are so busy they rarely reach 1960, our teachers and our textbooks still leave out what we need to know about the American past. Often the factoids are flatly wrong or unknowable. In sum, startling errors of omission and distortion mar American histories. This book is about how we are mistaught.

You might take a look at James W. Loewen's website.

Earlier today I read an AP article stating that very few Americans today have any idea who the Marquis de Lafayette was. I really must say that is shocking. It says something very troubling about how history is taught in the nation's secondary schools.


Oh, this is good:

History doesn’t repeat itself, but it tends to rhyme an awful lot.

-- Norman Solomon

Of course, it was originally said by Mark Twain.

Shutting out the Red Cross

This is very disturbing. It's from an article entitled "Red Cross Monitors Barred From Guantánamo":

A confidential 2003 manual for operating the Guantánamo detention center shows that military officials had a policy of denying detainees access to independent monitors from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The manual said one goal was to “exploit the disorientation and disorganization felt by a newly arrived detainee,” by denying access to the Koran and by preventing visits with Red Cross representatives, who have a long history of monitoring the conditions under which prisoners in international conflicts are held. The document said that even after their initial weeks at Guantánamo, some detainees would not be permitted to see representatives of the International Red Cross, known as the I.C.R.C.

It was permissible, the document said, for some long-term detainees to have “No access. No contact of any kind with the I.C.R.C.”

Some legal experts and advocates for detainees said yesterday that the policy might have violated international law, which provides for such monitoring to assure humanitarian treatment and to limit the ability of governments to hold detainees secretly.

"Might have violated????" It's very obvious that it did.

And you don't keep out the Red Cross unless you have something to hide, unless you know there are prisoners who are going to say, "Yes, I'm being tortured."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Saturday cat blogging

Photo by Jeannie Dibble

Sorry about the lack of cats yesterday. I was in a conference all day and just ran out of time!

Urgent message from the U.N.

Please take a look at a CNN article entitled "U.N. report: Urgent action needed on 'severe' climate change". Here's part of what it says:

(CNN) -- Climate change is "severe and so sweeping that only urgent, global action" can head it off, a United Nations scientific panel said in a report on global warming issued Saturday.

The report produced by the Nobel prize-winning panel warns of the devastating impact for developing countries and the threat of species extinction posed by the climate crisis.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, presenting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report in Valencia, Spain, warned that some of the effects of rising levels of greenhouse gases may already be irreversible.

The U.N. head said the situation was already "so severe and so sweeping that only urgent, global action" could head off the crisis.

The report warns that in spite of the protocols adopted by many Western countries after Kyoto, greenhouse gas emissions will continue to rise by between 25 and 90 per cent by 2030.
Scientists say up to an 85 percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions is needed to head off potential catastrophic changes that could lead to more floods and famine.

There's not a snowball's chance in hell that we will cut carbon dioxide emissions by anything near 85%. We would rather die. And that's exactly what we're going to do. Humanity is, quite simply, suicidal. Or, rather, the people in power are.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Our times

This paragraph pretty much sums things up:

We live in a time when “conservative” national figures are borrowing and spending without apparent constraint. Republican candidates and officeholders will tell you which god to worship, what sort of person you should have sex with, what subjects your children cannot discuss in school, and what you must do with the withered body of your brain-dead wife or child or parent. Democrats will not muster forty-one senators to filibuster the most egregious abuses of a power-mad administration. Wars open on new fronts, the dollar declines, the earth heats up and erodes and degrades and dies. In our national life there is neither traditional, responsible conservatism nor humane, committed liberalism. There is only money and power and ego. We do not torture? We torture language and meaning and reason as well as men who may be guilty of something or nothing.

I got it right here.

His Noodly Appendage

Just in case you don't know about the Pastafarians among us, you need to! I want to share with you here an excerpt from a CNN article entitled "Religious scholars mull Flying Spaghetti Monster":

(AP) -- When some of the world's leading religious scholars gather in San Diego this weekend, pasta will be on the intellectual menu. They'll be talking about a satirical pseudo-deity called the Flying Spaghetti Monster, whose growing pop culture fame gets laughs but also raises serious questions about the essence of religion.

The appearance of the Flying Spaghetti Monster on the agenda of the American Academy of Religion's annual meeting gives a kind of scholarly imprimatur to a phenomenon that first emerged in 2005, during the debate in Kansas over whether intelligent design should be taught in public school sciences classes.

Supporters of intelligent design hold that the order and complexity of the universe is so great that science alone cannot explain it. The concept's critics see it as faith masquerading as science.

An Oregon State physics graduate named Bobby Henderson stepped into the debate by sending a letter to the Kansas School Board. With tongue in cheek, he purported to speak for 10 million followers of a being called the Flying Spaghetti Monster -- and demanded equal time for their views.

"We have evidence that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. None of us, of course, were around to see it, but we have written accounts of it," Henderson wrote. As for scientific evidence to the contrary, "what our scientist does not realize is that every time he makes a measurement, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage."

The letter made the rounds on the Internet, prompting laughter from some and vilification from others. But it struck a chord and stuck around. In the great tradition of satire, its humor was in fact a clever and effective argument.

Between the lines, the point of the letter was this: There's no more scientific basis for intelligent design than there is for the idea an omniscient creature made of pasta created the universe. If intelligent design supporters could demand equal time in a science class, why not anyone else? The only reasonable solution is to put nothing into sciences classes but the best available science.

"I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; one third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence," Henderson sarcastically concluded.

Kansas eventually repealed guidelines questioning the theory of evolution.

Did anybody see the Nova program on PBS a few days ago? You can read about it here. The convictions of these anti-science people are really scary. They truly want to move us back to the Dark Ages.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

New bumper stickers

Well, it's been a while since I've brought you bumper stickers. And these are REALLY good. And, I guess you could say, examples of gallows humor:

1. Cheney/Satan '08

2. 1/20/09: End of an Error

3. That's OK; I Wasn't Using My Civil Liberties Anyway

4. Lets Fix Democracy in This Country First

5. If You Want a Nation Ruled By Religion, Move to Iran!

6. Bush. Like a Rock. Only Dumber.

7. If You Can Read This, You're Not Our President

8. Of Course It Hurts: You're Getting Screwed by an Elephant

9. Hey, Bush Supporters: Embarrassed Yet?

10. George Bush: Creating the Terrorists Our Kids Will Have to Fight.

11. America : One Nation, Under Surveillance

12. They Call Him "W" So He Can Spell It

13. Jail to the Chief

14. No, Seriously, Why Did We Invade Iraq?

15. Bush: God's way of proving Intelligent Design is bullshit

16. Bad President! No Banana.

17. We Need a President Who's Fluent In At Least One Language

18. We're Making Enemies Faster than We Can Kill Them

19. Is It Vietnam Yet?

20. Where Are We Going? And Why Are We In This Handbasket?

21. You Elected Him. You Deserve Him.

22. Impeach Cheney First

23. When Bush Took Office, Gas was $1.46

24. Pray For Impeachment

25. The Republican Party: Our Bridge to the 11th Century

26. What Part of "Bush Lied" Don't You Understand?

27. One Nation under Clod

28. 2004: Embarrassed 2005: Horrified 2006: Terrified:2007

29. Bush Never Exhaled

30. At Least Nixon Resigned

I'm very fond of number 9 but number 29 is without a doubt my favorite! Very, very, very clever. And, sadly, all too representative of how things are.

Edwards on health care

Ha! This is good:

Last week, John Edwards launched a series of ads across Iowa promising that if he were elected and Congress didn't pass his healthcare plan, he would strip lawmakers of their own coverage.

Arguing that ordinary Americans deserve access to healthcare that's just as good as what members of Congress get is a devastatingly effective message and has long been a crowd-pleaser among progressives. Edwards told radio talker Ed Schultz, "There's no excuse for politicians in Washington to have heathcare, but America doesn't have healthcare, and I think we have to shake this place up a little bit. What we would do is we would submit legislation saying if universal healthcare is not passed by this summer, that the Congress and members of the administration would lose their healthcare coverage."

I think this is an absolutely splendid idea!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rudy and Pat, sittin' in a tree....

Sadly, I think this is a completely accurate observation:

Pat Robertson stunned evangelicals by backing Rudy Giuliani last Tuesday. They make a nice couple. While they remain unalterably opposed to each other on religious and moral and political beliefs, they do agree on the need to bomb Iran and torture people.

- Argus Hamilton

The tragedy of empire

Are you familiar with the Indian writer Arundhati Roy, author of The God of Small Things? Poppi and Tom sent me an article about her called "The god of big things". Here are a couple of excerpts that really caught my attention:

"I'll tell you a story. After my book was published, I was on a radio program in England, with two imperial historians who both started speaking about how the British Empire was such a glorious empire. One of them said that if an alien was to come to earth, and was totally neutral, they would have to say that British civilization was one of the world's defining civilizations.

"I had never heard anyone praising the empire. I told myself, don't get into it, it doesn't matter. Then the next one started and said that 'even the fact that your book was written in English is a tribute to the British Empire'. I lost it. I said: 'That is like telling the child of a raped parent that he is a tribute to his father's brutality.' I said: 'My tragedy is that I love English, not hate it, but I will use it in any way I can against you.'"
In contrast to India's image in the West, Roy sees her country as marching on "a journey into darkness." She is merciless in her criticism. "Somehow all the cruelty is being blurred by talk about Gandhi, and how everybody is meditating and doing yoga, and isn't it just great, how we have cricket and we have Miss World and Miss Booker Prize and dissent, and aren't we all a lovely sort of happy bumbling family? "Actually no, it's dark and cruel and vicious, and you know, unless one is going to see this, it is going to get darker and more cruel and more vicious. India is a country that is comfortable with its killings," she says, offering a partial list: "One million people [the Dalits or Untouchables] are still scavengers of human shit, and the worst tragedy is that they would fight for their right to carry that shit because if they don't, then what would they do? Each day Dalits are being lynched, and suspects are not brought to justice. Muslims are being murdered all over India. One hundred and thirty seven thousand farmers have committed suicide in the last years. Something like 60 to 80 thousand people have been killed in Kashmir alone. It is the most militarized zone in the entire world - Kashmir - 12 million people, 700,000 soldiers - the army itself says there are 850 militants, so who are they guarding there? This is a society whose engine is the hierarchic division into thousands of castes and sub-castes. A violent society that takes a pride in nonviolence."

She adds that it is a society that is continuing to nurture and apply the perception of "impurity": They talk about the attitude of the Taliban toward women in Afghanistan, but the attitude of the high castes in India toward the untouchables is far worse in her opinion.

Roy relates that in India's geographical center, a real civil war is going on: "In the states of Orissa and Chhattisgarh, they have now found the bloody bauxite mines [bauxite is used in the production of aluminum], and the corporations are at them, simply raping them. One should see how they take away the whole forest, mountain, the draining off of water, the devastation of the land, the displacement of indigenous people. The government has cleared out something like 400 villages, thousands of people, moved them into police camps and told them, like George Bush does, you are either with us or with the terrorists, the Maoists. The government has set up people's militias, forcing a tribal fight. And the Maoists are being murdered."

(One important reason for the suicides of farmers is globalization and the fact that flooding the market with American farm products (like cotton) drives down prices so that Indian farmers can't survive. Of course, our farmers are heavily subsidized by the government so it's grossly unfair competition.)

Roy is an important voice writing today. We need to listen.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fox News sells with sex

Check this out:

Fox News shows more sexualized violence and humiliation than probably any other network -- all in the name of condemning it -- while under-showing violence in Iraq, all in the name of supporting it.

-Gloria Steinem

I've got one word for the Fox people: HYPOCRITES.

Tutu on the death penalty

Desmond Tutu has written a very short and eloquent article about why we need a global ban on the death penalty. Here is his conclusion:

It is often asked by those favouring the death penalty: “What if your child was murdered?” And it is a natural question. Rage is a common reaction to the homicide of a loved one, and a wish for revenge is understandable. But what if the person condemned to death was your son? No one raises a child to be a murderer, yet many parents suffer the grief of knowing their child is to be killed. In 1988, the parents of those on death row in South Africa wrote to the president, saying: “To be a mother or father and watch your child going through this living hell is a torment more painful than anyone can imagine.” We must not put these children to death. It is to inflict horrific and unacceptable suffering upon them, and their mothers and fathers.

Retribution, resentment and revenge have left us with a world soaked in the blood of far too many of our sisters and brothers. The death penalty is part of that process. It says that to kill in certain circumstances is acceptable, and encourages the doctrine of revenge. If we are to break these cycles, we must remove government-sanctioned violence.

The time has come to abolish the death penalty worldwide. The case for abolition becomes more compelling with each passing year. Everywhere experience shows us that executions brutalise both those involved in the process and the society that carries them out. Nowhere has it been shown that the death penalty reduces crime or political violence. In country after country, it is used disproportionately against the poor or against racial or ethnic minorities. It is often used as a tool of political repression. It is imposed and inflicted arbitrarily. It is an irrevocable punishment, resulting inevitably in the execution of people innocent of any crime. It is a violation of fundamental human rights.

As long as we say that killing is sometimes right there will be those who conclude that their circumstances make it justifiable for them to kill. We've got to say no. We've got to stop the cycle. Abolishing the death penalty is one way to begin.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Silencing the opposition

We were warned:

Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.

-- Harry S. Truman

Toxic plastics

Oh my. Frank Ford sent me two articles about the toxicity of plastics and I want to make sure you get both of them. The first is called "Practical Values: Hard to Break". Did you know the following?

"Today there are no babies born without measurable levels of phthalates," says Dr. Shanna Swan, director of the Center for Reproductive Epidemiology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. Phthalates, which are used to give flexibility to pvc (a.k.a. plastic—though it's rarely labeled), turn up in bath and teething toys, shower curtains, upholstery, flooring, medical equipment, and countless other products, including cosmetics. Animal studies have linked phthalates to the same genital abnormalities that are now among the most common birth defects in American baby boys. "We're not yet sure what level of exposure produces these adverse effects, but they are a real concern," explains Dr. Paul Foster, a senior researcher at the National Toxicology Program.

Now take a look at this excerpt from an article entitled "Get Plastic Out Of Your Diet":

I spent about two years answering telephone inquiries at an environmental organization in Berkeley. A great number of the callers asked what the safest plastic to use in contact with food or water is. They also wanted to know what the safest plastic is to microwave food in. My answer was that plastic should never contact food. And that one should never microwave food — it's probably as bad or worse than putting it in plastic because it creates free radicals in the food that damage cells in your body. It also heats the plastic, thus increasing the rate of migration into the food. That answer wasn’t popular with either the caller or the organization, which likes to point out positive alternatives. However, plastic is the alternative! And glass, wood, metal, and ceramics are the real things. Plastic is merely a foul imitation thereof. By using the least offensive plastic, one only prolongs and increases the toxic load on the Earth and in our bodies. If saving trees is your aim, stop using so much stuff. But in the mean time, don’t further degrade the environment with more plastic.

As consumers, we always look for ways to maintain the status quo of our modern lives. However, the only logic I can see in the regulation of food contact plastics is profit at the expense of our health, the economy, society, and environment. You needn’t be a polymer scientist to know that plastic shouldn’t contact food. What is essential though is a firm standing in reality and a good grip on logic. It also requires being free of ties to the industry before that logic becomes evident.

But please, read the whole articles. I can't do them justice with short excerpts. The ubiquitous nature of plastics in our world just may have something to do with the increase in Alzheimer's, cancer and obesity. Maybe we really need to pay attention.

Why I've always loved mathematics

Take a look:

Politics is for the present, but an equation is for eternity.

-- Albert Einstein

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans Day, 2007

The Navy Hymn always makes me cry. We sang it in church this morning - the version that has stanzas that apply to all branches of the armed forces. I fought tears throughout the whole service because of what war does to people - is doing right now.

Veteran's Day used to be called Armistice Day. The armistice referenced, of course, was the one that ended "the war to end all wars." Well, we all know how that worked out.

War will never end war. Peace is the only way to end war. It is the only way. I promise you, it is the only way.

Almighty Father, strong to save,
whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
its own appointed limits keep:
O hear us when we cry to thee
for those in peril on the sea.

O Christ, the Lord of hill and plain
o'er which our traffic runs amain
by mountain pass or valley low;
wherever, Lord, thy people go,
protect them by thy guarding hand
from every peril on the land.

O Spirit, whom the Father sent
to spread abroad the firmament;
O Wind of heaven, by thy might
save all who dare the eagle's flight,
and keep them by thy watchful care
from every peril in the air.

O Trinity of love and power,
our people shield in danger's hour;
from rock and tempest, fire and foe,
protect them wheresoe'er they go;
thus evermore shall rise to thee
glad praise from space, air, land, and sea.

Of your compassion, whoever you may be who reads this, pray for peace.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The cost of war

Written by a great American:

I saw battle-corpses, myriads of them, and the white skeletons of young men, I saw them; I saw the debris and debris of all dead soldiers, But I saw they were not as was thought; they themselves were fully at rest, they suffered not; the living remained and suffered, the mother suffered, and the wife and the child and the musing comrade suffered, and the armies that remained suffered..

--Walt Whitman

Now, if you have the stomach for it, go over to Dependable Renegade and see what the effects of war look like.

Something to think about

Heck, he has a point here:

Man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much – the wheel, New York, wars and so on – whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man – for precisely the same reasons.

Of course, it's from The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

Our stupid prohibition laws

Did you know this?

Pot was legal until around 1937. When Congress was debating whether to make it illegal, they were subjected to the lobbying by two organizations:

The American Medical Assn, who wanted to keep it legal.
The American Pharmaceutical Assn, who wanted to make it illegal.

That says something, doesn't it?
Nope, I don't use it. Never have. But I sure want it available if I ever get cancer.

Let's REALLY support the troops - Part 2

By now I hope it has come to your attention that one out of every in four homeless persons is a veteran. And many of the newly homeless are veterans of Afghanistan and the most recent Iraq war. Take a look at this conclusion from an article called "Support The Troops? Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is":

On Sunday, the nation will observe Veterans Day. There will be sincere expressions of gratitude for those who risked and lost limbs and lives when duty called. That is good, but a nation’s gratitude shouldn’t be expressed primarily through “Support the Troops” bumper stickers and the ritualized “thanks” traditionally tendered when the guns fell silent - the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Supporting the troops would mean not sending them to war on the basis of a pretext and with a plan amounting to wishful thinking. Supporting the troops would mean asking the nation to make the sacrifices to pay for that war, rather than saddling yet-unborn children with the cost. Supporting the troops would mean remembering that one of war’s many horrendous costs is the damage to the soldiers’ psyches.

The nation should provide adequate care, treatment and assistance for those who stand and serve. On the streets, it is clear, that bill is coming due.

We owe these men and women. We owe them.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Health insurance travesty

Here's a John Aravosis rant from AMERICAblog:

It's time for massive federal regulation of the health care insurance industry. As a young 40-something myself, it scares the hell out of me that I have no idea what my health insurance does or doesn't cover, whether my health insurance can or can't drop me should I catch some horrible costly disease, whether I have a lifetime limit on my policy (which happened to a friend of Chris in Paris - caught something horrible, had $2m in medical payments, the company said bye-bye have a nice death), or the fact (that I just recently learned) that I lose my health insurance if I move to any other state from DC. Yep, I lose my coverage and have to start all over again, so the problems I've had with eyes, among other things, become "pre-existing conditions" and probably won't be covered. So I can never leave DC again (unless I move to Europe, where I'll be covered, but then can't ever come back to the states since I won't be covered). Then there's a member of my family who is now being told that she may have to pay $11,000 out of her own pocket, PER EYE, to have a cataract removed. She had insurance, HAS insurance, has ALWAYS had insurance, but because she changed employment a few years back, her insurance changed, and her eye problems may now be excluded pre-existing conditions - sorry! So it's potentially looking like $11k per eye or go blind at the age of 50. "Socialized medicine" ain't looking so bad when the alternative is being middle-class and going blind at 50. What is wrong with our country?

That's bad. That's really bad. And you know something else? John linked to an article about an insurance company that gives out bonuses to its employees according to how many policy holders the employees CANCELLED. That's not just bad; that's evil. You can read about it here.

Please help save the Alaskan wolves

I got this email from Defenders of Wildlife today:

Dear Ellie,
Trophy hunters are loading their shotguns in Alaska.

Just days ago, state officials in Alaska began issuing permits for this year’s aerial wolf hunting season. This move kicks off a killing season that could claim the lives of hundreds more wolves.
Please donate $25, $50, $100 or whatever you can afford to underwrite our work to save wolves and other wildlife.

My name is Robert Dewey, and I’m Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund’s lead advocate on Capitol Hill. I’m writing today to tell you that we’re re-doubling our efforts to pass the Protect America’s Wildlife (PAW) Act, federal legislation to end Alaska’s unpopular, unnecessary and inhumane aerial wolf hunting program.

We’ve just delivered a letter to every Member of the House, along with Defenders of Wildlife’s powerful mini-documentary on aerial hunting. Our plan is to follow this up with a full-page ad in Congress Daily -- a must-read on Capitol Hill.

Now we need to raise $45,000 by the close of business Tuesday to help pay for these efforts. Can you help?

Please donate $25, $50, $100 or another amount to help us place this ad and support our work to save wolves and other wildlife.

So far, two dozen Members of Congress have joined our fight to end aerial hunting as co-sponsors of the PAW Act. That’s a great start, but we’re going to need a lot more support in Congress to ensure that this important bill becomes law.

Starting today, we’re meeting with hundreds of different Congressional offices (up to 22 each week), reminding lawmakers of the tens of thousands of petitions and letters that people like you have sent in opposition to aerial hunting.

We’ll show our powerful mini-documentary on the Hill and at house parties across the country. And we’ll urge lawmakers to take the next vital step to finally end Alaska’s state-sanctioned aerial wolf hunts once and for all by supporting the PAW Act.

Please help support these vital efforts.
Please donate $25, $50, $100 or another amount today to help us save wolves and other wildlife.

Contributions from our supporters over the last several months have enabled Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund and Defenders of Wildlife to generate more than 109,000 messages in support of the PAW Act. But this will be a tough fight. We need to secure dozens more cosponsors for this important bill, and we’re facing stiff opposition. The trophy hunting lobby is working with Congressman Don Young (R-AK) to block passage of the PAW Act.

This powerful group is misrepresenting the facts about aerial hunting and ignoring the two times Alaskans have voted to limit the state’s awful program.

I’m ready to do what it takes to win this fight, and I hope you are, too. I sincerely hope you’ll
make a donation of $25, $50, $100 or whatever you can afford today to ensure we have the resources we need to win.

Best Regards,
Robert DeweyDefenders of Wildlife Action Fund

Aerial hunting of wolves (or anthing else) is absolutely despicable. If you're going to hunt wolves, be man and hunt them on foot so that it's a reasonably fair contest. When wolves are hunted by air, they are chased until they are exhausted and then cruelly shot. Please, let's help stop this horror. Wolves are magnificent, highly social creatures who cooperate with each other and adore their young. Just think of what happens to the pups if their mother is killed.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Quotes to ponder

Let's all think about this observation:

Behind every great fortune there is a crime.

-- Mario Puzo

And this plea:

Live simply that others may simply live.

-- Mohandas Gandhi

They go together.

Let's REALLY support the troops

Denying health care to veterans is truly morally reprehensible. Take a look at these excerpts from an article entitled "Fought for America? Bush Still Won't Give You Health Care":

Last April, President Bush told members of American Legion Post 177 that "we owe the families and the soldiers the best health care possible."

That debt is still unpaid. According to a new report by Harvard Medical School researchers, published last week in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Public Health, millions of veterans and their family members have not been getting the medical care they need.

People assume that veterans automatically get health care from Veterans Affairs (VA). They don't. Despite their military service, the Bush Administration requires most veterans to pay additional money for insurance in order to get care. But many veterans don't earn enough money to be able to buy health insurance. At the same time, they aren't poor enough under Bush Administration guidelines to get VA care or to qualify for Medicaid. Abandoned, these veterans struggle alone to find health care. In the insurance marketplace, our veterans remain in harms way -- their service, and our debt, forgotten.

Why haven't we made good on our obligation? Our moral debt to our veterans, based on mutual need and shared responsibility, goes unpaid in the current health insurance system because it is based upon corporate self-interest. An insurance company's responsibility is to maximize profit, even when that means denying care to veterans. Clearly, our national moral responsibility is not the same as an insurance company's corporate fiduciary duty to maximize profits.
In America, we don't have a health care system; we have an insurance marketplace. Until we understand the difference, no reform will work. To our low-income veterans, that is a daily hardship. We should make their hardship our problem too. One we solve together. Now. We owe that to our veterans.

And, of course, a truly moral and just society is obligated to provide health care to everyone else too.

Violence against women

I want to share with you an excerpt from the book The War on Women:

There is another war – largely overlooked but even more deadly – with far more victims killed by "hostiles." But these dead are not labelled heroes, nor are they honoured in the national media or in formal ceremonies. From time to time, they may attract a spate of publicity as the result of a high-profile trial or an inquest that will likely conclude that society let them down once again and recommend changes to prevent future deaths, though these recommendations will be mostly ignored. This war is the War on Women.

Compare the raw numbers. In the same seven-year period when 4,588 U.S. soldiers and police officers were killed by hostiles or by accident, more than 8,000 women –
nearly twice as many – were shot, stabbed, strangled, or beaten to death by the intimate males in their lives. In Canada, compared to the 101 Canadian soldiers and police officers killed, more than 500 women – nearly five times as many – met the same fate.

Those are the deaths. Then there are the wounded. In the same period, about 24,000 U.S. military were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, while about 80 Canadians were wounded in Afghanistan.

In the United States, it's conservatively estimated that in addition to the 1,200 to 1,300 women killed each year by intimate partners, another 5.3 million, age 18 and older, are victims of non-lethal domestic abuse.

Based on those numbers, the violence costs the country more than $5.8 billion annually – nearly $4.1 billion in direct medical and mental health care, and $1.8 billion in lost productivity and lost earnings due to homicide.

These numbers are believed to underestimate the problem for several reasons, and additional efforts are needed to determine more accurately the full cost of intimate-partner victimization of women in the United States.

In Canada, the federal government estimates the annual cost of violence against women at $1.1 billion in direct medical costs alone. That figure rises to more than $4 billion a year when social services, lost productivity, lost earnings, and police, court, and prison costs are factored in.

Why is this not highlighted by the press? Why is it not considered a societal emergency? Why do we normalize the war against women?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Electricity wasted

Sally Lloyd sent me an article called "Getting savvy about standby power" . Here's part of what it says:

Ever wonder how much electricity your household appliances use when they're supposedly off—in "standby" or "ready" mode? Think of the clock on your microwave, your DVD player that's on but not playing a movie, or the little sensor on the bottom of your TV that waits for a signal from your remote control.

It turns out that these "vampire" loads are gradually sucking away power—a lot of power.

An estimated 13 percent of household electricity use, according to a recent study published by the California Energy Commission, is from appliances in low-power mode (which is to say, not performing any of their primary functions).

Standby mode, the least amount of energy an appliance can use without powering down, is just one example. Many appliances have multiple low-power modes.
In 2000, a group of researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimated that each year Americans spend about $4 billion just on standby power.

Generating that electricity puts roughly 27 million tons of CO2-equivalent emissions into the atmosphere (more than 3.7 million cars' worth) every year.
If you're looking to reduce your energy use and tread more lightly on the planet, changing your habits is a good starting point.

* Shut your computer and printer down (all the way) when not in use. Some people find it useful to plug all their IT equipment into one power bar, then flip the switch once they've shut down.
* If you have an A/V system that can be turned off entirely without sacrificing performance, do so.
* Keep cell phone chargers out of the wall when you're not charging the phone. Those little power bricks often draw a little current—even when you're phone's not connected.

Sounds like it's worth figuring out a way to turn off the electricity completely when we're not really using it!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The candy lobby and Daylight Saving Time

Did you know this?

Anybody notice that for daylight saving, the change is later this year? It was supposed to be last week. According to the New York Times, Congress made this decision in part from pressure from the candy lobby, who wanted an extra hour for trick or treating. Isn't that unbelievable? I mean, the research lobby can't get stem cell research through. The consumer lobby, we can't get lead out of toys. But by God, when it comes to an extra hour of eating sugar, the candy lobby has the power.

--Jay Leno

Keith Olbermann on torture

A new Keith Olbermann piece is entitled "The Presidency Is Now a Criminal Conspiracy". Here's an excerpt:

Study after study for generation after generation has confirmed that torture gets people to talk, torture gets people to plead, torture gets people to break, but torture does not get them to tell the truth.

Of course, Mr. Bush, this isn’t a problem if you don’t care if the terrorist plots they tell you about are the truth or just something to stop the tormentors from drowning them.

If, say, a president simply needed a constant supply of terrorist threats to keep a country scared.

If, say, he needed phony plots to play hero during, and to boast about interrupting, and to use to distract people from the threat he didn’t interrupt.

If, say, he realized that even terrorized people still need good ghost stories before they will let a president pillage the Constitution, Well, Mr. Bush, who better to dream them up for you than an actual terrorist?

He’ll tell you everything he ever fantasized doing in his most horrific of daydreams, his equivalent of the day you “flew” onto the deck of the Lincoln to explain you’d won in Iraq.

Now if that’s what this is all about, you tortured not because you’re so stupid you think torture produces confession but you tortured because you’re smart enough to know it produces really authentic-sounding fiction - well, then, you’re going to need all the lawyers you can find … because that crime wouldn’t just mean impeachment, would it?

That crime would mean George W. Bush is going to prison.

As usual, the whole commentary is biting and spot on. If you click through on the link above, you can either read the transcript or watch the video.