Saturday, June 30, 2007

Journalist with guts

Mika Brzezinski
Are you as sick of Paris Hilton as I am? Take a look at this excerpt from an article called "America Could Do With a Few Feral Beasts":

Brzezinski presents the news on the popular US cable breakfast show Morning Joe. On this particular morning, however, she simply could not bring herself to present the lead item chosen by her producer: Paris Hilton’s release from jail. “I have an apology,” she began, “and that is for the lead story. I hate this story. I don’t think it should be the lead.”

While the programme’s host, Joe Scarborough, berated her with vague, panicky insults - “That’s a cop-out”; “Take control of your life” - Brzezinski wrestled a lighter from another co-presenter and attempted to set fire to the hated script. When that failed, she ripped it up and crumpled it into a ball. But her trials were not yet over: she was simply handed a fresh script, with Paris still at the top. “I’m about to snap,” she declared grimly. “My producer is not listening to me.” She then stalked away from her desk and proceeded to feed the script through a paper shredder.

It was only a partial victory - Scarborough insisted on running the footage of Paris mincing coquettishly out of the prison gates, while the despairing Brzezinski buried her head in her hands - but it was enough to turn her into an overnight hero. An edited clip of the show on YouTube has been viewed 518,000 times, with the viewers’ comments suggesting near-ecstatic public approval.

“Mika Brzezinski, I want to let you carry my babies,” swoons one admirer. “She has to be the most intelligent woman on earth,” proclaims another. There is much righteous agreement on the need for more “real” news. One dissenting voice suggests that the whole thing was a set-up - isn’t it a bit suspicious that there was a paper shredder on the studio floor? - but even if that were true (and it’s hard to trace the logic behind such a conspiracy), the incident still speaks volumes about the angst at the heart of American journalism.


The Supreme Court and home health workers

Marilyn Bedford sent me an article called "Supreme Court Takes Another Swing at Women's Rights and Decks Home Health Care Workers". It is very upsetting:

In another devastating assault on women, working women in particular, the Supreme Court ruled last week that home health care workers - who are paid to work as caregivers - are not entitled to be paid minimum wage, earn overtime pay, and other basic job benefits. This horrifying decision leaves millions of hard-working women, who comprise 90% of the paid caregiver workforce, without the right to the wages and benefits guaranteed by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

What a travesty for the workers who spend long and often grueling hours caring for our injured, disabled, sick and elderly. The Fair Labor Standards Act was first introduced in 1938, and was amended in 1974 to include domestic workers from agencies as well as individual workers. However, the law makes an exemption for babysitters and workers providing "companionship services," and the ensuing regulations, wrongly many believe, interpreted this to include care for elderly and infirm patients.
...
The Court's ruling excludes all workers providing in-home care for sick, elderly or disabled people, even if they are employed by home care agencies and businesses. The decision allows these companies to pay their employees appallingly low wages and give them no benefits while they make a profit.

"These businesses should be held to the same labor standards, however modest, with which every other business is required to comply," said NOW President Kim Gandy.

Unconscionable. Just unconscionable.

Strive for noble causes

May we let this focus our minds on what is important:

What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone? How else can we put ourselves in harmonious relation with the great verities and consolations of the infinite and the eternal?

-- Winston Churchill

Friday, June 29, 2007

Letterman

Right you are, Dave:

Hot in New York City today. … It’s so hot Al Gore titled his next book, ‘I Told You So.’

- David Letterman

Please use recycled paper products

For some time now, I've urged you to replace your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones as a way of helping the environment without any impact to your lifestyle at all. Another way is to use recycled paper products:

"If every household in the US replaced just one roll of 500 sheet virgin fiber bathroom tissues with 100% recycled ones we could save: 297,000 trees, 1.2 million cubic feet of landfill space (equal to 1400 full garbage trucks), and 122 million gallons of water (a year's supply for 3500 families of 4)"

It doesn't take much to make a difference!

We began using recycled toilet paper, tissues, napkins and paper towels. They cost a little more, but somehow they give us a really deep feeling of satisfaction for helping the world God made for us to enjoy. Most recycled papers are not bleached with chlorine which is beneficial to the environment and our health also. I like the absence of dyes and fragrances, yet another elimination of chemicals in our homes. The toxicity of our environment does not go unnoticed by our physical bodies since research has shown that as chemicals increase so does cancer.

For a while there I was careless about the toilet paper I buy and I would often pick up some at the drug store or supermarket just because it was convenient. But now I make a real effort to go by the health food store (Akin's in Tulsa) for paper products. Now I really feel good about that given the information I just found above. (That's a heck of a lot of trees!)

Friday cat blogging!

Here is a video of a mama cat who is about to lose two of her babies. Hang in there and wait till you hear the kittens purring! Wonderful!

The problem

Ted Sorensen was asked to write something called "A New Vision: The Speech I Want the Democratic Nominee To Give": Here's part of what it says:

We remain essentially a nation under siege. The threat of another terrorist attack upon our homeland has not been reduced by all the new layers of porous bureaucracy that proved their ineptitude in New Orleans; nor by all the needless, mindless curbs on our personal liberties and privacy; nor by expensive new weaponry that is utterly useless in stopping a fanatic willing to blow himself up for his cause. Indeed, our vulnerability to another attack has only been worsened in the years since the attacks of September 11th-worsened by our government convincing more than 1 billion Muslims that we are prejudiced against their faith, dismissive of international law, and indifferent to the deaths of their innocent children; worsened by our failure to understand their culture or to provide a safe haven for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees displaced by a war we started; worsened by our failure to continue our indispensable role in the Middle East peace process.

We have adopted some of the most indefensible tactics of our enemies, including torture and indefinite detention.

We have degraded our military.

We have treated our most serious adversaries, such as Iran and North Korea, in the most juvenile manner-by giving them the silent treatment. In so doing, we have weakened, not strengthened, our bargaining position and our leadership.

At home, as health care costs have grown and coverage disappeared, we have done nothing but coddle the insurance, pharmaceutical, and health care industries that feed the problem.

As global warming worsens, we have done nothing but deny the obvious and give regulatory favors to polluters.

As growing economic inequality tarnishes our democracy, we have done nothing but carve out more tax breaks for the rich.

Okay. That's the problem.

And there is one sentence from the solution I want to give you:

We will be safer from terrorist attack only when we have earned the respect of all other nations instead of their fear, respect for our values and not merely our weapons.

Really, doesn't that seem obvious? How do we miss it?

Democracy and concentrated wealth

Here's a quote sent to me by Frank Ford:

We can have a democratic society or we can have a great concentrated wealth in the hands of a few. We cannot have both.

Louis Brandeis, U.S. Supreme Court Justice (1916–39)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Sicko" opens tomorrow

Michael Moore

Well, the Michael Moore movie Sicko, about our broken health care system, opens tomorrow. Here's something from an article called "Watch SiCKO and Call Your Congressman in the Morning":

There is nothing particularly startling about any of the stories Moore presents of average Americans who are bankrupted, or who grow sicker, or who desperately seek treatment abroad, or who die because health insurance bureaucrats denied or restricted the care they could receive. When Moore put out an invitation on the Internet for people to come forward with their “health care horror stories,” he got more than 3,700 responses in the first 24 hours—within a week, he had amassed more than 25,000 stories.
...
We are guilty of national malpractice for allowing the profit motive to drive decisions about who gets health care, and of what sort.
...
After Moore’s film opens nationally on Friday, loud and contentious political talk about it is sure to grow louder. Much of it, no doubt, will be aimed at discrediting the national medical systems of Canada, Britain, France—and yes, Cuba—that Moore holds up as models of compassionate efficiency. Much of it will consist of screeching broadsides aimed at Moore, who unnerves conservatives because he is not some pointy-headed liberal professor from Cambridge but a funny guy from Flint, Mich., who wears a baseball cap and did precisely what the right always preaches: He found something he was good at, and made a fortune doing it.

Much discussion also will be premised on the assumption that what Moore advocates—government-funded health care that would be available to everyone—is politically impossible in the United States because the American public recoils from it. Balderdash.

The public embraces Medicare, which is government-funded health care that is available to all elderly people. It has an enduring affection for Social Security, another government-funded, universal benefit.

As for government-funded health insurance, it would be enlightening if those who so reflexively assert that the public has already rejected it would just ask—well, the public. In a May CNN poll, 64 percent said they thought the government should “provide a national health insurance program for all Americans, even if this would require higher taxes.” In February, the New York Times/CBS poll found that 60 percent were willing to pay higher taxes so that everyone had insurance. In January, the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll asked a similar question about paying more taxes for universal insurance and again a majority said yes.

Listen up, powers that be. The American people want national health care. It's the right thing to do and you KNOW it!

Diversity in schools

My friend, Walt Calahan nails it again:

Divided court rejects school diversity plans

A conservative majority led by Chief Justice John Roberts said other means besides race considerations should be used to achieve diversity in schools.

"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discrimination on the basis of race," he wrote.

Then Walt says the following:

I guess I'm just plain dense. I don't get it? Did Justice Roberts offer any suggestions then? If the majority race has put down minority races over the century, creating a culture of prejudice, then how does one fix the problem without giving minority races a leg up?

W

I so agree.

John Aravosis on Ann Coulter

As you will have noticed below, I blogged about Ann Coulter saying she wished John Edwards had been killed by terrorists. Here's what John Aravosis of AMERICAblog has to say about that:

The woman should be in prison. Has the Secret Service investigated Coulter yet for wishing John Edwards assassinated? Oh that's right, George Bush's Secret Service only investigates liberals, while conservative man-whores are given free rein of the White House without even getting the basic background checks required of other frequent White House visitors. Why should we expect the Secret Service to investigate death threats against a Democratic presidential candidate? That would require them to do their job in an impartial manner. Just like they didn't care when Pat Robertson suggested that terrorists nuke the State Department. It's not their job to care, it's their job to protect Republicans. More from AP.

He has a very good point. Why ISN'T Ann Coulter being investigated?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Discerning a lie

Very interesting observation:


It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place.

- Henry Louis Mencken

Ann Coulter and John Edwards

I'm just sorry but I can't come up with anything nice to say about Ann Coulter. Look at this:


This Monday, Ann Coulter took her pattern of personal attacks to a new level. On national television she said that rather than hurling more homophobic slurs, "If I'm gonna say anything about John Edwards in the future, I'll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot."

I would never say that about my worst enemy.

This morning, I got an email from the John Edwards campaign written by Elizabeth Edwards. Take a look:


Where I am from, when someone does something that displeases you, you politely ask them to stop. So when I heard Ann was going to be on "Hardball" last night, I decided to call in and ask her to engage on the issues and stop the personal attacks. I told her these kinds of personal attacks lower our political dialogue at precisely the time when we need to raise it, and set a bad example for our children.

How did she respond? Sadly, perhaps predictably, with more personal attacks.

John's campaign is about the issues—but pundits like Ann Coulter are trying to shout him down. If they will not stop, it is up to us cut through the noise. Help us fight back—please give what you can today.

www.johnedwards.com/rightwing

There are just over 3 days left to hit our $9 million goal for the end of the quarter. If we make it, we can directly reach voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and all over the country with our detailed plans on the issues that matter. Please give what you can right now to help raise the dialogue and show that Ann Coulter-style politics will never carry the day.

www.johnedwards.com/rightwing

Why do Ann Coulter and other right-wing pundits keep attacking John? Because John's bold, specific plans hit them where it hurts: solving global warming, ending the war, building a fair economy—John's agenda threatens everything these talking heads and their corporate cronies stand for.

And they know John can win—just last week a new poll showed that John is the only Democratic candidate who beats all the possible Republican challengers—by an average of 13 points. So they are trying to take John down early. Their strategy is to sling mud and manufacture scandals—about houses, haircuts and anything else they can think of—to discredit John and take down our movement for change.

The best way to beat them is also the right way—take our message of substance straight to the voters. And that is exactly what this campaign is all about.

Look, I'm not supporting anyone for president at this point. But I think the personal attacks on John Edwards are reprehensible. So, if you feel like contributing to his campaign, you've got the link.

UPDATE: Here are the results of an MSNBC poll:

Who is right -- Elizabeth Edwards or Ann Coulter?

Elizabeth Edwards. Ann Coulter should stop with her personal attacks against the Edwards family. - 93%

Ann Coulter. She's free to say whatever she likes - 7.2%

It's good to know that the American public still has some appreciation for civility.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Protecting minorities

Here's something I just found:

Governments exist to protect the rights of minorities. The loved and the rich need no protection—they have many friends and few enemies.

Wendell Phillips (1811-1884)

It's a very good point, don't you think?

Heat wave in southeast Europe

I heard about this on NPR today but there was no mention of it on the CNN main page of its website:

BUCHAREST, Romania - Four more Romanians have died from a heat wave gripping parts of southeast Europe, health officials said on Tuesday, raising the region's death toll from the past few days to at least 30.

All four were elderly people who died of breathing or heart problems brought on by the heat, the health ministry said.

In western Turkey, a 60-year-old man collapsed on a beach and later died in hospital as temperatures there hit 111 degrees Fahrenheit.
...
In Greece, where the scorching weather has killed five people in the past two days, air conditioning systems working flat out pushed energy consumption towards an all-time high, and state offices closed early at noon to conserve power supplies.

Temperatures soared to 115 Fahrenheit in some parts of the country on Monday, and authorities expected the heat wave to continue for at least another three days, making this Greece's hottest June on record.

It really needs to be urgently brought to the attention of the American people that this is happening. Especially Senator Inhoffe who persists in believing that global warming is "a hoax".

The death penalty

I want to call your attention to a CNN article with you called "Did Missouri execute an innocent man?" and give you part of what it says:

ST. LOUIS, Missouri (AP) -- To the very end, convicted killer Larry Griffin shouted his innocence to the world -- through court filings, in pleas to the governor and to nearly any reporter willing to listen.

None of it helped. Griffin, strapped to a white gurney, was executed by injection. Now, 12 years later, St. Louis' chief prosecutor will soon release a report offering an opinion on whether Missouri put an innocent man to death.

The report, two years in the making, has no legal weight but could have a powerful effect on the nation's death penalty debate. Nearly 1,100 people have been executed in the United States in the modern era that began with Gary Gilmore's death by firing squad in Utah in 1977, and not one has been proved innocent after the fact.

A finding of innocence could confirm what capital punishment foes have been arguing for years: that the risk of a grave and irreversible mistake by the criminal justice system is too high to allow the death penalty.

Nevertheless, the findings in the Griffin case may not settle the argument over whether he committed the crime. His guilt or innocence hinges not on DNA or other powerfully persuasive forensic evidence, but on witness accounts.

In the years since his 1981 conviction, two crucial witnesses have recanted or wavered, and a third witness who could have helped Griffin never took the stand, for reasons that are unclear.


The death penalty is barbaric. It's time to abolish it.

Disgusting Supreme Court decision

Well, I heard about this on NPR this morning as I drove to the Center. And then I found a Washington Post article entitled "5-4 Supreme Court Weakens Curbs on Pre-Election TV Ads". Here's part of what it says:

The Supreme Court yesterday substantially weakened restrictions on the kinds of television ads that corporations and unions can finance in the days before an election, providing special interest groups with the opportunity for a far more expansive role in the 2008 elections.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote the 5 to 4 decision, saying the McCain-Feingold campaign finance act's prohibition against the use of a candidate's name in such ads in the days before an election was an unconstitutional infringement on the groups' rights to advocate on issues.
...
"This is a big win for big money," League of Women Voters President Mary G. Wilson said in a statement. "Chief Justice Roberts has reopened the door to corruption."

It's enough to make a person VERY cynical.

Monday, June 25, 2007

A step in the right direction

Company hybrid car

Marilyn Bedford sent me an interesting article from the Christian Science Monitor called "In quest to go green, US firms retool car fleets". Here's how it gets started:

Call it the greening of the fleet.

Corporate America is starting to look at the millions of cars it owns or leases for traveling salesmen, executives, and technicians as an area where it can cut down on greenhouse gases and save money on increasingly expensive gasoline.

• Abbott, a large pharmaceutical company, has shifted 20 percent of its fleet to green status – more fuel-efficient vehicles. In analyzing its carbon footprint, the company found 4.5 percent of its emissions in the US came from its 6,500 vehicles.

• Last month at an expo of the National Association of Fleet Administrators (NAFA) in Houston, managers of corporate fleets waited in line for test rides in hybrid vehicles and cars that use alternative fuels. It was the first time in the 46 years of the expo that NAFA has featured a "green zone."

• Last week, Hertz Corp., owner of one of the largest automobile fleets in the nation, said it would buy 3,400 hybrids, an investment of $68 million, over the next two years. Enterprise, with the largest US rental-car fleet, will have more than 3,000 hybrids this year.

This shift in corporate thinking is relatively new but has the potential to make an impact. Automobiles that are part of the corporate fleet have double the miles of the family vehicle. In the case of rental-car companies and executive car services, the mileage can be even higher.


This is definitely the right direction. Maybe the tide is beginning to turn in this country. Let's hope it turns quickly and decisively.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Interesting video

You might like to check out this CNN video on Carlton Pearson:

"Gospel of Inclusion"

A new acquisition

"Light"

I just wanted to share with you all that I have recently bought the painting above and it should be delivered soon. It's going in my new living room.

If you haven't yet discovered the work of C. Robin Janning may I heartily recommend that you do so now. Here are her blog sites:

Gramercy Galleria

Gramercy Digital Diary

ECVA Sketchbook: Art in the Desert

I'm planning to save my pennies and acquire more of her work before too long!

Obama on religion

Oh wow. This is good. Take a look:

"Somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and faith started being used to drive us apart," the Democratic presidential candidate said in a 30-minute speech before the national meeting of the United Church of Christ.

"Faith got hijacked, partly because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, all too eager to exploit what divides us," the Illinois senator said.

"At every opportunity, they've told evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage, school prayer and intelligent design," according to an advance copy of his speech.

"There was even a time when the Christian Coalition determined that its number one legislative priority was tax cuts for the rich," Obama said. "I don't know what Bible they're reading, but it doesn't jibe with my version."

Hat tip to John Aravosis at AMERICAblog.

As July 4th approaches

Please go read a little opinion piece by Lucinda Marshall called "Rethinking Patriotism". It's short, incisive and thought-provoking. It ends like this:

As July 4th approaches, it may well be time to consider whether patriotism and the defense of national borders is in fact an outmoded concept. Instead of Independence Day, perhaps it is time to declare an Interdependence Day and to pledge allegiance as global citizens, to build our strength by nurturing our resources rather than plundering them, by nurturing all of the world’s citizens, especially the young. Most of all, it is time to pledge to end the wanton destruction of the planet and the politics of hatred and greed that divide us.

If we don't learn to think of ourselves a global citizens soon, we're not going to have a planet fit to live on. Really.

Should we ban bottled water?

Headed for the land fill

I must confess, I like bottled water. Mind you, I rarely get the kind in plastic bottles. I like Perrier in glass bottles. It's what I drink instead of soda. But I occasionally get the kind in plastic bottles for taking with me in the car on hot days and we keep them on hand at the Center for when a private client wants some water.

I have, however, thought about the land fills with some concern. And now I read an article called "San Francisco says no to bottled water" and it makes me think. Here's an excerpt:

SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- Is city water better than bottled water? Mayor Gavin Newsom thinks so.

Newsom has issued an executive order banning city departments from buying bottled water, even for water coolers. The ban goes into effect July 1, and will extend to water coolers by December 1.

The move was billed as a way to help stem global warming and save taxpayer money.

"We're hoping to set the example for the private sector and other cities in getting off the bottle," said Tony Winnicker, spokesman for the San Francisco public utilities commission.

In a press release announcing the decision, the mayor cited the environmental impact of making, transporting and disposing of the bottles. More than a billion of them end up in the state's landfills each year, the release said.

I have read that tap water is perfectly safe. Of course, it's the taste that I'm going for.

There are dispensers of purified water around town and you can reuse your plastic containers when you fill up regularly. That's certainly an alternative. I suppose we could keep a gallon of that in the Center refrigerator instead of the individual bottles.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Bush pulls a Cheney

This is just unbelievable. Except that I'll believe anything of Bush. The article is called "Bush Claims Oversight Exemption Too" and it's published by the Los Angeles Times. Here's an excerpt:

WASHINGTON - The White House said Friday that, like Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, President Bush’s office is not allowing an independent federal watchdog to oversee its handling of classified national security information.

An executive order that Bush issued in March 2003 - amending an existing order - requires all government agencies that are part of the executive branch to submit to oversight. Although it doesn’t specifically say so, Bush’s order was not meant to apply to the vice president’s office or the president’s office, a White House spokesman said.

Now, who's gullible enough to believe that? Sickening.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Henry
Photo by Ellie Finlay

Friday hope blogging

This is the Sojourners Quote of the Week:

While there is little evidence that human nature has changed for the better over the past two millennia, a few historical events, like Britain's abolition of its extremely profitable slave trade, suggest that human history has also been something more than an endless contest of greed and power.

- David Brion Davis, a Yale University historian

Today's QuickVote from CNN

Take a look:

Is Vice President Dick Cheney too secretive?

Yes - 84%

No - 16%

That's quite an indictment.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Cheny's latest

This is simply beyond belief. Common Dreams has posted an article entitled "Cheney Power Grab: Says White House Rules Don’t Apply to Him". Take a look:

Vice President Dick Cheney has asserted his office is not a part of the executive branch of the U.S. government, and therefore not bound by a presidential order governing the protection of classified information by government agencies, according to a new letter from Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., to Cheney.

Bill Leonard, head of the government’s Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), told Waxman’s staff that Cheney’s office has refused to provide his staff with details regarding classified documents or submit to a routine inspection as required by presidential order, according to Waxman.

In pointed letters released today by Waxman, ISOO’s Leonard twice questioned Cheney’s office on its assertion it was exempt from the rules. He received no reply, but the vice president later tried to get rid of Leonard’s office entirely, according to Waxman.

Leonard did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Not part of the executive branch of the U.S. Government? Well, what IS he part of? Judicial? Legislative? Good grief. Has the man ever READ the Constitution?

Now here's the question of the hour: What is he trying to hide?

Lake simply disappears


This is just weird:

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) -- A five-acre glacial lake in Chile's southern Andes has disappeared -- and scientists want to know why.

Park rangers at Bernardo O'Higgins National Park said they found a 100-feet-deep crater in late May were the lake had been in March. Several large pieces of ice that used to float atop the water also were spotted.

"The lake had simply disappeared," Juan Jose Romero, head of Chile's National Forest Service in the southernmost region of Magallanes, said Wednesday. "No one knows what happened."
...
One theory is the water disappeared through cracks in the lake bottom into underground fissures. But experts do not know why the cracks would have appeared because there have been no earthquakes reported in the area recently, Romero said.

It will be very interesting if we're able to learn more about this.

The poor, misunderstood rich

My good friend Walt Calahan sent the following this morning:

Here's a good read from the NY Times:

Congress Weighs End to Private Equity Tax Break

The most telling line about the rich is this:

"The industry argues that the portion of profits they receive from investments should receive preferential treatment because of the risk involved."

Since when in capitalism do we give preferential tax treatment because of 'Risk"?

The reason the reward is so large is because of the "Risk." With great "Risk" is the potential for great "Failure."

If the rich want the big return, they should also expect big losses too.

They want it both ways. I say tax the mother-f*รง/ers. The dirt bags. They make more money in a week than I'll make in 100 life times.

I'm just saying. Grin.

W

I so agree.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Stem cell research survey

CNN published an article today entitled "Most couples with frozen embryos would give them to research". Here's part of what it says:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A majority of U.S. couples with stored embryos from fertility treatments say they would be willing to donate unused embryos for stem cell research, says a doctor who surveyed patients.

"Large numbers of infertility patients ... support using embryos for research, and these are people who have invested emotionally and financially in these embryos," Dr. Anne Drapkin Lyerly of Duke University said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Use of stem cells derived from embryos is a moral issue that has troubled politicians, religious and medical leaders and couples with stored embryos. And it is an issue with strong advocates on both sides.

The problem is, obtaining stem cells kills the embryo.

Many see this as wrong and argue that they are protecting life. That's what led President Bush to veto a bill Wednesday that would have eased limits on using embryos in research.

Others point out that many stored embryos will be destroyed anyway, and letting them be used in research could lead to lifesaving treatments.

Now take a look at something that is VERY interesting:

Research was preferred to donating embryos to other infertile couples.

So most couples would rather the extra embryos be used for research than be implanted in a stranger's womb and develop into a child. As a society, we need to pay attention to that preference.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Imminent peril


Today I'm calling your attention to an article in The Independent entitled "The Earth today stands in imminent peril" and the heading continues with these words:

...and nothing short of a planetary rescue will save it from the environmental cataclysm of dangerous climate change. Those are not the words of eco-warriors but the considered opinion of a group of eminent scientists writing in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Here's how the body of the article gets started:

Six scientists from some of the leading scientific institutions in the United States have issued what amounts to an unambiguous warning to the world: civilisation itself is threatened by global warming.

They also implicitly criticise the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for underestimating the scale of sea-level rises this century as a result of melting glaciers and polar ice sheets.

Instead of sea levels rising by about 40 centimetres, as the IPCC predicts in one of its computer forecasts, the true rise might be as great as several metres by 2100. That is why, they say, planet Earth today is in "imminent peril".

In a densely referenced scientific paper published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A some of the world's leading climate researchers describe in detail why they believe that humanity can no longer afford to ignore the "gravest threat" of climate change.

"Recent greenhouse gas emissions place the Earth perilously close to dramatic climate change that could run out of control, with great dangers for humans and other creatures," the scientists say. Only intense efforts to curb man-made emissions of carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases can keep the climate within or near the range of the past one million years, they add.

The researchers were led by James Hansen, the director of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who was the first scientist to warn the US Congress about global warming.

Does humanity have the will to save itself? I'm not optimistic.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Zen and the art of surviving politics

I found an article just now called "The Zen of confronting George W." and I'd like to give you an excerpt:

Some of the ancient philosophies teach that the only way to attain something is to give up all hope of ever attaining it. You must let go before you can embrace, but you must also hornswoggle your mind that you really don't care about embracing that "something" to begin with. Then you can, and will, even though you don't care to, but of course you do, which is why you're letting go in the first place.

It's all a bit of a mind trick, but it does seem to be the only path to sanity these days when it comes to contemplating America's future.

It doesn't have one.

Well, of course it has one -- whether good or ill -- but perhaps we must first forego all hope of it ever regaining any virtue before it can, or will. Put another way -- in the way of the most commonplace vernacular -- perhaps we must hit rock bottom before achieving any ascent.

There's something to this, of course. But I liked even better someone's posting in the "Comments" section, part of which goes like this:

Actually, Zen is a method in the larger path of Buddhism. The goal is not to give up caring, but give up attachment to results. The main focus, to coin a phrase, is to be fully aware of the present moment.

It's a bit dicey mixing Zen and politics, but any meditative practice will not only improve your outlook, but will make you more effective.

As far as the Bush criminal regime is concerned, there was a time before it, and there will be a time after it. All is impermanent in time and space, another emphasis in Buddhism.

One thing meditative practice can do for you is to help you from seeing the world in binary terms. The "Democrats" are one day standing tall, and the next day are spineless connivers. The New York Times is one day exposing the Bush crime family, and the next is a corporate shill.


I agree. "All or nothing thinking" is a classic cognitive error. Reality, actually, isn't like that.

Vicious snark

But, I'm sorry to say, well deserved:

George W. Bush: "The Paris Hilton of Presidents"

- Grant Gerver

Climate refugees

Somalian refugees

The year 2050 is not that far away. Sure, I'll be dead by then but I'm pretty old. For people just starting out or for those in the "prime of life", forty-three years is really a short time. Take a look at this Reuters article entitled "Global warming to multiply world's refugee burden":

BEIRUT (Reuters) - If rising sea levels force the people of the Maldive Islands to seek new homes, who will look after them in a world already turning warier of refugees?

The daunting prospect of mass population movements set off by climate change and environmental disasters poses an imminent new challenge that no one has yet figured out how to meet.

People displaced by global warming -- the Christian Aid agency has predicted there will be one billion by 2050 -- could dwarf the nearly 10 million refugees and almost 25 million internally displaced people already fleeing wars and oppression.

"All around the world, predictable patterns are going to result in very long-term and very immediate changes in the ability of people to earn their livelihoods," said Michele Klein Solomon of the International Organisation of Migration (IOM).

"It's pretty overwhelming to see what we might be facing in the next 50 years," she said. "And it's starting now."


It's starting now. It's simply going to grow to a billion by 2050. So who is going to take these people? How are they going to manage?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A national treasure

Bill Moyers

Anyone watch Bill Moyers' Journal Friday night? Here's an excerpt of something he said:

It is well known that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby — once Vice President Cheney’s most trusted adviser-has been sentenced to 30 months in jail for perjury. Lying. Not a white lie, mind you. A killer lie. Scooter Libby deliberately poured poison into the drinking water of democracy by lying to federal investigators, for the purpose of obstructing justice.

Attempting to trash critics of the war, Libby and his pals in high places-including his boss Dick Cheney-outed a covert CIA agent. Libby then lied to cover their tracks. To throw investigators off the trail, he kicked sand in the eyes of truth. “Libby lied about nearly everything that mattered,” wrote the chief prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. The jury agreed and found him guilty on four felony counts. Judge Reggie B. Walton-a no-nonsense, lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key type, appointed to the bench by none other than George W. Bush-called the evidence “overwhelming” and threw the book at Libby.

You would have thought their man had been ordered to Guantanamo, so intense was the reaction from his cheerleaders. They flooded the judge’s chambers with letters of support for their comrade and took to the airwaves in a campaign to “free Scooter.”
...
It was left to the hawkish academic Fouad Ajami to state the matter baldly. In a piece published on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, Ajami pleaded with Bush to pardon Libby. For believing “in the nobility of this war,” wrote Ajami, Scooter Libby had himself become a “casualty” — a fallen soldier the President dare not leave behind on the Beltway battlefield.

Not a word in the entire article about the real fallen soldiers. The honest-to-God dead, and dying, and wounded. Not a word about the chaos or the cost. Even as the calamity they created worsens, all they can muster is a cry for leniency for one of their own who lied to cover their tracks.

I'm so grateful that Bill Moyers soldiers on even after "retiring". (Heck, that didn't last long...) But he's getting up there and can't last forever. How I wish the powers that be would listen to him!

I like this

Compassionate common sense:

He who has injured thee was either stronger or weaker than thee. If weaker, spare him; if stronger, spare thyself.

-- William Shakespeare

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Sent to me by Frank Ford

Back to our Arabic language translators

You remember that not too long ago I posted an article about military Arabic translators being kicked out because they're gay even though we have a shortage of such Arabic language experts. Well, Stephen Colbert has done a marvelous piece on on that. It is really funny and upsetting at the same time. Please click through and watch it on Comedy Central. (You'll have to watch a very short commercial first.)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Henry

Mental health and the military

Frank Ford sent me a very disturbing post from the Mother Jones blog. It's called "The Military Is Going Nuts". Here's part of what it says:

A report released by a congressionally ordered mental health task force suggests that the military's handling of mental health problems in its ranks is even worse than Mother Jones previously reported (with little to no cooperation from the DoD, by the way). According to NPR, 40 percent of troops returning from Iraq or Afghanistan have some sort of psychological problem. Nearly a quarter show signs of serious mental health disorders.

It gets worse: Soldiers reporting psychological problems are not only not helped, but actually get punished for their illnesses. Some are sent to clean the latrines; others, in an image disturbingly resonant of Abu Ghraib, must sit in a corner wearing a dunce camp for long periods of time. At one army base, many soldiers were kicked out of the services following psychological complaints.

The Pentagon doesn't spend enough on mental health services, nor doesn't train troops, officers or even mental health care providers adequately. Believe it or not, even military doctors aren't well trained about the links between war and PTSD.

What's wrong with these people? Not the soldiers with mental health problems, I mean. But rather the authorities who are so breathtakingly ignorant.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Justice at last

CNN has posted an article entitled "Seale convicted in 1964 deaths of black teens" . Take a look:

JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) -- A federal jury on Thursday convicted reputed Klansman James Ford Seale of kidnapping and conspiracy in the 1964 deaths of two black teenagers in southwest Mississippi.

Seale, 71, had pleaded not guilty to charges related to the deaths of Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee. The 19-year-olds disappeared from Franklin County on May 2, 1964, and their bodies were found later in the Mississippi River.

Federal prosecutors indicted Seale in January almost 43 years after the slayings. When he is sentenced August 24, he faces life in prison on the two counts of kidnapping and one count of conspiracy.

The prosecution's star witness was Charles Marcus Edwards, a confessed Klansman. During closing arguments earlier in the day, prosecutors acknowledged they made "a deal with the devil" but said that offering immunity to Edwards to get his testimony against Seale was the only way to get justice.

Edwards testified that he and Seale belonged to the same Klan chapter, or "klavern," that was led by Seale's father. Seale has denied he belonged to the Klan.

Edwards testified that Dee and Moore were stuffed, alive, into the trunk of Seale's Volkswagen and driven to a farm. They were later tied and driven across the Mississippi River into Louisiana, Edwards said, and Seale told him that Dee and Moore were attached to heavy weights and dumped alive into the river.

How horrible. I'm just glad Seale is not going to die a free man.

Gaza and despairing of peace

This is the Sojourners "Quote of the Week":

The darkness has fallen and invaded all of the Gaza Strip. We tried to protest against the war today, but gunmen shot at us when we tried to cross the street. This was a peaceful demonstration to try to get these gunmen to stop killing our future, to stop killing our hope. The darkness has fallen. There are no other words. Gaza is not a place for human beings anymore.

- Hossam al-Madhoun, lifelong Gaza resident

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Framing

Here's an excerpt from an article called "To Catch a Wolf: How to Stop Conservative Frames in Their Tracks". It's about the fact that "conservatives" so often get to "frame the question" through the news media:

BLITZER: I want you to raise your hand if you believe English should be the official language of the United States.

Obama refused to take the bait:

OBAMA: This is the kind of question that is designed precisely to divide us. You know, you’re right. Everybody is going to learn to speak English if they live in this country. The issue is not whether or not future generations of immigrants are going to learn English. The question is: How can we come up with both a legal, sensible immigration policy? And when we get distracted by those kinds of questions, I think we do a disservice to the American people.

We applaud Senator Obama. Every progressive should refuse to answer such “when-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife” questions. Obama’s words: “This is the kind of question that is designed precisely to divide us” could be a polite but effective mantra.

Why, exactly, does Blitzer’s question evoke a conservative frame? The “official language” movement is jingoistic, discriminatory, and sometimes downright racist. As Hillary Clinton pointed out, there is a difference between a national language — the language mostly spoken in a country (which English is) — and an “official language,” (which would disallow public funds to be used for ballots in other languages and hence deny citizens the right to vote). An “official language” would also not permit funding for translators in hospitals, thus denying health care (and possibly creating public health risks). And it would rule out funds for bilingual education classes, often necessary as immigrants learn English, thus denying education to those who need and deserve it.

At the same time, it seems innocent on the surface, as if it were asking whether immigrants should learn English, a very different question. To accept the question and say yes is to accept the implicit racism, but to say no sounds like you don’t think immigrants should learn English. The only response is to reject the question and tell the questioner what a reasonable question should be, just as Obama did.

If the debates continue to be "moderated" by conservatives, we are truly in a predicament.

Corporate Crime

I really want you to go read an article called "Twenty Things You Should Know About Corporate Crime". I'll give you a sample to get you started:

Number 20

Corporate crime inflicts far more damage on society than all street crime combined.

Whether in bodies or injuries or dollars lost, corporate crime and violence wins by a landslide.

The FBI estimates, for example, that burglary and robbery – street crimes – costs the nation $3.8 billion a year.

The losses from a handful of major corporate frauds – Tyco, Adelphia, Worldcom, Enron – swamp the losses from all street robberies and burglaries combined.

Health care fraud alone costs Americans $100 billion to $400 billion a year.

The savings and loan fraud – which former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh called “the biggest white collar swindle in history” – cost us anywhere from $300 billion to $500 billion.

And then you have your lesser frauds: auto repair fraud, $40 billion a year, securities fraud, $15 billion a year – and on down the list.

Number 19

Corporate crime is often violent crime.

Recite this list of corporate frauds and people will immediately say to you: but you can’t compare street crime and corporate crime – corporate crime is not violent crime.

Not true.

Corporate crime is often violent crime.

The FBI estimates that, 16,000 Americans are murdered every year.

Compare this to the 56,000 Americans who die every year on the job or from occupational diseases such as black lung and asbestosis and the tens of thousands of other Americans who fall victim to the silent violence of pollution, contaminated foods, hazardous consumer products, and hospital malpractice.

These deaths are often the result of criminal recklessness. Yet, they are rarely prosecuted as homicides or as criminal violations of federal laws.

I really recommend that you take the time to read the rest of the article. It was an eye-opener for me.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


FOX neglects war coverage

Well, the war isn't going so well. Therefore the self-styled "fair and balanced" news channel - Fox, of course - simply doesn't cover it adequately. That's what a recent study has shown. Take a look:

NEW YORK - On a winter day when bomb blasts at an Iraqi university killed dozens and the United Nations estimated that 34,000 civilians in Iraq had died in 2006, MSNBC spent nearly nine minutes on the stories during the 1 p.m. hour. A CNN correspondent in Iraq did a three-minute report about the bombings.

Neither story merited a mention on Fox News Channel that hour.

That wasn't unusual. Fox spent half as much time covering the Iraq war than MSNBC during the first three months of the year, and considerably less than CNN, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The difference was more stark during daytime news hours than in prime-time opinion shows. The Iraq war occupied 20 percent of CNN's daytime news hole and 18 percent of MSNBC's. On Fox, the war was talked about only 6 percent of the time.
...
The Project for Excellence in Journalism steered clear of questions about what its findings proved. "We just wanted to tell people that it does make a difference where you go for the news," said the group's Mark Jurkowitz.

So with less on-air attention being paid to Iraq during the first few months of the year, what filled the void for Fox? PEJ's report said the network gave the death of Anna Nicole Smith significantly more air time than its rivals.

No wonder studies show that people who watch Fox are the least informed on current events of all television news viewers.

Veterans and suicide

The CNN website today calls our attention to a very troubling reality in an article called "Study: Suicide risk double among male U.S. veterans". Here's part of what it says:

The risk of suicide among male U.S. veterans is double that of the general population, according to a study published Monday.

"We need to be more alert to the problem of suicide as a major public health issue and we need to do better screening among individuals who have served in the military, probe for their mental health risk as well as gun availability," said Dr. Mark S. Kaplan, professor of community health at Portland State University in Oregon, lead author of the study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
...
After adjusting for a host of potentially compounding factors, including age, time of service and health status, the study showed that those who had been in the military were 2.13 times more likely to die of suicide over time.

At biggest risk were veterans who were white, those who had gone to college and those with activity limitations, according to the study, which was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

I think it's very important for the entire American population to be aware of the relationship between military service and suicide.

And all of us (yes, and that includes the government) need to be very sensitive to the needs of our veterans for a strong, reliable support system when they come home.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The problem with dirty snow

It's always something, isn't it? Here's one more example of how our behavior causes global warming. It's from an article entitled "'Dirty snow' warming Earth, study finds":

A team of U.S. scientists has found that "dirty snow" is a surprisingly significant contributor to global warming, and is urging Canada - as "custodian" of a vast, snowbound nation - to lead an international cleanup effort.

The researchers have measured, in the first comprehensive study of its kind, how snowy landscapes tainted by carbon particles from inefficiently burned fuels and forest fires are absorbing more of the sun's heat than the less sooty snow cover of centuries past.

"Snow becomes dirty when soot from tailpipes, smokestacks and forest fires enters the atmosphere and falls to the ground," the team explains. "Soot-infused snow is darker than natural snow. Dark surfaces absorb sunlight and cause warming, while bright surfaces reflect heat back into space and cause cooling."

Even a slightly darkened surface impairs the natural reflective properties of snow crystals, say the scientists, who calculated that dirty snow accounts for one-third of rising temperatures in the Arctic over the past two centuries.

Mercy! One-third. That's a lot.

Leno at his best

Check this one out:

They say it's just a matter of time before former senator and 'Law & Order' actor Fred Thompson gets into the Republican race. Apparently, 10 rich white guys doesn't offer enough choices to the voters. They need 11 rich white guys.

--Jay Leno

Political authenticity

I've blogged before about my irritation that the press brands John Edwards a hypocrite because he's rich but cares about the poor. They to the same thing to Al Gore because he cares about the environment but his utility bills are high. Take a look at what Paul Krugman has to say about this:

Rich liberals who claim they’ll help America’s less fortunate are phonies.

Let me give you one example — a Democrat who said he’d work on behalf of workers and the poor. He even said he’d take on Big Business. But the truth is that while he was saying those things, he was living in a big house and had a pretty lavish summer home too. His favorite recreation, sailing, was incredibly elitist. And he didn’t talk like a regular guy.

Clearly, this politician wasn’t authentic. His name? Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Luckily, that’s not how the political game was played 70 years ago. F.D.R. wasn’t accused of being a phony; he was accused of being a “traitor to his class.” But today, it seems, politics is all about seeming authentic. A recent Associated Press analysis of the political scene asked: “Can you fake authenticity? Probably not, but it might be worth a try.”

What does authenticity mean? Supposedly it means not pretending to be who you aren’t. But that definition doesn’t seem to fit the way the term is actually used in political reporting.

For example, the case of F.D.R. shows that there’s nothing inauthentic, in the normal sense of the word, about calling for higher taxes on the rich while being rich yourself. If anything, it’s to your credit if you advocate policies that will hurt your own financial position. But the news media seem to find it deeply disturbing that John Edwards talks about fighting poverty while living in a big house.

On the other hand, consider the case of Fred Thompson. He spent 18 years working as a highly paid lobbyist, wore well-tailored suits and drove a black Lincoln Continental. When he ran for the Senate, however, his campaign reinvented him as a good old boy: it leased a used red pickup truck for him to drive, dressed up in jeans and a work shirt, with a can of Red Man chewing tobacco on the front seat.

But Mr. Thompson’s strength, says Lanny Davis in The Hill, is that he’s “authentic.”

Now, if you ask me, it's Thompson who's the hypocrite.

I wish the John Edwards and Al Gore naysayers would look up the expression noblesse oblige. Basically, that means if you're privileged, you are obligated to help those less fortunate. I was brought up on that principle and it used to be a standard in polite society. How selfishness got exalted as a virtue in the public square is utterly beyond me.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Warning to Humanity

This is the introduction to World Scientists' Warning to Humanity (1992):

Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about.

"Some 1,700 of the world's leading scientists, including the majority of Nobel laureates in the sciences, issued this appeal in November 1992," according to The Union of Concerned Scientists.

1992. Fifteen years ago. And we have only further damaged the Earth.

"God within each of us"

Albert Schweitzer

So-called "liberal Christianity" is much maligned in this age of rampant fundamentalism but one of the most brilliant, noble and selfless men who ever lived was just that kind of Christian. I refer, of course, to Albert Schweitzer. I happened to post a quote of his over on Meditation Matters today and, as a result, found myself browsing through various webpages about him. I found the following from a collection of Schweitzer's words edited by Norman Cousins:

As a young man, my main ambition was to be a good minister. I completed my studies; then, after a while I started to teach. I became the principal of the seminary. All this while I had l been studying and thinking about the life of Jesus and the meaning of Jesus. And the more I studied and thought, the more convinced I became that Christian theology had become overcomplicated. In the early centuries after Christ, the beautiful simplicities relating to Jesus became somewhat obscured by the conflicting interpretations and the incredibly involved dogma growing out of the theological debates.

In my effort to get away from intricate Christian theology based on later interpretations, I developed some ideas of my own. These ideas were at variance with the ideas that had been taught me. Now, what was I to do? Was I to teach that which I myself had been taught but that I now did not believe? How could I, as the principal of a seminary, accept the responsibility for teaching young men that which I did not believe? But was I to teach that which I did believe? If I did so, would this not bring pain to those who had taught me?

Faced with these two questions. I decided that I would do neither. I decided that I would leave the seminary. Instead of trying to get acceptance for my ideas. involving painful controversy, I decided I would make my life my argument I would advocate the things I believed in terms of the life I lived and what I did. Instead of vocalizing my belief in the existence of God within each of us. I would attempt to have my life and work say what I believed.


Why can't we just stop trying to police what people believe and let their lives speak for themselves? The world would be such a better place for it!

How's THIS for a bumper sticker?


Saturday, June 09, 2007

Well, what about the Paris news, Katie?

Here's another short posting from Think Progress:

CBS News anchor Katie Couric, during a recent commencement address:

The proliferation of celebrity magazines makes Lindsey Lohan’s latest stint in rehab seem more important than what’s happening in Darfur.

The kind of fluff that accosts us on the newsstand may seem like harmless fun, but it should also come with a warning label that says it can rot your mind and distort your values.


Steve Benen notes, during Friday’s broadcast of Couric’s CBS Evening News, “the Paris Hilton ‘news’ got more coverage on CBS than a roadside bomb killing a U.S. soldier, the immigration legislation, and passage of the stem-cell bill combined — times two.”

A truly inspiring statement

Bill Gates

From his commencement address at Harvard:

But humanity’s greatest advances are not in its discoveries – but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity. Whether through democracy, strong public education, quality health care, or broad economic opportunity – reducing inequity is the highest human achievement.

This is truly inspiring. The whole address is. If you have time to click through and read it, I promise you, you won't regret it.

Tort reformer Robert Bork sues Yale Club

You know what IOKIYAR means? "It's okay if you're a Republican." I said yesterday that I hate double standards. Hypocrisy is right in there too. Take a look at this little notice from Think Progress:

Claiming the Yale Club of New York City “wantonly, willfully, and recklessly” failed to provide easy to climb staging, conservative uber-activist Judge Robert Bork is suing the club for $1,000,000 in compensatory damages, plus punitive damages from a fall Bork sustained while mounting the dais at the club for a scheduled speech. Bork, an infamous tort reform advocate, hasn’t always been such a fan of suing for punitive damages, at least when other people do it.

And the press calls John Edwards hypocritical for caring about the poor while rich. They ought to pounce on this. (But they won't.)

Sheer stupidity

The New York Times had an op-ed piece yesterday by an Arab translator who was kicked out of the military for for being gay. The stupidity of that decision is simply beyond unbelievable. Take a look at these excerpts from the article entitled "Don’t Ask, Don’t Translate":

IMAGINE for a moment an American soldier deep in the Iraqi desert. His unit is about to head out when he receives a cable detailing an insurgent ambush right in his convoy’s path. With this information, he and his soldiers are now prepared for the danger that lies ahead.

Reports like these are regularly sent from military translators’ desks, providing critical, often life-saving intelligence to troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the military has a desperate shortage of linguists trained to translate such invaluable information and convey it to the war zone.

The lack of qualified translators has been a pressing issue for some time — the Army had filled only half its authorized positions for Arabic translators in 2001. Cables went untranslated on Sept. 10 that might have prevented the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. Today, the American Embassy in Baghdad has nearly 1,000 personnel, but only a handful of fluent Arabic speakers.
...
Consider: more than 58 Arabic linguists have been kicked out since “don’t ask, don’t tell” was instituted. How much valuable intelligence could those men and women be providing today to troops in harm’s way?

In addition to those translators, 11,000 other service members have been ousted since the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was passed by Congress in 1993. Many held critical jobs in intelligence, medicine and counterterrorism. An untold number of closeted gay military members don’t re-enlist because of the pressure the law puts on them. This is the real cost of the ban — and, with our military so overcommitted and undermanned, it’s too high to pay.

This is just plain CRAZY. The damage to our security is obviously incalculable.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The debates

Why the press doesn't expose out and out lies is beyond me. Paul Krugman is distressed with it, too, as he expresses in an article entitled "Lies, Sighs and Politics". Take a look:

In Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate, Mitt Romney completely misrepresented how we ended up in Iraq. Later, Mike Huckabee mistakenly claimed that it was Ronald Reagan’s birthday.

Guess which remark The Washington Post identified as the “gaffe of the night”?

Folks, this is serious. If early campaign reporting is any guide, the bad media habits that helped install the worst president ever in the White House haven’t changed a bit.

You may not remember the presidential debate of Oct. 3, 2000, or how it was covered, but you should. It was one of the worst moments in an election marked by news media failure as serious, in its way, as the later failure to question Bush administration claims about Iraq.

Throughout that debate, George W. Bush made blatantly misleading statements, including some outright lies — for example, when he declared of his tax cut that “the vast majority of the help goes to the people at the bottom end of the economic ladder.” That should have told us, right then and there, that he was not a man to be trusted.

But few news reports pointed out the lie. Instead, many news analysts chose to critique the candidates’ acting skills. Al Gore was declared the loser because he sighed and rolled his eyes — failing to conceal his justified disgust at Mr. Bush’s dishonesty. And that’s how Mr. Bush got within chad-and-butterfly range of the presidency.

Now fast forward to last Tuesday. Asked whether we should have invaded Iraq, Mr. Romney said that war could only have been avoided if Saddam “had opened up his country to I.A.E.A. inspectors, and they’d come in and they’d found that there were no weapons of mass destruction.” He dismissed this as an “unreasonable hypothetical.”

Except that Saddam did, in fact, allow inspectors in. Remember Hans Blix? When those inspectors failed to find nonexistent W.M.D., Mr. Bush ordered them out so that he could invade. Mr. Romney’s remark should have been the central story in news reports about Tuesday’s debate. But it wasn’t.

There's more and it's worth reading.

Then Krugman ends with this observation:

And I don’t know if this country can survive another four years of Bush-quality leadership.

I agree.

Friday cat blogging!

Henry
Photo by Ellie Finlay

Quote of the week

Here is the Sojourners quote of the week:

They have taken language hostage. We wanted numbers but this is bureaubabble. ... It is not real in any language. We are looking for accountable language and numbers. I might be a rock star but I can count.

- Bono, denouncing G-8 leaders for a lack of timelines and other substantive details in their recent pledge to fight AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.

True leadership

I wish the people in the current administration would ponder this quote:

The ultimate leader is one who is willing to develop people to the point that they eventually surpass him or her in knowledge and ability.

-- Fred A. Manske, Jr.


And this one too:

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.

-- General George S. Patton

Thursday, June 07, 2007

An intriguing change of perspective

You can find more interesting maps here.

Obama speaks out

As perhaps you know by now, President Bush's nominee for Surgeon General is seriously and disturbingly anti-gay. Good for Barack Obama for saying the following:

America’s top doctor should be a doctor for all Americans, and so I have serious reservations about nominating someone who would inject his own anti-gay ideology into critical decisions about the health and well-being of our nation. As with other nominees, I will listen to the testimony of Dr. James Holsinger, but this Administration must know that the United States Surgeon General’s office is no place for bigotry or ideology that would trump sound science and good judgment.

Now, let's see which other Democrats have the guts to do likewise.

Quote of the day

This, actually, is very consoling when you think about it:

Who knows if to live is to be dead, and to be dead, to live? And we really, it may be said, are dead; in fact I once heard sages say that we are now dead, and the body is our tomb...

-- Socrates

Animal cruelty and violence against humans

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

As you all know by now, animal welfare is one of my great concerns in life. What many people don't realize is what a strong connection there is between violence against animals and violence against humans.

I want to share with you a couple of links from the Humane Society:

First Strike: The Connection Between Animal Cruelty and Human Violence

Frequently Asked Questions about Animal Cruelty

Here's a sample from the FAQ:

Is there any evidence of a connection between animal cruelty and human violence?

Absolutely. Many studies in psychology, sociology, and criminology during the last 25 years have demonstrated that violent offenders frequently have childhood and adolescent histories of serious and repeated animal cruelty. The FBI has recognized the connection since the 1970s, when its analysis of the lives of serial killers suggested that most had killed or tortured animals as children. Other research has shown consistent patterns of animal cruelty among perpetrators of more common forms of violence, including child abuse, spouse abuse, and elder abuse. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association considers animal cruelty one of the diagnostic criteria of conduct disorder.

Why would anyone be cruel to animals?

There can be many reasons. Animal cruelty, like any other form of violence, is often committed by a person who feels powerless, unnoticed, and under the control of others. The motive may be to shock, threaten, intimidate, or offend others or to demonstrate rejection of society's rules. Some who are cruel to animals copy things they have seen or that have been done to them. Others see harming an animal as a safe way to get revenge on someone who cares about that animal.

Please do what you can to raise awareness, to prevent animal cruelty and to rescue and/or care for animals who have been subjected to abuse. In doing so, you will be helping humans as well.

Environmental Defense petition

Today I got an email from Environmental Defense urging me to sign a petition beginning with these words:

Throughout history every generation has a unique challenge that tests its collective mettle. For us, that challenge is global warming.

That's why we are inviting you to sign our Declaration of New Patriotism that thousands of our online activists and supporters helped draft.

We are hoping to collect at least 75,000 signatures to deliver to Congress by July 4th. So after you've signed please help us spread the word by passing this on to friends and family.

You can sign by clicking on the picture below which, you may have noticed, is now also posted on my sidebar:

Declaration of New Patriotism

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Today's QuickVote

I thought you would be interested in this survey from CNN:

Are our national leaders dividing or uniting us as a nation?

Dividing - 97%

Uniting - 3%

No point in commenting, really. That speaks for itself.

A biologist answers Brownback's anti-science assertions

The response is by Jerry Coyne and it's entitled "DON'T KNOW MUCH BIOLOGY". Here's a sample:

Suppose we asked a group of Presidential candidates if they believed in the existence of atoms, and a third of them said "no"? That would be a truly appalling show of scientific illiteracy, would it not? And all the more shocking coming from those who aspire to run a technologically sophisticated nation.

Yet something like this happened a week ago during the Republican presidential debate. When the moderator asked nine candidates to raise their hands if they "didn't believe in evolution," three hands went into the air—those of Senator Sam Brownback, Governor Mike Huckabee, and Representative Tom Tancredo. Although I am a biologist who has found himself battling creationism frequently throughout his professional life, I was still mortified. Because there is just as much evidence for the fact of evolution as there is for the existence of atoms, anyone raising his hand must
have been grossly misinformed.

I don't know whether to attribute the show of hands to the candidates' ignorance of the mountain of evidence for evolution, or to a cynical desire to pander to a public that largely rejects evolution (more than half of Americans do). But I do know that it means that our country is in trouble. As science becomes more and more important in dealing with the world's problems, Americans are falling farther and farther behind in scientific literacy. Among citizens of industrialized nations, Americans rank near the bottom in their understanding of math and science. Over half of all Americans don't know that the Earth orbits the Sun once a year, and nearly half think that humans once lived, Flintstone-like, alongside dinosaurs.

Now maybe evolutionary biology isn't going to propel America into the forefront of world science, but creationism (and its gussied-up descendant "Intelligent Design") is not just a campaign against evolution—it's a campaign against science itself and the scientific method. By pretending that evolution is on shaky ground, and asserting that religion can contribute to our understanding of nature, creationists confuse people about the very form and character of scientific evidence. This confusion can only hurt our ability to make rational judgments about important social issues, like global warming, that involve science.

Our scientists need to turn into political activists if we're going to be spared a deep descent into a new dark age. May more of Coyne's caliber speak out.