Sunday, September 30, 2007

The World Without Us

This morning I heard an interview of Julia Sweeney on NPR and, as a result, decided to do a search on her. Among other things, I found her blog and in her latest posting she talks about reading The World Without Us by Alan Weisman.

Here's what it's about:

In The World Without Us, Alan Weisman offers an utterly original approach to questions of humanity's impact on the planet: he asks us to envision our Earth, without us.In this far-reaching narrative, Weisman explains how our massive infrastructure would collapse and finally vanish without human presence; what of our everyday stuff may become immortalized as fossils; how copper pipes and wiring would be crushed into mere seams of reddish rock; why some of our earliest buildings might be the last architecture left; and how plastic, bronze sculpture, radio waves, and some man-made molecules may be our most lasting gifts to the universe.

The World Without Us reveals how, just days after humans disappear, floods in New York's subways would start eroding the city's foundations, and how, as the world’s cities crumble, asphalt jungles give way to real ones. It describes the distinct ways that organic and chemically-treated farms would revert to wild, how billions more birds would flourish, and how cockroaches in unheated cities would perish without us. Drawing on the expertise of engineers, atmospheric scientists, art conservators, zoologists, oil refiners, marine biologists, astrophysicists, religious leaders from rabbis to the Dalai Lama, and paleontologists – who describe a pre-human world inhabited by megafauna like giant sloths that stood taller than mammoths – Weisman illustrates what the planet might be like today, if not for us.

For the planet's sake, it would probably be good if we disappeared. Tragic, isn't it?

Find your candidate

Carolyn Loomis sent me the following:

The following is an interesting exercise. You answer a few questions then click the "find your candidate button" and the program selects the candidate who's position on the issues is most like your own. You may be surprised at what you find. Click the link below:

Very interesting quiz. I ended up with Kucinich which is not really suprising. Sadly, he's not electable, though.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The cost of the war

This staggers the imagination:

Based on the work of Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard public finance lecturer Linda J. Bilmes, the American Friends Service Committee AFSC) recently determined that the Iraq war costs $720 million per day, $500,000 per minute - enough to provide homes for nearly 6,500 families, or health care for 423,529 children in just one day.

It's from an article in The Nation called "Ending War for Profit" by Katrina Vanden Heuvel.

More on global warming

I want to call your attention to an article entitled "Top 100 Ways Global Warming Will Change Your Life". Take a look at some samples:

Say Goodbye to French Wines. Wacky temperatures and rain cycles brought on by global warming are threatening something very important: Wine. Scientists believe global warming will "shift viticultural regions toward the poles, cooler coastal zones and higher elevations." What that means in regular language: Get ready to say bye-bye to French Bordeaux and hello to British champagne.
Say Goodbye to the Beautiful Alaska Vacation. Warmer weather allowed Spruce Bark Beetles to live longer, hardier lives in the forests of Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, where they killed off a section of spruce forest the size of Connecticut.
Say Goodbye to Ski Competitions. Unusually warmer winters caused the International Ski Federation to cancel last year's Alpine skiing World Cup and opening races in Sölden, Austria. Skiers are also hard-pressed now to find places for year-round training. Olympic gold medalist Anja Paerson: "Of course we're all very worried about the future of our sport. Every year we have more trouble finding places to train."
Say Hello to Poison Ivy. You're gonna need an ocean of calamine lotion. Increased CO2 levels cause poison ivy and other weeds to grow "taller, lusher, and more resilient."

There's more where those came from. Go look. The article is an eye-opener.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Once more with feeling...

Please don't shop at Wal-Mart:

Wal-Mart has been getting some great press lately. At the beginning of the week, newspapers were full of stories about Wal-Mart’s plan to ask its suppliers to measure and reduce their carbon emissions for the benefit of the environment.

Then, on Wednesday, the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman wrote a column promoting Wal-Mart as a role model for the U.S. and Chinese governments’ to follow as they develop policies on global warming.Has Wal-Mart transformed itself from the poster child of bad corporate behavior to an exemplary corporate citizen? Not everyone thinks so.

Just a few days before the articles about Wal-Mart’s suppliers and their carbon emissions were published, thousands of workers who are employed by one of those very suppliers took to the streets in protest. Ten thousand garment workers for the Nassa group, which sells clothes to Wal-Mart and other companies, protested for higher wages and better working conditions on the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh, even though their government has banned public protests. They earn $25 per month. Is Wal-Mart going to have its suppliers look at the pay and working conditions in their factories at the same time they analyze their carbon emissions? I don’t think so.

Wal-Mart is notorious for continually demanding lower prices from its suppliers, who, in turn, make more outrageous and abusive demands on their workers in order to meet Wal-Mart’s requirements. This year, the Worker Rights Consortium released reports about serious labor violations at the Chong Won Fashion factory in the Philippines and the TOS Dominicana textile factory, both of which produce clothing for Wal-Mart. In September 2005, the International Labor Rights Fund filed a lawsuit on behalf of Wal-Mart supplier sweatshop workers in China, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nicaragua and Swaziland. The workers were denied minimum wages, forced to work overtime without compensation, and were denied legally mandated health care.

Other worker rights violations that have been found in foreign factories that produce goods for Wal-Mart include locked bathrooms, starvation wages, pregnancy tests, denial of access to health care, and workers being fired and blacklisted if they try to defend their rights.

The health, safety and well-being of the human beings who work in its factories should be just as important to Wal-Mart as is the company’s impact on the environment.

If you think it's all right to shop at Wal-Mart because you save money that way, do you also think it's all right to steal because that, too, saves you money? Defrauding working people of their just wages is a form of stealing.

Irony - or is it just plain hypocrisy?

This was on a comments thread over at AMERICAblog:

Ok. The last President was impeached for cheating on the woman who is now running against a man who cheats. And the people who were for the impeachment of the last President now support the cheater over the cheatee.

Pretty sickening, isn't it?

Friday cat blogging!

Henry hiding in closet
Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Preying on one another

Larry Hicks sent me the following quotation:

The rapid progress true science now makes, occasions my regretting sometimes that I was born too soon. It is impossible to imagine the height to which may be carried, in a thousand years, the power of man over matter. We may perhaps learn to deprive large masses of their gravity, and give them absolute levity, for the sake of easy transport. Agriculture may diminish its labour and double its produce, all diseases may by sure means be prevented or cured, not excepting even that of old age, and our lives lengthened at pleasure even beyond the antediluvian standard. O that moral science were in so fair a way of improvement, that men would cease to be wolves of one another, and that human beings would at length learn what they now improperly call humanity!

This is from a letter of 8 February 1780 from BENJAMIN FRANKLIN to Joseph Priestly (known to chemists as the "discoverer" of oxygen)

It was quoted in the introduction of a book called How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World by Francis Wheen. It looks very interesting indeed. Publishers Weekly described it as a "full-frontal assault on the past 25 years of 'Counter-Enlightenment idiocy.'" (Good description of how the world has turned frighteningly superstitious.)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The best cartoon yet

Alcohol and breast cancer

Ladies, please pay attention to this:

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Three or more drinks a day, whether beer, wine or spirits, boost a woman's risk of breast cancer as much as smoking a pack of cigarettes, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.

The relationship between alcohol and breast cancer is known but there has been little data on whether the choice of drink made a difference, they told a European Cancer Conference.

In what the researchers said was one of the largest studies to investigate links between breast cancer and alcohol -- found that alcohol itself and the amount a person consumed were key rather than the type of drink.
Women who drank between one and two alcoholic drinks per day increased their risk of breast cancer by 10 percent compared with people who consumed less than one drink each day, the study found. The risk of breast cancer jumped by 30 percent in women who drank more than three drinks a day.

Makes me very glad I don't drink anymore.

I blame Wal-Mart for this

Here's a comment by Chris in Paris from AMERICAblog:

It's almost as though the effort in the 1970s to remove lead from paint had never happened. Industry, always looking for a way to cut corners and make an extra few pennies, is either absolutely stupid or they are just are simply despicable. If they didn't know they were buying lead-tainted products that would be sold to children, they should have known or else this calls into question their ability to properly run a business. It also raises yet another example of industry failing to self regulate and begging Congress to step in and provide guidance.

When businesses outsource production to the cheapest provider, what do they think they are receiving? Just because China doesn't care about safety regulations, that's an issue for China that will have to be addressed within their own country. We should expect a lot more from our own country, both in terms of regulation as well as minimum quality standards. The
recall of 600,000 toys is not the first and will not be the last such recall and it's clear that the US is going to have to step up the regulation of what is being sold. Just because the GOP wants to live in another era where anything goes doesn't mean we have to accept it.

Wal-Mart has demanded impossibly low prices from its suppliers and then other retailers have followed suit in order to compete. I don't think they're stupid. I think they're "simply despicable."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Good Leno

Excellent snark:

The Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans is out. Everybody on the list is now a billionaire. You can't even be a millionaire and be on the list, you have to be a billionaire to be on the list. So see that, the Bush tax cuts are working.

--Jay Leno

A courageous judge

Now this is good news:

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Two provisions of the USA Patriot Act are unconstitutional because they allow search warrants to be issued without a showing of probable cause, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as amended by the Patriot Act, "now permits the executive branch of government to conduct surveillance and searches of American citizens without satisfying the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment."

Portland attorney Brandon Mayfield sought the ruling in a lawsuit against the federal government after he was mistakenly linked by the FBI to the Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people in 2004.

The federal government apologized and settled part of the lawsuit for $2 million after admitting a fingerprint was misread. But as part of the settlement, Mayfield retained the right to challenge parts of the Patriot Act, which greatly expanded the authority of law enforcers to investigate suspected acts of terrorism.

Mayfield claimed that secret searches of his house and office under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act violated the Fourth Amendment's guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure. Aiken agreed with Mayfield, repeatedly criticizing the government.

"For over 200 years, this Nation has adhered to the rule of law - with unparalleled success. A shift to a Nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised," she wrote.

I hope nothing bad happens to that judge.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

This is just wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

My own recent bout with severe and inadequately controlled pain has really sensitized me to this issue. The article is called "The Federal War on Medical Marijuana Becomes a War on Children" and here's how it gets started:

Automatic weapons. Check. Helicopters. Check. Dogs. Check. Bulletproof vests. Check.

You may not buy the government's characterization of its campaign against medical marijuana patients as a "war on drugs," but increasingly violent, militaristic tactics in recent months offer a troubling glimpse into the federal law enforcement community's mentality: To them, this is war.

Raids on medical marijuana dispensaries throughout California on July 17 by federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents, often with local law enforcement officers in tow, seemed designed to send a clear signal that the feds were deliberately escalating their war on medical marijuana patients.

The enemy, then, are people like Ronnie Naulls, a Riverside medical marijuana patient who owned two of the dispensaries raided that day.

A church-going family man who used medical marijuana to ease chronic pain from injuries sustained in a 2001 car accident, Naulls already had two successful businesses -- one as an IT consultant and another as a real estate property manager -- when he established the Healing Nations Collective to save fellow Corona patients the hours-long drive to Los Angeles for medicine.

By all accounts, Naulls ran his collectives with exemplary scrupulousness. He maintained strict dress codes and professional standards for all employees. He paid state taxes on the dispensaries -- amounting to several hundred thousand dollars a year -- even when loose tax regulations allowed other dispensary owners to slip through the cracks. Profits from the dispensaries went to local and national cancer organizations.

Nevertheless, at 5:50 a.m., July 17, Naulls' home and businesses were invaded by DEA agents armed with shotguns, automatic rifles -- even helicopters. They seized everything he owned: his businesses, his property, all of his accounts.

But that wasn't the worst of it. County child protective services came along on the raid and took Naulls' three daughters, aged 1 to 5, and charged him and his wife with child endangerment. They weren't even accused of breaking any state laws.

When Naulls spoke to his children in their foster home, the oldest said, "Daddy, we're ready to come home now. We promise to be good."

Of course they were too young to understand that they were victims of the strong-arm tactics of drug warriors whose goal was probably to make Naulls regret helping fellow patients receive their medicine in a safe, compassionate environment. Who cares if that means ruining a family financially, imprisoning the parents and traumatizing the children?

There is simply no justification for this in a free country. Oh well. We used to be free. Not any more.

Monday, September 24, 2007

True American Values

Well, the article I want to share right now is worth it just for the title. It's called "Columbia University Shows True American Values". How I agree! Take a look at this excerpt:

Columbia University, by inviting Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak, has shown confidence in the wisdom and adultness of their students and our republic.

Ahmadinejad is the president of a major nation in a vital part of the world, and we should have enough self-assurance and belief in our own system of government, and in the intelligence of our college students, that we can let them (and our larger public) evaluate his words, whatever they may be.

To be terrified of his speaking there (or, for that matter, laying a wreath at Ground Zero) is behavior one would have expected from a fragile régime like Khrushchev’s USSR or Burma’s military junta, not the bold, brave, and fearless USA.

It grieves me that we are not really fearless anymore. And we seem to have forgotten what freedom means.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Today's QuickVote (from CNN)

Not surprising. They sure come across this way:

Do you think the Bush administration is spoiling for war with Iran?

Yes - 77%

No - 23%

More about our mercenaries

The Toronto Sun has published an opinion piece entitled "Hired Guns, Loose Cannons". Here's part of what it says:

Small numbers of mercenaries have been used in many modern wars, from Vietnam to Central America. The most famed modern mercenary force is France’s tough Foreign Legion.

The rise of powerful mercenary armies within the United States, and their use in Iraq and Afghanistan, is an entirely new, deeply disturbing development.

Last weekend, mercenaries from the U.S. firm Blackwater gunned down 11 Iraqi civilians during an attack on a convoy they were guarding. Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, ordered Blackwater’s thousands of swaggering mercenaries expelled from Iraq. But his order was quickly countermanded by U.S. occupation authorities.

There are 180,000 to 200,000 U.S.-paid mercenaries in Iraq — or “private contractors” as Washington and the U.S. media delicately call them. They actually outnumber the 169,000 U.S. troops there. Britain pays for another 20,000. At least half are armed fighters, the rest support personnel and technicians. Without them, the U.S. and Britain could not maintain their occupation of Iraq.
Vice-President Dick Cheney took Vietnam’s lesson to heart by championing use of mercenaries for nasty foreign wars. But democracies should have no business unleashing armies of hired gunmen on the world.

Worse, these private armies hardwired to the Republican Party’s far right are a grave and intolerable danger to the American republic. Congress should outlaw them absolutely. The great Roman Republic held that mandatory military service by all citizens was the basis of democracy, while professional armies were a grave menace.

These mercenaries are accountable to no one but their corporate bosses.

And they are paid so much more than ordinary military people that using them runs up the cost of the war enormously.

UPDATE: CNN has an article up today called "Iraq: Blackwater staff face charges". Here's an excerpt:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The Iraqi government will file criminal charges against employees of U.S. security firm Blackwater who are blamed for a gun battle in Baghdad in which civilians were killed, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said Sunday.

It is unclear how Iraqi courts will attempt to bring the contractors to trial. A July report from the Congressional Research Service said the Iraqi government has no authority over private security firms contracted by the U.S. government.

I wonder if the Iraqi government will be able to pull this off. Let's hope they at least are able to make enough noise that the world will take notice.

We are so in denial

Take a look at this AP article called "Rising seas likely to flood U.S. history":

Ultimately, rising seas will likely swamp the first American settlement in Jamestown, Va., as well as the Florida launch pad that sent the first American into orbit, many climate scientists are predicting.

In about a century, some of the places that make America what it is may be slowly erased.

Global warming — through a combination of melting glaciers, disappearing ice sheets and warmer waters expanding — is expected to cause oceans to rise by one meter, or about 39 inches. It will happen regardless of any future actions to curb greenhouse gases, several leading scientists say. And it will reshape the nation.

Rising waters will lap at the foundations of old money Wall Street and the new money towers of Silicon Valley. They will swamp the locations of big city airports and major interstate highways.

Storm surges worsened by sea level rise will flood the waterfront getaways of rich politicians — the Bushes' Kennebunkport and John Edwards' place on the Outer Banks. And gone will be many of the beaches in Texas and Florida favored by budget-conscious students on Spring Break.
Some believe it could happen in 50 years...
Florida faces a serious public health risk from rising salt water tainting drinking water wells, said Joel Scheraga, the EPA's director of global change research. And the farm-rich San Joaquin Delta in California faces serious salt water flooding problems, other experts said.

"Sea level rise is going to have more general impact to the population and the infrastructure than almost anything else that I can think of," said S. Jeffress Williams, a U.S. Geological Survey coastal geologist in Woods Hole, Mass.

Not much to say except to ask the question: When are we going to wake up? All of us?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Racism in this country

Tennie Pierce

Oh, this just makes me purely sick to my stomach. CNN has just published an article called "Firefighter settles lawsuit over dog food in spaghetti". Here is part of what it says:

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- The city will pay $1.43 million to settle claims by a black firefighter who said he suffered harassment and discrimination after co-workers served him spaghetti laced with dog food, officials announced Friday.

Tennie Pierce's lawsuit was to go to trial Monday.

As part of the settlement, Pierce will receive about $60,000 in back pay, City Clerk Frank Martinez said in a statement. Pierce, who has been on unpaid leave, also agreed to resign from the Fire Department and drop all claims against the city.
Pierce sued the city in 2005 after fellow firefighters mixed dog food into his spaghetti dinner. He said he suffered retaliation for reporting the incident as well as verbal slurs, insults and derogatory remarks, including taunting by firefighters "barking like dogs (and) asking him how dog food tasted."

Pierce's claim was one of several lawsuits alleging a pattern of harassment and discrimination against women or minorities working for the department.

The cases have cost Los Angeles taxpayers more than $15 million since 2005, including a record $6.2 million judgment to Brenda Lee, a black lesbian firefighter who said she was taunted and retaliated against for complaining.

Now look at their "solution". I wonder how this is going to work?

Douglas Barry, who served as interim chief for nine months, became the city's first black fire chief when he was sworn in last week.

I wish Chief Barry the best. Looks like he's got quite a clean up job ahead of him.

How oppression comes

I've blogged this before but I think it's time for a reminder:

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air - however slight - lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.

-- William O. Douglas

Habeas Corpus

David Cogswell at HeadBlast has this to say:

GOP Filibusters Restoration of Habeas Corpus -- This is really astonishing. It's amazing to be in an America where Habeus Corpus, a recognized human right since the Magna Carta of 1215, has been abolished in the United States, and when some senators try to restore it, the Republican party filibusters to prevent it from reaching a vote. There are so many ways this is astonishing, where do you begin? The Republicans threatened to outlaw filibustering when they controlled congress. Now they use it for everything they don't like that they can't stop some other way. So what does the GOP care for so passionately that they would pull out this extreme measure that they recently threatened to outlaw? The right of an accused person to be shown the charges against him, to be charged at all. The Republicans want their dictator Bush to have absolute power over everyone, to be able to throw anyone in prison that he wants and leave them there without another thought, without having to bother to have a case against them or even to cite a charge, a reason for their incarceration. This is what the party of Lincoln, so-called, now stands for. These people have such abhorrent positions it is hard to believe they ever expect to face the will of the people. They behave like rulers who are unaccountable. And by the last few elections, they have good reason to believe that they will be well insulated from the will of the people. This in itself is very disturbing. Bush has had an approval rating down in the 30 percent range since shortly after he allegedly won the 2004 election. This right wing regime obviously does not rely on or care about popular support.

Why doesn't someone see this for the true EMERGENCY that it is? We're all living in a Kafka novel and the likely ending is not pretty.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Ellie Finlay

A good one from Mark Twain

Somehow, I had not come across this one before:

Nothing in the world needs reforming more than other peoples’ morals.

-- Mark Twain

What Vicente Fox said

Good observation:

Mexican President Vicente Fox...says Bush speaks grade school Spanish. Well, in fairness, he speaks grade school English too.

--Jimmy Kimmel and Petraeus

This is good:

In political news, Vice President Dick Cheney is very upset about the way General Petraeus has been treated by the Democrats. Vice President Cheney said it is horrible that people mock and insult a soldier. I'll be sure to pass that on to John Kerry when I see him.

--Jay Leno

Right. And Max Cleland, too.

The great melt

Please look at this excerpt from an article entitled "Arctic ice ebbs to record level: scientists":

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Arctic sea ice melted to its lowest level ever this week, shattering a record set in 2005 and continuing a trend spurred by human-caused global warming, scientists said on Thursday.

"It's the biggest drop from a previous record that we've ever had and it's really quite astounding," said Walt Meier, a research scientist at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado.

Sea ice freezes and melts seasonally, but never has it ebbed to this small a patch, the data center said in a statement. Compared to 2005, the previous record-low year for Arctic sea ice, this year saw a decrease of more than 386,100 square miles.

That is about the size of Texas and California combined, or nearly five times the size of the United Kingdom, the center said. It is more than double the drop between 2005 and 2002, the previous record-holding year.

"That's a dramatic change in one year," Meier said of this year's sea ice decrease. "Certainly we've been on a downward trend for the last 30 years or so, but this is really accelerating the trend."

I've really run out of things to say about this. Are we going to do anything to stop it? That is the question. And I'm not optimistic.

San Diego's Republican Mayor Jerry Sanders

It's called courage, folks:

Olbermann on the Petraeus issue

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Finlandia and "A Song of Peace"

I'm so tired of the "God bless America" sentiment as if, somehow, God should not bless other nations. I just came across these words by Lloyd Stone which are sung to the Sebelius tune Finlandia:

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
But other hearts in other lands are beating
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;
But other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

And here is an extra verse written by Georgia Harkness:

May truth and freedom come to every nation;
May peace abound where strife has raged so long;
That each may seek to love and build together,
A world united, righting every wrong;
A world united in its love for freedom,
Proclaiming peace together in one song.

I had not come across these words before. The words I'm familiar with that go to the Finlandia tune begin with "Be still my soul" . But the ones I've posted here truly bring tears to my eyes. It was sung (with the extra verse) during a global candlelight peace vigil March 16, 2003 (three days before the U.S. led attack of Iraq) in Ellsworth, Maine. If you want to hear the tune, you can do so here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Income disparity

From Paul Krugman's new blog called "The Conscience of a Liberal":

We’re no longer a middle-class society, in which the benefits of economic growth are widely shared: between 1979 and 2005 the real income of the median household rose only 13 percent, but the income of the richest 0.1% of Americans rose 296 percent.

That is simply beyond outrageous. And beyond tragic.

What has become of us?

Our mercenaries

Take a look at this excerpt from an article in The Nation called "Blackwater Banned":

The news that the Iraqi government has banned Blackwater USA, the notorious mercenary firm, from operating in the country reveals another of the great fictions promoted by the Bush crowd in the course of this catastrophic war. The notion that Iraq is a sovereign nation in control of its own destiny.
The banning of Blackwater makes it impossible to ignore the fact that Iraq is not in charge of Iraq. We are. Iraq’s Interior Ministry announced that authorities have cancelled Blackwater’s licence to operate in the country and intend to prosecute the company for a shooting that killed eight Iraqis.

The New York Times
account added this disclaimer in the second paragraph:

“But under the rules that govern private security contractors here, the Iraqis do not have the legal authority to do so.”
The basic reality in wars of occupation–see the history of colonialism–is that a country can never regain true sovereignty so long as the occupying army remains on the scene, able to impose its will by force of arms. That of course is Iraq’s situation, no matter what the White House says or Americans wish to believe. Iraq will not become a sovereign nation until the US troops depart. Maybe this why polls show 76 percent of Iraqis want the US out.

We ought to have a constitutional ammendment banning the use of mercenaries in American wars or so-called "police actions". If enough people don't volunteer to conduct a war then we need a draft. If we are not willing to have a draft then we've no business going to war. End of story.

Remembering Margaret Sanger

Margaret Sanger (1879 - 1966)

Now that access to birth control is truly threatened again, it behooves us to remember Margaret Sanger whose birthday was Friday. Here's part of an article entitled, "On Her Birthday, Remembering Margaret Sanger":

Happy Birthday, Margaret!

"Woman must have her freedom, the fundamental freedom of choosing whether or not she will be a mother and how many children she will have. Regardless of what man's attitude may be, that problem is hers - and before it can be his, it is hers alone."

September 14 is the birthday of
Margaret Sanger, founder of the U.S. birth control movement... The sixth child of eleven living siblings, her earliest childhood memories were of crying beside her mother's bed as after she almost died following a difficult childbirth.

Sanger's mother, Anne Higgins, did die, worn out from those too frequent pregnancies and births, at age 50. These experiences formed the sensibilities that propelled Margaret Sanger to advocate for birth control. She dedicated her first book on the fundamental rights of women to control their fertility to her mother. The quotation above and those that follow reveal her clear worldview about women and a laser-like focus on the work she believed to be the most essential to women's health, wellbeing, and rightful place in the world:

"She goes through the vale of death alone, each time a babe is born. As it is the right neither of man nor the state to coerce her into this ordeal, so it is her right to decide whether she will endure it."

"War, famine, poverty and oppression of the workers will continue while woman makes life cheap. They will cease only when she limits her reproductivity and human life is no longer a thing to be wasted."

Perhaps the best-known and most quoted of Sanger's statements is this one that cuts to the core of why reproductive self determination is simple justice for woman, and that without the freedom to make her own childbearing decisions, no other freedoms have meaning:

"No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother."

We all need to work hard to preserve reproductive freedom in this country and to restore it where it has already been lost.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Oh, this is troubling

Please go read an article called "God and the Constitution". Here's part of what it says:

[A]n astonishing 55% of respondents to a poll released last week said they believe the Constitution "establishes a Christian nation."

More disturbing than the mistaken assumption of special status for one religion is a broader pattern evident in this poll, taken by a respected survey research firm for the First Amendment Center.
The poll shows widespread ignorance of basic freedoms and a belief that many of the Constitution's rights apply only to some Americans, not to all:

* 98% said the right to speak freely about whatever you want is essential or important. But 39% would muzzle public statements that might be offensive to religious groups, 42% would bar musicians from singing songs others might find offensive, 56% would outlaw public statements that might be offensive to racial groups, and 74% would prohibit public school students from wearing a T-shirt that others might find offensive.

* 97% said the right to practice the religion of your choice is essential or important, but only 56% said freedom of religion applies to all religious groups.

Very troubling indeed.


Einstein dies and goes to heaven... ...

Saint Peter says, "You look like Einstein, but you have no idea the lengths some people will go to, to sneak in. Can you prove who you really are?"

Einstein ponders for a few seconds and asks, "Could I have a blackboard and some chalk?"

Saint Peter snaps his fingers and a blackboard and chalk instantly appear.

Einstein proceeds to describe with arcane mathematics and symbols his theory of relativity.

Saint Peter is suitably impressed. "You really are Einstein! Welcome to Heaven!"

The next to arrive is Picasso. Once again Saint Peter asks for his credentials. Picasso asks, "Mind if I use that blackboard and chalk?"

Saint Peter says, "Go ahead."

Picasso erases Einstein's equations and sketches a truly stunning mural with just a few strokes of chalk.

Saint Peter claps. "Surely you are the great artist you claim to be! Come on in!"

Then Saint Peter looks up and sees George W. Bush.

Saint Peter scratches his head and says, "Einstein and Picasso both managed to prove their identity. How can you prove yours?"

George W looks bewildered and says, "Who are Einstein and Picasso?"

Saint Peter sighs, "Come on in, George."

Kicking ass?

Good point:

Until President Bush can visit Iraq without it being in secret, we're not 'kicking ass.'

- Bill Maher

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mercy, justice, love.

How civilized, how compassion, how reasonable:

Why not let people differ about their answers to the great mysteries of the Universe? Let each seek one's own way to the highest, to one's own sense of supreme loyalty in life, one's ideal of life. Let each philosophy, each world-view bring forth its truth and beauty to a larger perspective, that people may grow in vision, stature and dedication.

The religions of humanity should be a unifying force, for all the great religions reveal a basic unity in ethics. Whether it be Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism or Confucianism, all grow out of a sense of the sacredness of human life. This moral sensitivity to the sacredness of human personality -- the Commandments not to kill, not to hurt, not to put a stumbling block in the path of the blind, not to neglect the widow or the fatherless, not to exploit the servant or the worker -- all this can be found in the Bibles of humanity, in all the sacred books. All teach in substance: "Do unto others as you would that others should do unto you." There is, then, a basic unity among the great religions in the matter of ethics. True, there are religious philosophies which turn people away from the world, from the here and now, concentrating life-purposes on salvation for one's self or a mystic union with some supernatural reality. But most of the great religions agree on mercy, justice, love -- here on earth. And they agree that the great task is to move people from apathy, from an acceptance of the evils in life, to face the possibilities of the world, to make life sweet for one another instead of bitter. This is the unifying ethical task of all the religions -- yes, of all the philosophies of humankind. There is no need to force our own theological points of view upon one another or to insist that the moral life grows out of final, absolute authority.

-- Algernon Black

The world would be so much better a place if more people held this point of view.

A different "seven deadly sins" list

I know I've blogged this before but I'm reminded of it because it just showed up on the Daily Meditation page of the Meditation Society of Australia site which I check from time to time:

The Seven Deadly Sins.

Wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, and politics without principle.

- MK Gandhi

We really need to think about these things - particularly, in my mind, "commerce without morality" and "politics without principle". If we continue in these two sins we will very likely make human life on earth impossible.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Greenspan - Too Little Too Late

Here's what David Cogswell has to say about Alan Greenspan's latest communication to the rest of us:

After squandering his credibility in the early Bush II administration, essentially giving his blessings to Bush's tax cuts and outrageous deficit spending, Greenspan is now coming out and bashing Bush for just that in his new book. No profile in courage at this point, it would have been nice to hear about this when it still might have helped. AOL

I so agree.

From yesterday's protest march

How society evolves

The following is the "Word for the Day" on :

Society evolves not by shouting each other down, but by the unique capacity of unique, individual human beings to comprehend each other.

-- Lewis Thomas, The Medusa and the Snail

I read The Medusa and the Snail many years ago and was profoundly moved by it. May I highly recommend it!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Madeleine Albright on Iraq

Take a look at an article called "Albright Says U.S. Must Use Diplomacy Surge":

"I don't think I have ever seen the world in such a mess," Albright said to a packed house at the West Des Moines Community Center.

"I believe that Iraq is going to go down in history as the greatest disaster in American foreign policy. That means that I am acknowledging it is worse than Vietnam," she told the group.

That's strong language. Accurate, too.

The brains of liberals and conservatives

Look what I found on AMERICAblog:

In a simple experiment reported today in the journal Nature Neuroscience, scientists at New York University and UCLA show that political orientation is related to differences in how the brain processes information.

Previous psychological studies have found that conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments whereas liberals are more open to new experiences. The latest study found those traits are not confined to political situations but also influence everyday decisions.

The results show "there are two cognitive styles -- a liberal style and a conservative style," said UCLA neurologist Dr. Marco Iacoboni, who was not connected to the latest research.

Participants were college students whose politics ranged from "very liberal" to "very conservative." They were instructed to tap a keyboard when an M appeared on a computer monitor and to refrain from tapping when they saw a W.

M appeared four times more frequently than W, conditioning participants to press a key in knee-jerk fashion whenever they saw a letter.

Each participant was wired to an electroencephalograph that recorded activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain that detects conflicts between a habitual tendency (pressing a key) and a more appropriate response (not pressing the key). Liberals had more brain activity and made fewer mistakes than conservatives when they saw a W, researchers said.

It's from an article in the LA Times.

And it explains a lot, doesn't it?

Friday, September 14, 2007

"Fair and Balanced" - yeah, right.

I never thought even Fox News would be as blatantly biased as this:

Following President Bush's address to the nation on Iraq, Fox was the only broadcast network not to air the Democratic response. Instead, Shepard Smith gave a short description of the response and stated: "Our coverage continues on the Fox News Channel on cable and satellite with the Democratic response and more. Right now, back to your local Fox programming." ABC, NBC, and CBS all aired the Democratic response.

We really need to bring back the Fairness Doctrine.

Maximum wage?

Now this is a seriously good idea. Take a look at this excerpt from an article entitled "When the Rich Make Too Much: Is it Time for a Maximum Wage?"

The United States needs an income cap, [Howard] Gardner posits in the new Foreign Policy, that limits the amount of money a single individual can annually take home to no more than "100 times as much money as the average worker in a society earns in a year."

"If the average worker makes $40,000," Gardner proposes, "the top compensated individual may keep $4 million a year."

Gardner's Foreign Policy contribution also advocates a cap on wealth, proposing that "no individual should be allowed to accumulate an estate more than 50 times the allowed annual income."

If that allowed annual income were $4 million, then Gardner's proposal would allow no one, at death, to bequest a fortune greater than $200 million. Any individual wealth above that would have to "be contributed to charity or donated to the government."

What's driving Gardner, a psychologist, to an economic prescription?

"Most people in the United States cannot even envision a society that doesn't revolve around an untrammeled market," Gardner writes, noting the "widespread assumption," particularly among today's young people, "that the most accurate measure of success is how much money you have accumulated, indeed that general merit can best be gauged by one's net worth." These assumptions, says the Harvard psychologist, have nurtured a society where accumulation "has gone way too far," where a "hedge fund manager can take home a sum reminiscent of the gross national product of a small country."

A cap on income and riches, Gardner adds, would raise billions, even trillions, "to begin to solve the problems about which others are writing in this [Foreign Policy] collection of solutions to save the world."

I think it's an absolutely brilliant idea. I recommend that you click through and take a look at the comments after this article. Needless to say, a lot of them are passionate - both for and against.

Becoming a Republican

There's an article posted on The Smirking Chimp called "I Was Thinking About Becoming A Republican..." and it starts off like this:

I was thinking about becoming a Republican the other day.

No, really, I was! Ya know, the money’s good. And you don’t have to share. And you don’t really have to care about the impact of what you do, or what people think of you. Rich, selfish, carefree. That’s not such a bad life, is it?

Yeah, I was really considering it. But then I realized that in so many ways, I’m not really cut out for it.

I was thinking about becoming a Republican, but then I realized that people would know that I thought George W. Bush was cool.

I was thinking about becoming a Republican, but then I realized that I really don’t feel comfortable demanding that my underclass ‘volunteer’ military fight wars that I myself would refuse to fight.

I was thinking about becoming a Republican, but then I realized that I just don’t need another expensive car as much as poor kids need healthcare.

I was thinking about becoming a Republican, but then I realized that I actually believe in the ideas of the Constitution, like limited presidential power.

I was thinking about becoming a Republican, but then I realized that I actually believe in the ideas of the Constitution, like separation of church and state.

I was thinking about becoming a Republican, but then I realized that I actually believe in the ideas of the Constitution, like freedom from government search and seizure without probable cause and a judicial warrant.

You might like to go read the rest of it. Some pretty good snark. And it's sad, too.

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Ellie Finlay


Until the last is fed and clothed and safe in friendly arms,
until the fitful sleeps of fear aren't shattered by alarms,
until inoculation has their killers by the scruff,
until we've met their basic needs, we haven't done enough.

Until the universal laws aren't honoured in the breach,
until religions' followers all practice what they preach,
until we cherish children whether brindle, black or buff,
until we've made them family, we haven't done enough.

Until our leaders demonstrate it's economic sense
to budget aid for others as our paramount defence,
until we view equality as more than words of puff,
until we treat the symptoms too, we haven't done enough.

Until a life of freedom and the tools with which to learn,
are seen as rights of everyone - not privileges to earn,
until we've bled a little and, by choice, we've had it tough,
until we've changed the way it is, we haven't done enough.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Another QuickVote from CNN

This is interesting:

What do you think of the plan to cut the number of troops in Iraq by 5,700 by the end of the year?

About right - 19%

Too few - 73%

Too many - 8%

People want this war to end. They really do.

Quote of the week

From Sojourners, of course:

We want to emphasize that the hanging of a noose from a tree is not a prank, it is a hate crime.

- Rev. Ernest Johnson, president of the Louisiana National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, commenting on the town of Jena where six black youth have been indicted on felony charges, including attempted murder, for a fight that took place after white students hung nooses from a tree at their high school.
This was sent to me by Frank Ford.

Today's QuickVote (from CNN)

Isn't this interesting?

Will you be watching President Bush's prime-time address on Iraq?

Yes - 20%

No - 80%

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

If only we still believed this

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Take a look:

No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. By living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level – I mean the wages of decent living.

-- Franklin D. Roosevelt

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The other victims of 9/11

Have we forgotten about those who died or are dying from lung diseases caused by breathing the toxic dust at Ground Zero? Take a look at this excerpt from an article called "Ignoring the Other Victims of 9/11" by Marie Cocco:

The country says it will always remember 9/11. Few politicians miss the chance to appear at this or that commemorative service.

Perhaps it is true we have not forgotten those who died that day. But we have abandoned those who are dying now.

Thousands of construction workers, janitors, communications specialists, food-cart vendors and others who worked amid the noxious fumes for weeks or months-removing debris not only from Ground Zero but from the office buildings that still stood, reviving communications, feeding and providing aid to those who toiled-are sick with lung disease and all manner of rare cancers, according to various health officials. An expert panel created by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg concluded that as many as 410,000 people faced sufficient exposure to health hazards that they could become ill.

About 59 percent of those screened at a city center for patients suffering from World Trade Center-related illnesses are uninsured. The majority have incomes of less than $15,000 a year. Even at a screening center run by Mount Sinai Medical Center for “first responders”-an elite group among those who are turning up sick-an estimated 40 percent lack insurance.

New York politicians have persistently pursued more federal involvement and funding. The federal government has perennially rebuffed them.

Here is one measure: After federal health authorities involved in monitoring and treatment of World Trade Center emergency responders estimated they would need $283 million a year to run the program, President Bush’s budget allocated $25 million.

It's just not right, folks. You know it isn't.

From Sojourners

I got an email from Sojourners today that said, in part, the following:

Dear Ellie,

Today, Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, is testifying before Congress about the Bush administration's troop surge strategy in Iraq – the prelude to a month of tough choices about continuing an immoral and disastrous war.

So far, over 11,000 of you have joined in creating our own "surge" of prayers for peace, seeking courage and wisdom for those serving in Congress. But as the debate over the war heats up, there's much more work to do. Sojourners has big plans for the coming weeks, but we need to know today if we can count on your support.

Will you give $25, $50, $100, or more today to our efforts to organize a Christian voice in opposition to this war?

These next few days are critical, and we need to act now for our voice to be heard. Sojourners is ramping up our efforts to ensure that Congress hears the faith community's cries for peace, and we're already having some success – Rep. Rosa DeLauro has agreed to read a selection of your prayers on the House floor.

But this work requires financial resources, so we need your help.

Time is of the essence, with Gen. Petraeus testifying today and debate beginning imminently. For our plans to be effective, we need to know this week what resources we have available.
Sojourners has been a leading voice against this war from the start, bringing together Christians of every stripe and at every level to speak and act for peace and justice. Your gift will allow us to continue:

* Convening a diverse coalition of leaders from across the theological and political spectrum to speak out publicly;
* Getting the word in the media about the growing Christian opposition to war;
* Lobbying on Capitol Hill to shape the Congressional debate over the war.

At this moment, our leaders are making crucial decisions about the future of this ungodly war. We need to act today to make a difference.

I think this is an important cause to contribute to. We need to send the message that not all Christians are war-mongering fundamentalists.

Queen of Green R.I.P.

Here's something I'd like you all to know about. The article is entitled "Body Shop founder Anita Roddick dies at age 64 of brain hemorrhage". Here's part of what it says:

LONDON (AP) — The Body Shop cosmetics store founder Anita Roddick died Monday night after suffering a major brain hemorrhage, her family said. She was 64.

Roddick was dubbed the "Queen of Green" for her trailblazing environmentally-friendly, humane business practices that made her a leader in her native England and around the world.

"Businesses have the power to do good," Roddick wrote on the company's website.
Roddick opened her first Body Shop store in 1976 in Brighton, southern England, before fair trade and eco-friendly businesses were fashionable.
She said her environmental business ethics were inspired in part by women's beauty rituals that she discovered while travelling in developing countries and lessons from closer to home that her mother passed on from life during the Second World War.

"Why waste a container when you can refill it? And why buy more of something than you can use? We behaved as she did in the Second World War, we reused everything, we refilled everything and we recycled all we could," Roddick wrote.

The Body Shop opposed product testing on animals and tried to encourage the development of local communities in the Third World countries where it sources many of its goods. It also invested in a wind farm in Wales, as part of its campaign in support of renewable energy, and has set up its own human rights award.

She definitely has done some good in this world. May she rest in peace.

Monday, September 10, 2007

From Letterman

Good snark:

I heard something interesting today. After he leaves office, George W. Bush is going to start a think tank. That's right, it's like Michael Vick opening an animal shelter. Yeah, the George Bush think tank: it only has a shallow end.

--David Letterman

“We have a potential calamity on our hands"

It's about the rising sea level. I want to share an article with you today called "Fighting to Stay Above Water" by Neal Peirce. Here's part of what it says:

A chilling set of three-dimensional images of climate-triggered sea rise flooding into coastal U.S. cities is due to be released this week by the environmental nonprofit group Architecture 2030.

A sea level rise as little as 1 meter could have catastrophic impact along the country’s 12,000 miles of coastline, where 53 percent of Americans live, according to the group’s pathbreaking scientific analysis.

Such cities as Miami Beach and Hollywood, Fla., New Orleans, Hampton, Va., and Point Pleasant, N.J., would have major areas underwater with a sea rise of 1 meter or less. By a 1.5-meter rise, Miami and other Florida communities, along with East Boston, Mass., Galveston, Texas, and Atlantic City, N.J., are in deep trouble. By 3 meters, San Francisco, New York, Boston, San Diego and Savannah, Ga., fall victim to severe damage.

The new study, based on satellite imagery, tidal patterns and on-location measurements of likely coastal city “breach points,” analyzes the sea-level shifts that global warming could trigger at much smaller increments than earlier reports. Images of the potential city-by-city flood-impact findings, integrated into Google Earth city images, will be available starting Monday at

“We have a potential calamity on our hands,” says Edward Mazria, founder of Architecture 2030. “There’s danger of one city after another going down. Flood insurance will evaporate. People will be forced to migrate inland; lose everything. We’ll be a nation under siege, with huge pressures on our economy and school, health and food systems.”

But how likely is all this to occur? Scientists, Mazria notes, are now predicting a global tipping point - potentially irreversible disintegration of ice sheets and glaciers - at roughly 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The level is already 383 ppm and rising at 2 ppm yearly. Without an early turnaround - within the next decade, many experts believe - it may be impossible to stop today’s dangerous momentum.

I'm glad I live inland, that's for sure.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

What a cruel thing is war

Robert E. Lee

Why don't we listen to warriors about war?

What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.

-- Robert E. Lee

Bin Laden tape a fake

At least that's what I think. After all, Fox News itself reported on his death in 2001. Take a look:
Report: Bin Laden Already Dead

Think about it. They have the technology: Voice "morphing" technology

You might also take a look at this: Osama bin Laden: The Newest Fake

Progress in Iraq

The party of family values still AGAIN

Well, here we go again. Take a look at this from the St. Petersburg Times:

ST. PETERSBURG - City Council Chairman John Bryan walked into City Hall just after 1 p.m. Friday and handed in his resignation letter.

Less than five hours later, he was slumped over in a golf cart in the garage of his Floral City house, dead from carbon monoxide poisoning. He was 56.

Bryan's suicide came after news spread Friday that authorities were investigating allegations that he had sexually abused three girls, including two of his adopted daughters, ages 12 and 15.

Ron Stuart, a spokesman for the Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court, said the third alleged victim was a nanny for Bryan years ago and no longer lives in the area.

For city officials, the allegations were as jarring as they were sickening. Bryan was a hometown business hero, a pillar of the community, a powerful voice on the City Council and a fierce ally of [Republican] Mayor Rick Baker.
A staunch Republican and former finance chairman for U.S. Sen. Connie Mack, Bryan helped push Baker's agenda through the City Council.

From the dais, Bryan was both gruff and blunt. He would correct residents who misspoke, and he did not take criticism quietly. More than once, he threatened to remove council visitors who clapped or spoke out of turn at meetings.

So, he was a pervert and judgmental to boot. Sickening.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Munitions dumping

I just found an article from back in June called "Munitions Dumping at Sea". Here's part of what it says:

The Army now admits that it secretly dumped 64 million pounds of nerve and mustard agents into the sea, along with 400,000 chemical-filled bombs, land mines and rockets and more than 500 tons of radioactive waste - either tossed overboard or packed into the holds of scuttled vessels.
Hundreds of dolphins washed ashore in Virginia and New Jersey shorelines in 1987 with burns similar to mustard gas exposure. One marine-mammal specialist suspects Army-dumped chemical weapons killed them.

And here's one of the comments to the article:

This kind of information makes me cringe. Was there ever a species that was so abyssmally incompetent at managing its own environment? Is there any other species that would do this kind of damage to its own habitat?

The horrible and irresponsible things we do to the other species that share our living space are a testament that we are not a mature race, that we are merely savages with guns. The west is -not one- iota better than a rebel in the random African country of your choice who believes that he will gain the strength of his slain enemy if he eats his heart/brain. The west is on that exact same level, there is no difference between us. We are all cavemen and on a fundamental level we really haven't got the slightest idea of what we're doing.

Where is Carl Sagan when you need him?

Well, I don't think we're cavemen. The cavemen lived much more in harmony with their environment than do we. But I take this person's point. He or she is commenting on our staggering ignorance regarding cause and effect.

I think we're as doomed as the polar bears. Really, I do.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Mr. Q
Photo by Sally Lloyd

Ron Paul on the war

Chris Wallace is an utter twit.

"Psychic epidemics"

Carl Jung

Another good one from Frank Ford:

The gigantic catastrophes that threaten us today are not elemental happenings of a physical or biological order, but psychic events. To a quite terrifying degree we are threatened by wars and revolutions which are nothing other than psychic epidemics. At any moment several millions of human beings may be smitten with a new madness, and then we shall have another world war or devastating revolution. Instead of being at the mercy of wild beasts, earthquakes, landslides, and inundations, modern man is battered by the elemental forces of his own psyche. This is the World Power that vastly exceeds all other powers on earth.

~C. G. Jung

Hypocrisy, denial and all that

Frank Ford just sent me an article entitled "Just How Gay Is The GOP?" Nothing new here, really, but it's very well articulated. Here's a sample:

Really, just how many closeted, self-hating, violently repressed “I-am-not-gay” totally gay hypocrites are there in the Republican Party? Or for that matter, in your average born-again Christian megachurch? Or in the U.S. military? Or in (your morally righteous group’s name here)? Ten percent of them? Fifty? A hundred and four?

Because baby, it just keeps popping up, scandal after scandal, homophobic lawmaker after anti-gay preacher after gay marriage attacker after hooker-loving “family values” adulterer, Bob Allen to Ted Haggard to Jim West to Glenn Murphy Jr. to David “Diaperman” Vitter, so many examples of a militant loudmouthed Christian Republican suddenly caught with his pants down around his boyfriend’s ankles that, after so many headlines, the notion that these cases might be rare or exceptional simply vanishes and you are left only with the undeniable fact that, oh my God, the American right is simply teeming with so much murky, pressure-cooked homoeroticism it might as well be a Young Republicans kegger at Mark Foley’s pink Miami Beach condo.

Not exactly a revelation, I admit. As you already know and as any D.C. therapist or male prostitute or honest historian will happily remind you, this is the way it’s always been; incidents like Idaho Sen. Larry Craig’s toe-tapping in the tearoom merely reinforce the great Rule of Conservative Hypocrisy — the louder and more self-righteous the indignation over a given “moral” issue, the more sure you can be that the screamer in question is simply oozing with repressed fantasy/lust regarding that very issue — and what’s more, is very likely acting on it, right now, in a fetish dungeon, brothel or bathroom stall near you.

It's really sad when you think about it. Making peace with one's sexuality is an important developmental task for every human being. It is an aspect of maturity. Why don't the Republicans get it?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Just because I like it

Aren't we forgetting something?

I found an article called Why Aren't The Candidates Talking About Our Civil Liberties? on The Smirking Chimp website. Here's how it gets started:

Odd, maybe a little paranoid, or just come right out and tell me that I’ve been reading into what this administration has done to the Constitution and our civil liberties and then tell me I’m right on the money. I watched Bill Clinton on Larry King last night. He had a lot to say, but none of what needed to be said. He talked about the war, he talked about the other candidates and of course, he talked about his new book and Hillary. I still like Bill Clinton, I wish he had talked about the very thing that most Americans fear: the loss of our rights under the Constitution.

The War, Larry Craig, and everything else in-between is fodder for discussion in this nation. What’s not however, is the way that the Constitution has been usurped by the Patriot Act. The basic liberties that Americans have always expected and enjoyed have been replaced by a document that gives the Federal Government far more power than the framers of our constitution had envisioned. The people, consistently frightened by a plethora of “terrorist attacks” that have never come, have given this administration far more power than any preceding it.

Nobody is talking about the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that gives the green light to “interrogations” to the point of organ failure, and the Insurrection Act (revamped) that gives the Federal Government control of the States National Guards for “police duties” in violation of Posse Comitatus. Nobody is talking about the new FISA Act that lets the Government tap our phones and read our e-mails.

Actually, one person is raisingthese questions and that is Republican Ron Paul. We could do worse but I don't think he has a chance.

Pavarotti R.I.P.

There's a CNN article up today that posts emails from various people about what Pavarotti meant to them. Here's one that particularly struck me:

In the mid-'90s, Luciano Pavarotti came to South Africa and performed in the town of Stellenboch. It was a very exclusive open-air concert. The tickets were very expensive and all the rich and famous in South Africa were there. Next to the stadium is a river that runs through the town. On the night, crowds of people gathered along the banks of the river. Like me, they could not afford the concert. From where we stood we could see the beautiful mountains, see the lights of the stadium and we could not see him, but we could hear his amazing voice. I looked at the people around me, they all had an expression of sheer wonder on their faces. He gave us all a wonderful gift that night. I will never forget it! He made us fall in love with opera!

I was actually there in South Africa during the event mentioned and I remember the excitement. No, I didn't go to hear him because I, too, was very poor. But I was pleased for the people in the Cape province who did get to hear him.

He was an amazing artist. And he will truly be missed.

UPDATE: His signature piece:

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

An ice-free Arctic

The Guardian has published an article entitled "Ice-Free Arctic Could Be Here in 23 Years". It's very sobering to realize that, conceivably, I could live to see this:

The Arctic ice cap has collapsed at an unprecedented rate this summer and levels of sea ice in the region now stand at a record low, scientists said last night. Experts said they were “stunned” by the loss of ice, with an area almost twice as big as Britain disappearing in the last week alone. So much ice has melted this summer that the north-west passage across the top of Canada is fully navigable, and observers say the north-east passage along Russia’s Arctic coast could open later this month. If the increased rate of melting continues, the summertime Arctic could be totally free of ice by 2030.

Mark Serreze, an Arctic specialist at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre at Colorado University in Denver which released the figures, said: “It’s amazing. It’s simply fallen off a cliff and we’re still losing ice.” The Arctic has now lost about a third of its ice since satellite measurements began 30 years ago, and the rate of loss has accelerated sharply since 2002.

And here's something I found in the comments section:

I give up. The human race deserves this hell we’ve made for ourselves. Global warming won’t kill us fast enough; let’s just nuke each other to hell.

I really do understand that person's mixture of deep cynicism and utter despair. There's every reason to feel the way he or she does. I don't wish it on the human race, mind you, but I think it's highly likely that things are going to play out that way.

Keith Olbermann on Bush's "surprise" visit to Iraq

Sent to me by Frank Ford:

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Cannabis issues

Okay. I know a lot of people won't believe this given my generation and all. But I have never used marijuana - not even once. I did my undergraduate work in music - majoring in oboe with a double minor in voice and keyboard (piano and organ) - and I was not about to do anything that might affect my lungs. I didn't want to do anything that would affect my mind either. Heck, I also didn't drink during my college years.

Having provided this disclaimer, I want to come out completely in favor of legalizing cannabis. One, we really need the hemp industry for all sorts of ecological reasons. (And there's evidence that the wood pulp paper industry had something to do with criminalizing cannabis in order to destroy the the hemp paper competition.) Two, I want cannabis available if I get cancer.

Anyway, this came up because I found an article on Alternet entitled "The Top Ten Reasons Marijuana Should Be Legal". The article is good but what is more fascinating is reading all the comments after it.

Here's the point about hemp:

Marijuana's legalization would simplify the development of hemp as a valuable and diverse agricultural crop in the United States, including its development as a new bio-fuel to reduce carbon emissions. Canada and European countries have managed to support legal hemp cultivation without legalizing marijuana, but in the United States opposition to legal marijuana remains the biggest obstacle to development of industrial hemp as a valuable agricultural commodity. As US energy policy continues to embrace and promote the development of bio-fuels as an alternative to oil dependency and a way to reduce carbon emissions, it is all the more important to develop industrial hemp as a bio-fuel source - especially since use of hemp stalks as a fuel source will not increase demand and prices for food, such as corn. Legalization of marijuana will greatly simplify the regulatory burden on prospective hemp cultivation in the United States.

And not only that, the paper industry is cutting down old growth forests. Hemp makes wonderful paper.

Read the article and the comments if you have time and let me know what you think.

UPDATE: Here're some interesting facts from the website I linked to above:

Marijuana and hemp both come from the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa L., but from different varieties or cultivars. There are different varieties of Cannabis, just as Chihuahuas and wolves are different breeds of Canis lupus.

Marijuana is the flowering tops and leaves of psychoactive varieties of Cannabis that are grown for their high THC content.

Hemp, also referred to as industrial hemp, are low-THC varieties of Cannabis that are grown for their seeds and fiber. Hemp is grown legally in just about every industrialized country except the USA.
Notoriety obscures the history and value of hemp. Hemp has a long history in America, from the first plantings in Jamestown, where growing hemp was mandatory, to the hemp sails of 19th-century clipper ships and the hemp canvas covers of pioneer wagons, to World War II's massive "Hemp for victory" program. Hemp is a major part of humanity's agricultural and commercial heritage, having been used extensively for millennia in cultures around the world.

Hemp seed was known long ago for its healthy protein and rich oil. The stalk's outer fiber was used for clothing, canvas, and rope, and textile rags were recycled into paper pulp. The Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper, and the finest Bibles are still printed on hemp-based paper. The woody core fiber of hemp stalks was used for construction and fuel. In the early 20th century, hemp-derived cellulose was promoted as an affordable and renewable raw material for plastics; Henry Ford even built a prototype car from biocomposite materials, using agricultural fiber such as hemp.

Beginning with the passage of the "Marihuana Tax Act" of 1937 and continuing after the World War II "Hemp for Victory" program, misplaced fears that industrial hemp is marijuana and harassment by law enforcement discouraged farmers from growing hemp. The last crop was grown in Wisconsin in 1958, and the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970 formally prohibited cultivation.

It's so stupid that we are not aggressivly exploiting this wonderful plant.