Thursday, January 31, 2008

Above the law

Frank Ford send me a Boston Globe article that says the following:

WASHINGTON - President Bush this week declared that he has the power to bypass four laws, including a prohibition against using federal funds to establish permanent US military bases in Iraq, that Congress passed as part of a new defense bill.

Bush made the assertion in a signing statement that he issued late Monday after signing the National Defense Authorization Act for 2008. In the signing statement, Bush asserted that four sections of the bill unconstitutionally infringe on his powers, and so the executive branch is not bound to obey them.

He just "declares" stuff. Like he's a king or something. How does he get away with this? I'm very disappointed in Pelosi for not being willing to impeach this man.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

That stimulus package

Take a look at this excerpt from a Common Dreams article:

There’s something embarrassing — economically, politically, morally — about government “bansheeing” to give voters cash handouts disguised as economic stimulus. Does a couple with two kids, making $160,000, really deserve the same $900 as a single mother of one living on tips from her roadside diner job? Does a childless, single lawyer making $74,000 a year really need $600 from a federal government with a $163 billion deficit?

For that matter, it looks like my family — mother, father, two kids — will be getting at least $1,200. Can we use it? Sure, although we’ll end up saving it, which defeats the purpose of the stimulus. Assuming current job situations remain unchanged, do we need it more than possibly 70 million households that have it harder than we do? No. And most of this “stimulus” handout is going to people who don’t need it.

Economically the plan, as the U.S. House of Representatives is due to pass it today, is indefensible. Even if a cash injection into the economy had a chance of preventing a recession (it’s doubtful that anything short of China forgiving its $1.4 trillion loan to American consumers could have that effect), the injection the Bush administration wangled with Congress isn’t the way. Those who could use the money most in a downturn, not to spend it on consumer frivolities but to pay for basic needs, aren’t getting a dime. Some examples:

· Unemployment checks: Unemployment is at 5 percent, up from 4.4 percent a year ago. Unemployment checks run out after 26 weeks. The wanglers refused to extend the benefit even though unemployment checks tend to be immediately spent — and cushion the blow of unemployment to families a bit better than the lectures of labor officers.

· Job creation: President Bush wouldn’t go for spending money on the nation’s poor infrastructure, which would have created jobs. The reason: The money would take too long to get back into the economy. In that case, why the $50 billion in tax credits for business?

· Food stamps: One of the most underreported stories since 2005 is the surge in food prices. The International Monetary Fund reports a 75 percent price increase worldwide in three years, after inflation (which explains the $4.50 price tag for a gallon of milk here). Food stamp recipients have seen their benefits severely slashed as a result. Recession or not, they’re due for more benefits. The wanglers ignored them.

· Heating oil: Home heating oil was $2.30 a gallon a year ago. It was $3.33 a gallon last week, a 45 percent increase, with another 25 percent increase the Energy Department projects for this winter. The wanglers could have pumped more money into the $2.6 billion federal home-heating-oil subsidy, which would also be rapidly spent. They refused. (Last December, Bush wanted to cut the subsidy by $379 million, Democrats increased it by $409 million. The 14 percent increase is dwarfed by the increases in the cost of oil, however.)

Yes, I think our stimulus approach is "morally embarrassing". Personally, I think that money ought to create jobs that rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Business and ethics

Rhonda Steiner let me borrow her copy of the DVD "1 Giant Leap" and I'm so glad she did. It is an amazing work. Here's just a little part of it:



The speaker is the late Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, who certainly proved that you can have a strong social ethic and be successful in business.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Health insurance caps

It's bad enough that millions of Americans have no health insurance at all. But what happens if you have it but exceed your limit? The Washington Post explains:

A small but growing number of American families beset by major medical problems are learning the hard way that simply having health insurance is sometimes not enough.

Those who need organ transplants or who have hemophilia, Gaucher disease or other costly chronic illnesses can easily rack up medical bills that blow through the lifetime benefits cap of $1 million or more that is a standard part of many insurance policies.

That has left some very sick people facing health-care tabs of hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, prompting their families to turn to the government for help or to scramble to change jobs or even divorce for no other reason than to qualify for new health insurance. And it has led some advocates for the chronically ill to plan a new lobbying effort to persuade Congress to require insurers to increase lifetime caps to as high as $10 million.

Statistics on how many people exceed the lifetime caps are hard to come by, but advocates note that the amount of many caps hasn't changed in decades, or at least has not kept up with health-care inflation and the sky-high cost of life-saving new therapies, making it more likely that people will reach the limit.

"I hear from a lot of families that know that they are coming close to their cap," said Rick Lofgren, president of the Children's Organ Transplant Association, a nonprofit in Bloomington, Ind., that helps raise money for kids who need transplants. "It does happen pretty regularly in transplant cases."

Click through and read the rest of the article for some really upsetting details.

You know what I'm going to say. This is just wrong. We all know it is. I want all those family values Republicans now to get out their Bibles and read Matthew 25. And then tell me how it's right for an insurance company to do this. OR how the oh-so-sacred "free market" will fix the problem.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday cat blogging!

Simon
Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Principles to live by

I found these words in the middle of a comment over on Jake's place:

Love one another. Be good to each other. Help the poor and the needy. Let God be the judge.


How could there ever be a better approach to life?

Wolves are targeted --- again

This is heartbreaking:

State game agencies and private citizens would be allowed to kill federally protected gray wolves that threatened dogs or seriously decreased deer, elk or moose populations in parts of the northern Rocky Mountains, under a federal rule announced Thursday.

The regulation comes a month ahead of the expected federal decision to take the gray wolf off the endangered species list, which would allow wolves to be hunted. That decision is likely to face protracted litigation.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services officials said Thursday that the revised provision would allow for states to deal with areas where wolf activity is affecting wildlife populations while delisting is tied up in court.

“This rule, if it goes forward, could provide a safety valve for the states during the two to three years while the delisting goes through litigation,” said Ed Bangs, Fish and Wildlife’s wolf recovery coordinator. “Whether this rule ever gets used or not, who knows. But if you’re protecting your dog on a Forest Service hiking trail, you’ll be glad this rule exists.”

Environmentalists interpreted the rule as an attempt to skirt delays expected from delisting litigation.

“The shame of it is we spent so much time and effort trying to recover wolves, and were within spitting distance of recovery,” said Doug Honnold, managing attorney for the Northern Rockies office of Earthjustice, a nonprofit law firm. “But instead of securing those recovery gains and building on them, Fish and Wildlife Services is throwing them away. . . . They want the right to kill wolves willy-nilly.”

Wolves are extremely intelligent and social creatures. It's horrible the way they are villified for simply living the way nature intended them to live.

So-called "bipartisan unity"

Here's a question I think is very important:

Why is it that, since Reagan came to Washington in 1981, "bipartisan unity" has always meant Democratic capitulation to Republicans?

You can read about it in an article called "Want to Prevent a Depression? Impeach Dick Cheney".

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Really bad climate news


It grieves me more than I can begin to say that the 2000 election was stolen from Al Gore. Take a look at what he has to say now in an article entitled "Climate change 'significantly worse' than feared: Al Gore":

Climate change is occurring far more rapidly than even the worst predictions of the UN's Nobel Prize-winning scientific panel on climate change, Al Gore said on Thursday.

Recent evidence shows "the climate crisis is significantly worse and unfolding more rapidly than those on the pessimistic side of the IPCC projections had warned us," climate campaigner and former US vice-president Gore said.

There are now forecasts that the North Pole ice caps may disappear entirely during summer months within five years, he told a gathering at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

We are so screwed.

This election and evolution

I just came across and article on Raw Story called "US doomed if creationist president elected: scientists". Here's how it gets started:

A day after ordained Baptist minister Mike Huckabee finished first in the opening round to choose a Republican candidate for the White House, scientists warned Americans against electing a leader who doubts evolution.

"The logic that convinces us that evolution is a fact is the same logic we use to say smoking is hazardous to your health or we have serious energy policy issues because of global warming," University of Michigan professor Gilbert Omenn told reporters at the launch of a book on evolution by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

"I would worry that a president who didn't believe in the evolution arguments wouldn't believe in those other arguments either. This is a way of leading our country to ruin," added Omenn, who was part of a panel of experts at the launch of "Science, Evolution and Creationism."

Former Arkansas governor Huckabee said in a debate in May that he did not believe in evolution.

How many times have I said on this blog that we have entered a new Dark Age? Quite a few, I think.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The current economic crisis

All right. You all know I'm not particularly fond of Lou Dobbs because of this rabid anti-immigration stance. But he's definitely right on this:

We all have to acknowledge that our problems were in part brought on by the failure of our government to regulate the institutions and markets that are now in crisis. The irresponsible fiscal policies of the past decade have led to a national debt that amounts to $9 trillion. The irresponsible so-called free trade policies of Democratic and Republican administrations over the past three decades have produced a trade debt that now amounts to more than $6 trillion, and that debt is rising faster than our national debt. All of which is contributing to the plunge in the value of the U.S. dollar.

At precisely the point in our history in which this nation has become ever more dependent on foreign producers for everything from clothing to computers to technology to energy, our weakened dollar is making the price of an ever-increasing number of imported goods even more expensive.

All Americans will soon have to face a bitter and now obvious truth: Our national, political and economic leaders have squandered this nation's wealth, and the price of this profligacy is enormous, and the bill has just come due for all of us.

You know, I would have thought it was a national security issue for almost all our manufacturing to be done overseas. We have made ourselves very, very vulnerable.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Our nation's finances

I want to call your attention to a very brief article entitled "Deregulation and the Financial Crisis". Here's how it gets started:

It would be nice to write off the current crisis on Wall Street and global financial markets as something that only matters to the investor class.

Unfortunately, the effects are already being felt in lower-income communities around the United States. Worst-case scenarios for what spins out from the U.S. mortgage meltdown are truly frightening — a severe world recession is a distinct possibility.

Whether such worst-case scenarios can be averted, or softened — and preventing the recurrence of similar crises in the future — depends on abandoning the laissez-faire financial regulatory regime entrenched over the last decade.

The current crisis is the predictable (and predicted) result of a massive U.S. housing bubble, which itself can be traced in part to global economic imbalances that could have been prevented.

At least five distinct regulatory failures led to the current crisis.

Regulatory Failure Number One: Failure to Manage the U.S. Trade Deficit. The housing bubble (as well as the surge in leveraged buyouts of publicly traded companies (”private equity”)) was fueled by cheap credit — low interest rates. One reason for the cheap credit was an influx of capital into the United States from China. China’s capital surplus was the mirror image of the U.S. trade deficit — U.S. corporations were sending lots of dollars to China in exchange for the cheap stuff sold to U.S. consumers.

Do click through and read about the other four failures.

And take a look at this from the comments section:

They’ve never heard the famous last words, “Let them eat cake.”

One thing history repeats over and over again: when the rich/poor divide becomes too great — in both resources and numbers of people, revolution results.

Right now, the poor are a small enough minority that the huge middle-class can ignore. As long as the middle-class can dream of being rich, the truly rich are safe. Why do you think the middle-class let the past four administrations get away with massive wealth transfers to the already wealthy? Because it was still within most people’s imagination that they could be a recipient of this windfall some day.

But there may be a mood shift happening. Those who once dreamed of being wealthy are now scared of the poor house — not that there is anything as charitable as a “poor house” any more.

As the huge middle-class sees themselves sinking, year-by-year, into poverty, the pendulum may begin to swing back again.

Somehow we've got to educate the populace against voting against their own economic self-interest. But I fear a vast number of people will first have to experience outright destitution for that to happen.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Huckabee supporters

Oh my, this is really good. I found this on the AMERICAblog site:

Martin Luther King: "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam"

Dr. King on the war of his day


Now the mainstream news organizations are going to call our attention to the "I have a dream" speech over and over today. What they are not going to do is remind us about is Dr. King's view on Vietnam. Take a look:

And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.
...
I haven't only urged Negroes not to fight. I feel that the war is so unjust, so abominable, so futile and bloody and costly that nobody should be fighting there. I haven't limited my concern to just the American Negro although I know we are dying in disproportionate numbers there and we are on the losing end both there and at home. Because as long as the war in Vietnam continues social programs will inevitably suffer here at home.

Just fill in the word Iraq for Vietnam. It is, indeed, a "demonic destructive suction tube."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Pity the nation

This is almost heartbreaking:

My friends and my road-fellows, pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion. Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave, eats a bread it does not harvest, and drinks a wine that flows not from its own winepress. Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero, and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful. Pity the nation that raises not its voice save when it walks in a funeral, boasts not except among its ruins, and will rebel not save when its neck is laid between the sword and the block. Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox, whose philosopher is a juggler, and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking. Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpetings, and farewells him with hootings, only to welcome another with trumpetings again. Pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation.

-- Kahlil Gibran

I wish I could get every citizen in the U.S. to read this.

Jefferson on his religion


To say that I am troubled by the emphasis on the religious beliefs and affiliations of various candidates in this election year is definitely an understatement. I wish we would heed these words:

Say nothing of my religion. It is known to God and myself alone. Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life. If it has been honest and dutiful to society the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one.

-- Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Some economic realities

I want to pass on some information I got from an article entitled "Good Jobs Are Where the Money Is" from the New York Times:

From 1980 to 2005 the national economy, adjusted for inflation, more than doubled. (Because of population growth, the actual increase per capita was about 66 percent.) But the average income for the vast majority of Americans actually declined during that period. The standard of living for the average family has improved not because incomes have grown, but because women have gone into the workplace in droves.

The peak income year for the bottom 90 percent of Americans was way back in 1973 - when the average income per taxpayer (adjusted for inflation) was $33,001. That is nearly $4,000 higher than the average in 2005.

It’s incredible but true: 90 percent of the population missed out on the income gains during that long period.
...
“The distribution of wages, income and wealth in the United States has become vastly more unequal over the last 30 years. In fact, this country has a more unequal distribution of income than any other advanced country.”

This is terribly, terribly wrong. And the current state of the economy is starting to show just how wrong it is.

Here's what we need:

Good jobs at good wages - lots of them, growing like spring flowers in an endlessly fertile field - is the absolutely essential basis for a thriving American economy and a broad-based rise in standards of living.

Go read the rest of the article for some good ideas on how to make that possible.

Friday, January 18, 2008

More drug war stupidity

I can't really give you an excerpt that will do this article justice. It's entitled "Guess Which Drug Is Illegal?" and here's the subtitle:

One deadens nerves, barely works, has foul side effects. The other helps you feel God


It's written by one of my favorite writers of the San Francisco Chronicle, Mark Morford. It's short but really needs to be read in its entirety. Please click through and read it all.

Definitely a great quote

Take a look:

Black holes are where God divided by zero.

- Steven Wright, comedian (b. 1955)


Just for fun, check out these sites:

Black holes

Division by zero

And what happens when you try!

About the number 0

John Lee Hooker - Hobo Blues



Got the blues on my mind today. No, I'm not depressed or anything. It's just that I found a great quote by Duke Ellington that I posted over on Meditation Matters and it prompted me to do some exploring online. I grew up in blues country and so this stuff is very nostalgic for me!

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Denial: Not just a river in Egypt

Steven W. Running

This morning the New York Times has published an article entitled "Climate Talk’s Cancellation Splits a Town": Here's part of what it says:

CHOTEAU, Mont. — School authorities’ cancellation of a talk that a Nobel laureate climate researcher was to have given to high school students has deeply divided this small farming and ranching town at the base of the east side of the Rocky Mountains.

The scholar, Steven W. Running, a professor of ecology at the University of Montana, was scheduled to speak to about 130 students here last Thursday about his career and the global changes occurring because of the earth’s warming.
...
Choteau is home to a deep-seated mistrust of environmentalism, which many here see as a threat to their agricultural way of life. The town has also been largely on the pro-development side of a long and sometimes bitter battle over whether to exploit oil and gas reserves along the wild Rocky Mountain front or to preserve it primarily for wilderness and wildlife.
...
Dr. Running did not mention the cancellation or the resulting controversy in his presentation, “The Five Stages of Climate Grief,” which was sponsored by the Sonoran Institute, an environmental group.
The first two of the five stages are denial and anger, Dr. Running said in the phone interview, so he understands the opposition to his addressing the students.

Ah, denial. I know of women who just refuse to get a lump in their breast checked out too. Doesn't make the cancer go away, now does it?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Our broken health care system

Today's QuickVote question on the CNN site is the following:

Have you or anyone in your family ever had a nightmarish ER experience?

Yes - 41%

No - 59%

Needless to say, I answered "yes". In fact, I have had two nightmarish ER experiences. There's something very wrong when this many people are so poorly served by our hospitals. But then, what can you expect when uninsured people are forced to use ERs for primary health care?

The article that prompted the QuickVote question is entitled "Five things not to do in the ER". Here's an excerpt:

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- The video is deeply disturbing.

In it, CNN Headline News anchor Glenn Beck describes going to the emergency room in intense pain -- so overwhelming, he wept.

He says that for two hours, no one gave him pain medication. In fact, he says, no one lifted a finger to help him at all for 40 minutes.

Beck says his wife literally held him up in the emergency room, while nurses looked on and chatted about their holidays. He does not identify the hospital.

Okay. Glen Beck is a heartless reactionary politically speaking and, quite frankly, I'm glad he had this experience. Maybe he'll realize something needs to be done about medical care in this country besides line the pockets of the big for-profit hospitals and insurance companies.

Two hours is nothing. Heck, 40 minutes is REALLY nothing. When I went to the ER with appendicitis last summer I was on the floor in fetal position for five hours before I was seen. And during that time I was ordered off the floor by a hospital employee who insisted, "We can't have you on the floor" because of liability. But no help was offered. I simply didn't move. I couldn't. It was because of being on the floor that I was seen after five hours instead of the seven I was initially told I would have to wait.

The despairing middle class

John Aravosis over on AMERICAblog published the following letter this morning:

I am sick of politicians not being clear about what their goals are for this country. I want someone to tell me how they are going to help me and actually follow through with their promises.

What a mess we have become. It is getting so hard for us in the middle. My husband works 60+ hours a week, I work doubles on the weekend. We barely make it. Sure we have health care, which is over 100 dollars a week out of my check, yet we still can't afford to go to the doctor. Oh don't get me started on the economy! We work ourselves to death, never making any more, yet the price of groceries has skyrocketed and gas, well frankly everything has gone up in price. It is pretty sad when you have to pass on feeding your family to pay your utilities, or pass going to the doctor because you can't afford to take the time off work. I am sick of working myself to death so someone can get richer. I am sick of not having quality time with my family so someone can throw a 150,000 dollar party. I am sick of seeing the young men I know in the neighborhood going to die in some God forsaken country so someone can give more money to their rich friends.

Someone please tell me when will the corruption end and the fight for the people begin?

Yes, the rich Republicans are laughing all the way to the bank. All they have to do is stir people up about wedge issues like abortion and gay marriage and those same people will vote against their own interests every time. The stupidity is what depresses me the most, really.

Why can't the Democrats say to ordinary people, "They are USING you. They are manipulating you to vote in ways that will only hurt you!" I just don't see the Democrats spelling it out that way.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Okay, folks. This is scary.

Take a look:

I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that's what we need to do is amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than trying to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.

- Mike Huckabee, January 14, 2008

Bush's legacy

Here's just some stuff to think about that I found on the Common Dreams website:

Before you intellectually or viscerally rush to defend the president of the United States from the comparison to a child abuser let me remind you of a few things. I won’t focus on the obvious - his veto of the children’s healthcare bill.

No, let’s start with his abandonment of the weakest among us; his failure to protect us, our families and the law enforcement professionals that serve as first responders against domestic violence.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee explained it succinctly, “The Bush Administration’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2007 … calls for deep cuts in crime-prevention programs that state and local police and sheriff’s departments have long relied upon, including key Justice Department efforts such as Byrne Grants, the Crime Victims Fund, the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Act and the Violence Against Women Act Programs.”

Need more evidence? How full is your oil tank? Physicians across the country like Dr. Joanne Cox, associate chief of general pediatrics division at Children’s Hospital in Boston, are cautioning against keeping houses with children in them too cold. There is great concern for homes with infants because “wrapping a baby in heavy blankets or clothing at night is generally considered unsafe because it raises the chances of suffocation.”

Parents choosing between heating their homes and buying medicine and food are on the rise: Search the GateHouse News Service online and you can read all about it. Especially troubling is the story about the Quincy, Mass. mom whose doctors have told her to make every sacrifice possible to keep her 4-month-old baby warm because he is having trouble growing and gaining weight. And for those of you who think it’s all about her living off the government, you’re right. She’s on a meager fixed government paycheck that she can’t do anything about right now because her husband is away … serving in Iraq.

And of course you’ve seen the new numbers released by the Institute of Medicine Analysis on the Impact of Uninsurance on Mortality - yep, 22,000 people die each year in the United States because they lack access to health care. That’s up from 18,000 in 2002.

The president is watching his self proclaimed terrorism fighting legacy collapse too. He’s increasingly known as the world’s bully - not the world’s defender - and his partners keep falling away.

I wonder if he will ever come to awareness regarding the great harm he has done to so many.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The real health care issue

Kucinich is the only candidate advocating a single-payer solution to our health care crisis. Please look at this excerpt from an article entitled "Obama-Clinton Health Debate Ignores Real Issue":

Senator Clinton claims that the only way to achieve “universal” coverage is to require everyone to have insurance. Senator Obama says people don’t have insurance not because they don’t want it, but because they can’t afford it. Both are skipping the main problem.

It’s true that no plan can be called “universal” unless everybody is in. It’s also true that skyrocketing costs have priced millions of Americans out of access to care. A Kaiser Family Foundation 2007 survey found that average family premiums are now $12,106 - not including the additional charges for deductibles and co-payments for everything from doctor’s appointments to prescription drugs to emergency care.

Costs are the central story today, cited by most Americans as their major worry about their health coverage, and are why health care is the leading domestic issue in the presidential race.

The trouble for most of these families is not the lack of insurance, though; it’s the insurance they already have. Consumer Reports in August reported that four in 10 Americans are “underinsured.” Half postponed needed medical care because of cost. One quarter had outstanding medical debt. Only 37 percent said they were prepared to handle unexpected major medical bills.

It’s hard to imagine how forcing more people to buy insurance solves these problems, especially when none of the top three Democratic candidates has advocated any cost constraints on the insurers, drug companies or other industry giants.

Insurance companies make more money by denying health care claims. When their first responsibility by law is to their share holders, this is always going to be the real issue. I think it's simply immoral for health care to be organized on a for profit basis.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Those Iranian speed boats

Please, please, please go over to Alternet and read the article entitled "Sensationalist Media Did Pentagon's Bidding in Fake Naval 'Provocation' with Iran". Take a look at just part of it here:

Gareth Porter (historian and national security policy analyst): Well, this alleged crisis or confrontation on the high seas is really much less than what met the eyes of the American public as it was reported by news media. And the story really began from leaks from the Pentagon. I mean, there were Pentagon officials apparently calling reporters and telling them that something had happened in the Strait of Hormuz, which represented a threat to American ships and that there was a near battle on the high seas. The way it was described to reporters, it was made to appear to be a major threat to the ships and a major threat of war. And that's the way it was covered by CNN, by CBS and other networks, as well as by print media.

Then I think the next major thing that happened was a briefing by the commander of the 5th fleet in Bahrain, the Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, which is very interesting. If you look carefully at the transcript, which was not reported accurately by the media, or not reported at all practically, the commander -- or rather, Vice Admiral Cosgriff actually makes it clear that the ships were never in danger, that they never believed they were in danger, and that they were never close to firing on the Iranian boats. And this is the heart of what actually happened, which was never reported by the US media.

So I think that the major thing to really keep in mind about this is that it was blown up into a semi-crisis by the Pentagon and that the media followed along very supinely. And I must say this is perhaps the worst -- the most egregious case of sensationalist journalism in the service of the interests of the Pentagon, the Bush administration, that I have seen so far.

Go read the rest of this article to find out why he says this.

Today's CNN QuickVote

I'm very disturbed by Bush's push for war with Iran. Very disturbed:

Do you think President Bush is fanning "Iranophobia"?

Yes - 70%

No - 30%

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Humane executions?

I'd like you to take a look at a very brief article over at Common Dreams about the Supreme Court's look at lethal injections as a method for execution. Here are a couple of paragraphs:

The question everyone is asking is whether anything is happening in the United States of America other than a two year long marathon to decide who will be the next president of the United States, news of each milestone being covered as though it were the determining factor in establishing the winner. As we draw closer to the time when there will be an event that actually determines that fact, news of all else is virtually eclipsed by news of what was, was not, is, is not, will be, may be, or won’t be insofar as it affects those seeking the presidency. I am happy to report that there is other news even though it is not altogether new news. It concerns the death penalty. And it is a subject with which two countries that treasure human rights above all else-the United States and China-are dealing.
...
As the Supreme Court case demonstrates, many people in the United States are concerned about the pain inflicted on those being executed notwithstanding Justice Antonin Scalia’s sensitive observation during oral argument that there’s no constitutional requirement that executions employ the “least painful method possible.” Some medical evidence suggests that a single barbiturate is easier to administer and less likely to cause pain than the three-drug approach now commonly used. The one drug method is used by the humane society in Kentucky and other states when euthanizing animals and is reportedly painless yet effective. According to Adam Liptak of the New York Times, however, one of the objections to switching to the single drug method employed on animals is that it is employed on animals. Death penalty proponents think that human beings are better than animals and should not be put to death the same way animals are put to death. It devalues the entire procedure.

Say what? Since a human being is more valuable than an animal we have to kill the human in a more painful way? Man, that is SO screwed up. My head is going to explode any minute.

Don't those idiots know that almost all the drugs we use to treat animals are also used on humans? Am I going to refuse an antibiotic when I have a serious infection because that same medication is also used to treat dogs and cats? Good grief. Good, good grief.

Jon Stewart on Clinton's "tear"

TomV sent me a link to a page that had this on it:

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sexism, pure and simple

If we had the same intolerance for sexism that we do for racism in the media, Chris Matthews and Tucker Carlson would be fired for these remarks:

To recount the sexist double (and triple and quadruple) standards and misogynist insults to which Clinton has been subjected would take double (or triple or quadruple) the usual column space. Consider this an abbreviated account: Television commentator Chris Matthews suggested last month that prominent male politicians who endorsed Clinton are “castratos in the eunuch chorus.” His MSNBC colleague Tucker Carlson declared that there’s something about Clinton that “feels castrating, overbearing and scary.” Why, Carlson said, “when she comes on television, I involuntarily cross my legs.”

Think, for a moment, of what might happen if a well-known media personality were to say of Obama: “Every time he comes on television, I involuntarily reach for my white hood.” Would even Don Imus survive?

If she comes across as tough, she's called cold and calculating. If she softens, she's accused of being weak, a crybaby or manipulative. There's something VERY wrong about this whether you support her policies or not.

Something to brighten your day!

Great generosity of spirit

Sir Edmund Hillary (1919 - 2008)

I have just finished reading a fascinating article about Sir Edmund Hillary who died yesterday (actually, Jan 11 New Zealand time). Here's part of what it says:

He conquered Mount Everest and the South Pole and captured the world’s imagination. Yet where others would have been content to admire the view, look down and bask in the sheer individuality of achievement, for Sir Edmund Hillary it was only the beginning of a lifetime of service to others
....
Hillary was never the sort to accept the profession of full-time celebrity. He had higher ideals than that. His travels in Nepal and his friendship with [fellow mounaineer] Tenzing had given him a deep appreciation of the Nepalese culture and people. Yet he was not so blinded by the romantic beauty of the landscape to overlook the very real social problems that Nepalese people faced, living in a small, poor country dwarfed by two huge neighbours.

Hillary recalled how an elderly Sherpa from Khumjung village, the hometown of most of the Sherpas on his Everest ascent, had come to him a few years after that expedition and said, "Our children lack education. They are not prepared for the future. What we need more than anything is a school in Khumjung."

What the Nepalese needed was practical help, to be able to help themselves improve their standards of education and health. Hillary established the Himalayan Trust, and in 1961 a three room school-house was built in Khumjung with funds raised by the tireless mountaineer.

Throughout the 1960s Hillary’s commitment to Nepal broadened as he returned there to help the Nepalese build clinics, hospitals and more schools. Over the next four decades, he worked to raise the funds and help set up over 30 schools, two hospitals and 12 medical clinics. He also raised the funds to build two airstrips in Nepal to make it easier to bring in supplies.
...
Hillary is someone who did the virtually impossible, climbed the world’s highest mountain, and then did the nearly impossible again refusing, as Don George writes, "to be spoiled by all the adulation and accolades that the achievement earned him, and remaining loyal to an ideal and a people he loved. Because of this man, countless lives have been bettered, and an entire culture has been preserved."

A headline in New Zealand said, "We shall not see his kind again". I rather think this is true. May he rest in peace.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Quote of the week

From Sojourners, of course:

... [A]ll the settlements - in all the territories - continue to grow. There is a certain contradiction in this between what we're actually seeing and what we ourselves promised. We always complain about the [breached] promises of the other side. Obligations are not only to be demanded of others, but they must also be honored by ourselves.

- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, admitting that continued construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank territories are an obstacle to the peace process. (Source: The Jerusalem Post)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Interesting take on Clinton's success last night

Hillary Clinton

Here's an interesting analysis from an article on Alternet:

Clinton's support among women doesn't appear to have come out of Obama's hide -- he won the support of 35 percent of women in Iowa and 34 percent of those in New Hampshire. It does appear that some women who may have been inclined to support Edwards went for Clinton; Edwards had the support of 23 percent of the women caucusing in Iowa, but his support in that demo dropped to 15% in NH -- a pretty significant hit.

Speculation: When Clinton had a tearful moment, Obama responded gracefully, saying that the process is a long grind and all the candidates were exhausted. Edwards, on the other hand, took the opportunity to fire a shot at Hillary, suggesting that America needed a tough Commander-in-Chief. If there was a general sense among women that Edwards and Obama were piling on at the debate and in the days leading up to the vote, it may be that because of Edwards' reaction, he bore the brunt of their anger. Caveat: Edwards overall support was within the pre-election polls' margin of error.

I was quite irritated with Edwards for that snide remark. Misting up a little does not qualify as "crying". Men do it all the time and they are generally lauded for it.

Newsflash to the world: All people are "emotional" all the time. There is no time in anyone's life in which he or she is not feeling some emotion. There is no merit in trying not to feel what we're feeling. If anything, that is dangerous. Suppressing emotions just means they'll come out in an inappropriate way later. And anyone who thinks this doesn't happpen to male presidents can jolly well think again.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Preventable deaths

You know, I get really tired of hearing people say that we have "the best health care in the world". Take a look at this Reuters article entitled "France Best, US Worst in Preventable Death Ranking":

WASHINGTON - France, Japan and Australia rated best and the United States worst in new rankings focusing on preventable deaths due to treatable conditions in 19 leading industrialized nations, researchers said on Tuesday.

If the U.S. health care system performed as well as those of those top three countries, there would be 101,000 fewer deaths in the United States per year, according to researchers writing in the journal Health Affairs.

Researchers Ellen Nolte and Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine tracked deaths that they deemed could have been prevented by access to timely and effective health care, and ranked nations on how they did.
...
In establishing their rankings, the researchers considered deaths before age 75 from numerous causes, including heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, diabetes, certain bacterial infections and complications of common surgical procedures.

They called such deaths an important way to gauge the performance of a country’s health care system.

The Republicans claim that if we have universal health care, the quality will go down. Well, France and Japan have universal health care and they are first and second in the world. And they spend FAR less that we do. Well, sure. They don't have insurance company CEOs outrageously profiting from what this nation spends on health care.

Internal disarmament

The Dalai Lama

Cathey Edwards sent me the following:

On his recent visit to the United States, the Dalai Lama spoke at the University of Indiana to a filled basketball stadium. "We must teach our children with compassion," he said. "As a child, I learned more from the teachers that taught me with compassion and a smile than I ever did from those that taught with a frown." He went on to stress, "Through that example, our children will learn compassion and they will learn to apply compassion when dealing with others. With compassion, we can learn to understand one another and appreciate our differences rather than become afraid of them. Compassion is the first step towards 'internal disarmament'. When we can disarm ourselves, we can learn to concentrate on disarming the world we live in. It is too late for our generation. Our generation's responsibility is to the children. We must teach the children with compassion so that they will learn compassion. With compassion, they will work to solve the problems that we cannot. With compassion they will work on the problems that are manmade. They will care about global warming and they will work to turn the tide. They will care about human suffering and they will work to turn the tide. With compassion they will understand that we all have a shared responsibility to one another. Eventually, when enough have learned compassion, we will have peace."

Cathey is a strong supporter of Montessori education. She added the following:

The Dalai Lama could have been a Montessori teacher. Maria Montessori made it clear in her writing that through education of the child comes peace. That is why compassion and a global understanding of our world is such an important part of every Montessori students learning. Dr. Montessori wrote the first "Rights of the Child" for UNESCO. Those rights are all based on compassion. As Montessorians, we continue to teach with compassion to our students. As adults, we must remember it when we deal with one another.

In a way this saddens me. You know, fundamentalists believe in hitting their children so it's no wonder there's so much violence in the world.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

McGovern urges impeachment

Well, George McGovern is speaking out through the Washington Post. Take a look at what he has to say:

Bush and Cheney are clearly guilty of numerous impeachable offenses. They have repeatedly violated the Constitution. They have transgressed national and international law. They have lied to the American people time after time. Their conduct and their barbaric policies have reduced our beloved country to a historic low in the eyes of people around the world. These are truly "high crimes and misdemeanors," to use the constitutional standard.

From the beginning, the Bush-Cheney team's assumption of power was the product of questionable elections that probably should have been officially challenged -- perhaps even by a congressional investigation.

In a more fundamental sense, American democracy has been derailed throughout the Bush-Cheney regime. The dominant commitment of the administration has been a murderous, illegal, nonsensical war against
Iraq. That irresponsible venture has killed almost 4,000 Americans, left many times that number mentally or physically crippled, claimed the lives of an estimated 600,000 Iraqis (according to a careful October 2006 study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) and laid waste their country. The financial cost to the United States is now $250 million a day and is expected to exceed a total of $1 trillion, most of which we have borrowed
from the Chinese and others as our national debt has now climbed above $9 trillion -- by far the highest in our national history.
...
I have not been heavily involved in singing the praises of the Nixon administration. But the case for impeaching Bush and Cheney is far stronger than was the case against Nixon and Vice President Spiro T. Agnew after the 1972 election. The nation would be much more secure and productive under a Nixon presidency than with Bush. Indeed, has any administration in our national history been so damaging as the Bush-Cheney era?

How could a once-admired, great nation fall into such a quagmire of killing, immorality and lawlessness?

It happened in part because the Bush-Cheney team repeatedly deceived Congress, the press and the public into believing that
Saddam Hussein had nuclear arms and other horrifying banned weapons that were an "imminent threat" to the United States. The administration also led the public to believe that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks -- another blatant falsehood. Many times in recent years, I have recalled Jefferson's observation: "Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."


So do I. So do I.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

That Bradley effect

It's when people tell pollsters what they think they SHOULD say but then vote their prejudices. Look at this from a Slate article:

1) Polipundit suggests Obama may have benefitted in Iowa from a "reverse Bradley effect.' The open, public voting of the caucuses provided Democrats with

"a golden opportunity to show your next-door neighbors just how enlightened and progressive you are, by supporting the liberal black candidate."

On a secret ballot, Obama wouldn't do as well. If the Reverse Bradley Effect holds, then, Obama will do worse in New Hampshire than his Iowa triumph would lead you to expect, even if Hillary does nothing to change anyone's mind. ...

2) I haven't heard any MSM pundit mention another possibility a
Polipundit reader mentions: that Romney may have done worse than the polls indicated because the Republican caucuses did use a secret ballot--and people who wouldn't tell a pollster they weren't going to vote against a Mormon in fact voted against a Mormon. This is not a reverse Bradley Effect. It's the regular ol' straight Bradley Effect;

Certainly makes sense to me.

Hmmm. Very revealing.

Paul Rogers sent me an article entitled "Sex, aggression, and humour: responses to unicycling". There is simply no way I can begin to do this justice with an excerpt. You'll just have to click through and read the whole thing. It's about the difference in the responses of men from those of women to seeing a man riding a unicycle.

By the way, when the Brits say "clever" they usually mean genuinely smart. They don't typically use that word in an ironic way or with the connotation of being shewd or particularly witty. (And when they say "smart" they mean "stylish".)

Friday, January 04, 2008

Friday cat blogging!



Deb Stone sent me this amazing video.

Huckabee scares me

I was quite unnerved last night by the news that Huckabee was the Republican winner of the Iowa caucus.

Now George Bush has definitely pandered to the religious right folks and has claimed to be one but, personally, I think he's a cynical hypocrite. But Huckabee is the real deal. And that's VERY scary. Take a look at what the organization called People for the American Way has to say:

Huckabee’s performance confirmed for the Religious Right audience that he shares their views on a range of issues. On marriage, he said he would lead an effort to pass a constitutional amendment affirming marriage as “one man, one woman, for life.” On abortion, he needled the missing candidates and said “on this issue, our culture rises or falls.” He backed the Iraq war, calling it a “theological war” against people “whose religious fanaticism will not be satisfied until every last one of us is dead, until our culture, our society, is completely obliterated from the face of the earth.”

It's that calling it a "theological war" that is so very frightening. It's not true that the people we're calling our enemies want to destroy our society and culture. What they want is for us to stop uncritically supporting Israel. Why is that so hard to understand????

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Illusion

Plato and Socrates

I came across a reminder of Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" today and I thought it was appropriate to pass that on:

Behold! human beings living in a sort of underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all across the den; they have been here from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them; for the chains are arranged in such a manner as to prevent them from turning round their heads. At a distance above and behind them the light of a fire is blazing, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have before them, over which they show the puppets.

I see, he said.

And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying vessels, which appear over the wall; also figures of men and animals, made of wood and stone and various materials; and some of the prisoners, as you would expect, are talking, and some of them are silent?

This is a strange image, he said, and they are strange prisoners.

Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave?

True, he said: how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?

And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would see only the shadows?

Yes, he said.

And if they were able to talk with one another, would they not suppose that they were naming what was actually before them?

Plato's Republic

What we believe we perceive is not necessarily the way things are. We need to remember that, of all times, during an election year.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

This is just wrong

Take a look:

CHICAGO - Emergency room doctors are prescribing strong narcotics more often to patients who complain of pain, but minorities are less likely to get them than whites, a new study finds. Even for the severe pain of kidney stones, minorities were prescribed narcotics such as oxycodone and morphine less frequently than whites.

The analysis of more than 150,000 emergency room visits over 13 years found differences in prescribing by race and ethnicity in both urban and rural hospitals, in all U.S. regions and for every type of pain.
...
Even with the increase, the racial gap endured. Linda Simoni-Wastila of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, School of Pharmacy said the race gap finding may reveal some doctors' suspicions that minority patients could be drug abusers lying about pain to get narcotics.

The irony, she said, is that blacks are the least likely group to abuse prescription drugs. Hispanics are becoming as likely as whites to abuse prescription opioids and stimulants, according to her research.

I've had enough experience with severe pain to know just how horrible untreated pain can be. And what really gets me here is the self-righteousness involved. So what if some people are lying? If I were a medical person I would rather take that risk than not treat someone in severe pain.

Addicts are going to find their drugs one way or another. But the non-abuser who is just in pain will simply suffer. And that's just wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008