Thursday, July 31, 2008

Olbermann



It's the "runner up" person that I call your attention to. Unbelievable!

Change WE Can Believe In

There's a very interesting Open Letter to Barack Obama over on Common Dreams. Here's what it calls for:

§ Withdrawal from Iraq on a fixed timetable.
§ A response to the current economic crisis that reduces the gap between the rich and the rest of us through a more progressive financial and welfare system; public investment to create jobs and repair the country’s collapsing infrastructure; fair trade policies; restoration of the freedom to organize unions; and meaningful government enforcement of labor laws and regulation of industry.
§ Universal healthcare.
§ An environmental policy that transforms the economy by shifting billions of dollars from the consumption of fossil fuels to alternative energy sources, creating millions of green jobs.
§ An end to the regime of torture, abuse of civil liberties and unchecked executive power that has flourished in the Bush era.
§ A commitment to the rights of women, including the right to choose abortion and improved access to abortion and reproductive health services.
§ A commitment to improving conditions in urban communities and ending racial inequality, including disparities in education through reform of the No Child Left Behind Act and other measures.
§ An immigration system that treats humanely those attempting to enter the country and provides a path to citizenship for those already here.
§ Reform of the drug laws that incarcerate hundreds of thousands who need help, not jail.
§ Reform of the political process that reduces the influence of money and corporate lobbyists and amplifies the voices of ordinary people.

These are the changes we can believe in. In other areas–such as the use of residual forces and mercenary troops in Iraq, the escalation of the US military presence in Afghanistan, the resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the death penalty–your stated positions have consistently varied from the positions held by many of us, the “friends on the left” you addressed in recent remarks. If you win in November, we will work to support your stands when we agree with you and to challenge them when we don’t. We look forward to an ongoing and constructive dialogue with you when you are elected President.

What's really interesting is the list of signatories so far (from Rocky Anderson to Howard Zinn). Do go take a look.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Today's CNN QuickVote

Me, I never touch the stuff. But this Prohibition we've got going on in the country is ridiculous:

Are you in favor of legalizing marijuana?

Yes - 66%

No - 34%

THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF TEST

Monday, July 28, 2008

Contempt for "the elite"

I'm very bothered by this as well:

In recent years, we have seen intelligence demonized as the sole province of the ”elite,” a term that once described accomplishment, but is now used to condemn anyone who looks like he might have accidentally cracked a book or had a thought.

Not long ago, I gave a commencement address in which I told young people I am less concerned with what they think than that they think. Because we are losing that skill. Me, I find that alarming.

-- Leonard Pitts Jr.

There are SOME benefits to being poor...

Ha. Take a look at this:

HOUSTON — A physics professor at Rice University is warning of a radioactive threat found in some kitchen countertops.

Some granite countertops contain levels of uranium high enough to be dangerous to humans, said Rice professor W.J. Llope.

Using a spectrometer, Llope tested 25 varieties of granite bought from Houston-area dealers. In some cases, he said, he found countertops that could expose homeowners to 100 millirems of radiation in just a few months — the annual exposure limit set by the Department of Energy for visitors to nuclear labs.

It's from an article entitled "Professor says granite countertops are radioactive". So now I don't have to feel bad that I can't afford them! :-)

Leno

He really has material these days, doesn't he?

In Puerto Rico it’s Constitution Day. So that’s where the Constitution went. I knew we weren’t using it anymore. They must be using it now.

- Jay Leno

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I really hope this is true

Something I read over at Common Dreams:

In Charlottesville, Virginia, Phillip Zelikow, the director of the 9/11 Commission, who returned to teaching history at the University of Virginia, tried to take stock. In time, he predicted, the Bush administration’s descent into torture would be seen as akin to Roosevelt’s internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. It happened, he believed, in much the same way, for many of the same reasons. As he put it, “Fear and anxiety were exploited by zealots and fools.”

-- Jane Mayer

Jane Mayer wrote The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals .

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The real reason for torture

Oh my. Oh my. Oh my. Look at this:

The top experts agree that torture doesn't produce any useful information.

And the experts on national security agree that torture turns people against us, creates actual terrorists who want to kill us, and makes us less safe. Torture also makes it almost certain that our troops will be tortured by others.

But the U.S. has embarked on a coordinated policy of torture since 9/11. The U.S. has rounded up scores of innocent farmers and other civilians -- including children -- in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere and tortured them until they died, went crazy, or were disabled.

Why?

If torture doesn't do anything useful, and instead does alot of harmful things like dramatically weakening our national security and putting our troops in harms way, why are we doing it?

Well, listen to the testimony to Congress by a representative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:"Governments that use torture intend to intimidate their citizens in order to maintain control; those who are tortured become examples of the consequences of dissent."

Indeed, this is a well-known tactic for brutal regimes.

I found it here.

Anybody remember separation of Church and State?


The article is entitled "Christian-Themed License Plate Program Goes Too Far". And I agree:

Organizations seeking special plates are required to prove, before production begins, that there is sufficient interest in the tag by putting down a $4,000 deposit or providing 400 pre-paid orders. Numerous organizations have gone through this process, including the South Carolina Chiropractic Association, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Free Masons and the Secular Humanists of the Low Country.

The state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) says these special plates may contain the name of the sponsoring organization and its logo but may not contain other words, phrases or slogans.

In other cases, some organizations have approached the legislature to approve a special license plate. These plates are free from some DMV regulations and can feature an icon, a slogan or both. The requesting organization typically designs these plates and must submit a marketing plan before the tags enter production. The groups must still provide a $4,000 deposit or 400 pre-paid orders.

The "I Believe" plate is different. No group requested it. And, although the legislature has approved plates bearing the national motto "In God We Trust" as well as the phrase, "God Bless America," the "I Believe" plate marks the first time that the legislature has ever passed legislation approving a license plate that promotes a particular faith. State officials chose the design for the plate and presumably will be responsible for marketing it.

Eager to see the plate produced as soon as possible, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer has said he is willing to pay the $4,000 deposit, although he plans to be reimbursed by the state later. And Gov. Mark Sanford has ordered that the DMV charge no more than the cost of production for the plate, which has been estimated to be four to six dollars. Thus, the "I Believe" plate will be significantly cheaper than almost every other specialty license plate.

"The state has clearly given preferential treatment to Christianity with this license plate," said Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "I can't think of a more flagrant violation of the First Amendment's promise of equal treatment for all faiths."

It's wrong. Just plain wrong. There was a time when most people in this country would have considered this un-American.

UPDATE: Oh this is rich. Take a look at part of a comment I found about the article above:

What I don't get about this is why the conservatives have apparently abandoned their devotion to the "Free Market" in this case. If you want to declare your religious beliefs on the bumper of your car, there are already plenty of private-sector ways to do it-- bumper stickers, window decals, even those little frames that go AROUND your license plate. All produced by Hardworking Capitalists who might experience a loss of sales when the State of South Carolina, um, socializes their industry!


Friday, July 25, 2008

Let's hear it for Letterman

Outstanding snark:

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is calling the Bush presidency a total failure. Total failure. I don't know, I think he's done okay. I think he's done okay if you don't count Iraq, the economy, the environment, Afghanistan, the mortgage crisis. I think he's done all right... The deficit. Gas prices. Hurricane Katrina. Illegal wire tapping...

---David Letterman

Unintended (but utterly predictable) consequences

Okay, all you "big business can do no wrong" types out there: What part of "this was so predictable" and "there's such a thing as a false economy" don't you understand?

WASHINGTON - One of the worst outbreaks of foodborne illness in the U.S. is teaching the food industry the truth of the adage, "Be careful what you wish for
because you might get it."

The industry pressured the Bush administration years ago to limit the paperwork companies would have to keep to help U.S. health investigators quickly trace produce that sickens consumers, according to interviews and government reports reviewed by The Associated Press.

The White House also killed a plan to require the industry to maintain electronic tracking records that could be reviewed easily during a crisis to search for an outbreak's source. Companies complained the proposals were too burdensome and costly, and warned they could disrupt the availability of consumers' favorite foods.

The apparent but unintended consequences of the lobbying success: a paper record-keeping system that has slowed investigators, with estimated business losses of $250 million. So far, nearly 1,300 people in 43 states, the District of Columbia and Canada have been sickened by salmonella since April.

Listen up, Republicans (all you who think government regulation is the bogeyman): Are you satisfied now??????

A matter of reprehensible injustice

(You can order this here.)


Most of you who read this blog will have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about here but I will try to summarize briefly.

When I lived "across the pond" I came to love a very special group of book shops run by the SPCK (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge). They carried a wonderful variety of theologically and spiritually related books that represented the full spectrum of view points within Christianity. In 2006 the shops came under a different management (run by Mark Brewer and his brother) that is quite fundamentalist and the character of the shops was considerably changed. As a result, their popularity suffered and, last month, that management filed for bankruptcy. Many people lost their jobs and one, Steve Jeynes (who was greatly loved by many) committed suicide. (Even before the bankruptcy, shop workers were truly mistreated by the new management. It's a horror story.)

Dave Walker (whose work I respect) reported on this situation on his blog and was critical of the new management of the shops. He has since been legally threatened and forced to take down his posts regarding the series of events.

Today, over at Mad Priest's Place the following was posted:

Those who are not up to speed on this matter of blogger welfare should read the following post first:

THE GREAT SPCK SCANDAL BLOGGERS STICK IT TO THE MAN

It is absolutely certain that Mark Brewer is now threatening other bloggers. Without prejudice legal advice indicates that he doesn't have a leg to stand on. Also he is sending the threats out personally and not via a solicitor.

However, I think it is time for PLAN B.

This is Mark Brewer's email address:

Brewer@bplaw.com

I would like friends of Dave Walker, and those interested in stopping bloggers from being bullied by people with money, to cut and paste this post onto their own blogs,

AND/OR

send an email to Mark Brewer with nothing more than the campaign words:

I AM ALSO DAVE WALKER

And if you're a little scared by all this just remember a very good man died because SPCK failed after it had been taken over by Mark Brewer's business venture.

So I said I'd do both.

If any of you want to join the email campaign, that would be wonderful.

UPDATE: Here's a comment over on Mad Priest's post:

UK libel laws don't apply in the United States, MP.

Brewer can't do a damned thing about this here.

E-mail going out now...

I had forgotten about libel laws in the UK (which are quite severe.) That's undoubtedly the reason Mad Priest referred to people possibly being "scared" to participate in this Plan B. But to all my American friends, the commenter above is right. There's no risk at all to us.

Friday cat blogging!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Well, it's about time!

Ha! Some of us knew this all along.

Take a look an article entitled "Study: Girls equal to boys in math skills". Here's part of what it says:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sixteen years after Barbie dolls declared, "Math class is tough!" girls are proving that, at math, they are just as tough as boys.

In the largest study of its kind, girls measured up to boys in math in every grade, from second through 11th. The research was released Thursday in the journal Science.

Parents and teachers persist in thinking boys are simply better at math, said Janet Hyde, the University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher who led the study. And girls, who grew up believing it, wound up avoiding harder math classes.

"It keeps girls and women out of a lot of careers, particularly high-prestige, lucrative careers in science and technology," Hyde said
...
The stereotype that boys are better at math has been fueled, at least in part, by suggestions of biological differences in the way little boys and little girls learn. This idea is hotly disputed; former Harvard president Lawrence Summers was castigated in 2005 when he questioned the "intrinsic aptitude" of women for top-level math and science.

Hyde has challenged that idea, arguing in an earlier study that in cognition and in many other behaviors, the two sexes are more similar than they are different.

It turns out that these days 48 per cent of baccalaureate degrees in mathematics are awarded to women.

That's nice!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

McCain and computers

I don't know about you but I was really concerned when John McCain admitted to not knowing how to use a computer. The last thing we need is another incurious president. Mark Morford thinks so too in an article entitled "John McCain, Please Log On". Here's a bit of it:

But here’s the disturbing part: This confession of ignorance apparently bothers him and his campaign not at all, as they apparently believe any sort of tech know-how isn’t really required to run our deeply busted-up ship of state, that you need no real firsthand experience with the most definitive technology of the past 100 years to make decisions that affect the entire planet. Go figure.

So then, the valid question: Is it a big deal? Should you care? Because McCain’s I’m-just-a-clueless-old-guy comment has caused a bit a stir, with anyone with a functioning DSL line calling it a bit of an embarrassment, a bit like running for captain of the swim team while admitting all you know how to do is splash around in the bathtub. Gosh, Senator, don’t you think you need just a passing understanding of the culture in which you live to qualify you to oversee the damnable place? Doesn’t it help?

Maybe not. Maybe McCain’s apologists are right, the POTUS really doesn’t need to have a working knowledge of what hundreds of millions of people use every day to live, work, communicate, shop and blog and breed and porn and tube and book. Hell, just look at President Bush - still giggles every time Laura plugs in the air popcorn popper, has an Irish drinking song as a ringtone, enjoys a working grasp of the English language that borders on infantile. Really, who says a president has to be even modestly versed in the culture of his or her day? Or even passably competent?

But then, that’s not really the point, is it? The point, of course, is about social interconnection. It’s about understanding the basic workings of one of the most powerful, fundamental engines of modern society, its staggering impact and consequence and reach. To not use or comprehend computers and the Net in 2008 is to basically confess to your own cultural irrelevance.

Okay. I guess he hasn't learned because he never had to. But how could a normal person living today not want to?

Stunning


Here's what's happening:

When the sun is positioned at precisely the correct angle behind clouds water droplets in them diffract light away, creating an intense streaking effect. The colouring is, like a rainbow, caused by the differing wavelengths of the light – different wavelengths are diffracted to different degrees, altering the angle of diffraction and consequently the colour of the light as it is perceived. In this image cloud iridescence is accompanied by a sharply coloured ranbow.

You can find the original right here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Prisons

Please take a look at the article called The Gulag Americano by Sean Gonsalves Here's a brief excerpt:

Remember when Cheney shot his buddy Harry Whittington in the face in that hunting accident? Interesting to note that as a longtime member of the Texas GOP, Whittington was the only Republican to serve on the board of the Texas Department of Corrections. His experience led him to make an observation I’ve tried to make several times over the years.

While prisons get criminals (or “terrorists”) off the streets and dish out retributive justice, what about restorative justice?

We get so caught up in what criminals “deserve” that we lose sight of what Cheney’s buddy came to see: “Prisons are to crime what greenhouses are to plants.”

Why isn't this obvious to anyone with a modicum of intelligence?

Undoubtedly the best Leno yet

My goodness. I didn't know he had it in him:

President Bush signed a bill giving phone companies immunity for letting the government spy on its customers without a warrant. Isn't that unbelievable? President Bush said 9/11 changed everything. And you know, he's right. Because violating the Constitution, breaking the law, used to mean jail time.

- Jay Leno

Monday, July 21, 2008

We are so screwed

Why, why, why isn't the world taking this stuff seriously????

WASHINGTON - The world’s wetlands, threatened by development, dehydration and climate change, could release a planet-warming “carbon bomb” if they are destroyed, ecological scientists said on Sunday.

Wetlands contain 771 billion tons of greenhouse gases, one-fifth of all the carbon on Earth and about the same amount of carbon as is now in the atmosphere, the scientists said before an international conference linking wetlands and global warming.

If all the wetlands on the planet released the carbon they hold, it would contribute powerfully to the climate-warming greenhouse effect, said Paulo Teixeira, coordinator of the Pantanal Regional Environment Program in Brazil.

“We could call it the carbon bomb,” Teixeira said by telephone from Cuiaba, Brazil, site of the conference. “It’s a very tricky situation.”

Some 700 scientists from 28 nations are meeting this week at the INTECOL International Wetlands Conference at the edge of Brazil’s vast Pantanal wetland to look for ways to protect these endangered areas.

It's from an article entitled "Destroying Wetlands Could Unleash “Carbon Bomb” by Deborah Zabarenko.

O'Brien is coming along!

Check this out:

Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi referred to President Bush’s time in office as “a total failure.” Bush defended himself, saying, “Oh come on, I hardly spent any time in my office.”

- Conan O'Brien

Just too funny!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Another one from The Tonight Show

Take a look:

And with all this financial panicking going on, President Bush held a press conference and told everyone to “Take a deep breath.” “Take a deep breath.” That’s a good advice, huh? The economy is tanking and he’s giving Lamaze classes.“Take a deep breath.” Isn’t that what he told the people of New Orleans when the water was rising?

- Jay Leno

Rich people really ought not to be so cavalier about economic difficulty. It's quite unseemly.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Usury

This is the clearest way of putting it I've seen yet:

Usury, to be clear about it, is rich people taking advantage of poor people by lending them money on terms that are sure to make them fail. All three of the great religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, had a moral prohibition against usury because they recognized that society can't function like that. People of great wealth and their institutions like banks naturally have the power to overwhelm people of lesser means. And you can't allow that in a decent society. It won't survive.

-- William Greider

Saturday night joy

Okay. So here's how it went. I had a hankering to listen to the Beatles original and, after doing so, noticed the video below on YouTube. I'd never heard this performance by Ella Fitzgerald before. Oh my, oh my, oh my. Just take it in and give yourself a real lift:

Something we really need to remember

This seems to be often forgotten in our country:

The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.

- Harper Lee in To Kill a Mockingbird

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday cat blogging!

A modern parable

Hank Weaver sent me the following cautionary tale:

A Japanese company (Toyota) and an American company (Ford Motors) decided to have a canoe race on the Missouri River. Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race.

On the big day, the Japanese won by a mile.

The Americans, very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate the reason for the crushing defeat. A management team made up of senior management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action.

Their conclusion was the Japanese had 8 people rowing and 1 person steering, while the American team had 7 people steering and 2 people rowing.

Feeling a deeper study was in order, American management hired a consulting company and paid them a large amount of money for a second opinion.

They advised, of course, that too many people were steering the boat, while not enough people were rowing.

Not sure of how to utilize that information, but wanting to prevent another loss to the Japanese, the rowing team's management structure was totally reorganized to 4 steering supervisors, 2 area steering superintendents and 1 assistant superintendent steering manager.

They also implemented a new performance system that would give the 2 people rowing the boat greater incentive to work harder. It was called the 'Rowing Team Quality First Program' with meetings, dinners and free pens for the rowers. There was discussion of getting new paddles, canoes and other equipment, extra vacation days for practices and bonuses. The pension program was trimmed to 'equal the competition' and some of the resultant savings were channeled into morale boosting programs and teamwork posters.

The next year the Japanese won by two miles.

Humiliated, the American management laid off one rower, halted development of a new canoe, sold all the paddles, and canceled all capital investments for new equipment. The money saved was distributed to the Senior Executives as bonuses.

The next year, try as he might, the lone designated rower was unable to even finish the race (having no paddles,) so he was laid off for unacceptable performance, all canoe equipment was sold and the next year's racing team was out-sourced to India.

Sadly, the End.
~~~~
Here's something else to think about: Ford has spent the last thirty years moving all its factories out of the US, claiming they can't make money paying American wages.

TOYOTA has spent the last thirty years building more than a dozen plants inside the US. The last quarter's results:

TOYOTA made 4 billion in profits while Ford racked up 9 billion in losses.

Ford folks are still scratching their heads, and collecting bonuses...

My goodness. It's depressing. Yes, it is. Seriously.

Just for fun



The celebrities, in order of appearance: John Candy (as Yosh Schmenge from SCTV), Andrea Martin (as Edith Prickley from SCTV), New York Mets Keith Hernandez & Mookie Wilson, Jane Curtin (of SNL and Kate & Allie), Madeline Kahn, Joe Williams, Paul Reubens (as Pee Wee Herman), Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Wynton Marsalis, Celia Cruz, Ihtzak Perlman, Gordon Jackson & Jean Marsh (as Angus Hudson and Rose Buck of Upstairs Downstairs), Paul Simon, Jeremy Irons, Pete Seeger, Rhea Perlman and Danny Devito, and NY Giants Sean Landeta, Mark Ingram, Karl Nelson and Carl Banks.

This is from a 1988 PBS pledge drive.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Leno rules!

Take a look:

Today, President Bush lifted the presidential ban on offshore drilling that was imposed by his father, the first President Bush, 18 years ago. But hey, remember Bush’s dad also said invading Iraq would be a huge disaster, and cutting taxes would ruin the economy. So what the hell did he know?

- Jay Leno

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Silver lining

I know this is obvious but I want to post it anyway:

No doubt about it, there’s a lot of bad news. But as the cliché has it, every cloud has a silver lining.

The high price of gasoline has done what years of dire warnings have failed to do — get Americans to change their driving habits.

Air and water pollution? Global warming? Sending our dollars to unfriendly countries and corrupt regimes? That wasn’t enough to get our attention. Now that the money is coming out of our pockets, Americans are doing what environmentalists and others have been urging for years: saving energy.

The gas crisis has generated a fundamental shift in attitude. A friend recently told me she used to do errands whenever she thought of them. “Now I combine them, and map them all out so I don’t drive extra miles,” she said. “And I walk whenever I can. I’ve made it part of my exercise routine.”

More cars have their windows open and the air-conditioning off, despite the heat. People are carpooling to work and school. College students who live off campus are enrolling in online classes to save on the commute. GM has stopped making the once wildly popular Hummers.

It's from an article published on Common Dreams entitled "Gas Shock’s Silver Lining" by Deborah Leavy.

UPDATE: Here's something else on the same subject I just found:

A nice little side-effect: Greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced immediately, with future gains as new technologies come on-stream. Those who care about climate change, the fate of the planet, etc., should be pleased with this.

A somewhat less obvious benefit is the smack in the face urban planners are about to receive. As the cost of transportation rises, people will value housing nearer to their work. Urban design that brings homes, shops and employers closer together — and allows people to get around on feet and bicycle wheels — will flourish. Suburban monocultures and soul-crushing commutes will slowly shrivel.

High oil prices will also challenge China’s unhealthy dominance of global manufacturing. Why do cheap Chinese goods flood every market from Nome to Nigeria? In part, because cheap oil made global transport cheap — and so the fact that Chinese factories are very far away from the markets they swamp didn’t add much to the cost of Chinese goods. Soon, it will matter. And local manufacturers will get a little breathing room.

It’s the same story on food production. With cheap oil, it didn’t matter whether apples are grown 100 miles from the consumer or 10,000. With expensive oil, it will. And local farmers will reap the rewards.

I especially like the part about the challenge to China's manufacturing dominance.

The above excerpt is from an article entitled "Rendering The Old World Obsolete" by Dan Gardner.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fr. John Dear on peacemaking and diet

I've admired Fr. John Dear for a long time. He is a tireless worker for peace. But I only found out today that he is also a vegetarian and that he sees the refusal to eat meat as an aspect of peacemaking. Alternet has published his article "The Only Diet for a Peacemaker Is a Vegetarian Diet". Here's how it gets started:

In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., last week to speak at the National Convention of Unitarian Universalists, I met my old friend Bruce Friedrich. We spent eight memorable months together in a tiny jail cell, along with Philip Berrigan, for our 1993 Plowshares disarmament action. A former Catholic Worker, Bruce is now one of the leaders of PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. He gave a brilliant workshop on the importance of becoming a vegetarian, something I urge everyone to consider.

I became a vegetarian with a few other Jesuit novices shortly after I entered the Jesuits in 1982 and later wrote a pamphlet for PETA, "Christianity and Vegetarianism." I based my decision solely on Francis Moore Lappe's classic work, Diet for a Small Planet, a book that I think everyone should read. In it, Lappe, the great advocate for the hungry, makes an unassailable case that vegetarianism is the best way to eliminate world hunger and to sustain the environment.

At first glance, we wonder how that could be. But it's undisputable. A hundred million tons of grain go yearly for biofuel -- a morally questionable use of foodstuffs. But more than seven times that much -- some 760 million tons according to the United Nations -- go into the bellies of farmed animals, this to fatten them up so that sirloin, hamburgers and pork roast grace the tables of First-World people. It boils down to this. Over 70 percent of U.S. grain and 80 percent of corn is fed to farm animals rather than people.

Conscience dictates that the grain should stay where it is grown, from South America to Africa. And it should be fed to the local malnourished poor, not to the chickens destined for our KFC buckets. The environmental think-tank, the World Watch Institute, sums it up: "Continued growth in meat output is dependent on feeding grain to animals, creating competition for grain between affluent meat eaters and the world's poor."

Meanwhile, eating meat causes almost 40 percent more greenhouse-gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, and planes in the world combined. (The world's 1.3 billion cattle release tons of methane into the atmosphere, and hundreds of millions tons of CO2 are released by burning forests due to dry conditions as in California or due to purposeful burns to create cow pastures in Latin America.)

Once more, let me ask this: If you're not willing to become a vegetarian, would you be willing to keep one vegetarian day a week? Or maybe two? Would you just be willing to cut down on the amount of meat you eat every day? Those things will help. Really they will.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Something about conservatives

Here's an observation from a posting by Avedon on Eschaton:

What always gets me about conservative policies is the way they make all the problems they purport to solve worse, thus generating the "need" to do more of the same. For example, being "tough on crime" actually creates more tough criminals, so then you "need" to have more severe (and more expensive) policies and more prisons and get even tougher.

How is it they keep getting away with it?

I guess because an awful lot of people out there who just aren't too bright.

Remember voting machines?

Here's a quote sent to me by Frank Ford. Really gives one pause, doesn't it?

If airplane code were written to the same standards of reliability as voting machines, every day about 10 planes flying out of Baltimore/Washington International would experience a software failure during flight.

-Justin Moore, Duke University Software Analyst

Just for fun

Okay. Just came across the following meme:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open it to page 161.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of this sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
5. Don’t search around and look for the coolest book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

Here's my sentence:

Rebellion comes from trying to set ourselves up as gods instead.

It's from Quotable Saints by Ronda De Sola Chervin.

So do it already! Post the results in the comment section. Should be really interesting.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hard to label this one

Simply unbelievable:

The American leader, who has been condemned throughout his presidency for failing to tackle climate change, ended a private meeting with the words: "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter."

He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock.

Mr Bush, whose second and final term as President ends at the end of the year, then left the meeting at the Windsor Hotel in Hokkaido where the leaders of the world's richest nations had been discussing new targets to cut carbon emissions.

He has no shame. No couth, either.

From a Telegraph article intitled "President George Bush: 'Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter'".

Friday cat blogging!

Green-eyed abyssinian

Pertinent limerick

This is a cause for concern for a lot of us:

Dear Obama, your flight to the right
Is making me feel quite uptight.
It’s alarming how fast
You’re forsaking the past
And converting to GOP-lite.

--By Madeleine Begun Kane

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sign that DNR order!

Okay, folks. When you're dying, how do you want the medical people to treat you? Do you want heroic measures taken no matter how painful they are - and how ultimately useless?

Rhonda Steiner sent me a very powerful article called "Can we just print this out, post it on the fridge, and be done with it?" that was written by a nurse. And I really beg you to click through and read the whole thing. Here's how it gets started:

You know it's going to be a bad day when you walk in and somebody immediately calls a code.

Except this one wasn't a code. It was, technically, a "Rapid Response Team" situation, but given that the patient ended up intubated and 100% ventilated, it was a code. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

A lot of families hate the idea of signing a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) on Grandpa or Grandmother. They think that a DNR means "Do Not Treat" or "Ignore" or "Hasten the Death Of" rather than what it actually means.

To wit: Grandpa was not in the best of shape when he came to us X days ago. He'd had two major ischesmic (clotting) strokes and a large, horrible bleed in his brain and was breathing irregularly and gaspingly when he was delivered to us by a relieved ambulance crew. Grandpa hadn't moved on his own or responded to anything short of pretty intense pain for days.

Grandpa was a full-code, or a "Do anything and everything to save this person's life" when he came to us.

Let me be totally clear here: Grandpa was in no way, shape, or form, ever going to get better. The best neurologists and neurosurgeons in the country had already determined that. Okay? Okay. You got it. Grandpa's gonna die; the only question left is how.

So go on over and read the graphic details of exactly what was done to this poor man because the family would not sign a DNR order.

I've signed mine, okay? Did it a long time ago.

How about you?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The importance of church-state separation for the religious

This is really so obvious that I don't see why it is not more widely acknowledged:

The much-celebrated freedom that is the ground of the American consensus is, above all, freedom of mind and heart; freedom to think and believe as one chooses; freedom of conscience. Without that, there is no genuine democracy. But, more to our point, without that, there is no genuine religion. The only possible guarantor of such freedom, as the Founders understood, is a magistrate who acts with absolute religious neutrality. Religious people, that is, need the separation of church and state as much as atheists do. That separation, in fact, is why religion thrives in America.

It's a paragraph from an article called "Secular Rule Benefits the Faithful, Too" by James Carroll.

This pretty much sums things up

I want to suggest that you go on over to Alternet and read "AlterNet's Weekly Zeitgeist List -- The 10 Hottest Issues of the Day". The subtitle says this: "A pilot feature of AlterNet on key questions of the day -- is Obama really tacking to the center, and why gas is so damn pricey."

It's short, succinct, and provides links for reading more about each issue.

(Interesting, though, how climate change is not one of them....)

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Founding Fathers and today's America

This is really tragic. Take a look at the first part of this CNN article:

How would the likes of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin feel about the way the United States has turned out 232 years after declaring its independence?

Not pleased, a majority of Americans recently polled said.

According to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey, 69 percent of adult Americans who responded to a poll June 26-29 said the signers of the Declaration of Independence would be disappointed by the way the nation has turned out overall.

Goodness. This really breaks my heart. But it doesn't surprise me in the least.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Two visions of America


Today is our national birthday.

For some years now, I have spent this day in quiet reflection - in prayer for our nation, for all her citizens and for all affected by her actions. This year is no exception.

I found the following a few minutes ago and want to share it with you:

There are two visions of America. One precedes our founding fathers and finds its roots in the harshness of our puritan past. It is very suspicious of freedom, uncomfortable with diversity, hostile to science, unfriendly to reason, contemptuous of personal autonomy. It sees America as a religious nation. It views patriotism as allegiance to God. It secretly adores coercion and conformity. Despite our constitution, despite the legacy of the Enlightenment, it appeals to millions of Americans and threatens our freedom.

The other vision finds its roots in the spirit of our founding revolution and in the leaders of this nation who embraced the age of reason. It loves freedom, encourages diversity, embraces science and affirms the dignity and rights of every individual. It sees America as a moral nation, neither completely religious nor completely secular. It defines patriotism as love of country and of the people who make it strong. It defends all citizens against unjust coercion and irrational conformity.

This second vision is our vision. It is the vision of a free society. We must be bold enough to proclaim it and strong enough to defend it against all its enemies.


May this Fourth of July be a day of both celebration and reflection for you.

And may there truly be liberty and justice for all!

"A strong collectivist vision"

This is great and I completely agree with it:

There are plenty of libertarians among techie geeks and science nerds, but it remains my steadfast belief that a rational, sustainable future society must include a strong collectivist vision. We should strive to use technologies to form communities, to make it easier for people to help the most helpless members of society. A pure free-market ideology only leads to a kind of oblivious cruelty when it comes to social welfare. I don't believe in big government, but I do believe in good government. And I still look forward to the day when capitalism is crushed by a smarter, better system where everyone can be useful and nobody dies on the street of a disease that could have been prevented by a decent socialized health-care system.

-- Annalee Newitz

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Quote of the week

From Sojourners, of course:

Property's not worth killing someone over.

- a 911 dispatcher trying to convince Joe Horn, of Pasadena, Texas, not to confront two burglary suspects with his shotgun. This week, a grand jury cleared Horn of all criminal charges after he shot and killed both men, who were undocumented immigrants from Colombia.
~~~
I so agree. If you don't agree, let me ask you this: Do you really think if a buglar were convicted in a court of law that he or she should get the death penalty? If not, then how can you justify killing someone just because that person is stealing your stuff?

Propaganda --- 50s style

My old friend Walter Calahan sent me this comedy video. The audio part is from an actual film for civics classes back during the Cold War.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Remember honor?

Please go read the article entitled "Sense of Honor, French and U.S. Style" by Brian Cloughley. Here's part of what it says:

In France on June 29 a soldier taking part in a demonstration mistakenly fired live rounds instead of blanks. He wounded 17 people who were watching the display. The Chief of Staff of the French Army, General Bruno Cruche, submitted his resignation to President Sarkozy, who accepted it next day. There had been speedy analysis of a horrific incident ; immediate acceptance of responsibility ; then a self-imposed and principled end to a distinguished career by an officer who has set an example in honor and decency for generations of French soldiers. And for any others who care to take note.

Compare this incident with the aftermath of the evil scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where scores of Iraqis were tortured by US soldiers in the most disgusting circumstances. All the victims of casual violence, which was enjoyed so much by their torturers, as was evident from their happy photographs, were scarred for life, mentally or physically. Some were murdered in the prison; some died later. And we don’t know the half of what went on there. In 2004 US legislators were shown videos and still pictures of even more revolting and degrading atrocities than had been leaked to the public. There are scores of scenes of dreadful torture that the US administration has ordered to be kept forever secret.
...
But did any generals resign over this appalling affair? Nary a one, of course.
...
A few people were court-martialled. But most charges were reduced, dismissed, or dealt with by “non-judicial punishment” – you’ve got to laugh about that particular weasel-wording in spite of all the horror. Then a female one-star officer was reduced in rank. Apart from that : nothing – except that the officer appointed to investigate the sickening mayhem, Major General Taguba, ended his career when he recorded the truth. What a poisoned chalice he was handed : allow a cover-up and advance to three stars ; or permit the truth to be told and be destroyed for what his peculiar superiors would call “disloyalty”.

And this sort of thing has continued. Countless atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan have been denied, ignored or covered up. The conduct of US troops has only too often been horrendous to the point that the phrase “war crimes” is inadequate. The lies told by US army officers of the highest rank concerning the accidental killing of Pat Tillman by his own comrades in Afghanistan are a blot on the army’s reputation. But not one of these reptiles resigned.

I was brought up in the Deep South. Now please don't get me wrong here. I'm not defending the Confederacy as a cause. But the ideal of honor was very strong and certainly continued into the time of my childhood. I learned, for example, of the swords that were engraved with these words: "Draw me not without provocation. Sheathe me not without honor."

I still value that principle. Would that it were still valued by our military officers.