Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Truth, facts and opposites

I wish our nation's leaders understood this:

The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.

-- Niels Bohr

Nuclear war

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Please go read the article by George Lakoff entitled "The Words None Dare Say: Nuclear War". Lakoff makes the point that by not saying those words, but by using euphemisms instead, we are making it more likely. I really cannot do the article justice with an excerpt but I'll give you this:

The stories in the major media suggest that an attack against Iran is a real possibility and that the Natanz nuclear development site is the number one target. As the above quotes from two of our best sources note, military experts say that conventional "bunker-busters" like the GBU-28 might be able to destroy the Natanz facility, especially with repeated bombings. But on the other hand, they also say such iterated use of conventional weapons might not work, e.g., if the rock and earth above the facility becomes liquefied. On that supposition, a "low yield" "tactical" nuclear weapon, say, the B61-11, might be needed.

If the Bush administration, for example, were to insist on a sure "success," then the "attack" would constitute nuclear war. The words in [italics] are nuclear war, that's right, nuclear war — a first strike nuclear war.

We don't know what exactly is being planned — conventional GBU-28's or nuclear B61-11's. And that is the point. Discussion needs to be open. Nuclear war is not a minor matter.
Even if the attack were limited to nuclear installations, starting a nuclear war with Iran would have terrible consequences — and not just for Iranians. First, it would strengthen the hand of the Islamic fundamentalists — exactly the opposite of the effect US planners would want. It would be viewed as yet another major attack on Islam. Fundamentalist Islam is a revenge culture. If you want to recruit fundamentalist Islamists all over the world to become violent jihadists, this is the best way to do it. America would become a world pariah. Any idea of the US as a peaceful nation would be destroyed. Moreover, you don't work against the spread of nuclear weapons by using those weapons. That will just make countries all over the world want nuclear weaponry all the more. Trying to stop nuclear proliferation through nuclear war is self-defeating.

I really think this is going to happen. I don't want to think this but I think it has something to do with Bush and his manhood. He is immature enough to do it. And, from all accounts, he wants to.


Prince Harry

The contrast is something else:

Here is a little difference between our country and Great Britain: Prince Harry -- third in line to the Royal Throne -- he's going to Iraq. He's going to be in a tank unit. ... On the other hand, the Bush twins are getting tanked ... and they are going to re-invade Margaritaville.

--Bill Maher

Three words: Draft the twins.

Technical problems

I apologize for the lack of posting yesterday. For some reason Blogger is not working in my usual browser and I had to change browsers to post this. I'll try to sort things out today and get up and running soon!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Severe poverty

I just discovered an article entitled "U.S. economy leaving record numbers in severe poverty". Take a look:

WASHINGTON - The percentage of poor Americans who are living in severe poverty has reached a 32-year high, millions of working Americans are falling closer to the poverty line and the gulf between the nation's "haves" and "have-nots" continues to widen.

A McClatchy Newspapers analysis of 2005 census figures, the latest available, found that nearly 16 million Americans are living in deep or severe poverty. A family of four with two children and an annual income of less than $9,903 - half the federal poverty line - was considered severely poor in 2005. So were individuals who made less than $5,080 a year.

The McClatchy analysis found that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005. That's 56 percent faster than the overall poverty population grew in the same period. McClatchy's review also found statistically significant increases in the percentage of the population in severe poverty in 65 of 215 large U.S. counties, and similar increases in 28 states. The review also suggested that the rise in severely poor residents isn't confined to large urban counties but extends to suburban and rural areas.

The plight of the severely poor is a distressing sidebar to an unusual economic expansion. Worker productivity has increased dramatically since the brief recession of 2001, but wages and job growth have lagged behind. At the same time, the share of national income going to corporate profits has dwarfed the amount going to wages and salaries. That helps explain why the median household income of working-age families, adjusted for inflation, has fallen for five straight years.

These and other factors have helped push 43 percent of the nation's 37 million poor people into deep poverty - the highest rate since at least 1975.

The share of poor Americans in deep poverty has climbed slowly but steadily over the last three decades. But since 2000, the number of severely poor has grown "more than any other segment of the population," according to a recent study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

This is very distressing.

For those of you who keep Lent I offer the following:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your
rear guard.

-- Isaiah 58: 6-8

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Sunday prayer blogging

Great Spirit!
Piler-up of the rocks into towering mountains!
When you stamp on the stones
the dust rises and fills the land.
Hardness of the cliff,
waters of the pool that turn
into misty rain when stirred.
Gourd overflowing with oil!
Creator . . .
who sews the heavens together like cloth,
knit together everything here on the earth below.
You are the one who calls the branching trees into life;
you make new seeds grow out of the ground
so that they stand straight and strong.
You have filled the land with people.

Wonderful one, you live
among the sheltering rocks.
You give rain to us people.
We pray to you,
hear us, O Strong One!
When we beg you, show your mercy.
You are in the highest places
with the spirits of the great ones.
You raise the grass-covered hills
above the earth,
and you make the rivers.
Gracious one!

-Rozwi, South Africa

Saturday, February 24, 2007

No place to hide

I want to share a short, pointed article with you called "We Must Reverse Global Warming" by Jeffrey Sachs. Here's how it gets started:

The world is in the midst of a great political transformation in which climate change has moved to the center of national and global politics. For politicians in persistent denial about the need to act -- including President Bush, Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper -- there is no longer any place to hide.

These political leaders have pretended that climate change is a mere hypothesis. For several years, the Bush administration tried to hide the facts from the public, deleting references to man-made climate from government documents and even trying to suppress statements by leading government scientists. Until recently, ExxonMobil and other companies paid lobbyists to try to distort the public debate.

Yet truth has triumphed over political maneuvers. The climate itself is sending a powerful and often devastating message. Hurricane Katrina made the U.S. public aware that global warming would likely raise the intensity of destructive storms. Australia's great drought this past year has similarly made a mockery of Howard's dismissive attitude toward climate change.

Scientists themselves have operated with great seriousness of purpose in educating the public. We can thank the United Nations for that. This year, the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a worldwide body of hundreds of climate scientists, is releasing its fourth round of reports, starting with the one issued early this month.

That report was unequivocal: There is a powerful scientific consensus that human activity -- mainly the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas), as well as deforestation and other land uses (such as growing paddy rice) -- leads to massive emissions of carbon dioxide into the air. This is causing climate change, which is accelerating and poses serious risks to the planet.

An old friend of mine sent me an email today that was obviously also sent to everyone in her address book. She urged us all to see An Inconvenient Truth and then said something astonishing. She asked people to respond by sending her information about the "other side" to global warming if we didn't agree with her.

Hey! There is no other side. The evidence is in. Global warming is real and humans are causing it. This is the consensus of reputable scientists. People who dispute this are in serious denial - a denial that is threatening the continuation of life on this planet. The stakes are high, everybody. They couldn't be higher.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Ooooh. Biting.

Take a look:

The House passed a non-binding resolution against the surge. Bush says he can't wait to get it to his imaginary desk and veto it with his air pen. He said, "I've got my own non-binding resolution. It's called the United States Constitution."

--Bill Maher

Quote of the week

This is from the Sojourners newsletter:

Listen to candidates talk about religion and they seem to be following two rules: 1) Profess that nothing is more important to you than your religion. 2) Be as vague as possible about your religion.

- Paul Waldman, author and senior fellow at Media Matters for America, in a recent op-ed. (Source: The Boston Globe)

Friday cat blogging!

Change a bulb, change everything

Yes, I'm going to talk to you about lightbulbs again. I just now switched out the remaining bulbs in my kitchen so that room is all compact florescent now. I did my bedroom (where I spend most of my time) some time ago and also the lamp in my livingroom and the porch light. I have just a few more to go and my whole house will be done. As I've shared before, I switched out all the lamps in my office months ago.

I want to share with you an article called "Film maker, Yahoo team to fight global warming". Here's part of what it says:

SAN JOSE, United States (AFP) - Yahoo and the producer of the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" launched a website devoted to rallying US consumers to fight global warming by switching light bulbs.

Lawrence Bender and US officials joined Yahoo at the Tech Innovation Museum in the Silicon Valley city of San Jose to announce an "18Seconds movement" and introduce the website

The website is devoted to mapping how quickly cities are converting from energy-wasting incandescent light bulbs to energy-saving, longer-lasting compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs.

The movement was named for the typical amount of time it takes a person to swap an incandescent light bulb for a CFL.

The amount of electricity saved by using a 13-watt CFL instead of a conventional 60-watt bulb translates into a reduction of 450 pounds of greenhouse gases spewed by a coal-burning power plant, according to Yahoo.

"This movement is about empowering the individual -- to say to every person in America that with one easy step, they can become part of a movement that will literally change the world," said Bender, producer of the Oscar-nominated documentary 'An Inconvenient Truth.'

Now here's a fact from the website:

What kind of difference can one CFL make? Consider this: If every American swapped just ONE bulb for an ENERGY STAR labeled CFL, it would collectively save more than $8 billion in energy costs, prevent burning 30 billion pounds of coal, and remove 2 million cars worth of greenhouse gas emissions from our atmosphere. Just imagine the difference we could make if we replaced all of the lights we use most!

It's so easy. It requires no sacrifice beyond the cost of the new bulb and that will save you money in the long run. Please switch! You can buy compact florescent bulbs at the supermarket. Again, it's so easy.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The news media

This is very troubling:

CNN, Headline News and Fox News - live coverage of the Anna Nicole Smith custody hearing! This is news? No wonder the president feels free to start World War III. Nobody's paying attention.

- Zing!


Our news in the US is definitely censored. Look what I found yesterday on MadPriest's site:

On BBC Newsnight tonight


When George Bush decided to blame the CIA for flawed intelligence over Iraq, he put a new man at the top of the agency.

Within two years - the chosen one - Porter Goss - was gone. His sudden resignation has remained a mystery until now. Newsnight has uncovered corruption allegations that go right to one of Goss's most senior aides.

I wonder if that will ever get reported on in this country?

Guantanamo detainees

Take a look at an article entitled "Bring America Back from the 'Dark Side'". It's about Guantanamo Bay.

Did you know how its inmates were rounded up?

Little-publicized information about how the detainees were rounded up, let alone their abusive treatment, should raise significant questions. An analysis by Seton Hall University School of Law found that of 517 cases, only 5 percent had been captured by U.S. forces. Nearly 90 percent had been captured by Pakistani or Afghan Northern Alliance forces or tribal warlords and turned over to U.S. custody, often sold for rewards as high as $20,000. Leaflets dropped by the U.S. military appealed to what they could do with that money — “wealth and power beyond your dreams …. enough money to take care of your family, your village, your tribe for the rest of your life.” It is not surprising that random and arbitrary arrest and detention would result.

In response to concerns that detainees were held wrongly, the administration set up military tribunals. These tribunals, overseen by panels of three military officers, were allowed to rely on coerced evidence, and detainees had no access to lawyers or secret evidence. Not surprisingly, this appalling process determined that 520 of the 558 detainees who had their status review from August 2004 to March 2005 were “enemy combatants.”

Despite these findings, not a single Guantanamo detainee has yet been convicted or even tried. Only 10 have been charged.

You KNOW that place is just full of completely innocent people. The existence of that detention center is beyond a disgrace. It's an abomination.

How true

Germaine Greer

Truly good snark:

You're only young once, but you can be immature forever.

-- Germaine Greer

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Good snark

This time it's from Conan O'Brien:

President’s keeping busy. Yesterday, President Bush gave a speech warning Americans about the threat from Iran. Yeah. Afterwards, the President admitted he took an old Iraq speech and replaced all the q’s with n’s.

Good news blogging

I want to share an article with you called "Electric cars? Company chooses production site". Here's part of what it says:

SANTA FE, N.M. - Electric cars could begin rolling off an Albuquerque assembly line in 2009 — and they'll look nothing like golf carts.

New Mexico's biggest city will be home to an automobile assembly facility for Tesla Motors' all-electric, four-door, five-passenger sedan that will sell for at least $50,000.

"I really believe the future is electric vehicles. I think we will look back upon gasoline-powered cars ... as a temporary aberration," company Chairman Elon Musk said at a news conference Monday.
The company plans to produce at least 10,000 cars a year at the Albuquerque plant, with the first cars scheduled to be ready in the fall of 2009. They would be able to travel 250 miles before being recharged, officials said.

High time is all I have to say.

Everyone's burden

Last night Bill Maher was a guest on the Tonight Show and I saw part of the interview. Maher made the point that both Gore and Kerry would have made better presidents than Bush because they READ. He reiterated that several times. The observation below demonstrates why that is so important:

All human beings have this burden in life to constantly figure out what's true, what's authentic, what's meaningful, what's dross, what's a hallucination, what's a figment, what's madness. We all need to figure out what is valuable, constantly. As a writer, all I am doing is posing the question in a way that people can see very clearly.

-- Maxine Hong Kingston

Bush is not doing this. He lives in an imaginary world. He has never accepted the universal burden of discerning what is true, authentic, meaningful or madness.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Our stubborn president

Well, it looks like somebody has figured him out. George Bush, I mean. Take a look at the article entitled "Once George Bush Has Got Hold of a Bad Idea He Just Can't Let It Go". The title really tells it all. And, of course, the "bad idea" is the plan to attack Iran. Here's a passage from the article:

On December 20 1954, a woman known as Marion Keech gathered her followers in her garden in Lake City, Illinois, and waited for midnight, when flying saucers were supposed to land and save them from huge floods about to engulf the planet.

Keech had received news of the impending deluge from Sananda, a being from the planet Clarion, whose messages she passed on to a small group of believers. Unbeknown to her, the group had been infiltrated by a University of Minnesota researcher, the social psychologist Leon Festinger.

As dawn rose on December 21 with no flying saucer in sight, Keech had another revelation. Sananda told her that the group's advanced state of enlightenment had saved the entire planet. They rejoiced and called a press conference. "A man with a conviction is a hard man to change," wrote Festinger in his book on the cult, When Prophecy Fails. "Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts and figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point."

George Bush is a man of conviction and clearly a hard man to change. When reality confronts his plans he does not alter them but instead alters his understanding of reality. Like Keech and her crew, he stands with a tight band of followers, both deluded and determined, understanding each setback not as a sign to change course but as further proof that they must redouble their efforts to the original goal.

And so we watch the administration's plans for a military attack against Iran unfold even as its official narrative for the run-up to the war in Iraq unravels and the wisdom of that war stands condemned by death and destruction. As though on split screens, we pass seamlessly from reports of how they lied to get us into the last war, to scenes of carnage as a result of the war, to shots of them lying us into the next one.

You know, the targets have been selected and the military is in place. Read the rest of the article for details.

Australia and light bulbs

I've blogged before about changing to compact florescent light bulbs. Well, now I'm happy to report that Australia is requiring it. The article is called "Australia to ban incandescent bulbs" and here's an excerpt:

CANBERRA, Australia - Australia will be the world’s first country to ban incandescent lightbulbs in a bid to curb greenhouse gas emissions, with the government saying on Tuesday they would be phased out within three years. Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull said yellow incandescent bulbs, which have been in use virtually unchanged for 125 years, would be replaced by more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs by 2009.
Turnbull said the banning of incandescent bulbs would help trim 800,000 tons from Australia’s current emissions level by 2012 and lower household lighting costs by 66 per cent.

British and Californian lawmakers also have been lobbying for bans on incandescent lightbulbs, which lose much of their energy as heat.

I've almost completely made the switch - both at home and in my office. The light is a little bit different but quite easy to get used to. It's such an easy way to combat global warming. Please do it! (Now there would be a good Lenten discipline: switch out all your light bulbs between now and Easter!)

Monday, February 19, 2007


There's something to this:

The Gallup Poll showed Saturday that the three leading candidates for president are a woman, a black man and a Italian New Yorker. It's fun. Every four years the media gets to play Let's Pretend before the voters arrive and nominate the white Southern governor.

- Argus Hamilton

An easy way to combat global warming

I've blogged about this subject before but it's worth a repeat. The easiest way to save the planet is to become a vegetarian. Choosing a pure vegan diet is even more beneficial. Take a look:

Despite the wave of frigid air that swept in with the new year, 2006 was the warmest year on record in the United States. The United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a scientific panel that met recently to discuss global warming, reported that climate change is "very likely" caused by human activities, including burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests.

The IPCC predicts that temperatures might increase by as much as 7.2°F and sea levels may rise by 7 to 23 inches by the end of the century.

It's a stark message. We've obviously messed up our planet: scientists foresee floods, melting ice caps, devastating droughts, and stronger hurricanes and tropical storms. Wildlife will struggle to survive. It's not something to be proud of. But then, just when it seems like the best option would be to leap off the nearest melting iceberg, the panel reassures us that global warming could be substantially blunted if people would take immediate action to reduce greenhouse gases.

Here's what they didn't explain: Switching to a vegan diet is a simple, effective way to
shrink greenhouse gas emissions.

The digestive processes of the billions of animals raised to become sandwiches and snacks each year, as well as the
87,000 pounds of excrement that they produce every second, release enormous amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

A November 2006 report published by the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) revealed that the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions?18 percent?than transportation. The FAO also reported that the livestock industry is responsible for 37 percent of anthropogenic (generated by human activity) methane and 65 percent of anthropogenic nitrous oxide, both of which have a higher "global warming potential" than carbon dioxide. The FAO also blamed the livestock sector for heavy deforestation, and according to the
World Resources Institute, deforestation is responsible for approximately 20 percent of all global warming emissions.

I am a committed vegetarian. I'm not a vegan - yet. But articles like this make me take a hard look at my use of dairy products and eggs as well. At any rate, I can move in the direction of veganism. So can we all.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Creating poverty

Unregulated capitalism is simply evil. I want to direct your attention to an article entitled "Mystery: How Wealth Creates Poverty in the World". Take a look at this exerpt:

The transnationals push out local businesses in the Third World and preempt their markets. American agribusiness cartels, heavily subsidized by U.S. taxpayers, dump surplus products in other countries at below cost and undersell local farmers. As Christopher Cook describes it in his Diet for a Dead Planet, they expropriate the best land in these countries for cash-crop exports, usually monoculture crops requiring large amounts of pesticides, leaving less and less acreage for the hundreds of varieties of organically grown foods that feed the local populations.

By displacing local populations from their lands and robbing them of their self-sufficiency, corporations create overcrowded labor markets of desperate people who are forced into shanty towns to toil for poverty wages (when they can get work), often in violation of the countries’ own minimum wage laws.

In Haiti, for instance, workers are paid 11 cents an hour by corporate giants such as Disney, Wal-Mart, and J.C. Penny. The United States is one of the few countries that has refused to sign an international convention for the abolition of child labor and forced labor. This position stems from the child labor practices of U.S. corporations throughout the Third World and within the United States itself, where children as young as 12 suffer high rates of injuries and fatalities, and are often paid less than the minimum wage.

The savings that big business reaps from cheap labor abroad are not passed on in lower prices to their customers elsewhere. Corporations do not outsource to far-off regions so that U.S. consumers can save money. They outsource in order to increase their margin of profit. In 1990, shoes made by Indonesian children working twelve-hour days for 13 cents an hour, cost only $2.60 but still sold for $100 or more in the United States.

How is it that some people just don't have a conscience? You know it's wrong to make children work 12-hour days for 13 cents an hour. You know it's wrong. It's also wrong to undersell local farmers at below cost making it impossible for them to earn a living. How can people do these things and still live with themselves?

Friday, February 16, 2007

No Saturday blogging

Hello, folks. I will be away this weekend serving as chaplain to the Spouses of Clergy retreat for the Diocese of Oklahoma. Regular blogging will resume Sunday evening.

Blessings to all!

Today's QuickVote

I noticed it too:

Did you notice this past January being warmer?

Yes - 69%

No - 31%

Report: January hottest on record

I want to share with you a CNN article on our record breaking January:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- It may be cold comfort during a frigid February, but last month was by far the hottest January ever.

The broken record was fueled by a waning El Nino and a gradually warming world, according to U.S. scientists who reported the data Thursday.

Records on the planet's temperature have been kept since 1880.

Spurred on by unusually warm Siberia, Canada, northern Asia and Europe, the world's land areas were 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) warmer than a normal January, according to the U.S. National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina.

That didn't just nudge past the old record set in 2002, but broke that mark by 0.81 degrees Fahrenheit (0.56C), which meteorologists said is a lot, since such records often are broken by hundredths of a degree at a time.

"That's pretty unusual for a record to be broken by that much," said the data center's scientific services chief, David Easterling. "I was very surprised."

The scientists went beyond their normal double checking and took the unusual step of running computer climate models "just to make sure that what we're seeing was real," Easterling said.

It was.

We are so screwed.

Friday cat blogging!

(used with permission)

Melting Antarctic ice sheet

Frank Ford sent me a very alarming article from The Independent called "Scientists sound alarm over melting Antarctic ice sheets". Here's part of what it says:

The long-term stability of the massive ice sheets of Antarctica, which have the potential to raise sea levels by hundreds of metres, has been called into question with the discovery of fast-moving rivers of water sliding beneath their base.

Scientists analysing satellite data were astonished to discover the size of the vast lakes and river systems flowing beneath the Antarctic ice sheets, which may lubricate the movement of these glaciers as they flow into the surrounding sea.

The discovery raises fresh questions about the speed at which sea levels might rise in a warmer world due to the rate at which parts of the ice sheets slide from the land into the ocean, scientists said at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco. ...
The West Antarctic ice sheet is the second biggest on the continent, and the rate at which ice flows from it to the Ross ice shelf, and then ultimately into the sea, is critical in assessing the likely impact of climate change on global sea levels.

Very worrying. Now is Bush going to be made aware of this study? Will he even care?

Thursday, February 15, 2007


An observation:

To rationalize their lies, people -- and the governments, churches, or terrorist cells they compose -- are apt to regard their private interests and desires as just.

-- Wendy Kaminer

And another:

One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. The bamboozle has captured us. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.

-- Carl Sagan

I wish I could get everybody in the country to read and ponder the Sagan quote. Maybe then people would wake up.

This lying administration

Condoleezza Rice

I want to share with you a Reuters article entitled "Ex-aide Says Rice Misled Congress on Iran". Here's how it gets started:

Controversy over a possible missed U.S. opportunity for rapprochement with Iran grew on Wednesday as former aide accused Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of misleading Congress on the issue.

Flynt Leverett, who worked on the National Security Council when it was headed by Rice, said a proposal vetted by Tehran's most senior leaders was sent to the United States in May 2003 and was akin to the 1972 U.S. opening to China.

Speaking at a conference on Capitol Hill, Leverett said he was confident it was seen by Rice and then-Secretary of State Colin Powell but "the administration rejected the overture."

Rice's spokesman denied she misled Congress and reiterated that she did not see the proposal.

How is it possible that the Rice would not have seen the proposal? That is just simply beyond the realm of the credible.

The proposal was transmitted in May 2003 by the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, Tim Guldimann, who represented U.S. interests there. Washington has not had diplomatic relations with Iran since two years after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

According to a copy of the proposal posted on The Washington Post Web site and cited by Leverett, it contains considerable detail about approaching issues of central interest to the United States and Iran.

This included an end to Iran's support for anti-Israel militants and acceptance of Israel's right to exist.

That acceptance of Israel's right to exist was BIG. It is just sickening that this proposal was rejected.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!

How true:

What the world really needs is more love and less paperwork.

--Pearl Bailey

Time to boycott Nestlé again

And Hershey and Mars and all other non-fair trade chocolate. Did you know that child slave labor is used in the production of cocoa? Take a look:

Chocolate comes from cocoa, and the cocoa supply is controlled by a small number of companies worldwide that are allowed to function with limited accountability. Hershey's and M&M/Mars alone control two-thirds of the $13 billion U.S. chocolate candy market. The result? An industry marred with child slavery, unsafe working conditions and a cycle of poverty with no end in sight for cocoa farmers. Chocolate companies are not held accountable for sourcing practices, and despite their knowledge about the travesties that occur on cocoa farms, they lack the will to change.

The U.S. chocolate industry has faced multiple deadlines requiring new protocol, and yet little has changed. Under pressure from Congress, in the Harken-Engel Protocol, the U.S. chocolate industry agreed to voluntarily take steps to end child slavery on cocoa farms by July of 2005. This deadline has since passed, and the chocolate industry has failed to comply with the terms of this agreement.

So in July 2005, International Labor Rights Fund filed suit against Nestlé in Federal District Court on behalf of a class of children who were trafficked from Mali into the Ivory Coast and forced to work twelve to fourteen hours a day with no pay, little food and sleep, and frequent beatings. What was Nestlé's response to court questioning? "We are only buyers of a product."

You can find fair trade chocolate here:

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Obama apologizes

You know, we Democrats are very quick to apologize - sometimes needlessly. I'm wondering if that's such a good idea. Doesn't it make us look like wimps? Take a look at this excerpt from a CNN article:

NASHUA, New Hampshire (AP) -- Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is apologizing for saying the lives of the more than 3,000 U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war were "wasted."

During his first campaign trip this weekend, the Illinois senator told a crowd in Iowa: "We now have spent $400 billion and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted."

He immediately apologized on Sunday, saying the remark was "a slip of the tongue."

During an appearance Monday in Nashua, New Hampshire, he apologized again, telling reporters he meant to criticize the civilian leadership of the war, not those serving in the military.

Those lives are wasted - not through any fault of their own but through the fault of the Bush administration. I think it's obvious that that was what Obama was saying and it's disingenous to suggest that he was criticizing the troops.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Troubling revelation

Timbre Wolf sent me an article in The Independent entitled "Revealed: IRA bombs killed eight British soldiers in Iraq". Here's part of what it says:

Eight British soldiers killed during ambushes in Iraq were the victims of a highly sophisticated bomb first used by the IRA, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

The soldiers, who were targeted by insurgents as they travelled through the country, died after being attacked with bombs triggered by infra-red beams. The bombs were developed by the IRA using technology passed on by the security services in a botched "sting" operation more than a decade ago.

This contradicts the British government's claims that Iran's Revolutionary Guard is helping Shia insurgents to make the devices.

The Independent on Sunday can also reveal that the bombs and the firing devices used to kill the soldiers, as well as two private security guards, were initially created by the UK security services as part of a counter-terrorism strategy at the height of the troubles in the early 1990s.

According to security sources, the technology for the bombs used in the attacks, which were developed using technology from photographic flash units, was employed by the IRA some 15 years ago after Irish terrorists were given advice by British agents.

"We are seeing technology in Iraq today that it took the IRA 20 years to develop," said a military intelligence officer with experience in Northern Ireland.

He revealed that one trigger used in a recent Iraqi bombing was a three-way device, combining a command wire, a radio signal and an infra-red beam - a technique perfected by the IRA.

Britain claims that the bomb-making expertise now being used in southern Iraq was passed on by Iran's Revolutionary Guard through Hizbollah, the revolutionary Islamist group it sponsors in Lebanon.

But a former agent who infiltrated the IRA told The Independent on Sunday that the technology reached the Middle East through the IRA's co-operation with Palestinian groups. In turn, some of these groups used to be sponsored by Saddam Hussein and his Baath party.

What can I say except that violence begets violence. And we can't always predict where or how.


Ah! If only this were widely understood:

Civilization is the process in which one gradually increases the number of people included in the term 'we' or 'us' and at the same time decreases those labeled 'you' or 'them' until that category has no one left in it.

-- Howard Winters

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sunday prayer blogging

When world events create great anxiety about the future, it is easy to forget to give thanks:

For the expanding grandeur of Creation,
worlds known and unknown,
galaxies beyond galaxies,
filling us with awe and challenging our imaginations:

We give thanks this day.

For this fragile planet earth,
its times and tides, its sunsets and seasons:

We give thanks this day.

For the joy of human life,
its wonders and surprises, its hopes and achievements:

We give thanks this day.

For our human community,
our common past and future hope,
our oneness transcending all separation,
our capacity to work for peace and justice in the midst of hostility and oppression:

We give thanks this day.

For high hopes and noble causes, for faith without fanaticism,
for understanding of views not shared:

We give thanks this day.

For all who have labored and suffered for a fairer world,
who have lived so that others might live in dignity and freedom:

We give thanks this day.

For human liberty and sacred rites;
for opportunities to change and grow, to affirm and choose:

We give thanks this day.

We pray that we may live not by our fears but by our hopes,
not by our words but by our deeds.

- O. Eugene Pickett

Today's QuickVote

From the CNN website:

Do you believe U.S. foreign policy is fueling a nuclear arms race?

Yes - 74%

No - 26%

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Just following orders

I want to link you to an article about the Watada case called "Standing at the Gates of Fort Lewis: Worlds Collide at the Watada Court Martial". What I particularly want you to see is this paragraph about the so-called obligation to follow orders:

I commend people, however, to watch the actual videotaped testimony of the trial of Adolph Eichmann in the French documentary by Eyal Sivian, The Specialist, and to read Hannah Arendt's classic book about his trial, A Report on the Banality of Evil. Eichmann, a low ranking transportation officer in the German army during the Second World War, was responsible for coordinating train traffic throughout the German Reich so that Jews could be sent to death camps. After the War, he was kidnapped by Israeli operatives in Argentina and put on trial in Israel for his life in 1961. His defense was that he did not make the policies of war or genocide, he was merely following orders that he was duty bound not to disobey. Eichmann protested that he had merely had a desk job. He denied having personally killed anybody. He had not gassed anyone nor burned any bodies in any oven. He explained that orders could not be disobeyed in the Third Reich and that conscience played no role in the matter. Eichmann explained that passing along an order from Hitler to the lowest level officer was a matter of absolute duty, an obligation that no one could even contemplate questioning. Eichmann was a pathetic, bureaucratic little man. And he was a war criminal who merely followed orders. He was hanged. He was hanged like the other war criminals previously convicted at Nuremberg whose defense of "merely following orders" garnered no sympathy from the world or the judges of their war crimes.

Lt. Watada was right not to obey the order to deploy to Iraq. I hope he inspires many more military people to question the legality of our Iraqi adventure.

The public interest

Go read a short article by Dave Johnson called "The Media Does Not Act In The Public Interest". Here's how it gets started:

Before 1987 the government required that our broadcast frequencies be used in the public interest. Broadcasters were required to present a diversity of information and opinion. This was because it was understood that it was essential to democracy that the public receive diverse ideas and information.

In 1987 the Reagan administration removed the requirement that our broadcast frequencies be used in the public interest. They said that “the market” (a few people with lots of money) rather than the public (the public) should decide the best way to use this public (public) asset.

No longer required to act in the public interest, the media immediately ceased acting in the public interest. Instead they, of course, began to advance the profit interests of the corporatocracy, exactly as was predicted back when the requirements that the broadcast media act in the public interest were imposed. That is what "the market" means. The market serves the market's interests, not the public's.

Some examples are then given. For instance, we no longer hear on TV anything about the benefits of joining a union and union leaders are no longer interviewed. When I read that, it gave me a start. It's true. We don't. And there's something very wrong with that.

Reagan did a lot of damage during his eight years.

Why the lies matter

I think I've blogged this before but I want to share it with you again:

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.


Friday, February 09, 2007

Friday cat blogging

(used with permission)

More on Iran

I want to share with you and article entitled "Helping Israel Die" by Ray McGovern. Yes, McGovern's predictions are very dire but he makes the case that they are appropriately so. Take a look:

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are unwittingly playing Dr. Jack Kevorkian in helping the state of Israel commit suicide. For this is the inevitable consequence of the planned air and missile attack on Iran. The pockmarked, littered landscape in Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan and the endless applicant queues at al-Qaeda and other terrorist recruiting stations testify eloquently to the unintended consequences of myopic policymakers in Washington and Tel Aviv.

Mesmerized. Sadly, this is the best word to describe those of us awake to the inexorable march of folly to war with Iran and the growing danger to Israel’s security, especially over the medium and long term. An American and/or Israeli attack on Iran will let slip the dogs of war. Those dogs never went to obedience school. They will not be denied their chance to bite, and Israel’s arsenal of nuclear weapons will be powerless to muzzle them.

In my view, not since 1948 has the very existence of Israel hung so much in the balance. Can Bush/Cheney and the Israeli leaders not see it? Pity that no one seems to have read our first president’s warning on the noxious effects of entangling alliances. The supreme irony is that in their fervor to help, as well as use, Israel, Bush and Cheney seem blissfully unaware that they are leading it down a garden path and off a cliff.
We do no favors for Israeli leaders in giving them the impression they have carte blanche in their neighborhood—especially as regards Iran—and that we will bail them out, no matter what. Have they learned nothing from the recent past? Far from enhancing Israel’s security, the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Washington’s encouragement of Israel’s feckless attack on Lebanon last summer resulted in more breeding ground for terrorist activity against Israel. This will seem child’s play compared to what would be in store, should the US and/or Israel bomb Iran.

I am living with a sick dread about Iran. Will no one talk some sense into Bush and Cheney?

Test of character

Interesting point:

The true test of character is not how much we know how to do, but how we behave when we don't know what to do.

-- Sir John Holt

Fighting the Right

I came across the link to this book today and thought I'd pass it on to you. Here's what one of the reviewers said on Amazon:

Some of the actions included require little or no effort. Join a progressive group, be it local or international. Take back control of the American political vocabulary. Donate a subscription to a progressive magazine to your local library. Become familiar with the parts of the Bible that support progressive positions. Visit alternative news web sites. Also, visit right-wing sites to begin to understand the Right.

Some actions require a little more effort. Adopt a blog. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper (even if your letter is not printed, it might encourage the editor to print a similar letter). Did you know that the Pledge of Allegiance was written by a Christian socialist named Francis Bellamy? Talk to your neighbors, and to your congressperson's local office. Attend local meetings, like school board, city council or planning and zoning commission; the Right will be there. Support public education, along with local arts and artists. Stand up for science in the classroom. Volunteer for a political campaign.
Aside from that, this is a gem of a book. It contains plenty of inspiration for people of any age or income level. Even if the reader can do only 1 or 2 of the things mentioned in this book, it will help to change the tide in America. This book is very much worth reading.

Do what you can - not what you can't. It's important to liberate oneself from all-or-nothing thinking. Just because you can't run for office doesn't mean you can't have an effect on politics. Just begin. It's so worth it!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Today's QuickVote

From the CNN web site:

Are you concerned about the possibility of conflict between the U.S. and Iran?

Yes - 74%

No - 26%

I wonder about those people who voted "no". Do they think we're not going to have conflict with Iran or do they think we will but they're not bothered by that prospect? Probably a mixture of both. But it would be interesting to know what the percentages were for those more specific questions.

Update on Watada

I want to link you to a Time article entitled "A Mistrial for Lieut. Watada". A mistrial has been declared at the request of the prosecution. A new trial date was set for March 19 but it is possible that will not take place:

"It is my opinion that Lieut. Watada cannot be tried again because of the effect of double jeopardy," [the defense attorney] said, contending that because it was prosecutors who asked for the mistrial, and because the judge granted the mistrial over the opposition of defense lawyers, the prosecutors could not subsequently retry Watada.

It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Energy subsidies

I just discovered an article about energy subsidies world wide and I want to bring to you this single quote:

[T]here is something unbelievable about the world spending hundreds of billions of dollars annually to subsidize its own destruction.

There is indeed.

Is flying a sin?

There's a lot of polemic being hurled around about what is a sin and what isn't in the church -- and that's usually about sexual morality. And so it was most refreshing to learn about a bishop who is asking us to look at the sinful excesses of our carbon footprint on this earth. Take a look:

The Bishop of London, who was criticised last year when he suggested that flying to go on holiday was sinful, has agreed not to fly for a year to prove his point.

In a move causing his staff problems rearranging his travel schedule, the Right Rev Richard Chartres, one of the Church of England's leading spokesmen on environmental issues, said he would not fly to meetings nor, since he took family breaks in Devon, to go on holidays.
A Channel 4 documentary next Monday entitled God is Green will show the film-maker Mark Dowd persuading the bishop to sign a pledge not to travel by air. Bishop Chartres hesitates only momentarily before choosing the "gold standard" of no flights at all.

Last July the bishop was criticised when he claimed the "selfish" choices of flying on holiday and having a large car were "a symptom of sin" - of ignoring the consequences of one's actions. It led to questions about his air travel and his chauffeur-driven car, which the bishop insisted he needed for his diocese work - and which turned out to be a hybrid model.

Of course, being in Britain, he can get places by train. Not possible in most parts of the US, I'm afraid.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Bush's morals and the budget

All right. It should surprise nobody that Bush is making the poor pay for the war. But you might as well take a look at a short article by Matthew Rothschild called "Bush’s Budget Priorities: Fund War, Provide Tax Breaks for the Rich, Deprive the Poor". Here's a sample:

[Bush] wants to spend $481 billion on the Pentagon next year, and that doesn’t even include the $145 billion he is requesting for his little adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was the objective of the Project for a New American Century to get Pentagon spending up to $500 billion a year. With this budget request, it now will stand at $626 billion. And that doesn’t even include the tens of billions of dollars that the Department of Energy spends on nuclear weapons.
Then there are the tax cuts to Bush and Cheney’s rich friends—you know, the people Bush called “his base” in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911.
Meantime, Bush is proposing cutting aid to low-income people struggling to pay high winter heating bills. Here in the Upper Midwest, as well as New England, we’re in the deep freeze now, and we’re feeling the pinch of high heating bills already. People need relief from these bills, and Bush wants to take it away.

Bush would also cut child-care assistance for 300,000 kids from poor families over the next three years, and he’s giving states an incentive to push these kids off the CHIP program that gives them insurance, the [
Center on Budget and Policy riorities] says. Bush would also gouge Headstart by $100 million from the level in the continuing resolution passed by the House, the center notes. And “the preventive health services block grant, which helps state and local agencies undertake efforts to prevent or reduce the incidence of various health problems such as obesity and lead poisoning, would be eliminated.”
Other cuts, the center says, are in funding for elementary secondary education (including for special ed and drug-free programs), low-income housing, housing for poor people with disabilities, pollution control and abatement, health care research and training, and money for the prevention and prosecution of violence against women.

As I said, this is about Bush and his morals. Don't think for a minute that these are not moral issues.

Ehren Watada

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Are you following the Ehren Watada case - the officer who refused to go to Iraq on the grounds that it is an illegal war?

The 28-year-old soldier from Hawaii is the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq. He is charged with "missing movement" and "conduct unbecoming an officer" including the "use of contemptuous words for the President."
A year ago, when Watada was on leave and out of uniform, he delivered a moving address to a Veterans for Peace convention. Watada is not a conscientious objector. He even offered to serve in Afghanistan.

But he questioned the legality of the war in Iraq, and he denounced the known lies of the George W. Bush administration. He said nothing more than what the world already knows, and he did not encourage any other soldiers to follow his example.

All the major issues of the Iraq fiasco -- the fraudulent basis for the war, the absence of a formal declaration from Congress (which has no constitutional authority to transfer its war-declaring power to another branch), the war crimes, the flagrant violations of international treaties such as the United Nations Charter -- are coming to a head in this historic battle between a junior officer and an army whose Abu Ghraib torture scandals shocked the world.

Ordinarily, the truth of a claim is a strong defense against any charge of defamation. Not in the Army, however. Army prosecutors do not intend to allow Watada any opportunity to prove in court that everything he said about the president is true. Prosecutors told the presiding judge, Lt. Col. John Head, that the truthfulness of Watada's speech is irrelevant to the case.

If Watada's defense is not allowed in court, he really has no chance.

I wonder if these facts will be allowed:

There are only two conditions in which a war is legal under international law: when force is authorized by the United Nations Security Council or when the use of force is an act of national self-defense and survival. The UN Charter, based on the Nuremberg Principles, prohibits war "as an instrument of policy." And the war in Iraq is just that -- a war of choice.

There is a common tendency among lawyers and military commanders to sneer at international law. But the Constitution is unambiguous: Article VI states, "All Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby."

Watada's court martial began February 5. I'm eagerly awaiting the outcome. I hate to make such a pessimistic prediction, but I really think he's going to prison.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Let's hope

More on mercenaries

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I know I've blogged about this before but the fact that our occupation of Iraq is being accomplished through the use of mercenaries is very disturbing to me. I just found an article entitled "War Privatization is Public Scandal". Here's how it gets started:

They guard U.S. officials. They patrol the Green Zone, the U.S. headquarters in Iraq. They supply the food, the oil, clean the barracks and fix the machines. They aren't U.S. soldiers; they are private contractors. The Bush administration has privatized war. The second-biggest army in Iraq consists of armed security forces supplied by private contractors.

They act above the law -- and with unclear lines of authority. They work abroad, so they are largely beyond the reach of U.S. law. On contract from the U.S. government, they are beyond the reach of Iraqi law, as established in an order issued by the U.S. Authority there before turning power over to the Iraqi government. When the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandals were revealed, private security forces and interrogators were at the center of it. But none was held accountable.

The British have followed suit. The British charity, War on Want, reported last year that there are three British private security guards to every British soldier in Iraq.

Congressional investigators are about to unearth massive abuses and corruption in Iraq, but the mercenaries operate across the world. In 1998, for example, DynCorp security agents in Bosnia were implicated in a sex-slave scandal. The firm quickly recalled at least 13 agents; none faced criminal prosecution.

The modern-day mercenaries also operate largely free of government scrutiny or oversight. Companies, unlike government agencies, are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and often stonewall congressional inquiry.

Under President Bush, the use of private contractors generally has doubled to about $400 billion a year in 2006, as the administration is driven by a philosophy to privatize everything it can. Finally, with Democrats reviving congressional oversight, questions are being asked.

Contractors claim to provide savings and efficiency because of the benefits of competition. In fact, the GAO suggests, in most areas, the contractors have little competition. Sole-source, no-bid contracts are the rule, not the exception. The contractors -- as we saw in the bribing of Rep. Duke Cunningham and the other scandals of the DeLay Congress -- spend millions wining, dining and rewarding the legislators who provide them with their immensely profitable contracts.

The top 20 service contractors, according to the New York Times, have spent nearly $300 million since 2000 on lobbying and have donated some $23 million to political campaigns.

There are no two ways about it. That is just wrong. It's no wonder we're hated all over the world.

Attacking Iran

We are really headed for something truly dire if the drumbeats for war with Iran are not stopped. Take a look:

An attack on Iran would be catastrophic for America. The Shiite government of Iran and its army of close to one million would immediately go to the aid of the Shia in Iraq. That undoubtedly would lead to "helicopter from Embassy roof evacuation time".

Iran could use its missiles, courtesy of China and Russia, to hit our troops in Iraq and our carrier fleets already assembled in the Persian Gulf.

Syria could contribute its large stocks of chemical and biological weapons.

The flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz could be cut off. Between 15 and 16.5 million barrels of oil transit the Strait each day, roughly 20 percent of the world's daily oil production. How would you like paying ten bucks a gallon for gasoline?

The US government would undoubtedly declare martial law and use anti-terrorist laws and military force against Americans who protest, predicts Eric Herter, former APTN producer. And that's only for starters. If Israel is hit, you can anticipate a nuclear response and that could be curtains for this planet.

You won't have to wait for the outcome of Global Warming.

What is so hard to understand about this stuff? Iran is not Iraq. The military response will be ever so much worse and, as the writer above states, it could end up being curtains for this planet.


Me too:

When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people; as I grow older, I admire kind people.

- Abraham Joshua Heschel

Destruction of civil service

Something that's bothered me for some time is what the Bush administration has done to the civil service. Paul Krugman has written about that in a piece called "The Green-Zoning of America". Here's part of what it says:

The blueprint for Bush-era governance was laid out in a January 2001 manifesto from the Heritage Foundation, titled “Taking Charge of Federal Personnel.” The manifesto’s message, in brief, was that the professional civil service should be regarded as the enemy of the new administration’s conservative agenda. And there’s no question that Heritage’s thinking reflected that of many people on the Bush team.

How should the civil service be defeated? First and foremost, Heritage demanded that politics take precedence over know-how: the new administration “must make appointment decisions based on loyalty first and expertise second.”

Second, Heritage called for a big increase in outsourcing — “contracting out as a management strategy.” This would supposedly reduce costs, but it would also have the desirable effect of reducing the total number of civil servants.

The Bush administration energetically put these recommendations into effect. Political loyalists were installed throughout the government, regardless of qualifications. And the administration outsourced many government functions previously considered too sensitive to privatize: yesterday’s Times article begins with the case of CACI International, a private contractor hired, in spite of the obvious conflict of interest, to process cases of incompetence and fraud by private contractors. A few years earlier, CACI provided interrogators at Abu Ghraib.
Those political appointees chosen for their loyalty, not their expertise, aren’t very good at doing their proper jobs — as all the world learned after Hurricane Katrina struck. But they have been very good at rewarding campaign contributors, from energy companies that benefit from lax regulation of pollution to pharmaceutical companies that got a Medicare program systematically designed to protect their profits.

I don't know what to say about all this except that it is really depressing. Bush has destroyed so much. He seems to like seeing how much destruction he can accomplish. Truly incomprehensible.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Chavez is going green

Hugo Chavez

Common Dreams has picked up an article from the Toronto Star entitled "Chavez Sets 'Green' Agenda" . Here's how it gets started:

His ambitious social programs are built on Venezuela's petroleum wealth, but President Hugo Chavez is increasingly talking up environmental causes and urging the world to cut back on oil use to fight global warming.

He wants to use some oil revenues in a venture to manufacture solar panels and has begun doling out millions of energy-saving fluorescent light bulbs to homes nationwide.

Some critics say Chavez's campaign is mostly rhetoric, noting this is a country where government subsidies have gasoline prices at 12 cents (U.S.) a gallon, car sales are booming and vehicle exhaust chokes litter-strewn streets.

But Chavez says Venezuela can be an example, and he has begun exhorting his followers to drive less and take public transport. His government plans a windmill farm to generate electricity on the Caribbean coast and is exploring more uses for cleaner-burning natural gas.

"Venezuela is one of the countries that least contaminates the environment, but nevertheless we want to give an example and be at the vanguard," Chavez said at a news conference Thursday.

He called U.S. oil consumption – which handsomely funds his government – a leading cause of the world's environmental troubles.

"They're destroying the world," Chavez said, citing melting glaciers in the Andes and predictions of rising sea levels. "The human race will be finished if we don't change the world capitalist system.''

Later the article reports that he will soon raise gas prices to discourage driving.

He is right that we are destroying the world. And it is unregulated capitalism that's doing it.


I came across an article today on AlterNet entitled "9/11: The Case Isn't Closed". The irony of the following information is enormous:

In fact, according to a Special Report in The Economist, the whole notion of "jihad" died out in Islam in the 10th century until "it was revived, with American encouragement, to fire an international pan-Islamic movement after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979."

Throughout the '80s, the Reaganites were superficially opposed to the Islamic fundamentalists in Iran. But in reality, the Islamic fundamentalists were happy customers for U.S. arms sales. Care of the Reagan/Bush team, a triangular trade kept a clandestine flow of weapons, money and narcotics moving in and out of Central America, all to benefit the right-wing Contra militia. Meanwhile, the capital was flowing into the Mujahedeen through Pakistan. Oh, yeah, we were selling weapons to Iraq, too, so they could fight the Iranians.

The financial engine that helped run these operations was a well-oiled and bloody front bank called the
Bank of Credit and Commerce International. BCCI was the funding vehicle that American and Pakistani intelligence used to arm the Afghani Mujahedeen against the Soviets. In the Pakistan/Afghanistan theatre, it moved guns and bombs in, and shipped heroin out. In Central America, it moved in guns and advisors, and took the payoff in cocaine.

When BCCI got busted in 1991, $10 million in State Department accounts was discovered. The CIA and the Pakistani ISI, learning to love each other in their first of many sick trysts, built BCCI into an international network still very much alive. Sen. John Kerry's investigation into BCCI started out strong, but eventually caved to political pressure. Under pressure from Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI), Kerry fired his top investigator, Jack Blum. No major players were ever apprehended, censured, prosecuted or sentenced for the genocidal, narcotics-trafficking, lucrative top crimes of our time. Instead, many of them returned to power in 2001.

Ah, the law of unintended consequences!



In the 60s, people took acid to make the world weird. Now the world is weird and people take Prozac to make it normal.

-- Anonymous

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Liberals and conservatives

A good summary:

Most liberals never lost sight of the potential for evil in big government. They have consistently opposed government power in matters of personal and political belief. Liberals are not unconcerned with economic liberty, but they have come to believe that the common good requires that social justice be given a higher priority than absolute economic freedom. Conservatives are—and always have been—on the other side of both questions. They are much more prone than liberals to limiting personal and political liberties, but they place the freedom of an individual to do as he pleases in the economic realm at the top of their concerns. Social justice has held a lower priority for conservatives, from the days of Alexander Hamilton when they favored strong government as a means of protecting their economic privileges to the days of Ronald Reagan when they see government as an instrument of social justice and therefore a threat to their economic position.

-- Robert S. McElvaine

The horror of hunting

I don't understand how people do it:

To kill for recreation living creatures who bond and mate, who give birth and nurture their young, who experience happiness, pain, fear and grief is quite simply barbaric. In some measure, I feel that killing animals for sport can desensitize the individual to the value of life in general, not only for other creatures but also for humans.

-- Paul M. Howey

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Just read it

Please read the article from The Independent entitled "Global Warming: The Final Warning". It's very short. Read it all the way down to see what happens when average temperatures rise 6.4° C. Just go read it.

For America's sake

Frank Ford sent me this clip from a Bill Moyers speech:

What it will be like

You know what bothers me? The extraordinary lack of imagination exhibited by most people with regard to global warming. I want to call your attention to an article entitled "The Hellish Vision of Life on a Hotter Planet". Here's part of what it says:

Buried within the newly released IPCC report is an apocalyptic warning: if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at current rates, global warming by the end of the century could total 6.4C. The scientists don't say so explicitly, but a rise in temperatures of this magnitude would catapult the planet into an extreme greenhouse state not seen for nearly 100 million years, when dinosaurs grazed on polar rainforests and deserts reached into the heart of Europe. It would cause a mass extinction of almost all life and probably reduce humanity to a few struggling groups of embattled survivors clinging to life near the poles.

An eco-alarmist fantasy? Unfortunately not - having spent the past three years combing the scientific literature for clues to how life will change as the planet heats up, I know that life on a 6C-warmer globe would be almost unimaginably hellish. A clue to just how unpleasant things can get is contained within a narrow layer of strata recently exposed at a rock quarry in China, dating from the end of the Permian period, 251 million years ago. For reasons that are still not properly understood, temperatures rose by 6C over just a few thousand years, dramatically changing the climate and wiping out up to 95 per cent of species alive at the time. The end-Permian mass extinction was the worst ever: the closest that this planet has ever come to becoming just another lifeless rock orbiting the sun. Only one large land animal survived the bottleneck: the pig-like Lystrosaurus, which for millions of years after the disaster had the globe pretty much to itself.
The Met Office's Hadley Centre has predicted that the Amazonian rainforest could start to burn as early as 2050, gradually transforming towards desert as temperatures soar in the interior of South America. Ash and smoke would blanket much of the southern hemisphere, and nearly half of the world's terrestrial biodiversity would be wiped out at a stroke.

How people might fare is anyone's guess. With the tropics too hot to grow crops, and the sub-tropics too dry, billions of people would find themselves in areas of the planet which are essentially uninhabitable. This would probably even include southern Europe, as the Sahara desert crosses the Mediterranean. As the ice-caps melt, hundreds of millions will also be forced to move inland due to rapidly-rising seas. As world food supplies crash, the higher mid-latitude and sub-polar regions would become fiercely-contested refuges.

Does George Bush get it? Does he have even a clue as to what humanity is facing? If he got behind a serious effort to curb global warming, the whole world would listen. It would change everything.


This really made me think:

At the bottom of the heart of every human being, from earliest infancy until the tomb, there is something that goes on indomitably expecting, in the teeth of all experience of crimes committed, suffered, and witnessed, that good and not evil will be done to him. It is this above all that is sacred in every human being.

~ Simone Weil

I suppose this is why it is such a betrayal when a government turns on its own people.

Bribing scientists

This is simply despicable. The article I want you to see is called "Scientists Offered Cash to Dispute Climate Study" and it's from the Guardian. Here's a sample:

Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.

Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The UN report was written by international experts and is widely regarded as the most comprehensive review yet of climate change science. It will underpin international negotiations on new emissions targets to succeed the Kyoto agreement, the first phase of which expires in 2012. World governments were given a draft last year and invited to comment.
The letters, sent to scientists in Britain, the US and elsewhere, attack the UN's panel as "resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work" and ask for essays that "thoughtfully explore the limitations of climate model outputs".

Climate scientists described the move yesterday as an attempt to cast doubt over the "overwhelming scientific evidence" on global warming. "It's a desperate attempt by an organisation who wants to distort science for their own political aims," said David Viner of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

What do these people think is going to happen? Do they think they can put their finger in their ears and sing "La, la, la, la, la. I can't hear you!" and global warming will go away?

The Neo-Con philosophy

I really want you to go read an article called "The Great Experiment in (Neo-con) Freedom". It's hard to do it justice in an excerpt, but I'll tell you how it gets started and also share one important point made toward the end of the article:

God bless our Neo-cons. They believe in Freedom. With a capital F. They believe that government is the enemy of Freedom.

Iraq - partly consciously, and partly unconsciously - was their great experiment.

The United States, driven by neo-con theology, and frequently run by neo-cons, went into Iraq. They removed the government. They removed the police.They removed the army. They removed the top administrators of all those horrid government bureaucracies. Then they stood back and watched what happened.

Then the looting started. The US, with the only government and only armed forces and only police powers around, stood back and watched.
But like domestic law, international law has grown out of experience. Certain conflicts and disasters have come up over and over again. So nations got together and said, let's make laws, so we don't have to guess each time what to do, we know how the games is played, and, in fact, we'll establish rules that we think generally lead to the best outcome and avoid disaster.

One of those laws - inscribed variously in the Hague Conventions of 1907, the Geneva Conventions and the UN Charter - is that if a country conquers another country and becomes the occupying power, they are responsible to establish law and order, to protect the civilian population and property, supply food and medical care.

The failures to do those things, are crimes.

Any way you slice it, we're criminals. I do recommend that you click through and read the whole article. It's about the importance of the rule of law and the neo-con contempt for law. Very illuminating.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

(used with permission)

Listen up, Senator Inhofe

For my UK readers, Senator Inhofe (of Oklahoma, I'm embarrassed to say) asserts that global warming is a "hoax". Take a look at what CNN says about the climate change report that came out today:

(CNN) -- The debate is over: Global warming is here and humans are "very likely" the blame, an international group of scientists meeting in Paris, France, announced Friday.

"The evidence for warming having happened on the planet is unequivocal," said U.S. government scientist Susan Solomon, who also is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"We can see that in rising air temperatures, we can see it in changes in snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere. We can see it in global sea rise. It's unequivocal," she said.

In a 21-page report for policymakers, the group of climate experts unanimously linked -- with "90 percent" certainty -- the increase of average global temperatures since the mid-20th century to the increase of manmade greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Look, folks. There's no ambiguity there. It's real. We caused it. Now what are we going to do about it?

How to cope

MadPriest sent me an email today with the following message:

BBC breaking news alert:
Global temperatures will rise by 3C by 2100 and sea levels will increase by 18cm to 59cm, UN climate report predicts.

Are we going to act in time to save the planet? Sometimes I really suffer over that question. But I am consoled by something Gilda Radner said while fighting cancer:

I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next.

We don't know what's going to happen next. But we need to try as hard as we can to save our beautiful, damaged world.

Molly Ivins, 1944-2007

Molly Ivins in her own words:

I don’t have an agenda, I don’t have a program. I’m not a communist or a socialist. I guess I’m a left-libertarian and a populist, and I believe in the Bill of Rights the way some folks believe in the Bible.
Sunday-morning chatter announced in horror: "People may think the rich can buy their way out of the justice system." No shit. Been going to Texas prisons for a long time. Seen nobody rich on Death Row yet. . . . Wake me when impending egalitarianism is a problem. In the meantime, oligarchy is eating our ass, our dreams, our country, our heritage, our democracy, our justice, and our tax code.
It’s hard to convince people you are bombing that you’re doing it for their own good.
Robert Novak and Charles Krauthammer both claim to have “never seen anything like the detestation of Bush. . . ." Oh, I stretch memory way back, so far back, all the way back to—our last President. Almost lost in the mists of time though it is, I not only remember eight years of relentless attacks from Clinton-haters, I also notice they haven’t let up yet. . . . "The puzzle is where this depth of feeling comes from," mused the ineffable Krauthammer. Gosh, what a puzzle that is. How could anyone not be just crazy about George W. Bush?
The self-important chattering class of Washington insists that you only have credibility as a critic of the war if you were for it in the first place. I’m missing a logical link there.
Listen, a populist is someone who is for the people and against the powerful, and so a populist is generally the same as a liberal—except we tend to have more fun.

And from her final column:

Every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we’re for them, and that’s why we’re trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets. Bang pots and pans. Demand, "Stop it, now!”

May she rest in peace.

UPDATE: Go read this article by Randolph T. Holhut entitled "Molly Ivins: A Mighty Voice Is Stilled".

Molly Ivins and breast cancer

I got an email from NewsMax today by Susan Estrich that was both a tribute to Molly Ivins and a plea that we do better with regard to breast cancer research. Here's how it concludes:

The war in Iraq has cost us $350 billion so far. The total budget for all National Cancer Institute research for this year is under 2 percent of that. The NCI's annual budget for breast cancer research is barely $600 million.

We talk about a war on cancer, but the truth is we're not really fighting one. The war we're fighting is a losing one in Iraq, not a winning one against cancer. How wrong can we be? The loss of 3,000 Americans over the course of the war in Iraq is unacceptable, but losing 41,000 every year to breast cancer is beyond intolerable.

President Bush, whom Molly memorably called "Shrub," was gracious about her death. But I can't help but believe he could have prevented it, that we could have, if only we got our priorities straight. How long will it take, how many more will we lose before we do? Enough is enough.

Just a few weeks ago, writing in the face of death, Molly urged every American to do their part to stop the war in Iraq. "We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, 'Stop it, now!'"

We also need to start a new war, against the cancers that take our best from us. And this one, we need to win.

Our budget for cancer research is a disgrace. What will it take to get our priorities straight?