Monday, April 30, 2007

The airwaves

I came across a column today by David Sirota called Disturbing Questions on a Monday Morning. It's just a collection of stuff that is bothering him and I want to show you what he has to say about the radio situation in this country:

- Does George Will really believe Americans are stupid, or is he stupid? In Will's column for Newsweek this week, he says America's media presents truly diverse voices because "there are 14,000 radio stations—twice as many as in 1970—and satellite radio has nearly 14 million subscribers." What Will doesn't say is that while the number of stations may have increased, the number of owners of stations has dramatically decreased - and as we all know, ownership decides content. According to the nonpartisan Project for Excellence In Journalism, "the top 20 companies own more than 20 percent of all domestic radio stations." Meanwhile, two companies (XM and Sirius) own all of satellite radio. So the question again, is whether George Will is too stupid to actually research these facts before writing a column, or does he think Americans are just stupid enough to believe his propaganda?

- Part 2 of "does George Will really believe Americans are idiots, or is he an idiot?" In his column, Will cites the willingness of media companies to promote right-wing voices and the difficulty of progressive voices from getting the same treatment as proof that progressives can't "compete in the marketplace of ideas." He says "consumer sovereignty" is choosing conservative voices. Yet, he says nothing about the fact that, with the media now owned by a handful of for-profit corporations that simultaneously use their Washington lobbying clout to push for all sorts of conservative policies, those media owners that decide who to put on the air have a personal/financial stake in promoting conservative voices. Does Will really think Americans are so stupid that they don't know that companies owned by conservatives will put conservatives on the airwaves they own, and that such a decision has nothing to do with "consumer sovereignty?" Or is Will too stupid to understand that basic truism?

I've been very disturbed by the reduced number of media owners for some time. And, needless to say, George Will does unsavory things to my blood pressure.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Unclaimed and wasted Katrina aid

This is really disgusting. It's a Washington Post article entitled "Most Katrina Aid From Overseas Went Unclaimed". Here's part of what it says:

As the winds and water of Hurricane Katrina were receding, presidential confidante Karen Hughes sent a cable from her State Department office to U.S. ambassadors worldwide.

Titled "Echo-Chamber Message" -- a public relations term for talking points designed to be repeated again and again -- the Sept. 7, 2005, directive was unmistakable: Assure the scores of countries that had pledged or donated aid at the height of the disaster that their largesse had provided Americans "practical help and moral support" and "highlight the concrete benefits hurricane victims are receiving."

Many of the U.S. diplomats who received the message, however, were beginning to witness a more embarrassing reality. They knew the U.S. government was turning down many allies' offers of manpower, supplies and expertise worth untold millions of dollars. Eventually the United States also would fail to collect most of the unprecedented outpouring of international cash assistance for Katrina's victims.

Allies offered $854 million in cash and in oil that was to be sold for cash. But only $40 million has been used so far for disaster victims or reconstruction, according to U.S. officials and contractors. Most of the aid went uncollected, including $400 million worth of oil. Some offers were withdrawn or redirected to private groups such as the Red Cross. The rest has been delayed by red tape and bureaucratic limits on how it can be spent.

In addition, valuable supplies and services -- such as cellphone systems, medicine and cruise ships -- were delayed or declined because the government could not handle them. In some cases, supplies were wasted.

The struggle to apply foreign aid in the aftermath of the hurricane, which has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $125 billion so far, is another reminder of the federal government's difficulty leading the recovery. Reports of government waste and delays or denials of assistance have surfaced repeatedly since hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck in 2005.

Just go read the rest of the article. The incompetence of this administration is simply beyond outrageous. It's really sickening.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Let's hear it for hypocrisy!

The article is entitled "Senior Official Linked to Escort Service Resigns". Take a look:

Deputy Secretary of State Randall L. Tobias submitted his resignation Friday, one day after confirming to ABC News that he had been a customer of a Washington, D.C. escort service whose owner has been charged by federal prosecutors with running a prostitution operation.

Now here's the sickening part:

As the Bush administration's so-called "AIDS czar," Tobias was criticized by some for emphasizing faithfulness and abstinence over condom use to prevent the spread of AIDS.
As a top official overseeing global AIDS funding to other countries, Tobias was responsible for enforcing a U.S. policy, enacted during the Bush administration, that requires recipients to swear they oppose prostitution and sex trafficking.

These people don't really believe in sexual purity for themselves. Just for other people. The little people, that is, as Joe Sudbay points out over on AMERICAblog.

It's getting hotter and hotter

It's been a very cool spring so far in Tulsa, Oklahoma (and who knows the reasons for that?) but not so in other parts of the world. I want to call your attention to an article in The Independent called "Overheating Britain: April temperatures break all records" . Take a look:

The possibility is growing that Britain in 2007 may experience a summer of unheard-of high temperatures, with the thermometer even reaching 40C, or 104F, a level never recorded in history.

The likelihood of such a "forty degree summer" is being underlined by the tumbling over the past year of a whole series of British temperature records, strongly suggesting that the British Isles have begun to experience a period of rapid, not to say alarming, warming. This would be quite outside all historical experience, but entirely consistent with predictions of climate change.

The Met Office's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, in a joint forecast with the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia, has already suggested that 2007 will be the hottest year ever recorded globally.
Spring 2007 (defined as March, April and May) will probably be Britain's hottest spring. It has followed the second-warmest winter in the UK record (December, January and February) and the warmest-ever autumn (September, October and November 2006).

Before that, we had Britain's hottest-ever month (July last year), which included the hottest-ever July day (19 July, when the temperature at Wisley, Surrey, reached 36.5C, or 97.7F, beating a record that had lasted since 1911).

To crown it all, yesterday the Met Office announced that the past 12 months, taken together, have been the hottest 12 months ever to have occurred in Britain, with a provisional mean temperature of 10.4C. The previous record (March 1997 to April 1998) was 9.7C.

I visited some friends in the north of England two years ago during late June, I think, and they were having a heat wave. I had never before in my life been hot in Britain. But I was for this visit. Very distressing.

Giuliani's attitude toward Democrats

Frank Ford just sent me the transcript of a recent Keith Olbermann commentary. It's entitled "Republicans equal life; Democrats equal death?" and is subtitled "Rudy Giuliani exploiting fear for power and personal gain". Here's part of what it says:

Since some indeterminable hour between the final dousing of the pyre at The World Trade Center, and the breaking of what Sen. Barack Obama has aptly termed “9/11 fever,” it has been profoundly and disturbingly evident that we are at the center of one of history’s great ironies.

Only in this America of the early 21st century could it be true that the man who was president during the worst attack on our nation and the man who was the mayor of the city in which that attack principally unfolded would not only be absolved of any and all blame for the unreadiness of their own governments, but, moreover, would thereafter be branded heroes of those attacks.

And here Olbermann goes into what the mayor said:

“If any Republican is elected president — and I think obviously I would be best at this — we will remain on offense and will anticipate what (the terrorists) will do and try to stop them before they do it.”

Insisting that the election of any Democrat would mean the country was “back ... on defense,” Mr. Giuliani continued: “But the question is how long will it take and how many casualties will we have. If we are on defense, we will have more losses and it will go on longer.”

He said this with no sense of irony, no sense of any personal shortcomings, no sense whatsoever.

Then Olbermann slams Giuliani with questions:

Which party held the presidency on Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party held the mayoralty of New York on that date, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party assured New Yorkers that the air was safe and the remains of the dead recovered and not being used to fill potholes, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party wanted what the terrorists wanted — the postponement of elections — and to whose personal advantage would that have redounded, Mr. Giuliani?

Which mayor of New York was elected eight months after the first attack on the World Trade Center, yet did not emphasize counter-terror in the same city for the next eight years, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party had proposed to turn over the Department of Homeland Security to Bernard Kerik, Mr. Giuliani?

Who wanted to ignore and hide Kerik’s organized crime allegations, Mr. Giuliani?

Who personally argued to the White House that Kerik need not be vetted, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party rode roughshod over Americans’ rights while braying that it was actually protecting them, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party took this country into the most utterly backwards, utterly counterproductive, utterly ruinous war in our history, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party has been in office as more Americans were killed in the pointless fields of Iraq than were killed in the consuming nightmare of 9/11, Mr. Giuliani?

Drop this argument, sir.

You will lose it.

I hope he's right but I'm not so sure that Giuliani will lose it - the safety argument, that is. Because for some reason, alien to me, the American people, as a whole, seem incapable of understanding either logic or cause and effect. And they somehow believe that the Republicans keep us safer than Democrats despite all evidence to the contrary.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Mstislav Rostropovich (March 27, 1927 - April 27, 2007)

A great musician and an equally great human being has died today. Mstislav Rostropovich - known to many as "Slava" - was music director of the National Symphony Orchestra during most of the time I lived in the Washington, D.C. area.

Here's what my friend, photographer Walter Calahan, has to say: Mistislav Rostropovich

Many of my friends worked for him and they loved him.

Here's something Wikipedia says:

Rostropovich fought for art without borders, freedom of speech and democratic values, resulting in a reprimand from the Soviet regime. His friendship with Alexander Solzhenitsyn and his support for dissidents led to official disgrace in the early 1970s. He was banned from several musical ensembles and his Soviet citizenship was revoked in 1978 because of his public opposition to the Soviet Union's restriction of cultural freedom. Rostropovich left the Soviet Union in 1974 with his wife and children and settled in the United States.

And something else:

His impromptu performance during the Fall of the Berlin Wall as events unfolded earned him international fame and was shown on television throughout the world.

Aside from the marvelous bear hug he wrapped me in when we were introduced, what I will remember most was the way he conducted the National Symphony on the mall every Fourth of July while he was in Washington. You never saw anybody so exuberant about America. It was joyous to behold. One year he danced in the rain during the performance of Stars and Stripes Forever. He simply radiated a love for human rights and democracy and freedom. May he rest in peace.

Laura Bush and her "suffering"

By now, surely, it has come to your attention that Laura Bush said in an interview that nobody suffers more than the President and she. You can read about it in an article entitled "Laura Bush: 'No One Suffers More' ". What I want to show you is a comment by someone named Lani in reference to that article. Take a look:

Memo to Laura Bush:

"No One Suffers More"

Oh, really.

Does your 'house' have power 24/7? clean water? food? heat? air conditioning? effective sewage removal? Do you have access to basic health care? Oh, really?

Has your 'house' been bombed? Have Marines broken down your doors, repeatedly, and held you and your entire family at gun point while they destroyed and looted most of your meagre belongings before maybe deciding to rape your teenage daughter? No? Oh really?

Have you or your loved ones spent time in Abu Ghraib? No?

How about Gitmo? No?

Has your country's entire civilian infrastructure been destroyed?

Have your children come back from Iraq in body bags?

Do your wounded relatives suffer in inadequate VA hospitals or are they deprived of the medical benefits they were promised when they joined up? No? I didn't think so.

How many of your relatives are suffering with the after effects of exposure to Depleted Uranium? None? Oh!

What about wives whose husband's irradiated ejaculate BURNS THEM? Any of your loved ones dealing with that horror? No? Oh!

And while we're on the subject, how many of your relatives have given birth to babies with severe birth defects that are similar to the birth defects that have been showing up in Iraqi newborns for over a decade? None? Oh!


You don't know the meaning of the word.

You and your war criminal husband just know how to make others suffer and suffer and suffer.

You both make me ashamed to be considered as a member of the same species. You may be human but you are NOT humane and your actions defile the Christianity you claim to follow.

And I also like this observation toward the end of the article:

[I]f our First Lady were sincere about her suffering, she would have to grab George and sit down with him to get honest and real ... about the War on Iraq and about the trusted men who have led him astray in making the greatest military blunder in U.S. history.

Laura would have to explain to George how his own chosen staff has led him astray with lies and fabrications in the interest of an imperial neoconservatism. She would have to explain to George that preemptive attacks are, by definition, immoral. She would have to explain to George that there were no WMDs in Iraq, no connections to bin Laden and Al Qaida, and no relevance to the war on terrorism.

Laura would have to explain to George how Dick and Karl have corrupted his administration, lost Congress to the Democratic party, discredited the Republican party, blackened America's name in the world, and now threatens to leave him with a legacy of overseeing the most notably incompetent and corrupt administration in U.S. history.

But she will not do these things. It is not for nothing that she is called a "Stepford wife" so much on the internet.
Photo by Juan or Misty Diaz

Freedom Day in South Africa

I was there. There for the first free elections in South Africa. I spent the day praying in the Cathedral and it was my very great privilege to bear the chalice at Mass that morning. What a wonder it was to give communion to people about to vote for the very first time in their lives.

My dear friend, Liz Pringle, has sent this piece about what it was like for her:

On this day 13 years ago, I stood for about two hours in a queue of people, all of whom were out to cast their first vote ever in a truly democratic election in our beloved homeland.

The polling station I was at, the nearest one to my home, so I was able to walk there and back and not worry about finding parking, was not as busy as some of those in the more heavily populated areas. At least ¾ of my suburb is zoned for commercial and industrial use, so the number of people residing here, and therefore voting here, was much smaller than the number of people voting at polling stations in purely residential areas.

There were pictures in the papers the next day of queues of voters winding kilometres long, each patiently awaiting his or her turn to vote. For the first time in our history, in our up-market suburbs, wealthy home-owners, their domestic workers and gardeners, as well as the local hobos and street people all queued together as equals for something as important as our first truly democratic election.

There were reports in the paper of the camaraderie that developed in these queues as people waited for up to 6 or 8 hours before it was their turn to vote; of the well-heeled lady who left her domestic worker to keep her place in the queue while she went home and made copious amounts of coffee and trays full of sandwiches to share with the people in her part of the queue, irrespective of race or status. It was reports such as these that gave me hope for the future of my beloved land – and nothing that has happened since has caused that hope to falter.

It was a grey drizzly day, and I remember standing on the pavement in a queue that snaked right around the building, waiting to get into the Maitland Town Hall where our polling station had been set up. I was reading a Spike Milligan book while I waited – I’ve always enjoyed his whacky sense of humour – and was quite in the right mood for it that day.

The people around me were nearly all Coloured people, and, as new people joined the queue, we greeted one another warmly. The mood was one of happiness & profound gratitude as we experienced ourselves for the first time as full citizens of the same country, no longer divided by the colour of our skin.

I remember a contingent of police driving by in an armoured vehicle – the kind they used to use when they went into the townships in the bad old days to put down protest action with military-style force and violence. Only today, the roof was off the top and the policemen were relaxedly sitting there, smiling and laughing, and waving to the crowd of prospective voters. They no longer had to hide in the belly of the armoured vehicle for fear of being hit by a rock or a brick thrown by an angry protester. No one in the queue needed to fear their arrival on the scene any longer. That was an “ah – ha” moment for me: we had made it. The New South Africa was actually in the process of being born.

I cannot begin to describe to you the excitement and joy I felt as I stood in the queue that day. Suddenly my white skin was no longer relevant. No longer did I have to feel ashamed of being white because of what the oppressive white regime was doing to my fellow South Africans. I was free to be me – free to be proud of being me. What a glorious awareness of my own personal liberation !!!!!

And who did I vote for ? Suffice it to say that I wanted Nelson Mandela to be president of my country more than anything I had ever wanted before, and I wanted to be part of the mass of South Africans who would all be voting for the ANC on that day for that very same reason !!!!!!


Thursday, April 26, 2007

The bees are disappearing

Go read this article by Dave Lindorff about the disappearance of the bees. It's very worrying. Here's how Lindorff ends it:

What’s happening here?

There are a lot of possible culprits: climate change, ubiquitous microwave radiation, overuse of herbicides and pesticides, stress, and lowered immunity to fungal, viral, bacterial and mite infections, or perhaps a combination of all of the above.

My feeling, though, is one of dark foreboding.

When something as basic as bees vanishes from the scene as quickly as this, you know we’re in Big Trouble.

Remember, bees pollinate lots of plants. They will not be able to bear fruit or reproduce without the pollinators.

Canada to ban inefficient light bulbs

Well, another country has decided to get rid of incandescent light bulbs. Take a look:

Canada has switched on to Australia's plan to ban incandescent light bulbs, with Ottawa announcing its own timetable to ban the sale of the inefficient bulbs by 2012.

The ban was part of a plan to cut down on emissions of greenhouse gases, Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn said.

Canada is the second country in the world to announce such a ban, after Australia said in February it would phase out all incandescent bulbs by 2009.

"Making the switch to more efficient lighting is one of the easiest and most effective things we can do to reduce energy use and harmful emissions," Lunn told a news conference.

It's so easy to do. The quality of light is hardly different. Please switch out your bulbs!

Freedom and tyranny

This is worth pondering:

So long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so; for tyrants are active and ardent, and will devote themselves in the name of any number of gods, religious and otherwise, to put shackles upon sleeping men.

-- Voltaire

Pentacle accepted by VA

Finally we're getting some fairness from the government with regard to bereaved families and the religion of fallen military people. Here's an excerpt from a CNN article entitled "Wiccan symbol OK for soldiers' graves":

MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) -- The Wiccan pentacle has been added to the list of emblems allowed in national cemeteries and on government-issued headstones of fallen soldiers, according to a settlement announced Monday.

A settlement between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Wiccans adds the five-pointed star to the list of "emblems of belief" allowed on VA grave markers.

Eleven families nationwide are waiting for grave markers with the pentacle, said Selena Fox, a Wiccan high priestess with Circle Sanctuary in Barneveld, Wisconsin, a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

The settlement calls for the pentacle, whose five points represent earth, air, fire, water and spirit, to be placed on grave markers within 14 days for those who have pending requests with the VA.
Wicca is a nature-based religion based on respect for the earth, nature and the cycle of the seasons.

Of course the previous objection was that the pentacle represented the devil and that's understandable, in a way, because Hollywood has sensationalized the symbol in horror films. But Wiccans don't even believe in the devil. I'm glad they've finally gotten some justice.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Another view of Gonzales

Fascism in America

I really want to recommend an article published by The Guardian by Naomi Wolf entitled "Fascist America, in 10 Easy Steps". It's subtitled "From Hitler to Pinochet and Beyond, History Shows There Are certain Steps That Any Would-Be Dictator Must Take To Destroy Constitutional Freedoms. And George Bush and His Administration Seem To Be Taking Them All."

Here's an excerpt:

Because Americans like me were born in freedom, we have a hard time even considering that it is possible for us to become as unfree - domestically - as many other nations. Because we no longer learn much about our rights or our system of government - the task of being aware of the constitution has been outsourced from citizens’ ownership to being the domain of professionals such as lawyers and professors - we scarcely recognize the checks and balances that the founders put in place, even as they are being systematically dismantled. Because we don’t learn much about European history, the setting up of a department of “homeland” security - remember who else was keen on the word “homeland” - didn’t raise the alarm bells it might have.

It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable - as the author and political journalist Joe Conason, has put it, that it can happen here. And that we are further along than we realize.

Go read the article for the 10 steps. They are frighteningly familiar.

Maher brilliance

Look at this:

The scandal, to me, begins with the fact that we have a president who is so insecure with his own intelligence that he appoints the most mediocre people in the world to positions of immense authority. And that's why so many people in his own party don't like Alberto Gonzales. Because he's another Harriet Miers; he's another Mike Brown. This is why our government is so screwed up, because it's staffed by these idiots. So that George Bush can walk into someplace and say, 'I'm the smartest guy in the room.'

Bill Maher

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A poet speaks out

Cynthia Burgess sent me the following:

In a culture like ours, one sometimes forgets the power of a poet's words. Here is an open letter from the poet Sharon Olds to Laura Bush declining the invitation to read and speak at the National Book Critics Circle Award in Washington, D.C.

Feel free to forward it along if you feel more people may want to read it. Sharon Olds is one of most widely read and critically acclaimed poets living in America today. Read to the end of the letter to experience her restrained, chilling eloquence.

Laura Bush
First Lady, The White House

Dear Mrs. Bush,

I am writing to let you know why I am not able to accept your kind invitation to give a presentation at the National Book Festival on September 24, or to attend your dinner at the Library of Congress or the breakfast at the White House.

In one way, it's a very appealing invitation. The idea of speaking at a festival attended by 85,000 people is inspiring! The possibility of finding readers is exciting for a poet in personal terms, and in terms of the desire that poetry serve its constituents---all of us who need the pleasure, and the inner and outer news, it delivers. And the concept of a community of readers and writers has long been dear to my heart. As a professor of creative writing in the graduate school of a major university, I have had the chance to be a part of some magnificent outreach writing workshops in which our students have become teachers. Over the years, they have taught in a variety of settings: a women's prison, several New York City public high schools, an oncology ward for children.

Our initial program, at a 900-bed state hospital for the severely physically challenged, has been running now for twenty years, creating along the way lasting friendships between young MFA candidates and their students---long-term residents at the hospital who, in their humor, courage and wisdom, become our teachers. When you have witnessed someone nonspeaking and almost nonmoving spell out, with a toe, on a big plastic alphabet chart, letter by letter, his new poem, you have experienced, close up, the passion and essentialness of writing. When you have held up a small cardboard alphabet card for a writer who is completely nonspeaking and nonmoving (except for the eyes), and pointed first to the A, then the B, then C, then D, until you get to the first letter of the first word of the first line of the poem she has been composing in her head all week, and she lifts her eyes wh en that letter is touched to say yes, you feel with a fresh immediacy the human drive for creation, self-expression, accuracy, honesty and wit---and the importance of writing, which celebrates the value of each person's unique story and song.

So the prospect of a festival of books seemed wonderful to me. I thought of the opportunity to talk about how to start up an outreach program. I thought of the chance to sell some books, sign some books and meet some of the citizens of Washington, DC. I thought that I could try to find a way, even as your guest, with respect, to speak about my deep feeling that we should not have invaded Iraq, and to declare my belief that the wish to invade another culture and another country---with the resultant loss of life and limb for our brave soldiers, and for the noncombatants in their home terrain---did not come out of our democracy but was instead a decision made "at the top" and forced on the people by distorted language, and by untruths. I hoped to express the fear that we have begun to live in the shadows of tyranny and religious chauvinism---the opposites of the liberty, tolerance and diversity our nation aspires to. I tried to see my way clear to attend the festival in order to bear witness---as an American who loves her country and its principles and its writing---against this undeclared and devastating war.

But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you. I knew that if I sat down to eat with you, it would feel to me as if I were condoning what I see to be the wild, highhanded actions of the Bush Administration. What kept coming to the fore of my mind was that I would be taking food from the hand of the First Lady who represents the Administration that unleashed this war and that wills its continuation, even to the extent of permitting "extraordinary rendition": flying people to other countries where they will be tortured for us. So many Americans who had felt pride in our country now feel anguish and shame, for the current regime of blood, wounds and fire. I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives and the flames of the candles, and I could not stomach it.



I wonder if the First Lady has even read it. But people on the internet ARE reading it. And it will make many people think.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Lee Iacocca on what's happening in this country

I found the following on AMERICAblog. It's from Lee Iacocca's new book. Just read this passage, please. There's a lot of awareness and insight here:

Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, "Stay the course."

Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!

You might think I'm getting senile, that I've gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don't need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That's not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I've had enough. How about you?

I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have....

Why are we in this mess? How did we end up with this crowd in Washington? Well, we voted for them—or at least some of us did. But I'll tell you what we didn't do. We didn't agree to suspend the Constitution. We didn't agree to stop asking questions or demanding answers. Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech treason. Where I come from that's a dictatorship, not a democracy....

On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes. Where was George Bush? He was reading a story about a pet goat to kids in Florida when he heard about the attacks. He kept sitting there for twenty minutes with a baffled look on his face. It's all on tape. You can see it for yourself. Then, instead of taking the quickest route back to Washington and immediately going on the air to reassure the panicked people of this country, he decided it wasn't safe to return to the White House. He basically went into hiding for the day—and he told Vice President Dick Cheney to stay put in his bunker. We were all frozen in front of our TVs, scared out of our wits, waiting for our leaders to tell us that we were going to be okay, and there was nobody home. It took Bush a couple of days to get his bearings and devise the right photo op at Ground Zero.

That was George Bush's moment of truth, and he was paralyzed. And what did he do when he'd regained his composure? He led us down the road to Iraq—a road his own father had considered disastrous when he was President. But Bush didn't listen to Daddy. He listened to a higher father. He prides himself on being faith based, not reality based. If that doesn't scare the crap out of you, I don't know what will....

I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn't elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody so afraid of? That some bobblehead on Fox News will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don't you guys show some spine for a change?

Had Enough?

Hey, I'm not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here. I'm trying to light a fire. I'm speaking out because I have hope. I believe in America. In my lifetime I've had the privilege of living through some of America's greatest moments. I've also experienced some of our worst crises—the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam War, the 1970s oil crisis, and the struggles of recent years culminating with 9/11. If I've learned one thing, it's this: You don't get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether it's building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play. That's the challenge I'm raising in this book. It's a call to action for people who, like me, believe in America. It's not too late, but it's getting pretty close. So let's shake off the horseshit and go to work. Let's tell 'em all we've had enough.

I wonder if people will listen to this? Enough people for some good to come of it?

The Bard's birthday

It's William Shakespeare's birthday. Also his death day. And so I bring you this marvelous and famous passage from The Tempest:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

Remember this when the horror of the world just seems too much.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Another Earth Day message

I got an email from John Kerry today in observance of Earth Day and he offers these direct action choices we can all make to help the Earth:

* Keep your car in good condition: Get your engine tuned up regularly, change the oil, and keep your tires properly inflated -- proper maintenance can increase your car's fuel efficiency by 10 percent and reduce emissions.

* Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs: Change the three bulbs you use most in your house to compact fluorescents. Each compact fluorescent will keep half a ton of carbon dioxide out of the air over its lifetime. And while they may be slightly more expensive than the incandescent bulbs you're used to using, compact fluorescents last ten times as long and can save $30 per year in electricity costs.

* Buy energy efficient products: When buying new appliances or electronics, shop for the highest energy-efficiency rating. Look for the yellow and black Energy Guide label on the product. According to the EPA, the typical American household can save about $400 per year in energy bills with products that carry the Energy Star label as the most efficient in its class.

* Turn off lights and other electrical appliances such as televisions and radios when you're not using them: This is a very simple step, but it's surprising how many times we forget. Install automatic timers for lights that people in your house frequently forget to flick off when leaving a room. Use dimmers when you can.

* Choose PVC-free building products: this can reduce the exposure of your family to toxins in your home environment. Steer clear of vinyl windows and doors and choose wood instead. Adhesives, caulk, grout, and sealants may also contain phthalates. You can check for phthalate ingredients in these products using the National Institutes of Health's Household Products Database:

* Choose toys carefully: this is another important step to reduce your children's exposure to toxins. Look for toys and feeding products for babies and young children that are labeled "PVC free."

Every little bit helps. Never forget that!

Earth Day

On this Earth Day I want to call your attention to an article called "Acting Now To Save Life On Earth" by E.O. Wilson who is a world-renowned biologist and Harvard University professor. Here's a sample:

Except for giant meteorite strikes or other such catastrophes, Earth has never experienced anything like the contemporary human juggernaut. We are in a bottleneck of overpopulation and wasteful consumption that could push half of Earth’s species to extinction in this century.As the newest reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stress, we are carelessly destabilizing the planetary surface in ways harmful to our own welfare. Paramount is the irreversible loss of natural ecosystems and species that make up the human life-support system.

Humanity must make a decision, and make it right now: Conserve Earth’s natural heritage, or let future generations adjust to a biologically impoverished world.
Life on this planet can stand no more plundering. Quite apart from obedience to the universal moral imperative of saving living nature — the Creation — based upon religion and science alike, conserving biodiversity is the best economic deal humanity has ever had placed before it since the invention of agriculture.

The time to act is now. Those living today will either win the race against extinction or lose it for all time. They will earn either everlasting honor or everlasting contempt.

What more can I say? The consequences of not acting now will be horrible.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

So true

Sadly, our leaders seem to have forgotten this:

The farther backwards you can look the farther forward you are likely to see.

-- Winston Churchill

Day late cat blogging!

Sally and Lucy
Photo by Doug Brown

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Supreme Court decision

Just go read Ellen Goodman's column entitled "Governing the Womb".

Global warming and population growth

I want to call your attention to a short article called "Effective Way To Fight Global Warming"
by John Seager. Here's part of what it says:

For all the useful talk about new products and innovative ways to cap emissions, there is little or no public discussion about the underlying cause of global warming — human population growth.

It matters enormously whether the world’s population in 2050 is 10.8 billion people or 7.8 billion people — the high and low projections made in 2006 by the United Nations. Consider how much less carbon pollution there could be in a world with 3 billion fewer people.

We’re going to need all the help we can get when it comes to reducing carbon emissions. It’s time to revive the global population movement that once enjoyed widespread bipartisan support here in the United States.
So why is there no serious discussion about the need for zero population growth? Why are we so fascinated with some as-yet-unproven technologies when a straightforward answer is at hand?

It's a good point. And it needs attention.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Mental health services

The shootings in Virginia call attention to the mental health services available on college campuses in the US. Here's an excerpt from an article entitled "Mental Health Problems Common on College Campuses":

The fact that Cho Seung-Hui, the 23-year-old senior who allegedly killed 32 people and himself at Virginia Tech on Monday, was mentally troubled sheds harsh new light on a sad truth: For many students, the college years are far from the best years of their lives.

Depression, anxiety, and other serious mental health problems are increasingly common among college and university students in the United States.

-- About 10 percent of students have seriously considered committing suicide.
-- Forty-five percent of students say they've been so depressed it was difficult to function.
-- More than 30 percent of freshmen report feeling overwhelmed a great deal of the time.

Students are seeking help for these problems. Students' use of campus mental health services has risen at almost all schools over the past three years, with 13 percent of students now using campus mental health services, according to a 2007 survey by the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. But they don't always get the help they need. "There's striking variability in services," says Erig Heiligenstein, clinical director of psychiatry for health services at the University of Wisconsin?Madison. That variability, Heiligenstein says, "is scary." Parents usually aren't aware of what sorts of mental health services are available to their children. Some schools have accredited on-campus mental health programs, with therapists and psychiatrists on campus; others send troubled students to the university's career counseling service because they don't provide mental health services as part of student health.

On many campuses, students complain that they have to wait two or three weeks for an initial counseling appointment. The rising demand is due partly to growing enrollments, partly to less stigma against seeking help, and also, students and health officials say, because students feel anxious and pressured to perform. At the same time, some students are being treated for serious mental illnesses that a generation ago would have kept them out of school. Jerald Kay, chair of the department of psychiatry at Wright State University School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio, says he treats students with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, which require both intensive psychotherapy and medication. Many schools don't have psychiatrists on staff, Kay says, which can force students and their families to try to find help off campus. "I don't know what happened at Virginia Tech," Kay says. "But we need to marshal more educational efforts on how you identify students with problems. There are warning signs, which might include intense anger, depression, suicidal thought or actions, and prolonged low self-esteem."

That we need to do better as a society goes without saying.

That email nonsense

Disgusting, really:

The White House said today that they have lost the e-mails requested by congressional investigators -- e-mails that may have dealt with the firing of those eight federal prosecutors. They lost them. Today the administration assured Americans that they are not corrupt, just incompetent.

--Jay Leno

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia tragedy

John and Elizabeth Edwards sent out an email message about the Virginia Tech shootings. I reproduce it here:

We are simply heartbroken by the deaths and injuries suffered at Virginia Tech. We know what an unspeakable, life-changing moment this is for these families and how, in this moment, it is hard to feel anything but overwhelming grief, much less the love and support around you. But the love and support is there. We pray that these families, these students, and the entire Virginia Tech community know that they are being embraced by a nation. There is a Methodist hymn that gave us solace in such a moment as this, and we repeat its final verse here, in hopes it will help these families, as it helped us:

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing, in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

Our dearest wish is that this day could start again, with the promise of these young people alive. Knowing that cannot be, our prayer is for God’s grace and whatever measure of peace can be reached on this terrible day.

I really can't express the sadness any better.

Green labeling program

Well, this is good news. This is from a New York Times article:

Home Depot today will introduce a label for nearly 3,000 products, like fluorescent light bulbs that conserve electricity and natural insect killers, that promote energy conservation, sustainable forestry and clean water.

The initiative — which is expected to include 6,000 products by 2009, representing 12 percent of the chain’s sales — would become the largest green labeling program in American retailing and could persuade competitors to speed up their own plans.

And it signals that Home Depot, the country’s second-largest retailer, is joining the largest, Wal-Mart, in pursuing issues of public concern like climate change that stores have left to governments and environmental groups.

More than 90 percent of the products in the line are already on Home Depot’s shelves, but the Eco Options brand will identify them as environmentally friendly.

Home Depot executives said that as the world’s largest buyer of construction material, their company had the power to persuade thousands of suppliers, home builders and consumers to follow its lead on environment sustainability. “Who in the world has a chance to have a bigger impact on this sector than Home Depot?” said Ron Jarvis, vice president for environmental innovation at the retailer, which is based in Atlanta.

Let's hope the program has a wide impact.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Global warming and security

The New York Times has published an article entitled "Global Warming Called Security Threat" and it makes some points we would do well to ponder:

WASHINGTON - For the second time in a month, private consultants to the government are warning that human-driven warming of the climate poses risks to the national security of the United States.A report, scheduled to be published on Monday but distributed to some reporters yesterday, said issues usually associated with the environment - like rising ocean levels, droughts and violent weather caused by global warming - were also national security concerns.

“Unlike the problems that we are used to dealing with, these will come upon us extremely slowly, but come they will, and they will be grinding and inexorable,” Richard J. Truly, a retired United States Navy vice admiral and former NASA administrator, said in the report.

The effects of global warming, the study said, could lead to large-scale migrations, increased border tensions, the spread of disease and conflicts over food and water. All could lead to direct involvement by the United States military.

The report recommends that climate change be integrated into the nation’s security strategies and says the United States “should commit to a stronger national and international role to help stabilize climate changes at levels that will avoid significant disruption to global security and stability.”

The report, called “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change,” was commissioned by the Center for Naval Analyses, a government-financed research group, and written by a group of retired generals and admirals called the Military Advisory Board.

I wish those people who still think global warming is a "myth" would pay attention to this. Apparently the military doesn't think so.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Bush’s Greatest Impeachable Crime

I just came across an article entitled "Bush’s Greatest Impeachable Crime". If you're wondering what it is, take a look:

Now that the first two UN reports on the causes and magnitude of the threats posed by global warming have come out–albeit in watered down form, thanks in part to the administration¹s continuing efforts to downplay the crisis–and now that independent scientific research is suggesting that the disaster facing life on earth, and human life and civilization in particular is of catastrophic proportions, it seems that perhaps we should turn things around.

At this point, arguably, Bush¹s greatest crime is not the Iraq War, terrible as that has been. Nor is it his revocation of habeas corpus or his authorization of torture. It is not the usurpation of the legislative power of the Congress. It is not the felonious violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or his obstruction of the investigation into the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

His biggest crime is a deliberate campaign of inaction and active obstruction in the face of a clear need for the United States to act decisively to stop or slow catastrophic climate change.

This president has not simply denied the reality of global warming. He has actively lied to the American people about the dangers ahead, and has had his administration, through intimidation and post-hoc editing by political hacks, block the publication of government scientific reports on global warming. He has defunded projects that would help document the growing crisis, for example cutting funding for satellites that would measure the effects of climate change on the surface of the planet. He has pulled the U.S. out of the Kyoto Protocol–the first global effort to confront the problem and try to limit production of greenhouse gasses. He even went back on a 2000 campaign promise to limit carbon emissions from power plants, and instead has given virtual carte blanche to power companies to build the most carbon-spewing coal-powered generating stations possible, complete with gratuitous tax breaks. He has threatened countries with trade sanctions for trying to take actions that would combat global warming, and has even had the US government go to court against state governments, like California¹s and Vermont¹s, to try to block them from acting to reduce carbon emissions on their own, by for example setting mileage
standards for vehicles sold in-state.

If using the power of his office to destroy the planet is not an impeachable offense, I don't know what is.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

About Afghanistan

I want to call your attention to the transcript of a recent speech in Los Angeles by Malalai Joya.

Malalai Joya is Afghanistan’s youngest and most out-spoken parliamentarian. She has openly criticized the US-backed warlords that dominate the Afghan parliament. In return, she has received a continuous stream of death threats. At the age of 28, Malalai has survived 4 assassination attempts. Recently a documentary profiling her, Enemies of Happiness, won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. Malalai Joya is on a brief US speaking tour. For more information about Malalai Joya, please visit

Here's an excerpt from the speech:

Respected friends, over five years passed since the US-led attack on Afghanistan.

Probably many of you are not well aware of the current conditions of my country and expect me to list the positive outcomes of the past years since the US invasion. But I am sorry to tell you that Afghanistan is still chained in the fetters of the fundamentalist warlords and is like an unconscious body taking its last breath.

The US government removed the ultra-reactionary and brutal regime of Taliban, but instead of relying on Afghan people, pushed us from the frying pan into the fire and selected its friends from among the most dirty and infamous criminals of the “Northern Alliance”, which is made up of the sworn enemies of democracy and human rights, and are as dark-minded, evil, and cruel as the Taliban.

The Western media talks about democracy and the liberation of Afghanistan, but the US and its allies are engaged in the warlordization, criminalization and drug-lordization of our wounded land.

Today the Northern alliance leaders are the key power holders and our people are hostage in the hands of these ruthless gangs of killers. Many of them are responsible for butchering tens of thousands of innocent people in the past 2 decades but are in power and hold key positions in the government.

I urge you to go read the rest of the speech. What has happened in Afghanistan is nothing less than tragic.

Abstinence education doesn't work

Well, it should have surprised no one. But now the research is in. Here's part of an AP article called "Abstinence students still having sex":

WASHINGTON - Students who participated in sexual abstinence programs were just as likely to have sex a few years later as those who did not, according to a long-awaited study mandated by Congress.

Also, those who attended one of the four abstinence classes reviewed reported having similar numbers of sexual partners as those who did not attend the classes, and they first had sex at about the same age as their control group counterparts — 14.9 years, according to Mathematica Policy Research Inc.

The federal government now spends about $176 million annually on abstinence-until-marriage education. Critics have repeatedly said they don’t believe the programs are working, and the study will give them reinforcement.

Teach young people the biological facts and then teach them how to protect themselves. Let parents and churches teach the morality part.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Doug Brown
(Another photo of Sally is right here.)

Bring back the clothesline

Okay. I have to admit that this is an energy saving method I don't use. I don't even have a washing machine - much less a clothes drier - and so I take my laundry out to get it done at a nearby laundro-mat. But I well remember years ago hanging out tons of laundry when I was a girl. In fact, my family had one of those old wringer-washers and washing day was quite an enterprise.

Here's something from the New York Times about hanging out your laundry called "To Fight Global Warming, Some Hang a Clothesline":

As a child, I helped my mother hang laundry in our backyard in Tamaqua, Pa., a small coal mining town. My job was handing up the lothespins. When everything was dry, I helped her fold the sheets in a series of moves that resembled ballroom dancing.

The clothes and linens always smelled so fresh. Everything about the laundry was fun. My brother and I played hide-and-seek in the rows of billowing white sheets.

I remember this as I’m studying energy-saving tips from
Al Gore, who says that when you have time, you should use a clothesline to dry your clothes instead of the dryer....

That simple decision to hang a clothesline, however, catapults me into the laundry underground. Clotheslines are banned or restricted by many of the roughly 300,000 homeowners’ associations that set rules for some 60 million people. When I called to ask, our Rolling Hills Community Association told me that my laundry had to be completely hidden in an enclosure approved by its board of directors.

As many of you know, I just bought a little house and I'm in the process of moving this week and next. I'm quite sure my new home owners association forbids the hanging of laundry in the yard. Interestingly, someone before me put clothelines on the screened back porch. Unfortunately, they are too high for me to reach and I can't see a way to hang them any lower. For the time being, I'm going to need to keep taking my laundry out to get it done as I can't afford a washer at this time. But maybe before too long I can come up with a plan. I always hung out my clothes when I lived in Ireland and it didn't hurt me any!

Dissent = no fly

Brad Griffith sent me a very disturbing article published by Raw Story. It's entitled "Professor who criticized Bush told added to terrorist 'no-fly' list". Here's what happened:

A top Constitutional scholar from Princeton who gave a televised speech that slammed President George W. Bush's executive overreach was recently told that he had been added to the Transportation Security Administration's terrorist watch list. He shared his experience this weekend at the law blog Balkinization.

Walter F. Murphy,
the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Emeritus, at Princeton University, attempted to check his luggage at the curbside in Albuquerque before boarding a plane to Newark, New Jersey. Murphy was told he could not use the service.

"I was denied a boarding pass because I was on the Terrorist Watch list," he said.

When inquiring with a clerk why he was on the list, Murphy was asked if he had participated in any peace marches.

"We ban a lot of people from flying because of that," a clerk said.

Murphy then explained that he had not marched, but had "in September, 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the Web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the Constitution."

The clerk responded, "That'll do it."

This story was published April 9. Just because the Democrats have Congress now doesn't mean the administration is not screwing us over big time. This is very distressing.

What's happening to our army?

I just read an alarming article sent to me by Frank Ford entited "Retired Generals: Bush is ‘Breaking the Army’". Here is part of what it says:

WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush’s ongoing “surge” of some 35,000 troops to add to the 140,000 already deployed in Iraq is highlighting growing concern, particularly among the military brass, that the U.S. army is overstretched and fast becoming “broken”.An increasing number of senior retired officers, some of whom had previously expressed optimism that the active-duty force of some 500,000 soldiers could handle U.S. commitments in the “global war on terror”, now say the current situation today reminds them of 1980, when the service’s top officer, Gen. Edward Meyer, publicly declared that the country had a “hollow Army”.

“The active army is about broken,” former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who also served as chairman of the Armed Forces Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush 15 years ago, told Time magazine this week, while another highly decorated retired general who just returned from Iraq and Afghanistan described the situation in even more dire terms.

“The truth is, the U.S. Army is in serious trouble and any recovery will be years in the making and, as a result, the country is in a position of strategic peril,” ret. Gen. Barry McCaffrey, former head of the U.S. Southern Command, told the National Journal, elaborating on a much-cited memo he had written for his colleagues at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

“My bottom line is that the Army is unraveling, and if we don’t expend significant national energy to reverse that trend, sometime in the next two years we will break the Army just like we did during Vietnam,” he added.

Here's something else that concerns me:

Some 15 percent of Army recruits last year were granted “waivers” from the Army’s minimum standards — about half of those were “moral waivers”; that is, they were permitted to enter the service despite prior criminal records. Only 82 percent of recruits had a high school diploma or its equivalent, below the Army’s benchmark of 90 percent and the lowest rate since 1981, according to the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

I just don't see how the popular perception that the Republicans are "better" on defense than the Democrats came to exist. It seems to me that this administration is ruining our military.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut has died

Kurt Vonnegut (1922 - 2007)

Here's part of what the AP article says:

NEW YORK - In books such as “Slaughterhouse-Five,” “Cat’s Cradle,” and “Hocus Pocus,” Kurt Vonnegut mixed the bitter and funny with a touch of the profound.

Vonnegut, regarded by many critics as a key influence in shaping 20th-century American literature, died Wednesday at 84. He had suffered brain injuries after a recent fall at his Manhattan home, said his wife, photographer Jill Krementz.
Vonnegut lectured regularly, exhorting audiences to think for themselves and delighting in barbed commentary against the institutions he felt were dehumanizing people.

“He was a man who combined a wicked sense of humor and sort of steady moral compass, who was always sort of looking at the big picture of the things that were most important,” said Joel Bleifuss, editor of In These Times, a liberal magazine based in Chicago that featured Vonnegut articles.

Some of Vonnegut’s books were banned and burned for alleged obscenity. He took on censorship as an active member of the PEN writers’ aid group and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The American Humanist Association, which promotes individual freedom, rational thought and scientific skepticism, made him its honorary president.

Vonnegut said the villains in his books were never individuals, but culture, society and history, which he said were making a mess of the planet.

I'm not sure there are no individuals who are villains but I take his point.

He will be missed.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Medicine disposal

I came across an article today called "Earth Keepers encourage pharmaceutical collection for environmental protection" from Episcopal Life Online that really gave me pause:

Earth Keeper team member Kelly Mathews of Big Bay, Michigan, and her husband Chris recently cleaned out their medicine cabinets and found one bottle of prescription sinus medication that was 18 years old.

"I wonder how many people would just pop open the pill container and flush the pills down the toilet," asked Mathews, a 36-year-old Roman Catholic mother of two.

The environmental impact of such actions has caused the Earth Keepers of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.) to focus this year’s Earth Day Clean Sweep on prescription medications, over-the-counter remedies, and other personal-care products.

About two dozen drop-off sites will be open from 9 a.m. to noon (CST) on April 21 for the free collection. Local churches from Houghton in the northwest to St. Ignace in the southeast are participating.

“As leftover and waste pharmaceuticals get flushed down drains, research is showing that they are increasingly being detected in our lakes and rivers at levels that could be causing harm to the environment and ecosystem," said Elizabeth LaPlante, senior manager for the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA)
Great Lakes National Programs Office in Chicago, Illinois.

"Specifically, reproductive and development problems in aquatic species, hormonal disruption, and antibiotic resistance are some concerns associated with pharmaceuticals in our wastewater," she said.
Carl Lindquist, of the Superior Watershed Partnership, noted recent national studies documenting that more than 80 percent of the rivers sampled "tested positive for a range of pharmaceuticals including antibiotics, birth control hormones, antidepressants, veterinary drugs and other medications."

Lindquist added that some urban centers have even detected "traces of pharmaceuticals in their tap water." EPA studies have shown that most municipal systems are not equipped to filter out these chemicals.

So what are we supposed to do with old medicines if there's not a clean up campaign going on to collect them? I don't know the answer.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

If you don't know the story behind this cartoon, read "Trash Talk Radio" by Gwen Ifill.

One problem with conservatism

Worth pondering:

All conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change.

G. K. Chesterton

Or, in other words, you can't step in the same river twice.

The president and his vacations

From an AP article:

Bush has spent part or all of 409 days of his presidency on the 1,600-acre ranch, according to CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller, who keeps meticulous records of Bush's travel.

Do you realize that's well over a year? How is it that the American people tolerate this?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Questionable hiring - not to mention firing

I want to recommend a Boston Globe article entitled "Scandal puts spotlight on Christian law school". It's about Regent University - the school founded by Pat Robertson - and Monica Goodling.

Graduates of the law school have been among the most influential of the more than 150 Regent University alumni hired to federal government positions since President Bush took office in 2001, according to a university website.

One of those graduates is Monica Goodling , the former top aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who is at the center of the storm over the firing of US attorneys. Goodling, who resigned on Friday, has become the face of Regent overnight -- and drawn a harsh spotlight to the administration's hiring of officials educated at smaller, conservative schools with sometimes marginal academic reputations.

Documents show that Goodling, who has asserted her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to avoid testifying before Congress, was one of a handful of officials overseeing the firings. She helped install Timothy Griffin , the Karl Rove aide and her former boss at the Republican National Committee, as a replacement US attorney in Arkansas.

Because Goodling graduated from Regent in 1999 and has scant prosecutorial experience, her qualifications to evaluate the performance of US attorneys have come under fire. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, asked at a hearing: "Should we be concerned with the experience level of the people who are making these highly significant decisions?"

And across the political blogosphere, critics have held up Goodling, who declined to be interviewed, as a prime example of the Bush administration subordinating ability to politics in hiring decisions.

"It used to be that high-level DOJ jobs were generally reserved for the best of the legal profession," wrote a contributor to The New Republic website. ". . . That a recent graduate of one of the very worst (and sketchiest) law schools with virtually no relevant experience could ascend to this position is a sure sign that there is something seriously wrong at the DOJ."

This is all very disturbing. There most certainly is something seriously wrong at the DOJ.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Alger Hiss

Alger Hiss

Well, this is interesting in case you missed it on your mainstream news source:

(AP) -- An author who has researched the Cold War's most famous espionage case said new evidence suggests another U.S. diplomat, not Alger Hiss, was the Soviet agent who fed U.S. secrets to Moscow.

The claim was presented Thursday at a daylong symposium, "Alger Hiss & History," at New York University. It provided new information that, if true, could point toward a posthumous vindication of Hiss, who was accused of spying for the Soviet Union and spent nearly five years in prison for perjury.

Hiss died in 1996 at age 92.

Also at the conference, a stepson of Hiss argued that Hiss' chief accuser invented the spy allegations after his sexual advances were rejected.

Author Kai Bird said there was new evidence to suggest that the real spy was another U.S. official named Wilder Foote. Hiss was accused of feeding secrets to the Soviet military intelligence agency GRU under the code name Ales.

Friday, April 06, 2007


Hans Baldung. The Crucifixion. 1512.

Crucifying the children

Please click through and read a short article by Paul Krugman entitled "Children Versus Insurers":

Consider the choice between two government programs.

Program A would provide essential health care to the eight million uninsured children in this country.

Program B would subsidize insurance companies, who would in turn spend much of the money on marketing and paperwork, and also siphon off a substantial fraction of the money as profits. With what’s left, the insurers would provide additional benefits, over and above basic Medicare coverage, to some older Americans.
As I said, it’s hard to see how anyone can, in good conscience, think that preserving subsidies to insurance companies is more important than providing health care for children. But that is, of course, exactly the position taken by the Bush administration...

Surprise, surprise.

What would Jesus really do?

I want to call your attention to a CNN commentary by Roland Martin that says some good stuff:

NEW YORK (CNN) -- When did it come to the point that being a Christian meant only caring about two issues,­ abortion and homosexuality?

Ask the nonreligious what being a Christian today means, and based on what we see and read, it's a good bet they will say that followers of Jesus Christ are preoccupied with those two points. Poverty? Whatever. Homelessness? An afterthought. A widening gap between the have and have-nots? Immaterial. Divorce? The divorce rate of Christians mirrors the national average, so that's no big deal.

The point is that being a Christian should be about more than abortion and homosexuality, and it's high time that those not considered a part of the religious right expose the hypocrisy of our brothers and sisters in Christianity and take back the faith. And those on the left who believe they have a "get out of sin free" card must not be allowed to justify their actions.

Many people believe we are engaged in a holy war. And we are. But it's not with Muslims. The real war -- ­ the silent war ­-- is being engaged among Christians, and that's what we must set our sights on.

As we celebrate Holy Week, our focus is on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But aren't we also to recommit ourselves to live more like Jesus? Did Jesus spend his time focusing on all that he didn't like, or did Jesus raise the consciousness of the people to understand love, compassion and teach them about following the will of God?
I'm looking for the day when Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Joyce Meyer, James Dobson, Tony Perkins, James Kennedy, Rod Parsley, " Patriot Pastors" and Rick Warren will sit at the same table as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Cynthia Hale, Eddie L. Long, James Meek, Fred Price, Emmanuel Cleaver and Floyd Flake to establish a call to arms on racism, AIDS, police brutality, a national health care policy, our sorry education system.

Me too.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Downward Spiral

I want to call your attention to an article in The Independent called "Arctic sea ice is shrinking in 'downward spiral'". Here's part of what it says:

Winter sea ice in the Arctic has failed to reform fully for the third year in a row. Scientists said yesterday that the area of ocean covered by Arctic ice at the end of the winter months was lower only in March 2006.
Researchers fear that the floating sea ice is now on a downward spiral of shrinkage that cannot recover fully even during winter because of warmer temperatures.
Scientists fear that the winter failure of the ice to recover fully will mean there is less ice to start with at the beginning of the summer melting period, leading to more rapid shrinkage with each subsequent year.

This is bad news for polar bears, which rely on floating sea ice to hunt for seals. With little ice, polar bears have to swim further in open water, burning much-needed body fat in the process.

One of the greatest concerns is that the melting sea ice will lead to greater areas of open, darker ocean being exposed to sunlight during the summer. Instead of 90 per cent of the heat of the sun being reflected by a cap of sea ice, the heat will be absorbed by the open water, which will exacerbate the trend towards regional warming.

Of course, we've heard these facts before; I've blogged them. But it is important for this news to be held constantly before the public so that those in power will realize how important it is that we take action.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

What a relief

I'm really glad to hear this news:

WASHINGTON - Striking a blow for cell phone haters everywhere, a government agency on Tuesday said it will keep a rule in place that requires the divisive devices to be turned off during airline flights.

The reasoning behind the decision was technical. But the avalanche of comments the Federal Communications Commission has logged from airline travelers have been nothing short of visceral.

"These days it's impossible to get on a bus without at least one person hollering into their cell phone, invading the private space of everyone around them," one member of the public wrote in an e-mail to the FCC. "That's bad enough when one can get off in 10 minutes. To have to suffer through HOURS of such torture, with nowhere to go and miserably cramped conditions — someone is going to explode."

Very sensible decision indeed.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Invest in hope

I want to recommend that you click through and read a short article by Jesse Jackson entitled "Invest In Hope, America, Not Despair". Here's something he says about Alabama:

Per-pupil spending on elementary and secondary education in the state is about 60 percent of what it costs to cage a prisoner annually. Tuition at a public university is about one-third the cost of a year in prison, for an in-state student. Alabama is paying millions to house inmates in other states.

Discrimination pervades this system. African-American males are more likely to be stopped and searched, more likely to be arrested if stopped, more likely to be charged if arrested, more likely to be incarcerated if convicted. Of the total of 40 district attorneys, African Americans account for zero, nada, zip.

Now the system is collapsing on itself. There is no space in the prisons. The prison budget is now squeezing the education budget. Conservative judges and politicians are struggling to find ways to release nonviolent offenders early from long sentences to open up spaces for newcomers. And another generation is being tracked into the same mess.
Alabama — and this country — could invest in hope on the front side instead. Prenatal care, parental education, infant nutrition, health care, day care and preschool, good teachers for the toughest neighborhoods, smaller classes in the early grades, after-school programs — these would give many a fair start and a chance to succeed. It would cost less and generate more productive citizens.

I agree. Investing in hope would cost less than housing people in prison. But as Rev. Jackson points out, the prison-industrial complex lobbies to to keep building more prisons - and to keep them populated.

Well, it's a start!

Take a look at an Reuters article entitled "Supreme Court Rules Against Bush in Global Warming Case":

WASHINGTON - In a defeat for the Bush administration, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a U.S. government agency has the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions that spur global warming. By a 5-4 vote, the nation’s highest court said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “has offered no reasoned explanation” for its refusal to regulate carbon dioxide and other emissions from new cars and trucks that contribute to climate change.

The ruling in one of the most important environmental cases to reach the Supreme Court marked the first high court decision in a case involving global warming.

President George W. Bush has opposed mandatory controls on greenhouse gases as harmful to the U.S. economy, and the administration has called for voluntary programs instead of regulation. The states and environmental groups that brought the lawsuit hailed the ruling.

“As a result of today’s landmark ruling, EPA can no longer hide behind the fiction that it lacks any regulatory authority to address the problem of global warming,” Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said.

“Today the nation’s highest court has set the White House straight. Carbon dioxide is an air pollutant, and the Clean Air Act gives EPA the power to start cutting the pollution from new vehicles that is wreaking havoc with our climate,” said David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

This is good news. Now let's see what comes of it.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Good Friday attack?

Frank Ford sent me a very disturbing article from the Jerusalem Post entitled "US ready to strike Iran on Good Friday". Here's an excerpt:

The United States will be ready to launch a missile attack on Iran's nuclear facilities as soon as early this month, perhaps "from 4 a.m. until 4 p.m. on April 6," according to reports in the Russian media on Saturday.

According to Russian intelligence sources, the reports said, the US has devised a plan to attack several targets in Iran, and an assault could be carried out by launching missiles from fighter jets and warships stationed in the Persian Gulf.

Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted a security official as saying, "Russian intelligence has information that the US Armed Forces stationed in the Persian Gulf have nearly completed preparations for a missile strike against Iranian territory."

The Russian Defense Ministry rejected the claims of an imminent attack as "myths." There was no immediate response from Washington.

I really don't know what to say here except to hope that the report is wrong.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan

Just in case you didn't catch this on the mainstream news I really must make sure that you know of some new clues in the Amelia Earhart case. Take a look at this excerpt from a CNN article:

SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- It's the coldest of cold cases, and yet 70 years after Amelia Earhart disappeared, clues are still turning up.

Long-dismissed notes of a shortwave distress call beginning, "This is Amelia Earhart ..."

The previously unknown diary of an Associated Press reporter, surfacing after decades.

And a team that has already found aircraft parts and a woman's shoe on a remote South Pacific atoll, hoping to return this year to find more evidence, perhaps even DNA.

If what's known now had been conveyed to searchers then, might Earhart and her navigator have been rescued? It's one of a thousand questions that keep the case from being declared dead, as Earhart herself was a year and a half after she vanished.

I really do recommend that you click through and read the whole article. It's fascinating.